LEAP Science and Maths School
When we first arrived at the LEAP School for Science and Maths we nervously paced around, awkwardly bumping into each other in the school office while waiting to learn more about the school and the students that went there. Before we knew it, there were several enthusiastic high school students waiting outside the door to give us a tour of the school. I’m sure they were just as anxious as we were, although our barrier of nervousness was broken when two smiling boys came up and offered to show us around the campus. They passionately told us about each classroom we passed. Soon a new girl named Zoey joined our group. She was one of the bubbliest girls I have ever met, and was incredibly welcoming. When she spoke about school her excitement and love was genuine, and she seemed grateful to be a student there. Our tour ended with the LEAP School students asking us questions about our school. Later, I realized that I had responded with the worst possible answer. I said we were kind of a “performing arts school.” At this point, our three tour guides left us and went to perform with the rest of their classmates. The moment the students opened their mouths all our jaws dropped. We were in absolute awe, I listened closely to each note and aspect of the song. It was complex and magical, and they had fantastic choreography to go along with the music. “I could never do that,” I thought. Right at that moment, the kids started pulling us out, one by one, from our small penguin huddle. My heart sunk into my stomach; I knew I was going to get picked soon. Sure enough, Zoey picked me to be the second one to join them in the dance and song. I could feel my face getting as bright red as a tomato. Despite my embarrassment, it was fun dancing with them even though my claps and stomps were off beat.
There beautiful song was soon over, and I was happy to not have to be embarrassed about my dancing anymore. This was all before realizing that we hadn’t even performed yet. We all got up and faced our fears and sang the songs that we had been practicing for months. Surprisingly enough, during our performance all I felt was pure love from every student at the school. My nervousness vanished because of their comforting claps and cheers. They made me so happy. They were full of love, and excitement for the music and songs. I think I under estimated how powerful music and songs were until this experience. As nerve racking and embarrassing as these performances were, I know I’ll never forget their songs and voices. I know for a fact that I will always remember these amazing people.
Upon walking into the LEAP School for Science and Maths, we were surrounded by high school students eager to show us their campus and friends. They pointed out each classroom, and the initial shyness soon went away as we compared classes and interests. They described one class as an opportunity to share their feelings and issues in a group environment much like our Values class. The school also projected a strong sense of community: many of the teachers training there were alumni, there were resources for after school studying, and even graduated students received career counseling if they wanted. The two girls asked us if we had choir or music class and we explained how it wasn’t really a formal club and we weren’t that great; they said the same about their choir group, and I was kind of relieved. But that relief only lasted until the first verse of their song. Their music was on such a different level. Each section sounded like one voice, the sheer volume of it was amazing. Their singing wasn’t just good though; you could see the smiles on each face, as they sang and danced together. When I sing, I generally focus on hitting the right notes in the right order so it sounds at least okay, but the LEAP School choir reminded that I should try to enjoy it too.
Meeting with Pregs Govender
Today one of our many eye opening experiences was speaking to Pregs Govender. She has been a prominent activist in South Africa for many decades with an emphasis on women’s issues. Her autobiography is entitled, “Love and Courage: A Story of Insubordination.” In our conversation, we focused on the topics of love, courage, insubordination, and how they relate to each other. It was truly inspiring to see her take part in the conversation. She has such an enthusiasm for instilling those core values in young people. Her way of thinking helped to alter mine. I have begun to think about different life paths than the get rich quick scheme that our society has convinced us is the norm. The question came up of how the values we were discussing related to our class. What immediately came to everyone’s mind was our own “Truth and Reconciliation” council that we had a few months ago. During our conversation we connected the themes together to deduce that; it takes courage to love, and love has to be present to have the courage to openly speak your whole truth to your peers. You have to know that you won’t receive judgment. Unfortunately, I did not experience this turning point for our class as I was sick. Despite this I have seen the profound positive effect that it had on our class. I know if I was there I would have been afforded the same unconditional love and support. On our trip the benefits have been obvious as everyone knows the challenges we all face and want to provide our help. Our class has never been so united.
By good fortune, after we visited the LEAP school, we met up with Pregs Govender in a coffee shop. The following occurred during our interview:
She told us about a girl who created a hashtag #allmenaretrash, referring to violent actions against girls in South Africa. Pregs Govender told us that men were outraged. The girl responded that if men got as angry about the issues that made women complain that “all men are trash” in the first place, we could make real progress. I know this impacted most of my classmates, male and female, however it caused me to open my heart to Pregs Govender, because it mattered to me. I felt independent. I felt empowered by Pregs Govender, a woman once in parliament who was nobly and completely insubordinate against all that stood between her and her progress. I loved her mannerisms and her words. She is a powerful role model. I was thinking as we listened to her, “I want to get somewhere so that someday I will be the one being interviewed and inspiring young kids like Pregs Govender inspired and empowered me.”
Towards the end of our interaction, she told us that she wakes up every morning and watches the sunrise solely for the purpose of her own happiness. This struck me because I don’t think I ever do things only to make myself happy. She emphasized that it can’t be just smiling happy, as she said that that is most times fake. She said she was talking about the happiness deep in your soul that you can feel even in the worst of times. Taking the time to give yourself that deep happiness everyday is the most empowering practice I can think of. I told her how much the idea of her watching the sunset for herself meant for me, and that I want to do it too. She told me, “When you watch it in your country, we will be connected.” I will remember this interview for the rest of my life.