Friday, October 8, 2010

...back in the US and no time to blog...

Well I am sorry I haven't written here in a long while. I'm sure many people won't be looking here as my adventure in Kenya has ended and the US just doesn't seem to be as interesting. I would beg to differ...

I have started a masters program in Education called Prevention Science and Practice. You ask what that means and I say I'll tell you when I get the degree. :) My hope is that I'll learn a lot about program planning, evaluation and implementation. Nevertheless, I find it interesting that I am often reminded about what I want to do by day to day interactions with friends and strangers.

The other day a friend was telling me a story about an altercation they had with a stranger. Apparently the stranger was indignant over having to share a space. This person attacked my friend verbally and after antagonizing my friend to a point of saying "shut up" this person got an authority involved. The altercation continued to the point where the stranger called my friend a very offensive name and eventually was removed from the facility. First of all I feel like the stranger's attitude was wrong from the start. I think a lot of people walk around with this kind of grumpy, antagonistic, "I'm gonna hit before I get hit" attitude making any dialogue difficult to begin with. But to step away from blaming the situation on someone's bad attitude I'd like to say that the situation was not necessarily handled in a way that might transform this person or help us avoid similar situations in the future. Punishment rarely changes attitudes or behaviors. I want to acknowledge people and their attitudes, good and/or bad and care for them despite their attitudes. I think the things I am learning are clues to figure out what bad attitudes are telling us about how society treats people and how, in turn people cope with society. Kids are the same, just less set and honestly more resilient.

Another example of inspiration I had was in learning about a local community center, which had internship opportunities for high school kids to participate in a day camp for younger kids. Apparently on one of the first days a fight broke out between a couple of the younger kids. The older kids didn't do anything. No one told them to. After the incident, some of the leaders of the community center realized their mistake in not preparing the older kids to take a little more responsibility with the younger kids. They quickly re-examined how the older kids might be good role models for the younger kids and took steps towards training them to do so. I think this is a brilliant and natural strategy of working with youth. They have an innate social capital with each other and where an adult can be a good mentor for older kids, the older kids can in turn be great mentors for younger kids. Another benefit from this is teaching kids responsibility, leadership and that their voice in many situations is valuable. I really want to be involved with building programs like this, that call upon the talent that is already there. Whether it's working with youth or working with adults I think building on potential is more powerful than taking the time to wipe the slate clean and force individuals into a model that doesn't always make sense. Who am I to tell anyone what's best for them or how to go about achieving it?

We'll see if I can learn to solve the problems of the world in just 9 months. If not then I guess the fun will just begin!:)