Getting Through it Together
Skylar* looked around the new space where he was learning. He didn’t recognize any of his new “classmates” and no one from his own neighborhood was present. He was used to being surrounded by people who looked like him and his older brother. The people around him today were from another neighborhood, one often at odds with his own. He took a deep breath, feeling lonely, and opened his laptop. He signed into his “classroom” and saw a boy on the screen who was actually in the same room as him. He looked at the boy, looked back at his screen and pointed, “Look! He’s in my class.” With those five words, an unlikely friendship was birthed.
Historically, in Cincinnati, the African-American and Hispanic communities don’t purposefully interact. Skylar and his brother had been sharing a local church space with other children from their same community. Schedules were moved around, leading Skylar to a new room, with new people who were also remote learning. He was feeling alone until Carlos*, another boy, both in that room and in his class, couldn’t answer a math question.
“Carlos, can you please answer the math question?” his teacher asked on the screen. Skylar could see Carlos fidgeting with his hands, a sure sign of nervousness, and he wanted to help him out. “Hey!” Skylar whisper-shouted across the room. “It’s 138!” Carlos smiled softly at the help before repeating the answer to his teacher. “That’s correct!” she congratulated.
A few moments later, class ended and the children were let outside for recess. The two boys approached each other – a sight not many in the neighborhood had ever seen before. Their connection was instant and easy. In the days to follow, Skylar moved seats to be closer to Carlos. The young Hispanic boy continued to struggle with certain subjects, and Skylar could see his new friend’s discomfort. He picked up his laptop, and moving to the table where Carlos was at, he said, “It’s okay brother. We’re gonna get through this together.”
Rewriting the Stories Around Them
Cincinnati Bengals Cornerback, Trae Wanes, felt the heaviness of a year filled with loss for African-American communities and wanted to provide hope. He reached out to Back2Back Cincinnati partner, The Boys and Girls Club, and asked how he could partner with them in offering hope to teens during a tense time in our country.
Thirty students who are in coaching relationships through Back2Back Cincinnati were selected to receive a special gift. These coaches work alongside students to navigate disparity and to influence the trajectory of their lives. Trae and his wife, Kyra, partnered with Adidas to give each of the thirty teens a duffle bag filled with Adidas clothes, a pair of slides, a water bottle, a hat, and a pair of socks. Each gift was meant to send a message: there are people who see you and care.
This is the inspiration of the next generation – reaching up to mentors and role models, looking for encouragement as they rewrite the stories around them.