Monday, November 9, 2009

My First Day of Service: Kela H.

Education, literacy, and knowledge are the great equalizers. City Year is helping to bring equality and opportunity to communities where hope has been lost, fueling the untapped potential of many D.C. youth. My name is Kela Harris and I am a 24 year old native of Fort Washington, MD. I joined City Year to be part of a dynamic group of young idealists that spreads inspiration, energy, and sometimes wonderment as we race around D.C. in our red jackets making a difference in the lives of others.

The HIV/AIDS epidemic is a pressing social issue here in D.C. that my team, H.O.P.E. (HIV/AIDS Outreach Prevention and Education), is helping to counter by reaching youth at a young age, empowering them to make smart and healthy sexual decisions now and later in life. My team had taken part in an intensive month of training in all things related to HIV/AIDS, but I did not know what to actually expect when it came to teaching 12 and 13 year olds about the consequences of unprotected sex.

My first day in the classroom, my teaching partner and I were nervous about how we would be received by our classes. We were surprised by the knowledge (and lack thereof) many of these youth had about sex. Many of them were misinformed about the mechanics of sex and the way that diseases are spread, but in turn many of them knew people who had been affected negatively by unsafe sexual practices. My students showed me that they had questions that no one had bothered to answer before, and that they and their friends were putting their lives in danger with their lack of knowledge. Once this was realized, the nervousness disappeared and was replaced with pride in knowing that with the simple act of my getting up and going to work everyday, there might be one less person to die from AIDS.

I never saw my red jacket as anything more than part of my uniform until that day. I now see my red jacket as a symbol of the enormous amount of responsibility I have. Everyday I don my red jacket to help save lives. I say there is no other article in my closet worth more than that.

No comments:

Post a Comment