One year ago, I set off with a small group of individuals to figure out how to continue the work we started with Beyond the Bell, the grant funded after school programs we created and served nearly 1,000 Harrisonburg City young people.
While the grants were ending, we were not ok with the work ending. In fact, we believed we were only getting started. And so we set off on the road with a vision that every child in our community would have a champion and the opportunity to fulfill their promise.
It’s been a busy year.
I have had countless conversations with people from all corners of our community about On the Road. We have secured our 501(c)(3) status and put an organizational structure in place. Others have joined our team. A group that began with 5, is now 10 and counting. We have raised some money and begun applying for grants. This year has been full of talking and planning, and planning and talking, and wrestling (figuratively speaking), and more talking as we have fleshed out what we are trying to accomplish. We hosted a House Party, Launch Party and our first Variety Show. Stage 1 of the rebuild is complete.
Without the hustle and bustle of program this year, I have needed the reminder of why On the Road Collaborative matters. And Xavier immediately comes to mind. Xavier was one of our young people in Beyond the Bell last year as a 5th grader. He was not unlike many of our kids- simply in need of more learning time, enrichment opportunity and connection to caring adults. Xavier lives in a low-income household (along with 70% of Harrisonburg City youth) and doesn’t have the same access to resources as his peers outside the school day, and only moved to the United States a little over four years ago. Because of these challenges, Xavier struggled in school and had a hard time socially. But through Beyond the Bell, we saw growth from Xavier over the course of the year.
We surrounded him with a network of caring adult mentors who made sure he knew we believed in him and were there for him no matter what. He had extra time to work with his teachers in English, received coaching on his homework from his Team Leader, and the opportunity to participate in his Aviation enrichment project, where he learned the basics of aerodynamics and the many different careers in the aviation field by taking a trip to the local airport. Then, came the end of semester Learning Showcase. This is the time when all of our young people ‘teach-back’ what they have learned to the community. Xavier shined- confidently teaching his dad how to make a masterful paper airplane. THIS is an empowered moment that puts down some pavement on Xavier’s road and straightens it out a bit. To be sure, the road will still have its bumps ahead, and twists and turns, but this moment matters. Success begets success. This empowered moment literally shifts Xavier’s life trajectory.
Will you create an empowered moment for a young person like Xavier and shift the trajectory of his life?