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.
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!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Wade in the Water Children

Wade in the Water Children

In Northwestern Bangladesh, there is a boat floating down the river alongside rural villages and bathing bodies. On this boat, one of 20, what once was stopped has continued, education. Annual flooding in Bangladesh keeps hundreds of thousands of student out of school, interrupting the education they need for a better life. However, thanks to Shidhulai Swanirvar Sangstha, thousands of children have the chance to continue their education all school year long. This non-profit organization recognizes how important education is and looks at the rivers that run alongside Bangladeshi banks as an opportunity. If children cannot reach the school and then the school will come to the children.

As I start my second week here at Femi Memorial Outreach Fund, I cannot help to find the similarities between these floating schools in Northwestern Bangladesh and our organization. We both strive to help children achieve academic success in environments that aren’t exactly conducive to learning. Whether it is 12 feet of water or the risk of being caught in the crossfire of gang violence, nothing should keep a child from the education that they so desperately want and need.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

"We Kane, We Shaw, We Crawford"

How ‘bout those Chicago Blackhawks last night! *Cheering* Don’t mind the title, I was on twitter the night the Chicago Blackhawks claimed the title, Stanley Cup Champions, and saw someone posted a tweet as in the title. I thought it was the perfect phrase for this blog, if you’re out there reading this and you came up with that phrase, I give you credit. I mean, it is the best phrase I’ve seen yet. “We Kane, We Shaw, We Crawford”, talk about creative. I hope they make t-shirts out of these.

Anyway, let’s start talking about how proud we are of our Chicago Blackhawks. After three long years of hard-work and drive, the Blackhawks takes the Stanley Cup again. That’s right, I said it, again! I mean the Boston Bruins have done a tremendous job last night and let me tell you, they are not sore losers, that’s for sure. Even though they did not take home the cup last night, let us take a moment of silence and honor them because it was a great game and they did not go without a fight. Now, let us take a moment of silence and honor the Chicago Blackhawks. Who am I kidding, cheer on my friends, cheer on! The Blackhawks really did their thing last night. They made us all proud and I am sure they are overly excited right now. I’m most definitely sure that they couldn’t have done it without their drive and ambition, their awesome coach, and let’s not forget the amazing fans. I mean Chicago has the best supporters in North America, do you not agree?

The greatest thing about Chicago is our pride. It’s times like these where we value life. As you can see, last night was a perfect time for everyone to come together and cheer for that one team. Many yells were yelled, many friends were made, but at the end of the day, Chicago came together for one night. We came together and supported our team. You see how support really has an effect on the game. I mean WOW! For a minute last night, I really did think that the Boston Bruins were going to be our Stanley Cup Champions, but my goodness did the Blackhawks work. At the end of the day, one player doesn’t make a team; it takes a team to play the game and a team to win. Chicago made one huge team last night and that included the fans, supporters, the coach and the actual Chicago Blackhawks team.

I remember watching the news last night and seeing a lot of fans who were very young. A lot of young boys were so proud to see their team win the championship. When you see that, you can tell how much support affects the young children. The Blackhawks gave it their all last night and they showed it to many young boys and girls. They made way for the younger generation. They show them that dreams do come true, but it takes time, dedication, effort and support.  I know the Blackhawks love the kids and want to set a great path for them. It really makes me proud to see how there are good people out there looking ahead for the future of the children. It’s not about Kane or Crawford or the Blackhawks team, it’s all about the future. If the Blackhawks keeps this up, the future is looking mighty nice right now.

As we honor the Chicago Blackhawks for a season’s worth of ambition and triumph, let us not forget the future. So celebrate and have fun at the Blackhawks parade on Friday, but remember your jobs, your family and your life because your decisions contribute to your future.

Congrats Chicago Blackhawks! We look forward to more Stanley Cup Championships!