A Mother’s Journey: The shape of the city

Editor’s note: Since September 2015, Worcester Sun has chronicled the trials and triumphs of Sun contributor Giselle Rivera-Flores as she explores ways to help her daughter and other Worcester families find affordable educational support and assistance. We used to describe her as an aspiring business owner; now, she’s an inspiring one. During her journey to establish and grow her nonprofit tutoring collaborative she has, you could say, stepped beyond the walls of her dream.

Giselle Rivera-Flores

Browsing the Internet usually leaves you with a headache, a newfound anger for politics, a handful of Pinterest ideas you’ll never actually do, and with a profound feeling that you’re wasting your life away with every click.

But every once in a while, the Internet will surprise you with a few gems. Last week, while on my “downtime” – my new term for those times I find myself procrastinating – I stumbled across an interesting article about building a city, and of course, I instantly thought of Worcester. I wondered: Do they have a great master plan like this one?

In, “How to build a city from scratch: the handy step-by-step DIY guide,” an article written by Stuart Jeffries for The Guardian, the author compares building a city in real life to building a city in cyberspace, using games like Minecraft and Civilization to get his point across. Immediately, he notes there are obviously more challenges in real life to building a city, including “vainglorious dictators, pompous architects, bureaucratic impedimenta” and so forth, but after he clarifies the real-life challenges, he lays out a plan of action that is simply logical.

I mean, as an entrepreneur, I work off lists every day. I probably wouldn’t do well without my handy lists and overall plans.

Building a city with Jeffries means following an extensive outline of 20 steps, but I just want to focus on the top five:

Read Giselle’s previous chapter, The risk-taker’s lament, or scroll down to explore more of her story.

Nothing but net profit — St. John’s hoop star scores big-league video game endorsement

Wondering what the future could hold for gaming and paying student athletes? Find out with author BJ Hill in the Sun’s serial glimpse into the fantastic, fascinating (and mostly fictional) possibilities of a not-so distant tomorrow.

April 22, 2028 — Saint John’s High School junior Donnie Dwyer signed his intention papers to affiliate with Rideout Entertainment Ltd. at a Friday press conference in Shrewsbury. The agreement means that Rideout can use Donnie’s likeness in the upcoming release of “Class of 2029,” the newest installment of the popular video game series based on local high school basketball. In return, his parents received one of the largest-ever checks for a high school talent. Dwyer, who grew up on Woods Avenue before his family moved to Holden, is the latest student to be picked up by the Nashville-based video game company. Its flagship series, “Class of …,” allows subscribers to play as high school basketball teams hyper-local to their markets and divisions.

A subscriber in Auburn, for example, can play as a team in and against the Southern Worcester County League, while a subscriber in Henderson, Nebraska, could compete in that state’s Division 1, District 8. If more variety is desired, upgrading to the Platinum Version allows fans to play as any school’s team across the country.

Since Rideout’s first release, “Class of 2021,” about 3,400 student-athletes nationwide have been chosen for inclusion in their boys’ basketball series, and another 700 in their newer “Friday Night Lights” football series.

More What if … Worcester: Gardens and gargoyles: Dilapidated churches grow into urban farms

The incredible journey of Augustine Kanjia continues … Lessons Abound as School and Home Collide

Going early in the morning to school was a challenge. Yengema was far for me. Going on foot was a heavy load to carry.

Augustine Kanjia

Many boys in the school lived in Yengema. Others came from the National Diamond Mining Company (NDMC) site in the neighboring town of Simbakoro. The NDMC was responsible for digging diamonds lawfully in Sierra Leone. Others would illicitly mine the diamond and would become rich if they were lucky — or be caught breaking the law.

I was getting thinner every day. I was also very resilient. Back with my grandmother and uncles in Motema, our only source of income was the illicitly brewed local moonshine, “omole,” which was a hot commodity, sought either by those who drank it or the police who thought it was a drug and should not be consumed.

Grannie struggled to continue brewing the hard liquor. We brewed it deep in the bush where no police ventured. We were careful to return to town at odd times, especially when everyone was in bed. That was a perfect time. Sometimes we didn’t even start until the evening so that we could leave the bush quite late, reaching town like thieves in the night. It was good exercise and was helping our house renovations come closer to completion.

I sometimes dodged school in the name of the omole work. I often stayed out all night, left to watch the omole in the bush while my uncles dropped containers of it back at home. I was brave. I knew the area and there was nothing I feared even in the dark. I did not think of dead people, even though my grandmother had told me horrible stories of dead people. I had also heard her stories of brave warriors who freed their people. I was trying to free my people too.

Augustine’s last chapter: My School of Hard Knocks  Or scroll down to catch up on earlier posts in the remarkable tale.

A Mother’s Journey: The risk-taker’s lament

Editor’s note: Since September 2015, Worcester Sun has chronicled the trials and triumphs of Sun contributor Giselle Rivera-Flores as she explores ways to help her daughter and other Worcester families find affordable educational support and assistance. We used to describe her as an aspiring business owner; now, she’s an inspiring one. During her journey to establish and grow her nonprofit tutoring collaborative she has, you could say, stepped beyond the walls of her dream.

Giselle Rivera-Flores

Some of the top jobs in the United States in 2017, according to Glassdoor — based on job openings, salary and overall job satisfaction rating — include mechanical engineer (ranked No. 20), data scientist (No. 1) and a wide range of professions in between. For me, a listing like this gives readers a slightly slanted outlook on prospective careers.

In a ranking of 50 positions on the jobs and recruiting website, there was something missing — one job that matters greatly to a growing economy, but is treated like the stepchild of the workforce.

To no one’s surprise, the term “entrepreneur” doesn’t fit Glassdoor’s list. But for me, it truly is a job title, and one I think deserves more respect. The thing is, entrepreneurs are busy creating, launching and developing many of the jobs so in demand on Glassdoor.

I’ve said it before, and I will say it again: Entrepreneurs make the world turn, and without them, well, we wouldn’t be publishing this article in the Worcester Sun – a business created from scratch by two entrepreneurs.

Read Giselle’s previous chapter, The gentrification exasperation, or scroll down to explore more of her story.

Thirteen stripes, 13 sponsors — selling out the American flag

Wondering what the future could hold for capitalism and national pride in our city? Find out with author BJ Hill in the Sun’s serial glimpse into the fantastic, fascinating (and mostly fictional) possibilities of a not-so distant tomorrow.

May 30, 2028 — A Worcester company has become the 13th and final firm whose name will appear on the New Flag of the United States of America. For $2 trillion, D&A Cybernetics purchased the rights to place its moniker and logo within the red bottom stripe of the flag. By terms of the contract, the names will be on the flag for at least 20 years. Companies had to pay 10 percent of the cost up front, with 20 years to pay off the remainder. Only American-based companies were allowed to bid.

When U.S. President Dwayne Johnson introduced the idea of selling placement rights to the flag during his first presidential campaign in 2020, it received a practically hostile reception and almost cost him the Democratic Party’s nomination.

More What if … Worcester: Gardens and gargoyles: Dilapidated churches grow into urban farms

The incredible journey of Augustine Kanjia continues … My School of Hard Knocks

Mr. Gabriel Amara, the kind principal I’d met at Christ the King College secondary school in Bo, was now the head of Yengema Secondary School, another of Sierra Leone’s top Catholic schools.

Augustine Kanjia

Though he had encouraged me to end my school-search odyssey by applying to the Yengema school, he decided now that there was no space for me — I was too late. I could have attended Christ the King if my mother and stepfather were still living in Bo, but he had been transferred to the Port Loko police.

I looked around the compound and saw some of the friends I’d played soccer with back at the Motema elementary school. Well, God knew I had tried to find myself a school. I felt this was only the beginning of my manhood. The path would be longer, but it was clear. A letter and my entrance exam results were sent to the principal at Sewafe Secondary School.

I’d already been to Bo, Daru and Segbwema. Sewafe was another diamond-mining town in the Eastern Province. The principal was the Rev. Austin Healy.

When everyone had entered their classrooms, I quickly walked out of the door to zoom home to Motema again. Our new family home was near completion. Our illicit brewing of “Omolé” persisted because the house was very large and still needed more work.

That morning, I left with the intention that I would stay in school all day. I was wrong. I did not have the school uniform, nor did I have the admission. I returned to Motema in tears. A lot worked on my mind. It was all geared toward my return to school. It was hard for me. My grandmother was waiting for good news.

Augustine’s last chapter: Will My School Dreams Become a Nightmare?  Or scroll down to catch up on earlier posts in the remarkable tale.

A Mother’s Journey: The gentrification exasperation

Editor’s note: Since September 2015, Worcester Sun has chronicled the trials and triumphs of Sun contributor Giselle Rivera-Flores as she explores ways to help her daughter and other Worcester families find affordable educational support and assistance. We used to describe her as an aspiring business owner; now, she’s an inspiring one. During her journey to establish and grow her nonprofit tutoring collaborative she has, you could say, stepped beyond the walls of her dream.

Giselle Rivera-Flores

It seems obvious to me that when a city clusters industry-specific small businesses into an area of close proximity, the community experiences growth at a faster rate. It is the underlying strategy for increasing productivity, innovation and success.

Small businesses benefit from their neighbors in a relationship that promotes the exchange and sharing of marketing, skilled workforce and technologies. As cities grow, there should be an integrated strategy for the development of small businesses and not just an emphasis on larger developments, brands and infrastructure buildout.

In December 2012, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released a report, “Smart Growth and Economic Success: Benefits for Real Estate Developers, Investors, Businesses, and Local Governments,” outlining the importance of smart growth development. The concept integrates “compact and walkable” with providing “a diverse range of choices in land uses, building types, transportation, homes, workplace locations and stores.”

The report states that “by locating businesses closer together, compact development can create a density of employment that increases economic productivity and attracts additional investment.” And of course, it makes logical sense to do so.

When I drive through high-density small-business areas, like those in Main South, I do not see the implementation of logical strategies such as that of compact development from city investment, but instead, I see it through the relationships among the existing businesses.

Read Giselle’s previous chapter, The gauntlet of transitions, or scroll down to explore more of her story.

The incredible journey of Augustine Kanjia continues … Will My School Dreams Become a Nightmare?

All my classmates in Motema, and even in Daru, had secured placement for their next school year, but I remained locked in battle with what was next on my agenda at home.

Augustine Kanjia

My brother’s friends were all astonished at my excellent school exam results, but none of them could help me gain acceptance to a good school. Maybe they could help me get to Bo, where the school officials from Segbwema suggested I should go for high school because my mom and step-dad lived there.

I did all my brother Duran’s domestic work for him. He was not married, and lived alone before convincing my grandmother I should move to Daru and attend the nearby secondary school. He was always ready to flog me for simple mistakes. I was only 12, but he expected me to behave like a mature man.

I decided to walk to freedom one day, just five days after my interview at the Wesley Secondary School. I went to the military barracks junction looking for any military personnel going to Freetown — Bo, in the center of the country, was on the way. A truck was going by at11 a.m.

My brother had gone to work at the barracks by 8 a.m. and he’d asked me to bring his lunch by noon. I had spoken with Mr. Lahai, his bingo comrade. He gave me the hint about the 11 a.m. truck. I took Duran’s food to him and I sat a little. He blasted me for bringing his food early. He asked me to go back home and wash his uniforms. “Yes, sir!” I said, and ran out quickly.

I pretended I was heading home. He looked toward the back of his office to watch me go by. My direction quickly changed, and soon I was in the military truck ready to set off. It was 11. We left and I looked back at the barracks and River Moa. I said I will never return there. But was it true?

Augustine’s last chapter: Beyond My Limit  Or scroll down to catch up on earlier posts in the remarkable tale.

A Mother’s Journey: The gauntlet of transitions

Editor’s note: Since September 2015, Worcester Sun has chronicled the trials and triumphs of Sun contributor Giselle Rivera-Flores as she explores ways to help her daughter and other Worcester families find affordable educational support and assistance. We used to describe her as an aspiring business owner; now, she’s an inspiring one. During her journey to establish and grow her nonprofit tutoring collaborative she has, you could say, stepped beyond the walls of her dream.

Giselle Rivera-Flores

“It’s in transition.” That phrase has become the (mostly) unwritten slogan of my life – both personally and professionally.

Buried in every crevice of growth is the undertone of transition. Its double-sided presence adheres to us as both confidence and anxiety — all while promising a better tomorrow.

Transition is the “process or a period of changing from one state to another,” and while the definition portrays an image of physical change, transition, for me, is truly internal. And it happens every second of the day.

It happens in the depths of chaos and in the bliss of growth. It happens through each human interaction, and lack thereof. Transition is a thin line in the world of entrepreneurship that makes us tiptoe across the tightrope of obstacles while juggling the rest of our lives and carrying what feels like the weight of the world on our shoulders.

As we approach our second year of homeschooling our daughters Brooklyn and Evian, we are accompanied by many transitions: new grade levels, new expectations, new schedules and new changes. Transition is the shadow that never leaves. Unless you have given up on the path of life you’ve chosen – and we have no intention of doing so.

Read Giselle’s previous chapter, The ‘Mini’ Series, or scroll down to explore more of her story.

Destructive climate erupts at Clark meat-eater protest

Wondering what the future could hold for activism and divisive protests in our city? Find out with author BJ Hill in the Sun’s serial glimpse into the fantastic, sometimes troubling (and mostly fictional) possibilities of a not-so distant tomorrow.

WORCESTER, Aug. 24, 2063 — He had been sitting there for decades, but in the end, it took just a minute for Dr. Sigmund Freud to be ignobly yanked face-first to the concrete. The doctor’s statue, which until yesterday sat amiably on a low bench in Clark University’s open Red Square, was the latest victim of protesters lashing out against the culturally promoted, but environmentally destructive, practice of eating meat.

As temperatures across the country topped 105 degrees for the 13th straight day, protesters nationwide have embarked on campaigns to eradicate monuments and memorials to anyone who had both contributed to the current climate change by consuming meat and passively committed aggressions against animals.

Next to burning fossil fuels, raising livestock for meat consumption is regarded as the second-largest contributor to climate change.

“Hey! Ho! Meat Eaters got to go!” Chanted the crowd of 257 people assembled in Friday evening’s twilight on Clark’s Red Square.

Sun Serials | Ray Mariano | Free to Read