A sense of pride overwhelms my body every time I step into the 14th street Y. I am beyond proud of the work we are accomplishing in the Preschool and greater 14Y community. I know and feel that I am a part of their bigger story, and they are a crucial part of mine.
I am concluding my 10th school year working in the Preschool, currently as the Associate Director. I remember my Y journey so vividly, due to the power it had on me from the beginning, and how it has empowered me to become the best version of myself today.
From my interview with The Preschool Director 10 years ago, at the vegan restaurant Curly’s Lunch next to the 14th Street Y, where she was genuinely interested in hearing more about my wife and kid and our journey. To our Educational Alliance CEO, Alan van Capelle, who lives out and proud in the most authentic way and the 14th Street Y’s Executive Director, Rabbi Shira Koch Epstein, who gives so much love and support to all, creating a culture of kindness and inclusiveness like I’ve only felt at overnight camp. The 14th Street Y has continued to be a place I feel safe, proud, inspired, and motivated to be my most authentic self.
When people ask me “Are you gay? A lesbian? Queer?” I often pause, look at them and state, “I’m Nili!” Not denying or owning any of the other labels. This is how I am a role model for the children I teach. Throwing labels to the mountains and honoring that we do not have to ever fall into any category but our own. I absolutely practice what I preach every day in our Preschool. I encourage teachers and parents to view their child for who they are. Right there, in front of them, what you see is what you get. I encourage and coach them to not jump to conclusions, to not waste energy googling what might be, I want them to get down on their child’s level, enter their child’s world to better understand and support their child. This level of emotional support will impact everyone in the most positive way.
I want our teachers and families to drop gender stereotypes. All of our Preschool bathrooms are for everyone. For the past few years this has naturally come from our PreK children, and they end up making new bathroom signs that read “for boys & girls!” They get it. It’s society that puts an unnecessary pressure on our children to fit into a gender box. I want to make sure that each child, as they enter our Preschool’s doors hears “hello, we are so glad you are back, it’s so nice to see YOU!” I want them to feel that they are accepted into this community, and not a negative stereotypical gender normative statement like “I love your dress,” to a girl entering a classroom. Words are powerful, use them wisely. Connecting human to human, honoring and respecting who that individual is, not what they look like on the outside, will directly impact who they become in the present and in the future. Leading life through understanding, kindness, and awareness will allow everyone to be more authentic. By living your truth and living authentically paves the road to be the most successful and the most productive human possible.
We are living in a world where social and emotional experiences are happening in real time. We aren’t even sure yet what the impact and implications will be on us and our children. We are seeing anxiety enter at younger ages. Now more than ever I am beyond proud to be on a team that is doing meaningful and intentional work that is having a positive impact on our future leaders. The fact that I have a place, when the world seems to be a roller coaster, that I can find comfort, connections, and purpose—for this I feel an enormous sense of pride.
Happy pride month everyone!!