I started volunteering with Kids in a New Groove nine months ago and immediately felt a part of something significant, so when I was offered a Program Intern position for the summer, it was a no brainer. As an intern, I have been given the chance to contribute to the program in a more meaningful way. To get some ideas on program development, I sat in on a lesson at The Settlement Home, a group home for girls in foster care. Though I went in looking through a professional lens, I was soon moved on a personal level as well. That is what fulfills me about this work– my head and heart get to work in conjunction with one another. It sounds cliché, but the reward I feel I successfully make a positive impact on another’s life is nothing short of a fairytale. But more on that later!
I coordinated with Julie, the music mentor conducting the lesson, beforehand. However, Kat, the student was caught off guard. The lack of enthusiasm about an unexpected audience was written all over her face. I explained why I was sitting in on the lesson, but the unconvinced expression remained. My social worker heart wanted so badly to comfort her, but Julie was the person for the job; Julie spoke her language. Her simple reframe of my purpose for being there put Kat at ease. This meaningful communication between the duo reemerged throughout the lesson. When Kat seemed nervous or unsure, Julie would check in with her. For instance, Kat was singing very softly at one point. Julie asked why, and Kat opened up about not feeling confident in her voice. Julie validated her fears and feelings while pointing out Kat’s ability to identify with this song, and therefore make it her own. I realized that the trusting bond that KING strives to create between mentor and mentee exists between Julie and Kat. It is not only an idea that I have seen on business documents all summer; it is a reality that positively changed the two lives sitting before me. Victory number one.
Julie and Kat began working, as it was the only time they would have to choose and polish a song before Kat’s next performance. Julie had come prepared to rehearse a song that Kat has already performed, but Kat had a different idea. Instead of insisting that they stick to her plan, Julie asked Kat about her plan. She did not tell Kat that her idea would be plan B, she made it plan A. Just like that, she gave Kat a voice. Living in foster care does not provide many choices for the youth, and this gave Kat some control back. While working out kinks, Julie was never bossy. She communicated with authority, but talked to Kat, never at her. She incorporated Kat in the process of cutting and changing the song, and asked for Kat’s opinion and approval on every decision that needed to be made. Kat was actively creating and working towards goals. Victory number two.
After finalizing song plans, Kat talked about her plans to practice over the next week. She knew that with a bit of practice, she’d be ready. Julie and Kat then discussed attire. Julie told Kat the dressing requirements for the event and, after Kat gave some ideas, Julie said, “I trust you. You know how to dress appropriately. I trust you.” Kat had proven to Julie that she is responsible. Victory number three.
It was an efficient use of 30 minutes. In half an hour, I saw KING’s three goals come to life. Of course there is more work to be done, there always is, but seeing the impact inspires better and more thoughtful work. And maybe that is a cliché. Okay, it is definitely a cliché, but it was humbling and gives purpose to the hard work of the KING staff and support of the community that I have witnessed over these last nine months.