Wednesday, October 31, 2018

To Learn or Not to Learn. That is the Question I Ask of You.

Shane E. Bryan once said, “I don’t have a disability, I have a gift! Others may see it as a disability, but I see it as a challenge. This challenge is a gift because I have to become stronger to get around it, and smarter to figure out how to use it; others should be so lucky.” Wisconsin has 120,000 students utilizing special education services. Many of these students have reading and learning disabilities and ADHD and ADD. Nearly 50% of the population of students in special education in Wisconsin fit into the SLD (Specific Learning Disabilities) and OHI (Other Health Impairment) categories.

It’s hard to swallow knowing that nearly one and every five students in special education either drop out of high school or earn a certificate of completion (something other than a diploma). The statistics tell a story of the struggles students with disabilities have while in and outside of school. Without the most basic education, a high school education, these students are at an increased risk of poverty, homelessness, and financial instability. Beyond primary and secondary school is a road that branches off in so many directions that every student has an opportunity to find their path to success. Yet, in recent years, I’ve witnessed children and adults with disabilities having roadblocks willingly placed on their paths to success as a disguise for the lack of available and affordable services.

The lack of available and affordable services is nothing new in the industry. It wasn’t until the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 was passed that discrimination against individuals with disabilities in the workforce, schools, and public life was prohibited. Even with laws protecting individuals with disabilities, discrimination still exists in various industries and lessens individuals with disabilities chances of finding success.

This is where my story begins. But this isn’t just my story anymore. I recently went to Kinnektor Con in Appleton on October 23-25 at the Fox Cities Exhibition Center. Not only did I meet industry professionals and learn about how Cincinnati and Appleton are working together to help start-ups get off the ground, but I networked with other Northeast Wisconsin entrepreneurs.

I wasn’t expecting much, but I left Kinnektor Con with more information and opportunities than I can shake a fist at. My business, FIRE Tutoring Services, finally had the opportunity to share my idea with other entrepreneurs in a professional setting outside of my community college. While there at the convention, I met someone, or two someone’s, who have changed my life.


Marcus and his daughter, owners of Justifeyed, a digital service created to assist individuals with disabilities to have alternative ways to call for help when in emergency situations, found my booth at Kinnektor Con. Within seconds, my mother, who was holding down the fort while I participated in a breakout session, rushed to find me saying, “You have someone who wishes to speak to you at your booth.”

Speed walking towards the convention hall with all the booths, I got my first glimpse of who this “someone” was. With a smile on my face and right hand lifted in preparation for a formal greeting, I silently prayed that this person and his daughter may be the ones I’ve been looking for. Two-in-a-half hours later after our initial greeting, Marcus, his daughter, and I were forming a partnership hoping to merge the idea of serving individuals with disabilities both in safety and academics.

And this is what Marcus and I have worked on today for three hours. With an entire classroom with each wall displaying a whiteboard stretching from one corner to the next, Marcus and I got to brainstorming how we could somehow help each other and possibly make an even greater impact in our community.

FIRE Tutoring Services

FIRE Tutoring Services finally got a logo that displays two ‘T’s” which stand for ‘Tutoring’ and ‘Teaching’. With the power of experience, both nationally and internationally, I’ve created a travel education service (TES) that works to reduce the number of students in special education from dropping out of high school and assisting these students by helping them find which path is the best for their career and future. Studying abroad and experiencing another culture is just a bonus.

How We Intend to Merge

Justifeyed and FIRE Tutoring Services has one obvious similarity: our niche, working with individuals with disabilities. From here, Marcus and I brainstormed to find other similarities. Our businesses are both:

Teaching a New and Inventive Service

For Marcus, he’s teaching dispatchers, police, law firms, and students how to use his service and how to effectively work with individuals with disabilities. He’s rewriting the outdated 911 emergency call service.

I’m specifically working with students in primary, secondary, and post-secondary school who have disabilities that may limit their ability to learn effectively in the current education systems structure (teaching styles/learning styles). I’m trying to implement new teaching styles that may help these students succeed in school.

Using Interactive Technology

Marcus created a service that works with individuals with disabilities without risking their safety in dangerous situations. He invented a service that works with individuals with disabilities rather than against them. Marcus successfully implemented an invisible safety net around people who may not be able to call 911 the traditional way.

I’ve started to create workshops that utilize various teaching and learning styles effective in numerous fields of education like ESL and Early Childhood and from around the world. Every academic tutoring session includes the use of virtual manipulatives (online websites that offer educational activities and games).

Work with College Students

Justifeyed is a service being currently used by individuals between the ages of twenty and forty-years-old. Marcus’s service is keeping these individuals safe.

FIRE Tutoring Services works with a wide range of students from primary to post-secondary school. In the last year, I worked with more college students than any other group of students.

With these similarities, Marcus and I started freely describing our wants, hopes, and needs for the future. And with this, we finally found what we were looking for: how we connect.

Justifeyed and FIRE Tutoring Services will be working together soon as partners and fellow entrepreneurs pushing through every barrier in our path. Our businesses relate to each other in this way:

Marcus will be training and teaching the professionals who will need his service to understand how to assist individuals with disabilities while I will be assisting individuals with disabilities in academics and teaching these individuals how to keep themselves safe in every environment by using Justifeyed, Marcus and his daughter’s service.

The Future

I never thought I would meet someone like Marcus and his daughter who would have a service that assists individuals with disabilities. Our future is also the same as we both wish to see if we can somehow break into the Chinese market. Academic tutoring is a huge industry in China and all of Asia as the pressure for near perfect to perfect test scores skyrockets. The need for safety in a technologically advancing and populated world will only increase as security and safety measures start blurring with new inventions.

There is a need for both of our services. 504 students, students who don’t meet the requirements for special education, still need extra support so they can succeed. Some students learn better on a one-on-one basis. Other students need a different learning environment to learn. FIRE Tutoring Services can do that or as an Educational Consultant, I can find a service that can assist every student if my services are not what the student needs.

Justifeyed fills in the gaps the 911 system can’t. The 911 system is aging, but the times are changing. Marcus’s service can be the difference between allowing individuals with disabilities to feel safe where ever they are or risking their lives to do the simplest of tasks.

Give it five years, ten…FIRE Tutoring Services and Justifeyed will be making a difference in the educational system and the safety of students around the world.

If you would like to learn more about FIRE Tutoring Services and Justifeyed, leave a comment below and Marcus and I will reach out to you as soon as possible. What do you think about what Marcus and I are trying to do? Do you have any suggestions?   

Friday, October 19, 2018

How To Deal With Difficult People

I’m lucky enough to have parents who support my decision to go to college to get an education. I hear, more times than not, people talking about how college graduates are “educated idiots”. I don’t disagree or agree with this statement. There are many factors that have contributed to why some people have this opinion.

I’ve learned in the last six years since I’ve graduated high school that employers aren’t just looking for people with a piece paper saying they are smart and have graduated college. Graduates need experience.

I work as an academic tutor in several institutions from public schools, online schools, and in a college. I love my jobs and I have made many friends with other tutors. In the college, I’ve been starting to hear the stories of how recent and current college students are struggling to break into the workforce. Some fields are easier to get into and the college I go to has many connections with large manufacturing companies waiting for the students to graduate and work for them.

Yet, this isn’t the case for everyone. IT students are finding out that breaking into the field is much harder than originally thought. I’ve been told, and IT students have been told that there is an abundance of IT-related jobs waiting for them once they get a degree. This isn’t necessarily true, and I’ll use an example from a friend who has two degrees in IT and still struggles with finding and keeping an IT job.

The IT field doesn’t just require a degree; the IT field requires experience and many times years of experience. Recent college graduates don’t have this and many times the colleges don’t teach this.

Don’t get me wrong, I love college. I live to learn, and I wouldn’t give up what I’ve accomplished in the last six years. But many colleges are run by the numbers. Technical schools, universities, any post-secondary institution is controlled by money. If enrollment is down, the colleges must either reduce staff or increase prices. It’s seen everywhere. I remember graduating high school in 2013, thinking $12,000 a year for tuition was expensive, but by the time I went to college in 2015 tuition had risen to over $15,000 in the same institution.

College isn’t for everyone, and sometimes, even if college is for someone, they cannot afford to go nor, will they risk their future by taking out tens of thousands of dollars for an education that doesn’t guarantee that they will get a job. And no one can go bankrupt on student loans!

This blog isn’t about complaining about the school systems or that college is too expensive or if it is helpful. My reasoning for the blog post may seem out of place for this blog, but I’ve experienced enough in the last six years that I have some stories and advice for people that are going through the same things I am.

I’m in college to get a degree in Educational Consulting so I can better serve my current clients and future clients.

I work as an academic tutor, so I can stay up-to-date with current trends of learning and allow myself to continue learning how to work with diverse groups of people.

I network with my instructors and reach out to my community, so I can better serve them in the future.

I’m an entrepreneur, so why are some people trying to stop this from happening?

I’m active in my college as a Regional Officer in Phi Theta Kappa, a member of the International Exchange Club, a presenter at 1MillionCups, and an academic tutor working with students in college readiness courses. I’m also participating in an International Exchange Program this school year where I’ll be able to visit the Netherlands.

Each of these clubs means the world me and are in some way helping me reach my goals.

As a member of Phi Theta Kappa, I’m honing down my writing and presentation skills.

As a member of the International Exchange Club, I’m learning how to communicate with students from all around the world. And I make lifelong friends!

As a presenter and advocate for 1MillionCups, I learn how to market, pitch, and share my business idea with my community.

As an academic tutor, I learn how I can grow academically so I can provide the best service to every student I work with.

But there are always a certain few who disrupt my path or say things to hinder me from accomplishing my goals. Now, no one can control me, and no one can control you! I used to allow these people to control how I felt, how I saw myself, and where I wanted to go in my life. I followed the rules, I paid my dues, and I did my due diligence without fail. I listened because these people are my elders and I respect them. It gets hard when these same people are the ones who don’t follow their own rules and do certain things that would get students in trouble. “Practice what you preach,” my dad said. I wish it was this simple.

Even with these struggles, I’ve learned how to deal with these situations and I’ve started implementing them in my life. I do have to warn anyone who is reading this who’s a woman, to be aware that if you decide to be assertive, some people, including women, may see you and your words as passive aggressive. I recently had to deal this after having to put my foot down and lay down the law because my health and my academic grades were at risk.

Here are some suggestions on how to deal with difficult people. These suggestions can be used as an action plan when times get tough or situations get sticky. I’ve decided not to research other people’s suggestions as I want this post to be as authentic as possible.

Show Respect

Regardless of the situation, I’ve always told myself that I need to show everyone respect no matter their opinions and beliefs. This used to be difficult for me as I once was passionate about politics and was leaning extremely far to one side. This is also difficult when the person who is being disrespectful is of higher ranks in society. By showing respect, you’re proving that you are the better man or women. My dad always said, “Never stoop down to their level.”

Stay Calm

I must admit that this is the hardest thing for me to do. And I learned about three weeks ago what stress can do to my body when I allow someone to control how I feel.

You’re perfect the way you are. Don’t allow someone who’s angry or having a bad day to determine if you will have a good day or not. When these situations arise, I feel upset and saddened, but I allow myself to process what happened before I start speaking because otherwise, I may say something I’ll regret. And it’s OK to sometimes say nothing.

Always Listen

This is my last piece of advice and I think it is the most important. I’ve been struggling this school year and it surprises me that it has gotten so bad so quickly. If my instructors, advisors, and bosses could’ve seen me on the first day of this semester, they'd be confused by trying to figure out what went wrong. I was jumping around, acting crazy because of how excited I was to start my classes. I almost got into an accident while driving to school on the first day because I was so giddy.

But I’ve went someone who was going to continue to a four-year college to saying, “I’m done once this school year is finished.” When I deal with difficult people, people who refuse to understand until I provide either a doctor’s note or parental letter, I listen to their concerns. It may seem like a one-way street at times but like with the first action step: show respect, you must listen to the person to let them know you’re trying to understand them. And even if the issue persists, you can walk away knowing that you tried and did your best to understand the situation.


Dealing with difficult isn’t something that only happens in the United States. If your reading this blog post, you may have read some of the other posts. I lived in Beijing this summer and had an amazing time. I continue to tell people that I would’ve stayed in Beijing if it wasn’t for having one year left of school. But I returned home because my education means that much to me.

When I was working in my host sister’s school, I had to deal with some staff and parents that didn’t like Americans. I wasn’t originally going to ever tell this story because I don’t want to discourage people from traveling to China. Yet, this is something, as an American, I had to deal with and figure out how to address without causing a scene or making the situation worse.

I wasn’t ever physically hurt by these individuals, but I was given the “look” of disapproval every time I was seen. Just like in the United States, where we have people who hate other cultures because of their religion, the way they speak, and their skin color, some Chinese people held animosity against Americans because of President Donald Trump. I was over in China when the Trade War was starting to pick up. When I left China, the Chinese government changed the terminal for all passengers who were traveling to the United States to the terminal that my host mom called “the worst and dirtiest”.

I had no right to be aggressive with these people because if I was in their position, I feel like I would also hold some animosity against Americans. Americans are very proud of their country and when someone threatens their freedoms, we respond in various forms from peaceful to violent protests, to acts of kindness and raising awareness to the issues or acts of violence or terror. I’m not upset with these individuals and I followed my three actions steps when confronted by them.

This was all a learning experience for me and I wouldn’t have learned how to deal with the situation from a book or a class. Sometimes, we need to experience the world before we take classes about learning about the world because books can only tell us certain things. 

Saturday, October 6, 2018

The Best Advice You Could Ever Get About Dealing With A Bad Host Family

The excitement of being in a foreign land was all the rave. Spending twelve plus hours on a plane to see some of the Chinese cities from the air was a milestone. Finally, flying over the border of Russia and China, I could see the finish line. Beijing was close.

Sleep deprivation. It’s real and it can mess with your mind. I remember only bits and pieces of the two hours after exiting the plane. I remember being fingerprinted and finding my luggage (the last of all the luggage to come out).

The taxi driver waved my roommate and me down and transported us to our hotel. I remember struggling with figuring how to keep the lights on in the hotel room and taking a shower in the dark. I remember looking out the hotel window thinking about how beautiful Beijing was at night and falling on the bed. The next thing I knew was that the sun was up, and my adventure had truly started as this day was the day I was meeting my host family.

My roommate and I were separated after a short conference and welcome with the non-profit I went through (CHI). I knew I was going to get along with my host family before I arrived, and everything was confirmed the minute I left the elevator in the apartment complex. My host sister, Dora, was waiting and immediately gave me a hug the second I stepped out of the elevator. The month we spent together was the best and we continue to message each other waiting for the day I return to China this summer.

My roommate had a different experience with her host family. Everything started off fine. About ten days into our thirty-three-day trip, I got a desperate text message. Things weren’t working out and I worked with the non-profit to find a solution. The situation was taken care off and my roommate and I enjoyed the rest of our trip.

How can my roommate and I have such a different experience? There was another World Explorer who was in Beijing at the same time. This World Explorer also had a different experience. What determines if a host family is a right match?

What Can Happen

My host mom and sister :)
Everything depends on the host family. My host parents aren't married but have a strong love for each other. Their daughter is loved and spoiled rotten as she is an only child. I was a welcomed guest who could take some of the weight off my host mom’s back and be a playmate/tutor for Dora. Also, my host family considers themselves “non-traditional”. This allowed me to share my culture freely without a risk of offending anyone. Conversations freely bounced off the walls in the apartment every night. I could truly learn about the Chinese culture and share my culture.

My roommate's host family was distant. My roommate lived with a host mom and dad that were rarely around because they worked long hours and the kids had free rain of the house most days. One of the kids was in the United States for the first fifteen days but returned and quickly transitioned to a boarding school three days after returning to China. The youngest boy was left at home with the maid. Once my roommate entered the home, some conflicts arose. The maid believed my roommate was encroaching in her territory. Cleaning and cooking meals are the maid’s job, not my roommate’s job. With the language barrier and the unwillingness of some members of the family to communicate with my roommate, she felt lost and alone. A power struggle started without my roommate even noticing and she found herself alienated.

The other World Explorer lived in a household quite different from my roommates and mine. The other World Explorer, Kaylee, lived with a host family that has an absentee father. There was an instance when the father returned, and a fight broke out. The young boy, who Kaylee was working with, struggled when his parents fought. The separation was recent, as Kaylee’s host mom had separated from her husband one month before she arrived. I could see the stress weighing down Kaylee’s host mom when I visited. Yet, she always had a smile on her face. Because of this situation, Kaylee was the one taking care of her host brother. Her host brother basically has free-reign of the house and could do what he wanted. This was sometimes a struggle for Kaylee when she needed to work with her host brother and tutor him in conversational English.

Family Traditions and Children

Children. You love them, or you love them. They bring smiles to faces and it amazing to watch them grow into independent adults. As a World Explorer, my roommate, Kaylee, and I worked with Chinese children between the ages of five and eleven-years-old. The hardest things to understand as an American was that Chinese children are different from American children.

Many Chinese children are the only child in the family as to the two-child policy has only been in effect since 2016. These children are spoiled by their relatives, especially their grandparents. The grandparents play an important role in the family as they usually pick the child up from school and stay with the child until the parents return from work.

This is something my roommate had to deal with. Her host brother, who was four at the time, was spoiled. Whenever he didn’t get his way, he would throw a tantrum and in response, his mother would buy him a toy or a treat. My roommate was at a loss. How was she supposed to help her host brother in English if he didn’t sit down? What was she to do if her host brother hit her?

This isn’t necessarily a common issue. I didn’t have this problem. Dora is respectful. In the International Elementary School, I went to with Dora had some students who acted like my roommate’s host brother. The language barrier was the hardest thing to get over as some frustration came from our inability to understand what was being said.

How To Deal With It

There are many things Kaylee and I tried with my roommate. This included contacting the non-profit to find a solution (possibly changing the host family), getting out of the house, interacting with other people, and keeping the mind occupied.

Every day of the weekday, Kaylee, my roommate, and I ventured out into Beijing and saw tourist sites, got lost and met the locals, tasted the street food, and ventured down many Hutongs. We all had our first experiences in public transportation and figuring out how to get back home when the signs were in Chinese.

As time went by, my roommate and I got language buddies who shared their culture and translated for us. My language buddy, Ethan, is now studying in the United States as an accounting student. Kaylee and I plan on visiting him around Christmas.

Even on the weekends, my roommate and I met up to see new areas of Beijing. A couple of times, without trying, we met up at local areas like the Beijing Zoo (where I met Kaylee and her host family), The Beijinger (the burger festival), and the local mall.

I remained in contact with my roommate every day by text, even when I saw her. My roommate got along well with the neighbors and a local elderly couple who were more than happy to entertain her. The elderly couple and my roommate got along so well that she bought a small gift for them before she left.

There are always going to be some situations that make us uncomfortable. It’s important to remember that everything is going to be OK. Us World Explorers had support 24/7 and the non-profit was with us every step of the way. If a host family doesn’t pan out, there is always an option to change the host family. My host mom told me that she had hosted a sixteen-year-old three years ago who had left her original host family because of some time constraints. My host mom was welcoming and made sure to help the sixteen-year-old have the best experience in Beijing.

Monday, October 1, 2018

5 Misconceptions About Homelessness

Phi Theta Kappa
The article I am sharing is something I've written with the current Wisconsin Region Regional Officer Team for Phi Theta Kappa. I'm the Vice-President for the region (Wisconsin) and have been working with two Regional Officers to help raise awareness of homelessness in Wisconsin, the U.S., and around the world. When I was in China this summer, I saw many Chinese citizens sleeping on the streets. I even made a friend with an older Chinese lady who is homeless.

Research has proven that there are many causes of homelessness, but the causes are rarely spoken about. Many articles (newspapers, blogs, research, journals) give ideas on how to solve homelessness. This didn't help me though, as I wanted to know the root cause of homelessness. My researching eventually led me to the Wisconsin State Journal and Project Home, a homeless initiative in Philadelphia. The list of causes of homelessness was long, but numerous causes stuck out. The causes I focused on was the lack of affordable health care and politics, natural disasters, and the lack of affordable housing.

The lack of affordable health care has been a highly debated topic for politicians. Until the Affordable Healthcare Act or Obama Care was created, low-income families and individuals were unable to afford health insurance or see a doctor. There were many improvements when the Affordable Healthcare Act was passed, but with each improvement there seemed to be another issue. It was determined that politics has everything to do with homelessness. Study Breaks explained that the government controls when and where funding assistance is placed. This means that politicians determine if low-income families and individuals can afford health care and insurance.

Natural disasters are a common cause that leads to temporary and long-term homelessness. Natural disasters can be flooding, tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, wildfires, severe drought, and severe winter weather to name a few. Each part of the U.S. is vulnerable to different types of natural disasters. This includes every part of the world. In my home state of Wisconsin, I've dealt with tornadoes, severe winter weather, drought, and flooding. People lose their homes and livelihoods when severe weather impacts the area.

A few examples that have happened recently are Hurricane Florence and the monster typhoon that hit southern China. Hurricane Florence just flooded most of the state of North Carolina, displacing around 750,000 to 1 million people because of flooding. The monster typhoon that made landfall in China nearly made the city of Hong Kong inaccessible and later continued its path of destruction to Guangdong. The typhoon displaced a half a million people in Guangdong alone.

The third cause of homelessness is the lack of affordable housing which has continued to get worse since the 1980s. The National Alliance to End Homelessness stated that over 11 million people in the U.S. spend over half of their income for housing. This leaves little room for other necessities like food and clothing. In 2013 and 2014, according to End, rent increased by double the rate of inflation.

Homelessness isn't just a concern in the U.S. or in my state of Wisconsin. While in Beijing, I walked past many homeless individuals who were begging on the street for change. These people were begging without using their voices as many had their heads down and held onto a paper cup or cardboard sheet to collect donations. It hurt my heart to see these people as they were nothing but skin and bones. I bought a meal for a homeless lady and bought her some dried meat and clean water. I made a friend that day as I was given gifts from this lady even when she didn't have anything to give.

After witnessing what I did in China and touring a homeless shelter in my community I wanted to share 5 misconceptions about homelessness.
  1. Homelessness is a Choice.
  2. Homeless individuals are Lazy.
  3. Homelessness is always related to Mental Health.
  4. Homeless individuals live on the Streets. 
  5. Fighting homelessness is Expensive
Based on research in and outside of Wisconsin and the U.S., homelessness isn't usually a choice. There are certain individuals who choose to be homeless, but the majority of homeless individuals are not homeless by choice. Some of the causes, which have been mentioned above lead to this problem. One cause that I didn't speak about was the lack of competitive wages. For an individual to pay for a 2-bedroom apartment in Wisconsin making minimum wage would require the individual to work at least 69 hours a week. To find out more about this statistic visit 11 myths about homelessness in America

Homeless individuals are not lazy. A HUD study confirmed that 17% of homeless adults have paying jobs and 55% had a paying job within the last year. About 44% of homeless individuals had some kind of paying job within the last month.

Mental health is a contributing factor to homelessness. In Wisconsin, a majority of homeless adults have had a traumatic brain injury. Homeless Connection in Appleton, Wisconsin, has a large percentage of homeless adults who have had a traumatic brain injury. Only around 1 and 4 homeless individuals suffer from severe mental illness in 2010. It has been determined by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) that the top three causes of homelessness are lack of affordable housing, unemployment, and poverty in 2014.

The HUD survey confirmed that 69% of homeless Americans lived in a shelter in 2014 and 30% live in vehicles. This means that less than half of homeless individuals live on the streets.

The Central Florida Commission on Homelessness stated, and I quote, "Studies show that simply housing people can reduce the number of homeless at a lower cost to society than leaving them without homes." The source concludes, "it will cost around $10,000 to house each person compared to $31,000 if the person is left homeless." The $31,000 cost comes from paying for law enforcement, hospitals, jails, and other community resources.

What do you think can be done to help the homeless community?