Working with Excelsior girls was an experience that will be close to my heart forever. I was not aware of what they did, and I thought that I was entering their brochure world of smiling, happy girls who loved life. Instead, I was thrust into a world of girls who had struggled their whole lives and were trying to break through thick walls of trauma, depression, and a need for love. As I walked through the doors I took up my hammer and chisel and tentatively began to tap away at those walls.
When I was first introduced to the girls it was an assault to my senses. I was scared, impressed, confused and intrigued by these young girls’ personalities and their power to push me away. We had come up with the idea of having the girls create baskets with ribbons, flowers, and bows to be used as table centerpieces, but suddenly I was fearful that the plan might not work.
I walked into the classroom prepared to be teacher, leader, and a kind face, but, there was that wall. I was not going to be able to break through. As the girls arrived they were uncomfortable with the new face and a different project. I took my fear and turned it into strength and power while their fear came out as strength and resistance.
As we began our project they turned into young girls excited with the ribbons and bows, and I softened to my typical happy smiling demeanor. By the time we were done we were all friends. As I left they held up their beautiful baskets saying, “Look what I did!” They were proud of themselves and the final product was amazing. Our sledgehammers had made the final brick fall to the side as the girls and I met with no walls left between us.