Why “UnSung Heroes” Should Be On Every Campus

Why “UnSung Heroes” Should Be On Every Campus

We need to lift our heads up from our phones, say hello, and engage.
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In the October 13th issue of the Washington Post, the story of a Georgetown student and janitor was shared. The student, Febin Bellamy, who had previously felt an imaginary wall between himself and the janitor, engaged in conversation with him and learned his story. After learning the story of this particular janitor, Oneil Batchelor, an immigrant from Jamaica, Bellamy was inspired to learn more about the stories of other workers on his campus. As he got to know more of the workers on his campus, he wanted to create a way to connect students to workers and what began as a class project is now a campus-wide organization.

Bellamy began by creating a Facebook page called Unsung Heros, which shared small profiles of workers around his campus. Eventually, these stories inspired students to get involved in supporting the dreams of the workers on their campus and have created successful fundraisers. Batchelor's entrepreneurial dream of owning his own business was made a reality by a fundraiser, which has allowed him to start his own business catering his now-famous jerk chicken. Students also raised money for a cashier at their dining hall to fly round-trip to South Sudan and visit his family that he hasn't seen in 45 years.

Unsung Heroes is an inspiring project that should exist on every campus. Each school has hard-working, under-appreciated workers with their own inspiring stories that deserve to be shared. We, as students of these institutions, are fortunate enough to be given the opportunity of higher education and should be grateful to those who enhance the experience for us. As Bellamy explains, "Everybody's in their own world, a lot of students have good hearts and were raised right. It's just not always easy for them to get to know people around them." Most of us were raised with values of appreciating others, but allow this divide to be created between us and our campus workers.

So, what can we do about it? We can begin by engaging with those who work across our campus. Instead of staring at our phones as we walk past them in the halls, we can smile and say hi and wish them a good day. I make a conscious effort to engage with custodians on my hall and workers I see daily across campus, even if its just a smile or simple "thank you". We must remember that without these hard-working individuals, our college experience would not be the same.

The idea behind Unsung Heroes is one that should exist across all campuses, to appreciate those who are undervalued but deserving of the highest praise. I am proud that my school, The College of Wooster, has started an initiative to grant living and competent wages to these workers called the Living Wage Campaign, but we still need to do more. We need to not just demand adequate wages for our workers, but we need to know them and respect them. So, I challenge everyone to engage with these unsung heroes that exist across their campuses and learn their stories. Even the smallest effort and interaction can make a difference in someone's day, just lift your head up from your phone and say "hi".

Cover Image Credit: nbcnews.com

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Not My Michigan

A Michigan student-athlete turned Registered Nurse on the Michigan Medicine contract negotiations in 2018.

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It's May 1st, 2016. I'm bright-eyed, eager, and graduating from the University of Michigan as a Nursing Student and Student-Athlete.

I am ready to take on the world the way that Michigan taught me how: fearlessly, compassionately, and wholeheartedly. I bleed blue. I know what it means to be a Wolverine and to represent the Michigan Difference in everything I do. I wear the block M on my School of Nursing scrubs and my Michigan Dance Team uniform well aware that it represents goodness, tradition, and excellence. I am determined. I am inspired. I am ready.

It's Monday, September 17th, 2018. What does Michigan mean to me now? I used to be so sure. Now, I simply don't know. So, what's the deal? How did my view on an institution become so indifferent in recent months?

I chose U of M to start my nursing career because it had the widely known reputation of putting its patients first, respecting its nurses, and providing the best care to patients in the state (5th in the country, to be exact). In my first year, as I was clumsily learning how to push patient stretchers, titrate intravenous vasopressors, and to communicate with the medical team, I proudly participated in our hospital's effort to achieve Magnet status.

When Nursing earned Magnet Status, an award given by the American Nurses' Credentialing Center and indicator of the strength and quality of Nursing at Michigan, I felt that same pride as I did in May of 2016.

I knew in my heart that I picked the best institution to develop my nursing practice and to give high quality, patient-centered care to anyone who walked, rolled, or was carried through the doors of Adult Emergency Services. The hospital's goals were aligned with mine and those around me. We put patients first, and more specifically, we put patients over profits.

I am lucky enough to work at a hospital that has been unionized for more than four decades. When I started working, the concept of a union was foreign to me. For those who may need a refresher, unions promote and protect the interests of all employees. They collectively bargain with employers to secure written agreements for employees regarding pay, benefits, and working conditions.

Collective bargaining agreements are legally enforceable contracts holding employers and employees to mutually agreed-to workplace rules and process to provide a fair and just workplace. The University of Michigan Professional Nurse Council, an affiliate of the Michigan Nurses Association, has been working diligently since January to bargain with the University of Michigan to protect me, the 5,700 nurses who work within the institution, and our patients. I'd like to think they're the good guys in this story.

Here's where things get sticky: David Spahlinger, president of our prestigious U of M health system, has publicly stated that Michigan is "committed to maintaining current staffing levels," but will not make this commitment in writing. Common sense is reflected in the most high-quality research on the topic of nurse-patient ratios and its direct effect on patient care.

Appropriate staffing allows me and my coworkers to give the quality of care that I know we have the ability to provide. High staffing levels are associated with reduced mortality, falls, medication errors, ulcers, restraint use and infections. Unregulated staffing is a significant barrier to nurses' abilities to provide optimal patient care and prevents Nursing at Michigan from providing what we know to be the Michigan Difference in healthcare.

UMPNC held voting on a work stoppage for unfair labor practices last week. Out of 4,000 votes cast by nurses at the U, 94% authorized a work stoppage in protest of the University's unfair labor practices. No date is set, but our elected nurse bargaining team now has the authority to call for action.

Thank you to Katie Oppenheim, who chairs our union, for reiterating in an article to the Detroit Free Press that a work stoppage is not our goal. "Our goal is a fair agreement which respects nurses and guarantees safe staffing. The university can remedy this situation immediately by stopping their unfair labor practices and bargaining in good faith."

I am proud to be a nurse and I hope that our efforts to keep Michigan a patients-over-profits institution are recognized at the community, state, and national level. Anne McGinity, David Spahlinger, and those who have the power to make Michigan the magical place I once thought it was, make like Nike and just do it. For the love of patients, nurses, and our great University. I know we are better than this.

(Stay Tuned, folks).

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It's Okay To Not Be Okay

Don't think that you have to be "on" 100% of the time, because that's very unlikely.

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A lot of people don't realize that it is okay to not be okay because they think that they have to be 100% 24/7, but that is unrealistic. You need to understand that everyone struggles and that you are not expected to be on top of your game every second of every day.

This doesn't mean that you need to go around telling everyone you're doing horribly when they ask you how you are doing, but don't let yourself believe the lie that it's not okay to not be okay.

I had a woman recently tell me that her faith in Jesus was questioned when they realized that she wasn't okay. She was so heartbroken because she knows where her faith lies, but that doesn't take away the hurt in her heart considering her situation. She knew that Jesus would and will see her through this situation, but it was going to hurt.

It's not okay for us to undermine others' worth when they're not okay.

If you're telling everyone that you're "great" 99.9% of the time then you're lying. I hate to say that, but we all struggle and nobody is exempt from it. Some may handle those days and moments better than others and that is great, but it's unlikely that those never struggle or have struggled a day in their lives.

I don't believe that this means we should relish in our angst, hurt, and disappointment, but that when we are hurting we shouldn't be made to feel less. We will have moments of weakness and while it's okay to not be okay it's important to seek someone we love and trust who will help point us to Jesus who will comfort us.

When you're hurting and you're not okay please seek Jesus. Find that person who holds you accountable and let them be there for you. Don't think you're not allowed to hurt, because it is okay, but don't let it consume you.

Jesus loves you and He will always comfort you, but you have to be willing. Seek Him and allow Him to hold you when you're not okay.

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