Shine On

Yesterday and the day before were rainy and bleak around Atlanta. Somehow the darkness of the days made the stress of isolation and social distancing harder for me, and I imagine for others. With the rising cases of COVID-19, continued closures, and stay-at-home orders for the City of Atlanta and City of Decatur going into effect, the new realities loomed larger, especially as the rain and clouds shrouded the sun.

I thought about our GVP newcomer students and their families often on these dreary days and wondered how they were managing from moment to moment when they couldn’t even get outside and when I knew that I wasn’t faring well myself. They are certainly resilient and resourceful, but this is an enormous amount of stress for any person to process and cope with, and for each of them this new stress compounds existing stress and trauma related to loss, displacement, acculturation, language barriers, and poverty. All of the students at GVP qualify for Title I educational support services. All of the students and families at GVP have experienced some kind of trauma.

Thankfully, our GVP School Support Specialist reached out and called all of our school families on Monday and Tuesday. Many reported doing well and some were even celebrating—a birth and a marriage--but many more had questions, concerns about work and health, and wanted to know when things will return to “normal.”

Today, the sun is shining again. It’s a new day, and that sunlight makes all the difference for me. I am reminded of the power of light. At GVP, one of our favorite songs is “Shine On.” Written by Terri Garthwaite and taught to us by our amazing artist-in-residence, Elise Witt. The song speaks to light’s power to bring change, hope, peace, and love: 

I can see the light
Like a brand new day
Like a bolt of lightning
It takes my breath away.

I can hear the sound
Like a charmin’ bell
Like a soft reminder
All is well
I can feel the beat
Like the wings of a dove
Like a heart on fire
Full of the light of love.

Burnin’ bright, making day from night
It’s such a welcome sight, here comes the light
Here comes the light, here comes the sun
Here comes the heat–this is heaven!

Despite the challenges, despite the obstacles, the people in our global village shine on, and together we spread light in the darkness.

Global Village Project is a strengths-based school, and we use trauma-informed and restorative practices and holistic approaches in our learning community. GVP is also an arts-integrated school, and we embrace the arts as powerful tools for communication, creativity, and community building.  We aim to continue these practices now in our new online communities and believe these may make all the difference during these difficult times.  

GVP’s Social and Emotional Learning & Wellness Program is core to our work and one of the 4 main pillars that strengthen and support our model. Over the years, more and more educational research has shown that social integration and positive relationships are consistently the two most important factors in educational attainment and success. At GVP, we recognize that while we are dedicated to our mission of providing an excellent education for our students, we must also provide for their social and emotional well-being and growth. Students are humans first, who learn in and through community and relationships with others.

Well-being and social, emotional, and physical wellness are essential to learning. According to Maslow, social, emotional, and physical needs must be met in order for growth to occur and for a student to reach her greatest potential. GVP has been and remains committed to holistic education. Our School Counselor and SEL Coordinator is setting up group counseling sessions online and told us today that she is working to set up physical fitness groups as well.

For years at GVP, we have called our families when students were absent. We have hired interpreters for all of our intake interviews, enrollment days, and conferences so that we could communicate with parents. We have used buses to bring parents and conferences and events because we know that parents are powerful and essential parts of the school community. In this time, we will continue to do all that we can to support them as well. We will call each family every week, and we will continue to deliver food for as long as we are allowed. We will provide connections to resources and ensure that students and their families find community and help through our global village.

We are committed to making sure that what we do now reflects our core values, mission, and vision. We intend to shine on and invite you to join us in spreading “the light of love” in these days.

You can see and hear our GVP students singing “Shine On” below and view more videos on Ms. Elise’s website. I feel sure this will bring a little light to you today.