Friday, December 2, 2016

Youth Development Elevator Speech

The Youth Development major at Rhode Island College includes classes in the areas of Education, Social Work, and Nonprofit Management. It also includes an area of concentration. This area of concentration can also be a minor or another major. My area of concentration is my major in English. I will graduate from the program with majors in Youth Development and English as well as a certificate in Nonprofit Management. The major also includes a 180-hour internship. I am doing grant writing for my internship which coincides with the courses in Nonprofit Management. The Youth Development major at Rhode Island College trains students to support youth in many diverse ways an in many different environments.

Out in the Night

For my second event, I went to see the film Out in the Night: Criminalization of Race, Gender Identity, and Sexuality as part of a film series in the Gender and Women's Studies Department. It was a film about the New Jersey 4 who are four girls who were attacked by a man in the street and then fought back in order to defend themselves. The media labeled the event as gang violence, even though the girls were not in a gang.

The New Jersey 4 were a group of young, lesbian, African American women who had come to New York City to attend a gay pride event. They did not expect to be harassed and called names as they were walking down the street. The man who was harassing them then came after them, punching one girl and trying to strangle another. One of the girls pulled out a knife and stabbed him. Even though he was not seriously injured, the jury convicted the women to years in prison. Later on, appeals were made and the sentences were reduced, but it did not change the fact that these girls had had their lives changed forever.

I think this film relates a lot to the last class we had with Youth in Action regarding racism and prejudice. The New Jersey 4 faced several different types of discrimination including being women, black, and lesbian. This discrimination was part of the reason that they were harassed in the first place. The man that they passed on the street thought he had to right to make sexual comments towards them because they were women. When they responded to him that they were not interested because they were lesbians, he began verbally and physically attacking them. He was attacking them both for being women who were rejecting his advances and because they were gay. This was an interpersonal attack. When the police came, they arrested the girls instead of the man. The media labeled it a gang attack. This shows not only homophobia and the expectation that women can't defend themselves, but also institutionalized racism. The man had previously made homophobic comments which showed his homophobic ideology. The fact that the jury convicted these women and that the girls were sentenced to prison shows the ideologies and institutionalized racism that exists in our society.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Center for Resilience

I really enjoyed watching the videos on the Center for Resilience web-site. Hearing the kids talk about mindful breathing and other techniques they were using immediately reminded me to do some breathing and calm myself down which was helpful, partly because I've been so stressed because of the election. It looks like the organization has programs that help both adults and children to cultivate mindfulness practice techniques. It works with schools, businesses, and organizations in Rhode Island and provides training to staff, students, employees, and patients. I am interested in mindfulness myself. Although I don't always do them as much as I should, I have engaged in various mindfulness practices including yoga and meditation. I have gained a lot from these practices and believe children can as well. Mindfulness practices can help children to calm themselves down, get better sleep, and transition between activities. Many of the techniques are simple to learn and can enhance a person's ability to self regulate. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Election 2016

I've voted in every presidential election since I was 18 years old and many of the in-between elections. I like to vote. I like to get an I-voted sticker. I like voting particularly because it's a day when I get to express my opinion and influence the world around me.

I know a lot of people feel discouraged about voting because they are afraid that their vote will not make a difference, maybe they don't like the candidates, or they just don't feel informed about the issues. I believe that our votes do count and that every vote does make a difference. Although there is a lot to learn about politics, the more I learn about it, the more I learn how important it is and how much it affects our day to day lives as well as the youth that we influence.

Many youth are just becoming old enough to vote. They may feel, excited, scared, overwhelmed, discouraged, or hopeful. They may even feel all of the above. I personally wish that they would teach more civics in school. What I learned in school about the Constitution and the way that they government works has enabled me to be a better citizen and influence who I am as a person. I don't know if they still teach this. Even if they do, there is always more to teach. I'm really glad to see web-sites like Rock the Vote and the Teaching and Learning page from The Learning Network web-site which includes an innovative activity called Our Civil Conversation Challenge for Teenagers. The challenge includes open forums regarding the election that teenagers can engage in. I think this is great. The more we learn and talk about politics and the government in our country, the better country we will have.

I have very strong feelings about this election as I have had about every election that I've participated in. However, I would say that my feelings about this election are stronger than they ever have been before. I have lived through many elections and I have never seen a candidate like Trump that seemed to so openly defy everything that, to me, America represents, ideas like freedom and democracy as well as offending such large parts of our population. I am upset that people, especially youth, have to see and hear such terrible things every day, let alone have to live under him as president. Emotionally, it's been a very difficult election, but I know that means that rather than getting discouraged, I need to get even more involved. I think voting is probably the most important thing we can do to change the world for ourselves and for the youth that we work with.

My questions are:
1. What can we encourage young people to turn out to vote?
2. How can we improve Civics education in America?
3. How can we get involved at a political level and make America a better place for everyone?

Wednesday, October 26, 2016


I attended the a lecture by Professor Leslie Grinner about Beyonce's album "Lemonade" at the Fortes Library on Wednesday, October 12th. It enjoyed the lecture and discussion. According to Professor Grinner, "Lemonade" is considered controversial because the imagery and lyrics of the album delve into major issues in our society such as feminism and racism. According to Professor Grinner, the album has been criticized by black feminist Bell Hooks, but has been defended by other black feminists. Bell Hooks criticized the commercialism of the album and the representations of women as beautiful rather than intellectual. However, many people have been inspired by Beyonce's courage in making the album. Beyonce is an artist who is successful commercially, so she uses a commercial venue to express her views. However, without the commercial success, she wouldn't be able to reach so many people with her message. According to Professor Grinner, in "Lemonade", Beyonce has chosen to explore deeper issues than are generally present in her albums, although she has touched on these issues in the past through Destiny's Child. By creating this controversial album, Beyonce has brought a dialogue about these issues to the forefront of popular culture. The album includes quotes and references from poets, musicians, entertainers, and activists which may help to introduce many people to new artists with activist views.

I hadn't seen any of Lemonade before the lecture, so, afterwards, I watched some of the videos on You Tube. I found videos like "Hold Up" to be an explosion of feminism and black activism. The album was very captivating and much more artistic than what I usually see in pop music. What was important to me is that it felt to me like Beyonce was really expressing her voice and her experience. While she uses pop music and culture as her medium, she challenges aspects of popular culture in videos like "Pretty Hurts" which questions the very beauty standards that she is expected to uphold as a pop music icon. I hope that the video gets other people, especially young girls, to think critically about their experience and to feel empowered in expressing their voice and being true to their own perspectives and experiences.

It made me think in some ways about Youth in Action and how this program encourages young people to be activists and think critically about their experience in society. The participants in the program learn how to express their voices and speak about their experiences to each other and to people in the community. They learn how to honor the truth of each others' stories as opposed to holding only to the expectations that society may have for them or assumptions that may be made about them. In this way, they challenge and critically examine the society that they are a part of as Beyonce challenges and criticizes popular culture that she is a part of through her album.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Context Mapping

Chapter 2 of Understanding Youth: Adolescent Development for Educators by Nakkula and Toshalis discusses identity and context mapping. Context Mapping is the idea that we may have different identities in different contexts. I have experienced this a lot at different times in my life. Right now, I experience some different contexts in my different classes and places of employment. I also notice how much I use different skills and different parts of my brain. I feel like a little bit of a different person as an English major hanging out with other English majors in English classes or at the Writing Center than I do when I work at the Providence Children's Museum or take Education or Social Work classes. I feel like a very different type of employee when I work at the Providence Children's Museum than I do when I am working in my grant-writing internship. I dress differently, act differently, and use a completely different set of skills.

This was also true for Julian. He felt like one person when he was in his Math and Science classes and hanging out with his peers from those classes. He felt like another person when he interacted with his friend, Antwon, or played sports. He found that these two identities were in conflict and it created a crisis for him. The school counselor, Mitch, had also struggled with contrasting identities as a nerd, football player, and a Filipino, but he had learned how to juggle them more effectively. He was able to encourage and support Julian in exploring his own multiple identities. He asked Julian to write down the different contexts in which he found each day including the different people he interacted with, activities he engaged in, and places that he went. Mitch asked Julian to notice how he felt in each of these places. This helped Juilan to better explore his own identity.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Youth Development Ideology

This week, we took the Youth Development Ideology Inventory to determine to which area of Youth Development we feel most connected. The three areas, according to the Youth Development Ideology Inventory are Risk, Resiliency and Prevention; Positive Youth Development; and Critical Youth Development. My scores show that I relate most to the Critical Youth Development Ideology with a score of 9, then Positive Youth Development with a score of 12, and least to Risk, Resiliency and Prevention with a score of 15. My scores are not extreme which shows that I agree, in some ways, with all three areas.

According to Youth Development Ideology Inventory, Critical Youth Development asks questions such as "How can adults and youth work together to make the world a better place?" I think part of this question that is very important is "How can adults and youth work together?" This, to me, implies co-creating or co-authoring a story for the youth and for the world. This is the philosophy behind organizations like Youth In Action that encourage youth to take leadership roles in their community and take on social issues to create positive change in the world. This is very important to me because I believe that youth are often involved in making changes in the world. It also assumes that adults don't have all the answers and that society hasn't solved all of its problems, yet. We can't assume that we have all the answers to give youth because that would mean we had already solved all of the problems in the world. The belief for Critical Youth Development listed on the Youth Development Ideology is:

"Teens are legitimate actors and collaborators who have important ideas and ways of contributing to the world."

To me, this means that youth are not simply passive members of society who are shaped by their environments and the adults around them. They are also active participants who help to shape their environments and the people around them as they are shaped by them. The Critical Youth Development orientation includes a "focus on how youth engage with and impact their communities and cultures." This kind of Youth Development can include community activism and other types of programs, such as Youth in Action, which encourage youth to become more involved in their communities and take on social issues. 

Monday, September 26, 2016

The Construction of Adolescence

The Construction of Adolescence by Nakkula and Toshalis discussed the relationships between youth and the adult influences in their lives, particularly educators. It was very informative. It used several useful vocabulary words to detail the relationships between youth and adults and the influences that they have on each other. Ten vocabulary words from the text are theoretical thinking, tested knowledge, theoretical imagination, construction of adolescence, meeting of the minds, interpsychological development, scaffolding, zone of proximal development, reciprocal transformation, and applied developmentalists.
Looking at my childhood, I would list 10 people who helped me to develop cognitively and personally. The first person would be my mother. She was the only family member who I interacted with on a frequent basis. I would also list the babysitter that I had from 3 to 8 years old. Her name is Karen. She was a friend of my mother's and was like a second family to me as well as her son, Christopher, who I called Tofur. I would also list my best friend, Kane. I will list my grandmother and two aunts even though I saw them infrequently because they lived in another state. I also was certainly influenced by my teachers. Of the teachers who most influenced me, growing up, I would list my first grade teacher, Mrs. Sterling, my second grade teacher, Mrs. Traibush, and my 6th grade teacher, Mr. Whitely.

Mr. Whitely was my favorite teacher in elementary school. He was an unusual teacher. He was 75 years old and every year he would say that it was his last year teaching. Then, he would just show up on the first day of class which was okay. They never brought another teacher in because they always knew he would change his mind at the last minute. This made me realize that he must really love teaching. He used more progressive teaching methods than most of the other teachers. He used to start class with brain teasers every morning. When we learned math, we didn't just learn the traditional requirements. He went into different bases and other intriguing concepts. He would give us difficult puzzles to solve. We sat at tables instead of desks. The tables were arranged in groups, so that we interacted more with other students. He also would rearrange the tables periodically. This not only gave us a class to sit with different students, but gave us a different perspective on the classroom. For some of the top students, he allowed us to be officers and tutors for the rest of the classroom. This allowed him to make use of some extra support from the students, but it also helped the students to help each other and help monitor each other's behavior. I had the opportunity to be one of the officers and tutors. I was gratified by this special attention as I rarely felt special in my classes. His class also played baseball every year against the teachers. They usually won. Our year, we lost. However, it was actually a really good experience for me. I had never played baseball before, so he made me a coach. At the time, I didn't know this was a common technique for players that aren't very good. Still, it made me special just to be involved and, I think, gave me a little more confidence in sports.


Friday, September 16, 2016

Ted Talk

Mellody Hobson is a prominent businesswoman. She is Chairman of the Board for Dreamworks Animation. She is one of only two black women who is a Chairman of the Board for a publicly traded company.
In her Ted Talk, Mellody Hobson: Color blind or color brave?, Hobson discusses the issue of race. She begins the talk by relating a story of being mistaken for kitchen help when arriving at a reception with the only black senator in the U.S. congress. This story allowed Hobson to transition into the issue of race. She cited several relevant statistics regarding this issue in the U.S. For example, even though white men are only 30% of the population, they hold 70% of corporate board seats. She cited a study by Scott Page of the University of Michigan. Page's study showed that getting together a group of diverse thinkers can be helpful for solving complex problems. For example, a dairy farmer helped to solve the smallpox epidemic. She says that diversity can be good for business.

I agree with this. I actually feel more comfortable in a diverse environment. I think, in a diverse environment, there can be more tolerance for individual differences. There can be fewer expectations that everyone be the same. People have the opportunity to learn from each other.

Being different can sometimes make someone feel invisible. I cannot relate to Hobson's experiences of race. However, I can relate to feeling different. I grew up in a lower-middle class family, but I lived in a very wealthy town. Most of the students I went to school with were very rich. They were generally nice people, but I often did not share issues that I faced at home or in my community because my stories would be too difficult for them to relate to.

Hobson spoke about bringing discussions about race to the forefront even though it might make people uncomfortable. Open discussions can make people feel less invisible. In my case, discussions about economic inequality might have made me feel less invisible. Many other issues are just as important such as gender and disability.

At Youth in Action, youth are encouraged to share their personal stories and to discuss difficult topics. Sharing personal stories in a nonjudgmental and compassionate environment can help people to feel heard and less invisible. Sharing these stories can bring up large topics for discussion such as oppression. It is important for youth to understand these issues so that they can feel empowered to change them.

Hobson said it is especially important to tell young people what her mother told her, "You can be anything." This can encourage people to follow their dreams.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Youth In Action

I think empowering youth to be leaders and catalysts for change is an excellent idea. I agree with Adeola A. Oredola and members of Youth in Action that youth are some of the best people to make changes in society. I remember being young and how much energy I had and how passionate I felt about things. I saw that energy and passion in a lot of young people around me. If that energy isn’t harnessed into something positive, it can become negative. Given the right opportunities, that energy can fuel positive change in society. Young people are generally more open to change and more willing to take risks. When we get older, we can sometimes cling to the safe and familiar. There are countless examples of movements such as the political and social revolution of the 1960s and 1970s that were fueled by young people. hippies-on-bus-two-old-hippies-blog.jpg

Even today, the economic revolution against income inequality inspired by Bernie Sanders has been supported largely by young people. Although sometimes these revolutions can occur spontaneously, it can also be helpful to educate youth about the social issues that they are facing and that are present in their society so that they have a framework for making positive change and don’t just internalize the problems that they see around them. Helping youth to become active participants in improving the world around them, like at Youth in Action, is not only empowering, but it can also help to build skills that can be useful in the job world or in life, in general.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Youth Work: Preparation for Practice

     I enjoyed this week’s reading “Youth Work: Preparation for Practice” by Jason Wood, Sue Westwood, and Gill Thompson. I though the article had an interesting discussion of different aspects of youth work. It is interesting to have an article specifically on the area of youth development. The article discussed different areas of youth work and different aspects of youth work. I tend to think of youth work as primarily after school and summer programs, but really it is more broad than this. In general, youth work does seem to encompass any kind of work with youth that is outside the regular school system. However, the article mentioned the ways that youth work has changed over time. For example, youth development can now sometimes include areas that are integrated into the school system. It also overlaps in many ways with social work. According to the article, youth work sometimes focuses especially on at risk and high need youth. The article also pointed out that youth work can involve working with policy as well as specifically with youth.

     Although my interests have changed over time, I think, right now, I am most interested in working with policy, programs, research, and grant writing. I would like to work with bringing programs such as alternative therapy to youth using grant writing and other fundraising techniques, using the opportunity to integrate research using surveys as well as advocating for policies to help youth and other high need populations. To me, in youth work as well as social work, there are two important aspects of the job. One, is to work with the individual in order to improve their situation. The other is to work with policies and programs to change the context that the individual is struggling with. I think I have been more attracted to the policy area lately because I have the type of mind that tends to see the big picture and because I see it as way to impact the largest number of people while empowering the individual. In social work, the goal can be to work oneself out of job. In other words, to empower the individual and change systems in such a way that the social worker is no longer needed. I don’t think this is the same case as with youth work because I think there will always be a need to work with youth in order to enhance lives and educate. However, for particular high risk populations, changing the way the system operates and addressing oppression can go a long way towards empowering people and eliminating suffering. I think youth work is especially important because it tends to address the social and emotional needs of individuals in addition to the educational needs. The traditional education system tends to be more limited in that it addresses mostly just the educational needs of youth. I think that the social and emotional needs of youth can be just as important or even more important, in some cases, than education. People who have higher social and emotional intelligence tend to be more successful in life. Addressing these needs allows the youth worker to address the whole individual. In this way, youth work is a holistic practice. 


I like hanging out with my friends. 

I'm learning how to hula hoop. 

I love going to the beach, sometimes to hula hoop!
I love my cat, Sunshine.