Fostering a Brave Space
At the door of TYO, students can either leave their external feelings or share their sentiments and be welcomed into the community. As an educational and psycho-social organization, the staff at TYO inherently cares for the holistic care of every student.
In order to ensure the comprehensive care of every student, the staff and volunteers uphold that TYO is neither a religious nor a political space, but rather the space for empowerment and self-fulfillment. At times, however, this is easier said than done. Sometimes students are inundated by external factors that could have unexpectedly kept them up late, prevented them from coming to school on time, and brought them discomfort. Throughout these times, TYO becomes a brave space for students experiencing any internal or external conflict since students are encouraged to be courageous and realistically dialogue about their challenges.
Brene Brown, an American scholar and research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work, states, "Vulnerability is not weakness, rather it is our most accurate measurement of courage and the birthplace of innovation, creativity, and change."
I call TYO a brave space because it lays a foundation that enables students to not be deterred by difference, but instead understand diversity and learn to articulate honestly and constructively. TYO’s ability to create this environment in all of its programs sets a precedent for learning that is rooted in equality, empathy, and respect.
I have found the environment to be extremely helpful for me when both establishing relationships within the organization and the framework of my own classroom. Encouraging everyone to be courageous thereby enables everyone to self-identify, be vulnerable, build community, and grow together - especially in a setting where individuals come from different neighborhoods, camps, and outlooks on life.
My classroom has become one of the places that I understand most here because I have been able to grow with each student since the beginning of the session. Fostering a brave space through inclusive and authentic language, intentionality, and recognizing my own privilege has allowed for me to learn the needs and goals of every student, and uphold their perspectives in the classroom.
Fortunately my students have reacted positively to this environment, by expressing that my classroom is a place for them to earnestly explore their ideas and those of their classmates together. Most times, exploring their ideas and those of their classmates manifests in the form of making mistakes. For example, my students often ask questions or share thoughts even with insufficient vocabulary or experience on the topic, but know that regardless they can be heard and understood because we support and help each other. Other times, this manifests in the form of being self-conscious; moreover, recognizing their individual purpose in the class and how their direct actions in the class can further their purpose.
I recognize that moving forward, I would like to sustain this framework in my future personal and professional environments. By addressing conflict, difference, and discomfort in a courageous manner, I have learned that the community is able to grow in support and understanding.
– Catalina, Fall 2016 EFL Fellow
The English as a Foreign Language (EFL) program is part of STEP! II, a youth employability, empowerment, and community leadership initiative supported by Abdul Hameed Shoman Foundation.