A Chance to Grow

Thomas Propest's Student.Go Experience at Micah Center

“You're telling me no one here knows who Dolly Parton is?” I was in St. Petersburg, Florida, asking this to a group of African-American children who live in a largely underemployed community. I guess I had underestimated the cultural differences I would experience being that I was only a few states away, however if you're from St. Pete and you've been to Asheville, you'll understand that there are many changes beyond 90 degree weather and stucco houses.

That said, it wasn't the differences that made my experience what it was, but rather the similarities. (Forgive me for sounding like a B-rate movie.) Even though the kids didn't drench their grits with sugar, they still loved to eat, and some days you were lucky to swallow something yourself between those scooping out seconds and thirds. The kids love to dance, even if it's not clogging, and you can never go wrong with going to the park.

No matter where I was or whom I was with, there was always something in common, something that I could relate to, and a chance to grow closer to the people, the city and the community. It wasn't a perfect ride, and unlike Florida's terrain, there were plenty of bumps along the way, but as long as I could find that similarity and reconnect to the situation I could make it. And made it I did, and I have really grown because of it.