Seeds were sowed, watered, and rooted on Los Andes Nature Preserve.

“THE MOTIVES of the American radical engaged in organizational work will be viewed by many people and organizations with suspicion, cynicism and hostility. They will measure him with the only measuring stick that a materialistic society has taught them, one that is marked in units of selfishness, exploitation, money, power, and prestige. They will wonder and ask, “What’s in it for him?” “What’s his angle?” “What’s his cut?” “There must be a catch in it some place-what is it?” “People don’t do things for nothing-what’s he doing it for?”

Basically, the radical must meet this opposition by a simple honesty, and must always remember that in the long run he is striving to make honesty a virtue instead of a stigma of stupidity. One of the most significant ways that he can do this is by the power of personal example.” – Saul D. Alinsky, REVEILLE FOR RADICALS.

 

Big trees, Guatemala

This past week, while riding the 19 Metro bus home from work, I was approached by a gringo in his late 20’s. He spotted me from his seat, he stood up and proceeded to sit next to me. I sensed desperation in his voice, when he asked “do you fuck with percocet.” Wow! Either he’s bold or I look like a pill head. He then started talking to a guy, in his early twenties, in the seat in front of him. The younger man was directing the gringo. Was this gringo a pill head or did he owe a debt to this guy or both?

Lake Atitlan, Panachel, Guatemala

Lake Atitlan, Panachel, Guatemala

The last time I was offered illegal drugs was a few weeks ago in Panajachel, Guatemala, a popular destination town on lake Atitlan. The dealer was in a covered motorcycle cab. I politely declined, as he passed a police officer directing traffic. I didn’t know the man’s intent. Was he looking to sell me something or set me up? I was walking alone and my Spanish comprehension was not quite up to par to try and determine his intentions.

Cab in Panajachel

Cab in Panajachel, Guatemala

Reflecting on the few weeks leading up to my time in Guatemala, and the trip itself, I was reminded of the unfiltered conversations between myself, my professors and peers. If given the opportunity, I like to get to know individuals on a more personal level. That way I know if their heart and mind are aligned with their ambitions. Plus, I have come to realize I can learn something from others and their experiences.

I was navigating my future endeavors upon graduation. Right before this trip, I had a lengthy discussion with my Functioning Neuro professor, James Eliassen, PhD.  I posed the question, how can I make a difference on the War on Drugs? He started at the foundation, Social Work, he then proceeded with Psychiatry. Though I value those positions, I knew my passion was rooted elsewhere. Dr. Eliassen then talked about politics and law. I want to expose the private prison industry, and rewrite the failed policies and laws. The War on Drugs is a racket and it needs to be exposed and brought down. I left that conversation feeling pretty good about my future.

Book suggest by Professor Lisa Smith

Book suggest by Professor Lisa Smith

One such conversation that I was fortunate enough to have, was between Professor Lisa Smith and myself, on Los Andes Nature Preserve. I noticed that she was reading a book, Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman, and I asked her about it. She informed me that she was assigning this book for her Organizational Leadership class, over the summer. She explained how emotional intelligence is more important than your IQ in business and your daily life. Through this conversation, I was reminded of my daily interactions with people and how my attitude and personality could inspire those around me. My time abroad as a seventh grade student ambassador, my time spent as a student ambassador at Cincinnati State College, coaching 7th grade basketball at Cincinnati Christian and my time leading my college soccer team in prayer and motivation, before games. Be present and take advantage of opportunities, when they arise.

My future path was narrowed down during this trip to Guatemala. I had some meaningful conversations with Professor Nancy Rogers, PhD. She mentioned law school during one of our conversations. She really believes in her students and that has given me and probably countless others, confidence to go after one’s dreams. Peru is my new mission. I have to graduate first and earn my TEFL certificate, before I can complete this mission. After my time in Peru, I will return stateside and enter law school.

  • James Eliassen, PhD
  • Research Assistant Professor of Psychiatry
    & Behavioral Neurosciences
    Associate Director, Neuroscience Graduate Program

– See more at: http://www.psychiatry.uc.edu/FacultyStaff/FacultyProfile.aspx?epersonID=eliassjc#sthash.I4BV7vk5.dpuf

  • James Eliassen, PhD
  • Research Assistant Professor of Psychiatry
    & Behavioral Neurosciences
    Associate Director, Neuroscience Graduate Program

– See more at: http://www.psychiatry.uc.edu/FacultyStaff/FacultyProfile.aspx?epersonID=eliassjc#sthash.I4BV7vk5.dpuf

  • James Eliassen, PhD
  • Research Assistant Professor of Psychiatry
    & Behavioral Neurosciences
    Associate Director, Neuroscience Graduate Program

– See more at: http://www.psychiatry.uc.edu/FacultyStaff/FacultyProfile.aspx?epersonID=eliassjc#sthash.I4BV7vk5.dpufBefore the end of the spring semester, I made a list of things I wanted to do after graduation. Teaching English in a Spanish speaking country tops that list. Teach for America ranks pretty high, too. I understand the criticisms held toward Teach for America, but I think my military, coaching and playing experience, will crossover well in the classroom. Plus, the opportunity to coach again, scholarship opportunities, as well as shaping young minds in the classroom. I have been fortunate to have had teachers, coaches, and officers that taught valuable life lessons that held our unit, team or class, accountable on the field, pitch, court, classroom and at sea. They lead by example, making an impact in their respective community’s for generations to come. Recently, I was reminded of this by my former skipper on the aircraft carrier, USS Carl Vinson, now retired Rear Admiral David Crocker. He shared a great commencement speech given by Naval Admiral William H. McRaven at the University of Texas. “What starts here, changes the world.”

My peers made a conscience decision to take a risk and impact the lives of not only themselves, but everyone they would come into contact with in Guatemala and the people they would see back in the United States. I’m reminded of this when I look through the class’s Guatemalan photographs. I feel extremely lucky to have spent ten days in a foreign land with this group of leaders with big hearts.

 

Image

About

Coffee Picker in Guatemala

For personal growth to occur, a person must be patient, flexible, and open minded to learn new things.

Hi! My name is Stephen, and I am a senior studying Psychology at the University of Cincinnati. I just finished two semesters working with Professor Laura, a PhD candidate, as an undergraduate Teacher’s Assistant for Research Methods and Statistics I & II.  I’m also a certified undergraduate Research Assistant. I’ve assisted graduate students on their research, in the Center for Cognition, Action & Perception.

I’m a veteran, I served aboard the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson. I’ve lived an ecliptic life full of experiences that have shaped the man I am today and the journey continues. It’s been a hell of a ride. Have any questions, ask.