Ubuntu: I am, because you are.
This African proverb summarizes most simply my own life philosophy. I believe we are all extensions of the experiences, namely the people, whose paths we have crossed throughout our lives. I know that I would not be with BAWSI now, if I had not first started volunteering with the high school students I coached at Notre Dame High School in San Jose over six years ago. Since then I have been hooked on BAWSI. After moving on to work for San Jose State Women’s Basketball, I felt passionately that the team experience the BAWSI world and culture. Throughout all of this I have sought out authentic mentoring relationships with the strong women in the BAWSI world for my own personal and professional growth. Who knew some six years later, I would be working on staff to deliver the BAWSI message? This interconnected web has grown and grown and as I step back and take the long view I feel that this is usually the case. We end up who we are and where we are because of those whose lives have touched our own. I am a product of the coaches, teachers, friends, mentors, family, colleagues and teammates who have poured into me and invested themselves in my spirit. I am forever grateful, conscious and committed to paying it forward and investing in the lives with whom I can touch.
This Spring the ability to mentor and be a part of the lives of student-athletes from around San Jose has been an incredible blessing. I know that I am working to empower and inspire them but I am honestly left being equally, if not more, transformed.
Last week I sat in my car after leaving Evergreen Valley College and I was so moved by the Ubuntu spirit I saw so alive in their EVC Soccer Team. Not to be “Lion King” about all of this, it really was a testament to a full circle of life, and the reason service is so important…the potential to change the direction and impact the life of a young person is huge. I truly believe “Service is the rent we pay for living,” and the reason it was so profound for me was that I was able to see time and space almost converge. Many of the athletes from Evergreen Valley College would have been BAWSI girls themselves if such a program existed during their elementary school years. In fact, some of them went to the exact same elementary schools we are currently serving. To see how much of an impact they have seen on the girls at San Antonio School, the girls whose shoes they metaphorically were standing in just 10 years ago, is amazing. Today I asked the girls to complete the following sentence, “My EVC Coaches are_____.” The girls handed shot up at the opportunity to affirm the team, “Our coaches are role models, our best friends, fun, amazing, strong, awesome, our family.” The list went on and on, and rightly so.
From the first day, I could tell this group of athletes would change lives. A specific example that stands out is from day 1. After getting all of the BAWSI girls registered and geared up, one of the EVC athletes noticed a shy and quite girl sitting off to the side. She approached her and asked if she was in BAWSI. She sat with her and asked her name and about if she wanted to join the BAWSI team. She took five minutes of her time to be present with this little girl. The little girl was not signed up for the program and at the roster was full, however, after site was over the athlete came up to me and shared a bit of their conversation and asked if we could make an exception because she felt that this girl needed to be a part of the team. I asked the Principal the next day, and she agreed with tremendous conviction that this little girl needs BAWSI. This girl has been coming to BAWSI and participating since the second week and all because this EVC athlete took the time to be present and truly listen to what this little girl was saying and what she was not saying. The teachers came onto the playground a few weeks into the program to thank us for including this student. The teacher said this girl is now engaged in class and learning whereas before she would not speak in class. She shared that her test scores have gone up and she is overall just happier to be here. This is a beautiful example of the power of service and the unique opportunity these student-athletes have to steer the lives of these young girls.
Last week I was able to spend time with the team at a school sponsored service project called Kindercaminata, where all of the kindergarteners from East San Jose were brought to campus to see that college is possible and experience a bit of the college setting. The soccer team ran a station for the children to shoot on goal. The lines of brightly colored baseball caps cycled through all morning. It was adorable. But in my Lion King train of thought it made me wonder if the current BAWSI girls at San Antonio would be the ones serving the little kindergarteners in some years?
I am because you are seems so appropriate. BAWSI has been intentional in trying to support and invest in the student-athletes around the area, including Evergreen. The athletes from Evergreen Valley Soccer have been shaped by various people to get them to be competing at this high level and building a beautiful future. The BAWSI girls from San Antonio have had seeds of service, health, and strength planted that will grow and shower down on the following generations in service too, perhaps the brightly colored baseball caps will be replaced by purple BAWSI shirts and pedometers before we know it.
It has been an amazing journey and I know that I am ____ because you are ____. Go ahead and fill in the blanks. Mine are filled daily.