Friday, June 6, 2014

Goodnight Sun, Hello Moon

Opening the Door to Our Future

Painting by Vitek Kruta in Gateway City Arts in Holyoke, MA
                                                                          Photocredit: Me

Today was the last day we spent with delegates. We had to bid them goodbye as they left for the train station and air port. Many hugs and gifts and business cards were given out to those who left. Today, I will share with you my favorite song by an musician named Sara Bareilles. This is her song "Brave." And here are the lyrics to the song if you don't want to listen to it:

You can be amazing
You can turn a phrase into a weapon or a drug
You can be the outcast
Or be the backlash of somebody’s lack of love
Or you can start speaking up
Nothing’s gonna hurt you the way that words do
And they settle ‘neath your skin
Kept on the inside and no sunlight
Sometimes a shadow wins
But I wonder what would happen if you

Say what you wanna say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave

With what you want to say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave

I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
I wanna see you be brave

I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
I wanna see you be brave

Everybody’s been there, everybody’s been stared down
By the enemy
Fallen for the fear and done some disappearing
Bow down to the mighty
Don’t run, stop holding your tongue
Maybe there’s a way out of the cage where you live
Maybe one of these days you can let the light in
Show me how big your brave is

Say what you wanna say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave

With what you want to say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave

Innocence, your history of silence
Won’t do you any good
Did you think it would?
Let your words be anything but empty
Why don’t you tell them the truth?

Say what you wanna say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave

With what you want to say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave

I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
I wanna see you be brave

I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
See you be brave

I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you

I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you

I have been inspired by all of these women. I want to travel to different countries around the world and learn more about other cultures. I hope that I will have the opportunity to visit all of my sisters (delegates) in their home countries. I am humbled to have been a key partner in the success of this Institute. I will continue to develop my leadership skills as I rise up at Simmons College. Who knows, perhaps I will consider a position in diplomacy one day... What do you think?

Celebrate Good Times, Come On!

In Honor of All Who Have Been Involved in the WPSP 2014

All 12 Student Ambassadors, their last night together
Photo credit: Jane Falla
Jane Falla (left) and I talking about Communications (what else)
Photo credit: Kushangika Nawaratne
                                       Women in Public Service Project Graduated Delegates! Only a few...
                                                   Photo credit: Kushangika Nawaratne

Last night, we came together to celebrate each and every person who worked so hard to put on this year's Women in Public Service Project Institute. Speakers such as Rangita de Silva de Alwis, Director of the Global Women's Leadership Initiative and the Women in Public Service Project came to give her words of wisdom on entering the mentor program as delegates graduate from the WPSP. Farah Pandith,the first ever Special Representative to Muslim Communities for the United States Department of State also gave inspiring words to delegates who are returning home. Delegates were given their certificates and delegates also recognized their student ambassadors with gifts from their own countries. It was a real treat.

Last night held a mix of emotions, much like Delegate Jennifer Liang from India discussed in her speech. We were excited to listen to speakers, excited to eat food, excited to be done but also sad to have our delegates leave. Someone told me yesterday, "Hey you got a taste of what motherhood is really like: being on the clock 24/7." In a way, this statement holds some truth. But I must admit that many of these women served as my mentors. They taught me that despite one's geographic location and economic situation, a woman can rise up and make a change. We've done it and we will do it again and again and again. We will not stop. (This is not to exclude men or male feminists, such as Smith College's very own Professor of Government Greg White, who received many thanks and gifts at last night's ceremony.)

This post will be shorter than the others, but no less important. Yesterday's event was a prime example of the importance of reflecting on our lives and the work we've done. It is also important to recognize those who have worked hard who are not on the front lines but rather behind the scenes. Mount Holyoke's Coordinator New Student Orientation/ Project Assistant Kate Wasserman has worked tirelessly on this project for nearly two years. Many thanks to her for all of her work. Another shout out to Erin O'Connor Assistant Dean, Undergraduate Advising and First-Year Programs, College of Arts and Sciences at Simmons College. Erin and Kate have worked very hard on this Institute in helping putting it together. They have spent many nights staying up until 3 a.m., answering e-mails and helping student ambassadors solve mini and sometimes not-so-mini crises. Thank you both for helping to make this Institute the best and for helping us be the best team we could be.

Stay tuned for the last WPSP 2014 blog post...

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Everybody Cut Footloose!

Don't You Forget About Me

          The words of my Delegates, fellow Student Ambassadors and colleagues. Thank you all.

                                          Delegates dancing their tails off on Cultural Night
                                                   Photo credit: Kushangika Nawaratne

Yes, the subheading of my post is from Simple Minded's song "Don't You (Forget About Me)." In the two weeks in which I have gotten to know the delegates and for student ambassadors three weeks, I have learned so much. I have forged so many lovely connections and relationships with people. The picture above is my piece of paper in which every person writes their name on a piece of paper, tapes it to their backs and everyone writes on them. These words are so sweet and genuine. They mean so much to me.

Tonight's post will be shorter than normal because I will come back to it and add in pictures of us dancing once people have uploaded them. Regardless, tonight was so much fun, as we created a playlist of music from all over the world and shared our dance moves. I have learned that our delegates really know how to SHAKE IT!

I will post our party pictures when I have access to them.

I am partied out. Goodnight.

Changing the World Through Film

Discovering Global Injustices & Rendering Change

Filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy (Smith '02)
                                                            Photo credit: Zara Ali

Yesterday, we were able to watch two documentaries by Filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, a Smith graduate of 2002. The first documentary we watched, called Saving Face, was probably the most graphic and eye-opening film I have ever seen. Before this film, I had no idea what was going in Pakistan. I had no idea that acid attacks were a reality for so many women in that culture.

Sharmeen's work in documenting the Pakistani women who have been affected by acid attacks is important because it spreads the word about these terrible, life-ruining incidents to prevent future ones and protect younger generations. The strength and the courage displayed by the women who have been affected by acid attacks was amazing and the surgeon's creation of the plastic face part for a woman whose eye socket could not be saved was simply heartwarming.

Her other film, Humaira: The Dream Catcher, was shorter but nonetheless inspiring. It focused on a woman named Humaira who works to instill the concept that education should be equally accessible for both men and women. She works to give education to young girls and to educate young boys that both genders are equal and deserve an education.

Sharmeen's work is very interesting to me because I love documentaries. As an AP language and literature alum, I absolutely LOVE to analyze images. I especially love to point out product placement whenever I watch a movie. It is so fun, try it sometime! Film involves moving images and images are most likely to stick in the minds of people rather than words.

There is a great quote from the late American poet and singer Maya Angelou, who once said, "I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." I think Sharmeen's films are a perfect example of Angelou's quote. Delegates and Student Ambassadors will not forget the feeling of disbelief and terror after seeing Saving Face. They will not forget how proud they felt after watching Humaira: The Dream Catcher.

There are so many things I want to do in this life that sometimes, it becomes a little overwhelming to try and budget time for all of my endeavors. However, I have a list, and creating documentaries is on it. As long as I try my best, I cannot fail. (I think that is a famous quote from someone but at this point, I am too tired and lazy to make the extra effort to open another Google tab to look it up. Therefore, I will attribute that quote to someone in the universe. That seems fair.)

As we near the very end of the Institute, think: what do I want to do? How can I change the world? *Insert Ghandi quote here*

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Strong Women, A Stronger World

Don't Forget Who Got You Here.

My beautiful mother (Jaye Garnett) and I at the fair          
  My beautiful mother and I, about 13 years later to the left.

My mother. What can I say about this truly incredible woman pictured above. Sometimes, I get emotional just trying to explain how much I love this amazing woman. I could write a book about her, but for the sake of a reasonable blog-length, I will be brief. My mother is emotionally strong as a bull. She is my superhero. Her charismatic attitude towards life and her family (and her little bitty baby dogs) is indescribable. This woman has the biggest heart. She wows me every day. Her goofy laugh (which very much resembles that of Scooby Doo) makes me laugh and remember how grateful I am to be her daughter. I love my Mumma. 
This incredible woman is my grandmother, (Grammy) Claire Jennings, 77, doing one of the things she loves most: eating. Don't ask me where she puts it all, she has the biggest appetite in our family! Not to mention she had SIX kids. Six. She is the most amazing person I have ever met in my 19 years of existence on this earth. This woman helped raise me and continues to help raise me. I love her so much. She is most commonly known as the coupon lady, as in her younger days, she was a master of using coupons. I swear she could give the people on the show "Extreme Couponing" on TLC a run for their money. She is so intelligent and every time I see her, I smile because I know that one day, I will grow up to be a mentor to my granddaughter as well. 

The two most important women in my life. They have helped shape the woman I am today.

Singer Aretha Franklin, whose music my mother              American feminist, activist and poet Gloria
and I listened to when I was a child and whose                Steinem, who spoke at Smith College yesterday
words continue to inspire me                                           She is one of my new-found role models 
the-smithsonian-institution-requests-aretha-franklins-       supports-the-nordic-model/ 

This woman is my new role model, Kushangika Nawaratne from Sri Lanka, a Project Coordinator for the Centre for the Study of Human Rights at the University of Colombo. Kushangika has such a strong and big heart. Whenever anyone needs help, she goes out of her way to help others, unasked. She loves to help others and reach out to everyone. She has strong ethics, as she wants to be a judge to prevent the corruption that goes on in the government. I have no doubt in my mind that she will bring about change in her country, as she has done in my life in the two weeks in which I have known her. She has opened her heart to me and I feel very happy to have met her.

Yesterday, I was reminded of the importance of recognizing those who have made me the person I am today because of the networking session facilitated by Stacy Blake-Beard, Professor of Management at Simmons College. Therefore, I decided to make a post dedicated to the women in my life that have shaped me into the woman I am today. 

As a disclaimer, this list of women is not complete and it does not even include the men in my life that have inspired me as well. I have too many role models and mentors to name or count, but a few of the men include my father, John Garnett, who is a goofy, easy-going man who reminds me what it means to laugh. I attended Exeter High School in Exeter, New Hampshire, where I met several of my role models. My high school AP English teacher Ryan Hale reminded me of my voice and my passion for writing, for which I am very thankful. My high school newspaper teacher Robert Schneider taught me how to have a thick skin, how to meet strict deadlines and most importantly how important journalism is today. My high school varsity volleyball coach Michael McDonnell taught me how to believe in my abilities and be confident in myself. Chris Gardner and the movie The Pursuit of Happyness in which his story is depicted, opened my eyes to my potential when I was 12-years-old. 

I have met so many people in my life that have shaped who I am today and I think that Professor Blake-Beard was right, it is important to show appreciation for the people who have touched your life and influenced you.

Who has impacted your life? Think about it.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Smith College Bound

Goodbye Simmons, Hello Smith!

Last stop on our journey: Smith College
As we continue on our journey, transitioning to Smith College from Simmons College, we had the opportunity to relax and be on our own. Now, I don't exactly consider myself entirely introverted, but having time to myself was nice. I took a nap today, which, at the time, was like a gift from God Almighty.

In going forward with our journey, I thought about how important it is to remain grounded in one's roots, despite the branches they we may establish elsewhere, such as in other cultures and countries. Therefore, I decided to reflect on this concept through poetry, a hobby that allows me to deeply express my feelings in a manner that permits the reader to interpret my words in several, sometimes intentional lenses. Nevertheless, poetry is a beautiful art form that can heal. The following is a poem that I wrote when we first began our journey at Mount Holyoke College and has inspired me in working for the Women in Public Service Project.

I am a tree.

Although my leaves may change
or fall off,
I remain tall, strong and relentless.

I may sway in the wind,
but I will remain true to my family and home --
the home that I provide for others.

I can withstand rainstorms and snowstorms
and even when I am stripped of my leaves,
even when my skin is cold and falling off,
I know there is hope for the sun.

This is all for now. Today's post is rather short, but I figured I would make it up with a more involved post tomorrow. Signing off from Smith College, goodnight.

Where We Are & Where We've Been...

Appreciation, analysis and reflection are essential.

              Left to right: Radha Paudel, Ellen Garnett (Me), Nu Myat Theingi Oo, Miral Oman,
              Samah Mansur at the President John F. Kennedy Library
              Photo credit: Nu Myat Theingi Oo

Yesterday, our last day at Simmons College, the Delegates, Student Ambassadors, staff and speakers alike had the opportunity to visit the John F. Kennedy Museum, which was named after John F. Kennedy, the 35th president of the United States, near the University of Massachussetts, Boston.

We took a tour of the museum, which was absolutely incredible and really touching. The artifacts in the museum, such as the jewelery of firstlady Jackie Kennedy, some of which was given to her by foreign political officials, is especially interesting. The carvings and sculptures in the museum that were given to then President John F. Kennedy were also neat. Seeing these artifacts and knowing that President Kennedy actually came into contact with them made the experience all the more emotional.

As we toured the museum, we were going through the timeline of President Kennedy's life. Towards the end, there was a black room with the date November 22, 1963, the date of his assassination. There was a video of a television news station solemnly reporting the sad news, which really hit me. Although I was not alive during those days, I could feel the devastation that American citizens, especially President Kennedy's family must have felt, 51 years later. Losing someone is tragic but losing someone so suddenly by the hands of another is unfathomable.

Visiting the JFK Musem and seeing how interested the Delegates were in the museum made me recognize how important it is to reflect on our history as a nation. Often times, Americans don't stop to think about what happened just a few years ago. How are we supposed to make progress in the world if we are not educated in what happened in the past? How can we improve our nation without studying what past successful leaders like President JFK did and not so successful leaders like President Nixon?

As an American, I am not entirely proud of our history. As with any country, we have events in our history that are shameful. However, I am proud to be a citizen of a country that was founded on principles that should allow me the right to pursue happiness. The pursuit of happiness takes on many different shapes depending on the person. In America, I think this is a very important principle to instill in the minds of its citizens but I also think that experiencing other cultures by traveling to foreign countries is an essential part of pursuing happiness and understanding the world. (I promise I will not insert my Miss America Pageant speech for world peace here.)

Regardless, I had a good time at Simmons College with the Delegates, despite the few bumps here and there. Now, we begin at Smith College for the last "leg of our journey" as Erin O'Connor, our Simmons representative, often likes to say.