Leaving Behind a Legacy
Every year I ask our graduating seniors to write a memoir of the legacy they would like to leave behind for the raising members. This has always been an important component to what we do, as we are teen initiated and although students graduate I feel it is important for them to leave their final imprint with our current members on their dreams, hopes and inspirations for the years to come. We then invite our alumni back to participate in many different events to continue to share how they are making waves and moving mountains within the community.
I never thought one day I would be composing one of these letters. A letter to all the members with my hopes, dreams aspirations and goals for our members and alumni. In just a few short weeks, Medora and I will be setting off to start our next chapter to our lives in Houston, Texas. I will be relocating to help run, organize and create the school counseling program at St. John's School. I will be a part of an incredible team that's mission is to promote wellness within our school community and foster individual growth.
This is a very bittersweet transition for me.
Taking a deep breath, I think back on where we all started. With a dream, a hope and a prayer. I have always said that I believe God supports what our youth are trying to accomplish or none of this would have come to fruition--especially so quickly.
Before I leave with you my legacy, I want to take you for a walk down memory lane. I moved to Palm Beach Gardens from Miami, Florida where I had been a school counselor at an all girls' school. I wanted to create a similar gender specific, nurturing environment, which focused on building a community to promote wellness; particularly related to social and emotional health topics.
I jumped in with both feet and launched a full day summer camp, which was a HUGE success. We capped out at 10 students and each week had different themes. It was such a great success, that the following year I decided I might need some help and opened up to high school volunteers. I will never forget some of the amazing, bubbly faces that bounced in my office to interview with me: Lindsay (who had been a camper the year before!), Izzy, Lydia, Adrianna, Nicole L., Flora, Alexi and Angela. They came in with fresh ideas and enthusiasm that I knew would be utilized. And off we went into the creation of our little sisterhood: Women Making Waves. At the end of the summer, the high school students came to me and said, "Ashley, without this opportunity we would have never all met each other--and we want to continue to do this and work together all year. What do you think?" After the conversation I decided we would apply as a 501c3 non-profit organization. I was warned by many it could take up to 2 years. So I got in all our materials and was ready to patiently wait, when I received word back 4 weeks later that we had been approved!! It was time to get to work! And so we all did!
The girls recruited more members, we outlined a constitution, criteria for membership, had countless conversations about the mission and vision of what we wanted to accomplish and with whom. We relocated to Jupiter, where the girls came in to paint the office and get our official "clubhouse" ready. We hosted our first induction ceremony and planned our first community wide conference on suicide prevention and awareness. From that point on it felt like we were always off to the races. We launched committees, had a membership of up to 30 girls representing 11 high schools and now the boys wanted a chapter! Men Moving Mountains launched with very similar enthusiasm, dedication and commitment in the spring of 2016. This group of teens is truly unstoppable and they really define what it means to "Make Waves" and "Move Mountains".
This past year has been a trying journey of my own. One that has required much of my time outside of the organization and focused on the needs of my family. Through it all, the members--alumni, WMW and M3, the board of directors and many of the parents never left my side. The boys composed a letter of support I left on my mirror for months as a reminder of what we do and who we are. We are much more than a "group" of teens trying to make a difference in the community. These are teens who are brave in the face of adversity, have empathy beyond comprehension, truly care for each other and are longing to continue to grow and learn to become better leaders. These teens take action and put emphasis behind every word and idea. They make it a reality, while improving our community. It has been a blessing to not only know each teen Stand UP has worked with, but also to have been chosen as their guide and facilitator for the past 4, almost 5, years.
And now it is my time to move forward with my family and pursue my next chapter. I would not be ready to make these type of waves, nor move these types of mountains, without all I have learned from each and every member who has walked through our doors. My hope in this transition is that our members (and alumni) NEVER loose focus. That they never loose the love for social and emotional health, growing, improving, mentoring and supporting one another. My hope is that each member comes to learn success through failure, and bravery through having to rise again and again. My hope is that in each obstacle our members never feel alone. We have created a family that I hope will continue to love and support each other through it all. That's the very reason we started this. For all our members to gain a since of true belonging, inclusion and open mindedness; and then to share that with our community. My prayer is that I have impacted your lives in some capacity and that you all know how much you have impacted mine. I am forever grateful to have been a part of your life's journey. Although I may be moving to a new geographical location, you need to know that I will continue to always be available to you. We will always be family.
I am very excited for Stand UP's new direction with the Arc of Palm Beach County. I believe this transition will build and give our students more opportunities than they ever imagined. I know change is hard at first, but my hope is that you continue with all the zest and passion you can muster.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart for this opportunity and for all the lessons you have taught me. You will be missed, but never forgotten.
With Much Love,
Your (Adult) Founder and Director,
Ashley Le Grange