When Vy Higginsen opened her doors in Harlem to teach young people the gift of singing gospel music, she had no idea how influential she would be teaching her students confidence and self-esteem. The teens admitted to this program generally face very challenging environments outside the rehearsal room. Surrounded by violence, instability and stress, her students were tentative to say the least. Quite simply, they fundamentally did not feel SAFE, so their body’s instinct was to retreat. Gospel music gave them the opportunity to express their emotions, their grief, and their story through the power of music, but that was not all they learned. When she began her program, at the auditions, she was shocked by how many teens were too timid to complete the very simple task of stating their name. She noticed that students could not raise their voices and their bodies shrunk in front of an audience. Higginsen felt that through their tiny voices, they were saying “I’m ashamed of who I am and where I come from.”
She was determined to help them find their voice. And boy, did she ever. Due to the program’s success, Gospel for Teens competes and performs regularly. At each performance, Vy asks her kids to shout their name and where they live. While some of her students required extra coaching to do this well, they managed to do it brilliantly time and time again.
For many people, even some who have been privileged enough to grow up in healthy households, it is a struggle to introduce themselves with warmth and conviction. But when you introduce yourself meekly, you are sending the message that you are not worthy enough of your audience’s time and attention. How can you share your gifts with the world if you cannot make connections that count? Take a moment to consider how you introduce yourself. Do you make eye contact, smile, breathe, and speak clearly? If not, try. And then try some more.
The world is waiting to meet you. Trust that and watch your circle grow.
To see the full 60 Minutes episode about Gospel for Teens, please go to: http://www.cbsnews.com/video/
To support Vy Higginsen’s Mama Foundation, please donate at: http://mamafoundation.org/