Below is a speech from Lissette Guzman who is one of our school-based counselors. Thank you, Impact 100 Chicago for this amazing grant to make a real difference in our community!
Imagine a young girl walking in to your room with tears in her eyes and when you ask her what is wrong, she tells you that her brother was shot and critically injured. She is only eight years old. I will call her Sophia. Her life should be about playing with friends and passing her next math test, but instead her sense of safety has been profoundly shattered by this senseless violence. This is the reality for most of the students in our program.
When Sophia came to me to tell me what happened to her brother, she was scared and she averting her gaze when I spoke to her. Sophia’s voice was barely above a whisper as she recalled where the bullets hit her brother’s body. “He got hurt in his face” she said as she raised her hand and rested her palm on her cheek to show me where he got shot, tears pooling in her eyes.
In our schools, we have children whose walk to school invokes fear of being hurt and anticipation of danger at every corner. Over the past school year, Sophia and her classmates practice lock down drills and what we call the “the floppy fish”, dropping to the ground and laying like a fish out of water flat to the ground, in the event that gunshots ring out while she plays outside during recess, a situation that sadly became reality this past November. Since January, I have worked with Sophia for an hour every week in school-based therapy. Therapy has helped to give her the words to describe the emotions she was feeling. Being able to identify and name her feelings has given Sophia command of her internal world.
By providing a safe space with a caring adult to talk about her fears, I’ve seen Sophia build the internal fortitude to face new challenges and make positive choices. She has opened up in class and with her friends, and she now makes more eye contact when speaking. And, despite feeling anger at the violence that impacted her family, Sophia does not respond with aggression but has learned to talk about how to be safe at home and at school.
Providing therapeutic services NOW for Sophia and her peers experiencing similar trauma, will have a far-reaching impact. Because all it takes is ONE caring adult to completely change the trajectory of a child’s life. Healing happens when children form positive relationships with others. We are helping children in our schools develop the skills to be successful throughout life despite so much adversity.
We now have students who began services as elementary school children who have not only gone on to succeed academically but have developed into leaders in their own community, speaking at public events about their struggles, organizing workshops and speaking to younger children who are in situations similar to those they once were in.
We are so honored to be here and to have been nominated for this prestigious award.
With your support we can touch many more lives like Sophia’s, impacted by violence and trauma, to build a more resilient and peaceful community. One built on strength, determination, and perseverance.
Thank you once again for your consideration!