My favorite program sponsored by the Bridge Board is the SPEAK Workshop Series at the St. Luke’s Club each spring. The workshops derived from a desire to engage Club Members of varying ages in a unique way. The instructor, the fabulous Dominique Paramore, began the first session by demanding the students’ full attention through an exercise designed to strengthen their minds and discipline. The group of 12 members from ages 8 thru 13 stood at attention, staring straight ahead, and were instructed to focus on the blank wall at the back of room….blocking out any and all distractions. This exercise, like many that Dominique took them through, was strategic as they’ll use this discipline from the workshop to block out negative distractions like peer pressure to reach goals they’ve set for themselves throughout their lives. Following this exercise, they were asked to describe the current state of events surrounding them at home or school. It sparked a lively discussion on a variety of topics from bullying to transgender bathrooms which led them to the topic of stereotypes.
From there, it was their duty to create the script, settings, characters, and all other elements of the play under the direction of the instructor. Each week, they were encouraged and instructed to manage the little time they had together to produce a play that they would perform in front of friends, family, staff, and the Bridge Board. The members also had to work as a team to problem solve when others could not attend practice or someone was struggling with their role. It was an amazing sight to see their commitment to making it work despite the circumstances for the performance titled “Don’t Judge Me.” Each member delivered a creative monologue debunking traditional stereotypes associated with the following roles within society:
- Female Athlete
- Church Girl
- Single Mom
- Singer/Pop Star
- Overweight Girl
For example, the role of the ex-con was played by an 8-year old girl who wanted to convey that some ex-cons exit the system with the same goals as the Bridge Board which is to empower youth to become productive, responsible, and caring citizens.
The students did an amazing job with their program and delivered an effective message. Hopefully they debunked some traditional stereotypes for themselves, each other, other Club Members, and their family and friends. They certainly did for the Bridge Board!
Shared by Yentil Rawlinson, Program Manager with the Cleveland Clinic’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion and member of the College Guidance and Volunteer Committees.