Did you hear about the rose that grew from a crack
in the concrete
Proving nature’s law is wrong it learned 2 walk
without having feet
Funny it seems but by keeping its dreams
it learned 2 breathe fresh air
Long live the rose that grew from concrete
when no one else even cared! – Tupac Shakur


As illustrated in the poetry of one of the most prolific and revered rappers of all time, no matter where you come from and what you have experienced, you can and will still blossom. Even engulfed in concrete–in an environment where almost everything might be holding you back and telling you otherwise–remember that you are beautiful, you are strong, and you can rise above to flourish and reach your dreams.

Mirroring the theme of Tupac’s poem, Give Back’s summer programming–Why We Rise–draws from poetry and nature to hone in on different practices of self care that help equip young people (and ultimately people of all ages) with skills to work through their obstacles in healthy, constructive ways. The curriculum was developed in a collaboration between California Program Director Chris Brown and Washington State Program Director Brenda Burns, and it works through the intersections of physical and mental wellness, healthy relationships, coping strategies, resiliency building, and developing healthy habits.

“When we were tasked with creating the curriculum, we knew we wanted to focus heavily on nature,” Chris said. “Studies have shown that being in nature improves physical and mental wellbeing, it helps with emotional regulation, and it’s proven that even just walking can reduce stress and help with depression.”

Aligning with this holistic approach to self care and resiliency building, over the past few months Give Back chapters across the country have incorporated the outdoors in some shape or form with their summer programming. Activities ranged from outdoor yoga to terrarium building to nature walks to rock climbing, and much more–each serving as diverse yet similar practices united in the ultimate purpose of discovering the ways in which immersing yourself in nature can improve your physical and mental wellbeing.

On top of their outdoor exercises, the “Why We Rise” summer programming has also provided Give Back youth with the opportunity to participate in Get Lit-Words Ignite, a poetry-based nonprofit dedicated to increasing literacy, empowering youth, and energizing communities through classic and spoken word poetry, as well as visual media. Through Get Lit, Give Back youth have been able to explore poetry as a means of self care by writing out their thoughts, experiences, and aspirations.

“It’s all about trying new things,” Chris added. “Sometimes it can be hard to see how going for a walk can help you, but it’s important to try. Try something new out and if it doesn’t help then try something else. There are so many different ways to practice self care and you never know what might help you. But it’s important to try to get yourself into a space where you’re looking at things from a different lens. For me, it might be a visit to the beach to listen to the waves hit the sand, or exercising, or even binge watching Stranger Things for the 16th time. And if that isn’t working, then I make sure to check in with myself and with my therapist.”

From bike rides to haikus, the “Why We Rise” programming is ultimately a journey of self discovery; a path sprinkled with ideas and tools to harness for the betterment of your physical and mental wellbeing. Through this curriculum, our scholars have been able to learn more about themselves and others while creating connections with one another. Each exercise provided opportunities for our Give Back youth to ground themselves in nature and gain clarity through art while supporting each other in this growth and discovery. 

“Why We Rise” reminds us that we are never alone, and there are myriad ways to practice self care, each as unique as the people it helps. And even if you feel like you are being swallowed by concrete, remember that you are a rose, and you too can rise–no matter the obstacles you face–and achieve your dreams.