"I actually had a voice in the meeting."
Karen has always been quiet. She is strong, intelligent, and has the aroma of Jesus about her, but since we've known her (about 7 years) she's also been terribly shy.
Karen started in Solidarity's Glimpse After School Program (GASP) when she was in 4th grade. Meg, our SOLFul Director, recalls, "Karen was always the kid in the corner, never drawing attention to herself. She was always a quiet observer." As she grew, she stepped into every program offered to her, not because she had the confidence to, she clarifies, but because Solidarity staff kept encouraging her to do so.
Karen's growth was slow and steady, but what really launched her most recent growth was when you sent her to camp the last two years.
Each year, Solidarity takes students to The Oaks Winter Camp, which you sponsor year after year. Last year was Karen's first year going to this camp. She remembers being torn with desperately wanting to go but feeling something holding her back due to lack of friendship with the other students. She came out of that weekend with a solid foundation of friendships, which kept her looking forward to this year's camp all year long.
As Karen reflected on winter camp this past February, she shared that she had wanted to focus on her spiritual stability. God's work within camp paved the way for Karen to then want to be a part of Merge (our Monday night youth church) more consistently and even led her to be a part of the worship team. When asked what her relationship with God looks like now, Karen describes her process engaging in relationship with God as she is unwinding from the day. She'll look back at the day and ponder the highs and lows of the day to see where God tried to show Himself. She replays each situation, sees the lessons she learned and tries to think of how those can push her to be a better community member. What Karen didn't realize, was that God was going to use her role as a community member in a very unique way.
Over the last couple of years, you have made it possible for Solidarity to institute a Workforce Development Program (WDP) that provides hard and soft job skills training (i.e. resume building, workplace communication, etc.) for our community. When Karen heard about the communication training she was sold. She already had a resume, admittedly weak, but she had it nonetheless. As the weeks of the program progressed, she explains that the program was so much more robust than what she had expected. In fact, she's 95% sure she could land a job she applies for with the training she has received. Public speaking was one of the skills in which she grew the most. The beautiful thing about developing these skills, though, is that they bleed into areas beyond the workplace as well.
In April, our city council members discussed an agenda item that had potential to greatly impact our immigrant communities. Solidarity rallied a group of pastors and community leaders to speak up and advocate for our communities. Karen was one of those leaders. She recalls being incredibly nervous, but as the meeting progressed and one person after another came up and shared the gospel and their solidarity with her family and neighbors, her nerves slowly began to fade.
Then it was her turn to speak.
She remembers, "When they announced my name and where I’m from, all of my [nervousness] went away because it was something I really cared about…it felt like I actually had a voice in the meeting.”
You see, Karen has skin in the game. The decision the city council would make would impact her, her family, her community, essentially everyone and everything she cares for. She wasn't just speaking up for herself, she was speaking on behalf of those who didn't have the privilege of speaking for themselves. Karen was speaking on behalf of other kids who fear what tomorrow, or even tonight, will look like, whose voices may never be heard. She was a voice for the voiceless. Her voice made a difference. She had influence. Karen has influence.
As we enter this summer, we're continuing to see transformation as Karen presses into a relationship with God and the incredible leader He's called her to be.
By funding WDP, you provided the resources Karen needed to develop the skills and confidence necessary to become the leader God has created her to be. Her journey hasn't stopped there. We continue to walk with Karen and it is our joy to see her be bold in stepping out of her comfort zone.
You have played such a critical role in Karen's development.
There are more stories like Karen’s that need to be told. Donate to the Summer Needs campaign by July 31st to invest in changed lives and transform generations to come.