By Harry Hawkins

Transformations are happening all around us. The winter grays are disappearing, replaced by the blues of springs. The grass shakes off the dull brown of winter in exchange for vibrant greens. The same type of life changing transformations is happening with our students through the leadership of Ozanne Anderson in our ACE program.

I recently had a chance to sit down with Ozanne, where she described the transformation of a young lady in the program, Tina*. Tina suffered a tragic loss of a parent recently, and combined with other life situations, she had issues in school, and relating to other students.

“Every morning, Tina came in with her jacket on, and hood draped over her head. All of her was covered, from head to toe.” Ozanne said when looking back on how Tina routinely entered the class two months ago for the ACE program.

Tina came to the program, but she rarely talked to anyone and communicated with her body language that she felt unaccepted by her peers.

In response to Tina’s progress, Ozanne said “Tina shed her coat, like a shell. Like a butterfly coming out of a cocoon.”

The coat is gone, and so is the silence and reclusive behavior. Tina talks more during the group, and her teachers have noticed a new Tina as well. They say she is more mindful of her outburst, is aware of her presence, and owns her emotions.

When asked what made the difference, Ozanne said “It’s really a combination of things. We start the day off with thankfulness and gratefulness.”

The students are required to list five things they are thankful for at the commencement of each session. Being grateful is only the beginning, however. Ozanne walks the children through, what some might call mind mapping, which is simply projecting a picture of how you work, intellectually and emotionally. This process allows Ozanne to impact her student’s thought process in a positive way.

She reminds them that they “are not what you feel in the moment. You are the sum of your choices.”

Although she admits that true transformations are not accomplished overnight, it’s always nice to see the small victories along the way, when the cocoon opens, and you get the first peek at a beautiful new butterfly, preparing to face the world.


*Names of participants are changed to protect confidentiality.