CFC Gave Me Confidence: Michele Ganev’s Story
Michele Ganev was an intern with the Institute for Cultural Communicators during the 2006 Communicators for Christ tour.
Looking back on my time as an intern for Communicators for Christ (now known as the Institute for Cultural Communicators), I am always a little torn. It’s true that when you pile a dozen or so homeschooled teenagers in an RV and haul them around the U.S. for six months — stopping only to stand them up in front of a crowd of (often, but not always) insecure and judgmental homeschooled families — you will cause those teenagers some very intense stress. Touring with CFC was an emotional time for me, it was my first time being away from home and living with peers. I loved it, but I didn’t know what to do with myself. Long working days, little sleep and teenage emotions combined to make tour a taxing time for me. Little things became big things. I grew tired of being picked apart by homeschooling parents who attended the conferences, who had so much to say about the clothes I wore or how I acted but very little to say about kindness or grace.
At the same time, I loved tour. I loved being away from home and exploring new things for the first time. I loved being able to develop relationships with my peers on a level I had never experienced before. As much as I feel CFC took advantage of us by making us work for free, and despite the memories I have of cruel things that were said to me out of judgment; I credit my time at CFC for giving me the confidence to get out of that cloistered homeschool, fundamentalist culture I had grown up in.
Before going on tour for CFC, I was pretty convinced that I was set out for life as a homeschooling housewife and mother (not that there is anything inherently wrong with that, I just think there is something wrong with feeling like it’s your only option as a woman). I told myself that was all I wanted, but I was dreading what would happen after high school: waiting aimlessly for my opportunity to marry off to some other homeschooled guy and make lots of babies.
After my first CFC conference, I was convinced I wanted to be an intern. I loved how well-spoken the interns were. I looked up to them. I thought they were cool. I wanted to be exactly like them. For years, I obsessed about becoming a CFC intern. I worked my ass off, completing what was meant to be two one-year programs in three months in order to prove to Teresa Moon that I would be a good intern. I nearly went crazy from all the stress (sometimes hearing clocks ticking in my head when I stopped working for a short break), but it worked. I was accepted to tour with CFC in the summer of 2006.
Many of my fellow interns were intimidating to me at first. They were all very intelligent, had accomplished a lot in the NCFCA public speaking and debate competitions I had been part of, and had big plans for themselves after high school. I felt a tad out of place, but I figured I’d rather be the dumbest person in this group than feel smart and lonely at home.
The way my friends on tour talked about philosophy, history, politics and poetry inspired me. The way they talked about college inspired me. Because of their friendship, I was motivated to apply to college. My immediate family had never encouraged me to do so; leaving the impression in my mind that college was a place for brainwashing and bad peer influences more than anything else. It was refreshing to hear from people who saw it for what it was: a way to learn more about the world and prepare for a rewarding career.
Also, I loved planning the conferences and teaching the classes. I developed the ability to command a room for up to an hour. I learned how to engage my audience and think of ways to lead classes and lead interesting, beneficial discussions. As much as I remember hurtful words spoken in judgment, I also remember many kind words from conference participants who were excited after my classes. I remember seeing some people’s eyes light up when I would teach. These moments gave me so much more confidence in just six months than I had received anywhere else in my life.
I hear other stories about people who toured (even people on the same tour as me) who had a very different experience, who were hurt deeply by their experiences at CFC and I am saddened, but not surprised. Touring with CFC is a very difficult experience. I would never recommend that a bunch of 16-18 year olds pile into a motor home and work 40+ hours a week for no pay for six months. I don’t think it is fair or even legal; it makes me angry. I know that if it wasn’t for the kind people who interned with me, I would have had a very different experience. But the truth of the matter is, the experience I did have changed my life. I still keep in touch with many of the interns who traveled with me and I still consider them dear friends. I can still stand up at a moment’s notice and command a room when necessary. I am much more comfortable in my own skin than I would have been if I had not had this experience.
The strange reality is, despite the fact that CFC is part of the problems we at Homeschoolers Anonymous speak out about; for me it was also part of the solution. Because of CFC, I was equipped with the tools I needed to effectively get out of what I now look back on as a toxic community and make something more out of myself.
I’m seeing this as a common theme–even those of us who had great experiences with NCFCA/CFC/STOA credit those organizations with eventually getting us out of them. 😛
Michele, I just remembered my daughter’s raving about her experience with Toastmasters. It’s a secular organization that grooms people to be comfortable with speaking before large groups and helping them become leaders. If you enjoyed the Christian-oriented experience with CFC, why not contact a Toastmasters group in your area and join. You’d dump the worst part of CFC (bullying, authoritative fundamentalism) and keep the part you enjoyed most: Enjoyable conversations with people who have no agenda to force their religion on the world.