Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Open Books Open Minds

Mid-semester, our class attended an Open Books – Open Minds Reading, where we listened to different stories from different students, and even the President Nancy Carriuolo. Each story that was read represented a different experience, a different background, and a different culture. Between the struggle of family divide in coming to this country, to their grandmother's experience in getting her home and belongings taken away from her, it was amazing to hear the different, personal stories from themselves and their family members and the sentimental value each family possessed.  

Within this, I realized the true diversity that was represented amongst our RIC student population. This certainly brought me back to, "The Danger of a Single Story" by novelist Chimamanda Adichie, that I mentioned in a previous blog post. Open Books – Open Minds has a main goal to try to engage others in the common book. "We now envision a broader scope for the program, which continues to encourage the participation of freshmen in OBOM as we expand our year-long series of events inspired by the common book to involve students from all academic levels and diverse disciplines," (Rhode Island College, 2014).

Adichie discusses the mainstream story lines for children's literature that talked about white people being the main characters and the actions being the every day life in America. When my class went to go visit Youth in Action this past semester, they had a room filled with different quotes, statements, pictures, statistics, and ideas all over the walls. One of the things that really stood out to me was Children Literature and the small diversity in culture that is represented (picture above). It made me really think about the little representation in culture that literature reflects. When attending this event, I got a real sense in cultural diversity, and it was really educating to experience these stories through their skillful storytelling.
The writing of these stories was remarkable and it was more than a pleasure to attend this event.



Monday, November 30, 2015


As an individual that wants to one day run a school or 
maybe even a nonprofit organization, 
I decided to write my final paper for my Nonprofit Studies course 
on leadership and the importance of teamwork. 
As one of my sources, I used a TED Talk that talked about how thinking positively 
can improve your work performance, so I thought I would share it with you 
as well as one of the images that inspired me to write about leadership 
and the link to my essay on the impact leadership 
can have if we allow everyone to have a role in leading. 
We want to work WITH youth not TO youth.

Monday, November 16, 2015


I continuously talk about how learning at a younger age is always more beneficial, whether it's learning a second language, or learning calming rituals that relieve you from stress. As an individual that is currently learning how to deal with stress for a healthier, better life, I watch this video provided above, and wonder why I was not taught this at a younger age. ResilientKids gives children the opportunity to grow socially, emotionally, and academically all at once. The main office is located in Providence, RI and I think it is a great organization that focuses on the entirety of the student, and not just their learning through the academic curriculum, but learning about themselves and how to take care of their well-being as well.

South Kingstown School Committee Public Meeting

For my Social Work Policy class, I was asked to attend a public meeting and write about my experience. As an individual that is not only a Youth Development major, but a South Kingstown Schools Alum, I am happy to say that this meeting did great things for me. Attending a public meeting that was close to home (literally) gave me a great sense of how together as a community, the school district and its citizens can become stronger, smarter, and more diverse. In my years at Rhode Island College, I have began to learn more about different cultures and different perspectives on education, and most of the topics brought up at the meeting I attended connect with these concepts. 

Image result for south kingstown school committee

One of the topics discussed that excited me was the new Dual Language Immersion Program provided at West Kingston Elementary and Peace Dale Elementary School (the elementary school I attended). This is a K-1 program that teaches students how to speak Spanish and educates them on the different cultures that speak this language. This is a program that I truly believe should be in every elementary school in the country. I have a close friend from Chile that told me she began to learn English at a young age, and ever since then I have felt that the U.S. needs to learn other languages at a young age as well. One of the people that spoke at the meeting mentioned a really cool thought about how children learning a second language now, could help better their fluency in the future and help better communicate with other countries when facing world issues such as global warming. I found this fact to be VERY interesting and a great way to think of what our youth can do to help our future. This program should be provided in ALL elementary schools and should continue all through elementary, middle, and high school.

Another topic that was discussed was the Home-Schooling Policy. Children that are home-schooled having access to curricular and extracurricular activities were the focus of discussion. This policy certainly opened my eyes to how freely people can speak about their thoughts, feelings, and opinions, regardless of what others believe. There were parents that home-school their children that talked about their children potentially participating in class sessions, but there were a couple of parents that did not agree with this statement. This environment led me to believe it was a safe place to talk about matters most important to you that you felt deserved a change.

As I looked around before the meeting started, I noticed that there were mostly parents and one home-schooled student that spoke on the behalf of how well she is doing in her academics and extracurricular activity. There wasn't anyone my age attending this meeting. This made me think about Youth in Action, and how they use the voice of youth to speak on behalf of what they think is best for their communities, and then I wondered, "What would this environment be like if students attended the meetings as well?" I know that when I was attending South Kingstown High school, or even Broad Rock Middle school, I did not think I had a voice the way I do now. (Although I will admit to making a petition with my friends to keep us at the same school. They were going to separate us into two different schools, and we were obviously opposed. The policy was grandfathered, but we were ready for a fight!). I feel like if we showed our youth that they do, indeed, have a voice that can be heard, students would be more involved with the policy-making of their education. There are, however, a wide variety of clubs that South Kingstown High provides, including their annual SKPades hosted by the junior class. It is a funny way to show what they think of their school, classmates, faculty, and other school related shenanigans. Even though there are other clubs such as the Gay Straight Alliance and STAND, if students were aware they could speak for themselves and others and their education, their voices would speak louder than their parents speaking for them, bringing the community even more together and creating even more positive and effective change.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The Danger of a Single Story

I have watched this TED Talk, The Danger of a Single Story, in multiple classes now, including in my Social Work class this past Monday. The topics in my class that followed this TED Talk included White Privilege, Male Privilege, and Heterosexual Privilege. We talked about how we felt about these privileges that have been formed in our country, and assumptions that are made based on these formations. The class also shared personal stories on how these privileges affect their every day lives. One class mate talked about how one side of the family encouraged her to do well in school and develop a career where she could be independent and not rely on any significant other, but the other side of her family constantly asks, "Do you have a boyfriend? Are you seeing someone?" 

I openly shared with the class this one particular encounter I was in not more than a year ago. I was wear shorts with tights, and the girls around me kept calling me "White Girl" and telling me I was a "Typical White Girl." I do not believe these individuals identified as white, so the term was quite hurtful since it was always followed by laughter. I shared this story because in the midst of all of this "privilege" I have, I was still feeling excluded and down. Another girl in my class who did not identify as white, raised her hand shortly after I shared my story and said that the girls she went to high school with would most likely tell me to "Get over it" since they have to deal with that kind of "criticism" (for lack of a better word) on a regular basis. 

This instance made me realize that, just because the girls that she grew up with are used to this kind of behavior, does not make me putting up with it any tolerable. Just because other people experience what I experience, does not mean that I should. I say this because I would never make anyone feel the way those girls made me feel, and I do not think anyone should make another feel this way. This all seems like a never-ending, unnecessary circle. I refuse to accept that this happens to anyone, regardless of race. "The Danger of a Single Story" led those girls to believe that all "white girls" are the same, but I refuse to let this experience lead me to the same conclusion. Someone led the group of girls that were laughing at me to feel the need to hurt someone back, but the cycle ends now; the cycle ends with me. As a youth development leader, I not only want to end the cycle in my own experiences, but I want to show youth that they have the power to end it as well. We share this country as our home, and we are all citizens that wake up every morning with responsibilities, problems, and events of our own. There is no need to discriminate or exclude. We have the power to change the world, and showing this power to youth will only make that power stronger.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Tree of Life

I was unable to attend this past Thursday's class for multiple reasons. Our class had guest speaker Ellen Silverman come to our Senior Seminar class to discuss our Tree of Life based on the book, "Retelling the Stories of Our Lives: Everyday Narrative Therapy to Draw Inspiration and Transform Experience" written by David Denborough. In the link you will find the reading that shows you how to make your own tree of life and what Denborough wants you to think about or ask yourself as you create your tree. Enclosed in the link is a tree that you can use to make your own Tree of Life. I honestly had a rough time making my tree; there is a lot going on with friends and family, and deciding what has impacted/is impacting me positively (and unfortunately negatively) was reflection that I found difficult to put on paper. However, I wanted to share it with you because I successfully completed it and wanted to share my tree the way everyone shared their own trees in class. I highlighted my "professional" identity with a green highlighter, and the rest of my tree is my personal identity. The best part about this exercise is like actually trees, no two trees are exactly the same, and I am proud of my own, unique tree that consists of its own personal roots, ground, trunk, branches, leaves, fruits, seeds, and even compost. This exercise, although rough, was important to lay out for myself, and I couldn't be more proud of the person I am "growing" to be.
"If our life is in turmoil, it's like a river, fast flowing and full of hazards and dangers. If we're in the middle of a fast-flowing river, it may not be the time to talk about those hazards or dangers. Instead, all of our efforts may need to go into immediate survival. We need to find a way to step out of the turmoil and the fast-flowing water and up onto the riverbank, where we can look down upon our own life."
--David Denborough.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Identity in Context

In Chapter 02 of Michael Nakkula and Eric Toshalis' book, "Understanding Youth: Adolescent Development for Educators," Identity in Context, Nakkula and Toshalis discuss influential theories of adolescent identity development and explanations behind potential behaviors, thoughts, and feelings in adolescents. They present Erik Erikson's theory that was referred to as "psychosocial." It consists of eight stages that each consist of a "specific crisis that must be resolved in order to increase the likelihood of healthy development in subsequent stages," (Nakkula and Toshalis, 2010).
The chapter provides an example that is continued from the previous chapter with the student, Antwon, and introduces his friend, Julian. They were best friends for the longest time, until high school academics separated them from continuing their friendship the way it once was. Antwon asked Julian to draw on the bathroom wall with him, and the boys were caught in the act by Mitch, one of the school's psychologists. Mitch was not only fully aware of the stage of identity vs. role confusion, but it seemed he had an even greater understanding of why the situation may have occurred taking the idea of "being Filipino" into consideration. Instead of simply giving the boys equal punishment for the act, the chapter brings up the idea that both boys are experiencing different reasons behind doing it, and I feel like looking at it in this way is something I am truly growing to understand. Regardless of what is occurring, there is a reason why it happened; what is the reason? With this in mind, Mitch observes Julian, looks into his cumulative record, and has conversations with both his teachers and his parents. During their second meeting, Mitch asked Julian to think of the spaces and relationships that he encounters each day, followed by asking Julian to think about and list how these spaces and relationships make him feel. This is context mapping. I have created a context map for myself below. I would like to think making this context map gave me a more defined understanding of having different identities in different settings, but always comes back to the center of being me.

Nakkula and Toshalis also share the four different identities described in James Marcia's notion of commitment and Erikson's crisis combination of identity statuses. "Statuses describe the dominant issues, concerns, or developmental experiences during a particular era of one's life, and they may or may not be preceded or followed by other specific statuses," (Nakkula and Toshalis, 2010).
  • Foreclosed Identity: When an individual chooses (or is committed to) a life direction or way of being without considering other directions or fully understanding the direction chosen
  • Diffuse Identity: When an individual is neither committed nor experiencing a crisis of any particular identity
  • Identity Moratorium: This identity is when an individual actively explores different roles, beliefs, relationships, and behaviors, but does not make any kind of commitment.
  • Achieved Identity: This is when an individual is no longer experiencing an identity crisis and is committed to a particular, unique identity
"We have an opportunity to revisit the decisions we made as adolescents as we interact daily with those making them now-- to help co-construct the adolescents as they help co-construct us--does
more than just 'keep us young'; it keeps us aware
of the extent to which we are always in the process of becoming. If we attend to this fact with compassion and persistence, we will be doing our identity work in schools in ways that support the development of our students as well as ourselves."
-- Nakkula and Toshalis


Friday, October 16, 2015

The Construction of Adolescence

Michael Nakkula and Eric Toshalis share their theory on adolescent development in their 2010 book, "Understanding Youth: Adolescent Development for Educators." In Chapter 01, The Constructon of Adolescence, Nakkula and Toshalis discuss the story of Ms. Peterson and Antwon. Ms. Peterson is a tenth grade world literature high school teacher that is loved and respected by all students. Antwon is a student that feels otherwise. They do NOT get along; their personalities clash, and they both consider the other rude, disrespectful, and hostile. Antwon is truly concerned about his graduation exam and relationships with peers, and Ms. Peterson simply doesn't know how to interact with Antwon since she is intimidated and unfamiliar with Antwon's "louder tone and tougher, streetwise demeanor." From what I'm gathering, it is easy to say that if Antwon shares his thoughts with Ms. Peterson and Ms. Peterson doesn't wait for the problem to "go away," this could better the relationship instead of both of them avoiding the situation at hand, but of course this is easier said than done. They both take equal responsibility for this miscommunication and misunderstanding. They both influence and are co-authors of each other

"The material that comprises our life stories comes from all directions, contributed by people who care about you, are indifferent to, and feel antagonistic toward the person whose life they are helping to shape," 
--Nakkula and Toshalis

There were multiple concepts mentioned in this chapter, including:
tested knowledge                     meeting of the minds                       scaffolding
theoretical imagination           interpsychological development     reciprocal transformation
construction of adolescence    zone of proximal development        applied developmentalists

All of these concepts really spoke to me, especially theoretical imagination and reciprocal transformation. Nakkula and Toshalis discuss how looking at past and present experiences are essential to looking forward into the future. Taking multiple parts of your knowledge and creating new possibilities instead of making assumptions based on old experiences allows you to still take your history into consideration, but using it as a foundation for your new experience rather than recreating your old ones. Reciprocal transformation brings me back to TALL University, a group at Calcutt Middle School that my school worked with this past spring. or even being a camp counselor. You can be wear a shirt as a camp counselor that says "ROLE MODEL" or be the oldest students in a mixed group of middle school and college students, but we can learn just as much from our youth as they can learn from us, and I feel like having that mindset can change the entire atmosphere of any environment where both adults and youth are present.

"Whether working with us collaboratively on the
questions that hold critical meaning for them or working 
hard to reject our efforts to help shape the world, 
adolescents join with educators on a day-to-day basis 
to build the theoretically imaginative thinking skills 
necessary for an interesting and productive life. If we are
skilled enough to witness it, adolescents' theoretical 
imaginations offer some of the richest, most critical, and
deeply hopeful worldviews we might find."
--Nakkula and Toshalis

There are plenty of people I could consider the coauthors of my story. Between my family, old friends, new friends, advisor, professors, ex-boyfriends, current boyfriend, and even some of my campers from this past summer at Camp Broad Rock through the South County YMCA, I have plenty of voices that have co-written my story. Some of these voices are positive, and some not so positive, some older, and some much, much younger, but they are all relationships that I believe are (or were) in my life for a reason. As negative as my father can be, his intentions are never in the wrong place. His tough love and wise words of wisdom have helped shaped me into the strong woman I am becoming. In my adolescent years, he tried making things go the way he believed they should be instead of letting them be what they were. Looking back, he was right (most of the time), and I appreciate having him there for all of my mistakes and accomplishments. No matter how much I may agree or disagree with him, we always have an understanding of each other, and I have always taken his advice or opinions to heart before I make any life-changing decisions. My dad is a great man with a good head on his shoulders, and I am happy to call him one of the main co-authors of my story. I would not be where I am without him (literally though, he gave me the gift of life). As graduating college is just around the corner and I start to think more about my future, I know that the next chapter will not be written without my dad's sarcastic commentary or meaningful words of encouragement.
The rest is still unwritten.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Pandas: The Journey Home

I thought it would be really fun to share with all of you this awesome documentary I recently watched on Netflix. "Pandas: The Journey Home" shares the story of how China is making a HUGE effort to keep pandas from becoming extinct!! The process is long and takes a large amount of work, but the Wolong Panda Center loves what they do and are coming a long way in keeping pandas in the wild!!

I don't want to give too much away since I highly recommend this quick, but fascinating documentary. However, there is one part that shines out for all youth development workers. Part of the process is bringing the pandas that are born at the center to schools all over China, to teach the youth to love and appreciate the pandas. They do this with the hope that the future of China will continue to help keeping pandas alive!! When I saw that this is part of the process in bringing pandas back into their natural habitat, it was a great feeling of hope and faith. The Center realized that the children of China are part of the solution, and that in itself proved to me that Youth Development is an important component for many parts of society. Youth CAN make a difference, in any place, whether it's in the United States, or China.

Pandas: The Journey Home (2014) Poster

Monday, September 28, 2015

Color Blind or Color Brave?

Today, I watched a TedTalk by Mellody Hobson called "Color Blind or Color Brave?" that talks about how being open about race can bring our society to greater places. Towards the end of Mellody's introduction, she said "The first step to every problem.." and I automatically replied "is admitting you have one," since that is how I have viewed my issues almost my entire life, but she used the words "to not hide from it" and "awareness." It reminded me of our discussion in class this past Thursday about how important wording is and how it can change the mood or reaction to something you read or hear.

 I can not personally relate to the experiences that Mellody shares with us in her talk, but I can say there have been times where I felt invisible or like I didn't belong. In totally honesty, the tweet that I have shared below is something that I can easily agree with. However, I do believe that there are times when people say things with positive intentions, but not in a way that seems positive. I know that for me, I am sometimes afraid to say what I am thinking because I am not confident enough in the terminology of the topic.

For instance, I took a Sex and Gender class for my Core Four General Education requirement, and we learned about the word "hermaphrodite." I had never heard this word a day in my life, and there was a boy in the class that raised his hand and shared with the class that he found this word to be extremely offensive, and in this, I openly learned about this offensive word when sharing it with a group I am in at Rhode Island College. I shared that the boy to offense to the word, and my advisors kindly told me it was an offensive word and to not say it so casually. I felt really bad and apologized, followed by explaining that I had never heard the word prior to the class. I was told that my response to being apologetic but open about the topic was honest and brave. With this being said, just hearing someone say these words to me was really helpful. If I am open and honest about my thoughts and ideas, perhaps it will make it easier for me to learn.

This is similar to Mellody talking about making new friends or interacting with people that aren't like you in challenging your assumptions and developing new insights. You take what you want to take to become who you are, and in that, you accept everyone else as they are to make for a better environment. When my advisors of the group told me about how great my response was, I took it to heart, and I am hoping this strength will grow in the field of youth development as I learn new values and take on new experiences. It was a little embarrassing at first, but I knew in my heart that I wasn't doing any harm, and that I was simply learning.
[ C O U R A G E ]

Mellody reminds us that we live in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave, and it is our job to be good ROLE MODELS (YMCA!) for our future youth. "If we can learn to deal with our discomfort and just relax into it, we'll have a better life," (Mellody Hobson). Although this can be extremely difficult for some individuals, including myself, it is important to show this courage to our future youth by providing them with a positive attitude that will help them be open to other people's thoughts and ideas and more accepting of their own. Having a space where youth can talk about their experiences, have a voice, and be confident in themselves, similar to Youth in Action, we give youth the chance to feel like they can accomplish anything, similar to what Mellody's mom did for her, and what my advisors did for me, to make us not feel incapable or invisible.

"I stand here today talking about this issue of
racial discrimination because I believe it threatens
to rob another generation of all of the opportunities
that all of us want for all of our children
no matter what their color or where they come from."
-- Mellody Hobson

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Positive Youth Development.

Today, I did a Youth Development Ideology Inventory. It is a quiz that helps you see what type of Youth Development you identify with. There were three types that were listed: Risk, Resiliency, and Prevention, Positive Youth Development, and Critical Youth Development.
This is not the first time I have taken this quiz. During the first few parts, I was beginning to lean towards Critical Youth Development, and I wondered, "Have I really changed that much since last semester?" but then I ended with the result of Positive Youth Development, which is the result I got the last time I took this quiz. There were six parts to this Inventory. Although I did not score a "1" on all of the parts that were listed, and without giving too much away in case you would like to take the quiz for yourself, I find myself nodding my head and feeling passionate about a few of the statements in the inventory that matched with Positive Youth Development.
In a nutshell, Positive Youth Development wants youth to "build upon their 'developmental assests'" by discovering and accepting who they are and they believe through activities, opportunities, and experiences that allow them to "make meaning" in their own way and being fully aware of what they have to offer. Two of the statements that really struck out to me were Childhood and Evaluation. For Childhood, it stated that, "Childhood is essentially a time when youth unfold according to their own innate natures, felt needs, organic impulses, and internal timetables. The focus is on youth as they are during childhood rather than as they might be as adults." This statement is everything I could ever imagine when working with youth. When I would work with my campers at the South County YMCA, I focused on who they were at that exact moment, and what could potentially make someone their age act they way were, positive or negative. Every child is different, therefore everything they do is not exactly the same as others.
For evaluation, it spoke about continuously finding new ways to shape youth's environment based on their needs and growth. This truly spoke to me because gradually changing an activity, a lesson plan, or how you approach a situation can all depend on what group you are working with. Having your learning environment grow with your youth sounds nothing more than productive, useful, and beneficial as the environment change alongside with its youth.
After taking this quiz, I realized that no two people will have the same results. Although I identified with Positive Youth Development, there are statements I agreed most with that did not fall under that category, making my outlook on Youth Development one of a kind and unique from the forms of others.

Link to the Quiz!
What Type of Youth Development Do You Identify With?!
Youth Development Ideology Inventory

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

In a World Where Youth Hold the Power.

In my experience so far with Youth Development, I have seen and heard of a variety of different organizations that help youth or lead youth in the right direction, but I have yet to hear of an organization where the youth help and the youth lead. Adeola A. Oredola, the Executive Director of Youth in Action in Providence, Rhode Island, gives readers a strong glimpse of what the organization is and what it has to offer through her words, and the words of her fellow members of this great organization. Located in a city that holds the college I attend that is not far from home, it is amazing to hear that they want youth to "take the lead" to fix problems in their city including community health, the justice system, public transportation, and education. These are all things I have experienced for myself, some more than others, and knowing that this organization is letting youth take these matters into their hands is incredible. From raising money to build the youth center to having a voice in decision making, the youth of Providence have a voice that echoes throughout the entire city, and will only get louder as more youth join their team.

"I believe it’s critical for young people
to be at the center of change in every community
if we’re ever going to see that better world
we all know is possible," -- Adeola A. Oredola

 Youth in Action has created a space for youth to feel like they have can be themselves and have a voice that is heard. This is followed by some key elements that Oredola and other Youth in Action members have created as a result of what they think Youth in Action represents and provides for their community.
  1. A New Definition of Youth. Labeling youth with specific stereotypes, thinking they don't have a say in current events, and not recognizing that your fellow youth can make a difference are all things that Youth in Action strive to show their community are false. Youth in Action is a place that gives youth the satisfaction and feeling of making a difference and having a voice. Negative behavior is present in this city, but if the positive behavior is recognized, it will grow and change the city for the better.
  2. Youth and Adults are Growing Together. My fellow classmates and advisors are familiar with this statement and I know that for me, it holds a special place in my heart. The concept of "youth workers and youth learn from each other" needs to be implemented in all environments and to expand this way of looking at any aspect of learning could improve schools, families, communities, etc.
  3. A Practice of Disagreement. To agree to disagree truly plays a huge role in every day life. Recognizing that others will not only look at things differently from you and/or others will not only help you understand and accept the opinions, thoughts, and ideas of others, but perhaps you will discover something new or look at something differently in a way you never thought of before.
  4. Learning and Speaking Truth. In this section a fellow YIA youth member spoke a great deal about the importance of numbers. He talked about how he felt about a particular topic in school, and how once he brought his opinions about the topic to others, they were able to approach the teacher and made the teacher realize their concerns. This is VERY similar when John Smith and Pocahontas wanted their voices to be heard, but they had to say something first!  The moral of the story is to always speak your mind; you never know who else is thinking the same things you are!
    5. That Better World. It's amazing what positive support can do for our youth!! With these concepts in mind, anything can be possible. If we practice this outlook of life, it can spread to not only other youth and other communities, but to other generations to come.

Some students from Youth in Action.
Picture on PVD Teachers.

Access to the article by Adeola A. Oredola: In a World Where Youth Hold the Power
Youth in Action's Website: http://youthinactionri.org/

Monday, September 14, 2015

What is Youth Work?

  1. Youth Work is an Educational Practice.
  2. Youth Work is a Social Practice.
  3. Youth Workers Actively Challenge Inequality and Work Towards Social Justice.
  4. Youth Works Work in a Variety of Different Settings.
  5. Youth Work Seeks to Strengthen the Voice and Influence of Young People.
  6. Youth Work is a Welfare Practice.
  7. Youth Work Works with Young People "Holistically."

Wednesday, September 9, 2015