No Time for First Day Jitters

Lydia Knapp interned with Boy With a Ball in Summer 2018. This post was written during the beginning of her internship.

The heat was unbearable. There were nineteen of us crowded under a tent for shade; Amari was sitting on top of me with Kimberly and Giselle sitting on either side. It added to the heat. Holding her hand up and calling for silence, Julianna turned to the five-year-old next to her and kindly asked him in Spanish how his week had been. Energetically these kids, tweens, and teens all joined in a conversation about the way that this week had impacted them or simply been fun. For me, it was a sweet moment.

I drove ten hours from Ohio to Atlanta, Georgia to serve with Boy With a Ball. “Summer intern” were the words that were used to describe me, but in all reality I simply was an eighteen year old who had just graduated from high school and had a desire to use her summer to love people. My first day here, I jumped right into a church and community camp. I spent three days caring for kids, running young children to the bathroom, and fixing every bug bite and boo boo. I was thoroughly exhausted at the end of it, and that’s exactly when we began talking about the next week’s camp. This one was going to look a little different. Instead of being in a church, it was going to take place at the apartment complex where BWAB Atlanta had been putting “Love Your City” into practice. Instead of me being the leader of a group of children, which I felt fully comfortable with, I would be supporting team leaders from the community and from the Berkmar high school Velocity program. The fact that this kids camp would be led by teens within the community as well as these Velocity mentors, was an exciting way to integrate different BWAB elements as well as develop young leaders. I was so thrilled to be able to be a part of that process, but I never realized how hard yet rewarding that role would be.

Throughout the week of the kids camp, I helped Julianna, a 15-year-old Berkmar mentor, and Adrian, a young teen from the community, lead a team of fifteen or so kids from four to eleven, some bilingual, some not. Honestly, the first two days I struggled. I was used to being the one in charge, not the coach, I was comfortable with playing with kids, not teaching others how to relate to kids and then letting them go for it. Having to take a step back and learn to teach -not take- was probably one of the hardest things that I’ve encountered so far, but it was more inspiring than I could have dreamed.

As I grew in my coaching ability, I got to see my team blossom. Not due to how I was doing, but because they had the space to step up, take charge, and truly care. One of the team leaders who had come into the week very strong learned a little bit about tempering their strength to make room for others. At the same time, I watched the other team leader who had struggled with being comfortable and relating to the kids, truly grow and begin to walk in confidence.

One of the most beautiful things that happened had to do with our co-leaders. Throughout the course of the four day camp, teenage boys from the community saw what was going on and had a desire to help. I felt so blessed to have four co-leaders in addition to myself, Adrian, and Juliana playing a part in caring for our little team. One of the challenges that it presented was the fact that there were so many of us growing into our new roles and learning how to be leaders in a different setting than we had encountered before. This lead to some disunity on the team and presented a challenge to me as team coach.  On the final day, it was as if we finally came together. The transformation was incredible. I got to watch as one competitive thirteen-year-old begin to look for those who weren’t being included and make sure that they had a part in what was happening in group games and beyond. Other co-leaders I saw kneeling besides boys who only spoke Spanish and translating instructions. I noticed teens, who at the beginning of the week were trying to figure out what their job was, truly leading through serving. I got to recognize a community beginning to interweave with us, open arms, and make us a part of them. I saw mentors from Berkmar grow and change in four short days, and I watched quiet leaders walk with shoulders back and in confidence that what they had to say and offer was valuable. It was more than just a kids camp, it was a place where relationships began and grew. And it was beautiful.

Now I’ve been here for a little more than two weeks. Truthfully, the time that I have spent here has been full, hectic, and inspiring. I never knew how much I could truly change in a month – how much I could really be a part of this nonprofit – but it’s blown me away. I’m thrilled for what’s next.

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