A noted highlight of the two-day intensive training was the recognition of resiliency and its important role in both our and our students’ lives. Our second day of training ended with the creation of a “Resiliency Dance” where participants pieced together original physical images of challenge and resiliency in order to gain better understanding of the power to overcome. As ENACT moves forward with more training we plan to focus on the resiliency we see in ourselves and others as a strength-based approach to addressing collective trauma.
If you are interested in more information about upcoming Training Institutes, please contact Darci.Burch@ENACT.org
by Adam Stevens
I have the honor of interning at Khalil Gibran International Academy situated a hop, a skip, and a jump from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. As is the case with many adolescents, the love of pop culture is very present among the students. The students, inspired by their celebrity idols, will go to great lengths to access the latest trends in fashion, music, and makeup.
I was drawn to the students’ love of makeup noticing the excitement it created. The students at KGIA use makeup as a means to transform themselves into someone or something else. At times, this aesthetic transformation occurs several times throughout the school day.
I was immediately transported back to my own high school experience where I was introduced to John Powell’s Why Am I Afraid to Tell You Who I Am? Powell’s book explores the complexity of sharing the true self and the fear that accompanies this reveal. Are the students using makeup to shield their true selves OR are the students using makeup to accentuate and explore a collection of selves already integrated within them?
This curiosity encouraged me to ask my supervisor, Rebecca Elkin-Young, permission to begin a ‘Makeup Mask-Making Group’ that would be facilitated during lunch periods. During lunch periods at KGIA, students gather in the ENACT office for a psycho-social clubhouse, and find a moment to breathe and/or connect with other students as respite from the chaotic high school rigors they encounter on the daily basis.
Students were asked to design mask makeup concepts on makeup face template using markers, colored pencils, and other art supplies. After they finished their makeup mask design, the students where given the chance to apply their designs to their faces using makeup samples provided by cosmetics companies. Upon completion of the makeup on to their faces, excited students gazed at their reflections in mirrors and cell phones. Ms. Rebecca and myself took this time to allow students to express what they saw and what they felt in both group and individual settings.
The ‘Makeup Mask-Masking’ group was well received by students, female AND male. Through playing with makeup, the KGIA students were given the chance to uncover and discover insights about themselves in a safe space. We noticed students create projections of future selves and also, played with the idea of fantasy and celebrity. We witnessed internalized emotions being externalized as students exhibit a great deal of bravery and courage. The ‘Makeup Mask-Group’ has become very popular at KGIA. The students have requested that ENACT hold the group as often as possible.
Rupaul Charles, female illusionist and Emmy Award-winnig host of Rupaul’s Drag Race shared a reflection, “A face is like a work of art. It deserves a great frame.” I am grateful to be able to hold a space with an extraordinarily supportive supervisor where we can create frames for our students to express themselves openly and honestly rehearsing and performing the individuals they wish to become and see in the world.
If school walls could talk you would hear the collective voices of our youth echoing messages of hope and hopelessness, bravery and fear, solidarity and isolation. Every day, through my work with ENACT in New York City public schools, I find myself humbled by the heroism our students use to overcome untenable life situations. Their extraordinary sense of resilience is a continuous inspiration to me! A couple of weeks ago, I attended the Woman’s March here in NYC. I found myself marching near a group of young high school girls chanting “we are the change”. The resonance of their chant and their powerful force of energy motivated me with every repetition. We have much we can learn from our students about resilience and it has always helped me look deeper at my own. To me, resilience is that seed of hope we water when we feel hopelessness, that creative spark that generates works of art to embody and express our feelings and that action we take to be part of a larger change. This month, I encourage all of us to tap into our own sense of resilience as a force that drives us to overcome and be the change maker we all seek to be!
This is the time of year when ENACT begins to work towards our culminating theater showcase with our professional actors working side by side our students in,” Show Up!.This year, the theme is “Resiliency.” In the spirit of “it takes a village” we will continue the momentum we built last year with a small, trauma-informed symposium preceding the student’s performance by bringing together a group of like-minded practitioners, educators and parents to share out ideas and best practices. Stay tuned for more details about Show Up! in the upcoming weeks!
President, Founder & Executive Director