Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Class & Child-Rearing

This article was astounding. The study was incredible, and the situations hit close to home. It also helped to view the differences in how parents rear their children according to class. The stress on self-direction and how it helps develop a healthy sense of decision making and personal choice and power in youth was probably the best part of the article. It was similar to the article we read 'Where Youth Hold the Power' and they discussed allowing youth the opportunity to choose as well as be involved. It's interesting how a parent who is poor, doesn't necessarily see leisure time as a moment for education. I'm not a parent but this is certainly something to keep in mind when raising my own children. "...we find abundant evidence that in the day-to-day business of childrearing, middle-class parents tend to stress the importance of self-direction" So it's clear that the more educated the parent is, the more money they make, the more aware they are of self direction and the benefits it can have with youth. The article went so far as to say that the jobs are what helps to mediate the relationship between parents and their children. I thought this was incredible because it shows that the parent sort of passes on what is expected of them. For example, the middle class child would provide alternatives to an order, while the poorer child would simply get upset, and accept the order. I think in lower paying jobs, it's not an option to ask why and you just do what's asked of you, while with higher paying jobs, you're encouraged to express yourself and ask questions. I'm simply drawing a parallel to my work at the mall and my work at the school I work at. While taking orders at both jobs, the job at school is a little more receptive to my skepticism than my job at the mall. This is important to take into consideration in our work as Youth Workers because we can sort of fill in the gap and open the door for more choices and self-direction from students.

Young Voices & Internet Outlets for Youth

This was the most challenging blog for me, I wanted to find a website that involved students and was a space where they could express themselves about issues in the community. I found that at http://www.providencestudentunion.org/blog/. This blog is a part of the incredible Providence Student Union, who has done amazing work involving youth in the community and helping them to get involved in the decisions and issues they're being faced with daily. This article talks about the effort of youth and others who would be affected by the closing of Alvarez High School and how their efforts stopped the school from being closed.  http://www.wpri.com/news/local/mcgowan/dozens-protest-proposed-closure-of-alvarez-high-school 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

YD Related Event- Intro to Positive Youth Development Training

One of the Youth Development related events I attended was a training at The Hub. My mentor wanted to train myself, herself, and another member of the team at The Hub on how to train other people on how to give positive Youth Development. This was incredibly helpful for my current daily work at Highlander, and even more useful for myself in the future. The information given is crucial to all of our work with youth. We spent time speaking about the Positive Youth Development Pyramid: which basically explains what is needed for youth to receive positive youth development.
We talked about having people who are going to work with youth learning to give a warm-up based upon what is needed in the environment you're in. This should be based upon if you need a quiet environment or an upbeat environment. All warm-ups should be deliberate, but doesn't have to have anything to do with the topic to be taught. Also I thought it was helpful to know that we should give specific feedback to youth: rather than "Great Job Martha!" it should be "Wow Martha, you worked so hard on that project, it's great to see that  you got a good grade on it".  It's effective and shows that we are paying attention. Also the training helped me realize that we need to give more leadership roles rather than being afraid to give the reigns--so to speak to the youth to control. Everything in the training taught us to be conscious of space and every detail so that we can give quality youth development.
This was a very helpful event to attend because I got to get in touch with my own programming outside of my internship, and I also felt that this was opening the door for me to co-facilitate future trainings at The Hub during my internship, this is extremely exciting, because I've been interested in the behind the scenes aspects of after school. 

YD related-event *Pasta for a Cause*

I must admit I panicked when I heard we had to find two Youth Development related events to attend before the semester ended. However, finding my second event was easier than the first (which was a training...I'll post that later, but this event was a little more fun). For those that are unaware I've been an After School Coordinator at Highlander Charter School for 5 years, and the current 5th and 6th graders (who I've literally watch grow up) managed to raise food for the less fortunate for the Thanksgiving Holiday, and provided a pasta dinner to help raise more food and celebrate their success. This project was started by some of my co-workers and being that I work with the younger grades, I only seen students enter my classroom to collect cans but I had no idea what the big project was. I literally felt tears coming to my eyes while at this event, because these children are really concerned with the problems in their community and although they didn't initially like the idea of the project they came together and made this dinner a huge success. They served pasta to entire families, passed out paper cups, called tables get in line, ran raffles, collected donations and helped organize and clean up after the event finished. It was incredible and by far the most rewarding Youth Development event I've ever been to, because it showed youth being involved and aware of issues in their community and that's something I don't get during trainings. This was such a beautiful event, I'm so proud of them.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

educational care

This article has a way of telling a story through the eyes of youth as well as the eyes of a researcher and teacher. When Dr. McKamey questions "...if researchers' deep-seated anxieties and fears are unconscious, then how can a researcher begin to recognize and understand them?" (McKamey 403) she asks a question a great deal of educators probably wonder. How can we resolve our dilemma of understanding what our youth interpret as caring for them without projecting our beliefs about care unto them? It's challenging because there are so many different cultures. I think the best thing that Dr. McKamey did was get in touch with herself. Understanding yourself is the best way to empathize and put yourself in another's shoes. Communicating with youth and simply asking them what care means to them would probably be an affective way to reach them. As stated "...that students conceptualized caring in other ways, including caring about issues that were important to them." (McKamey 414) this is clear that showing an interest in youth and their conflicts or issues in school could be interpreted as caring as opposed to other forms of care we may have. 

Overall this article is extremely useful to our work with youth because it focuses on us getting in touch with our beliefs and values and helping us be open to being aware of youths perspectives as well. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Childhood trauma may affect parts of brain

During a meeting at my internship we had a conversation about how we can empower youth to succeed when we can't change factors in their lives (i.e. IQ, Socio-Economic, etc). It's discouraging really, when you are familiar with the backgrounds that a lot of the youth we work with come from. I had a light bulb moment and everything I've been working for during the past six years as a Youth Worker became clear. I've been fighting to understand what I could do to help, because I am all too familiar with the circumstances that these youth are facing and the barriers they will have to knock down in order to succeed. It's a long journey, this has been a very long, challenging journey (that's not finished yet, but I'm getting there), and it's been because I can't quit. Somewhere along the line, someone (well a couple of people) told me I could do this. They helped me believe that there is a light at the end of this tunnel I've been running down for six years. The key to success is grit. Resilience, optimism, self-control, willingness to try new things, belief in your ability to learn and succeed are all things that we can control and contribute to our youth despite the circumstances we can't change.

If we can encourage youth, and be the voice that pushes them, and tells them that they can succeed. We can help them believe in themselves, and encourage them to keep trying, keep failing, keep getting back up, and that the road to success isn't an easy one, but it's possible.

We discussed something that sits in the pit of my stomach. There's studies that show that when something traumatic happens to a child (in the meeting she said 3 or more traumatic experiences) it sets them up to fail, more or less. When a child is in a toxic environment and trauma happens (physical abuse, emotional abuse, exposure to domestic violence, a parent who abuses drugs/alcohol) the body begins to produce adrenaline (which stays in the body for 30 min ). When this continues to happen the body is focused on being in defense mode, and it affects the front part of the brain. If this is happening consistently the brain doesn't develop the way a child who is not exposed to trauma would. This ultimately makes it harder for them to reason, make positive emotional connections, and other things we discussed but I can't remember.  (I googled the subject after the meeting and here's a brief article if interested http://www.theguardian.com/science/2012/feb/13/childhood-abuse-growth-brain-emotions)

Let's not forget low self-esteem, and other effects from growing up in such an environment has on youth. If we are aware of what could be happening in the lives of our youth, we can be the cushion that they can rely on to provide them with healthy, supportive interactions. We can show them what normal is, so that they don't grow up feeling inferior, or that they aren't good enough. I had a student in my homeroom tell me he was stupid yesterday. Of course I told him that he wasn't stupid, he was incredibly smart--but I'm not sure if he believed me. If I tell him he's smart everyday, then at some point in his life (ten or fifteen years down the line, or hopefully sooner) he will remember that. That could be the difference between him applying for college, or opting out. I still remember every adult who believed in me, and who told me I was smart, that I was an awesome person, and every adult that believed in me, and encouraged me to be the best I could be. Unfortunately, I can count on one hand those people, and while I wish there had been more positive interactions with the adults in my life, those people helped change my life. It's so important that we never underestimate the power of our words and actions because we could be the defining factor in a child's life that can determine whether or not they believe they can succeed. Just something I thought could be useful in our daily work with youth.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Who am I? *we don't even know half the time*

Parental support can make youth or break youth in their quest to discover who they are. A lot of times parents panic when their children begin to show rebellious behavior (and understandably so, I'm not a parent but if my child started rebelling I would fear the effect that the behavior could  have on their future) and they then shut down the youth expressing a desire to figure out who they are, or who they want to become.

"To dismiss such experimentation and the anxieties associated with it as a mere "phase they'll get through," "raging hormones" or simply "rebelliousness" is to devalue the unique opening this developmental era represents." (Understanding Youth, Identity in Context p24)

When Mitch takes the situation with Julian (Julian is caught tagging a bathroom wall with spray paint) and he further investigates what could be driving Julian to engage in rebellious behavior, he is opening his ears to listen to youth, and to understand what is happening, rather than to chalk it up to Julian being a jerk, and having no respect for school property.

"The evidence in young lives of the search for something and somebody to be true to can be seen in a variety of pursuits more or less sanctioned by society." (Understanding Youth, Identity in Context p26)

There's a reason why extra curricular activities are proven to help keep youth out of trouble. This is because it gives youth a place to belong. These clubs, hobbies, or even extra time helping with homework can make all the difference because it can help youth find out who they are or who they would like to become. It is our opportunities as adults to guide youth into building who they are in a space where they are safe and valued.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013


The worst is the Holiday season.
Birthdays were never a big deal.
Holidays. a cloud of sadness blocks the sunshine of happiness.
That lump in my throat it is larger around the holidays.
The tears behind my eyes, they fall around that time.
Hot and fast. 
It never gets better.
My heart feels empty, my soul is sailing
Pumpkin pie and Christmas trees.
Music and presents.
Laughter and hugs.
Wine and hot cocoa.
Everyone sits and smiles.
I'm the sad one.
The angry one.
Everyone else smiles.
Every holiday is the same.
 Memories, that pass too fast.
I grab them, before they slip away.
The tears won't stay behind my eyes.
The lump in my throat gets bigger.
It won't go away.
The ache in my heart won't go away.
The memories pass too fast.
All I see now is red velvet cake.
Pineapple upside down cake.
Mommy can you bake the cake for me I'm tired?
Mommy did you like the cake, even though it fell apart?
It was really good.
Thanksgiving, Christmas.2011
Every Holiday feels empty except 2011.
The last one.
Rest in Peace Mommy 4.17.12

Monday, October 7, 2013

Where Youth Hold The Power

" A young person who feels powerless will see their environment as something that can't be changed and will ultimately give up hope of ever seeing a difference." 

And this is why it's important for us to empower our youth and help them see that their voices are important. If they don't learn this while they are younger then how can we expect them to utilize their voices and demand their needs to be met when they are older? How are they supposed to advocate for their own children and grandchildren if they grow up feeling inferior and like their voices don't count? When reading what the youth had to say in this article it becomes clear that they are increasingly frustrated with not having a voice. It's so clear that we can minimize a lot of the negative behaviors by helping them to express themselves and to find an identity. It's so frustrating to feel as though you just belong to someone (parents, teachers, society) and your opinions don't matter. 

"Like many cities across the country, Providence is a place where young people--particularly youth of color in under resourced communities are marginalized in almost every decision making circle" 

Again we revisit the idea that we are alienating our youth making them feel as though they aren't important  in society and that they're ideas aren't worth listening to. I think that stating this early in the article and then showing what some of the YIA younger members have to say about wanting to help the community was critical in making this article so profound.

"What would our cities look like if we all started to truly see youth as powerful assets instead of problems?"

Imagine a world where we give power to our youth instead of taking it from them, where we include them in ways to change this world. Let them feel like they matter. It's clear that adults don't have all the answers to society's problems, why not gain perspective from a young inspired mind. I think the author is on point when she says that a lot of youth she's worked with are just as good at solving problems as adults. I go to my 13 year old brother for advice at times. He has great advice, and when you listen you can find words of wisdom from all ages. 

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Positive Youth Development

When looking at the positive factors in youth development, it becomes apparent why so many of our youth have difficulty succeeding in academic settings, and have difficulty cultivating their talents and interests. One or more of the factors that can make or break a youth is so readily available in the area I work in: South Providence. There are a lot of opportunities for positive youth development: City Arts After-school programs, the institute for Non Violence and other Community Action Programs. However, what concerns me are those children whose parents can't pick their children up from After-school. Or those children who are in After-school and they don't want to go home. A little girl in my homeroom was telling me the other day that she was tired and the police were in her home at 2'O Clock in the morning so she couldn't fall asleep.

Family problems, availability of drugs and lack of motivation in school are all issues that can render our youth hopeless. The hope is that we can awaken some sort of fire within them and show them there is a future out there. The hope is that we can create a safe, stable environment by creating programs that will offer a sense of family while encouraging positive youth development. There's a really great school in Rhode Island called The Met. www.metcenter.org That school has been the second home of all three of my little brothers. They have created a sense of family and support for so many youth that lack that at home and in the neighborhood they live in. They really take the interests of the youth seriously and go above and beyond to cultivate the talents they have and support them in any possible way. They help them learn their way around the state and help them network with so many different community voices so that when they leave the Met they have relationships that will last a lifetime. I think that a program like this emulates what the PowerPoint was talking about: teaching them constructive use of time, boundaries and expectations, and giving them hope.

 I can say from someone who was troubled youth, that there was a Youth Development program that helped shaped me and led me down a path of pursuing a higher education and it showed me a different way of life and I was around a community and I honestly feel like it saved my life. The research shows that these are necessary components to healthy youth development, and it's so inspiring to know that we can really change this world by helping these youth who really need our support.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants (& why it's IMPERATIVE we find common ground)

I think this article really explores a very serious issue in the education system today. As an educator who entered elementary school when an apple computer was a gigantic grey computer instead of a sleek television looking HD screen.

 It has been an evolving journey being introduced to new technology. My generation (1990's) was raised with Digital Immigrants as our teachers and we were taught in a traditional way. As time has passed so many innovative tools have been created to make learning an interesting experience, and I think that is the view that Digital Immigrants need to have when approaching Digital Natives. I do however; understand where the Digital Immigrants are coming from. They are used to a specific type of learning and are now in need of learning a whole new ‘language’ in order to effectively teach. I think as an educator, it’s important to be open to new ways of learning and not to simply shut down and refer to the younger generations who have been digitalized as hopeless or not as good as the generations who learned differently. 
It is boring to learn the same way every time. As a college student I can say that the traditional lectures are extremely boring (unless it’s a topic I am passionate about) and when an educator takes the time to use technology to teach it is impressive and commendable, especially if they are a lot older. I have incorporated the use of iPads and other technology (I’m still learning to use the smart board) and if I need help using something, it’s a great learning experience for my students to help me learn the technology because they get to teach as well.

The example used when the author suggest teaching the Holocaust by creating a virtual world is a great example of how to teach in an innovative and interesting way. It is however, necessary to teach the Digital Immigrants, so that they can learn the technology efficiently and teach successfully. I feel that Digital Immigrants (as educators) should learn to teach in an effective way so the Digital Natives can learn and that would mean straying away from a traditional sense of learning.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Reflection: Child Labor and The Social Construction of Childhood

It became clear to me, when reading this article, the many differences in cultures across the world and the changes that have happened in American culture. This article shows how normal it was for American children to work at young ages and help to support their families. It produced the idea that children are responsible to help their families and contribute. Now, it is horrific to even assume that a child should be required to work and support their family. I personally, began to think about my family and the values that have been instilled in me. My mother's family is from Cape Verde and generations of our family were hardworking people who worked to help their families (young or not). My mother had a high school education and was a very hard worker. Even when she wasn't working a job she was a hard worker around the house and she felt that when my sister and I were old enough, we should find a job and help out if necessary. My father's side of the family were hard workers too, but felt as though our jobs should be our educations. 

I believe that the pictures of the young workers (in factories and performing hard labor) are overboard, but I tend to agree with the article when they say that babysitting and paper routes can build character in children and teach responsibility. I know that when I watched my mother struggle once we were separated from my dad, I began to look for work and I was 16 years old. So while I would never allow my child to feel that they are responsible for supporting themselves or my family, I think it would teach them necessary lessons about helping their family, and working hard to be successful, if they had a job. Also it teaches money management, time management, and so many other skills they will need to survive in the world.