Category: Youth Written by Ashley N. Johnson
STOP THE VIOLENCE—Youth Sports Coach Jeff Marion stands with youth from various sports league to explain the importance of youth sports activities and the impact it has on keeping kids off the streets at the Stop The Violence Benefit Concert at Stage AE on Jan. 17. (Photo by J.L. Martello)
by Ashley Johnson
For New Pittsburgh Courier
Black on Black violence has been an epidemic in the Black community for years, with many feeling like no end is in sight. Many feel fed up and left with no answers to a cure. While some are getting the message out through marches, vigils and town hall meetings, one man is spreading his message through music.
Raising money and bringing awareness to the epidemic was the main theme of the Stop the Violence Concert held by musician Yves Jean, in collaboration with the Ladies Hospital Aid Society and local youth sports leagues, on Jan. 17 at the American Eagle Outfitters Stage AE on the North Shore.
“Young people are dying and we wanted to bring the public service announcement to the stage,” Jean said. “The concert was successful, the audience was diverse and we raised some money, but you cannot put a price tag on awareness.”
“Enough is enough. Every week we are seeing three to four deaths and they’re all young people,” Jeff Marion, a city youth sports coach and planning committee member said. “If we keep playing around there will not be a middle generation.”
Jean, who has been in Pittsburgh for 12 years and considers it his second home, grew up in Harlem, N.Y., where he said with growing up in the inner city, violence became second nature to him. “You become numb to it and we cannot have that. In our society, it’s okay if people are shooting at pee wee league games, its’ okay to slap a girl around or shoot people for looking at you the wrong way. And that’s wrong,” Jean said.
Last year, Allegheny County lost 96 people to homicide, many of them young Black males under the age of 30, that was more than 2011’s total of 73 and less than 2010’s total of 100. Thus far in 2013, there have already been four murders, two of them Black males, the youngest 16.
Along with the deaths, there have been countless shootings, especially at youth football games. In August 2010, there was a shooting at a Homewood football field and in 2012, there were two shootings, one near Stargell Field in Homewood and the other at the Pittsburgh Obama School field, resulting in the death of Charlene Walters, a 64-year-old grandmother.
But Jean and Marion both agree that instilling the anti-violence message early and getting youth involved in activities are both solutions to keeping them off the streets and becoming part of the epidemic. “If a kid is involved in athletics, he or she does not have time to be involved in violence,” said Marion.
“I was one of those kids, I saw my life through people (a coach) like Jeff. I want those kids to succeed,” Jean said.
Although the concert was a success, Marion said he would have liked a larger turnout and more local support, but that he was happy with the individuals who did come out and support the effort.
“People complain all the time (about the violence), but never get involved. I think people are marched and meetinged out. They have their place, but it is like people have become numb to them.” He said they hoped that something fun, like this benefit concert, would be the answer to getting people out and involved.
Besides the sounds of Jean’s music, which he classifies as a worldly sound with a rock, jazz, soul, R&B, and reggae influence, he was presented with a proclamation by Councilman Bill Peduto from the Pittsburgh City Council, declaring Jan. 17, 2013, Yves Jean Day.
“It was a great feeling to have the city recognize my work. It makes me feel as if my efforts are not lost and are not in vain,” Jean said.
Proceeds from the event will go to the LHAS, which is an organization that meets the needs of the community through a teen dating violence awareness and prevention program, and youth sports leagues in the area.
Jean plans to use this concert as a stepping-stone to getting the message of stop the violence out. He plans to expand the concert, not only nationally, but also globally.
“It takes each on to teach one. I’m just a vehicle trying to get the message out and I do it through music.”
(For more information on Yves Jean, visit www.yvesjeanmusic.com.)
Last Updated on Wednesday, 23 January 2013 09:32
Category: Youth Written by Associated Press
FIRST DAUGHTERS--Sasha and Malia Obama arrive at the ceremonial swearing-in of their father President Barack Obama at the U.S. Capitol during the 57th Presidential Inauguration in Washington, Jan. 21, 2013. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
by Connie Cass
Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) — That's how it goes with kids. You hardly notice how fast they're growing up, then suddenly big sis is nearly as tall as Mom and the little one is a tween, gently sassing Dad.
On the inaugural platform again four years later, a more mature Malia Obama, 14, and Sasha, 11, smiled, sometimes giggled, and chatted with their cousin Avery Robinson as they awaited their father's arrival. Sasha bounced on her feet a bit as if chilly in temperatures hovering around 40 degrees, and later huddled in her seat. Malia, looking poised in calf-high black boots, rivaled her mother's 5 feet 11 inches. Like any girls their age, they whipped out their smartphones in the parade reviewing stand to take photos.
Both daughters appeared relaxed and oblivious to their global TV audience, unaffected by their rare status, unfazed by the fuss over their father.
Meanwhile, fashion-watchers were tweeting about the girls' coats in vibrant shades of purple. For the record: Malia wore a J. Crew ensemble, Sasha's was Kate Spade, and first lady Michelle Obama was in a Thom Browne coat with a navy print like a man's silk tie.
Such attention to the Obamas' clothes, their Hawaiian vacations, their hair — Michelle lit up Twitter last week by adding bangs — will continue as they charge into a time of turbulence for so many American families: the teen years.
In the second term Sasha, who arrived in the White House as a second-grader, moves on to high school. She expressed her pre-teen spirit Sunday, when Barack Obama took his official, nonpublic oath of office. After giving Dad a "Good job!" she added a reminder of his flubbed words four years ago. "You didn't mess up," Sasha teased the commander in chief.
For Malia, the milestones to come are many — she'll be hitting the age when typical teens start driving, dating and applying to colleges. How normally can any of this go at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.?
Life in the White House is bound to feel different to a teen than it does to a second-grader.
Seven-year-old Emanuel Coleman's grandmother positioned him on the steps of the National Gallery of Art to watch the swearing-in on a giant outdoor screen Monday. The Durham, N.C., boy thought life for a White House kid must be cool, because the president has "his own private limo, helicopter and lives in a really big house."
"It would be fun to fly in the presidential helicopter," Emanuel enthused.
Sixteen-year-old Colleen Casey isn't so sure.
"They have to live their life in their dad's shadow," said Casey, part of a group of Girl Scout volunteers who came to the inaugural from nearby Woodbridge, Va. "You can't be your own person."
That's the struggle for White House youngsters, said author Doug Wead, who has interviewed 19 sons and daughters of former presidents and wrote about them in "All the Presidents' Children."
"When your mom's the first lady, and all your classmates are oohing and ahhing over her, it's hard to compete with that," Wead said. "At any given time, half the country hates your father and half the country loves him. It's hard to establish a separate identity."
Just last week, the National Rifle Association referred to the Obama daughters in an ad berating their father for opposing a proposal to put armed guards in all schools, while his children get Secret Service protection. And the president's been criticized for sending Sasha and Malia to the private Sidwell Friends School.
Even the great stuff — traveling the globe, meeting rock stars, mingling with world leaders — can go to a girl's head.
Mrs. Obama says she strives to give the girls a normal life — homecoming dances, playing basketball, trick-or-treating, slumber parties — and also to keep them respectful, responsible and down-to-earth.
There's been lots of speculation that Mrs. Obama, who turns 50 next year, may design her own transformation in the second term, when she'll be freed from the pressure of her husband's re-election. Will the first lady who dubbed herself "mom-in-chief" add to her portfolio of family-centered causes? The White House isn't yet saying.
Some feminists want to see the Harvard Law School grad take on a more forceful public role. Not all of her fans are so sure.
"I like the roles she's taken on with troops, with health, with children," said W. Faye Butts, 68, an enthusiastic Obama supporter who traveled from Macon, Ga., for the inaugural. No need to try to do more: "She has a family to raise, that's her first priority."
Associated Press writers Richard Lardner, Matthew Barakat and Darlene Superville contributed to this report.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 22 January 2013 09:35
Category: Youth Written by Renee P. Aldrich
FUTURE DOCTORS—Ninth grade students receive their medical jackets after finishing the program. (Photo by J.L. Martello)
by Renee P. Aldrich
Picture this, 48 African-American males between the ages of 12 to 15 gathered, not at a sporting event, not in a park, and not engaging in some negative activity. Instead they are in suits and ties, taking their turn at the podium to present information on scientific and/or medical projects they’ve been researching.
Their topics ranged from preserving ecosystems, to the HIV/AIDs epidemic in youth, to explaining the differences between tornadoes and hurricanes as well as showing how the skills used in mastering video games can be transferred to what one needs to perform brain surgery. Such an image is not a fantasy, or a figment of the imagination, but real life from UPMC’s Eye and Ear Clinic.
It was here were these boys participated in the graduation services as part of the “Journey to Medicine” mentorship program of the Gateway Medical Society.
This hands on approach to ushering young African-American males into possible health careers is part of the program mission—to educate and mentor minority pre-adolescent males in the art and science of medicine. It also hopes to inspire and guide them as they matriculate through secondary education and beyond. The three year program is part of the GMS’s Youth Program Initiatives and targets males because the numbers indicate the need is far more pressing than it is for females. According to GMS President, Dr. William Simmons, the numbers show that in Pittsburgh, the graduation rate for Black males is about 56 percent while that of their White counterparts is 88 percent.
The program, which commences at the end of February begins when the boys are about mid-way through the 6th grade.
“The reason for starting with 6th grade is because studies have shown that generally between kindergarten and 5th grade African-American students and White students do about the same; the gap begins to develop somewhere after fifth grade and progressively widens through to 12th,” Simmons said.
“As such we see beginning with 6th graders a smooth execution of the program goals which are 1,) To mentor and build a strong sense of confidence in our pre-adolescent participants; 2,) To stress the early importance of achievement in mathematics and science; and 3,) To introduce a broader view of all disciplines of medicine, and allied health professions, including but not limited to: nursing, occupational therapy, physical therapy, respiratory therapy, Physician Assistant, pharmacy, dentistry, and podiatry.”
Fourteen year old David Harris Jr. from Woodland Hills School District has been in the program from the beginning. He is currently a sophomore and gave a power point presentation on “Parasitic Mind Control in Insects.” David was in the first group of students which started the program, said his father, David Harris, Sr. ‘He was attending Sterrett Elementary School, and the math teacher suggested to the family that he may be a good candidate for this program. They were looking for students throughout the city schools with an interest in science who were outstanding in areas of academics, behavior, and overall in school performance. Young Harris aspires to become a cardiologist.
“I am able to stay on tract academically because of this program and because of my father’s influence on me, and I’m interested in cardiology because my mother died after having a heart transplant when I was in 6th grade,” he said.
Other parents on hand were Cecil Watkins of Forest Hills and Pittsburgh School Board member, Mark Brentley. Watkins’ two sons 14 year old Benjamin, whose presentation was “Quantum Spin—A New Way to Magnetis, and 13 year old Joseph, who presented on Scientific Methods to Preserve Collapsed Ecosystems, are both in their first year, Watkins said “having successful children is not about the neighborhood, but about the methods used in the home.
“We’ve had successes because of our (my wife and I) commitment to focusing on excellence and establishing a simple life in the household. For example, there is no cable or flat screen TV in our house. The entire family uses one computer, so no one is plugged into the computer 24/7.”
The son and nephew of school board member, Mark Brentley, 14 year old Langston Thurgood Brentley and 13 year old Rowman Ramsey, are both participants in the program. Langston, a 9th grader at Pittsburgh Obama, presented on the “Rise of Glaucoma” in America, and Rowman an 8th grader in Allegheny Traditional Academy presented on “All about Hurricanes.” Both aspire to be physicians, and say the most outstanding part of the program for them was the opportunity to work in simulated situations where you could take actual temperatures and blood pressures on lifelike mannequins.
Rowman who is interested in psychology said “I think if I become a psychologist I can understand what happens to a person’s mind that would make them do drastic things. I am excited about beginning again, I can say this program has done nothing but help me.”
Mark Brentley said ‘When my son and nephew got involved in the program I was amazed at the professionalism, the organized structure, and the time, effort and attention that these doctors give to the young men. I can only imagine the impact this could have within the school system if more young men could have this kind of exposure.”
The students not only get to present in front of their family and peers, but there are words given by Dr. Simmons, and awards are distributed for the best presentations. Also, participants shifts to the next level.
According to Dr Simmons, for each year of attrition, a new curriculum is created; each one different and each one progressively more challenging. Simmons also said the two major priorities for the staff and participating physicians, are first, really working hard with these boys to see that they have the academic accomplishment they will need to pursue these health fields, and two, is keeping them interested.
“Maintaining their interest level comes by getting involved in their lives, this means engaging them in other activities such as trips to the August Wilson Center for African American Culture, or to the Science Center on the North Side,” he said.
Many of the doctors actually mentor 3 or 4 students. The activities can be as simple as a movie, or a ball game, or just conversation. “This time is essential as there are many ‘social issues’ in their lives that must be overcome to insure the success of an individual student in such a comprehensive program,” he said.
The program whose lead funder is the Heinz Foundation, is also supported by Highmark and UPMC, and has three paid staff members. All the rest are physicians giving of their time talent and energy.
“But continued and increased funding will be what it takes to take the program to the next level” Simmons said. “By the time the inaugural group who entered the program in 6th grade get to 11 and 12th grade, because we add on about 20 boys per year, we will be up to 140 participants. It is keeping the stream of funding that will help us be able to optimize the program.”
Brentley said this program is so phenomenal that it is a mistake that the Pittsburgh School Board is not endorsing and fully supporting what GMS is doing with these boys.
“As a school District board member, I find it disappointment in the fact that I have been unable to convince neither Dr. (Linda) Lang nor my colleagues on the board to embrace and even partner with them in this program,” he said. “While I am happy, of course, that my son and my nephew are involved, in the long run it is not about that, it is about the 100’s who want and need what this program has to offer.”
Last Updated on Thursday, 17 January 2013 09:22
Category: Youth Written by Courier Newsroom
Harambee first-grade programmer Zora Ball
(Philadelphia Tribune Photo/Harambee Institute)
by Damon C. Williams
Philadelphia Tribune Staff Writer
(PhillyTrib.com)--Soon, officials from digital game creators EA Sports, Activision and many others may beat a path to the doors of the Harambee Institute of Science and Technology Charter School, especially if the school continues to turn our prodigies like first-grader Zora Ball.
Ball has become the youngest individual to create a full version of a mobile application video game, which she unveiled last month in the University of Pennsylvania’s Bodek Lounge during the university’s “Bootstrap Expo.”
Seven-year-old Ball has also become a master of the Bootstrap programming language, and when asked, Ball was able to reconfigure her application on the fly using Bootstrap.
“We expect great things from Zora, as her older brother, Trace Ball, is a past STEM Scholar of the Year,” said Harambee Science Teacher Tariq Al-Nasir, who is also the founder of Harambee’s successful STEMnasium Learning Academy. “I am proud of all my students. Their dedication to this program is phenomenal, and they come to class every Saturday, including holiday breaks.”
Bootstrapping has many definitions. According to several technology resources, in computers, pressing a bootstrap button causes a hardwired program to read a bootstrap program from an input unit. The computer would then execute the bootstrap program, which caused it to read more program instructions. It became a self-sustaining process that proceeded without external help from manually entered instructions. In complex applications – such as the game Ball created – Bootstrapping allows for the input and implementation of a string of several complex commands. The exact incarnation of Bootstrap that Ball used was a standards-based curriculum and programming environment supported by the Foundation for the Advancement of Technology in Education. This specific program teaches students to program their own videogames and applications using purely algebraic and geometric concepts.
Harambee was one of Philadelphia's first charter schools, and has become an important and widely recognized part of the city's system of education. Since its founding nearly two decades ago by late educator Baba Skief, Harambee has been a frontrunner in community service and development. The charter school has served as a local source for visual and performing arts and has been identified as a leader in education and training programs. Harambee has earned the support of the West Philadelphia community and the recognition of state and local officials for outstanding service.
Harambee has a strong STEM-related coursework and afterschool programming. The STEMnasium Learning Academy is but one of those resources, and that program, which runs on Saturdays, is in the midst of teaching its students Mandarin Chinese, with the idea that the students will complete several business transactions in Chinatown by speaking in the native language of many of the shopkeepers there.
The Saturday classwork is a 48-week program, not including an additional eight weeks in the summer. The collaboration between Harambee and the STEMNASIUM allows any student enrolled in a Philadelphia public school to partake in the class; the program is built for 60-plus students, and the roughly 50 that are enrolled in the program are dedicated, Al-Nassir said.
“The kids love it. As an example, over the Thanksgiving holiday break, with Black Friday and all, the kids were off from school and could do whatever it is that kids do when they are home, but we had students who showed up,” Al-Nassir said. “They dedicated themselves to showing up on that Saturday. What we accomplished on that Saturday was different than what we accomplished on other Saturdays, but I was very impressed that the parents bought into the fact that we can’t take a vacation, not when we’re trying to reach people on a global level.”
Last Updated on Friday, 18 January 2013 09:37
Category: Youth Written by Courier Newsroom
by Dr. Boyce Watkins
(Your Black World)--Every stereotype you might have in your mind about the Black male or Black kids in general need not apply to what I’m about to tell you right now. Cameron Clarke is a senior at Germantown Academy in Philadelphia and has achieved the fabulous distinction of being one of a very small number of students to receive a perfect score on the SAT.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 08 January 2013 10:34
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