CCP Anniversary Series Spotlight: Chicken Soup for the Traverse Square Soul

This week’s spotlight is on the Traverse Square after-school program. Written by Jay Benedith ’14, this reflection on such an amazing program is guaranteed to inspire you:

“If you’ve come here to help me, you’re wasting your time. But if you’ve come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”
― Australian Aboriginal Elder Lilla Watson

This is the quintessential quote of the Traverse Square program. For many years, coordinators have shared it with tutors at meetings and with the kids at Center.

Having started as a tutor, I understand why some tutors fear that they will be unable to meaningfully connect to the kids at Traverse. It is usually because they are of different backgrounds and identities or because they only spend four hours a week at Center. While it is important to realize that one person cannot change the entire world, it is even more important to realize that one person can change another person’s entire world—as well as his/her own.

Watson’s message of reciprocity, community building, equality and social justice speaks to the work done at Center. It deconstructs the imaginary “us/them” divide that prevents people of diverse backgrounds from connecting. After all, projects of social justice only succeed when there exists a sense of connectivity and togetherness between all participants.

As a coordinator, I hope all tutors realize that whether (s)he is  helping a child with a multiplication set or engaging in a difficult conversation about racism, (s)he is fulfilling a commitment to creating a socially just society. Our words and actions carry weight and when you add them up, they create a power—a power to organize, to unite, to inspire, and to create and instill change.

That being said, let us not waste their time or our time; let us liberate each other and ourselves—one multiplication problem at a time.

Jelisa Adair

I am the Civic Engagement Fellow for 2013-2014. While a student at Wesleyan I double majored in Psychology and Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and completed a joint thesis during my senior year. I am interested in issues of social justice, mental health, media, and global welfare. 

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