From FSH Community Integration Coordinator Julie Richardson Brown’s recent visit to Freshman Academy students at Seneca High School
She’d been looking at me intently for the twenty minutes I’d been speaking, clearly paying close intention, even raising her hand to ask questions every few minutes–questions that indicated a level of familiarity with Family Scholar House I’m not used to seeing when I talk with teenagers about what we do. Something about her seemed vaguely familiar, but I couldn’t imagine where I’d seen her before, how I could possibly know this young woman.
I’d given an overview of FSH, talked with them about poverty statistics in the United States and in Kentucky (especially as those statistics relate to children) and had begun fielding questions–everything from, “Do FSH participants have to go to U of L for college?” (No!) to “Who pays for everything?”
The young woman raised her hand again, this time with a little more assertiveness. “Yes,” I said, “What’s your question?”
She grinned softly, “Oh, it isn’t a question. I’ve seen you before, and I wanted to tell you that. I’ve seen you before at Family Scholar House.”
I must have looked so confused, because she quickly covered for us both, “I was visiting someone.” Before I could follow-up three more of her classmates had asked questions of their own and I turned my attention to them.
Finally, the class session winding down, I passed around a page from some FSH informational material, and as the students looked at it, I caught up with their teacher about some possible volunteer opportunities for her students. And then, again, I heard the soft voice, “Hey!”
Her teacher and I both turned to see the young woman pointing excitedly at the FSH material, “Right there! My aunt! She lives right there!” as she jabbed a finger at a picture of Louisville Scholar House’s apartments.
And suddenly it clicked. The young woman had definitely seen me before. And I her. And her aunt is certainly a resident of LSH. And a few weeks ago, I took a visitor to FSH to her aunt’s apartment for a tour, and my young Seneca friend had been there helping babysit her aunt’s children.
This young woman’s aunt is one of my new heroes in life–a woman who struggled enough on her own but who still, against all odds, took in and eventually assumed custody of two children who are biologically her cousins. She didn’t want them to end up in the foster care system. She knew they needed stability. She wanted for them to be with family. So she made room for them her life and now they all live at LSH while she, finally, pursues that dream of a college degree.
I smiled big, my excitement matching that of my young friend, the rest of the class drawn into the loveliness of the moment, too. The teacher grinned, squeezed my shoulder, knew herself that something special had happened.
Too soon, the bell rang and the moment was lost–but not before it had settled into my heart, bringing a whole lot of hope with it. Before my day at Seneca was over, three more students made sure I knew that they had a friend or a family member living at Louisville Scholar House, all of them so pleased and proud to have a connection to what they were learning about in class that day.
Such amazing circles of connection and influence we cast–even if completely unaware we’re doing so–and somehow, out of all of it, comes this realization of how closely bound we really are to one another after all.