Category: Youth Written by Associated Press
First lady Michelle Obama hugs Jenika Headley-Greene as Obama hands out diplomas during the graduation ceremony for Martin Luther King Jr. Academic Magnet High School, May 18, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
by Erik Schelzig
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — First lady Michelle Obama has some advice for some Tennessee high school graduates: Strike your own path in college and life and work to overcome inevitable failures with determination and grit.
Mrs. Obama spoke for 22 minutes to the graduates of Martin Luther King Jr. Academic Magnet High School on Saturday in her only high school commencement address this year. The ceremony took place in the gymnasium of nearby Tennessee State University.
The first lady told the 170 graduates that she spent too much of her own time in college focusing on academic achievements. While her success in college and law school led to a high-profile job, she said, she ended up leaving to focus on public service.
"My message to all of you today is this: Do not waste a minute living someone else's dream," she said. "It takes a lot of real work to discover what brings you joy ... and you won't find what you love simply by checking boxes or padding your GPA."
Mrs. Obama lauded the school — it's on the site of one of the city's first to educate African-Americans — for its graduation rate, spirit of volunteerism and healthy food programs. She noted that each graduate was going on to either higher education or the military.
She said MLK reminded her of her own high school experience in Chicago.
"My No. 1 goal was to go to a high school that would push me and challenge me," she said. "I wanted to go somewhere that would celebrate achievement. A place where academic success wouldn't make me a target of teasing or bullying, but instead would be a badge of honor."
But Mrs. Obama lamented that not all students have the same opportunities.
"Unfortunately, schools like this don't exist for every kid," she said. "You are blessed."
The first lady told graduates that failure may be a part of their college lives and careers, and that how they respond to any pitfalls will define them.
"That's when you find out what you're really made of in those hard times," she said. "But you can only do that if you're willing to put yourself in a position where you might fail."
Overcoming adversity has been the hallmark of many great people, she said.
"Oprah was demoted from her first job as a news anchor, and now she doesn't even need a last name," she said of media giant Oprah Winfrey. "And then there's this guy Barack Obama ... he lost his first race for Congress, and now he gets to call himself my husband."
Mrs. Obama later presented graduate diplomas on stage and posed for photos with graduates.
"We didn't know we would get to hug her," said graduate Natey Kinzounza, 18. "She's got a great sense of humor. She's like my mom, she's just a very real person."
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Last Updated on Sunday, 19 May 2013 11:20
Category: Youth Written by Associated Press
JULIA JORDAN-ZACHERY, DIRECTOR OF BLACK STUDIES
by Erika Niedowski
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — A group of students and faculty at Providence College is asking the school to take steps to combat what it calls a pattern of racial profiling of minority students on campus and a hostile climate.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 15 May 2013 15:43
Category: Youth Written by Ashley N. Johnson
HEALTHY SCHOOL—Founders Hall Middle School, is just one of the McKeesport Area School District schools, taking part in the Healthy Schools Collaboration. (Photo by J.L.Martello)
A healthy school environment is a more productive one. Factors such as air pollution, chemical exposure and biological agents are just as important as making sure students are being given the five food groups. While many may be concentrating on healthier school lunches, a local collaborative is taking local school districts by storm to ensure a healthier school environment.
The Healthy Schools Collaboration, led by collaborators Ellsworth and Jenna Cramer, recently partnered with two school districts, McKeesport Area School District and Allegheny Valley School District.
“We’re working to raise awareness of the issue of environmental health in schools in Pennsylvania, by collaborating with school districts to implement simple and cost effective programs that will lead to improve academic performance and health outcomes,” said Andrew Ellsworth, a HSC collaborator. “Everyone can provide a healthier, safer environment.”
The Collaboration, which is funded by the Heinz Endowments, is an initiative aimed at improving environmental health conditions in western Pennsylvania K-12 schools by providing hands-on assistance and expertise to districts, while offering limited financial support for equipment, supplies and staff time for program implementation.
"Schools should be able to provide a safe and healthy environment for student achievement. Poor indoor and outdoor air quality in the classroom, for example, can threaten our children’s health, development and learning,” said Philip Johnson, senior program officer, Environment Program, The Heinz Endowments.
An environmentally unhealthy school can cause both developmental and physical health issues. According to the American Lung Association reported that children in the United States miss 14 million school days each year because of asthma, which can be aggravated by environmental pollutants found in schools, homes and outdoors.
In schools, some of the unhealthiest environmental practices are the use of toxic cleaning products and pesticides, cluttered classrooms and air pollution. According to Ellsworth and the collaboration’s website, some of the greatest improvements to ensure an environmentally healthy school can be made by reducing the use of pesticides in and outside of school buildings; changing cleaning products to non-toxic alternatives; eliminating or significantly reducing idling of school busses or vehicles while on school properties; and de-cluttering classrooms to improve the quality of air flow.
And like many health issues, African-Americans can be more affected than any other race. According to a report in the May 2011 edition of Health Affairs entitled “Air Pollution Around Schools is Linked to Poorer Student Health and Academic Performance,” “a large and growing body of evidence shows that pollution burdens fall disproportionately on low-income and racial or ethnic minority communities.” Ellsworth agrees, but said there are not well-recognized national statistics on the topic.
Timothy Gabauer, superintendent of McKeesport Area High School, which serves approximately 3500 students, said, “One of our main goals is to try to provide a safe and productive work environment for the students and for the teachers. I think it’s critical that we can either validate things that we are doing well or find areas that need assistance and make the pertinent corrections.”
He said that the Collaboration “helps us to identify what is working, and what may not be and what we can do to make those changes.”
Gabauer said that although the initiative is in the beginning stages at his district, he has begun meeting with a core team and looking at individual buildings to identify what will be their focus, which they decided will be indoor air quality, de-cluttering and looking at the cleaning products they use and their practices. He said the district’s maintenance department has looked at their products and what their practices are and now it will be taken to the classroom, to see what can be done.
Like Gabauer’s school district, Cheryl Griffith, superintendent of Allegheny Valley School District, which serves approximately 1,000 K-12 students, said her district is also in the planning stages also. She said her team is taking a look at the district’s purchasing history of products and learning about other products that may be wiser. They are also doing an inventory of how products are stored and used and the end stage is how chemicals are discarded, making sure that is safe and within guidelines.
“Our goal is to be a more educated school community (which includes students, teachers, staff and parents) and to have a sustained effort that they carry with them to continue to get better at a healthier school,” Griffith said.
Although the Collaboration is in the pilot phase of its initiative, Ellsworth said there are plans to eventually reach out to other school districts within the area. “We want to work with as many school districts as possible. Our goal is to add three to five more within the next year.”
Becoming an environmentally healthy school can happen on any level, it just starts with one. Ellsworth said the Collaboration is always willing to help schools interested in joining the cause.
“Just call us, talk to us. We’ll make every effort in what we have to work with them or get them ready and moving,” he said. “Because this is about the schools, not us. We want to encourage them to take the first step and see it’s a benefit, not a burden.”
(For more information on the Healthy Schools Collaboration, visit www.healtyschoolscollaboration.
Last Updated on Friday, 10 May 2013 13:07
Category: Youth Written by Associated Press
First lady Michelle Obama, left, delivers a commencement speech at Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond, Ky., May 11, as Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, right, and university president Dr. Charles D. Whitlock look on. (AP Photo/James Crisp)
by Bruce Schreiner
RICHMOND, Ky. (AP) — First lady Michelle Obama urged Eastern Kentucky University graduates on Saturday night to reach out to people with different political beliefs, saying the country would benefit from the conversations.
"If you're a Democrat, spend some time talking to a Republican," Mrs. Obama told about 600 graduates in caps and gowns. "And if you're a Republican, have a chat with a Democrat. Maybe you'll find some common ground, maybe you won't."
The first lady suggested that they visit senior centers to benefit from the experiences of people with plenty of "life experience under their belts." She also pointed them to religious congregations different than their own, saying they might hear something in a sermon "that stays with you." And she predicted they would learn something if they reached out "with an open mind and an open heart."
"And goodness knows, we need more of that," she said. "Because we know what happens when we only talk to people who think like we do. We just get stuck in our ways."
The first lady received thunderous applause from several thousand people attending the ceremony in a state that voted overwhelmingly against her husband, President Barack Obama, in his two successful runs for the White House.
She exhorted the graduates to apply the same resilience and work ethic they showed in school to their lives beyond campus to cope with life's ups-and-downs.
"How are you going to respond when you don't get that job you had your heart set on?" she said.
To the soon-to-be teachers in the crowd, she urged fortitude when their students don't respond to their lessons — and urged the same fortitude for the business students when their bosses pile work on them.
Those are the times that will "force you to claw and scratch and fight" to endure, she said.
The White House said the first lady was drawn to EKU as part of her initiative to support veterans and military families. EKU has gained national recognition for its efforts to help veterans advance their education, including its Veterans Success Center, which provides one-stop-assistance for advising, counseling and job placement services.
A campus group took potshots at Obama administration policies ahead of Mrs. Obama's visit, handing out fliers bemoaning the challenging job prospects for the new graduates.
"Good luck landing your first job," said the flier from the EKU chapter of Young Americans for Liberty. "Only 47 percent of you will be able to find a job in your preferred field, so I hope you're still on good terms with your parents."
Last Updated on Saturday, 11 May 2013 22:25
Category: Youth Written by Courier Newsroom
(Wagner College News Service) In the next few months, many American families will undergo a challenging rite of passage: sending a student off to college for the first time.
The biggest part of this challenge, three Wagner College administrators say, is letting go.
Last Updated on Friday, 10 May 2013 10:49
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