Wednesday, July 14, 2010


The title says it all. Although I also thought that the Public Speaking Skills workshop was amazing and very effective in terms of learning and applicability, the Diversity activity we had in the evening really blew me out of the water. It developed form a closer bond between all of the girls in our class. Today will be one of the most important days that I will remember after I leave Brown University.

Dr. Jen Madden came into our class with a power to grasp the attention in the room. In other words, she was very good at speaking to us with authority and charisma. She was the epitome of a powerful woman. Throughout the class, she spoke of the many problems that one can encounter when presenting something in front of an audience. Her style of teaching us triggered me to think about why I become nervous, fidgety or quiet while giving a speech. I realized my mistakes and worked on them. With the notes I took in class today, I can say that I will become very good at giving speeches next Friday.

During our afternoon break, Irene and I thought about trying the Ballroom Dance lesson offered at campus. To our disappointment, we waited for over a half-hour for an instructor to show up. None ever showed and so with a bitter face, we left the Hall. I wouldn't have assumed that it would have happened that way. But oh well, perhaps next week there will be a better activity (that an actual instructor will show up for) for us to participate in.

However, the highlight of the day--or rather the highlight of the week--was the diversity group activity. I cannot describe the whole exercise in words; it's hard to describe the feeling you get when you learn on a deeper, more spiritual level.

Now, going into the diversity exercise at the beginning, I simply assumed that it would be about race, culture, or perhaps socioeconomic status. However, I was proved wrong, and I was glad for that. Diversity can be an array of things: sexual orientation, disability/ability status, religion, age, gender, international status, and so on. Now, I typically would think of these things too, but the way I've been taught and the things I have seen in the media portrays diversity typically as race or culture (just check out those college brochures they always send you in the mail!). After establishing the types of diversity in the world, we moved on to the next level of the activity.

To keep confidentiality in our group, I cannot discuss what spoke about after that initial "lecture". But I would say that many of the exercises we did made me more open-minded. I cannot find the right words to describe how I felt during the whole evening, but I can say that although all the girls are from many different parts of the world, we all found some sort of commonality with each other. Perhaps several persons are not financially privileged, but those same people experienced the issue of divorced parents. It might be possible some girls have the same religious beliefs, but they diverge in their sexual orientation. A girl might feel like she's the only one worrying about falling in love, but it turns out that she isn't the only one. We are all interlaced with each other in one way or another.

After the whole activity, I felt very renewed. And even though the emotion washed away, the deeper understanding I attained is still with me. I understand diversity so much more now. I look at people in a different light. All of these workshops and lectures are helping me become a stronger, smarter, wiser, empathetic, pragmatic and determined woman leader.

My action plan is slowly but surely proceeding. At first, I was not sure what to do to help out my community. Of course, there are many ways to do so. However, grounded in my belief of the proverb, "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, but teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime", I did not want to have a plan that would merely touch at the surface of a very difficult issue we have in the world. Although doing things like running drives and donating clothes are great ways to help out other people, it does not address the root causes of why they need the clothes or food in the first place. Many times, I know that the issue can be too big to combat. But are many ways to start. Sure, it's nice to think about the unfortunate people in other places of the world, but what about the unfortunate people right here in our own backyard? I had to focus on something realistic, possible and sustainable. I repeat, sustainable. I think that consistency is the most important element when trying to make a difference in the world, so I always kept that in mind.

One of my possible ideas for an Action Plan is to raise awareness about the DREAM Act, or laws similar to the DREAM Act. For those of you who do not know, this act enables undocumented students who have been in the U.S. for a long time and in good academic standing to be eligible for permanent residency by earning a bachelor's degree, meaning that they would be able to attend an institution of high education. Rallying support would be one way of doing my action plan. But it branches out: perhaps I can create alliances with other organizations that do these kinds of things to help me reach my goal. Lina, a girl in our class from Massachusetts, also does this kind of work. She even suggested that we combine some of our ideas and support systems to spread the word. I would not be alone in doing this project. It might be possible that I will have a petition for people to sign. I am still not sure, but this is one of my ideas.

Another idea I have is to persuade our principal at Richmond High School to hire more college counselors. There is only one official advisor working at RHS, so it is difficult for all the students to get the attention they deserve. One of the goals of the school is to increase the percentage of students going to a four-year college or university. But because of the lack of a college culture on campus, it becomes a challenge. A benefit to possibly working on this issue would be the fact that I work with Youth Together at my high school, a non-profit organization that focuses on educational justice in the Bay Area. We actually worked on this project my junior year and we held a college fair right on our campus. We are also working on a proposal to present to the RHS staff for next year, so it is very likely that I might choose this plan too.

Ropes course is tomorrow. I can't wait! I'm ready for an adventure!

1 comment:

  1. Over the years, one of the problems I’ve seen with this class is the Action Plan. Too many times our students try to take on the problems of the world. While this is admirable, it’s also not very realistic. Even if they were a world leader they might have problems implementing some of their ideas but as a high school student it becomes even more difficult.

    I hope you all pick Action Plans that include things you actually have some control over. When the plan becomes too complex, it also becomes too easy for our students later to see the futility of their plan and the plan is abandoned.

    I would suggest that you come up with a list of problems that are local in nature: for instance, in your neighborhood or your school. Once you’ve found an appropriate problem, then try to figure out what you can do to correct this problem. Keep in mind that you’re being asked not to do the actual work but to lead others so it becomes a joint project with numerous owners.

    Sometimes this requires physical work and sometimes it just requires getting the word out to educate people.

    Good examples of this were the efforts put forth after the horrendous gang rape episode last Fall at RHS. Meetings were held and open dialogues were established that had the potential of educating segments of the community that saw nothing wrong with what happened; that were telling people that she had it coming; that professed that a woman should just sit back and enjoy ‘it’. There was potential for change at that time but was the plan well thought out? Did it really affect change? What did the plan do it perpetuate the dialogue.

    These are all the kinds of things you need to think about as you develop a plan. The buzzword of the day is “sustainability”. Is your solution to this problem sustainable? Will it go on even after the buzz and hubbub has settled down?

    The Action Plan you described recognizes a real problem and you have a good handle on implementing your plan. Something you might consider, though, is whether your plan will actually make a difference. Talking to the very same people who might benefit from this plan will only do so much good. It will do little to get the DREAM Act passed or implemented. As the old saying goes, you may be preaching to the choir. Do you want to spend your precious time and resources in converting people who are already on board or should you be talking to the uneducated masses to bring them into the fold? Do you want to simply rally the faithful in your own neighborhood or do you want to rally people where change can actually take place?

    You’re already asking many of the right questions about how to accomplish your goals and your idea of branching out and forming alliances with people in other areas looks good and promising.

    Your idea about trying to get more counselors at your school is a good one. When you see a problem like this, though, you have to look at it from both sides so you understand what the problem really is. Do you think that your principal thinks that your school only needs one counselor? Is there any chance that his hands are tied due to budgetary constraints? Keep in mind that you attend school in a district that recently needed to close ten schools largely because they couldn’t even afford the energy bills to keep the lights on. When the School Board divvies up their limited resources and hands your principal a small box of funds at the beginning of the school year he/she has to decide where that money should go. If he feels that an additional counselor is warranted, at the same time he has to decide what programs he can cut to pay for that counselor. Afterschool sports, the arts and music programs, the library, a teacher or two? Since there’s no more money on that box, something has to go if you want something extra. That’s a toughie.