August 12th, 2014

NFL, justice system demean women

When my son played football, starting when he was 8 years old, it was not uncommon to hear coaches shaming players by saying they were playing like girls.
Demeaning women continued throughout his sporting career, mostly from coaches.
So when I heard all the uproar about the two-game suspension and $58,000 fine handed down to Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell because of domestic violence, I was surprised.
The NFL did more than our judicial system did in this case.
Rice was charged with third-degree aggravated assault when, on Feb. 15, he was seen on surveillance camera dragging his then fiancé Janay Palmer out of an elevator that she had walked into on her own two feet.
According to police, Rice knocked her out after she spit on him.
Rice was indicted but agreed to enter a diversion program to avoid jail time. After a while, the charge will be expunged from his record.
That was our judicial system’s decision. I didn’t see any comments from anyone about it.
The uproar came with the NFL meting out “only” a two-game suspension and fine for Rice. Seems society wants our workplaces to deliver harsher punishment than our justice system.
If our courts had dealt with him more severely, we wouldn’t be criticizing the commissioner dishing out what folks are calling a slap on Rice’s wrist. Rice would still be behind bars and there would be far more games missed than two.
I’m not letting the NFL off the hook, mind you. There is a big house to clean in a league where domestic violence doesn’t seem to have great importance.
My point is, outside of women’s groups and agencies that have to help the women and children scarred mentally and physically by abusers, where is the outpouring of indignation that should be focused on our laws and enforcement?
Palmer is now Rice’s wife. She married him a day after he was indicted, days after she was dragged limp from an elevator. Palmer had been charged with assault as well, but charges against her were dropped.
Rice apologized and our judicial system said a diversion program was sufficient punishment.
The court said hitting a woman is not OK, but it was Rice’s first offense, so we’ll go easier on him than his fist did with Palmer.
After all, she spit on him. She caused it, just like women wearing short skirts cause their own rapes, right?
Come on, people. We should be past this.
It is never OK, first, fourth or 40th time, for a man to hit a woman. And it is not only women who should be shouting this, but also men.
I’ve seen some public service ads and posters urging men to stand up against domestic violence. There are men out there trying to do just that.
And, hopefully, coaches are no longer demeaning a gender to get their male players to perform better. If they are, it is time for the men, the fathers who received that type of motivation as boys, to tell coaches to find a better way for their sons. Demeaning another gender is not acceptable.
When women are demeaned they become less human. When they are made to be less human, any negative behavior or language about them or toward them, no matter how traditional or violent, becomes acceptable.
With dehumanization, a woman wearing a short skirt is asking to be raped. Hitting a woman, instead of walking away, serves her right.
The NFL can’t be expected to correct years of wrongs alone. If the court thought Rice’s actions deserved only diversion, there should be a louder outcry against the court.
“It is disappointing that I will not be with my teammates for the first two games of the season, but that’s my fault,” Rice said in a statement. “As I said earlier, I failed in many ways. But, Janay and I have learned from this. We have become better as a couple and as parents. I am better because of everything we have experienced since that night. The counseling has helped tremendously.”
I hope so.
And I think if we are going to hold the NFL more accountable than our judicial system, then all workplaces should be held to the same standard.
We should be outraged when women in factories or in office buildings receive less pay than their male counterparts. That’s dehumanizing.
We should be questioning why there aren’t more women in top positions in businesses throughout this country. That’s demeaning.
And we should be enraged that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled businesses can decide not to cover birth control for women, the only gender that can reproduce. That’s just wrong.
The NFL has a problem it must deal with, true enough. But so does our judicial system. And so do all of us who should be holding both accountable.

August 12th, 2014

Native American conference a chance to be enlightened

My first assignment with an Ojibwe Indian photographer was quite a learning experience.
I was smart enough to know that everything I had learned about Indians via old-time Western movies was incorrect. However, that left a wide gap in my knowledge of that culture which I had no problem trying to close by asking her questions.
Thank goodness she was a patient woman.
One-on-one opportunities to learn about another culture is the best way to understand them. And when it comes to Native Americans, that one-on-one can help us better understand the slights we are inflicting with the naming of some sports teams.
Fortunately, on Aug. 22 and 23, we will have a chance to ask questions, observe and listen to American Indians.
The Native American Educational Conference will feature examples of Native American dance, storytelling, games, music, crafts, shelters and children’s activities, all free of charge.

Anne Wood

Anne Wood

Some of the Indians will be dressed in the native attire of their tribal roots and others will dress just like you and me.
“There will be examples of the different types of regalia,” said Helen Danser, chairwoman of the Kentucky Native American Heritage Commission. “Someone will explain how it was earned, when it came into being, and what it was for. The regalia are what people call an Indian costume.”
Not all Indians wore feathers, however, and not all chiefs wore war bonnets. In fact, war bonnets were not worn east of the Mississippi River.
Indians also don’t greet folks with “how.” They aren’t all alcoholic. They don’t all live on reservations out west.
There will be morning discussions both days about the myths and stereotypes that we still have about Native Americans, and about the different tribes represented in Kentucky.
“Kentucky is still struggling with how to define Indian and whether Indians actually lived in Kentucky,” Danser said. “They said Indians just passed through,” using the state as a hunting ground.
In fact, Kentucky does not have any federally recognized Indian tribes, a designation that carries with it benefits of being a sovereign nation. And Kentucky also has not set up a process for tribes to be officially recognized by the state, although several attempts have been made to do that through the General Assembly.
The Ridgetop Shawnee tribe and the Southern Cherokee Nation of Kentucky have been acknowledged through resolutions, however.
But many Indians found it safer just to blend in with the general population instead of announcing their culture.
Anne Wood of Centenary United Methodist Church, where the conference will be held, said she was a middle-aged adult before she learned of her Native American heritage. Her family, like so many others, hid their culture to avoid discrimination and potential persecution. They chose to blend in.

Helen Danser

Helen Danser

Similar handcrafted items will be available at the conference.

Similar handcrafted items will be available at the conference.

That’s changing. More and more Indians are standing proud of their culture and seeking state acknowledgment of it, she said.
During the afternoons of the conference there will be demonstrations of flintknapping, the art of fashioning spearheads and arrowheads and a teepee exhibit, with discussions about the difference between a teepee and wigwam.
Vendors will be on-site throughout the day, selling Indian crafts, including beadwork and silver jewelry. Food concessions will also be available.
From 6-8 p.m. on Friday and from 5-7 p.m. on Saturday, there will be exhibitions of drumming and intertribal dancing that requires audience participation.
There will be a special program for children on Saturday that features traditional games and discussions about tomahawks and blow guns.
“The children will learn how to use blow guns,” Danser said. “By age 5 or 6, young Indian boys could use that as a weapon to bring down birds, rabbits, and squirrels for dinner.”
The children’s activities will be outside. All others will be indoors.
“We’re hoping to get a good many people to come at 10 a.m. for the discussions on myths and legends,” Danser said.
That will be your chance to learn and ask questions of people who are coming out of the shadows wanting to teach and to be heard.

IF YOU GO
The Native American Educational Conference will feature storytelling, dancing, discussions on myths and stereotypes and children’s activities.
When: 10 a.m.-8 p.m., Aug. 22; 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Aug. 23.
Where: Centenary United Methodist Church, 2800 Tates Creek Road.
Cost: Free.
Information: Email Anne Wood at roontoon34@gmail.com, or Helen Danser at cherokeelady@prtc.net.

 

August 12th, 2014

Would-be King assassin found in nursing home

In September, 2007, I wrote what little I knew of Izola Ware Curry, the woman who stabbed and nearly killed Martin Luther King Jr., some 10 years before James Earl Ray succeeded in assassinating the civil rights leader.
Curry was 42 when she plunged a letter opener into King’s upper chest as he was autographing copies of his first book,  Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story, in a New York department store.
He was rushed to Harlem Hospital, where doctors later would tell The New York Times that had King, 29, sneezed or coughed, his aorta would have been cut, causing him to bleed to death internally.
Later the chief surgeon, Dr. Aubre de Lambert Maynard, said having a patient of King’s stature with such a severe injury put Harlem Hospital in the world’s spotlight. “You see,” Maynard said in 1996, “it was a city hospital and it was looked down upon. It was up to me to show the world that it could be done there.”
Dignitaries and famous physicians observed the procedure which, obviously, was successful. King left the hospital less than two weeks later and continued his work.
Curry was interrogated, charged, and found to be incompetent to stand trial. She believed King and members of the NAACP were stalking her and trying to kill her.
Diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, Curry was committed to Matteawan State Hospital for the Criminally Insane in upstate New York on Oct. 20, 1958.
I was shocked at how little was known about Curry and about her whereabouts after that. She seemed to have faded away like smoke with the wave of a hand. Even a librarian I called at The King Center in Atlanta said the center had no record of Curry after she entered the asylum.
While recovering in the hospital, King, who refused to press charges against Curry, wrote a two-page statement, part of which said, “First let me say I feel no ill will toward Mrs. Izola Currey (sic) and know that thoughtful people will do all in their power to see that she gets the help that she apparently needs if she is to become a free and constructive member of society.”
Until recently, not many people knew if she had received or been helped by medical treatment.
But a reporter at The Smoking Gun, a website that contains legal documents, arrest records and mug shots and other information about criminals and celebrities, found a voter registration for Curry that listed an address for a nursing home in Queens in 2012.
According to TSG, “During a 30-minute conversation, Curry spoke haltingly and, at times, mumbled answers that were hard to decipher. At one point, she directed her visitor to fetch a chair from her room so that he did not have to stand over her.
“While Curry described her daily routine — up at 5:30 a.m., bed around 10 p.m., and not much going on in-between — and how she ended up in the nursing home, she met questions about King and the stabbing with a furrowed brow and a blank stare. While offering no recollections of the attack, Curry referred to “1958” and said that she was placed that year in a “hospital for the criminally insane.”
Through investigation, the website learned Curry had spent 14 years at Matteawan, another year at a facility in Manhattan and then the rest of her life, before the nursing home, in at least two certified residential care homes.
“On the eighth floor of a nursing home in Queens, N.Y.,” the report said, “a 98-year-old woman sits slumped in a wheelchair in the hallway outside her room. She is sleeping, oblivious to the roar coming from the television of her next-door neighbor, who is watching The Price is Right at an ear-piercing volume.
“Though the corridor is uncomfortably toasty on this July morning, the woman has a knitted shawl over her shoulders. She is wearing green sweatpants, a green T-shirt, and black shoes with Velcro closures. The remaining wisps of her hair are gray and tangled.
“As she naps in the hallway, it is hard to imagine that frail Izola Curry was once a would-be assassin, a woman who nearly changed the course of U.S. history with a seven-inch steel letter opener.”
Both King and the state of New York realized then what we seem to have forgotten now. Those with mental illness need to be treated differently even if they commit criminal acts.
The reporter in me wanted to know what happened to her. The human being in me is glad her illness was understood and she has been cared for.
If society back then could treat a very sick woman with compassion and medical expertise after what she did, surely we can find more humane ways to treat the mentally ill now.
Thesmokinggun.com has a lot more on Curry’s history and the years leading up to her criminal act, including pages of police interrogation and her background. It is a good read about a piece of history that has almost been forgotten.

July 30th, 2014

Violence dims hope of achieving American Dream

I’ve been waiting for someone a lot smarter than I am to come up with a solution for the rash of murders, shootings, robberies, home invasions and unsettling violence that has made headlines in Lexington.
That’s when I will dive in, I said, and give all my energy to help with the cure.
But if I am really truthful with myself, I’m really hoping it all dies down and I won’t have to change anything in my daily routine.
That’s what happened in 2011 when there was a similar surge in violence in Lexington. That’s what always seems to happen.
The trouble is, waiting isn’t working this time.
What I’m seeing is a loss of hope. Our young people no longer believe going to school and then working hard will culminate in the American Dream. My parents fed me and my siblings a daily dose of the American Dream. Get good grades, go to college and success will come knocking at your door.
Back then, teachers, preachers and neighbors all sang the same song. They believed in the dream, too. Young people were bombarded with high hopes that they assumed were their duty to fulfill.
We are not telling our young people that anymore. In recent years, the “I got mine; you get yours” philosophy has coupled with poverty, a nominal education, fewer jobs and lax parenting to birth a generation that we are now losing.
We tell parents who have served time in prison that we won’t hire them, but we expect them to provide for their families.
We don’t want to drive through neighborhoods some children live in even though it is the best housing their parents can afford.
We send the least experienced teachers to school districts that need the most wisdom and then criticize the kids for not learning.
Where is the American Dream in that scenario? And where are we, the community, the people who can affect change?
Rabbi Aaron Alexander, associate dean of the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies at American Jewish University in Los Angeles, wrote a piece for the Huffington Post in October challenging our leaders to act more intentionally to stop the violence.
“We also must demand from our leadership a serious attempt to identify areas prone to violence, conditions ripe for abuse, and inundate them with programs and resources that work to stem the surge,” he wrote. “That necessarily means reaching out to urban areas, too often forgotten and ignored, seeking out those saints who dedicate their lives to elevating the existence of others in danger, and asking for their assistance.”
But that doesn’t let us off the hook.
Gloria Bonilla-Santiago, board chair of the LEAP Academy University Charter School in Camden, N.J., wrote, “Throwing more dollars against tighter law enforcement is only one part of the solution. The community needs to play its part, too.”
She suggested organized community watchers as a proven effective way to supplement police patrols. That means we have to be concerned about our neighbors.
“As teachers, parents, mentors and role models, we must be a light for our children and teach them that peace and justice will never come through violence,” she wrote.
That message must be fed to our children every day by everyone, just as the American Dream was fed to my generation.
We have to support the eight women of Sisters and Women Against Gun violence (SWAG) as they try to unite the community and end the cycle of violence in Lexington.
We need to send parents, children and friends to the YOLO (You Only Live Once) Stop the Violence two-day conference on Aug. 8-9 at Imani Family Life Center. The first day is a college and career readiness fair that is meant to help youths improve their chances for a good education and help their parents, even if they have a past criminal record, find better employment.
The second day is filled with workshops after a keynote address by Marlon Shackelford, a violence prevention specialist from Dayton. You can register at yololexington.wix.com/2014. Cost is $5 and includes lunch.
Several youth ambassadors have helped design the event because this problem requires everyone’s input to solve it.
Paul Prather, pastor of Bethesda Church near Mount Sterling and a columnist at this paper, wrote that chronic poverty, a situation often cited as a reason for violence, has many causes “including physical disability, mental illness, ignorance, family dysfunction, violence, drug addiction, despair, self-loathing, isolation, bigotry, and inferior health care.”
When you address one problem, others appear from a hiding place behind it.
“So you just keep giving, keep loving, keep caring with your pocketbook and your prayers – knowing you’re bound to fail,” he wrote. “You stay at it because it’s the right thing to do. It’s what St. James called ‘pure and undefiled religion.’”
And it is what my parents’ generation called the village.

July 22nd, 2014

Free play about Alzheimer’s seeks to make us more aware

Garrett Davis wrote the play Forget Me Not as a tribute to his grandmother who died of Alzheimer’s disease when he was in college, and to all the family members who cared for her.
It is an urban theater play, the genre in which Tyler Perry became famous, that shows the funny, sad and frustrating emotions that caregivers and family members experience when the patriarch becomes lost in that illness.
The play is on tour, stopping in Lexington at the Lyric Theatre & Cultural Arts Center on Aug. 16 for a free performance, sponsored by the University of Kentucky, Sanders Brown Center on Aging.
The play serves not only as an entertaining way to make more people aware of the disease, but also as a way to educate people about the need to have more participants in clinical studies, said Dr. Gregory Jicha, a specialist in Alzheimer’s at Sanders Brown.
As Davis became more aware of Alzheimer’s, he reached out to doctors and researchers to learn more and then to tell what he had learned to audiences everywhere, Jicha said.
“Not only is this guy great,” Jicha said, “but he is also so darn entertaining. He has an important message to share with everyone.”
Jicha and staff members learned about the play while at a conference in San Diego. So when the need arose to get a more diverse group of volunteers for clinical research, the staff thought the play would be a great outreach and educational tool.
Both Davis and Jicha will talk prior to the play. After, there will be snacks and an opportunity to interact and learn more about Alzheimer’s.
For the Anti-Amyloid Treatment in Asymptomatic Alzheimer’s study, or A4, Sanders-Brown is recruiting 1,000 participants ages 65-85 who do not have symptoms of Alzheimer’s. The study hopes to prevent memory loss years before signs appear.
Sanders-Brown is the only study site in Kentucky for A4. Eventually, there will be 59 other sites throughout the United States,  Canada and Australia for the 39-month trial, involving 10,000 people.
However, the study requires that one-fifth of the volunteers be minorities. Jicha said if a true sampling of people is studied, then the chances of skewed results are lessened.
“We are all in this together. We have got to be working across the board. This is a battle that no one person can win,” he said.
That is why Davis started the Forget Me Not Project in 2010 after he discovered how underfunded Alzheimer’s research is and how often the disease strikes in the black community. He has become an advocate for greater awareness of the affects of Alzheimer’s in communities and is a founding member of the African American Network Against Alzheimer’s disease.
First identified more than a century ago, Alzheimer’s research into symptoms, causes, risk factors and treatment has gained momentum only in the last three decades.
According to African American Network Against Alzheimer’s disease, black people are usually diagnosed with the disease at a later stage, limiting the effectiveness of early intervention treatments. Blacks are about two times more likely and Hispanics are about one and a half times more likely than their white counterparts to have Alzheimer’s and other dementia. Of the estimated 5.4 million people living with the disease, two-thirds are women.
The disease is incurable, irreversible and progressive, slowly destroying memory and thinking skills to the point the patient is unable to carry out the simplest tasks. It is the most common cause of dementia in older adults, with the greatest risk factors being advanced age, race and family history.
And without participants in one of several studies underway, Alzheimer’s will remain that way.
“If their life has been affected, if they have watched their loved ones slowly become lost, losing their minds through Alzheimer’s, then this is such a great opportunity to help,” Jicha said.
“If people recognize these issues and how close we are to making tremendous strides in curing Alzheimer’s, they should join the fight and make a difference.”
A good way to start down that road is to enjoy a funny and touching play.
Although the event is free, advance registration is required. The Lyric seats about 600 and more than 450 spots are still available.
Registration forms have been distributed to many local churches and community centers, as well as to the Lyric. You may have as many tickets as you want.

IF YOU GO
What: Forget Me Not, a play by Garrett Davis, will be performed in Lexington to raise awareness about Alzheimer’s disease. Free, but registration is required.
When: 3-6 p.m. Aug. 16.
Where: Lyric Theatre & Cultural Arts Center, 300 E. Third St.
Information and registration: Call (859) 323-5550.

July 22nd, 2014

Reunion set for volunteers, staff and students of Family Care Center

When former Lexington Mayor Scotty Baesler learned I wanted to talk with him about the Family Care Center, he didn’t wait for my call.
Instead, he called me to repeatedly say how proud he is of the program he and former Commissioner of Social Services Barbara Curry and Jean Sabharwal, then-director of the city’s Early Childhood Center, started in 1989.
“I asked Jean and Barbara to put something together and they did,” Baesler said. “It is one of the few programs I thought would make a difference.”
And that it has.
During its 25 years, more than 500 mothers have graduated from the center’s high school program and more than 7,000 children have attended the low-cost, nurturing child-care facility.
The mission is to help parents become self-sufficient, help children become successful, and to strengthen family units.
“I think it way exceeded my expectations,” Sabharwal said. She served as director of the center for 20 years. “Everywhere I go I see Family Care Center graduates employed and bragging about what their children are doing. The next generation is doing so good. We just had to change the path of the families.”

 Joanna Rodes, director of Family Services

Joanna Rodes, director of Family Services

On July 26, the Family Care Center will be celebrating its 25 years by hosting a reunion of all its clients, children, volunteers and employees. Anyone who has been affiliated with the center is invited to stop by and share memories of what the family service program has meant to them.
When the idea was planted, Lexington already had Virginia Place, a transitional housing, training and child-care program for single parents, but Baesler wanted something for younger mothers who had not finished school and were struggling to provide for their families.
Nationwide, there had been a surge in teen pregnancies, with more than 1 million pregnancies attributed to girls ages 15 to 19 in 1989 alone. The phrase “children having children” was coined and the country feared having so many children condemned to living in poverty.
As a judge, Baesler had seen young girls come through his courtroom living under similar circumstances and “always thought they didn’t have a chance.” He believed the solution was to “get to the young children early.”
That meant offering parenting skills to young mothers, dental care to the children, and a safe, educational environment in which mother and child could grow.
“It has grown a lot more than I thought it would,” Baesler said. “It has been my favorite program. It is special to me.”
It is special to Sharon Aguilar as well.

Sharon Aguilar, who graduated at the Family Care Center, held her daughter Isabell, 3.  Photo by Mark Cornelison

Sharon Aguilar, who graduated at the Family Care Center, held her daughter Isabell, 3. Photo by Mark Cornelison

Aguilar, 20, gave birth while she was a junior at Lafayette High School in the SCAPA program. For two months, she had to leave her daughter with her brother while she attended class because the infant was not old enough to go to day care. And, because she was breast feeding, she had to find the time and space to express her breast milk.
That was more stress than any teen mother needed.
One day, her Health Access Nurturing Development Services worker suggested she attend classes at the center. “She explained the layout,” Aguilar said, “and said it was self-paced. And she said I would get to see my daughter for 30 minutes a day.”
Spending quality time with her daughter and free transportation won her over, she said. But the work was not easy.
“I was never self-disciplined,” she said. “I would go to class and would never do the homework (at Lafayette).
“At the Family Care Center, I was forced to be self-disciplined,” Aguilar said. “You don’t sit in a lecture. The teacher says here’s the work and you do it. It changed my whole outlook on schoolwork. When I got to college it was much easier.”
Aguilar attends the Bluegrass Community & Technical College, studying for an associate’s degree in science. “I want to be a doctor someday,” she said.
Her daughter, Isabell, 3, is still enrolled in the center’s child-care program.
If she were to recommend the center to other mothers, what would she say?

 Tee Bergman, a long time volunteer, keeps the garden areas in the courtyard and all around the center beautiful at the Family Care Center.  Photo by Mark Cornelison

Tee Bergman, a long time volunteer, keeps the garden areas in the courtyard and all around the center beautiful at the Family Care Center. Photo by Mark Cornelison

“I would say it is hard, but being at the Family Care Center makes it easy,” she said. “I am still in touch with the teachers at the Family Care Center. That student-teacher relationship is just like an extra helping hand. They are part of our family.”
Joanna Rodes, director of Family Services which oversees the center, said bonding is what separates the center from other programs.
“The center is not just special because of the work we do,” she said. “It is the systems approach. The way we take care of our clients is special. We are better than a plain old child-care center.”
The center offers high school classes, child care, a full-service pediatric clinic run by the University of Kentucky, the HANDS program, and a case management program that encircles the family with a team of supporters.
At a recent graduation, the clients voluntarily told their stories about how they were challenged by their teachers and the support staff. They also said meeting those challenges made them better mothers and adults.
When the facility opened, Baesler said, “If 15 years from now we can say that 35 young people were able to lead fuller, more productive lives,” then the effort and the $2.9 million spent for the building would have been worth it.
Drop by the reunion on July 26. Listen to the memories and the sincere gratitude. Then tell any teen mother you know to sign up.

IF YOU GO
A reunion of staff, volunteers, graduates and children of the Family Care Center in celebration of the center’s 25th anniversary.
When: 1-4 p.m. July 26.
Where: 1135 Red Mile Place.
For information and to RSVP: Call (859) 288-4040.

July 22nd, 2014

Home Builders starting two-year apprentice program

The Home Builders Association of Lexington is looking for a few good men and women who want to become skilled workers in the construction industry.
Starting in September, classes for carpentry and for heating, ventilation and air conditioning technology will be held in the evenings at the new Building Institute of Central Kentucky, a school the association started.
“It is something we have talked about for a few years,” said Todd Johnson, executive vice president of the association. “But the need came to the surface. There is a crunch in the labor force (because) there are fewer people coming into the trades now.”
Traditionally, the skills associated with construction were handed down through the family from one generation to another, Johnson said. But now, families are sending their children to college, creating a shortage of skilled labor.
The apprenticeship program, called the Workforce Development Training Program, will be based on a model that has been successful in Northern Kentucky since 1967.
Enzweiler Apprentice Training Program, founded by Home Builders Association of Northern Kentucky, is the longest running apprenticeship training program in the United States, according to the program’s website.
That program has classes in carpentry, electricity, HVAC, remodeling and maintenance, masonry, plumbing and welding taught by trades professionals.
Enzweiler graduates about 96 percent of its students and all of those graduates pass the test for licensure, Johnson said.
The Lexington program is driven by the 750 members of the association, some of whom sit on the advisory committee for the school and direct the curriculum.
“Our goal is to produce someone who is employable at the end of the two-year program,” Johnson said.
The National Association of Home Builders is predicting an increase in housing starts this year over 2013, he said, particularly with multi-family housing.
But locally, Johnson said, there is a sense that buyers have not “reached a full comfort level about the overall economy yet. Our members are busy with new construction but definitely could stand to be busier.”
Remodelers, he said, are “slammed,” but there are fewer bigger jobs in this market.
Still, the result of member surveys has shown there are 30 jobs available now in Lexington.
Students will attend class two nights a week, from 6 to 9 p.m. Most, if not all, will have day jobs in the trades they are studying. So far, 15 students have applied. Classes start Sept. 8.
So far, all the applicants are men, Johnson said. The association wants to attract women as well.
Although the training program’s policies have not been finalized for students, association members do have rules in place for their employees or potential employees.
A drug test will be administered at the time of the application and randomly throughout the apprenticeship, he said. And criminal background checks will be conducted and the results reviewed on a case-by-case basis with acceptance into the program based on the nature and severity of the criminal activity.
Tuition is $3,000 a year or $1,500 a semester. Books are covered, but tools are not. “Most companies have a tool-purchase program,” Johnson said. Tools will be available in the classroom, however.
Semesters run from September-December, and January-April. Classes will be held at the school, 124 Trade Street.
Next year, in the fall, three more disciplines — plumbing, masonry and remodeling maintenance — will be added to the curriculum, he said.
“We act on the direction of our members,” Johnson said. “We were told this is something they need. Employers are behind it.
“We are going to hopefully provide good skills to help (students) be employable,” he said. “There is still interest there for young people to work with their hands in a trade.”

For more information
For more information or to apply to the program, contact Bruce Maybriar, director of professional development, at (859) 273-5117, Ext. 33, or email bruce@
hbalexington.com.

July 22nd, 2014

Counseling service struggling to survive

While it has increasingly become a familiar story, news of yet another valued non-profit losing its funding still packs a surprising wallop.
The Family Counseling Service, which was founded in 1900 by then Lexington Mayor H.T. Duncan to “investigate and aid distressed children and families in the community,” may have to close its doors because the agency has no money.
That means some 30 to 40 people seen each week will have to find another resource for the clinical and therapeutic services they have been receiving on a sliding-fee scale.
The agency lost about $30,000 it was expecting from the United Way of the Bluegrass, and it didn’t receive funding it had applied for from the Urban County Government, said Mendy Daniels, executive director of FCS.
“We are not able to survive that,” she said. “We were running on bare bones as it was. The board said anything short of a miracle, we will have to close our doors.”
Daniels has written a lot of grant applications, but even if the agency receives them, it won’t be until this fall, “which will be too late,” she said.
The best estimate is the agency has about two months to come up with the money, very inexpensive office space, or both.
“If we got both, we would be in good shape,” Daniels said. “We could make it another year.”
A year is a long time in the life of a man, woman or child who is in need of sessions on parenting, anger management, adolescent behavior problems, substance dependency, abuse, stress, depression or marriage counseling.
FCS is an outpatient mental health agency dedicated to providing affordable counseling and guidance to help people cope with the problems of life and improve the quality of their relationships.
And, because the clients can’t afford to pay going prices for those services, the reduced fees can’t keep the agency afloat.
“The people we are serving can’t help us survive,” Daniels said.
If FCS closes, the clients face a possible wait of two to three months to be seen elsewhere.
So how did the agency get into such a fix? David Cole, president of the FCS board, said it was a deadly combination of decisions made about five years ago coupled with an economy that has not fully recovered.
“We need to get the word out,” he said. “This is a life safety net.”
Cole said he worked in the community mental health system for 27 years before starting his own business. He still has compassion for people who seek help and for agencies that can affordably provide it.
“Our main goal is caring for the clients,” Cole said. Even if the doors close, the agency still wants to find a way for its clients to continue receiving good, empathetic care.
FCS could partner with a private organization, he said. “We don’t want to drag anyone down,” he said. “We just want a way to get back on our feet and continue to serve the clients we serve.”
FCS also serves as a “vast training ground,” Cole said, for university students at the graduate level. As supervised interns, they receive the experience needed to go along with the theory they’ve been taught.
“We are one of the few places left to do practicums and to learn how to do therapy,” Daniels said.
All of that will be plowed under if the agency doesn’t find help soon. FCS is willing to consider anything “that will keep us open and we can protect the safety and dignity of our clients, because they deserve it,” Cole said.

WAYS TO HELP
The Family Counseling Service needs to raise at least $30,000 to continue to serve clients in need of affordable mental health care. The non-profit could also use free or affordable office space and is willing to partner with a private organization. If you can help, send donations to Family Counseling Service, 2432 Regency Road, Suite 120, Lexington, Ky. 40503. Or donations can be made
on the agency’s website,
Familycounselingky.org. For more information, call (859) 233-0033.

July 22nd, 2014

Technical college wastes no time in hurdling barriers to employment

Dametrius Drake faced a lot of barriers before he enrolled in the Building Trades Technician program at the College for Technical Education in 2012.
He was an ex-offender returning to an unwelcoming society from prison, with child support payments due and a lot of idle time.
Historically, that is not a recipe for success.
But what Drake had going for him was a will and a desire to succeed. CTE became his blueprint.

Dametrius Drake

Dametrius Drake

“The school provided me with the opportunity to tap into my inner abilities,” Drake said. “They gave me a chance to provide for my family.”
Drake and Patrick Morton, both graduates of the Building Trades program, are co-owners of Lex General Contracting & Services, which was established in 2012 while both were still students there. In fact, CTE gave them their first contract, which was to lay the flooring for the Food and Hospitality Professional program, also at the school.
Since then they have landed a contract to install doors and hardware in the dorms under construction on the University of Kentucky campus. And they have been able to employ other workers.
“I went in with the goal and mind-set to start my own business,” Drake said. “They went outside (the curriculum) and taught me about bidding and budgeting. CTE led me to all these opportunities.”
CTE is a program within Employment Solutions Inc., formerly known as Metro Industries, which is an umbrella for five non-profit groups: Fresh Approach, which employs the intellectually disabled; Q-Box, a corrugated box company; Expressive Programs, a training and enrichment service for the intellectually disabled; Bluegrass Career Services, a job placement service; and CTE.
Like all the programs under Employment Solutions, CTE is focused on knocking down barriers to employment.
“Our mission is to help those with barriers to overcome them and become self-sufficient,” said Brenda Evans, campus director.
Those barriers could be economic, being a single parent with multiple children, time restraints on learning a skill, or a criminal background. “We teach these folks a career and get them hired,” Evans said.
The school offers certificates in cosmetology, nail technology, medical assistant, early childhood education, business office administration, food and hospitality professional, and building trades.
There are 115 students at the campus at 1165 Centre Parkway, and 40 more at the campus in Winchester which is solely cosmetology. The average age is 33.
Most are nine-month programs with tuitions and fees ranging between $6,000 and $16,000, which seems pretty steep.
But Evans said all the tools needed for each profession are provided as well as the fees for any exams necessary for certification. And, when warranted, externships are set up.

DeShaun Tucker prepared a strawberry bread in a culinary class at College for Technical Education.  Photo by Pablo Alcala

DeShaun Tucker prepared a strawberry bread in a culinary class at College for Technical Education. Photo by Pablo Alcala

“At no time will a student leave this program and still need something in order to work,” she said.
Instead of Monday-Wednesday or Tuesday-Thursday college classes, CTE runs on a modular system four days a week for 61/2 hours a day. The students in each program take the same class for the first three or six weeks before moving on to the next topic.
New classes start every three to six weeks, depending on the program. Students don’t have to wait until September, she said.
While similar programs at the community college system may be less expensive, those programs run longer, Evans said, “which is something our students don’t have: the precious element of time.”
The first weeks are all about the program, followed by job readiness instruction that features mock interviews and even surprise phone interviews.
“There is no fluff,” she said. “It is career-focused. Food and hospitality math is directly related to recipe conversion. There is no history except the history of food. No electives. No social studies. It comes down to the desires of the students.”
Because it is accredited, federal financial-aid programs are available. All the instructors have worked in the fields they teach.
“We have a student to teacher ratio that is less than 8 to 1,” Evans said. “We are not afraid of teaching a class with three students in it. We are afraid of teaching a class with more than 25.”
Sixty percent of the students who start a program must complete it, according to their own standards, she said. And after graduation, 70 percent of the graduates must find work in their field.

Brenda Evans, right, is campus director for College of Technical Education. With her is Rick Christman, CEO of Employment Solutions, Inc.

Brenda Evans, right, is campus director for College of Technical Education. With her is Rick Christman, CEO of Employment Solutions, Inc.

“We haven’t missed a benchmark,” said Employment Solutions CEO Rick Christman. “We are not perfect. We still have our problems. We have lots of room for improvement.”
Each student is matched with a “survival job,” part-time work that helps put money in his or her pocket while in school. Those jobs are usually set up through Bluegrass Career Services.
When students enroll, there is a two-week period in which the school can cancel their enrollment or the student can pull out, no questions asked.
“If they are tardy twice in two weeks, we will cancel them,” Evans said.
“Like they were never here,” Christman added.
“One no-call, no-show, we cancel them in the first two weeks,” Evans said. “We don’t want to take their financial aid if we can’t place them.”
And if they don’t show up for class, they probably won’t show up for work. That is not acceptable.
“In our programs for nine months there is a lot of content,” Christman said. “This is not play school. They have to work hard.”
“We want them (students) to come in here whether or not they have a barrier and walk out with an education in a good career field, doing what they want to do and being able to support their families. That’s our goal.”
It has worked for Arlando Morris, 38, who graduated Building Trades in January. He and partner Ronald James, who graduated last year, own Jify Renovations. “Jify” stands for Jesus Is for You.

Carpentry instructor CB Thompson, center, taught Marcus Howard, right, and Tristan Bennett how to use a router to make a cornhole board at the College for Technical Education. Photo by PABLO ALCALA

Carpentry instructor CB Thompson, center, taught Marcus Howard, right, and Tristan Bennett how to use a router to make a cornhole board at the College for Technical Education. Photo by PABLO ALCALA

Morris said the company has secured nearly $100,000 in contracts since it started in November.
“We had great instructors behind us 100 percent,” he said. “They give us job leads and believe in us and stay connected with us.
“I plan to do a great job so (good work) will continue to come back and everyone looks good.”

 

July 3rd, 2014

Intolerance facing child immigrants is disturbing and familiar

As angry protestors shouted, “Go back home,” and “We don’t want you here,” three Homeland Security buses were turned away from entry to the U.S. Border Patrol station in Murrieta, Calif., on Tuesday.
Onboard were about 140 undocumented children and some parents who had crossed our country’s southern borders illegally.
The scene played out over and over again on TV news cycles, and I probably should have switched channels. But I couldn’t.
When I closed my eyes and just listened to the anger, fears and frustrations of the protestors, I couldn’t help but be taken back to the first busloads of Freedom Riders who wanted to change the laws of the land that supported segregated travel facilities in the South. Those riders also were stopped and angrily ordered to go back where they came from.
Many of us can look back now at those images during the summer of 1961 and shake our heads at the racial intolerance and injustices too many American supported. We cringe at the terror inflicted on many of the bus riders by people who had no desire to embrace equitable laws.
But when our eyes are turned toward the approximately 52,000 children who have crossed our southern borders illegally since October – many of whom sent here alone by parents who believed an unknown America was better than the conditions in their home countries – our concern is more for our wallets than their well-being.
Were the people on those buses terrified Tuesday like the riders 53 years ago? Even those who don’t speak English could tell the protestors were not welcoming them.
In 1961, protestors argued the riders brought it upon themselves. If the riders had just stayed home, protestors wouldn’t have beaten them and burned their buses while insisting the violence kept southern cities safe.
In 2014, we can’t seem to understand that parents sending children to a foreign country alone is equivalent to parents dropping a child from a burning building to waiting arms below. The unknown has to be better than the near-certainty of violence in their homeland.
To what lengths would the protestors go to protect their children from druglords and violent gangs that threaten innocent people in El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala?
We shouldn’t portray ourselves to the world as saviors and peacekeepers if we don’t want people to believe that.
“Send them back to their country,” one protestor said in California. “Send them back to where they come from.”
Those are the same words spewed by Americans between 1845 and 1855, the Constitutional Rights Foundation said, when about 1.5 million Irish immigrants came to our shores and promptly strained the resources of northern cities. Americans treated them badly, refused to hire them for meaningful work and isolated them in poor communities.
“As anti-Irish and anti-Catholic sentiment grew, newspaper advertisements for jobs and housing routinely ended with the statement: “No Irish need apply,” according to the foundation. The Know-Nothing Party, established in 1850 to prevent Irish immigration, was popular until the Civil War when attention was turned to slavery and away from the Irish immigrants.
Jews, Italians and Poles also tasted American backlash. They all managed to eventually blend in with other Americans, helping this country to become the great country it is.
Change invites fear. Fear welcomes misinformation. Misinformation divides us as people. Divided people can be seen as inhumane to some and nonhuman to others.
We can’t continue as a nation to find new necks to stand on. We need immigration reform.
As a nation, we are better than what I’ve seen in my history and on TV Tuesday evening.

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