Q: As a Raise the Standard speaker, what’s your favorite thing about the sessions?
A: “When I ask the kids to raise their hand if they’re feeling a little more hopeful and empowered than they expected they’d feel. And seeing hands go up.”
Imagine at the age of fourteen you’re told a guest speaker is coming to talk about sexual abuse. You probably hope to sit in the back of the room, hoping to avoid eye contact, or sneak a nap. Or maybe you’d walk in feeling uneasy, or unsure. The best part about our work is how surprised students are about the experience they had with their Raise the Standard speaker.
At first, they walk in quiet, apprehensive, and reserved. Walking out, they feel hopeful, empowered, and encouraged! Sometimes, they even walk out with a high-five, a hug, and best yet: a dance-off.
We’re here to bring tough issues to the table. We talk to students about healthy relationships, sexual abuse, and human trafficking. But we do this through a lense of hopefulness. Students leave feeling they have a part to play in overseeing the justice in their family, school, and community. They leave knowing how they treat people, and treat themselves, is one easy and mindful way to make a positive impact.
This summer we were working with a group of kids through the Family and Children’s Place. The girl group was instructed to write a letter to the younger girls in their lives. You can imagine their surprise when we told them, “Keep this letter for yourself, as a reminder. Even as we get older, and tougher, we should still remember how much we’re worth, remember not to settle, and recognize the treasure you are. At fourteen, and seventeen, you’re still precious and priceless. Even if you don’t always feel like it.” What they wrote to the younger girls in their lives ended up as a reminder for themselves, and it blessed them:
Students are also embracing the invitation to get involved! The photo below shows one of our breakout groups brainstorming on ways to make an impact this school year. They strategized making posters to spread awareness, and holding a fashion show or bakesale as a fundraiser for Raise the Standard.
The best is when they invite you to come back, or to stay longer. Last week the kids said, “Are you staying for staff torture day?” They explained, “Every Thursday we get to vote on something, and the staff HAVE to do it! This week we’re throwing water balloons at them!”
Instead of watching, their Raise the Standard speaker requested a trash bag. She fashioned herself a poncho and joined the staff in their “torture”. She said, “It was quite the opposite”.
We love what we do, and these brief, light-hearted moments foster a safe vulnerability, and trust. It makes a difference when kids feel safe, and connected. This year we walked an eighth grade student to the counseling office to report being sexually abused at home. And we’ve had countless students stay after class to talk to their speaker, or teacher. Tears stream down their face as they process through situations of abuse, even trafficking. Every day is different. Whether it’s laughs and high-fives, or tears releasing students into freedom, this is meaningful work. And we love your students.
This year we already reached 703 students in Louisville, and plan to reach many more this fall semester. Thank you for helping us make this possible.