Love was in the air this past weekend. Cupid was probably on high alert and didn’t even have time to shuffle this weekend. For the last 6 years that I’ve been single I’ve spent Valentine’s Day with my children. We usually go feed our faces and hangout. Well, now that my almost 20 year old has had a boo-thang for the last 3 years it’s normally just me and the youngest kiddo partaking in food and fun.
However this year, my work BFF (Courtney) and I decided to hold our first annual girls retreat for our 9 t0 5 job during Valentine’s Day Weekend. We are both Assistant Directors for a pre-college program that has worked with the same group of students from 7th to 11th grade. The young ladies in the program have asked for a girls retreat since the young men attended the Black Male Summit at the University of Akron last year.
They asked. We listened. They came. We rocked it!
We had a great time laughing, bonding, playing spades, meditating, and relaxing. This weekend was so fun, rich in experiences and boundless opportunities. I would like to share the Top 5 Things I Learned from the “Where My Girls At?” Retreat:
- Teach Early. Teach Often. Our facilitators for the workshops were at one time program participants or student leaders for the program. These facilitators are now college graduates or on their way to graduation. We allowed them the opportunity to provide workshops based on tools, resources, and techniques that they acquired in college to help manage stress, the demands of school and walking the slippery slope of having one foot in childhood and one foot almost in adulthood. We need to teach our young people how to manage emotions and stress in healthy ways and environments EARLY and OFTEN. In the words of the great Frederick Douglass: “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”
- Never Sleep on Forgotten Dreams. At the end of the retreat, I told the girls a story about me going to one of the best high schools in Detroit and graduating with just a 2.143 GPA (literally by the skin of my teeth). I told them how if they gave out grades for being the most creative skipper I would be a straight “A” student. But I also told them about a conversation that one of my best friend’s (Quian) and I had one day while riding the iron pimp (the bus) on our way to skip once again. We said that one day we were going back to our high school and tell all of the young girls what not to do. See our lives were full of stories that could make the pages of a New York Times bestseller. If Sista Souljah, Zane and ReShonda Tate Billingsley got together and made a book gumbo it would be about our high school and young adult shenanigans. This retreat was a partial manifestation of my forgotten dream.
- Servant Leadership Is My Cup of Tea. I am a follower of Christ. Point Blank. Period. Make no apologies about it. I serve from the heart and then the head. At times it gets me in trouble, but it never leads me in the wrong direction. I can say there are times that I ask for forgiveness rather than ask for permission because my first thought is what is in the best interest of the people I am called to serve. I am a social worker by degree and in the words of my first black male social work professor, “Jesus was the first social worker on record, so what’s the issue?” This retreat pulled on my servant leadership skills to think of the needs of the students outside of just solely academic. What good is an academically skilled student who cannot manage relationships, make connections and master their fears.
- It Takes Two To Make A Thing Go Right. Have you ever encountered someone in your life and wondered why God put them in your life? Well, when it comes to my work BFF, Courtney, I have never had to wonder, question or ponder God’s plan for our divine connection. She is the peanut butter to my apple. The tootsie to my roll. The seafood to my jumbo. The kettle to my corn. The green to my smoothie. Ok let me stop. Now most folks reading this won’t understand these metaphors but SHE will because she knows me so well. For most people who work outside the home the majority of our day is spent with people who are not blood related. However, Courtney has always felt like family to me. And what better opportunity to have than to work with your family. We tag teamed the hell out of this retreat as we do most events and projects. The process was seamless, filled with passion and easy like Sunday morning. We know what we are thinking without saying it. Our eyes speak volumes and we laugh at ourselves throughout the process. Our skill set compliments one another and we are oh so sure of our lanes and we stay in them.
- Utilize Your Investor as a Training Ground. This entire weekend was a revelation to me. I was once told by a coach that we should reach for the ripest fruit. The ripest fruit is normally at the top of the tree. Well, this retreat was low-hanging fruit for me. It was something easy, accessible and it came second nature to me. My challenge now is how to make the next retreat for my students bigger and better by reaching for riper fruit that pushes both of us in a way that stretches my imagination and stretches their capacity to receive the tools they need prior to starting college. My ultimate goal is to work full time for myself helping others live out their wildest dreams and visions. Because I have worked for youth for over a decade I thought maybe it was time to hangup my hat and work with a different population. But, this retreat has shown me that young people need what Courtney and I bring to the table. So, while I am stretching myself to reach the ripest fruit, this low hanging fruit needs to be nurtured, developed and cultivated.
Stay tuned. Courtney and I have some big things up our sleeves. #TagTeamBkAgain.