Monday, September 30, 2013

What Are You Doing Here?

What would make someone leave his or her home, make a difficult journey, and start all over again in a strange land where he knows no one, has nothing, doesn't know where to go, and doesn't speak the same language?

I know of a man named John who felt that he would be better off moving to America from a country about 4300 miles away. Even though he had apprenticed at a craft-he was a tailor-and knew something about farming, there were not many jobs in his area, and he felt like he had nothing to lose. At age 22, he boarded a ship and came, alone, to the U.S.

I'm not sure how he could afford the ticket; it was very expensive to make the journey. Some people even came on a cargo ship to save money, and in some cases families came one person at a time. That person would get a job and send money home so the next person could join him.

Traveling to the U.S. wasn't much fun. You were likely stuck in the lowest part of the ship...with little ventilation, limited toilets and washing facilities, possibly having to provide your own food, and you get to share your space with a few hundred strangers...
....for six weeks or more. Sign me up, right? 

                                             Super-crowded ship of hopeful immigrants

Once these folks got to America, they took up many jobs that others didn't want, because they needed the money. The pay wasn't great, but it was better than nothing; they worked long hours at physically demanding jobs, such as building roads, as farmhands, working in factories, clearing forests, and also as servants to the wealthy.

Sound familiar?

John was my great-grandfather, and he arrived in May 1854.

You see, there's really not much difference between someone who arrived here about 160 years ago and someone who arrived in 2013.

When you look around you and see someone who looks 'different,' do you wonder how that person came to be an American? Or do you just assume you have nothing in common?

Do you think: What are you doing here?

The recurring reasons are:

Political oppression: Other countries deciding they own their neighbors, for example.

Corruption of leaders/government

Land unsuitable for farming

Not enough land

Poverty: when you have nothing, you have nothing to lose.

Genocide: People within the same country killing each other

Anti-Semitism: As an example, in the 1800s, Russia drove out as many Jewish people as possible; they also would force them to serve in the military for tours of up to 15 years-this was incentive enough for some people to flee to other countries in Europe as well as to the U.S. In the 1930s, Hitler began his campaign of trying to create a perfect race by eliminating Jews and others he thought were undesirable.

Famine: The Potato Famine in the 1850s is a prime example. Potatoes were a major crop in Europe, especially in Ireland. The soil was ideal for growing them, and potatoes were grown and exported to other countries. A form of fungus or disease somehow invaded the crop and spread, making all of them inedible. Thousands of people were starving, not only in Ireland but in other European countries, and even though the British had food supplies stocked up, they would not share with the Irish---another form of genocide.  The 'potato famine' lasted well over 10 years. The Irish had few other choices but to move to the U.S. and Canada.

Religious Oppression: The freedom to practice whatever religion you chose was not an option for some countries, and still is not. Often, the rulers of a country decreed what religion the country was 'supposed' to be and placed taxes on everyone to support that one church.

What is it that the U.S. offers that other countries don't? The most prominent reasons people left their home countries and came here are summed up in the first article of the Bill of Rights: Freedom of Speech, the Press, and Religion:

  • Freedom of the Press: We have the freedom to publish and to read whatever we choose, in many types of media such as newspapers, books, and online, as long as it doesn't infringe on someone else's freedom, that is, libel or spreading malicious information about someone is not permitted; obscene materials are at least restricted if not banned; and any publication that would incite rioting or treason, for example, would be illegal. It is also illegal to publish any form of government information that might risk our national security.
  • Freedom of Religion:  We are free to practice any religion we choose with no persecution.
  • Freedom of Assembly: We can meet with anyone for any reason, as long as it is peaceful. It brings with it the right to criticize our leaders and to hold a demonstration when we disagree with them.
  • Freedom of Speech: We are free to express our opinions, including criticism of our government, without fear of retribution, as long as it is not done to incite violence.
Tianamen Square, 1989: What was happening here?
We enjoy the freedom to travel wherever we want without anyone stopping us and demanding an explanation. In theory, we also  have the right to decent medical care, basic education, and a safe place to live. Most of us can't imagine living somewhere that doesn't at least offer those basics.

The U.S. gives women rights they may not have in another country.

We value education. We have public schools for grades Kindergarten through 12th, and opportunities for people of every income level to go to college. In some countries, if you can't pay for your schooling--from early childhood on--then you aren't going to go to school.

With instruction, newcomers to the U.S. can become citizens of our country, giving them all the rights and protections of everyone else, including the right to vote.

With the exception of those African-Americans brought here as slaves, as well as Native Americans who were already here when the first settlers came from England, people who make up our country are those who came by choice from somewhere else in the world.

What is the story of your family and how it came to America?

If you aren't aware of your family's history, take some time and ask a parent or grandparent about it.

  • Why did your family leave its homeland?
  • Can you find the town they lived in, on a map?
  • When did your family first arrive in the U.S.?
  • What language did they speak? Can you speak it? Can you write it?
  •  How did they get here?
  • Where did they live at first?
  • How did they make it work?
  • What does your name mean (first and last)? Were you named for someone?
  • What are naming traditions in your home country (such as, in Scandinavian countries, Johan's son is Eric Johanson or Johansen, and his daughter is Christine Johansdatter)?
  • What is your family's story?

Remember, their story is your story.

Keep a journal of what you learn, either by writing or by recording your discussions. Some time in the future, you can revisit this valuable information so you can discover more.

Ask a friend of yours what his or her story is, and tell him yours. Ask each other questions about it: do you dress differently from each other? Why? Do you eat different foods? What are your parents like? Do you have any traditions in your family? See what you have in common. If you're not careful, you might learn something.

           *We live life forwards, but understand it backwards.*
          Every time an old man dies, a library burns to the ground.
                                            -old African Proverb

Here are stories of several groups who have immigrated to Minnesota, including Hmong, Asian Indian, Latino, and Somali people:

Check out these interesting family histories:

A new series will begin in October: Many Rivers to Cross, about African-Americans and their stories:

For individual stories of immigrants:

Flag of Faces, Ellis Island
*Do you have family that came to America many years ago? Check out these other resources:
-not all immigrants passed through Ellis Island, but many thousands did-  (LDS site-search the records)  (Minnesota History)
*Try an online search for your family name, using Bing or Google. Be specific and use a grandparent's full name; even 'unusual' last names are more common than you'd think-
 *Some families have Facebook pages that include family history: See if your family is one of them, and you may connect with relatives you haven't contacted for a long time, or meet new ones.
This blog addresses immigrant experiences. To learn more about Native Americans, try these sites:


Monday, September 23, 2013

You're So In! Careers in Fashion

You're constantly sketching clothes. You always notice how color affects the mood of a room. You can't stand the perpetually frumpy, and you've predicted about a dozen trends before anyone else has.

PLEASE help this woman.....

Why not help the fashion-impaired and share your sense of style?

Degrees that have to do with fashion include:

Fashion Merchandising (how to sell fashions to the public)
Apparel Design
Marketing (Advertising)
Business Administration
Textile Science and Engineering
Fashion Design


There is a wide variety of different ways to work in the clothing and fashion industry:

Visual Merchandising (displaying the clothing so as to tempt people into buying)
Pattern Making
Buyer (you decide which clothes the store will buy for selling to the public)
Computer Aided Design
Entrepreneurship (having your own line of clothing and/or shop)

As well as
Fashion Writing
Graphic Design
Illustrating fashion for magazines or pattern makers for home sewing, such as Vogue, McCalls, Kwik-Sew, etc.
Accessories-gloves, scarves, small leather goods
Clothes Historian
Children's Fashions

Pretty sure these are going to be "in" again soon. Although I wasn't aware that you wore a suit with a skirt for archery.

Princess Diana's Wedding Dress
Evening Gowns, Wedding Dresses, Swimsuits  


   Men's Fashions

Personal Stylists
Fashion Photography
Fashion Forecast

And can also expand to include working with the entertainment industry:

Set Design
Technical Advisor (making sure the costumes are appropriate to the time the film occurs)

                                                      costumes for the film "Les Miserables"

You might be fascinated by the history of fashion and become an expert on fashions of different eras. What influences fashion? For instance, in the 1890s, womens' dresses were full and floor length, with long sleeves, no matter what the temperature was outside; most clothing was in a dark color because bright colored dyes weren't developed until later on. This was considered proper 'ladylike' attire. In the 1920s, short dresses and short hair were chic. In the 1940s, there were shortages of everything; women's dresses were not as full as before, so as to use less fabric, and nylon or silk stockings were in short supply (silk and nylon were being used to make parachutes). A fashion historian is crucial in what is called 'period' entertainment (stage shows, opera, ballet, musicals, etc. taking place in a particular period).

Wait, her neck and waist are the same measurement???

Because jobs are not that easy to find in the fashion industry, you may be ahead of the game to 'specialize,' that is, find what is it that you like the best; if you can become expert in one area, you can become a sought-after designer or advisor.

There is a need for specialized clothing for people with disabilities or physical limitations. Could you design a fashionable garment that allows for someone who has difficulty dressing herself or himself? How about something that would fit over a leg brace or a cast on an arm?

Be sure to learn how to sew--this gives you an understanding of how clothing is made, as well as the qualities of different fabrics. Take advantage of sewing classes if they are offered in middle or high school, or find a sewing machine and ask someone you know to teach you how, and you can make clothes for yourself or others---great experience for anyone interested in fashion. Sewing lessons can also be found at fabric stores or through Community Education. You'll start with something simple and work your way up to clothing and other items.

You'll also need to be expert in communicating, able to work with deadlines, and excited by constant change in your field.

Another discussion: Who actually looks like this? Could you design for an average size person instead of a toothpick?

Check out these designers to get an idea of how to make fashion your career:

Costume Design:

These schools offer degrees in fashion:
University of Minnesota-Twin Cities:
and check this out, about having a minor in apparel:

Stout University in Wisconsin also offers Fashion degrees:

What can you fashion into a career?

Monday, September 16, 2013

What Is Trio?-Share!

What do you say when someone asks you: "Trio? What's that?"

Most people have never heard of TRIO Programs, and if they have, it's usually through others.

Briefly, TRIO's mission is to assist first-generation students (neither parent completed a 4 year degree) to prepare for college, and then achieve a degree successfully through personalized advising and other enriching educational experiences. Because it is federally funded with tax money, there is no additional fee to participate in TRIO.

Did you know that....

TRIO originated in 1964 during Lyndon Johnson's presidency. The program originally included three parts, hence the name TRIO.

For a history, go to:

Over the years, TRIO Programs developed a total of 8 parts altogether. The name 'TRIO' was never changed to reflect it and the letters do not stand for anything.

These programs include:

          * Upward Bound -   for high school students. Advisors go to high schools  and provide advising and tutoring twice a week after school, plus Saturday sessions.
                                                                     Upward Bound Students

        * Upward Bound Talent Search - for middle school students to guide them towards college  (the name does not mean it is for acting or singing or other arts, necessarily)

           * Student Support Services - for college students, based at their college, providing individualized advising, assistance choosing a major, campus visits to 4 year transfer colleges and transfer course planning, financial aid navigation, and workshops for further assistance in specific areas.
                                                               SSS Students
 * McNair Scholarship - for graduate students - named for astronaut Ronald McNair for his high level of achievement (learn more here:

           * Upward Bound (Math/Science) - this program has a concentration on math and science

          * Upward Bound (Veterans)  - for military veterans to help them succeed in college

                                                                  Not Trio Programs

                                                                  Not Trio Programs

                                                                Not Trio Programs
  • Students in Upward Bound and SSS are good students striving to be better students, those who have solid goals and potential for being successful. Without these qualities, a student would not be accepted into the program. 

  • Some people think that Upward Bound is only for minorities. That is not true.

  • Upward Bound students meet with their advisors and tutors after school twice a week, plus one or more Saturdays each month. Advising includes ACT prep, financial aid education, cultural and life lesson experiences, college campus visits, assistance with the FAFSA, and other educational activities. Students also attend a summer program on the college campus. During the summer program, Upward Bound is required to offer: Math, Science, English, and a foreign language. There is usually an end-of-summer trip to let students experience a new place.

  • Upward Bound advisors have their offices at the college that 'sponsors' their program, not at their high schools. They are in their offices most days until it's time for them to travel to their high schools to have tutoring and advising sessions.
  • There is no age limit for students to take part in Student Support Services while they are in college. As long as you are someone motivated to be successful, and need some extra help to reach your goals, and meet one of our qualifiers, you can participate.

  • Here are the qualifiers for Student Support Services: First generation (neither parent achieved a Bachelors Degree); Modest Income; and for SSS, a Physical or Learning Disability/documented. Note that while a disability is one qualifier, our advisors are not trained in dealing with any disabilities. We will work with other resources that may be helpful in regards to students with a disability.

  • We do not provide money for students to attend college (such as scholarships). Occasionally, our Student Support Services program is able to offer a tuition-free, for-credit class. The greatest value of the program lies in the one-on-one, personalized advising we offer---for free---to our students.

  • TRIO programs are funded with grants from the United States Department of Education. This means each program has to 'ask permission to get the grant again' on a four or five year cycle.

  • Many TRIO advisors were also first-generation students and understand well the hard work involved to achieve college completion.

  • Because our funding comes from the Federal Government, we are not allowed to advertise in any way.

  • When the Federal Government prepares its budget, as part of the Department of Education, we frequently experience budget cuts. If the Dept of Ed budget is cut by 10%, for instance, our programs are all cut by 10%. However, we are still expected to meet the goals of our grants, only with 10% less money.

  •  If a program is not performing to the goals set by its grant, it will be de-funded. A prime example: Funding for the University of Minnesota's TRIO program was cut when they did not meet their goals.

  • We are not allowed to use work time or work funds to contact our senators and congressmen for support.

  • Since its beginning, more than 2 million students have participated in TRIO programs nationwide.

Achieving a college degree is a great thing, and most people don't become famous. However, TRIO Programs have served the occasional celebrity:

Actress Angela Bassett
Music Producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis      
ABC Journalist John Quinones
Astronaut Bernard Harris

What can you do to be sure that TRIO services continue to be available for you and for others who come after you?

We saw potential in you and felt you would benefit from the one-on-one advising and other services we offer. Be sure you are fulfilling your part by being a true participant:

-Students in Upward Bound: Keep your commitment to attend tutoring and Saturday sessions.
-Students in SSS: Make appointments and keep them.
-When you have an appointment, your advisor has set aside time for you, and has reviewed your file to be ready. If you cannot make the appointment, give us a call and let us know.
-Make more than your minimum appointments, in order to stay connected.
-Let your advisor know how things are going. Don't wait until you are in a crisis.
-Ask your advisor college-related questions. If you ask a friend, you may get the wrong answer.
-Speak with instructors when you have a class-related question.
-Tell others about the program.
-Remember that we truly want to see you succeed.

                We are your biggest cheerleaders. It's What We Do.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Porsche, Ambulance, Batmobile: Automotive Design Careers

Summer seems to be the time when people who love their cars, love them more.

What if you could transform your love of cars into a career?

It can be done! What is it about cars that floats your about cars fascinates you? Do you want to design exteriors or interiors? Do you want to see what you can do with an engine? Do you want to build custom cars?

Here are some degrees that can help you realize your dream of working with cars:

Automotive Engineering: This could be anything from designing the engine, to how a car gets better mileage, to improvements that consumers want, to safety features. For example, someone had to think up the idea of seats that folded down to make a flat surface, and figure out how that would happen. Glass that shatters into small pieces rather than breaks in shards was someone's invention, as were air bags, head rests to help avoid whiplash, outside temperature display, digital compass, and remote door locks.

Other engineers work with the actual materials used to make cars: what is the lightest? Most durable? Flexible or not? What paints last the longest? What will make the interior work best?

You can also contribute to the automobile industry with a degree in Product Design, Automotive Design, Industrial Engineering, Electrical Engineering, and CAD (Computer Aided Design). Other degrees that might land you a job with an auto manufacturer include Math or Environmental Science. Tech Schools have courses in Auto Mechanics  and Auto Body Repair as well, which would give you hands-on experience and knowledge of how cars work.

CAD: This....

Will help you do this:

You might get specific, thinking about:

Design of Interiors: What kind of car do you like to work with? Luxury cars, economy cars, 'sports' cars?

Design of Exteriors: Have you thought up a different looking auto body you think would sell?

After working up a design on a computer, models are first made in a small scale, and eventually a full size model or prototype will be made. You might enjoy this phase of design---testing out the car to find problems as well as to see what works.

     Pretty sure this is no good in snow.

                                                         This appears to have just 3 wheels???

Keep in mind there is also a market for specialty cars, such as police cars, armored cars, ambulances, fire engines, and cars for the handicapped. Do you have some innovative ideas to bring to that table? You might have a problem using a car or know someone who does. How would you design a vehicle for a specific purpose or person?

And don't forget 4-wheelers and other sports vehicles; that's a fast-growing industry that will want more designers and engineers as well.

Sometimes film makers want a fantasy car for a movie. Are you super-creative? Could you design the next Batmobile??

If you could land a job working with a manufacturer, you would be collaborating with many other people in coming up with a final design. Be sure that you can be tactful and diplomatic in this area, and assertive when you need to be. Others will have ideas that can compliment yours, and vice-versa. You need to be creative, and to be strong in communications as well as the technical aspects of automotive design

Colleges offering automotive engineering include:
University of Michigan
University of Indiana at Purdue
Cornell University
Kettering University (Formerly General Motors Institute)-Flint, Michigan
University of Texas-Austin

You might also try getting in touch with specific manufacturers; ask them how to meet your goal of working with cars---maybe for that manufacturer---one day. Some have training programs specific to their brand.  Ford Motor/Corporate (they have internships)

If you have the drive, you can make a career working with cars!