We often take for granted how much our words matter. A smile and a “you look nice today.” A nod and a “keep up the good work.” A note of encouragement. All of these seemingly small gestures can elevate someone’s mood and shift their perspective. In some cases, they can change the trajectory of a life.
That’s why we celebrate I’m So Proud of You Day at the end of each one of our three sessions per year. This simple ceremony gives each scholar an opportunity to hear words that uplift and edify, words that will help them understand their greatness. We started this tradition many years ago after I stopped to think about the number of times I spoke to my own kids about things I wanted them to change or do. “Pick up your clothes. Don’t miss the bus. Finish your homework.” I realized that the time I spent correcting greatly outweighed the time I spent telling them how special they were to me.
The first I’m So Proud of You Day took place at the Darden Terrace Community Center in Conway. We asked the scholars to take turns sitting on top of a table at the front of the room. As they sat, we took turns showering them with positive words. Their tutor would begin by telling all of us why he or she was proud of the scholar. Maybe they were reading with more expression or fluency. Maybe they had worked especially hard to finish a chapter book or learn new vocabulary words. Then we invited their parents or caregivers to take the floor. We watched kids absorb the praise like a thirsty plant in the desert soaks up the rain. We acknowledge that not every child responds well to this kind of public recognition, so no scholar is forced to participate. Most, however, wear expressions on their faces that tell us how happy they are to be seen for their strengths and accomplishments.
As we emerge from the two years of stringent Covid protocols, it pleases me to no end to see I’m so Proud of You Day return to our sites. Studies have told us that not only have reading skills been adversely affected by the pandemic, but so has self-esteem and mental health. It is our sincere hope that this celebration of our kids’ brilliance will counteract some of the negative impacts of the last few years and help pave the way for a brighter tomorrow.
Dr. Tracy Bailey
Founder & Executive Director