Friday, December 10, 2010

Elisabeth, Butterflies, and the Empty Chair

Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross
I felt a heavy weight in my heart as I watched the news Tuesday on the various Pearl Harbor Day remembrance events. It is difficult to imagine all those families at the time, happily preparing for the holidays, not knowing that tragic day would leave empty chairs at many dinner tables.

As much as I love this time of year, I know it can be difficult for families who have lost loved ones. For me, I have found the work of Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross inspirational and healing in times of grief. Her legacy includes foundational work in hospice care, bereavement, and the Kubler-Ross model, what we know as the five stages of grief.

Elisabeth spoke of the end of life with quiet strength and truth. She has helped countless families overcome the empty chair. Some of her most profound interviews involved her work with children during the Holocaust. She understood, in a seemingly visceral way, that death is a natural process – and even tragic death can eventually be understood with healing and acceptance in time. In these interviews, she described the prison walls of the Nazi camps as being covered with drawings of butterflies, drawn by children who felt hope and peace in those happy images.

Butterflies, like dolphins and dragonflies, are symbols of the transition from life to the next point on our spiritual journey. Those children didn’t know that, yet butterflies were everywhere. I feel confirmation in that bittersweet story, proof of the spiritual connection we all share.  As difficult as it is for the heart to hear, I do encourage you to take the time to listen to her interviews. Her words are simple, honest, healing, and life-changing. She helps us embrace the empty chair and fill it with memories and butterflies. A true gift at this time of year.

"The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths.  These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity and an understanding of life that fills them with compassions, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

NYS Latinos in 2050: Looks like NYS is failing us!

I'm looking at the demographic trends of where Latinos are now and where they are heading, and I can see some serious issues for NYS ahead if we don't do something - if we don't make our leaders do something. I'm a Puerto Rican mom with two Latino daughters - I want to know what kind of future NYS will give them. And I'm telling you right now, it's not pretty.

The majority of Latinos in NYS are currently in the service and retail industries. Yes, there are many in the professions (doctors, lawyers, etc.) and a rising number are entrepreneurs. But the majority are in occupations that don't require a college degree.

Okay, so maybe that's because of baby boomers and other generations who didn't have the opportunities Latinos and people of color generally have today. So, I look at college demographics.

Yep, rising population of Latinos heading to college - but, not graduating at the same rate as whites. Hmmm. The State University of New York will soon be at 25% Latino students, but only 6% of faculty are people of color. That can't be right - I'd better make a few calls and check those numbers. But if that's true - no wonder grad rates aren't as high for students of color at SUNY. Where's the support???

All right, let's look at elementary and high schools. Again we have few Latino teachers, rising numbers of Latino students, and creeping numbers of graduation rates, and creeping numbers of high school grads going to college. From day one when a student of color enters kindergarten, there should be an assumption that that child is going to college. Every teacher, parent, principal, support service provider, cafeteria server, janitor, and coach in that student's entire educational career should be saying "of course you're going to college" every day. And NYS needs to give schools the support to make those words come true.

But the numbers are there. It doesn't look like it's coming true. Well, it is, but the rates of growth of high school to college transitions are creeping for Latinos compared to whites.

In 2050, there will be more people of color in NYS than whites. Will the State's economy shift to a population that is so heavy in service and retail industries that the State's financial, health, and legal professions/industries falter? Innovation, technology - will the economic and innovative strength of our country be centered in white states?

Until NYS's educational systems can meet the unique needs of Latinos and other people of color, NYS is facing terrible trouble in 2050. We must get our people into the sciences and technology, we must have them graduating from law and medical schools, we must have them on Wall Street.

But NYS is still stuck in a primarily white-based educational system, both in regular education and in higher education. And - NYS is still not doing near enough for Minority and Women Owned Businesses.  

The kids entering kindergarten today will be our State's primary working population in 2050. What kind of work will they be doing? How will the State prepare them for the work needed in 2050?