Sunday, May 10, 2015

Update on Schools and Kinkaid EMSI

Update on the schools:
Great news! Miranda was accepted into DeBakey High School for Health Professions and Seth was accepted into the STEM program at Hogg Middle School. My babies are growing up!

Miranda's first day of Kinder and Seth trying to get into the picture.
Kinkaid EMSI:
When I was in elementary school I thought I was really smart. I was chosen by my principal to take a test to attend a Vanguard middle school and I passed and was accepted. When I arrived at Hamilton Middle School in the Heights I quickly found out that I wasn’t as smart as I thought. I found out that I never really learned the seven continents, where the Tropic of Cancer or Tropic of Capricorn were and other important geography lessons I should have learned in elementary school. Thank goodness I at least knew about the equator!  So although, yes I probably was the smartest kid in my class in elementary school, I learned that other kids at other schools had received a better education than I had.  That was the first time I really understood that different schools received different funding and different resources and that this affected the quality of education that kids receive. (A topic I have written about in the past.)

I struggled in the Vanguard program but I never gave up. I worked hard until the very last 9 weeks of the 8th grade when I finally made honor roll for the very first time in my three years in middle school.  Also in 8th grade other kids who were taking Algebra, and had probably made good grades all along, were invited to apply to a summer program. I first heard about Kinkaid when I was in 8th grade and only 14 years old. Before the school year was over we knew what students had been accepted so I had an idea of who was going. I remember feeling a little jealous but I also realized and accepted that my strengths did not lie in math and science.

I forgot about Kinkaid but later throughout the four years of high school I would hear about it now and then from some friends who were attending the program each summer. All I knew was that Kinkaid was a very prestigious private high school in Memorial and that every summer they had a math and science program for public school students.

Around 15 years later when my step-daughter was living with us and attending middle school she was invited to apply to Kinkaid and she was accepted. This was a wonderful opportunity for her and she thrived that summer. She was accepted to return but sadly she decided to return to Louisiana to live with her mother so she didn’t get to complete the program.
In the years since Facebook became a place to reconnect with old friends I have been back in touch with middle school friends. I quickly noticed something interesting.  All of my middle school friends who attended the summer program at Kinkaid are successful adults. At least two are attorneys and one is an aerospace engineer. Others are HR executives and sales managers.  I found that trend interesting.

Now my daughter is 14. Unlike me, she’s very good at math and science and she attends a Vanguard middle school like I did. I hadn’t heard about Kinkaid in a long time but I assumed the program still did exist so I decide to Google it. It does and I was very interested to learn the history. The summer program is called the EMSI- The Kinkaid Engineering, Math and Science Institute and it was founded in 1975. It is completely underwritten by Houston companies, foundations and generous donors.
I told Miranda about it and she was very interested.. She applied and we were so excited for her when she was accepted. I’m so proud of all of the things that she’s accomplished thus far and I hope that she builds on that foundation this summer at Kinkaid.

When she was accepted, and I checked to make sure that they had received our postcard, I told the program’s director the trend I had noticed in friends who attended Kinkaid. She thanked me for sharing that note and she said she would share this with their donors. I’m glad because I think it’s important for organizations and individuals who give to educational programs like this to know that they truly do make a difference and that they'll make a difference in this little girl's life.

I can not stress enough how the quality of education that our children receive makes such a difference in their future. I didn't attend an elementary school with a lot of funding but thank goodness I attended a better middle school and high school. Thank goodness I was a part of the Magnet programs at these schools and I received an even better education because of the Vanguard and IB programs.

Now that I'm a mother I understand how these programs shaped my life and I want even more for my children. That's why I've worked so hard to make sure that my kids also attend magnet schools and that they have the best education available to them. I want them to do more and to be more than I was. I want for them what every parent wants for their child.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

The Time I Was the Victim of Racial Profiling

I was at the light on Fulton and Boundary when I saw the police car facing me on the opposite side of the street. I was talking to my father, no doubt using my hands, because I’m Hispanic and that’s what I do. The light changed and I continued down Fulton. Right about the time I was in front of Moody Park, the site of the famous riot of the 1970s, I saw the lights flash behind me. I was perplexed. What had I done? I wondered.

The young police officer came up to my window. I couldn’t tell if he was Hispanic or White. He could have been a White guy with dark hair or a light skinned Hispanic, or maybe half and half. He didn’t look any older than 25. He asked me for my driver’s license and my insurance. I told him that the driver’s license was in my purse and that my insurance card was in my glove compartment. I reached for both and handed them to him.

As I reached across my father’s lap for these I noticed that his partner had also gotten off the car and was standing next to my car on the passenger side looking in at my 90 year old father.

I asked him puzzled what I had done wrong. First he told me that he’d stopped me because the light was out on my license plate. Second he told me that the reason he had noticed me and decided to follow me was because I had flipped him off at the light back there.

I was dumbfounded now. I realized that he was the police car that I had seen just earlier at the light facing me. So he had made a U turn and had followed me because he thought I had flipped him off.

I was at a loss for words but I told him, “I’m not the kind of person who would flip you off,” and not knowing what else to say at that moment to plead my case I added, “I’m a very educated person.”

“Oh are you?” he asked in a mocking tone as he walked away with my driver’s license and insurance.

I turned to my father and told him what the policeman had said to me. My father was just as puzzled and surprised by the whole thing.
The policeman returned and handed me my information and I told him I had no idea what I may have done to make him think I was flipping him off. I explained that I speak with my hands and that maybe that’s what had happened back there. He told me to get my light fixed and he didn’t give me a ticket, but he left me with a really sad and uneasy feeling.

I’ve seen so many stories about people being stopped by the police and about racial profiling. I was a Hispanic woman driving in Northside. There are many types of people in my neighborhood. Sadly, there are the types of people who would flip off a cop, but there are people like that everywhere, not just here.

When I told my ex-husband about the incident he could not stop laughing. First of all because he knows I’m not the type of person to flip off the police. He thinks I’m one of the biggest nerds he knows. The other reason he laughed so hard was because of the type of car that I drive. I drive a little Honda Fit. Hardly a loud car and not the kind that usually attracts the attention of the police. I have stickers on the back of my car supporting my daughter’s lacrosse team and school. He asked me if I had been playing my NPR too loud.

When my ex pointed out all these obvious things it made me realize even more how ridiculous all this had been and it made me wonder about the policeman’s judgment.

But in addition to how ridiculous it all was it also scared me. I had never before in my life felt fear when being stopped by the police. Yes sure I felt nervous like everyone else does, and I hoped they wouldn’t give me a ticket, but there was something different about it this time. I hadn’t done something that I knew was wrong, like running a stop sign or not coming to a complete stop at a light. This time I was being accused of something I absolutely did not do. I was also scared by the way his partner had also felt the need to get out of the car for back-up. I didn’t know what they were going to do if they really felt like I had insulted them.

I couldn’t help but wonder how they had felt when they saw that I was a middle-aged, over-weight lacrosse mom, in a Honda Fit with a 90 year old wearing a tie riding shot gun. Did his partner laugh at him or did they still feel justified in their stop?

There was also a weird irony that he stopped me right in front of Moody Park, the historic site where thousands mostly Hispanics protested the light sentencing received by police for the beating death of Joe Campos Torres.

In that moment, on that day, I felt that I understood how people feel when they are singled out and stopped by the police. I couldn’t help but wonder if all he had seen was a Hispanic woman in a poor neighborhood and that he had assumed that I was the type of person who would shoot the finger at him.

What had he expected when he stopped me? I’ll never know the answer to any of these questions. I just know that in that moment I felt like this person who is supposed to make me feel protected and safe, saw me, thought he saw me do something I didn’t do, and then made assumptions about the kind of person I was and about my character. And that is not a cool feeling.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Next stop- Middle School & High School

Today I find out where my two children will be going to high school and middle school. Yes, that little girl who I blogged about nine years ago when she was taking the Vanguard test for the first time is about to go to high school. And that little boy who was just born 11 years ago (in April) is going to middle school. We are playing the waiting game today!

Last year at the Rodeo carnival on the death machine that takes you across the park.

This year the application process was all online so all the parents are receiving email notifications starting at 4 p.m. today. I can barely stand it! I have been keeping busy at work and I worked on some lacrosse charity stuff during lunch, but I keep watching the clock. I know the kids are thinking about it at school today too.

Miranda applied to four high schools and I applied to about six schools for Seth. I am praying that Miranda gets her first and second choice schools and I am praying that one of the schools with a great Magnet program accepts Seth. He has made so much progress this year and he needs a good school where he can continue to thrive and grow.

As a mom it's so heart-wrenching when your kids don't get accepted into a program or a school they want. It's the first step in that realization that you can't protect them from everything, from heartache and disappointment. It's a learning experience for me as a mom too. It's part of learning about life for them and about reality. It's also a lesson about how we have to work hard to get what we want in life. I wish my babies the best today. 

Monday, February 16, 2015

Embracing 45 with Open Arms

I turned 45 last week and I embraced it like a champion. Turning 45 is not going to be something that I will be sad about. Some people don't get the privilege to grow older. So I made it all about gratitude and for 8 days I posted what I was grateful for. I called my week of celebrating my Big 4-5 VD, because my birthday falls right before Valentine's Day.

So here is a compilation of all of my gratitude posts for the week.

Day 1 of Gratitude: Grateful for this amazing beautiful day & for being alive to see it!

Gratitude Day 2 & Day 3: (I forgot yesterday) I am grateful for great friends/family who really surprised me on Saturday & really warmed my heart. Today I'm grateful for my long & interesting career in newspaper, for my small business, that I'm employed full time & for my new PadreCare column with
 — feeling loved.

Day 4 of Gratitude on the Eve of my Big 4-5 VD: I am grateful for my name and my identity. Forty-five years ago my mother didn't know if she would have a boy or a girl but she had my name picked out. I'm so glad she chose such a unique name. She used to tell me that my sisters chose my middle name, Yvette, so I was named Loida Yvette Casares.

Day 5: Today I am grateful to have lived another year. Some people don't get that privilege. I think of my sister Hilda who only had 42 years on this earth and I am humbled and grateful that I got to wake up today. My children got into bed with me, hugged me & wished me a good day. I am blessed.

The celebration continues this week but so does my commitment to show gratitude. Day 6: Today I am grateful for the setbacks that have formed me and made me stronger. Setbacks teach you a very good lesson and remind you that you should never take things for granted when they are good. They make you see all the good things that you do have in your life and what is truly important. And they also show you what you are capable of accomplishing.
 — feeling grateful.

Day 7 of Gratitude. After having attended this luncheon I must say I am grateful for my health, so far, & the health of my children. I heard stories about experiences children have had with heart disease & damage from chemo. I promise not to take this health for granted any more for the years I have left on this earth.

Happy Valentine's Day to Me! Day 8 of Gratitude: I am grateful for ME! For my strength & my resilience that has seen me through so many things in life. 

Yes, I am humbled and grateful to have lived another year. Every year that I live past 42, the year my sister died, will be a celebration of life and I'll wear a strawberry pin in memory of her. 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Coparenting with an Ex-Husband

I would be lying if I said it was easy. It isn’t. It takes work just like any relationship does. The guiding force in this relationship is your mutual love for the same people- your children. No ifs ands or buts about it, the only way to look past your own feelings of anger, resentment or jealousy is to think about the children and what this means to them. Think about how they feel when they see their parents getting along and think about the example that you’re giving them about being mature adults.

The first year after our divorce was the hardest for many reasons. He had moved on and was in a serious relationship and I started dating. We had a really rough time, including about three full months that I didn’t speak to him. Even then, we didn’t let our differences affect the children as badly as we could have. He still took them every other weekend and spent time with them.

Eventually we got through that tough first year and we were able to move forward. We are now at a very different place from where we were three years ago.

Example. It’s Sunday night after a weekend with the kids and my ex calls me to tell me he’s on his way home after my daughter’s lacrosse practice to pick up all their things to bring them home. He asks me what I’m making them for dinner and I tell him I have some tuna. He says he has some chicken and vegetables and offers to make dinner at his house. I say okay and go over. We eat a great dinner and then the kids pack up their things and we go home.

Another day, my best friend and I are going to go out for drinks. Our boys are best friends too. My son wants to know if he can have a play date with his friend so my ex calls my best friend to tell her that he’ll keep her son while we go out. He picks him up and my best friend picks me up and we go out. He does this quite often because my best friend’s ex lives in another city. This is our village. Are we perfect? No. Do we still fight? Yes. We’re human and things happen, but we are still friends too.

In the end we know that we are working together to raise two very strong and smart kids with a huge personality and sense of humor. When they were younger and I realized how loud they both were I told him, “Why can’t one of them be quiet?” He looked at me and said, “Are you seriously asking me that question?” We are both loud and so are they.

I don’t want do anything to change that about them. I don’t want to do anything to affect their development as adults. I want for them to grow up strong and confident and for them to think about how we worked hard to get along for them. When I’m old and it’s my turn I want for them to remember that I took care of my dad in his old age. (ha ha) More importantly, I want for them to have a good relationship with each other and with their future partners in life.  Because one day we’ll be gone and our example will be all that they have left.