City Year: A Positive Can-Do Lifestyle

City Year is an education based non-profit organization that takes 17-24 year old young adults from all over the country and gives them the opportunity to serve in inner city schools with at-risk youth. With specialized small group and one on one interventions in Math and English, we aim to help reduce the drop out rate. (The views and opinions below do not reflect City Year or Americorps.)

 

“Yup in my white tee, name tag so you know me I got spirit you can hear it, and a smile for a while…”  As my team hollers our readiness check at the top of our lungs while the sun sleepily rises around us encircling our school in a goldish halo,  I can’t help but feel a profound gratitude for where I am in my life.

City Year San Antonio has been the biggest blessing in my life, but it has also been the hardest commitment I have ever made.  I first heard about City Year from a friend of mine that had taken on a year of service in New York. Intrigued, I perused the site (www.cityyear.org) and decided right then and there I had to apply. I applied, got in, and made my merry way to San Antonio, but I had no idea what I had just gotten myself into. After I arrived in San Antonio, myself and the other 80 new corps members from different parts of the country came together at the historical Barbara Jordon Community Center in the Eastside of San Antonio for Basic Training Academy. Whilst at BTA we were put through two weeks of intensive training and ice breakers. We were trained in math & English tutoring, behavior modification, working with children, and the social, emotional, and psychological needs of students. We were also forced out of our comfort zones to meet and get to know a room full of strangers, share personal stories, and create a bond that has become the foundation for all the corps feels and accomplishes. A lot of the trainings were frustrating because they were so abstract, but little did I know how useful they would really be.

Most of the students I work with have little to no consistency in their lives; they come from homes where one or both parents are missing or are just generally unavailable. There is mentality that many of my students cling on to and that is the mentality of being ‘tough’. Their surroundings force them to grow up too early, and many of my 11-13 year old students already have gang affiliations and know more about drugs then I could ever imagine was possible. They live in areas where crime is rampant, education is an option, and diversity is non-existent. With that said, my students are my pride and joy.  They are unbelievably intelligent, excel at sports, and have amazing insight into the world around them.  They make the long hours, the constant hard work, the unending planning and executing worth it.  All my students need is someone to listen to them, someone to believe in them, someone to tell them that they are worth something and that their opinion matters. City Year has blessed me with that opportunity. I am able to wake up every morning at obscenely early hours and saunter into work with a smile on my face because I know that what I am doing matters.

City Year’s methods are proven to help increase attendance in schools, decrease behavioral problems, and increase students’ grades with our 1:1 and small group intervention methods.  This is because City Year is incredibly data driven and we track all the time spent with students and our intervention methods. That way, we can talk to other sites and trade best practices. Corps members receive training in how to effectively teach and tutor material that is imperative for students and we have the freedom to implement our methods in fun and creative ways that allow our students to understand that learning is fun and does not have to be monotonous or a chore. Corps members run before and after school clubs and tutoring for students and we also have lunch clubs.  Not only do corps members aim to increase students’ educational opportunities by providing the necessary tools, City Year also focuses on community betterment via community events like block parties, game nights, parent engagement activities.

 

I could talk about City Year all day every day, and not just because of the work that I do, but also because of the people I have met. I came into City Year thinking I was going to impact people and change lives, but because of the opportunity I was fortunate enough to receive, my life is changed every.single.day. I learn something new from the people around me, I’m taught to breakdown social and economical barriers because of where I serve, and most importantly, I am finding myself. When I am older and I look back on my life, I can say with certainty that City Year will be my biggest accomplishment, and my most difficult endeavor in life.

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Review: City Lights

I check the clock…5:36 pm…then I do a double take. This cannot be possible. I have been jamming in my tattered maroon Oxford University jumper for 2 hours now? To the exact same set of music on repeat? Preposterous. Or is it?

“I stunt, I ball, boy I do it all.”

Listening to City Lights for the umpteenth time , I would have to wholeheartedly concur with those words.

This mixtape has serious swagger. That is not my opinion, that is a fact of life. Every.single.track has its own unique flair and beat. Just when you think you know where the artist is going with his message, Rated-R throws you a colossal curve ball that has you second guessing everything you thought you knew about him.

From the dynamic and humbling introduction to the smooth and stylish outro, the artist does a phenomenal job of taking his listeners on a soulful, sexy, and hip ride. The kind of ride that has you begging for more and has to be taken multiple times for the full effects to be absorbed. Rated-R’s City Lights seamlessly balances sultry tunes with unfeigned and honest pieces that quickly alert the listener that there is more to this young artist than meets the eye.

The tracks that stuck out to me the most include: Sunday, How I Do It, No More ft. Iten, and Not Yours. To me, they are the very embodiment of the balance that makes City Lights incredibly unique and undeniably unforgettable. Not only do the lyrics have a harmony between being meaningful and provocative, they also include beats that are to die for. Each track had me bumpin’ and grindin’ in my seat, but also held the ability to bring me back down to a more calm state of mind with its symmetry. Drake’s influence on the artist’s style is noteworthy, via the subtle tribute in Ride It ft. Real T, TYC:

“She fancy yeah, she fancy yeah”

City Lights has become an instant favorite in my book, and I cannot wait to hear more from this clearly talented and ambitious young artist. Mad props to you Rated-R; stay true to yourself and you’ll continue to produce work that is brilliantly humble and outlandishly confident all at the same time.

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Since facts of life cannot be disregarded,

visit:http://www.hotnewhiphop.com/en/view-album/25560-city-lights

and download City Lights!

Also, you can follow Rated-R on his twitter: rlratedrlott

New City.New Life.Same ol’ Me.

So some of you may be wondering where in the world I disappeared to. What happened was, I was enjoying the mundane banalities of everyday life (no, not really), and then one day, got the sudden urge to make a change. SO I actively engaged in some self-reflection and decided something equally outrageous and life-altering was in order. Queue the months of my Houdiniesque disappearing act. As I smugly hum “Where in the world is Carmen San Diego”, I realize I should have kept some kind of journal about the alterations that ensued once the initial decision had been made to enact said change. Well here I am now, excitingly, albeit belatedly, relaying my thus far amazing adventure to you my dear stalkers.

I moved cities at the end of the summer. Yes, it was exhilarating. Yes, it was equally as terrifying. Prior, I had never lived away from my snug and cozy home. I had never ventured out of the city in which I grew up. Each street held a precious memory, each stoplight carried a hilarious story, each fluttering of the breeze accompanied a lingering laugh, every thunderstorm encompassed a torrent of emotions, and in each star I viewed from my bedroom window, there lived a hope, a wish, a desire. Leaving all of that behind was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do in my life. Not only for the reasons above, but also because of the people I was leaving. My heart and soul beat solely out of love for my baby brother. He is the light of my life, the reason I am who I am today, and the reason why I chose the path I have in life. He’s influenced my entire life, and that sweet, charismatic, brilliant boy doesn’t even know it. His purity shines through him in a effervescent glow and I pray every day that he never loses it.

Continuing on, the new city I moved to is absolutely wonderful! Honestly, it truly is. Hills galore, so much local art and culture I can hardly bear it, and a unique demographic that has my senses tingling and my heart fluttering. If ever a city was to win my heart over so quickly, I’m glad it’s this one. Every.single.day I see sunrises that take my breath away, every afternoon I smell smells that bring goosebumps to my skin, and make my stomach growl and protest in a very unladylike fashion, every evening I experience the buzzing nightlife; a city filled with millions of souls searching for an unforgettable adventure. I love this city and all the memories we have to offer one another this year.

Now, back to this colossal change I keep harping about, but have yet to tell you of. Shall I delay any longer? No you say, so be it. *drum roll please* I’ve began working at a non-profit organization in this new and beautiful city. It is a brilliant organization that seeks to lower the dropout rate in the country by serving in inner-city schools as coaches, tutors, and role models. The hours are grueling and the pay is miserly, but the challenge…oh the challenge to actually be on the front line and make a difference? Make a real difference…I live for it. This organization is not something you can just do. You have to LIVE it, BREATHE it, ABSORB every aspect of it. In order to truly understand the type of impact you can make, you have to be willing to be told you’re crazy. Because if I really sit back and think about it, all of us that are in this organization have to be at least a little crazy..the good kind of course.

Speaking of people, I am utterly and completely in love with the people I’ve met here thus far. Never in my life could I have imagined that within this world of 7 billion or so people, I would meet a large group of young adults that had the same idealist mindset that I do. We encompass an ideology that is idealistic, yet realistic. Contradictory? Not really. These people I work with strive to make a difference, yet they understand that change does not happen overnight. This task we’ve taken on is a marathon, not a sprint. I am crazy about the people I’ve met, the people I work with, and the lives that are being changed by the goodness around us.

All in All, the transition has been mind blowing, and the stories unending. I will definitely be back with more to share, you can count on that. At the very least, I hope your appetite has been wet for the incredible journey ahead.

You stay classy San Antonio.

Greetings From Gujarat

Some musings whilst enjoying the Monsoon season here in Gujarat, India. Enjoy stalkers!

Whilst sitting inside Papa Johns eating my mushroom and cheese pizza and listening to Justin Beiber’s “Never Say Never”, I almost forgot which country I was in until I went to take a sip of water and realized I couldn’t because I didn’t know if it was bottled or not. Reality jolted me awake like a rickshaw crazily swerving to avoid hitting a cow. I’m in India, not Texas. How could I forget? Maybe it was the familiarity of walking through a mall with stores such as Apple, Nike, United Colors of Benetton, and The Body Shop. Maybe it was the lack of concern over if the place surrounding me was air conditioned or not. Whatever it was, as I stepped through the sliding glass doors and back into streets of Vadodra, I was assulted by smells, sounds, and colors I had subconsciously blocked for the past few hours.

I absolutely love this country. The culture. The history. The devotion. It astounds me and humbles me to be in a place where one’s word is still their bond, culture and religion are prevalent in everything people say and do, and confidence is at an all time high. With that said, the juxtaposition of the modernity of this country and its residents awes me. Four story malls with major designers, beloved fast food chains like Pizza Hut, McDonalds, and Subway, and grocery stores with all my favorite brands such as Tide, Dove, AirWick, and Lays. This country has the best of both worlds in that regard. I am able to walk out of my house into the streets, grab a rickshaw, and indulge in some Mickey D’s fries. At the same time, I can walk through the traffic and immerse myself in the local markets nearby with their diverse goods and unique charm. I must say in my time here so far, I am eagerly learning the art of haggling and have already put it to good use today with a rickshaw driver who tried to besmirch my “NRI” status (Non Resident Indian) and charge me 40 rupees for a ride that only cost locals 20 rupees. I haggled with him, and lo and behold, I sit here back at my house smug and cheery because it only took me 20 rupees to get here. Hah to you sneaky rickshaw driver. I say HAH.

I think it’s important for all second generation Indians to come to India at least once in their lives; it’s vital for a few reasons: Sometimes some of us, myself included at a point in my life, feel disconnected from our culture and religion. How can we understand something that we’ve never fully experienced? Coming to India, visiting stunning and breathtaking mandirs, and being a part of a real-to-goodness monsoon wedding changes your views a bit. Also, everytime I visit India, I learn more about how the past and the future can coexist here in the present. India is the one place I’ve been to that can make multi-story buildings by using sticks to prop up each floor and workers who build with their bare hands. Sometimes a lot of are so engulfed in our futures that we forget where we came from or what it takes to get us where we are; seeing people struggling and flourishing in this enviornment is a testimony to all the things we can accomplish if we try. Lastly, I feel India is a place that can teach us to appreciate the things we have. We are SO fortunate and lucky and a lot of times we forget that. Forget nice shops and fancy restaurants, here necessities such as water, food, and shelter are luxuries for some people. Air conditioning is for the wealthy, and electricity goes out regularly. It’s never a bad thing to be reminded of how lucky we are.

I think India’s beauty lies in the fact the the country is a paradox. I intend to indulge in the beautiful contradictions that make India so unique, unforgettable, and dear to my heart.

Does the Shape of the Peg Really Matter?

A few days ago, my editor at BrownGirl Magazine emailed us a blog post that was absolutely appalling.  When she asked if anyone wanted to do a rebuttal, I instantly grabbed the opportunity.  Have a look at the original post: http://dilbert.com/blog/entry/pegs_and_holes/ . Below is my response. Enjoy dearest stalkers! =)

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Dear Scott Adams,

I have been sitting at my computer screen staring at the blank page in front of me for several days. No matter how many times I read your post titled “Pegs and Holes” I cannot seem to shake it. That was not a compliment. I have more than several issues with your musings so let’s get right down to it.


Blame and shame are not society’s tools for keeping peace and order. Blame is when responsibility for a fault or error is being placed on someone; one does not blame simply to keep people, specifically men, in line. Shame is a human emotion; an emotion that comes from within a person when they realize they’ve done somethin wrong. Shame is not a societal weapon used to ‘castrate’ men and keep them on leashes.  Societal rules are not the root of the problem.


I’m slightly confused as to which version of reality you reside in as throughout history it is a known fact that actions such as cheating, sleeping around, etc. are not only acceptable for men, they are encouraged. Lets go back in history for a minute. In 17th century England, it was customary for married men to get their carnal pleasures outside of the marital chamber. Even kings were known to engage in adultery casually and frequently. It was understood because ‘men have needs’. Every woman was fair game, and every woman conquered resulted in a hearty pat on the back and a mug full of ale to celebrate one’s manhood. Those same women who partook in the debauchery were instantly considered ‘dirty’. They were no longer ‘pure’ or ‘virtuous’ and any hopes of a good marriage could be considered as good as gone. Even better, if a queen acquired a lover, she and her lover could be subject to punishment; he by death, and she by a nunnery. Why? Let’s fast forward to the present day. In today’s culture a man who get’s a lot of women is known as a ‘player’. Most guys aspire to reach that ‘player status’ so they too can be part of the elite group. If a woman does the EXACT same thing, there are words to describe her that are too vulgar for me to type. Christina Aguilera’s song “Can’t Hold us Down” comes to mind:

“If you look back in history it’s a common double standard of society
The guy gets all the glory, the more he can score
While the girl can do the same and yet you call her a whore
I don’t understand why its OK,
The guy can get away with it while any girl gets named”

History has shown us that it has been a ‘man’s world’; women were treated as property with no voice and no rights. The mentality was for women to be seen and not heard. Now, we see a shift in societial views where mens’ previously acceptable behavior is finally creating a stir and causing scruitny among not just women, but also some men. The cat is finally out of the bag, and clearly you, Mister Adams, are not okay with it. Yes, there is an alarming trend in the news about powerful men behaving badly. No, it is not something new. What is new, is the fact that it is being publicized; these men are being made examples of and rightly so in my opinion. Why is it okay for these men to abuse their stations of power and their wealth to engage in heinous acts and then get off scot free? That has nothing to do with round pegs in square holes Mister Adams, it has to do with justice. One cannot commit a crime such as sexual assult or rape, blame it on the fact that you are a man born with ‘urges’, and not accept responsibility for your actions. Everyone has a moral compass, and it is that moral compass that tells us the difference between right and wrong.


Since when was it every man’s, married or otherwise, desire to ‘tweet his meat to strangers’? There is no such thing as black and white in relationships. There is a way for both men and women to be satisfied in their commitment and be happy as well…it’s called compromising. I’m not sure about your version of the future world, but I don’t think it involves pills that take away manhood. Personally, I feel that society and the world are moving towards a more balanced state based on equality between men and women. Does that bother you?


I do understand that there are women out there that do engage in cheating, etc. and do so because they feel like they’re ‘sticking it to the man’ and are doing what they do to be super feminist, BUT that is not the point of feminism. Those actions are no more right than men doing those things simply because they can. What you need to understand is that society is NOT to blame for this. We are. Each person has the ability to make decisions; we are our actions. One cannot blame society for one’s faults or actions. Men are not round pegs in square holes; we’re whatever shape peg we want to be and there’s always a matching hole for us.

Sincerely,

BrownGirl from London

P.S. MY peg is totally a star. Yes, there is a matching star hole for it. =)


			

Suitable Boy Checklist…Wait, What?

Dearest Stalkers, here’s the latest article I submitted to BG. Tell me your thoughts!



‘Suitable Boy’ Checklist: Educated? Check. Good family? Check. Wealthy? Tall? Fair? Hot AKA Jay Sean? (Ahh, wishful thinking). Appropriate caste? Che…wait..WHAT?

I’m at a loss for words 99.9 % of the time when I sit down and think of exactly what is important to parents when it comes time to send their bonny lasses out to get wedded. I’m reminded of the absurd demands of Jane and Michael Banks from ‘Mary Poppins’ when they were asking their father for a new nanny:

“You must be kind, you must be witty

Very Sweet and fairly pretty.

Take us on outings, give us treats

Sing songs, bring sweets.”

I understand the importance of wanting the best for your child, but I truly cannot comprehend or even begin to WANT to comprehend some of the items on their checklists. A good education is something both parents and girls look for in prospective partners. That is nothing new, nor is it something wholly rare as most people strive for a good education and pride themselves on having a solid background. Although, I have met people that have an advanced formal education, but are lazy and unmotivated. I have also met people without an advanced formal education that are incredibly successful and content. In both scenarios, the wrong thing is being scrutinized. An education, or the lack of, isn’t the answer; ambition, motivation and determination is. Just because one has the tools necessary does not mean they know how to weild those tools and build a future out of them.

A good family is also important, but it is not necessarily the only thing that creates a good person; many people have overcome familial hardships and have conquered their lives and the world. Just look at Oprah! She came from ‘the hood’ and now she is arguably one of the most influential and powerful women in the entire world. There are also many people that have had the world given to them on a golden platter (because silver is for sissies) and choose to indulge in sloth, greed, and lust rather than take on any responsibilities. We are not by-products of our surroundings; we have choices, and it’s those choices that make us who we are.

Wealth. Ah, booty…how seductive thee are. I think sometimes parents forget that their daughters have to live FOREVER with someone. Just because the suitable boy in question may have wealth at that moment in time, does not under any circumstances, mean it will be there forever. Money comes and goes, and basing a life decision of that magnitude on something so transient is silly, naive, and wholly unoriginal. “I ain’t sayin’ she a golddigger, but ain’t messin’ with no broke [people]…” Who wants to be THAT girl? I recognize everyone wants to live comfortably and indulge in luxuries, but is it so important that it becomes a deciding factor in someone’s worth?

Physical attributes are also subjective, unless we’re going to discuss Jay Sean… in which case it is a rule of life that he was, is, and always will be supercalifragilisitcacebealidocious hot. Physical beauty is fleeting and it is one’s personality that is forever. A person is not good or bad because they’re tall, fair, or hot (Jay Sean is the exception to every rule.ever.). People are good or bad based on their actions. It breaks my heart when I see wonderful people putting up with things they would normally abhor simply because their partner is good looking. Being attractive does not give someone a free pass to treat people badly. Looking past one’s physical appearances and truly seeing someone for who they are is a beautiful quality to have and one that should be cherished. I identify with wanting a partner that is easy on the eyes, but let me reiterate something: is it so important that it becomes a deciding factor in someone’s worth?

I am truly befuddled everytime I hear parents casually conversing about castes and ‘appropriate’ places and families their daughters can get married into. My biggest gripe with this is the fact that the ideology is dated. Albeit, I realize the importance of making sure your darling child is married into a family that will love and treat her the way you have for ‘X’ amount of years, but what does caste have to do with that? If we were living in India and were subject to the societal rules and regulations of the castes in question, I would not be voicing my concerns here. HOW is it possible to deem someone acceptable or not based on the geographical location of their ‘gaam’ or where they stand on the caste system? We live in a time where people are judged based on their actions rather than their family ancestory; our society thrives on the respect gained from actions. How can we then go backwards and cling to dated forms of worth when it comes to finding a suitable boy?

The conflict here lies in the generation gap; a lot of our parents are the first generation out of South Asia and have had struggled most of their adult lives to blend into American culture, while defiantly keeping their South Asian identity alive. We, on the other hand, have assimilated beautifully into American culture and have struggled to find our South Asian balance. The result? A shift in important values in a life partner; most of our parents were arranged by their parents whom they assumed knew best. This meant that the above items were not only acceptable, they were necessary because they fit in with the time period and societal ways. On the other hand, most of us now have grown up more independent and feel WE know best when it comes to choosing a life partner; this includes finding someone that is ambitious, motivated, determined, confident, funny, loving, trusting, and honest. The difference? The ‘suitable boy’ checklist went from tangible items to characteristics. We see worth in people for their potential and their actions, our parents deem worthiness by verifiable evidence.

If our parents stepped away from the black and white world of their checklists for just one moment, they would notice that there is a whole spectrum of colors waiting across the threshold . If they did, maybe then daughters wouldn’t be terrified of letting their parents down if they dared to fall in love with an ‘unsuitable boy’. We girls could also cut our parents some slack, if we just appreciated the reason for their ideology more, we could see that in between the black and white of the ‘suitable boy’ checklist, there are glimmers of vibrant colors; we just need to hold out our hand and learn to walk beside our parents instead of ahead or behind them.

Every Action has a Reaction

Sometimes I feel as though one event can become the one event that changes everything. That’s not fair. Things happen, often out of our control, why then must we be the ones to pay for the reactions of others’ actions. I always say:

“I can only control my actions, not the actions of others, nor the reactions that are caused because of them.”

Why must I pay for the actions of another?

One minute I am strolling down this beautiful cobblestone road, allowing the aroma of fantastically bright and fresh daisies to encompass my senses, the cerulean sky dotted with fluffy white clouds, the sun shyly peeking through exploring the possibilities of life and love. The next, the storm of the century lashes about me whilst I stumble and look around for shelter or an umbrella. There was no prediction of rain, definitely none of this magnitude, yet there it was. I walk down the same cobblestone path, fallen branches and leaves withering around me; I did not cause the storm, yet the repercussions and the clean up are mine alone.

My point here is- Sometimes things happen, plans get changed, and things we are dying for are delayed. That is no reason to step back and withdraw yourself. If something or someone is worth it to you, despite the disappointment and hurt, you have to power through. Don’t throw your plans in the garbage and settle for more ‘general ones’ because the plans you separate yourself from…could very well be the hopes, wishes, and dreams of another. Those ‘deadlines’ could mean the world to someone else.

“The most perfect things in life never come easy; you’re constantly tested. If something or someone is worth it though, you never give up.”