The Hard Work of Community
This is my first semester at The Outdoor Academy. I’ll be honest, it’s something I’m self-conscious about at times. I look around me and I am surrounded by an incredible faculty with years of experience as educators and a diverse, rich history here at OA. Sometimes I have questions. “When can students start listening to music in the kitchen?” “What time does study hall end?”
But I have not for one minute since the beginning of semester 43 had a question about this being the right place for me. Every day I wake up, I go to breakfast, and I get to give thanks for being a part of this community. Believe me, it is a community to be grateful for. This is the type of community where we struggle to pick volunteers because there are so many hands up in the air and where students take initiative to plan activities in their free time so nobody is left out. It is the type of community where we celebrate each other’s accomplishments and regularly share our appreciation for each other.
Despite all of the things our students can boast about, Semester 43 is a community that (like the students) is currently in adolescence. Like anything that is worthwhile is not always easy and it is not always perfect. One evening, very recently, I was incredibly lucky to be a part of an honest and insightful self-evaluation by Semester 43. Our students sat around a room and shared not only the successes of their group but the areas in which we are currently falling short. People spoke about feeling afraid to speak up and acknowledged that some members of this family of ours aren’t being treated as they should be. Though there were certainly moments of praise, I sat there in awe of how willing these young people were to acknowledge their downfalls as a group and, more importantly, how genuinely concerned they were about the feelings of their peers.
We are drawn to the good. We so want to see all of the great things that the people around us are doing that we sometimes fail to see our shortcomings. But then sometimes we are lucky enough to be around people who want to be better—people who are committed not only to their own personal growth, but also to the growth of the people around them and the family that they are a part of.
As someone with more connection to the outside world than our students, I am all too familiar with reading the news and being taken by a sense of despair and doubt. But I am lucky. I have come to a place that gives me hope. As was recently mentioned by one of our students, Semester 43 is coming into the world and will have the power to do good. Having meetings like these gives me hope that our students will keep striving to be better, to make their communities better, and to make this world better.
Marisa Melnick, OA Resident