Celebrating Our Community Leaders: Mary-Ann and Mistura

At The Practice Space, we believe deeply in recognizing and celebrating the remarkable individuals who bring our values to life and embody the qualities of leadership and community spirit that we hold dear. At our most recent Legacy Dinner, we had the immense pleasure of honoring two such individuals with our Community Champion Award and Youth Leadership Award. These awards highlight the outstanding contributions and unwavering dedication of Mary-Ann Lafosse and Mistura Bankole, two community leaders whose work and voices have profoundly impacted The Practice Space and beyond.

Community Champion Award: Mary-Ann Lafosse

The Community Champion Award was presented to Mary-Ann Lafosse, an esteemed educator and school district administrator. Mary-Ann has been a pillar of support, offering her time and expertise through volunteer service, thought leadership, and partnership. Her readiness to assist with events, district connections, and program opportunities has been invaluable to our organization.

Mary-Ann's speech at the Legacy Dinner was a heartfelt reflection on her journey and the importance of oral literacy in education:

Mary-Ann’s Remarks: "I'm very honored and humbled for this award. It's really a joy to see how The Practice Space has grown. And I'm very grateful that in some ways I have contributed, in some small ways, I have contributed to it. Growing up, I probably, like many of you, felt that I wasn't listened to. And as I grew up and went through my schooling, that has a way to work your ability to communicate freely. I became an early childhood teacher and I could see in the young children from preschool, their first grade, second grade, how talkative they are, how much they have to say. And they slowly, as they gradually, as they move through the school, they become more silent or disengaged.

Sometimes it's what they do. It's called the, they learn to play the game of the school. You know, do the assignments, get good grades, be compliant. Somehow that curiosity, that talk, and that, that is very alive, it starts to be just reserved for them. This is concerning being a teacher and now an administrator.

I have seen also for the last two decades, many initiatives nationwide, district-wide to improve literacy and they mainly focus on reading and they devote enormous amounts of time and money. And teacher time, mandatory, we had mandatory teacher training, the entire week in the summer. And the results were not what was expected despite the 10 years of implementation. This is because they were not considering, the policy makers and everybody behind this, the importance of oral literacy. Oral language in the classrooms. It's relegated to this priority where we don't have time, we have school, we have things to teach. Let's move on. Right?

We're not going to see any academic improvement through literacy if we do not bring oral literacy into the daily fabric of instruction, of the language science instruction, of the content area, math, science, and social studies, where students can be engaged in the content, can be engaged with one another. And this is something that has to be taught. Kids don't come to school learning how to do presentations and debate; they have to be taught. Teachers also have to be trained to allow for these. And to create these structures, these procedures, these protocols, these agreements.

Not where these discourses of the students can take place. So there is a lot of unlearning that we have to do. I believe it requires true systemic change. All of us speak about the importance of oral language, oral literacy in day-to-day instruction. And this is something that The Practice Space does very well.

And as an adult participant in the workshops, I was able to feel more comfortable again with my voice. I began to see that it is my right to use it. And at the same time, it's my responsibility. So I want to thank The Practice Space for all the work and for this award. I wish The Practice Space to keep the space for practice, and of course, many, many more years of success and growth."

Youth Leadership Award: Mistura Bankole

The Youth Leadership Award was presented to Mistura Bankole, a young leader whose exceptional commitment to fostering youth voice and participation has left an indelible mark on our organization. Mistura has been a dedicated coach and participant in nearly all our programs, growing tremendously as a leader who uses her voice for good. Her journey from a shy eighth-grader to a confident young woman is a testament to the transformative power of The Practice Space.

Mistura’s Remarks: "I am honored to be recognized today. I am forever grateful for my family here at The Practice Space. It is safe to say that I would not be the woman I am today without them. Without the support, the encouragement, and the place to practice. So thank you. From my very first opportunity with the nonprofit, as the first student in the expressive leaders cohort, as an 8th grader who had absolutely no confidence in herself whatsoever, that was my defining moment.

I was finally able to see myself outside of the life I had in my little bubble. I began to dream and envision a life where I had a voice, where I could advocate and become a champion of change. It is safe to say that I'm living that life now. I'm constantly challenging myself and those around me, those around me to enforce the kind of change that I believe our world needs.

My generation has been burdened with a task that some might say is too great to bear. To ask of us to rewrite the wrongdoings of those that came before us. To ask of us to resist, to fight back. To ask of us to save an entire planet, literally and figuratively. These are tasks reflective of our endearing spirits.

It is an honor and a privilege to be the generation that changes it all. The fire that burns inside all of us will forge the weapons needed to create the change that our world so desperately needs. But it is organizations like The Practice Space that are designed and equipped with the tools to create the change makers of tomorrow.

So, thank you to The Practice Space. Thank you to the family that you have all given me, and thank you for your never-ending support."

Conclusion

The Practice Space thrives because of the dedication and passion of individuals like Mary-Ann Lafosse and Mistura Bankole. Their stories remind us of the power of voice and the importance of creating spaces where people can practice and grow. As we continue to celebrate our community, we are inspired by their leadership and commitment to speaking up to foster change. We are grateful for their contributions and look forward to more years of growth and success. Thank you, Mary-Ann and Mistura, for being shining examples of the values we hold dear at The Practice Space.

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