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  • Camille's Story

    Camille's Story Camille details her relationship with her siblings and the importance that they play in her life and how they have helped her get through her toughest challenges. Scroll to listen Camille's Story 00:00 / 04:23 Growing up I went through a lot within my family, through so much of it I felt this large sense of loneliness and this feeling of having to do everything myself and always being alone. But then I realized I have the three most important people in my life standing right next to me the whole time. I have three siblings, who are very close to me in age. My oldest sister's name is Bella, she is currently 23 and she lives in the UK. My youngest sister's name is Josie, she is 20 and she is a sophomore here at UMass Amherst. Then I have a younger brother who is 17, he is a senior in high school. I think having siblings in my life has totally transformed who I am as a person. I think they are the best part of my life. Our parents got divorced which felt like my whole childhood, it felt like this ongoing struggle and battle in my life. So many times, I tried to shield my siblings from it, even though I wasn't the oldest child it always felt like my role in life for some reason. I spent so much time just fighting against things that were just expected to happen, that I feel like I almost lost a part of myself, and it made me have this overwhelming sense of loneliness. I think that has really impacted who I am as a person, and I also think it has led me to be the person I am and to always feel the need to help others or to empathize with other people. Interviewer: “I just so love hearing you talk about your siblings and your relationship with them and somehow there has to be natural sibling rivalry, but you guys do not let that get in the way.” Sibling rivalry thing, I don't know if this is a common theme of siblings but for us it was a lot worse when we were children. I felt like we were all on an equal playing field. I feel like as I have grown up, one of the reasons I first told myself I wouldn't be a doctor was because my older sister is one of the most intelligent people I've ever met in my life. I will commend her for that till the day she dies, she is one of my biggest inspirations in my life, and I feel like the reason why I try too hard to be a better person all around and better at school and better opportunity to connect with people is because of the way my older sister conducts herself. She is like that one person I will always reach out to for advice, we still have our daily phone calls. There was never a said rivalry between us, but I think her being so smart has always not necessarily weighed on me, but it has always been that factor that she is so smart, how can I be so smart… But I think over time I realized that there could be a million smart people in the world. And I think that's one of the reasons me and my siblings get along so well is because I think we each bring our own thing to the table. Even Thanksgiving dinner if we are not all there, something is missing. Separately we each have our own personality, our own ball of energy. As though they're so different from each other, I also feel like they're so similar. People always tell us “Have you guys realized you have the same exact mannerisms?” Like I guess we make the same motions with our hands when we speak. Every time I am with one of my siblings it is like wow you guys are identical. It's funny because I have red hair, my older sister has brunette hair, and my younger sister has blonde hair, so we are not identical in any way shape or form. But sometimes people really can't tell us apart from our mannerisms and the things we say. I think that is so true for us because even though I get to see my older sister two/three times a year now. I still am adapting to things she says, her mannerisms. My younger sister is adapting to both of ours and I just think it's so funny to watch us interact. Even if I do not get to talk to my siblings every day, they are still the biggest part of my life, and it shows in so many more ways than one. They are one thing in my life that makes me feel like it's possible to beat loneliness. Because I remember at any point in my life, even in high school, my loneliest moments, the moments when I was the saddest, like when your first boyfriend breaks up with you, I remember the first thing I think about is always like at least I always have them. They will never leave me. That really means more than the world, is that I can make the biggest mistake and no matter what I do in my life I will always have them. It is the best feeling.

  • Caleigh's Story

    Caleigh's Story Caleigh reflects on the importance of becoming a role model for her five-year-old niece, Natalie. Being there for her as she grows up is something extremely important to Caleigh. Scroll to Listen Caleigh's Story 00:00 / 02:37 Caleigh: I just love stories in general anyways because it makes people who maybe would have never interacted realize their shared humanities. I just want say a story that I heard in class—It was a story in class about a young man who welcomed a little brother into his world, and he realized that this world was no longer about him and he wasn’t just a big brother, he was a role a model. Everything he accomplished and everything he strived for wasn’t only for himself but to set a good example for his brother.​ When I read that story in class it made me think of my five-year-old niece, Natalie, and we are very close. She’s my whole world, I love her so much. After reading that story, I took a step back and I was like, “who am I as an auntie and how does she see me?” She looks up to me, she mimics me, she wants to be just like me, she always wants to spend time with me, and it made me think about what kind of person do I want her looking up to? I am no longer just an auntie, but I am setting a good example for her. I want to show her that she is capable of anything she sets her mind to. I am the first one in my family to go to college and I would love to be a role model for her to see, you know, auntie goes to college, and I can do it and I want to be just like her. And through just reading that story of the man—the boy—who welcomed his brother in the world, it just connected me and him and we’ve never met. I hope that everything that I’ve learned in my 20 and a half years—today is my half birthday—I want to share those experiences with her so that she doesn’t make some of the mistakes that I’ve made, but also that she can follow in my footsteps because I feel like I am a great role model for her. That’s—you know—I have two older brothers. I never really had a female role model, other than my mom, someone that was closer to my age, so in a way we are so close, and I’ve been with her since she was in the womb.

  • Stephanie's Story

    Stephanie's Story In this story, Stephanie discusses one of her professors. Even if they didn’t always see eye-to-eye, Stephanie greatly valued their presence in her life, as well as their advice. Their mentorship will stay with her throughout her life. Scroll to Listen Stephanie's Story 00:00 / 02:28 Annabel: Well, is there one person in your life - maybe a professor at your school, or a relative back in Ghana, or a neighbor - is there anybody that you have looked up to that has had an enormous influence on you and choices you’ve made? Or career goals? Stephanie: Yeah, there is one person. I mean, to be honest, it was - like - she did pass away. She was a professor at UMass. She was a bio professor. I mean, she didn’t teach because she hated teaching. She was more focused on lab work, though, that was what she did. And she researched cancer and viruses, she was a virology professor, basically. Annabel: Oh, wow. Stephanie: Yeah, and - at the beginning, I didn’t like her. Cause, we just didn’t match. At the beginning I didn’t like her. And then, she kept forcing me to meet her, so then, I met her, and, yeah, we just started talking. I’m like, “Oh, okay! That’s an interesting perspective! Let me try this and see whether it works. And then, yeah, I just kept coming to her, and then we built that bond, of talking, and figuring out what I’m going to do in the future. And, yeah. But she basically was trying to force me to go to grad school. Annabel: Wow! Stephanie: Yeah, and be a scientist! And I’m like, “No! I don’t want to be a scientist!” But, let me see how this goes. I’m going to try your method and see whether it works - if it doesn’t we can think about something else. But yeah, I liked that about - every time I’d go to her, she’d give me the options. Like, you can do this, you can do this, you can do this. These are the steps you can do, these are the steps, dadadadada. This is what I did, and this is what you can do. But yeah, um, she unfortunately passed away. So I felt like it was kind of unfinished. Like, yeah, I feel like we didn’t finish talking about what we were supposed to talk about. Annabel: I assume that it has impacted your career goals. Stephanie: Yeah, definitely. I mean - I still don’t want to be a scientist. If she was here, she’d be like “ahahaha! Let’s see what happens in the future.” I still don’t want to be a scientist, but I am interested in viruses and virology, so we’ll see how it goes. Annabel: Wow.

  • Chad's Story

    < Back Chad's Story Chad discusses his struggles in elementary school with learning disabilities and how it led him to the development of Sudbury Valley Schools and to the career path of community development. Chad talks about how important being a part of a community is, and how important it is to feel heard and respected in a group. Scroll to listen 00:00 / 02:58 The first question that I have for you is: What was the most difficult part of school for you? You know again there was no special ed then, saying from the front of the room “Ok Chad what’s the answer to number 2? What’s two times nineteen” and I would get red in the face and now, all the other kids are whipping their heads around looking at me, so it was the kids too so. The hardest part was, I guess you would call it sticking out or the change, the change from fitting in and community, to sticking out as there’s something different here, what’s going on. You know, I was called lazy and a lot of those kinds of things until around 13 years old or something, when they diagnosed a bunch of learning disabilities. You know, it’s like any health diagnosis, somebody could take the diagnosis, let’s say alcoholism, they could take that and say “Oh my god I’m broken! This is never going to get better.” Other can take that diagnosis “Hey, now I know I need to watch out for this, how can I work on that.” So as soon as the mind makes that turn, that change, there is benefit. So, by the time I hit high school I had dropped out so, joining that new school in Framingham was the best thing that could have ever happened. I was accepted for who I was no matter what that small part of me was about. I was kind of, I guess you could call it sitting at the boundary. I was neither at the public high school nor at the prep school, but once I started that new school with the others, I was back in the arms of the community. I mean the Sudbury Valley School prepared me for being a member, you know, being someone who had something to give. “We want to hear from you, what’s your take on this, now what about yours.” And I think being a member of that warming school, and the specific model of the school formed a lot of the rest of my life. Previous Next

  • Selena's Story

    Selena's Story Selena speaks with Jonathan about what it’s like to be living with a family whose views are very different from your own during a global pandemic. Scroll to listen Selena's Story 00:00 / 03:29 ​

  • Susy's Story

    Susy's Story Susy talks about her want for a child and how it led her to her experience with international adoption in Peru as a single woman. She discussed the impact of negative cultural views on adoption and how it impacted her experience as a parent. She then discusses the importance of belonging and the need for people to share their stories. Scroll to listen Susy's Story 00:00 / 04:52 ​

  • Talia's Story

    < Back Talia's Story Talia talks to Charlie about her experience of studying abroad in Florence, Italy. She speaks about how she chose Florence as her host city. She tells us how studying abroad in Florence changed her and furthered her desire to travel the world. Scroll to listen 00:00 / 02:22 What makes you want to travel? Well, I have spent, I spent that last 6 months abroad and so that was really amazing. I got to go through school. I lived in Florence. And that was one of the the best experiences of my life I think and because of that I feel like I learned a lot about different cultures and I was able to learn a lot about myself as well and I reallized that the environment that I am living in and the people I am surrounded by really can make my life better and I think that a lot of people would feel the same way and so I think that traveling is something that will always be important to me in those aspects. What took you to Italy? So I originally was thinking of going to Greece and so I wanted to go somewhere that was warm, somewhere with beaches. I thought that would be amazing then I realized that I have my ancestry is all from Italy and so I thought that it would be really interesting to learn more about where I came from and the culture that I’m from and so that was really important to me. That was part of my decision. I also have heard of how beautiful Italy is and Florence that was and I knew that it was a smaller city it was something that could feel more homey than other cities I think. I think that was something I was looking for especially if I was going to be living there for an extended amount of time. I wanted somewhere that I felt comfortable with I also had my two roommates going with me and we all kind of decided that the food would be the best in Italy and that was something that we really wanted yeah just a bunch of different things led me to go there Previous Next

  • Elise's Story

    Elise's Story Elise Boehm talks to Edie Kirk about her decision to study abroad in Cuba and what it was like once she got there. She shares stories about where she went and what she did but also how the people there made her feel more confident speaking Spanish. Scroll to listen Elise's Story 00:00 / 03:24 My sophomore year at Umass Amherst I decided to go study abroad in Cuba and everything I would say went pretty well. You know one of the first things we did when everybody was there was we got to ride the ya know old-school classic Cuba cars. Which was I think one of the coolest things ya know we could have done. We took a ride around Havana just sightseeing ya know we got to take pictures with the car, in the car, outside of the car and it was a lot of fun. It was probably one of the best memories I have ya know when we were all like in the cars side by side, we were just like recording taking videos ya know I think the most important lesson that I learned is that even though I was scared of trying something new ya know I am glad that I did it and that I didn't let the fear of trying something new get in the way of me experiencing this great opportunity I think some of the best memories I have are when I push myself out of my comfort zone and just try something new ya know I am grateful that despite this being scary, being away in a completely different country and traveling alone I didn't let that fear get in my way I started to ya know feel more confident as time went on I mean I push myself to try some new things I was very grateful for that and I guess another thing that I was I guess happy with was that I got to get away from internet and what was happening back home because where we were at theres no internet so if we wanted to use the internet we would have to walk a few blocks to the nearest hotel and we would have to sit there and we would have to buy an internet card and put it in our phones and they we would have internet for how ever many minutes and so then thats how we communicate with the people back home and ya know go on social media and everything you would do on the internet and I think that ya know that being so far away and us not having like internet readily accessible was a great experience because its like we werent focused on like what was happening back home, what people were posting, what we were posting and so it was a way that we could fully embrace the experience and just be in the culture be in Cuba without adding these extra distractions ya know we really got to really experience it and i think that is one thing that I am proud of is that i dont think anyone on that trip really complained about the difficulties of getting internet because we were all having such a good time we were always busy or finding something to do whether it be going to classes, or going to the beach, going to the museum ya know we were constantly busy we had these field trips that we would go on so i think it was definitely a good experience overall

  • Liya's Story

    Liya's Story Liya Liang speaks with Nina Kleinberg about her experiences attending a preparatory boarding school and leaving all she knew behind. The two discuss the effects that it had on her life reflecting on the aspects of race, class, and socioeconomic status had on her experience during her four years. Scroll to listen Liya's Story 00:00 / 03:29 My high school self-looking back on it, I was just, I think a big fish in a small pond. I like never stepped out of my comfort zone. I never really pushed boundaries. I wasn’t a person to take risks. I think that my college experience is different than my high school experience in the sense that I’m learning to learn and learning for myself and about myself discovery. So, a big part of my identity I’m from Lowell Mass, and that’s the second most populated Cambodian refugee community. Being Cambodian was always an important part of my identity, but since I was immersed in a lot of Cambodian culture, I didn’t see why it was special or why it was different. My parents until I was in middle school never really talked about what they have went through, what they have gone through, same thing with my grandmother until I asked. So, that kickstarted me looking into my identity more, but back then I didn’t really think about my Cambodian identity that much. I knew it was a strong part of me because I was living in it, but I didn’t really get to deconstruct my place in the greater scheme of the world because I was in the middle of the ethnic community of it. I knew it was different, I’ve never really been around that many rich people, and I’ve never experienced that before, it was just a culture shock in the sense that I felt like I didn’t connect with people that much, since we were so different, but I ended up making friends. Initially, I was “oh these people are so different, they dress different, they look different, they talk different” and I was in a different environment, I felt really insecure, and I didn’t have that much confidence in myself, it was really the first time I pushed myself. Within weeks I just got more comfortable talking in how I spoke whether it was different and whether it was ineloquent, and I think that really helped a lot. I just thought that the student body would be more diverse. There were Asian people, but they didn’t really deem me Asian since I am Asian American. That was really hard for me because I am not a white person, I’m not a black person, I’m Asian, but I am Asian American. And I often found myself counting the amount of people of color in the room just to make myself feel a little more comfortable, I was also sometimes really hyperaware that I was the only person of color in the room. That was like the first time that I experienced that. It really made me insecure I think the first couple years. But then I realized that not that it was all in my head, that I needed to grow comfortable in my place, and that my place in the grand scope of things wouldn’t change. If I just couldn’t figure out a way to navigate these spaces, that I would struggle. And if I really really struggled that would be at the expense of why I was here, my academic and just to do well. I just knew that I had to do great, because of my identity and because I was purely there I guess, because of my identity. I was really really stressed, I wanted to be perfect. My junior year and my senior year, I was really focused on I have to do well because I am here because I need to excel, I need to represent my community as home, represent my own Cambodian community. I think my identity of Asian American grew stronger because of it, and I was in a different environment, but I think I was very sheltered being home.

  • Rene's Story

    < Back Rene's Story Rene explains how she feels being the eldest sister of her siblings. She talks through how an experience with her brother brought their relationship together. Scroll to listen 00:00 / 03:59 So my first question is what was your role as the eldest self out eldest sister? Well, I'm the oldest of four. And let's see, I have a sister who's two and a half younger, two and a half years, three years younger than I am. And then another. I had a brother and a sister seven years younger than I am. So we were the girls and twins. That's what we refer to as we were growing up. It was wonderful. It's really a position of privilege. And it's also burden. It was also burdensome. I was a lot was expected of me in terms of helping my mom take care of the other three, she was a woman who was viewed as sickly, and I was capable, and I was smart. And I was willing, because I just wanted those parents to walk me into an audit to get me what I wanted to care those kids in January of 2019, my brother, her twin died, my brother died, he had cancer. And for the last three months of his life, the three sisters we're very close family, almost too close. Sometimes we were almost too close sometimes. My three sisters and I went to Florida and took care of him in his in his medical needs were complicated. And three of us just took on what we were best at. My sister Joanne, the youngest one, his twin is good at organizing shows, she would organize things. And everything was very organized. The medications were organized, our schedules were organized. My sister Marina who loves loves, loves animals. She's such a tender hearted woman. Well, my brother had 180 pound English master. And the dog ate only raw food because my brother was very fussy about what his dogs eat. And Marina, we prepare my sister is two and a half years younger, she would really take care of moose ducks name was moose. And she would feed him and make sure he was water bowls. I mean, Moose was a lot of work. It was like having another child and did things that were more around the emotional caretaking of my brother and made sure that every time he left his bed and came out into the main area, and he had this television screen, which was like, like a sports bar television screen, it was huge. And he would come and sit on the couch and blare it out. And I made sure that every time he came out and sat down, loose was on one side of him in a sister, any one of us, no matter what was going on, one of us had to be sitting next to him, like holding his hand or leaning up against what I leaned up against him. I really wanted him to feel and know our presence and our love was very, very moving. It was such a gift to be with him at the end such a gift and in many ways it both is in a funny way it bonded us the three sisters. It bonded us in a way nothing else could have done. And it also gave us some freedom from each other because I grew up in this enmeshed family, family that just to leave the family was felt like sometimes an act of betrayal to go to college felt for me like an act of betrayal. Somehow after Mark step, having had this very intense experience. We found our freedom to be more of who we were, as individuals. Previous Next

  • Gail's Story

    Gail's Story Gail, an elementary school teacher, talks about how her sister impacted her life and encouraged her to advocate for children with disabilities in her classroom and beyond. Scroll to listen Gail's Story 00:00 / 03:55 I was very alone when I was with my sister as she grew up because when I went somewhere with her I felt very vulnerable when I would get stares from other people not knowing what they were thinking and so it was very difficult and she could not speak for herself I endured many negative comments you know I didnt know how to speak to people about her so I just kept everything to myself well in my career I started to realize how much she was discriminate against and I wanted to change that in my classroom In a classroom its easy for children to single out someone else if thye are different I didnt want that to happen so what I did was I if someone was coming to my classroom who had a disability I asked at the meeting that when I was told that someone would be coming I aksed that the person, the chld who was going to come to my room not come for a week so I could trian my class we met my class and we talked about what do you do if this person is out on the playground and does something to you that you dont like how do you handle it what do you do if you want to come in and you are really upset with him we talked about how to come to me to tell me about thei problems with this other person and then we would have a meeting to discuss how they could handle it and learn to accept this person at the end of the year a mother of a disabled child invited my class to go to the birthday party and every single child went I was very proud of it and then another thing that happened that I could tell people were understanding was that I met one of my students who was going to UMass I asked him what he was going to be what he was majoring in and he said special education and I congratulated hima nd he siad it was you you were the one that got me interested and I felt so good about it so ya know it carried into my teaching career and I also oh one word that I wanted to have him relaize kindness those people everybody desrevs kindness not just them so I really was firm about ya know how you have to be kind to everybody even if there's something you don't like about that person you know come in and talk to me about it and we can see what we can do I want to well I started to speak out more because I’ve kept things about my sister inside and I feel like its more than time to speak out and also a way to advocate to others you know so that when others pass someone on the street who is disable no matter what their disability is they don't stare and make the people who are wit them feel embarrassed they see them as someone who was born the way they were there's a lot of positive about them an to say hello that I think just to be kind say hello and let these people know they are accepted

  • Catherine's Story

    Catherine's Story Catherine Grella (21) talks with a friend, Susan Martins (77) about her close relationship with her two sisters, her childhood, and the family dynamics that have shaped her into the woman that she is today. Scroll to listen Catherine's Story 00:00 / 04:51 The order of the siblings is that Abby is the firstborn. She is about two and a half years older than me, and then I am next. And then Sophia is my younger sister, and then my younger brother is Ben. Sofia is about two and a half years younger than me, too. So the spacing between us is like, pretty equal, which is good because it's so we've met us so close, and he's the only boy. Sophie and I did gymnastics together. I remember I told you about that. And sometimes we trained so hard at such a young age. We were so fascinated by gymnastics that we would go probably 13 to 15 hours a week. And when you're like nine or ten, that's a lot of commitment. Like, think a young gymnast body going 13 to 15 hours a week in training and running and doing strength and conditioning. And it built our bodies to be very strong, which is something I'm thankful for. But in a way, it took away part of our childhood because we didn't get to see friends as much. And we really became so close, and we became each other's best friends because of all that time we would spend in the gym together. But the one thing that I wanted to say was that when Sophie and I were younger, although we would go to gymnastics super late into the night, I think it was like we'd be getting out around 845, so we wouldn't be getting home until nine. And my whole entire family would wake up at 09:00 so that we could have family dinner every Monday, Wednesday, Friday. My poor father must have been so hungry by 09:00 Wednesday, Friday. But they did it because they loved us, and they did it because they thought that that was important for us to eat together. I'm really happy that they did that. And in so many of the ways that they made these accommodations in my life growing up, are ways that I want to incorporate into my own family when I have it, because they're really special. If you were to leave this interview for someone like, who would you leave it for? I would definitely leave this for my parents and just in honor of them and all they've done, in away, my mom and my dad always wanted to give us the things that they didn't have growing up. So my dad, when he was 40, he had to take up music lessons all by himself and learn how to play the guitar and learn how to play the piano. And he's so fantastic at it. He has that creative brain where he can hear a song on the radio and just play the chords on the piano. And it's so amazing. But that was all taught to him by himself. And he just thinks, how good could I have been if I was given this when I was young? So that was the philosophy he adopted when he enrolled us on piano lessons when we were in kindergarten, and they just never wanted to have any doubts of what our abilities could have been if we weren't given those tools. And I'm so thankful for that because I don't thank them enough, and I really, really should, but I should just sit down one day and say, thank you for always giving us all of the tools that you wanted us to have to be great in life and to find out what we loved. Even Sophie and Ben didn't stick with piano, but at least they were given that tool to explore. And the same thing with sports. I'm so thankful that there was never a sport that I brought up to my parents, and they turned it down and they said, no, you can't do soccer. You can't do this; you can't do that. They were always so willing to be accepting our interests and accommodate them in any way that they could and help us, and that was something so special. Of course, I leave this interview for my siblings too, for them to know all the ways that they impacted me in my life and will continue to impact me in my life. But a lot of it is for my parents too, because it's only when you get older that you really appreciate all of the ways to which they were such good parents. And at college, it's sad, but I think it's there were so many things about my childhood that I took for granted. And it's only when you're at college and you're not surrounded by your immediate family anymore that you realize the things that you miss.

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