MSSO Adventures!

Due to the lack of snow we were forced to change what was becoming a nice MSSO tradition. This year our ADVENTURES ON ICE had to be replaced by adventures in New York City. Our journey started very early in the morning. For some it started abruptly by a text message at 2:30 AM with the picture of a lovely puppy. At that time it could hardly look lovely but achieved its purpose, it woke us up. Early preparations let to early meetings in Pittsfield, Lenox, Lee and Great Barrington. If we had had cameras following us through our morning journey observers would have taught we were participants in “The Amazing Race”. Some of us seemed to have lost our clues and were running late while others were driving in the Mass Pike, through Great Barrington, on route 22, rout 41, route 44 and others who knew where.
Eventually we ALL made it. We ALL made it, even one of our precious members who seemed to have been left behind until a “knight” in shining armor (his car) rescued her and reunited her with her friends. Amazingly we were all there, shaking and shivering while waiting for the train to arrive. For many the first train ride ever, for others the first train ride in the United States, for others a familiar ride and yet indeed a unique adventure since they were riding at 6:20 AM with friends from Benin, Brazil, China, Colombia, Ecuador, India, Lee, Mexico, Pittsfield, Puerto Rico, Russia and Ukraine.
Like in movies such as The Polar Express the conductor walked up and down the aisle collecting and marking tickets while the whistle would blow once in a while. As it often happens in large groups, someone misplaced his ticket and worried about being kicked out. While we glided through the Hudson Valley corridor, we caught a few early morning sun rays, caught up with a bit of sleep or caught up with friends not seen for a little while. After so much anticipation we arrived in Grand Central Station to be marveled by its beauty. That’s when the MSSO picture taking epidemic started. Multiple camera clicks captured our amazement at the physical beauty of The City; starting with Grand Central, its hallways, corridors and chandeliers, 42nd Street, Park Avenue, The Empire State Building, the New York City Subway, Canal Station, South Ferry, Battery Park, Clinton Castle, The Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, Trinity Church, the Wall Street Bull, and Ground Zero. Through every step we took we marveled at the city’s beauty that for so long had only seemed attainable through a TV or movie screen. All of a sudden the City was ours. Our own journeys to get to there prepared us to recall the journeys made by the thousands of immigrants who first set eyes in the Untied States through Ellis Island. We were able to visualize their journeys and remember our own immigrant stories. There we were, in Ellis Island, learning about the United State’s immigrant history and understanding our role in it. Knowing that like the immigrants before us we had set up in a journey to reach high goals and dreams of becoming the persons we were meant to become in a land still considered the land of opportunity.
We ended our journey with birthday cake (just a little, tiny bite) Bari, bari… or Happy Birthday songs in multiple languages embraced by genuine hugs of friendship. Once again, thanks to “President’s Day” the Berkshire Community College Multicultural Students (MSSO) had an incredible adventure. Maybe next year, we will go back to adventures on ice, but for now I think we are all very happy for our adventures in New York.

New Semester kind of New Year and New Resolutions.

As the spring 2012 semester starts it might seem that New Year’s resolutions are far gone, after all today is actually January 30, 2012. Rumor has it that a great deal of MSSO members made it to a very special list, The Dean’s List. But, it is not a rumor it is a fact! A significant number of MSSO members have proven that they are very serious about their education. Let’s take this opportunity to celebrate their achievements! CONGRATULATIONS to: Nhi-Nguyen Le, Tram Anh Le,Fernanda Machado, Irina Bezrukova, Nolan Fernandez, Sylwia Ketchenand, Jennyfer Chacon, Kostyantyn Latyshenko, Erik Lugin, Maria Middleton, Su Qin, Tannya Romero and Ginette Thales.
Keep up the hard work! Your achievements are an inspiration for all of us. While you continue working hard the rest of us will do our best while juggling college and life with the hope of joining you in such a prestigious list.
The semester is just starting; your calendars are just being updated. Keep track of your time and plan ahead. Dream big dreams of A’s and B+’s. Find support when you need it, and know that every step forward matters.
I am very proud of all of you, because every day you choose to take your life to the next level. You get up, juggle work and family responsibilities, find the time to do your college work and still manage to have fun.
Best wishes for this new academic semester.

In a Big Manila Envelope!

I just opened a big manila envelope, so stuffed that it had to be resealed with additional tape. Inside it, there was an assortment of hand written letters. In tiny little colorful envelopes feelings were expressed. As much as each one of them was unique and special they all echoed the same sentiment, “thank you!” Some said thank you in English others in Spanish. These letters came from PHS; from their ESL program. They came from the students who came to the MSSO Nov. 3rd Immigrant Stories Forum. The MSSO stories inspired them “
They saw a reflection of their challenges in your stories. They saw new possibilities through your academic achievements. They now have more reasons to believe that it is possible for them to master their English skills and pursue their academic dreams. They felt welcomed at BCC and believe that there is a place for them here.
Thank you!
Outside of the thank you from PHS I have heard other comments expressing appreciation from current BCC students and members of the community who came specifically to listen to your presentation. They along with the PHS students have been inspired.
They thank you for sharing your stories. They thank you for widening their horizons. I thank you for taking on the challenge, putting yourselves out there, being vulnerable and brave at the same time. You shared your memories, dreams, challenges and language. I thank you for being great role models!
This is a sample of what PHS students said:
“Hicieron la presentación interesante” (They made the presentation interesting)
“Lo que me gusto es que los estudiantes pasaron por casi la misma situación que yo al llegar a los Estados Unidos” (What I liked is that the students had similar experiences to the ones I had when I arrived in the United States)
“Me hiso recapacitar que lo mejor en la vida es estudiar”. (They made me reflect about how the best in life is to study)
“Me gusto cuando uno de los jóvenes dijo “roscas”, hace tiempo que no escuchaba esa palabra” ( I liked it, when a youngster said, “rosca”, I hadn’t heard that word for a long time)

Celebrating the Departed… through cultures..

Celebrating the Departed around the world 2011

I know there is a better way to post power point presentations, but all my notes are in boxes on top of boxes, so please bear with me. If you open the highlighted link it will take you to a power point presentation that will give you an interesting peak into how through exploring one’s own culture (for example me, exploring the Mexican celebration of the Day of the Dead) one can find how people from seemingly different backgrounds experience profound emotions in somehow similar ways.

Time to Remember the Departed

Dear BCC Community:

You might agree with my belief that as an educational institution we can expand our horizons beyond the classroom by learning about our diverse student body, their culture and traditions. On November 1st BCC will take advantage of the cultural calendar and allow our community to “taste” a bit of a different culture by hosting a Day of the Dead Luncheon. This mostly Mexican celebration occurs on the 1st and 2nd of November in connection with the Catholic holydays of All Saints Day and All Souls Day. The holiday focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember friends and relatives who have died. Traditions include building private altars honoring the deceased, using sugar skulls, marigolds, and the favorite foods and beverages of the departed, and visiting graves with these as gifts. As a backdrop for the luncheon members of the Multicultural Students Services Organization (MSSO) have set up an altar in the cafeteria.

The altar prompted by the Mexican Celebration of the Day of the Dead has lead to multiple discussions among Multicultural (MSSO) students, faculty and staff and might lead to even more. After introducing the concept of the celebration of the Day of the Dead it became clear to many MSSO students that even if we might come from different parts of the world and have very different religious backgrounds somehow our humanity transcends our cultures. While rituals, traditions and celebrations might differ setting up this altar has exposed us to an intrinsic commonality; we all seem to find solace in honoring our loved ones. The Altar of the Day of the Dead has morphed into an altar that hosts Indian, Chinese, Christian and non-religious symbols amid pictures of loved ones. This altar presents a glimpse into an aspect of our diverse student body. The more we learn about each other the more we can understand each other. We hope you enjoy it.

747 Applicants!

Raise your hand and repeat after me:

“ I hereby declare, on oath,
that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state or sovereignty of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen;
that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America
against all enemies, foreign and domestic;
that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same;

that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law;

that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law;
that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law;
and that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion;
so help me God”.

My heart was elated and my chair was shaken with the clapping and joy of thousands of family members and friends who witnessed the becoming of New Americans. SEVEN HUNDRED AND FOURTY SEVEN new Americans! Among them was one of us, our very own, Esperance Behanzin. The journey for all of them so different and full of challenges had come to an end. Under the same roof strangers born in faraway lands raised their hand and Pledged Allegiance to what now, officially is their Country! They stood with tears in their eyes and a knot in their throats as they sang the National Anthem. Flags, lots of American flags danced back and forth with the most joyful movement of finally becoming an American Citizen. If you see Esp, do as President Barack Obama did, and welcome her as a new American. Wish that her dreams, like those of the thousands of immigrants who found hope and opportunity in this country come true. Wish that her hard work and determination allows her to become the best person she can be and with that make our community a better place. Wish that she remembers October 26th, 2011 as one of the most important days of her life. And as you welcome her into this nation remember how all of us, whether citizens, permanent residents or temporary visitors share for this moment the opportunities that come with living in a free democracy and the responsibilities that come with it.
Through the magic of modern technology you will later get a peek to what we witnessed yesterday.

What could the future hold?

This last Saturday I had the honor to attend a fundraiser for an agency many of you might know, Literacy Network of South Berkshire . If you haven’t heard about them or what they do I invite you to get to know them. Their mission is to provide instruction on a confidential basis in reading, math, obtaining a high-school equivalency diploma, and English as a Second Language to adults living in Sothern Berkshire County. If you asked me what do they do I would say they transform lives! I have American friends who for various complicated reasons did not have the opportunity to learn how to read or graduate from high school when they were younger. Most of them are accomplished and successful adults who for years felt something was missing in their lives. With the help of Lit Net (short name) they were able to tackle the skill of learning how to read and write or complete their high school diploma. For many of them it also meant to conquer their fears and keep their heads up and proud of their achievements. I have other friends who have attended Lit. Net to learn how to speak English in order to be successful in their new life in America. At BCC we have been the lucky recipients of some of their program graduates, adults who have found the strength and skill they needed to embrace the challenges of higher education. This small yet impressive agency achieves great things with the support of volunteers who share their time and skills to make a difference by providing tutoring and or their financial support.
This year’s fundraiser honorees (usually an agency will find a person or a couple who embody the mission and goals of the agency) were Emanuel Ax & Yoko Nozaki Ax a talented couple. They were presented with the “Founders of America Award”. The award is given as a recognition of the role immigrants play “in building the character and texture” of the United States. Both Emanuel and Yoko immigrated as children (she was 12 he was 11 years old). They and their parents had to learn how to speak and write English and forge a new life for themselves in a new land. Emanuel came from Poland and Yoko from Japan. Even if they shared a similar immigrant background their paths did not cross but until later, where as young adults they were pursuing a career in music. Both of them are today internationally acclaimed concert pianists. During their acceptance speech Emanuel highlighted how important it was for their families to learn how to speak English and how difficult it was to do it without any kind of support. He acknowledged the important role Literacy Network plays in the lives of those they serve. I must confess I got a bit emotional listening to their story and realizing the transformative power of education, faith in one’s ability and the gift of volunteerism. As I carefully listened to them playing a wonderful piece on the piano I could only dream of how wonderful you will become and how proud I am going to be (when I am a not a very old lady) hearing about all your accomplishments and seeing how much you have changed the world for the better. I could not stop seeing many of you our MSSO members in them. I do not expect you to be accomplished pianists, but I know that you will be successful in whatever you set your minds to. I have seen your talents and kindness, your passion for your own future and your concern of others. For now I invite you to find out more about Literacy Network, Emanuel Ax & Yoko Nozaki Ax and start dreaming of your future success.

Read more about Emanuel Ax and why not listen to his music, it is truly beautiful

Lit Net:

Student Representation!

Remember what inspired the fight for Independence in the United States? Does “No taxation without representation” sound familiar? Well, we will not do a history lesson right now, but REPRESENTATION is the key word of the day. As students I hope you believe it is important to have a voice that represents you. Today is the last day to cast your vote for Student Trustee. The Student Trustee is elected by fellow students and serves as the liaison between the student body and the BCC Board of Trustees. This is an extremely important position. There are two candidates and you should identify which one you believe will represent you best. Today is the LAST day to vote. Go to Student Life.


Starting the right way!

The rush and last minute changes of the first week are done. By now you should know where your classroom is, what books you need and how much time you really need to get to class on time. Many of you have stopped by my office with high hopes for this semester and your academic future. A good number of you want to make sure you can walk down the graduation aisle with a yellow stole draped down from your shoulders. Well, that yellow stole can only be worn by those who have earned a GPA of 3.5 or higher and have been inducted into the Phi Theta Kappa honor society.
Many of you have been able to achieve that honor and I am sure that any of you who put their heart and hard work towards achieving it will do it. Be aware of your expectations as a student. Use the syllabus given to you in each class because they are unique to that particular class and professor. Make sure you come to college with a student attitude;
• Be on time and be fully percent. According to Woody Allen “80 percent of success is just showing up”. Making the decision to be a student was probably the first and hardest step, you have done it. Now keep up at it, show up, attend your classes, do the work, do the reading and the writing and turn it in. You decided to come to college and be a student then BE!
• Turn in work that speaks for itself (well done, using proper citation providing insightful comments and turned in on time).
• Schedule your study, work, family and fun time accordingly. As a student most likely you will be juggling many roles, assign time for each of them. Help yourself by using calendars and planners.
Remember your college years are unique. They will provide you with an opportunity to expand your horizons, achieve new skills and knowledge, make new friends and prepare you for the “real world”. Make the best of them!