“You’ve got to hear this one, Bruce.”
Our Wellness Director, Siomara Wedderburn (Sio) walked into my office with the kind of half-smile that had me wondering if this one would end with celebration or dismay.
“You know Arianna, in 12th grade?”
“Yes…” I replied with anticipation.
“Well, I was working in the Wellness room and she popped in and asked me to leave because she needed to use the space to resolve a conflict with a peer!” Sio shook her head and smiled. “I left the room and stood outside while the two of them talked through their problem.”
This is a celebration story! When Arianna came to UrbanPromise six years ago, she was shy, anxious, and unsure of herself. She was, in her own words, “a very angry kid. I was angry all the time.” Now, she was demonstrating her confidence and competence by appropriately managing peer conflict. In that moment, Arianna embodied so many of the skills and characteristics that we value.
Sio continued, “They didn’t need me, and that’s the magic of it all. We model, we guide, and hope they will take what works for them and run with it.”
Today, Arianna serves as the president of student government and is respected among her peers for her advocacy, integrity, and ability to bring peace to the murkiest of situations. She understands her power to affect change. She has left an imprint of love on her peers and the children she works with in our after school program.
“I’ve become a better person. I’ve changed a lot and matured,” Arianna reflected. “I haven’t always been the best communicator. But I’ve learned how to talk about my feelings and communicate.”
She gives credit to four of her role models.
“Ms. Rodriguez, Ms. Sio, Ms. Geneva and Ms. Shauna, they are my main people at UrbanPromise. They all encourage me to be a better person, the best version of myself. Ms. Rodriguez will always sit down one-on-one with me to help me figure out whatever it is I need help with. Ms. Siomara wants me to make sure that I’m taking care of myself before I take care of others; she helped me identify what self-care looks like for me. Ms. Geneva, she’s always pushing me to do better because she knows how I am at my best. And I’m always getting advice from Ms. Shauna on how best to work with the elementary kids in the after school program.”
How beautiful that Arianna names these four bright, committed, loving women as her “main people.”
In this season, we ask you to continue partnering in this important work, because kids like Arianna have so much to offer to their community and it’s our job to provide the opportunities that support them along the way.
There are hundreds of kids like Arianna in Camden that we continue to love, mentor and encourage. And we need resources. That’s why I need your help to meet our match of $168,500.
This can only be done with the persistent work of people like Ms. Rodriguez, Ms. Sio, Ms. Geneva and Ms. Shauna. And it can only be done with your faithful partnership.
Founder and President
P.S. Arianna hopes to attend Rutgers New Brunswick and study business. She’s keeping an eye on her inbox for an acceptance letter.
P.P.S. When I told Arianna I was writing this letter and asked what she thought our supporters should know – why this work matters – she said “Because we matter. And we really do benefit from their support.”