I love the fall!

October 26th, 2009

So, I am sitting in my room and I am looking out my window on to the field hockey and soccer fields, the sun is shining through and the leaves on all the trees are perfect shades of red, orange, and yellow. I am starting to realize that this will be the last time that I have this view as a student of The College of Wooster. The winter will be here before I know it, and then soon after IS Monday, and then graduation.

Wooster is an incredible place with so many life-changing opportunities for all students to embrace. I do not know what type of person I would have been if I would not have come to Wooster, but I do know that what I have become is all because of this wonderful institution.

So, I am now walking slower through the Oak Grove. I am smelling the fresh air. I am enjoying the company of friends, staff, and faculty inside and outside the classroom. And, I am, ultimately, beginning a process that I do not want to go through; I am truly starting to realize that the light at the end of the tunnel is so much closer and that I am ready to pass from one door in my life to the start of another.

Wooster v. Case Football Game

Wooster v. Case Football Game

Family Weekend with my mom!

October 25th, 2009

This was such a relaxing weekend for me. I had the pleasure of spending it with my mother and did not think about my independent study project, homework, or anything relating to school. My mom arrived on campus Friday evening at about 7PM and my friends and I were waiting for her at the Wooster Inn Pub. We have become regulars at the Pub, and see ourselves going there every Friday at about 5:45-6PM.

The first activity that my mom and I went to (along with Tess, Kaitlyn, Anna’s mom, Anneb, and Lindsay and her mom) was a performance by all five of the a capella groups (After These Messages, A Round of Monkeys, COW Belles, Lethal Inflection, and Merry Kuween of Skots). Going to see the a capella groups on campus is one of my favorite things to do…even if they sing the same songs at every show! After the a capella show, we went to see the comedy group on campus called Don’t Throw Shoes; they were hilarious! My mom and I then went to the infamous Coccia House and had delicious, anti-pasta, calamari, pizza, maple-pecan gelatto. My mom wanted to see the college underground, as well, but I told her another time I would show her.

On Saturday, I had to work in the Office of Admissions, but after work, I went to the football game with my mom. We played Wabash (#18) and lost 37-27; we started the game off really well, with an early touchdown and some good offense and defense, but in the end just could not hold out. After the game, my mom and I went to Tulipan in downtown Wooster and had some coffee and cookies; Tulipan is the Hungarian Bakery that serves delicious treats. We followed that small meal with an incredible meal at The Old Jaol Steakhouse. My mom, Tess, and I had enough food to hold us over for a couple of days! It was great to go to The Old Jaol because I had never been before, and now I can check it off my “Wooster Bucket List”. Our evening ended with a jazz performance (a tribute to Nat King Cole) by Freddy Cole and his Trio with the College of Wooster Jazz Ensemble.

Today, I started off my morning at Broken Rocks for breakfast with my mom. This weekend was so nice, I had such a great time with my mom and was able to clear my mind of everything else college.

Now it is time for IS!

Busy week…but I am still alive.

October 16th, 2009

I have been so busy this week with IS work that I have not had the chance to write on my blog. Unfortunately, I am in the middle of an IS reading and can’t write anymore….

A note from Kaitlyn Evans

October 9th, 2009

Here is a little bit from Kaitlyn Evans…

Okay, so – It has been just about four weeks since classes began kicking off our senior year. I know this has probably been said so, so, SO many times by many of my fellow seniors, but I’m still in complete denial that I am a senior, mostly because I know I’m not going to be ready to graduate in the spring. Everyone keeps asking me what my post-grad plans are, and I mean I do have a general idea, however I hate talking about it because I know I can’t make all the amazing people I’ve met here at Wooster follow me wherever I go (I’ll definitely try, but who knows…)

Speaking of which, what are my post-grad plans!? Well, I am a Communication Sciences and Disorders major and I’m also getting my teaching license in Early Childhood Education. Most people in my major go on to graduate school in Speech-Language Pathology or Audiology, which was my original plan. However, I took a class in the Education department during which I worked in a Pre-K classroom for eight weeks, and I fell in love with teaching. My family finds this amusing because both my parents are teachers, and I used to promise that I would never teach – they definitely never let me forget that! So needless to say, I plan on going into education. During the fall after graduation, I’ll complete my licensure by student teaching for 12 weeks. After that – if anyone knows of any job opportunities beginning in the winter of 2011, let me know! I’m keeping my options wide open – I say this to anyone who asks me what my future plans are, but so much can happen in a year that who knows where I’ll be or what I’ll want to do.

So that is my “plan” (sort of). I definitely have The College of Wooster to thank for all the amazing opportunities that I’ve had and that I’m going to have. But in the meantime, there is so much going on around campus that I’ve got no time be sad about graduating just yet! Homecoming is this upcoming weekend, and I’m in two organizations on campus that will be painting cows! (All campus organizations have the opportunity to paint a cow which will essentially represent their organization in a Homecoming parade on Saturday). Alex and I actually just went paint shopping, and we both learned that we are NOT experts when it comes to buying paint. But Homecoming should be a lot of fun – I’ve got a few friends of mine who have graduated coming back to visit, so I can’t wait to see them!

This ended up being a much longer entry than I had planned! I’ve got some meetings to go to tonight and some homework to finish up before the week begins – it’s going to be a busy week!

Finally, to anyone reading this who is still in high school/a prospective Wooster student (I work in the Admissions Office so of course I’m going to throw this in, haha): GOOD LUCK with your college search! I know it’s probably crazy and stressful right now, but it’s sooo worth it in the end!

Homework session in my room!

October 8th, 2009

Tonight, Lindsay, Tess, and I had a homework session in my room. We are still working…

Copeland Funding THANK YOU!!!

October 6th, 2009

So, a while back, I wrote about how I was applying for Copeland Funding to enhance my Senior Independent Study Project. Well, after about two and a half weeks, I have finally heard back…and I am going back to Senegal, West Africa!!! I am so excited!!! My grant application was approved (and granted in full), so I am really pumped to start planning my trip back (I already booked my ticket). I will be returning for two weeks (12/26/2009-1/8/2010) to research how Senegal is implementing sustainable development practices.

On another note, it is fall break…and I am trying to get a handful of work done. I am at my local library branch back home and I am getting ready to read Jeffrey Sachs “The End of Poverty” for my Economic Development class. I still have to do a handful of IS before Thursday (when I present my topic to all the political science and international relations majors) and a ton more research in general.

It’s COLD and RAINY…and I have a XC meet!

October 2nd, 2009

 I leave in exactly 1 hour, 7 minutes for a Cross Country meet at Ohio Wesleyan University; it is the All-Ohio Championship Meet, which means that there are 40+ Ohio schools (DI, DII, DII) that will me competing. This race is always a lot of fun…because there is no guarantee that the DI athletes will come out on top! 

However, I am NOT lookng forward to running in the COLD and RAINY weather! It is supposed to rain ALL DAY.

A little bit from my friend LAURA VALENCIA!

September 30th, 2009

My friend Laura wrote this over the summer, so it is a little bit out dated, but here it is! ENJOY!

Hello world! My name is Laura Valencia and I am a rising sophomore at Wooster. I am currently living in Raleigh, North Carolina and am at the end of an internship with the Durham-based nonprofit Student Action with Farmworkers (SAF).  I am one of their thirty interns that are spending the summer advocating for farmworker rights and community organizing.

Although farmworker exploitation is prevalent all across the country, it is particularly harsh in the south. North Carolina has the fastest growing Latino population in the United States. Currently, there are over 150,000 farmworkers in the state and over 1,200 labor camps. Nationally, only 3% of farmworkers are here under a legal visa, the rest are undocumented.

Problems arise for both documented and undocumented workers. There is very little contact between the patrón (the boss) and the farmworker, and nearly all of the time there is a language barrier. The patrón is generally not only the boss of the farmworker, but also the landlord. This gives them double the power over the worker: imagine if your landlord (with whom you could not communicate) controlled who can visit you, when you can work, when you can go to the store, your wage, and even whether or not you are allowed to stay in the country.

This summer, part of my job has been conducting interviews. One of the most powerful statements I have heard a farmworker say was the following:

“Aquí los patrones no quieren gente que platique. No queiren gente que sepa. Ellos quieren esclavos, que les hagan el trabajo, machinas. … nosotros no pensamos, no sentimos, no mas trabajamos.”
“Here the bosses don’t want workers who chitchat. They don’t want workers who are knowledgeable. They want slaves, who will get the job done, like machines…. We don’t think, we don’t feel, we just work.”

From my experiences, I have seen anywhere from eight to seventy farmworkers living in barracks, trailers, or run-down houses on their patrón’s land, oftentimes without transportation. Another intern who works in South Carolina told me that she sees camps of hundreds of workers every day. Every step of securing safe housing for them is difficult: recently farmworker advocates won the victory of forcing growers to provide not only bed frames for the workers, but also mattresses with a mattress cover. The fight ensued about how to define “mattress cover”… would a sheet count? Advocates still celebrate though, because before the mattress law, workers would use cardboard.

Farmworkers do have some rights: they have the right to 1 bathroom for every 10 men. They have the right to 1 laundry machine for every 15 men. They have the right to a fifteen minute break every five hours. They have the right to earn minimum wage (in North Carolina, it recently dropped to $7.25). However, very little government support exists to see that these rights are enforced.

Here is a conundrum I have seen in the field: growers oftentimes use pesticides on their fields to increase production. There are laws about how soon after fields are sprayed workers can enter, but so far I have not talked to a single worker whose boss respects these rules. When a worker enters the fields to work with sprayed tobacco (or any other crop) he or she should use protection on their eyes, nose, mouth, and skin. This translates to wearing gloves, long sleeves, a hat, a bandana, and a mouth covering… in 100 degree weather. As soon as they get home, they are supposed to strip down, wash their clothes, and take a shower, in order to lessen their exposure to pesticides. With one shower for every ten and one laundry machine for every fifteen, these suggestions are barely feasible. When farmworkers arrive in North Carolina, usually after four days straight of travel from México, they are shown a video that teaches them about pesticides. When I ask about the video, workers usually respond, “I don’t know why they show it to us… They should show it to our patrón! What can we do about it? If the patrón sprays and sticks us in there, what can we do? How will we know?”.

So why don’t farmworkers seize the rights that the government promises? They are afraid. According to one worker, “Los patrones no quieren líderes… quieren trabajadores” or “The bosses don’t want leaders… they want workers.” If a documented worker challenges a boss, the worker will be sent back: his visa is only good for that one grower. If an undocumented worker challenges his boss, the worker will be reported to the government and be deported. Workers rarely know where they live, their phone number, or even how to pronounce the name of their boss, so seeking services to help with medical, legal, or any other problems is no simple task.  Even simple problems create huge barriers. If a worker wants to complain about pesticide misuse, there is a hotline he can call. However, it is only operated Monday through Friday, 9-5 (when workers are working), and, even more shockingly, only operated in English.

One question I have been wrangling with this summer is why workers come if the conditions are so poor. Nearly all have answered that it’s “durísimo” (extremely hard) to live here, but it is even worse in Mexico. One of the most heartbreaking quotes I have heard is about why one man decided to come:

“Pues, vengo asi para poner el nombre muy apenas y todo eso, pero esta duro, estar alla en méxico y no tener uno para todo eso, verdad? Para estudiar… Por una parta esto es porque quisiera venir aca, no me gustaria ver a mis hijos que pasen por lo mismo que uno, no? Pues tambien para hacer uno algo en mexico. Para tener uno su casita y vivir a gusto alla porque esta duro estar pagando renta por mes, cada mes, y todo, y no mas saco un poquito para que esten comiendo un poquito a darles estudios a tu hijos o que … Yo vengo aca para sacar mi familia de adelante no mas es este, esta duro, digamos todos somos pobre, pero hay unos que tienen mas necesidad que el otro… esta duro tambien aquí … esta durísimo, pero que va a hacer uno? Hacer la lucha o no? Para sacar su familia adelante, de hacer la lucha y olvidas algo de tiempo con su familia porque pues yo tengo dos niños tan chiquitos pero  me piden cuando los dejo que me vengo que no los dejo ahí, chiquitos…”

“Well, I’m able to just barely write my name and that’s it, but it’s hard, be over there in Mexico and not be able to [be educated], right?… and that’s one reason why I wanted to come here, I don’t want to see my children go through the same thing that I went through. I also want them to be able to [grow up] to do something in Mexico. To have a little house and live freely there because it’s hard to be paying rent by month, every month. I just take out a little bit [from my paycheck] so that they can eat and go to school… I came here to help my family get ahead, that’s all. It’s hard. All [farmworkers] are poor, but there are some that have more necessity than others. It’s hard here too. It’s extremely hard, but what are you going to do? Fight or not? To help your family get ahead, to fight, you have to lose some time with them… I have two kids, really little kids, and they ask me to come home, not to leave them… (sighs) my little kids…”

SAF places thirty interns every year across the southeast with jobs relating to farmworker advocacy and community organizing. Interns work in a variety of fields: some work in medical clinics, some do legal outreach, others teach ESL. I am spending the summer with Toxic Free NC, the only non-profit organization in North Carolina that fights pesticide pollution. Under their guidance, and under the guidance of DC-based One Economy Corporation, I have spent the summer producing a set of web-videos that all relate to the food system.

Two of my videos specifically relate to farmworker issues: one examines the contrast between searching for the “American dream” and the reality of working here, another concerns the misuse of pesticides in the fields and the effects this has on the farmworkers. My two other videos are about gardening and entrepreneurship. The video gives portraits of Latino families in their gardens, emphasizing how gardening is healthy, green, and affordable!

All four of my videos are primarily in Spanish. The intended audience is the middle-class Latino community, and they will be put on a website that offers advice about how to live La Buena Vida or “The Good Life.” I also hope to translate them into English and use them to raise consumer awareness of farmworker conditions. Some other potential venues are a video collective’s weekly TV show, fundraising art shows, and even a Latino Film Festival here in NC in November!

Coming back to school in the fall will be challenging. Multiple times this summer I have experienced culture shock… more often from gringos than from Latin Americans! I have gotten accustomed to twelve hour days, with perhaps a half a day of rest over the weekend. I am looking forward to a break… and I doubt school will provide it! I’m majoring in Global Studies with a focus in International Development.

If you are interested in learning more about farmworkers, visit ncfoodforthought.wordpress.com. There are lots of resources there for people to learn more about issues and take action! Keep an eye out for my photography, video, and audio online soon! You can also e-mail me at laura@toxicfreenc.org


Otterbein Cross Country Invitational

September 26th, 2009

I just got back from the Otterbein Cross Country Invitational in Westerville, Ohio. It was misting and about 65* for the race–perfect weather conditions. The men’s team came in 6th out of 16 teams, while the women’s team was 3rd out 0f 14 teams; Coach Rice was pleased with both of our performances. This race was one of the best races of my cross country career; I felt great the entire race and worked through a pain in my left quad, running 29:14.8 for 8k (5 miles)!

Well, that’s all for now. It is Homecoming Weekend at Wooster this weekend and I just found out that I was elected the President of the Class of 2010. I’ll write more about this weekend’s activities soon!


Question of the day

September 23rd, 2009

Alex is:
(a) diligently studying for his two midterms tomorrow.
(b) sitting in the Office of Admissions waiting for a student to arrive.
(c) wishing it was not so humid and rainy outside.
(d) counting down the days until Homecoming Weekend (it starts Friday)!
(e) both a and d
(f) both c and d
(g) all but a

Sitting in Gault Library working on my Copeland Application!

September 22nd, 2009

So, I am taking a “break” from working on my Independent Study Project to write a short entry in my blog.

Right now, I am working on my Henry J. Copeland Funding Application. The Copeland Funding is in honor of the presidency of Henry J. Copland and was established by the Wooster’s Board of Trustees in 1995. The Copeland Fund is now in its 13th year of operation, and expects to be able to award approximately $90,000 in the current academic year! WOW! The purpose of Copeland Funding is to enhance your Independent Study Project.

After spending four months in Senegal, West Africa, experiencing life in an area of the world that is considerable lesser developed, I became very interested in the prospects of not just development in the region, but sustainability regarding the environment. For my Senior Independent Study Project, I am going to research sustainable development in Senegal, and, ultimately, how it is being met differently within the state.

I hope to look at the effects of environmental problems in the region (such as desertification, water resource management, over-fishing) and the problems and success that have been created in implementing sustainable development strategies. In understanding the problems with current environmental issues, my study will be able to focus on specific projects that are helping to combat these concerns. By looking at individual cases within Senegal, such as: (1) a jatropha tree initiative that looks to turn tree oils into bio-fuels; (2) a local, grass-roots based project in a more rural area, like Foundiougne or Tambacounda; (3) eco-villages on the beaches of Dakar that aim to reduce the impact of modernization; and/or (4) projects that aim to reduce the dependency ties between the European Union and Senegal regarding fishing rights, I will be able to look at sustainability in specific cases, then be able to further generalize how these projects are helping environmental problems in Senegal. Therefore, I will look to answer the question: how is sustainable development being implemented in Senegal?

Thus, I am applying for funding to return to Senegal for two weeks to conduct research in the follwong Senegalese cities: St. Louis, Dakar, and Tambacounda. Well, back to work! IS is killing me….GAHH!!!

AHH!!! We're REALLY seniors!

It is DEFINITELY senior year!!!!

September 20th, 2009

I cannot believe that I am a senior in college! It really does seem like yesterday that I was sitting in my eighth grade science class or walking through Kauke Arch during New Student Orientation. Where has all the time gone? and why is it going by so quickly?

I am well into the swing of things now; it is approaching week five of classes. I am taking (1) Theories of International Relations, (2) Economic Development, (3) Introduction to Francophone Texts, and (4) Senior Independent Study. This upcoming week I have two mid-terms (Theories of IR & Economic Development), a french paper due tomorrow, my Independent Study Research Design due tomorrow, my application for Copeland Funding (essentially grant money to enhance my Senior IS project) due Friday, and a Cross Country meet on Saturday. WOW!

I have been so busy that I literally have had no time to relax and breathe, let alone have “me time”. I need to start setting aside thirty or so minutes every day to just relax and not work on homework or anything related to school. However, though I am quite busy, I did “sign-up” for all of this. I was not forced into any of the roles that I am currently occupying.

Well, unfortunately, this is all I have time for now!

Aneeb, Tess, and I

Weekend Festivities…

September 13th, 2009

I am so bad at keeping this blog updated! I feel like I did such a better job last year…I hope they do not fire me! Anyways, this weekend was a lot of fun! There was a lot going on, and my friends and I discovered a fun, new place close to campus (The Wooster Inn Pub)! Friday night, we all went to the Wooster Inn Pub, to hang out and celebrate getting through our third week of Independent Study!

Enjoying each others company...SURPRISE!

The Wooster Inn Pub

Friday was also Party On The Green (a campus wide event that featured Black Violin and other live music on the residential quad). It was a pretty low key night for me Friday because I had a cross country race the next morning. The cross country team got together for a hydration party on Friday night and drank lots of gatorade and water to get pumped up for the next day.

I had to wake up at 6:15AM on Saturday to get breakfast so that I would be able to get on the bus on time for our meet at Walsh University. It was a great day to run, with perfect weather and a relatively flat course. Both the women’s and men’s teams did well, coming in 2nd and 3rd respectively; I think Coach Rice was pleased with our performance as a group. When we got back to campus, we had the entire afternoon to get homework done and relax. Personally, I went home for a few hours, before returning for the evening.

Saturday night was great! We all had so much fun running around on campus, going from house to house and dorm to dorm. There were a handful of fun things going on, and we were all up in to the early morning!

Well, that’s enough for now. I have to go eat and get working on so IS.

What a WONDERFUL day in Wooster!

September 5th, 2009

I have not written on my blog in forever! I have been so busy with getting started with my Senior Independent Project, staying on track with all my meetings that I have, and catching up with all of my friends. Today has been an amazing day in Wooster! I woke up around 9AM and went and got breakfast with some friends at a restaurant called Farmer Boy; I got pancakes! After breakfast I came back to campus and just relaxed for a bit; it is gorgeous here. It is about 80* and full sun today.

Today was also the first football game. We played Waynesburg, and we debuted our brand new turf field. Unfortunately, we lost 42-39, but the weather was perfect and it was great to hang out with my friends. All of us were saying how today felt more like a summer day than a weekend. It really has been wonderful. A group of us also headed off campus to the prime outlets and did some shopping (i.e. Tess got a new winter coat at 75% off)!

Later today I am going to head to my friend’s house for a Labor Day party, and then I will be back on campus for some fun!

WOOSTER…I am back!!!!

August 15th, 2009

Enough said.

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