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Achieve Palm Beach County Offers Online Workshops to Help College Students Destress and Find Success

Stress and online struggles are recurring themes among young people navigating a future that seems uncertain today and unimaginable just a year ago.

In fact, the same topics came up so frequently that an organization whose mission is to ensure post-graduate success for students in Palm Beach County has created a series of workshops as an immediate resource to those students.

Achieve Palm Beach County’s Achieve Your Success series begins on Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2021, with a program titled, Techniques to Maintain Your Mental Health.

The series of five workshops is open to any college-age student in Palm Beach County, whether they’re enrolled, looking to enroll, or taking a break from education all together right now.

Achieve PBC is a collective impact initiative with more than 80 nonprofit, education, and corporate partners, including Johnson Scholarship Foundation, who work toward the common mission of helping students access and complete an education beyond high school. Achieve PBC’s vision is to see all students in Palm Beach County earn a credential or degree that leads to a job with a sustainable wage within six years of high school graduation.

“Students face challenges all the time. With the pandemic and social unrest, mental health is one of the large issues we’re hearing about – whether it’s financial strains, feelings of loneliness, or stress of online learning,” said Jennifer Bebergal, Associate Dean for Retention and Academic Support at FAU and co-chair of Achieve PBC’s Post-High School Advising & Guidance strategy team. “We put together this calendar of workshops, and our hope is for students to understand that what they’re going through is what a whole lot of students are experiencing. We’ll also talk about some strategies and resources available to them.”

The workshops will take place at 4 p.m. on Tuesdays every other week through April 13. Each one-hour workshop will be offered via Zoom, and there is no cost to attend. The full schedule and topics are:

Feb. 9 – Techniques to Maintain Your Mental Health

Feb. 23 – How to be Successful in Science, Math and Other Online Courses

March 9 – Self Care for Our Mental Health

March 23 – Ask an Advisor and Resource Fair

April 13 – Tips for Getting A Job and Jump-Starting Your Career

The first workshop will be conducted by Dr. Kathryn Kominars, Director of Counseling from Florida Atlantic University and Sandra Obas of Educate Tomorrow, a nonprofit that facilitates individualized coaching to improve students’ academics and economic stability. It will include strategies and resources available for dealing with mental health issues.

The second workshop will begin with a brief presentation, and then offer break-out rooms so students can work on specific areas, including tutorials in math and science.

For one-click access to any of the workshops, visit https://us02web.zoom.us/j/84169727665?pwd=MVhJZE1oTzB5OTh0U3BaWjE2Tldpdz09, or use the meeting ID 841 6972 7665 and passcode 206767.

For more information about Achieve PBC’s impact, or to learn how to get involved, visit AchievePBC.org or send an email to info@achievepbc.org.


Angie Francalancia is a communications specialist for Johnson Scholarship Foundation

Determination Overcomes a Disrupted Journey

Jamieson Holloway, now 23, has been pursuing his passion for cooking since he was a student at Atlanta’s D.M. Therrell High School, where he took culinary classes and enrolled in the Bridges from School to Work program (Bridges). Bridges has worked with Atlanta Public Schools since 1996 to help young adults with disabilities prepare for, connect to, and succeed in good jobs. Bridges arranged for Jamieson to work part-time for two consecutive seasons at Turner Field Stadium, where he excelled at frying chicken tenders, French fries, and other stadium fare for hungry Atlanta Braves fans during the baseball season.

After high school, he continued to pursue his goal of becoming a chef, taking culinary courses at Atlanta Technical College. And like many chefs before him, Jamieson’s culinary career began in earnest through washing dishes. With help from Bridges, he got a dishwasher job at the Atlanta Hilton downtown in fall 2016, progressing from there to food prep and breakfast cook, and working through spring of 2020 until the pandemic hit. Since then, he’s been on furlough, but he landed full-time work as a line cook at a local senior living community, a job he found on his own. Jamieson’s continued employment and income have been essential for his family during the pandemic.

Jamieson hopes to return to the Hilton when the travel and tourism industry begins to rebound. He has also developed his own blend of barbeque sauce that he hopes one day to market and distribute as a successful entrepreneur.

For his hard work and determination, Jamieson was selected as the 2020 Stephen G. Marriott Youth Achievement Honoree. He shares his story in the video below:


Allen Brown is the Director of Grants and Project Development for Bridges from School to Work. He has worked with Bridges for 19 years.

The First Steps to Success – Commitment

The following is an essay from a student in the Johnson Take Stock Program. He shares his thoughts of commitment to college.

College ‒ a goal my family had set for me long before I knew how to read. College used to be something I never thought I’d reach. As a child I never thought I would be stepping out into the world without my parents’ complete guidance and assistance. Frankly the thought of transitioning into adulthood is still frightening. My name is Steven Portillo, and this is the story of my life, my aspirations, and a declaration of my future success.

College means the world to me, now more than ever. My goal since I was young was to eventually start a family, to be able to provide for my family, and to be able to put a smile on as many faces as possible. As a young boy this dream seemed nearly impossible, but yet, so many people have managed to put themselves in the position I dreamed of. How? At a young age I started listening to motivational speeches and reading novels on financial success. If I am to become those who I idolize, I must first understand what they did, and follow in their footsteps. Mankind has never achieved anything great without the information and assistance of others. Knowledge was meant to be shared for the prosperity of all. This leads to a fundamental part to my future success, and that’s the support systems I’ve been blessed with.

I have been blessed with the opportunity to be a JTSP scholar. Without these amazing people, I would have struggled much more with constructing a plan to go to college and to further myself in life. Support from my family, friends, and even strangers has allowed me to conquer obstacles I never believed existed. I believe it is my duty to share my support and knowledge with others. Prosperity should be something that everyone can obtain. I believe in the “Pursuit of happiness.” Success to me is so much more than money. Success is to be able to not only provide for yourself but to be able to support others through their struggles.

I am declaring now, I WILL be successful. I will work my hardest, even when others say it’s foolish.  I am determined to become my best self, and in the future I will continue to make goals, because I never want to stop growing. Motivation always starts with yourself. I remember the first time I attempted to work out. Oh my, what an experience! This was an attempt at a long term goal that required dedication and determination. I will never forget the first time I was able to lift 200 lbs. When I first started I could only lift 100. This was when I knew that these types of results could be applied to other parts of my life. Work while others are resting. Work now so that later you can enjoy the spoils of life. Your future is what you make of it. If you’re determined to make it to your destination, you’ll get there. You just have to believe in the process.

I am Steven Portillo, and this is the story of who I am, who I want to be, and the success I am sure to obtain in my future.


Steven Portillo is a senior at William T. Dwyer High School and a Johnson Take Stock Scholar.

 

Construction Internships Lead to Stronger Workforce and More Homes

The South Dakota Native Homeownership Coalition (SDNHC) established the Construction Internship Program  with a two-fold goal of expanding the capacity of Native-owned contractors and strengthening the employment-ready workforce.

The creative partnership was formed in 2017 and designed to provide training in the construction field for students. Fulfilling this goal works in tandem with helping the South Dakota Native Homeownership Coalition fulfill the ultimate goal of increasing the housing stock on South Dakota’s Native American Indian reservations.

Since many Native construction companies are small operations without significant margins, the SDNHC Construction Internship Program removed some of the risk for the companies to take on new hires. It enabled the contractors to hire new employment-ready interns who would have the chance to prove themselves over the course of the summer internship.

Despite logistical setbacks brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, the partnership has met or exceeded most of its goals.

We set out to enroll 50 college students in the SDNHC Construction Internship Program to participate during the summer of 2019. During the last two summers, we had 88 interns enroll in the program. They were disbursed across four sites – Cheyenne River, Sisseton, Rosebud and Pine Ridge.

Brent Tallman, one of the interns participating in the program, was offered a full-time position mid-way through his internship. Above, participants at Sisseton test the integrity of a harness during a safety training.

Over the course of the two-year program, we worked with 25 contractors for placement of the interns. But in addition, the South Dakota Native Homeownership Coalition Contractor Workshop has become a must-attend event for local Native contractors from all across the state. Held annually in Rapid City in February, the workshop provides contractors with information useful to their industry, including topics such as workman’s compensation insurance, performance bonding, and the HUD 184 validation process. We use the event to recognize and celebrate the contractors, interns and supporters of this intensive work.

In 2019, 82 percent of the interns completed the program, well-exceeding the 75 percent goal. In 2020, we’re thrilled to have a 62 percent retention rate – given the challenges presented by COVID-19. Although none of our interns participating this year tested positive for COVID to our knowledge, many were placed on quarantine due to exposure, which interrupted their participation.

Another success was the Financial Literacy component, in which 100 percent of the interns participated. Classes were held bi-weekly to correspond with paydays, and all the interns learned the value of automated banking when the Lakota Funds staff was under quarantine. We were able to pay the interns safely, and without risk of exposure utilizing ACH payments.

The program has resulted in permanent employment for many of the interns, completing the fulfillment of increased capacity among the Native-owned contractors.

Many partners came together to make this project possible. In addition to participating colleges and the Lakota Funds, other participants were the Cheyenne River Housing Authority, the Enterprise Community Partners, Johnson Scholarship Foundation, Native Connections, Oglala Sioux Lakota Housing, Sicangu Nation Education and Training Program, Sisseton Wahpeton 477 Program, Sisseton Wahpeton Housing Authority and Sicangu Wicoti Awanyakapi Corporation.


The South Dakota Native Homeownership Coalition is a collaborative group of key agencies dedicated to increasing homeownership opportunities for Native Americans in the state of South Dakota.

 

 

An Interview with I. King Jordan – Deaf President Now, the ADA, and the future for Disability Rights

We talked recently with I. King Jordan Jr., whose story of advocating for the rights of individuals with disabilities spans more than 30 years and traverses the halls of Gallaudet University, the nation’s leading university for the education of students who are deaf and hard of hearing.  Jordan, a consultant on disability programs for Johnson Scholarship Foundation, shares some of his history, including his memories of the historic year when he became Gallaudet’s first deaf president. We also talked about advancements and continuing challenges for the deaf and others 30 years after the adoption of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

AF: Tell me about the technology that makes our call possible.

KJ:  It’s called video relay service interpreting (VRS).  The simple explanation is when I dial your number, instead of the phone calling you, it calls the interpreter, and interpreter then calls you. I talk directly to you and you hear me. When you talk, the interpreter signs what you say, and I see her. And it’s just the most wonderful technology going. It’s just terrific. I never used a phone from 1965 until about 15 years ago (2005). I would sometimes have to go ask my neighbor to make a phone call for me. Now I can make phone calls from pretty much anywhere.

AF: I figured technology plays a big part in advancements for people who are deaf.

KJ: It’s a huge part. Its simple things…well simple now, but things like captions on TV. For the longest time, there were no captions on TV. In my family, we have a joke that we watched Love Boat and Fantasy Island every Sunday. They were terrible shows, but we watched because they were captioned.

Not all captioning is good. In fact, some is borderline atrocious. You can test it yourself. Turn on your television; turn on a news show, like Chris Matthews. Turn on captions but with no sound and tell me how much you can understand. Speech recognition captioning is getting better and better, and in time, I’m hoping it will improve.

AF: What percent of deaf people can speak as you do?

KJ: It’s not a large percentage. People like me are called deafened. There are two distinct categories – people who are born deaf and people who become deaf later. The later you become deaf, the more you are acculturated into hearing culture. My primary language is English. I can sign American Sign Language and understand ASL. But when I make a VRS call, I ask the interpreter to interpret in English so I understand exactly what you’re saying. In some deaf circles, it’s frowned on to speak.

When I first became president of Gallaudet, I was discouraged to speak in public. But I have very strongly taken the position that there are many ways to be deaf and many ways to communicate. All of them should be respected, and a person’s choice should be respected.

AF: Before preparing for this interview, I had never heard the term, Deaf Culture. I found it interesting that there are people who would like to see it considered a difference, not a disability.

KJ: Deafness is a difference, and while people who are deaf can’t hear, we can pretty much do anything else. One thing that bothers deaf people and bothers me is the paternalism or condescending that happens. Don’t be sorry for me. Just look at me when you speak and try to think of what I can do, not what I can’t do.

AF: You’re best known at Gallaudet’s first deaf president. Tell me about what happened at Gallaudet that year.

I. King Jordan in 1988

KJ: Oh yeah. It was a remarkable time. When the position was announced, people started to contact me to encourage me to think about applying. Everybody in my family was 100 percent supportive. So I was a very serious candidate. (I prepared like) it was graduate school for me. I read tons of materials, then brought together a group of friends to help me prepare for my interviews. I don’t know how many applicants there were originally, maybe 100; then they narrowed down to 12. It was announced that 6 were deaf and 6 were hearing.

The students started to rally for the next president being a deaf person. (It came to be called the Deaf President Now (DPN) movement.) Then there were 6 semi-finalists; 3 hearing and 3 deaf. All six were brought in for interviews. Then it was narrowed to 3. Of the 3, two were deaf and one was hearing. The hearing candidate was vice chancellor at UNC Greensboro. She was a very experienced higher education administrator; much more experience than I; but she didn’t have any experience with deaf people. I believe her undergraduate degree was in nursing; at one point people thought she would come with the medical view of deafness not the cultural view.

The three of us met with the board. I thought I did really well. I told my wife I thought I had a good chance. The next day, I got a call from the deaf man who was chair of the search committee. He gave me a short, maybe two sentence message:  The board has decided to select someone else. Thank you for your candidacy.

AF: So that’s what launched the protests?

KJ: I was home, but on campus, the students and faculty were ready to celebrate. The press release the University handed out said, “GU selects first female president.” They had selected the only hearing candidate, Dr. Elisabeth Zinser, vice chancellor for academic affairs at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. You can imagine that press release didn’t set well with those hundreds of people gathered on campus.

One great visual from that day of protests is a police officer who was trained to work with demonstrations. First thing he does is pull out a bull horn. Of course everybody’s deaf. And people who are not deaf, they won’t interpret for him.

At that point, the group decided to march through the city streets to the Mayflower Hotel where the Board of Trustees was staying. Once they (police) saw they couldn’t control the march, they basically provided a police escort. They had a car in front to protect the marchers and a car behind. At the hotel, the chairman of the board (of trustees) agreed to see a few of the people who had marched. One came out of the meeting and reported (that the Board of Trustees chair said) “Deaf people are not ready to function in the hearing world.”

That was Sunday, March 6, 1988. That really started the protests. Students, staff, alumni went back to the campus. They chained all the gates closed. They even hotwired a school bus and drove it across the entrance and flattened its tires.

The protest went on for basically a week.

I’ll give you a couple highlights:

On Wednesday I got a phone call from the provost telling me that the president-elect (Dr. Zinser) was in town and that she wanted to meet with the leaders of the protest. The provost wanted me to put her together with the leaders. She wanted to tell them what she would do as president. I went onto campus.

The group agreed, but said, “We will allow her to meet with the four student leaders, but she can’t come on campus. We’ll rent a hotel room. Then you and Dr. Zinser can come.” Then a Gallaudet University driver came and took me and Dr. Zinser to the hotel. Actually, it was a small motel room. So there was a bed and one chair, four student leaders, me, Dr. Zinser and an interpreter. The students were polite. They said, “We don’t have anything against you; we don’t dislike you, but we will never allow you to become the president of Gallaudet. If you think the four of us could make that happen you’re mistaken.” We met for maybe less than an hour.  They basically said, “Dr. Zinser, we’re talking in circles now. We’re done, period.” In American Sign Language, that period – that’s a very emphatic sign. It was more like an exclamation point than a period.

AF: What was the turning point?

KJ: The turning point may have been ABC’s Nightline. The host, Ted Koppel, welcomed and interviewed the president of the student governing association, Greg Hlibok who was one of the student leaders, and the president-elect, Dr. Elisabeth Zinser, and Marlee Matlin, a deaf actor. Don’t ask me why they had Marlee Matlin! Perhaps because she was a famous deaf person. There was one great line during the show when the host said something like, ‘This is very confusing. We have a deaf man, and his interpreter who is voicing for him is a woman. We have a deaf woman, and the interpreter who is voicing for her is a man.” It was actually kind of funny! Greg just won the night. He was articulate, thoughtful. That was Thursday night.

On Friday morning, Dr. Zinser announced her resignation. It was clear she would never be welcome on campus. So the board came back to Washington DC. The short of it is they offered it to me. I actually had to think about it because I knew there would be enemies on the board. How can a president succeed if he doesn’t have the full support on the board? The only way I would accept was if it was made clear that the board vote to appoint me was unanimous and that I would have their full support. That was Sunday, March 13.

We then had an impromptu press conference. I made a statement. When that was over, we all went back to campus.

There was a club on campus called the Rathskeller. Everybody was there. The juke box was on and jacked up to max volume so everyone could feel the vibration. Everybody was partying. You could see representatives from the press celebrating. They were 100 percent on the side of the students.

Bridgetta Bourne-Firl, who had participated in the 1988 Deaf President Now movement, greets I. King Jordan during a visit to Gallaudet University in 2017.

I’d like to say something about the Board of Trustees. Some members of the board were medical doctors. They understood deafness from a medical point. The board conducted its business by voice and sound. They were nearly all hearing people.

I often say it wasn’t really a protest. It was a revolution. One of the things that happened very much like in a revolution was the board was radically changed and soon had a majority of deaf members. For my entire presidency there were interpreters, but they were there for the hearing people.

I am able to sit in a conversation with deaf people in which only ASL is used. When I’m in that group, my voice stops. Then I’m signing more like a deaf person but because I learned sign in my 20s, I’ll never be fully fluent (as deaf people who learned ASL as young children)

AF: I think you were uniquely suited because of your ability to communicate in both ASL and spoken English.

KJ: It’s more than just two languages. It’s an effort I made for all 19 years to try really hard to build bridges. Here’s one example:  There’s an organization called the Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. They are very strong supporters of spoken language and listening skills. When I communicate in public, I use what is called ‘simultaneous communication.’ That means that I speak and map signs onto my spoken English. When I first became president there were a couple vacancies on the board that needed to be filled by deaf people. I persuaded the board to elect the sitting president of the Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf. So, they agreed and selected him. I got a lot of flak for that. There’s a group of people called Strong Deaf who were very acculturated in the Deaf Culture who wanted to keep it small and protect it. I wanted to widen it.

I think everyone realized that there was now a deaf president, and while I may not have been everybody’s first choice, and many would have preferred someone who was born deaf and grew up deaf, I was strong about my deafness and accepting of my deafness. Pretty much everyone wanted to support me.

Perhaps the most important result was the Americans with Disabilities Act. The ADA had been sitting in committees in Congress. And DPN sort of kick-started the ADA. Both sponsors of the ADA – Tom Harkin (D., Iowa), and Anthony Coelho (D., Calif) – the sponsors both said without DPN the ADA probably never would have happened.

AF: Let’s talk about the ADA. Where have we gone and what needs to happen next?

KJ: That’s a painful thing for me because the employment of people who are disabled is just as bad today as when the ADA was passed. The recognition that people with disabilities have strong abilities is not in people’s minds. The problem is everyone is emphasizing the dis in disability. Why can’t you focus on the ability, not the dis! When they think about deaf people, they think about the fact that you can’t hear, not what you can do.

I guess the whole issue of attitude still hasn’t changed enough. We’re always going be second-class citizens. In many respects I’m not “equal to.” I’m “better than.” I’ll settle for “equal to.”

AF: Will advances in technology help?

KJ: It will help. There are ways that technology can be used in communication – obviously improved ways for communication. Statistically, there’s all kinds of evidence that disabled employees make good employees. Often times their attendance and work records are better, and still people are hesitant to hire them – still so many people who can’t get over that mental barrier.  They don’t think that a person will bring the skills that they need.

AF: What about the cost of technology? Would it be a problem for a deaf person born into a lower income family?

One of the things the ADA stipulates is that employers and the public sector must make reasonable accommodations. If you hire someone who is deaf, you might need to hire an interpreter or purchase video relay equipment. National associations have shown that the cost of accommodations is small. You make this reasonable accommodation, and it often ends up benefiting more than the people who are disabled.

One example is something we mentioned earlier, captions. When the captions are good, a person learning English as a second language can listen and read at the same time. Another example where captions really help is in sports bars. You can’t possibly have the sound on at all because they’d be overlapping each other. With captions, of course everyone benefits.

Another example is curb cuts. They’re required by law now so people who use wheelchairs can navigate sidewalks. But much more frequently they’re used by people pushing baby carriages or on bicycles or skate boards.

AF: What was Gallaudet like right after DPN in your first years? 

KJ: For the first couple years we were really at an enrollment maximum of 2,400 or 2,500. We really couldn’t fit any more. I understand the numbers are going down now. For quite some time, it was really high. For me, first day of class and day of commencement are highlights. I know so many who have gone on to different careers. That makes me feel really good.

AF: Tell me about changes you made once you were president

KJ: When I earned my Ph. D. in 1973, the number of people who were deaf who had Ph. Ds. was just a handful. I mean it was really, really small. I realized it’s difficult for deaf people to go to graduate school and work as graduate assistants or research assistants because of issues with interpreters. I set up a program where students who were attending Ph. D. programs at other universities could apply and receive from Gallaudet a stipend that was much the same as a stipend would be for a teaching assistant at that university. I established the program and called it Presidential Scholars. Several people who participated in the program have completed their Ph. Ds. That was one I was really, really proud of.

AF: Tell me about your graduate school experience at the University of Tennessee. Wasn’t that your first experience away from the deaf community?

KJ:  It was a big challenge. Back then (fall of 1969) there were not really a lot of professional interpreters. I was thrust into a situation where I just made do – I did the best I could without interpreters. Part of the down side of speaking well is that when people hear me speak, they assume, “He must be able to hear something.” I’m not really good at lip reading, and I couldn’t count on teachers facing the class.

So I came up with my own solution. I would ask students in the class if they would be willing to give me a copy of their notes. I gave them notebooks with carbon paper. At first it was rather awkward, but people soon realized they took better notes. And I always asked 3 people to do it. So at the end of each class I had three copies of notes. As it turned out after the year, we would have study groups, and the study groups used my notes. It worked out OK!

It’s a little ironic because the University of Tennessee has a department of deaf education where they prepare students to become teachers of the deaf. But I was in the School of Arts and Sciences, and there was no help from the Department of Education. I finished in 4 years ‒ from B.A. to M.A. and Ph. D.

King Jordan visits with staff at the Philadelphia campus of Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech, a Johnson Scholarship Foundation grantee partner, in 2018.

AF: Let’s go back to the ADA. Where do we need to go from here?

KJ: How we do it, I wish I had a good answer. But as far as where ‒ we need to reach a place where people who are disabled and seeking work have an opportunity to be employed. We’re not there. Interesting, one of the Johnson Scholarship Foundation grantees is Bridges from School to Work. Their success is absolutely amazing. They’re able to pair an individual student with an individual employer representative and the employer. The employer representative who works for Bridges, he or she continues to follow the employee and works with the employee. That success rate is unbelievable. About 80 percent get jobs. There’s nothing like that anywhere else. But it’s expensive. So it’s not a model that is easy to replicate or take to scale. But there are organizations that are doing wonderful things.

I believe that if more of the people in the C-suite offices understand the value, then more and more people (with disabilities) will be hired. One of the sayings I’m very proud of is that “Deaf people can do anything except hear.”

Remember the press conference I mentioned? I was named president on Sunday March 13, and on Monday, there was a press conference. The university auditorium was packed with reporters. It was standing-room only. At first I was nervous, but they asked me easy questions. In retrospect, I’m sure they were deliberately soft questions. I called them puffballs, easy questions. I was standing behind a podium with probably more than 15 microphones attached to it. Then at the very end, a local TV reporter said something like, “Dr. Jordan, all of this is really good and all the students clearly value that. But really, after they graduate what kind of jobs can they do?”

Without even thinking about it, I said, “What kind of a question is that! Deaf people can do anything except hear.”


Angie Francalancia is a communications specialist for Johnson Scholarship Foundation.

Forever Grateful for My Support System – Family, Friends, and Johnson Take Stock

The following is an essay from a student in the Johnson Take Stock Program. She shares her story and path to college as 2020 comes to a close.

First of all, I would like to introduce myself. My name is Shelly, and I will hopefully be the first to go to college in the United States in my family because they did their education in Cuba. I came when I was 7 years old, and at that time I was in second grade. Then I went to middle school and now I am a junior at Forest Hill High School. I have many colleges that I would love to go to, such as UM, UCF, FIU, and many more. I would love to go to a college near home so I could see my grandparents as much as possible. My goal is to make myself and them proud of everything I hope to achieve.

Additionally, going to college would mean so much to me and my family. I have always worked hard and tried my best in school by always doing well in my classes and being involved in school activities. Getting a good education is the best opportunity ever given to me. I can use this to have a good career that I enjoy and that will never make me stress about not having enough money to pay the bills. Growing up in a not the wealthiest family brings many life lessons that open your eyes and encourage you to take your education seriously so that you don’t have to go through the same thing your family did since you were given a better chance. This is why going to college would mean so much to me. I will have a stable future that I hope will allow me to give back to those who gave to me. These life challenges and many others help me shape my values and open my eyes to appreciate everything I have around me because not everyone has the same opportunity or conditions.

Furthermore, my goal is to find as much financial help to pay for college, so that neither my family nor I will need to stress about paying for my education, and that’s why I am so grateful to be part of the Johnson Take Stock family. They have supported me in many ways. I am grateful for all the activities, workshops, community service opportunities, events, etc. that Johnson Take Stock lets me be a part of. They always teach me something new, and I enjoy going to them since I have a fun time. I joined Johnson Take Stock back in my freshman year, and I have met so many kind people who just want to genuinely help you. Thanks to Johnson Take Stock, I know that if I keep following my side of the contract they will help me pay for my first years of college, and this is the biggest support I could ever receive from them. My other support systems are my family and friends. They help me make decisions, and this is a big help because I am so indecisive. They motivate me to keep working hard because it is all worth it at the end of the day. They also support me by congratulating my achievements which makes me feel good. Another support system I have are my teachers and guidance counselors because I know they are there for me if I ever need to talk to someone, and they just want the best for their students.

In conclusion, going to college would mean a lot to me and my family, and that is why I will always keep working hard to reach my goals. I am forever grateful for my support systems which are my family, friends, Johnson Take Stock family, and the staff at my school. All of the challenges I face will always just make me stronger so I am grateful for those, as well.


Shelly Cruz is a junior at Forest Hill High School. She has been a participant in the Johnson Take Stock  Program since her freshman year in high school.

 

 

More Than a Statistic: How Nebraska Indian Community College Students Redefine Success

By Megan M. Miller

The following article first appeared in Tribal College Journal of American Indian Higher Education. It is shared here with permission.

Empower your tribal community to grow their own food sustainably. Find your career calling as you celebrate three years of sobriety. Earn a tuition waiver to continue your education. Complete a semester while undergoing chemotherapy treatments. Teach your grandson his Native language. Feel connected to your culture for the first time. These accomplishments are no small feat. Yet, they are just a few examples of the success and strength of so many students at Nebraska Indian Community College (NICC). Through resiliency and grit, tribal college student achievement encompasses something much larger than standard institutional measurements of grade point average, enrollment headcount, and graduation rate. For tribal college students, success is as much about achievements made outside the classroom as within.

NICC, like many other tribal colleges, is redefining success through its students. How students view success differs immensely. Each individual has a different path, strengths, challenges, and goals for their future as well as that of their tribal community. NICC’s campuses are located in Macy on the Omaha reservation, Santee on the Santee Sioux reservation, and in South Sioux City, Nebraska. Serving the Umonhon (Omaha), Isanti (Santee Dakota), and other learners, NICC shares stories highlighting students’ accomplishments that extend well beyond the classroom. Through cultural identity, community connection, and goals for future generations, NICC students holistically define what success is for themselves, their families, and their tribal communities.

Nakomis Merrick

Nakomis Merrick (Umonhon) is a freshman at NICC’s South Sioux City campus. “In the past, I thought of success as being able to complete the task quickly,” Merrick says, but adds, “No matter how long it might take, the completion of something is still an accomplishment.” Indeed, many successes are not strictly linear, but rather part of a life-long process. Merrick, who is interested in teaching Umonhon or becoming a social worker, explains this new perspective since attending NICC: “As a graduated high school teen, I had no idea what I was doing or where I was going. . . . I lacked motivation. The classes at NICC eventually gave me purpose and helped me have a better understanding of who I am and where I come from. This made me want to continue [my] education at the college, because I’m finally getting the answers I’ve been searching for.”

Read the remainder of the article at Tribal College Journal.

 

 

 


Megan M. Miller

Megan M. Miller is a resource specialist and community educator at Nebraska Indian Community College’s Santee campus.

JSF Awards Grant for Dual Enrollment Program

Landmark College, which enrolls neurodiverse students who learn differently (LD; including dyslexia, ADHD, autism, or executive function challenges), has been awarded a $1 million grant from the Johnson Scholarship Foundation. The five-year matching grant supports the college’s efforts to sustain and expand its online dual enrollment courses, which offer neurodivergent students uniquely engineered college courses as they prepare for the transition to higher education, and to create other college-level online programs which similarly help students during the important, often challenging high school, gap year, and year one of college periods.

“We are pleased that the Johnson Scholarship Foundation sees the value in supporting our online programs, which started in earnest nearly a decade ago, and which are particularly needed now,” said Landmark College President Dr. Peter Eden, who wrote the grant application. “These funds will allow the College to not only strengthen and grow our online programming, they also will provide scholarship support for many students heretofore underserved by traditional courses or programs, and unable to afford tuition costs.”

Landmark’s online offerings adapt the unrivaled model of comprehensive support that has made its undergraduate program on the Putney, Vermont, campus successful over the past 35 years, and integrate intentional pedagogical elements within each online course which lead to student success.

Johnson Scholarship Foundation Chief Executive Officer Robert A. Krause says the Landmark College online offerings are great examples of programs that fulfill the Foundation’s mission to serve disadvantaged people by assisting them to obtain education and employment.

“We are pleased to support this dual enrollment program at Landmark College,” Krause said.  “We believe the program will serve as the foundation for a successful higher education experience for young people with learning differences, and it will lead them to greater opportunities in education and employment.”

For more information about the Landmark College Online Programs, visit www.landmark.edu/online.

How COVID-19 Could Positively Influence Education

This article was republished with permission from Groves Academy, a grantee partner of the Johnson Scholarship Foundation.

While COVID-19 came as a challenge for all involved, it did have an unexpected silver lining that could impact education moving forward. Obviously, the lessons derived are not the full answer. Rather, they represent one spoke in a much larger wheel of ideas—a wheel educators keep turning forward each year to serve students better.

It’s exciting that something that was difficult to adopt may yield positive lasting results. Still, at Groves Academy, we remain adamant about the advantages of in-person learning. In fact, we have made the return to the classroom for four days a week in 2020. We are not in any way suggesting a movement toward distance learning. Instead, what we are discussing is how particular aspects of distance learning could benefit a conventional school setting.

Who Knew Opportunity Would Come Wearing a Mask?

Groves Academy, like most schools across the country, is confronting the new frontiers of distance learning. While there are schools that offered distance learning previously, for most, it’s been a new experience. In our case, distance doesn’t just apply to our school, but also to the Learning Center at Groves Academy where we offer tutoring and diagnostic testing and our Groves Literacy PartnershipsSM where we train teachers throughout the country.

The adoption of distance learning was a necessary response to COVID-19. However, what we are learning may re-shape how learning takes place both at home and in private schools, public schools, and specialized schools.

For schools and educators that did not have distance learning in place prior to the pandemic, the adoption curve has been steep and fast. At Groves Academy, the challenges were even greater.

As an organization that specializes in teaching, tutoring, and testing students with learning disabilities, we rely on tools, methods, and curricula that are specific to the direct remediation of literacy challenges that might not be part of the approach at a traditional school.

Core aspects of our methods require multi-sensory tools that can’t be replicated with a screen. Also, the need for personal relationships tends to be magnified for many students with learning disabilities. That said, rather than finding ourselves limited by distance learning, we’ve discovered a rich reservoir of potential improvements. Not only for our organization but for education everywhere, at every grade level and need.

Exciting Possibilities for the Classroom

Whether an educational institution was previously interested in distance learning, or forced to adopt it, the migration has been profound.

Through distance learning, educators, school boards, parents, and students have reconsidered how learning can happen in new ways. In a sense, we’ve become test pilots establishing new paradigms that can be applied to the in-person experience.

Just as the traditional school experience shaped the approach to distance learning, we can look to distance learning as a way to improve the in-building experience.

How so? Let’s begin with the physical classroom.

Building New Kinds of Private Schools, Public Schools, and Specialized Schools

Schools and learning centers have been built using the same model for decades. Small rooms, assigned by grade or subject matter, within buildings that group ages and subjects into wings. It’s all very neat, arranged, and siloed. But should it be? More importantly, is this arrangement necessary? Could distance learning alter notions about how physical spaces are used for learning?

If so, the concept opens the door to re-thinking how schools are built, designed, and configured. Perhaps there is an opportunity to create shared or flexible learning spaces, just as many offices are now offering.

When the curriculum is mobile, students have the flexibility to move about or find a learning area that suits their preferences. This isn’t just about the room, but also about the workstation they use. It may be a desk, or a couch, or a pile of pillows in a corner.

The variables are vast. It could even be discussed that building schools that more accurately reflect the future work experiences students will face, may better prepare them for future employment scenarios.

Finding a New Time of Day to Learn

How else could the traditional school model evolve? Another possibility is the concept of school hours. While we have no plans to adjust the school hours at Groves Academy, it’s worth considering what a change like this could mean.

For many schools, distance learning has become a blend of synchronous and asynchronous learning experiences. From the Groves Academy perspective, this concept could be brought into a traditional school building experience.

Say, for example, all synchronous classes were held between the hours of 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Why, then, should a student be in the building from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m?

There could be an opportunity to create flexible learning hours. Students would still be required to be on-site for a defined number of hours. However, the hours could shift to fit their needs and learning practices.

Kids who need more sleep could attend from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., for example. Early risers might excel between the hours of 7 a.m. and 2 p.m.

Yes, expanded hours create new challenges about staffing, building access, and more. However, when you look at these challenges, they are all addressable. Mostly, it feels hard because it’s not what we are accustomed to.

Students and Educators Working Together In New Ways

Collaborative learning is another opportunity that distance-learning fosters. Using conferencing tools like Zoom or Google Classrooms, students are collaborating with classmates, teachers, tutors, advisors, and subject experts located in other geographic areas.

Obviously, remote collaboration and conferencing tools were available before COVID-19. The difference now is that teachers and students have greater comfort using video conferencing and other digital collaboration tools. It’s become part of everyone’s personal tool kit.

Ask yourself, how strange does it sound to hear your child study art in the dining room? Or to see them working online with a tutor who lives in another community? Now compare your answer to how you might have felt about seeing that in 2019? What seemed foreign and overly technical back then is now simple to accomplish.

In many ways, distance learning has pushed us to not just know the capabilities of technology, but embrace, use, and make it native to our daily experience.

There Are Challenges to Consider

While the opportunities of distance learning are intriguing, we’d be remiss if we didn’t recognize the challenges it presents.

First and foremost is screen time. Second is the need to support the relational connection between a student and teacher, as well as the social-emotional connection students form with classmates and staff.  The third challenge is the consistency of the learning experience for the class and the individual.

Better Learning Is Always Worth the Effort

Whether its in-person or distance learning, the objective of an educator is always the same. They strive to provide a transformational and empowered learning experience that caters to each student’s needs in the most viable manner possible.

Using ideas adopted from distance learning, educators have the ability to address a broader array of learning styles. In doing so, schools can also continue to provide highly guided, structured, supported, and consistent learning experiences.

Distance learning may just lead to a rethinking of the traditional learning model that many educators and parents are seeking.

Looking Ahead to Create the Best Learning Experience

These are important days with many lessons being discovered all of the time. Our school and the Learning Center at Groves Academy are excited to see what’s happening and how it can be applied to improving the education of learners everywhere. On one hand, we all feel challenged with just keeping pace with the demands of the moment. But on the other hand, we can’t help but imagine where all of this could be leading.

At Groves Academy, we strive to stay at the forefront of these opportunities. By seeking out, adopting, and redefining best practices and new ideas, we believe schools, learning centers, and educators can continue to elevate education outcomes. While the challenges our students face may not match those of other schools, sharing information and ideas will surely make us all better.

If you have questions about what you’ve read, we encourage you to visit GrovesAcademy.org and see how we are approaching the distance learning need.

From School to Community Center: Meeting Holistic Needs During COVID

At Nativity Prep, each month of adjusting and responding to the COVID-19 pandemic has included unique problems, challenges, opportunities, and solutions. Throughout these challenging months though, one theme has remained the same – our mission to truly serve and empower our students has called us to go “above and beyond” the work of a traditional school. To truly fulfill our educational mission, we have also needed to meet our “community mission.”

The negative impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on students from low-income families are in many ways doubled. Not only are under-resourced students less likely to receive quality remote or hybrid education models during this time, but they are also more likely to experience increased challenges in their home environment. As noted in several reports, COVID-19 has had a disproportionate economic and health impact on low-income families and communities of color.

Meeting the holistic needs of our students to maintain and strengthen their educational growth in these times therefore is not just based in mission, but in reality. Our current “investment” in our students would be ineffective if it was not updated to address broader family needs.

Here are some of the challenges we’ve faced, lessons we’ve learned, and initiatives we’ve undertaken in the last few months with the support of our partners like the Johnson Scholarship Foundation:

Human Needs Before Learning Needs: As the state of Massachusetts came to a halt in late March, so did our families’ livelihoods. Service jobs in industries like hospitality and restaurants disappeared instantly. Other families needed to give up or drop jobs in healthcare or public transportation because of the health risks to elderly or at-risk family members at home. Being a small, tight-knit school community, we started to quickly hear about struggles to buy enough groceries, pay rent, or meet healthcare needs.

We needed to ask, “How can we expect our students to be able to focus on learning or our families to help with remote education at home if they are worried about groceries or a roof over their head?” Working with our community of supporters, we were able to raise resources for a Nativity Family Aid Fund to specifically meet core family needs. Both our supporters and our families know that this Fund is not a long-term sustainable option, but they also recognize that this support during a crisis is what makes sustaining our education for our students possible.

Empower Families to be Educators: With the school year ending in June and not being able to operate our usual Summer Program in July, we recognized that summer learning loss could be particularly acute and problematic this year. Nativity families wanted to keep up their sons’ educational growth, as well as find enriching and meaningful activities to keep them engaged since many summer programs were cancelled or travel options too expensive.

The lesson here was to empower families to be the educators that we know they are. Nativity provided “Summer Learning Packages” to all of our students, which included academic resources like summer reading books and math packets, but also enriching activities like a math-based card game, a robot engineering kit, a youth journaling guide, a drawing and sketch set, and home exercise gear (jump-ropes were very popular!).

Being Realistic About Technology: One of the hot topics in education equity discussions today is unequal access to learning technology. Nativity has invested heavily in providing students and faculty with the technology that they need to be successful in today’s environment, whether learning remotely in a pandemic or in normal times. Our COVID experience though has demonstrated that “technology” is not an end-all, be-all. Just providing a student with a Chromebook does not ensure that they will be able to use that technology effectively for learning.

One of the issues that we encountered while back in a hybrid-learning model this year is Wi-Fi quality and sound distraction. While we confirmed that all of our families have home Wi-Fi access, many have several children learning at home at a time, straining the quality. Having several children or family members at home also means that there are infinite distractions to learning. We learned from experience that just providing a (not insignificant) piece of technology like a student laptop will only be effective if you provide holistic supports. As a result, we have partnered with the Johnson Scholarship Foundation to provide T-Mobile wireless internet hotspots to 20 families with internet challenges and 75 pairs of headphones, one for each of our students.

We know that we cannot be “all things to all people” at Nativity Prep. A major lesson of this pandemic though has been that schools cannot address educational disruption alone while ignoring immense economic, health, and social disruptions. Working with thoughtful foundations like the Johnson Scholarship Foundation to meet the holistic needs of our students and families is not a form of “mission creep” or ineffective expense, but instead a way to “secure our investment” in the future of our students and their life-long success.

Gadisa Goso is the Principal of Nativity Prep Boston. A graduate of Nativity Prep, he also previously served as a Teaching Fellow, Admissions Director, and Graduate Support Director at Nativity. He returned to his alma mater as the first alumnus to serve as principal in July.