Melissa and I attended TEDx Providence last weekend and left feeling energized and inspired. The theme of this year’s event was Past, Present, Future. While each presentation centered on a different area of focus, what was clear through all of the stories was the strength of the connection between where we’ve been, where we are, and where we’re going.
What I found particularly inspiring was the non-profit work taking place in the Providence area. This is just a small sampling of what we heard about:
Weber*Renew was represented by Colleen Daley Ndoye. While I’m quite sure the operation of the non-profit is complex, its concept is simple and transformational. Their organization provides support services to male and female sex workers, including transgender individuals. What makes their work different, and incredibly impactful, is that they reach and support these high-risk individuals with a staff of former high-risk individuals. These staff members are using the dark times of their past to create positive change in the here and now. They can reach the population they seek to help in a way that people who haven’t walked in those shoes cannot. One staff member, who police had called “The Roadrunner” for her ability to escape their grasp, is now collaborating with them to help bring people into recovery services.
Diversity Talks was represented by Kiara Butler. The personal story she shared brought tears to many eyes in the audience. By being honest and vulnerable, she was helping to show the importance of having difficult conversations to address sensitive topics. Diversity Talks helps create a platform for conversation between students and educators. Through open dialogue, educators are encouraged to feel more comfortable addressing race and equality issues, rather than letting them remain unacknowledged as the proverbial elephant in the room. Students have a voice and can bring attention to things such as their heritage being grossly underrepresented in historical studies. The role reversal of student becoming teacher is a shift in dynamic that can lead to real and lasting change.
The Sparkle Program was represented by Amara Berry. This organization is working to nurture our future scientists. The program brings college-level STEM topics to elementary students. Amara pointed out that many typical science activities lack instruction on why and how things occur, and essentially become a magic trick – for example, shooting off bottle rockets. The educators in the program do not underestimate the ability of our youngest learners to grasp science concepts. She even showed an 8-year old solving a combustion equation! I particularly love that each student is given a lab coat in a white coat ceremony. It’s a small thing that makes the students feel empowered.
Thank you to Michael Gazdacko from Urban Smart Growth for hosting us! You and your shockingly small team put on a great show.