I had a lot of expectations for the service learning project, and all of them were met and then some. I expected to spend the day encouraging the young people to “speak up for change” and use their voices to reflect on the experience. I never expected to have so much fun doing it. I was thoroughly surprised at how smart and talented the children were. They came with positive attitudes and open minds and were ready and excited about speaking up for change in their lives. I gained a lot of respect for New Orleans and its people from lower-income neighborhoods. It showed in their discussions how serious the kids were about getting changes done in their homes and communities. Change takes work, and these kids impressed me with their willingness to do anything to improve their situation. I believe that many of them as a result of the service learning project, will be inspired to work harder and strive to attend college an obtain a better life for themselves. In the future, to continue the work we started, I plan to get involved in similar youth oriented community service at home. I believe young people are the future, and their actions while shape the future of our society therefore, they should be encouraged!

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First and foremost, I am really excited for the upcoming service-learning project, and am ready to have a lasting impact on these kids’ lives. The initial challenge when meeting these kids is to break the ice and show them that we do have something in common. I think it is important to stress that even though I am older than the kids, we are all young people and i can empathize with their situation. Some of the similarities of me and the kids could be our race, age, religion, and goals. Next, after becoming familiar with my charges, I will try to encourage them to use their voices for change. Change is only achieved through hard work, persistence, and determination. If you want something, go and get it, because anything is possible.

This week, our blog assignment is to write about anything we choose. I have chosen to briefly talk about the Los Angeles Lakers, my favorite professional basketball team. Being from Los Angeles, I have been surrounded by the purple and gold since birth. From growing up, hearing about the titles in the 80’s with the Showtime Lakers to watching Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant combine for three titles in this new millennium, the Lakers have consistently been in the elite of the NBA. This year is no different. The Lakers are currently 1st in the Western Conference and are fighting for the best record in the NBA with the Cleveland Cavaliers. I think it will be interesting to see how this season plays out, and am really excited for the playoffs. How’s that for a free blog?!?! Back to business next week, later!

As we prepare to work with the youth from the Volunteers of America, I plan to share messages of hope and hard work in order to impress upon them the importance of their voices. Most of the children we will be meeting will be younger than me, around the middle school age. They look up to college students, and are in need of a role model, or someone who can encourage them to go to college. Through hard work, anything is possible. I will stress to the young children that college is not that far away, all you have to do is work. If they can be instilled with a good work ethic at a young age, I am sure they will be successful. I will share my message through a fun approach that stresses the payoffs of a college education such as financial opportunity and stability. I think that kids who aren’t as privileged will be enticed by the promise of financial freedom, and will be inspired to work hard to change their circumstances.

Going forward, I plan to use my voice to be the change I want to see in the world. My first true chance to do this was this weekend when I visited Washington D.C. to attend Powershift ’09. Powershift was a historical national environmental summit with the purpose of holding our elected officials accountable for combating global warning and moving towards energy independence. One of the panels was centered on the climate changes in the gulf and how we can help prevent it. After the panel, I got in contact with one of the speakers, whose organization is based in New Orleans, and I plan to help get involved and use my voice to inform others about the pressing issues facing the city where I live. My voice is a poignant tool that I plan to use to inspire change where I see fit; like in the city of New Orleans, my new home.

Moving forward through my academic life, at Xavier or not, I plan to use my voice to reach my goals. I have learned that voice can be an important tool. Using your voice effectively provides a great advantage in life. In my opinion, there are many areas that Xavier has room to improve in. A prime example is the many problems occurring in St. Michaels Hall, the freshman male dorm. The Residence Hall Association, was created so students could voice their opinions about the various dorms on campus. I am the 2nd floor representative to the Hall Council for St. Mikes, and due to others conflicting schedules, was able to actually attend a meeting with the presidents of all the dorms and Mrs. Bracey, the head of the housing office. I promptly decided to use my voice and request that someone fix the broken basketball goal. It was fixed the very next day. My advice for incoming freshman would be to become active on campus early, establishing connections and putting yourself in situations with Xavier’s authority figures that implement change. It is a great asset having a voice on the inside if change is your objective.

In the book, “What Would the World be Without Women” Waukesha Jackson shares her story, highlighting the relationships with the women in her family. She discusses the dynamics of her family and also how these relationships make her feel about herself. An important person in her life was her mother. Jackson’s mothers story, and in particular her vivid and complete portrayal, demonstrates the power of her voice. Through her writing, Waukesha Jackson shows us both sides of her mother, one ensnared in the trap of addiction, the other a loving and caring provider, and mentor, like a mother should be. By sharing these stories, Waukesha becomes empowered as a person. By writing and releasing this story, and this book to the public, Jackson shows her roots, and how they have made her stronger rather than succumbing to the pitfalls that have surrounded her in life.

Xavier University of Louisiana’s mission statement is to promote a “more just and humane society” by preparing its students to assume roles of leadership and service through pluralistic teaching and a well rounded learning environment. I have mixed feelings about Xavier’s mission statement. On the one hand, I feel that the statement is very purpose oriented, striving to prepare students for life outside this sheltered pocket of New Orleans. I think that many students at Xavier don’t truly understand the mission statement and/or don’t utilize the resources provided to be successful here. The topics being discussed at the Beyond Jena Forum could in the future assist us in achieving Xavier’s mission. Blogging is now an important means of communication, and should be more interwoven into Xavier’s curriculum. Finally, a question I would like to ask a panelist: Why do you continue to blog, and how has blogging expanded your horizons.

I am planning my final portfolio to be a sort of memento to my first semester at Xavier University of Louisiana. The first item contained will be my personal identity statement, discussing me. Who I am as a person, a freshman, and a member of the Xavier community as a whole. Next, I will incorporate some of the work and assignments I have been working on in my first semester at Xavier. I will use work two work samples. I will use my first blog for this freshman seminar class as well as my first Political Science Essay on corrupt Louisiana Congressman William Jefferson. Finally, I need to include four passages. The two passages that must be from my studies have to come from my Intro to Business and Intro to Political Science classes while for my passages from popular readings I have chose a passage from my favorite book The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein and a section of a speech by Barack Obama, the Democratic presidential candidate. I have chosen these items to contribute to my portfolio because I think by reading them you can begin to shape my intellectual identity and character. When people read my final portfolio I want them to picture a very articulate, politically and socially conscious individual who cares about what is around him, despite his slight distaste for the New Orleans area and even Xavier. Overall, my finished portfolio will be designed to inform, entertain, and wow my audience.

Daniel McGee, Xavierite? That still doesn’t sound right. Since the moment I hopped off the plane in New Orleans in August, ready for my first semester at college, I felt like something was out of place. That feeling still resides in me halfway through the semester. I do not call myself a Xavierite with pride, more Xavierite by location only. This isn’t to say I haven’t had fun in my short time at Xavier. I have met many friends who I hope our friendships last a long time. I think the main problem I have with New Orleans and Xavier is the culture. Being from Los Angeles, I have become accustomed to a certain lifestyle (weather, food, relationships, style, etc), which is a complete 180 degree turn from that in New Orleans. Also, I haven’t come to love New Orleans like Tom Piazza describes in Why New Orleans Matters, I can’t seem to discover the “magic” of the city. Regardless, I am a member of the Xavier community and a resident of New Orleans. I consider myself to currently be in high academic standing, keeping pace to retain my scholarship next year. I have not seen any challenges in my course work as of yet, the only challenge really is not losing my grip on my work. I am hoping that I can soon start an outdoors club of some sort at Xavier, maybe a hiking or camping club. College life at Xavier definitely has not been what I expected, and I am looking forward to finishing my first semester here at Xavier strong with straight A’s!