Finding Where I Belong


 Creep (by Radiohead) cover by Scala and the Kolansky Brothers - This is the type of middle school crisis I had: “I don’t belong here”. I am no longer surprised to hear that my peers don’t feel belonging. It’s an elusive emotion, not a concrete destination. I wonder if everyone chases this feeling, or if some are born with a supply stored inside them, never truly being alone and never truly longing.

I can be happy; when the grade is high or the misfortune is low. It doesn’t stick. I am scotch tape, bought a decade and a half ago. You look in the drawer when the new poster is bought. You’re excited and pleased to hang static art on the wall. Then you see that I’m worn down and dull. I will stick to the beauty, hold it there, but I won’t last much longer. I’ll peel away slowly and you will not notice. The image will fall to the floor with me in tow, so you tack on a stronger aid. Only those looking closely will notice the difference. Others are rarely looking closely.

Belonging cemented when my fellow crew members and our leaders endeavored to know me through my works of art, not just the authentically awkward way in which I socialize with my peers.

A deeper connection with my heritage and unsung self came later. Before spending two months as a visiting college student, the idea that there is something out in the world that I’m meant to do eluded me. In retrospective, the pre-college experience worked a kind of magic on me that is so specific that I can neither re-create nor adamantly recommend it. I can, however, pinpoint an aspect of the experience that helped me find myself and realize where I belonged within my own community: listening to the stories of others. Whether it was through introductory small talk, heated dinner-time discussions, or while on tranquil long walks, knowing those around me and feeling known was instrumental in my self-discovery. Self-discovery was instrumental in finding belonging. It is unacceptable that so many academically motivated, highly involved young adults around me found themselves, realizing that they did not feel known. Upon returning home, I craved the same feeling, the feeling that I not only belonged, but that members of my community know the many ways in which we are connected by our similarities and refined by our differences.

On my journey to be known, I’ve found unexpected ground to cover with regards to meaningful connections. Mainly, I’ve found acres of academic obligations, drastically varying stages of social consciousness amongst my peers, and the need to constantly re-prioritize. Enjoying the company of other students that share my interests and obtaining fulfillment through my passion for theater has required the sacrifice of time spent on homework or getting ahead, time spent hanging out with friends, and time spent sleeping. I completely understand that young people need to know the fundamental building blocks of the world. My quarrel is with the fact that sports, youth organizations, and other extracurricular activities seek to expose us more to higher pursuits than to each other, much too often.

Phoenix Sullivan

Junior, OPRFHS


SAY partners build sustainable change in our neighborhoods

This summer, SAY launched Neighbors Knowing Neighbors (NKN) –  a partnership of area organizations that work together to ensure every child in Oak Park feels known, cared for, and listened to by adults in their neighborhood. 

The Oak Park Regional Housing Center identified neighborhoods where residents face obstacles to connecting and hired interns from those communities to organize a series of block parties. 

The interns managed the process from initial planning and outreach through clean-up. Residents were encouraged to participate and received a block party packet with information they will use to plan and manage future gatherings. Next summer, the NKN partnership will reach out to new neighborhoods, to build sustainable change in our community. 

HYPE (Healthy Youth Peer Educators) Offer Information, Not Blame

Advocate Smart, Healthy Alternatives to Alcohol & Marijuana

The HYPE (Healthy Youth Peer Educators) program at Oak Park and River Forest High School plays an important role in communitywide efforts to reduce teen alcohol and substance use.  Twenty-five sophomores, juniors and seniors, serve as peer mentors who encourage fellow students to make informed decisions and embrace healthier habits.  Team members Mary Vestal, Jorge Boyas, and Anna Gagliardo  stopped by Prevention & Wellness Coordinator, Ginger Colamussi’s office to share what HYPE is doing to make a difference.

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Success of All Youth is a program powered by the Communityworks Fund of the Oak Park-River Forest Community Foundation.  |  708-848-1560  | 1049 Lake Street, Suite 204  |  Oak Park, IL 60301yt brand standard logo whitetwitter bird white reverseFB white