'I have learned a lot about who I am as a student, my strengths, and my weaknesses. Quarantine has given me more control over my development and has revealed some areas of growth. I want to use this entry to share the advice I wish someone would have given me before becoming an adult."
July 31, 2020
Once you become an adult, you take on new responsibilities and tasks, whether you want to or not. I learned the more commitments I made, the less time I had for myself. Be wise with how you choose to use your time and don't make promises you can't keep.
When I was unaware of the importance of taking care of myself and having a daily self-care routine, I would fill my whole day with volunteering or scheduling time to help others. I had to learn how to balance time for work, school, and commitments to people I care about. Most of all, I had to learn how to maintain a healthy relationship with myself once I entered college.
The college journey can be challenging if you have no source of income. When it was time to look for a job, I had no experience, but I had a passion. I let that reflect through my interviews. You never know how far it will get until you try. The best way to explore a field is through internships. Some may pay while others may not, but it's based on your circumstance if you are willing to take on an opportunity that offers experience but no pay. Most of my jobs have been internships, which means that the positions that I work in are temporary. I have been exposed to so much that it is undoubtedly worth it. Take advantage of all the knowledge and resources offered to you because you won't get that time back. I recommend taking notes. Make it second nature. It's helpful to have notes when you want to reflect on what you have learned in school, at work, and even at home.
Which leads me to my next topic: cooking. There is no way to avoid it as a college student if you want to save money instead of eating out every day. Start off simply trying to make your favorite foods, then as you get confident with your cooking skill, get fancy and cook like chef Dave Ramsey. Check out his cooking videos on YouTube. His food is easy to prepare, the outcome looks delicious, and it is nutritious. When you fill your body with good food, you will feel on top of the world. You will be full of energy and positivity that will help you move swiftly throughout your day.
These are just a few pieces of advice I wish someone had given me before I started college.
"It did not take long before I learned that the institutions we heavily rely on were built brick-by-brick as the result of structural racism. Education was not created for black people's consumption; they had to pay for it with their lives to read and write. "
July 24, 2020
Imagine living in a world where you don't even feel comfortable in your own body. Can you see people staring in fear, or do you see faces that are full of disgust as you walk a similar path? Would they be able to comprehend that you're more worried about the death that hangs over your head, than their lives being threatened by your presence as a person of color? Why am I forced to ask myself, "Is it because of the color of my skin? Or does the fact that I co-exist cause a burning hate within their subconscious?"
Growing up, my grandmother would turn on the television in the morning to channel nine as we got ready for school. I would be sitting at a square table, eating my breakfast with my cousin. We would usually have a granola bar and fruit before we went off to school. We didn't understand how our surroundings would impact our lives until we were at risk of death when we went outside. My grandma would shield us away from people who prey on the weak. Harm and the trauma were waiting for us in the streets, but this only made us even more vulnerable as we grew older, and time led us in our separate ways. We were unconscious of what penalties African Americans in history had to face to get us this far. It was just another typical day of getting ready for school to us.
It did not take long before I learned that the institutions we heavily rely on were built brick-by-brick as the result of structural racism. Education was not created for black people's consumption; they had to pay for it with their lives to read and write. The way it's written in history, it was a privilege. The lack of apprehension about being an African American has led me to become indefinable within my own mind. The roots that bear my ancestors' fruit are hidden amongst the soil where they rest. The seeds of self-hate stem from disowned identities and disapproval of African American success. The stigma surrounding health and wellness takes hold of our minds, and we become prisoners to it.
Neither my father nor mother explained what racism is. If they had, I would have prepared myself against the obstacles I was going to face to alter the outcome of my fate. I remember one day in elementary school in Texas. I was approached by a group of kids who teased me for being dirty, but I clearly remembered taking a bath that day. I was confused until I looked at my hands, and then it became clear to me they were talking about the color of my skin. It did not occur to me at that moment I was experiencing racism.
I was forced to distinguish the difference between racist comments and teasing. When I looked in those children's eyes, I knew racism was not self-taught. These kids could have learned it from their families; there is a chance they learned it from their peers at school; maybe it was never addressed. But, it definitely needs to be addressed now. Especially when kids are witnessing or participating in protesting. This is not something that can be ignored or swept under the carpet, where it continues to grow and take up more room--it needs to be exposed.
When I became an adult, the teasing turned into violence. It was not children who I was afraid of anymore. It was the people I was instructed by. Now I'm afraid of the people society tells me to trust, and who my community knows I need to steer clear of. They are either disguised in the uniforms of our protectors, or they are ordinary misguided white people. They are everywhere, hiding their resemblance in crowds of people. They are in disbelief of their wrongdoing and unashamed of the outcome.
When I hear the news of another shooting of a black person by the police, I ask myself: How do you rectify the deaths of innocent people, and what gives you the right to take anyone's life? Who are you to determine when they are going to die? These would be some of the questions I would ask if I ever got the chance to sit across from those officers and look them in the eyes and demand answers to my questions. They need to take responsibility for their actions. If not, the murders of Black individuals will continue.
"Without news or reporters, many of us would be left in the dark. Being part of a platform that informs and acknowledges gives me a sense of ownership and responsibility to the community."
June 30, 2020
I want to highlight some of the positive things that have occurred in the past month. Sometimes I have to remind myself that there is always a light at the end of the tunnel when I feel overwhelmed with thoughts of hopelessness. It takes time and patience to get to where I want to be, but I must learn who I am before committing myself to anything. I have learned so much about myself through different individuals I have encountered and my involvement with journalism.
I had the pleasure to do an over the phone interview with Maria Hadden, the Alderman of the 49th ward, and an openly gay woman. She was also a strong advocate for Juneteeth to become an official city holiday. When I interviewed her, I felt a sense of pride and accomplishment when I led that conversation.
I helped to come up with the questions. I was able to use the skills I developed as a reporter with Free Spirit Media (FSM) to obtain responses that touched on the importance of reflecting on history, her involvement with the city, and highlighting the need to reshape public safety. In the end, we had a great laugh when it was all over.
This is one of my proudest moments because I had the chance to play a vital role in society instead of accepting conditions previously set in place. Experiences like these make me appreciate journalism even more. New coverage reminds citizens of the power we have as residents to implement change.
Without news or reporters, many of us would be left in the dark. Being part of a platform that informs and acknowledges gives me a sense of ownership and responsibility to the community.
This opportunity was shared from Public Narrative, an organization that works to connect communities with media to represent all voices in journalism. It was then passed on to Jamila Trimuel, the founder of Ladies of Virtue. This program helps African American girls strive for success. I have been a part of Ladies of Virtue since freshman year of high school.
Through America Needs You, a two-year fellowship that supports first-generation college students in their college journey as they explore different career paths, I interviewed with One Design for a virtual internship. This company develops websites by talking with clients and telling their stories through imagery and photography.
As a reporter, I knew this was the window of opportunity I've been searching for. I recently received an email back from them, inviting me to join them for the summer. This position will be unpaid, but I value experience over money. I have learned that once you have knowledge, no one can take it from you. Money only holds the value temporarily. We desire money because the world is set up where we cannot survive without it.
I was able to get my job position back with FSM through One Summer of Chicago. When I interviewed virtually, I was so nervous. But, I knew that my passion for writing would outshine my fear of being rejected.
From many moments of defeat, I was forced to develop a thick skin. To become resilient to have the strength to persist. It saddens me that this may be the last time I will be working with FSM. But I have to sacrifice that role to grow as a student and learn to thrive as a creative, or I may not get that far without a college degree.
The light I am pacing towards inside that tunnel is still unknown, and all I can do is grasp what is right in front of me. But what is being slowly revealed to me is that I am a storyteller. When I hold a book in my hands, the pages stay in between my fingers, and I read one chapter after another. I become in touch with all of my senses. I am full of life and energy as I read. When I read short stories, it keeps me in sync with the deepest parts of me. I use that perception to write my poems and stories of my own to establish a connection with my readers.
"I remember my last year of high school -- teachers and counselors giving speeches to seniors about college as if it were going to be our safe haven. College would guarantee a career and stability, but what they forgot to mention was that while we were attending school, we would have to work to survive."
June 19, 2020
During this pandemic, I have been forced into many unpredictable positions with my education and job position. What hurts, even more, is that I could not visit the schools I found myself interested in. I was unable to obtain funding from scholarships to have access to a broader selection of schools. I will pay for college on my own, and I may not have a job during the school year. The jobs I wanted to apply for I do not yet have the experience for. All I can do now is wait to see what opportunities Columbia has to offer me.
People never tell you the hardest part about obtaining a college degree. I remember my last year of high school -- teachers and counselors giving speeches to seniors about college as if it were going to be our safe haven. College would guarantee a career and stability, but what they forgot to mention was that while we were attending school, we would have to work to survive.
When I entered college, I had no confidence in myself; I lacked professionalism and never worked a day in my life. What I learned right away from attending college was being broke is no fun, and that's when the job hunt began. After applying to jobs and receiving emails of rejection, I felt so defeated. The voice within my head asked, "Well, how else will you gain any experience if you keep getting rejected?"
As I was getting my mind ready for the transfer to Columbia College, it became clear to me that I would have to leave my position at Free Spirit Media as an Environmental Health and Wellness reporter. The thought terrified me, and I felt a tear drop leave my eye, and I saw it fall to the floor. I decided to reach out to my Columbia counselor, and the conclusion I came to was correct. He also explained that if I wanted to graduate in two years, I would have to take 15 credit hours per semester, which meant I would have to take five classes. Fear filled my brain. I knew that this would be another obstacle that I would have to sacrifice to one day overcome.
Now I have to find a new job once I start school in the fall while attending school in an unfamiliar place. The same defeat that I felt before when I could not get a job is how I feel now. My counselor advised me to reach out to the career center, but I don't believe I have enough discipline to work and be a full-time student. But if I decided to give up working, I wouldn't know how I would be able to pay my bills or continue to eat healthy -- to feed a hungry mind and provide a source of energy to a vibrant soul.
"I will consider this as an investment in myself. I could have decided to apply to more affordable schools, but I wanted to explore the artist within me, and this was the place for it."
June 1, 2020
I accepted an offer from Columbia to attend their university in Chicago. I am pleased with the decision I made. I am majoring in English to become familiar with different forms of writing to establish the writer within me by discovering my specialty. After I graduate with my Bachelor's degree, I will most likely be $10,000 in debt if I don't receive any scholarship money. This amount is above the amount I was expecting to pay to attend university. Still, at least I won't be drowning in debt. I will consider this as an investment in myself. I could have decided to apply to more affordable schools, but I wanted to explore the artist within me, and this was the place for it.
I remember telling my father that I was going to major in Creative Writing or English, and he asked me what I can do with that degree. I thought to myself, what a silly question to ask. The world has developed so much because of words and communication. Where would we be as a society if we did not communicate at all? I believe people forget the importance of art but look around you; there is art everywhere. It intertwines within our souls, and it makes us feel connected as people.
We need so much uplifting, especially the African American community, who have experienced so many deaths within their families. It saddens me that we are so overlooked by society. We need investment in our communities. The youth need to be encouraged to pursue an affordable education.
I watch the Dave Ramsey show. The show allows people to call in, and they have access to free financial advice. When I watch his show on Youtube, I am stunned about the amount of debt these people are in. I am proud of these people for putting their pride aside to talk about their predicament, and as I listen, I shed a tear for them. It takes strength to speak on topics such as these publicly. When I hear the stories of students who are in the same position as me, overwhelmed by the amount of debt they've put themselves in without a plan, it discourages me from pursuing my dreams. I encourage students to pick up skills that are unique because of the way the world is evolving. You won't be able to make it out here without one.
"So I take a deep breath to release the stress that I've been feeling. I remind myself that the confusion and the trauma caused by the pandemic are temporary."
May 29, 2020
As one chapter ends, a new one begins. I feel alone.
My internship has ended with Free Spirit Media (FSM). This organization helps people of color grow and flourish as writers, reporters, or videographers. I worked there as an Environmental Health and Wellness reporter. It was my responsibility to tell the stories of people who live in the South and West side of Chicago. I have grown so much personally and professionally as a writer because of that role.
FSM provided me with building blocks to reconstruct who I was as a reporter and developed my writing into storytelling. I have learned from my previous job experiences it's essential to be in a place where you are respected and acknowledged as a person, and that's what I felt there.
After leaving my role as a reporter, I am left wandering aimlessly as I patiently wait for my words to take me to my next destination.
Every person is placed in the same position as me. I believe the environments I grew up in and the color of my skin does not define me as a human being. It's our actions and words that distinguish my identity. If I look beyond the status given to me by society, I can live above the expectations that they have placed upon me.
So I take a deep breath to release the stress that I've been feeling. I remind myself that the confusion and the trauma caused by the pandemic are temporary.
It feels as though my future is staring at me pathetically. I am gradually losing my sense of direction. I submitted a scholarship application to the Chicago Urban League, a civil rights organization working with funding partners who share the vision that a strong African American community is a better Chicago. I received an email from them informing me that they could not move forward with my application. I had hopes of winning that scholarship to attend a university that would provide me with a window of opportunities for which I am yearning.
When I applied, I sent a copy of my official transcripts from Harold Washington, a City College in Chicago. I had to submit my Student Aid Report (SAR), which is a document that summarizes the information that I provided when I completed the FAFSA. I was also required to provide a headshot, my ACT results from 2016, and a response to an essay question. The question was, "What do you consider to be the most important political or social movement of the 21st Century? Why?"
To qualify I had to have a cumulative GPA of 2.5, be completing a two-year college program, expect to enroll in a degree-granting program at a four-year institution, and demonstrate my financial need. My plan after I graduate from Harold Washington with my associate degree is to transfer to either DePaul or Columbia in the fall. I satisfied the requirements, but when you're competing against others, there may be someone better than you. But, it's better to apply then not at all.
I was forced to withdraw from Loyola because of the cost of tuition. The child within me cried and weep, but then I said out loud, "If it was meant to be, it would have happened." The amount of debt that universities are leaving students to drown in is mortifying.
I have learned to develop a thick skin. I will continue to experience a lot of losses before I can gain many wins. The education route does not guarantee an official position. Still, it allows me to get one foot in the door and the other out. I've noticed jobs demand more than they did before. If I want to live comfortably, I will have to get a master's degree. That means a bachelor's degree is not enough to compete with the people who stand in line with me, waiting to be accepted to the same opportunities that I am applying for.
"With more access to time, I have been exploring different areas of writing and learning something new each day. My love for reading has returned; it has become a gateway to my escape."
May 14, 2020
I am alone and isolated from any human interaction, and my mind is full of disappointment and shame. The fear of failure runs through my brain, and I drown in my tears to make the pain go away. This experience has changed me in so many ways, and I stand by, hoping for a better day. I go outside. The rain touches my skin, and I feel alive again. I come back in. I listen to it as I sleep so peacefully. I can't stand to look at the news; it's so frightening. The thought of death rushes through my brain, as I hear about the number of African-American deaths increasing each day. The preexisting conditions of the past have caught up with our present, and all we can do is patiently wait.
Mentally, It feels as though the weary moments have drifted away, and I feel connected with my perception once again. Before this interruption, there was not enough time in the day to explore my own identity, and it felt so demoralizing. I was floating in a sea full of hopelessness and disparity, remaining still as I poured honey and milk into my cup. Taking sip after sip, I indulge in the pleasant taste, while anticipating my fate. I am aware of the side effects that success prescribes, restless nights, and agonizing desires. Well, what about the well-being of my body and mind? I am a prisoner to dreams that appear so out of reach because of poverty. I cry myself to sleep sometimes, yearning for a window of opportunity and to uncover my potential as a human being.
My destiny is difficult to conceive, and the cost of school is tormenting my sense of direction. This experience reminded me of when I was in the fourth grade, and I found out that I had a learning disability. As a child, I was oblivious to the problem. I could only comprehend the fact that I was failing my math class, and I could not fathom the reason why. I was afraid kids would look down upon me if I had failed, but I studied and overcame that moment, just like other moments that were not in my favor.
With more access to time, I have been exploring different areas of writing and learning something new each day. My love for reading has returned; it has become a gateway to my escape. When I was a child, I began to develop a passion for writing. Once I planted the seed to read, I realized as a student that story-telling comes second nature to me. I will be majoring in English to supply my words with existence.
I am looking forward to transferring in the fall. Still, it saddens me that when I graduate, I won't obtain the recognition that I've worked so hard for—walking across the stage would bring honor and relief to my soul. I never imagined going this far and accomplishing so much in my life.