To kick-off today's Family and Caregiver Symposium, Mrs. Gibbs-Wilborn shared this personal story about why she had chosen today's theme of "Identity Matters": As a young, African American child growing up in a small town outside of Boston, MA, I struggled with identity during my formative years. My siblings and I attended an elementary school where there was only one other family that looked like ours. Although I was popular and had friends, I often felt there were things about me that made me “less than.” I didn’t have to wash my hair every day like my friends usually did, and often received curious questions about that strange practice. I could not have my own Bat Mitzvah or attend Catechism classes on Saturdays. I also wasn’t visiting Cape Cod every summer and I really didn’t know who to play with when almost every house on my lane was empty from August until Labor Day. I wondered why I couldn’t be more like my friends. I remember the sweat rolling down my back when I felt my peer’s eyes burning through me when our class read about the slave trade in Social Studies. I knew what I was feeling as a child, and yet I didn’t know how to talk about these feelings and wasn’t quite sure I COULD talk about it. It wasn’t until I began traveling to N.C. every summer and spent long, hot Sunday hours locked inside of my grandparents’ small, fan waving Baptist church with soul-stirring sermons, big hats, and spirit-filled dancing and stomping that I realized there WAS, indeed a difference – a beautiful difference. This is who I am. And now as an adult, I have vowed that the children I care for, including my own, will know how to find themselves in this world and use their voices. I honestly believe it is how we become valued and embraced as unique individuals whose identities matter.