That is the question.

Why are we here in Vermont, in this picturesque, utopian-esque place, with these genuinely friendly people who seem to celebrate each other, nature, and the empowerment of both youth and adults?  Well, if nothing else, it’s a beautiful place to be, with fascinating people.  There’s something mysterious about this place, way up in the mountains, where the rain falls like snow and I am tempted to write in ways that expose how bad I am at writing.  Come on 10th grade creative writing class – serve me well!

I digress.  Kind of.  I know why we’re here.  It’s to figure out why we are here.  Argh!  To clarify, it’s to determine what we are passionate about and what changes we can make in the cities we are from, in the lives that we touch and have access to.  It’s to build a network (Who is the network?  We are!) and to realize that we are the agents of change.  That makes me think of secret agents.  Every time I come out of a movie about secret agents, I always wish I were (and I’m still not sure I understand why it’s not “wish I was”) a secret agent, deftly moving about, constantly aware of my surroundings, ordering foxy drinks with a single raised eyebrow (this would have to be my stage right eyebrow, because it has the best arch after a good waxing session), a hint of mischief in my eyes…

I digress.  Kind of.  We are agents of social change.  For a long time, probably since I returned from Mozambique in 2004, I have struggled with the idea of social justice and in particular what my cog is in the wheel.  I am reminded of something Lilly said yesterday, ‘before taking on any role in activism you must first advocate for yourself’.  So know thyself.  Know what’s important to you. I must know what’s important to me and what I stand for before I can help anyone else stand for what they believe.  This weekend, for me, will help me to refine what that is for me.  Teaching computer programming to minority girls, in addition to learning it myself this summer, has been a life-changing experience for me, and has opened up the possibilities of what it is that I want to study for my PhD and how I want to contribute to activism.

Of course I have questions.  Rhetorical ones, really.

What if the Empowered program could continue?  What if the girls could use their newly-acquired digital literacy skills to further the cause of the Next Generation Leadership Network?  What if THIS is my cog in the wheel?  I feel passionate about it, I see a need for it, I have an interest in it for myself, and I have seen the change that is happening in the Empowered participants.

So secretly, covertly, with a hint of mischief in my eyes, I am thinking about why I am here, and juxtaposing those thoughts of here with my current ideas.  The snow rain is now a faint drizzle.  My gum is losing its flavor.

Time to get to work.


Alisia McClain

2 Responses to “That is the question.

  • Tom McKenna
    4 years ago

    Dear Alisia,

    Since we have had a few good (in my register, at least) conversations, I feel like I can give you my first reaction to this post: WHO ARE YOU? : ) I say that with absolute reverence. A math teacher who spits hairs (and not infinitives) over were vs. was, and who has at least somewhat voluntarily come to learn the secret agent handshakes where nary a mathematician has tread.

    We’re so glad you’re here. And we need you!

    You wrote, ” Teaching computer programming to minority girls, in addition to learning it myself this summer, has been a life-changing experience for me, ”


    Programming is a field that crosses several disciplines and almost immediately gives people the power to DO. Tell us a bit more about that experience? I’d love to hear about the girls’ (and your own) reaction to the experience. What WAS most striking about it? If you WERE to distill the kinds of empowerment you experienced into a few words, what would they be?

    I see programming like geometry–a place to apply really creative and yet pragmatic reasoning skills. How do you (or any of you) experience it? And what potential does it have to engage people who are otherwise not easily engaged in more abstract academics?


  • Ceci Lewis
    4 years ago

    It is hard to believe that you have not taken a creative writing class since 10th grade. Your use of language, expression, and punctuation are enviable. 🙂 As I was reading your post, I thought of the dissonance that is probably existing in all of us right about now. On the logical level, we know what we are doing here. As you claimed: “We are the network.” But personally, what does that mean? This concrete idea of being a member of a network is in competition with the more nebulous, ethereal idea of what it means for me to be a member of a network and an agent of change. I am right in this network boat with you and as we travel, I am hoping the fog will lift a bit and we will see more clearly. The good news is that we are not on this boat alone! I am so excited to have the opportunity to work with you. Math instructors don’t usually hang around with my kind. haha!

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