Pursuing Permanency

When I was researching an article on foster care for The Advocate, I came across this quote in a brochure on foster care and adoption distributed by the Virginia Department of Social Services.

Growing up is hard enough – imagine doing it alone.

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DREAMers Seek The American Dream

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA program was created by the Obama administration in June 2012 as a way to give young people, brought into the U.S. illegally by their parents, temporary protection from deportation. This protected status also allows them to work, study and obtain a driver’s licenses and those eligible for DACA are often referred to as DREAMers.

On September 5, 2017, the Trump administration announced it would phase out the DACA program. The action was twice challenged in the federal courts twice, each time resulting in orders that U.S. Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS) must resume processing requests to renew grants of deferred action under DACA, although brand new applications are not being accepted.

For the latest issue of The Advocate, I spoke with President and CEO of the Virginia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Michel Zajur and Sookyung Oh, who leads the Virginia chapter of the National Korean American Service & Education Consortium (NAKASEC) about the DACA program, the current uncertainty surrounding it and the work each is doing to promote immigrant rights and issues in Virginia. Read the piece here

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Michel Zajur President/CEO Virginia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce

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Sookyung Oh Washington D.C. Area Director for NAKASEC

Guiding Puppies Toward Lives of Service

For the latest issue of The Granby Drummer I spoke with Tony Cappelli, his wife Anne and their daughters Angela, 19, and Lizzy, 16, about their volunteer efforts as puppy raisers with Guiding Eyes for the Blind. You can read the article online here

Just one fact I learned was that there is an application process to request a guide dog placement. Simply proving a need because of blindness or visual impairment is not enough. Applicants must show that they are willing and able to take care of their dog should they be approved, they must commit to completing a residential training program and to ongoing follow ups for the lifetime of their pairing and must also show that they already possess good orientation and mobility skills.

When you hear the term “guide dog” the impression is that the dog is leading the way, but this is really not the case. Guide dogs don’t know where you want to go or how to get there – they take their cues from their handlers. What guide dogs learn, among many other skills, is intelligent disobedience – or the act of disobeying when following a command or direction would put their handler in danger.

The Cappellis have just finished raising their third puppy and are considering taking in another because they have found the experience to be enjoyable and rewarding, despite the time commitment and the effort required. The article has contact information for Northern Connecticut representatives, but for those who read this from outside the Granby area, you can reach out to Guiding Eyes for the Blind through their website or search other organizations in your area that you can volunteer with or donate to.

Recent Writings

The Granby Drummer is a local, all-volunteer newspaper in the town where I live. Having the opportunity to write for The Drummer has allowed me to learn a lot about the town where I live and the people who live there with me. In this post, I thought I’d share some of the stories I’ve written over the past several months …

AddysonMost recently, I had the pleasure of speaking with a local. middle-school student athlete named Addyson Earl. Addy has competed successfully in acrobatics, aspires to play soccer in college and participates in cross-country and basketball as well, all while being an honor roll student.   You can read more about this talented, young lady here.

 

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At the beginning of March, I met Marti Long, owner of a local business, HOME Fine Arts and Antiques. The resulting article was in the April issue of The Drummer. Marti not only promoted her business during our conversation, but also that of the business next door which was having their Grand Opening when I was at HOME. The Whisk

When our interview was finished, Marti took me next door to introduce me to Sarah Cowles-Gentile.Sarah and her team at The Whisk, a Connecticut catering business for over 40 years, were excited to be open for business at their newly relocated site in Granby. This article also appeared in the April 2018 issue.

 

It hasn’t only been personal profiles.

For a few months at the end of 2017 and into the start of 2018, I wrote the Board of Education reports for The Drummer. I also wrote this piece when the Registrars of Voters and teachers and students from Granby Memorial High School work together to have a Board of Education candidates’ forum prior to the town’s 2017 municipal elections.

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I’m currently working on another story that will appear in The Granby Drummer’s July issue, and I’ll have some articles in upcoming issues of The Advocate as well. I’m looking forward to sharing what I learn from those with you soon.

 

Education Builds Pathways

Everyday, the realities of life for many at-risk children work against the achievement of their dreams. While there are those who transcend their circumstances, “it should not require heroism to be a child.”

These words were written by retired Gen. Colin L. Powell and Alma J. Powell in “Our Cause: A Letter to America” to commemorate the 20th anniversary of America’s Promise Alliance. The organization, of which Mrs. Powell is the current chair, has as its mission to “create the conditions for success for all young people.” A central idea to doing that appears on its website:

History is not destiny and education builds pathways.

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Emily Griffey

I recently spoke with Emily Griffey about early care and education in Virginia. As Policy Director with the organization Voices for Virginia’s Children, she works to try to ensure that the resources, programming and opportunities needed for every child in the state to achieve their best outcome are available and accessible.

The Q&A of our discussion appears in Issue 5 of The Advocate and you can read it here

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Antoinette White

I also spoke with Antoinette White, author of the self-published memoir “Who’s Protecting Me?” She sees herself as an example of how hard work, character and idealism can allow you to transcend your past.

“My main message is resiliency. Don’t let past pain define who you can become,” White told me. “If that can make a difference in just one person’s life, then that’s why I wrote this book.”

More about my conversation with Antoinette also appears in Issue 5 of The Advocate and you can read it here

 

Giving Girls A Voice To Change The World

When I spoke with Angela Patton a few months ago, I was struck by how direct and open she was. We discussed the CAMP DIVA program she founded in Richmond, Virginia in 2004, its merger with non-profit Girls for a Change and her current role as CEO of that organization. Her passion for her work was clear, from her constant reference to program participants as “my girls” to the story she told of networking and making contacts while on a family vacation because you have leap at the opportunities that present themselves.

Not only has Patton leapt at the opportunities that have come her way, but she has tried to facilitate opportunities for her girls to advance themselves, improve their communities and feel empowered to make their voices heard.

The article that I wrote about Patton, CAMP DIVA and Girls for a Change appeared in the May 2017 issue of The Advocate, the newsletter for Virginia Union University’s Center for the Study of the Urban Child. You can read it here.

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Girls for a Change CEO and CAMP DIVA founder Angela Patton

 

 

#WeNeedDiverseBooks

Last week I spoke with mother and son authors Betty K. Bynum and Joshua B. Drummond about their recently released title, I’m a Brilliant Little Black Boy! Bynum is also the author of two titles for girls, I’m a Pretty Little Black Girl! and I’m a Lovely Little Latina! 

The story that I wrote appears in the latest issue of the Urban Views Weekly. (more…)