You may have heard of the award-winning local documentary titled Love Them First - Lessons from Lucy Laney Elementary. The film follows Principal Mauri Melander Friestleben, her staff, and a handful of students over the course of a year as they attempt to undo a history of underperformance at their school.
Principal Mauri Melander Friestleben, the film’s protagonist, recently visited Nexus-Mille Lacs girls at the Andover Group Home. After watching the documentary together, the group discussed the film and shared their own life experiences.
Sharing her story
Mauri grew up in the neighborhood where she now works. She recalled being “so angry” as a teenager. When she wasn’t angry, she was sad and “wanted to fight people for no reason” at all. There really wasn’t much anyone could say to her to change how she felt. Mauri shared that can relate to the pain that young people experience today because of what she went through and experienced. She explained that this unique combination of mutual traumatic experience and the resulting empathy can help a young person become a “wounded healer” as they grow older.
After several other girls opened up about their stories, Mauri shared a reframing technique that proved invaluable to her. She explained that the thoughts in a young mind can be like a flowing stream. If the thoughts and youth’s self-image are predominately negative, it will take considerable effort to redirect them in another (more hopeful) direction —much like changing the tide of a stream.
Envisioning the future
Mauri asked the girls to envision themselves sometime in the future and use those positive images to counteract any dark or negative thoughts. She shared she pictured herself “going to college, having a place, and (wearing) fly clothes” to counteract her negative thoughts.
As the visit came to a close, Mauri expressed her gratitude for “receiving the girl’s energy”, and Mauri’s visit certainly left a lasting impression for our girls and staff!
To learn more about Mauri and her story, visit the Love Them First website.
“Anytime anybody sees a child that looks forlorn, lost, not taken care of – spread your arms, scoop them up, ask questions later, but love them first.”
Mauri Melander Friestleben, Principal of North High School and Former Principal of Lucy Laney Elementary