California Strawberry Festival, Education, Foster aftercare, NLPOA, Rebozo Festival, Social Justice

Shawls, Strawberries, and Social Justice

This weekend is going to be busy-in a good way. Two famous Ventura County festivals are held this Saturday and Sunday. I’ll attend both of them since I’ve had a long association with the non-profit groups, but even if I didn’t have that association I’d still attend because both contribute all profits to social justice causes that I believe make a difference. 

The Rebozo (Shawl) Festival is a cultural event, where the rebozo (shawl) is the centerpiece highlighting Mexican heritage. It’s a colorful garden party of women wearing sundresses, garden hats, and a wide variety of shawls and  men who don guayabera‘s and Panama hats to enjoy a three hour brunch with Mariachi music. Besides the food, clothing and music the main impetus for the festival is to raise money for community non-profits that serve youth and families. This ranges from foster after care, arts education, mentoring, and counseling services. Festival

I’ll also work with the National Latino Peace Officer Association at the California Strawberry Festival, an event that draws 40,000 people into our city. There are strawberries galore, they’re everywhere from drinks to desserts. The group of law enforcement people I work with are dedicated on the job and off the job. All proceeds from two days of working concession booths go to a scholarship fund awarded to high school and community college kids. 

After 28 years working within prison walls I’ve accumulated a few theories on what keeps youth out of juvenile halls, jails, and prisons. We could go into the nature versus nuture (innate qualities versus personal experiences) debate about criminality, but there is no clear cut winner. 

I’m not speaking as a sociologist, however that is my university degree, but  my personal and professional experiences lead me to say that there are a few things that help youth stay out of the criminal justice system: Mentoring, education, and employment.

Who would have thought that shawls and strawberries could be so powerful. 

Chingona, Diary of a Pakistan Girl, Education, Education for girls, Girls Plus Education Equals, Literacy, Malala, Taliban

How One Girl’s Blog Impacted the World

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”- Nelson Mandela

By now you have heard or read the news stories about 14 year old Malala Yousufzai. 

On October 9, 2012 gunmen stopped a van carrying Malala and her classmates as they returned from school in the Swat Valley, Pakistan. 

Gunmen jumped inside a van carrying Malala. They ordered students to point her out. The men opened fired, wounding her in the neck and head. Two others, Shazlea and Kainat, were also wounded. The Taliban stated they initiated this horrendous attack and vowed to kill Malala if she survives. She is now in the U.K  being treated for debilitating wounds. 

How did this girl enter into the cross hairs of the Taliban’s weapons?

She was an 11 year old who had a power of conviction highly unusual for a young girl. 
That’s correct, she began blogging three years ago. Instead of accepting what was happening  in her town, ignoring her passion, pushing down her feelings, letting fear silence her convictions, she used her voice. She started a blog. 

Bien chingona this young girl. A girl anyone would be proud to call m’ija. 

Her blog, Diary of a Pakistan Girl, began in 2009. Abdul Hai Kakkar, a BBC reporter, had first approached Ziauddin Yousafzai, a local school director, to get a female teacher to write about life under the Swat Taliban. No teacher agreed, but his eleven-year-old daughter, a seventh-grade student, was interested in writing a diary. Malala passed on hand-written diary pages to the reporter. He would post her entries. 

January 15, 2009

“The night was filled with the noise of artillery fire and I woke up three times. But since there was no school I got up later at 10 am. Afterwards, my friend came over and we discussed our homework.Today is 15 January, the last day before the Taleban’s edict comes into effect, and my friend was discussing homework as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened.”

February 8, 2009
“I felt hurt on opening my wardrobe and seeing my uniform, school bag and geometry box. Boys’ schools are opening tomorrow. But the Taliban have banned girls’ education…
My brother’s school is also reopening and he has not done his homework.”

Malala continued to blog and grew an immense online presence with students and others in the world internet community. In an interview with CNN she said, 

 “I was scared of being beheaded by the Taliban because of my passion for education…    During their rule, the Taliban used to march into our houses to check whether we were studying or watching television.” 

In 2011 she was awarded Pakistan’s first peace prize. With the accolades came more threats from the Taliban.  

She didn’t stop blogging nor did she stop fighting for education for girls. 

“I have the right of education,” she said. “I have the right to play. I have the right to sing. I have the right to talk. I have the right to go to market. I have the right to speak up.”

Malala’s story of defiance and survival has triggered an online petition and support pages rallying for Malala and her fight for girls’ education. An online “I am Malala” petition is demanding that girls get better access to education. 

The U.K’s former Prime Minister wrote an article about why we should be furious and carry on Malala’s passion. 

Before the attack, Malala was in the process of starting a charity, the Malala Education Development Organization, to promote female education in northern Pakistan. Other organizations are also working in the region to turn her dream into a reality for all girls in Pakistan.

What can we as individuals do? Click and sign a petition, click and donate to a literacy charity of your choice, converse with students (your own kids) about freedom of education, and  support education in our own country. 

Girls + Education=

Once Malala recovers, which may be months from now, I am betting that she will continue to blog, do interviews, write a book, and continue with her goal of becoming a political leader so that she can ensure justice for girls and women. 

Be a part of that effort. 

Education, Parenting, Preparing for back to school, Responsible Parenting, School Nutrition

5 Ways to Prepare Your Child for School

It’s time to get everyone in your household prepared for the transition to their school routines. Yes, it’s that time again…and yes you can admit  that you are looking forward to the kids returning to school. 

Summer can be as busy as the school year. Often it’s too short for kids and too long for parents. It is a brief stop between the end of school, day camp, vacation, and studying the newspaper ads for back to school supplies. 

Parents can prepare their child for the new school year by concentrating on areas, such as independence, communication, and social skills that children need to do well in school. 

Reams of research has shown that regardless of parents’ income and educational background, their involvement in education helps their kids do better in and out of school. 

Equipping your child to have a successful school experience requires some ‘front line’ work on the part of the parent and child. These tips from educators, parents, and kids themselves may prove worthwhile in your planning. 

1. Time Management: Start at least two weeks before school begins and discuss these with your child so she/he knows the expectation:

  •  Reset the routine. Dial back bedtime by 30-minute increments until she has 9 hours sleep before wake up time. If your child is tired and moody from lack of sleep, how do you think she’ll be in the classroom?
  • Ditch the television, video games, and computer. Unrestricted access is the worst time waster. Give options and ask for input from your child. Will you eliminate T.V and electronics on Monday through Thursday or allow 30 minutes of time after homework? Imagine what your child can learn during this time from reading, writing, playing or helping around the house.

2. Communicate: Ask your child about her feelings — both the excitement and the concerns — about starting the new school year. 

  • Ask and listen. Let her know that most kids are nervous about the first day of school. Reassure her that if any problems arise, you will be there with a listening ear. 
  • Discuss Responsibility. Kids need to recognize that their actions have consequences, and must learn to accept responsibility for their actions. School is their job and they can take the lead in getting themselves ready, be on time, have their homework and books, and give you school information in advance. 
  • Put it in writing. Post the rules and a large calendar on the fridge or on a bedroom/bathroom door.
  • Don’t threaten children with “The police is going to get you if you don’t go to school.” (Or with El Cu-Cuy, a legendary hideous ghost-man, a threat from Mexican parents who lived in my old neighborhood). This teaches fear and removes the responsibility from the child and parent.
3. Familiarize

  • Visit the school with your child to see her new classroom and meet her new teacher before school officially starts. 
  • For Middle and High School: Attend orientation. Give kids the chance to see their new home away from home. Getting a feel for the school, locating their locker and learning to get it open on the first try, and finding the classrooms and lunch area can help calm anxiety.
4. Plan for their Increased Independence: We have all seen the helicopter parents who hover over their kids or argue with a teacher that their special, gifted, talented child could not have done a negative behavior. 

  • Remember there are two sides to a story. Listen to both.
  • Discuss safety issues, expectations, and responsibilities that come with the new school year. These can be different discussions according to the age of the child. Let them know when or how often you expect them to call or text you.
  • Review the importance of making smart choices, and possible consequences of not so smart choices. And, be sure they always know how to contact you, and that you will always be there for them, no matter what grade they attend.
  • Use school resources. In cases of bullying, depression, fighting, or drug use talk with school counselors to find out about appropriate resources. Most school districts have an  Office of Student and Family Services or similar department. 
5. Nutrition: Breakfast of protein, complex carbohydrates, and fruit (egg, wheat toast, orange) is much better for the brain and body than high sugar cereals or Hot Cheetos.  
All photos:
  • ·    Many schools  have switched to fresh food such as salad bars and offer less processed foods for lunch. If your school has not, this is a good PTA subject.
  •       Low sugar fruit bars, granola bars, crackers, peanut butter, cheese, celery, raw carrots, jicama, nuts, and fruit all make for quick small snacks that don’t need refrigeration. The brain doesn’t function well in school with cookies and a Coke for lunch.
  •       Make it a goal to eat dinner together at least three times a week.  Plan a healthy menu together. Talk about school projects, activities, class subjects and show your interest by listening.
·     If your actions show that you value education, your child is likely to respond. When students feel supported at home and school, they develop positive attitudes about school, have more self-confidence, and place a higher priority on academic achievement. 

How do you prepare your child for the new school year? 

Americas Voice, Department of Homeland Security, Deportation, DREAM Act, Dreamers, Education, Immigration, Wisdom

The Almost Dream Act: New Opportunities, New Dreams
“Relief for DREAMers.” The unexpected headline appearing in two emails I received on June 15, 2012 brought a smile to my face. 

“TODAY, President Obama is finally granting DREAMers relief from deportation. DREAM Act youth ages 15-30 will be able to apply for protection from deportation and work permits, which will grant DREAMers a way to contribute to the country they call home. This is a HUGE milestone for DREAMers, who have been fighting for years for the chance to lead successful and prosperous lives here in America.” (America’s Voice & Presente).

In reality, this new U.S. Homeland Security policy is the ‘Almost’ Dream Act.  

The DREAM Act (The Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minor’s Act) first introduced in 2001 has undergone several changes and has been voted on several occasions, the last time in 2011. Congress has not passed the act. This change in Immigration policy is not an Executive Order and is not the approval of the DREAM Act.

This announcement came one day after the controversial TIME Magazine cover story of how undocumented immigrants, youth in particular, are coming out about their status. The article written by Jose Antonio Vargas, the Pulitzer award-winning writer who founded Define American after he came out in the New York Times last year includes Gaby Pacheco, one of the walkers of the Trail of DREAMs 2010, who walked 1500 miles from Miami to DC to highlight the plight of DREAMers.

A Pulizter award winning writer, architects, engineers, medical doctors, nurses, teachers, entrepenuers, and other law abiding students and graduates can stop looking over their shoulder.

The relief from deportation came one day after DREAMers  Verónica Gómez and Javier Hernández, ended their 134-hour sit-in and hunger strike at the Colorado Headquarters of the Obama Campaign. And after hundreds of more Dreamers sat in Obama’s campaign offices in Colorado, Michigan and Ohio asking President Obama to issue an executive order stopping the deportation of all DREAM Act eligible youth.

Here’s the big “HOWEVER.” 

Unlike the DREAM Act, the policy announced on June 15th will not open a path to citizenship. Eligible immigrants are eligible to apply for work authorization, although there is no guarantee they will receive work permits, and they will have to apply to renew their status every two years.

Within minutes of this announcement online newspaper headlines across the nation used titles such as “Immunity to be offered to certain immigrants.” The GOP and several Republicans came out with strong opposing statements.

While President Obama made the policy change announcement in the White House rose garden, a heckling online journalist interrupted him by yelling at him during his statements. The President repeated, after chastising the journalist, that this policy “…makes it more fair, efficient, and just…It is the right thing to do for the American people.”

“This grant of deferred action is not immunity. It is not amnesty,” Janet Napolitano (Secretary of Homeland Security) said. “It is an exercise of discretion so these young people are not in the removal system. It will help us continue to streamline immigration enforcement and ensure resources are not spent” unwisely.

This new policy could affect as many as 800,000 undocumented immigrants. That number is unclear in part because immigrants will need to come forward and submit documentation to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Adjudicators will decide whether to grant work permits on a case-by-case basis. Qualifications for deferred action can be found on USDHS site.

Justino Mora and dozens of Dream Act advocates heard about the Obama administration’s decision to grant relief to young illegal immigrants while they were preparing to attend a rally today to push the administration for just such a change. Mora, 22, an undocumented student who attends UCLA, said he was skeptical at first.

“At the beginning I sort of didn’t believe it,” he said, “but then almost immediately I was overwhelmed by a sense of joy. It gives me hope; it motivates me to continue fighting for my family, for my community. Ricardo Muniz, 24, was en route to the rally when he got the news. “I can breathe,” he said. 

Mr. Muniz and thousands of others will remember where they were and what they were doing when they heard they are free from deportation and free to pursue their education, jobs, and dreams.