Illinois State’s Stevenson Center Offers Financial Support Worth Up to $58,000 For AmeriCorps Alums

Originally posted on A Lifetime Of Service:

Today’s post is from our August 2014 Career Newsletter sponsor, Illinois State University’s Stevenson Center. For questions about the Center’s programs, visit this website, and for  financial aid details, explore more here.

Illinois State University’s Stevenson Center offers AmeriCorps Alums a unique graduate program and an unrivaled value. AmeriCorps Alums who enroll in our Applied Community and Economic Development (ACED) Fellows Program receive a 100% tuition waiver for all courses AND a paid graduate assistantship! In your second year, paid professional practice provides you with invaluable field experience and networking opportunities.  The full financial package is worth up to $58,000.

The transition from AmeriCorps to the Stevenson Center ACED Fellows program proved seamless for Alum Niko Valaris who earned his MS in applied economics. Niko shares:

Niko Valaris headshot“The Stevenson Center at Illinois State University was the best step I could have taken after completing my terms with AmeriCorps. Serving…

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Burwell v. Hobby Lobby: How dissenters misunderstand “person” & “right”

In what’s sure to be a quoted precedence for many cases to come, the U.S. Supreme Court held that Heath and Human Service regulations forcing corporations to offer contraception violates the  1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act. A lot of dissenters claim the ruling is a lost for women’s rights when the real issue is about about protecting rights.

Allowing companies to conduct business based on their religious beliefs doesn’t make this a women’s rights issue. What needs to change is the healthcare system. Private companies are not and should not be responsible for the falsies that exist in government regulations. Government involvement in healthcare causes it’s high cost and inefficiency. Solve that problem and you allow better access to proper healthcare making whether or not a company chooses to cover those costs irrelevant.

Many people picket for freedoms and enjoy its rewards but expect to pick and choose which are worth defending. When one freedom is in jeopardy, all are equally threatened. If you want government covered healthcare, you have to allow government to choose for you (i.e. in a public program you loose the right to choose anything).

Allowing each person and company to choose what’s right for them (a private run program) allows everyone access to what’s important to them with the freedom to choose, protecting  freedoms. In a free society government should only protect your freedoms, not provide the services by choosing which ones to promote.

The major misunderstanding is with the definition of “person” as defined legally.

The Official Laci Green Facebook Page

The following is an excerpt from the U.S. Supreme Court ruling:

It employed the familiar legal fiction of including corporations with in RFRA’s definition of “persons,” but the purpose of extending rights to corporations is to protect the rights of people associated with the corporation, including shareholders, officers, and employees. Protecting the free-exercise rights of closely held corporations thus protects the religious liberty of the humans who own and control them.

The word RIGHT, i.e. “women’s rights” “human rights” or any other freedom, means right to choose what’s best for yourself. If you don’t like what your company provides, you have the choice to choose another employer. Saying corporations (which are private collections of people) must provide certain healthcare services also leaves them open to determine when and what kind of services you should experience. If government can choose for private companies, then they will be able to choose for you, relinquishing your right to have or not have any healthcare service anywhere, ever.

A great point from The Matt Walsh Blog:

These claims are unabashedly dishonest because they fail to take into account two important points: A) Hobby Lobby covers birth control. I say again: Hobby Lobby covers birth control. B) Whether any employer covers birth control or not, none are trying to stop women from accessing it. The issue here is whether a private company should be forced to pay for birth control, not whether it should be allowed to sneak into your house at night and check to make sure you don’t have a bottle of Yaz in your medicine cabinet.

Technology is Evil?

We’ve all seen the mean tweets, trolling YouTube comments, and Facebook cyber bullying. Its the mean spirited actions of a few negatively affecting our youth in the masses, desperately trying to convince each of them they don’t measure up. I could link to many videos and articles showcasing the mental and physical harm caused by these comments shared online, but I truly believe at this point it only sensationalizes the problem instead of offering a solution.

"Technology has exceeded our humanity"

Many of us spend our day engulfed in so much self-hate and worry that we miss the beauty in everyday life and the kindness shared between strangers. We long to fill a void and feel connected yet we distract ourselves with worldly pursuits while overlooking the things that bring us true joy. We trick ourselves into believing a fulfilling life is made of the perfect career choices, the people we surround ourselves with, or aiming for specific achievements.

Closer self-evaluation reveals these are just the moving parts. Each part facilitating moments, that when noticed, bring us opportunities to find purpose. Think of how differently we view the world through each new experience, it shapes our perception and brings joy to things that in and of themselves are meaningless.

The internet is being used by so many people to facilitate change and taking notice of the inherit goodness of man. It ranges from large organizations raising money for charitable causes to a beginner blogger hoping to affect positive change by sharing her perspective.

A tweet inspired this piece today.

Jarrett Sleeper, a cast member on The Fine Bros online sitcom called My Music, tweeted, “It’s nice seeing a stranger smile so genuinely looking at their phone after some little text just came in. Not all technology kills us.”

Its moments like this that bring true value in life. He noticed another human being’s joy, a stranger at that, and appreciated its beauty.

I felt compelled to respond to him, someone I’ve never met, because the human experience is something that connects us. We recognize it in others are we are drawn to it. It’s in these moments we feel full of hope rather than loneliness.

We have to keep a hold of that feeling. Its easy to become tainted with the stresses of life and the pursuit of things that hold no true value.

And the beauty in all this is technology, that evil thing often distancing us, is also bringing us closer together if we can just take notice.

Want to join a community of caring and aspirational people and make a difference? Contribute to the Project for Awesome Campaign by helping raise awareness or by making a donation.

Project for Awesome is a campaign organized by online creators to “Decrease World Suck” by raising awareness and funds to make a difference around the world. You can participate through a donation, spreading awareness for supported organizations, or sharing info about Project for Awesome. This is an organization I love!
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Princess toys spark girls to fill high demand careers?

Image representing GoldieBlox as depicted in C...
Image by None via CrunchBase

There is no shortage of parents eager to get their child the latest and greatest in educational toys.

GoldieBlox, a brand developed by a female engineer who was puzzled by the lack of women in the field,  aims to fill the gender gap in STEM careers through hands-on toys geared to girls.

Despite the buzz surrounding GoldieBlox as a finalist to earn a SuperBowl ad spot, critics say the princess themed science toys sell girls short.

I argue princess themed educational toys can help fulfill high demand careers within an underrepresented female population.

Infographic Source: She-Geeks

Educational toys’ effectiveness have been questioned by researchers and parents alike. Who can forget market dominated Baby Einstein, promising to turn parent’s bundles of joy into geniuses through the art video babysitting. Time magazine reported research back in 2007 that for every daily hour of television a child consumes results in up to eight fewer vocabulary words learned.

Baby Einstein, acquired by Disney, started offering refunds to its consumers in 2007 following the release of multiple studies which not only suggested the lack of intellectual edge for its young viewers but some even claimed developmental disadvantages.

GoldieBlox critics claim the entire concept as a marketing gimmick, using traditional pink and purple packaging,  a strategy some say contradicts their mission to  “disrupt the pink aisle.”

Deborah Siegel, a published feminist writer, halfheartedly defended GoldieBlox by saying “sneaking a princess narrative into an otherwise girl-empowering toy is an act of Trojan Princess.” She goes on to note that affecting gender role stereotypes is an evolutionary process and admits GoldieBlox is a step in the right direction.

And Siegel is right. GoldieBlox has a great concept already eliciting excitement and change in the toy industry. The marketing strategy may not perfectly represent the idea of gender neutrality, but I dare to say that neutrality is not the social solution formula to the gender role problem.

In the case of GoldieBlox, the marketing strategy is used to inspire children to create, learn, and reach for new interests. The issue of traditional gender role marketing of the past mimicked the social norms of the time.

Not only have social norms evolved but so have social needs. There is high demand for STEM workers and while women make up nearly half of the general workforce, less than a quarter of STEM positions are held by women.

This suggests that while gender acceptance into the workforce from homemaker has evolved, gender marketing that ignores social need, such as demand for skilled STEM applicants, is missing out on a valuable workforce resource.

And unlike Baby Einstein, GoldieBlox requires engagement, independent problem solving, and encourages teamwork, all elements contributing to increased vocabulary and analytical thinking.

It’s true some feminist continue to criticize GoldieBlox for marketing through gender role stereotypes. The Budding Biologist blog explains this objectively well. But, I must point out the aim of GoldieBlox is not necessarily to change the marketing strategy itself but to increase science interests in girls who are being strictly marketed kitchen sets and baby carriages.

It is admirable to argue that marketing should be less gender specific, however, choosing to market this product under gender-neutral strategies will miss the chance to impact girls/families who will still be drawn to the princess aisle.

Gal Gadot cast as Wonder Woman

Gal Gadot, Image Source: RYOT

An article released by RYOT states casting of female heroines in Hollywood remains disappointing.

In an effort to blame casting directors for the unequal representation of strong female roles in film, the article points to a number of comic book female hero castings which missed the chance to reprise women in a strong light. A noble cause to support in order to spur the writing of strong female characters. However, to degrade the casting choice for the iconic character of Wonder Women because she was a previous beauty queen is just as dehumanizing.

Don’t you think assuming Gal Gadot will ruin the Wonder Woman character before filming even begins is counter intuitive to your main point?

Hugh Jackman was practically unknown in the US before being cast as Wolverine, formerly best known for musicals in Australia. And Health Ledger was riding the coattails of his Oscar win for Brokeback Mountain earning him tons of criticism for being cast as the Joker.

Star-crossed lovers. The poster was fashioned ...
Star-crossed lovers. The poster was fashioned after Titanic ‘ s. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

These are just two examples of casting choices that received backlash because the individual did not fit the persona of the character or for lack of previous experience in a similar role. Ultimately, both men earned respect for their work with fans and critics alike.

While I appreciate the encouragement to push for female equality of representation in film, it seems a bit sexist to say Gal Gadot is know for her looks and then assume she will be a bad portrayal of Wonder Women.

Gal Gadot is an Israeli actress most notably recognized for her role as Gisele in the Fast and the Furious franchise. She won Miss Israel in 2004. While her acting credits are minimal outside the Fast franchise, she served two years in the Israeli military.(IMBD)

In my opinion, a strong female is characterized by pride and humility. It is not associated with any degree of physical beauty, whether it aligns with the socially accepted standard of beauty is irrelevant. In Gal’s cast, I am sure her physical look was taken into account in order to fulfill the persona of Wonder Woman as it was originally portrayed. However, to dismiss her ability based solely on the fact that she is “beautiful” is dehumanizing.

Bombing victim recovers with the help of high heels

Thanks to a combination of insurance and donations, Boston marathon survivor, Heather Abbott, is able to have leg prosthesis that are so realistic, you can’t tell them apart from a real limb.

Heather Abbott enjoying life in heels. Image source: (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia)

She currently has four prosthesis, one for heels, shower or beachwear (water proof), running, and one flat for bare feet or tennis shoes.

The total estimated costs for all four is about $200,000. To give you an idea of the financial burden over her lifespan, these need to be replaced every 3-5 years.

Increasing accessibility and easing the financial burden from these types of products can improve mental recovery, an important part to the recovery process.

Heather attributed her return to a seemingly normal life after only 7 months since the incident in Boston to her realistic prosthesis.

With the help of her donors, she was able to have a better recovery process. Having access to proper prosthesis that enable victims to be independent and live a normal lives help mental recovery.

Watch an interview with Heather Abbott here

The idea of beauty needs to be corrected

A recent discussion with the viewers of Ashley Mardell’s YouTube Channel has sparked a conversation between myself and my internet friends about the social construction of “beauty” and “perfection.”

This video campaign from Pro Infirmis, a supportive organization for the disabled, aimed to showcase the beauty in all people for International Day of Persons with Disabilities.

A Zurich shop replaced the typical mannequins with ones which represented four unique individuals with disabilities, all modeled from their measurements.

In a beautiful portrayal, Pro Infirmis’ campaign challenges the idea of physical perfection in the closing remark, “Because who is perfect? Get closer.” While the thought provoking effort by Pro Infirmis is an admirable effort to change the idea of beauty, I suggest we take it further.

Not on does the idea of what is beautiful need to change, it needs to be corrected. The formula we currently prescribe to is invalid.

One of the Merriam-Webster definitions (alongside the defined physically beautiful) is the following definition, “the quality or aggregate of qualities in a person or thing that gives pleasure to the senses or pleasurably exalts the mind or spirit.” This means the definition of beauty is quite literally in the eye of the beholder.

Most importantly, the declaration of beauty more accurately described the type of person declaring it not the object of description.

So you want to be beautiful? Blogger at Chemical Free Makeup suggests,

“The easiest thing you can do that will completely change your mindset is to get rid of all negative thoughts regarding how you look. Instead of focusing so much on a flaw you have, be proud of and highlight some of your strengths.”

I will add,

Be the change you want to see in the world, be the beauty you want to see and everything will become a little more beautiful to you, including yourself.

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