On a muggy night at the end of May, we sat on concrete bleachers with hundreds of parents, teachers, mentors, and friends to watch the class of 2015 graduate. We laughed, screamed until our voices were hoarse, and shed a few tears as our young neighbors walked across the field to shake their principal's hand and receive their diplomas.
At this school, 89% of students are economically disadvantaged, and the graduation rate often drops below 50%. Pregnancy, gangs, economic demands, and domestic turmoil all stand between the children of immigrants and refugees and their high school diplomas.
Caps flew into the air, and lives exploded out into the world. The change of seasons showed us that all the time we shared with these lives over the years counted. The celebration turned us to the good work ahead, and we're thrilled about what the summer holds.
Ruthie and the refugee artisans are preparing beautiful new jewelry to market and sell at a gift show in California in July.
I will host a coffee-shop styled discussion group for young men. I'm also preparing to lead a writers' group for young men and women in the neighborhood.
We will both be partnering with our local church, Open Table Community, to run interest-based summer clubs for elementary and middle-school aged kids in our apartment complex.
This season has already brought us opportunities to connect gifted young men and women with jobs, dive deeper into relationships in our neighborhood, and to prepare to bring Refugee Beads to the West Coast.
While I can barely keep a beat or hold a tune, I listen to a wide range of music carefully and pay close attention when narrative and sound interact in interesting ways. My brother and cousin have been exploring this terrain for years with their band, Kuya.
A few months ago, they approached me about writing lyrics for an album about my neighborhood. I was thrilled to contribute words to their music, and you can listen to the album for free at noisetrade.com/kuya/neighborhood.
We'll be posting lyrics and a little backstory over at the Refugee Beads blog in the coming weeks. We've already begun work on a follow-up, but our software trial expired, so if you'd like us to make another record, please leave a tip after you listen!
Inspired by the bright season, the flow of life in an international neighborhood, and the stories of our neighbors, Ruthie began painting again! You can look at images of her artwork and read more about them at her online store.
We'd like to offer special thanks to our friends, mentors, and supporters Tim and Heather Isaacson, for donating a van to help us shuttle kids to activities, transport Refugee Beads to churches and craft shows, and cruise around town in style.
So many friends have gathered around us, supported us, spoken heartening words, prayed for us, and joined us in caring for the lives in this place. The work is bearing fruit, and we're so thankful to all our friends, co-workers, and supporters for bringing us into this rich season.