Essential Nature

National Monument with Rey & KarlaThe last few weeks have been felt like a glorious whirlwind. I crossed a few time zones, befriended some beautiful souls, and reunited with friends and family (some of whom I had not seen in over nine years).

Summer 2009 will mark my third summer in training as a Rap Director, and I have been so grateful for this opportunity. Not only have I gotten a chance to connect with a team of amazing leaders from across the nation, but the training and workshops have changed my life. Training is like a playground–you know the floor is made of that soft squishy stuff, and if you fall, it’ll hurt a little bit, but your team is there to help pick you back up. I have gotten to explore and learn the language and tools to communicate and build relationships with one person or an auditorium of people, and the funny thing is that everything I needed, I already had. I just had to unravel all the junk that’s been piled up around it.

Derek, one of my trainers and mentor, reminded us of two things:

  1. Apparently, Derek went to school with Barack Obama (Columbia), and he told us that Barack, when he was our age, was no different from us now. If he can make social change, then we can do it too.
  2. Our power lies in our hearts.

In yoga, we talked about the second point, and they call that the “essential nature,” which I learned after taking a 4-week long yoga immersion at Yoga Tree SF (it was really empowering, btw, and I recommend it). I had always been wrestling with the whole notion of opening up my heart. After training and the yoga immersion, a big question that was answered for me was “What is the capacity of my heart?”

Yoga Teacher Dina was describing the aim of meditation and breathing, and she said it is to realize our “essential nature.” Everyone has this vessel of light within that unfolds, and we have tens of thousands of rivers of energy flowing through our bodies. And the neat part is that this vessel of light… is limitless. I felt like a fountain, yet I felt re-energized as energy was flowing out. It was a completely new feeling. The revelation was deep.

Leading up to Rap Director Training in Chicago a couple of weeks back, I set a a couple of powerful intentions, which have since been coming into play on many different levels in my life:

  • I want to learn how to empathize rather than demonize with people who have seemingly differing or completely opposite views from my own.
  • I want to learn how to give love without expecting it in return.

I think an update on how these intentions have been playing out would be too exhaustive at this hour of night, but let’s just say they are a work in progress. In the meantime, check out the pictures from my 10-day trip from California to DC to Chicago after the jump:

Continue reading Essential Nature

Gratitude from College Summit USC Workshop

I’m just now getting a chance to do a recap on my first College Summit workshop, which happened at the end of June. We already know that the CS workshops are phenomenal, and that I highly recommend volunteering at them.

I had a great time co-rap directing with my best friend Karla at our alma mater. It was a perfect recipe for a great workshop,  and I met some great alumni leaders and volunteers. But to top all that off, we had a fantastic group of 50 students from Arleta High School with whom I literally fell in love. It’s hard to describe it when that magic moment happens at a workshop, but it happened with us at USC. Volunteers and workshop staff do workshops for many reasons, but I cannot describe the real draw, which has something to do with the love that encompasses the entire workshop. This is what makes volunteers keep coming back year after year, and this is what makes the workshops succeed.

Below are a couple pics from the USC workshop, and a tribute that one of our students, Jay Jay, made for us via youtube.

50 Peer Leaders at College Summit USCCollege Summit USC Fighting On

This is a video capture that Jay Jay uploaded of Karla and I at the banquet:

Hopefully that gave you a small taste of why I love College Summit workshops.

Upcoming: Elaborate tour of the South and East Coast

I’m really looking forward to a crazy, fun, and travel-filled summer filled with multiple trips to the South, a quick visit to NYC, and a full-circle trip to USC to facilitate a workshop with Karla at our alma mater. I signed up for this new Twitter-like social-networking site called Dopplr, which touts itself as an online tool for frequent travelers. Anyway, if you’re on it, add me, and I’ll see about posting my Dopplr badge on my website (I’ve added the application to my Facebook already, but we’ll see how long it stays on there). It’s a good way to keep track of where I am at any given moment, and to see if there are any locational overlaps between you and your friends (Oh, you’re going to New York then, too? Let’s meet up at Hiro on Sunday!).

Till then, you can see what I’ll be doing / going in the next few months in the table below:

EOY Beach Party with Incubator students in Santa Cruz, CA
June 9
Going to the beach with 50 students… for work! I love this job.
BUILD E2 Orientation
June 10
At the office
Karla in SF
June 11
BUILD Mentor Appreciation Night
June 12
At the office
BUILD Staff Strategy Retreat at the Headlands Institute in Sausalito
June 23 to 25
College Summit workshop at USC, Los Angeles, CA June 25 to 30 Facilitating a College Summit workshop at USC with Karla.

I’ll have a free night on Sunday, June 29!

College Summit workshop at UNC-Asheville, Asheville, NC July 2 to 6 Facilitating another College Summit workshop at UNC Asheville with Zenia. Never been to North Carolina, but have heard that it’s beautiful.
Quick Vacation in New York, NY  July 6 to 11 Visiting Tony in New York. Finally a vacation!
International GALA Chorus Festival in Miami, FL July 11 to 20 Performing with SFGMC and lounging at the beach, I assume. Bring on the sun!
Back to SF July 20
Back to the city after 3.5 weeks of jetsetting.

I’d also like to take this opportunity to thank College Summit, and particularly Oudete, for rocking out and allowing me the immense privilege and opportunity to be a Rap Director at USC and UNC Asheville. I can’t wait!

College Summit on PBS

I know I just blogged about how people are watching TV less, but I just couldn’t resist this one (besides it’s on PBS, and you can access it on the interwebs).

PBS’s NOW show (a national news show) has tracked a handful of College Summit students in Denver, Colorado over the past year from a CS workshop to the present. The spot really highlights some of the challenges students go through on a daily basis and how the students have overcome those challenges to move onto higher education, with College Summit’s help, of course. And it showcases JB Schram (“National Education Expert,” according to the NOW anchor, hehe), College Summit’s founder and CEO, talking about the nation’s pressing need for a college-going culture. It was great to hear him talk about CS making an impact on a national scale.

If I haven’t sold the program enough, check out the show by clicking on this link (once you are at the PBS website, the video is on the right-hand column). I have been eagerly awaiting this spot to come out on TV since last summer when Karla told me that they were going to film HER workshop in Denver… and you actually get to see Karla in her element for a minute in the show!

Let me know what you think via comments.

Looking forward to a College Summit summer

I just got back from five fun-filled and exciting days in St. Louis, MO, for College Summit‘s annual Workshop Staff Training and a day of Rap Director Training.

Nine of the Talented TenThis year is heralding big changes (improvements, really) to one of my favorite national nonprofit organizations. They got rid of their clunky intra-net system, CSnet, and replaced it with a more streamlined and teen-friendly CSNav. They’ve drastically revamped the structure of workshops; instead of one-off workshops donated by willing colleges, they are purchasing space for 4-8 weeks at a time from a select few colleges in their 13 different regions. The new structure allows for economies of scale, reduced staff drain, and program efficiency.

Summer workshops this year will affect the lives of over 3,000 low income students nationwide from rural West Virginia to urban Oakland. And these trained Peer Leaders will go back to their schools to affect even more students who then will start to create a college-going culture in their communities. It’s no surprise that “79% of College Summit workshop participants enroll in college, significantly above the national average for low-income high school graduates. And 80% of those enrollees stay in college.”

And it’s no surprise that I am sitting here anxiously anticipating the summer to arrive so that I can go off to my serve at my workshops.

It’s easy for you to get involved too!

I highly encourage you to become a Writing Coach or College Counselor this summer. The commitment is 4 days (Thurs-Sun), and you must have your bachelor’s degree or higher. Check out College Summit’s website for more info. If you need more encouragement to apply, contact me.

Check out more pics from the weekend after the jump. Continue reading Looking forward to a College Summit summer