I was absolutely psyched to have an opportunity to write an article for the Concordian this month, covering a local celebrity and his new rock band, Push.
ABC’s Channel 7 news Bay Area anchor Dan Ashley has found a fresh new niche as the front man for Contra Costa’s newest rock band, Push.
It seems the charisma and confidence necessary for quality broadcasting carries over well into the realm of rock and roll. The members of the new band, Push, met at a recent local charity golf tournament, and discovered a shared passion for classic rock bands like the Rolling Stones, Rush, and Pink Floyd. “We seemed to click right away,” said Ashley at the band’s debut kickoff party at his home in Walnut Creek on April 2nd.
In their short time together, Push has already conquered an impressive array of hits from the 60’s to the 90’s, and balances their covers well with a lot of creative and engaging original titles. The disarming camaraderie of the five members of the band is contagious as they settle smoothly into each tune, drawing the crowd in with great showmanship and fervor.
Their three hour set covered a broad host of classics like Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ “Mary Jane’s Last Dance” and Rolling Stone’s “Under My Thumb” and “Jumpin’ Jack Flash.” Original song titles include “The Hard Way,” “Go Away,” “Love for My Enemy,” and the album’s title track “American Too.”
The same magnetism that draws nightly news viewers to Dan Ashley is present in his new group, with an added sense of fun and humor that draws people in. At the debut, he got his guests laughing with, “You know in my line of work, I’ll do anything to get in front of a large group of people who can’t change the channel!”
There is no denying that Push’s talent is a crowd pleaser- each catchy beat drew the gathering to dancing and cheering. “The music is appealing for its solid balance between simplicity and sophistication,” said Bill Bentley, producer of Push’s upcoming album “American Too,” which is set to be complete sometime in September. “Their professionalism is obvious.”
Of Dan Ashley’s surprising branch out to singing, his voice coach Loree Capper noted how that very professionalism and charisma is a big part of his success in the band. “He worked so hard for six months,” she said. “He was so determined- even being nervous, he always pushed ahead.”
Ironically, pushing ahead is a sure theme for this band. With such a great lineup of musicians and with the band’s intrinsic ability, Push is certainly destined for popularity.
See video clips on our digital edition at myconcordian.com.
Spring Clean Up - Juice Fast
Please welcome the first guest blogger in the Juice Junkie - Spring Clean Up, Erin Maloney! Erin has just recently started a 30 day Juice fast and I've asked her to share her thoughts and experiences with the Juice Junkie readers.
First, a little about Erin...
I am a graphic designer and mother of an awesome 7 year old girl named Naia. I was born in New Hampshire but have lived all over the country and have finally curbed my wanderlust and set down roots in Vermont with my little family. I'm an avid reader, writer, and lover of the digital arts- I try to memorialize all things I experience in life through visual media and the written word.
It's funny. I keep looking into the fridge and seeing all this food that I feel compelled to eat immediately, today, because I know it will go bad after I begin this journey. I resist the compulsion to horde and grasp and obsess, because I know this is the time to be winding things down. This is a quiet period. A time for reflection and mental, physical, emotional and spiritual preparation.
I begin my 30 day juice fast tomorrow. I know it's probably not in my best interest, but I do allow myself one "last supper" with my fiance, because that man won't do battle with a frying pan to save his life surrounded by 1000 eggs. This too will be another change our little family must face in the next month- in order to resist the compulsion to eat, I'm not going to be cooking as many meals for Dustin and our 7 year old daughter Naia as we're all used to. He's going to have to force himself to tackle the dreaded kitchen implements. Because I have awesome taste in future husbands, I know he'll handle the challenge with bravado and obstinate (okay, tormented) determination.
This isn't a completely new process. I've juice fasted before- I made it 18 days in 2011. I lost a little less than a pound a day, and I felt amazing after the initial 5 days or so of hellish detox. This time I'm going whole-hog and shooting for at least 30, because among many reasons for this fast, after 10 years of being together, Dustin and I are finally having our wedding this summer.
I'm assuming anyone that has read this has at least a rudimentary knowledge of juice fasting and understands its myriad benefits, as well as the supposed dangers touted by those who haven't experienced it (no, it's not a fad diet; no, resting the digestive system is not dangerous, yes, people all over the world have done this for centuries; yes, there's plenty of protein in the produce I juice, etc.). I myself am an avid and obsessive researcher. When I get my claws into a subject I'm like a starving vampire- I'll do my best to bleed dry every iota of information on it. So when I watched Joe Cross' "Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead", I was off on a tangent of cynicism, curiosity, but above all hope. After finally trying it and joining communities dedicated to the support and success of juice fasting, I'm on board 100%. The way I felt when I was really in it- surprisingly energetic, happy, more awake than I remember feeling in a long time- all this experience essentially forced the nay-sayings into the background of my mind. I'm a firm believer in "don't knock it til you try it".
I am not only juicing for my waistline heading toward my wedding date; I am also juicing for my health- namely, my psoriasis. Joe Cross had an equally perplexing and infuriating autoimmune disease that caused skin eruptions, and he was able to eradicate it to the point of getting off all medication by juicing and adopting a healthy lifestyle after his fast. My psoriasis is a similar demon- covering about 60% of my body, I get so much "Is that poison oak?" and "Mommy, what's wrong with that woman!?" that I'm often tempted to tell people I'm a leper and to keep their distance or suffer the same fate.
My affliction didn't disappear with the first fast, but it certainly improved. I'm approaching the situation this time with a completely holistic attitude- I'm cutting oranges out of my recipes (yes, this fruit is one of the incredibly long list of foods that may/may not affect psoriasis, though of course nobody really knows for certain), and I've replaced all my typical chemical-laden American hygiene products with those that contain no sulfates and are completely organic. I don't plan on consuming anything but vegetables, fruit, and water for at least 30 days. I'm hoping (oh, fickle hope!) to reach that distant 30 day mark and see myself doing well enough to keep pushing for 60, my ultimate goal.
I am beginning this journey with an incredible sense of excitement and trepidation. What a huge change to weather! What a major support to ask of my family, to accept me and my inevitable crabbiness during this thing! I am very lucky to have them- they understand and are happy for my excitement. So I begin by turning inward today before my official start tomorrow- I plan on spending a lot of time inside my own mind meditating and confronting the many demons that I ignored in the past and ultimately lead me to this point of poor health through mindless bad choices. Mindfulness is my mantra for the next 30+ days.
I start today at 197. Let's make it to 170, or even 150, baby. Let's get back in touch with ourselves and strip away all the gunk, like the decayed outer layers of an onion, like the shedding of old skins. Let's clear out the mind, the heart, and the body. I think a place of optimism, self-encouragement, and hope is as good a place as any to start. Down the hatch, mean green! A toast to my fellow juicers!
Facebook Messenger Privacy Debate
Facebook's Messenger app for mobile devices, once an optional, external app that allowed users to chat with friends and family outside the mobile Facebook interface, is now a required download for iPhone and Android users. Though this move that renders users unable to send or recieve Facebook messages through their mobile devices without the app is incredibly unpopular, the biggest complaint (and why it has only received an average of 1 star out of nearly 20,000 reviews) has to do with privacy.
According to an outline of some of the Facebook permisssions required for the Android version, the Facebook Messenger app can:
Read your contacts.
Modify your contacts.
Add or modify calendar events and send email to guests without owner's knowledge.
Read, edit, and send text messages from your phone.
Record audio and video.
The majority, however, clearly do care- with almost 20,000 negative reviews, users are upset at the "forced" download. "I refuse to download an app that takes up so much extra space on my phone when I already had an app that did the same exact thing as this one," wrote a reviewer. "I refuse to give Facebook permission to access my microphone or camera at their will. If they only needed the camera to take photos within the app and only needed the microphone for use with the app, they would not word their 'privacy' statement to say they can access it when they feel like it... Facebook has over-stepped boundaries and needs to be put in its place."
The Daily Dot's Mike Wehner wrote that all these permissions aren't as insidious as they seem, however. "The app has legitimate reasons for each request, and you have no reason to panic." They may seem creepy when worded as, “This permission allows allows the app to use the camera at any time without your confirmation,” but it also doesn't mean that your camera will be manned remotely by super spies attempting to glean insight into your daily life. It's just asking to access the camera without having to prompt you each time.
So no, it's not a practice in social espionage, but for sure the implications of the amount of data we wittingly (or unwittingly) share through our phones are daunting. Many people are saying it's time to stand up and say "no," but plenty of others see this exchange of information as part and parcel of the growing mobile landscape.
What do you think? Are we giving too much personal data away for the ease and convenience of mobile applications? Or is it a small but necessary sacrifice for all the benefits we get from mobile technology?
Tourism Marketing in Vermont
According to a recent Vermont Tourism and Recreation survey, word of mouth is by far the most significant factor tourists make when deciding to visit Vermont.
Surveyed on July 24th, the University of Vermont Tourism Research Center developed questionnaires for visitors passing through Vermont visitor centers, state parks, and attraction sites to provide data to promote growth of the state's tourism economy. Small local businesses can benefit from all this great demographic information, providing insights into what visitors do and whether or not they plan on returning.
The biggest suprise in the survey was what influenced their decision to visit Vermont- towering above all other variables like magazines, radio, TV, and social media, it was word of mouth from friends and family that snagged a whopping 62.1% of respondents. While planning for the trip, websites and print media became the most important variables.
Where does that put Vermont small businesses? While relevant, engaging websites were as always a huge factor in information gathering, it's important to remember the importance of Vermont's long-standing history of memorability due to our small-town feel. Close relations, friendly atmospheres, and genuine caring about our customers' experiences resonate from person to person, giving our state a heady reputation for warmth and neighborliness that ensures repeat visitors year after year.
Do you believe that consumers are more educated now than they ever have been? Well, how much more inclined are you to buy a product or service after watching a video explaining it? I'm guessing about 64% (according to comScore, that's the average). Want to hear a little fact even crazier than that? YouTube has just surpassed Facebook and is now the largest social media site on earth as of last month.
Two more juicy tidbits-
700 YouTube videos are shared on Twitter every minute.
500 years of YouTube videos are watched on Facebook every day.
There is nothing else to say here, everyone. Consumers know how to do their homework, and videos are helping businesses in their attempts at transparency toward the public. Are you looking to widen your company's exposure? Prove that your products are the real deal, and not just fluff? Can you think of anything more compelling than a medium that people watch literal years of each day? When people are shopping for a product or service, a short explainer video gives them the skinny on what to expect in the most effective and engaging way possible. They make shopping entertaining, educational, and customers feel more confident in their purchases, making them more likely to recommend to others or leave positive reviews for other self-educating consumers.
This is a huge marketing opportunity. People want to know more about what they're buyingbefore they buy it, but they aren't as apt to scroll through pages and pages of explanatory text. Exhaustive reading is rare, as outlined in the eyetracking studyperformed by the Nielsen Norman Group. I'd be pretty surprised if you've read this far, actually. If so, congratulations, and many thanks! I feel special.
I have to admit, I've always despised traditional advertising. The feeling of being pressured, hollered at, lied to, infuriated me (and still does today). I think the worst aspect, the thing that set me the most over the edge into Crazy Land, was the increase in volume during TV commercials. All of a sudden your speakers are exploding with the screams of people demanding that you buy, buy, buy this immediately! (I'm looking at you, car sellers.) With the evolution of the internet advertising, we're seeing a switchover from these maddening tactics to a level of transparency never seen before from businesses.
Society is as fast-paced as ever, and we're not as gullible in relation to old marketing ploys. Telemarketing, pop-ups, spam, fear tactics, creating false need, and half-truths in marketing are more likely to be your downfall now that people see right through these methods to what they are- plain old dirty tricks. Modern consumers inform themselves. They educate themselves. They do their homework and are drawn to the businesses that offer real information, products or services. By offering compelling video, they have the capability of making up their own mind about what they think of you, and more often than not, it leads to increased site traffic and higher ultimate sales.
Staying with the changes to remain relevant now, with absolute certainty, includes adding online video to your arsenal of marketing tools. By delivering better products and services (not just talking about how amazing they are, or force feeding them to the public with spam or cold calls), you are already doing the advertising. Consumers are more empowered and will figure out what's swill and what's sense. They can smell phony drivel from a mile away. It's time to take advantage of that self-education and become more transparent.
Big Merger Threatens Small Biz
Despite claims from those involved that customers will benefit from a Comcast-Time Warner merger, a freakishly high level of skepticism about these supposed benefits inundate the internet and social media. Here's a little insight into the dog and pony show of one of the biggest proposed mergers in US history.
Announced in February and currently awaiting regulatory approval, this $45 billion merger would unite the two largest cable operators in the United States. Comcast is colossal, with nearly 22 million cable subscribers and over 20 million broadband subscribers. Time Warner comes in number two with about 11 million cable and broadband subscribers, though this is clearly dwarfed by Comcast's Death Star proportions. United, they would provide about half of all cable and phone service in the United States.
The companies claim that the deal would give them more leverage in negotiations with entertainment companies, therefore keeping down programming costs, but most people don't consider this supposed benefit of great use compared to the problems both businesses have had over the years with customer service. A couple commendable examples: Comcast just won the ever-prestigious Worst Company in America "Golden Poo" award (Consumer Reports) for the second time, and has had audio of a particularly horrifying 8 minute phone recording of belligerent customer service go viral last week.
Customers are the heart and soul of any business, but as local cable service is solidly a monopoly in many areas, Comcast is not under much direct pressure to put the customer first. People everywhere are upsetabout their practices, going as far as to call it "nightmarish" and "Satanic." The complaints range all over the board from hidden, illegal fees to the notoriously popular "transfer hell"where you eventually are purposefully hung up on. With a Time Warner-Comcast merger, these problems are likely to get worse (Time Warner was a close runner-up for the Golden Poo), and leave customers even more enraged.
These big media mergers are a scary prospect for small businesses trying to be successful in the market, and threaten the longevity of local companies that are trying to compete. Comcast will be more able to bully content providers into favorable deals (helpful since they own NBC), slow down speeds and charge you extra to bring them up, raise prices where there is virtually no competition, and impact net neutrality like a one inch punch. The only possible Hail Mary to stop the merger at this point would be the Department of Justice or the FCC, which needs to approve the deal before August 25th (click the link to publicly comment to the FCC). Don't get too optimistic, though- one of the cable industry's old top lobbyists is the current FCC chairman.
Though this all may potentially bode badly for small business, it's important to remember the quality of service and product most of us provide in comparison to shoddy practices like these big guns. We need to try to disprove the "Golden Rule" (The One With the Gold, Rules) by continuing our tradition of trusted local services. If we keep on keeping on with our close attention to customer satisfaction and retention, we can hope that these best practices will rise to the top of the monopolistic muck once again and some day reign supreme.
Why Pay for Web Design?
Finally, marketing has begun to evolve beyond the pushy, infuriating tactics that for decades have dominated sales in almost every market. What has arisen from the ashes of what is now called outbound marketing is an opposing strategy that adds fun and value to both the businesses that practice it and the more grateful customers on the receiving end. Read on to learn about inbound marketing and the positive changes that the internet has made in the ways companies can gain customer loyalty and appreciation.
We all remember the original spam- loads of garbage cramming our mail boxes from the postal service, hundreds of irrelevant emails touting often embarrassing and inappropriate products, annoying phone calls at dinner imploring you to try, buy, sample, read, watch, ingest or invest in the latest goods or services. The practice of targeting customers like a juicy stag in the sights of a starving lion has long been the primary marketing strategy for gaining customers, but can be likened more to ensnaring prey rather than establishing mutually appreciative relationships between businesses and consumers.
Allow me to introduce inbound marketing. Instead of chasing down unsuspecting potential clients, inbound marketing is the act of putting yourself out there and attracting interest by creating quality online content specifically tailored to your target market. This, in turn, generates more regard with the continued exposure on your site and through sharing via social media.
Inbound marketing is about being interesting, informative, and valuable to people. Whatever it is that you do or sell, there are people out there that want it. By putting exactly what you are out there and letting them come to you, a stronger and more mutually beneficial relationship is created, and if your content is good enough, keeps people coming back and sharing your information with others.
SEO is your friend. Social media is your friend. Relevent, attention-grabbing content; anything from articles to videos to colorful infographics; consider these your chummy compatriots in successful business practices. The 200 million people that are on the National Do Not Call registry aren't lying- aggressive marketing tactics are a thing of the past. Embracing the open community of inbound marketing is absolutely necessary for any modern business to thrive. Put your customers in the drivers' seat by attracting them organically. Don't beg for them.
I bet you have a cell phone either in your pocket or within reach of you right now. Surprise! You're in good company- the research group Nielsen's latest Digital Consumer Report, released last month, estimates that 65 percent of all Americans owned a cell phone in 2013. Considering that number was at 44 percent in 2011, plus the fact that a jaw-dropping 29 percent of people have a tablet versus just 5 percent two years ago, this creates an unprecedented opportunity for reaching a far wider audience in the market today.
Mobile connectivity is undoubtedly destined to be a huge part of our future. Americans spent more time using mobile apps and browsers in 2013- 34 hours per month, versus the time they spent online with their PC's at 27 hours. The benefits of tapping into this amazing resource is becoming rapidly more integral with each passing year. Consider the impact- mobile marketing is instant, since people always have their devices with them, and information on your business or promotions in any format can be stored indefinitely for potential customers' future reference, with big potential to go viral with users so easily sharing content. Businesses can market directly to their target audience, and user response can be tracked almost instantaneously, with the added pluses of geo-location, mobile payment, and social media connectivity.
The state of mobile technology is constantly evolving. But don't let that scare you away, this is a good thing! Though the landscape of devices is dynamic and invariably developing, the end result is the same- users have information right at their fingertips, wherever they are, whenever they want. People want to find what they're looking for in the moment, immediately, without having to be home in front of their desktop. More and more people are relying on instant access to local businesses on the fly, and it's a speeding train you're likely not going to want to miss. Whether you create a mobile app for your company or just opt for the responsive website, get yourself a ticket on that train, and watch your audience swell and flourish.
Let's face it, folks- social media is here to stay. With a whopping 72% of internet users actively partaking in the social network buffet, it's clear that this platform has grown from a passing interest into an undeniable behemoth that the business world is taking very seriously. Mass understanding of the impact social media can have on businesses has created a boom of marketing efforts concentrated in this area, and one can clearly see that this trend of focus from business owners and marketers will continue steamrolling throughout 2014 and beyond.
There is a way to grab the bull by the horns here, and though it does take time and effort, it is a surefire way of injecting yourself and your business straight into the fast-flowing highway of this massive human collective. I'm going to detail point by point some steps that are necessary for you to begin, refine, and expand your Social Media Optimization (SMO) for the first week, month, and beyond.
First of all, as with most things, have a plan. Define clear goals for your social media campaign first- it should line up with your business purpose. What is your goal for this campaign? Whatever your plan may be, it should be reevaluated and updated routinely to stay on top of rapidly changing trends. Your plan should include a timeline- try to set deadlines for content release and be sure to post regularly to all platforms you choose to use. This will keep your followers thinking about you and makes them more apt to turn to your business first if a related matter arises, or refer you to others.
Small businesses face a lot of competition online, and it's important to find a way to stand out from the crowd. Find your niche- what makes you unique? The more memorable your content, the more interest it creates, and the more it is bound to get shared. This is where the work comes in. Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest, they all have different requirements and ways of engaging with the audience, but the work you put in to each will benefit your company hugely in the long run. Twitter should be concise and attention grabbing since you only have 140 characters, but Facebook allows longer descriptions and more content. Launch contests to engage your fans and followers. A great image will also draw more interest. Create YouTube vidoes-this is very useful for social media optimization. YouTube gets very high rankings in search engines, making it an extremely effective social marketing tool.
This is important- research your competition. Remember that your competitors are changing and improving all the time. They will be adjusting their approach and updating their campaigns in order to try to improve results. That is why your competitive analysis should be an ongoing process- it's not a "set it and forget it" situation. Nothing is with social media marketing- everything is in a constant state of flux, and it's important to be right there with it to keep your brand relevant. Things move fast today, and we need to as well.
Ask and answer questions in a blog and link to social media sites- find out what your customers want to know about and give them useful and compelling answers. If you are on top of this, you're guaranteed some shares and retweets. The key is to expand your audience outside of just your website- effective SEO tactics are hugely helpful, but can ultimately go only so far. Sometimes it's good old elbow-grease that nets you the exposure you're looking for.
Staying on top with Social Media Optimization may seem daunting with the amount of time investment, but in the end, tapping into this amazing resource of human connection boosts your businesses exposure to your industry, your customers, and the world. With enough initial work and a continued effort in adding new, fresh content, and sharing on social platforms that reach that 72% of internet users, a domino effect will begin. You'll be surprised at how far your brand travels.
Part of me feels like two pages is just the preface to the novel of my experiences in life, and the trials and tribulations that have shaped this person that I have become. Though much of my experience can be viewed as deeply adverse or even damaging, I have learned to use whatever situations occur in life as a challenge to remain centered, and to learn to let go of the negativity that can so easily alter my perceptions, and my course in life.
My father died in 2004 of Lou Gehrig’s Disease, or ALS, when I was 24. His degradation from his wonderful healthy, vigorous, hilarious self to full paralysis took two years. The experience of watching him slowly lose control over his body was amazingly difficult, but the memories I have of him as healthy are the ones that always float to the surface for me. I remember how important my happiness was to him. He was so worried that by not finishing college out of high school that I was setting myself up for suffering. In my headstrong, stubborn youth, I had nary a worry about that, and was off to experience life outside of school, only to detrimentally come back to the truths he warned me of later.
He always knew the right thing to say; I remember his undying patience, and his unwavering support. I remember he always had a good plan, and I remember his deep and abiding love for me, his only child. Mostly, I remember
laughing until I cried. From birth, he knew exactly how to get me into stitches, and with each phase in life, I remember his sense of humor evolving with me. I remember asking him how he could recall so many things about my life, so long after I had forgotten.
His reply was always, “I remember everything.”
I plan on making some new memories, for me and for my amazing daughter who never got to know my father. Working full time while trying to raise her in the best capacity I am capable of, while maintaining a 4.0 GPA with a full course load at school is absolutely trying, but I do it all in memory of him, and to show him that I have a future as bright as he knew I would attain. His immense supportiveness got me through even his worst times as he got sicker, and it’s that strength and character that I do my best to utilize as I wade through the confrontation of poverty and the struggle to achieve life balance.
The past few years have been overwhelmingly difficult. My little family moved to California from New Hampshire in 2008 to be closer to my mother, so we could re-forge a strong relationship and begin to grow a new bond between grandmother and granddaughter. I knew the economy was getting bad in California, but I had no idea just how horribly it would hit. Several times we have been unable to pay rent, and my once excellent credit is in shambles. Too often it is a question of “should I pay electric, or should I pay rent?” when several different utilities are in danger of being shut off.
My wonderful partner and the father of my daughter is an amazing and skilled cabinetmaker and woodworker, but he hasn’t been able to find steady work that pays much more than minimum wage in his field- a far cry from what he was offered for his abilities back east. He often has to commute so far for gigs that more often than not he sleeps in his car down at work. Meanwhile, I strive to excel at work and school, seeing a light at the end of this tunnel that is graduation, and a better life beyond.
I believe I would be a deserving recipient of a scholarship. Honestly, this letter is not about portraying a sob story. These hardships have taught me strength in the face of adversity, and I feel the depth of my character evolving with each experience. I have powerful passion and a single-minded determinedness that will aid me in achieving enormous heights in life. I know this in my heart.
My goals are remarkably resounding and clear-cut at this point in my life. Having worked customer service positions most of my life as a default for lack of proper schooling, and having suffered the overwhelming pain of knowing I am unable to get by on the sweat and the efforts of my work alone, the knowledge that I have a marketable skill in the arts has always been nagging in the back of my mind.
Over the years I have discovered exactly what I want and how to go about getting it, and it’s all about getting this degree in the Multimedia Arts. I have always been an artist, and so has my mother and grandmother before me, but only in this period have we had the opportunity to utilize such amazing technology in order to make a worthwhile living as artists, a financial situation we have not experienced in our family. "Starving artist" has always been a little closer to the mark.
I am a mother of an amazing human being I am ecstatic to call my daughter, I work full-time, and I find joy in volunteering at various meditation centers in order to help others achieve the balance I strive for. I’m trying to pay it forward with my personal experience grieving for dad by offering my design skills at no charge for various people and churches, creating memorial folders for bereaved families. I use pictures and memorabilia provided by family members, edit and improve them in Photoshop, and put together full-color, portrait-style biographical keepsakes for everyone at services to bring home. It is a treasured memory that I hope to continue creating in the future, both for those who passed and to celebrate the amazing man my father was. Someday I hope to branch this effort out into a wider forum, availing my services to more people who want to memorialize their loved ones or assist in pre-planning. I believe I have the passion, the skill, and the power in myself to achieve these goals, and the motivation to get there sooner, rather than later.
Something Dad always said was, “This too shall pass.” I constantly meditate on that as I push ahead for a better existence for my family.
As a working mother of an only child, I have firsthand experience dealing with the challenge of keeping a child happy, entertained, and as far from loneliness as possible without the aid of other siblings. At 3 and a half, my
daughter Naia is highly social, and craving for the attention of children her own age. Unfortunately, “screen-time” ends up taking a big chunk of her day when I’m swamped with work and unable spend the kind of time I prefer with her- playing, reading, making art- all the wonderful, important things that usher in her physical and mental growth.
Before I began attending Diablo Valley College, this was a significant problem for me. I tried springing for expensive day care schooling, which was a positive experience when it came to access to healthful play time and socialization skills, but ultimately was an exercise in policing children for the small ratio of adults working at the centers. I tried two facilities, and both experiences netted me a frantic, sobbing daughter every time I said it was time for me to leave. That was most definitely not the type of situation I was looking for.
It took me two semesters to squeeze Naia in to the Children’s Center Program at DVC, but knowing what I know now, that was a small price to pay to have access to such an encouraging, supportive program. Available to DVC undergraduates, the Early Childhood Education department offers extremely low cost care to children of attending students, averaging around $1.50 per hour for high quality, hands-on, caring education for children from infancy to pre-school age.
Each day in the program, my daughter is exposed to a wide range of early education elements and visceral play. The creativity from the directors is unlike anything I’ve seen- homemade play dough making, magnetic art stations, jungle gym-type exercise set-ups, or water set-ups involving sea animal toys. Often you will even see the real thing- watching tadpoles grow into frogs or watching gardens grow from seeds. Every day there is something new to try, and everything from creative dancing to interactive storytelling keep the children passionate and involved, learning about art, science, and just life in general. Kids learn to interact respectfully with one another and to express their emotions in a healthful, beneficial way, and parents have the remarkable opportunity to watch their children learn and grow in a daycare setting, something many people often don’t get to encounter in the hectic commute from daycare to work and back again.
Part of the reason for the resounding positive impact on the children that attend the program is the adult to child ratio. Since attending parents are required to put in “lab” hours each week playing with the children and learning how best to influence them, and while the Early Childhood Education majors are such a permanent presence along with the administrators, there were actually times when I could count one adult per child in the room, and each adult is constantly involved with them. On average, though, the ratio lingers between 2-6 children per adult in the 2-3 year old area- a far cry from the California state requirement of 12:1 for the same age group.
The Early Childhood Education department at Diablo Valley College has been around for around 30 years, and it is obvious by its unquestionable success just why it continues to be such an integral and lasting part of the DVC
community. Though budget cuts threaten to raise prices in the near future for the program, there are no questions in the mind of this parent that students will continue to witness the amazing accomplishments of their children through the hard work of administrators and students within this caring, tight-knit community.
For more information, see their website at http://www.dvc.edu/org/departments/ece/childrens-center/.