(1.) The Second-year Transformational Experience Program provided me with an opportunity to remove myself from my own comfort zone and created memories that I will cherish for a very long time. Although half of my allocated budget went toward updating my business professional wardrobe for my internship at Kraft Foods Group, the other half of my money was where I was able to explore an area of interest and passion. Using half of my allocated budget, I was able to create a month long children’s choir at my church, Summit on 16th United Methodist Church, with anywhere from 5-12 kids joining me each week. I discussed high-level religion with these 4-12year olds, taught them how to worship through song and dance and got to discuss their lives with them on a week to week basis. Not only was I able to watch them grow up until their final performance on February 28th, 2016, but I, in turn, learned so much about myself.
(2.) I have always been the kind of person who is confident enough in their intelligence and speaking abilities to “wing it.” However, after my first week of “winging it” to an extent, I realized that this practice was not going to be sustainable, as organizing children proved to be QUITE the hassle. The first day that we met, children were bouncing off the walls, not staying in their seats and making it very hard for me to capture their attention. This is when I realized that I needed a detailed plan for the next three weeks in order to ensure that I, as well as the children, were able to get something out of this. Over the next week, I composed a lesson plan which detailed exactly what I would be doing with the children, to the minute, over the hour and a half period. Starting with snack time to get the children in their seats, I then began talking to them about their weeks and asking them how they experienced love in the previous week. I then would transition into a time of listening, followed by bible trivia, pending that everyone participated in the lesson. Finally, we would go into worship and end our sessions learning the two songs and dances that I and a close friend had developed for the final concert. It was amazing to see the positive difference between week 1 and week 2, and I taught myself the importance of preparation, ESPECIALLY when dealing with children.
(3.) Starting that second week, I was able to begin gaining insight into the children’s lives and how they were feeling about their family, about God, and about themselves. We worked on focusing on loving others and ensuring that we were thanking the people who loved us and not taking anything for granted. I was absolutely astounded at how intelligent their little minds worked and how much active thought they had put toward thinking about who they were, what they wanted out of their lives, and how they were dealing with problems. There was one particular instance where a little girl, no more than 8, spoke up about an issue that her family was having, but then launched into how she “prayed once” about the situation because she knew that “that’s what God would do.” On top of her comment being absolutely heart-wrenching, I realized that I was learning from these kids about myself and how I could interact effectively with them. There is certainly a balance of talking and listening that must be reached when dealing with little minds that are racing, full of thought. I will never forget these children and our time together and I still greet them when I see them at church or running around in their “Summit on 16th Children’s choir” shirts. I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to take advantage of such an incredible experience.
(4.) The way I changed and learned throughout this process was very valuable. I learned how to get through to a child’s brain in ways I never had before, I learned how to address issues ahead of time rather than waiting for them to happen, and I learned when it was appropriate to be stern with a child and when it certainly wasn’t. This experience furthered my belief in the fact that it isn’t fair to judge someone right away, because everyone is ultimately going through something. The heavy, pressing issues, which these children were trapped in the middle of, made church almost an escape for them and I soon learned that it was an escape for me too. I did not succeed in our first meeting, but that motivated me to learn from my mistakes and, ultimately, thrive in the upcoming weeks when I got the opportunity to build upon what I had already created. I will never forget this experience and I genuinely believe that it gave me the opportunity to help others while also helping myself.