When I first entered UMFS Charter School I had so many thoughts racing through my mind as to what I should expect. All I knew was that I signed up for a class called “Video Mentoring” through VCU and that I would be teaching special needs children the basics of shooting, interviewing and editing. My classmates and I had been previously prompted about how the children had all been through some type of traumatic situation and to treat them with a certain delicacy. To be honest I felt uneasy to get to know them because some of the things I had been told. I was so afraid of getting too close and making them uncomfortable. The last thing I wanted was for one of the students to have an episode because I had invaded their personal space. As I waited for their arrival I kept thinking of all these scenarios in my head of how that could happen.
The students came in the room and after our first and somewhat awkward introductions to each other, then we were encouraged to get up and meet and greet with each other. The first interaction my classmates and I had with one of the students didn’t exactly go as smooth as I’m sure we all had hoped. We stepped out of the conference room to introduce ourselves to a girl who had a chocolate allergy and couldn’t be in the room, but due to the lingering smell of the m&m’s and chocolate chip cookies that were set out for us, she passed out. In my mind I just knew that indecent would set the tone for the rest of the afternoon.
We returned into the room and formed little circles and made small talk just trying to get a feel for the students we would be working with, keeping the personal space bubble at the forefront of our minds. After just a few minutes of talking I realized these kids were more like me than I could have ever imagined. I can’t remember the last time I laughed so much and had such fun conversation. We shared our personal stories about how tough it can be to be a girl sometimes with the tight corset dresses and spanx and we also shared some of our weird food craving like burger doughnuts and fried Oreos. As conversation went on our laughs got louder and our circle around each other formed tighter. Every thought I had about them in my mind before went right out the window and I was able to talk to them just as I would anyone else.
That’s really when it all clicked for me. I realized we are all equal human beings and just because their circumstances are different than mine, doesn’t mean we can’t relate to one another. They had no control over the situations they were either born with or born into, so instead of profiling them before I got to know them, I should have given more of a chance. I realized I was the one that had put up a personal bubble.
My goal for this class was always to help people, but I think at first it was for selfish reasons. I was focused more on how the experience would impact me and mold me to be a better person instead of thinking about how much much my service could do for them. Now I have made a real connection with these kids and genuinely care about them. I want to help them make it to college and get just as far, if not further than me in life.