Tag Archives: Afterschool

Shakespearian Curses And Hmm…Appropriate Cussing


The following reflection is by Kate VanHaren.

April 15, 2013

I have been thinking about the use of using curse words and swearing lately.  Over the past few weeks, I’ve been involved in several conversations about why, when and where we use them.  When working with adolescent kids, you just have to accept that you are going to hear them on a regular basis.  You have to pick your battles with the kids and I usually will let most swear words slip if they are not directed at a person and used on an infrequent basis.   Last week, it got so bad that I had to call an end to it.  My curiosity was sparked and I looked up the definition and history of “cursing” and found some interesting statistics.  Warning: They come from Wikipedia so should be taken with a small grain of salt.  Apparently of the roughly 80–90 spoken words each day, 0.5% to 0.7% of all words are swear words. In comparison, first-person plural pronouns (we, us, our) make up 1% of spoken word.  I am sure they averaged the vastly different vocabulary of people like my grandmother who blesses herself every time I raise my voice and average high school students.

Wikipedia listed several definitions, but the one that really caught my eye was profanity is used to show strong or intense emotion. The article then described that every culture in the world has their own versions of cursing and listed how it’s used in the great books of writing, including the Bible and Shakespeare. I also began thinking about the more famous movie quotes and instantly thought of Clarke Gable from Gone with the Wind and Al Pacino’s character in Angels in America describing the sorry state of 19th century voting rights in the country.

I am not totally condoning the use of cursing. As I lectured the kids, I attempted to describe that many curse words originated from outdated and prejudiced terms. A person who curses all the time is seen as unintelligent and rude.  We have too many other colorful words in our language to use other than curse words.  I believe intelligent people realize that profanity and swearing are only to be used in extreme and rare situations when a profound point needs to be emphasized.  As people age and gain wisdom, they learn what these appropriate situations are.

I witness this with the kids in My Future on a regular basis.  After the swearing “incident “ last week,  several high school students came up to me and told me it had been the middle school students who were being the loudest and they were really immature. I don’t think the high schoolers were entirely blameless, but I know that they are already learning what’s appropriate in certain situations. When a song with a large amount of swearing starts playing on their I-Pods, most kids will give a sheepish look and quickly switch to a less offensive song.   Some seniors have already told me that they actually prefer listening to what they call “more old person” person now.  For me, Eminem and Tupac were eventually deleted from my playlist, but I do enjoy drinking out of my mug with Shakespearian curses every morning.

© David B. Bell 2013

Tape Talk


The following reflection is by Kate VanHaren.

March 5, 2013

There are simple things in life that seem to interest everyone no matter culture, beliefs or age.  Duct tape is one of those special items.  Nobody ever seems to have anything bad to say about it. In fact, most people have their own anecdote about how it prevented damage to a tool, saved a project, or even stopped blisters on feet during a long backpacking trip. The wonders of duct tape are once again being witnessed in the afterschool program.  Some of the kids are falling victim to the winter lull and sometimes it is difficult to motivate them to participate in projects.  Belinda suggested starting duct tape crafts again and the adventure began.

I don’t know if you have bought duct tape recently, but the company has progressed far beyond the silver rolls that are difficult to find inside a hardware store. In a sign that duct tape has progressed with the changing times, you can now buy Sponge Bob, zebra print, and camouflage rolls.   There are now whole aisles dedicated to it.

As the kids were making their duct tape wallets, bags, and pencil flowers, the always inevitable duct tape discussions occurred. Duck tape is actually a brand name not the actual name. This let into another enlightening conversation about the difference between Kleenex and face towels.    The woman at the hardware store mentioned a video about how an Alaskan pilot salvaged his bear ravaged seaplane with duct tape. Most of the kids had also seen this video and were equally impressed. My favorite moment of the week was watching two girls make a “dress” out of duct tape, plastic bags and construction paper. If anyone would have asked them to partake in this activity, they would have rolled their eyes at the ridiculousness.   Duct tape on the other hand has a magical ability to make people do fun and silly things.

There is a huge amount of disconnect between generations in this world.  Kids in My Future told me its difficult talking to their parents because they have nothing in common.   I experienced this first hand. Music and TV shows that were popular when I was in high school ten years ago are now considered “retro.” It’s a small relief to know that some things like fascination with duct tape remain the same. I hope some of the kids will go home and say things like “Mom, you are not going to believe what I made out of duct tape today” and the discussion continue. Starting a conversation between kids and older adults is often the most difficult part of talking.    Conversation may seem like a small step, but it’s an important one in relationship building. I don’t think duct tape has the power to solve the problems of conversation or the world, but then you never know…it seems to fix everything else.
© David B. Bell 2013

Remember When?


Remember when?  This is one of the best phrases I know.  Remember when? speaks to relationship in a way nothing else does.  One cannot ask the question without relationship that has some time and heft to it.  For Remember when? means maybe you don’t, because it was a while ago.

Oscar, he will tell you who he is, writes today’s reflection.  He speaks about Remember when?

February 27, 2013

Hello my name is Oscar.  I am 13 years old.  I started going to the great Summer Fun Program when I was 3 years old.  My older brothers and sisters started going before I did.  The program helped me learn lots of things.

In the program, I was helped with reading.  I liked the library because the library felt as if it were a home.  I could just sit and learn how to read in a great environment.  If you read a book you would win ice cream.  Any toppings you wanted were there.  At the end of the program, you would get tested in reading.  This helped me become the reader I am today.

The activities were great.  I liked the arts and crafts.  My favorite craft was making boxes out of sticks.  I was very good at that.  My other favorite was making and painting gack.  I liked it because it was like playdoe but felt more loose.

Going to the summer Fun Program, helped me make friends.  Most of the friends I made over there are still my friends today.  My friends and I would read together, make gack together and play together.  We still sit around and think of the great times we had.

Almost every year we would make murals.  My favorite one was the one my brother and I painted together, we painted the sand box.  I still remembered that day.  We both had lots of fun working together.

One thing that everybody loved was going outside.  The day I got there I fell in love with the slide.  The thing that made it better was making a water slide.  Another thing I still like today was 4 square.  Today I consider myself a pro.

The saddest but best part of the day was lunch.  It would be a great way to finish a tired kid.  It gives us more energy to burn.  I loved the lunch.  It was so great tasting.  Burritos, carrots, peaches nachos, bananas, apples, pizza, green bean and hot dogs etc., that was also one of the worst parts of the day.  I didn’t want to go home.  It’s not that I hated home, but I loved the program so much that I didn’t want to leave.

If you live by this program and have kids…  Send them, we will learn a lot together!!!

© David B. Bell 2013

Who to Be, What to Do


The following reflection is by Kate VanHaren.  We have been fortunate in having Kate, a Vista Volunteer, joined YCM and My Future a few weeks ago!

February 16, 2013

One of my favorite possessions is a quote book I started a few years ago. I write down random things from famous people, friends, family or sometimes random people I hear on the street. Sometimes they are profound and inspiring, but most of the time they are just amusing anecdotes that make me laugh.  During the afterschool program this week, a middle-schooler answered the phone. He answered in that exasperated tone that can only be mastered by teenager, “We’re in the art room….making art.”

At first I was just going to add this quote as another amusing statement, but it became much more deep the more I reflected on it.  This kid knew exactly where he was supposed to be and what he was supposed to be doing.  How many of us can really say that we know exactly what our purpose is and really mean it?  Personally, I’ve struggled with this quite a bit.

As a returned Peace Corps volunteer, the last two months have been full of floundering and trying to figure out my own purpose.  Since moving to the Lower Valley a few weeks ago, I’ve spent a lot of time figuring out the differences between the streets and avenues in Yakima, getting lost on the reservation, cleaning out an office and trying to remember the names of all the wonderful people I’ve met.  This week I was able to meet the kids in My future and begin to talk through them.  Through one word answers, I’m starting to get a better understanding of my new home.  It may be a while before I can as confident as the kid in the art room, but my role is starting to become a bit more clearer.

Cookies, Conversation, and the First Day of School


January 7, 2013

Belinda cooked up a batch of chocolate chip cookies this morning.  That doesn’t happen often, at least not early morning.  But today is the first day back to school after the Christmas break and Belinda wants the day to be special.  However, Belinda’s morning is full of hospice visits and expects a morning living with those who are dying will run well into the afternoon, which means, it is up to me to bring the cookies to this afternoons after-school program.

I will bring them, but when to give them out is up for discussion.  Sometimes, these early morning conversations Belinda and I have are both funny and sad.  After all, who would imagine giving cookies out during an afterschool program would generate such passion?

Every time cookies or candy (or pizza for that matter) shows up afterschool, there is always a few youth who take handfuls.  While someone right in front of them may take one and then come back later, they will take half-a-dozen.  At some level, we have all experienced this.  Everyone, at one time or another has taken a handful.  We don’t need it, but occasionally, two or three, rather than just one seems to do our soul well.  But there is something else going on when someone takes a handful every time.

It might be the handful is simply selfishness.  We too, know what that is all; we are all guilty of a bit of selfishness at times, aren’t we?  But the crux of this morning’s conversation was what if it is something more than that?  When a youth walks away from the table with a handful of cookies, might it mean something more?  Could it be they did not feel the gift of abundance, of peace, of a full stomach at any time during the last two weeks?  If not, why?  If not, do we have a responsibility to do something about it?  And if we do, what is it?  Are we called to talk to them about their lifestyle or their family situation?  Or are we called to question if society is structured so that it enhances the possibility they will become a young adult, an adult, and an elder who are dependent upon others?  And if we find that to be true, are we called to do something about it?  Should we speak for changes in democracy and capitalism that might lead to awareness that food banks, soup kitchens, and homeless shelters are indicators of society’s failings rather than successes?

Neither of us had answers this morning.  Rather, meaningful answers seemed to wander the edges as one question led to another.  Are a handful of cookies due to selfishness, the hoarding of others, or both?  Well, it is hard to say.  What I did notice, though, was that while I reveled in the conversation Belinda made another batch of cookies.

© David B. Bell 2013

Need and Help Isn’t Seasonal


The following reflection is by Juana Lechuga.  Juana joined My Future last September.  With care, Juana has mentored youth throughout the fall.

December 27, 2012

I enjoy helping students with their homework because I want to help students where they have need.  I tell them if they need help or someone to talk too I am here for them.  For example, I always make sure the students show me their grades so I know where to help them; which, recently allowed me to help a senior high school student sign up for the ACT’s and SAT’s.

The Creative Learning Wheel


The following reflection is by Corey Hacker.  Corey joined My Future last September.  With great presence, Corey has guided and mentored youth throughout the fall. 

December 14, 2012

Creativity is a powerful tool that can be used to achieve ones highest goals.  For a young person’s mind, the ability to be creative in a comfortable environment is essential to the learning process.  My Future is a place that kids can use their imaginations to create art and feel free to express themselves without the fear of criticism.  I very much enjoy being able to help the kids that come to My Future tap into their creativity.

One of my favorite experiences with the program has been teaching the potter’s wheel.  The potter’s wheel is a tool that is used to make circular clay pots.  The wheel takes a specific skill set to operate successfully.  The kids are taught step by step how to create using the wheel.  The wheel teaches patience and helps the students understand that only through practice and concentration can one perfect the skill of throwing a pot.

The pots that are made with the wheel are then glazed by the kids and fired in a kiln.  They are then able to take home their works of art and use them, or give them away as presents.  Watching the students end up with a sense of accomplishment is what is really cool about My Future



© David B. Bell 2012

Walking With Dead In A Landscape Of Art

November 23, 2012

This month began with a Field Trip for a few of the My Future students.  Many of their artwork made up a Dia de los Muertos alter presented in downtown Yakima.  Like with other artful students, My Future youth helped create an alter asking and answering questions of life and death.

Being present and intentional with Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos) calls an artist to consider the rightness or wrongness of their art.  For one whose ancestral culture is that of Dia de los Muertos there is a normalcy to participating in a long tradition of art that plays at that edge of death and life.  But for those of us whose culture is of landscapes other than that which birthed Dia de los Muertos the question must be asked, can we be artful and not disrespectful?

Many American Indians remind non-Indians their participation of Indian practices is a fragile one.  From sweats to sage smoke, flutes to the four winds, American Indians recognize many non-Indians appropriate their practices—Such appropriation not always for financial or social gain, rather, acts, such as the use of cleansing sage smoke, are done without embodying the fullness of the sage’s landscape.  Due to centuries of appropriating bodies from sacred burial sites for scientific study to decades of claiming religious and social practices for non-Indian events and ceremonies, American Indians rightfully question when non-Indians produce Indian-like art.  Such history calls the artist to carefully question their participation in cultural art that is not their own.

So it is fair to ask why does Dia de los Muertos have such a large presence in the art of My Future?  Fair and important, because the directors of My Future, Belinda and myself, are white, non-Indian, non-Latino/a, and Dia de los Muertos is nothing if not indigenous and Latino/a.

Not appropriating culture art is tricky for artists, because an artist’s being is wrapped around the constant wonderment of landscape.  Wonderment often leads to eternal questions of life and death, hurt and joy, love and rejection.  One instance of art where an artist found life and wonder outside his culture of birth is Starry Night.  In painting Starry Night the Dutch artist Van Gough beckons the observer into an intimate relationship with the French landscape.  Van Gough presents a landscape of swirling cypress, mountains, and sky, which calls the observer to open the door of finitude, walk out the angular home, church and steeple in favor of entering the cosmos of mystery and wonderment.

Another instance is Woody Guthrie’s song This Land Is Your Land.  Guthrie moves beyond the landscape of birth and asks the listener to consider the landscape of a continent.  Similar to Van Gough, Guthrie calls the listener to an experience of wonderment so large the listener must become fluid where tactile and emotion become one.  In this context of grandeur sky and land, plants and clouds, and water and voice, Guthrie destroys concepts of ownership and No Trespassing signs.  Artists, by nature, reach into the landscape in which they find themselves to mold and breathe life as to beckon us into creations texture.  Such reaching in, though,matters because embedded in the landscape is culture, and it is this life of the ancients which calls the artist to enter into a landscape conversation which strives for art to jump the chasm of appropriation and become an appropriate reflection of culture.

The landscape of My Future is one of America.  Not the nationalistic U.S. america, but peoples America of North, Central, and South America.  This is landscape of an imagined borderless continent where youthful artists walk freely because walls fade and land speaks freely.  Such a landscape does not assume, but speaks the voice of teacher.  This relationship, when done well, allows the student artist to awaken to their place in the culture of landscape.  This place of learning helps the student become a non-assuming artist who embodies the landscape’s voice.

Doing our best to listen to landscape does not mean culture is never appropriated, but rather, My Future staff and students hope their Dia de los Muertos art grasps to reflect their conversation with the landscape, presenting art that is reverent.

Dough, A Cut Above

August 3, 2012

Forty-eight youth, electrical tools, water, and multiplying organisms equal what?  A bit of chaos!

An interesting day bubbles up when youth—pre-school thru sixth-grade—make bread together.  With the phrase on the white board saying “There is a Fungus Among Us” youth entered the kitchen full of flour, mixers, and yeast.  Most everyone has made fry bread or tortilla’s but loaf bread was new.  No one knew what to expect!

A line of bowls with grain in various forms of processing strung out before them.  Beginning at one end a bowl held wheat grain taken from a local field just that morning.  Mid-way stood a bowl with rough-ground wheat flour.  Then as they reached the other end they came to a bowl of ground, bleached white flour.  A talk ensued about the process of attaining bleached white flour from grain, but interest walked the edges of the talk…the youth wanted to get their hands into the middle of some dough!

Ingredients flew into the bowl as conversation continued concerning the abundant life of yeast.  Disinterest blossomed into curiosity as yeast, water, and sugar bubbled.  Attention centered with the adding of flour and a sponge formed.  But when they added more flour, grain, and blobs of dough doubled and tripled, well, amazement settle in—How could that be?  Where talk had once been non-relevant, chatter entered the kitchen—yeast, really?, little unseen bug-like things growing, splitting, multiplying?  That’s just weird…!

Finally the dough entered the oven…and there was nothing to do but wait.  So what do you do when you have to wait.  Run out to the playground, what else!

As youth came into the dining area for lunch, the smell of cooked bread greeted them.  Sitting down, they found a fresh slice of bread, which they had made, at their plate.  And for the first time this summer, everything…yes, every single piece of food on every plate, was eaten.  Estevan said it best, “this is the best bread I have ever eaten, can I have another piece!”

Perhaps it is a small observation, but an observation just the same.  Food, made by oneself, in the kitchen, tastes better than that processed in factories.  What Estevan and others learned is a reminder for many of us; food is a cut above when we take the time to know what goes into making it, and it simply tastes better when we make it ourselves.