What does it mean to label a young person as “at-risk?” I teach a class of secondary students who are all crown wards and they are often referred to as “at-risk.” I find myself wondering of what exactly it is that they are “at-risk.”
The common threads that weave through the lives of these young people include broken relationships, poverty, hurt, questions of who to trust, lack of support, and a sense of homelessness beyond physical buildings. Of what are they “at-risk”? Not graduating from high school? Of poor health and poverty? Of destructive habits of drug and alcohol use? There is more. Perhaps they are at risk of despair and loss of hopefulness. Some are at risk of not believing life could be anything other than it is. In their striving for independence it could be that they are at risk of living in ways that stop them from being willing to be vulnerable in relationships of trust and love.
As my term of teaching began, I was caught up in the busyness of planning and preparing curriculum. During a moment of silence in a Sunday morning worship service I tried to stop thinking about schoolwork. In the quiet, I heard God whisper to me: “Be a sanctuary.” Though I am not always sure what it means to say my students are “at-risk,” I do know that our classroom is to be a safe space and a place of belonging. These young people are children of God. Indeed, they are children of promise.
Written by a friend of Sanctuary