Make the choice, get involved

Written by: Amelia Allen

In school, I was the quiet, shy girl. I wasn’t good at sports. I didn’t have the money the other kids had. I wasn’t popular. Most of all, I didn’t feel like I belonged anywhere. The world today is not a nice place to grow up in. More and more kids and even adults are making bad decisions, life-altering decisions simply because, like me, they don’t feel like they belong anywhere. The day that I stopped feeling like this was the day that I made an effort, a conscious decision to get involved.
 
Color guard is one thing that most people don’t know about. They are the people they see on the football field but never give a second thought to. I was the exact same way until an opportunity presented itself to me and I jumped.
For those of you who don’t have any idea what color guard (guard) is, it’s a group of people, both female and male, that perform for an audience using flags, rifles, sabers, and dance. It may sound arbitrary, boring, or even stupid (which believe me are all things that I have heard before), but to me it meant for the first time in my life, I belonged somewhere.
Personally, guard not only gave me a sense of belonging, but it also gave me opportunity. It gave me the opportunity to break out of my shell. For the first time in my life, I opened up to new people, made new friends with people I wouldn’t have ever known before, and I felt good about myself. Joining a team was a scary thing for me, but it taught me that I could rely on other people, I could ask for help, and I finally had someone other than my family to look up to. Working with the older girls and guys gave me confidence and also comfort. Through these new found relationships, I gained mentors in not only the guard world, but my everyday life as well. I made ever lasting friendships, friendships that even now, six years later, I still hold dear.
One other (though not the last, I assure you) thing that I was able to learn from my experience with color guard was leadership. As I grew more confident in myself and my abilities, I was granted more leadership positions. One thing that this new found leadership did for me was give me confidence. Finally, I was able to help someone else, be a mentor to someone else and feel good doing it.
When I look back at my experience, I can never forget everything that color guard was able to give to and instill in me. Because of my color guard world, I can finally see myself as successful, outgoing, and beautiful. Color guard gave me the hope and the courage to belong. It gave me the courage to get involved. Life long friends. Life long memories. Life long experience. For me, it was guard but for you, it could be anything.

Importance of Fashion

      Fashion is exciting, fun, but at time can be a headache. Your first impression is EVERYTHING, but has the fashion world went too far trying to make it look as if you have to dress or look a certain way to get somewhere? Nowadays, because of fashion, youth think that “perfect” is what defines yourself or what they have to do to fit in. Does youth only dress a certain way to please themself or to please the people that they want to associate themselves around? Fashion is kind of what places people into certain cliques like emo, preppy, goth, etc. Some youth believe as if you need to be like everyone around you to be happy. Fashion shouldn’t portray this it should portray individuality and uniqueness. Some icons have used fashion to differentiate themselves from everyone else such as Lady Gaga. What we need to teach the youth is that the challenge in life is not to become perfect, it’s accepting that you already areso why not dress to please yourself? Fashion is something that even the shy ones can even have a loud, clear voice for everyone to hear. We all know that youth doesn’t have much of a voice, but fashion gives us the opportunity to beLOUD! You can even design a shirt for certain awareness and use the money to give back. With fashion anything is possible. The way you dress is an easy conversation starter and a way to show who you really are. It’s something that defines you. So why not dress the way you want and get your point across without saying one word?
*The views and opinions expressed in this article are mine and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of MCCOY. If you would like to learn more about how your voice can be heard, please sign up for MCCOY’s advocacy newsletter, Youth Advocacy Council, or follow us at MCCOY_Advocacy*
 
Kristina Blume-YAC member

It Only Takes One to Make a Difference

For nearly 10 years I have had the privilege to work with many amazing teenagers as a youth director at a local church. Over the years this work has challenged me both emotionally and spiritually. In the times of these challenges, both good and bad, I have often reminded myself of why I do what I do. I do this work not only because I feel this is truly what I am called to do in life, but also because of the great impact someone else had on me as a teenager and the commitment I made to myself many years before I began my career to make a similar impact in the life of at least one teenager.

As a high school student I struggled as any teen does with school, friends, romantic relationships…but I also struggled emotionally as my parents went through periods of separation and my dad battled alcoholism. The difficulties I had going on in my home life spilled over into all the other aspects of my life; school, friends, extra-curricular activities, etc. As I journeyed through this part of my life and all that it brought, I needed support and someone to talk to. The person I was able to talk to was my school guidance counselor, Ms. Allen. Ms. Allen listened to me, she let me cry when I needed to cry, she let me be me and cared about me and my well-being through all of the ups and downs of my life throughout my four years in high school. Ms. Allen was a constant for me, as a constant support and strength, helping me in every aspect of my life, even though I only saw her once or twice a week at school. I knew that if ever I needed someone to listen, or a shoulder to cry on, I could walk to her office and find comfort and peace. I truly believe that if it had not been for the wonderful relationship I established with Ms. Allen as a ninth grader, I would never have made it through high school without significant emotional problems. Ms. Allen forever impacted me and has helped shape me into the woman I am today.

So now, as I work with teenagers struggling with all that life throws their way, I remember Ms. Allen and how she helped me. I remind myself that if I can impact just one teen the way she impacted my life, and me I will have accomplished great things. I strive everyday to do this.

Who has impacted your life and helped you to become who you are today? How are you impacting the teenagers you interact with? I wish for every teen to have a Ms. Allen in their life. Maybe you already are a Ms. Allen for someone, even if you do not know it!

~Stephanie K., Indiana University School of Social Work

Food for Thought

By: Brandon A. Basore, BSW, IU School of Social Work

Children are a population I care about very much. Maybe it’s their innocence or the fact that they are so impressionable. But the most important reason why children are so dear to me has to do with “voice”.It seems that childhood doesn’t last as long as it measures in years and some events have the potential to force the gift of “being a kid” out of children’s hands too soon . Our lives and dreams become dried up by the pressure cooker of our routine work schedule, money, bills, religion, unfair taxes, and social climbing. My other passion in life is film production and writing. The power of story telling in film is untouched by any other medium in my opinion. I’ve spent countless times pondering ways to tell touching stories of people’s personal struggles and lives. We were all children once. Picture a businessman in suit and tie rushing down a bustling urban sidewalk. Someone who’s completely forgotten the sacred joy of spending time with loved ones or who has ignored his own personal passions at the expense of men above him. With briefcase in hand he catches his reflection in the limousine’s tinted windows while waiting to cross the street. Instead of a depressed weakened man he sees himself at 5 years old, exuberant and smiling, his favorite team on his shirt, dirty khaki shorts, and tennis shoes. Instead of his briefcase his favorite action figurine is tightly grasped in his hand. We must not forget our time as children and the universal needs of our species, to be supported, unconditionally loved, clothed, and to be allowed freedom to explore, learn, and grow. One need of vital importance is to be fed. But something has been bothering me recently: the nutrition of foods served in schools in competition with school meals. Over the past 3 decades we’ve seen a drastic change in how families and children eat and play. Obesity in children and the risk of diabetes later in life has risen so high it is such a sad reality for most children. This breaks my heart. I think of Haily, my three year old niece. I do not want any of these terrible diseases to halt any children’s chances at living a healthy happy life. I uplift the USDA’s attempts to address these issues in schools across the nations. I also would like to recognize First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move Initiative. This program just celebrated its 2nd anniversary and has already made a positive impact encouraging children being more active and learning how to choose healthier foods and resist the candy, soda, and chips. But it doesn’t just start or stop with one institution, person, or idea. It is all of our moral duty to guide children to make better choices to maximize their satisfaction of life. We need to question the food industries ethics and practices in how they market terrible foods to children. We need to be the voice of the children when they have been lured into so many bad lifestyle choices by the television, vending machine, and cheapness of cheaply made food.

GOOD SAMARITAN’S FEET

By: Tracy McDaniel

I am excited to share information on a local non-profit, known as Good
Samaritan’s Feet. Good Samaritan’s Feet works domestically and
internationally to provide new shoes to impoverished children and adults.
Good Samaritan’s Feet not only distributes new shoes and socks, they
also wash each person’s feet and gives a message of love and hope. They
work with impoverished schools, churches, communities, and agencies. This
organization makes a huge difference in the life’s of everyone it serves.
Their dedication and commitment is to make sure no child or adult goes
without shoes.

Good Samaritan’s Feet is located on the North side of Indianapolis. The
director is Todd Melloh. I would like to introduce you to Todd Melloh.
As part of a fall campaign through my church,I had the opportunity to
meet and serve with Todd. Todd has lived in Indianapolis his whole life;
he is married and has 4 boys. Yes, 4 boys, that alone keeps him and
his wife very busy. He has worked for Good Samaritan’s Feet for over 5
years. In Indiana, Todd has participated in giving out over 10,000 pairs
of shoes this year alone. Domestically Good Samaritan’s Feet has given out
over 300,000 pairs of shoes. Internationally they have given 500,000 pairs
of shoes.

That deserves a round of applause!

I spoke with Todd recently and wanted to know his secret in helping and serving others. While Todd is a humble individual, he has a strong sense of faith and love for his community. He is a true leader in Indianapolis, and enjoys every opportunity to serve and model leadership. He works with business leaders and encourages them to giveback as well as, have them and their employees serve others. Good Samaritan’s Feet is an organization you don’t hear much about in Indianapolis and I hope to change that. My personal experience was life changing and humbling. To see a child receive a new pair of shoes is great, but to see a child receive a new pair of shoes while having their feet washed and shown love is AMAZING and LIFE CHANGING. If you would like more information on Good Samaritan’s Feet and the differences they are making please check out http://www.goodsamaritansfeet.org.You can find out ways to serve, donate, volunteer and enhance our community.

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
― Maya Angelou

“Let us be a little humble”

“Let us be a little humble; let us think that the truth may not perhaps be entirely with us”

– Jawaharlal Nehru

Yesterday I attended a discussion on the future of education in Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS). The superintendent presented his vision for IPS and responded to some issues raised by The Mind Trust proposal on education reform. As I left the event and drove home, I tried to make sense of what I heard.

In our community, multitudes of people and organizations have espoused different opinions on issues like school vouchers, charter schools, high-stakes testing, the balanced calendar, and more. In our information-saturated society, it’s commonplace for us to quickly Google a topic and share our opinion with others right away.

This tendency to immediately take firm stands on issues is impressed upon us from an early age. I remember being told in high school, “Kashif, you have to have a single THESIS for your essay. You can present multiple sides of an issue, but you must PICK ONE eventually”. I’m grateful that my teachers taught me the importance of being decisive in standing up for my principles; however, in the real world, some issues may not always be so cut and dry, especially when I am not an expert.

Some say that if you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything. I agree but I want to make sure that when I take my stand, I know EXACTLY what I’m standing for and why I stand for it. Until then, I’m content to continue processing my opinions as I discuss issues and listen to others. Sometimes it’s necessary to say, “I’m not sure yet”. I hope that we, as a community, continue to have thought-provoking conversations about important topics like education reform. I also hope that we couple our enthusiasm with the knowledge that we may not have all the answers to these nuanced questions and that we allow our understanding to constantly grow as we hear new perspectives.

Adoption

I think adoption is a beautiful thing for the child and new parents. I know different families that have adopted children and there are different reasons but the one reason in common is the love for children. The desire to have a child is strong for some people but the ability to have a biological child is not always a reality. I am an adopted child and am lucky to have received two wonderful parents. One reason I believe my parents are so wonderful is because they have always been open about my adoption. I cannot remember a time not knowing I was adopted and my parents easily could have gotten away with not telling me because I visually fit into my father’s side of the family. I really appreciate their openness and honesty regarding my adoption and it has always made me feel special to be their child.

I have been apart of several adoptions due to my career. A question I always face from the adoptive parents is how and when they should share the adoption process with their child. I believe that the best practice is to be open about the adoption at an age appropriate level. I was adopted at birth and it was a private adoption so my parents do not have any information regarding my biological parents. For parents that have adopted children and know more information as to why the child was given up for adoption and information regarding biological parents it is important to know you child and share that information when you believe they are ready because they will ask questions. Sharing your child’s life story is best done the earlier the better because it is a beautiful thing and a gift for both the parents and child. The openness and honesty are very important because if the child does not feel like you are telling the whole story they will go looking for answers. I have always gone back and forth about wanting to meet my biological parents, if I was ever able to get their names, but I do not feel like they could offer any needed information to make me feel any differently about my situation. I am thankful that my biological mother was so willing to give the gift of a child to a so deserving couple.

The website healthychildren.org can help answer some questions about adoption.

~Kate P.

Valuing Our First Jobs, By Tina L.

Valuing Our First Jobs
Written By Tina L.

            Much has changed for teenagers and young adults in the past 25 years.  The size of cars, the cost of transportation, how we communicate, the size of our televisions, and the gadgetry in which we seek information, self entertain and connect to the global world.

What hasn’t changed is that at some point in our youthful lives, we embark on the journey of finding, keeping and leaving our first jobs.  This is an important stage in our life experience; appreciating and understanding the value of these “starter” jobs can be a positive resource to a better future. 

Interviewing and being offered your first job can be an exciting experience.  It can offer insight about your interests, skills, resources and abilities and how they relate in the marketplace. For example, a fashion conscious youth who loves wearing the latest trends and fashions might think that working in a clothing store is a good match.   This person might enjoy advising customers, helping with window displays and earning a sales commission.  However, this individual might also realize that a retail job might involve working inconvenient shifts, folding and hanging clothes, or tedious inventory processing.  First jobs or “Starter” jobs as I like to call them, are important because they allow first time employees valuable nuggets of information that offer personal growth. 

            Young people can use this information to seek better job matches with each successive job.  So whether your job is on a volunteer basis, seasonal summer work or fast food service, they can all be rewarding experiences that can positively affect your future. Don’t underestimate the value of volunteering for a not for profit organization. The experience can be extremely rewarding.  It is a great opportunity to learn new skills, provide needed resources and obtain worthy references.

Starter jobs are meaningful and important!  I still remember my first job as a gift wrapper.  The job paid decently, but I did not get to spend much time with other employees or customers.  However, I took my job seriously and received a good reference for the next job.  The next job suited me better.  I was a cashier at a movie theatre.  I got to talk to lots of customers as well as the other employees, many of who were in my peer group. Armed with the knowledge of my first job, I was able to improve my next job experience!

Whether it is your first or tenth job, put forth your best effort, give at least two weeks notice of leave, inquire about references and use this valuable knowledge to improve your personal and professional life outcomes! 

Building Financial Literacy

To move forward our nation’s economic recovery, it is critical that we all recognize the consequences of our personal financial decisions. Accordingly, in April, as part of National Financial Literacy Month, many public and private organizations work together to improve Americans’ financial literacy and ensure they have access to trustworthy financial services and products.

Our challenges as a nation are great. Our student loan debt has surged above $1 trillion, which surpasses credit card and auto-loan debt. This debt jeopardizes our fragile recovery, increases the burden on taxpayers, and possibly sets the stage for a new economic crisis.

According to the Federal Reserve, household debt was more than $13 trillion in 2010, and according to the National Bankruptcy Research Center, the number of personal bankruptcy filings reached 1,500,000 in 2010 – a 9% increase, which is the highest number since 2005.

Perhaps most alarming, a recent nationwide survey also found that over half of the adults in America rank their own financial literacy skills are only “fair” or “poor.” Problems with money management are passed on to children by parents who believe that students are learning money management in schools when, in fact, over seventy percent of teachers do not teach financial literacy.

The importance of strong financial education is undeniably important, especially as young adults take on new financial responsibilities like getting their first credit cards, managing their own finances, and figuring out how to pay for college. Because early financial decisions can have such a huge impact on one’s financial future, it is imperative that people make smart, well-informed money management choices. Increased financial literacy empowers individuals to make wise financial decisions and reduces the confusion caused by an increasingly complex economy.

I am working hard in Washington to make sure the federal government is taking decisive action to promote financial stability on Main Street and Wall Street, which will help create economic opportunities and jobs for American families.

But our nation’s prosperity will ultimately depend on our willingness as individuals to empower ourselves and our families with financial knowledge. We must recognize that a deficit in financial literacy is unacceptable. This is why I have introduced the Young Adult Financial Literacy Act, which would provide grants to universities to fund partnerships with schools or non-profits to provide financial literacy education to students between the ages of 15-24. This is only a first step, but a critical one for our nation’s future.

For more information on improving financial literacy for you and your family, please visit www.MyMoney.gov, www.ConsumerFinance.gov, or call toll-free 1‑888‑MyMoney for guidance and resources.

Exploring options

As a bachelors level social work student I find myself constantly trying to determine which population I would like to work with after I graduate. I then find myself questioning ways to enhance that populations lifestyle. So far I have experienced work with individuals with developmental disabilities, children, addictions, and domestic courts. Although these are only a few, one would think.. what about the elderly?? I recently job shadowed a case manager in a smaller hospital to expand my knowledge on assisting the elderly population. It’s amazing how much the elderly population need assistance from a case manager. Many elderly individuals are eligible for medicaid and medicare, which turns out is the case managers duty to determine whether or not they have the assistance. I know I said I would focus on the elderly population, but I was amazed at the case management work at this hospital. This specific kind of case management works on every floor in the hospital. (medSurg, psychiatric and mental illness, ER, ICU etc.) while combining medical terminology and communicating between their providers/ home health care. I learned a lot from the 8 hours I spent at the hospital with the case manager. The purpose of this post is to let it be known, that it is okay to explore options. If you are unfamiliar with a population, place, line of work, etc. then explore it. I am now working towards doing my practicum in the fall at this location. Curiosity can lead to great things! 🙂