Puerto Rico After María: Tarps for My People

relief after hurricane maria

One goal of the SISGI Beyond Good Ideas Foundation #Voices4PR social media campaign is to raise awareness of the current situation in Puerto Rico. Many families in Puerto Rico are still without electricity stability, clean water, roofs, and resources to satisfy other basic needs. The mental health traumatic effects after María are still untreated, and the suicide rates continue to rise after Hurricane María. The suicide hotline rate increased 246% from people who attempted suicide, and 83% of people who had suicide ideation. Not only the people who were affected by hurricane María need mental health services, but the existing network of mental health providers are in need of psychological support too. As a SISGI intern, I had the opportunity of interviewing three representatives of organizations working on the ground to help rebuild Puerto Rico. The organization’s Tarps for My People, Relief for Puerto Rico, and Sicómoro Inc. are working on specific causes and have direct contact with the people in need of services. 

After hurricane Maria, 370,000 homes did not have a roof, and FEMA only repaired 75,000 homes. Unfortunately, this situation has left hundreds of homes without roofs and resources. Experts predict Puerto Rico’s rebuilt process will take around ten years. Tarps for My People began three weeks after the impact of Hurricane Maria when the nonprofit founder, Amarilis Gonzalez, watched an elder couple taking their clothes and mattress out to sundry every morning on her way to work. After experiencing and observing how people without roofs were struggling daily, Amarilis wrote a Facebook post where she expressed her frustration about the delaying relief response. Soon after, Tarps for My People started installing tarps for the houses without roofs. After a year of service, the organization has been able to build trust with the communities and use social media as a channel to connect and network with other organizations. Tarps for My People biggest challenges are: they only work on Saturdays due to the need of volunteers, the need of a truck to mobilize the materials, and the ability to have carpenters available to work for free.

If you would like to contribute and lower the expected years it will take for Puerto Rico to rebuilt, and help families in need; you can go to tpmgcorp.com to donate to this organization. You can also donate to our Beyond Good Ideas Foundation Hurricane Fund at http://sisgigroup.org/hurricane-fund/. There are no operating costs and 100% of the fund goes directly to individuals and community-based organizations impacted by the hurricane.

View the following video for an interview with Tarps for My People Founder, Amarilis Gonzalez.

Versión En Español

El principal objetivo de la #Voices4PR campaña en las redes sociales es crear conciencia sobre la situación actual que los puertorriqueños continúan viviendo aún después de un año del huracán María. Hay muchas familias sin energía eléctrica, agua limpia, techos y sin recursos para satisfacer sus necesidades básicas. El trauma que dejó el paso del huracán María y el efecto que tuvo en la salud mental de muchos puertorriqueños son consecuencias de la negligencia de un gobierno que no se preocupa en preparar y educar al pueblo para enfrentar un desastre natural de esta magnitud. Después de María muchos puertorriqueños todavía no reciben el cuidado médico y el tratamiento de salud mental adecuado para poder superar el trauma, los daños y pérdidas. La tasa de la línea directa PAS (Primera Ayuda Psicosocial) del Departamento de Salud aumentó 22,500 llamadas más que en el año 2016. De esta cantidad de llamadas, 24.607 fueron de personas con ideas de suicidio y 7,456 fueron de personas con intentos de suicidios. Puerto Rico es la tercera jurisdicción de Estados Unidos con mayores problemas de salud mental, no solo las personas afectadas por el huracán María necesitan servicios de salud mental, sino que la red existente de proveedores de servicios de salud mental también necesita apoyo psicológico. Tuve la oportunidad de entrevistar a tres representantes de organizaciones que trabajan en la isla directamente, tratando de ayudar a reconstruir a Puerto Rico. Las organizaciones “Relief for Puerto Rico”, Toldos pa’ mi Gente  y Sicómoro Inc., están trabajando en causas específicas y tienen contacto directo con las comunidades y las personas que necesitan los servicios. 

Después del huracán María, 370,000 casas no tenían techo y FEMA solo reparó 75,000 casas. Desafortunadamente, esta situación deja a cientos de hogares sin techo y recursos que han sido provistos por organizaciones como Toldos pa’ mi Gente. Los expertos predicen que el proceso de reconstrucción de Puerto Rico tomará alrededor de diez años. Toldos pa’ mi Gente comenzó tres semanas después del impacto del huracán María. Amarilis González, es una de los muchos puertorriqueños que sentía empatía y dolor al observar todos los días camino al trabajo a una pareja de ancianos sacar su colchón para secarlo al sol, por que no tenían techo en su hogar. Después de experimentar y observar cómo las personas sin techo luchaban diariamente, escribió una publicación en Facebook, donde expresó su frustración por la respuesta tardía para ayudar a los puertorriqueños. Toldos pa’mi Gente, comenzó solo instalando toldos azules enviados por diásporas y organizaciones que deseaban ayudar. Después de un año, la organización ha podido demostrar y construir una gran reputación en las comunidades donde han servido.

Esta organización, como otras organizaciones en Puerto Rico, enfrentan muchos desafíos, uno de ellos es que solo trabajan los sábados debido a la necesidad de voluntarios, la necesidad de un camión para movilizar los materiales y la capacidad de tener carpinteros disponibles para trabajar gratis. Si desea contribuir y reducir los años que tardará el reconstruir a Puerto Rico, y poder ayudar a las familias necesitadas, vaya a tpmgcorp.com para donar para esta organización. Además, nuestra organización SISGI Group, tiene el sitio web del fondo para huracanes http://sisgigroup.org/hurricane-fund/.

Share

Puerto Rico After María: The Exodus from Puerto Rico

After Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico had the largest exodus in island history. Currently, 500,000 Puerto Ricans have left the Island in the past decade. I am part of the group of Puerto Ricans who left the island in search for better opportunities. The island of Puerto Rico, like other countries, is going through a social, political and reconstruction crisis. Puerto Rico has been part of the United States of America since 1898, and Puerto Ricans have been American Citizens since 1917. Citizenship was granted through the Jones Act. The political crisis affecting Puerto Rico, from the local government in the Island to Congress involvement on the decisions about the island economic problems have contributed to the political identity crisis for many Puerto Ricans. Since Puerto Rico does not have voting representation in Congress, this social media campaign will give Puerto Ricans a platform for their voice on the conversation. The intent is to motivate Puerto Ricans who are in the mainland to go to their political representatives to exhort participation and support from the U.S. Congress and government officials.

View the following videos to hear from Puerto Ricans that left the island after Hurricane Maria.

Many Puerto Ricans will not agree with the idea of Puerto Rico becoming a State and may have valid points, but I believe Puerto Rico has the right to a voice and vote on the Congress and in presidential elections. One of the main reasons the name of this campaign is #voices4PR is the missing voice of 3.3 million Americans who live at this US territory without being able to decide about their future. Congresswoman Jennifer González Colón is the Resident Commissioner and Puerto Rico’s representative to the US Congress. She currently the sponsor for the Puerto Rico Admission Act of 2018 that intents Statehood for Puerto Rico. By passing this Act, Puerto Rico would officially become the 51st U.S. state no later than 2021.

Click here to view the complete “Voices for Puerto Rico” mini-series.

Versión En Español

Actualmente, 500,000 puertorriqueños han migrado a los Estado Unidos durante la última década. Soy parte del grupo de puertorriqueños que se han ido de la isla en la última década en busca de mejores oportunidades. La isla de Puerto Rico, como otros países, atraviesa una crisis social, política, económica y de reconstrucción. Puerto Rico ha sido parte de los Estados Unidos de América desde 1898, y los puertorriqueños han sido ciudadanos estadounidenses desde 1917, ciudadanía que fué otorgada a través de la Ley Jones. La crisis política que afecta a Puerto Rico, desde el gobierno local de la isla hasta la participación del Congreso en las decisiones sobre los problemas económicos de la isla, contribuye a la crisis de identidad política de muchos puertorriqueños. Dado que Puerto Rico no tiene representación con voto en el Congreso, esta campaña de medios sociales es una intención de aumentar las voces de los puertorriqueños. La intención es motivar a los puertorriqueños que se encuentran en los Estados Unidos a que acudan a sus representantes políticos en sus respectivos Estados de residencia y expresen, comunique los problemas actuales de la isla, exhortando la participación y el apoyo del Congreso de los Estados Unidos y los funcionarios gubernamentales.

Muchos puertorriqueños no estarán de acuerdo con la idea de que Puerto Rico se convierta en un Estado y puedan tener puntos válidos, pero creo que Puerto Rico tiene derecho a tener voz y voto en el Congreso y en las elecciones presidenciales. Una de las razones principales por las que el nombre de esta campaña es #voices4PR es la voz pérdida de 3.3 millones de estadounidenses que viven en la isla,  territorio de los EE. UU. Sin saber o poder decidir sobre su futuro. La congresista Jennifer González Colón es la Comisionada Residente y representante de Puerto Rico en el Congreso de los Estados Unidos, actualmente es patrocinadora de la Ley de Admisión de Puerto Rico de 2018, que pretende la estadidad para Puerto Rico. Al aprobar esta Ley, Puerto Rico se convertiría oficialmente en el estado número 51 a más tardar en 2021.

Share

Ending Anti-Transgender Violence

Although Trans Awareness Week and Transgender Day of Remembrance have passed, the violence perpetrated against this community will not end unless we continue to fight against it year-round. As a survivor of multiple forms of anti-transgender violence, and a friend to many other trans and gender nonconforming victims and survivors, I have seen first hand what silence around this topic will bring, and that’s more violence. Please, listen and believe the stories of trans and gender non conforming survivors, and fight on for the victims of fatal violence, who can no longer advocate for themselves against those who continue to perpetuate heinous acts against this population.

As the current administration continues to attempt to roll back protections for this community, we must fight that much harder to keep trans and gender nonconforming folk safe. Trans women of color are especially at risk, and currently have a life expectancy of just 35 years. Enacting and enforcing sensible gun laws is one way we can protect this population, as gun violence is the primary cause of fatal violence against this community. Trans youth are also at considerable risk, with 21% not graduating in a K-12 setting due to the violence and harassment they face. Together, we can change these statistics, and create a world where trans and gender nonconforming folk can live out fulfilling lives from childhood into adulthood. To do this, we need your help. Take a stand against anti-transgender violence and rhetoric when you are confronted by it in your communities, don’t allow this epidemic of violence to progress any further.

View the video below for additional statistics and interventions that can help end anti-transgender violence, and join the conversation on social media by using the hashtag #TRANScendviolence.

Share

Anti-Transgender Violence: The Continuing Epidemic

I was raped at the age of 19, and a year later was threatened with death and sexually assaulted once more. I have been told that I “should be brought behind a barn and shot”, and that I should be “put on an island with people like [me] and have bombs dropped on [us]”, among countless other violently harassing comments. I have been pushed, struck, groped, and spat at. I am transgender, and my story is not unique within my community.

At the time of these victimizations, I did not have the knowledge or experience necessary to understand that these acts were part of a larger systemic issue of violence against transgender and gender nonconforming people. I did not know that each year, more and more of my fellow trans folk are killed. According to reports by The Human Rights Campaign, 2017 was the deadliest year yet for transgender individuals, with 2018 already close to meeting or exceeding those numbers. The vast majority of these murder victims are transgender women of color, who have a life expectancy of just 35 years.

The intersectionalities of race and gender-identity become all-too apparent when faced with the numbers. Of the more than 100 reported murders of transgender individuals since 2013, over 85% have been transgender people of color. These numbers hold true for this year, as 84% of the reported victims are trans people of color, and 80% are trans women. Still, few people are talking about this issue.

This could be because it deals with (at least) a trifecta of oppression: being transgender, a person of color, and female-identified. These super- oppressed populations are often overlooked because people are more likely to focus on a single oppressive factor and how it relates to victimization. For instance, violence against the black community today easily brings to mind the names and faces of black boys and men shot down and strangled by police, less so does it bring to mind all of the women who have suffered similar fates. This is also true for the transgender community, which is typically lumped together as one uniform segment of the overall population.

I experienced traumatizing events due to my transgender identity, but I can in no way imagine the compounding oppressive factors that transgender women of color experience. I can not imagine being the same age I am now, and seeing data that overwhelmingly purports that I will only survive into my thirties. That is the reality for transgender women of color, as they are shot, stabbed, and beaten to death. Still, their lives and their deaths are ignored by the vast majority of the population, especially people in positions of power.

The current administration has opposed and at times attacked the rights of the LGBTQ+ population as a whole, as well as largely ignoring violence against people of color, especially transgender people of color. The President has been moving to forcefully discharge all transgender members of the military for the past two years, an action the further isolates this community from the general population and will likely result in increased homelessness and unemployment for these discharged service members, placing them in positions where there is a greater risk of experiencing violence. Recently, Vice President Mike Pence spoke at a summit organized by an LGBTQ+ hate group, and he has worked to oppose and reverse bills that allow transgender people to use the restroom of their choice, an act that increases violence against this community as other community members take up “policing” roles and begin to question who should or should not be using a particular restroom.

So, what can we do?

We can bear witness to the unique experiences of violence against transgender and gender nonconforming people, especially transgender women of color. We can read their stories, say their names, and urge our elected representatives to take a stand for the transgender and gender nonconforming members of their communities, to put an end to the violence they experience. Call your local, state, and federal representatives. Work towards understanding the specific protections that transgender people have or lack within your community, and then strive to fill in the gaps. This may mean creating more support groups in rural areas, creating a community that not only reduces isolation but also increases the protection of the individuals within it. It could mean working with a group of your legislatures to draft a bill increasing the protections of this community. It could be counseling your neighbor on how to embrace the fact that their child just came out to them. It could be marching against gun violence, knowing that it is responsible for an overwhelming number of the murders of transgender people. The following graphic reiterates and expands on many of these means to end anti-transgender violence. Together, we have the power to end this violence and create a future where everyone can look forward to the years beyond their thirties.

Share

#APYDCON 2018: LGBT+ Bullying in School Settings

The Alliance for Positive Youth Development (APYD) is getting ready to launch it’s 6th annual Best Practices for Youth Conference (APYDCON) on August 6-8th. This 3-day free virtual conference consists of expert panels with Q&A sessions and afternoon lectures. This year’s themes are Trauma-Sensitive Education, Youth Homelessness, and LGBTQ Bullying in School Settings.

Our SISGI intern, Gabriel Reyes choose the LGBT+ Bullying in School Settings theme. Gabe is a Master of Social Work student from the University of Southern California. For the past six months, Gabe has assisted in the conference planning. We recently interviewed him about APYDCON 2018, and this is what he told us:

Why did you choose this topic?

I chose to address LGBTQ+ bullying because I have personally been bullying because of my expression and sexual orientation. This was really hard for me in school, and it led me to have very depressive thoughts and feel like I could not be my true self.

Why does learning about LGBT+ Bullying matter?

This topic matters because the rates of bullying towards LGBTQ+ are extremely high. This often leads to mental health disorders and high rates of suicide among this population.

Can you tell us a little about your speakers?

At the conference, you will meet a set of experienced professionals who have worked in the field with LGBTQ+ youth. In the panel, we will hear from experts that work with LGBTQ+ youth, and in the afternoon presentation, we will hear from Laura Kanter. Laura has been working in this field as an advocate for many years, and she currently works at the LGBT Center in Orange County.

What discussions can attendees expect from the panel and lecture?

We will talk about the prevalence of LGBTQ+ bullying in school settings and what students can do when faced with bullying. We will also address how schools are perpetuating environments to encourage bullying, and how school administration, parents, and communities can help stop school bullying.

Why should people register for APYDCON 2018?

My biggest takeaway for everyone is to learn about this matter and how it truly affects the lives of many who are still faced with bullying. Like me, I endured many challenges because I was not prepared to deal with bullying nor did my school have policies to create safe environments for LGBTQ+ students. Learning how to address bullying when it happens, help many young people who are facing this problem.

On August 8th, 2018, APYDCON will be wrapping up its last day of workshops center around the topic of LGBT+ Bullying in School Settings. If you want to learn how to create safe school environments to prevent bullying, register to be a part of this unique virtual experience for FREE at ideas4youth.org/apydcon.

Share

#APYDCON 2018: Youth Homelessness

Approximately 4.2 million young people experience homelessness during the course of a year. A runaway or homeless youth can be anyone between the ages of 14 to 24 who do not have a stable place of residence. This includes living on the street, shelters, “couch surfing,” sleeping in cars or public transit systems or living temporarily with friends. The pathways to youth homelessness include:

  • Experiencing the death of a family member or guardian
  • Experiencing financial hardship
  • Being kicked out of their homes
  • Running away
  • Sexual orientation
  • Aging out of foster care
  • Being abandoned, abused or neglected

On August 7th, 2018, the Alliance for Positive Youth Development (APYD) is having free workshops on youth homelessness at their annual Best Practices for Youth Development Virtual Conference. The first workshop will be a panel Q&A with experts that work with homeless youth, and the day will end with a presentation by Erin Chapman-Smith, Director of Housing Services at YouthCare Seattle. Both workshops will address best practices for engaging and providing services to youth experiencing homelessness.

Our SISGI intern, Ninah Bell is a Master of Social Work student from the University of Southern California, and she will moderate the Youth Homelessness panel discussion.  We recently interviewed Ninah about her work in APYD, and this is what she told us:

What inspired you to join the APYD team?

All of my work thus far within the field of social work has been within youth services and youth development. For the last ten years, I have worked in various capacities such as Youth Services Senior Case Manager, Support Services Coordinator and currently as a Youth Development Program Coordinator for an NYC based foster care agency. Be it working with Run Away- Homeless Youth, LGBTQ Youth, justice-involved or victims of commercial sexual exploitation of children/ commercial sexual exploitation, working with youth has always been a strong passion of mine, being a part of the APYD team is a natural and rewarding fit.

What kind of work are you doing in APYD?

Currently, I (along with my cohort members) are focusing on gaining financial sponsors for the upcoming Best Practices for Youth Conference as well as creative advertising and marketing strategies.

What has been your most rewarding activity or role in APYD?

So far, I think the most rewarding has been being a part of something that is way bigger than I. Being able to help other professionals and those interested in working with youth develop their skills to deliver best practices.

How do you think APYD addresses issues facing today’s youth?

For one, I think on a very mirco level it is the exchange of information on a digital platform which is progressive in its self. On a macro level, it is addressing the needs and concerns of what we see youth challenged with every day and how to better utilize the systems that we are in some fashion all a part of, to enact change.

What advice do you have for professionals working with youth?

Make sure this is your passion and that you have been “called” do the work, not because you are good at it but because it is a part of who you are. It is your natural gift. Ask questions when you are unsure, seek mentors and be genuine, non- judgmental and honest in your intentions when working with youth.

Ending youth homelessness requires collaboration and teamwork. Join Ninah, and hear from our speakers at our Youth Homelessness webinars on August 7th, 2018. Register for free at ideas4youth.org/apydcon

Share

(Emotional) Safety First: Supporting Students with Trauma Histories

“As your school counselor, your safety is my first priority.” I cannot count how many times I have said that phrase to students, and I’m pretty good at counting. It was usually one of the first things I said as part of a quick, limits-of-confidentiality spiel, and it helped set the tone for what students could expect of me. In a political climate that has legislators refusing to take evidence-based steps to help reduce school shootings, in the very presence of school shooting victims, student safety remains an urgently relevant concern. When reading the phrase, “student safety,” the physical, bodily safety of students may immediately come to mind. Less likely to be considered, but still very worthy of attention is our students’ emotional safety.

Before we get into an examination of emotional safety in the classroom, let’s talk about the brain’s limbic system. The limbic system manages survival behaviors and emotional responses. The amygdala, which is part of the limbic system, connects emotions to our memories (if you’re familiar with the Disney Pixar film, Inside Out, Headquarters is kind of like the amygdala). The amygdala also initiates the fight, flight, or freeze response. Here’s how that response works. You encounter what your amygdala perceives to be a threat. The amygdala sends signals to your body to release adrenaline and cortisol, to help prepare you to either confront the threat, or flee from the threat. Sometimes, if a threat is perceived to be particularly intense, the body will prepare to fight or fly, but instead of “fighting” or “flying”, the body freezes. The frequent release of adrenaline and cortisol short-circuits the parts of the brain that have to do with learning and self-regulation. We call this collective response to threat, stress.

Now, back to emotional safety in schools. According to the National Center on Safe Supportive Learning Environments, emotional safety is, “[an] experience in which one feels safe to express emotions, security, and confidence to take risks and feel challenged and excited to try something new.” Put another way; an emotionally-safe environment is one in which failure, or the potential for failure, are not perceived as threats. If you have ever been in a classroom as a student, unfortunately, you are probably familiar with the concept of an emotionally-unsafe setting. Many remember their years in middle and high school to be especially fraught with self-consciousness and worry, full of potential emotional threats at every turn.

The Fight-Flight-or-Freeze Response in the Classroom

As an educator, I have seen students respond to perceived emotional threats in the classroom, for example, being called on to answer a question or having to take a test, by:

  • “Fighting” – becoming angry and defiant
  • “Flying” – not doing their work, trying to get kicked out of class, and
  • “Freezing” – shutting down, not engaging

Educators sometimes write-off students who react these ways in class, but it’s important to recognize that such students have often already been exposed to other, more threatening stressors at home, or in the community. It’s no coincidence that schools that report higher-than-average discipline rates also happen to be in the poorest neighborhoods, which also happen to be populated primarily with families from minoritized groups. Students from such socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds are often dealing with trauma histories that have put them into a constant state of stress. As we know, that stress hijacks their learning. But when a school is emotionally-safe, students with trauma histories feel secure enough “to take risks and feel challenged and excited to try something new.”

The following infographic shows why students with trauma histories may “act out” when asked to participate in seemingly simple classroom activities.

Ready to Learn More?

On August 6th, 2018, the Alliance for Positive Youth Development is having FREE online workshops on Trauma-Sensitive Education at this year’s APYDCON. The first workshop will be a panel Q&A with experts Anna Paravono-Frise, an educator and advocate of youth trauma, and Towana Cately, a counselor at Antelope Valley College. The day will end with a presentation by Anne-Marie Gauto, a professor at the University of Southern California Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work. The panel and presentation will address best practices for identifying and supporting students with trauma histories. Visit ideas4youth.org/apydcon to register.

 

Share

#APYDCON 2018: Trauma-Sensitive Education

The Alliance for Positive Youth Development (APYD) is one of the program initiatives within our Beyond Good Ideas Foundation. APYD is an international membership network connecting and supporting individuals that have dedicated their career to youth and youth development. Each year we host an online Best Practices for Youth Conference (APYDCON) focusing on three themes affecting today’s youth. This 3-day free virtual conference consists of expert panels with Q&A sessions and afternoon lectures. This year’s themes are Trauma-Sensitive Education, Youth Homelessness, and LGBTQ Bullying in School Settings.

Our SISGI intern, Kristal Ibrahim choose the Trauma-Sensitive Education theme. Kristal is a Master of Social Work student from the University of Southern California. For the past 6 months, Kristal has worked in the planning and logistics of the overall conference. We recently interviewed her about APYDCON 2018 and this is what she told us:

Why did you choose this topic?

I’m highlighting trauma-sensitive education because of my passion for social justice. I wanted a topic that was related to education, but that also called attention to the persistent societal barriers plaguing those in minoritized populations. Many children and young people who are part of minoritized populations live with complex trauma, and that complex trauma is due to those same societal barriers that I want to point out. So raising awareness about trauma-sensitive education fit the bill, for me.

Why does trauma-sensitive education matter?

I think it’s important to talk about trauma-sensitive education because so many of our youth are dealing with complex trauma or even a single trauma. Any trauma can have lasting effects on a young person’s physical and mental development, and over 60% of the US population has experienced at least one traumatic event in their lives. When you think about it, since so many people are living with the effects of trauma, youth worker professionals are very likely to encounter kids or youth who need help coping with the effects of trauma.

Can you tell us a little about your speakers?

All of the women who will be speaking about trauma-sensitive education at APYDCON are amazing educators! They each bring so much experience in supporting students with trauma histories, but what’s really great about having them speak on this topic is that they each have different perspectives on the matter. For instance, Towana co-managed a group home for foster children, and now supports college students with trauma histories. Anna is an interior design professor, and she is also a mom to a child with a trauma history, due to the circumstances of his adoption. And Anne-Marie has been a therapist, a school social worker, and is currently a school social worker administrator supporting kids of all ages. I’m excited to see how their insights on trauma-sensitive education reflect their different backgrounds.

What discussions can attendees expect from the panel and lecture?

APYDCON attendees can expect to hear about strategies to help us support students with trauma histories, as well as strategies that haven’t worked to help such students. We can also expect to hear about the challenges that we might face when trying to support students with trauma histories, and how to identify students with trauma histories.

Why should people register for APYDCON 2018?

I would encourage people to register for APYDCON so that they can learn about supporting youth with trauma histories, from experts who are in the trenches. I always find it inspiring to hear from those who have experience with the work, and who are currently active in it. It makes me feel like I’m not alone in my passion to increase social justice, and that I can trust what they’re saying since I know that they speak from recent experience.

Kristal will moderate the APYDCON Trauma-Sensitive Education workshops on August 6th, 2018.  Visit ideas4youth.org/apydcon to register for FREE and learn more about the virtual conference.

Share

What I learned at the 2018 Network for Social Work Management Conference

This week I spent two days in sunny, beautiful San Diego, California. I had been sponsored to attend the Network for Social Work Management’s annual conference. where every year they bring together a large audience of social workers, human service organization representatives, international experts, researchers, and practitioners to learn about innovative social work management practices. With plenary sessions, workshops, and networking opportunities, my time was PACKED with activities!

As I sit here just three days post the conference, I am thinking back at all of the things that I learned and absorbed in such a short amount of time. On day one, hundreds of people filled the beautiful conference room inside San Diego State University’s Montezuma Hall. We were quickly enlightened about the theme of the this year’s conference – Disruptive Leadership. Here, we often heard the term disrupting norms. Many speakers shared that in order for change to happen it was imperative for social workers to interrupt the status quo.

Antonia Jimenez, B.S., Keynote Speaker on the benefits and challenges of implementing change.

Antonia Jimenez, Director LA Department of Social Services,  explained in her speech that we as social workers must be a hybrid of both vision and implementation. She continued to state that we must speak up about our ideas even when we think people don’t hear us. I really liked her story of when she was working for a governor who once told her that two of his goals, when he was to retire, was (1) to be known for the innovations he had created and (2) plant the innovative seeds for the next governor. Altogether, her humor and vulnerability to describe her journey was a great way to break the ice and start off the morning.

With one of my colleagues, Heather Mercer, I went to attend a workshop about how to be inclusive when working with college students. The trainers spoke about the different tools that they have seen to be successful as they attempted in their research to test the climates of their classrooms. For example, Dawn Shedrick spoke about incorporating community agreements at the beginning of the semester. This is a list of agreements that are mutually agreed upon and to be carried out throughout the course. These can include items such as one diva one mic, ELMO (enough let’s move on), and respecting others’ opinions. This helps in setting connection before bringing up sensitive topics. Dawn also spoke about incorporating activities to encourage engagement. One exercise she uses is asking all students to say something that they respect about their classmates. When students feel respected by their peers, this encourages them to be vulnerable. Lastly, to empower students, she often replies to them by saying, “you’re not the only one at this school that’s noticed/experienced that.” Feeling like they are not alone, students will feel better about their experience seeing that others have also had similar experiences. My biggest takeaway in this conference was noting how easy and fun these tools can be in a classroom. With such little effort, these tools can really be conducive to safe and friendly environments for students and the teacher.

USC’s Laura Witcoff, MSW, LICSW, Lauren E. Brown, MPP, Ph.D., and Jennifer Goldstein at their presentation on Gamifying Engagement.

In another workshop, I learned how utilizing games to attract an audience can be effective. One of my professors at USC, Dr. Lauren Brown, spoke with her research team about their concepts of media that work for nonprofits. Their research looked at ways that technology can benefit a nonprofit organization and its promotion. The workshop audience was split up into groups of two where each group was assigned a scenario of an agency and their mission. Our jobs were to create game ideas that were in line with the message we wanted to relay. My group was given a mock agency of an interim housing for homeless families in Los Angeles. The agency’s mission was to eliminate homelessness among families with children in Los Angeles by providing housing, supportive services, and advocacy. The message was, “All children and families deserve a home.” Together, my group brainstormed ideas about what could captivate people to learn/donate/advocate for this specific agency. We went straight to the drawing board and came up with some creative game ideas, such as: asking people to write about their favorite family moment, talk about what it means to have a home, and share what their favorite childhood toy was. In this manner, people will reflect on their childhood, family, home, and privileges, encouraging them to participate with the agency. Although social media and tech games are not my particular forte, I can see the power in these creative skills to capture audiences. A simple game that brings light to privilege and experience can make the participation empathetic and personal.

A morning breakfast with SISGI staff and interns (from left to right: Robert, Patty, Gabe [center], Thenera, Andrea, and Heather).

After so many workshops, the conference attendees had the opportunity to have lunch with USC’s staff. Obviously, I wanted to take advantage of this time because it is not often I get to meet with the faculty in person. I had a chance to mingle and learn about what some professors and alumni are doing these days. From teaching to HR, to research, there was a wide range of careers that today’s social workers are doing. I felt honored to share space with these intellectuals. Their wisdom and intelligence were unique and informative as I am starting to shape my career as I near graduation.

Once day-one came to an end, my internship team met together at a local restaurant. I thought to myself that after being focused all day I wasn’t sure I can come up with the energy to socialize but of course I did. There were six of us at the table, and we had a blast! Our conversations were un-serious, and although many of us have vast differences, there was just something in every person at that table that I truly liked. Each person brought a unique set of characteristics, talents, and wisdom that wholly made us work so well.

Christopher “Chip” Paucek presenting a keynote on Leadership Lessons: A CEO’s Perspective on Leading through Change, Building a Great Culture and Cultivating Talent.

Finally, after a long day-one, we were back at it the next day for day two! The day was set to end a bit earlier and incorporate more workshops and plenaries. Day two was kicked off with a presentation by CEO of the world’s best digital education – 2U, Chip Paucek. He was an approachable man with a strong history of pushing through the cracks. Chip spoke about his original idea of technology being unattractive, threatening, and invasive to academics. While practitioners also saw social media as a burden. It took him years until he slowly started to “normalize” this notion of digital education as a new platform for colleges. He struggled to create acceptance of his product, but he endured and found himself finally breaking way. Colleges that finally gave his company a shot began to see the benefits of having such a platform incorporated into their schools. Chip’s closing remarks spoke about appreciation and staying optimistic and grateful. Hearing Chip’s story gave me a sense of hope. Hope that although I may not succeed with my first ideas and there may be obstacles, staying optimistic and persevering through these trials is what gets you to the end of the tunnel.

SISGI Group attendees’ name badges with some added bling.

In the late morning, I took a workshop on research that showed how to get legislative attention to the causes we’re advocating for as social workers. The instructor spoke about his research from his five-step process to push forward in an evidence-based manner to move from the idea to get it voted on. With over a dozen organizations that Minarik used in his study to show how his model is effective, he proposes that having a tailored information sharing decision model is promising. Legislature for me always seems so grand and intangible, but I really liked how his steps gave realistic steps for social workers who are interested in this process.

As day two came to an end, I reflected on my time at the conference, which altogether was well effective and purposeful. This opportunity gave me the ability to meet many people in this field: researchers, professors, social workers, students, interns, business-owners, etc. I learned so much about what we can do to be a disruptive leader. I was inspired by the stories shared by our plenary speakers. I was renewed by the energy of my internship colleagues. And I found faith in my future as a social worker as I learned about what many ways social work is making an impact.

Upcoming Virtual Conference Opportunity!

If you didn’t get a chance to attend this year’s Network for Social Work Management Conference, there’s still a great opportunity coming around the corner, and the best part about it is that it will be a virtual conference. You don’t even have to travel anywhere! On August 6th – 8th 2018, my internship site, SISGI Group, will hold our annual Alliance for Positive Youth Development Conference #APYDCON. Here, attendees will leverage technology and social media to share and connect with youth development professionals, educators, and young people working on youth issues. Specifically, we will have lecturers and panelists each day that will discuss best practices that can be used for Trauma-Sensitive Education, Youth Homelessness, and LGBT+ Bullying in School Settings.

For more information and to register for the Alliance for Positive Youth Development Conference visit ideas4youth.org/apydcon.  If you would like to become an exhibitor then click here to fill out the virtual exhibit hall application.

If you’d like more information about the Network for Social Work Management, please visit their site at https://socialworkmanager.org/

Share

Take 5 with a NELA Fellow – Rose Marguez

We continue our Take 5 Series with Rose Marquez, Executive Director of Cha Piyeh, Inc. Rose is an enrolled tribal member of the Ohkay Owingeh Nation in Northern New Mexico. The organization in which she leads, Cha Piyeh, Inc translates to “lending money” in the Tewa language, and is a Native Community Financial Institution (CDFI) and 501 (c)3 non-profit organization.

The Take 5 Series allows us to get a closer look at our NELA Fellows as they offer insight into their experiences as Nonprofit Executives. Want to hear even more about the career journey of our fellows? Join us for our Social Change Career Series where our fellows and other nonprofit leaders share their career path to executive leadership as well as what inspires them to create social change.

Visit http://sisgigroup.org/careerseries to register.         

Below is Rose’s answer to one of the questions in the Take 5 series on the SISGI Group website. To see Rose’s answers to all 5 questions visit http://sisgigroup.org/rose-marquez/

5. Do you have any advice for someone who is interested in one day being in an executive role in the nonprofit sector?

I truly think that all women should strive to be a leader not only in their career but in their life. I am indeed a role model for all women who want to pursue this role and am happy to share my story with which I know I control and know will end positively.

Share