Kasia Carrington is an 8th grader at Henderson Middle School. After growing up in the Highland Park Learning Center, she now participates in L.C. Remix’s middle school program. At school, she qualified for classes above her grade level in science, is a leader on her cheerleading team, has played violin in her school orchestra, has submitted a proposal for a new club at her school to help students express their emotions in healthy ways and reduce violence among students, and has even run for school president.
After cheerleading every day, Kasia is consistently present at the Learning Center. She is not only physically present but intellectually and relationally invested as well. We often find Kasia still immersed in her homework when it’s time to leave, and she will bring her assignments downstairs during free time and continue working even after her mentor has left. She develops honest friendships with her mentors, showing interest in learning about their stories as well as sharing her own life. She shows courage and willingness to work through inevitable conflicts when they arise with peers, and during the summer she has worked as a Youth Life L.I.T. (Leader in Training), mentoring elementary school students. Kasia is a blessing to Youth Life, and we are thankful for her!
To raise a young man of character in the neighborhoods we serve is a real challenge. That challenge is being met in one of Highland Park’s students. Jahleel, now a fifth grader, started at the Highland Park Learning Center two years ago. He too has felt the pull of his friends and classmates to do wrong. He too has succumbed to the desire to be like everyone else even if they’re not doing what he knows to be right. With our influence alone, ensuring these kids make right choices in their lives is a daunting task. It really does take a village to raise a child.
Thankfully the best case scenario is in place for Jahleel, where his “village” is all on the same page, working cohesively to firmly form Jahleel’s identity in Christ and His righteousness. His parents are strong Christians. Active in their church and within the neighborhood, they are proactive in their kids’ lives, seeing the best in them, believing the best for them, and expecting the best of them. This year Jahleel has been accepted into St. Andrew’s School, a Christian private school, where he is excelling socially and academically. Athletically gifted, Jahleel competes on several local teams throughout the year and sets the example for sportsmanship and teamwork on the field/court.
And at the Learning Center he is setting the highest example of leadership for a group that includes four new younger boys who look up to him as the oldest. What he is exemplifying is diligence, respect, kindness, and joy. Perhaps the most telling example of his leadership happened recently when he was seen helping a kindergarten boy by tying not one, but both of his shoelaces. There was no hint of irritation or of being put out, no ridicule. The boy hadn’t even asked. Jahleel had simply noticed and offered and knelt, showing a younger one the ways of Christ, of caring and of serving.