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Muzamil: The Importance of Their Voice

By Muzamil Ibrahim, AmeriCorps Promise Fellow at Loring Nicollet Alternative High School (Project for Pride in Living)

“In my current and previous youth work, I have come to understand how working alongside of and respecting young people can help them to recognize their abilities, strengths and passions, as well as develop a sense of belonging. One small way to accomplish this, I have learned by working at LNAS, is to frequently address young people by their name so that they feel recognized and connected.

At LNAS, “Hey” is no one’s name and everyone has a name they can be proud of. With this in mind, whenever I have a chance to introduce myself, I ask students to first say their name; I want to hear their voice and, at the same time, promote their voice. I want them to be proud of themselves and show them how speaking can be a source of pride. I encouraged them to communicate with me this way.

A voice is important but so too is a walk. I do not only recognize my students by how they speak but by the pattern of their walk when I listen to them move about up and down the hall. There are many ways we communicate to one another and every one of them is important.

I register the sound of my students in my mind like sighted people register facial information in theirs. When we think of portraits, we often think of visual portraits but sound portraits are no less important and help us to understand and connect with one another; for those whose world is not primarily a sighted-one, the other senses take center stage through consistent practice.  As I learn about my students, I help them learn about me.

I thank the young people as well as the fine staff at LNAS for welcoming me into their space and making me feel at home. They give me energy every morning when I walk in the door and help me be a better youth worker during the course of the day.”

From Voices From the Field, Winter 2020

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