For the Love of Cultivating Oneself

(Former FLOC student Unique Bexley gave a moving speech at “Beyond the Classroom 2011: For Love of Children’s Annual Fundraising Event” at the Academy for Educational Development on April 27. We are publishing a series of blog posts about the event.)

FLOC has managed to be a part of every phase of my life. This is a testament to the value and importance of the program. FLOC is For Love of children but it’s also for the love of cultivating oneself.

I can honestly say that FLOC is part of the reason why I have been so fortunate in my life. I started the program at 7 or 8 years old and every Saturday morning I would be there ready and eager to go through the reading curriculum and dreading the math portion. Saturday mornings were for tutoring, not for laying in.

Although my anxiety of math hasn’t changed, I learned the importance of pushing through the things and tasks that may seem difficult. Now, I can look back and recognize that it is empowering to steadily go through a reading and math curriculum and achieve the goals set in place.

Another strength of the tutoring program is the relationship you build with your tutor. I was fortunate enough to have Anna-Marie for a number of years during my time in the program. She volunteered her time to help me succeed and patiently worked with me as I struggled through parts of the curriculum.

The bond created between me, my family and Anna-Marie was strong enough that years later when I was out of the program and well into my first year of college my mom was able to recognize her on the street.

From that meeting, Anna has once again become a mentor in my life. Whenever I would come back home from school, we would meet to catch up. She even attended my graduation ceremony last May.

As I got older and attended middle school outside of DC, my participation in the tutoring program ended. However, my relationship with FLOC did not end there.

I attended the Outdoor Education Center, and to this day I can remember trekking through the woods toward the obstacle courses and sleeping in the cabins. I was maybe 14 at the time but even at that age I felt the impact that FLOC had on my life, so I decided to come back as a tutor.

I may have switched roles but I still felt those feelings of perseverance and dedication. Once again, Saturday mornings in my life became about tutoring. Except this time I was on the other side of the table.

When high school came around FLOC played a key role in my education. My family decided to move back to DC and FLOC recommended Cesar Chavez Public Charter High School for Public Policy. I attended Cesar Chavez and got the opportunity to have internships, fellowships and a thesis paper as part of my curriculum. I cultivated my public speaking skills and learned in a way that caused me and my classmates to challenge what we read out of textbooks.

I was also reminded about the value of excellent teachers. During high school I realized for the first time that teachers were actually real people who had lives outside of school. I also felt for the first time that I had so much to learn from them. If not for FLOC, I’m positive I wouldn’t have had the same experience at the school I wanted to attend.

Throughout high school I continued to cultivate the skills I first learned in the tutoring program. As a result, when it was time for me to attend college I was award the POSSE Leadership Scholarship to attend Grinnell College, in Grinnell, Iowa, and I received the Fred Taylor Scholarship from FLOC. This helped drastically, because I was not only paying academic expenses but I had to pay for essentially relocating to the state of Iowa for four years.

Although a completely different environment physically and academically, I was able to stay afloat, excel and try out things completely new to me.

A few highlights for me are my major in Anthropology. I finally found an academic discipline that would allow me to explore my interest in continuous learning. I was also able to achieve a lifelong dream of going to Europe. I studied abroad for a semester and went to London, Ireland, Bruges and Paris. There is nothing better than having a dream, not a goal, but a dream like that and finally having it come true.

In the meantime, I didn’t just forget about FLOC. Whenever I was available I would come back for College Night and talk to the other students in the program about school life and the process of applying to college. The FLOC staff supported me throughout my four years of college.

I can’t tell you how great it is to have somebody like Tim who started at FLOC sometime after I was introduced to the program and still have him here when I’m returning to the organization as a board member of the Fred Taylor Scholarship.

For Love of Children has become a catalyst for so many things in my life, some of which I’ve discussed like my passion for learning, my confidence in my abilities, and the valuable relationships I develop with people. I can even contribute FLOC to my first airplane ride. I was awarded a trip to Disney World when I was in elementary school because I got straight A’s.

FLOC has helped me in so many ways that it seems impossible to say thank you enough. But in the spirit of thank you, my family has continued the tradition. My nieces and nephews are in the program. And it is with confidence that I can say they will definitely learn the value of themselves as they continue. So I want to thank you for supporting FLOC and not only realizing the value of children but also the value of a program like FLOC and what it can come to mean in someone’s life.

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