I met Keisha in 2005. She was part of a Circle held at the Juvenile & Family Justice Center or more commonly known as “detention center”.
My co-worker and I exchanged leading Circles on Fridays. Sometimes we had 6 girls and sometimes we had 24. We picked a good time by chance, starting at 11 and lunch is served at 12:30 so it was just a natural time transistion. The Circles seemed to always go pretty well. I loved doing them. So much, I used to volunteer and do them in a juvenile detention center near my home. Just for fun. I got really busy and wasn’t able to keep that committment.
Keisha – she was going to be a rap star. She said she was going to “bust out”. The first “Circle” she sat so sideways in her chair, I had a new definition of “resistance”. She said “Y’all seem, like perfectly nice people” with dismissive wave of her hand “I gotta be here, but I don’t gotta talk”. I have a real weak spot (meaning I have to “win over”) the toughest kid in a group. I love the ones that are just a little more of a risk taker. The ones that have the biggest chip. Keisha’s negative attitude was my favorite battleground. The kid acting the worse, needs me the most. I played that game in the past myself, pushing away people you need. I didn’t know then that what I was doing was helping myself by helping her.
I took interest in Keisha. But she had to work thru something else. She would tell me I was white and she was black. It became sort of a routine answer when our conversation went that one degree warmer than the surface. Finally I used some humor. I asked her if she really thought that I didn’t know that I was white and she was black. She laughed so hard, the rest of the Circle laughed. Those were fun times co-facilitating the Girls Circle. The program has grown to Radius, check that out here.
The requirement for Keisha ended, yet I stayed part of her life, as a mentor. I attended the family celebration for her high school graduation. I was at her graduation for her Associates Degree – and one year after that, we were part of a panel for St. Thomas Law School.
Being Keisha’s mentor has been a joy and a reward. When you give of yourself it’s meaningful. She knows I don’t get paid, it means something to her. We don’t see each other alot but we aren’t ever ‘out of touch’. I’ve been a resource when she’s needed to write papers for school and we are in contact around holidays. She’s on her way to be a social worker or juvenile justice staff to help others the way she has been helped.
Keisha and I at the St. Thomas program: