Life’s not fair.
This past week, Empower Youth along with Community Christian Church, was able to take over 50 students to Chuck E Cheese. Not a big deal. Right? Actually, it was a big deal. There were many obstacles to avoid. We first had to look at the cost. With most of our students on free or reduced lunch and from large sibling groups, we wanted to make sure this was a free adventure. Chuck E Cheese helped make that a reality with a great rate. The second obstacle was transportation. While some of our students could be dropped off at Chuck E Cheese. Many of our students had no transportation which meant that a caravan of vans was needed. Perhaps the hardest obstacle was communicating that we could only take elementary K-5th grade students.
For sibling groups, this was very difficult. After all, it’s not fair that their little brother would need to stay home. Some of our students even came to the door of our community representatives demanding we take older students. I received a few ugly face book messages myself. Unfortunately, we needed to say no. We had to say no. In poverty, money is fleeting. In poverty, shelter is temporary. In poverty, relationships are gold. In poverty, family is first. So for our program to set up guidelines was very hard for some of our families.
So why make this kind of distinction? Why couldn’t we just take all the children? Was it a money issue? Not really. Was it a transportation issue? Yes, at first, but by the time we rolled out we would’ve had plenty of room. Was it something else? Yes. What happens when preschool children come to an elementary event? The elementary sibling takes on the role parent and the kid factor is lost. What happens when the older student comes to an elementary event? Unfortunately they are bored and cause chaos. Again, the elementary student loses out.
In order to break through generational poverty, it’s also important to give kids a chance to be…kids! The slogan for Chuck E Cheese is “Where a kid can be a kid!” Part of our goal with Empower Youth is to bring independence to our children. Every child individually has promise. Every child individually is important to us and can do something great in our community. Still there is a greater lesson here for all students. While identifying as family groups is a beautiful thing, there is much value in allowing a student to be free to experience things on their own.
What impact does this have on sibling groups? First, it means that each child can search out their own path. Empowering youth means that we must look at the family factor. Is there a way to teach students that they each have unique abilities and that the path of an older sibling (particularly if it is destructive) does not have to be their path? As we seek out ways to make a difference in our community, we will be confronted with this issue. In fact with our event to Chuck E Cheese, that factor is so strong that some elementary students were not allowed to come at all because we would not take their older/younger siblings.
In a world where everyone gets a trophy whether they participate or not, boundaries are blurred and life becomes unfair. When individual growth is replaced with group think, we see individualism disappear. Now more than ever, our students need to see that they are unique. They are gifted. They are able to do incredible things. However, if it always becomes an “All Skate” then our students lose their drive to seek the path they are created and gifted for—what a tragedy. Empower Youth is about leading each child to their greatest potential. Want to be a part of this transformation? It starts with relationships. It starts with seeing children for their gifts and talents and making an investment in them. It starts with individual plans unique to each child. Keep tuning in for more information as we put together our plan for fall. In the meantime, join us on Wednesdays this summer starting May 27 for Picnic in the Park at Burke Park from 6-8pm.