"I've Never Been Called Exceptional Before."

James Layman, Director of Student Programs, AWSL
Oct 15, 2020


Every now and then, a conversation with a student becomes profound and life-changing. A conversation where you leave the conversation a different person than when you entered. Where students teach you a lesson that you never knew you needed to hear. That sums up a conversation I had with a student this week. 

I had the honor and privilege of chatting with a student this week about race and equity. For the bulk of the conversation, I sat and listened to a young person share their lived experience as a student of color in the world today. Not surprisingly, their words were honest and powerful, their stories were riveting, and their hopes and dreams for a better future were optimistic. 

After a conversation about the next steps they could take in their journey, I said, "You are exceptional." 

A few seconds of silence passed, and tears started flowing from the student. Even through zoom, the outpouring of emotion was palpable. The student, through tears, explained, "I have never been called exceptional before."

This confession stunned me, and then it didn't. As adults, we have such an essential job in supporting students through their educational journey in life. While that is paramount in our roles, I believe filling the soundtrack that fills our students' day-to-day lives with positivity is crucial. 

We (adults) provide the lyrics to the music that lives on the soundtrack of student's lives—our words matter. This moment reminded me of the opportunities we have every day to fill the world with good. Let us be the Lennon and McCartney of hope for the soundtrack that students digest daily.

  • Hope
  • student leadership
  • inspiration
  • Hopeful and Inspiring
  • Student Leadership (AWSL)

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