It is with sincere pleasure and with a touch of melancholy that I write my final post and thereby bringing in a sense of closure to another chapter in my life.
I remember when I first applied to become a Lynn blogger , and was later denied the opportunity at that point because the original 6 had been already chosen. Having been rejected for that position and for many others (even up till now I’ve never been a stranger to rejection) I began just focusing on my studies and on my hobby at that time which was the Piano. Long story short the following semester I had been invited to participate in an honors conference representing Lynn with ballet dancer Timea Varga to perform one of the pieces I had practiced on the piano. Having something interesting to finally blog about , I got invited to join the team and well the rest is history.
I believe the above story accentuates the best aspect about the Lynn University student blog which was the ability to document the successes and failures, triumphs and upsets of both ourselves and of Lynn University. From the devastating loss our school suffered upon the 2010 earthquake in Haiti to the selection of Lynn University as the host of the final Presidential debate in 2011, both myself and the other bloggers have been there writing up our own perspectives on these significant events.
As I continue in my nascent career in public health in Connecticut I will always have Lynn and its current student body and faculty in a special place in my mind. And although I could always do a better job keeping in touch with my friends from South Florida (I promise I will go back when I earn enough time off work!), remember that we are all just one simple phone call, letter or even Facebook message away.
Since returning from the Peace Corps late last fall I’ve been applying to a number of health graduate programs, internships and fellowships. Until I was able to commit myself 100% to anything I’ve been working as an interpreter for regional attorneys, an elementary school teacher aid and even as a piano player on evenings.
Today however marks my first day that I commit myself fully to the position as a SBIRT Health Educator for the Community Health Center Association of Connecticut, Inc. . My new position would entail me engaging with patients at Southwest Health Center in Bridgeport in order to assess their conditions and thereby referring them to the proper treatment. And while I am not in the best position right now to discuss my duties with much clarity, I do know that I am very much looking forward to the 75+ hours of instructive training on account that I have a lot yet to learn about the vital role of health centers in our society and about how to properly go about my new responsibilities.
My work in Ecuador through the Peace Corps has directly prepared me for this position. As a health volunteer I’ve always had been given the challenge of motivating community members to participate in their local subcentro de salud and make it a stronger program for everybody. I haven’t always been successful, but it is when I failed that I learned the most about how to work with people and make everybody work towards a common cause.
As my new career unfolds, I would be blogging about exciting initiatives from CHCACT, about my very own challenges and insights, and about how what I learned at Lynn University prepared me for such a new venture.
Lately in my travels, all i’ve been hearing about is Lynn. Congratulations to my Alma Mater for being chosen as the university to host the final 2012 Presidential debates. But this post serves to go beyond commending my school; rather i’d like to present a new challenge.
Now that Lynn has proven itself worthy enough to host a Presidential debate – how about having Lynn produce alumni worthy enough to become a candidate for a future presidential debate?
The idea here is that students who graduate from Lynn have all the tools required to do amazing things in their careers. At my time at Lynn, I have to admit that many students felt that by not going to a bigger school, they would know get the same experience that another student might get. This is not necessarily the case.
A college degree is essentially what you make of it. What’s more, an ivy league education is not really indicative of success. I once overheard a student saying that all US presidents have ivy league backgrounds. Not the case – In fact, many of our top Presidents including Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, Andrew Jackson and Harry Truman have received little or no formal education.
And unless you live in Illinois, you may have never have heard of where Ronald Reagan (a quintessential Republican president) went to school: Eureka College.
Again, college is what you make of it; and at Lynn it’s easy getting your tuition’s worth of education and career prep. I don’t mean to have a sales pitch for Lynn, but hardly anywhere else could have so many things just literally a walk away.
So next year, when the country’s fate will essentially be deliberated on Lynn’s campus, let’s make the most out of the experience by welcoming the plethora of new resources and civic events that will be presented on campus.
And for the record, I don’t have any plans to enter politics; notwithstanding the fact that as a non-native born citizen I wouldn’t be allowed to run for President! Not even Arnold Schwarzenegger – born in Austria – can muscle his way into the oval office.
Last week I had the pleasure of meeting former Colombian Senator Ingrid Betancourt during a speaking tour to promote her new book, “Even Silence Has an End: My Six years of Captivity in the Colombian Jungle.”
Growing up I had always seen images of Ingrid struggling against corruption and drug trafficking in both lower and upper house of the Congress of Colombia. She fought arduously against politicians who have been receiving bribes from members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) until one day she was held captive by the very same group for over 2,000 days just as she was beginning to run as a Presidential candidate.
Her story of endurance, survival and hope in the deep jungles of Colombia is truly inspiring and I could remember seeing my own mother pray for Ingrid as there had been multiple attempts by the Colombian and French government to rescue her. Her eventual rescue mission called “Operation Jaque” (which means “check” as in “checkmate” in Chess) on July 2008 reunited her with her family in France and since then she has not returned to Colombia. “Operation Jaque”, orchestrated by the Colombian military intelligence community, by the way, was elegantly carried through and its operation and execution must have been admired even the most senior officials in our very own CIA.
Her decision to shy away form Colombia, however, has been received by mixed criticisms by dozens – particularly by Colombians. But who can blame her after all the trauma she has witnessed and all the years she’s been separated form her children just because of her trying to do the right and for speaking against corruption. When I asked her about the current circumstance in Colombia and for any viable solutions, she responded that the change would need to come from the hearts of the people – very similar to what we saw in the “Arab Spring” or even through the current “Occupy Wall Street” movements…I couldn’t agree more.
As the new debt deal passed President Obama’s desk, the word “taxes” has recently received a lot of beating from both sides of the political isle and many people perhaps even justifiably grunge when they see that they have to pay a little more just to receive their goods, or in many cases, for paying a tax on goods they already own. Nevertheless taxes are a necessary evil for the establishment of democracy – particularly ours. With tax money we keep our borders safe, our streets clean and our children educated to say the least. The extent however of how much tax you should pay is heavily debated on and the right answer will never be just one answer, despite what a Limbaugh or an Olbermann may say.
Americans have bravely fought unfair tax codes since the birth of our nation. Tax collectors in the early 18th century were actually tarred and feathered during the Whiskey Rebellion as the United States placed a heavy tax on certain alcohol. But even though many people would still like to do the same to some folks in the IRS, let’s not forget what our first Secretary of Treasury Alexander Hamilton said that it was a “fundamental maxim, in the system of public credit of the United States that the creation of debt should always be accompanied with the means of its extinguished”. These words (far from only providing sound personal finance advice as well) have persevered through the ages and still remains the priority to our politicians as they handle our debt crises today.
Yup, the recent SAT’s (those pesky tests most of us took to get into college) just featured a question regarding the authenticity of shows like “American Idol”. In other words, China – you just won!
Well maybe not. I highly doubt that the far eastern juggernaut will eclipse America’s GDP anytime soon (despite being the world’s # 2), but that doesn’t mean we should undermine our emphasis on educating the next generation of global leaders.
While in Ecuador, I further realized that it is infrastructure, technical innovation and quality public administration that advances the well being of a nation; not reality shows or over-priced real estate (especially). But for those former entities to surpass the latter, there needs to be a new push towards higher education, especially in the sciences and liberal arts.
I believe that it is not a coincidence that since JFK gave Americans a deadline to land on the Moon (and signing the executive order to start the Peace Corps ) there has been repeated cycles of economic and social growth in the United States. The Apollo program inspired students to pursue careers in engineering, aviation and medicine for a chance to join NASA, and while the majority of them didn’t end up working for them, they went on and joined other innovative efforts that maximize the well being and economic independence of our nation.
Now imagine if our sitting POTUS challenges us to land in Mars in this decade. The technology is there; we already understand the mechanics behind heavy-lift boosters and methane/oxygen generators. A challenge will also inspire students to learn hard science, a field that has countless benefits some of which to say the least includes the possibility of engineering alternative fuel cells.
So let’s beat China !
My youth group is still trying to make enough candles for all of the orders that we received for Valentine’s Day. The profits from that day will fund the many leadership retreats that are open to teenagers from Esmeraldas.
The scented candles were all made from scratch, and only the best ones made the cut. During the process, we learned about small business management, morals, salesmanship and how to plan for the better things in life.
With the poverty rate in the double digits, rampant underage pregnancy and a crude handling of public funds – it is the youth of Esmeraldas that will set the future on the right path and allow its citizens to enjoy its inherent beauty.
Yup- I now live and work in a province in Ecuador called Esmeraldas. The life here is as beautiful as its name suggests. However beyond the wonderful food, talented salsa dancers and scenic mountains lie the perpetuating social problems that I tend to focus on as a Peace Corps volunteer.
Coincidently as I write this blog President Obama is delivering the State of the Union Address in which he just stated that the “idea of America endures” and that we will “sustain the leadership that has made America not just a place on a map, but a light to the world”.
As a Colombian-American working in Ecuador hearing his speech gave me a renewed sense of direction as I figure out my purpose in this new country. Working with youth and families, I have the unique experience to work with and empower the next generation of leaders for my community. Honestly though, it is really hard to measure how much I am improving the lives of my community members, whether I am at all. But I do know that if I can inspire and motivate at least one individual to become a better member of society, than that’s one more empowered person here and they will pay it forward.
With final approval from Washington, I am now able to continue to blog about my Peace Corps Experience in Ecuador. I thank the Lynn community, friends and family who have waited for me to continue with my posts; noting from a few E-mails that I’ve received along with the fact that the blog is still up and running I can conclude that there is some type of demand for this website!
So soon after graduating this past May, I got on a plane en route to Ecuador with 68 other Peace Corps volunteers from around the States. It was a real dynamic group, filled with amazing people from all walks of life. The only real common thread that we shared was the fact that we were embarking on a life-changing journey from which none of us knew exactly how it would unfold.
The following three months were dedicated to language and cultural training in the city of Cayambe. I have to admit that it was a common perception among the trainees that I would have the easiest time adjusting since I come from a Latino background. In fact, I would say that the fact that I already speak the language only allows me to take on an even greater burden of understanding the specific Ecuadorian customs and idiosyncrasies which really take a lifetime to master. Indeed, my training site was in a very remote location where indigenous customs were still a strong influence. That by itself presented challenges as I wanted to view life from their perspective, and even presented the necessity of learning a few phrases in their native language called “Kitchua”.
After those three months of cultural integration, all of the volunteers got separated into their own locations throughout the country. And as new lifelong friendships were formed within the volunteers, it was like saying goodbye all over again to those whom we felt accustomed to.
I was personally assigned to Quininde, Esmeraldas which is in the northeast part of the coastline. My first impression of my site was that it was much, much hotter than South Florida and that I would have to get used to working in this heat without hopes of seeing and air-conditioned room. I was also stunned by the amount of teenage pregnancies, underage labor and relative poverty from the surrounding areas; indeed I was not in Boca Raton anymore.
Nevertheless, on the bright side I was happy to see the endless amount of fruit, sea food, welcoming people and a distinct motivation on behalf of the community for continued progress. And now, with almost three months into my service, I am content with what lies ahead. I started working with youth and families, and after tallying up the signatures from the sign-in sheets that I’ve passed around at all of my meetings, I was amazed to see that I had already spoken to about 200 teenagers concerning topics on leadership, AIDS awareness, good study habits and life skills. Future projects include a blood bank, a television program directed by the youth, and the development of a recreational center that would sponsor volleyball, soccer and chess competitions.
Every point I’ve delivered in this post really deserves a whole entry by itself. But now that I’ve installed internet at my new apartment, all I have to do now is officially move in there to start blogging on a daily basis! The waking Sun is always followed by new adventures, and I can only hope to learn and grow from every single one of them.
After hours of training and searching for the Internet here in the highlands of Ecuador….I find out that I only have about 30 minutes to do what I have to do online before my time expires in this Internet Cafe….Lots to write about…Little time…but I will say the following:
A Peace Corps mission I believe should be on every American citizens´s list of things to accomplish. From what I have seen from my first days of training and from the overview of what I am about to go through for the next two years, I´ve learned that it is a beautiful program that will challenge you immensely while rewarding you to that very same degree of intensity. To that extent, I will suggest that a Peace Corps mission should not be considered only a right, but also privilege to every American Citizen who is able to participate in the program.
More to come…..