I always think of the middle school years as a permanent roller coaster ride. This ride is very exclusive- you are lucky to get on it! I’m happy to say I’m one of those lucky people and so far it has been awesome!
Our middle school program enrolls rising 5th graders to rising 8th graders. As you can imagine, the difference between 10-year-olds and 13-year-olds is sometimes huge! In less than five minutes you can go from a student needing something from you to a student that wants you to go far far far away. Then there are the wonderful moments when you sit in on one of their academic rotations and you hear them having a deep and smart conversation about the things that worry them when they think about their communities. And right when you hear them, you realize that even though they don’t act like they care about anything else other than their friends and cellphones, they in fact are taking it all in and processing it quietly in their heads.
Our young people are worried about gun violence and what it would mean if Donald Trump becomes the next president. They worry about schools not having enough money to give them the education they deserve and whether or not the police are here to protect them. As I think of Alton Sterling, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Freddie Gray, and all the names and stories that don’t make the news, I realize how valuable the job we are doing with SSYP is. From the LEARN program through the YLC and Teen programs to our Community Organizers, we are supporting, teaching, mentoring, and guiding our participants to be part of the change. As hard as it seems, together we can and must improve our communities and provide young people with the safe environments they deserve to live healthy meaningful long lives.
By Mayra Gende, St. Stephen’s YLC Site Director
My name is Mayra Gende. I moved to the US in 2001 and joined the SSYP family in 2013. I'm passionate about educational equity and I'm committed to showing our youth a world where they can question, change, and achieve anything they want. In my free time, I enjoy gardening, cooking, and pottery-making.