Thursday, September 8, 2016

The Art of Building Social Capital...

Well, another school year is officially underway.  Aside from the basic duties and responsibilities of being a student, one of the most important things to keep in mind for a successful academic career while setting the stage for independence as a productive adult, is to remember the pleasantries involved in daily life.  Please! And don't be shy about it either because it is a crucial step in building social capital which is one of the most valuable things to have in a lifetime.

What is social capital?  It is defined as:
"The networks of relationships among people who live and work in a particular society enabling that society to function effectively."

If you are in what may be perceived by some to be the "popular" group.  Don't limit your interaction with what you may think are the "cool" kids.  What is cool anyway?  Cool is being able to blend in with your surroundings with effortless ease and this means being aware of them and interacting with others.   Reach out to the kids sitting alone because more often than not, you may find yourself in a life-long friendship.  Don't let your so called "cool friends" intimidate you to do otherwise either, because that is called "bullying", a very popular buzz term these days and one to avoid being associated with at all costs.  Don't fall victim to it.

If you are one of the kids that no one is talking to, don't be afraid to venture beyond your comfort zone.  A lot of people don't know what to say to get a conversation started.  Give 'em a smile, wave or say "Hi!"  Just don't be afraid of rejection or you will never get anywhere in life.

As I state this, please know no matter how hard you try, not everyone is going to be receptive to your efforts.  It doesn't matter if you are on the giving or receiving side, it is just the way of the world.  But you will never know if you don't try and avoidance behavior can lead to social isolation, which benefits no one.   Building social capital happens by trial and error so don't get discouraged by your perceived failed attempts.   The main thing is to keep a positive attitude about yourself and learn from your mistakes and successes as well as those of others you admire; just don't try to BE others. This is the most important!! Be YOURSELF because you are an original and there is no one else like you.

Please remember that life is about way more than the brand of clothes you wear on your back or the kinds of cars that sit in your driveway at home.  While these things may be nice to have, none of them really matter. You could be the best dressed kid, delivered to school in your own private limo, but if you have no friends, you may also be the loneliest kid at school. 

What does matter is the ability to carry on civil conversations and this means being aware of the people living life around you.  You have to keep in mind not everyone has the same level of communication skills so this is where awareness plays a huge role. Some people can't speak at all but that does not mean they can't communicate and should be excluded from conversations or interaction. Everyone has feelings, and smiles and eye contact speak much louder than words so don't be stingy with them.

Reaching out to others you don't know--no matter how afraid you initially are--builds confidence and self esteem.  Plus, it will make you rich with friends, which is far more valuable than all the money in the world.

Amy Barnes

Please note; the bulk of this article was published three years ago. I read an article in the St. Louis Post Dispatch today that has prompted me to re-post.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

HKT went on their THIRD Annual A Walk & Roll Adventure!!! Thanks to some very generous supporters...

Here is a group of forward thinkers: Kids from the St. Louis Metropolitan area--and beyond, we even had a student from Hamburg, Germany--who went to the MO state capitol in Jefferson City to show support for people with disabilities.  This pic was taken after a public rally with various speakers on topics related to living with disabilities. 

As an observer standing in the background, I saw a group of very attentive listeners in these kids.  Thanks to them and their parents for participating in such an important day!