A self-described life-long student, I learn something from another person and/or an experience each day. Last Friday was no exception. I’d been asked to serve on a panel discussion on behalf of the young adults participating in AmeriCorps‘ Cultural Awareness training program. Founded in 1993, the organization engages its enlistees to strengthen American communities. The mission of this AmeriCorps’ assembly was to each mentor 16 disciplinary challenged high school teens who wanted to turn their lives around. Right away, I admired the group’s commitment to education and improving a student’s ability to learn.
Representing the LGBT community (and my deep Southern roots), I was joined on the panel by a Native American (who also had a Mexican background), an African-American (with ties to Jamaica) and a Latina (who had additional cultural influences as well). In other words, we were a mixed bag who offered candid stories about diversity and its impact to our environments. Hearing my counterparts speak, I – along with the audience – soaked up their stories and expanded my own knowledge.
After the panel discussion, my lesson continued as I joined the AmeriCorps attendees for a potluck lunch (featuring foods rich in culture). Between bites, I listened as to how they connected with the troubled teens to whom they were assigned. In order to build their trust, one guy said he ran with his kids; while another joined in sports; and another conducted individual and group meetings (“Some kids open up better if other students are around,” he explained). The art of communication was certainly key to building the bridges with the high schoolers.
Their passioned work reminded me of my own intuitive consultations and why communication is such an important requirement. It’s not only what I say, it’s how I present the information and insights so action steps will follow. After all, the client and I both want results! The same is true for the AmeriCorps team working with their students – they want to make a difference.
While a host of things define my culture, I’d have to say that education – and learning experiences in general – is near the top of my list. And, last Friday, I extended my cultural background thanks to AmeriCorps.
Love and light,