The Toothpaste Isn’t Going Back in the Tube

I realize there are some major, major things going wrong in the world right now, but I am on Cloud Nine. A young woman I wrote about last year is being featured on Sheryl Sandberg’s website on resilience. Niante Ricks ended up homeless after coming out to her family, but found an amazing school in New Orleans, where she lives, that took her in and got her to college. Her teachers sent my story to Sandberg, who loved it.
The photo on this post is of Niante and a classmate giving their presentation a year and a half ago. Click on the new story to see a new portrait that’s 150 percent poise and confidence.
Cute backstory: In New Orleans an unexpected treasure found on the quest for something else is called Lagniappe. Niante wasn’t even the reason I was at Collegiate Academies. I went to write about the schools’ groundbreaking work on discipline and in special ed services for older students. My host, the most excellent Zoey Reed, had arranged for me to see some student presentations, including one advocating overturning a law that says Louisiana teachers may not say anything affirming to students about gays and lesbians.

Niante’s classmates didn’t show, so there she was in this big echo-y room facing a note-taking stranger by herself. But she killed it. She stood up, started clicking through her PowerPoint data and got her personal story out without flinching. She must have been scared beyond belief.
And she sent me an honest-to-God letter after my story ran! Who does that? Young people who have had enough adult support to master the art of self-advocacy–that’s who. 
This, folks, this is why in the end, all the executive orders in the universe–deadly as they will prove in the near term–won’t serve to stuff the toothpaste back in the tube.

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