Friday, April 27, 2012

I grow Stronger. #acui12

Believe it or not, I have been trying to write for weeks. I've had several thoughts in my head but couldn't seem to narrow it down to something concise. I have often told myself that if I can go back finish the blogs I have in draft, I would probably have a month's full of entries.

That notion pretty much describes me because I feel that I have a bunch of unfinished business that needs to be conducted. While the writing as not come to me much lately in the ways that I want, my long hours at work and doing homework have but a strain on the time I have to write.

As the school year comes to a close, I can see how my life this year is beginning to pan out. My goals, the ones that I have yet to reveal, are near completion. It is an exciting time for me because I am down to one 20 page paper and a summer of endless possibilities.

I am also in the process of identifying and solidifying my strengths. This is new concept for me because usually when you are in any workplace, we tend to focus on weaknesses. If you have been following me on Twitter you may (or may not) recall this hash tag I was using for about a week: #acui12. This was away for me to share my experience with others at the ACUI Conference in Boston. It was also a way for me to network.

For those who do not know, ACUI stands for Association of College Unions International. Every year, professionals within this field get together to share ideas on how to make our careers and our profession better. This was my first time going to this conference and I am happy to say that I learned a lot.

I made it one of my goals to go to this national conference because I felt the need to see who else was out there. The need to network, for me, is not just about the job search, it is about building relationships and discovering my path. Networking also give me a sense that I am part of something larger within my industry. I can really relate to people in my field who go through exactly what I do through. Not to mention the one thing we have in common - working with students.

One of the things that I has able to discover were some strengths that I really didn't think about before I arrived. When you are a professional, it is almost standard to take leardership "test" like Myers Briggs to gauge how we can work together. During this conference, we were encouraged to do StrengthsQuest, which is designed to highlight our top five strengths. Why is this different from others? Well, the thought behind it that we work better when he use our strengths rather than focusing on areas of weakness that we want to improve. 

My top five strengths are Strategic, Adaptability, Connectedness, Futuristic, and Lerner. Without getting to deep into it. I will summarize all of these in a few sentences. I am a strategic thinker that can get by any obstacle that comes way. I live in the moment that allows me to be adaptable and not get flustered when something new pops up. I believe we are all connected in someway whether by history or experience. I am always looking to the future and what goals I can achieve now to my life better later. I love to learn and be kept abreast of new information.

For those who know me, none of this is new, but this speaks volumes to me. My hope is to cultivate the  things I know are my strengths so I can move on to complete yet another goal. I just get stronger in 2012. 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012



Think about that number for a bit. We are often defined by numbers. We rely on them when it comes to assessment. We assess products, sports, stocks, and grade point averages. Society uses these numbers to gather a value on something. Many mathematicians will tell you that numbers do not lie, especially when it comes to things like science. But, can numbers really put a value on knowledge?

Ever taken an IQ test? I haven't, but I know that they are designed to place a value on how smart someone is. So assuming that you are either naturally gifted or perhaps went to the right school, you can be deemed really smart or as dumb as a doornail. Over the years, there has been evidence to suggests that standardized testing is racially and culturally biased. After all, not all school districts are created the same. Urban school do not have the resources as private or suburban schools. So how do we really place a value on who is smart?

I don't think it should come as a surprise that most high school do not prepare students for the rigors of college life. No one is really prepared for the freedom of moving away and living relatively alone on/off campus. For most students, learning is on a whim and sometimes success in the class room can happen through mistakes. Maturity plays a huge roll on how a person deals with distraction. Yet, some students are able to fight through things to get great grades. Unfortunately, others struggle with just life in general and may find it hard to survive the grind of college academics.

We should just assume the getting into college is a stretch within itself. A institution, like Syracuse University, has to see something within the students they accept, which would reasonably mean that schools do not just except stupid kids. So why do students do poorly versus others? I would like to take into consideration my own issues.

I graduated from Saint Raymond's High School for Boys. I do not think that I was different from any other potential college kid. There was a thought about myself, however, that I wasn't that smart. My guidance counselor did not think I would get into Syracuse University, I clearly showed him otherwise. However, when I did get in, I often wondered how I was going to do. I really didn't try all that hard in high school, it was as if I really didn't care. I was picked on, my parents were getting a divorce, and I felt generally ugly since I was one of the few boys who wasn't dating for most of my 4 years there. Yet, the one thing I always remember hearing in grammar school as well as High School….Anthony never applies himself.

College kicked my ass. I had many distractions and i just didn't know what I wanted to do. I was a student leader that cared more about the cause than about myself and by the end of my first semester of sophomore year, I was at a crossroad. My grades were horrible and I almost found myself kicked out. If it wasn't for barely passing my religion class…I would not be a alum of SU. This wake up call lead me to pick a major that I wanted and do so much better in my classes. I still graduated in 4.5 years but I had this feeling that getting into grad school would be a long shot.

A few weeks ago I was talking to a student of mine. He was not in a great mood. He felt his grades defined him and my heart went out to him. I told him that despite whatever he graduates with…he can still be whatever he wants to be. Last week, I had a similar discussion with a student on the opposite end of the spectrum who has a grade point average that I have never seen in undergrad and it made me think about my grade point average currently. The good thing about SU is that you can check your current grade point average on line. I look at my grad school grades and I smile at the 3.3 that I fought hard for. I figured that if I get an A in this current class, I will be at a 3.5

Something told me to look at my undergraduate GPA. I had to cover my mouth because I hadn't realized how low it is… 2.1

I almost fight tears thinking about this. I could have done so much better. I just could not get over my own shit. I was so immature that I could not see what I was doing to myself. Sure, I could blame girls, my parents, my work-study job, or the lack of guidance. I really have no one to blame but myself. I hated most of my classes because they just did not interest me. I did well in cultural courses and alright in my English courses. Sigh…I had to ask myself, why is it so different now?

Now…I care more for myself and I love my classes. I am invested into my own education and I love to learn new things. I am far from stupid but that number is a mark that I count against myself. Yet, it isn't a value I place on my intellect. I consider that 2.1 GPA (which was earned 20 years ago) to be a measurement of my maturity.

Monday, April 9, 2012

April Free Write

I think the best thing for me to do right now is a free write. I have been so busy this semester that I haven't really had time to sit back and think about what is really happening around me. The fact that its already April is crazy to me. Yet, I feel that I don't have enough time to do everything that I want to do. I did take some risks that are beginning to pay off and hopefully by May, I can actually say what it is.

I am also torn by the fact that I still want to leave Syracuse and yet the pull of continuing my education remains. The class I'm taking currently is indeed amazing and it's taking me to a place where I really want to learn more. When the dust settles on this semester, I will look at my options and really consider perusing my Master's degree and holding off NYC. It is a difficult decision because I wanted to do this elsewhere but I truly believe everything happens for a reason.

I've also thrown myself into my work by doing new things and being more available to students. It goes far beyond me caring and doing what is right. It is the fact that I am determined to be better. I have come to realize over these past few weeks that perhaps I was depressed over the last few years. I am not sure that is something that I could see at the time. I was going through many things and I don't think I handled many things well. It has taken me awhile to get adjust to not only living alone, but to getting to the task of care of myself. I have faced many fears and continue to do so.

Then there is the fact that I have become so attached to my writing that it takes an emotional toll on me. Not that I consider this to be a bad thing but it is something that has really connected me to the larger world. I love the fact that I have a forum like the Huffington Post. It has given me a new outlook on my ability. However, I would be lying if I said that my post being declined didn't bother me. I am my own worse critic as it is, but I never consider being turned down before. I put a lot of effort into the posts I have already written. I almost consider it a failure.

I also think about my girlfriend. I do not talk about her much on here because I feel that approaching that subject in a public forum is something she may not be totally ready for. But, I will say that I have been able to enjoy life a little more now that I have someone to share things with. My past has taught me many things and I will say that I have done myself a disservice by not taking time to just enjoy the little things. I think appreciating a woman is one of those things.

As I look at what is left of April, I am a little distraught that I have not written (or finished) any poems yet. I have reached a different point in my life that will definitely effect the way I do poetry. I think all the things that I written over the past year or two was just me being a certain phase of my life. I have shed that and I am currently heading into another phase.

I will end by saying this. My emotions are strictly focused on what is going on in this racist world we live in. I have been angry and sad all at the same time. I am just glad that I have someone to love to balance it all out.

The Future is bright my friends.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Students in Hoodies: This is what Democracy Looks Like.

This entry was denied by the Huffington Post. So I just copied and pasted my entry.

I feel the need to apologize. I have been writing so much about Trayvon Martin in my own blog but it has taken me more than a week to calm down and address this audience without anger or frustration. As an Afro Latino, this issue hits home on so many levels.

I am very proud to be a Syracuse Alum and staff member. On March 26, I was even prouder. A group of students finally galvanized to action by having a rally on the steps of Hendrick's Chapel on a cold Monday night. This is not just a black or white issue; this is an issue of justice. We stood in solitude with our hoodies on for Trayvon Martin.

As a person of color, I know that there are things that I should except, like the possibility being pulled over for no reason or being followed in a store. But nothing prepared me for this: a seventeen-year-old unarmed boy killed by a self appointed neighborhood watch captain. Then, even more appalling, I hear that George Zimmerman claims "self-defense," when the only items in Trayvon's hoodie were  a pack of skittles and a bottle of ice tea.

Without mentioning the race or ethnicity of either person, anyone of us would just assume that the killer would be reprimanded, if not sent to jail.  It is only after realizing that Travyon is black and his killer is "white" Hispanic that questions are raised as to why Zimmerman has not spent a single minute in jail.  Let's face it, had the shooter been a Black man he would have at least seen a few nights in jail despite Florida's Stand Your Ground Law. Yet, this had become a black and white issue for so many of us. Is it because more Latinos are considering themselves white as seen in the 2010 Census?

Perhaps it speaks to the general ignorance that people like Geraldo Rivera have, who think that a hoodie automatically represents something sinister. Is there a general perception that all black men are trying to perpetuate themselves as gangsters by wearing such apparel? Sure, it is annoying to see men wear sagging jeans with no belts.  I consistently tell students to pull up their pants, but does that justify thinking the worst of them? Yet, it is ok for a self-appointed investigative reporter to make a blanket statement about how Trayvon's hoodie is the reason for his death. Should he know that it was raining the night Trayvon was killed, making it a perfectly reasonable chose of attire? Or perhaps it speaks to his fear of Black people in general?

It was indeed a show of solidarity when more than 100 Syracuse University students, staff, of all races, came together in a peaceful rally chanting "this is what democracy looks like." This goes far beyond the hoodie, far beyond Geraldo, and far beyond the increasing number of reports of this teenager's past. This is about justice. This is about an unarmed kid being killed for looking suspicious. It resonates with these students because anyone of them could have been Trayvon Martin. What gets under many students' skin is the media's attempt to show "a different side" of this kid by painting him as a criminal, in an attempt to justify his murder. Is that what a black or Latino Male student has to think about when walking across the quad or walking in the streets of Syracuse on cold rainy night? He has to worry about every mistake he's ever made as a child?

So what is next? We can rally and protest this issue until George Zimmerman is behind bars, but then what? Don Sawyer, director of the LSAMP program, gave one of the best suggestions during that rally.  He suggested that the only way to promote change is to mentor a younger person.  True change comes when people are willing to commit to change and spread it to others. It is not about what we wear or how we are perceived, it is what happens when this done.

We must be the change we are looking for. That change can begin start with mentoring a young student in need. That change can begin when we continue to fight injustice and not allow ourselves the complacency to believe that race does not matter. For as long as George Zimmerman remains free we will always be remind that we as Black/Latino men and women will always be judged for what we wear and assassinated later for our exercising our right to wear whatever we want.

So what does democracy look like? Is it college students rallying as the media kills Travyon Martin over and over again, promoting the insecurities  young Black kids already face? What does justice look like? I am not sure; perhaps the hoodie of the justice system is covering the eyes of those who are apparently "standing their ground".


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