Facing Racism Made Me Better, Not Bitter

Jackie Leno Grant spent her early years in a comfortable world, surrounded by family and friends. Moving to another town changed all that. As a Native American in a nearly all-white school in rural western Oregon, Jackie felt out of place. Her unfair treatment at school could have made her bitter and rebellious, but Jackie refused to let bitterness rule her life, followed through with her goals, and graduated college. Here is her story:

During the seventh grade, Jackie became aware of the racism around her. "It usually wasn’t on the surface. But I became aware of people looking at me strangely, whispering about my family, expecting me to do something wrong," she says. "my parents were out of their element in Tillamook, too. They didn’t make friends. There were no visitors in and out of the house."

Jackie’s sense of loss was magnified when her beloved grandmother died. An important link to the loving, accepting world of her childhood was gone. At about the same time, Jackie’s mother took a graveyard shift job at a local mill. Jackie found herself getting less attention at home.

During the next couple of years at school, Jackie recalls, "I completely lost my bearings. School was a joke. My teachers didn’t seem to care, and I cared less. I only went to the classes where I didn’t feel humiliated, like choir and writing class."

Trying to connect with someone who might help, Jackie visited the guidance counselor and asked for information on trade schools. But the counselor stared at her and said, "School isn’t for you. You’re just going to get married and have a bunch of kids." The counselor’s words devastated Jackie. "I’d been raised by people who had always told me, ‘You can do whatever you want to do.’ This was the first time I was told outright that I should not expect much out of life."

After that point, she says, "I hung out with my friends, smoked cigarettes, skipped school, and experimented with drugs."

Soon matters got even worse. One day, Jackie and some friends went to the local Dairy Queen for lunch and decided not to return to school. The next day they were called into the vice-principal’s office. According to school policy, students caught skipping school for the first time were warned. The second time, they were suspended for three days. Jackie and her friends had never been caught before. The other kids in the group, who were all white, received the expected warning. Jackie was told to leave school and never come back.

"I asked my mom to call the school and see why I wasn’t treated like the other kids," says Jackie. "But she wouldn’t. I know she was worried about my behavior, but I also think it was because she didn’t feel she was a part of that community. She didn’t know how to assert herself there." Instead, Jackie’s mother took her to see a juvenile counselor, saying, "I don’t know what my daughter’s doing. I can’t control her."

"So," Jackie says, "I was made a ward of the court and sent to a reform school in Portland."

At the school, Jackie was housed in a cottage with fifteen other girls. "I was searched. My luggage was searched. We were locked in our rooms at night. There were bars on the windows. Alarms sounded if someone left the campus. Newcomers weren’t allowed visitors for a month because we were considered runaway risks during that time."

Despite the institutional feel of the place, Jackie learned to like the school, where she found the housemothers and teachers "nice and caring." "I did a lot of observing and thinking there," she says. "As I watched the other girls, I realized that I had more good things in my life than most of them had. I had a sense of myself and where I came from. Although we hadn’t always gotten along, I had people who loved me and had tried their best to take care of me. It was obvious at mail call time and visitors’ day that many of the other girls had no one who cared at all."

Jackie began to think that she had arrived at the juvenile home for a reason. A surprising visitor convinced her that she was right. "The housemother called to say someone wanted to see me," says Jackie. "I walked out to see an ancient woman standing there. She said, ‘You’re Jacqueline Leno.’ Then she looked at me for a long time and seemed so pleased. Finally, she stated, ‘I knew your mother very well.’ I was surprised. ‘How do you know her?’ I asked. She answered, ‘This is the place where you were born.’"

Jackie’s elderly visitor went on to explain that, years before, the school had been a home for unwed mothers. It was to this home that Jackie’s mother had gone as a confused, pregnant, 15-year-old. The old woman, who had been an employee of the home, had taken a special interest in Jackie’s young mother. "She spoke very fondly of my mom. Although she had retired years ago, she came back just to see me."

Learning that she had returned to the place of her birth filled Jackie with a sense of peace and purpose. "I knew I was completing a circle in my life, and I felt sure that things were falling into place for all the right reasons."

Jackie did well at the school, both academically and socially. After she had been there several months, a counselor called Jackie into her office. The counselor said, "Jackie, I just don’t understand."

Jackie had wondered if she had somehow managed to get into trouble. "What is it?" she asked.

"You study hard," the counselor said. "You don’t lose you temper. You never get into fights. You don’t run away. Why are you here?"

"I skipped school," Jackie answered.

Within days, the counselor and teachers had come up with a plan for Jackie. The school’s principal and English teacher had recently gotten married. The couple, Curt and Karen Prickett, volunteered to be Jackie’s foster parents. She moved into their home, but continued to attend classes at the school. During her senior year, the Pricketts helped Jackie land a half-time job at the immigration service office in Portland.

"I couldn’t have asked for better parents," Jackie says. "We had a terrific relationship. They let me use their extra car to go home and see my parents on weekends. They helped me develop my social skills. They loved to give parties, and they would tell me my job at the party was to ‘mingle.’ I did a lot of growing up living with them."

After graduating, Jackie moved back to Tillamook and worked as a waitress. "It was a very happy time of my life," she recalls. "I found that a lot of people in Tillamook remembered me. Some knew me just as ‘that girl who got railroaded out of town.’ But others remembered me for more positive things. I saw that I had more support in that town than I had realized. My own withdrawal had cut me off from people who would have helped me."

While working at the restaurant, Jackie met Steve Grant, a young man who was supporting himself as a carpenter as he worked his way through college. The two began dating. "Steve recognized in me abilities and drive that no one else had ever seen," she says. "He became my mentor, encouraging me to try college classes."

Hesitantly, Jackie enrolled for a summer term at a community college. Her placement-test scores were "horrible" in most areas. "I needed every remedial class that the college offered. But I wasn’t at all discouraged by that," she explains. "As I look at it, I hadn’t failed. I simply hadn’t prepared adequately for college work, and now I was doing something about that."

Jackie continued taking classes until the school’s Native American counselor approached her one day. He had observed her love for learning and encouraged her to enroll in a four-year college. "You’re not sure what you want to do with your life, and a four-year degree will offer you many more choices." he told her. Jackie decided to trust his advice, and she and Steve both enrolled at Eastern Oregon State College, in LaGrande.

At the end of her first year at Eastern, Steve graduated with his bachelor’s degree. The two felt the time was right to marry and begin a family, so Jackie left school. But eight years and three children later, Jackie decided to go back to college. She re-enrolled at Eastern Oregon and went to school for three solid years, including summers. She also held a part-time job in the school’s Native American program.

After she earned her degree in psychology in 1989, Jackie became director of Eastern Oregon’s Native American program. In that position, she advises the school’s Native American and Native Alaskan students, teaching them to reach out and get the help they need from the educational system. She, Steve, and their children–Neesha, Joaquin, and Jack–open their home to the students she advised, often hosting potluck dinners.

Jackie Grant’s ancestors walked a "Trail of Tears." While Jackie’s trail has had it’s own rough spots, her strong pride in her Native American heritage and the early lessons of her parents and grandparents have led her to achieve her personal goals. "They taught me that true satisfaction lies in doing your best, working your hardest, and reaching for the goals that you yourself have set, not those that anyone else has set for you," states Jackie. "I believed them when they told me that I could do whatever I wanted."

Adapted with permission from Everyday Heros, by Beth Johnson.

Everyday Heros tells the inspiring stories of 20 men and women who have faced and overcome serious challenges in their lives. ISBN: 0-944210-26-0. Purchase a used copy of Everyday Heros from Amazon.com.

Relationship of Optimism/Pessimism, Vulnerability to Stress and Academic Achievement of College Students

The present research is about the incredible power of mind on body. Can one’s optimism/pessimism effect his/her vulnerability to physical and psychological stress.

Ms. Shazia Malik and Dr. Ghazala Rehman *

Abstract

The present research is about the incredible power of mind on body. The aim of the study was to find out the effect of an individual’s thinking style such as optimism/pessimism on his/her vulnerability to physical and psychological stress. The study also explored the relationship of academic achievement with the variables of the study.

It was hypothesized that:

  1. There exist relationship between optimism / pessimism and vulnerability to stress.

  2. Optimism is inversely correlated with vulnerability to stress.

  3. Girls are more optimistic as compared to boys.

  4. Boys are more vulnerable to stress compared to girls.

  5. High achievers are more optimists compared to low achievers.

  6. High achievers are less vulnerable to stress.

  7. Students belonging to lower socio-economic status (SES) will be more prone to stress compared to the students of high SES.

  8. Students belonging to upper SES will be more optimistic compared to the students of low SES.

For the present research, the sample of 100 students both boys and girls acted as subjects. 50 girls and 50 boys from colleges of Rawalpindi city, were selected as the unit of the study. All the subjects were full time enrolled students of their colleges. And they all were students of F.Sc second year ranging in ages from 17 to 19.

Three instruments had been used for the study. Life Orientation Test (LOT) was used for the measurement of optimism/pessimism traits of personality, Stress Vulnerability Scale (SVS) was used for the assessment of stress vulnerability. In order to assess the Academic Achievement level of students, their marks in last attended examination were obtained. The researcher made the score range to distribute the group in high, medium and low on the basis of their marks. The demographic information of the subjects, i.e., his/her name, age, sex, father’s monthly income, grade and institution was collected with the help of a personal information sheet which was attached to the questionnaires.

The data obtained from the research was compiled. The comparison of the scores was also made in terms of Mean, Standard Deviation, ANOVA and t-test. The analysis was also done to see the internal consistency using Reliability of the scales through item-total Correlation and Alpha Reliability Coefficient.

Results revealed that the entire hypotheses which were formulated for the present research had been confirmed. Hypotheses numbers 3 and 4 were partially confirmed because both boys and girls are equally vulnerable to stress as well as equally pessimists.

The general trend of the present study, however, indicates that optimistically oriented people are less susceptible to stress or stressors and they are academically high achievers. Whereas, pessimistic people are more prone to excessive worries and tensions. Thus, this is not what happens to a person but how he perceives the situation that makes all the difference. Positivity or optimism not only makes a person less vulnerable to stress but it also benefits health of a person as a whole.

A complete report of the research is available from the author:

Shazia Malik, MSc.

Behavioral Sciences (BHS)

Fatima Jinnah Womens University

Rawalpindi, Pakistan

e-Mail: shapli@yahoo.com


Author Information:
Ms. Shazia Malik, is a student of Behavioral Sciences, Fatima Jinnah Women University, Rawalpindi. Pakistan. She has conducted this research as a part of Master of Science Thesis research work supervised by the second author. Dr. Ghazala Rehman, is Associate Professor, at National Institute of Psychology, Qauid-I-Azam University, Islamabad, Pakistan.

Posted with permission.

Preparing Adult Learners to be Resilient in a World of Non-Stop Change

The people best suited for today’s world of non-stop change are different from those who were raised to fit into an unchanging world. To survive and thrive in constantly changing work environments, people in every occupation must be adaptable, highly resilient, and change-proficient.

Al Siebert, PhD

Presented at the National Conference on the Adult Learner 2000, Atlanta, Georgia

Professional Development Center, School of Business, Portland State University

Summary

The people best suited for today’s world of non-stop change are different from those who were raised to fit into an unchanging world. To survive and thrive in constantly changing work environments, people in every occupation must be adaptable, highly resilient, and change-proficient. This interactive session will focus on ways to facilitate resiliency and change-proficiency in adult learners.

Session Content

For many decades, children were trained by their parents and teachers to act, dress, talk, feel, and think as told. This training produced thousands of high school graduates who were conditioned to be "good" boys and girls. The training prepared them for employment in large, unchanging organizations. A person with a high school diploma and nothing bad in their record, could expect to find a job pretty easily. Then, if you were an obedient employee who followed your job description, were receptive to performance evaluations, and didn’t cause problems for managers, you could expect to have a job for life, and eventually be old enough to stay home and still get checks.

In recent years, however, large organizations laid off tens of thousands of managers and employees in order to make their organizations leaner and more competitive. Executives, to save expenses and have more flexibility in workforce numbers, laid off good workers when projects were finished.

Organizations are using many more temporary employees now. The emphasis in organizations these days is "faster, better, smarter." The pressure is on to get more work done with fewer people in less time with a smaller budget while keeping up with constant change.

Many adult learners feel bewildered when they discover that jobs are changing and evolving so rapidly, that many large organizations no longer provide job descriptions. Most employers now want people who can make themselves useful in new situations without being told what to do. People applying for positions must document strengths and skills appropriate for the job applied for. Adult learners raised to be modest and not brag about themselves, often find it difficult to tell interviewers what they are good at doing. In today’s world, getting a diploma or a degree is not enough.

Employers want college educated people who:

  • can work well in teams,
  • are self-motivated to keep learning,
  • have good communications skills,
  • don’t have negative attitudes about change,
  • have computer and internet skills,
  • are not "technophobic,"
  • can work without a detailed job description,
  • do not need constant supervision,
  • provide excellent customer service,
  • use common sense to solve problems,
  • hold up well under pressure,
  • are resilient and handle change well, and
  • do consistently high-quality work.

Computer literacy, for example, used to be the new skill that employers required. Now, for a person to be competitive in a career, internet skills are essential.

Does Your College Provide Good Role Models of Resiliency?

People in difficult circumstances will either react like victims who blame others for their distress or they will find ways to cope, learn, and adapt. Unfortunately, it is not unusual to hear some college staff and instructors complain about all the pressures and stresses in their jobs. People who complain and blame, however, are confusing the situation with their reaction to it. Work that is distressing for one college employee is enjoyable and satisfying for another. It is important for student morale to have instructors and staff to be good role models for resiliency and coping well with pressure. The following list summarizes the research findings about people able to recover quickly from disruptive change, illness, or misfortune without being overwhelmed or acting in dysfunctional ways. They:

  • experience few upsetting events in routine activities,
  • feel capable of taking effective action when upsetting events occur,
  • draw action choices from a wide range of inner and external resources,
  • experience family and friends as caring and supportive,
  • manage self-change well, and
  • convert negative experiences into beneficial learning.

For most adult students, the challenge is not having to deal with one major setback, the challenge is how to hold up week after week handling lots of little things without feeling helpless and at the mercy of external forces. Indicators that the pressures are getting to be too much include: sleepless nights, drinking alcohol to get to sleep, losing one’s temper over a minor incident, migraine headaches, frequent colds and illnesses, auto accidents, ulcers flaring up, high blood pressure and other cardiovascular problems, losing track of time, falling asleep in class, and forgetting to bring a paper the student stayed up late at night to finish. Time to recommend seeing a counselor.

Role-Modeling Professionalism and Resiliency

People who thrive in constant change do not need detailed job descriptions. They have a strong attitude of professionalism that lets them find ways to be useful and successful in new and ambiguous situations. Changes in the workplace now occur so rapidly it is rare for anyone to have an up-to-date job description.

One of the best ways for staff and instructors to role-model and facilitate resiliency is to exhibit attitudes of professionalism. Everyone has an understanding of the differences between someone who has an attitude of professionalism and someone who is unprofessional in their work. In this session we will talk about the differences and discuss ways to enhance professionalism in staff and students. Most people have the inner attributes to be resilient, and appreciate the contributing qualities when given an opportunity to explore them.

In this session, participants took and discussed a resiliency self-assessment developed by the presenter. Take the quiz here or get more information about resiliency from his website, The Resiliency Center.