“12 active citizens, 2 vans, 1 social issue”. On December 14, 2013, myself and 11 other students at Central Michigan University found the bravery in our souls to set out on a mission that we had no clue as to what to expect. The Alternative Breaks program through the Volunteer Center at the University allowed us to give back into other communities that we were not familiar with, but aware of their struggles. We were all lucky enough to have gotten a spot in seconds of signing up while hundreds of other students were waitlisted. Amongst signing up, the only thing that we were aware of was the issue, Natural Disaster. We had no clue where in the United States we would be spending a week of our winter break to volunteer and we knew nothing about one another. Later, we were extremely excited to find out that we would be traveling to New Orleans, LA by two vans all the way from Mount Pleasant, MI. This proved that we were willing to trust one another enough in order to complete such a tremendous task at stake. All of us individuals barely knew anything about each other, but we had one thing in common which was to make a mark in this world. We never expected for it to make a mark on us.
The St. Bernard Project is an non-profit organization dedicated to re-building disaster stricken communities and making sure they recover in the most prompt and efficient way. Our job as college positive volunteers with the organization was to ensure construction on a home of a man who was a victim of Hurricane Katrina. Eight years later and he was still not able to live back in his home. We worked on his home everyday from 8:30am-4:00pm. This man was a single father of two boys who are now teenagers, but were young children during the storm. He was always willing to help someone in need and was even renting out space in his home at the time. After the storm, he paid a contractor a huge amount to repair his home, but they took off with the money. He became a victim of contractor fraud. The most touching issue about his life is that he suffered from a severe illness that was caused in accident when he used to do construction work. The crazy thing about the situation is that he probably knew everything that needed to be done to his home as far as construction, but just was not in the condition to make the repairs. That has to be the most heart breaking thing to face, knowing what needs to be done but unable to make it happen. Immediately after hearing his story, we became very humble and appreciative of being able to experience this with one another while getting to know one another along the way.
One of the most profound pieces of this experience was getting to know one another on a more personal level. We spent every hour of the day with each other for seven whole days. We were eager to know one another’s’ stories. Every night, we would reflect on the highs and lows of the day. It was so satisfying to hear what everyone was gaining from the experience. We also did team building exercises. “Common Ground” had to be the most powerful of them all. We got in a circle as our site leaders would throw out situations that we may have faced. Those who have experienced those things had to claim common ground by stepping in the middle. For example, one of the site leaders stated, “claim common ground if you are afraid to be alone the rest of your life”. There was no talking allowed. We just let it all sink in and no one judged any one. For the first time in a lot of our lives, we did not feel alone. We realized that people who were so different from ourselves were yet so similar.
As college students, we constantly juggled finding our niche in life. Upon arrival in New Orleans, we were so afraid of not meeting society’s expectations of us. We wanted to fit in more than we wanted to stand out. It is funny how life works because in the mist of all the confusion about what we wanted life to make of us, we met such a unique man. He was so sure of himself and about what he wanted to be in this world. In fact, he made every effort possible to duck and dodge the expectations of society. He focused more on meeting the expectations of himself. He sat down at lunch with all of us one day and shared a story. While he was out making a change such as ourselves, a woman told him “Keep your eyes, ears, and heart open and you will see what you need to see”! At that moment, he saw his life for what he wanted it to be. She was to him what he was to us. Everything we were searching for, we found because we opened ourselves to new things and realized that no one is to determine our satisfactory but us. It took us a while to really adjust to such an amazing feeling. We were in complete disbelief that we were finally grasping the concept of life with people we were basically just meeting. We had to erase fear and negativity to add the positivity in order to put those pieces of the big puzzle together.
Caulk is a filler that is used to fill the cracks and holes in something with a substance that also keeps water out. Doing construction on the house, this was one of the substances we used the most. It was a task that everyone could do and it was also pretty fun. The whole crew caulked when necessary. It is similar to life. This journey has broadened our horizon. We found that using caulk to repair that house was identical to what we needed to do, use the method of caulk to repair our lives. When we began to fill those cracks in and fill in those holes, all of our unanswered questions were answered and all of our uncertainty was erased. Instead of keeping water away, we kept society’s motives away. We became unbound and not enslaved with the world’s perceptions. We starting unraveling the things that made us happy, the things that made us move, and the things that made us inspire others to be inspired. Opening up to one another may have been the scariest thing for most of us because of such short time, but opening up was the most beautiful thing. Although majority of us had any construction experience prior to this mission, we are now all construction experts. We not only helped rebuild a broken home due to a disaster, but we helped rebuild each other. We helped rebuild what was tearing us down, what was stopping us from being who we really were, and what was creating fear in our minds. When we decided to caulk, everything came together.
By: Kenah Lynnette Lyons, Guest Writer
Central Michigan University
Integrative Public Relations/Event Management/Journalism
In today’s society, how affected a young, African-American male becomes after being raised in a single parent household without a father figure is a serious topic of discussion. Scholars from all over write on the issue and the debate continues today on whether or not it is an issue in connection to violence and negativity occurring amongst the young men. Young men, African-American particularly, are becoming involved in street engaged activities and leaning on substances that may damage their futures if they have not already. These young men never plan to endure these difficulties or engage in dangerous activities, but feel the need to in order to fill a void that they are missing. Many suggestions have been provided in how to help these young men of color. Organizations and programs that can be beneficial to the type of service they need have been offered as well. Not only do some of the young men seek attention and help, but the mothers and grandmothers of these young men are searching for it too. They agree with the critics that their sons, who may be rebellious or looking for attention in wrong places, need some type of help or counseling. Some of the activities that they get involved in sometimes put their lives at risk. Mothers and grandmothers all over are worried sick about their sons. Some are even feeling as if they have done the best they can at raising them, but because they have pulled every technique of parenting as they know it, should they give up on these young men? The answer is no. There is something these young men can fight their odds with and there are ways of doing it.
What most of these people in discussion forget to realize is that young, African-American women are raised in the same or very similar situations. Many females are brought up in single-parent households due to a variety of circumstances. I, myself was raised in a single-parent household with just my mother. With that came many challenges similar to what males face under those circumstances and being a female of color did not make the situation that I faced more positive. My father was incarcerated when I was just three months old. He was sentenced to fifteen years in prison due to a high end crime leaving my mother with a new born baby to raise on her own. My mother never planned to raise me on her own. In fact, her and my father had a lot of plans for parenting together. Things changed quickly, but one thing that was not going to change was not having my father around. My mother made sure to give me special attention and to be there for me as much as possible. She worked hard to provide for me, the necessities, and did everything in her power to assure I had many of my wants. My mother was the independent woman who wanted her daughter, her only child, to witness that things may not always go as planned, but with faith, things will surely go. It took me a while to grasp the concept of that method and at times I learned the hard way, but eventually I learned.
Just like myself, there are African-American women who have been raised like this and young, African American women who are in those current conditions today. Although they may not endure and seek the same attention that the men do, they do undergo many trials and engage in substances that are not good for self. Just like the males, they may encounter these things because of the upbringing they were faced to experience. Not many women engage in criminal violence or anything crime related, but it definitely does happen. Our African-American men are criticized more for it and they are brought to the light before any women who may have committed the same types of things. Many of these women being raised without a father face emotional instability in different ways. They look for love in all the wrong places, especially in the male species because that is wherewith the lack of love lies. They look for young men to give them special attention that they should have known in a father. This is very dangerous and surfaces other issues following the matter. Females are more emotionally attached when it comes to those in their lives and those who are not in their lives. It takes them a while to deal with the fact that someone will not be there or has chosen to leave.
I remember always feeling unappreciated. It took me years to wrap my head around the fact that my dad did what he did. I could not understand how a person could have just helped bring something so precious into the world and do something to jeopardize his presence in that precious life. He missed seeing me grow up and watching me mature. He missed holidays, birthdays, and programs that I was in. My anger towards not having him in my life used to be my energy. I used that negative energy and got negative results. I fell for peer pressure a number of times and I did things I had no business doing as a young adult. My anger started to defeat me so much that I began to use it as violence, always physically fighting another female or feeling like I had to. The male species was my weakness. Almost every guy who looked good to me, I fell for. I believed in the sweet talk and the moments that were too good to be true until I realized that everything that looked good to me was not good for me. I fought my mom and went against her word for reasons unknown. I took it out on her when she was the one who had never left my side and wanted so much better for me. I let my struggle defeat me. I let my struggle get the best of who I was and I let my struggle stand in front of my possible successes in life.
Like we all can, male and definitely female whom I can relate too, I overcame it. I decided to stop seeking those vulnerabilities and to not keep grudging others because my dad made a few bad decisions in his life. Instead, I fought it with faith and success. My mother had a lot to do with that, being that she instilled morals in me that I decided to live upon. Instead of finding love in the wrong places, I looked to the higher power because I knew that for however long my father would not be around, God would always be there to protect me. I leaned on my faith and I learned that I needed to switch gears. My success became my motivation. If young, African American men and women set goals for themselves, then they will look no further than the intents of the success that they are obtaining. I got involved with youth programs and outreach organizations. I was as active as possible to stay focused on the things that would push me and make me appreciate my struggle. Criticizing and discussing young individuals in similar situations to me is the least that people can do. These young people need to be pushed, motivated, believed in and tried; all things that my mother along with mentors did with me. If no one would see their worth, then they will not see their own worth either. This is a struggle that is not small. This affects every individual differently. To be raised by one brings forth the feeling of feeling as one, alone. To feel like the world is being faced alone is a hard task to complete until one finds the most positive things to face the world with.
They proverb is true; "It takes a village to raise a child", and when a child is put in a compromising situation by the irresponsibility of a parent, then that village has to be summoned with a moral obligation to that child. With programs like the Motivational Foundation, Boys & Girls Club, youth groups etc., a child can have that village. Cities such as Flint should not bash the young people for the mishaps they encounter, but instead should recognize why they are going down the route they are going. Children and young adults do not lack visions, talents, and dreams, they lack motivation. They need power in their potential and strength in their struggles; some of the same things I needed to get where I am today. It is not the moment that one sees that they are struggling, but the moment that one sees that troubles do not last always. It is not always what one has been through, but how they got through it. There is no success with no struggle and when young, African- American women and men, no matter what their situations may or may not be, they will be the forces of the world and change agents of society if we all pull together and become that village.
The 4th Annual College Tour Experience was, in my opinion, awesome. We met new people, seem and did new things, built new relationships, and gained interest in many HBCU schools. Give us some feedback. Please send all pictures to BlakeOdum@gmail.com
Tell us about your experience. Tell us what you thouhgt!
-Blake E. Odum, CEO
Please Comment, I think that everyone should read this. I am preparing a workshop and inspirational message behind this. I was deeply moved after I read it, now I pass it along to you. Enjoy!
The following was written by Ben Stein and recited by him on CBS Sunday Morning Commentary;
I am a Jew, and every single one of my ancestors was Jewish. And it does not bother me even a little bit when people call those beautiful lit up, bejeweled trees, Christmas trees... I don't feel threatened.. I don't feel discriminated against.. That's what they are, Christmas trees.
It doesn't bother me a bit when people say, 'Merry Christmas' to me. I don't think they are slighting me or getting ready to put me in a ghetto. In fact, I kind of like it. It shows that we are all brothers and sisters celebrating this happy time of year. It doesn't bother me at all that there is a manger scene on display at a key intersection near my beach house in Malibu . If people want a creche, it's just as fine with me as is the Menorah a few hundred yards away.
I don't like getting pushed around for being a Jew, and I don't think Christians like getting pushed around for being Christians. I think people who believe in God are sick and tired of getting pushed around, period. I have no idea where the concept came from, that America is an explicitly atheist country. I can't find it in the Constitution and I don't like it being shoved down my throat.
Or maybe I can put it another way: where did the idea come from that we should worship celebrities and we aren't allowed to worship God as we understand Him? I guess that's a sign that I'm getting old, too. But there are a lot of us who are wondering where these celebrities came from and where the America we knew went to.
In light of the many jokes we send to one another for a laugh, this is a little different:
This is not intended to be a joke; it's not funny, it's intended to get you thinking.
Billy Graham's daughter was interviewed on the Early Show and Jane Clayson asked her 'How could God let something like this happen?' (regarding Hurricane Katrina).. Anne Graham gave an extremely profound and insightful response.. She said, 'I believe God is deeply saddened by this, just as we are, but for years we've been telling God to get out of our schools, to get out of our government and to get out of our lives. And being the gentleman He is, I believe He has calmly backed out. How can we expect God to give us His blessing and His protection if we demand He leave us alone?'
In light of recent events... terrorists attack, school shootings, etc.. I think it started when Madeleine Murray O'Hare (she was murdered, her body found a few years ago) complained she didn't want prayer in our schools, and we said OK. Then someone said you better not read the Bible in school. The Bible says thou shalt not kill; thou shalt not steal, and love your neighbor as yourself. And we said OK.
Then Dr. Benjamin Spock said we shouldn't spank our children when they misbehave, because their little personalities would be warped and we might damage their self-esteem (Dr. Spock's son committed suicide). We said an expert should know what he's talking about.. And we said okay..
Now we're asking ourselves why our children have no conscience, why they don't know right from wrong, and why it doesn't bother them to kill strangers, their classmates, and themselves.
Probably, if we think about it long and hard enough, we can figure it out. I think it has a great deal to do with 'WE REAP WHAT WE SOW.'
Funny how simple it is for people to trash God and then wonder why the world's going to hell. Funny how we believe what the newspapers say, but question what the Bible says. Funny how you can send 'jokes' through e-mail and they spread like wildfire, but when you start sending messages regarding the Lord, people think twice about sharing. Funny how lewd, crude, vulgar and obscene articles pass freely through cyberspace, but public discussion of God is suppressed in the school and workplace.
Are you laughing yet?
Funny how when you forward this message, you will not send it to many on your address list because you're not sure what they believe, or what they will think of you for sending it.
Funny how we can be more worried about what other people think of us than what God thinks of us.
My Best Regards, Honestly and respectfully,
Mitt Romney was addressing a crowd in Prattville, Alabama this past Monday when he stated:
I understand how difficult it can be for an African-American in today’s society. In fact, I can relate to black people very well indeed. My ancestors once owned slaves, and it is in my lineage to work closely with the black community. However, just because they were freed over a century ago doesn’t mean they can now be freeloaders. They need to be told to work hard, and the incentives just aren’t there for them anymore. When I’m president I plan to work closely with the black community to bring a sense of pride and work ethic back into view for them.
Just in case you missed it, here it is!
What do you think? Let's converse!
-Blake E. Odum
Today marks a fresh, new school year for millions of students all around the country. I hope that this year is filled with exciting adventures and opportunities for all who embark on this educational journey with a greater outlook on the outcome.
How serious are you about your student(s)' education? How serious are you about your education? As the demand for education increases, we too, must increase our own demand to educate ourselves. Grab this thing by the horns and don't fall off of the ride lol. And IF you do fall off, GET BACK ON IMMEDIATELY. We must remember that failure is not meant for fatality, it is meant to teach us, to mode us, ...to strenghten us.
Let us be patient with our elementary school students and remember that the young people are our future leaders. We must train them, mode them, and guide them. We CANNOT use our authority to break their spirits and crush their dreams. Yes, dreams and wishes are attainable and they DO come true. It is our job to allow them to believe that. It is our job to equip them with everything that they may need in order to make their dreams happen. It takes a village to raise a child. We must not forget that.
To our middle school students, let us grow to learn who we truly are. Our biggest agenda is not to fit in with the rest of the crowd, but to stand out amongst the great ones. You must educate yourselves and remember that you are the student for a reason. Once we get aquainted with ourselves, we will realize that we are highly intelligent beings with the capacity to learn beyond measurable standards. Then we will be ready for high school.
To our High School students; the time is now to really get your hands dirty. We have no time to waste.
Freshman; Everything that you do now, will affect you for the remainder of your high school life. Why not just get it right the first time. Take all precautionary measures RIGHT NOW, to build a strong foundation for the years to follow. If you can maintain a 3.5GPA or higher for this one year, it is highly likely that you will graduate with honors.
Sophomores; you have not made it yet! Build upon whatever you did last year. If you did good last year, do better this year! If you didn't do your best last year, then do better this year. Now is the time to fix it. Don't wait. you can't afford it.
Juniors; whatever the past may be, the ball is in your court. College Prep is at the forefront (It really began in 9th grade). Your focus should be, senior year...? how do I get there from here...? what do I have to do to get into college...? what college do you want to go to...? how can you get scholarship money...? college tours...? (click here for more information about 4th Annual Atlanta Area College Tour lol) ...what do you want to do in life...? your goals...? apply to colleges and universities...? etc.
Seniors; Congratulations to you... there is light at the end of the tunnel, however, you are not at the end of the tunnel. The only cure for Senioritis is to watch your peers receive their caps and gowns and your name isn't called because you don't have enough credits. I hope that scared you because that is a saulty feeling. Get everything taken care of, don't miss a beat, get all of your assignments turned in and HAVE FUN ...but not too much fun. Take a moment and enjoy being a leader, senior year will go by in a blink of an eye.
To all my college students, whatever your degree may be, whatever your year may be, Dr. Melvin Peters said it best; "This is not a damned race! Take your time....but get finished! College is about more than a degree." Plain and simple!
God Bless and Good Luck,
Blake E. Odum, CEO
First I would like to say that I am very pleased with the content of this trip. All Praise is due to God.
Please post your experiences from the college tour here. We need feedback and constructive dialogue. How can we help you? What are your thoughts? Where do we go from here? Let's use this as a tool to talk amongst each other so that we can keep more beneficial and exciting events like this coming your way.
-Blake E. Odum, CEO
In my great quest to find our lost children and to help them find themselves, I've been captivated by the song of our dear brother John Legend entitled, "Shine".
I realize that it is up to those of us who have been privileged enough to receive education, to educate our children lest they dwell in ignorance. Our duty, especially those of us who are members organizations for the betterment of mankind, is to deposit seeds of power in hope that they will one day blossom into great Oak Trees of wisdom baring fruit that will render peace and righteousness to deliver our children out of their ignorance. The educated man who fails to educate the children, isn't educated at all--he is a victim of his own ignorance, thus making him an ignorant man.
Our dear brother John Legend speaks in profound reference to our children when he said;
"They wait to plead their case, unknown cast aside
I love to see their face, can we spare the light?
Are we afraid to see them, prisoners of history
These beautiful minds, trapped inside, bring them back to life."
Let not organized education and degrees of certification rob us of the true function of education itself.
"The function of education, therefore, is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. But education which stops with efficiency may prove the greatest menace to society. The most dangerous criminal may be the man gifted with reason, but with no morals. We must remember that intelligence is not enough. Intelligence plus character--that is the goal of true
-Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
May Peace be upon you and may your heart be touched,
-Blake E. Odum, CEO
The Motivational Foundation