Certain moments in history are so monumental that most people will never forget where they were when it happened or when they heard the news. For this generation, 9/11 is that moment.
I am sure I will always remember how I found out about 9/11. I had just recently started the fifth grade at Carr Elementary School in Torrance, Calif., and was nine days shy of my tenth birthday. Sometimes, my mom would turn on the news while I was getting ready for school, but she had not on that day. I walked to school that morning with no idea how the world had changed while I was sleeping. Once we were all in our seats, my teacher, Lauri Beard, told the class what had happened. The air grew heavy as a hush fell over the room. There was no sound but her voice.
I cannot repeat verbatim what she said to us, but the way she told us has always stuck with me. She did not try to sugarcoat things or pretend nothing was wrong just because we were children. She also did not try to scare us with talk of terrorists or warn us that we were under attack. She spoke to us straightforward, calmly, but with gravity. I cannot begin to imagine what she must have been feeling that morning, but I am sure having to tell a room full of mostly ten-year-olds something so horrible was no easy task. Whenever I think back to that awful day, I want to thank her for the way she handled such a difficult situation and the respect she gave us.
I can recall two ways in which my school attempted to convey the enormity of this tragedy to us students, and how they still resonate with me. When Miss Beard broke the news to my class, she told us that there had been enough people in the Twin Towers for them to qualify for their own ZIP code. On one of the following days, a row of easels was set up, each bearing a sheet of newspaper, covered with nothing but columns of names—thousands in all—of the dead and missing. I never would have imagined that mere text could have such a strong visual impact.
At the time, one of my best friends, Huda El-Haj, and her family happened to be Muslim. I remember her telling me about her father, who worked for the U.S. Postal Service, experiencing discrimination after 9/11. Years later, the Muslim Student Association at my community college, Cypress College, hosted Purple Hijab Day to raise awareness about domestic violence. They encouraged female students to don the hijab for a day to support the cause. I wore one of the lavender headscarves they were giving out and got dirty looks from at least a couple people. I was not personally hurt by this, but I could not help but feel for those women who wear the hijab every day as an expression of their faith and are subject to the prejudice I received that day or much worse.
In the thirteen years since 9/11, I have developed an ever-deepening desire to understand the world as best I can. Among other things, I want to have at least a modest comprehension of global politics. That is why I chose to mark the anniversary by attending the Thirteenth Annual Jules Tygiel Memorial Forum on Post-9/11 World Affairs, held on the 13th anniversary at SF State.
The assembled panel spoke on a number of political topics, centered around the ongoing turmoil in the Middle East, politics in India, the Russia-Ukraine conflict, and U.S. foreign policy. I found the whole discussion fascinating, but the discourse on the Middle East was what I found to be most fitting given the date. Fred Astern, a professor of Jewish studies, pointed out that we cannot yet know how the current state of world affairs will look when framed in a greater historical context. He elicited laughter from the packed room when he said, “the French Revolution—we don’t know how that’s going to turn out.” He also encouraged a shift from the predominant western view of the conflict in the Middle East that “emphasizes European colonialism and imperialism.”
The moderator, history professor Maziar Behrooz, explained some of the similarities and differences between Wahhabism, the Muslim Brotherhood, and Salafism, which are all derived from Islam. I found his description of the Muslim Brotherhood most interesting; Behrooz called it a “reformed” Islam and said that it encourages followers to be Muslim while accepting the likes of modern technology and reason.
Andrei P. Tsygankov, professor of political science and international relations, offered a bit of advice. “The world is changing fundamentally,” he said. “We need to come up with a better definition of what is the world we live in.”
That will not be easy to do, and it will be even harder to come to something enough people can agree on. Still, Tsygankov is right – the world is not at all the place it was thirteen years ago.
Janay Rice was a victim of domestic violence. As individuals who have never had to walk in the shoes of a victim of abuse, we do not know how to accept that she could endure such treatment, even once, and stay. But as the wave of stories have flooded the Internet with the hashtag #WhyIStayed, it has become more clear why women and men from every walk of life do stay.
Janay Rice does not owe us anything. Why she made the choice to follow through with marrying Ray Rice, to openly place blame on herself for the attack, and to defend him now, no one knows but her. What we do know is that there is clear evidence of what Ray Rice did: he spit in her face, knocked her down to the ground, and dragged her on the floor. Janay does not owe us anything, but the NFL owes it to women and society as a whole to allow no tolerance to abuse.
This week , the Baltimore Ravens released Ray Rice from the team, and the NFL suspended him from the league. They should have done this seven months ago when the first video documenting the abuse was released. Now, these decisions have caused more confusion than clarity.
The first video, leaked by TMZ in February, shows the Baltimore Ravens running back drop his then-fianceé’s lifeless body to the ground; the elevator doors hitting against her motionless legs, Rice pushes at her body. The second video, leaked on Monday, September 8th, reveals the full extent of the violence that took place. For the NFL to not exhaust all of its resources to confirm exactly what happened in that elevator was disregard to all victims of abuse.
Just two years ago, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell promised to make changes to the league’s policies dealing with domestic violence after a chain of such incidents arose. After acknowledging from the original evidence that the twenty-seven-year-old committed domestic violence, he concluded on July twenty-fourth that a fair punishment was a two-game suspension. The moment the NFL made that decision, they confirmed every accusation that they do not give a shit about women or victims of abuse.
All that this recent video did was show everyone, in detail, what they already knew. Goodell, Ravens coach John Harbaugh, and owner Steve Bisciotti claim that further repercussions were not made because no one in the organization had seen this video before it went viral – this is unacceptable.
Rice was charged with third-degree aggravated assault and indicted by a grand jury. Atlantic County Prosecutor Jim McClain said in a statement that his office approved Rice’s request for New Jersey’s pretrial intervention program, allowing him to avoid any jailtime. This led to the NFL’s “halt of fact-finding,” according to Goodell. The video was out there, TMZ got their hands on it, and if no one affiliated with the Ravens, Goodell, or the NFL had seen the video, they chose not to.
The Ravens made an immediate decision to release Rice after seeing the entire surveillance footage, and the NFL followed by suspending him indefinitely. Goodell stated the same day that it is possible that Rice could someday return to the NFL.
The fact of the matter is that twenty-one of the thirty-two NFL teams employed a player with a domestic or sexual violence charge on their record last year, according to statistics from U-T San Diego. Ray McDonald, defensive tackle for the San Francisco 49ers, was arrested for alleged domestic violence just two weeks ago and played during the team’s first game of the season on Sunday.
Regardless if Rice ends up being suspended permanently, this will not change the history or future of domestic violence in the NFL. The league instated its new Personal Conduct Policy last week, before the new evidence of Rice was revealed. Under the new penalties, domestic violence or sexual assault violations will merit a six-game suspension for a first-time offense and an indefinite suspension of at least one year for a second offense.
This is bullshit, and it has got to change. Violence is not justified by paying fines or sitting on the sidelines. Physical abuse is serious and real and it needs to be treated that way. The NFL is a massive and influential organization and until they drastically change their policies surrounding such conduct, they are fully condoning domestic violence.
For all of you students who were already pinching pennies, thanks to their barely affordable lifestyle San Francisco allows, you might want to start saving your quarters as well. As of September 1st, bus fare prices for Muni have been raised, courtesy of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency.
For the average adult Muni passenger, one Muni pass, valid for ninety minutes from the time of purchase, has been bumped up by $.25, to $2.25. For those of you who are still under eighteen, senior citizens, or disabled, the fare price remains at $.75, so no change there until 2016.
For all other casual Muni riders, carrying quarters, dimes, and nickels around just became a little more important; it could make the difference between paying $2.25 or $3 every time you ride the bus. Maybe it’s not such a crazy idea to visit the change machine in the arcade on the bottom floor of the Cesar Chavez Center once a week.
Though the jumps in price aren’t necessarily wallet-breaking, they are something to be aware of. Prices for a Muni monthly pass, in the past four years alone, have risen 9.7 percent, from $62 in 2010 to $68 this month.
Maybe this rise will have you consider applying for a Lifeline pass (if you make under twenty-two thousand dollars per year, you might qualify). Maybe it will make you find an alternative form of transportation around the City. Maybe nothing will change for you at all.
Just make sure when the fare inspectors come onto your bus, you have some proof of payment or be ready to pay a fine up to $110 that comes along with not paying.
To find out more information about Muni fares, take a look at SFMTA’s website.
Summer dresses and floppy hats are must-haves this season. Hadiha Nayebi pairs hers with an array of bohemian accessories and cutout ankle booties.
A knee-high socks and dress combo gives Andrea Rocca's outfit a retro feel.
Instead of wearing the usual denim cut-offs, Mikayla Wasiri rocks floral shorts.
Xpress Magazine Writer, Farnoush Amiri, looks boho chic in a crochet lace crop top and floral pants.
Summer hats give Talia Kalwani and her friend Erica Soto a '70s vibe.
San Franciscans and avid festival-goers came together for one last weekend before the end of the summer season for the 2014 Outside Lands music festival.
Undeterred by the cooling temperatures and the return of the ineludible fog, fashion enthusiasts swayed to headliners like Kanye West and the Killers while rocking crotchet tops, army jackets and printed bottoms.
While attending tastings at Wine Lands, getting henna tattooed and enjoying a set by local band, Grouplove, women of all ages rocked their best hipster/bohemian/San Franciscan looks that would only be socially acceptable at an event like this.
The overall theme of the seventh annual music festival was comfort, comfort and more comfort.
Unlike festivals such as Coachella and Electric Daisy Carnival, locals and out-of-towners came ready for the ever-changing Bay Area weather. The key to surviving this three-day, non-stop fest was layers.
As the early afternoon bands took their places at the Panhandle and Twin Peaks stages, attendees rocked out in Summer-appropriate gear but as the Super Moon and headliners like Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers came out, so did the beanies and cargo jackets.
One trend that was parading through the seven stages at the iconic Golden Gate Park was the ’70s printed bell-bottoms. This trend gave the music fan enough comfort to jump up and down to Mackelmore and Ryan Lewis while keeping warm and making a statement.
If you live in San Francisco or in any city that has four seasons (unlike Los Angeles), tights are a staple in any female’s wardrobe — instantly making a skirt and crop top cold weather appropriate.
August brings the Bay Area chill on in full force, and many festival-goers relied on trusty tights to avoid catching pneumonia while maintaining their festival style.
In any weather, Golden Gate Park’s thousand-plus acres of hills and mystical forests can get down and dirty, whether you are wandering aimlessly through the Digital Detox or running from the Killers stage to Tiesto’s light show.
The solution to the endless dirt and grass stains for this year’s attendees were boots of all styles and colors. The classic black bootie could be seen on almost every other flower child that weaved through the crowd of more than one-hundred thousand attendees on each night of the festival.
The last trend that (literally) capped off “festival fashion” season was an array of neutral colored fedoras and floppy hats that could be found flouncing on the heads of girls and boys alike over the three-day fest. This year-round appropriate accessory aided concert-goers from the rare rays of sunshine that blessed the music event and kept them a bit warmer as night fell.
With their flower crowns, knee-high socks, band-tees and fringe overload in tow, the people of Outside Lands enjoyed one of the best line-ups of any festival this summer, but made sure to stand out through the fog with their festive style that will sure be outdone next year.
An SF artist uses glass and neon gasses to create light sculptures.
Of the sixty artists who displayed their work in the “UNIVERSE: The Art of Existence” show at the Modern Eden Gallery in North Beach, only the piece entitled “Building Block No. 2” truly separates itself from the pack of mixed media. In a pocket of space, in the middle of the room, centered on the wall, between three arches, the element symbol for helium (He) glows in neon on a bed of silk white roses.
Past a bicycle resting at the foot of the stairs and up the creaky wooden steps of her studio, Meryl Pataky, the multi-disciplined artist behind the helium piece, is at her workstation contemplating reattaching a broken piece of glass tube in the form of the elemental sign for gold (Au). “Should I start over?” she asks herself out loud. Pataky’s aesthetic is always changing, but remaining constant is her overall vision for the works she produces. In her craft she uses the noble gases: helium (He), neon (Ne), argon (Ar), krypton (Kr), and xenon (Xe) amongst other materials such as iron, steel, carbon, and other organic materials like deer hide.
On her own in 2002, the thirty-one-year-old moved across country to San Francisco from South Florida to attend the Academy of Art University. Her interest in neon began in a class taught by Bill Concannon and from there her love for it grew. The medium both frustrated and excited her. “It was a challenge,” Pataky recalls of her time starting out, “And I just really wanted to get on top of it. It’s super hard, and I was like ‘fuck this’—I’m not going to let it get the best of me.”
Neon is the process of heating and bending a glass tube, and the glow is achieved when the gas (filled inside the tube) is charged with the current from the electrodes that are placed on the ends of the tube. Neon is a lost art and the medium presents itself as a treasure. The idea that it can not be reprinted or the fact that only one can be found on one wall is something pretty fascinating when you think about it. “It’s a unique beauty,” Bill Concannon says on the phone. “You’re not just looking at a picture of something, you’re actually looking directly at the phenomena of light being produced by electrically charged gases. If you get pretty close you could actually see that.”
Concannon, Pataky’s mentor at the Academy of Art University has been in the neon industry for forty years and has worked on neon special effects for various of films—listed on his resume are Star Wars, Star Trek, Back to the Future, and Ghostbusters to name a few. Pataky graduated in 2010 but she still considers him a mentor whom still helps her out to this day. “It’s like my extended education he likes to call it,” she says. Concannon was excited about her eagerness to learn and is impressed that she’s stayed with the medium in terms of fabricating it directly and is impressed by her technical ability. “It takes a lot of discipline and it takes a lot of repetition to do what she’s doing,” Concannon says. “It takes a lot of mistakes and being willing to work through those mistakes.” She bends her glass tubes in her studio but she takes them over to his studio to fill them with the gases.
“If I tried to bombard my own tubes in here I’d blow a fuse every time and as you could see we’re running off of extension cords,” she explains, pointing at the orange and white wires around the space of what used to be a brewery.
Her excitement and passion for the cosmos, outer space and nature is contagious. In a way, the work she creates reminds us that we’re just a tiny part of the expanding universe and it [the universe] as a source of inspiration shines through her artwork. She walks to a table around a three by six foot panel getting filled with pyrite, also known as fool’s gold, and shares acalendar with pictures of outer space she got for Christmas. On the pyrite panel, scribbled on the corner of a piece of paper is part of the lyrics to an Everclear song and a sacred geometry outline for a piece she’s working on that’s going to Brooklyn. On the floor and on a table behind her, mini cactus plants are scattered on newspapers and packs of pyrite are on another side table with packs falling onto the arm of a red leather chair by the window. She becomes giddy when she talks about her love for the television show COSMOS and promises to wear her Carl Sagan t-shirt every Sunday [when the show comes on]. Outside of Pataky’s neon world she spends her time being a nanny, riding her bike around, and hanging out with her boyfriend cooking dinners and watching shows on Hulu.
“I’m pretty boring,” she confesses.
Back at her workstation she’s bending a glass tube in the shape of an ‘x’ next to a little mason jar sealed with cigarette butts and tracks from the likes of The Roots and A Tribe Called Quest are blasting from two little speakers beside her; aligned behind her on a high shelf against a wall are terrarium plants; a mason jar of bullets and another of little skeleton pieces; a small half-muscle half-skeleton figure; and on the floor is a paper bag full of black roses she removed from her triangular “Untitled/Journey” piece that has the letters ‘jer ne’ centered on what’s now its replacement silk black roses next to it.
Resting on the floor, under the pyrite panel, is a deer hide Pataky got from Napa being stretched out for her show this summer. She picks up and spreads open a piece a paper that reveals a Rorschach test inkblot for the deer hide. The Rorschach test is a psychological test that examines an individual’s personality. The gold element she was working on earlier is for her “Golden Hour” solo exhibition at the White Walls Gallery in July. The show will be a continuation of what people are used to seeing from her but an elevation of where she was last year.
“The Golden Hour is all about the sun,” Pataky explains of the show’s concept, “And it’s [the show] sort of paying an homage to our mother sun and meditation on the immeasurable.”
The materials she’s using are more periodic elements and the pyrite going on one of the panels symbolizes the sun.
“A single tube of large neon will go vertically up the panel and with the wood slightly curved, the hope is that the light will sort of diffuse and dissipate as it goes out and I hope it’ll look a little cosmic,” she says of her vision for the pyrite-filled panel.
The other three by six foot panel she’s doing will be filled with cacti with a big neon sword that is representative of the Ace of Swords tarot card, which symbolizes a dominance or defeat of challenges. She thinks the outcome of these pieces will be her proudest creations yet. Recently, the stress of it all had been getting to her and she was beginning to doubt herself but an ease befell her one night, after a long day at the studio, when she was shuffling tarot cards and the Ace of Wands popped out of the deck.
“The Ace of Wands symbolizes creative enlightenment,” Pataky says, “And when it popped out of the deck it was a reassurance and validation that everything’s okay, my work’s okay, and I’m on the right path.”
Baby Boomers return to school in pursuit of facing new challenges and accomplishing life-long dreams.
In June of 1973, Anthony Maglio took off from Waco, Texas flying a freight carrier aircraft, just like he had many times before. Almost immediately, this night proved very different.
“I lost an engine on takeoff and made a controlled crash landing,” recounts Maglio. “They found me an hour-and-a-half later.”
He was in a coma for a month, the hospital for a total of four months, and spent another four months learning to walk again. He suffered neurological trauma, and a focal dystonia, which affected the finite skills in his right hand.
He returned to school at Southeastern Oklahoma State the following year and graduated with a bachelor’s of science, with a focus in physics. Exactly forty years later he is graduating with a master’s degree in gerontology (the study of aging) from SF State.
“I’m a lucky guy,” says Maglio, sixty-six, who hopes to start doctoral work in the fall at USF.
Maglio has spent a lifetime in the air, and has survived some close calls. He got shot in the leg while flying a helicopter in the Vietnam War, survived the crash in Texas, and flew to New York the morning of September Eleventh.
“I took off at midnight from LAX on September tenth and landed at Kennedy at six-thirty in the morning,” says Maglio. “I was in my hotel room, less than a mile from the towers, and somehow my wife got through, screaming, crying on the phone. I was in Manhattan for five days and it changed me about a lot of things.”
Afer a career as a captain for Delta Airlines, Maglio retired in 2005 and turned his attention to various projects including golf club design and school.
“I love my god, I love my wife, I love my son, I used to love hanging upside down in biplanes, and I love to learn more than you can ever imagine,” says an infectious Maglio, brimming with passion.
While examining nutritional problems among aging veterans at the VA Center in San Francisco, Maglio discovered motivational therapy, and has focused his work in the gerontology department at SF State toward helping elder diabetics who suffer from an ambivalence toward necessary change. He is using motivational interviewing as a therapy for lack of adherence to prescribed medication.
“A clinician can reach into a patient and draw out an intrinsic desire to make a change,” says Maglio, describing the motivational interviewing process. “It helps people gain an understanding of whatever they are ambivalent about, solve the problem sooner rather than later, save themselves money, and save our government money as well. That’s my dream.”
Of SF State, he says it’s been the best time of his life, academically, and he’s really learning to communicate effectively.
Maglio is one of many older students returning to school, a figure that has risen over the last few years. Approximately one quarter of all higher education students in this country are over the age of thirty, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, and that number is expected to rise. It is not uncommon to see someone in their forties, fifties, sixties, or older, on a university campus.
The American population is getting older. The US Census Bureau estimates that the population age sixty-five years and older is expected to double between 2000 and 2030, from thirty-five million people to seventy-two million. Each year, according to the enrollment data, SF State has roughly fifty or so undergraduate students age sixty or older, and around one hundred post-baccalaureate students that age.
Older students return to school for a variety of reasons. Some, like Maglio, have had a successful career and are in search of a new challenge, and want to develop tools to give back. For others, a college education has been a life-long dream, and is a chance to increase economic opportunities.
Terry Shelmire, fifty-three, works two jobs, seven days a week, and has only had one day off in the past six months. He says his feet hurt. Growing up in poverty, education was not a priority and he says that when you have the choice to start college or get your first job, you gravitate toward a job.
“Once you get in that way of thinking, once the money comes, even though they’re minimal jobs, not very much money, it’s like your momentum is going that way, and it’s hard to pull back,” says Shelmire.
Now he wants to break the cycle. Shelmire is enrolling at College of Marin this Fall where he will complete the remaining nine units he needs to be transfer eligible. He will take statistics, astronomy, and one more elective class.He plans to transfer to SF State in 2015 and major in communications.
“I made so many bad decisions as a young man, and in hindsight, as I look back those decisions kind of stagnated my life,” says Shelmire. “So if I go back I can improve my chances, I can help my community more, I can pursue better positions, better wages, and it can open doors that I can’t get in without education.”
He’s considering work as a minister, but he says most pastors won’t allow anyone without a degree to speak to a congregation. “Going back to school will help me tap into my fullest potential,” says Shelmire.
As the American population grows older, largely due to the aging “baby-boomers” generation, it becomes apparent that more emphasis should be placed on the study of aging, and the needs of older people.
Maglio’s research on diabetes in the elder community is one of many projects within the gerontology department at SF State, the first graduate gerontology program in the CSU and UC systems, founded by Annabel Pelham in 1986.
Part of Pelham’s mission is to debunk stereotypes and mythologies around aging. It is not all about pushing wheelchairs she says.
“We live in a segregated and ageist culture,” says Pelham. “Older adulthood is not really understood and appreciated, and there’s a lot of fear and anxiety around aging. But the potential and excitement that can happen from your sixth decade to your tenth decade is astonishing.”
Pelham grew up in the segregated south of Florida and has always been an advocate for social justice. Although people questioned her, she has dedicated her life to the study of aging.
“I started developing an interest in a class of people that I thought were ill-treated and ignored,” says Pelham. “When I first started in this field people didn’t know what the word gerontology meant.
Pelham’s work in the gerontology department has led to an expanded presence of older people at school. She created Sixty Plus, an independent organization geared to serve the needs of an older population who desire learning and growth in a campus setting. The program offers members an opportunity to attend lectures, partake in day and extended tours, share meals, and other special events.
For older students who wish to audit classes at SF State, Eldercollege, offered through the college of extended learning, provides students over the age of fifty a chance to audit any regular university course, on a space available basis, for fifty-five dollars a semester. Prior to Pelham’s arrival there was no formal opportunity for older students to continue life-long learning at SF State.
“I know that when we have older students in the classrooms, especially the undergraduate classrooms, the younger students gravitate to them and want to hear about their experiences,” says Pelham.
Manuel Sunshine, eighty-eight, a World War II veteran, has been a student at SF State for more than fifteen years. He said it has been difficult to get into the general education classes that all students are required to take. He finds it easier to audit the higher-level classes. Currently he’s focused on environmental science, which he finds increasingly important as the issues of global warming and climate change emerge. “Don’t buy real estate near the ocean,” says a half-joking Sunshine.
He thinks that nutrition and exercise are essential for older people, as well as socialization. He takes a chair exercising class on campus, and sticks to a strictly vegetarian diet. The classes and community on campus help alleviate the isolation that he faces.
For Isaac Hartstone, 88, education is important, but it has taken a backseat to other concerns. He attended San Francisco City College at an older age to receive his GED, but now he is focused on health, and has no interest in returning to school. For him, transportation is a primary concern.“I’m lucky I can still drive a little bit,” says Hartstone.
Dina Redman is a professor of social work and gerontology at SF State and says that older students have a lot to offer in the classroom. “They have a sense of focus, having had a series of different life experiences, and they have consolidated goals in terms of what they want to get from the education experience,” says Redman.
She says it can also be difficult, because older students are often juggling family, relationships, and work outside of school.
Redman coordinates the Student Success Program on campus, which offers a variety of services for students of all ages, including seminars for older students returning to school. She finds older students to be very dedicated students, not easily distracted.
Maglio is certainly motivated. He is planning an eighteen month study to prove that motivational interviewing is an effective therapy for diabetes. After so many years in the sky, his work is very grounded. As a single morbidity, diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in America, and for people with other conditions, diabetes compounds the risk. He treats it as an epidemic, and is working hard to make a difference.
He recalls a story about a hummingbird that refused to surrender when the forest was burning. All the other animals had given up, but hummingbird continued to bring water, one drop at a time. Lion asked Hummingbird, why? Hummingbird replied, I’m only doing my part.
“I hate tattoos,” says Maglio. “But if I were to get a tattoo, I’d get a hummingbird. I want to do my part.”
Atop the second floor in the Cesar Chavez student center lies a student organization unlike any other in the nation. The room emits life and energy as people continually filter in and out. The sound of laughter and light conversation can be heard among the ringing phones and rustling of papers. A large stack of handwritten letters from inmates all over the country lay neatly banded together on various desks. Every chair in the small room is occupied as lunches are eaten and friends catch up. These are the sights and sounds of Project Rebound.
Project Rebound was started in 1967 by late SF State Professor John Irwin who had been incarcerated in the fifties and went on to obtain a college education after he was released.It is a student organization that provides services to formerly incarcerated men, women, and children with the goal of creating self empowerment and student success. It is run by four ex-convicts who are able to provide empathy rather than sympathy through their shared personal experiences.
“We provide services to a very distinct clientele, one that requires trust and understanding,” says Project Rebound office coordinator Joseph Miles.
It first starts with a level of trust between the students and the staff. Trust is the most important thing to build because it makes the challenge of asking for help easier.
The inmate’s mind goes into survival mode the moment they step foot in prison.What to expect is thrown to the wind, which carries away with it the person they truly are. That person is replaced with someone trying to survive their current situation. The mind goes through a transformation in order to adapt.
“You think you’ve got a game plan until you get punched in the mouth once you arrive,” says twenty-four-year-old Jared Walker. “You’ve just got to improvise and take it from there.”
Multiple times a week Walker commutes an hour and a half from his home in Fairfield to to attend classes at SF State in business administration and finance. He is one of the multiple faces you pass in the hallway and one of the many peers you share classes with, but behind his seemingly positive exterior, lies a formerly incarcerated student.
Three and a half years ago marked one of the biggest turning points of his life. Walker was arrested on charges of assault with a deadly weapon and sentenced to three years in prison.
“There is a lot of pain involved in being locked up and I knew I didn’t want to be a part of that,” says Walker, “so I made up my mind to get an education and be everything I always knew I could but I was too immature to realize before I went to prison.”
While in prison, Walker heard about Project Rebound from another inmate. He had never heard of something like this before and it sparked hope within him. Being faced with the pressures, politics, and violence within prison made him realize that he did not want to go back to a life on the streets. He became eager to find more information about Project Rebound. After he was released from prison, he did not waste any time with his goal of receiving an education. He knew he needed to seize the opportunity.
“I was released on October fifteenth of last year and less than a week later I was at SF State asking about Project Rebound,” Walker says.
After spending a considerable amount of time incarcerated, rehabilitation into society can be one of the most challenging things for anyone, especially students. Busy hallways and large classrooms can be intimidating after being isolated from society for many years. Feeling safe and secure, instead of feeling out of place is one of the goals for Project Rebound. Getting readjusted proved to be a challenge for Walker. The obstacles he faced seemed insurmountable, but Project Rebound helped him to realize that he could overcome them.
“You don’t really feel like a college student when you’re getting called into an office to pee in a cup every week. You feel like a criminal,” says Walker, “but Project Rebound put me at a university which makes a huge difference in how I see myself.”
Walker feels a boost in confidence when he tells people that he’s a university student. They don’t see him as a parolee but as an educated individual working towards something to better himself and his future.
“Imagine being incarcerated since before the time of cell phones and computers and then coming to SF State and being expected to understand iLearn,” says Miles.
The tasks that students who grew up in the technical age take for granted, simply using a computer or a cell phone, can be a real challenge for these students, and Project Rebound provides help without judgement .
Project Rebound also assists its students with obtaining books and financial aid and also helps students find scholarships and housing.Although emotional support is the key to academic success, a student cannot succeed without these needs being met too. These things also played a key role in Jared getting back on his feet.
To overcome these challenges and thrive in their academic career shows an admirable amount of courage and determination. This is most evident in Project Rebounds numbers of recidivism and graduation rates. Only three percent of the students who go through project rebound are reincarcerated, and ninety-four percent of their students graduate with a bachelors degree.
“Education is a sustained way to self-empowerment,” says Project outreach coordinator Erik Durnell.
Walker wants to help other people turn their lives around and seizes any opportunity he can get to talk with people and help them. He spends a lot of time in the Project Rebound room doing what he can to offer assistance. “I consider myself really blessed that I was able to come out of prison with my life, my freedom and my health,” says Walker.
Jared plans to graduate from SF State with honors and wants to go on to receive a masters degree in business. He wants to eventually start his own business that helps underprivileged people take care of their finances. Since people in these communities are not usually given the opportunity or resources to do so, he feels like this a way to contribute his passion for finance within his community.
“If you can alleviate poverty than you can alleviate the numbers of people going into the prison system and getting chewed up and spit out by it,” Walker says.
Apparently, he was sitting right next to me with his arm around me the whole time. He wanted me to know he is always with me and he is helping my spirit navigate through the difficulties every college student and human being in general encounters. He was explaining that he was taken suddenly, which is true. I was told that he was snapping his fingers and saying that everything slowed down and then boom—he was gone. I was told he had a great sense of humor and he is not upset with where he is now; I found that comforting. I was asked if he was cremated. He was.
My cousin died just over three years ago in a freak accident. A medic in the military, he was patrolling the shooting range on a base when a stray bullet hit him directly in the heart.I do not talk about the loss of my cousin and yet a perfect stranger was able to tell me intimate details about him. He could see him next to me and was able to tell me his favorite drink and candy.
The man telling me these personal things about my cousin—things that even I did not know—was Felix Lee Lerman, a natural born psychic medium. According to Lerman, all mediums are psychics but not all psychics are mediums. The difference between the two is psychics perceive and mediums receive. In other words, psychics take a person’s energy and interpret that in a way that feels like they are looking into the future. Mediums on the other hand communicate with spirits, more commonly referred to as “the dead”, and relay the message to the living.
When Lerman was eight-years-old his grandfather passed away—his first experience with death. “I would kiss him on the cheek everyday when I got home from school. I would watch football with him and we use to eat beer nuts together,” he reminisced.
About a week after the loss, Lerman had a dream in which his grandfather visited him. “It was so real, so normal,” says Lerman. “He would pour me some milk and we would talk. I could smell his cologne, I could feel the stubble on his cheek.”
Lerman remembers his parents being very open and supportive when he told them about his dreams but admits that there were many that did not believe him. “I’d like to think they have come around to the idea by now,” says Lerman. At the time of the dreams, Lerman had no idea what a medium was.
The dreams and visions did not stop. He continued to communicate with and see his grandfather and others. He started reading books about divination; he became extremely enthralled by the idea of where we go after we die. Eventually, he also started to see colors surrounding strangers; this is when he realized that he was a psychic as well as a medium. By the time he was in college, he was receiving messages from those in spirit and giving them to the people that were open to hearing them.
In 2002, Lerman was confirmed by an internationally acclaimed psychic medium. Shortly after, he enrolled in mediumship development classes at the Holistic Studies Institute in hopes of mastering his gift. He earned the certification as an Intuitive Consultant from the American Board of Holistic Practitioners.
Lerman has now dedicated his life to mastering and using his abilities to help people. It is mentally straining to connect with spirits and he says he has to be in the right mind-set. He explains the three components that contribute to the successfulness of a reading; the spirits, the person or people seeking the reading, and the reader. If any part of this trio is off, the reading will not be a success.
Some still doubt that Lerman is a medium, heck I had my doubts too. “Its good to be skeptic,” says Lerman. “There are two types of skepticism. There is open skepticism, which most people are. Then there’s closed skepticism, which I work with and I understand that maybe they have been hurt by other mediums who couldn’t do what they say they could do. I don’t care if they’re skeptic, my job is to help them.”
My reading with Lerman was not my first encounter with a medium. I had been read by a friend of Lerman’s, Kay Fahlstrom, who studied the art of mediumship under his guidance.
Fahlstrom had a near-death experience in her early twenties before her premonitions and dreams began. She was planning to see her friend after work but decided not to because she had been having awful headaches. Instead of making the trip, she went home and turned up the he heat attempting to keep warm. Little did she know, that heater was leaking carbon monoxide that could have killed both her and her cat. That night, Fahlstrom says she left her body. She was unable to remain alive due to lack of oxygen and she suffered what is called a “textbook death”. Her downstairs neighbor was a nurse who was also suffering headaches eventually figured out the problem and ran upstairs to save Fahlstrom’s life.
Fahlstrom realized she had special gifts. She says her first experience with a psychic premonition was a dream about the lottery numbers the night before they were drawn—but no, she never bought a ticket. After that, she received a warning for her brother before he set sail into sever weather. That warning saved her brothers life.
My reading with Fahlstrom was done via phone, a concept that felt odd to me. This woman was telling me that she would communicate with my loved ones for me and tell me what my future has in store for me without ever laying eyes on me? It is hard to believe in mediumship in the first place but this just seemed a step further than impossible. But, I did the reading with an open mind and was amazed at the things she told me.
She began by walking me through what my spirit guides had to say. She explained to me that everyone has a master spirit guide. Some people just have the one and others have multiple guides. The master guide is not someone that we knew in our lifetime, they have been with us since the beginning but the other guides are loved ones that we knew who have crossed over. Each guide helps you with a different aspect of your life such as school, work, relationships, and everything in between. Fahlstrom explained that spirit guides use to be human so they know what we are going through, people also have angels but they were never human.
I wouldn’t say that the accuracy of her words freaked me out, but they did baffle me. The information from my spirit guides was only the beginning, what she told me next was what really got me.
She started by saying, “I have an older woman here for you, she feels like grandma. Do you have at least one grandma in spirit?” I do not. Both of my grandmothers are living. But she was sure of herself. She went on to tell me that the spirit was talking about memory issues and saying, “My brain is not up to snuff.” That’s when I knew it was indeed my grandmother. My dad’s mother has Alzheimer’s and has been unable to talk and communicate with us for a while. Fahlstrom then told me that it is possible for a spirit to move on before the body does. My grandma began communicating with me through Fahlstrom and it became more and more clear that it was her. She showed Fahlstrom a hot plate of lasagna, my dad’s favorite meal that she would make him. She also talked about how I was special to her, I was her star.
I could go on and on about what both Fahlstrom and Lerman said that was spot-on accurate. There were times in the reading that I would be asked about a name such as, “Who’s Jack” or “Who’s Bitty”, and I had no idea who these people are. It made me think maybe the readings were not in fact accurate, maybe I so badly wanted to communicate with the people that I have lost that I am making things up and justifying them in my head. Then, I listened to the readings with my parents. It turns out, Jack is my great-grandfathers name and all the information that was said about him was correct. And Bitty, that’s my moms favorite aunt that was just dropping by to say hello.