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.

Millennials are lazy, uncaring, money hungry Kardashians…

While thumbing through Upworthy‘s Facebook page, I stumbled across a recent article by HuffPost Impact which cited research published in 2012, “millennials aren’t all that interested in improving the world around them.”

As a millennial with a personal interest in volunteering and societal issues, I began to boil over in rage at another promotion of a generational stereotype to justify social inadequacies for an entire society.

This article doesn’t consider the volatile economic climate or the impact of years of war on millennials but rather quietly implies millennials are narcissistic and “preoccupied with money and fame.”

The article never considers the fact millennials have watched their parents return to work after retirement, live well below the standard of living they saved and invested for during retirement, or that many are unable retire as promised.

With this in mind, it can be understood why new college graduates are struggling for job placement with pay scales that do not provide an ability to repay their educational investments and why they are concerned with finding employment that offers security.

It also should be noted that traditional ways of measuring volunteerism and community concern is based on formulas of past generations, suggesting millennial efforts and concerns to improve their communities may be over looked by an outdated model.

One study found millennials are a “generation that experienced first-hand the toll of Boomer parents consumed by careers.

Millennials first support causes they are passionate about (rather than institutions).” And this is unsurprising given the political climate millennials have experienced.

Here is some other research results about that debunk millennial stereotypes:

Stereotype: Millennials only care about themselves.

Truth: Millennials want their time to have meaning and make a positive impact on society.

While most Millennials (74%) believe business is having a positive impact on society by generating jobs (48%) and increasing prosperity (71%), they think business can do much more to address society’s challenges in the areas of most concern: resource scarcity (68%), climate change (65%) and income equality (64%). Additionally, 50% of Millennials surveyed want to work for a business with ethical practices.

Stereotype: Millennials don’t volunteer or donate to charitable causes.

Truth: Millennials value education and dedicate their knowledge and time to their communities.

75 percent of young people donated to causes last year [ 2010] and 63 percent said they gave their time to volunteer. The survey polled 6,522 people between the ages of 20 and 35. Ninety-three percent had a bachelor’s degree and the majority did not have kids.

Stereotype: Millennials only care about money and are not as family oriented.

Truth: Mellennials understand the importance of stability and value family life.

Millennials don’t rank salary as the highest factor when looking for a job—they’re actually willing to forgo a better salary for more security and better benefits.

Even though a career is defining for millennials, they value work-life balance. They want a rewarding career, but they also want a family. (The top-ranked milestones in our research were getting married, having a career and having children.) Keep in mind, this is a generation that experienced first-hand the toll of Boomer parents consumed by careers. They’re not eager to repeat this pattern. Millennials are looking for an employer that values balance.

Despite the disappointing millennial stereotype projected by the HuffPost article, the fact remains that successful societies include members who donate their time to community improvement. So please consider volunteering in your community for issues that matter to you personally.

Checkout for some opportunities in your area.

How-to enjoy Chritsmas and holiday gatherings with 3 tips

Beer Bread mix and dog treats gift set for the lovely neighbors
Homemade beer bread mix and dog treats gift set for the lovely neighbors

Counting down to my baccalaureate freedom, I am overwhelmed with the most important assignment of my educational career while I am distracted with dreams of Christmas morning mimosas, green bean casserole, and lots of buttery rolls.

My assignment is supposed to be a cumulative representation of what I’ve learned during my undergraduate work but focused on one distinct area of study and fulfill a minimum of 20 pages, all wrapped in a pretty red bow on December 29th.

Yes, you read that correctly. The Sunday sandwiched between Christmas and New Years’ I will be scrambling to put the finishing touches on what will determine if I get that $30,000 student loan piece of framed paper.

I don’t have a lot of holiday traditions established yet, but I enjoy baking and presenting my fine work to friends in hopes of earning another holiday stripe on my apron. I refuse to let my final degree requirement (and the emotionally unstable state it causes) rob me of this pleasure.

Intern Sherry's Christmas decor-2013
Intern Sherry’s Christmas decor-2013

As a bit of time insurance, I spent last Sunday snapping, boiling, blanching, and freezing 6lbs of green beans for the Worlds Best Green Bean Casserole from scratch thanks to A Veggie Venture blogger recipe from Alanna Kellogg of St. Louis.

I also pre-made the garlic dough for two dozen yeast rolls during which time I made my kitchen look more like a messy kindergarten art project.

On both camps, I still have tons to accomplish before the big day, but I hope my little preparations provide me some sane comfort as the day looms closer.

Holidays can be stressful and, at times, un-fulfilling. Here are 3 holiday tips to ensure you enjoy every minute and walk away with some holiday glow!

EAT. Eat and enjoy it. Don’t guilt yourself over that buttery roll (or 6 rolls, no judging) calling your name each time you return to the kitchen for another beverage (mimosas are my Christmas drink of choice!) Resolutions come after the holidays for a reason, let future you deal with that.

DON’T SHARE. Well, you can share your rolls but don’t over  indulge in self-pity. Holidays are stressful for everyone, even the overly excited amateur baker in the apron. Holiday parties are not the time to get some “support” for whatever drama is going on with you.

BE GRACIOUS. I know, you thought all that “thankful” stuff ended the moment you shuffled through the crowds on Black Friday. But now is the time to tell that friend you don’t see as often as you like that you appreciated the invite to the party, tell mom the care packages she keeps mailing you brightens your day, and tell your neighbor that watched your dog while you were away that it was such a blessing. Just because you appreciate these wonderful people doesn’t mean they know. Tell everyone how much they mean to you!

Beautiful December view at local restaurant, Di Trapani's Italian Bistro in Dixon, MO
Beautiful December view at local restaurant, Di Trapani’s Italian Bistro in Dixon, MO
Image Source: Di Trapani’s Facebook 


Mistletoe? Might as well hang poop from your doorway


If a million dollars were riding on what connected kissing and excrement, would you know the answer and live out the rest of your life in poop trivia happiness? Before today, mistletoe was nothing more than a weird neighbor’s way of getting an awkward kiss from every girl at the holiday party. Now, you can make your unwelcomed smoocher as uncomfortable as his sloppy kiss by sharing this bit of trivia.

(Photo credit: Lamerie)

According to numerous sources, the word mistletoe derives from misteltān where the Angle-Saxon tān means twig. Mistel is believed by many online sources to mean dung, or excrement. In this translation, mistletoe would come to mean “poop on a twig,” and you wouldn’t be completely wrong.

More analytical sources find mistel is named for the bird, Mistle Thrush, who spread the seeds of various mistletoe plants by eating the berries and excreting the seeds onto tree branches causing the mysterious appearance of the plant.

The exact meaning and origin varies but surely sharing this information with Mom will stop the traditional berating to share a smooch under the poop twiq this Christmas.

Due to the seemingly mysterious appearance of the plant alongside your family’s favorite tire swing tree, many myths surround the parasitic plant. Viking legend holds it has the power to resurrect while British Druids believed it had healing powers such as fertility and protection from sorcery.

Mistletoe Kiss
Mistletoe Kiss (Photo credit: davis.jacque)

Like many traditions now common in Christmas celebrations, mistletoe was once part of pagan rituals. Berry plentiful plants would be harvested and enjoyed for their bright colors during the cold winter months. Some legends say a kiss would be shared for each berry on the spruce.

So, when you head to Grandma’s house this holiday season and inevitable find yourself under her strategically placed mistletoe with the “nice” neighbor she’s been bugging you about, just share your “poop twig” knowledge. It’s sure to set the appropriate mood this holiday season.

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.

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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