by Maria Ventura, 2017 Hopeprint Summer Intern, Notre Dame
“So I could be the mayor of Syracuse?” SemSa* asked with that tilt of a head and squint of the eyes that only signifies a developing plot inside of a child’s head.
“Yes! You just have to work hard and I know one day you could,” I responded, trying my best to reassure an intelligent and capable child that she is just as worthy of a successful career as anyone else. After many attempts of varying degrees of success, I finally felt like I was accomplishing my assigned task of teaching a group of kids between the ages of five and eight about citizenship. As you might have guessed, the average kid in this age range is much more concerned with Duck, Duck, Goose and coloring than being a responsible member of society, but I think my fellow intern Emma and I were able to turn that around.
SemSa* and many of her friends in our Kids Club spent much of Monday and Tuesday insisting that we either color or play games, so it was clear to Emma and me that we would have to get creative so that the kids could take something real away from the experience. This manifested itself in a short explanation of the Syracuse local government, a discussion of what we liked about the city and what we want changed, and letters and drawings explaining this to our City Councilmember. While I have some doubt as to whether Councilor Carni will heed all their advice and all Chinese food will become free across Syracuse and parks will appear next to every house, the children were able to take a lot away from this experience. With some markers and a pack of construction paper, we were able to instill in these kids that they, too, have a say in and ability to change their community. I think that’s is a pretty great return on investment.
* Names changed for privacy