“It Gives me Hope”

She took two steps forward and lowered her head allowing her hair to fall forward covering her face. She stood alone for what seemed like an eternity. Then the girls standing to her left and right both took their own journey of two small steps forward. Other students around the circle gradually stepped forward as well but I kept glancing back to the one who took those scary steps first. We’ll call her Sarah.

Sarah was taking part in our Point Break workshop which is a six hour, interactive experience for 9th graders. Typically, we get to spend the school day with 70 to 85 freshmen during each workshop. As the day progresses and an environment of trust is established, the dialogue gets more serious. Point Break creates an atmosphere of honest communication. These days real talk can be hard to come by for young people who are struggling.

Sarah took those brave few steps in response to an opportunity that was extended to the whole group. The students were invited to take two steps forward if they were personally dealing with some pretty difficult things. Specifically, the question Sarah and those two girls alongside of her identified with was one of self-harm. They were cutting themselves to deal with the pain in their life. Big pain.

As the workshop began its final segments of healing and reconciliation I could connect with Sarah for a few minutes. I thanked her for being brave. I thanked her for taking those first few steps even though she had 80 pairs of eyes watching her. 

“It’s good to know I’m not alone in the struggles I have” she said.  “It gives me hope”.

Point Break is a day-long workshop designed to promote resiliency among students. Resilient students display social competence, problem-solving skills, personal responsibility and a sense of purpose and hope for the future. Students learn to choose conflict resolution over conflict and respect for others over disrespect.

Through this six-hour workshop, educational and social barriers that exist between students begin to evaporate. High-energy activities, interaction with caring adults and relevant discussion (regarding bullying, painful life experiences and emotional expression) allow Point Break to draw students together, focusing on empathy and respect. Students respond to the day’s challenges with self-reflection and the acknowledgement of personal responsibility. The end result is students who begin to pursue immediate behavioral change.

Students not only discuss compassion, they participate in it! They not only talk about respect, they experience it! Reconciliation takes place right before their eyes as students share their own pain and come to grips with how it has affected them as well as those around them.

-Steve Prettyman
*Names have been changed