Education Enthusiast Creates College Opportunities

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Brannon Jones

By Mel Childs

Brannon Jones has a passion for education. After graduating from Albany State University in 2007, he took his first job at Adamson Middle School in Clayton County as a substitute technology teacher. This is where Brannon discovered that education is his calling.

He has since turned this calling into a business that helps high school youth start planning for college. Next Step Education Foundation, located in Atlanta, Georgia, was founded in November 2011 to help youth develop a college readiness mindset at an early age to tackle the challenges associated with attending college.

“I don’t want lack of finances, resources, or information to hinder a student from getting a college education. Our mission is to give students what they need to help them be prepared to make one of the biggest decisions of their life,” Jones says.

Jones discussed his organization.

Did you feel that you were prepared for college when you attended?
I actually feel that I was unprepared. My parents instilled in me that I was going to college, but we didn’t have the logistical information on what I needed to do to be successful in the process. By happenstance, my mother met an ASU alumnus who nominated me for a summer bridge program that offered college credits and a stipend to students who attended the summer after graduation. Opportunities like this aligned for me to become successful; however, that’s not always the case for students. One thing I always tell students is, ‘If you don’t do the things necessary to help your parents pay for college, you will attend a college your parents can afford.’

What made you switch gears from teaching to helping youth with college readiness?
I took a position in college recruitment after leaving K–12. While working in recruitment, I noticed how ill-prepared many students were. Many students didn’t have a proper support system during the transition to college. I began to expose my applicants and enrollees to opportunities and resources beyond what my institution had to offer, and this is when I realized that I was filling an informational void.

What is the biggest obstacle you have witnessed in the college readiness process?
Student access and awareness by far are the largest obstacles in the college readiness process. Students are coming from all walks of life, family backgrounds, and socio-economic statuses. Unfortunately, pertinent information and opportunities are not disseminated to all areas equally. In my opinion, there’s about a third of high school students who are going to college no matter what obstacles are in their way; there’s about a third of high school students that aren’t going to college no matter how many resources you provide for them; and then there’s a third that may or may not seek a higher education based on environmental factors including access and awareness. I focus on the latter group.

What types of ways does your organization help students with the process of preparing for college?College Readiness 101 Workbook
We truly focus on access and awareness for students. We want to prepare them for the high school to college transition, then directly connect them to all types of institutions of higher education. We do this through a few programmatic platforms:

Virtual College Experience Program – As long as students have a computer, tablet, or smartphone, they can log into our Student Center and watch short research-based videos, complete activities, and download helpful documents to assist them through their college readiness process.

Community Workshops – We have partnered with local agencies, student groups, civic organizations, and community organizers to conduct workshops covering a wide range of college preparation topics including college selection, admissions, financial aid, scholarships, test preparation, money mistakes, and decisions making for college-bound students.

Annual College, Career & Services Fair – Every fall, we host a large fair to expose students to well-known and lesser-known colleges, career professionals and local service providers. Our third Annual Fair in 2016 created 41 on-the-spot college acceptances and 1.7 million in scholarship offers.

College Readiness 101 Workbook – I have recently released my first published resource for students. The College Readiness 101 Workbook is a student research-based book that assists students in strategically choosing their college and major, understanding financial aid and other financing options, as well as provide tips, tools, and resources for them use on their journey. Additionally, the workbook includes a portfolio for students to compare their top five colleges. Through their research, they will be able to articulate the best college for them and the reasons why.

For anyone seeking more detailed information about our organization, I encourage them to visit our website at nextstepeducation.org. We are more than ready to help students get on an organized path in pursuit of higher education.

 

Princeton names its first black valedictorian in the university’s history

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Nicholas Johnson headshot

Princeton University has named its first black valedictorian in the school’s 274-year history. Nicholas Johnson, a Canadian student majoring in operations research and financial engineering, has been named valedictorian of Princeton’s Class of 2020, the university announced in a news release.

“It feels empowering. Being Princeton’s first Black Valedictorian holds special significance to me particularly given Princeton’s historical ties to the institution of slavery,” Johnson told CNN. “I hope that this achievement motivates and inspires younger black students, particularly those interested in STEM fields.”

The graduating senior’s favorite memories at school were those spent with “close friends and classmates engaging in stimulating discussions — often late at night — about our beliefs, the cultures and environments in which we were raised, the state of the world, and how we plan on contributing positively to it in our own unique way,” Johnson said in the school’s news release release.

He also said he appreciated the university for encouraging him to explore his interests by supporting him with international internships and cultural immersion trips to Peru, Hong Kong and the United Kingdom.

Johnson’s senior thesis focused on developing algorithms to design a community-based preventative health intervention to decrease obesity in Canada. A member of the Princeton chapter of Engineers Without Borders, Johnson also worked as a software engineer in machine learning at Google’s California headquarters during his time at Princeton.

Johnson also has a lot to look forward to. This summer, he will intern as a hybrid quantitative researcher and software developer at the D.E. Shaw Group, a global investment and technology development firm.

In the fall, Johnson will begin his PhD. studies in operations research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Although the coronavirus pandemic canceled Princeton’s in-person graduation ceremony, the school is still holding a virtual one on May 31.

Johnson told CNN it’s “disappointing” to not be able to celebrate as a class together in person this year. However, he said he is thankful to the administration for its commitment “to hosting an in person commencement for my class in Spring 2021 to celebrate our achievements.”

Continue on to CNN to read the complete article.

LeBron James, Bad Bunny, Jonas Brothers to throw class of 2020 a virtual graduation

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LebRon James speaking in front of large audience

The LeBron James Family Foundation recently announced that it will celebrate seniors in a special event called “Graduate Together: America Honors the High School Class of 2020″ at 5 p.m. Pacific on May 16 with help from superstar guests.

The Los Angeles Lakers star has drafted Bad Bunny, Pharrell Williams, the Jonas Brothers, Chika, YBN Cordae, H.E.R., Ben Platt, Megan Rapinoe, Yara Shahidi, Lena Waithe and Malala Yousafzai for the hourlong special. It will air simultaneously on ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC and the streaming platforms Complex Networks, Facebook app, Instagram, People TV, Snapchat, TikTok and YouTube.

We learned early on in our work with students and families in Akron that education is so much more than academics. It’s about a shared experience, a journey we’re all on together — students, parents, educators, community members and everyone around them. With that not being possible right now, we’ve been working to find ways to help families get through this really difficult time,” James said in a release.

“These students have worked incredibly hard for this and there’s no way we can let that go unrecognized. While this won’t be the graduation experience they were supposed to get, we hope we can still give them something special because they deserve it,” the basketball great added.

The commercial-free, multimedia event — which will be curated by high school students and educators across the country with support from the American Federation of Teachers — will feature a collection of vignettes, commencement speeches and celebrity performances.

Students, families and teachers will be encouraged to submit photos and videos using #GraduateTogether for a chance to have them included in the telecast. Don’t know what to do with your senior portrait? Artist JR is inviting seniors to share them for the virtual yearbook celebrating the nation’s 2020 high school graduates. Local TV stations also will feature shout-outs to high school students in their communities.

Continue on to the LA Times to read the complete article.

African Roots is a Big Part of the Roots Java Coffee Company

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Three bags of Root Coffee sitting in a bowl with balls made of twine

African Bean Company is the first nationally certified, African-American-owned coffee supply company providing national distribution. The company’s coffee is branded Roots Java Coffee.

From small communities on the Mississippi Delta to Brownstones in Harlem, African Americans have historically been devoted coffee consumers—helping to drive this multi-billion-dollar industry. African Bean Company, founded in 2010 by Dr. Fitzgerald Hill, is making history as he and his partner, Clifton L. Taulbert (President & CEO) ensure that African Americans are now on the owner/supply side of the industry.

The company’s rich tasting coffees are the result of beans grown by independent Rwandan farmers in the fertile, high mountain region of the country. These farmers, many of whom survived the horrific genocide, are now transforming their lives and their country by growing and harvesting the most sought-after coffee beans in the world.

Taulbert, who heads the operations of this national company, always smiles when asked about their market receptivity. “It’s not easy to tackle a market that is dominated by major international corporations with little or no room for a start-up company to play,” Taulbert said. “However, African Bean Company is here for the long haul. Using entrepreneurial tactics and plain ol’ hard work, they are making their way into homes (Online) with their signature 12 oz. bags of Ground and Whole Bean, along with their cases of filter and fractional packs for hospitals, country clubs, restaurants, and academic institutions commercially delivered across America. The premium brand’s smooth taste is rapidly becoming a highly sought-after item for holidays and special occasion gift giving and corporate gifts by loyal customers worldwide.”

Taulbert spoke to Black EOE Journal about his journey and his advice for black entrepreneurs:

“While growing up on the Mississippi Delta, embracing Entrepreneurial Thinking (ET) was a necessity if one were to move beyond the cotton fields that sought to define our lives. I was fortunate in that ET became part of my life early on—though simply called gumption—through the life lessons I learned at the Glen Allan Ice House, which was owned by my Uncle Cleve. Watching him chart this ownership path for himself was not lost on me. I wanted what I saw. As a young man who was part of the last migration North, gumption came North with me and eventually to Oklahoma. And to that extent allowed my company to be part of the Oklahoma team that introduced the then unknown Stairmaster Exercise System to the world.

Years later, my involvement with Stairmaster caught the attention of Dr. Fitz Hill, who convinced me if I could sell Stairmasters that no one wanted, surely, I could sell coffee. The rest is history; we became partners, and I became the president and CEO of African Bean Company LLC. Just as with Stairmaster, I knew nothing about coffee, but I learned at the Ice House that learning more is living life.

African Bean Company is a great story of unselfish leadership and the diversification of the coffee supply chain. This business has taught me more than imagined. The journey is long between the Beans of Rwanda and your cup of Java. Aligned with an incredible international supply chain—our beans are sourced from the country of Rwanda. Our company is self-funded, which has its restrictions, but we are creative and innovative. Uncle Cleve had to be…owning the only Ice House in a strictly segregated community. I packed his mindset in my small suitcase more than 40 years ago, and it continues to serve me well.

One of our entrepreneurial stories is having the opportunity to provide our coffee on a regular basis to Virgin Islanders for their growing retail coffee businesses. And not to forget BMW, who chooses to use our coffee each year at their North American Headquarters when they host their national supply diversity conference. Our Roots Java brand has become their brew of choice. One of our well-kept secrets is that we value hard work and keep our word to our growing customer base. We are moving out of the start-up phase with great hope for the future.

My advice to entrepreneurs about succeeding in their businesses and in life are five strategic tips that we share globally:

  1. Embrace inquisitiveness
  2. Accelerate your imagination
  3. Question your present reality
  4. Choose the right mindset
  5. 5. Ensure the presence of RAI in all you do: Respect, Affirmation & Inclusion

My greatest dream will be the day when no one is surprised that we exist.

I want every young African American to fully understand that they are endowed with the qualities that are essential for global success. Uncle Cleve could only go so far…but he left me the blueprint to go further. In 2010, Uncle Cleve became a book that is now on nearly every continent and was the subject of my talk at an international innovation conference held in the Assembly Hall of the United Nations. The book to clearly understand that the impossible is possible is, Who Owns the Ice House? Read the story while drinking your cup of Roots Java Coffee…the taste unforgettable.”

Source: Black PR Wire

A Paralyzing Injury Brings New Perspective

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Oluwaferanmi Okanlami, M.D., M.S.

By Lauren Love

Oluwaferanmi Okanlami, M.D., M.S., distinctly understands both sides of a catastrophic medical event. That’s because he has been both a patient and a doctor in that scenario.

In 2013, Okanlami was on his way to becoming an orthopaedic surgeon. The University of Michigan Medical School graduate was in his third year of residency at Yale New Haven Hospital in Connecticut.

But his dreams were almost derailed after sustaining a spinal cord injury at a Fourth of July pool party with friends and fellow residents.

“I jumped into the pool,” he says. “I didn’t do a backflip or anything like that. There was no diving board, but I hit either the ground or the side of the pool or someone’s leg. I can’t be completely sure, but immediately I was unable to move anything from my chest down.”

Okanlami’s medical instincts kicked in. “In my mind, I was thinking of next steps: Stabilize my spine, get me onto the stretcher and get me to the hospital,” he says. He also credits his colleagues for the expert care he was given from the beginning—quickly springing to action, getting him from the pool to the emergency department and onto the operating room table in record time.

Faith and Progress

Okanlami’s journey after the accident seems like something out of a Hollywood movie. Despite breaking his neck and becoming paralyzed from the neck down, he never doubted he’d be able to live a productive and independent life, still planning to leave his mark on the world.

“I have an interesting intersection of science and faith, such that even if doctors had said I would never walk again, I wasn’t going to let that limit what I hoped for my recovery,” Okanlami says. “I know there is so much we don’t know about spinal cord injury, and I know the Lord can work miracles.”

On Sept. 8, 2013, just two months after the accident, Okanlami moved his leg again.

“It was one of the most amazing days of my life,” he says. “It wasn’t a small flicker of a little muscle. I extended my leg at the knee. It was pretty sweet.”

A Renewed Energy

The accident didn’t end Okanlami’s professional pursuit, but it did send him down a different path. After months of inpatient rehabilitation, he moved home to South Bend, Indiana, to live with his parents—both doctors themselves—to continue extensive outpatient rehabilitation.

While learning to walk again, Okanlami found time for many other achievements.

He earned a master’s degree in engineering, science and technology entrepreneurship from the ESTEEM Program at the University of Notre Dame. He was appointed by the mayor of South Bend to sit on the county’s board of health. He became the coach of the River City Rollers, a wheelchair basketball team.

And as if all of that weren’t enough, he also went back to being a doctor.

“During my rehabilitation period, I was blessed with the opportunity to return to work as a physician in the family medicine residency program at Memorial Hospital in South Bend,” says Okanlami. “I was able to take care of patients from cradle to grave—delivering babies, taking care of patients in nursing homes and everything in between.”

His journey came full circle in early 2018 when he joined the Family Medicine and Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation faculty at Michigan Medicine.

Shifting Attitudes and Awareness

Dedicated to the belief that disability does not mean inability, Okanlami is more than just a doctor. He’s also an advocate and mentor for physicians and patients with similar backgrounds.

More than 20 percent of Americans live with a disability, after all, but as few as 2.7 percent of them are practicing physicians. One reason for the gap: Technical standards used for admission at many medical schools require physical aptitude, which can inadvertently exclude applicants with disabilities.

Okanlami found a perfect match at UM Family Medicine. A new social media campaign, #DocsWithDisabilities, based out of the Family Medicine department, is working to raise awareness about doctors with disabilities. Okanlami and his colleagues share a passion for and a focus on disability inclusion in medicine that is fueling their research agenda. Doctors Philip Zazove, Michael McKee, Lisa Meeks and others are researching mechanisms for improving access to medicine for physician, learner and patient populations.

“Increasing physician diversity has a positive impact on patient care and access for other marginalized groups,” says Meeks, a leading researcher in disabilities in medical education and a clinician scholar at U-M’s Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation.

Okanlami’s vision led to a joint appointment in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation as well as a role in The Office for Health Equity and Inclusion—partnerships he hopes to further his desire to “disabuse disability” and create a health system that is inclusive and accessible to all.

Standing Strong

While he can’t run yet, Okanlami can walk using assistive devices, some of which he has worked with a rehabilitation engineer to design and create. He also has a standing frame wheelchair that has been more versatile than he could have imagined. Despite his love for gadgets, he still tries to make time for regular exercise to stay physically fit for now, but with a goal of leaving the assistive devices behind one day.

Source: Michigan Medicine

Photo Credit: Michigan Medicine – University of Michigan

Here’s Everything That’s Happened With Your Student Loans In 2 Weeks

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Graduation mortar board cap on one hundred dollar bills concept for the cost of a college and university education loans

In case you missed it, there have been major changes regarding your student loans. President Donald Trump signed the CARES Act, which includes a $2 trillion stimulus package in response to the Coronavirus health emergency.

Among other benefits, the CARES Act has major implications for the way you pay your student loans, think about student loan forgiveness, and manage your money during Coronavirus.

Fortunately, let’s make it easy for you and put all the updates in one place so you’re up to speed. Here are the major changes:

Student Loans

President Donald Trump signed the CARES Act, which is a $2 trillion stimulus package that provides economic relief as a result of COVID-19. The CARES Act includes several benefits for your student loans, which are intended to help you manage your money due to the coronavirus emergency. Among other benefits, the CARES Act provides:

1. Stop paying your federal student loans through September 30, 2020.

That’s not a typo. You can stop paying your federal student loans through September 30, 2020.

What This Means: This means that you have the option to stop paying your federal student loans. If you choose this option (and you don’t have to), you will not face any penalties or late fees.

What This Doesn’t Mean: This doesn’t mean you can stop paying all your student loans. Remember, this is only for federal student loans that are owned by government agencies such as Direct Loans. However, this does not include private student loans or FFEL Loans.

2. Pay no interest on federal student loans.

What This Means: This is not a typo either. Through September 30, 2020, no interest will accrue on your federal student loans. This means that for this period, the interest rate will be set to 0% and no new interest will accrue on your federal student loan balance.

What This Does Not Mean: This only applies to federal student loans only, not private student loans or FFEL Loans.

3. Student loan debt collection has been halted.

What This Means: This means that wages, tax refunds and Social Security benefits will not be garnished during this period to pay for federal student loans. Trump previously stopped student loan debt collection for 60 days.

What This Doesn’t Mean: This does not mean the federal government is forgetting about student loan debt that is in default. Rather, the federal government has suspended student loan debt collection during this period.

4. Pausing student loan payments won’t negatively impact your payments for student loan forgiveness.

What This Means: If you choose to pause federal student loan payments during this period, the federal government will still count these “payments” (even if you don’t make any) as part of any required federal student loan forgiveness program, including public service loan forgiveness.

What This Doesn’t Mean: This doesn’t mean that you will hurt your chances to qualify for public service loan forgiveness because the 120 payments do not need to be consecutive.

Important Questions

1. If I don’t have to make federal student loan payments, is the federal government paying my student loans for me?

No. Your federal student loan balance will not change. Consider this a break from student loan payment. However, no one is paying your federal student loans during this period.

2. Is all my federal student loan interest being waived?

No, your existing federal student loan interest will remain. The only portion that is being waived is new student loan interest that would have accrued on your federal student loans through September 30, 2020.

3. Can I still make federal student loan payments if I want to?

Yes, you can still make federal student loan payments. Even though your interest rate is 0%, your monthly student loan payment unfortunately will not be lower. Rather, your student loan payment can help pay off your existing student loan balance (since there is no new interest accrual).

4. So, how much student loan forgiveness will I get?

Many borrowers ask, “What should I know about student loan forgiveness and Coronavirus?” Senate Democrats proposed a student loan forgiveness plan that would forgive at least $10,000 of federal student loans for all borrowers. House Democrats proposed that every borrower receive $30,000 of student loan forgiveness. Former Vice President Joe Biden supports $10,000 of student loan forgiveness, although this new plan differs from Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s original student loan forgiveness plan to cancel student loan debt. Despite these proposals, the CARES Act does not include any student loan forgiveness.

5. I checked my student loan servicer’s website and it says that if I stop making payments on my federal student loans, I won’t qualify for public service loan forgiveness. This must be wrong.

Since this legislation is new, many student loan servicers have not yet updated their website to reflect these updates. (Also, make sure you know how not to get disqualified for student loan forgiveness).

Remember, this announcement applies only to federal student loans (not private student loans).

Continue on to Forbes to read the complete article.

Program Provides Full Spectrum Learning

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Samuel Coleman, a Tennessee State University senior civil engineering, wearing a hard hat inside a warehouse

By Antwaun Parrish

Working alongside industry experts provides university interns with a comprehensive and elaborate spectrum of experience, which can help them secure employment in the future.

Oluwaferanmi Ogundana, a junior civil engineering student, and Samuel Coleman (pictured left), a senior civil engineering student, were both selected as the Advancing Minorities’ Interest in Engineering interns for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), Far East District (FED).

The AMIE program provides the interns with real world experience in several capacities throughout the district.

Ogundana attends Morgan State University—he states that he selected this program for his first internship because of his interest in learning new skills and his interest in East Asian culture.

“This is the first time I have been this far away from my parents, and I wanted to experience that feeling,” said Ogundana. “I was interested in Korean culture and the technology here. When they started telling us about 5G being in use here, it was impressive to me.”

The district interns are placed on a learning rotation throughout their stay where they work within the project management, engineering and construction divisions during the nine-week program. This rotation provides them a full scope of how daily and long-term operations are executed here.

According to Ogundana, in school, he is shown what he can look forward to within the engineering field, but here he can see the process, which he describes as eye-opening.

“I actually know what the program managers are doing and what the construction and engineering teams are doing throughout the project development process,” said Ogundana. “It actually put everything into perspective and gave me more of a focus of what I can reach toward. I came here with the idea that I wanted to learn engineering, but definitely my eyes opened up to program management, and the construction division.”

He went on to state that it is fun going to construction sites and observing the facilities actually being developed.

“When I was in school, I was looking at a screen and they were trying to describe it [project management] to me,” said Ogundana. “Now that I actually see it, I can actually understand it more, and I feel like it is going to help with my upcoming year in school.”

Ogundana wishes that the district could implement a winter program, however, he is definitely interested in being selected as an intern next summer.

Oluwaferanmi Ogundana, a Morgan State University junior civil engineering major, is interviewed at a construction site, Camp Humphreys, South Korea, July 15. Ogundana is currently working as an intern at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Far East District, as a part of the Advancing Minorities wearing a hard hat inside a warehouse.
Oluwaferanmi Ogundana, a Morgan State University junior civil engineering major, is interviewed at a construction site, Camp Humphreys, South Korea, July 15. Ogundana is currently working as an intern at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Far East District, as a part of the Advancing Minorities Interest in Engineering program.

Coleman attends Tennessee State University and states he wanted to experience working outside of the United States. He said he expected to learn the full range of project management and how it all ties together for project delivery.

“I wanted to learn why the Corps of Engineers was so prevalent in influencing other engineering companies and why it was a great place to work,” said Coleman.

Coleman enjoys the rotation program that FED provides him as an intern at the district. He goes on to explain what he learned from each division within the district.

“In project management, I learned the process of a project and how it’s executed from start to finish, and all the different people that are involved,” said Coleman. “I learned how to talk to different clients and different contractors and engineers, and how it ties them all together to get the project done.”

For Coleman, this is his fourth internship and as he completes his senior year this fall, he said that he feels prepared to apply what he’s learned toward his near-future career.

“This experience will assist me with future employers and describing my experience to them,” said Coleman. “This internship was different because it provided me the full scope of engineering and I appreciate this experience.”

Source: army.mil

Photo credits: ANTWAUN PARRISH

Cecily Myart-Cruz becomes 1st woman of color to lead L.A. teachers union

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Cecily Myart-Cruz speaking into microphone at a rally

The L.A. teachers union has elected the first woman of color, Cecily Myart-Cruz, to lead the organization, part of a familiar and experienced team that will include outgoing union President Alex Caputo-Pearl, who was elected as a vice president.

“I’m proud of the way we have worked with members to create a union that is inclusive, that is a fighting union, that cares not only about educators, but about parents, the community and students,” said Myart-Cruz, 46, who as union president assumes a role of influence and power in the Los Angeles Unified School District, the second-largest in the nation.

Myart-Cruz received nearly 69% of the vote to represent some 31,000 Los Angeles teachers, school nurses, counselors and librarians. The next closest was Marisa Crabtree, with nearly 11% of the vote in the five-candidate field. Crabtree had proposed to turn the union more toward classroom and teaching issues, while deemphasizing politics.

But Myart-Cruz said she sees the fight for political influence as essential to improving teaching and classroom learning conditions.

A little over a year ago, United Teachers Los Angeles went on strike for six days, bringing a focus to overcrowded classrooms and staffing shortages. While Caputo-Pearl headed that effort, Myart-Cruz was a key advisor. Caputo-Pearl is barred by term limits from seeking a third three-year term.

“The work is not done. Our educators need the resources and our babies need the resources as well,” Myart-Cruz said.

“By almost any measure, Caputo Pearl has been a strong and effective leader,” said Charles Kerchner, professor emeritus of the Claremont Graduate University School of Educational Studies. “The plan to swap offices with Cecily Myart-Cruz would essentially keep the leadership regime in place. That creates stability in ideas and agenda.”

All the same, Myart-Cruz emphasized that she will be fully in charge when she takes office in July.

The momentum from last year’s strike carried over into the May election of Jackie Goldberg, a union-backed candidate, to the school board. But soon after, L.A. voters defeated Measure EE, a parcel tax that would have increased local resources for schools.

The union is currently engaged in a high-stakes, big-money battle with supporters of charter schools for three contested seats on the seven-member Board of Education. If even one union-endorsed candidate loses, the direction of the board could shift away from some union priorities. These include limiting the expansion and spread of nonunion, privately managed charter schools and pushing for higher pay and increased school staffing.

Myart-Cruz, a district parent and single mother who identifies as biracial, black and Latina, has 25 years of teaching experience in elementary and middle schools. She has long been part of the union’s activist wing and helped lead a campaign to remove principals whom the union felt treated teachers unfairly.

As a regional chair she also helped organize a yearlong boycott against some standardized testing to take on what the union described as the “overtesting” of students. Union leaders argued that students took too many standardized tests and wanted the number reduced because they take away from learning time.

The new president also has been active at the state and national level in teachers unions.

The election turnout was low, but that’s been a consistent recent pattern in union internal elections. Close to 5,300 union members cast ballots out of about 31,000 eligible voters.

Continue on to the LA Times to read the complete article.

Lash Nolen Is Harvard Medical School’s First Black Woman Class President

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LaShyra Nolen stands outside of class looking confidents at Harvard

Most people call her “Lash,” but LaShyra Nolen’s name is hardly the only unique thing about her. Last year, she became the first black woman ever elected as class president of Harvard Medical School (HMS).

Born in Compton, California, and educated in Los Angeles, Lash grew up with big dreams and equally daunting challenges. Despite not seeing black women leadership reflected in society in general, she found inspiration in the strength of the women around her. Lash’s mom had her when she was only 18 years old. But as a single mom, she got her masters, while working numerous jobs to support Lash’s dreams.

“Mom pursued life with grit and a desire to win. She would tell me: ‘I’ll see you at the top,'” Lash tells Teen Vogue. In third grade, Lash won first place in a school science fair for a project that studied the patterns of fish. After this, she told her grandma she wanted to become a brain surgeon-slash-astronaut.

“My grandma would tell me that whatever I wanted to do, we were gonna make it happen,” Lash recalls. “After telling her I wanted to become a surgeon, she would tell me to protect my hands.”

Today, Lash is a Fulbright Scholar, activist, and an emerging leader in medicine.

Lash spoke to Teen Vogue about this moment in Harvard’s history and the advice she has for black girls everywhere.

Teen Vogue: What does it mean to you to be the first black woman elected as class president of HMS?

Lash Nolen: For me it means opportunity — opportunity in the sense that it will allow me to create a pipeline for others who look like me to hold positions of leadership at Harvard Medical School. When applying to HMS, I didn’t see people who looked like me in student council or positions of leadership at that level. I think it is important to show that black people can also be the face of a university.

TV: How do you use student council leadership to make a sustainable impact?

LN: I try to use my resources and platform intentionally. For example, this year with our budget, we decided to create an annual community outreach event for youth at local elementary schools for Halloween. Right now we are working on a project that will highlight members of our community who are custodial staff, cafeteria workers, security guards — the people that make our community whole, with portraits that will be displayed in the main atrium at HMS. By doing things like this, we’re able to sustainably change the narrative of who belongs on the walls and on the grounds of Harvard Medical School. To me, that answer will always be our community.

TV: What advice would you give to young girls of color pursuing their wildest dreams?

LN: Go get it. Our society has a way of implicitly reminding young black girls what they cannot achieve and what they cannot be, while explicitly giving the green light to white men. For those same reasons I almost didn’t apply to HMS. It wasn’t until my mentors told me that I was capable of being a student at a place like this. And there are so many young girls out there who are excellent and deserve access to opportunity, but won’t take the leap because society tells them that it’s not for them. So no matter how crazy it might sound, no matter if someone in your family has done it or not, just go get it, because you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.

TV: How have you personally dealt with moving through the largely white, male-dominated world of science and medicine?

LN: I know myself and I know my history. Over the past couple of years, I have been doing a lot of unlearning and investigative research on systemic racism and the hidden contributions of my people to our society. This has given me a great deal of strength. When I walk into a room, no matter where I am, I know the strength of my people and how much they are the reason why these spaces even exist.

TV: What does being a student from Compton at Harvard Medical School mean to you?

LN: My mom raised me as a single mother. My grandmother is the most kindhearted and giving human I know. The city of Compton is one of the most resilient in the world. Growing up and watching them struggle and work so hard to give me what I had in my life, I couldn’t help but do everything in my power to make them proud. I feel like Compton made me scrappy. I’m hungry for opportunity, I’m hungry for justice, I’m hungry to see my people win. So, when you put someone like me at a place like HMS, I’m going to do whatever it takes so make that vision a reality.

Continue on to Teen Vogue to read the complete article.

NMSI and UNCF to Launch STEM Teacher Preparation Program with HBCUs in Six States and the District of Columbia

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Focused young African female college student working on a laptop on some stairs on campus preparing for an exam

The National Math and Science Initiative has received a planning grant from the Fund II Foundation to design UTeach STEM teacher preparation programs at up to 15 historically black colleges and universities in six states and the District of Columbia. The Dallas-based non-profit has partnered with UNCF (United Negro College Fund) to support the universities as they design their programs.

“NMSI and UNCF are nationally recognized leaders in the advancement of American education,” said Fund II Foundation Board President Robert F. Smith. “I look forward to supporting them to develop strong programs that meet the unique needs of students at HBCUs. I’m also excited to see how this new work allows more young people to reach their highest potential in their personal lives, professions and communities.”

NMSI, UNCF and the UTeach Institute are working with academic leaders at potential program schools. Those institutions include Alabama State University, Bowie State University, Claflin University Clark Atlanta University, Howard University, Jackson State University, Morehouse College, Morgan State University, North Carolina A&T University, Prairie View A&M University, South Carolina State University, Spelman College, Talladega College, Tougaloo College and Tuskegee University. The institutions that move forward with the program will work with the program team to design their new STEM teacher preparation programs.

The new programs will be based on UTeach, a renowned university-based STEM teacher preparation program founded at The University of Texas at Austin. Since 2009, NMSI has worked with the UTeach Institute to expand the program, which provides math and science undergraduates at 45 universities with teaching skills, classroom experience and continuing support in their early teaching careers.

UTeach teachers average longer classroom careers than graduates of other teacher preparation programs, and nearly 70 percent of UTeach graduates teach in Title 1 schools. Based on standardized testing, their students perform as if they had almost six extra months of science and four extra months of math instruction.

“Addressing STEM teacher shortages and ensuring that all students benefit from teachers of diverse backgrounds is critical and core to NMSI’s mission,” said NMSI CEO Bernard A. Harris, Jr. “Expanding the UTeach program to HBCUs will benefit students across the nation.”

The initiative comes just after passage of the FUTURE Act, providing permanent federal funding for HBCUs and other minority-serving institutions and providing significant STEM-focused funding for those schools.

“As a two-time graduate of North Carolina A&T State University, a professor of 40 years at Bennett College for Women, and the author of the FUTURE Act, which guarantees permanent federal funding for HBCUs to prepare the next generation of diverse STEM professionals, I applaud this effort from the private sector to supplement that effort,” said U.S. Rep. Alma Adams (D-NC). “In 2017, when my office introduced the HBCU Partnership Challenge, my hope was to encourage the private sector and non-profits to view HBCUs as key to accomplishing industry diversity goals, particularly in our STEM fields. Through this STEM teacher diversity initiative, we are seeing an example of true private investment and engagement with these producers of top diverse talent. I commend Robert Smith, the Fund II Foundation, NMSI and UNCF for their efforts in diversifying our workforce by helping prepare our diverse leaders of tomorrow.”

A 2017 study from the IZA Institute of Labor Economics found that having at least one African American teacher in third through fifth grades increased African American students’ interest in attending college by 29 percent and reduced the probability of dropping out of high school for male African American students from very low-income families by 39 percent.

“Research clearly shows the powerful impact black teachers have on black students. HBCUs already are punching above their weight in the production of STEM graduates – generating 24 percent of the STEM bachelor’s degrees earned annually by African Americans,” said Dr. Michael Lomax, president and CEO, UNCF. “The nation continues to have incredible need for math and science teachers of color, and students of color deserve to have educators who look like them.”

ABOUT NMSI
Founded in 2007, NMSI’s mission is to advance STEM education to ensure all students, especially those furthest from opportunity, thrive and reach their highest potential as problem solvers and lifelong learners. The nonprofit organization helps develop new STEM teachers through its Teacher Pathways programs, and supports schools, teachers and AP students through Laying the Foundation, the College Readiness Program and other research-based programs. Learn more at nms.org.

ABOUT UNCF
UNCF (United Negro College Fund) is the nation’s largest and most effective minority education organization and for 75 years, it has supported private HBCUs and hundreds of thousands of deserving students, strengthened its 37 member colleges and universities, and advocated for the importance of minority education and college readiness. UNCF institutions and other historically black colleges and universities are highly effective, awarding 17 percent of African American baccalaureate degrees. Today, UNCF supports more than 60,000 students at more than 1,100 colleges and universities across the country. Learn more at UNCF.org.

About Fund II Foundation
Fund II Foundation makes grants to 501(c)3 public charities in five areas: 1) preserving the cultural richness of the African-American experience; 2) safeguarding human dignity by giving voice to the voiceless and promoting human rights; 3) conserving the environment, promoting the benefits of the great outdoors to people of all ages and backgrounds; 4) affording music education to nourish both talent and the soul; and 5) sustaining the American values of entrepreneurship, empowerment, and innovation. For more information, visit: fund2foundation.org | @Fund2F

About the UTeach Institute
The UTeach Institute works to improve secondary STEM teaching and learning through national expansion of the UTeach secondary STEM teacher preparation program to colleges and universities. Over a decade, the Institute has developed and employs a comprehensive approach to successful program development in higher education settings and serves as the national hub to a networked community of 45 universities implementing UTeach programs.

Howard University Event Focused on Solving Financial Challenges, Building Economic Strength of African American Community

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Howard University and TIAA panel on stage at the University event

The TIAA and AARP sponsored event featured industry experts, including CBS National News Correspondent Michelle Miller.

WASHINGTON, D.C., January 31, 2020 – Today, Howard University convened an important event focused on enhancing the economic strength and financial wellness of African Americans. The event, sponsored by TIAA and AARP, brought together industry experts for a discussion on the financial challenges African Americans face and potential solutions to critical issues, including financial literacy, saving for retirement, managing debt and student loans, home ownership, and wealth inequality.

“In working with our students and the community, Howard University witnesses firsthand the economic challenges African Americans face, and we are striving to help find and implement tangible solutions,” said Howard University President Wayne A. I. Frederick. “We believe businesses, organizations, and higher education institutions can work together to solve these challenges today, so African American students, families, and communities can be successful tomorrow.”

The “Financial Wellness in the African American Community: Reviewing the Evidence, Spotlighting Innovation and Considering Solutions” event featured two discussions: the first assessed the current financial and economic landscape and challenges African Americans face, followed by a discussion around potential solutions that could help improve African Americans’ overall financial wellbeing.

“African Americans constitute a critical segment of our economy, but our 2019 Personal Finance (P-Fin) Index shows they often exhibit lower financial wellbeing and financial literacy than many other demographics,” said Roger W. Ferguson, Jr., President and CEO of TIAA. “Financial education is an important way to help address these challenges. We know that people who are more financially literate are more likely to plan and save for retirement, to have non-retirement savings, and to better manage their debt – all of which lead to improved financial outcomes and wellbeing.”

“Although AARP’s work is focused on advocating on behalf of people age 50 and over, some issues transcend age. One of them is financial literacy,” said AARP CEO Jo Ann Jenkins. “That’s why AARP is pleased to be part of this Howard University event that seeks to put the importance of financial resilience and savings firmly on the radar screens of the young African American leaders who comprise its community.”

CBS National News Correspondent Michelle Miller moderated the day’s conversations, in which insights were heard from top industry experts including:

  • Camille Busette, Senior Fellow, Brookings Institution
  • Barron H. Harvey, Ph.D., Dean, School of Business, Howard University
  • Kilolo Kijakazi, Institute Fellow, Urban Institute
  • Annamaria Lusardi, Denit Trust Chair of Economics and Accountancy, George Washington University School of Business
  • Lisa Mensah, President and CEO, Opportunity Finance Network
  • Stacey Tisdale, Financial Journalist, Author, CEO, Mind Money Media Inc.
  • Frederick Wherry, Professor of Sociology, Princeton University

The “Financial Wellness in the African American Community: Reviewing the Evidence, Spotlighting Innovation and Considering Solutions” took place on Friday, January 31 at Howard University’s Cramton Auditorium.

About Howard University

Founded in 1867, Howard University is a private, research university that is comprised of 13 schools and colleges. Students pursue studies in more than 120 areas leading to undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees. The University operates with a commitment to Excellence in Truth and Service and has produced one Schwarzman Scholar, three Marshall Scholars, four Rhodes Scholars, 11 Truman Scholars, 25 Pickering Fellows and more than 70 Fulbright Scholars. Howard also produces more on-campus African-American Ph.D. recipients than any other university in the United States. For more information on Howard University, visit www.howard.edu.

About TIAA

With an award-winning1 track record for consistent investment performance, TIAA (TIAA.org) is the leading provider of financial services in the academic, research, medical, cultural and government fields. TIAA has $1 trillion in assets under management (as of 12/31/20192) and offers a wide range of financial solutions, including investing, banking, advice and education, and retirement services.

About AARP

AARP is the nation’s largest nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to empowering Americans 50 and older to choose how they live as they age. With nearly 38 million members and offices in every state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, AARP works to strengthen communities and advocate for what matters most to families with a focus on health security, financial stability and personal fulfillment. AARP also works for individuals in the marketplace by sparking new solutions and allowing carefully chosen, high-quality products and services to carry the AARP name. As a trusted source for news and information, AARP produces the world’s largest circulation publications, AARP The Magazine and AARP Bulletin. To learn more, visit www.aarp.org or follow @AARP and @AARPadvocates on social media.
1 The Lipper Mixed-Assets Large Fund Award is given to the group with the lowest average decile ranking of three years’ Consistent Return for eligible funds over the three-year period ended 11/30/15 (against 39 fund families), 11/30/16 (36), 11/30/17 (35) and 11/30/18 (35). Note this award pertains to mixed-assets mutual funds within the TIAA-CREF group of mutual funds; other funds distributed by Nuveen Securities were not included. From Thomson Reuters Lipper Awards, © 2019 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved. Used by permission and protected by the Copyright Laws of the United States. The printing, copying, redistribution, or retransmission of this Content without express written permission is prohibited. Certain funds have fee waivers in effect. Without such waivers ratings could be lower. Past performance does not guarantee future results. For current performance, rankings and prospectuses, please visit the Research and Performance section on TIAA.org. The investment advisory services, strategies and expertise of TIAA Investments, a division of Nuveen, are provided by Teachers Advisors, LLC and TIAA-CREF Investment Management, LLC. TIAA-CREF Individual & Institutional Services, LLC, Teachers Personal Investors Services, Inc., and Nuveen Securities, LLC, Members FINRA and SIPC, distribute securities products.

2 Based on $1.1 trillion of assets under management across Nuveen Investments affiliates and TIAA investment management teams as of 12/31/19.

Charles Barkley donates $1 million to Miles College, an HBCU in his native Alabama

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76rs great Charles Barkley speaks at a podium

Over the course of his philanthropic efforts, Charles Barkley has made injecting cash into Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) a priority.

Recently, Miles College — an HBCU located in Fairfield, Alabama — announced a $1 million gift from Barkley, the largest donation by a donor in the school’s 122-year history.

Barkley has previously donated $1 million to a trio of HBCUs: Clark Atlanta, Morehouse College and Alabama A&M. His most recent donation will jumpstart a $100 million fundraising campaign, interim school president Bobbie Knight said.

“What Barkley has done helps lay the foundation for the campaign,” Knight said.

Knight became the school’s first female president last July, and making sure her tenure includes financial resources was a goal of Barkley’s.

“I’ve gotten to know Bobbie Knight over the last year and it was something I really wanted to do,” Barkley said. “To have a female president is a big deal. I want to help Bobbie be as successful as she can be.”

Continue on to USA Today to read more.

American Airlines adds to executive ranks with new hire

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Ken Charles headshot

American Airlines added a new executive that will focus on diversity, the carrier recently announced. Kenneth Charles was named the chief inclusion and diversity officer for American Airlines Group, Inc. (Nasdaq: AAL).

Charles comes to American from U.S. Bank, where he was senior vice president of Enterprise Talent. He also previously worked at General Mills as vice president of Global Inclusion and Staffing and chief diversity officer.

In his role with American, Charles will establish the company’s Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion as the airline strives to establish best practices.

“We are on a journey to enhance our approach to diversity, equity and inclusion across American, and Ken will help chart our course to ensure American is an industry leader,” said Doug Parker, chairman and chief executive of American, in a prepared statement.

“Our decision to become more intentional in this area is vital to our global business,” Parker added. “Ken will provide a needed and important voice in all of our critical decision-making.”

Charles comes into a roll American has been aiming to fill for several months.

Continue on to BizJournal to read the complete article.

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