Friday, December 21, 2012

'Surviving the Prairies of Illinois'

The 2012 Election and the Specter of Immigration Reform

Surviving the Prairies of Illinois

12.21.12 | by ALEX E. CHÁVEZ  |  Read Article in Counterpunch

CU-Immigration Forum and University YMCA receive national press on Counterpunch in article that examines the relationship between national and local politics around immigration reform. The article makes a fair point that local action around immigration is "accountable" to the people who are affected everyday, whereas national level policy can neglect the way people and families are impacted. 

Kasey Umland and Francisco Baires speak about Jose Antonio Vargas' visit, with a message to keep fighting - and that's exactly what we're doing.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Reflection on Power of the Arts

By Anna Chen, Communications Intern

Attending Art @ the Y, led me to look at art making from a different perspective. I discovered that Art for Empowerment provides opportunities for survivors of abuse and trauma to heal through art making.  There is a calm atmosphere of safety and acceptance offered to survivors, to share stories that are met with compassionate respect, which is very crucial. The exhibit represents how survivors developed and changed from the state of pain to a person with hope again. I felt like I understood the emotions the survivors’ experienced, even if I did not know the survivor on a personal level.

[Mini Mask Making]

This piece was different and it certainly caught my attention. I would not want to spend my birthday alone, thus I seem to understand these feelings that brought me to reflect my emotions with my loved ones.

[Warning Signs]

There are warning signs provided of an abusive relationship developing. This other form of awareness-raising may also pose as a great occasion for people who are being abused to open up and release the pain that has been in them.

Observing all the artwork the participants created, I grew an understanding of how they felt during, before, and after the incident that changed their lives. Overall, I believe Art @ the Y is truly a meaningful event for relief, reflection, and realization.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Press Release: University YMCA Now Accepting Applications for $150,000 in Scholarships

Over $150, 000 in scholarships will be awarded this year by the University YMCA's Fred S. Bailey Scholarship to University of Illinois students working to improve their communities.  University of Illinois students who may have made an impact through commitment to service, community involvement, leadership, and action are eligible to apply.  University YMCA will also give out four $5000 awards to upcoming seniors who have made an exceptional impact in one or more of the following areas: Social Justice, Environment, Faith in Action, and International Issues.

Unlike many scholarships that emphasize academic achievement, and financial need, Bailey Scholars must also show a commitment to service and action.  "While academics is important, a major responsibility of any University is to prepare thoughtful, committed citizens with an understanding of society and the environment and who care for those around them," explains Kasey Umland, Bailey Scholarship Director.  "We seek to recognize and encourage personal development by honoring student leaders that have made significant contributions to the community."

As President of Champaign National Bank, Fred S. Bailey developed a strong appreciation for the University YMCA and believed in its commitment to develop and nurture ethical leaders who were committed to making the world a better place.  When he passed away in 1955, his Will established the Fred Bailey Trust and designated two-thirds of the income to be paid to the University YMCA for scholarships to U of I students on the basis of "moral character, intelligence, leadership and scholarship without regard to their field of study.

Over the past fifty years, the University YMCA has awarded millions of dollars in scholarships to thousands of University of Illinois students through the Bailey Scholarship Program.  Since 2001, over 600 students have received $1.4 billion in Bailey Scholarships.

Applications will be available online from November 7th to February 7th.  Informational sessions about the scholarship will be held throughout the application period.  For more information, please visit:


Please publicize from November 13, 2012 to February 7, 2013.

Kasey Umland, Program Director
Office: 217-337-1514

Friday, November 9, 2012

University YMCA Goes Green

By Matt Rundquist

‘Green’ is not something that’s new to the University YMCA.

YMCA students and staff were among the first to take on environmental issues in the 1960’s and 70’s. The first Earth Day and Allerton Park’s continued existence are testaments to that era of YMCA environmentalism.

The Y is now home to 5 environmental student groups; Students for Environmental Concerns, Engineers Without Borders, the Campus Vegetarian Society, Red Bison, and of course the Green Observer

5 years ago, in the midst of renovation and construction, the YMCA Board of Governors and Building Committee began to champion the idea that our building is a part of our program. Any decision we make about the building, they reasoned, should reflect the organization’s mission, which includes “protecting the integrity of our natural environment” as a major pillar. With that framework, the building committee chose to add nearly three quarters of a million dollars in energy retrofits to the renovation.

They effectively launched a new era of environmentalism at the YMCA.

The year since the renovation has been just as exciting.  The Building committee chose to hire a Sustainability Coordinator to organize our efforts, which is now my position here at the YMCA. With the help of Learning IN Community (LINC, ENG-315), the staff has been busy writing grants and making plans.

Just last month, the Board voted to begin a Sustainability Committee, to act as advocates for the environment and develop green programming at the Y.

You can expect to see some exciting things coming from the Y. From a proposed bike-share program, to solar panels and a green roof, to enhancing local nutrition and healthy food, it really is an exciting time!

The Y is seeking applicants for next semester’s sustainability coordinator. The application process will begin in the coming months, please contact me at if you are interested!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Do I look like an American to you?

Do I look like an American to you?  The question can and does result in some intriguing answers.  For Francisco Baires,a C-U Immigration Forum member of mixed Anglo and Latino descent, the reactions, he says, are mixed. “Some people tell me ‘yeah, of course, you do’ but others want to talk more about the question itself.  It has led to some really interesting conversations,” he says.  "I take it as an opportunity to talk about how as a U.S. Citizen, born in Central America, America means more to me than just the United States.” 

It's opportunities like these that student leaders at the University YMCA want to encourage on campus and in the community. That’s why they have launched a t-shirt campaign to show that there is no race, religion or philosophy that impacts our status as an American. The photo and t-shirt campaign, led by Interfaith in Action, La Colectiva and Amnesty International, encourages people from all backgrounds to share the photos and stories they receive when donning the black t-shirt with the message “Do I Look Like an American to You?” in white block letters. 

This campaign was inspired by several recent events. Among them, is February 13th of 2012.  That day, a protest was held outside of a Muslim fundraiser. A mass of flag-wielding “patriots” were screaming at them that Muhammad was a false prophet and a pervert, chanting "U-S-A!", telling them to go home and beat their wives. Elected officials even spoke at the event.  Attendees entered the benefit silently as they were shouted at, and they prayed while protesters banged on the windows, yelling at them to "go back home" and that they "aren't wanted in this country."

But this is their country, too.

“Just because I’m a Muslim doesn’t make me any less American,” Maheen Saddiqi, an attendee to the fundraiser, told Al-Jazeera.

Moved by this and other events, student leaders at the University YMCA want to challenge the definitions of an American to those who may have a closed mind.  We hope that wearing these t-shirts not only expresses solidarity but also inspires questions and dialogue about the problems of inequality in our society.  That’s why the campaign is being run in conjunction with Immigrant Justice Month, an initiative of the Allies of Faith.  The Allies of Faith is an inter-faith coalition involved in the Champaign-Urbana Immigration Forum, which is working to make our community a welcoming space for all our neighbors, regardless of the color of their skin, the languages they speak, their country of origin, or their immigration status.

To celebrate Immigrant Justice Month, wear your shirts to the upcoming lecture by Jose Antonio Vargas, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and undocumented American, on October 25 at 7 PM (location to be announced) to participate in a group photo and stand in solidarity with Mr. Vargas.  For more information on upcoming Immigrant Justice Month events, click here.

Buy it, wear it, share it. T-shirts are currently on sale at the University YMCA (1001 S. Wright St., Champaign) for $15 ($10 for students) or online at All proceeds benefit UIUC Interfaith in Action and local immigrant outreach and services. 

Monday, September 17, 2012

Third Floor Residents Reunite!

Recounted by Ryan Stanis, who graduated in 2008.

Johan Tota (NRES 07 ENVRM ENG 09) sent out email invitations to everyone he could remember back when he lived at the YMCA. Living in Canada, he was the only one to make it an international trip to reunite with the 3rd floor crew from the University YMCA. 

In the end, there were six who made it for a night in Chicago. 
  • Sean EE ENG 07  who lives and works in Plainfield, IL
  • Hari EE ENG  who lives and works in Chicago
  • Peter  NUCL ENG 09 who lives and works in Chicago
  • Steve EE ENG 08 who lives and works in LA
  • and Ryan KINES 08 who lives in the South Suburbs and works for a Wellness Center. 
Interestingly, the two married guys who lived their whole education at the Y, Calvin MAT ENG Joliet, IL and Bertrand  EE ENG Singapore 08 were not able to make it and were greatly missed. 

As Labor Day weekend unfolded, it was Ryan and Johan, floormates for 3 years and roomates for over a year, that met up for a stroll through Grant Park in Chicago. The others, at a mutual friend's wedding wouldn't arrive until the next night. 

Going around the Chicago night life, we found we were all unmarried, looked the same, people turned out as you thought they might, and for a first no one said a word about getting home to study for an exam. 

We all recounted our favorite YMCA memories: the unique roommates that came and...stayed, the personalities that evolved, and the feeling of having a whole building left to 12 guys each night the YMCA closed.

Before the YMCA went through it current renovations and everything looked like a historic building of secret rooms around every corner, there was the 2004-2008 group that accepted and depended on that old 3rd floor, and there we were 4 years later as if it was just another bar on Green Street and 3 blocks down we'd be back home at the Y. 

Ryan went on to be an English Teacher in South Korea 09-10, until returning back home and using his degree to be a Personal Trainer. 

Ryan's first roomate of 2 years, Paul INT STUDIES, who is living and working in South Korea as week, wasn't there and was missed. 
Through the night though, tbe most talked about roommate who wasn't there was Victor, Dong Xu Yang, FINANCE 07, 09. The Victor saga will remain unclosed as no one has been able to locate his whereabouts for a few years. Through his time at the Y, each one of the guys helped and taught Victor the different lessons of American life, and he always managed to keep his own personality, culture, language and philosophy alive. Though at times seeming to be new to American ways, he would later offer a certain mature and wise advice to any of us on anything we were thinking of. As having his family in China and coming to Oklahoma at 16, the guys on the floor always saw themselves as his second family. 

Before leaving Chicago, a late night diner brought us together once more as we thought of where would be the next time we'd do this, and would we all have wives and children? Would it work out? 

"Las Vegas," Sean said.    

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Strong, The Brave, The Green

This is Joyce. I ran into her just after 6am at Merry Ann's Diner on Neil St., sitting with her husband, drinking coffee and stocking up on energy for the sale. They were both, of course, decked out in bright green t-shirts, the signature, blinding color of the Dump & Run Community Garage Sale. (Joyce was even wearing the cutest little Y earrings...)

In this moment, before the sale even began, I noted the dedication and spirit of our brand of volunteers.

Tireless (so long as we provide some refreshments).

Strong (especially our third floor residents who always help carry sofas around).

Brave (once the Stock Pavilion dust gets flying, it can be a madhouse in there between the hours of 7 and 10am).

Loyal (our boutique volunteers have been drawing a hard line on the most elegant items for the past few years, without fail).

Dedicated (enough to wear the new pink "Ask Me" shirts that made the most knowledgeable of them distinctive).

Hospitable (opening doors to international students who are just getting started at the university and need to be solidly welcomed).

Green (doing their very best to keep things cheap, to the point of significant bargaining, so that we can keep whatever possible out of dumpsters and get it into the hands of people who will use it).\

and dare I say... Good-looking?

More information forthcoming, but the most important task we have now, at the end of two very long days, is to thank the volunteers who made it possible.

Here's a slideshow of photos from this year's sale. You can download photo at full resolution or order prints from the Flickr set here.

Friday, August 24, 2012

International Students, Uninterrupted

Jenni and Kasey here.

We're at the International Student Welcome Reception that the University YMCA hosts at the beginning of each semester, co-sponsored by International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS). This year, we ran out of cookies and hummus so fast we had to go on a grocery store run before we were even an hour into the party...

Barely needing to answer any questions, we watch as new international students begin to have conversations. They seem eager to chat with each other, and we enjoy listening as they share their excitement over starting a new semester, exchanging stories and information.

At UIUC, other universities, and in nonprofit organizations around the country, the same conversations happen again and again, and the same questions are raised about inclusion and diversity. How do we encourage "diversity"? How do we start conversations between different cultural groups? How do we get people talking, sharing, exchanging, and experiencing together?

The answer seems to be: Have a party. Do it when people are open and ready to meet each other. Put out the food. And get out of the way.

This welcome reception has become something less directly about introducing students to what the Y is, although it accomplishes that through what the welcome receptions have in common with the Y and its mission - to serve as a gathering place where people of different views and backgrounds can feel comfortable conversing about important matters (or just the happenings of the day).

The punch bowls are filled again and again. At least 200 students have come through just in the first hour. The chatter rises and flows over the uplifting guitar and harmonies of the Hathaways. It's a relaxed, relieving gathering for international students to unwind and get to know each other - casually, without interruption.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Interfaith Vigil this evening

Interfaith Vigil of Remembrance and Solidarity
With Oak Creek and Joplin Tragedies
5:30pm, Thursday, August 9th
Start: University YMCA (1001 S. Wright St.)
Close:  Alma Mater Plaza (Green and Wright)

In Oak Creek, Wisconsin, a gunman opened fire at a Sikh gurdwara, killing 6 people and injuring 3 others during Sunday services. On Monday, a mosque in Joplin, Missouri was burned for a second time in two months.  This vigil is an attempt to bring together members of the Champaign-Urbana community to remember the victims of this violence and stand together in solidarity against acts of domestic terrorism and intolerance.  The vigil will begin at University YMCA (1001 S. Wright St.)  at 5:30pm and continue to Alma Mater space at Green and Wright concluding with a speak out and moment of silence. This event is co-sponsored by the Sikh Student Association, DiversityEd, Interfaith in Action, Baha’I Center, Asian American Cultural Center, La Casa Cultural Latina, Women’s Resources Center, and the Office of Inclusion and Intercultural Relations. For more information, contact Masood

Friday, June 29, 2012

Native Plants Take Root in Y Parking Lot

Last September, Red Bison and SECS planted native plugs in our parking lot. (See blog post here.)

Well now those little baby plants are all grown up and we have a Flickr Photoset to prove it. Check it out from start to finish.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Dump & Run Sneak Peak

May Collections are over, the the fun has just begun. Collections will start up again in August at the U of I Stock Pavilion. Then, there's the SALE on August 25th and 26th!

Here's a sneak peak from collections so far... If you want to see more, visit the Flickr Photoset.

We've got...

Hipster Sofas!

Romantic gift packages!

Weight Loss Supplies!

BIKES fixed up by the Campus Bike Project!

Gourmet Kitchen Appliances!

Vinyl Records (As of now, we only have Weird Al records)!

Prizefighting Belts!

Nerd Gear for Children!

And the best volunteers first dibs can buy!

Our Dump & Run Volunteers really are the best! You too can get first dibs if you volunteer 6+ hours in August, so email

If you want to see more, visit the Flickr Photoset.

Monday, May 7, 2012

'Masquerade' Art Opening: Two Perspectives

by Sonia Hossain
Communications Intern

This past weekend, I had the pleasure of attending the Emerging Artists Exhibition Opening at the YMCA, which was part of the Boneyards Arts Festival in Champaign, Urbana. While entering the exhibit, I was amazed to see Murphy Gallery’s walls filled with paintings and drawings of all colors and sizes. The theme of the exhibition was called 'Masquerade,' which I thought was an interesting subject and made me even more curious to check out the pieces that were done by art students at the University of Illinois – Urbana, Champaign campus.

Before I began to make my way around the room, I decided to pick up some cheese snacks and wine to get in the art gallery spirit. As I made my way to the first wall of works, I was scared at the unsettling painting “Annabelle” that was done by art student Sarah Spread. The painting immediately grabbed my attention because it was a portrait of what appeared to be a young girl in a dress that was sitting on the swings, but instead of her face, she had a skull of a monster-like figure. This was one of my favorite pieces at the exhibition because I loved how the colors and lace in the painting really jumped up and shocked me!

". . . it was a portrait of what appeared to be a young girl in a dress that was sitting on the swings, but instead of her face, she had a skull of a monster-like figure."

While making my way to the other walls, there were a variety of pieces that were done with numerous coloring utensils and mediums. I remembered seeing a drawing that was filled with scribbles that when put together they had portrayed images or visuals in technical pen. I had never used technical pen to draw and seeing these types of pieces inspired me to try drawing in technical pen myself. I enjoyed walking around the exhibit talking to my friend and interpreting the different pieces that were done by the art students. My friend and I discussed what each of the paintings meant and also shared how we felt when viewing these works of art.

The University YMCA provided a great space for students on campus to share and celebrate their artwork with members of the Champaign, IL community. Not only are individuals able to see the variety of art work that these students have contributed, but they were also able to meet the artists and help critique them on their work.


by Eleanor Turek, Communications Intern

This week at the Y we were able to see some beautiful artwork by four Junior Art and Design students to kick off the Boneyard Arts Festival. The event opened to up to quite a few people at about a quarter to five and followed with people popping in and out to view the artists’ talented works.

Kelcy Arnould, Brett Eaton, Lauren Martinkus, and Sarah Spread showed off their drawings and paintings in the Murphy Gallery from 5-7 PM. Food, wine, and the vocal styling of the acoustic guitar provided lovely ambiance for all attendees and artists. The crowd, while somewhat small, gave off the vibes of an intimate setting that allowed viewers to walk around and take in the work. People have been coming in all throughout the day to check out the art and see what wonderful things the Y and Boneyard Arts Festival have to offer.

The Boneyard Arts Festival will be happening from April 19th to May 3rd so feel free to drop by the Murphy Gallery and take a look at the incredible work of these four artists, I promise you will not be disappointed!  

Friday, May 4, 2012

Becca's Desk

by Nora Johnson, Development Intern

Nora being helpful.

Today, I decided to clean out my boss Becca’s desk, after never being able to find a working pen. 

I had no idea I was about to enter a time capsule. 

After collecting all of the pens, the race was close, but the non-working pens beat the working-pens, 31-23. 

The big winner of the day was Jeff Tessler, however, as he had 65 business cards strewn throughout the desk. 

As I reached my hand to the back of the drawer cautiously, (in case there was an animal or the like back there), I came across an envelope with ten dollars cash in it. Although I was tempted to split the money with Jenni, we put it in the student membership fund, where it belongs. 

I also found enough nametags for next year’s auction. (Debbie Rugg will be pleased.) Here is a list of some of my favorite items found:
  • Disney crayon pencil (might be the same one I had when I was 3 years old, I’m not sure)
  • Best boss ever Christmas ornament, framed with pink and gold pearls
  • Basketball medal (Why?)
  • Old skool pic of Becca and Joe
  • Enough napkins and plastic utensils to last a year

Now if I’m in a jam and need a pen quickly, I’ll know where to go.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Spring Fund Drive Update: WE DID IT!

Thanks to the generosity of our friends and hard work of the Board of Governors, Board of Trustees, staff, and students, the University YMCA has reached its Spring goal of $85,000. And surpassed it!

At the Annual Meeting on 4/21, Executive Director, Mike Doyle, announced the total received so far this year: $88,352.00

A big thank you goes out to everyone who donated and helped raise funds. The staff and boards of the University YMCA are encouraged by the gifts received and continuing to work hard to raise money for the 2012 Annual Fund.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Volunteers Get FIRST DIBS

The University Y is seeking volunteers for Dump & Run Collections this May. If you volunteer 6+ hours, you get first dibs at the sale in August! Don't miss your chance...

Sign up here or email for more info.

Sign Up Now!
Pics of our wonderful volunteers last year can be viewed on Flickr.

Deliciously Literary: Edible Book Fair 2012 at the Y

by Eleanor Turek
Communications Intern
University YMCA

Reading and eating. 

It’s pretty hard to go wrong with those two things, so pair them together and what do you get? 

An edible book fair contest!

Walking into the fair on Monday, April 2nd I grabbed a strip of smiley face stickers to put on the edible books that I deemed a favorite.

So, what exactly is an edible book fair and what constitutes an edible book you may ask? Well, the edible book fair is a contest that allows artists and authors alike to showcase their talent and creativity in the kitchen as well as their literary passions by making their favorite book into a cake. The "books" were made out of cake mix or various baking goods and frosting and depicted a story of the maker’s choice. There were about 15 books on display for everyone to see. The edible books were based on the creators choice so Classics such as 20,000 leagues Under The Sea and Charlotte’s Web were recreated into beautiful edible arragements.

Judith Hoffberg, a renowned book artist, is considered to be the mother of the edible book fair. As Sue Sirri, a University librarian, announced the winners she also gave a brief history of the edible book fair and its origins and said “A key element of the fest has been to document the books before they are eaten to showcase the talent of all the participants. It’s about food, art, books, and stories.”  

Okay now let’s get to the good stuff now. At around 12:30 the judges of the fair took the mic and announced the winners for each category. The celebrity judges included an international storyteller, a local muralist, and the director of the farmers market square in Urbana (which starts up again May 5th!). Being the amazing storyteller that he is, Dave announced the winners. With several categories to be awarded, the anticipation of the participants and the audience (or at least myself) was at an all time high.

Drum roll please….


Best Depiction of a Classic: Huckleberry Finn Cake
Best Visual Presentation: Corduroy Bear and the Secret Garden
Most Appetizing: The Ant and the Grasshopper
Funniest Punniest: The Tell Tale Tart
Best Entry Based on Children's Book: Some Pig from Charlotte’s Web
Best Collaborative Creation: It’s Okay to be Different
Most Fablest Entry: The Fox and the Grapes

In addition to original categories, the judges decided to throw two new ones into the mix. The two new categories this year were “Most Seasonally Appropriate” won by a depiction of The Farmers Almanac and the other was “The Best Edible Food Depicting A Book/TV Series” and The Game of Scones won that. 

In case anyone wanted to know what the fan favorite was…it was The Corduroy Bear made by Jenna Ziedler.

The Corduroy Bear by Jenna Ziedler. Photo by author.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Y Thai Eatery (and Betty) in the Daily Illini

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Hidden YMCA restaurant: “Thai It, You’ll Like It”

Hidden in a small room on the first floor of the University YMCA is a restaurant that thrives on personal interaction and affordable, traditional food. Though they may not be well known, the Y Eatery promises its customers: “Thai It, You’ll Like It.”

Photo on Flickr.
Although it has changed quite a bit since its start, the University YMCA has included a restaurant for many years. Originally, the eatery was located in the basement of the building and was called the K Rooms, according to Betty Earle, director of operations for the YMCA. Until about 1985, the K Rooms dished up three meals a day and served as a place for students to spend time together while getting a bite to eat.

“I know this is hard to believe, but there weren’t that many restaurants on campus, so this was a big
hangout place for students,” Earle said.

After the K Rooms closed, the YMCA decided not to continue running their own eatery, but instead to
lease the kitchen space already existing on the first floor to another restaurateur. From this, in 1985, the Y Eatery was born.

Today, Saensuk Mokaphan owns and runs the Y Eatery with his wife. The pair took over the business
together last year. The eatery’s Thai theme stays true to Mokaphan’s heritage, although he says that’s not the only reason they choose to serve Thai food.

“For Thai food, there are only two, three stores around here. We wanted to keep more choices for the
customers,” Mokaphan said.

Mokaphan explained that the Y Eatery focuses mostly on keeping their food healthy for customers. There are vegetarian options available every day, and the owners make sure there is no MSG in the food.

The eatery is also dedicated to serving students in multiple ways. Patrons get their money’s worth of food, paying small amounts for large portions, which works well with the college student’s budget. The owners also employ University students as part-time workers in the kitchen.

Students say that being situated just off the quad and right in the middle of campus makes the eatery a good place to grab a quick meal between classes.

Ben Murphy, graduate student in Library and Information Science, decided to give the Y Eatery a try this semester. He said that the restaurant’s proximity makes it a great place to go when he’s working at the library.

Although the Y Eatery may not be extremely well known on campus, it gets consistent business from
patrons of the YMCA and brings in new people and new awareness for the YMCA.

“We definitely like having it as part of the Y. It draws people into the Y, we always want more people
coming in. It also helps get our programs out into the student community, as well as the non-academic
community,” Earle said.

Being housed in the YMCA building provides an atmosphere that’s welcoming to students and non-
students alike, according to Earle. She believes that all the elements of the Y Eatery are good enough to keep people coming back.

“We still have students that, when they come back on campus, they want to come on Friday because they want to go back to the Y Eatery,” Earle said. “Its reputation is far and wide, and it’s got a good one.”

Monday, March 19, 2012

Sonia Reflects on the 29th International Dinner

by Sonia Hossain
Communications Intern
University YMCA

More photos available on Flickr.
This year I was honored to attend and be a part of the International Dinner at the University YMCA. Showing up at the event early, I noticed that even before it had started there was a long packed line of guests extending from the main lobby all the way to the back door.  

I could tell by the gathering of the crowd that community members were really eager to experience culture! There were people of all colors, ages, and backgrounds, such as children, students, professors, and elderly folks as well.

When the event had began, I made my way into Murphy Gallery and Lounge, which was surrounded by tables of various dishes of food that were brought in and made by students and different community members. 

The aroma of different spices and flavors filled the air as I walked in. Tables were divided by flags that were represented by the cultural origins by the countries of the food there. Individuals were excited as they prepared and served their foods to guests, not only educating them about the type of food they were receiving, but also about why this particular food was important to them and their country as well.

More photos on Flickr
I had the pleasure of experiencing some of these fine dishes and must say that having an international cuisine really gives you the best of the whole world in one plate! After getting my food, I made my way into Latzer Hall where I was greeted by a live local band playing and tables filled with guests eating and enjoying each others company. 

I thought it was great how this event not only gave community members the chance for multicultural experiences, but also helped them network and build connections with prominent leaders during dinner.

Along with the many international events that the University Y sponsors, I thought that the international dinner was prime example of what different organizations on campus and in society today should be celebrating. 

As a student of color, I believe it is crucial that people of all ages and backgrounds should be educated and enlightened by experiencing different cultures through food, music, dinner, and good company! 

In society today, there are so many false stereotypes that are being thrown around about members of different cultures. Instead of focusing on these negative presumed stereotypes, these events give individuals a chance to learn about the beauty of the world and also the many contributions that variety of cultures have brought to benefit not only the community, but the country as well! 

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Building Update - We're Completing Phase II

More pictures available on Flickr.
One year ago, we celebrated the completion of the most extensive renovation to our building in its 75 year history.  In addition to a long desired elevator, we were able to replace the slate roof, renovate offices along the north side of the building and completely rebuild the bathrooms on the 2nd floor, thanks to the generous support from hundreds of Y friends.
But we didn't stop there.  Over the past year, we have moved forward with Phase II of our renovation plans, including:
  • Remodeling of the 3rd floor lounge and upgrading two of the dorm rooms;
  • Constructing new office space in the basement; and
  • A complete overhaul of the Student Program Office in our basement made possible with a generous lead gift from Dale and Arlene Robb.
See more 3rd Floor and SPO pictures on Flickr!

This past year we have also taken steps to help finance the maintenance and upkeep of the building by developing and implementing a plan to set aside 12.5% of our rental income to support three critical needs:
  • Operating & Maintenance Fund to pay for ongoing repairs;
  • Building Emergency Fund to cover significant, unexpected needs; and 
  • Capital Improvement Fund to help supplement future renovation projections.

Finally, using the Principles of Stewardship developed by our Building Committee and adopted by the Board of Governors, we are looking to the future with a major emphasis on sustainability.  Working with students enrolled in the University’s LINC (Learning In Community) program, we are exploring new initiatives that will provide a blueprint for future projects.  
Each semester University students work in teams to research and develop proposals that we can implement as resources become available.  Last semester students investigated installing a green roof and solar panels on our roof and making the space more usable.  This semester students are examining the use of our parking lot and implementing policies to encourage more sustainable modes of transportation.  
Future projects include renovating Latzer Hall and reducing water/energy consumption.
As always, none of this would be happening if not for our friends and supporters.  It is your generosity that makes this all possible and we greatly appreciate it!  

To donate to the building fund, please visit our Support Us page.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Huasteco Music comes to the Y

Over the weekend, WILL AM 580 was on the radio (as usual) and suddenly, I realized I was listening to the beginning of a short on huasteco music. I recognized it instantly, considering myself a bit of an enthusiast...

You see, on March 2nd the University YMCA hosted a huasteco performance -- rare in the Midwest although intensely popular in the La Huasteca region of Mexico. Alex and his Chicago trio, Los Condenados Huastecos, regaled the 150 people in attendance at the Caritas art opening and huasteco performance.

Los Condenados Huastecos perform at the University YMCA at the U of I as part of an art and culture event celebrating immigrant life and raising awareness about immigrant rights. More photos on Flickr.
Dr. Alejandro Lugo of the Department of Anthropology introduced the trio with great aplomb, emphasizing the formal aspects of the music and jokingly providing several translations for the word "condenados," which literally means "condemned" but also mischievous and reprobate. With laughter and applause, the music filled Latzer Hall, including a banter-filled song called "El Querreque." In between improvised fiddling and impossibly high falsetto vocal stylings, Carlos García's poetic interventions held the audience completely captive.

Brave attempts at dancing, by stomping to the difficult huapango rhythm. Learn how to dance it on YouTube.
By the end of the evening, a large group of people were attempting to dance to the difficult duple and triple meters, largely failing, but having a wonderful time doing it. A small child climbed on stage to be serenaded by Juan Rivera and his virtuosic violin. (I hear the toddler was born to an ethnomusicologist... it only makes sense that he'd be drawn to this humorous and heartwrenching form of traditional Mexican music.)

Juan Rivera of Los Condenados Huastecos serenades a smiling toddler.