What Do The Council Check-Ins Mean To Us?

By: Arianna, Co-chair of Riley’s Way TYWLS East Harlem + Nightingale Council, and Tiara, Riley’s Way TYWLS Astoria + Hewitt Council Member

The name says it all. An all-Council check-in is a space where members from the three Council cohorts of Riley’s Way engage for thirty minutes. Now this space is unique because it is one where every Council member can gather with other young leaders like themselves. Even more, it is a space where each Council member can learn about a topic or participate in an activity to ignite a spark in them. Now that is where the term check-in comes into play. By igniting that spark, Council members can check in with themselves by finding their voice and simply who they are.

That said, each Monday, we look forward to the email from the all-Council check-in host that week. We eagerly await to see what activity will inspire us that Wednesday night. Where will our mind be at for those thirty minutes? Will we be envisioning our futures and sharing words of wisdom with all the guests? Or, will we be creating a new self-care routine inspiring everyone on the Zoom call?

From participating in check-ins debriefing prevalent social justice issues to writing poetry, we always find ourselves getting so into what we are doing that night that we forget about what may be weighing us down. We always find ourselves so in tune with who we are and proud of choosing to write our life stories. When we learn and try new self-care techniques, we first wonder: how will we inspire someone else to be kind to themselves and try something new? When we write poetry for one of the check-ins, we think about how we want our words to mean much more than a few stanzas. We intend for the words to resemble a source of light and empowerment. We choose to write our stories in which we are characters who lead with leadership and intending to inspire at least one new person each day.

Recently, Tiara led a council check-in alongside Maya, another Council member. The council check-in that night was called — Turning Your Dreams Into A Reality. Before leading the check-in, Tiara always wondered what goes into planning one and finding the inspiration for it. While establishing a check-in for Council members to reflect on their dreams and explore ways to make them possible, she was already doing that. After attending her first Council check-in led by Arianna based on the favorite poems of the group, she left that night imagining herself leading one soon.

On February 3rd, Tiara turned her imagination into reality by co-leading her Council check-in. As soon as she logged off that night, she was already thinking about other topics for potential leads in the future. Tiara was so proud of herself because those thirty minutes that night were symbolic of her leadership endeavor as Tiara continues to get older and navigate the world. She was so proud of herself for not letting her shyness define her that night, but instead let her best self shine bright with a big smile on her face, ready to lead. Tiara found her voice that night, even if it was for thirty minutes. Every Council check-in, no matter the topic, never fails to exemplify the art of self-development through the lens of living with the morals of kindness and empathy.

Tiara and Arianna believe that knowing there exists a place where we can both lead and support others in doing so — is rare nowadays. We face a society that prioritizes certain voices over others. As we reflect on the resilience, dedication, and versatility of the community at Riley’s Way, we are proud that one of the many ways we managed to stay connected is through these check-ins. Thirty minutes may not seem like the amplest amount of time — it has worked for us because we dedicated our presence to an unmatched space, where we can span our commitment to kindness, empathy, leadership, and connection-making across the cohorts of councils.

During times like these right now in our world, it is so vital that other young leaders like ourselves unite as a team and use what we see on social media and the news as inspiration to create a better tomorrow. We are reminded from 8:00 – 8:30 pm every Wednesday night that we have the power and capability to achieve one of those dreams — to change the world.  Every Wednesday at 8:31 pm, our dreams get bigger, and our voices get louder. That is what the council check in’s mean to us. It is where we can genuinely find ourselves and our purposes in life. We are always supported and empowered, and we get to reciprocate that same feeling to the rest of the council members. Though the council check-in may only be thirty minutes, our imagination grows ten inches more, our voices raise ten more numbers, and we gain ten more dreams.

Read the poems Tiara and I wrote during Arianna’s second check-in on Poetry + The Written Word below!

Arianna’s Poem

Have hope.
If this pandemic has taught me one thing,
it’s that tomorrow isn’t promised.
Instead of taking this as a loss,
let’s take it as a gift.
Communities have come together,
cheering and applauding for the heroes
and warriors inside our hospitals.
Let’s enjoy life more once this is all over.
Let’s remain hopeful for the future,
as we’re truly stronger together
in times of adversity.
Have hope.

Tiara’s Poem

Even when the days felt like never ending nightmares, we still held hands

Even when everyday only seemed to be getting worse, we reassured each other that there is a light at the end of every tunnel

Even when our lives changed drastically day by day, we still reminded one another that we are in this together and no one will stand alone

Even when the front line workers endured exhausting and painful days, we cheered for them everyday at 7:00 pm.

Even when families began to lose loved ones, we came to their comfort and grieved alongside them

A pandemic that will most certainly be taught to the years, decades, and centuries to come

A pandemic that has most certainly change the world and what normalcy is

A pandemic that has ignited a story filled with battles and sadness but also one of inspiration

We held hands on the dark days

We shared tears, We sparked a smile on each other’s face

For this is what has been inspiring through this pandemic

This pandemic taught us the power of kindness and empathy

Kindness and empathy has inspired us to unite as a team even when we were presented with the best and the worst.