Blogs from Becca Orleans Mon, 02 Jan 2017 19:33:39 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb Community Voices - Carlos Mendez CarlosCarlos Mendez is going to be a senior at Oberlin High School this year. A Ninde Scholar himself, this summer he worked for the Aspiring Ninde Summer Scholars program as a Summer Fellow. As a Fellow, he assisted the Summer Instructors and acted as a role model for the Aspiring Ninde Scholars. Carlos is very committed to sustainability and also attended the Foresight Prep at Oberlin summer program in which he and his group members identified impactful solutions for food related challenges.

Q: What is your name?

Carlos Mendez: Carlos Mendez.

Q: And what grade are you going to be in?

I am a rising senior at the high school.

Q: What words or images would you use to describe Oberlin?

Oberlin is really unique, so probably “unique” I would say. And everyone is really themselves -- just, I would say, just true -- true to themselves. Everybody expresses who they are. That’s what I like about Oberlin. Everybody’s really open. It’s really diverse, too.

Q: You moved here from Kansas, right? How did that happen? How did you feel after the move?

Well when I moved I didn’t think much of it, because I had moved prior to that like three times. But once I started to settle here in Ohio I started to really like it. I was more open. I started to explore the town, that’s something I wouldn’t do in Kansas, and I just met a whole new range of people with different interests. And that got me into stuff like basketball, it got me curious about environmental science, and business, and I think it’s really an essential part to who I am now. I feel like I would be completely different if I stayed in Kansas. Because every day in Kansas I would just stay inside playing videogames. I would rarely go outside. And now here don’t want to stay inside. I want to go outside and explore.

Q: That’s so true because there’s just so much going on.

Yeah, so many events in Tappan square -- just lots to do. I kind of like how it’s a small town so you can go everywhere.

Q: You know a lot about sustainability from all the stuff you’ve been doing, and we’ve talked a lot about it in the Ninde program -- what does sustainability mean to you?

Well sustainability does have a lot of definitions, but to me I would say responsible use of our natural resources and conserving the inherent value of our environment.

Q: Very cool. And how does that affect your own life?

It’s not a drastic change to my life, but it’s like lots of things I see around town whether it’s trash in the river or lying on the ground or something, or that activity we did during the sustainability topic when we just sat down for fifteen minutes and heard our surroundings. And at first it was nice and peaceful but then I heard construction and the cars going by and it’s kind of disrupting your peace.

Q: Yeah I liked that the sound or sensory walk. There’s something about experiencing Oberlin in a different way than just when you’re walking around. What are you doing that’s really into sustainability?

Well, first thing is probably the three Rs -- reduce, reuse, recycle. But then also I feel like the important thing is to spend time telling other people what is going on. Because a lot of time people are just unaware of it. Like my mom she used to buy plastic water bottles every week and I was like, “Mom, you don’t really need to do that. You can just get water from the tap or filter or something.” And I finally convinced her. And every time I learn something I tell her, and she tells my sister, and it just spreads. And I feel like that helps a lot because that’s better than just one person helping out. Spreading it and making a lot of people help out. It’s word of mouth.

Q: That’s one of the cool things about you being in the [Ninde] program, too, because those kids look up to you. How do you feel about being a role model in that way?

It feels really good actually. Because I remember kind of being their age and I thought, “Oh, he’s a senior, he’s really cool.” And that’s how they see me. I just try to represent myself in a nice way, just think about my responses, making sure I have a nice change to them. Because I know going into my freshman year I was naive I didn’t really listen, I didn’t care about a lot of things. I’m just trying to teach them, “Oh, explore things,” and just being responsible, and just be curious.

Q: That’s really cool. It’s nice that you want to encourage them, not scare them.


Q: Is there anything you would like to tell other people in Oberlin about caring for the environment?

Just whenever you can, whenever you’re in a certain situation and you see there’s trash on the floor just pick it up, or if you’re going somewhere that’s nearby don’t use your car, just ride your bike. Limit your use of plastic, you don’t really need a plastic bag just bring one from your house and reuse that. Just little stuff like that. When you’re done with appliances unplug it because you’re not even home  --  a lot of people when they leave they still leave everything connected: lights on, TV on, and you just need to unplug it. Just the little stuff that helps.

Q: And you’re going to college next year.

I am.

Q: How are you feeling about leaving Oberlin, coming back on vacation, what are those thoughts?

It’s really exciting. And in a way it’s really liberating, just kind of being free because right now I am kind of restricted to a lot of things because I have to babysit my two sisters a lot and that kind of restricts what I want to do. But in college I feel like I’ll do whatever leads me to do like explore, meet new people, and just lots of free time -- and also just focusing on my studies.

]]> (Becca Orleans) Community Voices Wed, 09 Dec 2015 14:33:40 +0000
Community Voices - Ayana Imann Morrison Ayarna MorrisonAyana Morrison is going to be a senior at Oberlin High School in the fall. This summer she was a Ninde Summer Fellow. As a Fellow, she was a role model for the Aspiring Ninde Scholars during their summer program. She was especially helpful in matters of cooking, visual art, and writing, as these are some of her talents.

Q: Emily Clarke: Okay so can you say your name and something about yourself?

My name is Ayana Imann Morrison. I’ll be a senior at Oberlin High School next year. I’m still really not sure at all where my life is going, but honestly who does? I come from a large family, but the majority of us are all over the place, so in total there are eight of us counting my deceased brother, but we’re just all over America. I grew up with my mom; she was a single mother, she wasn’t together with anybody while raising me. My granddad is one of the most important people in my life, and I really don’t know what I’m going to do once I no longer have him. I’m a really big people person; I like meeting new people, I like making new friends. I’ve been told that I have a knack for it. I don’t have a lot of problems making new friends or meeting new people.

Q: How did you come to live in Oberlin or go to school here?

I was simply just born here; I’ve been here my entire life. Living in Oberlin is pretty cool just because I think that it’s a really good place to grow up. Because it helps a lot with identity and figuring out who you are and what you’re going to do and what you’re -- I don’t want to say “destined” for because it seems too great of a word -- but it’s good for that first part of your life where you really don’t understand anything. And I think that it’s really good for that, especially in growing up or being adolescent because it’s such an open-minded place that you’re not really shamed for the things that you enjoy or the things that you love. And that can be really really big as far as identity goes -- how you identify gender-wise; it’s pretty open here about sexuality like in my school, like, we know who is bisexual or gay or pansexual or blah blah blah but no one is really targeted for it. So it creates like a really open place where you can find out who you are. And I’m really glad that I’ve always had that. I will admit that there are times that I really wish that I had not lived and grew up in Oberlin my entire life, like I kind of wish that it was split sometimes where I could have went and gotten to see what somewhere else was like as well, because one of the only negative side effects that I can think of as always being in Oberlin is I view Oberlin as kind of like this nice bubble in the middle of everywhere else, where Oberlin is really open-minded and nice and has progressive thinking, and then you go outside of Oberlin and you don’t have those things. And so just being able to adjust to real life is going to be difficult once leaving Oberlin. But I think it was a great place to grow up and it was definitely somewhere I will always come back to. And I’m really grateful of having been in Oberlin schools because it’s a good school system and it has a nice small amount of people so you can have really good friendships and good relationships between your teachers and principals and that kind of stuff… It’s one of the best parts in that the community is so open and friendly, it’s pretty cool.


Q: Something that struck me when I came here was how big the sky was. Because I was always surrounded by mountains, so it must be a really different feeling to grow up, I think, with open fields and huge sky.

One of the best places ever is walking over downtown, one of the rooftops downtown you can go up the stairs and since you’re above the level of almost all the other buildings you just look up and it’s nothing but stars. It’s one of my favorite places and I hang out there a lot with my friends. And it’s always funny because we’re like you know what this is like? It’s exactly like a scene out of a young adult novel. It’s really cool, I like it there a lot.

Q: Yeah, one of those small town [novels]. What is it like growing up where you can see the stars all the time?

I would think that that’s what kind of started my introspection, because I’m one of those people where I like to just sit around and just think. It’s just as simple as that. Whether it be about myself, or where I’m going, or bigger questions -- like why are we all here, or what’s the purpose of all of this? Just that idea of just looking up at the sky and seeing nothing but stars in this vast unknown is really something that causes that deep thought because it gives me that feeling of there’s no possible way that we’re the only ones here. There’s so much more out there and I want to figure out why. 

Q: Yeah because when you’re looking up at the stars it’s almost as if you don’t have a body; it’s almost like you’re floating. So it does open up to bigger thought.

Yeah, and something else I get that vastness from and the unknown is… I have this like imagined space, whenever I get lost in thought I like to imagine just being before this large body of water, and the water is dark so you can’t really see what’s in it, and the stones are all black and the sky is grey and it looks like it was just raining. I don’t know why I think of it but it gives me that sense of I am so small. We are all so small. And that’s not to say that being small doesn’t mean you don’t have an impact. I think it’s quite the opposite: because we are so small it’s all that more important for us to be unified and united. And it gives me that free way into any other types of thinking… That sense of being small and realizing that you are just one person and all of this amazing stuff around you is something that I love to realize… And just growing up in Oberlin where you have that sense of openness, like I can go anywhere from here, is something that really helped along that kind of thinking.

Q: Okay you’ve talked a little bit about drawing on nature as a way of getting in touch with yourself. So thinking about ways to sustain that, yeah I guess that seems like a good transition into what sustainability means. And obviously we’ve talked about a bunch of things sustainability means.

When I think of sustainability I think, well one it’s important to explain to people what it is. But two why it really matters and how it does affect all of us. Because a lot of people kind of have an open view where it’s like “Yeah this is a problem, yeah it’s not great, but how is it really affecting me?” And I think that’s a really selfish way to think about it but it’s also not something people do consciously. I think it’s just a kind of mindset that people have when they haven’t gone through hardship or struggle. And so sustainability has to do with the environment, it has to do with the economy but it also has to do a lot with relationships and looking out for each other and not just the planet.

Q: Yeah, I think a lot of people separate each other and the planet, as if that’s something you can do. But like looking out for each other and making sure that you are sustaining your community is definitely...

Yeah, and not just sustaining your community for now but sustaining future generations. That’s one of the areas of politics that I get really heated about; that’s one of the reasons why I don’t like this huge diversity gap in our politics and in so many aspects of life is because it’s really hard to know exactly what other people need when you don’t fit into that demographic. Not enough are thinking about what’s going to happen three generations from now. Because they’re so focused on making sure that the people here are okay. And it’s so important to make sure that the people here are okay because they’re the ones living and struggling right now. But you also want to think about what kind of life are you gonna leave behind for your great great grandchildren. What kind of stuff are you experiencing that you love that they’re never gonna have that opportunity because we used up most of the fossil fuel? Or because it’s so bad outside in certain locations that it’s not recommended for people to visit anymore. And so that’s the kind of stuff you have to think about when you’re thinking about sustainability. Not only what’s happening right now or for yourself or for other people, but what’s going to happen down the road.

Q: So what would sustainable politics look like to you?

Well that’s really funny because I think those two words should never go together. Because “sustain” is to keep something the same, or balanced, or working. But politics is something that has to always be changing. Because there’s always going to be different needs and different wants. And so if you’re going to talk about “sustainable politics” -- getting to a point where politics can work efficiently and constantly be changing, but have little changes. I think a large part of the problems with politics is that so many people -- even people who like to say that they’re liberal -- get attached to certain ideas. And so by having a system of politics or a system of government where it’s always changing but it’s doing so in little ways, there’s not going to be as much resistance and it’s not going to take as long to make these changes that are so needed. But I think “sustainable politics” is a funny way of putting it -- I think there’d be a better term. Again I feel very strongly about diversity. I think diversity is one of the key factors in fixing [politics]. Because I think so many people like the government officials make it seem so difficult and I understand that it is very difficult especially in working with so many people. I think it would really help if there were more perspectives and more angles to look at it from than just the older white male. Because like the older white male isn’t going to know exactly what I’m going to need, because I am a younger black female. And so having more diversity in politics would really help. Because then you’ll know exactly what more of POC people need. Because you’re not trying to look at it through a foggy glass and other people’s explanations.

Q: So what actions are you engaged in in your day-to-day that are related to sustainability? In all of the meanings that you’ve talked about?

A lot of people are attacked for being ignorant about a subject and I never think that’s the way to go about it. Whether you’re talking about sustainability or anything when someone doesn’t know about something, your job is not to make them feel horrible about not knowing, your job is to make sure that everybody knows, to make sure that they understand. And so with sustainability, doing my own part for the planet like with recycling, but getting the word out is one of the biggest things I can do for the planet or do for the economy or do for anything else, because that way it’s not just me who is doing all those little things but it’s going to be a community who is doing all those little things. And then sustainability in the other ways I’ve talked about -- I think just personal sustainability, which is just keeping yourself balanced and kind of cool…. Our purpose is to have sustainability, or it is to make sure that other people are okay. The purpose of life is to make sure that life can continue, whatever its greater meaning may be. Think about how you can make other people happy, or about how you can help your community or help your future generations. And in return that’s going to end up helping you. And eventually that kind of stuff is going to build up and you are going to be more grateful, you’re going to be more happy, and so self-sustainability isn’t only about thinking about “me”. It’s about thinking about others and focusing on others and in return it’s going to help you.

Q: Okay, so, what inspires you to take those daily actions that we talked about?

What inspires me is thinking about other people. But in particular one of my biggest inspirations is my grandfather, because he’s always just been a good guy. Whether it be like helping the planet, he’s always been very conscious of that. Even when I was really little -- now it’s nice, because it’s required by Oberlin that you have two separate things for recycling and just for regular garbage. But when I was little there wasn’t. Like you could just throw everything in one garbage and it was just taken off to some landfill. But even back then when it wasn’t required and there weren’t even people thinking about it, he was always that stickler for like, “No you’re gonna put the paper in here, the plastic in here, the trash is gonna go in there.” And so from a really young age, at least for the environmental factor, I understood and I got this big concept of what sustainability is and why it’s important. And I feel like that’s one of the reasons why I continue to do those daily actions of recycling or telling other people, “Hey don’t throw that in there when you can recycle it” -- it’s because like that’s something that my granddad would do and that would make him happy and proud. And I think that goes along with my definition of sustainability as well. Because he was always the one who was kind of telling me, “Hey don’t just focus on yourself, there are other people to think about too.” ...Helping other people, thinking about your community, thinking about what you can do to try to help the economy or the environment and all these other social important factors. And so my biggest inspiration would be my grandfather.

Q: He sounds wonderful.

Yeah he’s a great guy.

Q: Okay, so any last thoughts? Things you want to share with your community about caring for the environment?

Always always focus on the bigger picture. Never get into this mindset that I’ve done my part, or that I’ve done all that I needed to do. Because there’s always so much more to be done… Keeping the mindset of there’s always more I can be doing, I am never done playing my part, is the biggest thing you can be doing for yourself and for everybody else… It’s important to think there’s always more I can be doing.

]]> (Becca Orleans) Community Voices Tue, 20 Oct 2015 18:20:30 +0000
Community Voices - Aliya Rednour AliyaAliya is going to be a senior at Oberlin High School this fall. This summer she worked for the Aspiring Ninde Scholars Summer Program as a Summer Fellow. As a Fellow, Aliya acted as a role model for the younger Ninde Scholars in facilitating discussion and keeping a positive attitude. After high school, Aliya is considering going to school for nursing.

Q: So if you want to just introduce yourself, say anything that feels relevant.

A: Okay, I’m Aliya, I’m 18 and I’ll be a senior at Oberlin High School this fall.

Q: Awesome, okay so two questions first, how long have you been in Oberlin or what’s your relationship with living here and going to school here?

A: I’ve lived in Oberlin since 3rd grade, I moved from Fairview Park and I’ve been here even since and I just last November moved to Elyria, but I still attend Oberlin and I like it. I like Oberlin so I didn’t want to trade schools, transfer.

Q: What do you like about Oberlin’s schools?

A: The diversity and the relationships and it’s like we’re a whole and nobody’s separated from one another or felt differently or treated differently so its really nice. We all come together and always have each other’s backs, when we go on field trips and stuff, so its cool its like a big family. There’s so much culture and stuff behind it and history.

Q: Yeah, it seems like a town that’s small enough to really sustain that group sense of history and culture.

A: Yeah there’s a lot to get involved in like how they do Juneteenth and the sidewalk chalk day and that’s just fun and its free and everybody can come.

Q: Yeah, community gatherings.

A: And there’s a lot of work like artwork

Q: Yeah, did you do chalk walk?

A: No I didn’t. I’m not really good at it, but I guess you don’t really have to be good at it to go and have fun, but I didn’t go, but I always see it when I walk downtown and it’s cool.

Q: Yeah, I was so sad it rained so soon after.

A: Yeah, it always seems to do that.

Q: I know, that’s Ohio for you. Okay, so when you think of Oberlin is there a word or image that’s come to mind just like free association

A: What comes to mind is that picture of the earth and there’s a bunch of different kids holding hands around it. That’s what comes to my mind when I think of Oberlin. Its really weird because I, before I moved here, I never heard of Oberlin and now that I’m here it’s just like I wish I would have been here from like newborn and grew up, but I kind of did grow up from third grade up and I really like it so when I think of Oberlin its that picture. I never think bad things it’s always positive words and vibes when I think of Oberlin and when I’m here, I feel accepted here. I didn’t have that so much in Fairview so it was a new change. I don’t like change, but I’m glad that we moved because it was a good change, it was a good feeling here.

Q: Yeah, I like that picture as a description. So we’ve been talking a little bit about sustainability and all the things that can mean. What is the definition that feels most true to you? What does sustainability mean to you?

A: To me, it’s taking care, coming as one or being that one voice that makes a change and recycling and really thinking about the environment that we live in and the world we live in and how one voice can make that change. If just one person steps us, even if they’re standing alone, it can help make a change. So I think sustainability is just making sure you’re healthy, the world around you is healthy, the environment and recycling – just being aware of all the things that we do because it is going to affect us and we want a good environment around us.

Q: So keeping that mutuality in mind like being sustained by that and giving back. So, what actions are you engaged in day to day that you see as being related to sustainability?

A: Turning off the TV before I go to sleep instead of leaving it on or during the daytime not turning on lights because there’s the natural sunlight. Making sure that we are recycling, we just started that in my house and so now if I open the trashcan and there’s a milk jug in there I’ll take it out and put it in the recycling bin and I’m just more aware of how much we use like TV and everything else and how we could cut down on that and when it’s nice outside instead of watching TV just going outside and enjoying it. Picking up trash that’s in the yard or something, just trying to keep things green around us so its like taking care of not just my yard area, but at school and stuff when you see something on the ground pick it up and throw it in the trash and just clean that part because one person can make that change.

Q: And I feel like that is also looking out for your community because if you don’t pick it up it either stays there or someone else has to.

A: Yeah and then it’s another of that role model. If someone else sees you doing it, ‘hey they’re doing something good,’ and then they’ll follow and usually you’ll have a good outlook.

Q: So maybe sustainability is like something you’re always doing with other people around, it’s always affected by and affecting other people.

A: And I feel like Oberlin does a good job of embracing that and to just be aware of everything, I feel like Oberlin does a good job of that. Because I used to not be aware of it, but the more it was brought up and the Dashboard and all that it made me more like ‘Oh, maybe this is an issue, maybe we can do something.’ Now that’s it brought to my attention I notice it more.

Q: Just being aware of where things come from and where they go.

A: Yeah and just like when we were talking about the corn, I never knew that. I always looked at some ingredients, like ‘Oh, corn’s in this’, but I didn’t realize that it’s in everything so its almost like creepy that it’s in everything, but that made me more aware. And, I knew we treated animals bad, but I didn’t know how bad they were treated and how they are fed corn instead of grass and stuff so I’m more aware of that now and I wasn’t before. A lot of new things that I am aware of now.

Q: Is that part of what inspires you to make those daily changes?

A: Yeah, because I’m like ‘aw, the animals’ and I feel bad because that’s like some feeding us the same thing, like taking away something we enjoy and giving us something that is not good for us. Treating people how you want to be treated.

Q: Are there places in Oberlin that feel restoring that feel like they give you the energy to do those things.

A: This building [the AJLC] and I noticed it more today when we were in our groups and we were talking about the living machine and it just made me want to do more because they are trying and they have this building here and they have this system already going here and we could just add to it and help make it better. All of the gardens that they have, when I think of it now, like that garden that they have right outside, and then I think of Jones farm and at school when we’re in the kitchen cooking for nutrition she makes a compost pile that she takes home to her garden. It makes me think we should start doing compost and all that instead of just throwing it away. We should just start using it more because I notice at home when we are cutting up stuff, we just usually throw out the leftover vegetables instead of going to put it in the garden or even bringing it to somebody who uses them. We could that more, it makes me want to do more.

Q:  I think definitely part of that is knowing what’s going on around you not just in an environment sense, but also like a neighbor sense. Thinking about other people and who needs what and who can use what.

A: You never know how important it is until it’s brought to your attention and you see the change that you can make by just doing it and being involved. I never knew how important it was, I knew it was important, but not to what extent it was important. Being here and learning about it just helps me learn more so I like it and I’m glad that we are all engaged in it. I know that some of the kids had their heads down, but I was like ‘it’s going to get fun, this is a cool thing to learn about.’ Because its not everyday where we just can take a break and learn about sustainability and stuff.

Q: I like it because it’s a way of talking about sustainability while talking about being present and looking both behind and forward. What would you like to share with the community about caring for the environment or about being in nature or anything like that? Is there something you want to share?

A: Definitely getting more kids involved and I think it could be more beneficial if it was little kids and older kids working together instead of just ‘hey high schoolers here’s community service you can do.’ Why don’t we get all the kids involved from each school?

Q: At every age, yeah.

A: So that’s what I would offer, because most of the time here you have high schoolers who need to do some type of community service and I think we should have younger kids involved and be those leaders in helping them and showing them so that when we leave they already have experience with it. Big kids helping little kids make Oberlin and the world run better. Then you have a bonding experience so you really don’t think of it as community service after doing it.

Q: It’s just being with your community.

A: Yeah, and coming together to help out.

Q: I think service is also kind of a weird word for that.

A: And it makes people sigh. People usually think of it as a negative instead of a positive until they get there and they are doing it. Most of the time when I think of community service I think of it like the court assigned this person to do community service. Then I don’t want to do that if people are going to ask why are you doing community service? I think the name should be changed itself.

Q: What would you change it to?

A: Something along the lines of a helping day in Oberlin or something that makes it more motivational instead of community service. I think the name should just be changed.

Q: Language has a huge effect on how we think of things definitely.

A: It does.

]]> (Becca Orleans) Community Voices Mon, 17 Aug 2015 13:37:58 +0000