I Got Fired, Now What?

edit 12By Jesse Turner

For the first time in my life, I got “fired.” I put “fired” in quotation marks because it wasn’t an official firing. It was a volunteer practicum position and I was offered a different, more restricted position for this term but was told that I could no longer continue in the position I had been doing for the last ten weeks. I was told I was causing too many disruptions, enough that the practicum had to end immediately.

I don’t want to go into the details of the firing (maybe dismissal is a better word) but I will tell you that I cried on my drive home, barely restraining myself from crying in front of my supervisor. I felt as though I had lost part of myself in losing that position. I tie my work ethic so centrally to who I am. I take pride in the fact that I work two jobs while going to school full time. I take pride in my exhaustion. I brag about my transformation from a lazy, self-pitying person to someone who has tried her best to take control of my future. Getting fired does not fit into my personal narrative.

This was my first placement in the specific field of study I want to work in. What do I do now? This is the field I want to spend the rest of my life in. Sure, I can study it in a classroom, but maybe I’m truly not good enough. My supervisor told me that he understood my behavior did not come from a place of malicious intent and that with more experience, I would do much better. I cling to his statement because it feels like all I have. This position was so draining, it consumed my waking hours and still I loved it. I miss it.

Now I am in a new practicum position, in a different youth correctional facility. I had my period of mourning but then was forced to take my love for my previous position and work to get a new one. In this position I have met young, incarcerated men who face rejection every day, rejection that is often worse than my own, and yet they continue to persevere. One young man earned his high school diploma, associate’s degree, and two bachelor’s degrees in five years under incarceration. There is no better kick in the pants than seeing people accomplishing more in lockup than you are on the outs. So getting fired is not all bad. It was a hard experience and one I will feel the sting of for a while. But I have to take it as a bump in the road, a learning experience, and not the end. I love this field too much to be done with it now.

What I Learned from Lockup

By Jesse Turner

For the final project for my Youth Work class, I made a board game. I called it, “The Game of Life in Juvie.” This term I have been interning at an all-male juvenile correctional facility. One of the ways the youth and I pass the time is by playing card games and board games. “The Game of Life” is one of the games we have played several times, and because going to prison is not an option in that game, I find it a sadly ironic one to play. I watch each youth choose to go to college, start a family, and pick a career with the highest salary.

I made my board game as similar as I could to the original. Instead of a job, each player picks the crime which sent them to juvie. Instead of advancing through the life stages, players must advance through the point-and-level system that the facility uses so they can gain more privileges and eventually get out. I tried to make the game as unwinnable as possible. When asked if I would share this game with the youth on my unit, I said, “Absolutely not.” For one, I wouldn’t be allowed to bring in contraband. But really I would never show it to them because the youth already know how horrible life in juvie is. I wouldn’t want them to think I was reducing their situation to something trivial. That’s not how I meant for this game to be taken. I wanted it to express how often many of the hardships that happen to the youth on my unit are out of their control and simply left to chance.

Many youth on my unit have shared with me their goals for when they get out. Most of them express desires to continue school, get jobs, and start families in front of staff. But around other youth, they are much more honest. The two biggest plans I hear about are to get as high as possible and to get tattoos for the gangs they affiliate with. I come from a place of incredible privilege, and many of the youth react to what I say as empty rhetoric. But I keep telling them I want them to do better on the outs. I don’t know who will listen, but I do know that the Oregon Youth Authority has a 65% recidivism rate. This is not the first time in juvie for most of these youth. And the sad truth is it probably will not be the last.

 

How You Can Help Fight Hunger on Campus

By Jesse Turner

The ASPSU Student Food Pantry is an amazing resource for students who are experiencing hunger or economic hardships. The Food Pantry is a free resource for students to pick up non-perishable food items throughout the school week. The pantry is located in Smith Student Union, room 325, and is open Monday through Friday, 12pm to 2pm. All of the food items come from the Oregon Food Bank.

Unfortunately, hunger is more of an issue in our community than the Food Pantry can accommodate. This term’s pantry intern is in one of my classes and she said that PSU is allowed to take up to 10,000 pounds of food from the Oregon Food Bank. However, the amount of food they can actually take depends on the vehicles that show up for haul food. The pantry does not have a designated van or truck and it all depends on staff members and volunteers with vehicles. She said that often they are only able to take around 2,000 pounds. One day, all of the food in the pantry was gone within 40 minutes. The pantry also does not have a refrigerator, making other staple but perishable food items impossible to hold.

The Food Pantry needs drivers. If you have a vehicle, even a small one, please consider volunteering to take food from the OFB to campus. The amount of food they can haul directly relates to how many people they can feed. No one in our community should go hungry. Please contact the Food Pantry coordinator at pantry@pdx.edu for further information.

First Impressions: A Look Inside “Baby Jail”

edit 12   By Jesse Turner

They live behind a 20-foot fence and locked doors. They must ask permission to go to the bathroom, use nail clippers, and even get up from their chairs. They get transported in handcuffs. And yet all of them are legally classified as youth.

I am completing an internship at the Hillcrest Juvenile Correctional Facility on a unit with 14 males, ages 14 to 18. It is labeled the “Special Needs Unit,” which includes a wide array of developmental, emotional, and learning disabilities. Some are sex offenders. Some are gang members. One has taken two lives.

On my first day, before I met any of the youth, my supervisor warned me that this unit was notoriously bad with interns. She said they would say crude, sexist, disturbing things to me. She even made a point of showing me one teenager’s mugshot and warned me that he had gotten obsessed with female staff members before. I was terrified.

Soon after these sinister warnings, the youth got back from class and had free time on the unit. I sat back, observed, and waited for my first terrible encounter. But that never happened. Most of them ignored me, but those who spoke to me asked my name, introduced themselves, and shook my hand. They were perfectly polite. A few of them invited me to play cards with them. On my first shift, I played blackjack for four hours, getting to know the youth and asking them questions about their lives.

They each have had seemingly insurmountable difficulties, whether with their families, their communities, or their own mental health. They have been in and out of treatment and detention centers. Many have been homeless and runaways. A lot of the youth have no dependable guardian in their life, having been abandoned or abused by their parents. It makes a lot of sense that some of them have responded with crime and violence. They are some of the most resilient people I have ever met.

I understand that the staff’s warnings were for my own safety, but none of the youth have lived up to these terrifying impressions, for which I am shocked and grateful.

Getting an “A” in Self Care

By Jesse Turner

As the end of the term nears, stress levels rise. Time spent studying, writing, and reading goes up while time for ourselves and our health tends to diminish. This is why I was so happy when one of my professors took time out of her lecture to remind us that self-care is just as important as schoolwork. She asked us to share different ways that we destress and I thought I would share my classmates’ ideas with you. In response to, “What do you guys do when you’re stressed?”

We answered:

-Drink!

-Eat junk food. (These first two, however well they work, should be done in moderation)

-Sleep.

-Exercise.

-Dance.

-Cry while doing something fun/weird. You get to vent your frustration without getting sucked into a hole of despair. Her example was, “I cry while eating pudding.”

-Watch “trash TV” (ex. Keeping Up With the Kardashians, Dance Moms, Toddlers & Tiaras)

-Try to laugh without smiling/keeping a straight face. It looks and feels ridiculous and you’ll end up making yourself laugh.

-Read or watch something from your childhood. Recently I’ve been rereading “A Series of Unfortunate Events” and watching “Hey Arnold!”

-Connect with your friends and community. One classmate said she does Israeli dance twice a week, not just for the exercise but to also feel like a part of the community.

 

This is just a short list of things my classmates and I do to take our minds off of our stress. Please share any tips you have to lower your stress levels as finals week approaches!

 

Lose the R Word

By Jesse Turner

For what seemed like the hundredth time in the last year, I got into an argument with someone over the use of the R word. And for the hundredth time I got the excuse, “Well, I would never call a retarded person retarded.” This person was also using gay as an insult, again remarking, “I would never call a gay person a faggot.” I then told the person that I am not straight, and things got very awkward very quickly. I asked them, “Would you ever use bisexual as an insult?”

“Of course not,” he replied. Of course not. You would never use those words in the presence of the people they are meant to describe. Because that way, you don’t have to face the consequences of your hurtful words. I work with a young woman with a developmental disability who is brought to tears almost every day from bullying. She has heard the R word too many times.

But I’m sick of it. I’m sick of having to tell my life story to try to persuade people to stop using hurtful language. It should not matter the company you’re in and the ties they have to vulnerable and underrepresented populations. You should not use those words as insults because people are people and you’re not awful. Your desire to use certain words should not trump people’s feelings. Your vocabulary should be abundant enough that you do not need to reduce an entire population of people down to an insult. And if you need help, here are some alternatives:

Instead of retard/retarded, use:

-Chowderhead

-Boob

-Blockhead

-Fool

-Oaf

-Yokel

-Amateur Hour

-Cornball

-Farcical

-Plebeian

-Tomfoolery

Get even more terms from Terri Mauro’s “225 Substitutes for the R-Word”

http://specialchildren.about.com/od/disabilityrights/ss/225-Subsitutes-For-The-R-Word.htm#step4

Instead of gay, use:

-Heinous

-Preposterous

-Ridiculous

-Banal

-Pedestrian

-Platitudinous

-Old Hat

-Hackneyed

Affording My Dreams

edit 12By Jesse Turner

I have gone through five majors in my previous two years of college; international relations, environmental studies, religious studies, theater, and now finally, child and family studies. I have changed and changed my course of study depending on what I thought would make me the most money, what I thought was the most interesting, what I thought would help the world, and what my true passion was. I think I have now found in social work a good balance between marketability, necessity, and enjoyment. But now that I’ve made my choice, my problem is affording it.

I have always worked while in school, and I currently work two jobs. In fact, I know very few people at PSU who do not work year-round. And not just for some extra spending money, but to afford their education and housing. Portland State of Mind is coming in just a couple of weeks and on Tuesday October 27th from 7 – 8pm PSU will be a hosting a town hall style meeting (free and open to the public) about raising Oregon’s minimum wage from its current $9.25/hour to a possible $15/hour. This event falls in the wake of New York, San Francisco, and Seattle all passing legislation to raise their minimum wage. Similar legislation will likely appear before Oregon voters sometime next year. If I didn’t have to work that evening I would attend this meeting, and I highly recommend you all try to attend.

As someone who currently makes a wage less than the proposed minimum wage, as I’m sure many of you do as well, this legislation and this discussion affects me. At many times in my college career, I have felt that spending so much of my own and my parents’ money is a waste. What’s the point of bankrupting my family if I can’t get a job anyway? I have hope that this cycle of struggling to afford college then struggling to pay off debt after graduation will end. And I hope you all do as well. Whether you have hope, whether you have no hope, whether you feel lost in the struggle of it all, let’s do something about it. Make your voice heard at this town hall meeting and let our community know that everyone deserves a living wage.

Out-of-state student on paper, in-state by heart

jasmin.stairsBy: Jasmin Landa

Being an out-of-state student has truly been an adventure thus far. You see, I previously resided in Reno, Nevada, and loved the dry desert mountain land as my home and a place that describes what has raised me, but I felt that life always needs continuous change.

I wanted to make a drastic change that would require me to challenge myself. So I decided to do so during college — a change that would challenge my limits, perspectives and tolerances — all while expanding my cultural competency.

The journey began in the fall of 2014. I packed my bags, said goodbye to those who had helped me become the person I am and embarked on the road ahead to what was going to aid the dreams and aspirations that I so desired to accomplish. From day one, I acknowledged that the journey was not going to be easy by any means, but one in which I would find myself right where I needed to be.

It is now the winter term of 2015, and I have fallen in love with my decision to physically detach myself from what had made me, and attach myself to what would help me “become.”

I have already met wonderful people along this journey, both in and out of class: professors who always find ways to make me laugh and educate me, and the Portland State community at large. Being an out-of-state student brings a fresh perspective in my personal life that will carry me through my tribulations and triumphs.

I am excited, nervous and exasperated about the steps forward in my journey. As I take it day-by-day and opportunity-by-opportunity, I find myself learning and growing in all aspects of my life. I am an out-of-state student on paper, and in-state by heart.

Three Tips for Picking Classes

By Grace Carroll

school_registration_300

So you’ve just gotten a message to your .pdx e­mail that it’s time to register for classes.  Maybe you have a list of subjects you’ve always wanted to study, or maybe you just know the next Spanish class you need to take. Where ever you are in the process, here are some things to think about when registering:

● How often is the course offered? Keep in mind that some classes are not offered every term at PSU, while others are. For instance, most TOP: (topic) classes change each term, and if you find one specific to your interest, that should perhaps take priority over the Intro to Queer Studies class (a UNST Cluster course) that you’ve always wanted to take.

● What are your most productive times of the day? Sure, you’re sick of getting up with an early schedule, but maybe you’re just burnt out by evening classes. If you’re falling asleep in class, you may need to rearrange your day. Consider when you are most motivated during the day, and when you be best able to do your homework.

● Who is the professor? It’s true, you don’t always get much of a choice. But when you do, looking into your professors’ backgrounds can be a deciding factor in which classes you take. Portland State’s website has profiles for many of its faculty, so check the department pages for your courses. If you don’t find anything there, RateMyProfessors.com is your next step!

Still have questions? TALK TO YOUR ADVISER!

Nine Things I’ve Already Learned This Fall

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By Grace Carroll

1. Living in a single can be scary. I almost choked on a corn nut.

2. Shared restrooms are not so bad. Despite living on a floor with roughly 25 girls, I rarely run into other people in the bathroom.

3. Volunteering is a good way to get involved with PSU. Volunteering at the Women’s Resource Center gives me the chance to help do important work in a friendly environment.

4. Yes, I CAN put off all the homework for my 400-level Honors seminar until the night before it is due.

5. College sports can be super fun. On a whim, I joined rugby, and you could say I’m having a BALL.

6. If while studying in the library, someone irritates you by loudly talking on the phone, DO NOT passive-aggressively write “SHHHH, IT’S A LIBRARY” on their notebook while they’re at the water fountain. Go to the fourth, fifth floors or the basement, they are designated for silent study!

7. You can have small class sizes even at Oregon’s biggest university. Last year, my classes had 30 students. This fall, I’m in a class of ten 10 (and the rest aren’t much bigger).

8. Unlike the “cool kids” in my building, I still love my meal plan.

9. Nothing is more beautiful than the Park Blocks in autumn.