Reimagining Adversity in Community

My husband and I were talking on Saturday morning about the books we’ve been reading during this time. It has been really important for us to turn off and tune out the news at night before going to bed. Reading has always been a respite for us both. I have almost finished bell hooks’ All About Love: New Visions, and he is rereading Malcolm Gladwell’s 2015 bestseller David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants. In his book, Malcoom Gladwell notes that many famous biologists, writers, presidents, and prime ministers share similar histories of childhood bereavement and adversity. For Gladwell, it seemed that loss, trauma, and trials also created the conditions necessary for the development of resilience and achievement in a great number of creative leaders. As we discussed the book’s focus on the development of leadership and leaders through loss, I thought about our school, students, and the alumnae that have left GVP and all that they are accomplishing.

Amid this COVID crisis and prioritizing the transition of our students and faculty to online learning, I haven’t been able to spend much time checking in with our GVP alumnae, but I have received Facebook messages from some. I am grateful that we have a strong Mentor & Alumnae program and that we have been able to maintain connections with so many of our GVP graduates over the years. More than 65 GVP mentors support the 90+ GVP graduates currently in the Mentor Program. Every year each Form 3 graduate is matched with an adult mentor to help her and her family navigate the transfer into high school. Those connections are critical to our global village and to our students’ continued achievement beyond our school and classrooms.

As we celebrate each year’s graduating Form 3 class, we offer each student a purple scarf and a gift bag that includes a GVP hoodie. The scarf has symbolic ties to our school’s first year. In 2010, GVP’s first class of students went on a trip to Washington DC. They wore purple scarves so that they could quickly recognize and find their school sisters and stay connected to the school community. Each year, we place a purple scarf around the neck of each graduate to remind her that she will always be recognized as a GVP family member and will remain connected to her school sisters and school community. Symbolically, our purple scarves create ties that keep us together. Often, GVP students in high school or on the local GSU campus will say that they recognize other GVP school sisters in the hallways and courtyards by their white hoodies with brightly colored GVP logos. When they see this, they know that they are connecting with a global village sister and with our global village community.

In the book I have been reading, bell hooks says, “Communities sustain life.”  She goes on to say, “Enjoying the benefits of living and loving in community empowers us...” (142-43).  Even the name of our project, “Global Village” reflects this powerful concept of interconnectedness and community. At GVP, the love, community, and connections do not end at graduation. They continue on and serve as resources for us all as we continue to learn, grow, and change.

I can imagine some of the challenges our alumnae might be facing as they try to manage online high school and college classes, missed days and weeks of work, and the pressure of helping to manage their households for and with their parents. GVP students often act as cultural and linguistic brokers for their families. Very often they have higher levels of English and literacy than their parents and bring much needed cultural understandings to their families’ interactions and transactions here in the US. Our alumnae often take the lead on home buying, school registration, governmental paperwork, doctors’ visits, and so much more in their families. They have done so out of necessity and with great determination and resourcefulness.

When I think about the tremendous things these young women have accomplished already in their lives--navigating displacement and resettlement, learning to live through and with loss, learning new languages and literacies, going to school and filling in gaps in their education, creating career goals, and continuing to support their families and communities, I am truly inspired by the resilience and perseverance they exhibit day after day. I think about how they, like the famous people Gladwell describes, are using all of their resources, even adversity, to their advantage.

I read an article online about culturally responsive education and remote learning yesterday. It pointed out how culturally responsive education emphasizes equity, lived experiences, and empowerment and agency among students. GVP has maintained culturally responsive teaching and learning in part through our use of strengths-based and Responsive Classroom approaches. This year, GVP began piloting a new Rising Scholars program for Form 3 students that more explicitly focused on leadership, empowerment, and agency among our students preparing to leave for high school. We are planning to continue this work online and reimagine ways of completing the collective “passion project” and preparing for transitions into high school. I believe that GVP students find so much success outside of our school due to their resilience, resourcefulness, and mentoring support. GVP students are empowered to recognize when they need help and reach out to find it; but they also recognize when they can give help and do so powerfully.

Today, GVP has celebrated the achievements of more than 45 high school and 5 college graduates. We have seen GVP alumnae earn a Gates Millennial Scholarship, a Posse Scholarship, and graduate summa cum laude.  We have seen them raising families, opening businesses, buying houses, and working to better their families’ lives and their communities. Their resilience and achievement in the face of adversity inspire me and offer hope to us all. I look forward to sharing with you for years to come the great things these young women do in our world, and I invite you to learn more about some of these powerful young women here:

Tribute to Education 2020 to Feature Nasteho Ibrahim | GVP News

Meh Sod Paw | I am Decatur