Stephanie Cashin is an interdisciplinary studies major at Auburn University. She is participating in a community and civic engagement practicum with Bridge Builders Alabama, a dynamic two-year program that works with students from public, private, parochial, and home schools. It works to develop high school students into future leaders who will lay aside individual, social, economic, and cultural differences to work for the benefit of all.
My week started with nine Juniors from Montgomery, nine students who could only shrug their shoulders when asked why they were there. Their lack of enthusiasm and apathy discouraged me many days. I often felt that my group just was not getting ‘it’, although I admit now I was not ever sure what ‘it” was. “It” could have been the golden rule, which none of them seemed to understand. “It” could mean stop interrupting people. To me, “it” was the understanding that everyone in the circle has a story, and that his or her story deserves to be told.
I spent many meals and late nights asking my peers, crying, and praying for a way to get through to my group. Then on Thursday, by no doing of my own…they began to talk. My most proud moment as a facilitator was when the group was able to have a conversation, without interrupting, without name-calling. Just a conversation between students about everyday challenges. Challenges that juniors in public and private high school face, problems that affect all races, economic classes, and religions. This would not have been possible without exposure of beliefs and stereotypes that we face every day.
I wish I could say enlightenment happened that Thursday and my group became unified after only one afternoon. However, that was not the case; nothing is ever that easy. I can say though, with confidence, that developing leaders is a process, a process that I am blessed to be a part of and eager to see develop.