by BRIDGET LAIRD, CEO
It was a Thursday and it was happening again. Giggling, chatting, rolling of the eyes. I could feel my face getting red. I was leading a staff meeting, and all I could focus on were these regularly distracting behaviors displayed by Keisha—one of our WINGSLeaders at Memminger School of Global Studies.
It was obvious to me that Keisha had little to no respect for me and didn’t care to listen to my advice on how to reach the girls in her Hawks nest. Many of these girls were lacking self-confidence; exhibiting signs of angry and rowdy behavior; and they greatly needed the guidance of Keisha, the girls’ WINGSLeader.
During one-on-one meetings with Keisha I might as well been talking to a wall. Suggestions by myself and WINGS’ founder, Ginny Deerin, feel on deaf ears with Keisha, and typically the advice was met simply with a smirk. We knew Keisha needed help, but she simply wasn’t ready to accept it.
Over the course of the next few months we continued to train our staff, then trained some more; and Ginny and I watched as our staff began to take the social and emotional lessons they were teaching kids and grow in their own self-awareness. This is when we saw the real Keisha begin to emerge. As Keisha began to step into the shoes of the girls she was working with, we saw her guard slowly fall, and her one-time steely façade was replaced by a boisterous laugh and warm smile, and an overall kind and caring personality.
That spring the truth behind Keisha’s formerly closed-up front came out. During an interview for a WINGS news story, Keisha told the reporter, “When I first started working for WINGS I figured Ginny was just another white woman trying to save the world. Then I realized, ‘Why not her? At least she’s doing something’,” said Keisha. Keisha admitted that once she had taken the time to do exactly what we encourage our kids to do—to look inside herself and see what was holding her back—she realized her attitude toward Ginny was holding her back from being the best she could be.
I will never forget the tears that flowed down the cheeks of all the Hawks girls and of Keisha on the last day of WINGS that year. A true bond had formed, and those girls’ lives had changed for the better. Keisha couldn’t bear to leave, but the next year she came back as their fearless leader again.
Since leaving WINGS we’ve watched as Keisha has used the tools she learned through our program to continue to achieve impressive feats. She now has two kids and works with a charter school in Washington, D.C., serving as Dean of Students and Families. She still keeps in touch with many of the girls from her Hawks nest today. Keisha really is WINGS.