After the first day, J* wasn’t convinced he would participate in the Summer Arts Camp.  Lounging on the couch staring at his phone was an easier option, a safer option, one that didn’t require him to leave his comfort zone.  But with a lecture from a Sheriff liaison about good choices, some encouragement and care from UNIDOS and the insistence of his committed mom, J* returned to rehearsal.  Rehearsals stretched his patience, his attention span and his confidence, but he kept at it.

Friday night arrived and he stood on the outdoor stage.  The sunset highlighted his face like a spotlight, a hundred pairs of eyes were on him.  He hesitated to walk up to the microphone; his once-memorized lines vanished from his mind.  He tip-toed up, then immediately retreated in nervous giggles.  “Just look at me, J*,” I said.  “You can do this.”  Word by word, J* kept his eyes trained on me as he repeated his lines into the microphone, and once completed, his expression shifted from insecurity to pride.
You can say to a child, “Hard work is important.” But in the Summer Arts Camp, he discovered that truth himself.
You can say to a child, “Be confident in who you are.” But when the audience roars with applause, confidence is breathed in like humidity in the air.
You can say, “Trust me, I’ll help you.” But until you have earned the right to be a safe place, your words return void.
“You can do this” is now a truth that J* has heard from someone he trusts and also experienced himself.  There will be many challenges in J*’s life, but somewhere in his memory will echo, “You can do this.”

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*Respecting the children’s privacy is important to us.  We do not use children’s real names.

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