Name: Tracy Rogers-Tryba
Hometown: Sycamore, IL
Date Launched: October 2017
What attracted you to Ben Franklin Circles?
I was drawn by the concept of bringing individuals together around topics that are non-threatening or “wicked.” Values are something we personally and professionally hold ourselves accountable to. They can intersect with the respective communities that we identify with—our local community, professional organizations, or personal affiliations such as school, church, and volunteer-based organizations. The conversations we have over what we value provide insights into the varied experiences and paths we individually choose to walk. It is the essential first step to finding common ground and understanding.
How did you recruit members for your Circle? Any lessons learned?
That is, and will continue to be, a challenge owing to the dynamics of the two Ben Franklin Circles I work with. The youth group is primarily made up of students whom we would call latchkey kids. They come to the local library for afterschool programming, as their parents are not home until later in the day, sometimes as late as 8:00 pm. As with any youth program, ours is subject to the whim of their interest and engagement level. Oddly, the middle school students are more consistent in their participation and conversations than the older students. They have not yet fully formed their value systems, and, while peer influence is still high, for now they align more with their families’ values. We have had some great conversations about their fears and concerns about what is going on locally and nationally as part of the public dialogue surrounding public policy issues. Recruitment has not been an issue with this group, as the library incorporated it into their monthly programming.
[For the adult group] I sent emails to various listservs for groups I work with professionally and personally that address social justice issues in our community and on campus. I also used social media tools such as Facebook Groups and Nextdoor to announce the Circle meetings. The group is relatively homogeneous in age, gender, and race, and is comprised of non-university affiliated community members. I hope that our January meeting—where we are kicking off the new year with a Resolution Celebration during MLK week, as part of campus and community events—brings in the diversity that is needed to broaden the scope of the adult group.
Tips or lessons on recruitment? Advertising is essential. Having a partner entity to facilitate this takes some of the legwork off the facilitator, but word of mouth is also important. With youth, the promise of food works wonders!
How has hosting a Ben Franklin Circle impacted you?
I have realized that I need to be more intentional, whether in my actions, through my words or by my presence.
Which virtue means the most to you personally and why?
I am not sure I can answer that just yet, having tackled only two virtues so far. I realized that starting with temperance was going to be a challenge, particularly my need to check my phone for work email. I succeeded perhaps 40% of the time. However, it made me recognize that being present was part of intentionality and that checking my phone was not respecting the time given to others. Silence is and will always be the hardest virtue for me to uphold. I like to question, to challenge, to build background and understanding. Silence is not always conducive to this. However, it does build better listening skills!
What is the last commitment you made to yourself? How’s it going?
My most significant and latest commitment is that I am going to graduate in 2018 with my doctoral degree. No more excuses about time, work, or energy. I need to do this for myself, on behalf of my father, and as a model for my daughter. My father taught me to value education above all else, and that knowledge is power. My daughter has shown me that you can do anything you set your mind to. While I am not sure what path I will follow when all is said and done, I value the satisfaction that I derive from accomplishing this at my AARP card-carrying age!