Passing the Social Work Exam: “Don’t Overdo It!”

Passing the social work exam not only gets you a nice new set of letters after your name, it can also open up all sorts of unanticipated avenues in your career. It helps to get licensed. But…easier said than done. First, you’ve got to get past the exam. A good way to figure out how to structure your exam prep time is to talk to people who’ve successfully navigated the exam process, to hear their stories, to get their words of wisdom.

overdoHere’s one such social work exam narrative with a simple take-home message: “Don’t overdo it!”

“I was really freaked out by having to take the social work licensing exam. I wanted that license! What if I didn’t pass? I’d probably have to stay in the same job, at the same salary, with the same responsibilities. After getting all those hours for licensure, I was ready for a change and passing the exam was the way to get it.

So I took it seriously. Probably, in retrospect, too seriously. I studied books and books full of social work facts. I listened to CDs and podcasts as I drove to work. I stole time at work to take every practice question I could get my hands on. I worried a lot.

Wasn’t necessary. I’m pretty sure that some basic review and a practice exam or two would’ve done the trick.  This was driven home when a friend from my MSW program asked me for some advice about how to pass. He was taking the exam in a couple of days and thought he should study a little bit first. Study a little bit first?! Two days before the exam?! Yep. He studied a little bit, taking a couple of practice exams, and sure enough, two days later, he passed

I’d overdone it. I’d overstudied. My friend may have been a little bolder than I could have imagined being, but it worked. Somewhere in between his two casual days of preparation and my months of overstudying would’ve been better.

Of course, everyone has their own studying style, their own way of learning. But please, don’t overdo it. This exam is based primarily on common sense. It’s designed to protect the profession and the public. That means, whatever answer would do the least harm is almost always the right one. Whatever answer closely reflects the Code of Ethics is the right one. Whatever people encounter in real social work situations–at a community mental health office, say–is what vignettes will cover. So, more than likely, when you were getting your hours, you were getting your social work exam preparation done at the same time…just by doing your job.

I hope this helps!”

 

Photo Courtesy of Time Magazine

“Push Girls” returns on the Sundance Channel

by Vilissa K. Thompson, LMSW

Season 2 of “Push Girls” on the Sundance Channel aired last night, and there are many “Push Girls” out there who are enthusiastic about the new season, including yours truly.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the series, “Push Girls” is a reality show that follows the lives of five women who have varying degrees of paralysis that have left them wheelchair-bound.  The series chronicles their struggles with being women with disabilities, and showcases the sisterhood they have developed among each other due to their life experiences.  The Sundance Channel first aired the series last summer, and it became an instant hit for the network.

Personally, I have been waiting for the series to return, especially when the Sundance Channel had announced that the show would be picked up for a second season.  The fact that the Sundance Channel has created a show that displays strong women with disabilities who have not allowed their situation to define who they are is beyond phenomenal.  The show has taken on a life of its own, with the  development of the “Push Girls movement.”  The “Push Girls movement” spotlights women (both differently-able and able-bodied) who have displayed tremendous strength, courage, resilience, and drive to live the lives they were destined for, without allowing obstacles to determine their futures.

I wished that there were more programming available that “humanized” what it is like to be a person with a disability.  ”Push Girls” is a wonderful beginning, and we need to “push” for more positive, empowering images and stories of people with disabilities on television, movies, and online.

(Featured picture:  Courtesy of Push Girls’ Facebook page)

Top Five Tips for New Graduates: Real World Advice

Another graduating class is walking across the stage with their degrees and turning their tassels as new graduates. You are now equipped with the knowledge, skills, and training from your respective majors/specializations.  After celebrating such a humongous life milestone, reality slowly starts to creep in as you recognize that you are one of thousands new graduates.  You have now completed 2-4+ years of higher education to obtain a piece of paper in a field you (will hopefully) enjoy with the seal of your learning institution… now what?  The “now what” part has baffled many who have been in your shoes, including yours truly.

degreeThis is a very important time in your life, especially if you are one of the 50+ million Americans who are under the age of 30.  This is the time where you decide what direction your life goes, how you will begin to develop your career path, when you want to start a family, gain a better grasp of your life’s mission, where you would like to live (within the country and/or abroad), and other major life decisions.

I recently came across Clinical Psychologist Meg Jay’s video on TED.com titled, Why 30 is not the new 20.  Her message was a real eye-opener for myself, and it allowed me to realize that I have been viewing my 20s in the right perspective.  Your 20s are the stepping stone into adulthood, and what you accomplish or do not accomplish during this time can (and from Dr. Jay’s message, will) greatly affect your life circumstances in your 30s, 40s, and beyond.

I strongly urge all new graduates to view this video as it was impactful enough on me to begin writing this article.  It revealed to me the real world advice I am about to share (that stemmed from my own experiences) with you was greatly needed, and I hope that this advice will be helpful to my fellow 20-somethings (and those young at heart who are also embarking on new career paths after obtaining their degrees).

Real World Advice #5:  Begin to save for retirement now!

When you get that first job, try your hardest to save, save, save, as much as you can.  Though you may not believe that you are earning enough to save (especially if you have student loan payments, car note and insurance, rent/mortgage, paying high gas prices, buying groceries, and trying to maintain a social life), saving what you can now will definitely benefit you later on in life.

As reported in USA Today, Millennials seem to be better at saving for the future than Baby Boomers were during this particular time in life.  One of the main reasons for this is the uncertainty of Social Security still being available for Millennials in 30-40 years when we reach the age of retirement (which is likely to rise as we are living longer).  Though those in the news article have saved a substantial amount for someone in their 20s and early 30s, this should not discourage anyone from beginning to save what you can now.  Even if you were to save $100-$300 (I am aware that this amount may not be very realistic for some of you, but continue to follow my point) every pay period, that would jump start a nice savings “nest egg” for you.  This nest egg could make the difference in how you view an unexpected layoff or having to replace the battery or tires on your vehicle.

Real World Advice #4:  Learn about the Federal Student Loan Repayment options NOW!

It amazes me how little college graduates and graduate students know about the repayment plan options offered by the Department of Education when it comes to subsidized and unsubsidized student loans.  When I graduated with my Bachelor’s degree in 2008, there were not many repayment options available outside of standard, extended, graduated, forbearance, and deferment options.  Now, because of the Affordable Care Act (better known as Obamacare), there are several new repayment plan options that correlate with how much you are making (or not making) once you graduate.  These new repayment plans are:  the Income-Based Repayment (IBR) plan, the Income-Contingent Repayment (ICR) plan, the Pay As You Earn Repayment plan, and the Income-Sensitive Repayment plan.  If you meet the income qualifications, these plans may lower your repayment balance to an amount that is more financially feasible (and most importantly, keep you from defaulting on your student loans).

Remember, it is easier to get debtors (whether it is the federal government or other collectors) to understand your financial situation BEFORE you owe them (or are late in making a payment) than when you’re on the brink of defaulting.  As with the saving tip, being financially responsible is imperative to having a good credit score, as well as to being able to afford that dream home and providing yourself and your future family with the necessities and (every now and then) luxuries in life.

Real World Advice #3:  Learn all you can on your first job, even if it is totally the opposite of what you really want to do in your career.

Some of you may find yourself accepting a job offer that is totally NOT want you had envisioned after obtaining your college or postgraduate degree.  There could be a number of reasons for this:  the position has NOTHING to do with your major/degree specialization; you are earning pennies to what is average for someone with your education and training; you have spotted the dysfunctions within the work environment (remember, every workplace has its quirks, but you quickly recognize the difference between quirks and just downright unprofessional, unethical, and self-esteem draining environment); not within your interest scope; leadership is questionable and/or nonexistent; or you just do not see yourself lasting more than 2-3 years (which may be a generous time estimate).

We have ALL been there, wondering what in the devil am I doing in this place, for “x” amount of hours, 5-7 days a week?  If this is you, then know that you are not alone.  Even if your current job is truly the pits, there is something to be learned from this experience.

For example, let’s say that you have noticed the lack of strong leadership with your supervisor or a lack of cohesion within management in regards to the way the agency/company operates.  It is hard to learn from that kind of setting while in the thick of things, but YOU CAN.  If you desire to incorporate your own business one day, then take note of what is going on with the leadership.  Where does the dysfunction exist?  Is there a lack of support between team members?  Are there communication issues?  Do people expect others to “worship” them because of the position they hold (basically, the egomaniacs)?  Is there a lack of support if there are issues/concerns – is the infamous “open door policy” nonexistent?

If any of these, and more, are some of the issues you have spotted within management, take away the key learning points.  You realize the damage these issues will have on the teamwork, work morale, and overall operations within an agency; do your best to keep the company you want to develop from going down the same path.

Do realize that your first job will not be your ONLY job, especially as Millennials are known to be the generation that will pursue several different career paths during our lifetime.  If your first job post-graduation is not what you had hoped for, remember that the skills, knowledge, and training you acquire while employed will help you establish yourself further as a professional and better prepare you for that next employment opportunity that will better suit your professional interests.

Real World Advice #2:  Being an individual is NOT a bad thing; go against the grain.

This one is key – sometimes you have to stand alone in what you want to do in order to make a difference.  This seems to be so cliche, but trust me, it is VERY true.  It is easy to get caught up in a routine:  wake up, go to work, come home, eat, chat, and watch tv, go to bed, and do it all over again the next day.  What fun is that, really?  Why become a “manufactured” being?  Why not branch out and do something new and innovative?  “New and innovative” does not mean that your work has to be ground-breaking; it means that you are establishing/creating/developing/implementing something with the idea of it having a positive impact on the world, once you are no longer here.  Be reminded that being a trendsetter/originator does not occur overnight; it may be a slow process, but the work you will accomplish at the end is well worth the long hours, sleepless nights, stress, and miss spending your free time with family and friends.  One of my personal goals is when I come to the end of my life, I hope that forcing myself to be an individual and ensuring that my actions and work to empower and uplift others would have afforded me the opportunity to leave a positive mark (or in my case, tire mark) on the world.  I am aware that developing the career and life that I desire will come with sacrifices, but I am willing to endure those sacrifices if it means that my presence and determination has affected the lives those I serve in a meaningful way.

Real World Advice #1:  While job searching, figure out your real passion.

For some of you, you may be lucky to have a job lined up before you walked across that stage.  For a good majority, however, you may be on several job search engine websites applying for a plethora of jobs day in, day out.  The stress of job-searching can be hard, especially when you see your classmates and friends expressing their happiness about getting the confirmation call about the job they interviewed for on social media.  Deep down, you are happy for them, but a tiny part of you is wondering, “when is my breakthrough coming?”  Trust me, I have been there.  When I graduated with my Master’s last year, it was difficult witnessing others gaining employment while I was stuck at home putting in application after application for jobs that I really did not want, or being called for interviews for positions that paid way less for someone with the level of education I had.

Inbetween applying and going for interviews, I took the time to figure out what made my heart sing, a popular statement uttered by one of my graduate professors.  One thing that I started was my Tumblr blog; I always loved writing (and received positive remarks from professors and friends about my writing), so I thought, why not share my thoughts/ideas about the world around me to millions online?  I also began volunteering for the Presidential campaign, since I wanted to become more community-focused (I’m a Macro Social Worker through and through).  Taking the time to figure out what I really wanted to do with my degree and my overall career goals made me realize that none of the jobs I had been applying for fit within the macro social work mold I loved.

So I am urging each of you to do what I did – use your free time to develop your passions, and see where they may lead you.  Who knows, you may wind up pursuing your passion as a career choice.

I hope that my advice will help those who are nervous, anxious, and worried about the future after graduation.  The reason we worry about the future is because we do not have control over it or know what to expect.  It is only after we learn how to learn to let go and be conscious and realistic about what we can and what we cannot control, is when we will effectively release that feeling of anxiety about the unknown when it comes to our future.

Today is Wishbone Day: Osteogenesis Imperfecta Awareness

by Vilissa K. Thompson, LMSW

May 6th is Wishbone Day, an international awareness day for Osteogenesis Imperfecta (OI), better known as “brittle bones.”  The idea for Wishbone Day was birthed at the Australian OI Conference, held in 2008.  There was a discussion about how to raise more awareness about OI, which is one of the lesser-known congenital disorders in America, and abroad.  Those who attended the conference decided to declare May 6th as the date for an OI awareness day.  On May 6th, 2010, the first Wishbone Day was celebrated, and the growth of this special day has grown exponentially, reaching North America, and parts of South America, Europe, and Asia.

This awareness day is very dear to me because I am a person living with Osteogenesis Imperfecta.  There is an estimated 25,000 – 50,000 people thought to be affected with OI in the United States.

Osteogenesis Imperfecta (OI) is a genetic disorder characterized by fragile bones that can easily break.  This is a congenital disorder, meaning that OI is present at birth, and the individual will be affected by OI throughout their entire lifespan.  OI is the result of a mutation error on a gene that is responsible for the body’s production of collagen, a fibrous protein, found in bones and other tissues.  OI is not the result of poor calcium intake or poor nutrition.

Those with OI are not only afflicted with multiple bone fractures, but can also have other medical issues, including muscle weakness; hearing loss; fatigue; joint laxity; curved bones; scoliosis (curvature of the spine); blue sclerae (blue-gray tint to the “whites” of the eyes); dentinogenesis imperfecta (brittle teeth); and short stature.  There are 8 different types of OI.  These types range in severity of symptoms and the specific medical problems someone with OI may face.

Personally, I have had less than 10 bone fractures in my lifetime, along with mild hearing loss, and have endured numerous rodding surgeries that made it possible for me to walk (with leg braces and a walker).  The rodding surgeries allowed me to develop my independence, which is a natural characteristic of mine.  (I remember reading reports describing me as being a very independent child at five years old.  I have always enjoyed doing things for myself, and if I need assistance, I have no qualms about asking for it; just give me the chance to try it on my own first.)

OI is one of the few disorders that have characteristics of average to above average intelligence, as well as having a natural euphoria for life.  (One such person that comes to mind when I think about someone with an infectious optimistic spirit:  the self-proclaimed Kid President, who has OI.)  Those of whom I have met with OI are very intelligent, successful in their respective professional  fields, bursting with positive attitudes and inviting personas, seem so enthusiastic about life, and meeting other people with OI.

Though it may seem strange, I am very appreciative to be living with OI.  “Appreciative” may not be a word usually associated with having a disorder, but it fits how I view my disability.  Though I may have to use a manual wheelchair to travel,  having OI does not prevent me from achieving my goals and fulfilling my purpose.

Despite the “challenges,” I view my life as very humbling.  I know how fortunate it is to be as mobile as I am (even on wheels or using a walker), and I recognize that I was given this life for a reason.  As I like to say, I have made “sweet lemonade” with the lemons (“lemons” in this context, meaning OI) life has given me.  I do not view my disability as a disadvantage; it has allowed me to connect with people in ways that I do not believe would have taken place if I was able-bodied.  With each experience and interaction, I grow as a person and my outlook is forever changed, and I believe that the people I encounter are positively influenced by my steadfast, determined demeanor as well.  I know that some people with disabilities shy away from the “inspirational” label, but I do not.  If someone meets me and my life story causes them to no longer permit obstacles or negative circumstances to rob them of reaching greater heights in their own lives, those kind of revelations drive me to work harder in urging others to achieve their unique life missions.

When I saw the various newsletters about Wishbone Day, I knew that it was my duty to use my platform on SWH to bring forth awareness about this lesser-known disorder.  Though those with OI may be fewer in numbers compared to those with other disorders, we still need to do our part to ensure that OI is on the radar of disability advocates, organizations that support people with disabilities, and our local, state, and federal politicians who implement policies and support medical research funding for various congenital disorders.  If we do not make our voices heard by telling our stories, then who will pay attention?  Who will stand firm in demanding that scientific research focus on developing more ground-breaking treatment options for those with OI?  If we want progress to come, we have to be a unified front in requesting such actions take place.

I hope that you will support Wishbone Day by wearing yellow (the official color of Wishbone Day), and learning more about OI.  One great source that has almost everything there is to know about OI, medical treatment, current research studies, and testimonies of those living with OI is the Osteogenesis Imperfecta Foundation.

As I like to say, my bones may be fragile, but that is the only “weakness”  I have.  As long as I am alive, I will continue to shatter stereotypes and glass ceilings – my spirit is unbreakable and my future shines brighter than the sun. 

Being born with a disability, can sometimes be a struggle, but it is the ability to overcome such a challenge, that makes it so worth the fight.  NEVER GIVE UP!!!
Robert M. Hensel

“Dumping” the Homeless In America

“Dumping” the homeless – the new craze in America?  The way we treat and view those who are homeless in this country is unsettling.  When I came across the story about those within the Detroit Police Department “dumping” the homeless in areas that were unfamiliar to them in order to “clean up” the image in a popular tourist area, I was angered as a social worker and a human being.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has filed a Department of Justice (DOJ) complaint against the Detroit Police Department this month.  The ACLU has been investigating these inhumane indignities since 2012, after receiving complaints from several individuals who had experienced such injustices.

The ACLU’s complaint describes the dumping “tactics.”   The officers would approach those who they perceived to be homeless, and in some instances, would coerced the person to get into a van.  Once in the van, the officer would drive to a remote area far away from the familiar surroundings the homeless individual was accustomed to.  The officers would leave the individual stranded, and in some cases, penniless.  (Several reported that the police specifically asked for whatever monies they had on them, and would confiscate it.)  Without a means to pay for transportation, some individuals would have no choice but to walk several miles back to their original location, sometimes having to travel at night and through unsafe neighborhoods.

Though this story is unbelievable in how those who are expected to uphold and enforce the law treat those who are most vulnerable in our society, it is sadly another example of how we view those who call our streets “home.”

When it comes to the homeless, we have the NIMBY (Not In My Backyard) complex.  On one hand, we see countless organizations discuss the increase numbers of those without homes in our cities, states, and country.  We go out of our way during the holiday season to donate to these organizations so that they will have adequate food, clothing, and monetary resources to provide for those who have fallen on hard times and have no place to lay their heads.

On the other hand, we do not want these individuals in our backyards/neighborhoods.  We look at these individuals as being “lazy,” “unclean,” “dangerous/menaces” to society, and “unwilling” to better themselves.  Being homeless is their “fault” – they should not have made bad life choices (e.g., being addicted to drugs and alcohol, battling emotional/mental illnesses, and/or not trying hard enough to be productive members of society).  We protest against having homeless shelters and centers in our communities; an issue that has made headlines in my own home state concerning the location of a new homeless shelter.  We want the homeless to receive help… just not on Earth, apparently.

What do these disturbing mistreatment stories and ill  opinions surrounding the homeless reveal about our level of sensitivity and sense of community in helping those who are in need?  “Dumping the “homeless is absolutely not the answer to eradicating this growing life circumstance that has been exacerbated due to our economic state  in this country.  In 2012, the Housing and Urban Development Department reported that 633,782 individuals were homeless in the United States.  Those this figure is slightly less than what was reported the previous year (636,000).  Though there was a slight decline, the numbers show that this country has not effectively extirpated the issues that places individuals and families at risk of homelessness.

If we were to focus more on helping people and families appropriately cope with the issues that put them at great risk of becoming homeless instead of moving the “undesirables” from the “money-making” tourist areas so they will not “disturb” residents and tourists or “tarnish” the look of the city, we may be able to get the homeless numbers down to 0.

Allowing people to call our streets and parks “home” is shameful.  When one person or family becomes homeless, it affects us all.  We cannot sit around and allow people to exploit or dehumanize the homeless in any matter, whether they wear a uniform or not.  This injustice cannot, and most importantly, should not become the “norm” in America in how we address the issue of homelessness.

What steps will you take to ensure that the homeless are treated justly by law enforcement and other members in our communities?  Do you donate resources or volunteer your time to help those less fortunate?  If you presently do not, I hope that this article will prompt you to take some form of action, whether small or large, to find out what organizations are serving the homeless in your community, whether these organizations are upholding the mission and values for which they were founded, and learn more how you can become an advocate in addressing the abuses to human rights that may exist for this population.

We cannot stomp out the issue of homelessness by staying quiet or looking for others to step up – sometimes we have to be the change we want to see.  Writing this article is my way to bring forth awareness and hopefully activism to this problem – what will be your course of action?

If you walk down the street and see someone in a box, you have a choice. That person is either the other and you’re fearful of them, or that person is an extension of your family.
Susan Sarandon

Can Women Find Empowerment In Today’s Music?

by Vilissa K. Thompson, LMSW

Is today’s music portraying empowerment messages for women?  Music has the power to bring people together in the name of love and peace, but it also has the power to estrange and divide.  Over the past few weeks, it seems that the latter has been proven more, especially with one particular song by a very popular female artist that had many people in disbelief about how she could write and broadcast a song with a disempower message targeting women.

Can Women Find Empowerment in Today's MusicThe social media outcry began when Beyonce’s new single, “Bow Down/I Been On” was leaked online.  The song started off with Beyonce discussing how she is more than just Jay-Z’s, her rapper and business mogul husband, wife, but that is not what has created the uproar.  The song’s chorus is where the controversy lies:  Beyonce demands that those within the music industry need to respect the success she has gained by proclaiming that they need to “bow down bitches,” which is repeated several times.

The direct proclamation of the chorus is not typical for Beyonce’s music or her brand, which is what grabbed a lot of attention.  The song has received several strong responses from those within the music industry.  One of the “harshest” critics of the song was R&B singer Keyshia Cole, who tweeted that Beyonce’s earlier songs in her career focused on women needing to be independent & survivors; now, in Cole’s opinion, she [Beyonce] is demanding that women respect her authority and refers to so-called “haters” as bitches.

Please do not be mistaken; I am not a prude when it comes to shocking, controversial music, but I, personally, was not expecting Beyonce to debut a “hardcore” (for her standards, at least) song with that kind of message for women.  I am supportive of recording artists expressing their individuality through their music, but this song does not fit with the brand that Beyonce has spent over half of her life creating, nor does it encourage women to be supportive and respect the achievements of other women.

As a person whose focus is empowering all people, especially women and young girls of color, I was quite disturbed by the message and possible implications the song may have on how women and young girls view themselves and each other.  If I had the opportunity to inquire to Beyonce about the song, I would ask the following:

In regards to the messages within her songs:

Beyonce, how can you tell us that girls run the world in one breath, but in the next, you tell us to “bow down bitches?”  Do you realize that your song is just another example of how those within the media, whether it is reality TV stars, music artists, those in the marketing/corporate sector, and those on social networking sites, use these outlets to convey negative and detrimental messages that influence the way young people and adults view and interact with one another?

The lack of empowerment towards women in today, and in her new song:

Why is there not more positive, empowering, strengthening messages about women in songs today?  Why are you choosing to spread this kind of message instead of previous messages in your songs that conveyed: “Women are powerful / Women are strong and capable / Women are equal / Women need to demand respect and give respect to those around them?”

The use of the word bitch – empowering or disrespectful?

When did the word “bitch” become acceptable for women to use in reference to one another?  When did that word, which at one time brought offense when uttered to a woman, started to be viewed as a term for endearment?  I realize that many male recording artists use that derogatory term frequently in their songs, but does that mean that influential female recording artists like yourself should use that word?   Do you believe that using that word is one way of “embracing” the word, in order to take some of the “sting” out of it?

And lastly,

Beyonce, can you, & those who spew negative messages about women in our society, provide answers to the questions I ask?”

I know that most folks will say that it is “just a song,” but there are very impressionable people in the world, especially children & adolescents, who mimic every move and trust every word uttered by someone of Beyonce’s status.  Beyonce has a following of those young and old that is unmatched to any female artist that is in the music industry today – why did she feel the need to write such a song?  She has the $50 million Pepsi endorsement, the celebrated and highly publicized Super Bowl half-time performance that occurred in February, her recently aired HBO documentary, countless magazine cover spreads; she does not need to do something like this to gain publicity or to sustain her popularity.  She is the role model for a good number of women in America and abroad; being tied to such songs like “Bow Down” does not empower or uplift the women and young girls who view her as larger than life.

Beyonce is not the only recording artist to have released a questionable song this year.  What are we to do when artists debut songs that contain messages that could be considered offensive?  What are effective tactics that can be used to show our disapproval:  boycott their music on the radio, demand that they stop creating such distasteful “art,” or stop supporting their brand?  Are some of these tactics outdated, given the technological mediums that are used to share music and promote artists?  Let’s not forget that little thing called free speech – how far does that right go when the message has the potential to be detrimental on the psyche of those targeted?

Tell me, what do you think needs to happen when artists create music that could have devastating effects on certain members of society?  What steps do you take in getting your opinion heard?    

Have Millennials Abandoned Yes We Can?

by Vilissa Thompson, LMSW

Have Millennials abandoned “Yes We Can” since the 2012 election?  Recently, I went to my first Democratic Party meeting in my hometown.  I decided to get involved because I enjoyed volunteering for the Presidential campaign in 2012, and I have aspirations of being a politician in the future.  When I made my interest of being involved known to the Chair of my County’s Democratic Party, she was ecstatic.  A good leader needs to have experience in various roles in order to expand their skill-set, become familiar with their responsibility, and the frustrations of each position.  If I plan to become a political leader, having such familiarity will afford me the opportunity to understand how each person and their role is instrumental to the success of the Party, as well as ensuring that we are truly working on the behalf of the people.

While at the meeting, I quickly realized that I was one of perhaps two people under the age of 40 in attendance.  I noticed the majority of individuals volunteering their service were in their late 40’s and up.  I was truly surprised given that those under the age of 30 volunteered heavily during the 2008 & 2012 Presidential elections.  Immediately, I began to feel embarrassed.  The lack of representation by those under 30 plays directly into the stereotype that young people do not care about politics or wish to be involved in bettering their communities.  Trust me, we do care about the issues affecting our lives and the actions of those representing us at all levels of government, but how do we maintain the level of millennials involvement for 2014?  I started to think about one of macro social work professor’s lectures which seemed to capture the moment:

Millennials, we really have to become more of a visible voice and presence in this country.  We are the future leaders, innovators, history makers, and politicians of this country, and our world.  Our grandparents (members of the “Greatest Generation”/Silent Generation), our parents (the Baby Boomers), and our comrades just a few years older than us (Generation X), have overcome adversities that we will never endure due to their tireless efforts to leave the world in a better shape than it was when they came into it.  When will we take the baton and lead this country, and the world, into a new stratosphere?  We have the man and woman power to do so – we greatly outnumber the Baby Boomers & Generation X’ers combined.  We are obtaining advanced degrees at record-breaking rates, plus we’re tech-savvy and excellent multi-taskers and team players.  What are we waiting for?

I was left thinking about the legacy my generation will leave behind.  Will we be considered revolutionary, progressive, and/or fearless agents of social change?  Will we be remembered as ordinary or failed to follow through because we were too consumed with our own problems?  Are we to be remembered as the disconnected generation, lacking a sense of community that used to exist in society?  I do not want our fate to be tied to our inaction  because we are educated and talented with less barriers than our predecessors.

Help me brainstorm and figure out how we can get more young people involved in the political arena.  No matter your political affiliations or viewpoints, I cannot stress enough how important it is to be active within our communities.  My fellow Millennials, this is our day.  We cannot stand by and be mere spectators to what is going on around us.  We cannot make the world better by just looking at the dysfunction.  We have to roll up our sleeves and dive in head first without hesitation or reservations.  We may not fix all the problems that exist in our world, but we can look back and say that we did a damn good job trying.  I’m willing to try….. Are you?  I think we all need a pep talk from Kid President!

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l-gQLqv9f4o]

Photo Credit: technokitten via photopin cc

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