Smile Politely

Get your Culture here: Four experiences to have in January 2023

Illinois Fighting Illini WBB vs Iowa

Here we go, 2023. New year, new you, right? I do start each new year with a bit of a reset in intentions. Not resolutions, intentions. The word resolution has some concreteness to it, whereas intention feels a bit softer. And yes, I know the whole road to hell thing. Just let me make these rationalizations in my head. Currently I have intentions to drink more water and less alcoholic beverages, and I’m doing a little yoga practice every day. I’m paying more attention to my intake of vegetables. I’m growing the list of books I’d like to read. After a week I’m still doing this. Will I be able to say the same thing next week? Hopefully, but maybe not. 

Anyways, maybe you are beginning this month, this year, with the intention of starting something new, revisiting something from the past, or maybe just maintaining some contentment right where you are. This month’s Culture round-up is dedicated to considering some new experiences ‘round town. Hopefully it inspires you.

A certificate with a multicolored border that says #ThankYourMentor at the top. It includes a message from a mentee to a mentor.
C-U One-to-One Mentoring Facebook page

Consider becoming a mentor

January is National Mentoring Month, and a great time to jump into mentoring. C-U One-to-One Mentoring is a well-established program that works to pair students in Champaign Unit 4 and Urbana District 116 school districts with trusted adults in the community, and they are in dire need of mentors. Many schools have waiting lists of kids that have requested to be a part of the program. There are a number of reasons why kids are selected to participate, but usually they are kiddos that the program describes as “on the brink of success.” Having another caring adult in their lives, that shows up consistently, could be the added push they need. I’ve been mentoring since 2017, with two different students. It’s rewarding, and only takes an hour a week. Just be ready to stay with it. The intent is for you to stay with your student through graduation. If the student stays with the program to that point, they get a scholarship for post-secondary education.

There are trainings coming up on January 19th, February 8th, and February 15th. You only need to attend one. You can get the process started by filling out an application.

Four girls are sitting on a set of stairs with black railings alongside. One has a large keyboard, one has a saxophone, one is holding a microphone and trumpet, and one has a microphone at her lips.
Veronica Mullen

Learn about Girls Rock C-U

I’m staying on my “support young people in the community” soapbox for a minute, and encouraging you to attend an upcoming open house to learn more about this fairly awesome organization. Look at this mission statement:

Girls Rock! Champaign-Urbana seeks to create a culture of positive self-esteem for girls, transgender, and gender non-conforming youth in our community. Teaching folks how to start a band, write a song, record a track, and play a gig are simply the means by which we hope to achieve this goal, as an investment in our future. 

I mean…how can you not support this? Plus, I love the idea of turning these kids into little budding rock stars. On January 12th, from 6 to 8 p.m., the board is hosting a little gathering at The Recreation Club (great opportunity to check this space out, if you haven’t yet). Have some snacks, chat with current volunteers, and find out if this is something you might be able to lend your time and talent to. Also, I beg you to take a look at their Facebook page and see the professional band photos, taken by Veronica Mullen. They are extraordinary. 

A Black woman in a white basketball uniform is stretching her hand, with a basketball, towards a basketball hop. She is surrounded by three players in black uniforms.
Fighting Illini Women’s Basketball Facebook page.

Get into Illinois Women’s Basketball

This is a goal of mine for January. The team just made the AP Top 25 for the first time since 2000. Coach Shauna Green is in her first year with the team. I’m admittedly not knowledgeable about the world of women’s basketball, but going from a 7-20 season to the best start in the team’s history, winning 14 of their first 16 games — I’m paying attention. Does that make me a bandwagon fan? Yes. Let’s all be bandwagon fans and give the women the attention they are clearly earning. The next home game is January 18th against #6 ranked Indiana, and it’s literally been dubbed the “Pack the House” game. Tickets are $5. FIVE DOLLARS. Get them here, and find the rest of the schedule here

An illustration of a white man and woman swing dancing. The woman is wearing a red dress with a thin black belt and and black polka dots, and red and white saddle shoes. The man is wearing navy blue pants, a cream colored shirt, and an orange vest, with black shoes.
CU Community Swing Dance Facebook page.

Learn swing dancing

My spouse and I got into swing dancing just after college, when bands like Brian Setzer Orchestra, Cherry Poppin’ Daddies, and Royal Crown Revue brought swing dance culture to the forefront. Then kids and life happened, and we fell away from it. Just before the world shut down in 2020, we jumped back in with swing dance classes through the Urbana Park District, and had so much fun. Instructors Sarah Scott and Paul Kwiat do an amazing job breaking down the moves, and they are really passionate about creating a swing dance community. There are actually quite a few opportunities around town to practice what you learn, and they are great about highlighting them and encouraging folks to show up. 

You don’t have to have a partner, and it’s just $25 for residents, $30 for non-residents. Beginning classes start on January 22nd, and you can sign up through the Urbana Park District.

Managing Editor

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