The brick buildings feel oh so familiar – their configuration – their placement side by side of one another. The child in me resonates as Debbie Clark and I make our first visit to the Pusan Road site of Hoops & Homework. It is early spring, 2016; and, Debbie and I are there to meet with Dolly Mathis, lead teacher, to see if we, at Open Spirit: A Place of Hope, Health & Harmony, through our Nourishing Teachers/Strengthening Classrooms Project, might be able to provide some yoga/mindfulness or flamenco dance classes for the children during the 2016 summer program. Private donors had generously provided some funding to our Open Spirit project to kick off this type of community outreach.
As I sit around a small rectangular table to meet with Dolly and Debbie, I see varied age groups of children around the perimeter of the room doing projects and homework. There are some computers in the room and art materials. There is also a lot of love emanating from Dolly.
Dolly shares with us the draft of a list of classes she has scheduled to date for the summer program. I feel the excitement for these children filling me with great hope.
Though the brick buildings have the sameness of the housing project in Boston where I spent my youth (ages 5 – 15), here I am in a clubhouse of sorts in a staffed afterschool space, something that did not exist for us kids in projects run at that time by the Boston Housing Authority.
As a child living in a housing project, I was fortunate to have my basic needs met. I also had the inner assurance that my parents would be home each evening. I had a father who read to me and shared with me how education is the way out of poverty. His encouragement and the encouragement of my teachers led me to Framingham State to become a first generation college graduate, graduating as an elementary school teacher.
In my thirty- year career teaching in Framingham, I worked with many students who were not thriving, not reaching their fullest potentials. They were experiencing a variety of symptoms of trauma, with needs for basic food, clothing, and shelter.
Now, in my retirement years, I have the opportunity to work with Open Spirit and Hoops & Homework to help provide the students with some after school programming that can support them in their attainment of Hope, Health & Harmony.
A fundraiser, Ole’Flamenco, featuring flamenco dance and music will take place at Open Spirit on May 7th from 3:00 – 5:00pm. Please join us. Donations to this effort are most welcomed and so very appreciated.
Rosanne Kates, M.Ed.
Nourishing Teachers/Strengthening Classrooms Project