City Spotlights Teen Leaders

Our Tribe

Posted 23 December 2014 12:00 AM by Carmen Cartterfield

I have spent many years teaching, but never have I experiences such a deep reciprocity in learning between myself and the teens as well as between the teens themselves. From the first day, I felt like I was witnessing a deep hunger—a deep yearning from the teens to plunge themselves into this experience. I saw this in the eagerness and sincerity with which they formed a deep communal bond within the first week. I remember standing in a closing group circle and asked the teens to say what they saw when they looked around the room. Answers like “the Future,” “Beauty,” “Family,” “Inspiration,” echoed around the space. I was deeply moved by their own perception of themselves and by the knowing that they are the future; that they, by being there, were making an important choice, a step, in becoming not only who they wanted to be, but also what they wanted their future to look like. In this sense, they truly were leaders.

Throughout the summer they pushed each other outside of their comfort zones. Midway through, they requested a change in curriculum, which would allow them to work together as a group to create an artistic outcome that integrated their experience as a whole. They did not want to separate. They wanted to stay united.

This theme appeared again and again throughout the summer—this idea that they were all unique individuals, at the same time that they were deeply responsible for each other; and the realization that, what happens to one member, was felt by the group. This was evidenced by the deep sharing that occurred in the group. Teens carried their lives with them into the space, seemingly not afraid of judgment, and they were held and supported.

I remember one particular teen who was struggling with distressing issues in his home life. This teen broke down crying in program and was instantly surrounded by a group of concerned peers. The group dissipated as it became clear the teen needed some space. I sat with him and two of his peers, hoping to calm him. But I found I didn’t need to speak. The other teens with him empathized and comforted him in a way I never could, and sat with his emotion with a grace and patience extraordinary for any adult, let alone teenager. And that is what this program does—it calls forth these already incredible individuals to exceed their own expectations and create and become the people they want to be in the world.

Time and again I witnessed and experienced this support and I knew I had been initiated into a tribe—A tribe that knew how to love, how to learn, how to speak for themselves and how to imagine and create a world they wanted to see. A tribe of the future.

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