There is always the temptation to stay put. It is truly intimidating to venture out into the world with a small seed in hand looking for a place to plant a dream. As much as we protest, human beings like what’s familiar, predictable, even if it’s stagnant. Even if we feel stuck, by nature we are more inclined to choose “stuckness” over risk. Predictability over chance. Known over unknown.

When my children were little, no matter how much I urged them forward onto a new apparatus at the playground, their little bodies would remain fixed by my side until another kid hopped on and took a chance on the strange object. Only then would they cautiously venture a chance on a steep slide or spinning merry-go-round. I’m no different. I’ve waited for someone to come along and tell me when to launch my dream, why it matters, that I’d be great at it, and that it would be fun. I myself choose known over unknown. Fortunately, I have a partner who looked at me and declared, “We can’t not do this. We would regret it the rest of our lives.”

Enter Seen and Heard.

As I’ve reflected on the personal risk, I’ve been convicted that it’s a pitiful one compared to the risk a foster or disconnected youth may face by joining our program. The fact is, at it’s root, being removed from a home, placed in another home, then another, then another reinforces feelings of rejection. The majority of foster and disconnected youth carry this perceived rejection into their adulthood, as well as trauma they have experienced. Why would I spend a single moment of hesitation or fear after acknowledging the kind of risk our students will be taking? They apply. They interview. Then they join a cohort and do the work. But what they will meet on the other side of that risk is what I’m most passionate about.

As unique as every one of our students will be, unique solutions will be needed in order to cultivate their professional character. That’s why we are starting small, with the individual in mind. “Mass system” solutions are not appropriate for youth hurt by mass systems. Foster and disconnected youth have been deprived the opportunity to develop much needed professional character skills. These are skills most often developed by consistent parents, caregivers or teachers. These are skills youth from stable backgrounds take for granted. These are skills employers are looking for, and the skills necessary to keep a job or finish their education.

Courage is required of me, our board, our investors, and our partners. But the greatest courage will be displayed by the youth we serve, and I look forward to their chance to be Seen and Heard.