I’ve been thinking a lot lately about Youth Entrepreneurship, Financial Literacy, and youth job readiness training.

Why you ask?  They have become a major part of my job.  For the past year I’ve been working on a new program at my middle school.  The short version of the story is that many of our students are constantly needing to raise money  for field trips, athletic fees, and other school-related fees.  We are a pretty mixed income school with a few homeless/highly-mobile youth and a few who are pretty wealthy.  And a bunch that are working and/or middle class.

In 2007 an involved community member/former parent had an idea of students earning money by doing work around the community. When I came to the school in 2008 I was tasked to get the program up and running. The foundation of the program is connecting our students with local residents who need work done around their house.  Yes, there are lots of issues surrounding this idea, but so far it is working! Students shovel, rake, weed, mow, etc for a donation of $5 an hour.  Even if the students don’t completly love the idea of working, their parents do!!

We think it offers a chance for the students to learn some valuable skills and experiences, while also meeting needs in the community. A lot of our customers are elderly residents who like the idea of supporting a local school.  As you can imagine this takes a lot of work – connecting customers and students and on a really busy day I feel more like a dispatcher than anything else!  I enjoy talking with the customers (except the crabby ones) and especially getting to talk with the kids.  Because of the intense amount of time and pressure for this aspect we’ve decided to branch out and create something a little more sustainable.

Thus, entrepreneurship.  The idea is that student create their own small businesses that can help fund their education.  It can be targetted towards other students or the broader community.  We are still in the beginning stages of exploring this opportunity.  During the last year I also realized that many of the students I work with aren’t financially literate.  Few of them have bank accounts or have an understanding of the simplest financial practices.  As a result we are going to start covering some of the basics.

This is a somewhat random post, but I missed church this weekend due to a fundraising dinner for the program I described above.  See, it all connects together!

Well election euphoria is still rampant here in Minneapolis. People were dancing in the streets, setting off fireworks, and more Tuesday night. I’m not going to discuss politics today but more post my thoughts of working in a school that hosted a polling site.

A lot more went into this than I expected. A few of us (including the principal) had a meeting to talk about logistics of the day. We had to make sure our students were safe, didn’t interfere with the voting, and our school looks good.

The way our building is setup we don’t have a secure way to section off part of the school, which turned out to be fine. A funny part of the logistics is that the school district won’t allow the “general public” to use our restroom facilities. So someone ponied up the money to rent port-a-potties. Yes, we had 4 port-a-potties sitting outside our building.

Anyway I had the chance to talk to many of the students getting off the buses. Their reactions were wide ranging and interesting. Here are a few of them:

– “Did you vote Mr Cross?” Me: “Not yet” “Ok, be responsible.”
– “What is going on??” (she obviously didn’t get the phone call the night before)
– One student walked past the line of waiting voters and started chanting, “Obama, Obama, Obama.”
– Another student later went through and pointed at people saying, “McCain, McCain, McCain.”
– Fortunately, for the last two the people just laughed.
– Some voters waiting in line very early threatened to call the cops on a student holding an Obama sign if we didn’t make him put it away – we did. The only cop that I saw around all day was our Liaison.
– Throughout the day students would walk by the voting room and say something like Obama or McCain. Interestingly, no kids said anything about our levy or referendum on the ballot!
– Every polling site had a Kids Voting Booth. It kept track of which school the students attended – not necessarily the polling site. Our school had 67 students vote – 65 voted for Obama,29 voted to pass the school levy.
– Voters lined the hall, out the door, and around the corner… the wait wasn’t ever more than 30-40 minutes.
– Voters enjoyed the chance to talk and catch up with their neighbors and friends.

It was good to see the kids react to the election and to see democracy in action. We have a large percentage of students who are first or second generation immigrants. Some of these student’s parents aren’t able to vote but they got to see the power of democracy. A co-worker said she ran into a bunch of Somali’s cheering in the streets – and they couldn’t vote but were so excited to watch democracy in action.

A final note, the Family Liaison, was in charge of working with the election judges and making sure everything went smoothly. Talking to the election judge mid-way through the day, the judge commented to her that they had gotten a lot of comments about welcoming the school had been and especially the principal. My co-worker was shocked because our principal wasn’t even there. Everyone thought the Liaison was the principal!! A funny story from election day.

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Almost two years after a tragic accident killed 4 students and a Taylor staff member, a book has been released by the families involved in the case of mistaken identity that followed.

I actually never went back and updated my original posting with the correct information. One of the students was misidentified and her family and friends mourned her – until she came out of her coma and started asking for her family.

It became a powerful story of love and trust in God that carried these two families through such a tragic time. One families hope was shattered while another’s grief became overwhelming appreciation. The story gripped national headlines and was a catalyst for changes in Indiana law, but the most amazing part of the story was to see the love that the van Ryan family continued to show towards Whitney – even after they realized she wasn’t their daughter.

Just under 2 years after this drama unfolded the families gathered together to write a book to share their story and provide hope and inspiration to families and individuals suffering through tragedy. The book is titled Mistaken Identity. You can read an excerpt of the book here.

In addition to the book release the families appeared on The Today Show, Dateline, and Oprah.

Here is a clip from The Today Show, be sure to check out the sites for more video, especially the 2 hour Dateline special.

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Ever heard of this day? I hadn’t either until working at Sanford.

NAAPID’s website says National African-American Parent Involvement Day (NAAPID) is a national call to action to get parents, particularly those of children of African American descent, more involved in their educational lives. It is expected that this national observation will open up dialogue among teachers, parents, and students, which will lead to a more conducive learning environment for African -American students from kindergarten through college.

Minneapolis Public School’s website also includes this information:

Monday, Feb. 11, is National African American Parent Involvement Day. This day is designated to emphasize the importance of African American parents and families being involved in their child’s education. It is also an effort to rebuild trust between students, families and schools.
While we will celebrate National African American Parent Involvement Day on Feb. 11, we invite parents and extended family members to visit their child’s school or any school-related activity on this day.
Parental involvement continues to be important at MPS. We know that when parents are more involved in their child’s education, our students benefit through higher academic achievement, increased attendance and an overall more enriching educational experience.

On a whim I decided to contact the Minneapolis Star-Tribune to see if anyone would be free to cover our program. In fact they sent a reporter, videographer, and photographer. I was quite pleased, as was everyone at school. They produced this great video. (There isn’t a way to embed the video, but it is excellent and well worth the effort to go watch.) Here is the article they wrote about the event, it appeared on the top half of the local page!

We had an excellent day with a few parents showing up and the kids really enjoyed the program! We are really trying to incorporate Somali culture into the entire school so that we can all learn from each other!

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These seem obvious but in my ventures into the social networking realm of Myspace and Facebook, kids give out way too much information and may put themselves at risk.  I try to be cautious with what I put out into the open Internet realm.

1) Don’t give out personal information (one or two tidbits of information can lead to finding lots more)

2) Tell your parents immediately if you find information that make you uncomfortable

3) Never agree to meet someone in person without checking with your parents and having them present at the meeting

4) Never send anyone a picture or anything else without checking with your parents (this could exclude friends from school or church)

5) Do not respond to any messages that are mean or otherwise make you feel uncomfortable

6) Talk with your parents so that you can establish guidelines for being online

7) Do not give out your password to anyone other than your parents (even you BFF Jill)

8) Check with your parents before downloading or installing software or anything else on your computer (I would also add, be careful which widgets you add to your profiles, some computer code can provide back-door access to your profiles)

9) Be a good “citizen” in the online world and report anything that seems suspicious or could hurt someone else.

10) Kids, Help your parents understand how to have fun on the Internet and talk with them about what you are doing.  Parents, be learners and let your children talk to you about the technology (don’t be afraid of it, communicate your concerns with your child and realize that if you are too hard on them they may find alternate ways to setup an online account without your knowledge).

Adapted from: Kids’ Rules for Internet Safety 

Related Links

Federal Bureau of Investigation (Cyber Division) of the United States Department of Justice: A Parent’s Guide to Internet Safety

Child Safety on the Information Highway

Looking at Child Safety on the Internet  (ppt file on legislation and case study)

Internet Censorship and our First Amendment (ppt file on legislation and case study)



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Time Magazine’s Cover Story this week was entitled “Why We Should Teach the Bible in Public School

Its an interesting article to read and provides some decent reasons and proof that its ok to teach the Bible in public schools.

“Citing a series of Supreme Court decisions culminating in 1963’s Abington Township School District v. Schempp, which removed prayer and devotion from the classroom, the skeptics ask whether it is safe to bring back the source of all that sectarianism. But a new, post-Schempp coalition insists it is essential to do so. It argues that teaching the Bible in schools–as an object of study, not God’s received word–is eminently constitutional. The Bible so pervades Western culture, it says, that it’s hard to call anyone educated who hasn’t at least given thought to its key passages. Finally, it claims that the current civic climate makes it a “now more than ever” proposition. Says Stephen Prothero, chair of the Boston University religion department, whose new book, Religious Literacy (Harper SanFrancisco), presents a compelling argument for Bible-literacy courses: “In the late ’70s, [students] knew nothing about religion, and it didn’t matter. But then religion rushed into the public square. What purpose could it possibly serve for citizens to be ignorant of all that?” The “new consensus” for secular Bible study argues that knowledge of it is essential to being a full-fledged, well-rounded citizen.”

The Final Paragraph:

“Prothero may be overly sanguine about the workings of the U.S. court system. But even if he’s wrong, this shouldn’t stop schools from making some effort to teach the Bible. The study doesn’t have to be mandatory. In a national school system overscheduled with basic skills, other topics such as history and literature deserve core status more than Scripture–provided that these classes address it themselves, where appropriate. But if an elective is offered, it should be twinned mandatorily with a world religions course, even if that would mean just a semester of each. Within that period students could be expected to read and discuss Genesis, the Gospel of Matthew, a few Moses-on-the-mountain passages and two of Paul’s letters. No one should take the course but juniors and seniors. The Bible’s harmful as well as helpful uses must be addressed, which could be done by acknowledging that religious conservatives see the problems as stemming from the abuse of the holy text, while others think the text itself may be the culprit. The course should have a strong accompanying textbook on the model of The Bible and Its Influence but one that is willing to deal a bit more bluntly with the historical warts. And some teacher training is a must: at a bare minimum, about their constitutional obligations.”

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