All of us at the First Star Greater Washington Academy concluded that our May 19th event was probably one of the most powerful and meaningful times we have had together. After students refreshed themselves with fresh orange juice and bananas, we began the day with a deep yoga exercise to promote openness for contemplative thinking. We discussed May Foster Care Awareness Month and how we each have to engage in sharing knowledge and advocacy for what we are doing and needing in our lives. The four students who performed at the Arena Stage last Friday shared their play’s mission and everyone had a chance to look at the “Building Blocks” of their own lives, as well as discuss the “Moving Targets” in life and how we each “Carry On”.
We transitioned to Genieva’s interview with Peter Samuelson on Current TV. After the students watched the clip, several asked Jim to give them a chance to interview on video about our academy throughout the day. We announced that our other mentor, Cordelia Cranshaw, wasn’t with us yet because she was being interviewed on a local radio show right as we spoke to discuss the realities of foster care. We hope to share her radio broadcast as soon as possible. We applauded Jim Lepp on his Emmy nomination and wished him great luck at the big awards ceremony in June.
We began the mask making activity immediately after our lunch. Beforehand, I took a personal risk by taking down my “director” mask and shared with the students a little about my recent personal journey. I shared how hard we are all working to make this Academy a success for their future, and how their choices of behavior have direct effects, both positive and negative, on not only me, but on all of us. Several students asked to speak to me privately and committed themselves fully to the Academy. They apologized for behaviors that had been inadvertently hurtful or distracting. By sharing a bit of my own vulnerability, the students responded in a wondrous way by opening up and sharing their own vulnerability. We went to a new deeper level of our relationships and I am so grateful for their courage to open up and also to let me be “real” with them.
The students took a leap of faith to engage in this amazing mask experience. They picked partners and began by bobby-pinning their hair back and greasing up their faces. We released all vanity and self-consciousness. They gently and lovingly put the masks on each other in silence while we played lovely alpha wave music in the background. In almost total silence, they created the masks, smoothing the plaster cloth strips and capturing every contour of their faces. They had a chance to concentrate completely on each other’s faces and look at the eyes peering out from the masks with total trust. After the partners finished each other’s masks, they then turned to the mentors and volunteers who had assisted, and teamed up to then create the masks on the mentors’ faces. It was beautiful to see the students ministering to each other and to the adults, just as they had received their own gifts of being cared for throughout the process. They were so conscientious and gentle throughout the entire time. As each student gently pried off the mask of his or her partner, they turned the mask and presented it to the student who looked down upon one’s own image like a newborn baby. Jim captured each reaction as they looked at their masks for the first time.
We decorated our masks with paint, feathers, gems, glitter, and other art items. We circled up and discussed the masks we wear in our lives, when and why we wear our masks, when we need to wear them and when we need to remove our masks. We discussed knowing when other people in our lives are wearing masks, and why they might feel the need to wear those masks. We talked about trust, vulnerability, and love. We definitely went to a new place in our relationships with each other as we went around the circle sharing why they decorated their masks the way they did. The students talked about their pain, their hopes, their past abuse, abandonment, and sorrows, their dream of happiness, their resilience and courage to be themselves – IT WAS PROFOUND and POIGNANT beyond words.
We finished the day by celebrating the April and May birthdays of our students, singing with boisterous voices and sharing hugs – and of course, some delicious red velvet cake! We rejoice that each of these beautiful children was born into this world, and we embrace their gifts that they generously and freely share with us. It was a great day!!!
Teresa M. Zutter, Director
First Star Greater Washington Academy