Every new school semester, I find myself at the front of the class, looking out at the new faces of the 9th graders as we dive into our healthy relationship, social/emotional support, and youth violence prevention curriculum. You can rarely tell what their stories are or what they have been through by their appearance. I often wonder who has been fortunate enough to grow up in a safe and supportive environment and who has gone through pain or still are going through pain that youth should not have to experience at their age.
Reflecting on when I was their age, I start unpacking what variables played pivotal roles in shaping who I am now. Growing up in Beacon Hill, I saw a diverse community with community members from all walks of life. A community comprised of immigrants and refugees who had lived in the neighborhood for decades or had just arrived. While I admired their resilience, passion, and hard work modeled to me as a child, there was a pain in the identity of being a child of refugees and immigrants that I could not understand and put language to until I became an adult.
I grew up in a family where there were forms of violence in the household ranging from physical, emotional, and verbal abuse. We did not understand what unhealthy behaviors were and what warning signs looked like since they had been normalized in our household. Don’t get me wrong, I love my family, and without going through what I did, I would not be working in the nonprofit sector or with youth.
I think back to those youthful and bright faces, and my heart breaks for those who have to trust strangers, like me, to share what they are going through and bravely ask for support. I can’t help but think: “If that opportunity had been presented to me as a youth, would my life look different now?” Every year when I ask myself why I do what I do, it always comes back to this one thing, “I don’t ever want youth to experience what I had to go through.” It has taken me years to unpack my past traumas. I am now slowly figuring out how to name and heal from them through therapy, my lifelines, and educating myself.
Healing always begins with ourselves before we can lead others toward their path of healing. This is why the work of violence prevention is crucial to our development as we navigate a complicated world. When we can keep violence from happening by educating ourselves and others, we can begin to break away from generational cycles that continue to divide our community and our households.
My challenge for my community and myself is to ask ourselves, what is a step we can take to prevent violence from happening and stop generational cycles that may be impacting those that we love and care about, including ourselves?
– Eva Chuc