Tuesday, September 27, 2016

A Story Dedicated to my Grandma

My grandma is a creature of habit. She wakes up every morning and after drinking her Hispanic milk and coffee concoction she gets ready for her daily routine. It all starts with her regular morning walk around her neighborhood, during which she makes sure to visit every house in town and engage in conversation with every neighbor. Her conversations always involve talking about current town events or other important local gossip. However, it is her questions such as “How is your son doing?” or “Are you feeling better?” that reveal the main intentions behind these visits—her need to make sure that everyone is doing okay in her neighborhood. My grandma has lived in this small Dominican neighborhood for more than thirty years, and she has become a recognized character in this place. She knows everyone and everyone knows Mercedes, “Mama Tata” as some people prefer to call her. As she continues her stroll through her beloved streets, she is constantly stopped by different people wanting to talk to her or by the sound of someone shouting “Good morning, Mama Tata!”

However, her routine does not end there. After completing her long walk, she prepares for her second most important task of the day, which is preparing lunch for her large family. However, “family” for my grandma does not only consist of her immediate kin; it also includes a large number of neighbors and friends. Since she considers them part of her family, she believes that it is her responsibility to ensure that they are also always well fed. Every day my grandma prepares an extra plate of food that she keeps separate from the meal that she serves to her immediate family. This plate is not to be touched—not matter how badly you want seconds—as the meal belongs to any friend or neighbor who did not have enough money to afford a meal that day. This untouchable meal never went to waste however, as every day a different neighbored or friend would sit at our table and eat the meal that had been set aside.  
Unfortunately, my move from the Dominican Republic to the United States has prevented me from continuing to be part of my grandma’s daily routine. I’m not longer her companion during her walks, as I often was when we lived together. I’m also unable to be present during her meals. Nevertheless, these events have shaped who I am today. Many of the people my grandma visited during these walks were older residents who often felt alone and abandoned by their families. You could always see in their face how appreciative they were of my grandma’s daily visits. These types of interactions taught me about the importance of caring for others. This lesson has stayed with me for years, and it is one of the main reasons why today I want to be a youth worker. My grandma’s caring and protective spirit has been an important influence in my life, and that is why I consider her one of the most significant coauthors in my life story.   

List of significant vocabulary words and concepts from the chapter reading          
  • Social Construction
  • Theoretical Thinking
  • Theoretical Imagination
  • Co-construct
  • Guiding Stories
  • Interpsychological Development
  • Scaffolding
  • Zone of Proximal Development 
  • Co-authoring
  • Mental Bridge

List of coauthors from my life story              
  • My mother (Delsy)
  • My father (Robert)
  • Sisters (Laura and Katherina)
  • Boyfriend (Michael)
  • Ex-boyfriend (Anthony)
  • Best Friend (Tanny)
  • Grandma (Mercedes)
  • Brothers (Tito and Joshua)
  • Teacher (Miss Dolores)
  •  Friend (Andrew)

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Color Brave

There are different ways in which a person can feel invisible. For example, people with disabilities feel invisible when the buildings and the streets that they frequent are not designed with their disabilities in mind, making it hard for them to move around these spaces. Teenagers feel invisible when their opinions are not heard just because they are considered too young to have one. And people of color feel invisible when they are told that their differences are not real and the difficulties that they experience because of said differences do not exist.  This forced invisibility of race is what Mellody Hobson and Nayyrah Waheed describe as “color blindness.”
Color blindness is a phrase that many have used with the intention of expressing their believed lack of racism; however, as Waheed describes it, in reality the person using this phrase is stating his or her need for individuals of color to become invisible, even if he or she does not realize it. For many, their skin color is not only a diversifying characteristic but it is also a symbol of pride and an aspect that defines them.  Turning a blind eye to a person’s skin color is erasing who they are. 
Mellody Hobson
Besides erasing people, using the term color blindness has other negative consequences, such as the ironic effect of fostering racism. Hobson explains this best in her TED talk presentation when she says, “Now, color blindness, in my view, doesn’t mean that there’s no racial discrimination, and there’s fairness. It doesn’t mean that at all. It doesn’t ensure it. In my view, color blindness is very dangerous because it means we’re ignoring the problem.” When racial differences are ignored so are the issues that people of color have to confront and the possible solutions to these problems, thus enforcing racism.

In response, Hobson offers a solution to stop this erasing of color and people. Instead of being blind to differences in race, Hobson argues, we should create more opportunities to reflect and talk about these differences. In others words, we should be more “color brave.” Being color brave, however, can be difficult, especially if other people are not ready for the race talk. I remember when I casually brought up the issue of race in front of a couple of coworkers. I was sitting at work—a summer camp that caters to a mostly upper-class population—with other coworkers when one of the children approached me and asked why my skin was brown. Without any hesitation, I explained to her that people come in different colors: tan, black, white. I could not finish my conversation as one coworker interrupted, trying to stop the uncomfortable discussion. Being a first-generation Hispanic and growing up in a racially mixed household, I have never found the talk to be an issue, but incidents such as this demonstrated that not everyone is as open about race. That is why I want to conclude this entry by praising organizations such as Youth in Action, which offers youth an environment in which they can interact with people of diverse backgrounds and express their opinions about issues such as race and racial injustice without the fear of being censored or reprimanded about their thoughts. We need more places where color blindness is not accepted and color bravery is embraced.  

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Leading with Youth

Image result for youth in action“I’m glad I’m not that age anymore” is a phrase I have often used while reminiscing about my teenage years. For me, being a teenager was not that bad; I had a great support system that consisted of a close group of friends and family members who loved me, and without the demands of college and work, I had more free time to be involved in hobbies such as art and sports. Nevertheless, there is a reason that phrase always comes to mind when I think about those years, a reason that I believe many other teenagers can relate to. That reason is freedom of expression and how often I was denied it.
As a teenager, it was common for me to feel that my opinion did not matter. This was especially true in school, a place where, even though I spent most of my teenage years inside it, I was never allowed to offer my opinion regarding the curriculum or even the appearance of the classroom. If I ever raised concerns about such issues, I was always seen as disruptive. It was a strange predicament; as a teenager I was expected to be mature and start preparing for adulthood but at the same time I was not allowed to express my ideas or voice my beliefs just as a confident adult would.
My experiences as a teenager are exactly the type of situations that Youth in Action is trying to prevent. With its philosophy of leading with youth, the program fosters a welcoming environment where teens can express their opinion without fear of judgement or reprehension. With its location on the south side of Providence, YIA opens its doors to one of the youth populations most vulnerable to this type of censorship--teenagers belonging to working-class families--and offers them the opportunity not only to become part of the organization but also to become leaders and decision-makers within it. YIA youth members are allowed to assume leadership positions, such becoming members of the board of directors, and they have a say in any decision made in the organization, from what color paint should be used on the walls to decisions regarding the organizations budget. In YIA youth is not a seen as just teens but also as important members of their community with significant opinions and ideas of how to make Providence better. Youth are given a voice by not only teaching them how to express their opinion about issues they believe need change but they are also given the opportunity to take real action in this change by allowing them to create, lead and participate in programs aim to make an impact in the community.

Looking back, I can see how a place like Youth in Action would have been beneficial for me and my peers--a free and open environment where we would have been allowed to express our opinions without the fear of being label as disobedient or rule-breakers. Youth in Action's philosophy of leading with youth would have helped me become a more confident and expressive teenager even in places where I was not allowed to be. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

The Seven Characteristics of Youth Work

Image result for youth development
            It is sometimes difficult to differentiate between Youth Work and other youth-related professions as many of Youth Work’s defining characteristics, values, and principles are similar to other occupations. For example, as described in the article, a youth worker must guide youths by “[Enabling] young people to develop holistically, working with them to facilitate their personal, social and educational development, to enable them to develop their voice, influence and place in society and to reach their full potential” (Thompson, Westwood,Wood, 2015, p. 2).Though this definition successfully describes some of the defining characteristics of the Youth Work profession, it fails to specify what makes the profession different from other youth-related occupations. A youth social worker can help their clients “develop holistically,” and a teacher can facilitate their students’ “personal, social, and educational development” and “enable them to reach their full potential” (Thompson, Westwood, Wood, 2015, p. 2). What makes Youth Work unique, however, can be best described by the seven characteristics that are not only central to the profession, but are often unique to the trade.
      Youth Work is an Educational Practice
As opposed to the type of education that is often present in schools, Youth Work educational practices are more informal. Education is less based on curricula or pre- “determined learning outcomes” (Thompson, Westwood, Wood, 2015, p. 2).  It is, instead, fostered by establishing open, trusting relationships between youth workers and youths and by creating environments that encourage learning. In some instances, however, youth workers must lead programs–or work for organizations–where more formal educational practices are necessary. An example of this would be a sex education program. It is the youth worker’s job to find innovative and creative ways to communicate this information through games, art-based projects, and other creative activities.
          Youth Work is a Social Practice
Is not uncommon for youth workers to work one-on-one with youths, however, in the profession, it is often preferable to work with groups rather than individuals. By working with groups, youth workers can foster collectivism and create comfortable, open environments for youths where they are able to “test their values, attitudes, and behaviors” with others (Thompson, Westwood, Wood, 2015, p. 2). An example of this type of environment is my youth development class, a place where working in groups and collectivism are often encouraged. This, in turn, creates an open, comfortable environment where my peers and I can freely express our values, attitudes, and behaviors.  
Youth Workers Actively Challenge Inequality and Work Toward Social Justice 
Youth workers’ jobs go beyond just educating youths about the impacts of oppression and inequality. They also include empowering youths by addressing power imbalances and teaching youths how to challenge oppressive circumstances.
Image result for new urban arts
 New Urban Arts artist mentor
working with a student
When Possible, Young People Choose to be Involved
Is not always possible for youths to freely choose to be part of a program, especially if the program is run in a school or is a court mandate. However, youth programs are run on a voluntary basis for the most part. This means that youths are allowed to participate in programs and become members of groups of their own choosing. Of all the youth programs that I have visited, New Urban Arts best exemplifies this trait. In this program, youths are not only in charge of deciding whether they want to be a part of the program, but they are also in charge of creating their own curricula. They decide which art project they would like to work on, and they choose which art teacher they want to work with.  
Youth Work Seeks to Strengthen the Voice and Influence of Young People
One of the main jobs of youth workers is to empower youth and to encourage them to positively affect their environments. In order to foster empowerment and inspire change, youth workers must first educate youths by fostering democratic knowledge and promoting democratic behavior.
Youth Work is a Welfare Practice
Another important characteristic of Youth Work is the focus on the welfare and protection of youths. Youth workers should always advocate for the well being of young people. This is a significant and important practice as many youth workers often work with at-risk youths or youths living in disadvantaged areas. 
Youth Work Works with Young People “Holistically”

Young people often encounter challenges and obstacles that are complex and particular to them. Working with youth “holistically” means that the youth worker understands the diversity of these problems and the complexity of the individual rather than trying to define said individual by a single issue.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

About Me

Hello! My name is Isa Cespedes I love art, science
and working with children
I love to draw plants and other types of organic figures. This is a drawing that I made of a plantain plant  a plant native to my country, the Dominican Republic.

My goal is to combine my love of art and since with the work I do with children just like in this shadow puppet video that I and a group of middle school children created.

If I'm not doing school work or doing something artistic I like to spend time with my family 
and with my boyfriend of five years