I don’t know about you but it’s insane to think that we have hit our half way point! It feels like only yesterday that we were all bright eyed and bushy tailed newbies, eager and enthusiastic for each new day. Sadly, for a while I had been subscribing to Aerosmith’s lyrics to Sweet Emotion, “my get up and go musta got up & went.”
With Steven Tyler constantly singing in my head, I started thinking about something one of my professors always told us. She said, “you can think yourself into right action.” She stressed the idea of daily affirmations. And to be completely honest I had always been a bit skeptical of the idea; it always seemed a little hippity to me. Lately, I started to re-think her idea. When people struggle with anxiety or depression it is hard to see the positive in anything, you end up living in this grey area without bright colors and laughter. Now, I am no psychologist, but I know that depression is a horrible disease that makes the simplest thoughts or actions nearly impossible. However, I do know that thinking a happy or uplifting thought can train your brain to think positively. It will not cure your anxiety or depression, but it will permanently change the way you think about yourself and the world around you.
I have started doing this with not only myself but with my customers. Nobody’s life is perfect. Everyone has a million and one thoughts, feelings and worries swirling around their heads at any given moment, and we never know what all someone is thinking about and going through in their life. Because of this, I have found using daily affirmations to be a powerful instrument in my box of tricks.
As employment advisors, we can’t change the world; we can try. And even when we can’t solve all our customers’ problems, we can at least give them a few words of encouragement and help them see that they are not alone and that they matter. Like Aibileen Clark said, “You is kind. You is smart. You is important.”
“America is the land of the second chance – and when the gates of the prison open, the path ahead should lead to a better life,” – George W. Bush.
This week has been great! My first class of former offenders have successfully completed their month long workshop, and they’re so eager to start their renewed chances outside of prison. One of my students found out he’s getting released earlier than scheduled, and he has already planned what he is going to do once he is released as far as finding employment goes. My youngest student is going back to school to become an electrician once he is released. My oldest student is going to use networking to find a position that will fit him once he is out of prison. In addition, they are all registered for NCWorks, and they will be able to go to the offices for additional assistance. It was great getting to work with these guys, and it was a pleasure getting to know them too! They were extremely appreciative of what my workshop had to offer; they told me they had learned things they had not known previously, such as writing letters of explanation and StepUp Ministry. Overall, they were glad they didn’t opt out of taking the workshop before it started as four other people had done.
I have a new class starting next week. I’m not sure how many people will be in attendance. I’m really hoping for more than three takers this time; the more the merrier, right? I believe more people would make the group activities more enjoyable. I would also enjoy a room with a clock since I can’t have my cell phone to keep time while I’m there. My first night at the prison, I had no way of keeping track of the time; by the time I was finished, I had gone thirty minutes over my time. My students weren’t upset at all. Eventually, I bought a wrist watch to counter that issue, and classes have been ending on time ever since. Also, I hope I get that projector I was promised. I think having some visuals would be a lot more entertaining than just talking in front of a bunch of people. I suppose I can make do with what resources I have for now, such as an awesome classroom, pencils, paper, a whiteboard with an array of colorful makers and an eraser, a lectern, and unlimited printing.
All in all, I have an amazing support system from the prison, the office, and my other team members. The special programs manager, makes sure that their inmates know of the existence of the program and I have the materials I need, while my last batch of students said they would give other prisoners their testimonials after taking my course. My supervisor gave me a lot of information that I was able to include in my workshops. My fellow team members and program manager gave me resources and advice that were helpful and plenty encouragement. Being able to make a positive change in someone’s life is the greatest part of being an AmeriCorps Access member.