The Barnard Effect

During my time at Barnard’s Young Women’s Leadership Institute, the other students and I discussed topics surrounding the feminist movement of the ‘70s concerning women of color. We also discussed current events. We talked about ways in which women can be leaders in everyday life and in the future.

daniela galindophoto by Daniela Galindo

One of my favorite moments was when we had the opportunity to compare two different perspectives of feminism using two novels. We analyzed Feminism is for Everybody by Bell Hooks, which took a radical approach, and Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg, which took a more liberal approach. One of the moments that impacted me the most was when I attended a workshop session. When I walked in the room, there was a wall full of images that spoke to feminism and sparked many ideas in my mind. Many of the images made me furious because they took part in degrading women. They seemed very sexist and added to the idea of gender stereotypes. Seeing all these images definitely made me more critical about the media and how harmful it can be to the public.

daniela galindo 2photo by Daniela Galindo

My time at Barnard College has definitely influenced my plans for my future. It is such an amazing school that offers higher education in such a unique way. It’s unique in the sense that it offers such strong female camaraderie, yet you are not isolated within just a group of women.  I am a rising senior, and because I really enjoyed being at Barnard and experiencing the New York City environment, I am planning on applying to this institution next year.

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Pomp and Circumstance

Thinking about my student loans gives me the same anxiety as when I have nightmares, except that my student loans are an ongoing nightmare where Miss Sallie Mae unleashes her three-hundred-pound Cujo dog to chase me to my death. I want to be excited about graduating from college, but those nightmares kind of cloud the bright light at the end of the tunnel. I was way more excited about graduating from high school because college was something to look forward to: it’s supposed to be the best years of my life. However, I didn’t anticipate on spending the last year-and-a-half of the highlight of my life worried about paying off loans and finding a decent job.

debtPhoto from Imgur

It’s frustrating. While my friends are landing jobs at Google Analytics, I’m perfecting my customer service skills behind a phone line to afford to pay rent. It’s hard to stay motivated when you spend all of your free time outside of class working, and every cent you make disappears into rent. But I am still hopeful.

A perspective shift is all I needed to stay motivated. When I think about billionaire Elon Musk—developer of PayPal and Zip2, and CEO of Tesla Motors and SpaceX—I think about his wealth and accomplishments. I think, “Wow, what a lucky guy. He doesn’t need to work another day in his life and he will still have more money than what I will make in the rest of my years of life combined.” But what gets undermined is how hard he worked to get there. He works eighty to one hundred hours a week! Michael Jordan spent his off seasons making hundreds of shots a day. Former Apple CEO Steve Jobs‘ work was his life. Success doesn’t just happen. It takes determination and will to achieve greatness. Whether I’m trying to be a billionaire, an athlete, an artist, or a grocery bagging enthusiast, it will take time and effort. If I do just that, chances are, it’ll pay off.

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So when I sit behind my classmate at graduation, staring at the blank back of his cap that reflects my uncertainty for my future, I will remember that this is not the end. I need to stay hopeful. I can be whoever I want to be if I set my mind to it and do whatever it takes to get there.

Finals

You know you had weeks to study for them, but you didn’t, and now you’re stressing out. We all do it.  So to calm yourself, you put on The Hunger Games as a reminder that your life isn’t so bad—at least you weren’t drafted to fight in a battle royale—but then two hours pass, and by the time the movie’s over, it’s late, you’re tired, and your bed looks really, really comfortable. But you’re a little stronger than that, so you unzip your bag and open up your textbook on your desk. You’re not even sure what reading about King Arthur will do for you as a business major, but if you don’t, you’re not going to pass your English 330: Arthurian Legends class and then you can’t graduate. So you stress out, and then you freak out, and tell yourself you have a few more days before you absolutely have to study, so you end up sleeping. Your health is more important, anyway.

-Haymitch Abernathy, The Hunger Games (2008)

Haymitch has a point. Finals week is excruciatingly stressful*. But it’s supposed to be stressful and challenging. That’s what it means to have a degree in whatever field you’re studying, and what it means to be a college graduate. Exams are a large chunk of your grade—they prove how much you’ve processed (more or less) in class—but you already knew that. The real challenge we’re tackling is the working-and-not-being-lazy part, and we need to accept these tests as assessments of knowledge instead of complaining about how hard the tests are going to be and allowing ourselves to wallow in feeling sorry for ourselves. Because if you want that job you’re hoping for out of college, you’ll have to work-and-not-be-lazy for that, too. Don’t think your biology textbook is interesting? Neither do most bio majors. No one likes spending their weekends with their faces in textbooks, cramming in concepts that don’t always seem relevant to everyday-life. Instead, you should spare some of your social life and hold off on watching the next episode of Game of Thrones to study. Your friends won’t abandon you for skipping out on your usual Friday-night plans (at least a good friend won’t). Your life will resume after finals. So suck it up—chug the last can of the RedBull sitting in your mini-fridge, and open up that book you were supposed to have opened an hour ago. Work extra hard for a week so you can go back to “doing college” (whatever that means for you).

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*More college students die from suicide than alcohol related incidents, and most suicides are results of depression. If you find yourself in this situation, please talk with someone.

Déjeuner

I drive the shuttle on campus, so I make a lot of small-talk. If the weather is nice, I’ll talk about that. If a weekend is coming up, I’ll ask about their plans, or more recently, I’ve been asking about how their spring breaks were because it just passed. I usually get something like, “It was ok, I didn’t do much, but at least I got my laundry done, so that was good,” or, “My spring break was good! But I didn’t do much, so…” I noticed something strange about those responses. Why is a weekend not a good one if it is not spent doing something productive? And why do they always feel the need to mention whether or not they were productive?

One passenger talked about how exhausted she was. She didn’t sleep last night because she was up studying for an exam. She wanted to take a nap. “In France,” she said, “there is a block of the day where most of the stores close so that everyone can enjoy a two hour lunch break and just relax.” I think that’s exactly what we need.

The new opposite of “busy” is “lazy.”

Part of this mindset is due to what we value in society—efficiency, organization, innovation. As a result, we keep ourselves busy, busy, busy. If you’re not reading or cleaning or learning something new on your free time, you’re wasting time. When we tell people we didn’t do anything over break, we often feel the need to add something—anything—that is considered productive in order to redeem ourselves because it has become a competition. The new opposite of “busy” is “lazy.” We’re embarrassed to tell people that we sometimes relax. We view our breaks as being counter productive, and it’s a dangerous view.

Photo by Binh Tran-Tu

Spring break is much needed after rigorous weeks of studying for midterms and before the sleepless nights of finals. It’s a time where people can take mental breaks from thinking and working all the time—an entire week set aside for us to breathe. That’s why many college students make a huge party out of it, or spend it skiing at Lake Tahoe, sleeping-in every day and watching movies in bed, going home to spend time with families and eating home-cooked food, going to Disneyland, or hopping bars in Vegas.

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After college, in the working world, spring break doesn’t exist. Some people don’t even get the weekends off. Regardless of whether or not your break was a productive one, it should be fully indulged in and wrung dry of its course. It’s one thing to be a couch-potato all summer, but for one week between the chaotic midterm and finals seasons, we should enjoy ourselves. For our sanity, we need to see our breaks as moments of pleasure, not moments of complacency. As silly as it sounds, we need to learn how to relax.

 

$ College

The concept of school seems so secure,” said once by the almighty Yeezy about a girl in college, “Sophomore, three years, ain’t picked a career, she like, ‘[Forget] it, I’ll just stay down here and do hair,’ ‘cause that’s enough money to buy her a few pairs of new Airs…”

I’ve considered it a few times—quitting school to be Kanye. But there can only be one Kanye, so I’ve settled for the opposite: borrowing money to afford a very expensive college in hopes that I’ll make something of myself and earn it all back.

It’s scary to think how much money I’ll be owing in the next few years. I rely on private loans of $25k per year, and I’ve been in school for three. As I’m writing this now, I am accumulating interest on top of those loans. How am I not panicking over the fact that I will probably be in debt for many years to come? As Nigel from the movie Children of Men said, “You know what it is, Theo? I just don’t think about it.”

Children-of-Men.jpgChildren of Men (2006)

Of course, when January comes around and FAFSA reminders are everywhere, I have to think about it. I have to think about how Federal Aid covers only about 1/3 of my total cost of attendance, how my family’s expected contribution is 0%, and how I am alone in my financial obligation in its entirety now. Being at a private school that is merit-based (meaning scholarships are based on academic standing), I have to find a way to dish out $25k per year on my own.

By the year 2030, the average annual cost for 4-year out-of-state schools is predicted to be about $100,000, and for private schools, about $130,000. It’s unbelievable that only ten years ago, tuition was only about half of what it costs today!

“The answer is simple: I’ve always been poor.”

College is an investment. It’s putting money (or time) into something that is potentially profitable in return. “Why be a ‘poor’ college student, paying thousands of dollars each year?” The answer is simple: I’ve always been poor. I’m out to find financial stability, with the added bonus of enjoying what I do to make that money. Life is too short to waste it doing something I’d hate—and knowing how much money I’ll be owing, I will be working for a very long time. I’m not looking to work a nine-to-five, minimum wage job so that I can struggle for the rest of my life. That would be like putting a band-aid on a broken ankle—a quick fix, and those tend to not end very well. I’m going to make money doing something that I genuinely look forward to doing, and for me, that job requires an English degree.

When I begin to stress out about finances, I remind myself that I need to do whatever it takes to get to where I need to go. In other words: fill out FAFSA (and my other loan applications) as quickly as possible and never look back. That way, I don’t dwell over something that I shouldn’t be worrying about yet. It leaves me with more time to focus on laying down the bricks to solidify a path that will lead me to a stable, enjoyable life.

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Kanye West

Do what you need to do to get to where you want to go! Except maybe be Kanye.

Life is happening!

I asked my sister how old she thought she would be when she had her first child, and she said twenty-something. She asked me in return, and I said seventeen. I was eleven and she was twelve. Taken aback by my response, she asked me why, and I didn’t know how to answer her. As a matter of fact, I didn’t know what the big deal was. We had plenty of friends who were pregnant and dropping out of school, so why was my answer so surprising?

KKC 2011 GraduationPhoto by Beatrice Seifert

Today, I am twenty years old. I graduate next year with a degree in English from the University of San Francisco—the college of my dreams. My original path shifted when I was forced to go to KIPP in seventh grade. The change wasn’t easy or at all pleasant. In exchange for where I am today, I suffered great emotional hardships at home. My parents were incredibly strict, and so was my school. I had little room to express myself (especially as a troubled teenager with many feelings) and grew up with little guidance in life outside of academics. At KIPP, everyone talked about college, and I had absolutely no comprehension of it. While everyone else was working hard for good grades to go to college, I tried to up my “cool” game and didn’t care to do well in middle school. Reality hit me in eighth grade when I applied to several boarding high schools to escape my family (and KIPP) and was admitted into none. At that moment, I realized that no one was going to get me anywhere except myself. That’s when I chose to accept the support that KIPP was offering to get me somewhere in life. In the end, I got what I wanted: I am living away from home and doing anything and everything I want to do, and for the first time ever, I am happy!

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Today, KIPP is twenty years old. It started with one classroom in Texas, and has since impacted the lives of 50,000 students in 141 schools. I look back on my twenty years and see that my life could have gone in a completely different direction. My life changed when I walked into a KIPP classroom eight years ago. I think back to those years and am reminded of how much I’ve grown and all of my achievements. I am proud to be an alumna. And although I was able to change in just a short few years as a KIPP student, unfortunately there will always be children who imagine themselves raising a family at seventeen, surrounded by poverty and high dropout rates. I’m glad that KIPP is continuing to make a difference by giving students the opportunity to pursue a lifestyle beyond the inner city status quo. In the next few years, as I graduate from college, I imagine myself doing great things, and I imagine KIPP will, too, by inspiring many more young minds. Here’s to another twenty years!

Work Hard. Be Nice. All of us WILL learn. SLANT. Climb the Mountain to College.

Where were you when you started KIPP?

I hope my writing doesn’t come off as being another trophy-paper for the many KIPP success stories. I am writing today, in celebration of KIPP’s 20th year, to remind us all of the impact that KIPP has had in our lives—both the negative and positive ones—and to remind us that we are part of a network of people who have shared the same experiences. KIPP has provided us with a foundation of knowledge, aside from the academics itself. And whichever path you decided to go down, whether you have fulfilled KIPP’s goal for college, or created your own personal goals to do what makes you happy, I sincerely hope you are all enjoying life. You all deserve that much.

Where are you in life now?