Grace Callwood is a Peace First Fellow and founder of We Cancerve, a nonprofit dedicated to creating compassionate experiences for homeless and sick youth in her community. She was invited to speak at the American Federation of Teachers conference. Watch and read below.
When I hear the word "teacher" I think of a person who leads and develops others, who want the best for their students, and who loves watching students light up when learning. All of these thoughts are based off of what I've noticed in my favorite teachers.
My teachers helped save my life. During my almost four-year cancer journey, I missed a lot of school. I was homeschooled for all of first-grade. My teachers took the extra mile to pull together school work for my homeschool teacher, who was amazing.
My first-grade homeroom teacher, Mrs. Miller, came to my family's first ever Christmas BBQ.
My second-grade teacher, Mrs. Dibley, was excited to see me when I was well enough to go to school, which was very rare.
My third-grade homeroom teacher, Mrs. Cross, came to visit me in the hospital; and she even let Skype with my class from the hospital during their recess.
And when I lost my hair five different times, my teachers let me wear hats to school.
Steroids made me very hungry, but my teachers let me take breaks to eat. When I got back to school from a big surgery, my entire third-grade class wore their "team Grace" t-shirts.
By focusing on my well-being, my teachers helped saved my life. And they made me happy. I'm grateful that they didn't wait until I was better to do so.
I believe that happiness shouldn't have to wait and that's my motto for my nonprofit organization The We Cancerve Movement, Inc. We offer happiness to over four thousand sick, foster, and homeless children since 2012.
I was named a 2015 Peace First Fellow because of my work with my nonprofit. And my teachers have supported my winter coat drives, Easter basket giveaways and even the summer camp I created for homeless children.
In classrooms across the country, there are young people like me with ideas on how to solve many of the issues that affect us, but we need teachers like you to champion us.
On September 21st, we are launching the Peace First Challenge, a call-to-action for young people to work together in teams to solve injustices in their communities. My friend Imani will tell you more about this, but before I go, I just want to say this to all of my teachers, "Please continue doing what you're doing, and never stop. I wouldn't be where I without all of the love, support, flexibility, and care all of you have shown me. The honesty, consideration, love, and fun you all have given me has truly blessed me. Thank you.