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Journal #10- Kaci Sutton

I want to spend my last journal really reflecting on my CSL experience. I intend to volunteer next semester, Monday- Thursday. I mentioned some things in journal #9 that I have noticed through my CSL time, but I would like to go even more into depth. I developed deeper relationships with so many of the children during my CSL time. I know all their names now. Like Dr. Erchull said, the children do get attached and they expect you to be there. I never experienced that until this past Monday. I couldn’t go to Homework Club because I had my mentor meeting, but I did go to boys group. One of the girls yelled at me as she was leaving Homework Club. She said, “You weren’t here. And I was waiting for you. And you didn’t come.” When I went inside and told the supervisor I was sorry I didn’t make it, she said it was okay and told me she had a hard time with the same girl who yelled at me because she refused to do her homework because she was waiting for me. It was the first time in my life I had ever really considered how planning my day and not letting others know affected others. I’m not use to that.

I think this experience helped me because it’s helping me mature more as an adult. Now I try to make a conscious effort to think about other people in my life too and how my absence may upset them. I didn’t realize that even though I was helping others, that the people I wasn’t helping were affected too.

I also have a greater appreciation for the children, as well as my own life. I believe I have mentioned this already, but I really do value my life more now and notice that my circumstances are not the same as other people. I love that Heritage Park is a community. It’s extremely interdependent and I love being part of a community. I am, by no means, in the group, but I do think I would like to do more communal things because of my CSL experience. As I said, I am going back. Overall, I had an amazing, sometimes challenging, experience with Heritage Park this semester. 

Journal #9- Kaci Sutton

Yesterday, my friend volunteered with me at Heritage Park. It was a nice opportunity for me to hear her impression of how she thought volunteering went. She was very upset with the things the children were saying. One of the things she was particularly upset about was the middle schoolers talking about twerking. Twerking is essentially shaking your butt a lot. I find it disgusting, but that is just my personal opinion. My friend, let’s call her Sarah, found that the twerking is unacceptable. She said, “Kaci, they twerk in the hallway.” I wasn’t seeing the problem. I wasn’t shocked. Then it dawned on me her experience was the same experience I had the first couple visits. So many things the children were saying really shocked me. I didn’t realize I became so desensitized being around the kids. I spend a lot of time with them now. I stopped judging what they were saying. I learned to just look at them as people, more specifically children. It’s normal. It may not be “appropriate,” but the reality is that is how every generation is. The people who are much older look down upon the generation and get really upset. I see why. I just think it’s more realistic to approach volunteering as realist now, instead of idealist. When I first started volunteering, I had all these ideas of how things should be and I found myself getting so frustrated and upset that my expectations did not match reality. I started looking as each child, regardless of their race, as children. I applied this approach to my personal and professional life, too. Instead, of looking at people as I thought they should be acting I just see them as they are. I did not think I would take this away from volunteering this semester, but the more time I spend with them the most realistic I become about human interaction. I tried to explain all of this to my friend on the way back from Heritage Park, but she was still very livid. That is when it dawned on me that this was part of the CSL experience. It is an experience. Something that you experience over a period of time. It takes weeks to really reflect and process everything that you witness. You have to take yourself out of your own life and learn how to try to relate to other people who live a totally different life than you. At the same time, they are still human so making connections is still possible. I think now it is just how you approach any situation that makes a serious difference. When I stopped going there to get things to write about and actually get to know the kids, I grew a lot more, more than I thought possible.

Kaci Sutton- Journal #8

Today, there were many children there. Almost all the boys from boys group, except two, came to Homework club today. I paid close attention to how the middle school boys and girls acted because I was just in separate groups with both of them this week. Although they don’t know what each group talks about, I do. I noticed one of the girls, let’s call her Molly, kept flirting with one of the boys. Boys typically don’t know when a girl is mean to them or hitting them that they like them. The boy was getting really irritated with her. The girl even stole the boy’s shoes. I found that a bit extreme since she ran outside with them. She gave them back. I went outside, too, to see what the girl was going to do with the shoes and how the boy was going to react. Molly gave the shoes back and the two boys outside, the one who got his shoes taken and another boy, were really annoyed. They called Molly a man. I told them that was not nice to say. They said she was manly. “She’s a gorilla,” one of the boys said. I could not believe my ears. I asked them what made her a gorilla. They said she’s tough. I asked them what was wrong with that. They said, “She’s a girl. She’s supposed to be gentle.” I felt bad for Molly. She didn’t know she intimidated them and the boys viewed her as how society portrays women, these humans that have to be submissive, gentle, and a caretaker or they are rejected. Molly does not realize how she comes off to them. In fact, her height intimidated the boys. They didn’t say so, but I thought back to boys group and how they told me if a girl is taller it freaks them out. They were rude to her a lot and she was rude right back. It reminded me of growing up. I got along with boys just fine, but when I like someone I am meaner to them, too. Perhaps it is a defense mechanism. I’m not sure, but I am also independent like Molly so maybe I just don’t want to appear soft either. It was extremely interesting how the guys and girls interacted today.

Kaci Sutton- Journal #7

Yesterday, I attended girls group. The dynamic was different than boys group. In boys group, there was a clear “alpha male.” The alpha male was the 40-year-old male who ran the group. He cut people off often, dominated the conversation, and told the boys what to do and what he experienced growing up, as if his experience was the universal way of living. There was no room for freedom of expression in the group. I noticed this even more so comparing boys group to girls group. In girls group, the leader, Miss X, also runs homework club. She told the girls last week, during girls group, it is better to be an open person so people feel they can come to you with anything. She really showed how deeply she felt about this by how she presented herself in girls group. She sat there and let the girls express themselves freely. In fact, one of the girls was passionately expressing her anger at one of the student teachers. One of the girls kept correcting her story since she was there too. Miss X told the girl to stop cutting her off and let her finish. That really empowered the girl speaking because she felt like her voice mattered. I later found out that the leader, Miss X, was a victim of domestic violence so she really pushes the girls to defend themselves and let them know what they say matters. That made me feel extremely happy because I want all girls in the world to feel that their voice does matter. Women have been oppressed for far too long and still continue to be oppressed so empowering these young middle school girls at a young age will help them stand up for themselves in the future. After she vented, I asked her how it made her feel. I knew it made her feel angry by her body language and her voice would rise when she felt frustrated, but I asked anyway to hear what she felt. I did not want to assume. She said, “It made me mad. That lady was so rude. The student teacher didn’t get in trouble, but I did. That’s wrong.” So I said, “So you don’t find that fair?” And she said, “Yeah, it wasn’t fair.” I could relate to her because I value fairness. The leader said, “Life’s not fair.” I hear that often, but in the moment during the situation, that does not change how it makes you feel. She felt like her teacher was not listening to her. As a fellow female, I would hope they would react differently; however, at the same time I only heard one side of the story and do not know if it was even true. I did enjoy that the girls, unlike the boys, were able to really express themselves, free of judgment.

Kaci Sutton- Journal #6

During one of my visits, I noticed something extremely interesting. As we have already discussed in class discussions, we have approached our CSL experiences through a gendered lens. Not every visit has to be about gender, but that is typically what each of us notices first. Over a few visits, I began to analyze how girls and boys interact when they have siblings or cousins there. I noticed that at Homework Club the only race that felt they had to take care of their family in a public social environment were the Hispanic children. Not just all Hispanic children, but only the girls. If Hispanic girls had a sister or cousin/cousins there the oldest girl took it upon herself to either do the younger family member’s work or yell at them or be on their case about getting their work done. The boys with siblings really did not care about helping. It reminded me of an extremely strict parent and reminded me of how Crawford discusses that each gender can play different roles. In these particular situations, the oldest Hispanic girl fit her role as a woman, for being a “caretaker.” I was sitting there. I could have helped the children. The oldest girls do not have to take it upon themselves to act in the role they did. I have been to Honduras and Guatemala. The girls all happened to be from Honduras. In their culture, I noticed the oldest sister of the family helps carry the weight with the mother. They literally take care of their younger siblings and they start learning this at a very young age. In Honduras, the girls were around eight or nine when they started pulling their weight. This is very different from American culture. It is socially acceptable here, in America, that parents take care of the household and children are just children; however, in households of lower socioeconomic status sometimes children do not get that choice. I found it interesting that only this race and girls did this at Heritage Park.

Kaci Sutton- Journal # 5

Yesterday I attended “boys group.” Naturally, I focused my attention on gender. Today I am going to girls group so I will reflect on how the two are similar and different in terms of how each gender interacts with one another later afterwards. For now, I want to blog about how I saw gender functioning in an all-boys environment. I’m used to being around all boys. I’ve always gravitated to all boy group settings since elementary school, especially at lunch. I spent the most time through my youth with boys in middle school because I was a tomboy, played basketball, and did not care about makeup and liking boys. I just was not interested. In boys group, before I went, I thought I would feel uncomfortable because it is an all-boys inclusive group and what if I made them feel uncomfortable since I never attended it before and I am a girl. I didn’t feel uncomfortable at all. I did make a few of the boys feel uncomfortable, only because they found me intimidating. Three of the boys told me I was so tall and I was pretty so they did not know how to interact with me. Since I was there, the leader of the group (a 40-year-old man) took the opportunity to use my presence to his advantage. He had all six of the boys introduce themselves to me. He asked each of them, “How would you introduce yourself to a female?” He told them he was trying to teach them manners and how to be polite. He also told his son in particular, who had to introduce himself to me first, that, “I want you to be more open and get out of your shell. You’re so shy. I want you to learn how to approach females.” He didn’t know what to say. He just kept saying, “I don’t know.” This boy really was not interested in greeting me or how to greet me or engaging in the entire discussion. It was interesting to observe because it made me and the lady who runs Homework Club feel the disconnect between the son and the father. I later found out the son loves art, style, and his grades. He is thirteen. There is nothing wrong with him not being interested in girls yet. I felt bad for the son because his dad didn’t seem to get it. His father is assuming he is heterosexual. Maybe he is and maybe he isn’t. The entire conversation was centered around women and how they don’t understand women. Listening to the conversation was extremely stereotypical. It was making me mad because I am a girl and I do not do half the things they were talking about. I was happy because I was able to show them not all girls are the same. Not all girls care about how much money you have or what you wear or what car you or your parents drive. He even said, “You have to watch out for the ugly duckling. Don’t overlook them.” The ugly duckling? In my mind, I was like, “Are you serious right now?” He told the boys those are the ones who will have your back and come back after college “bangin.’” What a great example he was setting… I was not entirely happy after I left. I am glad I could be there and hear everything because it reminded me of our class and how women really are objectified.

Kaci Sutton: Journal #4

During my last visit, the girls had “girls group.” The supervisor has been sick so Heritage Park has been cancelled for two weeks. When I went in, I expected the girls to be sitting in a circle. They weren’t in a circle. They were sitting around the supervisor’s desk. One girl was sitting at the computer, the girl in the blue hoody. She was showing me people on her Facebook. It still shocks me eleven year olds have a Facebook. My parents wouldn’t let me have one until I was about seventeen. Perhaps these children’s parents are not home to monitor them and also they are not getting on Facebook at home. Many of them do not have a computer at home. They cannot afford one. So the girl and I at the computer (lets call her Emily), started talking about her best friend, who I actually knew because she used to go to Heritage Park. She moved away, but she visits a lot, according to Emily. We began having an interesting conversation about relationships. Her best friend, Jill, has a boyfriend. She said “her mom be letting him come over and stuff.” I said, “What?” She replied, “Yeah…” She was also as surprised as me so I couldn’t assume it was because of her economic status, that maybe the mom wasn’t present. It sounds like poor parenting. Emily then went on to show me this picture collage her generation uses on the internet. She made a collage of Jill and her boyfriend then typed the words “Eww” on it. That made me laugh. She is a typical young girl making fun of her best friend’s relationship. I also wondered if she envied her best friend having a boyfriend. Maybe she wanted one too and that was her way of identifying with that. It was really interesting to see how she was acting about her best friend because she is the one I said has an extremely cold exterior in one of my other journal entries. She rolls her eyes all the time and just wants to be the “boss.” I left the girl at the computer to interact with the girls around the table. It took me about thirty minutes to realize we were not having an official girl’s group. They decided to just hang out because they missed their supervisor, which I found to be sweet and gave me the impression they had a close connection with their supervisor. Girl’s group is confidential so I cannot say what they talked about, but I can say that I noticed they were extremely comfortable with one another. They really seemed to care about one another and accept each other for who they are. I’m not sure why Emily didn’t come to spend time with the other girls. I have to see how they interact during girl’s group week this week to reflect on that more.

Kaci Sutton: Journal #3

During one of my visits at Heritage Park, I paid close attention to how race functioned within their social setting. On this particular day, there were only all black girls from middle school. One of the girls always wears her hair in a bun with a head band and wears the same blue hoody every time I see her. Another girl has braids and dresses like a tomboy. Another wears her hair in a high bun too and dresses more feminine and wears flats every time I see her. The last girl wears name brand clothes with her hair always down and flat ironed. While socioeconomic status is an obvious factor in my observation I still paid close attention to how they dressed and how they treated one another. The girl who wears name brand clothes, like Jordan’s, also has a phone and whines when she talks. When she feels like someone else is being rude to her she sounds like she is about to cry. She seems extremely spoiled based on how she interacts with others in a social setting. I asked if she was an only child and she said “No.” One girl, in particular, who wears the blue hoody often, is really mean to this girl. I noticed this in a three visit time span that she was the rudest to this one girl. They share the same race and economic status. I began to wonder if she was jealous of this girl, who in her eyes has everything, because she too also feels this girl is incredibly spoiled. She even tells the girl, “You’re so spoiled!” Each time the girl replies she just whines saying something in response. The girl who is a tomboy is the same girl who I talked about in a previous post who is very independent. She is not bothered by the other girls. The other girl who dresses feminine just says, “You guys are dumb” or something along those lines when the other two girls fight, which shows she doesn’t really pay them any mind. Growing up, because I am biracial, I have been exposed to black communities. Outside of the black community I have heard so many people say that black people believe they are their own “group.” This really is not true. Their race does not define their social interaction.

Kaci Sutton Journal 2

Today, I actually worked with all girls, age eleven, four girls. Each were working on the same project. They all had different teachers. All their teachers were female, which is expected. I only had one male teacher in elementary school. Teaching in grade school is predominantly male-dominated.

What I paid close attention to was gender and how gender shaped their social interactions/social environment. The first I noticed is how each of them treated each other. It reminded me of being with my girlfriends. They all joked around with each other and made fun of each other. What really interested is how power also played a role in their female-dominated social interactions. Two girls played the alpha male roles. One even blatantly ignored my advice while I was helping her with her project. At first, I was offended because I am older and I know better. I’m pretty that was my ego toying with me. But I didn’t react negatively to her. I let her do it her way. I really liked how she handled the situation because she didn’t play the stereotypical “submissive” role, as a female. She asserted her independence, as many children do. The other alpha male-like girl dictated what everyone else should be doing. Every time I intervened she gave me a look like, “look I’m here running things.” She came off as extremely cold, but through the course of an hour and a half she let her guard down a bit. The other two girls wanted help and listened to the advice giving to them about how to complete their projects. What I did like is they all needed help and were not afraid to ask for help, some were more comfortable with asking while others responded better when asked if they needed help.

The thing that interested me most about today was the subject of objectification! One of the girls was listening to Miley Cyrus’s “Wretching Ball” song on YouTube. She literally covered it when she saw the video on accident going between tabs working on her project and said, “Oh my gosh! I hate the video. It disturbs me.” I asked why? She said, “She’s naked. It’s gross. So disturbing.” I agreed with her. I really liked that as an 11-year-old she found that inappropriate. She was not saying I want to be like her. She was saying I love her music, but how she presents herself is not okay.

Today was a great CSL day, best by far.

Kaci Sutton Journal 1

Before I went to my Community Service Learning (CSL) site I was extremely nervous. I volunteered there second semester sophomore year. I didn’t go back my junior year because of my busy schedule and I had to make sacrifices so volunteering at my site went out the window. I felt extremely guilty. I never wanted to show my face there. I was afraid if I ever went back the kids would not want to see me. I did go back. The children at Heritage Park welcomed me back with open arms. As I’ve mentioned in class, Heritage Park is similar to Bragg Hill. Heritage Park is an apartment complex for extremely low-income families (below the poverty line). When I walked into what the children refer to as “Homework Club” I noticed a few familiar faces. Only a couple of them remembered me; only when I took my glasses off they knew who I was. They also remembered me because of how my hair was. I typically wear my hair in a high bun so they remembered me as the girl with the bun. It is interesting the children associated my identity with how I dressed and what I wore. A girl asked me why I never wear my hair down. I told her I didn’t like to. She gave me a strange look and said, “All girls like to wear their hair down. You’re weird!” I was criticized for not meeting a stereotypical gender expectation mandated by society. Later, upon reflection I started thinking about how deeply stereotypes function in my daily life. In Chapter 3, Crawford defines as “theories that people carry around in their heads about how members of a particular group think, look, behave, and how these attributes are linked” (Crawford, 75). So in other words stereotypes are perceptions because have in their head about how a person is supposed to look, act, talk, etc. I had failed them, I thought. Many children are too young to understand what stereotypes are so I know it was pure innocence, but that didn’t change how it made me feel. I looked around the room and looked at all of the young girls and noticed how they were dressed. They all have “girly colors” on like pink or purple or other light “feminine colors” then I looked at myself with black gym pants on and a t-shirt. I look nothing like these girls then I realized most days when I am with many of my college girlfriends I don’t dress like them either. I didn’t really notice though until the children at Heritage Park had questioned my appearance. It was my first day back and I already felt out of my comfort zone.