Post submitted by Sonya Thesing
One morning three years ago, I was scrolling social media and giving thumbs ups to all my friends’ photos of their children on the first day of school. My scrolling was interrupted by a text from our crisis program manager. It was a photo of two siblings who had spent the summer staying in the Huck House shelter. For them it was the first day of 7th and 8th grade.
In a matter of seconds, my emotions ranged from sadness that any child would spend their summer in a shelter and anxiety about how the first day would go for these two children, to absolute amazement that our staff took the time and care to give this brother and sister a first day of school experience to remember.
The short text that accompanied the photo said, “My Why.” Earlier in the week, I had asked our management team to tell me their “why,” the reason they do the work they do. The crisis manager does this work for the kids, but also because she gets to work alongside the most caring professionals you can imagine.
…they deserved to feel as special as any other child on the first day of school
I later learned that a case manager in the shelter had taken the teens shopping to be sure they had new clothes and shoes for the first day. She also took them to get haircuts and school supplies. And on the first day of school, she came to work two hours early to take pictures with “First Day of 7th Grade” and “First Day of 8th Grade” signs. She believed they deserved to feel as special as any other child on the first day of school. I am so thankful that Huck House exists and we were there for these new seventh and eighth graders during a challenging time in their lives.
We made two prints of the photo and framed them for the kids. They left our shelter two days later for a new foster home.
Because we observe strict confidentiality about the minors we serve, that photo was never shared publicly. But when Richard Duarte Brown created The Spirit of HH, he filled the painting with true stories of our 50-year history. The siblings are in that painting as a reminder of the true spirit of Huck House. Our why.
Sonya Thesing is the executive director of Huckleberry House. She loves back to school photos because they represent new beginnings and unlimited possibilities.