It’s a normal day on campus. The sun is out (always a welcome thing), the birds are singing, and the normal crowd is milling around between Cramer and Smith Union. ‘All normal.
I took a seat outside Cramer Hall facing Smith. I was tired. I had just gotten out of a history class, Greek 300, and I wanted to catch some fresh air before I crammed down a sandwich in the Smith cafeteria and trudged on to my next class, French 101.
It was then I noticed him. At first glance all seemed normal. A 20 -something male student, jeans, old Chuck Taylor All Stars, black-grey hoodie…but with the hood up. He had a cardboard box with him. He looked kind of pensive. Maybe he was waiting for someone? Read more
For the longest time, my father cut my hair growing up. My two younger brothers and I never went to a barber shop to get the job done. And this job is complicated to say the least. Around 16 or 17, my father just didn’t have the same precision as before and my hair was just too difficult to cut. Soon after, my father simply retired, if you will, from cutting my hair and my brother’s as well. I was confident that if my father could cut my hair, anyone else with experience could do it just as well. Read more
The other night I had a sort-of epiphany: If I hadn’t have chosen to go to PSU, my life would be so different. I realized how much life has changed since the moment I stepped into my new dorm room, anxiously awaiting the arrival of my roommate whom I’d had yet to meet. Read more
I don’t visit the Multicultural Center, Casa Latina or the Diversity and Multicultural Student Services offices as much as I used to. But in the past few weeks, I have been stopping by, and I’ve noticed an increase in the number of Latino and students of color using these resources. The number of programs and events has grown just as well. However, as I visited each place, I felt like an outsider to some degree.
When Casa Latina opened, I believed it would develop community among students. When I was part of that growing community a couple years ago, I could see small but solid steps towards the needs of the students. However, I should point out that I lived on campus at that time. I moved to Oregon City this past summer. Since then, I have been out of what is going on, who is new to the community, how are the needs of the students being addressed and ultimately why must this work continue?
Perhaps, I have distanced myself too much without even knowing. However, I have given much thought as to why I or these places feel different. It seems that these places have become over the years fast paced, overloaded with work, expectations have risen higher, and yet moral obligation and duty is still present among these departments that are undoubtedly understaffed and under supported. My feelings I believe stem from my concerns for the students.
As a student, I feel empowered when I can connect deeply and grow from a program or from an individual. What concerns me is being regarded as just a number rather than a person. It seems that when a department is understaffed, the meaning of their work shifts and becomes more quantitative than qualitative. Students cannot afford to be seen as a number. I hope that this does not unfold within these offices. They are too vital and necessary for the growth and education for students of color and their communities.
Last week, I had the experience of being on the other end of the table for several interviews. As part of my job as a resident assistant, I am required to interview people for the positions that will be open for next year.
I found it interesting to see the process through the eyes of the person conducting the interview. There were so many things that I had in my head as a personal checklist: dress, eye contact, sincerity, understanding of the job, and a drive and willingness to be there. I was thoroughly surprised with how little confidence I saw in several of the candidates. I’ve been involved with Residence Life for two years, so many of the things that I took for granted, things that I naturally expected from those I was interviewing, apparently did not seem to be so obvious to the candidates. I guess it goes to show you what experience can do to change your attitude, view, and expectations.
Overall, what I took away from this process is that presentation is everything. That doesn’t mean you have to be obnoxious and speak over others at every given point, or digress onto points that are unnecessary. Rather, be clear and concise with your ideas and don’t be afraid to speak up when prompted. Also, there’s a lot to be said with the phrase “dress for success”: your clothes reflect that you’re collected, professional, and ready for business. Even if you aren’t the most confident person in the world, just fake it ‘til you make it.
The first university I visited during my middle school years was Portland State. I vaguely remember seeing the Smith cafeteria and the Broadway computer lab. At the time, I was curious about attending college, but by my freshman year in high school, I knew I was going to college. I had no school in mind, but I was determined to enroll with or without financial aid.
During my senior year in high school, I made a trip to Phoenix, Arizona. All of my mother’s side of the family moved there a decade ago. A cousin of mine was attending Arizona State, and she suggested that I should enroll there. I visited the enormous campus and was excited at the idea of leaving Oregon for something different. Ultimately, I chose to stay and enroll into Portland State for financial and family reasons.
I had come to the conclusion that I simply could not afford to attend Arizona State. My lack of knowledge about financial aid blurred an opportunity for me to go out of state. I had worked hard in my rigorous classes in high school and had harvested pears and cherries during the same time. However, many low-income people of color do not have access to a solid education let alone higher education.
I have been fortunate and privileged to have both. Portland State and all the institutions of higher learning are more than just a mascot, brand or colors. They are the places where we should gain knowledge, develop our skills, and empower ourselves. It has been a journey for me to mold a better life and to give back to my family and community.
I have lived on campus for three years, and in three different locations. Living in the city was a drastic change for me. I grew up in a rural area where I had no neighbors, surrounded instead by acres of orchards. While living in the city brought me new experiences, it was expensive and at times lonesome for me.
I have had a total of seven male roommates, have lived alone, and at one point, I lived with five roommates. One can just imagine how things went living in a place with five guys. We were all single, young, and a bit naive Yet, throwing parties, going out, hanging out as a group, and goofing around just wasn’t for me. At the end of the day, I would always feel alone or being left out of something meaningful.
My mornings, evenings, and my life are now spent with my new family. I moved in with my girlfriend this past summer into her sister’s house in Oregon City. It’s a full house; there are two cats, two dogs, her husband, her sister in law, and her 2 year old son who, I like to say, is the king of the house. It’s a great welcoming and friendly environment. I often hear the little boy call out everyone’s name from across the house. I get up every weekday at 7 to get ready for my day and help my girlfriend get prepared as well. I see the cats walking back and forth, and I hear the dogs in the yard barking for attention.
At 22, I love my new home, my girlfriend, my new family, and myself. I have left behind my single, lonesome, and confused life. And I wouldn’t want it any other way.