Citizen Girl

map2Today I spent the day at Our Sisters School in New Bedford. I’ve been volunteering there as a grant writer and researcher for several months now, but rarely have the opportunity to spend an extended amount of time there during the school day. But today I made time. I knew it was special, but I didn’t realize how truly wonderful it was  or how good I would feel about being a part of it until today.

OSS is a tuition free, non secular, independent school whose mission is to educate and inspire economically challenged middle school girls from the Greater New Bedford area. The goal is to help them reach their full potential in a safe, supportive and academically rigorous environment. If left to navigate through the New Bedford public school system, many of the girls might fall victim to the current statistics- New Bedford has a dismal 60% graduation rate and 17% college matriculation rate, while OSS boasts a 100% graduation rate and 99% of their graduates are accepted at a higher education institution. Not only that, but without OSS the girls would probably not have tools and resources needed to help them manage tough living environments and compromising social situations.

What impressed me most was not that the girls LOVE their 11 hour school day, that the quality of the education they’re receiving is on par with the best our state has to offer, that the curriculum is innovative and challenging, that there is a focus on enrichment or that this small school has managed to acquire resources and support a talented staff completely via community and foundation support- though all of those in themselves are impressive and important.  No, what really left an impression on me was the sense of self the students have, the leadership qualities they emulate and the total and complete commitment to being an inclusive community that they all share. Not to mention the fact that all of the students embrace the idea of giving back- they are required to complete 10-15 hours of community service each year, depending on how old they are, but one student explained to me that most of the girls far exceed the required hours simply because they love volunteering in their community and they don’t see it as a chore.

At the end of the day I sat in on their community meeting. It was an interactive, lively hour with both students and faculty contributing stories and sharing ideas. It wrapped up with a shout out session where students were encouraged to give kudos to another student or teacher who had done something exceptional. Student after student stood to give props to someone else- mainly for things a lot of people either take for granted or don’t focus on. Simple things like being easy to work with, keeping cool in a tough situation, being brave enough to share a unique idea or making someone smile when they needed it most. The confidence that peer accolades help instill in an adolescent girl is immeasurable and you can tell that these girls benefit immensely from the positive reinforcement they get from their peers. These girls are building each other up, not tearing each other down. And all of them are completely invested in the core values of the school: Community, Citizenship, Leadership, and Excellence.

I love that the school is based on these values, because they are the essence of sustainability- the foundation we need to build and maintain successful local and global communities.

This school year OSS is providing an opportunity for 68 impoverished girls to empower themselves to become leaders in their school and their community and is giving them tools and experiences that will shape their future and the future of their families and our world. It’s giving them a chance to succeed. It is giving back to our community girls who can rule the world with knowledge, confidence, kindness and compassion.

This post is not an advertisement or request for support. And by no means do I think that OSS is the only school that emulates these values or graduates productive citizens- I know that so many schools now strive to educate the whole student and support their academic and social growth, just as they do at OSS. I see it in the schools my own kids attend. I just came away from my day with such a positive, hopeful, happy feeling that I felt I needed to share the good things that were happening there. And I know that these days lots of us need to feel hopeful for tomorrow. So, if you want to know more about this special little school and the important work happening there, click here: http://www.oursistersschool.org. Or if you want to share a story about a school you know, I’d love to hear it!

It’s Good Now

womenThis weekend was beyond inspirational. The hundreds of thousands of (mainly female!!!) people who marched and protested peacefully in so many cities sent a powerful message to our government, our nation and the world. Voices loud and strong united to stand up for what is right and best for our citizens- for all of our citizens- and for the first time since that cold dark November day when the world seemingly went mad, I feel real hope. Not sort of-hope, not lukewarm-hope, not wavering-hope but real, true, deep hope.

We can work together to fight the injustices born from this administration’s policy and executive orders. Together we can support our communities, we can strengthen our foundations, we can provide solutions, we can empower our young. We can lead by example. We can be stronger and better than childish tweets, unfounded accusations, blustery egoism and “alternative-facts”.  We can make a difference in our own lives and in the lives of those who are the most threatened. We WILL make a difference in our own lives and in the lives of those who are most threatened.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I needed this weekend to happen. I needed to see it all come together and be real. And, I needed to be reminded that there are change makers out there, that there are smart, engaged, motivated people who are doing things at the grassroots and national levels that are going to keep the moral fabric of our nation strong. I needed to be reminded that I am a change maker.

Today feels like the beginning of something new. And for the first time in months that feels like a good thing.

 

 

Bad dream, bitter reality

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We can’t go back to yesterday, but we can change tomorrow. Right now that’s how I’m getting through this week. I, like so many others, was absolutely stunned, sickened and terrified on Tuesday night when it became clear that our nation had just elected as our President a man who stands in direct contradiction to everything I know to be right and true. We elected a man whose entire campaign was run on hate fueled rhetoric; a man who has absolutely no experience with foreign policy, with the military, with healthcare, with environmental issues, with social causes, and who seems to have very little understanding of our constitution or how government is run in general. We elected a man who selected a vice president that thinks he can “cure” gay people.  I mean, this is incomprehensible.

And yet, here we are.

I spent all of Wednesday in a stupor of disbelief and grief.  But now the shock is starting to wear off and I feel this desire – this NEED to do something. To motivate, to organize, to get involved and to add my voice to the millions of others that I know feel the same. I think the next four years are going to be hell, but I think we can get through them if we come together and stand up for what is morally right. We need to continue to teach our children that all people are created equal, that kindness above all is what matters, that there is no place in our home, in our schools, on our streets for racist, misogynistic, bigoted, or xenophobic words or actions. And we need to help protect the people who are going to be hurt the most by a Trump presidency. You know, my eight year old son was hysterical on Wednesday morning when he told him that Trump had won. The first thing he said was “we’re all going to die” and when we reassured him that he was safe and protected the next thing he said was “well, a lot of my friends are going to have to move”.  As a fairly affluent white child living in Massachusetts he is generally immune to the damage Trump could do. But even he knows that so many others are not, and this is one of the (many) things that has been keeping me up at night.

The Muslim population, the undocumented immigrants, people of color, the LGBT community, ALL women, and yes, even the poor, uneducated white people who have placed so much hope in this man who fed them lies and false promises are all at risk, in grave danger of losing so much. The people who voted for Trump because they think he can provide a better life for them have no idea what they have done, but we can’t rail against them. We have to now somehow help combat the damage that is going to be done over the next four years. It is true you know, that we are stronger together. A divided nation is a weak and vulnerable one, and we cannot afford to be that. But yet, yet, we cannot accept the diseased underbelly of our nation that this election has uncovered.

I’m not saying anything new. I’ve read so many similar posts and articles over the past few days. I just felt the need to add my voice and my vow to do what I can. I’m starting to think about the types of organization I want to be more involved with, and the causes that I think I can help and support. And I’m thinking about what I can do every single day to ensure that my family’s morals and values and beliefs are not compromised. I’m thinking about how to preserve the good that DOES exist.

No matter how small it seems, YOU can make a difference by the actions and words you chose in your every day life.  If you can’t think of any other way to help, then focus on that. Practice kindness, and if you have children, teach them to do the same. We can’t let our future generation believe that if you bully people long and hard enough, if you scare people badly enough, you get anything you want- that you get to be President of the United States.

Just a little thank you, Mr. President

p012513ps-034111The other night my daughter and I were watching a photo montage that someone, somewhere on some social media site had posted that documented the inner heart of Barack Obama’s presidency and I just have to tell you that it brought tears to my eyes. It left me with a gut wrenching sense of loss. And I can’t say my daughter was dry-eyed either. She’s 12, she shouldn’t be moved because she sees the President of the United States acting like a human being. But she was, and more than that… she was sad. She was sad because she, like the rest of us, knows what’s coming next.

The video collage was just a series of pictures of him being the decent, respectable, good humored, intelligent, thoughtful man that he has proved to be over the past eight years. None of the content had anything to do with public policy, or climate change, or health care, or arms agreements, or immigration reform or anything like that. But it was a stark reminder of what we’ll be giving up when he leaves office. Because being President of the United States also means being the type of person that all of America and all of the world can look up to. A leader that kids want to model themselves after, someone parents want their kids to strive to be. A good, moral, upstanding, pillar of our nation who exemplifies our values, mores and ideals. Someone who truly believes in America and puts the nation first (or mostly first- it is politics after all).1d4de8e2-e62d-4ab5-ac07-b3e048f04785-620x372

I am not here to talk about what he did or didn’t accomplish as President (that’s a different post entirely).  I’m just trying to say that I will mourn the loss of a President and First Family that I can look up to and respect. The Obamas have been GOOD for America- because they showcase what’s good IN America. They are a loving, generous, grounded, close knit family who believe in each other and believe in making a positive difference in this world. I am proud that they are the First Family of this great country, because for me they exemplify what we can be as a nation. We can be inclusive, we can be tolerant, we can create positive change by taking good ideas and working together to turn them into actionable plans.

That’s why the sharp contrast of Donald Trump is so completely incomprehensible to me.  I simply do not understand how anyone- ANYONE- could support him even if they despise Hillary Clinton with every bone in their body. And, I get it- I can see that people do, and I’m not going to use this post to try to change people’s minds about her. I’ve done my research and I’m satisfied that I’ve vetted her enough to understand that she is probably the single most qualified person to run for office EVER, and I’ve researched all the right-wing propaganda and media hype and have found most of it can be completely debunked or found at least to be mostly untrue. I did that on my own and it’s not my place to tell anyone that they should do that too (although by the way it’s pretty easy). But what I would like people to think about is this… Donald Trump has absolutely no idea what it entails to be President of the United States- not from a policy standpoint, and not from a temperament standpoint. He doesn’t even seem to understand the laws of our nation or have a good handle on what our Constitution is all about. And furthermore, he’s a misogynistic, narcissistic hate-monger who continuously tears down the good people of this country and pits groups against each other to incite violence and instill fear. How on earth is that going to make America a better place than it is now?

We aren’t a perfect nation; we still have so far to go to get where we really ought to be… and what we need is a competent, qualified, sane leader who can at least move us in the right direction. Someone who, even if they aren’t quite the total package, is at least someone who has proved to be dedicated to her country, someone with more than 30 years of practical, hands on experience. Yes, politicians are self serving, but they are also public servants and I think it’s unfair to say that Hillary Clinton has spent her entire political career ONLY being motivated by personal gain. I mean, there are really so many other things she could have done to earn a ridiculously high paycheck. But she has chosen to remain in public service and be embattled, criticized and ridiculed and she’s done that, at least in part, for us.

What do we get with Donald Trump?  Just “not Hillary”?  That’s just stupid, because “not Hillary” is NOT good enough for us. We deserve better. We all deserve better.

So, anyway… I kind of got off track (this really ugly election tends to stir up this roiling uncontrollable urge to vomit my very passionate opinions whenever I have the opportunity) but as I was saying:  THANK YOU Mr. President, and THANK YOU Mrs. Obama for being inspiring and positive role models for my kids, for making me believe that the world CAN be a better place, and for making real strides in helping our nation become a welcome place for all people from all walks of life.  This election season has shown the worst we have to offer and has created a deep and ugly divide, and the bitter aftermath of it will surely test all of our moral fortitude.  But during these trying times we won’t forget the message you’ve given us: the beautiful message of hope.

 

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