The Core Group’s recent success at hosting a community wide Skate Party at the end of September caused me to reflect upon my first four months at Greater Columbus Mpowerment Center. During this short period, the Center faced a number of challenges due to staff and programmatic changes. Despite these obstacles, I remain humbled by the relationships I’ve formed with the Core Group members, the expertise of the new staff, the potential for GCMC’s growth in the community and the perseverance displayed by the program’s participants.
Walking through GCMC’s doors was slightly intimidating for me! I couldn’t help but wonder, what the heck are these guys going to think about this white, heterosexual female who is stepping into their space, their program and their personal lives? I should have considered the stigma each young man had encountered in his own life. How often had each one of them walked into a public venue and felt out of place or misunderstood? Perhaps it is these unique experiences which have led them to not only accept me, but often seek me out for advice, help with one of life’s challenges or just to strike up a quick conversation. (How lucky am I?)
Once I’d overcome my initial fears of being accepted by the program participants, my staff resigned. In fact, the first employee resigned before my position started! Then one-by-one each staff member resigned. Here I was a new Program Manager with no one to manage! The fear and uncertainty only worsened when the Core Group discovered their trusted mentors were resigning to move to other agencies in the community.
One thing I’ve learned from my short time in this role is that when one door closes, another opens. A month later, I connected to an experienced Mpowerment Coordinator. Not only was he excited to introduce new programs and fresh perspectives, but I’ve really seen a renewed sense of inspiration and motivation in the Core Group. It would have been effortless to quit the program, to complain about staffing shortages or give up on relationships, but the guys have not only held on, they’ve become even more involved in event planning, hosting and the production of new, creative ideas for the Center.
Productivity is contagious! Former Core Group members have rejoined. GCMC staff continues to increase and strengthen community connections. After three months of steady struggles, I’m happy to say we are all on the same personal and programmatic page. Overall, I am reminded that Greater Columbus Mpowerment Center embodies the program participants: given hardship they overcome adverse circumstances and develop into even wiser, stronger men.