Category Archives: Education

AMIGOS: Leadership Through Experience

Copyright JC Politi Photography

For one year, from 2008 to 2009, my husband and I lived in Houston, Texas. We lived through Hurricane Ike, which was directly over our house for about 7 hours; finding a copperhead in the bathtub; and a torn pup-ACL. It was not our best year.

But I also found Amigos de las Americas (AMIGOS) when I lived in Houston. I worked for this unique organization for about two years, fundraising to support their international youth leadership programs. This organization really touched me.

The people I met doing this work, from the dedicated and passionate staff at the office in Houston, to the parents and former volunteers who now serve on the board, were some of the most thoughtful and hardest-working people I have ever met. And don’t get me started on the young people who were participating in the programs.

Copyright JC Politi Photography

I had the opportunity to travel to Nicaragua to see the programs in action, which was a special treat. I have shared some of the photos from that trip here and on my new photography website.

This organization is truly unique. When I worked there, we received letters from parents all the time saying that their child left home as an unruly teenager and came back a grown up. This was a consistent refrain from the parents.

Young people came back and talked about how much their world view had expanded from the experience and how it was going to influence the trajectory of their future pursuits. And I have met many former volunteers for whom the program did just that.

I was skeptical about AMIGOS in the beginning. I asked a lot of questions ranging from “Does AMIGOS have a religious bent?” to “Is there government involvement in AMIGOS?” The more I learned about this organization, the more impressed I became.

The intensive training that young people are required to complete in order to participate in the program should be a model for any organization or person doing international development work. The training requires kids to work through issues of cultural awareness and distrust of volunteers from the United States.

One very unique aspect of the AMIGOS program is that it is youth led and driven. Projects in Latin America are run by teenagers and college students who have been volunteers in the program. The training provided to the volunteers who work their way up the ladder to become project staff covers topics that I did not learn about until I was around 30. Topics include critical conversations, supervisory skills and budgeting.

This organization simply does it right.

I thought I would dedicate a post to this inspiring organization, in the hopes that there may be some of you out there with kids in high school or college, who might benefit from this program. Or perhaps you are in high school or college yourself and would like to learn  more.

AMIGOS just came out with a new video that illustrates the great work the organization does year after year. That is what inspired this post. But I encourage all of you to check out this organization’s website to learn more about the organization.

What do you think? What is your favorite non-profit organization and why? Have you heard about AMIGOS and considered sending your child through the program? Would you have fears or concerns about doing this? Did you ever participate in a program like this? What was the best part and what was the worst part?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading!

21 Comments

Filed under Culture, Education, International, Parenting, Photography, Photos, Poverty, Religion, Stereotypes, travel, Youth Leadership

Tunes Tuesday: Are you registered to vote?

Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

The first presidential debate is tomorrow evening. Regardless of which candidate you plan to vote for  – and especially if you have not decided yet – I hope you will take a moment this week to make sure your voter registration is up to date.

Most states have a registration cut-off about a month prior to the election. In Colorado, the cut-off is October 9th. If you miss that deadline, you cannot vote.

Again, regardless of who you plan to vote for, the only way to have a meaningful democratic election is if we all take our voting responsibility seriously and get out and vote!

To check out the registration requirements in your state, go to www.registertovote.org.

Since it is Tunes Tuesday, I am going to recycle one of the best moments from the 2008 campaign and highlight the seventh graders from the Ron Clark Academy, who wrote and performed the song “You Can Vote However You Like.” If this song doesn’t pump you up about the future of our country, you might need to get a check-up!

You Can Vote However You Like
Ron Clark Academy

Obama on the left
McCain on the right
We can talk politics all night
And you can vote however you like
You can vote however you like, yeah

Democratic left
Republican right
November 4th we decide
And you can vote however you like
You can vote however you like, yeah

(McCain supporters)
McCain is the man
Fought for us in Vietnam
You know if anyone can
Help our country he can
Taxes droppin low
Don’t you know oils gonna flow
Drill it low
I’ll show our economy will grow

I want Obama
FORGET OBAMA,
Stick wit McCain you gone have some drama
MORE WAR IN IRAQ
Iran he will attack
CAN’T BRING OUR TROOPS BACK
We gotta vote!

Obama on the left
McCain on the right
We can talk politics all night
And you can vote however you like
You can vote however you like, yeah

Democratic left
Republican right
November 4th we decide
And you can vote however you like
You can vote however you like, yeah

McCain’s the best candidate
With Palin as his running mate
They’ll fight for gun rights, pro life,
The conservative right
Our future is bright
Better economy in site
And all the world will feel our military might

(Obama supporters)
But McCain and Bush are real close right
They vote alike and keep it tight
Obama’s new, he’s younger too
The Middle Class he will help you
He’ll bring a change, he’s got the brains
McCain and Bush are just the same
You are to blame, Iraq’s a shame
Four more years would be insane

Lower your Taxes – you know Obama Won’t
PROTECT THE LOWER CLASS – You know McCain won’t!
Have enough experience – you know that they don’t
STOP GLOBAL WARMING – you know that you won’t

I want Obama
FORGET OBAMA
Stick with McCain and you’re going to have some drama
We need it
HE’LL BRING IT
He’ll be it
YOU’LL SEE IT
We’ll do it
GET TO IT
Let’s move it
DO IT!

Obama on the left
McCain on the right
We can talk politics all night
And you can vote however you like
You can vote however you like, yeah

Democratic left
Republican right
November 4th we decide
And you can vote however you like, I said
You can vote however you like, yeah

I’m talking big pipe lines, and low gas prices
Below $2.00 that would be nice

But to do it right we gotta start today
Finding renewable ways that are here to stay

I want Obama
FORGET OBAMA,
Stick wit McCain you gone have some drama
MORE WAR IN IRAQ
Iran he will attack
CAN’T BRING OUR TROOPS BACK
We gotta vote Barack!

Obama on the left
McCain on the right
We can talk politics all night
And you can vote however you like, I said
You can vote however you like, yeah

Democratic left
Republican right
November 4th we decide
And you can vote however you like, I said
You can vote however you like, yeah

(SPOKEN)
When I say John
You say McCain
JOHN
McCAIN
JOHN
McCAIN

When I say Barack
You say Obama
BARACK
OBAMA
BARACK
OBAMA

What do you think? What do you think inspired these kids to create something that, in the middle of a divisive political battle, was able to unite and inspire the entire country? Do you think more schools should encourage this type of youth involvement in elections or do you think that parents would oppose this type of activity?

I would love to hear your thoughts! Thank you for reading.

32 Comments

Filed under Culture, Economy, Education, History, Music, Parenting, Policy, Politcs, Role of Government, Social Media, Youth Leadership

Travel Photo of the Year Contest and the Booker Award

Heather over at Bitsnbooks has presented me with the Booker Award, which is a little different from the other awards floating around. I love any award and am so grateful and humbled to be recognized by my talented peers. I hope you will take a moment to check out Heather’s blog.

This particular award is fun to accept for a geeky gal like me. The rules for accepting this award are to:

1. Nominate other blogs, as many as you want but 5-10 is always a good suggestion. Don’t forget to let your recipients know.

2. Post the Booker Award picture.

3. Share your top 5 books of all time

First, I will post my five favorite books of all times. This is a tough list to come up with, as I have loved many books over the years, but there are a few that have really stuck with me:

1.)    The Alchemist (Paulo Coelho)  – I have shared some quotes from this book in past blog posts. This book may have just come into my life at the right time, but I don’t think there is ever really a wrong time to reflect on what is important to you. The messages in this simple story are potent and powerful at any time of life.

2.)    The Grapes of Wrath (John Steinbeck) – This book knocked me over. Again, a story with a very deep message. This book delivers a strong social justice message and you end up feeling like you know and love this family by the end. I have only cried in a very few books, but the last paragraph of this one will live with me always.

3.)    Roots (Alex Haley) – This book made me cry from the start. It is an important portrayal of one of the largest scars on the American history – the fact that slavery was accepted and justified by our government. It puts a human face on something that most people would rather not examine closely. A very moving read.

4.)    Love in the Time of Cholera (Gabriel Garcia Marquez) – There is something about this book for me. The writing is so lyrical and beautiful, my blood pressure goes down with the first sentence.

5.)    The Elements of Style (Strunk and White) – Someday I will know whether a period goes inside or outside of quotes, but until then, this book will be on my desk.

I would like to present this award to the following bloggers:

Hugh Curtler

Musings of an Old Fart

Waiting for the Karma Truck

Carr Party of Five

Magnolia Beginnings

Analyfe

Life with the Top Down

Real Woman’s Health

Writing Your Destiny

The Healthy Warrior

The Jotters Joint

The Curtain Raiser

Talk to Diana

Third Eye Mom

The Bookshelf of Emily J

What do you think? What is the one book that has really impacted you? What is the one book you have read more than once and why?

Please don’t forget to vote in the Bucket List Publications Travel Photo of the Year Contest! There are 18 finalists and I have some stiff competition. I would love your help!

Perito Moreno Glacier, Patagonia, Argentina
Copyright JC Politi Photography

You can vote every day for the next few days. All you have to do is go to see all the finalists and click on this picture and click “like” or share to mark it as your favorite! You can send it to friends and family to encourage them to vote though Facebook, Twitter, e-mail and lots of other ways. It would mean a lot to get your vote!

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you so much for reading!

57 Comments

Filed under Awards, Blogging, Books, Culture, Education, History, International, Love, Photography, Photos, travel

What is the Price of an Educated Child?

Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

What are we willing to pay for? That is the question that comes to mind for me when I read Thomas Friedman’s opinion piece in the New York Times called “Average is Over: Part II.”

The article discusses the disconnect between what politicians espouse about keeping jobs in the United States and the current realities facing CEOs whereby, through necessity, work is becoming more globalized every day.

Friedman argues that parents in the United States believe that their child is simply competing with her neighbor or with other kids in the United States, but that that is simply not the case today.

He argues that in a globalized society, kids compete against their peers all over the world. He goes on to say that this insular view of the United States education system is one reason that investment in K-12 education has suffered, because parents are content with the quality of education in their child’s school as compared to the school down the street.

He points out that soon there will be a way for parents to easily compare their child’s school with schools around the world, which he says will enable parents to advocate for better schools with policy-makers.

Photo Courtesy of Freedigitalphotos.net

Friedman has a point, but he is missing a significant contributing factor in this discussion – namely, our unwillingness to raise our taxes to invest in our infrastructure. Once we are able to compare our schools with schools around the world, we must also find a way to compare the tax rates between countries.

It is a commonly held belief by many in the United States that our taxes are too high. A blogger friend has written extensively on this subject and you should check out his thoughts when you have a moment. I have also written about this previously.

The fact is, you get what you pay for. Educating our children comes at a cost. Taxes are the price we pay to educate our children, protect our streets from crime and pave our roads, among many other things.

And,really, what price can you place on our children’s future?

What do you think? Why do you think people are so vehemently opposed to higher taxes for better schools? Have you seen your schools suffer as a result of this lack of investment? Do you think that there is a better way in which our tax dollars could be invested?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading.

60 Comments

Filed under Business, Campaign Finance, Education, International, Policy, Politcs, Role of Government

Tunes Tuesday and Canon in the National Parks: Kodachrome

A fellow student
Copyright JC Politi Photography

I wrote a few weeks ago about the Canon in the National Parks free classes. I went to one of the classes yesterday and am still glowing from the experience. I learned enough to take my camera off the automatic mode and that is saying a lot!

I learned how to focus on an object and blur the background and how to capture things in motion or to show the motion and how to adjust the exposure of a picture.

Background not blurred
Copyright JC Politi Photography

Background blurred – you have no idea how exciting this is for a newby photographer!
Copyright JC Politi Photography

I should mention that I invested in a new camera, which I could not be more excited about. It is a new technology called mirrorless SLR and it has all the functionality of a digital SLR, but for a fraction of the weight. I got a Sony nex7, but most of the major camera manufacturers make these cameras now. I understand Canon is coming out with one in the Fall.

This new type of camera has gotten some great write-ups in photography magazines and blogs and it is really worth checking out if you are in the market for a new camera.

But back to the class. We met at the visitor’s center outside Rocky Mountain National Park so we didn’t even have to pay an entry fee to the park. People borrowed Canon equipment, although I was too excited about my new camera to use their equipment. They divided us into beginners and intermediate/advanced.

I took the beginner class, but think I will try to get back next weekend for the intermediate course.

What a wonderful opportunity for people just getting into photography or even for those who have a better grasp of the technological aspects of the art.

I really encourage anyone who can make it to one of these sessions, to do so. It is a priceless two hours and is absolutely free.

This leads me to a Tunes Tuesday pick that always has me singing along. Today’s Tunes Tuesday pick is Kodachrome by Paul Simon.

My favorite photo of the day
Copyright JC Politi Photography

What do you think? Are there any things that you would like to take a class to learn? Do you know of any affordable options for people to expand their skills in a particular area? If you are a photographer, do you have an opinion on mirrorless cameras versus DSLRs? And do you have any other ideas for affordable ways to build photography skills?

Kodachrome    

When I think back
On all the crap I learned in high school
It’s a wonder
I can think at all
And though my lack of education
Hasn’t hurt me none
I can read the writing on the wall

Kodachrome
You give us those nice bright colors
You give us the greens of summers
Makes you think all the world’s a sunny day, oh yeah!
I got a Nikon camera
I love to take a photograph
So Mama, don’t take my Kodachrome away

If you took all the girls I knew
When I was single
And brought them all together for one night
I know they’d never match
My sweet imagination
And everything looks worse in black and white

Kodachrome
You give us those nice bright colors
You give us the greens of summers
Makes you think all the world’s a sunny day, oh yeah!
I got a Nikon camera
I love to take a photograph
So Mama, don’t take my Kodachrome away

Mama, don’t take my Kodachrome away
Mama, don’t take my Kodachrome away
Mama, don’t take my Kodachrome away
Mama, don’t take my Kodachrome
Mama, don’t take my Kodachrome
Mama, don’t take my Kodachrome (away)
Mama, don’t take my Kodachrome
Mama, don’t take my Kodachrome
Mama, don’t take my Kodachrome (away)
Mama, don’t take my Kodachrome
(Leave your boy so far from home)
Mama, don’t take my Kodachrome (away)

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thanks so much for reading!

43 Comments

Filed under Education, Music, Photography, Photos, Uncategorized

Helicopter Parents and Tiger Moms: Turns Out Neither Knows Best

Copyright JC Politi Photography

There was an opinion piece in the New York Times this weekend called “Raising Successful Children” which generated quite a bit of discussion.

The article examines the latest parenting research which found that giving children autonomy and allowing them to make mistakes leads to the best long-term outcomes.

My parents did a great job with this. I was sent to a sleep-away summer camp for the most of the summer every year in my formative years. I feel like this helped shape who I am more than almost anything else.

I worked for a wonderful organization called Amigos de las Americas which provides opportunities for young people to live in remote villages Latin America, where their autonomy is simply not in question.

These types of experiences can really help young people develop confidence in their abilities. The Times article lays out research to prove this hypothesis.

But it seems that it has become harder for parents to give their children space to make mistakes and to develop their independence. The article points out that there has been much attention devoted to “helicopter parents” and “tiger mothers” in the news in recent years.

I am not a parent and I can imagine that it would be difficult to find the balance between protecting your children and letting your children forge their own path. But I am intrigued and curious about what makes it more difficult for parents to do this today than when I was younger.

Certainly, when I was younger, we had parents who lived vicariously through their children, but I don’t feel like there was quite as much of what I see as overprotecting children.

What do you think? Do you think that parents are more protective now of their children that when you were young? Do you think this has to do with the increased dangers in our society like gun violence and crime? Do you struggle with this as a parent? Have you found any tips or strategies you would like to share with others?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading.

If you liked this, you might also like:

The Ritalan Generation: Why do some children fall behind in school? (newsofthetimes)

The Power of Strengths and Weaknesses: Giving kids permission to just be (newsofthetimes)

A New Kind of Playground: What happens when young children are connected with technology? (newsofthetimes)

52 Comments

Filed under Career Planning, Culture, Education, Love, Parenting, Relationships, social pressures, Technology, Youth Leadership

On the Road: Opportunities for Personal Growth through Solo Travel

Patagonia, Argentina
Copyright JC Politi Photography

Being solitary is being alone well: being alone luxuriously immersed in doings of your own choice, aware of the fullness of your won presence rather than of the absence of others. Because solitude is an achievement.
– Alice Koller

Have you ever traveled alone? Would you? Why or why not?

An article in Lonely Planet tackles this issue and provides some tips for women travelling alone. The article is called, “Conquer Your Fear: 4 Tips for Solo Women Travelers.

This article made me think about my own experience traveling alone. When I was in my mid twenties, I lived in Austin, Texas and spent a few years learning how to be alone, getting to know myself better outside the constraints and expectations of family and friends, truly learning how to savor opportunities for solitude.

To further my personal growth, I planned to travel alone to the Grand Canyon, Bryce and Zion national parks. But at the last minute, I got cold feet and asked a friend to go along. That turned out to be a bad decision; this person is, sadly, no longer a friend for a variety of reasons.

The chemistry on the trip was not good and it put a dark cloud over the whole experience. I was disappointed in myself for chickening out and promised myself I would not let that happen again.

Ocean City, Maryland
Copyright JC Politi Photography

About a month later, I took my first solo trip. I drove up the west coast on the Pacific Coast highway in a rented convertible. This trip was absolutely life-changing and ignited my passion for solo travel.

After that trip, I took many trips by myself, including a month-long trip to Guatemala before I spoke a word of Spanish.

While I love traveling with my husband or with friends, solo travel will always hold a very special place in my heart.

There is a beauty to being able to control every aspect of a trip, from what sites to see, to what time to wake up.

You can even control bathroom breaks without worrying about disrupting someone else’s plans. Such luxury!

Venice, Italy
Copyright JC Politi Photography

Getting over the initial nerves of a solo trip can be a challenge, but it can also be one of the best opportunities for personal growth.

I am glad I overcame my fears and would love to hear readers’ stories about their fears or passions for solo travel – or both.

What do you think? Have you ever taken a solo trip? Where did you travel? If you haven’t done this, do you have fears of this type of experience? If you have done this, what did you learn along the way? Why do you think we have a fear of traveling alone? Do you prefer to travel alone or with another person? Why?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading.

If you liked this, you might also like:

Around the World in 80 Days: Would You Do It?

What Makes Amelia Earhart So Captivating?

Is There Room at the Inn? The Eternal Quest for the Perfect Getaway

52 Comments

Filed under Culture, Education, Environment, International, Parenting, Photography, Photos, social pressures, Stereotypes, travel, Women, Youth Leadership