39Reasons: Reason#13 Between the Lines

This story is among the #39Reasons I am running as a Trustee for Vancouver School Board (VSB). Each story is based on my experience working at the VSB for over 7 years with CUPE and PASA.

Chris had his head down in concentration with his lips pursed under a mustache that was beyond his thirteen years of age

In response to the question “what are you proud of” he took a full minute to carefully scribble his answer, “I will feel proud of myself when I reach my career goal of becoming an officer”

We had arranged with his teacher to join the class and share some activities to explore aspirations and barriers faced by students entering high school

With neon post-its and markers strewn about the room, we invited the students to grab one of each

In facilitating the activity, my colleague, a youth worker, noticed Chris’ answer and she asked him if there was anything he feels proud of today – he responded by saying, “I don’t feel proud of myself yet, I have to reach my goal”

The youth worker shared this with me and shared that she thought it would be useful to explore connecting Chris to people who could help him explore his goal and the barriers standing in his way

With a few more minutes of conversation, we learned that he was struggling to support his mother who was not well

He explained, “I don’t know who to ask. I know I have to work hard and do my studies”

The youth worker and I thanked him for sharing and let him know that we could help answer his questions and check-in when he needed

He nodded

Later that week, over lunchtime, we gathered with community partners and they shared opportunities where students could take part in volunteering, after-school and weekend sports groups and leadership skills development

Turns out, Chris was not unlike other young people his age, wanting so badly to be successful but not knowing where to turn or who to ask

It took one class with a teacher who knew that the quiet students deserve opportunities to ask questions and to be heard

This teacher responded to our desire to work with his students and once we did, that youth worker followed the trail of an activity to find out how they can build the confidence of this young person

Chris got involved in a career exploration event and was one of the first participants in an officer’s training program, a few years passed and he later became a motivational speaker for students just like him

Today, Chris keeps a trimmed beard and he is a manager at a local company where he continues to support his family and work towards his career goal

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