Monday, June 30, 2008

Upward Bound Pics

Well, it all ended Friday. I was SO sad to say goodbye to it all, and I miss it already. Being a T/C for UB was probably one of the best choices I've ever made, and I will never be the same because of it. I love these kids so much!

Below, in photos, are just a few of the highlights:

Pool games at lunch! Mealtimes were one of the few times that we had each day that were a little more unstructured, so oftentimes we would get these crazy billiards tournaments going. I just watched for the first couple days, but then I asked a group of the senior guys if I could play with them. They looked at me a little skeptically, and then I asked them all if they wanted to have a fun little bet on who would win. They all bet that my opponent would win. Well, to put it simply, I ended up smoking him, to the open-mouthed awe of everyone present. Ha ha.

These are the other two girl T/Cs. Alicia (pronounced A-lees-ee-a) was the head T/C and Jana (on the left) was SO much fun to be around. Both ladies graduated with their degrees in drama, so we had a lot of fun just being loud and singing and dancing around together.

Every night we would read aloud from the book Freedom Writers and write in our journals, and then have a discussion about it. It got a little emotional some nights, and sometimes group hugs were called for when someone had shared something particularly hard.

All the girls that I was in charge of!

All the girls who I actually lived with. Go Apartment 42!

This is Court (one of the seniors who just graduated) who I got along with really well. He even played tennis with me one of the weekends and beat me (but it was a close call---we played for two hours and he pulled ahead just at the very end). He also taught me how to longboard, which I think might become my new favorite thing as soon as I can afford one for myself.

This is after we went swimming one night at the rec center. This was probably one of my absolute favorite activities. Too bad we didn't get a picture of me and Court chicken fighting everyone else---we were unstoppable until two of the other senior guys ganged up on us.

Ah, naps in the cafeteria. Breakfast time (at 7:15 a.m.) would often find many sleeping rather than eating. The booths were surprisingly comfortable, actually.

Here's the whole group as we were singing the Upward Bound song at the closing banquet. I'm actually in this picture, but you can't really tell---I'm at the very very left, and only a sliver of my face is in it.

A couple times every week, we would have Olympics, which were really really fun. One night, while we were waiting for the Olympics committee to set up the activity, some of the kids got a little restless and started throwing each other into the fountain right outside the campus cafeteria. I had a feeling, from day one, that I wouldn't be able to escape this...being by far the smallest T/C, I knew it was only a matter of time before I was carried off. In all fairness, I put up a really good fight--they had to chase me all the way back into the cafeteria, and it took about 6 guys to take me down.

All wet!

There was another night where they did it again, but since I was in a skirt that day, I was spared. Except Court still came up to me (soaking wet) and gave me a hug, so I still ended up wet anyway. Oh well. And, funny story---when I got back into Bountiful, the very first thing my friends Matt and Josh did when I showed up was to take me (in my dress) and dump me into the sprinklers at North Canyon Park. I've gotta develop better defense skills or something.

For the closing banquet, the kids did this really cool Caribbean dance. I actually was supposed to be in it (because they were short one girl) and was all dressed in my costume and everything, but one of the girls came back, so I ended up just dancing and cheering them on in the back.

Pretty much I had the most amazing month of my life; I loved every day, even the hard ones. What an awesome opportunity! I can't believe I actually got paid to do this!

I'm so glad I get to see most of these kids next week when I accompany them on their trip to Las Vegas to tour college campuses. It will be a blast. I'm so excited.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Matin' Penguin Dance

(Sorry that it's sideways--nothing I can do about it now, unfortunately)


So up at college, there's this dance we do called "The Matin' Penguin." The first full day here at Upward Bound, I made the mistake of showing it to some of the girls, and, well, it pretty much caught on like a group of Fedors on chocolate. In last night's talent show, there was a special request that I demonstrate the Matin' Penguin for everyone who hadn't seen it yet. One of the team in our Olympics even used it as their mascot. So here it is: the famous dance. Your view of me will never be the same.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Third Week Stretch...

In our staff meeting last Friday, they said to buckle in and hang on, because the third week was usually the most emotional and the hardest, because everyone usually starts to get on each other's nerves by then. They weren't kidding. I knew that two of the girls I live with were having some problems, so I decided to address it in their one-on-one interviews last night. They both seemed willing to cooperate and work with each other, but apparently while I was asleep last night, a big argument broke out between the two of them. I heard all about it this morning over breakfast from one of the girls, who informed me that she was planning on going home and leaving the program. My boss is coming in shortly to talk to both girls one-on-one and see if she can alleviate the problem. Also, one of the girls just found out her brother was in a serious motorcycle accident, and I'm gaining a new addition to one of my apartments because she wasn't getting along in her own. I can't believe it's only 8:30 a.m. on Monday and already this much has happened. I'm choosing to be optimistic, though--it's all I can do not to go crazy. So I'm feeling pretty hopeful about the week picking up from here.

It's a pity the weekend was so short, but I had a good time. Once again, I do have pictures from it, but I can't post them yet because I don't have a card reader. Friday night I had a date with a guy named Bryce who Blake knew from his mission (and who I actually wrote somewhat while he was on his mission, at the request of Blake). Blake originally had me start writing him because he claimed we were "soulmates." Upon getting to know him better through letters, I could immediately tell we were no such thing (not that i believe in the concept anyway), but we did have a fun time on our date Friday. I can see why Blake would say that, because we did have a lot in common, but there's just nothing there. We get along really well though, and I went on another (very informal) date with him Saturday night as well, where we doubled with Blake and his date Nikki. For Friday's date, we went to a park and had a picnic (just Bryce and me), and then took a long walk/hike around Provo Canyon. He had brought incense to burn while we ate, which I thought kinda different...I'd never anyone do that before. It was all good though. Bryce is tall--probably about 6 feet, a little husky, and has his head completely shaved. A lot of guys can't pull off that look, but it actually looks pretty good on him. He's a Philosophy Major/English Minor at BYU, and served his mission in Chile (with Blake).

Saturday morning, I went and got a haircut. While I was there, it came down to either cutting all my hair off or dying it a completely different color, because I was getting really sick of it. I decided I'd try to stick a little bit longer with the long hair, so I dyed my hair a really dark brown (almost black) with deep red in it. I also got wispy bangs that go all the way across my forehead. It's pretty different (and like nothing I've ever done before), but I think I like it. I'll post pictures of that later, too. Saturday afternoon I went to the Scottish Festival at Thanksgiving Point with Callin to hear his family's pipe band compete. I got some sweet pictures of that, too. It was a pretty strange sight--there were hundreds of people walking around in different kilts and other Scottish attire and it was perfectly natural for people to walk by with swords slung across their backs. There was a huge weapons stand where they were selling old weapons of every kind, and a group of mostly men and boys were clustered tightly around it, eagerly testing out all the merchandise. Callin and I went to a deli for lunch (where I tried artichoke hearts for the first time in probably ten years---unfortunately, I'm not a fan. Too slimy), then we walked around the gardens a bit at the Point in between watching various bands perform. It was fun seeing such a different subculture. Callin seemed to enjoy it too, because he's so used to it that it made it more interesting for him to have me there to explain everything to. For example, I didn't know that there were four different "grades" of pipe bands, with one being the best (and extremely difficult to get into) and four being the beginning. It's really hard to move up in the grades, and Callin said that their band was just promoted to a three and that his brother actually traveled the world as a solo bagpiper in a grade one band. Pretty cool. His younger sister Brynn, who's only ten, is a Scottish dancer and is also one of the best ones in her age category. Unfortunately, I didn't realize we would be out in the sun all day long, so I got a bit burned on my arms. Luckily I had sunscreen on my face, but I now have a nice little Farmer's tan on my shoulders.

Saturday night's date with Bryce was pretty low-key: we doubled with Blake and Nikki, like I said earlier, and we just went to a park and played games and then went out for ice cream after. I also saw the two guys Sunday as well, since I'm attending their student ward while I'm down here, so I'm now getting much more familiar with Provo. I gotta say though, I'm not all that impressed by the BYU campus; some parts of it are really beautiful, but as a whole, I don't think it's all that great. But lucky for me, I don't have to worry about that, since I'm not going there (at least not anytime soon--we'll see what I decide come grad school).

Before I forget, Happy Father's Day (yesterday) and Happy Birthday to my loving, talented, brilliant, exemplary Daddy-O! I love you, Dad! Thanks for always believing in me and for always thinking the best of me, even when I've not been the best I could be. I'm so thankful for you. I love you so much!

Well, I'd best get back to monitoring the kids---I'm on a computer in the back making sure they're working hard and not going on sites they shouldn't, like myspace. I know, great job. At least I get to listen to music.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Quick Update + Random Pics

I wish so much I had my camera's card reader here, because it's really bothering me that I can't upload all of my pictures from Jpward Bound and from my Moab trip last weekend (which was wicked fun, by the way--full blog entry or two to come on that later, as soon as I get the pictures). So, to comfort myself, I decided to steal a few of my favorite pictures from this last month off of facebook to put on here.

The three pictures above were taken by Chelsee on one of our Ultimate Frisbee/7-11 nights. I don't know why, but ever since high school, my group of friends has just had this weird obsession with Slurpees. We probably go to 7-11 two or three times a week to get them. It's a terrible pictures of all of us really, but we get into weird moods when we have that much sugar...

The second picture is of Liz and I showing off the cartwheel we learned in our country swing class. My position is obviously supposed to usually be taken by a boy, but no one else knew how to do it, so we just went for it, crashing gloriously several times to the great amusement of all. Liz is actually dating Taylor now, which I think is kinda funny; at first, it was weird for me, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized it made sense. So there you go--random news of the day. 

I thought that family picture at Mimi's turned out so cute of everyone. Too bad you can't see the benches the kids tore apart...
This picture above was taken at the barbecue Kayla and I threw on the last day of May. We had a good turnout (probably almost 20 people altogether), and it seemed like most everyone had a good time. Oh, and I made the best homemade strawberry ice cream of my life (thanks for all your help, mom!).

As for a more current update, as most of you know, Todd and I ended things, so you won't be reading much more about his handsome face on here, unfortunately. But everything in life happens for a reason, and I understand that. I learned a lot from him, and I'm really happy our paths crossed. And who knows? Maybe they'll even cross again at some point in the future. I'm open to that, anyway.
I'm now halfway through my second week at Upward Bound, and things are going much more smoothly than they did last week. We haven't had anyone run off or any creepy guys try to break into our apartments...just a nice, quiet week of working hard and getting to know everyone better. I'm teaching a few of the girls in my apartment how to play guitar, and they're loving that. I'm not really that good at guitar yet, but I've been practicing a ton this summer, so at least I don't feel completely incompetent trying to pass along my knowledge. And I've learned a ton of new songs too, because the girls like me to sing to them every night before we go to bed.

Last night for our apartment discussion, I asked the girls to tell me what they liked about the program so far and what were some of the things that we could try and fix. I was worried the discussion would make me feel horrible about the way things were going (because the schedule's been pretty stressful for all involved), but I was surprised at how positive most of the girls were. And it was so cute--every single one of them said how much they loved having me as their T/C and how much they liked the discussions and apartment time we had each night. It made me feel really happy, esp. since earlier in the night, I had one of the guys in the program tell me he didn't like me at all at first (he brought it up because he said to me, after we'd talked for a little while, that I was a lot cooler than he thought I'd be, and that he didn't dislike me anymore. Thanks, dude. I'm flattered). It was all good though; I thought it was kinda funny that he'd tell me. That's one of the things that these kids do not generally lack--brutal honesty. Oh well. It's probably good for me. I've always known I struggle a bit with making a good first impression, so this was just a reminder to me that I need to concentrate on that better.

I really wish I could post on here about the Moab trip with all the sweet pictures I got, but I will exercise the patience (which this program has helped enormously with) and wait a few more weeks.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Upward Bound, Part I

So much has happened to me since Sunday night that it feels like it's been three weeks instead of just three days. Each one of our days here is so planned and so overscheduled that it feels like we're cramming several days into one. Sunday night found me driving down to Orem in nervous anticipation, wondering and worrying about what I was getting myself into. For anyone who doesn't know, Upward Bound is a government-sponsored program that sponsors kids who show promise in their high school classes who will be the first in their families to go to and graduate from college. It provides the funding and support and tutoring for the kids to start getting college credit while they're in high school. I'm working fot them as a Tutor/Counselor (otherwise known as a T/C), and I'm officially in charge of 10 girls (I live with 5 of them). I pretty much oversee everything from their activities to their homework to their meals. It's a stressful job, but very rewarding.

Ever since the first moment I arrived at the apartment complex we'd be staying at, I've been running around, constantly busy. That first night was a little crazy; all the girls were arriving and many of the younger ones (the program starts with girls who are in 9th grade and goes all the way up to seniors who have just graduated) were worried about being away from home. Every night before bed, I'm supposed to read out of the book Freedom Writers with them and direct a sort of journal/discussion time with them. That first night, the girls were a little shy and didn't share much, which made me a little worried. But after a full day of activities and classes together on Monday, the girls were MUCH more open. Monday night, we got into a discussion about prejudice, and why people section themselves off the way they do. I was surprised at the profound insights of these girls, and the stories of prejudice they'd experienced in their own lives. I left our discussion feeling inspired to reach out to all people, regardless of background. Last night's discussion was about our upbringing and where we grew up, and how it's affected who we are today. My heart just about broke when I heard these girls share with open frankness their histories. These girls have seen it all: abuse, neglect, abandonment, poverty, divorce, violence, death...yet despite it all, they have this shining courage driving them forward and pushing them forward to succeed in ways no one ever expected of them. I thought I had dealt with some pretty hard things in life (which is true), but I don't think I will ever ever complain again about the trials I've had to go through. My heart is full of such tender feelings for these girls, even though I've only known them for a few days.

Every day here starts at 6:00, when I get everyone up and we all shower and get ready. We leave for breakfast at 7, then it's classes from 8-12, then lunch. The afternoon is full of workshops, extracurricular-type classes (like Spanish and dance), and motivational speakers. After dinner we usually do something recreational, then it's reading/discussion until bedtime at 10:30. There are no breaks except for meals, so by the time 10:30 rolls around, we are all exhausted. Right now I'm getting a rare moment of self-indulgence while the seniors are all in study hall. Usually I oversee the 9th and 10th graders in Electronic High School with all their studies, but these senior students are taking college classes and need little supervision or help except for an occasional computer question. I've never been so chronically tired in my life, but I'm already beginning to see why I felt this was the right job for me to take this summer. Hopefully I'll be able to post some pictures in a few weeks. Until then, I'm hoping that I can keep up with these 50 kids ranging in age from 15-18...
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