On Sunday I returned from vacation. I had never been to Southern California before this trip and it was beautiful. I enjoyed the sun, the beach, all the friends that I saw there and the new people that I met. Part of me felt I could have spent another week on the beach, but I knew that it was time to come home.

The day after I returned to Baltimore I began a training at the Family League. I am working with the Creative Alliance this year facilitating an after school art club as part of their Open Minds program and the training was one of the first things I did as part of my new job. I was unsure of what to expect from this training. I think of trainings as usually informative, but often also boring. I wanted to believe that this training would be different, but the pessimist in me wouldn't allow it. Luckily I was pleasantly surprised. The Family League put together an amazing group of facilitators and the two day training felt a part of my work rather than something removed from it.

The first session I attended was with Playworks. I believe I have written about them before, I have used their games in my programming and worked in the building where their Baltimore office is located so have attended their "office recess." I am saddened that our culture needs a non-profit to facilitate play in the school day, but am impressed by Playworks' values of non-competitive and inclusive games. During their session all participants were actively engaged and we had fun while learning games and skills we can take back to our classrooms. 

The second presentation was by the Family League's Jeffrey Wright. He presented on youth voice and choice in the classroom. His workshop was closely aligned with my own pedagogical practice, but I still felt that I gained something valuable from participating. Wright was generous with his knowledge and experience and again all participants were engaged and we had amazing dialogue about our work, our youth and what we hope that young people gain by being in our programs.

Day 2 began with a performance by WombWork Productions. If you have never experienced a WombWork performance, do not miss your next opportunity. They are amazing. Their piece was about virtues, what prevents people from acknowledging the virtues they have and the transformation that can occur when we do acknowledge them. I always feel blessed by being a part of a WombWork performance, even in my role as spectator.

Following WombWork was a presentation by Mee Productions, a communications firm that develops research-based, market-driven solutions for issues facing urban and low-income populations living in at-risk environments. I will admit that at the beginning of their presentation I had no idea what Mee did or how it pertained to our after school programming. Once they got through the introduction though, I understood and there were several points that they made that resonated with me. The part of their presentation about oral communication and identifying your audience before trying to create a message for them or changing them is important. I liked the fact that their research was done by interviewing people in the communities that their clients wanted to change, instead of just creating messages based on the perceived necessary change. They acknowledged the baggage and prejudice that often comes with the resources needed to make change and the fact that without understanding and meeting people where they are one will not be able to create any real impact.

The final session I attended was a follow up to the WombWork performance. It was about the Virtues Project, a global grassroots initiative to inspire the practice of virtues in everyday life. We had the opportunity to acknowledge our own virtues and those of others, both the virtues that are strong in our lives and the ones that may need growth. This process set up an incredible space in which we had deep and meaningful dialogue and were able to really connect to each other. It reminded me of why I do what I do. It created a peaceful and joyous space where meaningful connections were encouraged and created.

Trying to connect people and connecting to people is why I began making art, it is why I started working in education and with community. This training was all about that. The facilitators set up safe spaces where we were able to find common ground, really see each other and authentically communicate. It was not only the facilitators who made this possible, all of the participants were also a part of making this happen. I am so glad to have met them all or to have reconnected with those I already knew and can only express my deepest gratitude for sharing this experience with all of these amazing people and be thankful that I was and am a part of this incredible community that is working with the youth of Baltimore City.

To find out more about any of the above organizations visit the following websites: