Posted by: kayliestenger | April 8, 2010

Ana’s Beautiful Essay

A while back, one of my closest friends Ana sent me an essay she wanted me to take a look at before submitting it as part of her grad school application.  She was applying at the SIT Graduate Institute for a Masters in Global Management in Oman.  Ana is finishing up her last bit of time in the Peace Corps in Honduras right now.  When I looked at her essay responses, I was blown away.  The only corrections I could make were minor grammatical details – aside form that, it was flawless.  I would post all of her responses to all of the questions, but that may be like one of those annoying parents who shows 50 different poses of their child in the same pose, at a slightly different angle.  At any rate, here’s her response to question number one.

What knowledge and experience (academic, personal, professional, intercultural, etc.) have prepared or motivated you to pursue this degree program?

When I was a child, I was surprisingly realistic about my future. When asked by adults what they wanted to be when they grew up, other children would say they were going to be doctors, lawyers, and astronauts. To which I would think, surprisingly cynically for a child: “Realistically, how many of you will make it?” My family emigrated from South America. By the time my mother made the journey to the United States of America with her six children she was thirty, single and unsure of how to feed her overwhelming number of progeny should she have stayed in her native Uruguay. Arriving in California, she met my Colombian father. Already with nine children of his own, my father and mother married and I was born, the first American citizen of the family, one year and six days to my mother’s arrival in the United States.

As a child of immigrants, and with many siblings, I approached the situation of my future realistically.  There was little money and many children, and college was something no one discussed. It was assumed that after high school we would find jobs and help the family financially until we had our own families to provide for. When considering a potential career it seemed to me that being a police officer would be a solid, respectable choice. “My family would be proud of me…” I thought, “Although, maybe that would be aiming too high?” At the age of nine, I decided I would be a security guard.

I never thought about going to college. The reason was simple: I did not think I could. I thought my family’s economic situation could not put so many children through college, and logically never thought it was a possibility. Then someone asked me if I was interested in attaining a college degree. I was told that there was state and federal money available for children from low-income homes. I responded, “Yes, I wanted to go to college.”

Afraid still, to aim too high, I cautiously moved forward thinking my associate’s degree would be first. “I do not want to get ahead of myself by aiming for a four-year degree,” I thought. Near the completion of my associate’s degree I applied to several universities in the California State University system. When I received my first acceptance letter, I cried. I became the first person in my family to attend college.

The power of my past is that it has instilled a passion of possibilities in my life. As I continue to move forward, it seems that “I-can-be-anything” attitude that causes young children to believe they can become doctors and astronauts, has finally reached me. With each path I pursue, the world continues to open up to me. My Peace Corps service has been no exception.

Serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Honduras has continued to open the world to me. I have longed to find work which contributes to the world I live in. As a child, when I believed I could not aspire to greatness, I often felt a struggle within me; it was a deep desire to do work that held purpose, to pursue work beyond merely a title and a career. I felt a passion to contribute and was not sure how to satisfy this feeling. In Peace Corps it became more apparent, often in small ways, and that struggle within felt its release when I realized I could work in the service of contributing to the world we live in. It was the satisfying thought of the human race as connected, national boundaries aside.

My service as a Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV) has consisted of working at two levels; one exists at a higher level with the leaders of my community, and the other is work at a very basic human level working directly with Hondurans. This is work that I have found to be personally rewarding. It is from this work that I experienced a defining moment not only in my service but also in terms of my future.

When I first arrived in my community as a PCV I began teaching a basic computer course. The majority of my students came from some of the local villages in which they had no electricity and most had to make a special trip each day we had class. Two of my best students, a brother and sister around 15 and 18 years of age, walked two hours both ways in order to receive these classes. When I was first asked to give these classes I was nervous because I had never taught and doubted myself, questioning, “What can I teach them?”

My answer came on the first day of class. In Spanish, I asked them to open the folder on their desktop titled “Computer Class.” No one moved. Something occurred to me. I said, “Stop! How many of you have ‘touched’ a computer before?” One girl slowly, shyly raised her hand and said, “Well, I have touched one before.”

This is a moment that will continue to define my reasons to pursue work at the international level. I experienced a realization that the skills that I thought simple and not worthy of sharing were what my students, having never “touched” a computer, needed. Bigger than that, it was the realization that sometimes as development workers we question what it is that we are leaving behind. What can we offer a community? What can we offer the developing world? The answer is a lot, even in the less obvious ways.

What has drawn me to the Master of Global Management program has been a combination of all these life experiences. My privilege is not only to have been born in a country that holds a multitude of opportunities not afforded in many other regions of the world, but also to have a personal understanding of the reasons that drive a mother’s decision to forever leave behind her native country with her children. Having been raised between cultures, I have an awareness that only first generation children of immigrants can fully appreciate. I will forever be aware of the life my family left behind and the life I was born into. I have found a path to create opportunity and change in the lives of others so that they might be able to live under better conditions without the need to emigrate from their own country.  Now I look to the training that I will receive from the faculty and my peers at the Global Management program which can help me to become a socially responsible and effective leader, one who can create positive change, regardless of what country you live in. I am motivated by a desire to create change in both small and large ways.

Posted by: kayliestenger | February 24, 2010


Today, my beautiful baby nephew was born.

Today, Eric completed day 1 of 3 on the bar exam, and is feeling pretty good.

Today, I made a student cry after ripping him a new one for absolutely disgusting remarks he made about another student.

Today, I completed day 8 out of 10 for my solo teaching.

Today, Manuel wrote this letter for Eric.  I want Eric to write Manuel back, telling him to stop talking in class so much and listen when I speak.  We’ll see if Manuel still likes Eric after that.

Manuel’s letter

Posted by: kayliestenger | February 17, 2010

T minus 7 days and counting

Wikipedia states the following:

The California Bar Examination

California administers what is widely considered one of the nation’s most difficult bar examinations twice each year, in February and July.[29][30] Several prominent attorneys and politicians have either never passed, or had difficulty passing, the California Bar Exam. Significant among these are Antonio Villaraigosa (a law school graduate who never passed the Bar exam after failing four times), Kathleen Sullivan (who failed the bar in July 2005 but passed on her second attempt in February 2006), Jerry Brown (who took it twice before passing) and Pete Wilson (who passed on his fourth attempt).[31] Unsuccessful applicants have even sued the State Bar—unsuccessfully—on the grounds that the exam is unnecessarily difficult.[32]

Ugh.  3 full days of testing.  All I can say is, I’m glad it’s them and not me.  I would wish luck to all the test takers, but really, I want all the luck I can wish to be given to Eric.

Posted by: kayliestenger | February 2, 2010

Pearls of Wisdom

A little piece of advice from me to you: If you haven’t seen “The Lovely Bones,” don’t.  I pretty much just sat and cried for two hours, clinging onto Eric’s arm, wondering where I should wipe my nose.  The acting was fantastic, the cinematography was lovely, and the editing was done beautifully.  However.  It is very emotional (that is, if you don’t have a heart of steel).  I was looking at the story from the perspective of, “What if that were one of my students, or a relative, or a child?”  Eric said at the end of the film, “That would have been easier to watch if the girl didn’t look so much like you.”  Yeesh.  Glad I wasn’t thinking of that while watching her die!  (And no, that isn’t a spoiler – it happens in the beginning of the film.)

Posted by: kayliestenger | January 21, 2010

Beautiful Girl

Posted by: kayliestenger | January 11, 2010

Kids Say (or do, in this case) The Darndest Things, Part II

A fellow classmate went to her student teaching assignment this past Monday.  She is in a kindergarten classroom, and found one of her students showing his friends a bunch of call-girl cards he picked up while in Vegas with his family over the holiday.  He just wanted to “share with his friends.”

Posted by: kayliestenger | January 6, 2010

Let’s bring on the men in 2010!!

Just kidding.  I already have one man, and I don’t think he’s big on sharing.  But it was a nice rhyme.

This was such a great Christmas break!  There weren’t any grand trips involved, but it was a lot of fun, and very relaxing.  And, I made straight As.  I asked my dad if he was still going to pay me for every A, like he did when I was in elem/high school.  He is not.  Dang it.  That was the only reason I tried to get that GPA.

My birthday was on Jan. 1st, and as I’m sure you noticed, many people in the world chose to celebrate it by waiting up until midnight to ring in the first day of January.  All for me.  I’m so honored.  I actually did have a really great birthday, celebrating in San Francisco on New Years Eve, then going out to dinner with a bunch of friends on the evening of the 1st.  I also had a few oyster shooters…. I can’t get enough of those lately.

It was only marred the following day when I discovered that my cousin Steph, who had come to the dinner with her two little boys, went back home to find her house in the process of being robbed.  After her boys were back in the car, locked in with her mom, and 911 was called, Steph saw the car the thieves were using, with the keys in the ignition.  Steph went over and took the keys out.  The guys got away, but hopefully not for long.  The car was taken to impound.  Oh yeah, and shortly after Steph called 911, the owners of the beater car called the police.  Their car had conveniently been stolen earlier that night.  After Eric takes the bar, he’s gonna have to open a can of whoop-ass on these jackwads who think they can get away with robbing my cousin.

After having a dinner party at one of Eric’s friends’ houses in San Fran, we went out to an Afro/Brazilian club, where they had a live band playing samba music.  It was so much fun!  And Eric is a pretty good dancer, which made the night perfect.

Posted by: kayliestenger | December 20, 2009

My Uncle, the Homie G

My Aunt Carole had a surprise birthday party for my Uncle Mikey about two weeks ago.  This was a really big deal, because Mike is currently undergoing chemo treatments.  He’s been responding pretty well to the chemo, and doing SO much better, despite the reactions that chemo brings.  His hair is now gone, and I kept promising to get him a doo rag.  Well, for his birthday, I finally got one for him, and there are only two words to describe him: bad ass.

I’m not sure what inspired me to tie off the top into a little knot, but I think he’s looking pretty dope.

Posted by: kayliestenger | December 4, 2009

Letters from a student

I returned to my 4th/5th class for the first time today, after being gone for the past 5 weeks in another classroom.  One student immediately walked up to me with two envelopes and letters.  They’re too cute to not share!  (Click below – scroll all the way down to see the envelopes.)

Letter to Kaylie

Letter to Eric

He requested that we both write back, and said if Eric didn’t, there would be trouble.

Posted by: kayliestenger | December 3, 2009

Mi Familia

Here is one of my favorite photos from Thanksgiving…. nothing fancy, just a bunch of us sitting around, watching my grandparents open cards and laughing.

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