By Scott McLeod, PhD
Snippets from the start of our summer programming at Aspire:
- A group of five smiling boys walking to the pond before a swim having an animated conversation about the relative merits of various comic book authors.
- Our nature science expert teaching kids about the wonders of the environment at Hale Reservation.
- Teenagers sitting in a group of 18 all in a gregarious cacophony of conversations at our Lexington site.
- Teens conversing about what “Adulting” means to them in Newton.
- An intern noting with enthusiasm, “this is the first time in my life I feel respected for my work!”
I have the luxury to visit each site for our summer programs and witness the four through 29 year olds in action. It is thrilling to realize that the participants who come to our programs have come to expect to have fun, be accepted, and to connect with others. Quirkiness is expected and accepted. Many know that they can let their guard down a little, and relax.
Of course, staff have done a great deal of work in setting up these environments to maximize this kind of success. A small but telling example: Walking to the next activity, one boy wandered away from the group and started making patterns in the sand. His group leader walked over, made some patterns in the sand with him, reminded him about the next activity and mentioned that his peers were hoping he would be there and they walked on together. Many counselors would have called over and said, “Hey, let’s go, your group wants you.” Not an awful response… Our staff member used her proximity, her joining and her ability to convey information in a manner this child was ready and able to hear. These subtle, and other not so subtle, methods are what we expect from our committed staff.
Putting aside those details, however, in this note I wanted to convey the outcome: Our participants are having fun connecting with others. It’s been a great start to the summer!