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Blog post by Amanda Socias, Site Coordinator at Casa Linda UMC

In my life in everything I have done, I have always had a plan. So when I found out I was going to be a Site Coordinator serving in the Afterschool Program at Project Transformation North Texas, I made a plan. I remember as we began to prep for our first day of the program, I knew exactly who would do what and how we would do it. What was funny though was that I had an exact plan for what my team would do without knowing them. I had only briefly met my team. I hadn’t really had enough time to know a whole lot about them.  Additionally, while I had met some of the elementary school students during the Summer Program at Casa Linda UMC, I mainly worked with the middle school students. So, I really didn’t know who my kids were either.  In the Afterschool Program, we served students grades 1 – 5. I was unaware when it came to many important details about all of them, but I still had a plan.

The first few days of the program went well, but as the semester went on, we faced some challenges. With about 15 third through fifth grade boys, we struggled to keep things as organized as I wanted them to be. By working with my kids and my team over time, I learned that things required adjustment and don’t always go as planned. I also learned that leading is not about having a plan, but meeting the needs of those who depend on you. I also started to observe and learn more from the Project Transformation staff members who modeled that principle well when working with me and my fellow Site Coordinators. Throughout my journey, I began to realize that the more I listened for the needs of my team and my kids, the stronger our program was. The more I recognized the reactions my kids had to certain activities and lessons, the better I could help them learn and grow.

By the end of the fall semester, I felt a really strong connection to my team and it wasn’t because of any plan I had made. It was because I learned to listen to them before asking things of them.  It is all too often in the lives of children that people make demands and place expectations on them without even knowing what they need. Throughout the semester, I grew to make a connection with my kids that I would not trade for the world! Because I became a person who listened and acted for them, our bond grew. I let them be themselves and didn’t try to silence their thoughts and opinions. I showed them that they matter simply by hearing them.

Looking back, I realize that the transformation wasn’t theirs but mine. I transformed my way of leading. I learned that helping our participants is not a plan to execute, but an opportunity to break a cycle and allow their voices to be heard! I hope to help break this cycle where adults make demands without caring, without listening, without loving, without growing themselves. I am blessed to have been transformed as I grow in my leadership abilities thanks to my first semester at Project Transformation. I am blessed to have had an opportunity to create a special bond with nearly 30 amazing kids and grow myself at the same time! I am so excited for what the spring semester holds and I look forward to continuing to lead beyond any plan I could have ever come up with.