Monday, April 21, 2014

Chicago #2 for US Destinations

 Just last week, TripAdvisor users ranked Chicago as #2 for top U.S. destinations! The ranking places Chicago just before San Francisco, CA, and behind New York, NY. For our readers who are not familiar with the Windy City, there are endless opportunities to get the full Chicago immersion experience, but I'll fill you in on some of my favorite places in this beautiful city.
     Chicago is the third most populated city in the U.S.  It is renowned for its culture in the performing arts, its cultivation of classical music, and its popular culinary dishes such as the Chicago-style hot dog and deep-dish pizza.  Chicago attracts more than 40 million visitors annually. With endless sites to see and activities to do, this beautiful city is a tourist hub. The perfect time of the year to visit Chicago is the summertime when the weather is warm and sunny, which we will hopefully be seeing soon! Whether travelling alone, with the family, a group of friends, or significant other, visitors are guaranteed to have a memorable vacation. There are a number of hotels in the city, but the prime location to stay for a three- or four-day planned weekend trip would be somewhere along the Magnificent Mile. It is adjacent to downtown and is located one block east of Rush Street, which is infamous for its nightlife scene. When visiting Chicago, shopping along the mile-long strip of various mid-range and high-end retail shops, restaurants, and museums is a must-do. One can view some of the tallest buildings in the U.S. with gorgeous architecture, when walking from store to store, such as the John Hancock Center and the Trump International Hotel and Tower.
     After a long day of shopping, the next destination to go to is Navy Pier. The 3,300-foot long pier along the shoreline of Lake Michigan offers numerous activities such as riding the 150-foot Ferris wheel, playing 18 holes of mini-golf, seeing a Shakespeare play, and sharing a bag of cinnamon almonds with friends while viewing a fireworks show. Visiting Navy Pier would be the best way to end a night out in Chicago.
     The next day calls for a trip to the beloved Shedd Aquarium which is also located along the Lake Michigan shoreline. The Shedd is the largest indoor aquarium in the world and is home to more than 8,000 aquatic animals and 1,500 different species consisting of fish, marine mammals, birds, snakes, amphibians, and insects from across the globe. The aquarium offers several different exhibits and presentations to its visitors.  Some of the permanent exhibits include the Waters of the World, which features exhibits on oceans, rivers, islands and lakes, and the species they are home to, as well as the Caribbean Reef exhibit which features a diver that interacts with the animals in a circular tank while talking to the aquarium’s visitors. One of the current special exhibits is the Jellies exhibit. The Jellies is extremely popular because it features the many different species of jelly fish from around the world.
     After visiting the Shedd, a stroll through Millennium Park would be another fun activity to enjoy the summer sun. Millennium Park is a public park that is located in the heart of the city. It features a variety of gardens and public art which includes the infamous “Bean”, also known as Cloud Gate. The Bean is a three-story reflective, steel sculpture in the shape of a legume that was created by world-renowned artist, Anish Kapoor, and was inspired by liquid mercury. Its mirror-like surface reflects and distorts the vast skyline of Chicago as well as the numerous visitors it attracts. Taking a “selfie” of yourself with the Bean is definitely required to commemorate your trip.
     After a long day at the Shedd Aquarium and Millennium Park, a visit to the Willis Tower Skydeck is a must. Willis Tower, formerly known as the Sears Tower and one of the tallest buildings in the world, is a 108-story, 1451-foot skyscraper. On the 103rd floor of the building is the Skydeck, an observation deck which features The Ledge, a glass balcony that extends four feet outside the floor that towers over the scenic city. It is most beautiful at night, when looking out at all of the luminescent buildings that stretch for miles and miles. It would be the perfect end to a vacation in Chicago to reminisce over the lasting memories made. Those are just some of the many attractions that Chicago has to offer, so multiple trips back would be the best way to carry on the fun that the cultural traditions of the city provides its visitors.

Madeline Mehall
Loyola University Chicago

Dominican Republic Education System

     The current status of the education system in the Dominican Republic is in critical condition. It has been ranked by UNESCO and the World Forum as being the worst in the Central American and Caribbean region. The biggest issue and reasoning behind the extremely poor ranking is the lack of funding. Spending on education is 1.9 percent of GDP, which according to Law 66-97 is really
supposed to be allocated to four percent. That definitely shows that education is not the government's top priority, despite all the protests and demands from the public.
     To make matters worse, children of Haitian descent that were born in the Dominican Republic are not allowed to attend school. Numerous amounts of families with school-age children are being turned down following a court rule that is stripping people of their citizenship. Due to the court rule, children are dropping out of school, losing their scholarships, or being forced into child labor. This is a clear violation of human rights and is affecting thousands of people. Human rights groups say that "roughly 200,000 people could be affected, while the government put the number at 13,000 people", according to a compiled report made by researchers at the Human Rights Institute at Georgetown University. The Dominican government is leaving people behind and should not deny children the right to an education, especially if they are natural-born citizens with a Haitian ancestry. They are being denied the basic documents of identification or are having their documents taken by the government despite being born there.
     According to the constitution of the Dominican Republic, everyone has the right to an education, including those without the proper documentation. The reason it became an issue, is that proof of citizenship is required before taking national exams. Some generous teachers and administrators may overlook the lack of proper documents to help advocate for their students. There is an "estimated 48,000 children who lack identification documents" that are enrolled in primary school, taken by the Ministry of Education. Representatives from the government of Haiti and the Dominican Republic are meeting to discuss the issue, and will hopefully find a solution as soon as possible because no child should be denied the right to an education anywhere.

Madeline Mehall
Loyola University Chicago

Monday, April 7, 2014

Entre les Murs (The Class)

     There are many similarities and differences between the U.S. and French education systems.  After viewing the film, The Class, which is also known by its original French title as, Entre les murs, which literally translates to "Between the walls", I was reminded about the constant struggle of learning in the classroom during those terrible middle-school days.  The film is about the experiences of a French middle-school teacher, illuminating his efforts with a select few "problem children" who cause trouble in his classroom.
     A majority of the students in the Femi Memorial Outreach after-school program are of middle-school age, and so the first similarity I noted was that the classroom in France is the same as it is in the U.S.  Both countries have a teacher instructing a class size of about twenty-five students with a primary focus on mathematics, science, writing, and grammar.  If you walked into a French classroom, you wouldn't be able to tell the difference other than the language barrier.  The students are generally the same as well, with well-behaved and not-so-well-behaved students.  It happens everywhere.  Other than that, school life is very different in France than it is in America.  The school day is much longer in France than it is in the U.S.  School usually begins at 8am and ends at 6pm, while in the U.S. it begins around the same time but ends earlier.  The French have longer lunch periods, which are around two hours, because they have a longer school day.  They also start school at the age of two, while in the U.S. it is typically around the age of five or six.  The structure in France is a bit confusing, with the numbers of the grades starting at the top and going down, so it begins with Ecole maternelle: 3-6 years old; then Ecole primaire: 6-11 years old; College: 11-15 years old; Lycee: 15-18 years old; and lastly, Universite.  To move onto university, the French have to pass the Baccalaureat exam, which is equivalent to the SAT or ACT in the U.S.  The French education system is national, and it may seem superior to the American system, but they don't have as much funding, so they don't offer as many extracurricular activities as the U.S. does.
     It is easy to see that many differences exist between the two countries, and with time, it will become clearer which education system is more successful.  I recommend watching the film, The Class, because it portrays the typical French middle school classroom so it will give you a better idea of what it is like in France.  It might also remind you of your awkward days in middle school, as it did for me!

Madeline Mehall
Loyola University Chicago

Saturday, December 28, 2013

The Spirit of Christmas

Christmas is right around the corner! How do you intend to celebrate the Christmas season? This is my favorite time of the year. As Frank Sinatra sings Christmas Carols, "It's the most wonderful time of the year" the truth rings in my ears. The smells of the Christmas trees and the lightings of candles are so magical…

One of my favorite things to do when I was in Chicago was to walk down to the Christmas lights at the Lincoln Park Zoo. It is giant production of putting all these lights in a beautiful kaleidoscope of colors and the zoo synchronizes all of the lights to Christmas tunes. The best thing about it when I was on a college budget was, it is FREE! There is a lot of people who need a push to enjoy the Christmas season. 

http://www.chicagonow.com/show-me-chicago/2013/11/chicago-holiday-events-2013-the-top-ten-things-to-do-in-chicago-this-holiday-season/
This is a special Link for all the events in Chicago for the season. I also think it is important to remember everything you are thankful for, spread the good news by smiles, opening doors for people, asking an old friend or a new friend for coffee or hot chocolate, and spending time with the family and being encouraging. Also it's nice to get outside and do some exercise and refresh for the upcoming new year, read a good book and dink egg nog. This week’s reflection on the readings is important because it helps put the Christmas spirit in perspective. Paul greets the Romans as "slave of Christ," which I think is because Christ saved him, he decided to give everything over to Christ. The term itself has a lot of negative connotation. It sounds different when it is replaced with servant and Jesus teaches us that a servant is greater than the master and it is better to serve than to be served. These are what the saints, apostles and true followers of Christ do and this is how they live their lives. Let your light shine this Christmas season. The gospel is about Joseph who found out Mary was pregnant and decided to divorce her. However, an angel came in a dream and told him not to be afraid but to take her into his home and that this is the savior of the world who was conceived by the Holy Spirit. 
Isaiah's words many years prior are fulfilled that Emmanuel, "God with us," has come. The patience has paid off, 
and Joseph was obedient. This is a reminder to stay faithful.

From Sam Bostrom,
DePaul University


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

2nd Annual Silent Auction





     On November 22nd we had our 2nd Fundraiser here at Femi Memorial Outreach, and it was so much more than we could ever ask for. Our silent auction had 48 items donated by local and national companies and totaled a value of nearly $15,000!! The generosity of our donors was so much more than we even imagined and for that, we are so thankful. The event was held at Michelle's Ballroom from 7-10 p.m., where we provided food, drinks, and entertainment by University of Chicago's Dirt Red Brass Band. Our guests enjoyed time to wonder the Silent Auction while mingling with community supporters from Dominican University, local churches, Femi Outreach program students and tutors, previous Femi Outreach employers, community leaders, and the Femi Outreach Staff. During this time, we were able to familiarize the event attendee's with our organization and create relationships with many new friends of Femi. After some time to mingle, dinner was served, catered by Lee and Eddies Catering, and the program began. Our program leaders were Zelda Robinson and Keith McDonald, who are both active in the Chicago's public learning programs and Chicago Public Television.


     Zelda kicked off our program and then handed the microphone to Renee Sassana, former administrative assistant for Femi Outreach. She was able to share her remarkable experiences with Femi Outreach ranging from tutoring successes, to grant successes, to challenges overcame, and challenges we are presented with currently. Her speech was inspiring and informative to our attendee's and created conversation about the organization and its future. After hearing from Renee, our president Bob Pedro took the stage and shared his experience with Femi Outreach over the past 9 years. He brought attention to Ange Reda, our partner from Dominican University who came to support the organization. He thanked her for giving Femi Outreach the opportunity to be the first organization at Dominican University to provide off-campus federal work study opportunities so that we could reach out to schools on the West Side of Chicago. Bob then expressed his gratitude for Femi Outreach's greatest supporters and his friends who have given guidance and  love to the organization. Then, we were able to hear about the organization from students who received tutoring from the program. They shared their unique experience and how Femi Outreach helped them to succeed. Our program then concluded and the Dirt Red Brass Band played for the remainder of time left in the Silent Auction. It was a night that will never be forgotten here at Femi Outreach. We were able to connect with our community and bring everyone together, which we cannot often do.

     Our hopes for the future are continuously growing. Femi Outreach wants to continue providing outstanding tutoring services to students in need in all of the Chicagoland area. This new year brings us opportunities to improve the program and grow in the community. We will continue to work hard and push for growth for the benefit of the children in our programs. Thank you for your support along the way, for we could not do this without you. Be sure to check out our website and Facebook page for updates on Femi Outreach.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Dreams Do Come True

Well, you see…It seems like they’ve done it again! The role models just seem to never fail us and keep on surprising us each and every time. Now I know you’ve heard about the new Miss America, right? Wait…is that a yes or no? Because if you haven’t, what rock do you live under? Anyway, judging that we all have seen or heard about the Miss America pageant the other day, we must discuss, right? First, let’s just start off by giving a round of applause to the new Miss America, Nina Davuluri! *And the crowd goes wild*

Wow! Nina Davuluri is our new Miss America. Femi Memorial Outreach Fund couldn’t be any more proud to learn this. Even though she is going to be working even harder, carrying out the daily duties and the honorable title of Miss America, we think she will do great. Now, based on previous pageant history, Nina Davuluri is the first, I mean The First Miss America of Indian descent. This is great and such a huge deal! This comes to show that America equals diversity. While the other contestants and runner-ups were amazingly stunning and did great (and I’m sure they are great role models), this just shows a lot of young girls, who don’t really have role models in their lives, that anything is possible. With positivity, support and hard work, you can get there. Nina Davuluri couldn’t have done it without her hard work, her positive energy and the support of her family, obviously.

  The young girls that take part in Femi Memorial Outreach Fund’s tutoring program can be the next Miss America. This is why we are out here doing what we love to do. Reaching out to children who come from multicultural and underserved communities warms our heart so much. We do this because we see potential in them. We don’t want them to think that their financial background or where they come from should define them and their futures. People like us give them hope, education is essential in this world and Femi Memorial Outreach Fund does its very best to make sure that these children are getting that and more. In reality, we are tutoring our future doctors, lawyers, business professionals, famous sports players and even Miss America!

 So, Nina Davuluri, Femi Memorial Outreach Fund wants to wish you the very best and don’t let us down. We know that you will create great paths as Miss America and you, my friend, have shown little girls that dreams do come true. Your beauty, talents and humility are key to being Miss America. Thank you for never forgetting where you come from! Oh and New York congrats, next time we'll see if the Windy City can have a Miss America.
         
   So World, what do you think? Please leave positive comments below and tell us what you think Nina Davuluri should accomplish during her term as Miss America.



Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Femi's Birthday Bash :)

As some of you may or may not know, Friday, August 9th, 2013 was a very special day for Femi Memorial Outreach Fund. That was the Friday we came together to celebrate the short-lived life of Olufemi (Femi) Pedro. If you don't know who he is by now, Olufemi (Femi) Robert Martin Pedro is the reason why we have FEMI MEMORIAL OUTREACH FUND today! He died at the young age of 19 due to a rare cancer, and even though his life was cut short, his legacy continues to live on through our program. His birthday was a very special day, not only to his family and friends, but to the organization and the children who are impacted by Femi Memorial Outreach Fund. It was truly a day of celebration and success, rather than mourning. We honored his life. We shared laughs, stories and food, of course. It also turned out to be a really good turn out!

The day started very special, it started off with going to Mass and staying about thirty minutes after Mass to pray the Rosary. It was so heart-warming to see the amount of children who were served by Femi Memorial Outreach Fund come out to support. They remembered that August 9th was a very special day. The success that they have gained thus far was due to the organization and their hard work, and yet they haven't forgotten about that. They remained humble and that was a great feeling. It was like receiving a thank-you for everything that Femi Memorial Outreach Fund has done for them and let me tell you, words can't describe how greatful they are. 

Anywho, after Mass, we gathered more people and waited for more people, because there are some who like to show up fashionably late lol. Don't worry, we are all guilty of this! Many family, close friends and workers of Femi have showed up and we all ate at Red Lobster. Now, this was my first time at Red Lobster and I don't like seafood, but thank goodness they had Cajun Chicken Pasta.....Yuuuuuuuummmmmmmmy! Service was great, workers were nice and company topped it off! I mean we spent hours at that table sharing laughs and listening to great historical stories from a man who witnessed history himself. This man was amazing, he's an eighty-five year old, retired doctor. He had many stories to tell, he was like an open history book. Now, why didn't I have him as my History teacher? I would've loved the class back in High School! Oh well, those couple of hours learning more and revisiting history with someone who was actually there during the time, was priceless. It was such a great time listening to him.

Sadly after that, the day had to come to a close and we all had to go home...Boooo! No one likes to leave a good party, right? But we had a BLAST, that's right, you heard me... B-L-A-S-T, BLAST! Now this is how you celebrate a birthday and honor someone's legacy. It was a great start to a boring weekend! With that being said, YOU MISSED OUT!

But don't worry, you will and always will be invited to future birthday bashes for Femi!

We know that Femi would have wanted us to be happy on this day and cherish every moment in life. I know that he was looking down on his family, so proud, of their hard work and strength. I know that Femi looked down at the great successes of the organization and would want forFemi Memorial Outreach Fund to continue on in future years to come, even stronger.


God Bless!