Wednesday, December 9, 2015

What is Youth Development?

What is Youth Development?

Ever since I was little, I always loved taking care of other kids.  Wherever I was I always wanted to take on the mom role.  By the time I reached high school, I knew that I wanted to be a teacher.  Rhode Island College was actually the only college I wanted to go to because of the great reputation it had for its Education Program.  After about a year and a half of classes I realized that becoming a teacher was not the right path for me.  Throughout my classes I was learning about all of the difficulties that youth were facing these days that hindered their ability to receive a good education.  I knew that there had to be something that I could do to help.  As soon as I was introduced to Youth Development, it did not take me long to meet with an adviser and declare my new major!  The Youth Development B.A. Program combines education and social work, while also earning a Certificate in Non-Profit Studies.

While school and the education system is greatly important, sometimes it is just not enough.  Youth work is a way to reach kids in a whole new way.  We need to be able to reach kids on a more personal level.  There are limits to the kinds of things teachers can teach students because of the standards they must meet.  It's  not that they don't want to necessarily, but there's not enough time in the school day.  In schools, youth are getting the education part but they need a lot more than that.  Students need someone to teach them how to be mentally, physically and emotionally fit as well.  That is where Youth Work comes in.  Being available for youth outside of school provides them with an outlet, plus, it is something that they want to do, not forced to do.  It is also our job to give them access to resources that they need to be successful.  Personally, the most important part of Youth Work is putting the youth in control.  Who knows what youth need most then youth themselves.  By working side by side, we will be able to teach and learn from each other.


The above pictures were taken at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in Washington D.C.
They were taken back in 2012, my senior year of high school.
We were told to write our dream on a rock and make a wish as we threw it into the water.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Resilient Kids

I think we can all agree that technology has come a long way in the past decade (when I was a teen) but is it always for the best?  There is lots of research about how technology can negatively impact the way children pay attention, focus and even their ability to unwind.

 "Training students in MINDFULNESS demonstrates BENEFITS including improvements in working memory, ATTENTIONACADEMIC SKILLS, social skills, emotion regulation, and SELF- ESTEEM, as well as self- reported improvements in mood, decreases in anxiety, stress and fatigue."  Video Stories

I have never heard of Resilient Kids before this assignment but after checking out their website, I can say that I love what they stand for.  I think it is so crucial to pay attention to students' social and emotional needs as well as academic.  This reminds me of how sometimes at my work, I just can not manage to calm certain kids down.  I now use this technique where I have them sit down in front of me and take deep breaths in and out.  I also have them make a really hard fist, in and out, almost like squeezing a stress ball.  I know these are simple things and I can definitely learn more and better techniques in the future but they seem to work.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Danger of a Single Story

            I watched this TED Talk, Danger of a Single Story, about a month ago in my social work class.  Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is trying to create awareness of the danger of a single story and I think she does an amazing job!  She discusses how, when she was only seven years old, she began writing stories.  Though she lived in Nigeria, none of her stories ever depicted people or things from where she lived.  Her stories showed only the culture of American and British books that she had read.  She realized that the reason she never wrote about where she was from was because she did not know that it was possible.  Every book she read was about Americans or the British so she was under the assumption that that was the only places books were written about.  There were no books written about Nigeria.  Growing up, Chimamanda was shown only one side of literature, that it was filled with foreigners.  It was not until she discovered African books that she then realized that there are many stories of literature.

            My favorite story that Chimamanda told was of her experience at a university in the United States.  Her roommate had only heard one story about Africa.  The story where nobody spoke English, everyone listened to tribal music and the people of Africa did not know how to use modern technology.  "She had felt sorry for me even before she saw me. Her default position toward me, as an African, was a kind of patronizing, well-meaning pity. My roommate had a single story of Africa: a single story of catastrophe. In this single story, there was no possibility of Africans being similar to her in any way, no possibility of feelings more complex than pity, no possibility of a connection as human equals (Adichie, 2009)."

            When we only see one story of something, then we are quick to judge and stereotype.  The problem with one story is that it is constantly showing people as only one thing until that is was everyone else believes.  There needs to be a balance of stories.

            It took me awhile to figure out an example of a time when I had only one side of the story to something and I realized that I was thinking too much into it.  My dad is a public bus driver for RIPTA and growing up I always heard stories of the people he met.  Whether they were from Cranston, Pawtucket, Providence, Warwick, etc.; he always came home with stories.  Some were good and funny but many were negative.  Not really able to drive yet and go places on my own, I believed these stories.  I had it in my head that certain places were filled with rude and arrogant people, even sometimes dangerous.  What I did not realize back then was that these stories were only from certain people in these areas, and those people did not represent everyone.  As I grew up I quickly figured out the difference and that there are different sides to every story.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Promising Practices 2015

For my event this semester I attended the 18th Annual Multicultural Promising Practices Conference at Rhode Island College.  This year's conference was about "The power of Community Partnerships: Advancing Public Health & Human Rights through Education and Service."  Dr. Nicole Alexander- Scott spend the first hour showing all of the health inequalities people face people of their level of education, race, class, income, etc.  One of my favorite things she said was "It isn't about having equal access to healthcare as much as it is having equal access to health."

Promising Practices

Promising Practices 2015 @ RIC

Workshops that were offered

The first workshop that I went to was Reducing Stigma and Increasing Support: pregnant Women, Substance Use and Newborns.  Heather Howard and Marcia VanFleet talked about the negative stigmas associated with opioid use during pregnancy.  Instead of separating mother and baby, their goal is to "reduce stigma and increase support."  From a social workers point of view, they want to make it a shared decision making process.  There is so much blame put on the mothers and so much internal and external stigmas that the women feel a lot of shame.  We do not know what these mothers were going through at the time so instead of making them feel worse about their situation we want to help both them and the baby the best we can.  This presentation reminded me of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's TED Talk about the Danger of a Single Story.  In the video Adichie talks about how sometimes we only see one story of something, then we are quick to judge and stereotype.  The problem with one story is that it is constantly showing people as only one thing until that is was everyone else believes.  There needs to be a balance of stories.  When people are educated with the other side to these women's stories than the sigma can begin to go away.

Resource for moms-to-be, parents and babies:  Love That Baby

We were shown a very powerful video to help us better understand:

The second workshop that I went to was Recovery- Oriented Systems of Care: Interpersonal Violence, Substance Use and Mental Health.  Presenter Kathleen A. Carty showed us an amazing presentation about the flaws of the criminal justice system and how it is difficult for people to seek the help they need.  Many people would benefit from treatment but are not given equal opportunity to receive treatment.  We also discussed the poor planning that goes into supporting someone after being released from incarceration.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Identity in Context

Chapter Two of Nakkula and Toshalis's book, "Understanding Youth: Adolescent Development for Educators," discusses the struggle that youth often have with finding their own identity.  Four different identities are discussed:

Foreclosed Identity-  One in which an individual has committed to a life direction or way of being without exploring it carefully and without experimenting with alternatives.

Diffuse Identity-  A state where there had been little exploration, active consideration and no psychological commitment of a particular identity.

Identity Moratorium-  A developmental state in which one actively explores roles and beliefs, behaviors and relationships, but refrains from making a commitment.

Achieved Identity-  Occurs when the identity crisis is resolved and the commitment to the selected identity is high.

In the chapter, Mitch had Julian to make a list of all the different spaces and relationships  he negotiate each day.  When he is finished with this, he was told to write down what each of those spaces and relationships expect of him.  Finally, he was told to think about how each of those spaces and relationships makes him feel.  The activity Mitch was having Julian do was making a context map.  Context maps can help a person to take a step back and look at all of the different identities that they play in their day to day life.  In doing this, they can figure out what it is that they want to be.

If I was to look at my own life and make a context map, I would categorize it into places that influence me the most.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The Construction of Adolescence

Chapter 1: The Construction of Adolescence

Along with many others in class, I assumed from the lack of blog posts, I too had a hard time understanding this assignment.  I found it difficult to try and think of people who coauthor with me and have helped shape me.  I did however find it easier to think of ways in which I coauthor others' lives.

The story of Antwon and Ms. Peterson reminded me of the children at the center I work in.  There was this one young boy who always acted out and was labeled as the "bad" kid or the "troubled" kid.  Nobody wanted to work with him and things went a lot smoother when he was not around that day.  One day I asked him why he was acting out and he told me he was sad.  He proceeded to tell me something about his mom and grandma and how he was living with one of them at the moment and he missed the other.  He was sad and angry at the situation he was going through at home.  Being that he was only four years old we don't really expect little kids to have real life problems.  He was acting out because he liked the attention it gave him to make up for how sad he felt.  Instead of teaching him how to deal with what was going on in a positive way to make him feel happier, we were disciplining him.  This is mainly our fault because we had never bothered to ask what was wrong.  This is why it is important to build a relationship with your students.

"Authentic mind-to-mind connections forged through the interactive learning processes not only create the cognitive linkages essential to student development but also nurture the personal and professional identity of educators."

By talking about his problems, the student now realizes that he will feel a lot better if he opens up and is able to get help.  On the flip side, I now realize that students are not always acting out because they simply don't like to listen but there could be something deeper going on. 

**Blog was posted a day late because assignment was posted late and I didn't see it

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Color Blind or Color Brave?

"If we truly believe in equal rights and equal opportunity in America I think we have to have real conversations about this issue.  We cannot afford to be color blind, we have to be color brave."

"We have to be willing to have proactive conversations about race with honesty and understanding and courage.  Not because it's the right thing to do, but because it's the smart thing to do."

In this TedTalk, "Color Blind or Color Brave?," Mellody Hobson discusses race, which she admits to being a little nervous about.  She talks about a subject that most people are afraid of talking about.  One of her arguments was about the importance of talking about something that makes your uncomfortable because if nobody talks about it then nobody will understand.  By having the conversation, people then become aware and when people are aware, that is when people take action.

I am currently taking a class, Sociology of Race and Ethnicity, and the first assignment we had was to read an article about The Coddling of the American Mind.  This was the first thing that came to mind while watching this video.  It is about how people get offended way too easily while talking about important issues that need to be talked about.

Nayytah Waheed sent this tweet almost a year ago about invisibility.  I have discussed in some classes how colorblind isn't really possible because our differences are what make us unique.  I never really thought of it on the level of making someone feel invisible.  The word itself, "colorblind," doesn't feel like such a positive thing because people are just that, blind.  They don't see you.  Mellody's "color brave" turns it into something much more positive! Though I can not personally relate to Mellody's story of invisibility, there have been times felt left out or like nobody knew I existed when it came to being new at a school or in class.

I think this is why Youth In Action is such a successful program. YIA is a safe place in which adults and youth of many beliefs and backgrounds can come together to make change.  As Mellody says, it is important to surround yourself with people who are nothing like yourself so that the ways in which you think will be challenged and you can grow as a person.