Bradley came to the Hartley Community Learning Center (CLC) with a warning.
“He’s a handful.”
But Bradley needed a safe place after school. His grandmother worked and couldn’t pick him up until late. So the staff at CEDARS CLC gladly welcomed him.
Bradley had a hard time staying focused and on task during club times and group games. His loss of focus would become so disruptive that staff would send him out of the room to calm down. When asked about his behavior, Bradley would say, “I don’t fit in with the other kids. I’m not good at anything. I’m not going to amount to anything.”
The CLC program focuses on looking for areas of strength in each student’s development. Staff had already picked up on Bradley’s gift for drawing and ability to express himself through his artwork, but hadn’t yet found an outlet for him. As a “rough and tumble boy’s boy,” Bradley was more likely to be throwing a football or kicking a soccer ball than sitting still at a table to draw.
Not long after Bradley came to the CLC, a CEDARS community partner contacted CLC staff offering to start an art-based leadership club. They requested that the club only be offered to students that had a genuine interest in the arts and few behavioral problems, so they could optimize the time together. Club enrollment was on a nomination basis. Although staff knew that Bradley struggled with staying focused and sitting still, they felt that the club was something that he would excel in and that it could have a positive impact in his life. The team took a chance and nominated Bradley to be in the club.
During the first club time, the leader called each student to the front of the room to explain their artwork. Then, each student was to say something nice about their peer’s art. Hearing positive feedback about his talents made his face light up. Staff had never seen Bradley so engaged in an activity. The club was called the “Hero Club,” because participants were encouraged to explore the idea of heroes in their artwork and ultimately become their own hero. At the end of the program, they would receive a rubber bracelet with the word “Hero” on it to remind them that they were all their own heroes.
As the club continued Bradley opened up and showed pride in his work as well as in himself. After a month Bradley’s grandmother approached the CLC staff and said that she was so thankful that he was allowed to be a part of the art club. She knew that his talent was there, but money was tight; and she had never been able to provide such an opportunity.
Bradley wears his “Hero” bracelet to school every day. CLC staff have heard from teachers and school personnel that Bradley’s attitude and demeanor have changed since his participation in the “Hero Club.” Bradley recently told CLC staff that he now wants to become an art teacher when he grows up so that he will be able to help other kids find their place. We think that’s pretty heroic.