Rediscovery

I’ve forgotten about this blog and failed to keep it going. I can’t say I’m surprised but I wish that there had been a different outcome. It probably could have done me some good writing out my thoughts and experiences over the last year and a half. I’ve come to a new town, finished my undergraduate degree (almost), gotten a new job, and watched a shit ton of Netflix. I’ve thought a lot about being productive, about changing my ways so that new opportunities might come knocking. But most of all, I’ve probably procrastinated. Procrastinated on my school work, sure, but more so on creating a future for myself.

It scares me, you know? All this unknown that lies ahead. Graduation is something that excites you while filling you deep with anxiety- for anyone really but especially for someone who has taken the longer, less conventional route to a degree.

Most me of me is like, “hell yeah, give me that degree! now!” but at the very same time, another part of me hides under the comforter wondering, “where do I even start? let’s just stick to what we’re used to.”

I’m sure countless other people face the same challenges. Which gives me some sort of solace I guess. But taking the unique path  I did after high school, I learned a few things that I am convinced will help me find success in the future, whatever that might look like.

  1. You have agency. You have power within yourself whether you are trying to get out of bed before 10am or build a grassroots movement. Your initiative and drive will take you anywhere you desire.
  2. Success isn’t always tangible or measurable. Awards, accolades, and promotions, while they’re all nice, they certainly don’t mean everything. Most times, your hard work will go unnoticed but that should be okay as it adds to humility.
  3. Life goes at it’s own pace. While you can do things to be productive or to enhance your ability to be employed, you can’t compare your life to the lives of others. Things will happen for you, patience and persistence is the guarantor.

Well, I’m going to try taking my own advice. Hopefully it’ll help me in the pursuit of new opportunities after graduation. Until then, maybe I can just clean up my room.

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“At periods of equality men have no faith in one another, by reason of their common resemblance; but this very resemblance gives them almost unbounded confidence in the judgment of the public; for it would seem probable that, as they are all endowed with equal means of judging, the greater truth should go with the greater number.At periods of equality men have no faith in one another, by reason of their common resemblance; but this very resemblance gives them almost unbounded confidence in the judgment of the public; for it would seem probable that, as they are all endowed with equal means of judging, the greater truth should go with the greater number.”

Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America (1840)

Go(ing) Pro

I have a special place in my heart dedicated to photography. Not like I’m really good or anything but I have always loved taking pictures. I love art in general but I have always gravitated toward photography because I feel like my fingers are incapable of painting or drawing what my brain wants to produce. Yeah I know what you’re thinking… Art has no boundaries, no rigid rules or expectations but that mantra doesn’t offer me any solace when I look at my doodles and realize they look like the work of a kindergartner. I guess my self-conscious mindset will always in some ways prevent me from feeling totally satisfied with whatever I produce, especially by pen, pencil, or brush.

Camera babies

Camera babies

But cameras, on the other hand, have been able to provide a necessary artistic outlet for me- free from the pressures of wobbly lines and bad shading. Instead of forcing my hands to follow my imagination and create a picture, a photograph takes only a click of a button. With that very click comes a snapshot of time, a capturing of emotion, that offers your mind a conversation they say is worthy of a thousand words. Cameras are so rampant in today’s society and culture, we photograph nearly every moment of our lives and I mean every moment. Including all of our special occasions, be them weddings, proms, or (of course) all of our gains at the gym. We photograph our nights out with friends, birthdays, and vacations. We post pictures of ourselves, definitely some more than others (come on, admit it, we all have that one friend on IG who will #selfie back to back to back). And don’t forget about the “foodgasms” we undeniably have from all of the #foodporn we scroll through in a day.

Now I don’t know about you, but I like to be outdoors and partake in activities that maybe wouldn’t be safe for a camera or a phone but that doesn’t mean I automatically don’t want to capture those moments. Certainly you have no desire deal with a cracked screen or water damage and though the quality would be great, taking your DSLR hiking or swimming is probably not going to bode well with using it in the future. And I can’t imagine you screwing down your DSLR or gluing your cellphone to your dirtbike or fishing pole. So I mean, what do we use to capture our more adventurous moments? To take a step further, what happens when we don’t want to use our hands to click the button? Maybe we are running out of space and just simply can’t pack a larger camera.

Well, the action-oriented camera company, GoPro, has given us not just answers but for those of us who want to spare making an exorbitantly expensive purchase, they even gave options in case you aren’t interested in getting the newest, most advanced version out.

I’m definitely still getting acquainted with the tiny, super wide lens little box that is able to go underwater, attach to your body, or mount to virtually anything… But let me tell you, it is SO. MUCH. FUN!

The versatility it provides is second to none. Not only can you take pictures but you can take video, or even both at the same time. Ten frames a second or time-lapse, your choice.You aren’t afraid of water and you aren’t searching for issues after a simple drop (if it is in it’s case, at least). Which, if you know me and how clumsy I am, is an amazing safety net of comfort to have with a purchase that will set you back couple hundred dollars.

So far, my GoPro adventures consist of: swimming, snorkeling, bike riding, road trips, and a rooftop party. My first bout with it came from a friend (probably the best photographer I have ever known) who wanted to splurge on the device for a multi-city, multi-state road trip that we went on for Spring Break. I didn’t get to play much but I was able to have just enough fun to ignite a desire to play more at the soonest possible chance. I wanted to get to learn more about it, test it out, and see how I liked it so I could consider whether or not it was a purchase I personally wanted to make.

Thanks to my job at Northern Virginia Community College, I was able to borrow a GoPro Hero3+ and learn the ways of the camera so our staff at TILT would be able to:

  1. Imagine new ways the GoPro could be used educationally

and

2. Teach others tips and basics on “How To GoPro”

Now, because of a month and a half of using the GoPro my job has lent me, I am entirely in love and wanting my own to play with… especially because I will be returning theirs in a few short weeks, as I transfer schools and leave my position at TILT.

All in all, what really attracts me to this camera first and foremost is its action-oriented build. Also very important to me is the perspective it can bring, allowing so much more to view and interpret. There’s a feeling, an emotion almost, that comes with the GoPro’s ultra-wide lens and how it can be mounted to people, animals, and objects, provides us an angle not usually captured with a regular point-and-shoot type of camera.

The GoPro is worth it. Go get one and use it as an excuse to be more active and creative! That’s what I am using it for. 🙂

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A DC Bike Ride: US Marine Corps Band

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On the way to skydive, somewhere in Virginia.

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DC rooftops

*This experience has come from only using the Hero3+…

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Stay tuned for a later post for some tips I have found helpful and ways I believe the GoPro could be incorporated into CC and #EdTech

Summer Institute ’15: Getting Connected with Pathways, Tech4Students, & Leadership!

NOVA’s Pathway To The Baccalaureate program is one of several efforts by the college to help bolster enrollment and graduation rates, as well as provide quality, structured support to students who may be considered at-risk. With Pathways, this is done by essentially walking students down paths that will lead them to the ultimate goal of four year degrees.

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I am one of  the 10,000+ participants of Pathway to the Baccalaureate. I’ve been guided down my own path since I applied as a junior at one of 55 high schools in the program across 9 school districts in Northern Virginia. I even had (more than) a gap year in between graduating high school and attending NOVA. Still, when I finally arrived on campus close to three years after I first met with my high school pathway counselor, Pathway took me immediately into their arms and I instantly reaped the benefit of the individualized, compassionate, and straight-forward support that the programs allows its participants.

Stemming from Pathway to the Baccalaureate is Pathway Connection- a pilot program that targets at-risk, rising sophomores and juniors and aims at reducing developmental placement by 50%. Each year, Pathway Connection holds a Summer Institute for these students in order to provide them with critical information and resources that will help them with college readiness as they make their way through high school. This year, I was honored to partake in the Summer Institute with a fabulous group of rising sophomores and juniors from local Northern Virginia high schools ( including mine! S/o J.E.B. Stuart class of 2011!) We used technology for fun, discussed how they’ll be using tech in college (plus some really great resources, too!), and discussed taking on leadership and getting involved in extra-curricular activities. Here are my Summer Institute 2015 highlights:

Day 1: Scavenging with Padlet

We greeted Summer Institute participants as they strolled in and began to prepare for the first day. Soon we gathered in groups and handed out technology. Each group of students were given an iPad to use for several activities throughout the day. First we used iCloud to upload videos of all of our Summer Institute participants explaining who they are, what school they attend, and what they hoped to get from attending the three day program.

My favorite part of the day was when we used a program called Padlet to compete in a scavenger hunt around campus. Students entered a higher-ed question to enter the virtual pinboard created for the scavenger hunt.

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And soon, question by question, students wandered the NOVA Annandale campus searching for answers and taking pictures as evidence. Here are a few…

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Day 2: Tech4Students In College 

Day 2 included a fabulous presentation by my friend and peer, Rodney Velasquez, and TILT supervisor Kirstin Riddick. In classic David Letterman style, we provided the Top 10 Ways You WILL use Technology In College. The resources we provided were well received by both the students and Pathway staff members, giving insight and innovative ideas into how we can enhance the use of technology during our time in college. We were very impressed by the students who were with us for their already held knowledge and current use of technology. We were super excited, though, to see that many tools and resources we provided had never been heard of and seen as very beneficial to not just what these students will be tasked with in college but also what they are experiencing now in high school.

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Day 3: Leadership Panel

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Last but not least, I was honored to sit on a panel along with four NOVA student leaders to share our experiences as a leader in and out of the classroom. Among the topics we chatted about were how to prepare for college (or our lack there of), our regrets, and what we wished we had known. I discussed my decision to take the abnormal route, by deferring NOVA for a year so I would be able to partake in City Year, an AmeriCorps program in Washington D.C. We reassured worries about being on your own in college without the help from counselors and teachers as they have experienced in high school.

The students were eager to listen. They were ambitious and nervous and ready with questions. A rush of hope came over me as I realized how great these young people are and all that they will contribute to whatever community they find themselves in, whether that’s NOVA or elsewhere.

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Working with youth, especially in the field of education, is a great passion of mine. The Pathway Connection Summer Institute was like a three day summer camp for high school students and I got to be a counselor. I am so grateful for being a part of this program, both as a volunteer for Pathway Connection as well as a student in the Pathway To The Baccalaureate Program. I owe much of my success at NOVA to the profound support I have received by the counselors and staff at Pathways and only hope I can make it back to volunteer next summer!

رمضان كريم

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Ramadan kareem to my many friends and brothers and sisters of Islam from around the world celebrating this holy month. May it be a spiritual journey that allows you to grow closer to yourself, your family, and to Allah. Much love<3

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Cape San Blas, FL

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On the road somewhere between Mississippi and Louisiana. On our way to New Orleans, LA.

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Key West, FL

Flower in Key West

All photos posted to this page are mine unless noted.

Voter Gravity

For NCCWSL (see previous blog post) I was tasked with searching for tools or resources that help campaigns GET OUT THE VOTE – the process that motivates constituents to exercise their voting rights and get to the polls.

For Grassroots campaigns, getting out the vote is difficult because unlike their money-loaded counterparts, they are unable to pay for valuable ways to reach the voters, like TV time. Grassroots organizations and campaigns take to free methods such as utilizing social media, door knocking, and phone banks, all taken on by usually unpaid volunteers.

To make the campaign efforts more effective, which is most beneficial to the campaigns scraping by with funds, I came across a program called Voter Gravity. Voter Gravity is a new tool based out of any mobile device, personal computer, or tablet, that gives you all the essentials for a grassroots campaign in one easily accessible location. Open up your smartphone and Voter Gravity gives you space for up to 25 phone bank lists, calculated walking maps, and great tools for quick surveys and gathering other voter information.

Not yet available at mass levels, Voter Gravity is something all people in politics but especially those of us who don’t have help from money ridden individuals, corporations or super-pacs should be looking for.

It’s time we start to move our politics into the world of technology and social media. Pew research claims tells us that only 35% of adults had smart phones in 2011 while a newer study they conducted shows that now roughly 64% of American adults now own one. Yes. You read the correctly! Clearly politics and voting will have to focus on this trend and embrace it, not just by perhaps allowing voters to enter their choice in elections via phone but in the whole process, beginning with all efforts to Get Out The Vote.

NCCWSL

Photo via Lindsey Casella ‏@LindseyCasella

Photo via Lindsey Casella ‏@LindseyCasella

At the end of May, I was blessed with the opportunity to attend the National Conference for College Women Student Leaders. This annual conference unites female student leaders from all levels of higher education in colleges and universities across the country. Taking place in Maryland, not far from home, I went up with a peer from NOVA and met people who traveled long hours to make the conference from areas afar, like California and even off the mainland, in Puerto Rico.

It was an incredible opportunity to be surrounded by so many strong, inspiring, and like minded women. Conference highlights include:

Elect-Her guest speakers- Lisa Spies and Liz Chadderon. At opposite ends of the political spectrum, these two ladies have made quite a name for themselves in the world of politics. Lisa has worked on political campaigns raising monies for candidates, including Mitt Romney during his 2012 Presidential bid; while Liz has made a great living as a political consultant and guest on many TV programs, including CNN International, MSNBC, The O’Reiley Factor, and Hannity (God Bless her for surviving the latter two!)

BELE BELE – All- female, West African Drum Group based out of Washington D.C. kicked off our Friday morning with great energy and rhythm.

Maysoon Zayid was perhaps my favorite part of the conference. She was our Friday morning keynote speaker and was absolutely wonderful to hear from. If you don’t know who Maysoon Zayid is, PLEASE get your life together. She is a Palestinian-American, hailing from New Jersey, which automatically gives her funny points. Maysoon Zayid also has Cerebral Palsy. She spoke (hilariously and) very powerfully on a variety of topics, that among those were inclusion, bullying, and privilege. 

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The conference continued with great workshops and sessions all day long and went into the weekend but unfortunately, for me Friday was my last day. HOWEVER! I was able to keep up with the conference and engage with the organizations and people who were apart of the four day conference via TWITTER! #NCCWSL15 connected us all. Together we shared our experiences and quotes or tips we learned from the many sessions that took place.

Plus I got connected with Maysoon Zayid on Twitter. She follows me now and you should too! :b @aebirge

INAUGURAL POST

Today is the day I write my first post!

And also probably two or three other ones because I’m late on posting for my job, ALREADY! Man, I really need to work on time management. A person I look up to once said I have an inertia problem. It’s not about getting it finished it’s about getting it started, which is exactly my biggest problem.

Anyway, let’s try to fix this. Wish me luck!