What's Up? with Merlene http://merlenedavis.bloginky.com Wed, 30 Jul 2014 17:38:45 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.1 Violence dims hope of achieving American Dream http://merlenedavis.bloginky.com/2014/07/30/violence-dims-hope-of-achieving-american-dream/ http://merlenedavis.bloginky.com/2014/07/30/violence-dims-hope-of-achieving-american-dream/#comments Wed, 30 Jul 2014 17:38:45 +0000 http://merlenedavis.bloginky.com/?p=3257 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.

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Free play about Alzheimer’s seeks to make us more aware http://merlenedavis.bloginky.com/2014/07/22/free-play-about-alzheimers-seeks-to-make-us-more-aware/ http://merlenedavis.bloginky.com/2014/07/22/free-play-about-alzheimers-seeks-to-make-us-more-aware/#comments Tue, 22 Jul 2014 18:14:25 +0000 http://merlenedavis.bloginky.com/?p=3254 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.

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.

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Reunion set for volunteers, staff and students of Family Care Center http://merlenedavis.bloginky.com/2014/07/22/reunion-set-for-volunteers-staff-and-students-of-family-care-center/ http://merlenedavis.bloginky.com/2014/07/22/reunion-set-for-volunteers-staff-and-students-of-family-care-center/#comments Tue, 22 Jul 2014 18:08:56 +0000 http://merlenedavis.bloginky.com/?p=3251 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.

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.

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Home Builders starting two-year apprentice program http://merlenedavis.bloginky.com/2014/07/22/home-builders-starting-two-year-apprentice-program/ http://merlenedavis.bloginky.com/2014/07/22/home-builders-starting-two-year-apprentice-program/#comments Tue, 22 Jul 2014 17:45:30 +0000 http://merlenedavis.bloginky.com/?p=3245 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@

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Counseling service struggling to survive http://merlenedavis.bloginky.com/2014/07/22/counseling-service-struggling-to-survive/ http://merlenedavis.bloginky.com/2014/07/22/counseling-service-struggling-to-survive/#comments Tue, 22 Jul 2014 17:40:16 +0000 http://merlenedavis.bloginky.com/?p=3243 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.

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.

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Technical college wastes no time in hurdling barriers to employment http://merlenedavis.bloginky.com/2014/07/22/technical-college-wastes-no-time-in-hurdling-barriers-to-employment/ http://merlenedavis.bloginky.com/2014/07/22/technical-college-wastes-no-time-in-hurdling-barriers-to-employment/#comments Tue, 22 Jul 2014 17:34:36 +0000 http://merlenedavis.bloginky.com/?p=3237 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.”


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Intolerance facing child immigrants is disturbing and familiar http://merlenedavis.bloginky.com/2014/07/03/intolerance-facing-child-immigrants-is-disturbing-and-familiar/ http://merlenedavis.bloginky.com/2014/07/03/intolerance-facing-child-immigrants-is-disturbing-and-familiar/#comments Thu, 03 Jul 2014 19:45:57 +0000 http://merlenedavis.bloginky.com/?p=3234 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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Berea College, author show diversity of Appalachia http://merlenedavis.bloginky.com/2014/07/03/berea-college-author-show-diversity-of-appalachia/ http://merlenedavis.bloginky.com/2014/07/03/berea-college-author-show-diversity-of-appalachia/#comments Thu, 03 Jul 2014 19:43:27 +0000 http://merlenedavis.bloginky.com/?p=3231 Lexington author Crystal Wilkinson was recently named the Appalachian Writer-in-Residence at Berea College.
I know it doesn’t seem like that big a deal. Authors serving as writers-in-residence are a common occurrence.
But Wilkinson, who is black, will serve as the Appalachian writer-in-residence. That designation is a hat-tip to all the black people who have made a home in Appalachia, but who have never been acknowledged.
And it is heads-up to people who assume all Appalachia residents are white.
“It validates me as an Appalachian,” said Wilkinson, who grew up in Casey County.

Crystal Wilkinson

Crystal Wilkinson

“It’s the first time I wasn’t called Affrilachian. I am full Appalachian.”
Affrilachian was a word coined by Frank X Walker, Kentucky’s Poet Laureate, in the early 1990s when he, Wilkinson and others founded the Affrilachian Poets group to challenge the stereotype that Appalachians were white. They wanted to highlight the diverse population and culture of the mountain range spanning a 13-state region from Mississippi to New York.
In a press release, Chris Green, director of Berea’s Loyal Jones Appalachian center, said Wilkinson “will connect with Berea students across the board — rural or urban, Appalachian or not, black or white, beginning or advanced, younger or older. Whenever I read her words I learn not only how to be where I am but how to belong there and in the world. I think she’s going to do the same thing for Berea.”
Chad Berry, academic vice president and dean of the faculty at Berea, said Appalachia was settled by American Indians, whites and blacks, but over the years the rural areas of the region came to be seen as white. “We are trying to challenge those preconceptions,” Berry said. “We want to show students, black and white, that they can be proud of their Appalachian heritage. We’re working hard in that regard.”
Having Wilkinson, authors Silas House and Jason Howard, and scholar bell hooks all working at the Appalachian Center lends credence to that for students, he said.
Wilkinson said her hiring for the grant-funded, three-year position also helps black people outside the area better understand the diversity of the region. “I think it will surprise some people,” she said, “and not because I am writer-in-residence.”
Wilkinson grew up on her grandparents’ farm in Indian Creek near Middleburg, about 45 miles south of Berea in Casey County.
Her grandmother read to her until she could read on her own. And, when she had finished all the available books, Wilkinson began writing her own.
She has won awards for fiction and poetry and has taught writing courses at the Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning, at the Governor’s School for the Arts, and at several colleges and universities, including Eastern Kentucky University, Indiana University Bloomington, Morehead State University, Spalding University, the University of Kentucky, Cumberland College, Lindsey Wilson College and Berea.
Wilkinson said she learned of the position in April and was urged to apply.
Officials were seeking an author who self-identified as an Appalachian writer and had received critical acclaim. The author of Water Street, and Blackberries, Blackberries fit the bill.
Wilkinson said she is working on three new projects: a novel, a collection of poems about her grandfather being a “water witch,”  or dowser, and a memoir about her mother.
She will teach three courses per year for students and offer workshops for the general community. Wilkinson said she is looking forward to that part of the job.
“There are talented musicians and artists and writers who never got to go to school for it because of life circumstances,” she said. With the workshops, “they will be able to come out the other side with something published or with a chapter completed.”
And they will be able to see for themselves that Appalachia has produced talented people of color as well.

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New boss of alumni shows UK evolution http://merlenedavis.bloginky.com/2014/07/03/new-boss-of-alumni-shows-uk-evolution/ http://merlenedavis.bloginky.com/2014/07/03/new-boss-of-alumni-shows-uk-evolution/#comments Thu, 03 Jul 2014 19:39:35 +0000 http://merlenedavis.bloginky.com/?p=3227 When Elaine Adams Wilson graduated from Dunbar High School as valedictorian, she received a “Scholastic Achievement” pin from the University of Kentucky Alumni Association.
She would rather not tell us what year that was.
Nevertheless, on July 1, several decades after receiving that award, Wilson will become the first black person to serve as the president of that 37,000-member organization.
“I have had ties to the UK Alumni Association for that long,” she said. “This is such an honor. I get the opportunity to show people what the university can mean for all of us.”

Elaine Wilson

Elaine Wilson

Wilson, who has been a lifetime association member since 1987, is fully aware of what her position means to the thousands of people of color who have attended or graduated from the university since Lyman T. Johnson successfully sued to desegregate UK in 1949.
“I know we’ve had some issues going back a long time,” she said. “Lord knows we have. Many people have had issues. You had people back then who didn’t think people of color should be at UK.”
But she thinks traveling the state as an ambassador for the university will allow more people to see things have changed.
“This is a historic moment,” said Lee A. Jackson, president of the Lyman T. Johnson African-American Alumni group. “It is setting the framework to get more African-Americans involved in the alumni association. She is the first African-American officer within the ranks.”
Brenda B. Gosney, the current president whose term ends June 30, said the association has made a concerted effort in recent years to improve the diversity of the board. “The president not only represents members of the association, but also the voice of all the alumni,” she said. “As the face of the alumni association, (Wilson) sends a message that we are moving in a positive direction.”
Born in Lexington and reared on Eddie Street surrounded by extended family, Wilson said her grandfather, William “Pete” Brown, worked as a cook on Mount Brilliant Farm and her grandmother, Louise Brown, stayed home to care for their 13 children.
“They had servant quarters and he had to live out there,” she said. “He got a half day off on Thursday afternoon and part of Sunday.”
Wilson’s mother, Jean A. Johnson, who was also a valedictorian at Dunbar, worked as a domestic in private homes and as a maid and beautician’s helper in a beauty parlor before becoming a claims approver for an insurance company.
“She didn’t learn to drive until I was almost in college,” Wilson said, adding her mother suffered with back problems caused by the jarring of the buses she rode as they traveled over uneven roads.
Her grandmother watched her while her mother worked and she helped Wilson with her homework. “She told me I was second to none,” Wilson said. “I really liked that phrase. Whenever I would get down over the years, I would pull myself up on that. I would think, ‘She believed in me.’ ”
Wilson enrolled at UK to be a medical technologist, but changed her major three times and still graduated in four years with a degree in social work. She earned her master’s from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, and has worked in New York, Ohio, Michigan and Tennessee.
When she returned to Lexington, she met and married Grant Paul Wilson Jr. in 1973. They moved to Somerset and had three sons during their 34-year marriage. He was the first black member of the Somerset City Council and served for 18 years. He died in 2007.
For many years, she worked at the Oakwood Training Facility in Somerset as associate facility director.  She is now the Director of Cultural Diversity for Somerset Community College.
In her spare time, she is a longtime member of the Lexington Singers, the Somerset Independent Schools Board of Education, the Hospice of Lake Cumberland board, the Kentucky Humanities Council Board and the president of the Pulaski County Library board. And she has her real estate license although she hasn’t worked in that field in a while.
“Elaine is a very energetic and ambitious person,” Gosney said. “She has more stamina than I do.”
So, what does Wilson plan to do with all her new powers?pin
She hopes to increase the number of minorities in the alumni association which could lead to an increase in the number of minorities on the UK Board of Trustees, on which she served from 2000-2005.
Trustees are appointed either through political means or through nominations voted upon by the association’s members. Three association members serve on the trustees.
The more people who are members of the association that began in 1889, the more people who could be eligible to serve on the trustee board.
“Lyman T. Johnson started this and got the university to where it accepts everyone now,” Wilson said.
The next step, then, should be active participation in the decision-making process. “That doesn’t happen by accident,” she said.
The university, she said, serves American Indian, Asian, black, white, Hispanic, and Hawaiian or Pacific Islanders. “We need to make sure they want to join us because we make them feel comfortable,” she said. “We need to make sure they know UK is a welcoming place no matter where you come from.
“This is not black history,” she said. “This is university history. This is Kentucky history. It is not just for us, but for everybody.”

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Indian racial slurs are never a ‘badge of honor’ http://merlenedavis.bloginky.com/2014/07/03/indian-racial-slurs-are-never-a-badge-of-honor/ http://merlenedavis.bloginky.com/2014/07/03/indian-racial-slurs-are-never-a-badge-of-honor/#comments Thu, 03 Jul 2014 19:33:13 +0000 http://merlenedavis.bloginky.com/?p=3225 My son, a die-hard Washington Redskins fan, said it is time for that National Football League team to let go of its name. And he said so on Facebook.
That would be a major step, but it’s one that seems to be gathering momentum now that the U.S. Trademark Trial and Appeal Board has canceled six trademarks registered by the team. It is only the second time the office has used its power to take down an offensive trademark and both times involved that football team.
But why?
Dan Snyder, the team’s owner, said the name has been in place for more than 80 years and he vowed never to change it. He said the name is “a badge of honor.”
“Well, I’m not feeling it,” said Mary Annette Pember of Cincinnati, a Red Cliff Ojibwe. “I’m not honored.”
Neither is Tressa Brown.
“What’s wrong with the name is that it is very disparaging and it is a racial slur,” said Brown, coordinator of the Native American Heritage and African American Heritage commissions for the Kentucky Heritage Council. “It’s like saying ‘that savage.’ It is like lumping everyone together.”
It is no different, she said, than using wop in reference to Italians, chink for Chinese, nigger for blacks, or mick for the Irish.
Mercy. I definitely wouldn’t want to see any of those names on a jersey in my son’s room.
“We don’t even say the n-word,” said Pember, a former photographer for the Lexington Herald-Leader. “Not only is it not acceptable, we don’t even utter it. That is a sea change.”
And that radical transformation is what she and many others of American Indian heritage want to see happen to the name of the Washington football team. The word redskin may have originated because of the coppery hue some tribes used on their skin for sunscreen, mosquito repellent or for ceremony or when at war, said Helen Danser, chair of the Kentucky Native American Heritage Commission.
Sometimes the material used was a type of clay material called red ochre or a coloring from walnuts. Sometimes it was mixed with bear grease, she said, and put on their bodies. If the coloring was used for a ceremony, the formula was different and kept secret.
“Both of those would give the red hue to the skin,” Danser said. “Warrior color would be red and black. That is probably where they got their name.”
But not all Indian nations held the same traditions or rituals. And, without the paint, American Indians come in all shades, she said.
The name is not the only problem, however.
Danser said using the headdress or war bonnet on the team’s logo and mascot is also hurtful. Not all nations used the war bonnets and for those that did, wearing it was an earned privilege.
“You had to prove yourself as a warrior to get that war bonnet,” she said. The football team is “pretending to be who you are not.”
The word may have been harmless at first, but it later was used as a negative. Bounties were placed for Indian scalps and skulls. Under the Indian Removal Act of 1830, tribes were forced to relocate to reservations and assimilate.
“They are really referring to us as bounty,” Pember said. “They are referring to our pelts. We are fauna. Redskin refers to us as animals.”
For some reason, though, Indian racial slurs have not been challenged as vociferously as have the epithets of other ethnic minorities.
“It is rare to see another racial group of people used in the images that American Indians have been used,” Brown said.
That is changing. For decades, Indians have battled against the use of mascots and names for sports teams without much success. This time, however, the heat is building. Indians want the same respect given to other minorities when those groups demanded it. Fortunately, federal and state lawmakers, civil rights organizations, the president, and a lot of fans agree.
“Some people think all Indian people should have beads and feathers and fringe because that is how Indians dress,” Brown said. “When they talk about American Indians, they are using the present tense, but they are talking about a culture that was 200 years ago.”
Fortunately, Brown and Danser are here to educate. They will be holding a program at Centenary United Methodist Church on Aug. 22 and 23 to help us better understand the stereotypes we associate with American Indians. Details to come later.
“We keep hoping to work ourselves out of a job so we don’t have to do the stereotype program anymore,” Brown said.
Let’s hope that happens soon.

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