Right now, I'm a calm anxious (an oxymoron, no doubt). And I'm not sure if the calm that modifies the anxious is a testament to the experience I've chocked up over the years of doing this work, or my trust in the team I've assembled, or if it just hasn't completely hit me that SUMMER PROGRAMS ARE STARTING IN TWO SHORT DAYS!!
This year, EEE has committed to serving more youth than we've ever served over the summer. So far we're right around 270 youth, with funding pending to serve even more (fingers crossed). We're also building some existing partnerships which will allow us to bring to fruition a couple of major projects that we'd proposed some time ago.
This work is a calling, for sure. It's a balancing act, requiring the ability to ride the shifting waves of highs and lows as they randomly hit you. It's being slapped with the staunch reality that there are no unequivocally safe spaces when a young man the same age as your young people is killed in extremely close proximity to one of your program sites. Followed by the incredible high of learning that one of your youth who's been in your program for years earns both a Posse Scholarship and a Gates Millennium Scholarship. Around the same time that you absorb feelings of heartache, guilt, anger, inadequacy from one of your youth being shot. While celebrating one of your program alumni who is triumphing over so many obstacles to become more independent and carve a better future for herself. I ride these waves and others in between.
I can't avoid the news reports of the vastly dispersed crime throughout Chicago and more prevalent in the areas EEE focuses on. It'd be irresponsible and impossible to do so.
I'm anxious, because in a couple of days, I will meet (and/or reunite with) many precious young people who have come to EEE to learn new skills, to develop existing competencies, to earn money, to establish friendships, to be mentored, to set and achieve personal goals, to walk in their own purpose...And I want to meet and exceed their expectations, and keep them safe, and help them to see that each of them possesses a unique greatness that the world needs.
Summer programming takes A LOT of effort to plan, launch, and implement. "A lot" is an understatement. But, it is so worth the effort! Summer programming is a fast-pace whirlwind; you blink, and it's finished.
Kashanna Eiland is the co-founder and Executive Director of Empowerment through Education and Exposure, a nonprofit agency that promotes post-secondary education and career opportunities for Chicago youth. She is also a Social Impact Strategist and Speaker who aims to help socially conscious individuals and organizations bring their bright ideas to fruition.