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December 2007



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Dec. 18th, 2007

Looking through the lens of the past in hopes of a projected future.


Well my supervisor came back about three weeks ago and he kicked my ass in gear. I'm doing a ton now. I'm case managing clients, doing outreach to other agencies, still doing drop-in (which now includes doing intakes on kids that come and progress notes) and covering a lot of loose ends. Bill (my supervisor) is incredible knowledgeable when it comes to social work, so I'm always asking a lot of questions. I'm getting along with everyone really well; co-workers and clientele.

Today I found out about a book called "The Power of Now" by Eckhart Tolle. I heard about this book a while ago and wrote it off as another shitty self-help book. Regardless I decided to check out the author's wiki and was then intrigued. Essentially the book is about Being and eliminating detrimental thought. This is something I struggle with because I can think myself out of doing anything. Or even convince myself of the most ridiculous things simply from thinking them. So I found the first chapter online and read it and it's pretty good. So I'm going to go look for the book tomorrow.

I've just become really interested in personal productivity/improvement over the past year since these types of blogs have become increasingly popular. Mostly because now they're free. Granted a lot of the information is rehashed for different situations across different articles and the solutions are usually incredibly simple but that's easy to overlook when we have a million racing thoughts and jobs and tv shows and etc. So I'm interested. I'll let you know how it goes.

I made about 90% of my x-mas presents this year. They all turned out quite well and I'm pleased for being so proactive about that. Pat on the back.

Nov. 19th, 2007

Hide and Seek

Still alive.

Things are very well here at Hillside.  I start training today for case managing.  I've been sitting in on intake interviews and getting a grasp of how to asses different situations.  It's definitely tough since you will get kids who are truly throwaways and have been completely ditched while you will also get youth who just don't want to work and want hand-outs.  Making sure youth aren't in the latter is incredibly important. 

I've also come to learn more about the Hillside Agency all around.  The site I work at is on E. Main Street and is the Children's Center even though no children actually stay here.  What people refer to as "The Hill" is on Monroe Ave. and is what most people are familiar with when it comes to Hillside.  That is actually a sort of orphanage where children stay in a group setting.  It's almost like a small campus.  Most of these youth have had problems at home or have behavioral issues, etc.  Now I always hear horror stories about working on The Hill and dealing with the youth, long hours, things like that.  I've also found out that about 90% of the job openings through Hillside are at the Monroe Ave. location.  The other day I spoke with my house-mate's boyfriend who actually used to work here at AIY a few years back.  He told me that it was the best place to work through Hillside hands down. I was definitely getting that vibe from working here.  Everyone is really laid back but puts an incredible amount of effort into their job.  If they ever offered me a job here when my term was up, I would take it in a heartbeat.  However, if I was offered something somewhere else through Hillside, I believe (knowing what I know now) that I would consider doing a second year of AmeriCorps. 

I have been living in the 26 Weider house now for about three weeks and it's going very well.  My room is small and comfy and attic'ish.  I keep it clean and it's organized wonderfully.  My house-mates are really cool and I have no problems getting along with them.  Funny thing is they are all early sleepers.  They are usually in bed by 10:30-11 each night and sometimes earlier.  So I feel a bit creepy staying up until 1-2 walking throughout the house.  But it's fine.  There is plenty of room for everything and the kitchen has plenty of room for cooking which I have missed. 

I'm still commuting to work by bike everyday.  It's cold out but that doesn't bother me so much.  It's when it's raining out that sucks.  Fall is a really beautiful time to ride and I've been taking it a bit slower so I enjoy the ride everyday.  It's worth it.  I've also made some new friends through the Wednesday Cruise Ride.  We meet in front of Monty's Crown on Monroe Ave. and ride through neighborhoods until ending up at Lux on South Ave upon which we all grab a beer.  Good times.  We were lucky enough to have a clear and warm night last weekend, so hopefully the same will be in store for us this week.

I was walking with Jenna, another AmeriCorps member, down Park Ave. yesterday when out of the blue she said, "I'm really enjoying this lifestyle."  I instantly agreed with this statement but the more I thought about it, the stronger I felt towards it.  I have honestly never felt this good about what I'm doing.  Not just AmeriCorps, but everything thats going on in my life.  I'm getting by on a ridiculously small amount of money which is the greatest blessing in disguise.  It's teaching me to be frugal and creative.  I'm meeting new people every week from every walk of life and it's teaching me to be way more outgoing and open-minded.  Honestly, things couldn't be better.

Everyone have a wonderful and safe Thanksgiving.

Oct. 25th, 2007

The bone and the marrow.

Rounding out my fourth week here at AIY.  Things are still going well.  As I've mentioned, I've mostly been doing data entry and hanging out with youth at the drop-in.  However it looks like I'm going to start being on-call.  What that consists of is a day out of the week where I answer the referral line.  I answer any questions the individual has and basically tell them about our services.  If they want to come in and discuss possible use of services, I set up a meeting with them.  Then I implement the services if they seek them, do follow-ups, etc.  So the clients you get are the ones you talk to on the phone.  I'm pretty excited about it.  I'm finally starting to connect with some of the kids here too.  Some of them found out I play music and want me to learn songs so I can teach them.  Mostly R&B and hip-hop but I'm totally down with that.

I'm actually leaving here early tonight to go volunteer at another member's site.  They're having a halloween party with children with games like pin the nose on the witch and the one where you feel grapes and think they're eyeballs.  It's been a while since I've worked with the really young kids, so it'll be exciting.  Plus Jenna and Nicole work there and they're both awesome.

This Saturday is "Make a Difference Day".  Given this, I'm waking up at 8am to go paint a rec center.  Then afterwards, there is an AmeriCorps pumpkin carving party.

Tuesday was my first bike commute in the pouring rain.  I wore a poncho and despite expectations, felt pretty cool in it.  Heh.  However, I learned some lessons:
1 - If you don't have fenders, your legs will get wet.  This includes your shoes, socks, and shorts.  Thus next time I will not wear socks, wear older shoes and try and find some water resistant or quick-dry shorts.  I was smart enough to bring some wool socks to change into, so my feet stayed dry throughout the day.
2 - a poncho only really keeps your upper body and bag dry.  This is good though, since they are the most important things.  Especially since my dry clothes were in my bag. 

Today the city was paving Atlantic St. which is a godsend.  About 50 feet before the tunnel, the road was cut to all hell.  I would have to almost come to a stop to maneuver around the potholes and grated street.  Now it's smooth sailing.  This was the only street that gave me problems on my commute. 

Back to work!

Oct. 11th, 2007

Shoulders & Arms


So I've been working at AIY for a little over a week and a half now. My first day I found out that I actually couldn't work because I needed to wait until my TBD shots cleared. I actually just got a second round of them checked this morning.

The office is cool. There are about 8-9 of us, so it's pretty personable. I get to keep my bike in the office too which is nice. I've mostly been doing a lot of "intern'ish" work. Data entry on youths brought in past curfew, etc. Yesterday I had to put together a binder of youths brought in for curfew over a certain time period. At first I kinda frowned upon doing this since I wanted to jump right in on being on-call so I could develop a client base and start managing cases. But there's a lot of paperwork involved in that and I'm learning it by doing all this other stuff first.

Before I had decided upon a site, I had interviewed here twice. I had met with the director of the program and he was definitely an awesome guy. Now I would be reporting to him directly but he is out on an extended sick leave. So the assistant-supervisor is who I'm currently reporting to. The dude is definitely doing the work of two people and having a new AmeriCorps member to coddle is just filling up this guy's schedule. So I sort of feel that is why he's having me do simple intern work and also because it's just good to do to see if I'm going to stick around. The "wax-on, wax-off" philosophy.

There have been two recent and personable murders in the city. One was a mother who was simply protecting her daughter in a non-violent way. The other was a member of the community who was actually working to fix it. People have kind of gone nuts over these murders which is completely understandable. Then they start pointing fingers. The police aren't doing their job, the mayor needs to keep his word, we need to fix poverty before we arrest people, etc etc. One finger gets pointed at where I work. When the police find a child who is breaking curfew, they bring them to us. This is usually between 11pm - 6am. We get their information and offer them our services. Our services are mostly directed at the child but I'm pretty sure we can direct the adults to any help that they need. Then we call the parents to pick up the child or drop them off ourself. Reading "The City" yesterday, it was mentioned that it seems our program is off to a slow start. I suppose it can be looked at it that way but it's also something that will take time. Granted I've only been working there a bit over a week and I'm sure there is a lot more to it.

In more awesome news, on my daily commute to work yesterday, I ran into Jason Crane of rocbike!. I had just turned on Dartmouth off of Monroe when I heard a slight rubbing. So I pulled over and checked my front brakes. They had slipped a bit because I hadn't turned the lock all the way on. So I'm standing there making sure everything is cop-acetic when someone pulls up next to me on a long bike and says, "Everything all right here?" I look up and go "umm....HEY! You're Jason Crane!" So I met him and his son Bernie, who was riding on the back of his Xtracycle (which I'm insanely jealous of). It's pretty awesome that that is how he gets to work and takes his son to school. So we were talking and it turns out his wife did AmeriCorps as well!

I also got to see A Wonderful and Peter & The Wolf last night at the bug jar. I met some new faces and saw two of my boys play in their other band which is always interesting.

I'm definitely busy! I've been hanging out with AmeriCorps friends a lot and getting to know them all better. A few of them actually came to my show last week which is really nice. I'm also in the process of moving into a house with 3 other people. I will have a decent-sized room and the house itself is pretty big. Plus rent is only $225.

I'll be updating again soon.
Take care!

Sep. 25th, 2007

All jazzed up.

I got my first choice!

Looks like I'll be placed at Hillside's AIY (Alternatives for Independent Youth). I'm really excited and glad everything worked out.

On Sunday, a bunch of us 'corps went to Letchworth Park and hiked around. It was a real good time and I took pictures that are in my facebook profile. Shoot me a message if you want to see them.

Tomorrow after training we're having a picnic at Genesee Valley Park. I constantly bike by there, so it'll be a fun evening. Thursday night I'm going out to Brockport with my band dudez to do some mixing on the EP. Then afterwards heading to the Shakdown at Bug Jar and I believe some AmeriCorps friends will show up. Friday night is Critical Mass and Saturday some of us are riding the Genesee River Trailway to Lake Ontario. Sunday = Kickball.

I like this!

Sep. 22nd, 2007

One week down.

Just finished up my first week of AmeriCorps training.

On Tuesday we went to Rock Ventures and did some ropes course stuff along with actual indoor rock climbing. It was a blast.

Wednesday consisted of some workshops that were a lot of fun and informative.

Thursday morning all of the sites gave quick presentations on their site and in the afternoon we had a workshop on cultural competency.

Today we have a workshop on assets in the morning and the second half of the day was the site fair. We walked around and talked/networked with people from the sites. We then had to pick our top 4 choices and supervisors from the sites would pick their top 4 candidates. We find out on Wednesday as to where we're placed. My list went like this:

1. Alternatives for Independent Youth - Hillside Children's agency. This is the place that I interviewed at and also visited during drop-in hours. Between working at the drop-in center, I would also be doing case managing which is awesome.

2. Judicial Process Committee - I interviewed here as well. I would be doing case managing with ex-offenders, street outreach, data input and helping develop a way to market the committee to the public.

3. The center for youth - More street outreach. Sweet job but I believe pretty high demand through AmeriCorps members.

4. Monroe YMCA - Nothing incredible but a sweet experience nonetheless.

So that's that. This week has been incredible and everyone is so cool. The training has such an awesome way of forming trust between all us members. I'm really gunned for this coming year.

Sep. 18th, 2007

Training v1.0

Training started today!

We spent the first half of the day doing your usual icebreakers. The human knot and name actions were nothing new to me but still fun. Then we did something similar to "speed dating" where there is a rotating line of people and we had to answer questions like "What were your high school years like?" and "Do you know anyone that's been a victim of violence?" It put things in perspective for me BIG TIME. There were people who talked about going to funerals every other month for friends of theirs. The last question was something like, "What do you hope to get out of your year of service?" I ended up talking with this older gentleman who is also a first year. I somehow ended up talking about the way I act around my sister and mother and how it's completely uninhibited. He said something like, "Well that's the real you! Do it all the time!" And I just started laughing and said, "Yeah, you're right!" After that we went on lunch break and I rode home feeling absolutely fantastic. Plus we got free messenger bags which brings me up to 4 bags now. These bags are such a guilty pleasure of mine too.

When we came back, there were four past Americorps members. They told us about their experiences and what to expect. Again it just seems like an experience that you can't really get elsewhere.

The second half of the day was a lot of discussion about what we all expect to get out of this next year and preparation for the site host fair. Tomorrow we will be going to a ropes course and doing that whole ordeal. Should be fun. Sometime throughout the next week we'll also be taking a guided tour of Rochester which will be fun even though I'm somewhat familiar with it.

I'm already looking forward to seeing everyone tomorrow. I did a ton of talking today. There were about 4 of us who commuted by bikes (one girl even had the "bike mpg = infinity" shirt), so I got to gush over being way too obsessed with bicycles. I started discussing meditating with one second year and hope to continue that conversation soon. Plus everyone is from all over the country and all walks of life so conversations are just endless.

Time to sleep! I gotta wake up in 5 hours!

ps. I volunteered at the Artwalk festival on Sunday, so I'll get to that update soon!

Sep. 12th, 2007

Using time and wasting it.

Training ETA: 5 days!

I just got back from an interview over at the Judicial Process Commission site. It seemed to be more focused on case managing ex-offenders and getting them their rap sheet/fingerprints, etc. but that's good. It would be a social work oriented position and that is by no means a bad thing. I would be doing some one-on-one casework, data entry, helping with the newsletter (which deals with letters from offenders and the such) and other need-to-be-dones around the office.

I don't have any more interviews before training starts and during the second week of training there is the "site fair" where I'll obviously talk to more people from others sites. So I have then.

I also biked to this site which was right downtown. There's something very humbling and liberating about riding a bike down main streets with 20+ story buildings on both sides of you.

I also have to mention something that has been wasting way too much of my time. It's called StumbleUpon and it's incredibly clever. Ok so here's the idea: If you use Firefox, you install this extension and it adds a small toolbar to your browser. You have a "Stumble!" button. When you press it, it randomly sends you to a site based on interests you checked in preferences. You also have an "I like it!" and "Don't like it" button to press. The extension thus learns the sites you like and sends you to similar sites in your future stumbles. You can review sites and all sites that you "like" are added to a list in a blog that StumbleUpon sets up for you (more like a history of "likes"). You can even filter your results based on "Channels" or basically different interests. There's even a StumbleUpon video player where you just click the button to constantly be feed new videos. It's a giant kick to the chops for productivity.

This is something that I felt needed to be done with the internet. On the downside, Stumbling is incredibly addicting. I have honestly sat there for an hour or two just going through site after site. I would like the see the developers add a "limit stumbles" feature in the future. This way I could limit how many I do a day and then go back and actually look into the ones I did like.

All in all, check it out. There's no reason you wouldn't like it.

Sep. 6th, 2007

A Most Excellent Day

This morning was the member orientation for AmeriCorps. So I woke up at 7 and eased my way into the day by sitting on the internet and drinking coffee. Then I rode my bike downtown to the Damon City Campus where the AmeriCorps office is. The security guards gave me a tough time about bringing my bike inside but who's going to deny a cute short kid with a bike, huh? In all actuality, they just called and checked and gave me the O.K.

So I was one of the first to arrive and found a seat in the room. As more people showed up, two girl members I met at the meet-up the other night, Kristin and Kirsten, came and sat with me. They're really nice and one of them is married and the other has a boyfriend who also came Tuesday night. Nice people.

We mostly filled out a ton of paperwork. It was actually very efficiently done and really wasn't too painful. I will be getting healthcare through them which is awesome and they also pay the interest on my loans while they are in forbearance. So I'm set and next Friday is the picnic which will be fun and then I start training the week after.

Today I also went and visited the Youth Drop-in during hours. It was pretty righteous. Kids come there on their own accord, so no one is complaining about not want to be there. I mostly sat around and listened in on kids' and their conversations. I knew they weren't going to come up to me since none of them know me. So I eventually mingled in and by the end of the night I had played air hockey and foosball with some of the kids.

So I'm feeling pretty good. Things are on the upswing and I feel 100% sure about the decision that I have made.

Sep. 5th, 2007

Some crap about a glass half-full.

Whew. I am up too late!

Today was a mixed bag. Woke up and checked my inbox to see an email from the head of the AIY (Alternative for Independent Youth) program over at Hillside (the site I really want to get placed in). Basically they aren't getting enough funding for the street outreach program and they will have to cut back on hours and services. A huge bummer. So it's possible I might not work there. But I'm still going on Thursday and talking to him about everything. Still, I will spend tomorrow investigating some of the other sites and I'm glad I didn't completely write them off. After reading the most recent City paper, I'm kind of starting to see the politics involved with services like this and I really don't want to get involved with them (politics) but it seems inevitable.

Also, my most recent credit increase request didn't go through. So for the next month I'll be scraping to get by. But I have support and I'll be ok.

For the good, a second-year AmierCorps leader set up an informal meeting at Spot coffee on East Ave. So around 7 pm, I rode my bike down there and just as I got there, I ran into Courtney who is also a first year member. There were about 8 or 9 of us that showed up. I met Bunny who is the second-year who set up the meeting. We had exchanged a few emails and I found out that she has gone touring on her bike, so I really need to ask her about that experience. Things went well and we all discussed our various backgrounds. It's interesting because it seems AmeriCorps draws people from all walks of life but everyone seems to have an underlying understanding and desire to do this type of work/volunteering.

All in all, today was ok and I'm fine. Just some potholes along the way. The meet-up definitely made me feel better though. I'm really looking forward to talking to these people more and making new friends.

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