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education

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GOING GREEK

Why choosing a Latina founded sorority doesn’t mean I chose a “side”


GOING GREEK via Swirl Nation Blog

So I’m a sorority girl in the loosest sense of the term. I’m a proud member of the Greek community and have been since I was 18 years old (they got me early, what can I say?).  I did not come from a Greek centric family or lineage in my household and to be frank my parents were pretty not on board for be joining the whole Greek universe. Granted with the popularity of media making vigilantes out of fraternity and sorority life that to the mainstream represents money, partying, and hazing, could you blame them?

However; when I was afforded the chance to learn and choose what organization I wanted to pledge my time and devotion to, I was given three options at UTSA (Hey Roadrunners) MGC (Multicultural Greek Council), PHC (PanHellenic Council) and NPHC (National PanHellenic Council/ The Divine 9).  As much as I’d love to make this an education on the Greek system (that post will come later since the general public is very ill-advised in what Greek life looks like today), I wanted to discuss why I chose Kappa Delta Chi National Sorority Inc.  Which is apart of (MGC) instead of going NPHC (historically African American organizations).

I was very bright eyed and bushy tailed to Greek life going in and was really surprised to know there was options for people like me. People of color, which movies and media rarely highlight in their portrayal of over the top houses with lavish vehicles and cute bedspreads (San Antonio has none of these btw).  With the many options I had to ask myself what did I want in a sorority? What did I want for myself? I wanted sisterhood, friendship, community, and somewhere where I would be comfortable. One of the first people I met was my future Big Erica Proo who I got to interview for a class project (not Greek related) and noticed she was wearing a collared shirt with a sorority logo I hadn’t recognized.

At that point in my first semester of college I had been exposed through my friends to NPHC (Divine 9) only and wasn’t aware that Latina based organizations existed. I inquired about her organization and she invited me to meet more of her sisters later on that semester. Maritza Villegas, Samira Lopez, Erica, and their advisor made an impression on me that inspired me to get more involved on campus and choose a smaller, diverse, more intimate organization versus a larger one that may not foster growth culturally and individually, as I needed being a freshman. KDCHI was Latina founded, but I didn’t feel like I had to be an expert Latina or that was a culturally criteria to join. I felt welcomed and eager to be apart of an organization that promoted sisterhood, community service, and academics despite not being fully Latina.

Upon joining the organization in Spring 2009 I was not only welcomed into the sisterhood but Greek life in it’s entirety which despite my specific sorority membership promoted Greek unity and support collectively to be active students and members of the San Antonio community. UTSA Greek life worked to have communal events for the councils to interact with each other in professional, social, and service based settings so I was constantly fostering friendships and learning about what the other sororities and fraternities represented. I often got asked why I chose KDCHI when I could have gone Divine 9, and to be honest funds, accessibility played a large part in that.  I have a profound respect for members of the NPHC and know culturally I would have had a different experience that would have still be beneficial for me as well as the academic, community service and sisterhood they are infamous for. One of the aspects that made me appreciate MGC and NPHC specifically in my 6+ years being in Greek life is that culture, diversity, and inclusion are factors engrained in the values and foundation of the organizations versus just being an aspect of membership.

Greek life gives you experiences you wouldn’t otherwise have and as I have always said your sorority/fraternity experience depends on what you do with it. You can be a person wearing letters or a member. KDCHI showed me how to lead and follow whether it was at a meeting, collaborating with another organization for an event or teaching fellow sisters a stroll or skit. I got to interact with sisters Nationwide who all had a common goal of graduating and making their college experience one of value serving their campus and community. The friendships I fostered extended beyond my letters and taught me tolerance of other people that went outside of UTSA when we got to travel and visit fellow Greeks for conferences in San Marcos, Austin, or Houston.

KDCHI taught me an appreciation for my Latina side I hadn’t explored growing up in Killeen and gave me insight into the world of growing up in traditional Hispanic household that I did not. I learned to have my pride in my Spanish; there is more than Selena to listen to (though we love her), the art of bachata, and respect for an underserved community seeking equality amongst their peers. I never felt like I chose a side of my multiracial self because I went Latina versus Black because I still made an effort to include aspects of my heritage into my sisterhood, which they were more than willing to learn and help me grow with. I never felt excluded or that I didn’t belong because I was only half or even because I didn’t speak Spanish perfectly.  KDCHI changed my life and gave me a cultural pride in myself that I hadn’t experienced before. It’s one of the driving factors I have had in including bi-lingual characters in my writing and pushing myself to explore my biracial self, but also striving to promote cultural awareness to others.


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WHEN YOU'RE THE MINORITY AMONGST MINORITIES

Being the only multiracial graduate student amongst my classmates


WHEN YOU'RE THE MINORITY AMONGST THE MINORITIES via Swirl Nation Blog

Making a big life decision like pursuing my graduate degree in Chicago, IL where I had no family or friends available to me was one of the biggest gambles I’ve taken in my life. I never thought in uprooting my life and placing myself in a big city like Chicago I would end up feeling so culturally stifled within the four walls of my classroom. Surprise, not only was I one of three minorities out of our eleven person co-hort, but I was the only bi-racial member, and the only Hispanic. This was a realization that wasn’t only glaring obvious in the classroom, but also was a conflicted interpersonal issue I was trying to combat. I was alone in Chicago and there was nobody like me at the institution I’d committed myself to learning from for the next level of my education.

Moving outside the bubble that was my hometown of Killeen, Texas I learned with every city I explored and conquered that we were extremely unique in our diversity, racial acceptance, and cultural representation that a created beautifully mixed population. In San Antonio, I was bombarded with my Hispanic culture from each and every angle which I relished in because I wanted to perfect my Spanish and understanding of the traditional Hispanic upbringing that I was not raised with.

Luckily for me I had my best friend who is half Puerto Rican and Korean so I was not alone in feeling the realization that the multiracial bubble was smaller coming out of Killeen. I was very active as an undergraduate and involved in on campus groups as well as Greek life but being mixed was a constant reminder that I was not only aware of, but reminded of daily. Whether it was in conversation with people asking “What am I?” or having to explain the origins of myself from a physical attribute like my hair, it was a lingering concept that never disappeared.

When I made the decision to step outside of the world of Texas as I had come to know it and throw myself into Chicago I anticipated the joys of learning, growing, and immersing myself into all things graduate school could offer me. I wanted diversity and to explore the other parts of my ethnicities in an academic environment that I wasn’t necessarily afforded as an undergraduate. Much to my dismay the opposite of San Antonio happened in Chicago. The lack of racial diversity in my writing program was disheartening looking at my current co-hort and the previous/incoming classes surrounding us. I had three black classmates (2 women and 1 man) and I was the lone biracial member. While we all as students, individuals, and writers have combatted the need for authentic cultural representation in our classrooms, stories, and environment I felt an even heavier pressure.

WHEN YOU'RE THE MINORITY AMONGST THE MINORITIES via Swirl Nation Blog

There were personal aspects of my writing I wanted to explore such as bi-lingual characters, but I was dismayed to learn we had no Hispanic graduate staff to help guide or mentor me with my Spanish. I often found myself feeling conflicted about incorporating Spanish into my writing knowing I was going to have to explain translations and context to my classmates- a challenge I never had in San Antonio. It was hard explaining the world of my interracial relationships and multiracial characters to fellow classmates that had been void of biracial people in their upbringing and found the complexities of identity a hard concept to grasp. I never shied away from the challenge or apologized for it because the lack of education and representation of biracial characters in literature that aren’t the “mulatto,” figure is one of the driving reasons I chose to pursue my career as writer. Being the lone biracial student amongst a small sea of minorities at an art school that pales to the predominant white population can feel overwhelming at times. I don’t have the comforts of my best friend with me in this journey of my life who can sympathize with feeling out of place at times.

Being the only biracial member in my writing community can be disheartening at times, but I feel blessed and privilege to have the opportunity to share my story with others. Even though I can’t make the waves I want to in the lives of my classmates because let’s face it I can only speak for myself and my experience. Not only are there thousands of other multiracial blends in the world, but also their experiences are vastly different than my own. However; while I am here I remind myself of my purpose and what it is I want my writing to represent and the audience it speaks to. I will not feel guilty for placing extra work on my classmates for analyzing my Spanish and I will not step down from the challenge of showing the layers to biracial characters and the endeavors they face within their own cultures.

WHEN YOU'RE THE MINORITY AMONGST THE MINORITIES via Swirl Nation Blog

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SUPPORT KID ENTREPRENEURS WHO ARE READY TO CHANGE THE WORLD!


Hi everyone! Please humor me as I ask you to donate money;)   Kaia's school, The Incubator School, launched a crowdfunding campaign today to help support the entrepreneurship program! They received a grant last year which will match dollar for dollar the money raised so it is super important we raise as much as possible so we don't give away free money!   It is also super important to donate TODAY! Because crowdfunding campaigns do a million times better when they have a lot of support on day 1 because then the website starts supporting it and promoting it out to the world!   So PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE donate any dollar amount you can today! It starts at $10 and goes up as high as you want! The money will go towards helping young entrepreneurs like Kaia!!!  The Inc School has become a model for the future of education, but as a free, public school they need the help of friends, family, and the tech/entrepreneur community to really be successful.   Also if you have friends who are especially interested in helping education please share this with them as well! Also people at tech companies who are passionate about every kid learning how to code!   Thank you in advance!!! xx  CLICK HERE TO DONATE:  https://www.generosity.com/education-fundraising/let-s-fund-youth-entrepreneurs-at-incschool--2/x/13605963

Hi everyone! Please humor me as I ask you to donate money;) 

My daughter Kaia goes to an amazing technology and entrepreneurship pilot school in Los Angeles called The Incubator School. The Inc School has become a model for the future of education, but as a free, public school they need the help! 

Today the school launched a crowdfunding campaign today to help support the youth entrepreneurship program. Every student at the school launches their own business and pitches it to real world investors which is incredible.

If you have $10 to spare I would ask you to please donate today! The school received a grant last year so everything you donate will be matched dollar for dollar! It is super important we raise as much as possible so we don't give away free money! 

I promise the money will go to a good cause and will help young entrepreneurs like Kaia!!!

If you have friends who are especially interested in helping education please share this with them as well! Also people at tech companies who are passionate about every kid learning how to code! 

SUPPORT YOUTH ENTREPRENEURS AT THE INC SCHOOL via Swirl Nation Blog

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RACE IN THE AMERICAN CLASSROOM

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RACE IN THE AMERICAN CLASSROOM


As Black History month draws to a close, I am left wondering (as I do every year) why this important subject is continually relegated to one month. It is particularly troubling for me to think of all the kids in school who only get snippets of information and lessons over one measly month out of the year. The more important question that I always seem to reach is, why isn’t race talked about more in school?

I graduated high school in 2005, which is a long time ago, but not so far gone that I don’t remember most of my years and time in school. I have memories of learning about influential African Americans and having our history lesson about the civil right’s movement fall within Black History Month. However, it wasn’t until I started my college education that I really learned about race and the history of race in the United States. It was eye-opening, frustrating and fascinating all at the same time.

RACE IN THE AMERICAN CLASSROOM via Swirl Nation Blog

I had learned about Jim Crow laws, the three-fifths compromise and other prominent African American history events. What we never learned though is that race is a social construct. We never learned that the idea of race was created entirely in the attempt to prove that people who were not white were genetically inferior. I remember being angry that I hadn’t learned this in highschool, but I also noticed that most of my classmates were in the same boat with varying degrees of feelings about it.

My freshman writing class was devoted to reading and writing about African American history and after that class I was hooked. I jumped at every opportunity to take class about race, ethnicity or African American history. This by no means makes me an expert, but I learned enough through those classes to realize that my years in school had truly failed in respect to teaching me about race. The degree to which the information I learned “shocked and awed” me is enough evidence in and of itself.

I graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Social Studies with the hopes of becoming a teacher. After graduation, I spent a full school year student-teaching at a school in the Lansing area. In the second semester I had one class in which I was able to choose the subject matter. I chose 20th Century conflict knowing that I would have ample opportunity to teach about race. I did my best to break down the idea of race and, at the very least, have the kids leave knowing that no matter what color we are, we were all cut from the same cloth. In the end, I’m not sure if my lessons truly got through to them. There are some who might argue that the idea of race as a social construct is too dense for high schoolers. I imagine there are plenty of parents who would have a huge problem with this subject because they firmly believe that race is not a social construct.

I never ended up finding a teaching job and have since moved on from that career path. I stay in contact with teachers though (including my husband and one of my sisters) and, from what I can tell, race still isn’t talked about enough in school. I refuse to believe that high schoolers aren’t ready for at least the basics and truly think it should be an important part of our content standards (current Michigan content standards can be found herehttps://www.michigan.gov/documents/mde/SS_HSCE_9-15-09_292358_7.pdf). Perhaps in other states, or more progressive school districts, race is already taught in the manner and depth for which it deserves. I can only speak to my own experience and maybe things have gotten better in the school I attended. From what I understand though, we still have a long way to go when it comes to widening the scope of race education in our schools.

RACE IN AMERICAN SCHOOLS via Swirl Nation Blog
RACE IN THE AMERICAN CLASSROOM via Swirl Nation Blog

There is a wealth of information about starting the conversation about race on the Internet, but this one remains my favorite:  

PBS - Race: The Power of an Illusion 

After writing this I found an article about a teacher in my area and am thrilled that he decided that race was worth discussing in his classroom.

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Mentoring Moments: “Is that a Pokemon character?”

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Mentoring Moments: “Is that a Pokemon character?”

I work with young people.  Many young people do not know the value of choosing words carefully.  They do not understand connotation and inferencing.  I am so afraid of my students leaving their little comfortable bubble and getting punched in the face because of something they say, so exercises in ignorance are met with mentoring moments.

After explaining to one of my students my husband’s family is from Peru, I told the student I couldn’t wait to finally visit Peru.  I told the student I was excited for the food and finally seeing Machu Picchu.  The student asked, “Is that a Pokemon character?”  Uhh…

Mentoring Moment…

I googled Machu Picchu for the student and then had a serious talk with our Geography/Social Studies teacher.

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Mentoring Moments: “He thinks he’s black…”

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Mentoring Moments: “He thinks he’s black…”


Photo via JustinBeiberZone.com


Photo via JustinBeiberZone.com

I work with young people.  Many young people do not know the value of choosing words carefully.  They do not understand connotation and inferencing.  I am so afraid of my students leaving their little comfortable bubble and getting punched in the face because of something they say, so exercises in ignorance are met with mentoring moments.

The other day, one of my dear students exclaimed they cannot stand Justin Bieber because he thinks he’s black. OK, so… Bieber is kind of an annoying and I am embarrassed to admit I’ve really liked all of his last three singles (I can’t believe I just put that in writing, but whatever).

Mentoring moment…

I reply with, “I’m sure he knows he is not black.”

Student says, “You know what I mean.  He tries to act all gangster and he tries to be all ghetto.”

My reply, “So that is being black, being a gangster and being ghetto – I’m Black, am I a gangster or ghetto?”

Student reply: “No.”

I then explained to the student the importance of crafting their outbursts so they aren’t offensive and more appropriate words could be they don’t like the choices he makes and he is a poser.

Some people might think that we live in a too politically-correct world and we shouldn’t have to worry about sensitivities so much, but saying someone thinks they are black because they act ghetto and try to be gangster insinuates Black people are ghetto gangsters; which perpetuates stereotypes about black people and it can be dangerous.

Now, Rachel Dolezal, she does think she’s black, but that is another story…  


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The World Is LITERALLY Their Classroom!

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The World Is LITERALLY Their Classroom!

I am so inspired by the new movement in education where students ditch the traditional classroom model and instead spend their high school or college years traveling the globe.

I came across this article on nytimes.com about college programs where students change global locations throughout the year instead of being tied down to one particular campus. How cool is that?!

As a mom who is determined to raise a global citizen I was instantly intrigued. First off I wish this existed when I was in college! Second, I started doing some research to see what other programs may be out there that were similar. I particularly was intrigued by two options, Minerva Schools which is a college program and Think Global School which is a high school program.

 

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