From a USC degree to food stamps: my upcoming years in service
Who Am I?
The name’s Liz Warden. I grew up in Half Moon Bay, a small town 20 miles south of San Francisco and 50 miles north of Santa Cruz. I went to school with the same people from elementary school to high school, which urged me to get out of the small town bubble and see other people and cultures. I am also an only child from a itty bitty family (think what stereotypes you want to think, I’ve got enough of that throughout my childhood already). These are just some of the factors that made me decide as far back as elementary school that I wanted to be a journalist. Meeting all different kinds of people, always on-the-go, not staying in one place for too long, working with people with a similar – dry – sense of humor and writing for a living – what could be better? You also can’t forget that journalism, historically, has been a “public service” profession: Exposing injustices to the greater public, being a “watchdog,” holding politicians and others accountable for their words are just a few ideas that intrigued me about the profession. But most of all what inspired me to go to j-school at USC was that someday I could draw attention to social issues – especially those underrepresented in the U.S. and internationally – through my reporting. And sure, I can do that. I already have with some of my work. But the real question is: Does drawing attention to social issues actually motivate the readers to take action and do something about them? Maybe, maybe not.
That’s why I’m eager to put my reporter’s notebook on my bookshelf for good, ditch objectivity and actually fight social issues I’ve reported on previously or learned about (I was an international relations minor). The next three-four years of my life will be dedicated to national and international service. This blog is going to follow my journey as working in the U.S. with AmeriCorps for a year then abroad with the Peace Corps.
During my time in college as a student journalist I became very interested in public education and a lot of my stories ended up featuring the Los Angeles Unified School District in some way. Let’s not forget the school district’s $408 million deficit and its ongoing reduction of its teaching force in the past two or so academic years to help alleviate its budget crisis. Add on top of that reform attempts and the teacher’s union and you get one hell of a mess that could fill up more than one post in this blog.
So, What’s Next?
That’s what inspired me to work for City Year, an AmeriCorps program that places recent graduates into urban schools with high dropout rates in cities across the country (I’m obviously serving in Los Angeles). We basically are assigned a group of kids that are at risk of dropping out in an elementary or middle school and mentor them all year. We live on a next-to-nothing monthly stipend for living in Los Angeles, a metro pass and food stamps. I’m living in a house with 13 other guys and gals that are part of the program too (more of this to come later).
City Year recently established a partnership with the Peace Corps that encourages alumni of both programs to switch to the other program. I plan to submit my Peace Corps application by October, then we’ll go from there!
Follow me these next couple of years as I detail the life of a former college student living off a small government stipend trying to make a difference in this world. Idealism at its finest.
Food for Thought:
“Break your mirrors! Yes, indeed — shatter the glass. In our society that is so self-absorbed, begin to look less at yourself and more at each other. Learn more about the face of your neighbor, and less about your own.
I suggest this: when you get to be 30, 40, 50, or even 70 years old, you’ll get more happiness and contentment out of counting your friends than counting your dollars. You’ll get more satisfaction from having improved your neighborhood, your town, your state, your country and your fellow human beings than you’ll ever get from your muscles, your figure, your automobile, your house, or your credit ratings.
You’ll get more from being a peacemaker than a warrior. I’ve been both, so I speak from experience. Break the mirrors!
Be peacemakers of the community, and you and your family will be happy.” –Sargent Shriver