Small Life Lessons: Learning to Tie a Tie

Youth Development

Many teens anxiously anticipate their Homecoming dance as one of the most important decided events in their high school careers. For most teens, this is an event that they have been looking forward to for a long time. For some, however, the Homecoming dance was a new concept.

This past year, Northern Virginia Family Service (NVFS) had the opportunity to provide support groups for recently arrived Latino male youth. The support group mainly focuses on the acculturation process, learning to navigate the educational system and basic life skills. Two group participants, Alex and Manuel, decided to attend the dance. Unfortunately, because of their family’s low-income level and other factors, neither Alex nor Manuel had anything to wear. Intervention, Prevention and Education’s (IPE) group facilitators collected and donated dress shirts and ties.

Less than 24 hours before the dance, the two nervous teens met with one of the group facilitators in one of the school’s conference rooms. The facilitator was prepared and displayed the dress shirts and ties on the conference table and invited Alex and Manuel to pick out the things they liked.

They quickly decided on their best look but looked lost when they were handed ties. Each admitted that they had never worn a tie or had anyone in their lives to teach them to tie one. With much compassion and humor, the facilitator painstakingly showed both Alex and Manuel how to tie their ties.

The facilitator advised the teens to continue to take pride in their appearance and make themselves known for positive impacts rather than focus on other’s expectations of them. He encouraged them to have fun, enjoy the moment and to reach out to him or the school staff if they needed anything else.

The NVFS youth groups offer more than psycho-education and a supportive network. They offer teens experiences and opportunities that they may not have had otherwise, whether it’s the opportunity to foster friendships or to have an adult male role model whom they can finally count on. Metrics tend to focus on the developmental milestones, but even smaller, yet very important, milestones can quickly become a turning point in a young man’s life.