Audrey Jordan, FFI Director of Evaluation and Community Engagement reflects:
About a month ago my friend and colleague James Encinas, ally of The Full Frame Initiative, wrote a moving blog post called “Rider for Change: Everyday courage shows itself at Le Grand High School.” That blog post can be found at ACES Connections, www.acesconnection.com. It is one of the first of several blog posts James is writing as he rides his bike cross-country, from southern California to Philadelphia, PA to learn and raise awareness about the critical importance of trauma-informed services. James is an amazing human being who trumpets the need for transformation of the services delivery system currently providing need resources and supports to people living at the intersection of poverty, violence and trauma; a system that all too often disregards the impact that trauma has on the lives of people desperately seeking pathways to better circumstances. His passion and wisdom come not only from his deep learning about adverse childhood experiences and their effects – James has lived experience and an open and honest heart, expressed through his own unforgettable stories. James is now about collecting the stories of others that he meets along his journey; powerful testimonies to the strength, courage and compassion of people despite their traumatic experiences.
In “Rider for Change: Everyday courage shows itself at Le Grand High School,” James tells about four special young people who told their stories in front of a large audience at the Second Annual Restorative Justice League Conference, held at Le Grand High School on April 19th. Amazingly, over 200 middle and high school students attended the conference. The stories of these young people, relayed in James’ blog, highlight the good news that with the right positive interventions, kids are capable of and do survive and thrive beyond very difficult circumstances. Good news especially given the fact that as James cites’ Dr. Robert Ross’s (CEO and President of The California Endowment) observation from research literature that 2 out of 3 children in the U.S. experience trauma in their young lives – be it physical, emotional and/or sexual abuse – often in their own homes. Gaby’s story is one of courage and finding one’s voice, and the significance of close relationships as a friend and her little brother rose from the audience to comfort and support Gaby during her emotional testimony in front of that school audience. Rudy’s story is of finding one’s talents and putting them to work by showing others in need how to do the same. Tony finds out after dealing with so much pain he considered suicide that “he’s not the only one,” and gets involved in school and community groups and activities, leading through sharing his new-found happiness “to make a difference in someone’s life.” Finally, Edith shares her story of powerful courage, growth and leadership, showing her father through her own striving the importance of changing to become a better person. All of these young people celebrate openly with their schoolmates and broader community the critical role that the Restorative Justice League plays in their lives – poignant examples that when the impact of trauma is acknowledged and mediated, young people heal and grow beyond the difficulties they’ve experienced.
I couldn’t help being struck by the common thread throughout all four of these brave young people’s stories: personal healing that becomes community healing through the courage, compassion and leadership of individuals who “have been there.” Moreover, the alignment with The Full Frame Initiative’s “Five Domains of Well-being” (check out a short video here) is so clear: Social Connections (the very positive relationships of support each young person found) and Access to Relevant Resources (programs like Restorative Justice League at Le Grand High) leads to confirmation of the Mastery (finding voice, leadership), Safety (being free to be one’s authentic self) and Stability (dependable supports in a community of support) that each young person who spoke has, and that each and every one of us needs to experience well-being in our lives.