2012 New Year’s Resolutions

As promised, here are my resolutions for 2012:

1) Vote I haven’t voted since the Obama election, and I hate that I haven’t. Mostly it is because I haven’t really felt “at home” in any of the places I have lived over the past few years. But now that I know I will be settling in Boston for at least a couple years, I need to register here and get more knowledgeable about local politics. One of the ways I’ve been doing this is I am meeting monthly with a group of co-workers to discuss politics. It has been a lot of fun so far and it has given me the push I need to re-immerse myself in politics.

2) Do one “touristy” thing a month, and blog about it I find that when I get really busy with work and school I don’t make an effort to get out and do new things. I want to commit to doing one cool thing a month that I can only do in Boston and then share the experience on my blog. I’m thinking museums, the aquarium, breweries, etc. Should be fun!

3) Learn Final Cut Pro Last year I wanted to learn how to do video editing, and I learned how to use iMovie fairly well. This year I want to kick it up a notch and learn how to use Final Cut. I’m thinking about taking a class at Emerson this summer (I can take two classes outside of my major) but I can also just use it at work and teach myself.

4) Read one book a month I really love reading, but when I am in school it is really difficult for me to convince myself to read for fun. Instead I watch hours of Netflix, which I enjoy, but I want to get back into reading. This month I’m reading the Steve Jobs biography. I’m thinking about reading Girl with the Dragon Tattoo next month and then the Hunger Games. Any suggestions are welcome!

5) Produce a podcast I’ve really gotten into podcasts this past year (Savage Love, This American Life and Radio Lab are my favorites) and I really want to learn how to record my own. It’s not the technology side I’m worried about, its more the crafting of the stories and figuring out the theme. If you have any ideas or have something you’d like to hear me talk about, let me know!

6) Repair relationships that need fixing and let go of ones I don’t need There are some personal relationships in my life that I know I need to work on and that I know will make me much happier if I can fix them. There are also a lot of people who I let cloud my thoughts without them even knowing. I need to focus on the relationships I value and rid myself of the ones that only bring me pain. Wish me luck on that, haha.

7) Play soccer I really miss it desperately and I want to get onto a team. There are plenty of adult indoor and outdoor leagues in Boston, so I just need to bite the bullet, pay the fee and get ready to meet new people. Should be fun!

8) Focus on my personal brand A lot of my social media usage is flippant and habitual more than anything. While I want to let myself have fun with it, I want to do a better job of consistently blogging and creating/sharing good, informative content.

I chose eight resolutions last year and that felt like a natural place to stop, so I will stick to eight again this year. I’m sure I will be keeping you all posted about how I’m doing on the blog, so stay tuned!

2011 Year in Review: November

I gotta tell you. Doing this whole year in review has been so cathartic for me. There have been so many moments in my life over this past year where I felt overwhelmed, sad and at times, depressed. But taking a look back at all of the great things that happened in 2011 has made me realize that despite all of the negativity and challenges I dealt with, it was a pretty good year.

Thank you to all of the people who made it that way. I couldn’t have gotten through it without you.

Anyways, here’s November…

It Gets Better Project

I worked with Jeff, a senior corps member in Washington, DC to produce an It Gets Better Project video on behalf of City Year. I think this was one of the most important projects I have had the pleasure of working on, and I was pretty thrilled with the results. Unfortunately there is some weird animation in here that happened when I uploaded it to Youtube and selected the stabilize option, but the overall message is what is most important.

#SaveAmeriCorps in Washington, DC

I had the opportunity to travel down to Washington, DC to help ServeNext and AmeriCorps Alums with an AmeriCorps rally on Capitol Hill. I helped them design their social media strategy, shot photos and edited a video. It was a really great experience for me professionally, and it felt really amazing to be down on Capitol Hill rallying for something I really care about.

A special thanks to Bill Kuchman for letting me crash at his place for the duration of the trip (and for being a really great tour guide). I had the opportunity to see a couple friends: Meli, my roommate from my first year of City Year and Leigh, my best friend from kindergarten and a good friend all throughout high school. I think my favorite part of the trip was getting to go to the Newseum. I know, I’m a nerd. But it was really awesome and is totally worth paying to get into. I highly recommend it!

Thanksgiving in NYC

This year for Thanksgiving, I went to NYC where my best friend Lauren lives. We failed to make it to the parade, but had a really nice walk around Central Park, had a pretty hilarious dinner with her grandmother and aunt (which included Boris and Natasha’s doppelgangers asking to move away from our drunk, obnoxious selves) and hung out with a photographer and his fiance and awesome dog in his studio loft afterwards. I also got to see Tori, a corps member who I served with my first year in San Jose, which was really awesome!

Our mothers also made the drive out to NYC to spend the weekend with us, which was really awesome. My favorite moment of the weekend was when we visited the 9/11 Memorial. Lauren’s aunt is the facilities manager of the memorial, so she told us a lot of really interesting factoids about the memorial. If you get a chance to make it out there, go at night. It’s absolutely breathtaking.

Other Stuff:

  • Harvest Fest Beer Summit (Essentially a huge beer tasting. It was awesome).
  • Meeting up with Matthew Kelly in Brooklyn, a guy I have been friends with on Twitter for quite some time. Good dude with good taste in beer.
  • Speaking to the Emerson PRSSA about social media
  • Going to Finale, a dessert bar, with Dan

The Great Twitter Fiasco – Governor vs. High School Senior

Yesterday I read a story about a high school senior in Kansas named Emma Sullivan who tweeted about Gov. Sam Brownback to her whopping 65 followers.

She said: Just made mean comments at gov. brownback and told him he sucked, in person #heblowsalot

She actually never made that comment and was just joking with friends when she tweeted it. Was it rude and disrespectful? Yes. But what was even worse was the Governor’s office reaction to it.

The Governor has a person who moniters his social media and when she noticed this tweet, she considered it a “high threat” to the Governor’s good name. She contacted the Youth in Government organizers to let them know how outraged the Governor’s office was about the tweet. The organizers then notified the principal of her high school, who demanded Sullivan write a letter of apology to the Governor.

She refused. She said that she has fundamental agreements with the Governor’s politics and that she has the free speech to share those sentiments. Thanks to this fiasco, her 65 followers increased to more than 14,500 at the time I wrote this blog post.

While I may not think that what she said was totally appropriate, I definitely think that she had the right to say it. What I find funny is that this Governor was really trying to throw his weight around on a comment that really didn’t matter. If his social media monitor had left it alone, absolutely nothing would have come of it.

Ultimately, the Governor apologized for the overreaction of his staff, but if you ask me, the damage to his reputation is done apology or not. And for someone with a 52% disapproval rate, the last thing he needed was something like this to happen.

I have a feeling that there might be a social media manager out of a job this morning.


Does social media make us lazy?

The aforementioned title is the question being raised by comedian Dean Obeidallah in an opinion post he contributed to CNN.com today.

He points out that we have become a generation of observers rather than doers. He suggests that our Facebook likes and tweets are giving us a false sense of involvement, calling it “slacktivism.”

As someone who uses social media for my livelihood, it pains me to agree with him.

It is a topic I addressed my senior year of college (fall of 2008) when I wrote my thesis entitled: “Social Media Networking: Does it Directly Impact Political Efficacy?”

Fueled by President Obama’s presidential election, this topic was incredibly intriguing to me. In an article by Bruce Bimber titled “The Internet and Political Transformation: Populism, Community, and Accelerated Pluralism,”  Bimber developed a theory which he called “accelerated pluralism” to describe the possible future relationship of citizen Internet use in the political process.

I don’t want to bore you here, so I’ll give you the cliff notes. Basically, he said that the expansion of communication and its effect on political participation will depend on the already instilled willingness of a person to participate, meaning that the person would probably have participated even without the addition of the Internet.

Now, this article was written in 1998, but I think it still holds true. People who are already likely to be involved will be involved. The Internet is just a means for those people to share and potentially facilitate the involvement of fellow supporters (or dissenters depending on the situation).

So, the big question is: how can one get tweets and Facebook comments translated into action offline?

At a time when budget cuts are looming and national service is hanging in the balance, this is a question I hope we can answer.

Social media shouldn’t be the end all. It should be just the beginning. Just look at the recent revolutions in the Arab world. They were organized through social media, but not accomplished through social media, which is an important distinction to make.

So Dean, is social media making us lazy? Sometimes, yes. But can it help people to empower others and make a difference? It sure as hell can.

Five things Friday: Early Edition

I’m posting a bit early because I have to be at the office at 6:30 am for a physical service day. Hope ya’ll don’t mind! 

1) Physical Service

Me and my buddy Nick mulching at the 2010 Great American Litter Clean Up.

Today marks the last time I will be doing a physical service project with City Year San Jose/Silicon Valley. After two years of working into the night to trace murals and showing up super early to set up paint stations and greet volunteers, I can’t believe its over. Physical service is one of my absolute favorite aspects of the City Year program. I really hope that I can participate in service events with City Year Boston in the coming years.

If you’re interested in checking out some of the amazing service projects our site has done this past year, check out our Flickr collection.

2) Literally Unbelievable

So I love The Onion. I even showed it to my students last year as part of newspaper club to explain to them what satire was. One of the funniest (or saddest depending on how you look at it) things about The Onion is that people are stupid enough to think that it is actual news.

I just started following this Tumblr account that shows when people post Onion articles on their Facebook as truths. If you need a good laugh or a reminder of how idiotic people can be, check them out and follow them. I get at least one good laugh a day.

3) All Stats

Speaking of Tumblr, two of my buddies created a really awesome account called All Sats. Basically it takes two of my favorite social media personas (The Creative and Information Sharer) and puts them together in a really clever way.

Oh, you should follow them on Twitter too.

4) Romney 2012

It’s official. Mitt Romney is running for President of the good ‘ol US of A.

If I was a betting person (which I’m not… I wasn’t allowed to bet on sports when I played college soccer due to NCAA rules and still haven’t shaken that fear) I’d say he has a pretty decent shot.

I’m actually a fan. I mean, hell, the dude even looks like a president. I’m even impressed with his website; which is saying a lot for a Republican candidate. If he wins the nomination, it will be one heck of a presidential election. That’s for sure.

5) Twitter Upgrade

According to an article in the Mercury News, Twitter is planning some pretty awesome (and long awaited) upgrades in terms of photo sharing. Pretty soon, you will be able to upload photos right through the site and soon after that, they will roll out the feature for aps to be used on the iphone (which I reaaally need to purchase… my Blackberry just isn’t cutting it anymore).

I’m excited for this. Now if Netflix would expand their library, all of my Internet needs would be met.

AmeriCorps Week: Realizing the need for national service

This week marks the fifth annual AmeriCorps Week. As a proud AmeriCorps member service with City Year San Jose/Silicon Valley, it is a time to reflect on my two years of service and to be inspired by the service of others.

This year, I feel that we are at a critical time in the national service movement. The republicans attempted to slash federal funding for the Corporation for National and Community Service in this year’s budget. Thankfully, they failed to get rid of us completely, but we did lose some funding.

At a time when education budgets are being cut to the point where the school years are being shortened and thousands of young people seeking a college education are being turned away, national service couldn’t be more important.

We need to stop viewing service as something that is “nice to have” and recognize that it is something we need to have.

Since 1993, 540,000 Americans have proudly served their country via AmeriCorps. They have served in schools teaching children how to read, in low income neighborhoods providing vital services such as access to food, counseling and shelter, in the wilderness protecting our environment. They have been some of the first responders to natural disasters and have played a huge role in rebuilding New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

And it has certainly changed my life. Through my service, I have learned to take action to fight some of our nation’s most pressing issues (namely education), to work with diverse groups of people, to know what it means to be civically engaged and to not be afraid to take risks.

I am eternally grateful for the experiences I had due to my participation in AmeriCorps. And hope that this week, you will ask an AmeriCorps member about what they have done in their service. See for yourself why our country needs this and maybe even see how you can get involved.

Six things Saturday

Hey folks! To make up for missing yesterday’s Five things Friday, I thought I’d give you a treat with an extra thing! Yay!

1. City Year’s In School and On Track: A National Leadership Summit

I had the great pleasure of attending NLS in Washington, D.C. this past week. I was brought there to help out with social media management, and it was a truly incredible experience. Since I was doing social media, I was considered to be a member of the Summit team which was great because I got to collaborate with a lot of really awesome people (what’s up Johnny and Elliot!) and feel like I was a real part of it. We hit over 1,000,000 impressions on Twitter in less than 24 hours, which was a big highlight for me.

Check out blog posts and Facebook and photos if you’re interested in learning more!

2. Ding-dong, Osama’s Dead

Clearly, this was the most newsworthy thing that happened this week. But what interested me the most wasn’t learning about how it was accomplished; it was how people reacted to it. Some claimed it was a conspiracy theory, some were jubilant, some were scared, and some were disgusted with the jubilant folks.

Personally, I’m glad he’s dead. I don’t think he deserved to walk the earth… but I didn’t exactly grab my American flag and storm the streets chanting USA! USA! USA! I’m interested to see what the blowback is going to be from all of this.

3. Emerson Update

I found an apartment and a roommate (still looking for 1-2 other roommates), got my class schedule (Mondays and Thursdays from 6:30-9:45) and my financial aid package. It’s totally becoming real to me now. I’m a little bit nervous about being back in the classroom, but I’m more psyched than anything. Classes start the first week in September, but I’m planning on moving to Boston in early July. Awesome.

4. New Music

Last weekend I rode my bike out to Rasputin Music out in Campbell. I ended up purchasing a few albums and my favorite of them all is definitely the Beach House album, Teen Dream. I’ve been wanting it since I saw them in concert with Vampire Weekend in the fall and finally got around to it. I highly recommend it.

I also purchased: Unwritten Law “Swan,” Foo Fighters “Wasting Light” and Hot Hot Heat “Future Breeds”

5. Obama’s Correspondent’s Dinner Speech

It ruled. If you have an extra 20 minutes, it is totally worth watching.

6. Ouch

So I’m a moron. I was playing tag on the Georgetown campus Thursday night and fell and hurt myself pretty bad. Scraped knee, back, toe, hand and elbow. It’s gross and painful. (Sorry to Colin, Andy and Romel whom I sent photos to… but I had to show someone).

Five things Friday

1. Michael Brown came to town

This past week, City Year San Jose/Silicon Valley was visited by a lot of the senior leadership of City Year for a “focus visit”. We were lucky enough to welcome City Year co-founder and CEO Michael Brown to our site during this time. I had the distinct pleasure of hearing Michael speak a couple times during his visit; once at the City Year office and once at the Haas Center for Public Service at Stanford.

It is always so inspiring to be around Michael, as he is truly a crusader for the national service movement. In fact, I highly doubt that national service would be nearly as powerful as it is today if it weren’t for his idealism and ingenuity. He is definitely someone that I look up to and his life and career are incredibly inspiring. If you are interested in learning more about how City Year (and ultimately, AmeriCorps) came to be, I highly encourage you to read Big Citizenship by Alan Khazei, the other co-founder of City Year.

2. Global Youth Service Day

Me tracing a Finding Nemo mural in the nurse's office at Majestic Elementary School.

Every year on Global Youth Service Day (GYSD) City Year brings together volunteers to make a positive impact in neighborhoods across the country. We will bring together more than 300 volunteers in San Jose to celebrate GYSD, an annual campaign that celebrates and mobilizes the millions of children and youth who improve their communities each day of the year through service and service-learning through transformative community service projects.

GYSD is hands down one of my favorite City Year events. There is just something really powerful about knowing that I am serving alongside people all over the world to celebrate what I have dedicated my life to for the past almost two years now.

If you are interested in finding how you can get involved on GYSD, check out their website. Better yet, if you live in the Bay Area, some serve with us! Here are the details.

3. I’m going home…

Okay, so I’m not going home for another 11 weeks (my train arrives in Rochester on June 24th), but I’m starting to get ready for it. Yesterday I packed a couple boxes that I plan on shipping home this weekend (which I’m really scared to find out how much it will cost) and I’m hopefully going to hit up Crossroads, a thrift store in San Jose, to sell a bunch of clothes I don’t want anymore.

Ah! And if you’re in the upstate New York area, you should totally come to the 3rd Annual Bakerfest to celebrate my triumphant return on June 25th.

4. Government shutdown

Clearly, this is a big deal. But I don’t feel like I’ve educated myself enough on it to give commentary. (I am relieved however that my pay won’t be affected by it).

But you should check out my friend Romel’s blog post about it.

And read this GOOD blog post about how Defunding AmeriCorps and taking City Year out of schools is an awful idea.

5. Buffy the Vampire Slayer… not the strong female role model I remembered

So I’m rewatching the Buffy the Vampire Slayer series and let me tell you… it is really different to watch it again as an adult. When I was starting to watch it I was excited to see something with a strong female lead that just kicks ass (there just isn’t enough of that) but what I have been seeing is actually pretty disappointing.

Now that I am the end of the third season, I’m finding that she wasn’t the bad ass I remembered her to be. She’s whiny and completely dependent on Angel, her vampire love interest. It has been reminiscent of Bella in Twilight, whose utter lack of self worth makes my skin crawl.

The true unsung hero of the show is Willow, the smart Wicca and eventual lesbian played by Alyson Hannigan, who is quickly becoming one of my favorite actresses. She is comedic genius in How I Met Your Mother and of course, who could forget her quirky sex crazed character in the American Pie movies. (Which I’ve been reading that she was not invited back to star in the most recent installment).

Anyways, it has been fun rewatching these episodes but it has also been kind of a bummer watching Buffy’s character now that I’m pretty far beyond my high school years. Maybe she will get a backbone when she goes to college in the fourth season…

Five Things Friday

1. UCLA Student’s Anti-Asian Rant: Do Colleges Need Mandatory Diversity Classes?

In the aftermath of the earthquake of Japan, millions of Americans were posting prayers and kind words for those affected by the tragedy. One UCLA student however, found it to be the perfect opportunity to post a video on youtube attacking Asian students for their “misbehavior” on campus. While I won’t honor her ignorance by posting the video on my blog, you can see excerpts accompanied with student interviews here.

In response to her video post, one of my favorite blogs Good.is posed the question: Do Colleges Need Mandatory Diversity Classes? I think this is an excellent suggestion. This week on the City Year San Jose/Silicon Valley blog, I posted a piece titled Celebrating diversity through inclusivity about how before I served in City Year, I didn’t really have sufficient exposure to diversity. I’m wondering if a mandatory diversity course in college would have been beneficial to myself and my peers. It’s fair to guess that it would have.

2. Protestors outside Planned Parenthood

It seems like every time I ride my bike to the gym, I get accosted by the pro-life protestors who are outside of Planned Parenthood, which is located right across the street from the Y. This past week a man asked me if I wanted a pamphlet filled with pro-life rhetoric (well, he didn’t word it quite like that) and when I politely said no thank you, he then proceeded to ask me if I had any questions for him about my female development. Lucky for him, I was too shocked to respond and the light changed so I was able to cross the street.

A couple days later as I was on my bike heading to the gym, I saw an abnormally large crowd protesting outside of Planned Parenthood. But as I got closer, I saw that their signs read “Thank you Planned Parenthood” and “Don’t cut Teachers.” I spoke with a couple of the protestors thanking them for being out there in the rain to represent those who need Planned Parent’s services for health reasons (myself included) and for the teachers who work so hard, yet have been under much scrutiny. It brought tears to my eyes to hear all of the people honking as they drove by; showing solidarity with these people. Thank you.

3. Save Service

On March 15th, Save Service asked voters to call their Senators to ask them to reject an FY11 Budget that will strip the Corporation for National and Community Service of its federal funding. Thousands of people called their Senators, pleading the case for National Service.

The fight is not over. I encourage you to visit Save Service and Voices for National Service to see how you can help keep the spirit of service alive in this country.

If you need a little inspiration, here is a video I put together highlighting the invaluable services City Year San Jose/Silicon Valley has provided to the Alum Rock School District during the past seven months:

*Please remember that any opinions I express on my blog are my own and do not represent the views of City Year and/or AmeriCorps.

4. Good Joe/City Year Design Contest

City Year San Jose/Silicon Valley is teaming up with Goodjoe to facilitate a design contest to create an inspiring t-shirt design that will be sold with half of the proceeds going to City Year San Jose/Silicon Valley. The person who submits the winning design (which will be decided by City Year and Goodjoe) will win a $500 prize! For more information on the contest, click here.

5. Jon Stewart’s Cribs: Teacher Edition

This is probably the funniest sketch I have seen in a long time. But don’t take my word for it. Check it out for yourself.

How YOU can Save Service

What if I told you there was an organization that provided jobs for thousands of young Americans. Some of the jobs include: tutoring children, cleaning parks, running afterschool programs and building affordable housing. In exchange for their work, these young people receive a monetary award to help them finance furthering their education.

What if I told you that this organization currently exists but is in serious danger of being shut down?

It’s true.

In the reckless Republican backed budget that was recently passed by the House, billions of dollars are being slashed. Money is being taken from nearly every area of government, including the Corporation for National and Community Service, which is the umbrella organization of AmeriCorps.

Without government funding, it will be impossible for City Year and many other AmeriCorps programs to continue functioning at capacity, if at all.

But we can help stop this.

Here’s how:

1) Contact your Congressperson or Senator and ask them to “reject the version of H.R. 1 that passed House. Restore funding for Corporation for National and Community Service. Do not eliminate programs like AmeriCorps, Senior Corps, Learn & Serve America, Volunteer Generation Fund or the Social Innovation Fund. These are cost-effective, critically-needed and highly-leveraged programs.”

2) Attend a Town Hall meeting and vocalize your concerns.

3) Write a Letter to the Editor to your local paper. Most newspapers have instructions on how to do this on their website.

I’m contractually obligated to tell you that I am not saying any of this on behalf of City Year or AmeriCorps.

But I am morally obligated to tell you that I am saying this on the behalf of the eighth grade students I tutored last year who were reading at below a second grade reading level. And the second grade students who live in dangerous gang-ridden areas that will have no safe place to go after school. And for the young people in our nation who desperately want to serve but will not have the means to do so should AmeriCorps lose its funding.

Please visit Save Service and join the fight to keep the spirit of service alive in this country.