Just this minute, I finished interviewing Diana, a 17-year-old graduating high school in just a few months. Somehow, urgently, sincerely, I want to take what talking to her has placed on my heart and place it on yours. She is bright, mature, committed, hardworking, honest, teachable, loyal, and brave, just to say a little about her. And she has hopes and dreams – for a family, a faithful husband, a career in fashion or design, with a desire to give back to her community. I was listening to her describe her experience on the UrbanPromise College Vision Trip last year. Hearing how it impacted her reminded me how vital and urgent this experience is for our kids.
I’ve known Diana at UrbanPromise for 10 years, since she was a child at Camp Freedom. Kristin Walker was her intern then, and now, ten years later, Kristin is her Director and mentor. She serves as a StreetLeader, one of our camp counselors. Diana has lived her whole life in one of Wilmington’s most challenged public housing projects. For three years, 8-10th grade, there was a gap in her time with us, and in that time some real problems developed.
“I thought they were my friends, but they weren’t,” she explained of those lost years. “You can get pulled down real fast if you fall into the wrong crowd.” One consequence was her grades tumbled. I remember how we reached out to her in those years.
“Currently I’m not as far in my college journey as I’d hoped, I didn’t have a good high school experience. I’m so sad about it. My grades were terrible, it killed my GPA. Now I’m on honor roll! I didn’t comprehend how that would hurt my future,” she said with such maturity and weight it made my heart sink.
She returned to us in 11th grade, definitely a factor in her improved results. It’s why we target tenth graders for the College Vision Trip. Ninth graders just don’t make the connection of GPA to their future, but tenth graders do and we can still affect their grades in time to not experience Diana’s pain. Seeing college first hand and connecting that experience to their grades is motivating.
Diana took the UrbanPromise College Vision Trip last year with 11 other UP students. They traveled nearly 2000 miles south to Atlanta, west to Memphis, and back home, visiting dozens of colleges and civil rights historical sights. It’s an UrbanPromise tradition and rite of passage for Sophomores.
Growing up, college was not an option for me, it was an expectation. My parents went, all my siblings went, and all my peers in high school went. I’ll bet many of you just expected to go to college, too. But for the youth like Diana, that’s not real. They have huge fears and doubts about college really being for them, let alone seeing how they can pursue it.
“Even up to the last day before the trip I wasn’t sure I would go, I was scared,” Diana shared.
“Right away I was glad I went. The group bonded so well. We got to be together outside work and see each other’s personalities. When you spend 8 hours in a van together you’ve got to get along! Darren brought walkie talkies and we had a singing competition for half an hour between the vans on the walkie talkies. I felt so free.” It brought me such joy to see how she loved this trip, how it boosted her confidence; a small escape from some of the tough realities of her neighborhood.
“Seeing the colleges made me feel more connected to that idea. I loved Georgia State. We had a great student guide and we jumped up and down on the beds in the dorm. It sounds silly, but feeling the beds on my feet made it seem real, like I could do this!” I thought about my days in a college dorm. How beautiful it would be for my friend Diana to have that same life altering experience.
“We would never have had the chance to do this on our own. It made me more excited but not less scared of the work.” I loved that, a chance to dream with a reality check. That’s what the College Vision Trip should do.
“This is a good thing for people to support,” she said so earnestly, “because we’re helping the kids we serve at UrbanPromise, doing something huge in our own community. If we can go to college you would really allow us to do something else huge in the community.” Diana said this with such passion, such sincerity of heart; please imagine her saying this to you, see the sense of urgency in her eyes, because that is just how she so beautifully said it to me.
I always end these letters with a direct request asking you to give as generously as you can to help our kids. But this time, Diana asks you herself. “This is a good thing to support…you would really allow us to do something else huge in the community.”
Look at the donate page. Help our kids “do something huge”. Connect your heart to theirs the way Diana did to ours.
Thank you friend. Diana gives us all real hope. Pray for her!
P.S. Could you donate a used vehicle? We could really use a minivan or car!