The highlight of any given week is easily whenever one of my advisors visits me at the Alley. You can imagine my elation when all three arrive together: magic happens! I just finished typing up the minutes to our last Minds On Fire advisory meeting and can’t help marveling at everything that we managed to talk about over a two-hour working lunch. It was even more intense than our first meeting because the main topic of discussion was the identity portion of pilot curriculum. The talented Candice Miller is steering the ship on this one, much to my delight (and relief!).
Inspired by the Casey Family curriculum on race and ethnic identity, we circled back to a question that I had posed to Nahjee some weeks back: what does “the culture of foster care” evoke for her, and how does it relate to questions of race/ethnicity? She talked about how she frequently sees children in care identify with the heritage of their foster parents and how it can be a challenge to discover one’s own family history. We also discussed the importance of learning how to relate to people of different races/ethnicities, including how to code switch without feeling like you’re denying a part of yourself.
We moved on to the topic of dating and relationships and two very weighty questions that my youth advisors suggested were jealousy and violence. I won’t write too much about this discussion right now because it makes me sad. From there we touched on gender identity and sexuality, and both my youth advisors said it would be helpful to learn how to help facilitate conversations with people who might not accept their sexuality, such as family/parents.
Lighter fare was also on the menu for the day. My advisors are all really into activities such as identity trees, letters to yourself, vision boards, and dream books. All of their ideas are going to replace the self portrait activity that I was struggling to refine. For these workshops I would love to hand over the reins to one of my youth advisors.
In true grad student fashion, my ideas have taken an inordinate time to coalesce. (Do you know how long it took me to write my dissertation?) I’ve shown up emotionally and intellectually to Minds On Fire for over two years now, but in these meetings I am graced by the brilliance of individuals who are able to sink their teeth into this work effortlessly and make incisive recommendations about what to cut, what to move around, and what to include. How lucky am I?