Friday, December 7, 2012

My New Refrigerator Magnet

Written by Jenny G. 

I am really glad I participated in Communication Solutions™. The model that YES Institute is teaching youth and families is a wonderful solution to keep relationships working even when there’s confrontation and argument. The classes implement techniques to encourage peaceful interactions with others.

As a young adult, and even now, I struggled with accepting others beliefs or opinions, especially if they didn’t coincide with mine. This course helped me recognize that it is okay to simply meet people where they already are, even if I don’t agree.

The YES Institute model of communication has the ability to support anyone who is facing communication challenges in their family, workplace, or relationships. This course gave me a new choice other than the endless back and forth that characterizes so many of the arguments I’ve had in the past. Rather than wanting to scream, cry, or use violence to force the other person to understand, the model provides clear steps to create a different result that works for everyone.

I keep one of the handouts from the course on my refrigerator. I like to see it everyday. It reminds me to be calm and more patient with others. I can be very stubborn, and that hasn’t gone away, but it reminds me that I have some new tools when I feel like something isn’t working. Looking at the handout also reminds me that I went to YES Institute, and that I loved my experience with my new YES family.

Everyone in the class had a different story or underlying reason, whether personal or professional, for taking the course, but we all walked away with something new and valuable. By the end of the 2 days, what was once a room full of strangers turned into a group of close friends, and it was a truly memorable and educational experience.

YES Institute’s Communication Solutions™ is taking place over the MLK holiday weekend - Saturday, January 19 & Sunday, January 20. This course is also available to MDCPS faculty for Master Plan Points. Registration is open for this course and the entire weekend, Communicating Powerfully & ReVisioning Gender. The weekend also includes Parts 1 & 2 of the Gender & Orientation Series™ – Gender Continuum on Friday, January 18, and Deciphering the Matrix of Orientation on January 21. Call today 305-663-7195 to register, or email for more info.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Jumping Through Hoops for Gender

Rachel Sottile, Executive Director of YES Institute facilitates dialogue. 

Reading an article in The Miami Herald about Shawnice “Pepper” Wilson, a powerful center for the University of Miami’s women’s basketball team, Executive Director Rachel Sottile was inspired to write her a letter.  Moved by her story of growing up in a series of foster homes, Rachel invited Pepper to visit YES Institute and explore the possibility of becoming a volunteer speaker.

During her visit to YES Institute, Pepper learned that the first step to making a difference is communication. She registered for the next Communication Solutions™ and brought her teammate Maria “Moe” Brown. Moe later reflected, “I did not know how powerful and effective this course would be. Not only did I learn new communication skills, I learned life skills that will make my relationships with others even more peaceful and fulfilling.”

Moe contacted Rachel after the course with an idea to bring the whole team to YES Institute as a community project. Her idea led to an opportunity for the UM Women’s Basketball team to visit and participate in a community dialogue with foster care youth, parents, and mental health professionals. Both Moe and Pepper shared about how bullying, gender and orientation have touched their lives in some way.

“I learned that society’s expectations of what a man and woman should be pressures all of us to hide who we really are and how we feel about ourselves. I just want to feel free to express my true self in this world and have it be okay.” - Foster Care Youth

A participant asked the team, “When you were playing basketball in high school, did you talk about gender and orientation among your team?” Nearly every member on the team emphatically nodded their heads. One player said that her coach had very strong beliefs that homosexuality was wrong. Because her coach had a huge impact on her life and served as a kind of mentor, she adopted those beliefs for herself.

University of Miami Women's Basketball Team with Rachel Sottile.

“In high school if any of us had been out as gay, we all knew it would hurt how much time we would have on the court. We all wanted to play no matter what, so no one would take that chance. It just wasn’t something we could talk about.”
- UM Women’s Basketball player

After the dialogue, Pepper shared, “Speaking in front of my teammates was very challenging because as close as I am to all of them, they do not know about my past. After I was done speaking, I know they have a better understanding of who I am in the world, and why YES Institute is so important to me.”

A staff member from the Institute for Children and Family Health said, “The community is changing one person at a time. It’s inspiring to meet Pepper and Moe and hear their stories because I know these two will make a lasting difference.”