“Theara, I want to fight somebody, I haven’t been in a good fight in a while.” For some people a statement like this coming from a twelve year old might be scary.  However, this kind of genuine pent up aggression is something I am quite familiar with.

My mentee in the Project Dream Big program, is your typical twelve year old inner city kid. She likes to dance, she likes to play, and she likes to fight. What makes her different than most children her age, even in the inner city atmosphere, is that she is homeless. The children of Project Dream Big all live in transitional housing centers with their families. Project Dream Big is an initiative that is reaching out to Howard University students to give these children someone who looks like them  to connect to. It is unlike any service project I have ever undertaken. I have never felt more connected to a child than I do to my twelve year old mentee. My background is very similar to some of these children. As a young child growing up in the Sumner Housing Projects in Brooklyn, NY, I had very little in my surroundings to inspire me. In fact I was a fighter too. I was lucky enough to have someone teach me to take the fight out of hands and funnel all that aggression into something progressive.

I realized that if you are a born and bred fighter, there is little chance that the urge to fight will dissipate with age. So I continue to fight, but instead of meaningless playground altercations I fought my way out of the inner city in Brooklyn into the premier Historically Black College in the Nations capitol. My will to fight has translated in my desire to be an advocate for human rights. I was lucky enough to find someone who didn’t want to take the fight out of me. So I intend to do the same.

I encourage my mentee to fight for something worth fighting for. While helping her connect to the character Scout in “To Kill A Mockingbird”, I show her that finding something worth fighting for is a more appropriate outlet for her pent up aggression. I hope that my guidance will push her to embrace the fighting energy that she has, because it is as much a part of who she is as it a part of who I am. The world needs more fighters with hearts as big as the children of Project Dream Big. And that, is what I am fighting to protect.

Theara Coleman is a junior English Major, Afro-American Studies Minor at Howard University. Originally from Brooklyn, NY she’s adapted to DC by staying involved on campus as a member of NSCS and as the President for HU’s LGBT organization CASCADE. In her spare time, whenever that might be, she enjoys writing poetry and spending time making yummy vegetarian dishes. She hopes to get into law school somewhere on the west coast post graduation, and pursue a career as a Civil Rights Attorney. You can follow her on twitter @kinkycorona.