mission in action

Kordell Garland practices a flying leap from the mini-tramp Photo: Nora Schultz

Kordell Garland practices a flying leap from the mini-tramp Photo: Nora Schultz

When a teen enters our space, they feel included, welcomed.  They see people who look like them and people who don’t.  They see them working together.  They see people having fun, doing things that look a little, crazy, risky, and they want to try. Often, they look over their shoulder to see who’s watching, who’s judging.  Finding nothing but open encouragement, they dare to try.  Often, they are hesitant, or they laugh at themselves, say something negative.  But they hear others say “try again” “it’s OK” “move your arm a bit”  “hold my shoulder”, and they try again.

When teens enter our space, they drop their guard. They leave what they’re carrying at the door. Some of the most troubled teens turn about to be the most agile, the most readily rewarded by an opportunity to bounce on a trampoline, or turn themselves upside down. In our space, the rules they find hardest to follow are removed,

What we offer is about connecting with other humans, positively.  It’s about questioning your own assumptions,  your own limitations.  It’s about the pleasure of physical activity and an absence of judgment.  It’s about the fun of experimenting and cooperating with peers.   And it’s about showing off.  "Look at me, I’m fabulous. Look at me for what I did. See me for something good."

When a teen who finds it hard to find her voice is given free reign in our costume room, she can build a persona for herself where she feels comfortable being the boss, in a crazy hat and a rainbow tutu. When a teen who is often in trouble because he can’t sit still is allowed to flip onto our mats over and over again he begins to relax. When kids who spend their day following strict rules and holding themselves to exact standards enter our space, they see the freedom that others have, and they learn to experiment. When kids who consistently judge themselves against an impossible ideal enter our space, they see the imperfections of all their peers and they learn empathy instead of criticism.

When all these teens, from different parts of the county, with all their different struggles hopes and expectations, meet together, they learn to take care of each other.  They learn one another’s strengths, and what makes each other angry, or scared.  They adapt, they listen.  They suggest, they teach, they build. And then, when their guards are down, their trust is up, their muscles trained, their ears attuned, their minds calm, they perform their circus acts.

They show up for others, they put on a show.  They invite the audience, younger cousins brothers, sisters, neighbors, friends in trouble, strangers who wander by. They invite them in, with the same welcoming smile they received when they first walked in.  For the teens, this is the best moment.  The moment when they become something special.  When their guests, their audience start to want to be like them.  When they ask “can I try” “can I come back” “can I do that”, and the teens, because they know that’s true, can answer YES! YES! YES!