Thursday, May 18, 2017

Service Hours: Goodwill (1 hour)

On Sunday, May 14 2017, I took some time to go in my basement and looked around to see if I had any stuff that I didn't need, which I could donate to goodwill. My mom and I actually donate to goodwill at least once a month because there are a lot of stuff that we have that we don't use anymore, and there are other people who need it more. I ended up finding a pile of stuffed animals that I had played with as a kid, packed them up, and took them to the goodwill in Buffalo Grove where the Garden Fresh is. I've always felt that if you need to get rid of something and it's not meant for the trash, donate it. There will always be people who are in need of things that they can't get or might not have the opportunity to get. Also, I recently learned that goodwill offers training and services for individuals who want to find a job, pursue a credential or degree, and improve their financial status.

Service Hours: Operation Snowball (4 hours)

At the beginning of this year my friend was going to be a director for operation snowball and asked me if I would be interested in joining as a staff member. For the sake of trying new things, I did, and the experience changed my life.

Operation Snowball is headed by Mary Czaplewski and a few other Stevenson teachers, and I can't really give a solid definition for what Operation Snowball is, but it's basically camp for a weekend. We take a hundred or so students up to Camp Maclean in Wisconsin, divide them into groups, give them two staff members and one adult, and they just have a fun weekend. Groups are usually chosen randomly so friends aren't together for the purpose of students meeting new people and stepping outside their comfort zones. Throughout the weekend the students participate in numerous fun team building activities and workshops such as Zumba, stress ball making, yoga, capture the flag, outdoor cooking, ropes course, and more. This weekend is meant for Stevenson students to relax and get away from the pressures of Stevenson.

As a staff member, both staff members and directors, who are also students, plan the whole weekend. Since there are usually two staff members assigned to one group, we plan all the activities we decide to do with the students and the workshops as well. we put numerous hours into making sure everyone has fun and the weekend runs smoothly. the goal is for people to have fun, and to be comfortable, and a lot of the people who decide to come on the trip are those who are trying to find a sense of belonging and comfort and I like to think that when they come back home from the trip, they feel like they got that during the weekend.

We planned to have two trips, one in the winter, which we went on, and the other in the Spring, but that one was canceled due to a decrease in numbers. There weren't enough participants unfortunately due to spring sports and other things that were going on.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Service Hours: Feed My Starving Children (5 hours including the drives back and forth)

On May 8th 2017 I did two sessions of volunteering at Feed My Starving Children in Libertyville. The first session I did alone from 9:30-11:30am and the second session I did with one of my friends from 7-9pm. It was my first time volunteering for this organization because I usually do volunteering work at different hospitals and it was so much fun. It was a little awkward doing it alone the first time because I was thrown in with a group of people I didn't know, but doing it with a friend was much better. Either way, it was super rewarding to see how many meals in total we packed for kids in third world countries who are dying from starvation. FMSC's motto is, "We want to reach everyone, until all are fed" and I think that is just incredible, and to have been apart of that really felt like I made a difference in the lives of those who are hungry everyday.

The day I went to go volunteer, they were packing rice and the first time around I was in a group of people that I didn't know, but I still had a good time. The second time around my friend and I were paired with a family of four. For both sessions, I did a little bit of everything. I was a scooper for vitamins and vegetables, and I held the bags open for people to dump their ingredients into and then and then had to weight each bag. In the end, they told us how many boxes we packed and how many children would be fed for a year and the number was astonishing. It was incredible to see how much good we could in just two hours. It made me realize that giving back didn't have to take up a lot of my day. An hour or even two was enough.

American Values

For someone who is apart of two cultures; Russian and American, there are some values that both cultures share and other values that are particular to one culture. Since I was born in America, I've mostly grown up with American values with a sprinkle of Russian values, and some of the things that Americans value which I think all connect with each other is competition, work, and individualism. I think that real competition starts in high school, especially in Stevenson because students are competing with one another to get into a certain prestigious college and they do this through vigorous hours doing homework, studying, playing sports, and doing extra activities that look good to the college board. Some students don't even willfully participate in some of these activities, they just do it because they know it'll give them a better chance to get into the college of their choice over someone who didn't do the things that they did like sports or extra activities. I think that this competition is also called work because of all the work/action that the students put into getting into the college of their choice. Also, students go to school and try to get into a good college in order to get a good job coming out of college or graduate school. Ultimately, that's the goal after going to school for so long, to get a good job and make a sufficient amount of money. That's where I think the value of individualism and independence comes in. People in America go to school to get a good job which will provide them (hopefully) with enough money to be able to provide for themselves in every way (clothing, housing, food, etc) thus making them independent from everyone else and self reliant.

Writing this post, I think I realize why I've worked so hard on getting good grades in school and being able to stand out from the rest; I'm competing with others to get into a good college, which in the future will provide me with a job, which will make me an independent person. I think that subconsciously that's always been the goal, especially since my mom was always dependent on my dad as a source of income, and a Russian value is dependence on the man of the house, very different from American values. Everyone once to be self sufficient. For me, to not be dependent on my mom for the rest of my life I knew I needed to be my own person, to be independent, and I'm working through that process to reach my goal. However, I think that the amount of work that I have put into trying to get into college and being independent hasn't been too healthy. I think that whether it's working towards something or working a job, there has to be a limit before work starts infringing on your happiness and your life. In an excerpt that we read in class from the book Thrive, by Dan Buettner, he gives suggestions for different aspects of life to make a person happier, hence the book title Thrive. There is a whole section on work, and even though I know that section mostly applies to those working an actual job, I applied it to the work I do in school. One of his suggestions was, limit your workweek because too much work can infringe on time with family, your social life, health, and hobbies. I feel like the amount of work that Americans value has affected me by making me work so hard and so much for a future goal that it's infringed on my social life and time spent with family. I spend so much time studying, often not sleeping at night, that it doesn't give me time to see friends much and it takes a toll on my health. Reading the excerpt, I knew I wanted to limit the amount of time I spend working to better my life.

Something I think that is interesting about cultural values is that they change when people cross into different boarders of the world. For example, earlier, I talked about my mom and how she was dependent on my dad when she lived in Russia. However, when my family moved to America, she got a job and started making money and slowly made her way up to being self sufficient and independent if she ever had to be which she did because my parents ended up getting a divorce. I just think it's very interesting how my mom changed her values based on the culture change. I think that can also be seen in the movie, God Grew Tired of Us with the lost boys because in Sudan, before they came to America, they valued just being and spirituality even with the very little that they had. However, when they came to America, that changed. They started working long hours to be able to support themselves and be able to buy more stuff. They became apart of the materialist culture because in America, that's what we value. I just found that about values and boarders very interesting.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017


For the past few weeks in Sociology, we gave been talking about culture, and quite a few of the topics and terms that we have discussed make a lot of sense to me because I have experienced and witnessed a lot of things that relate to culture like culture shock, ethnocentrism, culture relativity, etc.

Culture shock is when we are exposed to other cultures, and when we see such different rules, are in shock of how different the other culture is from our own. Often times this is what makes us ethnocentric, which means that we judge a culture based on the rules we have learned about our own.

I haven't traveled too much outside the U.S other than to tropical places, but even within the United States, I have witnessed so many different cultures which are also known as subcultures which are cultures within one larger culture. For example, during spring break my lacrosse team and I went to Tennessee and stopped in Kentucky for a lacrosse tournament. I came to believe that Tennessee and the south in general is a subculture of America because the culture, values, and customs in the south are so much different than they are in the midwest. Throughout my days in Tennessee, I experienced culture shock because because of these different values and customs. In Tennessee, they put a high value on respect for others, oneself, and family. At our hotel, I have never received that much respect and kindness from another person, and I'm not saying that people don't respect one another in Illinois, I just saw a great deal of emphasis be put on it in the south. I ended up talking to one of the employees that worked in the hotel at the cafe and he told me a little bit about his life and growing up. (Keep in mind he is only 22) He told me that when he was only 9 years old, he shot his first deer, when he was 11 he started paving brick paths, when he was 14 he could take a car apart and put it back together, and when he was 15 he could do all the electrical work needed in a house. This shocked me because most kids that young just focus on playing with toys and hanging out with friends, not worrying about the things that this guy did because here in the midwest that kind of work and responsibility doesn't come until much later. This showed how much southern boys are taught how to work hard and be responsible from a very young age. He also told me that he didn't get a cell phone until he was 17 and that he believes the world is corrupt because of them and all the technology that we have right now. For someone that is so young, that surprised me a lot because here, technology is so important and highly valued, and people get iPads at the age of 5 if not younger. At that point I felt like I was being ethnocentric because I was judging the southern value of minimal technology because in the midwest and most places that I've gone to, technology surrounds and infatuates life in every form possible. Where we live, people are on their phones 24/7 and because of that I've come to value technology unlike many in the south. Also, during my stay in Tennessee I realized that the south is just another subculture of America just like the midwest is and even though we all live in the same country, we have very different cultures, which comes with different values and beliefs.

I think that culture shock and ethnocentrism can also be seen in the movie, "God Grew Tired of Us." This movie is about refugees from Kakuma, Kenya being sent all over the U.S to live and develop a new and better life than they have lived so far. In Kakuma there was constant civil war, deaths, starvation, etc, which is not something you see much of here compared to there. People in Kakuma were used to being hungry and dirty all the time because of minimal food and shelter. They were used to doing a lot of farming of their own, and electricity/technology was not something they knew. When some the the refugees were sent to the U.S to live they experienced a huge culture shock from the time that they got on the plane to the U.S to arriving at where they were going to live. When they were brought into their rooms, they had to be taught how to turn on a lamp and use a radio alarm clock because technology like that or even electricity didn't exist in Kakuma. Also, for the first time, they were introduced to chips, which is a food that they had never seen or tried so when they did, they were in awe of it. The culture in Kakuma and in the United States were just extremely different, which caused such a big culture shock. I also think that the boys from Kakuma were ethnocentric because when they started working to make money, they realized that work is all they had time for and that americans valued work over family, which is very different in Kakuma. I think that during that time the Lost Boys started to judge the American culture for not spending more quality time with family and relaxing. Also, I think they judged americans for always being full and never hungry because the Lost Boys always experienced hunger, and most Americans do not.

Also, I think that something the Lost Boys experienced that was different from what they were normally used to was time. In America, time is money as they say. Time matters. Being on time matters just as much as being late does, but time in Kakuma wasn't ever as important. People there just lived life in no rush. They just lived not worrying about time because the importance of time was never emphasized. This difference in the importance of time can be seen in the article, Building Order: Culture and history where it talks about how time is a social construct and various among cultures. I think that along with culture shock, the Lost Boys were surprised with the emphasis on time in America which is something that they weren't used to.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017


Although when filling out paper work of different kinds and encountering the race box where it asks for a person to mark which race they are; White, African America, Hispanic, etc, I've always believed that there was one race, the human race. Talking about race these past couple of weeks in sociology has opened up my eyes to how much that statement is true because race is not biological, or as a result of genetics, but it is a social construct, which means that race does not exist, people just believe that it does and act on it. Racism in the world has progressed because people are shaped by race through things like explicit bias and discrimination. Having an explicit bias means that an individual views their racial group as superior to others and makes a conscious decision in acting on the belief they have.

When I was in middle school, a Chinese boy was transferred into my class because he had just come to America and to make him feel more welcome, I tried introducing myself so he would have a familiar face in class, but he always had this obnoxious grin on his face like he was judging the people are him, and for that reason I was hesitant to talk to him. One day I found that to be true because I overheard him talking to another boy in my class, who was white, about how Chinese people were a lot smarter and better than white people especially because education in China is better. Also, that Chinese people will always be more successful and respectable. I was really shocked because I've never heard something like that being said to another person. That was my first encounter with bullying on the basis of race, and seeing that racial prejudice.

Also, another way that people are shaped by race is through discrimination. Discrimination is acting in an unequal or unfair way to another because of their race and I think that discrimination comes from the stereotypes given to different races created centuries ago. A stereotype is a widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular person or thing and is often negative and related to people and race. I believe that stereotypes of racial groups cause other people to discriminate because of what they have learned and heard about a racial group. When I was in elementary school, I heard a lot of racist slurs being passed around and bullying because of race. I was bullied as well, but because I was white, I was never bullied about my race, and those of color were. Mostly African Americans and Middle Eastern students were attacked with reminders of the times of slavery and how slavery should still exist, or being called a terrorist and hater of the country. It was all very brutal to witness, but the other kids thought this way about these racial groups because that's what they were taught.

In class we were very fortunate enough to have a panel of students come in and talk about race, and the hispanic girl with the story of moving from Mexico to the states impacted me the most because I've seen what happened to her happen to others. When she moved to the states and went to a public school, people had already had a stereotype of hispanics and bullied her about her "race" (discrimination). They called her insulting Spanish names, said she was the kind of person to do drugs and drink, basically be a misdemeanor, and drop out of school because hispanics were viewed as people who weren't very smart. One day, a person starts to believe what is said about them and then they start acting in the way that people see them as. This is very similar to what happened to the kids who were African American or Middle Eastern when I was in elementary school. After a while of being bullied, they started to believe what was said to them.

Another thing we did in class was watch the movie, "White Like Me" where Time Wise talked about how race is very prevalent today and how racism doesn't really exist anymore because we elected a black president. Although the issues of race got better after the election of a black president, racism never fully ended. I was in elementary school when Obama got elected, and the bullying of certain African American kids didn't stop (probably because the kids didn't know any better) but racism and discrimination in general still existed and it still exists today.

 Like the movie, the panel had minorities speak about their experiences with race and how being a minority affects them, and by hearing the discrimination and indifference they go through on a daily basis, it proves how relevant explicit bias and discrimination still is. Once a stereotype is placed on a person, race, or thing, getting rid of it or changing it to be positive is unlikely to not possible, therefor those of a different "race" grow up with a stereotype that almost defines them and how people look at them and treat them because race I think will always be in existence.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Social Class

For the past couple of weeks, our sociology class has been talking about social class. One important term that I believe is related to social class is power. Power is the ability to act in a particular way and to have influence. When it comes to money, those who have more of it tend to have more power over those who don't, and that is seen in the workplace, between spouses, at home, etc. For example, my mom works at a pediatric office as a nurse and billing manager, and although she does a lot for her patients, she does not make as much money as the pediatricians that work in her office. Although my mom has staff that work under her management, they all report back to the pediatricians because they are under the impression that their salaries are controlled by those who have the power to change them and keep them employed to start. Often times my mom doesn't have a say in any change that goes on in the office or even in the billing department because ultimately the only people who have the power to do what they want, and change the office are the pediatricians, those who make the most money. In a way, equality in my moms office is social class and how much money you make/have. Those who have the most money stick together, and those who don't have nearly as much money like my mom stick together. There is always that gap between the wealthy and the not so wealthy.

However, I think the term life chances is also a very important term in talking about social class, especially in terms of those who live in poverty and are apart of the lower social class. Life chances is the opportunity everyone has to better their lives in terms of quality. I think my mom is a very good example of someone who got another shot at life when she bettered her own. My mom came to America from Russia when she was 22 years old with only "20 dollars in her pocket." With little education, she would find jobs as a janitor at a school, or as a waitress, which would only give her a very little source of income. Looking at the chart of social classes that we looked at in class, my mom was apart of the underclass if not almost impoverished while she still had to talk care of my sister and her parents. She, my sister, and my grandparents lived in a one bedroom, cramped apartment on Devon Ave in Chicago, barely keeping food in the fridge and proper fitting clothes on her body. Her financial situation was pretty terrible until she decided to take some college courses, eventually getting a degree in business and finance which increased her education and paved the way for a better paying job. While she was taking college courses, she worked as a massage therapist which was already a better paying job than the ones she had had before, but once she got her degree, she was able to get a job as a billing manager, following a nurse because the she went and got her license in nursing. Eventually she made it to the middle class, and changed her life for the better. We also saw this happen in the movie, The Line, where various people talk about their life in poverty, but there were some who were able to change their life for the better. There was a man in North Carolina who had to pass up college and find a job instead because his father had left him and his mother was on welfare, which meant there had to be some kind of source of income. With very little skills, no desire to do drugs or sleep in the streets, he finally found a job at the King's Kitchen owned by a minister and his wife. For the time being, he slept at a shelter while he was a bus boy at the restaurant, but after months of working there, he became a manager and made enough money to get an apartment. He slowly was able to better his life through hard work and dedication. I think the same applied to my mom, because even when she reached the lowest point in her life, she worked hard when life gave her another chance. I think that when it comes to money, an individual can either make the best of it or become corrupt, it all depends, but when life gives you chances, its important to take them.