A Day in the Life of Court on 2.24.12

Hello from Tampa, and Happy Friday everyone!

I am writing today to reflect on a meeting I had this past Wednesday at the  Sulphur Springs Elementary school.  The town of Sulphur Springs covers a 1.2 square mile radius of the Tampa Bay Area with a population of over 6,500 individuals (5,562 people per square mile). According to City-Data.com, in Sulphur Springs, 40% of the population is below poverty level, and the average family of four income is $10,500. Driving through the town, it’s not hard to recognize the reality of this statistic. Broken down homes, rundown businesses, questionable neighborhoods and the majority of people on foot getting to where they need to be….this town is plagued with poverty and little opportunity.

My mentor, Ali Mathe, and I went to the elementary school to meet with the director of their after-school program because we wanted to bring our Leadership Exchange students to volunteer with the children in their after-school program. The director, Jason Grooms, is a phenomenal guy doing great things for the children and the community there in Sulphur Springs, but the information he shared with Ali and I was astounding. I wish I had more detailed information about the after-school program he has been building, but we didn’t have enough time to cover all that. He did inform us that he started the program there at Sulphur Springs Elementary three years ago with only 100 children in the program. Now, three years later, there are over 300 children in the after-school program, and the strides they are making are unbelievable.

They have an exceptional program called Y-Reads, and it is a one-on-one tutoring program with children that have trouble with literary skills. The Y-Reads program helps these children get to the appropriate reading and writing level for children their age. Grooms shared with us that 70% of the children starting school at the elementary (Kindergartners) are below the grading level they need to be in order to enter school. Apparently, for those in the education industry, the majority of the children that go to Sulphur Springs Elementary are considered to be in the “Red Zone”, which means they are not at the grading level they should be.

He was explaining to us the statistical information of the town and attempting to illustrate how impoverished the neighborhoods, but it didn’t take much illustration to paint the picture for us. After our meeting, the one thing he said to us that keeps playing through my mind is “this school and the after-school program are a safe haven for these children from 7 am to 6 pm, but the moment the clock hits 6:01 pm, everything these children learned and worked for that day falls to the wayside.”

How can that be? Why is it that a school and the teachers and mentors have to be the children’s safe haven? Isn’t that what home is supposed to be? ….Sadly, not for these children. These innocent children go to school each day starving because the only meal they’ve had is the meal they got at school the day before. Could you even imagine, as a child, thinking the only guaranteed meal you will receive is the meal you get at lunch time at school?

What breaks my heart is that these children have no other choice….no other option. They were born into a situation they, themselves, cannot get out of. It is up to the right teachers, mentors and volunteers to educate these children, and give them opportunity they wouldn’t otherwise have. Most families in this neighborhood don’t care about the education of their children; it’s not a priority for them. Over 40% of people that live in this neighborhood never even completed high school. Why would they care if their children did?

I feel like I could go on about this for days, but I needed to get some of this off my chest. There are so many stupid, insignificant and unimportant things our government is working towards, but the education of these children in Sulphur Springs, and children in other cities nationwide, are forced to suffer. I understand it’s hard to fix the problem because the problem isn’t the children; it’s the families and the community. But, we need to give these children as much opportunity as possible to break this never-ending cycle they were born into.

With love, and hope for a better tomorrow, Court. 🙂

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A Day in the Life of Court on 2.20.12

Greetings readers! Hope this blog finds you happy, healthy and having a great start to your week. 🙂

Today, Monday, has been a busy one for me. On a side note, I hope I don’t deter any followers because some of my writings are me just blogging about my day. I know it’s not always interesting to read about what is going on in the life of Courtney Tipton, but I promise you that in addition to my personal rants, I will blog about things more appealing and interesting. Okay, back on track with my day… started out opening the gym this morning at 7 AM. Funny thing for those whom aren’t already aware, when you call campus security at 6:45 AM  to open the doors to the gym, they don’t get there until 7:15 AM. Today, on the other hand, they get there right at 7 AM…. BUT, as I assumed they wouldn’t be there on time like usual, I stayed in my room to eat breakfast before I walked over and ended up missing them! Damn it! Well, I guess there was a lesson well learned this morning… when you assume, you only make an ass out of you and me. Haha.

Sorry for that slight tangent. After the gym, I went on with my day with meetings and such, and now I am at the Wellness Center finishing up end of the day things. At times, I feel like I live in this place. Our Director of Campus Recreation was jokingly yelling at me when I got to work today about leaving my Keurig cup in the Keurig over the weekend. Haha. I so kindly informed him that it was only left in there from Sunday because I spent my entire Sunday afternoon working in the Wellness Center. Shocker!

Anyways, my day has been very uneventful, but can’t complain about the beautiful Florida sunshine. 🙂 Lately, all I can think about is this upcoming weekend. I have applied to the University of South Carolina’s Higher Education and Student Affairs Graduate Program, and this coming weekend is the interviews for graduate assistantships within the department of student affairs. I fly out on Saturday to Columbia, South Carolina and don’t return to Tampa until Tuesday. I will be staying with three students that will be second-year students in the HESA program, and I am so excited. I am  just unbelievably nervous about the graduate assistant recruitment process.

I am the first of my family to graduate from a four-year university, and the first to ever pursue an even higher degree of education. I am proud of all that I have already accomplished, but nervous about the journey that lies ahead. If it weren’t for my advisers and mentors here at UT, I am not sure what I would do. They have truly held my hand every step of the way. My parents have helped me so much up to this point in my life, but I have turned onto a new course of life they have never traveled. Finding myself has been an ongoing quest, but for once I have found something that I am genuinely passionate about; students affairs. I just want to make sure I do everything right….everything perfect along the way. I want the most experience and education to make me one of the best in the profession.

Well, I have to sign off for now. I need to head for the next thing on my agenda; the Student Government Office. Until next time, may peace be with you. 🙂

A Day in the Life of Court on 2.18.12

Happy Saturday everyone! Not sure how you woke up this morning, but I woke up to my roommates screaming for me to get out of bed. Not always the most pleasant way to bring in the new day, but I love them anyways….even though they are absolutely obnoxious. Haha. They know my feelings about them so don’t worry, I am not saying anything they don’t already know. Regardless, they woke me up because we had a flag football game to play!

Last fall, we created a flag football team to compete in the flag football intramural games. We were Team Back That Pass Up. We had the most amazing jerseys of anyone that played, but they did not influence any wins. Needless to say, we lost miserably, but it was all fun. The picture below is our team. 🙂

Anyways, this spring, UT Intramurals thought it was a great idea to have a weekend flag football tournament, so my team and I signed up! Why wouldn’t we? We needed to put our jerseys to use one more time! This morning was our flag football game, and I must say it was a success! I don’t think I would blog about a loss, so you take your guess- WE WON!!! Surprisingly, we all played rather well. Don’t laugh, but the “TIPTONATOR” (that’s me), caught the ball three times and grabbed two flags! Haha. It may not have been the most gracious game to watch, but Team Back That Pass Up tore up the field this morning. I wanted to share the win with my readers, hence this little post. Our winning picture is below. 🙂

Well, I am going to have to peace out now and do something more productive. Saturday is my only day to catch up on the things piling up on my desk. Hope my readers have a fabulous weekend. If you have anything you would like me to blog about, shoot me your comments! 🙂 Much love.

Smiles

Quote 2: “Make your smile change the world, but don’t let the world change your smile.”- Unknown

Just to familiarize my readers with me, I used a picture of myself (FYI). Although this quote isn’t particularly deep, it carries great meaning. I have this quote written on the front of my planner so that it’s a daily reminder to smile even when things aren’t as ideal as I would like them to be. We all face day to day trials and feel the hours of stress weigh on our shoulders, but that is no reason to not take time to yourself and remember to smile.

We often lose sight of the simple things because we’re so caught up in the demands of our own lives, but it is a necessity to remember the things we are grateful for and appreciative of. I don’t know about you, but I wake up every morning thankful for another day. Not to mention, I am extremely blessed to have the love of so many friends and family members, and the compassionate love of my boyfriend. When I walk into the kitchen for breakfast, I cannot help but thank of how fortunate I am to make myself a meal and brew myself a hot cup of coffee. I know that sounds silly, but unfortunately there are many populations in this world that go days without food and water.

My point in all of this is, take the time to reflect on the things you have and not on the things you don’t have. Smile because you are blessed and wipe away that frown of stress. Don’t let this crazy world consume you. Change your circumstance by changing your outlook. Change your outlook by looking internally and smiling because you have the ability to think, reflect, and change!  🙂

Angel in the Marble

Quote 1: “I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.”-Michelangelo

I choose this quote as my first because it reminds me of the trip my mom and I took to Italy last May. We traveled all over Italy, but nothing was as magnificent as standing in the Sistine Chapel. Never have I stood before artwork that drew tears from my eyes because of its magnificence. Enamored by the works of Michelangelo, it was hard for me to pull away and continue with the tour. When we visited the Basilica of Santa Croce in Florence, where you can find the tombstone of Michelangelo, I just stood in silence. If only I were alive in his time to witness Michelangelo creating such beauty. My advice to anyone that wishes to travel the beautiful country of Italy, don’t deny yourself  the opportunity to see the extraordinary originals of Michelangelo’s work.

Anyways, this quote resonates within me. It speaks to me like no other quote. When Michelangelo spoke these words he meant them literally, but in an insightful sense, he meant them figuratively. Michelangelo was a phenomenal Italian Renaissance painter, sculptor, architect, and engineer of the late 1400s, creating masterpieces such as the Statue of David, and the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Michelangelo would chisel at chunks of marble creating breathtaking works of art. What amazes me is that Michelangelo viewed his sculpting as chiseling away the marble to discover the beauty that lies within.

The reason this quote speaks such volumes is because I believe each of us are chiseling away at the marble to find the beauty within. There is a beauty inside each and every one of us. There are goals, dreams, motivations, and aspirations. There are hopes, wants, desires, and needs. The marble in which we chisel is this funny thing called life, and the beauty within is the angel waiting to be set free in each of us. Each of us are on a quest to discover our true selves, but the only way to discover is to live; to carve at the marble until the angel is set free.