November 2018
I’d like to share with you a story that, to me, demonstrates the power of the work we are doing. I was recently in Atlanta at The Children's School Pollyanna Conference titled My Authentic Self: The Intersection of Race & Gender in Middle School. There were nine schools attending and the morning breakout session by constituent group had rich conversations. I chose to sit in the student group since they are as authentic as you can get.

The session began with a prompt from the facilitator. “Write down on a post-it a time when you didn't feel supported,” she said. When the students were done writing, they placed the notes anonymously on the board. The first note the facilitator shared said, “I didn’t feel supported when I told my grandparents that I wanted to be called by a new name.” The facilitator paused, and we waited to hear more. “A week after asking my grandparents to follow my wishes a box arrived with accessories that were all printed with my old name.” When the facilitator stopped reading, there was an audible gasp from the group.

When the students were then asked to reflect on and respond to the post-its they had heard, several students referred back to this incident, and shared how insensitively the grandparents had behaved. But what was most heartfelt was the outpouring of care each student demonstrated to the anonymous student. Each expressed how much they respected and supported this student whom they didn't even know. What impressed me the most was these were middle school children who understood where the grandparents fell short and weren’t able to show compassion. I’m sure it must have felt very powerful for the student to receive this affirmation and acceptance from a community of peers unknown to some until that morning, when we all knew how painful their family’s reaction had been. I'm guessing this student left the house that morning and didn't expect to come to a conference and feel this much care and support.

This is why Pollyanna makes a difference. Ever Voice Matters and is heard. We welcome all constituents of a school to the conversation, but making space for a diverse, supportive and empathic community of students is the reason we spend a Saturday talking about how to make our schools and their experiences better.

Many thanks to Pollyanna Friends who have already contributed in 2018! If you haven't yet, please consider donating and supporting the work we're doing for the students.

With much appreciation,
Casper Caldarola
Pollyanna, Inc. is a New York not-for-profit corporation 501(c)(3). © 2018 Pollyanna.