No Longer on the Sidelines
We all strive to belong, to be wanted, to be a part of something. But sometimes getting off the sidelines is too difficult to do on your own‐ especially for those individuals who are quiet and reserved. Those traits could have been used to describe Tracy, a participant in the Life Skills program in Kent County. Tracy joined to the Life Skills program in October 2015. He was extremely shy—he rarely made eye contact or smiled, and did not enjoy exploring new activities or taking social risks with others. When asked a question, he would respond with “I don’t know” or “I’m not sure” but did not verbally share his own thoughts. Despite his introversion and hesitancy to participate with others, Tracy chose to attend faithfully four days per week.
About a year later in August 2016, Wobit Teshome joined the Kent Community Supports team as a mentor and became the primary mentor for the Life Skills group of which Tracy is a part.
When Wobit first met Tracy, she noticed his basic shyness and discomfort interacting with others. Wobit would often provide him with suggested responses which allowed him the opportunity to choose the best expression of what he was thinking.
In the nine months that Wobit worked with Tracy, she relied on both her educational training at Grand Valley State University and her recent work experience employing many creative approaches to support Tracy as he built his repertoire of social skills. She did this through intentional time spent with him to discover his interests. For example, while Tracy does not yet read, Wobit helped him acquire picture books that interested him. She would also facilitate interactions between Tracy and his peers to increase the possibility of real friendships. Tracy participated in group work led by Wobit to teach effective social skills in a variety of everyday situations.
Through it all, Tracy observed both Wobit and his peers as they interacted and participated in various community‐based activities. With Wobit and his peers as role models, he built the confidence he needed to step off the sidelines and develop relationships with his peers and venture into unfamiliar social situations.
The change that Wobit saw in Tracy over the past nine months was momentous. Tracy’s hesitancy is gone‐‐now he engages fully, even taking new social risks. Seeing Tracy’s personality emerge and begin interacting with others without prompting is one of Wobit’s proudest moments as his mentor.
MOKA’s employees strive to improve the lives of individuals they serve. The focus and encouragement Wobit provided to Tracy is just one example of many. All people search for a place to belong—Wobit helped Tracy off the sidelines and on to the social playing field.