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Online Learning and the Impact on Students – Will Some Students Get Left behind?

I believe that the pandemic created by the coronavirus is causing some significant learning issues at all levels of the education system. Early in my career I was the Director of an Upward Bound program that prepared American Indian students for college. During that time, I learned about students’ learning styles and modalities. I found that it was common for American Indian students to rely on kinesthetic learning as their preferred learning style. American Indian students also learned better in darkened environments and were equally strong as visual and auditory learners. Many students had photographic memories that were geographically based. The most effective strategy we utilized was informal peer teaching. Peer teaching worked because the students were able to communicate with each other more effectively at their level of comprehension. There are a multitude of factors that enhance peer teaching success, including language, cultural backgrounds, cultural norms, ability to interact and understand communicative instruction at various levels and many others. Perhaps we need to learn more about peer teaching strategies given our current crisis.

man holding a baseball batMany of the American Indian students were gifted athletes having exceptional eye-hand coordination. This probably was inherited from a day when they had to survive using a bow and arrow, atlatl or spears. Total geographic recall was absolutely necessary for survival in the environments that they lived in at the time. Back then getting lost would have been fatal in almost every instance. It was very important for us to know the cultural backgrounds of our students and the mode in which they learned best. One approach was not congruent to success given the varied backgrounds or our students. Our approaches to learning styles were individually focused to better help the students maximize their learning potential. Fast forward to today, where there is a considerable body of research that suggests that learning styles are questionable. I am not intimately involved in education as I was 20 years ago, thus my expertise on this matter may be somewhat dated. However, a compendium of research suggests online learning is less effective than face-to-face classroom experiences.

In those early years in Upward Bound the majority of our students were bilingual, speaking their Native language from birth and later learning English when they attended boarding schools. The primary methodology involved writing and reading following the western methodological theories and pedagogical practices which often times created learning challenges for many of the Native students. Many bilingual Native students overcame the educational challenges by creating their own internal cognitive processes and methods. Many of these students mastered both their world of learning and the educational challenges of Western pedagogical approaches. These students excelled in college because they were able to use multiple ways to process and evaluate information within their learning styles and modalities.

This was equally true for American Indian students who primarily followed their natural learning styles. Being able to learn using both methodologies enhanced their cognitive processing skills and generally created a student who was better prepared when they went on to college.

The reason that I have concerns is that almost every college has moved to online learning. This could hinder students who rely on alternative learning modalities, styles and differing world views to be successful in the classroom. Peer interaction is diminished in virtual interactions and the opportunity to socially interact while teaching and learning from each other hurts some students. As educators who have been thrust into a new learning/teaching reality, we must not lose sight of how we can best help our students.

girl at computer pc workplace home officeIt is clear that the coronavirus is not going away soon and it is imperative that we implement strategies and identify new resources to help students who need additional support during this period of time. One of the things that is helpful would be a review of strategies that were developed over the last decade to assist all students with disabilities. For example, the Center for Online Learning and Students with Disabilities has an excellent website with updated information and promising practices that will help our students achieve. If you are a teacher, it is important to be more interactive with your students. Teachers should be looking for behavioral changes, increased frustration and any other indication that the student is being distracted from learning. The website for the National Disability Rights Network is another resource for information to help guide your performance while working with our students with disabilities.

We have to continue to find ways to reach those students who are not learning and growing in this new reality. I know this first-hand as my little 2nd grade granddaughter is struggling and I know she is brilliant, no bias here. She is exactly the kind of student who could face challenges going forward. THINK!

Sweat Equity, Delayed Gratification, and One Senior’s Story of a Big Payoff

Meet Evan Cabrera, a member of the Johnson Scholars-Take Stock in Children program and recent graduate of Lake Worth High School. Cabrera will be heading to Florida Atlantic University in the fall on a full ride scholarship as a participant in the Kelly/Strul Emerging Scholars Program. He is one of four students in the Johnson Scholars-Take Stock in Children program to receive the honor for academically talented, first-generation students. They are among 15 high school seniors in Florida to receive the scholarships.

In a recent conversation with us, Cabrera shared his thoughts about his success, some private struggles, and his advice for other students.

JSF: Evan, tell us a little about what it took to receive not one but two full scholarships.

EC: In my junior year I was asked to apply for the Leaders for Life scholarship. (The Leaders for Life full scholarship is awarded to six Take Stock in Children scholars from across the state.) At that point, that was the first scholarship I was applying for. It was a pretty big packet. (Take Stock in Children Palm Beach County Executive Director ) Nancy Stellway really helped me a lot. I turned out to be a semi-finalist. It put me down a little bit. But she said my application was really good, and told me I could apply for this other scholarship. I thought of it as a little failure that I had. But I realized a lot of people who might have edged me out didn’t even apply. And I realized it’s just some more minutes to put into it.

Evan Cabrera in Graduation Gown

I remember hearing the term “sweat equity.” I thought about that a lot. I have to put in the work now. I applied for the Kelly/Strul and another from the Scholastic Achievement Foundation. I remember thinking ‘I’m applying for two separate four-year scholarships to the same school. How crazy if I got them both.’ And I did! I know I’m really grateful just being in this position.

JSF: In your essays, you talk about some difficulties in your family during high school. How did that affect you?

EC: In my sophomore year, my brother was arrested at our house. When the police came to our house, I was the first one handcuffed, interrogated. It was traumatic. It’s still traumatic to think about sometimes, even though I know the police are not going after me. I didn’t share it with many people. It gave me insight into what I was doing in my life. (At Johnson Scholars-Take Stock,) only a few people knew. My mentor knew. Anytime I was in that environment it was always happiness. I liked the meetings we had. It helped me a lot without them really knowing.

Evan Cabrera in mangroves with trash bag

I never questioned if my school or other potential outlets were worthwhile. I cannot set my expectations too high. My goal was not to get straight A’s. I just thought, ‘let me do good and care,’ and I got straight A’s. I started my own club outside of school. That’s where I devoted a lot of, let’s say, my bottled emotions. It’s called PB4Planet. I found out there was a climate strike in West Palm Beach. I contacted the organizer and said I wanted to be involved. I’ve always been interested in renewable resources and renewable energy. I was always into science. I wanted to make some difference. I knew political change is very difficult. I started that club with high school kids to make inspirational change. We’ve done beach cleanups, we did a mangrove cleanup in Boynton Beach. It’s something I’m going to continue while in university. Since I’ve always been interested in renewable energy, I hope to become a civil engineer and focus on building homes to a more eco-friendly standard.

JSF: What advice do you have for other young people contemplating their future?

EC: It’s extremely hard for someone, especially in my generation, to see the long-term goal. So it’s hard to put in the effort initially. I think that’s the perspective of why so many people are complaining about us. For me, just putting in that sweat equity without even knowing what that end goal would be, it fulfilled me. When I started doing well in school, I had some guys say, ‘oh, he’s probably a nerd.’ If you know you have potential within yourself, don’t go for the mainstream mentality of immediate rewards. Too many guys think, ‘I have to do certain things to fit in.’ Well, sometimes you don’t need to fit in. After I started getting all this positive attention for the things I was doing everybody just started respecting me. It’s all worth it. I only realize these things because I’ve had an open mind to learn from mistakes.

Evan Cabrera is a recent Lake Worth High School graduate and recipient of a full-ride scholarship to Florida Atlantic University through the Kelly/Strul Emerging Scholars Program.

Struggles and Success: The Impact of COVID-19 on an Aboriginal Youth Entrepreneurship Program

A year ago, I posted an article on “Giving Matters” about the Martin Family Initiative’s (MFI) ground-breaking project: the Aboriginal Youth Entrepreneurship Program (AYEP). At that time, AYEP was offered in 51 schools across Canada and there were plans to expand to additional locations.

The 2019-20 school year started off very well. AYEP teachers were very impressed with their students’ progress; many reported evidence of students’ increasing knowledge of the economy and business, improved motivation to complete current studies and pursue further ones, increased self-confidence, and heightened awareness of the needs of their communities.

All this changed on March 11, 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic was declared. Almost immediately schools across Canada were closed – many are still unsure when they will re-open.  Students were encouraged to participate in at-home learning for the remainder of the school year even though they were deemed to have completed their courses as of mid-March.

MFI determined that the best way to support AYEP teachers and their students was to upload the AYEP lessons and supporting resources to the Google Classroom platform. We also instituted weekly calls with AYEP teachers to provide support and advice. Many of the schools that offered AYEP-implemented remote learning using a range of tools and approaches including synchronous activities.  

Photo of young woman with blue earring

MFI has experience with distance learning, but over the past months some Aboriginal student-focused issues have emerged: difficulty to complete on-line lessons, the lack of access to connectivity and devices, and concerns directly related to poverty that many face.

AYEP educators highlighted the IT-related obstacles that their students experienced including unstable or the lack of  internet connections and the need to share a single device – including one cell phone – with many other children in a family as they all attempted to complete on-line activities.

In one school, AYEP students rode their bikes to the school parking lot to connect to the internet in order to do their assignments.

Some of these students were forced to abandon their studies to find a job to help support their families. One student went to work on a fishing boat; others started jobs in grocery stores, in drugstores, delivering food, and as cooks in fast food restaurants.

Over the past months MFI has been very impressed with the deep dedication, flexibility, creativity, and compassion of AYEP teachers across the country. Besides using Google Classroom, they connected with their students using Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Brightspace, Edsby, Google Docs, email, and phone. Some also delivered AYEP materials to their students’ homes.

Three students writing in books

Despite their difficulties, many AYEP students have persevered and completed their lessons thoroughly and on time. Many created video business plans for their proposed ventures instead of traditional hardcopy versions. One student was recently awarded a prize for academic merit and community involvement. Another is applying for a start-up grant to be able to launch his business.

MFI is very proud of the accomplishments of AYEP students and their teachers. They were faced with unexpected and momentous upheaval – and they are succeeding. 

Dr. Carlana Lindeman began her career in education as a teacher and principal before joining the Ontario Ministry of Education (EDU). For 18 years she worked with school boards, and First Nation schools and organizations, to improve student achievement. In July 2008, she became the Education Program Director for the Martin Family Initiative, where she supports various strategies and activities related to Indigenous students across Canada. In 2009, she was awarded the Sandra D. Lang Lifetime Achievement Award by the Ontario Government for the depth and quality of service she provided to students, families and communities across Ontario.

Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech – Lessons from the 1918 Flu Pandemic applied to COVID-19

Our Reach.

Since our founding in 1867, Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech (formerly Clarke School for the Deaf) has prepared children who are deaf or hard of hearing to succeed in mainstream schools and the wider world. But soon after its 50th anniversary, Clarke faced catastrophe.

In 1918, an influenza pandemic began spreading worldwide. One-third of the global population became infected, with records indicating an astonishing 50 million deaths.

In Clarke’s 1918-1919 annual report, Alexander Graham Bell, President of the Board, wrote:

“The year past has been one of grave problems for the school, but problems we feel bravely and wisely faced. The epidemic of influenza occurred at the opening of the year and undoubtedly its influence was felt long after its disappearance.”

In that school year, the Clarke community sadly lost several members. The school also matriculated 159 students in its elementary, primary and intermediate grades, with 14 graduates venturing off to new chapters—some bound for high school and others taking teaching jobs in California, Indiana, Georgia, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Canada. One graduate was even headed to the Carnegie Institute of Technology, the present-day College of Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University.

Through philanthropic generosity Clarke managed to support this number of students during a crisis.

In the annual report, Bell shared that there were significant financial losses during this time, which forced the organization to consider increasing fundraising efforts. So, to support the important work of the school, the Board voted to double the endowment.

“The school,” Bell wrote, “…cannot fail to engage the continued interest and support of those who stand ready to help forward educational and philanthropic work.”

By viewing philanthropy as a priority, Clarke leadership was able to support the needs of 159 children who were deaf or hard of hearing, providing them with the education and tools they needed to thrive.

Our Work: Clarke and COVID-19

Years later, Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech faces another crisis. The COVID-19 global pandemic has caused suffering and death, mass unemployment and an economic downturn—upending lives and taking a drastic toll on vulnerable communities.

Today and every day, Clarke is stepping up for the futures of the vulnerable. Our team’s response to the crisis has been inspiring. Clarke’s services have rapidly evolved from in-home, at-school and center-based learning, to meet the critical needs of our vulnerable community from afar. Clarke teachers of the deaf, speech-language pathologists, audiologists and early intervention specialists have gone above and beyond to ensure that all Clarke children are set up for success. Because without the ability to learn listening and language skills, access speech therapy and increase self-advocacy, their futures are in jeopardy. 

We have rallied as a community by delivering hundreds of virtual and remote classrooms, coaching sessions and learning experiences to infants, preschoolers, school-age children and families along the east coast.

Withstanding this swift transformation has been exceptionally difficult, but with the support of donors, local sponsors and foundations like the Johnson Scholarship Foundation, the Clarke team can continue to keep progress and learning on track for hundreds of students and families.

We now regularly see philanthropists uniting to support collective impact initiatives. Corporations are stepping up by making masks out of shopping bags, converting distilleries and perfumeries to sanitizer production facilities, increasing mobile data for free and writing large checks. All citizens, but especially our at-risk communities, rely on these initiatives for safety, connection and access to services.

Closing his letter in the 1918-1919 annual report, Alexander Graham Bell wrote, “The Corporation [Clarke] desires to urge upon friends of the school active interest and co-operation in this work.”

Your Role.

Now more than ever, Clarke relies on the support and generosity of many dedicated friends who believe in our work and mission. With this support, we can continue to provide every Clarke infant, child and school-age student with the tools and support they’ll need to sustain their listening and spoken language success through this historic event.

To learn more about how you can support Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech, please visit clarkeschools.org/donate.

Cindy Goldberg is the Chief Development Officer for Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech. She’s dedicated her career to helping children and communities thrive through strategic fundraising efforts. 

From the Classroom to the Boardroom – One Journey of Teaching Executive Functioning Skills

This content was republished with permission from Groves Academy. a grantee partner of the Johnson Scholarship Foundation. It was published originally in the February 2020 edition of “Connections,” Groves Academy’s biannual magazine. In response to COVID-19, the program and all of Groves Academy’s teaching went virtual earlier this year.

The Groves Upper School is midway through our second year of an exciting experiment – an experiment that has already begun to show promising results. It was a radical move, devoting an entire class period each day to explicitly teaching skills that many schools hope students will absorb more implicitly – executive functioning skills.

Executive functioning (EF) skills are the tools, strategies, and habits of thought and action that allow us to set and reach goals. Or, as one student put it, “Adulting 101.” It is a class about the brain, a class about new tools for work and learning, and a class for thinking strategically about success, setbacks, and growth. Students engage in daily mindfulness practice, and connect what is happening in the classroom now to the life that awaits them and the goals they have set for themselves outside of a classroom’s four walls. They explore their own learning profile to build a strength-based narrative of who they are and move towards self-advocacy.

As I tell my students each September, I want them to learn at 16 what I, an adult with ADHD, did not really learn until I was 26 – how to own and even love your strengths and weaknesses, how to relate what you do day to day to the bigger passions and values that fuel your life, and how to plan it out and get it done with the brain you have, not the brain you wish you had.

Group of students in front of hockey stick statue

One of the best experiences we have had as students and as teachers has been working with a curriculum from a dyslexia education and advocacy organization called Noticeability (founded by Dean Bragonier, who was the 2018 Groves Gala speaker). In the Entrepreneurs and Innovators curriculum, our students formed small groups, came up with creative solutions to problems big and small, and fine-tuned sleek, professional pitch presentations that offered a value proposition to a target market. They delivered these pitches at our culminating “Groves (Shark) Tank” event held last May. Local entrepreneurs, HR bigwigs, and corporate marketing types descended on the school (along with the KARE 11 news van), and our students blew their proverbial socks off.

It could have ended there, but for five of our executive functioning students, the moment they spent basking in the glow of a successful Groves Tank was the calm eye of the storm. Mr. Bragonier, the aforementioned Gala speaker and mastermind behind the Noticeability curriculum, is quite the dapper dresser, a bit of a clotheshorse actually. That is to say, Dean knows a good thing when he sees it.

In our case, the ‘good thing’ in question was a doozy – what he saw was the same potential in our students that we see, and he knew where it could take them. Their idea, shoes that have replaceable soles, and soles suited to a variety of purposes, athletic or otherwise, caught his attention. When he saw their prototype (a dissected Nike sneaker with sole held firmly in place by 3M hook-and-loop and a sliding clasp harvested from a Nerf gun) they captured his imagination. It turns out that Dean knows a guy who knows a guy, and that guy is in the shoe business.

After a few breathlessly optimistic conference calls and a little help from a pillar Groves family that saw the same great opportunity for our students that we did, I was able to make some of the most exciting phone calls of my life, calls to my students that went something like this:

ME: Do you remember our Groves Tank from last spring?

STUDENT: called by a teacher in the middle of summer…Yes?

ME: Do you want a chance to do your pitch presentation again?

STUDENT: knows something is up…Ye-Yes?

ME: Do you want to fly to Boston with the rest of your team to pitch your shoe idea to New Balance?

STUDENT: screams in growing comprehension and glee

 

Yeah, that was lots of fun.

You know how grandparents can tell you how great their grandchildren are without it being bragging because, well, that’s their privilege as grandparents? I hope something similar applies to teachers and their students. If not, you’re about to hear me brag a little bit.

Student holding a nike shoe

As I tell you about the trip, I could tell you about the excitement my students felt in a new city. I could tell you about the eager (dare I say aspirational?) stroll we took through Harvard’s campus, about the meals we ate (high schoolers really know how to put an omelet away in a hurry), or even about the pitch itself, but the highlight of the trip was seeing my students step boldly into an adult world and get accepted by its rules, succeeding on its terms.

First of all, my students were prepared. They reworked their presentation (new audience, new purpose, new presentation), they knew each other’s areas of strength, they trusted each other to support and offset their relative weaknesses, and on game day they knew each other’s roles as well as their own. After a day of travel and a night of diligent rehearsal in their hotel room, my students were hardly nervous.

On the bus ride to New Balance’s corporate campus, I considered how far they had come, and what they were about to do. New Balance knows footwear, it is their industry, and accordingly, blowing their socks off would be a bit of a challenge.

I knew our students had accomplished something amazing when their pitch had ended and New Balance’s lead designers and product managers could barely wait their turns to give them feedback. In a standout moment, one of the designers whispered something to Ken Thornby, our host and New Balance’s general manager, and Ken gave his assent; the designer had asked to give the Groves group “the same kind of feedback [they] give each other.”

He walked them through some of the practical aspects of their shoe—where the foot puts stress on the sole, other ways they might attach their swappable soles, and he gave them sound advice about narrowing their focus and fine-tuning their market.

Would my students see this as criticism? Would they be discouraged? I should have had more faith. On the contrary, this meant the world to my students, and to me – they had gotten the nod, the implicit “you belong here” from someone who would know.

What happened next? After their celebratory lunch, did our victorious students run amok in Harvard Square, window shopping and blowing their spending money on ice cream and gift shop tchotchkes, the way I might have at that age?

Of course not. They went back to our hotel to hold a stakeholder’s meeting.

Yeah, I think this executive functioning thing might have legs.

This unique student enrichment experience was made possible thanks to the generosity of the Sanger Family Foundation- Steve, Karen, Mark and Ashley


Executive Functioning: In the Classroom and Beyond
At Groves Academy students engage in experiences designed to foster self-awareness and to develop their executive functioning skills – the brain’s ability to coordinate the thinking and behavior needed to start, sustain, monitor, and adjust attitudes and behaviors needed to achieve a goal. Groves teachers provide the tools, strategies, and opportunities for metacognition that equip students to reflect on their own patterns of thinking and behavior. Social and emotional learning at Groves Academy empowers students to understand themselves and to interact with others in meaningful and productive ways. This occurs in a nurturing environment where students learn from both success and failure.

9th-grade focus
Training the Student Brain for School and Learning
10th-grade focus
Self-Discovery: Finding Your “Why”
11th-grade focus
Leadership: Setting the Course
& Leading the Way

12th-grade focus
Legacy: What Comes Next & What We Leave Behind

A Desire to Heal Unseen Pain Drives Senior’s Calling

The following is an excerpt from an essay written by a graduating senior in the Johnson Scholars-Take Stock in Children (JSTSIC) Program, a college readiness program that is a partnership between the School District of Palm Beach CountyTake Stock in Children Palm Beach County and the Johnson Scholarship Foundation. We will feature other student authors in the coming weeks.

In modern-day society, I‘m categorized as an African American woman. But my Haitian culture runs deeper than the outward appearance of my skin. Where I’m from, our struggles are both mental and physical. According to the Borgen Project, a nonprofit organization combating poverty in Haiti, “59 percent of Haitians live on less than $2 a day.” Knowing that my culture is a place that is constantly fighting depression inspired me to become a successful psychologist in the future. In this role, I would like to appeal to the biased and skeptical individuals that would see therapy as a weakness.

While accomplishing the process of getting my psychology degree, I’ll have the ability to help people understand and manage their problems by identifying their strengths and available resources. No one is perfect, so it’s important to have those people who can evaluate an individual holistically and view the scope of their problems. I hope to expand my career into social work. I would like to help children that are in danger mentally, physically, and sexually. Once I receive the degree I’m going to help people overcome all the issues they are facing. Lastly, I will have an ongoing business for low-income families that need help but can’t afford it. With the knowledge I gain, I’ll take it back to my culture and help them relieve some of their stress.

Ednisha Vertus standing in front of school building.

Leadership, public speaking and service work are roles that I play in my everyday life. I wouldn’t describe my capabilities as skills because skills are things that are learned and taught, while capabilities originate from within. I will lead my future clients towards the right path to overcome obstacles that are blocking their success. I shall inspire them to be a better version of themselves, and not let anyone categorize them. There is a solution to everything; you just have to be willing to find it and work for it. When I do become a psychologist, I would like to lower the suicidal death rate by encouraging people to form a plan to solve their problems.

There are many things that I am grateful for but most importantly is my eyesight. A tragic accident when I was 6 resulted in me being stabbed in my eye. This incident caused me to realize that there are many different types of hidden pain a person can feel. It allowed me to view world issues from a different perspective. As I was teased about the Band-Aid on my eyelid, no one knew how I felt inside. They saw the outcome of my accident and assumed to know my feelings. With all the pain I’ve experienced mentally and physically I want everyone to know that me becoming a psychologist is not something I decided for myself, but what I truly believe is my calling on this earth.

Ednisha Vertus is a senior at Lake Worth High School in Florida and a participant in the Johnson Scholars-Take Stock in Children (JSTSIC) Program.

Valedictorian: How Perseverance and Mentoring Have Guided Me

The following are excerpts from essays written by a graduating senior in the Johnson Scholars-Take Stock in Children (JSTSIC) Program, a college readiness program that is a partnership between the School District of Palm Beach CountyTake Stock in Children Palm Beach County and the Johnson Scholarship Foundation. We will feature other student authors in the coming weeks.

My family has a history of overcoming struggles. My grandfather began working in the fields at the tender age of four. My father started working at the age of six. My mother never completed any education beyond 6th grade due to the family’s financial difficulties.

I have had to overcome difficulties since the day I was born. Surrounded by sugarcane and wild rabbits that run the fields in the small rural town of Belle Glade, I was a premature baby, with unhealthy weight and lack of interest in eating. Although my mother tried her best to maintain a healthy diet during pregnancy, due to extreme financial distress, she often went without nutritious food.

Gema Cervantes holding laptop and flowers

When I was two months old, I contracted viral meningitis due to weak health and poor environmental surroundings. When I was two years of age, once again, I was rushed to the hospital for surgery from an appendicitis. I later suffered from dehydration right after the surgery. I had extended hospital stays since birth throughout my childhood. The medical bills would often begin to accumulate one after another, and my parents often had difficulty keeping up with them. At the age of nine, I was diagnosed with ADHD and Myopia after years of struggling to do well in school and being inflicted with chronic headaches. I had to be placed in the ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) program for the rest of my elementary years because the effect of meningitis in my brain had caused me to have a learning disability.

The lack of financial stability in my family is directly linked to my family members being unable to attain an education beyond the 6th grade. This fact, in turn, has created a generational chain of inability to achieve an education and consequently, poor health.

One of the differences that has turned me into a strong leader is the strong parents that I have. Both wanted me to have a better chance in life and crossed to a foreign nation in the pursuit of that better life. They wanted me to have what they did not have. They continually remind me never to let my opportunities to learn go to waste. Unlike my parents, I can attend high school and finish college thanks to Take Stock in Children. They have talked to me throughout my high school life to work hard in school so that I don’t have to go through what my parents went through.

During high school, I have participated in over ten extracurricular activities and have strived for excellence in academics. I am President of the Pros and Consequences of Life Club which serves to promote awareness of HIV, STDs and academic focus. I am also President of the Spanish Book Club which drives students to success in their foreign language courses and fundraisers to provide the homeless with dental supplies. I am a mentor with the ESOL Mentoring program in which students are pushed to overcome the stresses and anxieties of learning a foreign language, which I have experienced myself.

My goal in five years is to practice primary family medicine in rural areas in Palm Beach County like Belle Glade. My first step is by finishing my undergraduate degree at Florida State University.

I would like to return twice a month to Glades Central High School to support organizations such as the ESOL Mentoring Program and the Women of Tomorrow to continue empowering women. It would also be my greatest desire to help students with whom I share the struggle and anxiety of learning a second language. I would continue to mentor students from the ESOL mentoring program and to establish an organization that mentors students with the lowest grades at Glades Central High School and with learning disabilities. Being able to help establish this organization would be meaningful to me because I have a learning disability and understand the discipline it takes to control such a disability. My third goal would be to support Take Stock in Children as a volunteer throughout my three years of medical school.

Gema Cervantes wearing graduation cap and gown

Through the growth I have gained from hardships I have encountered and the mentoring support received from TSIC, I will graduate with my AA degree from Palm Beach State College by high school graduation. I will be graduating high school as valedictorian.

My parents may not have received education more than the 6th grade, but they taught me to live with integrity and honesty. My goal is to continue to serve my community, to become the best person I can be, determined to meet my goals and to serve.

Gema Cervantes is a senior at Glades Central High School in Florida and a participant in the Johnson Scholars-Take Stock in Children (JSTSIC) Program.

Disruption-Loss-Adaptation-Gratefulness…Reflections on My First Month as CEO

I really thought my first CEO article would reflect a glamorous month of my professional coming out party. I envisioned tales of flattering introductions by an articulate and esteemed predecessor to the who’s who in the educational and philanthropic worlds. I expected to see first-hand the finished exhibitions, all-star resume accomplishments and celebrated trophies of JSF investments. I’d travel North America for a few weeks and return energized and inspired to dive into a month of professional development. I just knew these experiences would prepare me to lead and inspire a gifted staff.

Most of this happened, just not how I thought it would. I’m confident that none of us had the March 2020 we were planning for. There would be no travel. I’d spend much of my time glued to a 13-inch laptop monitor, fumbling my way around new technology that included a persistent visual of what my extended social distancing from my barber looked like.

My predecessor, Malcolm Macleod, and I would embark on reaching out to every grantee through video conferencing. Our meetings would typically last for 30 minutes and most were back to back to back. I would meet or be reintroduced to many of the rock stars in the educational and philanthropic worlds. Our meetings did not take place in prestigious office spaces, adorned with organizational accomplishments. Most conversations were held in living rooms, over kitchen tables, and a few in the front seats of automobiles.

The actual experience I’ve had in my first 30 days on staff, was far better than the glamorous month I had envisioned. The COVID-19 Crisis offered a candid look into the lives and callings of JSF grantee partners. These partners were sober in their assessment of the COVID-19 crisis, painfully aware of the havoc and change it would likely bring, but stubbornly resolved to serve their students and vigorously pursue their mission.

Most of our conversations revolved around some common themes:

Disruption—The COVID-19 crisis had turned their lives upside down. The means of their work had been changed dramatically, but the ends of that work had not. They remained staunch advocates for their organizations and the students they serve.

Loss—This crisis exacted a real loss -losses that included time with students, celebratory graduation ceremonies, refunded revenues, muted philanthropic giving from their donor bases, canceled fund raisers, and separation from colleagues, friends and family.

Adaptation—All of them were continuing to adapt to the changes around them. From their communication means to the schedules they held.

Resolve to be better—“We won’t waste this crisis.”

Optimism—I suppose this is a prerequisite to be an educator, advocate or philanthropist. Most grantees felt the crisis would yield fruit in their organizations due to organizational efficiencies forced upon them in the crisis. Some viewed the crisis as an opportunity thrust upon them to reinvent themselves or their approach.

Gratefulness—Our inquiries were met with such a permeating attitude of gratefulness. They all deeply appreciated the intentional outreach of JSF. It was very obvious to me their gratefulness resonated from the experience of many years with JSF staff, consultants and Board.

The month of March has ended. It has not been glamorous, but it has been remarkable. A crisis will often strip away the glamorous and reveal the underlying character and qualities of organizations and people. The staff I intended to inspire has inspired me with their own willingness to adapt and resolve to serve. The themes that resonated through the conversations with grantees have been echoed in correspondence with JSF staff, Board and consultants. I have learned a lot and been reminded of more. I’ve been emboldened to lead by the gracious deference and encouragement of our Chairman. I am so very grateful for my first 30 days on staff at JSF.

Robert A. Krause is an entrepreneur and business consultant to the Central Florida agricultural industry. He has served as a member of the JSF Board of Directors since 2013, most recently as the Foundation’s Treasurer. He recently was named JSF’s new CEO.

American Indigenous Business Leaders Look to Raise $150,000 to Create Care Packages for Elders in the Community

Johnson Scholarship Foundation, a supporter of the American Indigenous Business Leaders, is glad to share AIBL’s efforts to support the communities of Indigenous Peoples during this uncertain time.

Donations for Food, Cleaning Products for Seniors Accepted Now at AIBL.org

PHOENIX – Tribal communities have long looked to their elders to pass along wisdom, customs and traditions, and now, future business leaders from across the nation are banding together in support of their senior members.

American Indigenous Business Leaders (AIBL), a national nonprofit with more than 500 active chapters spanning 20 states, has a lengthy history of empowering and supporting Indigenous business students from across the United States. In the wake of recent events, the organization is temporarily shifting its focus from supporting students to supporting seniors, many of whom are suddenly facing exacerbated health issues, a lack of transportation to and from stores, medical services, and similar hardships.

To do so, AIBL has launched a campaign to create Senior Citizen Support Care Packages and is looking to raise $150,000 to put toward the effort. AIBL chapters from across the nation will then use the funds raised to create care packages valued at either $100 or $50 apiece, with $100 packages containing food and cleaning essentials (think paper products, baby wipes and other tough-to-find items), and $50 packages containing food, exclusively.

“In tribal communities, younger members have always looked to their elders as sources of respect and leadership – they have an endless amount of admiration for those who came before them and feel a responsibility to care for them,” said AIBL’s Board Chairman Dave Archambault Sr. “The AIBL community is one that recognizes the evolving needs of senior citizens and is ready to step up and help support those who have long done the same for their families and communities. We are asking people to help, knowing that good things will come to them for their generosity.”

Once care packages are ready for distribution, AIBL members will deliver them directly to the recipients’ doorsteps to help reduce the spread of the coronavirus.

“Some of these recipients simply don’t have a way to get around, or have health issues at play that make it more difficult for them to visit public places like grocery stores,” said AIBL Executive Director Prairie Bighorn-Blount. “Others don’t have any local family members who can help. We’re here to step in and help ensure that no one goes without essential items during this time of crisis.”

AIBL is currently accepting donations of any size to help further the effort and reach even more senior citizens across Arizona and the nation. To donate to the cause or learn more about the organization, visit AIBL.org.

Tips for Learning Online

This content was republished with permission from the Florida State University Tips for Learning Online webpage at https://distance.fsu.edu/tips-learning-online and based on an adaption of original content 1) by Glenn Pillsbury at Stanislaus State, which was published freely under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license at https://www.csustan.edu/teach-online/online-readiness-self-assessment and 2) from Penn State University’s Online Readiness Questionnaire, which was also published freely under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license at http://tutorials.istudy.psu.edu/learningonline/learningonline2.html.

While this document contains links to resources at FSU, students may want to seek out similar resources at their own university.

Online learning offers a level of flexibility and convenience that a classroom environment can’t. It’s also a very different experience than traditional, face-to-face learning. What’s required of you will differ than what’s required of on-campus students. Learning online will take motivation, self-direction, and a realistic knowledge of your personal learning preferences and abilities. To thrive online, it’s important you know what’s expected and what it takes to succeed.

Self-Direction | Being proactive is key to successful online learning. You need to be able to solve problems and reach out for help when you need it. It’s up to you to set goals and deadlines for yourself, developing strategies that help you stay on task and avoid distractions while studying.

Learning Preferences | Do you retain information well by reading it, or do you do better if you hear it spoken directly to you? Do you rely on face-to-face interaction with peers or your instructor to learn well? In an online course, you’ll need to learn from a variety of media, like podcasts, videos, and conferencing. You’ll also need to be comfortable reading and studying independently. Because you won’t be interacting with classmates and your instructor face-to-face, be prepared to dialogue through email, chats, and online discussions. These are key to staying connected and performing well in an online course.

Study Habits | Good study habits are essential to success online. Set aside a space where you can study without distraction, and expect to dedicate from 7-12 hours a week for one online course. It takes planning and good time management to make sure work is completed by the deadline. Have a way of tracking assignments and due dates, and when you have questions, be willing to contact classmates and instructors. Make use of available study resources like the FSU Academic Center for Excellence which provides a wide range of study tools and tips and can help you design a study plan based on your academic goals.

 Writing Skills | Writing skills are essential to learning online, and it’s important that you’re able to express yourself using formal grammar and spelling. Brush up on skills before you start an online course. Once you’re in your course, take advantage of our online tutoring resources, like the RWC-Online, FSU’s online reading-writing center.

Technical Skills | It’s important you have experience using a computer and common software programs for email, word processing, spreadsheets, and presentations. You’ll also need to be comfortable conducting internet searches, downloading files, installing software, and adjusting settings on your computer. Be sure to have a plan in case your computer or internet connection fail, and be sure to back up your work regularly.

Hardware and Software| Make sure your computer and operating system are as up-to-date as possible (less than 3 years old), with a stable, high-speed internet connection and virus protection software. Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox are the recommended browsers for FSU’s online courses. To optimize your learning experience, we also recommend you have headphones, a microphone, and a webcam. Make use of the myFSUVLab which provides FSU students free, 24/7 web access to over 30 common and specialty software applications.