I never thought AmeriCorps would change my life. Not in this way.
I am an AmeriCorps Volunteer, serving at my alma mater, as a College Completion Coach. This means that I help guide students enrolled in developmental education courses towards graduation.
Serving in AmeriCorps is a privilege. Serving at my alma mater, is special.
I originally considered serving in AmeriCorps several years back, but hadn’t found the right opportunity. Until this one came along and it ended up being PERFECT for me.
As a first generation college graduate, I see things in a different light. I see my service term as a chance to give back to the very institution that gave me my start in higher education. It gives me a chance to see poverty up close and personal, in ways that many Americans never will. It makes me sad and hopeful all at once. And, I love it.
The hours are long, the pay isn’t your typical pay (we aren’t salaried, we are paid with a modest living stipend and receive an education award at the end of our service term of 1700 hours), but the work is absolutely rewarding. This term only confirmed for me that I want to spend my life serving others.
No matter what I do, I want to be in service to others. I had this desire prior to AmeriCorps, but I have learned so much as a volunteer, that will be useful professionally and beyond that I’m very glad to be serving. It brings so much satisfaction to be able to say to my students ‘If I can do this, so can you’! This experience has shaped my life in so many ways, I can’t fully put it into words, especially since I’m not done serving yet.
My name is Deidre, and I was Made in AmeriCorps.
So this past weekend I visited my beloved Hampton University for homecoming and had a BLAST, despite hurricane Sandy being en route to the Tidewater area.
As I said in a previous post, I left Hampton my freshman year, because it wasn’t a good fit.
Or so I thought.
Out of the three institutions I attended (Hampton, the community college, and the large commuter university)?
Hampton was the best fit, institution wise/campus culture. Followed by the community college.
To this day? I identify more as a Hamptonian, in my demeanor, in life experiences, I have common experiences with Hamptonians, because they have a distinct culture, complete with traditions and all. I didn’t have that at the community college or the large commuter university-I just went to class and went home.
The downside to attending Hampton? The surrounding city/area. It was TOO slow for me. Not being able to get around without a car. Not having anything to do.
Visiting this weekend, brought back so many memories. It’s amazing how much I have in common with folks I went to school with for two months versus folks I went to school with for three years.
Campus culture has everything to do with it. Traditions have everything to do with it. And the latter two schools, have neither.
So I guess my question is, do you make a place? Or does the place make you?
You are exactly who you’re meant to be, and every place that you’ve been, has shaped you and impacted you in some way.
I also think that, each of us has our own personality, that allows us to identify with a certain group of people, over others. Our goals, our dreams? The way we carry ourselves? Part of our identity.
At times, I don’t feel like I belong in Cleveland, for various reasons. And I’ve felt this way since a kid.
New York, however? Feels like home. Does that mean I should move there? Uhh, no. I really have no desire to move there.
Other places that felt like home for me? Lake Charles, Louisiana.
I don’t wanna move there either.
I think identity, at least for me, is shaped by the culture and the people that comprise that culture.
For me? Having a place where I belong…is everything. And this weekend, I felt like I belonged…at Hampton University. Amazing that eight years can go by, and people can still welcome me ‘home’. I don’t think I’ve ever felt that way at the large commuter university.
Cleveland has shaped me, positively and negatively. But so have the many places I’ve traveled to/spent time in. And yet, at the same time? Even away from Hampton, from the culture there…even though I had an entirely different college experience than those who finished there and graduated? I’m the same as them. Which leads me to believe…place and identity correlate but they’re not mutually exclusive.
Does that make sense?
No? Okay so it’s not just me?
This city girl from the midwest had a difficult time adjusting to college in the south her freshman year.
Yes, I began college at Hampton University, a historically black college/university (HBCU) in Hampton, Virginia. And to say it was a culture shock is an understatement.
First of all, I wasn’t used to a majority black school. Yes, even though I’m black? I’d always been used to multiracial settings. So to see a sea full of black people was somewhat endearing, yet strange.
Secondly, it was the south.
There’s so many things that could be said about being a girl from the midwest in the south. You would think I’d be used to it. After all, my father is from the deep south (Mississippi), and my family migrated to Chicago from the south.
Turns out place, has much more to do with who you are than I thought.
It was strange to have people I didn’t know, hug me, say hello to me, the concept of family made up of individuals who weren’t really family to me? Was a little foreign. And yet it was so southern.
In the midwest, especially in Cleveland? People aren’t rude. We just are all doing our own thing. Yes, we support each other, but we’re not saying hello to strangers. We’re not hugging people we barely know. Southern hospitality? Was definitely a southern ideal. And I wasn’t quite ready for it. It scared me. So I came back to familiarity, to the midwest.
Being from the midwest, from the inner city? Has everything to do with where I decided to attend school, where I graduated from, where I now work, and where I am headed to next.
Being from the city, where I attended public schools for K-12, followed by community college and then the local urban university…it has shaped who I am in so many ways.
This city girl, despite being highly intelligent, beating several odds to get to where I am today, has felt so many times along the way, that she didn’t belong. Yup.
Place, that inferiority complex, is part of me. And it’s the part of me I would like to shed. And then once I shed it, for good? I want to help others shed it as well.
You see, success in higher education, is moreso about place, where you come from, and belief in oneself.
Place, is not an indicator of success. I found that upon my arrival to Hampton, I was more prepared for college, than my counterparts who grew up in ritzy suburbs across the country. Still, the southern culture and then the campus culture was a double whammy for me. I felt very out of place. I felt like I didn’t belong, even though I was one of 1400 students to be accepted…out of 10,000 applicants.
10,000 applicants. That’s a 14% acceptance rate. And I made it in.
My work in higher education, my career, stems from a desire to have students, regardless of place of origin, know that they belong. I want them to know that place, doesn’t define their future. It is a part of their story, part of their story to be proud of. Part of their story that they will tell to others, and then to build upon that by writing a new chapter in their stories.
Place, is not an indicator of success or failure, unless you allow it to be. And that is something I must remind myself of, as I prepare to embark on a new journey soon, to begin my masters degree. Place, is not the end all be all. It’s only a piece of the puzzle.
Top Five things I love about living in The City (Summertime edition)
5 . Indians Games! Love being able to go to nighttime games and get home without major hassle, traffic, dealing with parking, etc.
4. Working just outside of downtown and being able to commute within 20 minutes, via public transportation
3. Endless choices for date night-we can head to the next suburb bordering us, or head downtown…both are within a 10 minute bus ride of us. We can go to so many different restaurants…we’ve been together six years (married for 2, dating for 4) and we have yet to try everything we want to try.
2. Living car-free for everything except grocery shopping…and heading to suburbs for different events…and there are grocery stores within walking distance, ones that deliver groceries for you!
1. The beautiful city lights
Many universities are out in the boondocks (the ‘boonies’ as many would call them), or quintessential college towns. There are other universities that have more ‘urban’ locations. I applied to eight universities, my senior year of high school. All but two of them were in urban locales.
I chose the suburban locale (Hampton) and was appalled at the lack of urban amenities that I was used to. I returned home to attend college in a more urban setting and loved every minute of it.
There’s many different settings within urban higher education, each having their own pros and cons.
There’s the urban selective private university. Great examples of this would include Harvard, Case Western, Emory, Columbia, Carnegie Mellon, Georgetown, etc. These schools have rich traditions that allow them to utilize the urban backdrop and remain part of the city yet have their own culture on campus. Many students attend the school for the academics, the urban location is a plus.
There’s the urban affordable public commuter campus university. My alma mater, Cleveland State University, would be an example of that. University of Illinois-Chicago is another example, as is University of Houston, Georgia State University. These schools are great bargains for local residents who want a baccalaureate degree but aren’t able to attend school due to commitments (kids, jobs, finances, etc). They tend to be commuter schools, sometimes facing safety issues because many of these campuses tend to be open (as opposed to being gated) but if you use common sense on campus, you’re fine. Also, the city tends to be an asset when it’s time for an internship/co-op, because many employers often hire graduates from the university and is familiar with the institution already.
Then there are the urban public flagship/larger universities such as The Ohio State University, University of Pittsburgh, University of California-Los Angeles. These schools have a higher residential population than many other urban public universities, primarily because of their ability to attract students from all over, not just the immediate area surrounding the institution. These schools have large sports traditions and programs in addition to the city’s professional sports teams, sometimes just as popular if not more. Their academics are great, of course, and their reputation tends to be well-regarded past the metropolitan area that it is located in.
The urban liberal arts colleges also tend to be more residential, more academic focused. Their smaller class sizes are a plus, emphasizing closeness to professors and faculty, and more individual attention, as well as the student body being more intimate. Examples of these schools are schools such as Occidental, Barnard. Excellent Academics. Wonderful student body cultures.
Urban religious colleges and universities, I decided to put in a separate category, due to their religious natures. These schools tend to require chapel or other religious services. Many of these schools are residential, some are not. Examples include Loyola University Chicago, DePaul University, Xavier University (New Orleans), Xavier University (Cincinnati), University of Dayton, Catholic University of America, St. John’s University (NYC), etc. Excellent academics, some with great athletics, some with not. Awesome if you want to attend a school within your denomination or have attended Christian/Catholic/religious schools growing up.
Then there are the urban community colleges. These schools tend to have several campuses, with the main campus in the heart of the city, and satellite campuses in the suburbs. Strong emphasis on community, they were designed originally for students located in a particular community, to have access to higher education without going far. These schools tend to have strong articulation/transfer agreements with other schools in the area, as well as outside of the area. Most of these schools don’t have residential housing for students, because their students live in the area already. Tuition is generally affordable, and sometimes you can even complete a bachelors degree with a university without having to physically go to the university campus. Great opportunity for students to raise their GPAs, save money, earn credits without the university price tag, learn in smaller learning environments, work while going to school, etc.
Institutions of higher learning in urban locations are important, as not everyone is comfortable in non-urban locales for higher education. With so many options to choose from, (and I didn’t even talk about trade schools, urban single sex colleges, proprietary schools, etc), there is truly something for all urban city lovers. And if you’re worried about safety, all institutions of higher education have campus police, who are there to ensure safety of the students, regardless of urban/suburban/rural locales. The city can truly be a great place to learn if you’re interested in it.
I LOVED going to school in the city. I was able to learn so much not only inside the classroom, but outside of it as well. Class assignments at local museums were the norm. Internships were easier to come by (and get to). Diversity was a huge benefit in attending school in the city. Being downtown in the middle of the day or even at the end of the work day, the hustle and bustle of the city-I loved it all!
I couldn’t have imagined my educational experience at a school in the country. City schools were the right choice for me!
In light of some health issues, I’ve been told by my doctor that I need to change my diet.
Okay, I thought to myself, I can do this.
Except, I find that when I’m out and about, I need to bring my own snacks, or else I’m screwed.
I was in downtown Cleveland yesterday, struggling to find some healthy food options. I wonder where the vegetarians/vegans eat? Where’s the fresh, un processed food at? The places that don’t sell pizza, junk food, but fruit, salads, and other healthy food?
I recently told a friend that this city kid, wouldn’t be opposed to the suburbs. Why? Because here in Cleveland, that’s where much of the healthy food options are. It’s a struggle to find healthy places where you can grab a bite to eat without sitting down for a meal. Even in sit down restaurants? It’s limited.
A Whole Foods or Trader Joes? Forget about it within city limits. You end up having to drive out the suburbs to find those stores.
I’m glad that there are more farmers markets popping up around the city. Even more pleased to see urban farming in lower income inner city neighborhoods.
But where are the fruit stands? Can we get a store selling natural and organic foods in downtown Cleveland? Can we have healthier food options for Cleveland closer to the core, the city center?
If anyone has any answers to my questions, please let me know. It’s almost enough to drive me out of the city. I shouldn’t have to drive 20+ minutes to shop for natural and organic food, or to eat somewhere serving healthy food.
Considering more people are becoming vegans/vegetarians, especially those of our generation, I’m surprised there hasn’t been a grocery store built yet downtown selling organic food (outside of Constantinos, which is moreso located in the Warehouse District).
I’m grateful that I live within walking distance of Liquid Planet, but where are the healthy food options downtown?
Inquiring minds want to know…
I’m almost two years removed from graduating college and have yet to really start a career. I work a job, yes, but I wouldn’t consider it a career, or at least, not in the field I’d hoped I’d find myself working in.
I’ve admitted to my counselor, my hubby, my father, and my sister that I’m scared to move. Scared because it’s unfamiliar. And scared because I know there’s a pretty good chance that this won’t be our final move.
I’ve lived in Cleveland my whole life. I lived in my childhood home 23 years before getting married at 24. I then moved to an apartment with the hubby and then to our current place 3 months later, where we’ve been for two years now.
I never had to worry about my father uprooting us because of a promotion, or having to move because my mother couldn’t find a job. My parents never had to navigate through any of that because my father was the breadwinner, my mom was a SAHM (stay at home mom).
Hubby & I are a dual career couple, meaning, both of us plan to have careers outside of taking care of home. Even if I choose to stay at home with the kids at some point (which is not completely ruled out), I will still have a career, just a more family-friendly, work from home kind of career.
When imagining married life as a teenager and even prior to meeting my husband, I never even once considered that I could possibly be the breadwinner. I never imagined that I would be the first one to earn my degree. I figured, I’d finish college, get married, hubby would be finished with college too, and we’d both have our careers already started.
None of that is the case.
Our current location has limited job opportunities for me and limited educational opportunities for hubby, who has to finish his degree. On top of that, we’re both eagerly looking for a place we can both call home, since we don’t consider Cleveland home.
With each passing day, I’m realizing that making more than one move will be quite necessary.
Our ideal location is expensive. Expensive to live in, buy a house in. School for hubby isn’t cheap either.
So what do we do?
Well, for me, a dream deferred isn’t a dream denied.
Meaning? I’m planning for our next move NOT to be our last move.
That’s scary for me, because I’m spoiled and used to stability.
However, this is what I signed up for when I got married and said ‘I Do.’
I can choose to look at this for what it is…an adventure!
One approach to all of this move now, move later? Move somewhere affordable, safe, with good opportunities for BOTH hubby & I, and a decent school system. I say that since kiddos are likely to come along in the next 3-5 years.
I realize that affordable + safe + opportunities + good school system and it just being a good fit for the both of us more than likely means, we’ll be far from family. That is scary too, but the goal will be to move closer to family once we’re a bit more settled. Sometimes you have to leave home to get established and then come back once you’re more settled financially, career-wise, etc. Worst case scenario? We’d end up living far away from home for longer than expected. And if that happens? Well, that’s what plane rides and telephones and skype are for, to bridge the gap.
It’s all an adventure, that is what I keep telling myself. And an exciting one at that!
Move now, move later…a dream deferred is not a dream denied.
Relocating is in the future for me & hubby, the near future even, and we’re almost at the point of narrowing down the list of destinations. For now? Information gathering stage.
The last post, I wrote about the possibility of moving out of the city to a suburb.
Today I thought, ‘what about a smaller city?’
I think smaller city is a subjective term. When people think about cities, most think about Chicago, Los Angeles, NYC, etc.
What about smaller cities, like Knoxville, TN? Asheville, NC? Kileen TX?
Hubby and I are particular about where we’d like to eventually settle down and raise a family, buy a house and all of that.
First and foremost, for us, it needs to be a city. And possibly, we need to define, how big or small that would be for us. And would it be a suburb considered as a smaller city? Or a stand alone city with the nearest bigger city 30+ minutes away? Or would it be any city above 500,000+ people?
Also important to us is nightlife. What is the nightlife like in some of these smaller cities? Would we be bored relatively quick? College towns such as Knoxville, or Ann Arbor, or even State College, PA, have vibrant nightlife, even though it’s primarily geared towards college students.
Diversity is HUGE. And again, some of these college towns, are diverse. We like interacting with people of different cultures, religions, socioeconomic backgrounds.
Walkable downtowns especially, are everything. We also need to be able to go grocery shopping, run necessary errands without having to drive 30 miles to reach the nearest Target/Walmart.
Being that we’re both sports fans, being near professional sports teams is kind of priority for us, since we love going to baseball games. Minor league games? Eh, I’ve never been to one. I prefer pro sports. I do love college sports too, but this is where we’d have to narrow down how big or small of a city would we prefer. If we were to relocate to a smaller city, how close is a bigger city that has professional sports teams?
Affordable housing is key too. Coming from Cleveland, we’re used to reasonable housing prices, and as we look forward to buying a house someday, I think I’d be a bit hesitant to move away to a metro area that has ridiculous real estate prices. I understand that many metro areas are more expensive than Cleveland, but incomes should be in line with real estate. Buying a $500K house (and that’s a basic house at that) if we’re only bringing in 100K/yr, is not something I’m interested in doing. The cost of living shouldn’t be too crazy, since we do want to enjoy life without worrying about money.
If we define small(er) cites as cities the size of Kansas City and maybe smaller, then it might be doable. It’s a dense city with pro sports teams. It’s probably completely different from say, Ventura, CA, where it’s alot smaller as a city, but has no professional sports teams of its’ own.
Or maybe a suburb might be the compromise for us both, as long as it’s diverse and provides easy access to the city.
Many millenials are choosing to skip New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago for smaller cities such as Portland, Milwaukee, Detroit, Memphis even. I wonder if we will follow that trend and join them?
I think ultimately, we’ll end up doing whatever is the best decision for our family. If I can find a smaller city that meets all our criteria? Great. But who knows where life will take us…
So at my core, I’m a city kid. LOVE the city. I absolutely fell in love with Chicago as a small kid. I practically cried when my parents threatened to move out of Cleveland to the suburbs as I was growing up. To me, the suburbs was a place where dreams went to die. Where there were no kids with my skin color or much diversity to begin with. Where you went to visit friends but not to live.
I hated when people from the suburbs would say they were from Cleveland. I would ask them what part and they’d name a suburb. It was highly annoying. I had reverse snobbery, where I felt like I was an authentic Clevelander, because I lived in Cleveland city proper.
I survived (and thrived, I might add) in Cleveland public schools. I loved my city upbringing, I learned to salsa dance in high school, curse in Spanish, interracial dating was normal, we shared books in school due to budget cuts-being a city kid was a badge of honor. The city wasn’t a place we went for field trips, it was where we lived. It was home. And I loved it.
Fast forward to the present. I’m a blogger who loves the city, so much that I have a website named midwestcitykid.com. Not to be confused with Midwest City, Oklahoma (found this out one day googling myself lol). I’m a city kid, through and through. I want to encourage as many people as I can, to not only move to the city, but buy a house there, settle down, have careers, get married, and have kids in the city. Send them to school too. I understand this might not be realistic for everyone, but I want to see the city thrive, not die.
I sometimes worry about the day where I have to move to the suburbs. I hope the day never comes, but honestly? It’s becoming reality more and more each day, as I ponder having kids. I can’t fathom sending them to most urban school districts, especially when suburban schools tend to outperform them. And it makes me sad, because I loved my city childhood. I want my kids to have the same, but I’m not sure it will happen.
Can I love the city from a distance? And if so, what happens to this website? The purpose of this website is to share my experiences living my life in the city.
But what happens when I don’t live in the city anymore? Do I still write about my love for the city?
I can say right now, if hubby and I move to the suburbs, it won’t be because we love the suburbs so much. Then again, who knows what will happen.
If this chapter in my life of city residency and writing about my experiences comes to a close, I’m okay with that. I really want to spend the rest of my life (or at least until I’m old and can’t stand the bright lights and noise anymore) in a city. If I have to move the suburbs, it will be as urban as I can get without literally being in the suburbs. Or who knows what life will bring.
All I know that life in the city has taught me to be ready for whatever that comes my way, to roll with the punches. There’s ton that goes on that I have no control over, or circumstances that dictate that I make a decision that might not be the one I originally wanted, but leaves me happy anyways.
I can’t worry about the future and ask if I’m going to be living in the city forever. I would like to, but it depends on what life has in store for me and my family.
Until then…viva la vida en city lol (I know that was all jacked up but I said long live life in the city)!
Sometimes you just need a change of scenery.
Since I don’t work on Thursdays or Fridays, I decided I’d go to Pittsburgh for the day. I rented a car and drove up to Pittsburgh on Friday and was pleasantly surprised by the city.
Despite being in proximity my entire life (only a 2.5 hour drive from Cleveland), I’d never spent any significant time in Pittsburgh. I’ve been to Kennywood, but that was outside of city limits. I’ve also been to a conference in college but we never went anywhere outside of the hotel where it was held. I’d never really spent a significant amount of time in Pittsburgh…until Friday.
I didn’t know what to expect, I’d heard alot of comparisons of Cleveland and Pittsburgh, but it must be the people…because architecturally, and landscape wise? They’re nothing alike. Pittsburgh definitely feels more like the Northeast. And I like that.
Gorgeous view of the Golden Triangle area (aka Downtown Pittsburgh) from the riverfront by Heinz Stadium
We then stopped at a pizza spot in the Bloomfield neighborhood of Pittsburgh…can we say Steelers country?
All in all, we enjoyed ourselves. Pittsburgh, we will definitely be back to explore more of the city!