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The Pleasant Surprises of Medicine Wheel

Posted on 06/25/2014 @ 07:00 PM

On the first day when we were divided into groups and informed about the site, we all developed our own unique ideas on what to expect. I personally envisioned an empty plot of land that we would be transforming into a public park. As the bus pulled into the parking lot on the first day of service, we all were mildly confused. The site was a forest-like environment with a small path winding through the trees. As we explored the path, we discovered several pieces of artwork and poetry that had been created by the people of Medicine Wheel. The pieces were three-dimensional and provoked strong emotions. The way that the beauty of the natural world's intersected with the individual art projects was astonishing.

The next surprise came about when meeting the man behind the magic, artist Michael Dowling. When Michael arrived to the area, which he nicknamed "No Man's Land," he began by giving a history of the site. Starting from Native American inhabitation, he described the progressive history of South Boston while orienting us about the people in the program. The way Michael spoke about the kids immediately caught my attention. He viewed the people of the program as "outspoken" teens that simply found misfortune in their lives. Michael has continuously shed wisdom upon all of us with his intriguing conceptual thoughts and questions. One thing that stood out in my mind was when he said something along the lines of "when a Caucasian gets addicted to a drug, they get sent to rehab. But when an African American gets addicted to a drug, they go to jail." This statement, along with numerous others by Michael, made me ponder societal trends that I have never considered before or thought to question.

The final surprise occurred when first encountering the teens in Medicine Wheel. Every teen that I met was incredible. Through conversing, I discovered that the teens managed to overcome many significant and difficult events in their lifetime, which made them strong emotionally as well as wise beyond their years. Conversation topics ranged from favorite movies to dreams of the future to the struggles of growing up. One specific connection I made was with a young man named Love. We immediately clicked when we discovered that we shared a passion for music. It was evident that these teenagers that we worked with were special. They are beginning to escape from the gangs, drugs, and violence that was predestined for them and are starting to live their own lives and have their own aspirations. Even in the first few days, it is clear that these teenagers will have a strong impact on our lives and perceptions.

Michael, Medicine Wheel, and now Impact Boston teens are working on "No Man's Land" in the hopes of inclusion of everyone no matter their socioeconomic condition, race, religion, and physical ability. Although the cleanup and preparation for the pavement of the path is a tedious process, the experience is extremely rewarding. No longer will this area in the community be a location of illegal actions such as substance consumption and violence, but rather an area where the community can gather to admire the art and hear the voices of these incredible teens.

Zachary Alter, Connecticut Valley Region

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