Saturday, February 16, 2008

Give 'em an inch and they'll take a mile!

Opportunity.

That's all some people need.

They'll take it and run with it.

A few months ago I was asked to choose a teenager who could represent Dwaine Caraway's district 4 for the Dallas Youth Commision.

After thinking it through a while, I thought Chantel would be a good fit for the position. I don't think I could've made a better choice!

Thursday I took Chantel to the second meeting (the first one ended up being cancelled because there wasn't a quorum). As the students waited for a quorum and as I sat back in the corner reading while I waited, I heard Chantel ask the group, "Was I the only one excited to be here today?!"

I smiled to myself. I thought about how sometimes it's just a matter of noticing something in someone and then nurturing that "something special." Sometimes it just takes an opportunity to get someone going.

As we were driving to the meeting, Chantel explained to me that she had finished her activities at the school and was sitting around talking to friends when one of her friends said, "It's 6:00! You've got to get to your city council meeting!" Knowing that she was going to have to catch the bus to get to Turner Courts, where she was supposed to meet me, her friend quickly offered to drive her so she could get there on time.

It reminded me of Akeelah and the Bee....though the community isn't necessarily noticed...and though they aren't the ones given the opportunity, they come together to ensure the success of the one with the opportunity and the most apparent ability to succeed.

During the meeting they talked about starting a recycling program in each of their representative schools, doing a Youth Service Day, and using meetings to discuss and help address some of the relevant issues they see in their communities and schools. I could see Chantel's wheels turning.

On the ride home she told me how her brain was clicking and how she wrote notes about her ideas during the entire meeting. She kept thinking about the different ways to engage the school and broader community to get involved in the recycling program so that Lincoln could be the "winner"...despite the fact that she is only one person and three of the other Youth Commission members all go to Greenhill.

She has also recently been chosen to be the intern for Radio One (94.5 and 97.9) as well as the Youth Intern for Atlantic records through her radio/tv cluster at school, which she thinks will give her ideas for publicizing the recycling program.

Chantel has ideas. When I first asked her to be on the committee, she said she went around the school telling people she was going to be on the Youth Commission and asked for ideas and thoughts about what they wanted her to address with the city.

Chantel can be a change agent. She just needs the opportunity and the venue. We need to recognize and nurture so many other kids in their skills and talents that they could develop if only given the opportunity.
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