Should we really be celebrating Columbus Day?

9 Oct

Yesterday, I was flipping television channels and I heard a woman say:

“Thank you Christopher Columbus for discovering America.”

And if you’ve been reading or you know me personally, you know that I have several problems with this statement.

  1. It is from a white dominant standpoint. It implies that “America” did not exist or have a history before a white man, Christopher Columbus, discovered it. It completely leaves out that fact that there was a rich native history in North America prior to Columbus’ “discovery.”
  2. By using the term “America” it puts the United States as more important than other countries in North, South, and Central America. It’s basically saying that the United States is greater than more than 15 other countries. No wonder other countries think that we are full of ourself.
  3. It completely leaves out the consequences of Columbus’ “discovery,” which was the start of the genocide of the Native Americans American Indians. We all know that school textbooks never like to use the word genocide and American Indians in the same sentence. As a society, we have a hard time admitting our mistakes, especially grave ones.

We have to wonder why our government has sanctioned the celebration of this holiday. And before I go further, let me state that I’m not hating on Columbus. We can acknowledge some of his accomplishments, like surviving long voyages at sea (hint of sarcasm). But like every historical figure we have made a hero, we need to examine the positives and negatives of that person’s accomplishments.

We need to acknowledge that when we are “celebrating” Columbus Day every year, that we are doing so from a white dominant perspective.

So I want to share with you this video I that I found years ago. I think it sums up the point really well. It asks us to reconsider celebrating Columbus Day. And questions…

“Should we really be celebrating Columbus Day?”


**Note: As I shared, this video is a few years old. The website at the end of the video is no longer active. Also, Columbus Day was on a different date this year.


Facebook and Youth

27 Aug

To Facebook or not to Facebook with your youth, that is the question. We all know that social media is extremely prevasive in today’s generation. Whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, or Tumblr, our youth are using social media. This leads to the question of should youth workers friend their participants on Facebook. In order to answer that question, I recommend asking the following questions.

What are your organization’s guidelines?

First and foremost, before you can make a decision you must know your organization’s policy regarding social media and participants/clients. It goes without stating that you will need to follow those policies. If you organization does not have a policy or guidelines in place, this could be a an opportunity to take initiative and help create them for your workplace. I’d recommend having a conversation with your supervisor or executive director.

How old are your youth?

Most social media sites, require young people to be at least 13 years old to join. But we all know that not everyone on Facebook is 13 years or older. At the beginning, Facebook use to just be for college students and now we see youth who are in elementary school on Facebook. I wouldn’t recommend Facebooking your young people who are in elementary school. My participants are in middle school, so I decided that it was okay for me to friend them since they were closer to the required age. Again this will be a personal/professional decision.

What are your goals in friending participants on Facebook?

Don’t just go into this without  a vision. Be smart. Know why and how you are going to use social media with your program participants. This will help you set some of your own perimeters on how you decide to use it.

Once you have figured out these things you can proceed.


With my organization, we did not have any guidelines in place. I had a conversation with my supervisor and executive director. Once I got the green light from them, I thought about it again and how I would use social media with my girls. I decided to create an account using my work email. (NOTE: I would strongly recommend against friending your youth with your personal Facebook account. Their must be boundaries.) Also, I decided I would only friend girls who had been in my program or were involved with my organization. I did this to ensure that my girls were not being exposed to other people through me.

I’ve found Facebook to be extremely useful. Many of my families move and phone numbers often stop working or are changed. I was able to communicate and contact with girls who were difficult to get in touch with through phone or mail. From my years of experience having a Facebook account for my girls, I’ve realized the following positive uses:

  • Program announcements
  • Building positive relationship with girls
  • Field trip and permission slip reminders
  • Individual messages to girls you didn’t get a chance to check in with
  • Seeing girls’ Facebook content for red flags (ex: too exposed in photos)
  • Posting photos from program
  • Birthday wishes
  • Getting in contact with hard to reach girls (i.e. disconnected phone numbers)

Below is an example of the account that I created for my girls.

Ultimately, whether to Facebook with your young people will be your decision. It’s definitely something you will want to think through before proceeding. I’ve shared my experience with social media and my girls, but the call for you and your program will be yours.


What are your thoughts on Facebooking with your young people? Any lessons learned? Are you for or against? Please feel free to share your comments below.

More Posts to Come

19 Jun

The end of the program year was a whirlwind to say the least. Just as I’m catching my breath while being buried alive by end of the year reports, I realize that it’s been two months since my last post. That means there is much to catch up on!

Thank you for following my blog and posts about youth development. This is my entry into the word of blogging and feel fortunate that you have joined me for the ride. This summer will be full of transitions as I move from a full time youth development to part time youth development consultant and a full time graduate student pursuing a Masters in Social Work. There will be plenty more to come, so stay tuned!

Thank you!

Our True Colors Talent + Fashion Show

25 Apr

Mark your calendar for those in the DMV (DC, Maryland, Virginia). My program will have it’s 2nd Annual Our True Colors Talent + Fashion Show on Thursday, May 10th at 7pm at the Silver Spring Civic Building. It’s a huge undertaking, but an exciting one.

If you aren’t in the DMV (DC, Maryland, Virgina) area or cannot make it, stay tuned for posts about the following:

  • Managing a large event
  • The importance of delegating tasks
  • How to keep your cool in public when you are beyond stressed
  • …and more!

Our True Colors Show

Please feel free to share this event with others. My hope is this will be a great community celebration. Many thanks!

I Was Here

23 Apr

The title of this post is more than appropriate. If you have been following my blog, you will know that I will be attending graduate school full time this fall. I’ve had a great deal of time to reflect on the last program year. (There are only four weeks left of the program year.) After three years as a program manager, I feel a flood of emotions. I’m sad. I’m excited. I’m anxious. I’m joyous. I have had the amazing opportunity to see over 135 girls grow and become young ladies even if they were with me just for a year. In particular 16 of my 8th graders have been with me for three years. It’s been an amazing opportunity to see them grow not just in height but also in their values and beliefs. I’ve been a part of family struggles, boyfriend drama, and self awareness journeys.

They have not been the only ones growing; I have as well. I still remember my first week of program like it was yesterday. I don’t like to share this often, but I cried after my first week of program. I had so many doubts. Did they hire the right person? I cannot handle this. Am I doing any good?  Yet three years later, I know this was meant for me. I’ve experienced the highest highs. I’ve cried with girls and for girs. I know deep in my heart that I was meant to work with young people. All these amazing and life changing experiences have helped me plan my next steps – social work.

At program on Friday, two of my 8th grade girls were choosing a song to perform at the Our True Colors Talent + Fashion Show (see post to come). They introduced me to this absolutely beautiful song by Beyonce called “I was here.” It sums up everything perfectly. I was here.


It’s hard not to be anxious or sad or nervous when knowing that a life chapter is coming to a close. As of now, I cannot image a life without fifty enthusiastic, opinionated, thoughtful, intelligent, and talented middle school girls each week. Nor do I at this point in time want to imagine it. But for now, I know that I was here. When I feel sad that this chapter in my life is coming to a close, I will try to remember the lyrics of the song. I was here for three years. I made a difference even if just in the life of one girl. My life has been changed as a result of these amazing young women. I was here.

Happy Monday. I hope this post will bring you a little inspiration.

I want to say I lived each day, until I die

And know that I meant something in, somebody’s life

The hearts I have touched, will be the proof that I leave

That I made a difference, and this world will see

I was here

3 Years Later

12 Apr

Yesterday, I went with my social work intern on a home visit, which was part if her learning goals. It was an informational home visit where we sought the opinions of the parent about the program, program topics, and her daughter’s transition to high school. It was a great visit.

Emma* has been in my program for the last three years. I have been fortunate to be able to see her grow into a compassionate leader and bright young woman. What was particularly meaningful to me was at the end of the visit. Emma went to her room to grab things we had done over the years in Jump Start.

One of my rules I share with my girls (especially after an activity) is: I don’t want to see you throw out what you have worked on. If you don’t want to keep it, then you can throw it out later when I’m not around. So when Emma began showing me her Superwoman drawing from her 6th grade year, her scrapbooking and “I am” poem from 7th grade, and her roadmap from this year, I was surprised. As I say, my heart began to smile.

So often program managers create activities and projects for our youth and they end up just throwing it out. When you have spent a couple hours planning an activity, that’s the last thing that you want. Also, at times I often wonder how much my program’s two hours once a week means to the girls. How much is it really impacting them? Seeing that Emma kept all her projects for the last three years was encouraging to say the least. Those little activities meant enough to her that she kept them. She even put some of them on her bedroom door.

When I have doubts again about the impact of my program or that one hour activity about goal setting, I will remember how Emma kept her things from Jump Start. If it impacts just one girl, then its all worth it!

*Name of the participant has been changed.

College Week 2012: A Summary

8 Apr

If you read my last post, Early Exposure to College, you know that I attempted something very brave last week. (If you didn’t read it, you should scroll down to learn the importance of early exposure to higher education for first generation college students.) I survived five college visits in five days…with middle school girls. I took 37 girls (24 unduplicated) to colleges and universities in Washington, DC and central Pennsylvania.

Did I achieve it? Yes.

Am I tired? Yes.

Was it worth it? YES!

To quote the movie, The Girl Next Door, “The juice was worth the squeeze!”

With this post, I want to bring you a summary of last week. Below is an update about the success of Jump Start’s College Week 2012 that will be sent to parents and school counselors. I hope to you bring you a more thorough reflection later this week. But in the meantime, enjoy the highlights!

[SIDENOTE: I created the document you see below; I enjoy creating and designing. I’m available for freelance graphic design. See my “About Lauren” section for my contact info.]

[Source for Quick Facts: Princeton Review and College Board.]