Adults Don’t Get Uncomfortable. Everybody Does.

February 11 2020

Courtney Lopez
StandUp for Kids - Orange County

Wednesday, December 18, at 4 p.m.

I have no idea what to expect. I keep thinking,

"Should I go?"

"I won't know what to do."

"Why am I so nervous? They're only youth."

Youth. 12 to 18 years old.

I'm a first-time intern. I don't know what I'm doing, what is expected of me. I'm just trying to graduate and to do some good with my graduation requirement. When my boss mentioned the center in Anaheim, he described 12 to 18-year-olds, getting mentored and doing their homework, and a healthy dinner would be provided, so I knew I had to go. No, not just for the dinner. I'm a broke college kid, the dinner was a good incentive. I knew that just going a few times to the center, that I would get a lot of information, and I would be able to write story after story just for one night of going. I needed to make the trip, no matter how I felt.

Our boss told us to text him when we arrived. Being the only one who had confirmed that I would go, I knew that if my boss wasn't here or something happened on the way over, I would be alone. I texted him when I arrived.

From my car. Halfway down the block. On the far side of the road.

I sat, and I watched. It's almost five, which means that things inside will be starting soon, so I have to leave my safe space (my car) and walk towards this building. I wouldn't say I like the unknown. Impatient, I call my boss.

"I think I'm here."

I know I am. There isn't another building on the street that the center could be. I checked the painted curb numbers outside probably three times but, I still say 'I think,' hoping he won't even come looking to see if I'm here. I'm hoping that he assumes I couldn't make it or that I got lost or made a wrong turn, and then I can go home, to another safe space.

To overcome fear, you must face it head-on.

My fear?
Youth, 12 to 18 years old.

We walk in, and they're sitting at the tables, in a "C" shape, facing one another. We sit, then one by one, they begin to tell us their name and their Highs and Lows of the day.

Oh, now I have to speak.

I have to speak to youth 12 to 18 years old. I'm here to eat dinner, watch, listen, and maybe take some photos. It's the first day, I'm not expecting to walk away with a deep background story about any youth, just to become a face they might be familiar with in the future – not to engage. They're kids so, if they don't know you or see you as an adult, they won't talk to you, so I need to come up with something and fast.

"Hi, I'm Courtney. I'm a StandUp for Kids intern for this semester. You might see me around here from time to time. Taking pictures and talking to some of you, maybe asking questions. My High for today would be getting to be here tonight and looking forward to dinner and eating. My Low would be that while I was trying to find the center, and I was on my way, I almost ran out of gas, which would have been a struggle."

Yeah! I got some laughs. Good start. So, I'm done?

Nope. We are rolling dice to create a Christmas story. We go around reading aloud what we rolled, and we were starting to get into groups to finish the story when I realized my boss was gone.

He did not just leave his intern in this room without telling her what was going on, right?

That's when I noticed that I was part of the youth group and missed some people leaving to assist with a donation that had arrived.

I can bet, the newcomers on their first night were feeling the same things. The unknown is scary for everyone, no matter your age. I know I wasn't in a terrifying situation that night. At least some of you won't think so, but to others, they understand.

For some people asking for help is the scariest thing for them or going to a place you know can help you, but you have never gone before. You won't know anyone when you arrive, and that's the fear you have to overcome. It's the unknown.

Overcoming those fears may seem huge now, but, like me, you'll be able to look back, laugh, and realize that after all the feelings of anxiety and uncertainty left, you are happy you went. Who knows, it could change your life.

If you or someone you know is going through a rough time, needs housing, or is currently looking for some help and guidance in Orange County, then please pass along StandUp for Kids' number 714-356-KIDS and email orangecounty@standupforkids.org. Please encourage them to contact us, offer to take them to one of our centers or be their support when they make the call. Help someone overcome their fear and don't let fear stand in the way of positive life-altering opportunities, big or small.

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