Catherine Morrison
Cornelia Connelly School
New York City, NY

CCC Mission Moment

Relationships, love, and community are the three words that I just kept twirling around in my head – some people might find this redundant, but these three words hold a great deal of significance and they truly are the foundation of what my experience has been built upon here at CCC.

Relationships are the starting point of all that transpires at CCC. When I think about our 13 year program I think about the relationships that are cultivated here, and how they are built on mutual trust, love, and understanding. This is where the center truly shines for me. We understand the varying difficulties our students face, whether they are social, emotional, or academic they are not overlooked in this space. We never ignore the pain they carry with them to school every day.

Our students are incredibly aware of the poverty they face and the way they can articulate it so clearly has helped me to understand how deeply it truly cuts. Reading a student’s vocabulary sentence about food being scarce at the end of the month while her family is waiting for food stamps. Another student coming up to me after class and telling me she might need some extra time getting the $5 for the fieldtrip because she knows “now isn’t a good time to be asking mom for money. Getting pulled aside by a student seeing if you have a minute to talk because she has been really sad recently and she doesn’t know why – only to come to find out that her dad recently came back to the house and has been mistreating her mom again. And you hold her as she cries because that’s the only way you know to comfort her. Their willingness to open up and share in such an honest and vulnerable way is only possible because of those unwavering relationships and the confidence and trust they hold in them.

Every single day I am reminded of the difficulties that each and every one of my students faces. But at Cornelia Connelly Center that will never define them. We will never ignore the pain in the room – but we will choose to celebrate the resilience and the incredible strength that each and every one of them holds inside.

Our students come to us with incredible deficits, some so debilitating that at times I am at a loss as to how I can even be of any help – but I do have faith because we have seen that with these loving relationships and our strong community they will in fact grow to be the shining young women God created them to be.

Knowing the hurt they carry allows for our hearts to be broken open and although it is painful, it is an experience that has taught me to love stronger and more passionately than I ever thought could be possible.

It’s one thing to say you value community – but working in a place that focuses on (as Cornelia would say) **actions not words** you see community in action. Sometimes words can get in the way, but setting aside time to get to know our students for who they are, valuing them, accepting where they are at, and expressing our unconditional love – that is the magic that keeps us singing in the hallways (literally) even on the tough days.

Being a part of our community, each of our students finds her voice. Along with the strength that comes with knowing that your voice matters, you are valuable, you have a place at the table, and you have worked hard and deserve to be there.
That is what love can do, though the community we share in.
I hope that my story has given you some insight into the community we have, the love we share, and the relationships that are created in this space on a daily basis.