The Rubicon Rangers: Participants 'Step Up' at July Stepping Stone Ceremony

By Justin Kok July 09, 2018

The "Rubicon Rangers" series is a first-person account of Rubicon's intern experience, authored by the interns, Jessica, Sandy and Justin, themselves.

Walking into the lobby at Rubicon Programs in Richmond, it was impossible not to notice the unmistakable air of amiability and dignity that filled the room. Jovial faces and pleasant conversations were throughout, and despite not knowing anyone there initially, I still felt a warm, inviting atmosphere. I knew that this Stepping Stone ceremony would be something special.

Rising above unemployment and poverty takes an immense amount of grit and growth in the face of adversity. The ceremony celebrated just that: the commendable progression of Rubicon’s many participants. In honor of their weeks-worth of effort, this event gave them some well-deserved recognition, as well as an opportunity to share their experiences and thoughts on the program.

The proceedings started with an allegory describing the butterfly, an apt comparison given the circumstances. Butterflies are more than just signs of good fortune and symbols of beauty – they are those who gladly share their wealth of wisdom, who are determined to take to the skies. An apt comparison, indeed.

Afterwards, the stage was then open to the participants to share their feelings, experiences and stories of growth.

For many, they went up to thank their friends and instructors for their support.

“I was skeptical at first,” one participant admitted. “But I came to fall in love with these people… they always had my back.”

Another participant talked about trying to find someone to help him out with his taxes. “All the other places were closed, except Rubicon. I was a bit suspicious; they even have ‘-con’ in their name!” he joked. But, “it was anything but,” he remarked as he reminisced on just how much support he found that evening.

Others shared intimate poems that they wrote, with topics ranging from their daily struggles to painful pasts. And yet, they found strength to persevere, thanks to all the support they had.

“Rubicon believed in me before I believed in myself,” one participant said.

A handful of participants chose to share powerful anecdotes from their own lives. One told of how powerless she felt while incarcerated, while another told of mounting pressure he had in regards to his taxes. A mother talked about how much she had to struggle to provide for her children.

In all of these accounts, they found someone that supported them in their endeavors, people who heard them out and gave them the tools to thrive. They found people who showed them it was worth having a growth mindset, as opposed to a fixed, negative mindset.

Then came time for the presentation of certificates, which were presented by participants to other participants.

As each called each other up and out, I couldn’t help but notice just how strong the bonds to their peers were. They said they were “brothers and sisters,” or “the yin to another’s yang;” people who had each other’s back. They whooped, hollered and rooted for one member who had just gotten a job.

It was inspiring to see how close and supportive these people were. After all, the growth they made was forged by the support of their peers.

We broke for brunch shortly afterwards, but even after the Stepping Stone ceremony had passed, my thoughts still lingered on the spirited, inspired men and women I met that day. I can’t wait to see how far they all will go.