Wednesday, October 26, 2011


Education: If proper education were given to everyone, what would our Nation look like?

It's interesting what kind of people you meet, and conversations you get into down here in, "Back of the yards." I get to sit and listen and watch what is going on around me. Here at work, every day is different. Some days I am busy tutoring away. Other days I have nothing to do. But that's the best part, because then I get to just sit and talk to who ever walks in the door. The boys are starting to recognize that I will be here for a while. I am always warmly greeted with a hand shake or a smile. I love it.

I was talking to Sr. Donna about who knows what and we started talking about education. Between boys and girls in Juvi and who walk through our doors, we come in contact with many young people. I am always impressed to meet and listen to whatever they have to say and I am always impressed by some of them. There are so many of these kids who are so smart and well spoken. You hear what they have to say, and sometimes I feel like I could close my eyes and be listening to some impressive lecture. No joke. Or even if they are in Juvi for drugs or for whatever reason they are there. There are some that can do math quicker than I can (okay maybe that's not saying much..... I'm not a huge fan of math). Or know how to do things I had no idea possible like: prying the metal part of a pencil off to stick it into a light socked (apparently its not strong enough to electrocute you, but fumes come out of it... sooooo you can smell it......) Sure, that knowledge definitely is not necessary, but that's smart stuff. The point that I am getting to is..... what if these minds were taught and given proper education. They are more than qualified. The brains down here are good minds. Those minds are thrown into jail because of their actions, but what if they had real education? It just bewilders me to think that there could be writers, activists, politicians, doctors, nurses, lawyers ... down here. If only education got more attention and took care of more children..... Maybe there wouldn't be as many arrests, killings, shootings, gangs? Sure you could argue that they had a different education, raised differently than myself.... duh. Of course I don't know how to hot wire a car in 5 seconds. There is street smarts sure, but what about education. If some of the kids had education like myself... how it should be.... What would our world look like?

Saturday, October 22, 2011

new tastes yummmm

This week has been the week of some new things that were actually pretty delicious. The girl that I am working with, teaching her how to read, and I decided to take a little field trip. We had been talking all week about different food in the area, what were her favorites and so on. So, Thursday when I picked her up she directed me to a little place around where she lives, which is in the Hispanic area of "Back of the Yards." That is where we got these little goodies. I  forgot what they are actually called though... (I know I'm a genius) The one on the left is like a yogurt parfait... but different! The yogurt is much lighter and thinner than yogurt. Mixed in is a whole bunch of different fruits; strawberries, bananas, guava, papaya and then some granola. Then we got these other things, (on the right) They are everywhere. Whenever you look at a street side vendor in our area you always see these pin wheel things. Traditionally you add lemon juice and chili. I don't really know how to describe them other than they are NOT good for you, and they are delicious.

I have learned that we have to throw in some fun things. Teaching someone older how to read is hard enough. There are times that both her and I get frustrated with each other. But, adding in a little fun and letting her teach me something (food and there Spanish sayings) helps out a lot. It has helped keep the two of us on an equal playing ground. (This coming week is.... taco week!!! I cannot wait.)

Here are a few things I have come in contact with this week that I have become even more aware of. Racism (I was dumb enough to think that in the 21st century there wasn't very much racism anymore) stupid me... its everywhere.... just in a different form. I was talking to an African American PO (probation officer) and a fellow co-worker (she is Hispanic). It is safe to say that I am the minority in my work, neighborhood environment. There is so much crime, drugs and gang violence ect in the area I work in. Talking specifically with these two people they expressed their feelings and insights. Black; its not a race, its a color. African American peoples identify themselves as so many different things, same with Hispanic--lesson 1. There are lighter and darker complexions that as a white person we may see but we never associate it with any kind of meaning--lesson 2. (ex. a darker Hispanic means they are from Mexico, which means more traditional/lower class) My Hispanic co-worker expressed how people treat her differently in the area when I am with her, because I am white. Its like, people are more careful.... if that makes any sense. (ex. if something were to happen to me, the cops would be on it in a matter of seconds..... not my observation, just what I have been told) lesson 3--There is corruption in the police system. Its like there is a rank of who is important, highest to lowest. How sad is that? lesson 4-- I have never thought about any of this.... from the two I was talking with replied, "there is no reason that you would don't see it and you never will because of your color" (this was said not in a mean way, just matter of factly...) wow. (eeee talking about this makes me feel like I am walking on glass, I don't want what I write to come out wrong! So, if it sounds bad.... call me, I'll explain better on the phone).

I went to juvi this week and kind of got smacked in the face by my physical appearance. I walked in, no big deal, wearing jeans flats and a nice cardigan and plaid headband. I didn't think anything of it. One of the girls looked me up and down and told me I looked like a white, rich girl who her mommy and daddy spoil and buy me everything I want. ouch. My rebound was that I had paid for everything that I was wearing and somehow spun it into a lesson. Teaching her that with my hard work, going through college with a part time job at a clothing store paid off..... she bought it. But the fact of the matter was that, that was the last thing I wanted one of those kids to look at me and see. Truth: what I told her is 100% true. But... I'm not there to look all superior and uppity. I am there because I want to be. I'm not there to preach, just there to talk. Some of them get it....but....some just see me as she saw me, and that sucks.

As this week has ended, I look forward to see whatever happens in the coming week. I have learned to never plan anything, just go with it. I have also learned I am quick on my toes (surprised the heck out of me). Who knows who will walk through the door, who I will meet, what kid will come in with an open wound (yes, that 2 and a half years of nursing school paid off... I had a patient the other day... nursing friends how do you feel about super glue stitches... Lord knows he can't/won't go get actual stitches....) I am optimistic.... what else can I be?

Friday, October 14, 2011

the new girl

Ahhh I love Friday mornings.
1. sleepin in a little bit
2. run or not to run (oh wait that has been every day... I need motivation for that part of my mornings)
3. off to Bridgeport coffee house. yummm long mornings in a coffee house, enjoying my vanilla latte, writing on this thing and simply watching time pass by as I write, catch up and people watch.....

Earlier this week... Wednesday I wrote a post but decided to delete it. That day I got a care package from a friend, and I must say it was very thought out. Each little item represented something only a best friend would know. A care package is supposed to make you happy and at ease.... this one made me cry. Cry a lot harder than I have since I have been here. So I escaped the walls of my apartment to wallow in a chi latte. In the deleted Wednesday post I complained and spoke of being homesick and questions of why I came here in the first place. All these doubts came drifting through my mind. And then I had a phone call from someone brilliant. As I sat there in near tears complaining, he simply said... well... what did you expect? Did you expect everything to be easy? Did you expect to have friends in 5 minutes after you were there? You need to take it easy.

No one had really told me to sit back and "take it easy." No one had put me in my place and made me think. As I sat there and really thought about who I was, who I was becoming, did I like who that person was? All these thoughts came into play and as I walked home, the moment I walked in the door I turned my computer on and deleted that Wednesday night post asap. That person Wednesday night was sitting there feeling sorry for herself.  I decided to get over her, she's gone. Though there are times that I come in contact with people, places or stories that make me feel... sad... or I may get homesick, I know that I have to just keep moving. And the longer I sit and think I am alone the more I turn into that girl who feels sorry for herself. (I don't like her) There are so many opportunities that I have been presented with. Instead of feeling awkward and a burden (how I have felt in the past) I have decided to just go with it, have fun, and be the "new girl." I have embraced her. (and I must admit I like her a lot.) I have a new strength and a new courage to myself. I feel much more comfortable in my shoes.

Enough of that whole emo shmeeemo junk.... moving on :)

Teaching someone to read ----- NOT easy.
The English language is absolutely ridiculous. Why does every stupid letter have if not 2 but 3 different sounds? and then stupid rules like the "y" sounds like "y" or "ie" (ready) or "ya" (yellow)???? Then when you explain all that, some other stupid word comes along that all I can say is "well you just have to memorize that word. That's just what it is, that's how you read it. So, memorize it..... dear lord ...... I am not an educator.... just trying... very hard!

Oh, have I mentioned that my patience kind of sucks. I have always thought I was a pretty patient person. (My Mom would say otherwise. I have to admit.... she was right.... hate it when that happens)

I wish I could sit and talk about Juvi and type everything out. But it is way to much and so hard to explain. There are stories and faith that I have learned from so many of those kids. Then there are times that some of those kids and straight liars. I must admit, they tell a pretty good story. There are so many times that I want to call them out, and tell them that they don't have to tell a lie to me. Some I do, but some I don't. If telling a "story" makes them feel better so be it. Another thing about Juvi, I have learned. So many times I get waved down by a unit, so many want to "pray," (aka this gives them a chance to hold my hand... dear lord) or some ask for a hug. I have learned that I have to laugh and walk away. The first time I fell for the "praying," request I got the reaction of... "your hand are so soft girl," or "you smell so good girl." So... needless to say slowly but surely I have indeed learned. A wave, smile and "God bless" is just fine sometiems. You know when a kid is serious or not. But... I have learned to just go with it, in a guarded way. I don't mind most of the time... if it bothered me that much... then I would fear going back... instead I almost look forward to returning... so.....

I think I need to take a yoga class or something... to practice some meditation... Somehow I need to stay a little mentally balanced. As the weather is nice right now.... what happens when Chicago freezes me? I can't go running in crazy snow? huh new mission...... Groupon please present a cheap alternative to running!

Well, I have people watched for far to long and my poor latte is almost yucky cold.... I better head to the center to gear up for a sweet "College prep/discussion/circle!" A new little thing a co-worker, intern and I are starting. Hopefully some of the boys show up... fingers crossed!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Hope: the feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best. (

Hope is a word that I think I come in contact with every day. Whether it is lost, given up on, forgotten, betrayed by, wanted or desperately clung to. I've kind of talked about it before but it comes up so much more often than I thought. Specifically there is a girl that I met in Juvi and I cannot wait for her to come to our center soon! I met her while she was in for her first offense. From that first meeting I had this feeling that this place (juvi) is not where she should be. She has a loving family, has gone through some major hardship and has every reason to give up (Though I still don't know why she is in there... all she keeps saying is that she was helping someone out?) She has my card (ohh yeah that's another exciting thing! I have my own cards now! I'm like official or something.) But she sat their talking, coloring the wall of her cell (its part of an art project.... don't worry she was allowed to color on the walls) talking about how she understands why she is there ect ect. She wants to come to our center so that it keeps her busy and out of trouble. She just needs someone to talk to. (Oh and she was outraged that I haven't really been shopping around the city.... she may just be my shopping tour guide..... ) My biggest surprise was that she still had hope. No one had taken that from her. yet. Hopefully, she will never lose it. not on my time. But she is only one example of someone who still has hope. Others... that's a whole other story.

Over the past two weeks I have checked out and been a part of some seminars and lectures (oh lala). One was on the jail system in our country and the other was about working with youth. The one on the jail systems opened up my eyes to a whole problem I have never even considered. I have always thought that whoever is in jail deserves it, they obviously have done something to get there. (If co-workers are reading this I PROMISE I HAVE CHANGED MY IDEA!!) Putting a child in jail serves maybe 1% of good. Hey, I mean they get some free meals and get to sit and watch some movies (which have guns and violence in them, real helpful in teaching anything right?) and just relax. Talking to one youth he said that his first time in, he didn't mind it because he just hung out. Another youth was outraged by the whole system because she has to earn a certain level (you get some privileges if you are a "good kid." She has to earn a level 4 privilege just to see her child). Why does she have to earn time to see HER child. ohh she was heated. Can't disagree with her either. At least she wants to see her child. (That isn't always the case). Why isn't there more money put into programs of discipline and learning? Instead there are thousands, I'm sorry Millions.... of dollars put into building huge stone walls, having the latest security systems, and not only structures, but employing people to work in the jail. You add that all up and you would be shocked! (I know I was) If a quarter of that money were put into after school programs for kids maybe there would be no reason to send a kid to jail because instead of being busy playin some ball they were robbing the gas station on the corner. Or if a crime was committed, why can't we put money into programs that actually work to teach kids something rather than shutting them up in a closet for a week? Believe me I could go on for hours and I realize this is only cracking the surface because I have only just began to learn.

I came into this experience thinking, "Hey yeah I get to work with at risk youth. Some may have come from jails, but I will get to talk and work with them and make them a better person!" Oh Bon. All I was thinking was that I wanted to help and learn. And oh have I learned. You can't try and tell them how to be successful. You have to listen. Think of success. Everyone has their own definition. I feel successful because I dreamed up a dream to serve volunteer other than KC. I succeeded. The biggest thing I have learned here in the past couple of weeks is presence. Presence can be one of your strongest tools and it can be the biggest difference in one of the kids lives. Has anyone ever really listened to them? no. (Hey PBMR spirituality!)

Over the past few weeks I have certainly found myself in a different world. I knew it would happen, but I guess I just didn't think it would be completely as is. I have not only two parents who are (aaaamazing) and are still together, two siblings, both still living. I have never had friends who were in gangs. I grew up never having to worry about food on the table or money. I got to grow up slowly (as it should be). I got to experience everything a kid should be able to experience. Talking with some of the boys and girls that walk in and out of our door I am shocked by the experiences that they grew up with. Again I am shocked by how I respond. I just sit and listen and ask more questions and they share what they want. They know (well maybe) I did not grow up as they did, yet they don't seem to care at all. I don't know how to put how that feels. Its not that I feel sorry for them, because then that sounds like I am judging. I guess its just hope. I hope that they can turn their experiences into memories that they do not want to re-live. I hope that they want to better themselves. I hope that they go to school to earn an education and learn to love and make a difference. I can sit and hope all I want. But sitting here and hoping for all these things doesn't do a whole lot. I gotta be present and put a little action into that hope.

For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.
Romans:8 24-25

(These blog posts are soooo scatter brained. If you can follow then I applaud you.)

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