Categories: Adolescent health care, Leadership, Linked Learning, Los Angeles health care, Mental health, PTSD, Trauma
By Dejauwne Young — August 26, 2015
Unnoticeably, conversations seem so trivial and simplistic that they are easily taken for granted. However, conversations are incredibly important because they secretly direct the course of our world. Great revolutions were born within small rooms among brave individuals who were willing to have tough and sometimes uncomfortable conversations. During my time here at The L.A. Trust, I’ve had the privilege of working with a few students across The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) who participated in our Linked Learning Pilot Program. This year in The Linked Learning program, we recruited students across four L.A.U.S.D. campuses and placed them in a proactive internship at Manual Arts High School, in which they were taught various subjects that are vital to the health of minors.
Every morning before the students begin work, an L.A. Trust or Linked Learning team member leads a warm up activity for students to get them prepared for their daily workload. Now a few days before the ending of the program, it was my turn to guide the warm up activity for the day. On this particular day, Pam Cohen, a Linked Learning staff member, decided to have a conversation with students about the recent outbreak of violence occurring in South Los Angeles with hopes of giving these students a moment to safely express their thoughts.
Our students quickly took over the conversation, telling us stories about life and death experiences with gangs, the deaths of relatives, and their personal feelings of pain, fear, and sadness. I sat in my chair, uncomfortable and nervous, lost for words. What could I say to these young students who face challenges that I never have? Challenges that I myself might not even be able to handle? The students looked at me with their inquiring eyes, waiting for my response. The class fell silent for a while, and as the pressure rose, I knew that I had to respond, and I said all that I knew how to say. I empathized with the students and revealed to them my ignorance of their everyday circumstances. I went on to reiterate the importance of education and the power that lies within it; I expressed how education not only carried me away from the negative circumstances that I faced at their age, but in the process, education also taught me how to go about changing those negative circumstances. And although the students sat in their seats clearly absorbed in their own thoughts, they took a moment and peacefully glanced at me, and at that moment I knew that they heard me.
Intimate conversations that are similar to the one shared between the students and I at Manual Arts High School that day are often uncomfortable and intense; and reasonably so, are avoided by the masses. But I urge us to remember that the words shared in these intimate and uncomfortable conversations, that are so often avoided, can inspire the listeners and breed change within our communities. Although sometimes these conversations may appear insignificant or even sometimes frightening, in these small blips in time where intimate conversations are had, revolutions can be born.
Dejauwne Young is an undergraduate student at USC majoring in neuroscience. He comes to The L.A. Trust as a scholar in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Maternal and Child Health Careers/ Research Initiatives for Student Enhancement (MCHC/RISE-UP) program. This summer, Dejauwne is supporting the development and evaluation of the LAUSD Linked Learning Pilot Program.