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Art-Reach at the Scott Arboretum
This article originally appeared in Share the Experience.
Sensory tours are generally given for people who have sensory disabilities. Elements of exhibits, shows or in this case the garden are made available to touch and smell in order to heighten participants’ experience of the event. For people who are blind and receiving descriptions of the place they visit, these tours enhance the narrative and place the descriptions into context of a tangible object.
Scott is a 300-acre arboretum located on the grounds of Swarthmore College in Swarthmore, PA. Becky Robert, the Member and Visitor Programs Coordinator, was our knowledgeable and enthusiastic guide. The tour began at the Scott Entrance Garden whose plants and layout change every year. Becky passed around clippings from a shrub with a twisty vine. We learned that when the leaves die in the winter, the vines add interest to the garden.
Touching the plants was a new way for some of us to experience the garden but it was old hat for our friends from ASB. This organization serves people who are blind or visually impaired and ASB is an active member of Art-Reach. Visiting museums and attending performances year round, this group actively seeks sensory tours where tactile elements are incorporated into the experience offering a far more intimate understanding of the featured activity. In this same manner ASB has visited the Philadelphia Zoo, InterAct Theatre Company, Arden Theatre Company and Enchantment Theatre Company, to name a few.
When we walked over to a majestic pine tree and felt its deep ridges or furrows, HLAA member Diana told me it was “very interesting to feel the flakiness of the bark.” HLAA provides assistance and resources for people with hearing loss and their families to learn how to adjust to living with hearing loss. They have also been an integral community partner in the Independence Starts Here Campaign, bringing many new audience patrons to enjoy the arts in the Philadelphia region.
Our next stop on the sensory tour brought us to a wooden trellis and Becky passed around some Daphne flowers. Mary Ann, who is hard-of hearing, said she liked “flowers and anything visual” the best. Lavera, one of our blind guests, rubbed the flower in between her fingers and smelled her hand instead of smelling the flower directly. This helped her to “get the scent better,” she explained.
The group then trekked over to a beech tree that was a gift from the Swarthmore class of 1881! The gigantic tree was nearly 20 feet in diameter. Betty, a guest from ASB said the bark felt “all ripply, like when you drop a pebble in a pond.”
Acorns crackled beneath our feet as Becky led the group to a red oak tree and then to a sawtooth oak tree. I felt how the sawtooth oak got its name: it has leaves with serrated edges.
“I love lilacs,” Gladys, another ASB member, exclaimed as we got to a cluster of lilac plants. They were the first official plants at the Arboretum. Lavera echoed that they were her favorite plant of the day. “It smelled like the most pungent hint of lilac from my childhood,” said Betty.
Sensory tours are also highly enjoyable for anyone with a keen interest in better understanding an artistic art medium. Donor Albert Olenzak, both a supporter of Art-Reach and of Scott Arboretum, agreed with Gladys sharing that he especially enjoyed the portion of the tour where he was able to feel and smell the lilacs. “I’m an outdoors person,” he shared. “I thought it [the tour] was great. It was the best time of the season to smell the lilacs and was beautiful.”
We crouched down to feel a green plant nicknamed Lamb’s Ears, which, according to Betty, felt “better than velvet.” The final two stops on the tour were a dwarf white pine and a traditional pine.
The day ended with a reception at the Wister Education Center. Cosmic Catering provided organic goodies and we all enjoyed each other’s company. Al Olenzak commented that he had not been to Scott for a while and enjoyed seeing the Wister Education Center. “It was a very pleasant event,” Al shared. “I enjoyed the sensory tour, it was very relaxing and beautiful, but I especially enjoyed meeting the folks participating because they were all very interesting.” For Art-Reach members, donors, staff and ambassadors alike, this event was indeed a relaxing way to end a one-of-a-kind nature experience.
© Danielle Bullen 2010
Inside the Mind of a Dancer
This article originally appeared in Share the Experience
Founded in 2005, “BalletX produces original choreography that expands the vocabulary of classical dance for all audiences.”
Children chattered and anticipation filled the air as co-artistic director, Christine Cox walked on-stage, carrying her young son. This was truly a family affair.
Cox began by asking the audience to write down emotions on a slip of paper. Then 6 of Ballet X’s dancers came on stage and took their places around 2 portable ballet barres. Cox explained, “A dancer, everyday, 6 days a week starts by working out at the barre.” The dancers demonstrated some of the common moves they practice, such as pliés and pirouettes.
Dancing is not as easy as professional dancers make it look. “A lot is going on in our brains as we warm up,” said Cox. Dancers need to think about the position of all their body parts as they move.
After warm-up exercises, the dancers showed the captive audience some floor routines. They collected the papers with emotions written on them. Co-artistic director and choreographer Matthew Neenan picked a paper that said “relaxed.” Neenan then designed a dance and taught it to his fellow dancers. The relaxed ballet told the story of waking up on a lazy Sunday morning.
The audience saw that dancers need a great memory. Neenan explained they might have 1 or 2 weeks to create and learn a 20-minute ballet. He said, “People don’t realize how quickly we have to come up with movement.”
The dancers then created mini-ballets based on the audience-suggested emotions “excited”, “anxious” and “tired”.
Cox re-emerged and invited the kids in the audience on stage to learn a routine. Young dancers and some parents got up and practiced their 1st positions, their relevés and their arabesques. To end the family friendly morning, Cox choreographed a routine to “Row, Row, Row Your Boat,” and everyone danced happily.
Jim and his family attended the event with Art-Reach member, St. Mary Interparochial School. “My family and I truly enjoyed the performances. Our seats were very close to the stage and this made for a truly memorable afternoon and morning of excellent dancing and informative demonstrations into how a choreographer creates their performances.”
St. Mary Interparochial School has been a long time member of Art-Reach, using the arts creatively to foster family time spent together both during and after school hours. They have found that this approach works to build their school community, increase parent involvement and provide students and their families with fun learning experiences. Jim could not agree more. “I look forward to enjoying many more cultural experiences which are provided by this wonderful program,” says Jim.
After the presentation, Matthew Neenan was kind enough to offer a peek behind the curtain and talk with Art-Reach about Ballet X’s community outreach.
Art-Reach: What are some common misconceptions people have about ballet and dancers?
Matthew Neenan: There’s the misconception it’s a hobby. It’s our job. There are days I don’t feel like doing it, like any job, but I have to do it. Kids don’t realize it’s hard work. You have to be resilient.
AR: Why is it important for Ballet X to engage in community outreach?
MN: We have to. Community outreach introduces people to the ballet, develops audiences, and sells tickets. It gets the audience involved. It’s fascinating for adults and children alike. To get grants, we need show outreach efforts.
AR: What inspired Ballet X to create this event?
MN: We wanted to teach about ballet. We’ve done demonstrations before but never for an audience this young. It was kind of an experiment to see if we could hold their attention. We wanted to show toddlers live movement. It’s better for them to see something live than watch TV. We wanted to do an event at the Wilma. There’s not a bad seat in the house. The audience can really see the dancers for who they are and see the passion and drive very clearly.
AR: What do you hope the audience takes away from the event?
MN: Appreciate the art form, the training, and how smart the dancers are.
© Danielle Bullen 2010
Not Too Shy to Buy a House
This article originally appeared in Too Shy to Stop.
The U.S. Census Report announced that, in the fourth quarter of 2009, 23.7% of Americans under age 25 owned a home, and 38.8% of Americans ages 25-29 owned a home.
Tasha, a software consultant from GA, bought her house three years ago, when she just 23. She saved for five years. After renting an apartment for two years, Tasha asked herself, “Why should I continue paying someone to maintain a property that will never be mine?”
That realization motivated her to begin her search for a condo.
Tasha enjoys the freedom associated with owning her own space. She says, “I can paint as many wild wacky colors that I want, I can do as many renovations as I’m financial able to do and don’t have to request permission from a landlord to do so!”
However, with that freedom comes the responsibility to fix things that go wrong. Recently, a valve in her condo’s hot water heater broke, and water spilled from the condo for a few days before Tasha knew something was wrong. As a homeowner, she had to find a contractor, pay for the repairs, and shoulder the extra cost of that month’s water bill.
But for Tasha, the experience was just part of life as a 20-something homeowner.
Real estate agent Tom Lowry from the Philadelphia, PA area recently worked with several 20-somethings who bought their first homes. He says, “They did not want to pay rent anymore and thought with the housing market being positioned in a good way favoring the buyer. . . it was a good time to buy.”
Most of his clients purchased condos, townhouses, or modest fixer-upper single-family houses.
Another young homebuyer is Lauren Maiman MacKellar, 25, a public relations consultant from Beverly Hills, MI. Last year, MacKellar and her husband took advantage of the down economy in suburban Detroit, MI and bought a house. They saved for their new home for about one year.
She says, “We could afford homes and areas that we normally wouldn’t have been able to afford. It was a combination of right place at the right time for us.”
MacKellar is right on point about living in the right place. CNN and Money Magazine did a survey on the most/least affordable places to buy a home based on median home prices and average income. Three Michigan cities ranked in the top five most affordable locations in the US. By contrast, the New York metro area is the least affordable place for homebuyers.
The MacKellars are some of the first in their circle of friends to own a house. MacKellar says, “The response we get most from friends who aren’t homeowners is ‘Wow! This is a real house!’”
Home ownership has been a bonding experience for the MacKellars. Over the past seven months, they’ve redone most of the rooms, learning firsthand about design, compromise, and teamwork.
Owning a house also teaches them a lot about money management. They’re more conscientious about being energy efficient and keeping costs down, because everything falls on their shoulders.
Becoming a homeowner has its financial advantages. The federal government is offering a tax credit for first-time homebuyers who purchased between January 1, 2009 and April 30, 2010. Ten percent of the purchase price, up to $8,000, will be deducted from the buyer’s federal income tax rate. So if a buyer who earns $40,000 bought a $150,000 house, for tax purposes, their income would be $32,000.
Another young newlywed who grabbed a piece of the American dream is Alisa Weiss from Buchanan, MI. Weiss, 26, a former assistant to an information systems manager, and her husband, bought a house in 2009.
She says, “We had worked hard, gotten ourselves completely out of debt, and we knew we were wanting to stay in this area. So, saving for a house was the next logical step for us.”
Like MacKellar, the Weisses took advantage of the buyers’ market. Their monthly expenses are about $300 less than when they were renting.
The Weisses and the MacKellars have a distinct advantage as a couple. Two incomes are better then one when it comes to saving for a down payment. A survey done in 2008 by real estate consulting firm Danter revealed that 83.4% of married couples owned a home, as opposed to 58.6% of unmarried women and 50.6% of unmarried men.
Realtor Gail Coleman of Chattanooga, TN noticed an up-swing in 20-something’s buying real estate in her market. Last year, she worked with 17 couples; 14 were co-habituating or engaged, and three were married.
Besides the financial rewards, the Weisses found emotional rewards of being homeowners. An animal lover, Weiss says, “I’m a really big advocate for adopting from shelters, and now we have four pets (two dogs and two cats) all rescued.” Their former small, dark apartment was not a good place for pets, but now the animals have a sunny backyard in which to play.
Weiss echoes Tasha when she says the biggest adjustment to owning a house is the emergency repairs. After a bad storm, the roof started leaking. Fortunately, the leak was relatively easy to fix, but it reminded the Weisses that home ownership can be stressful as well as rewarding.
Whether you’re taking the plunge into home ownership or just exploring the waters, hopefully these young homeowners have made you realize that it is within your reach.
© Danielle Bullen 2010
A Full Resolution this New Year's
This article originally appeared in Too Shy to Stop.
Greg Surber, a 26-year-old from Richmond, VA, has a year-long plan called Recommended Daily. His resolution is to do all the things that people should do for their health but usually ignore: get thirty minutes of exercise daily and follow the USDA’s food guide pyramid, for example.
After reading about people like Julie Powell, of Julie and Juliafame, who tackled huge, year-long projects, Surber was inspired. He decided that, instead of doing something outlandish, he’d start by trying to fit in the everyday activities that was supposed to doing anyway.
He’s focusing on four areas of self-improvement: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. Some physical health activities he has planned include drinking eight glasses of water and flossing each day. Emotionally, he plans to make one person smile on a daily basis. To improve his mental health, he’ll complete a daily puzzle. Spiritually, Surber will spend 30 minutes each day praying and reflecting.
What makes him the most nervous? He’s not sure he can fulfill his recommended daily calorie intake. Says Surber, “I am looking forward to having a genuine reason why I should get the extra leftovers.”
In addition, Surber plans to launch a blog, where he will keep track of his progress. “I’m hoping the excitement of chronicling my experiences will help me maintain the momentum.”
Throughout the year, he’ll monitor benchmarks, like body mass index and mile running time, to see the impact of the project on his body. His family and friends are supportive of the plan, and his wife is proud of his ambition.
Erin Motzenbecker, 22, of Tampa, FL, also has a year-long resolution. She plans to do 100 new things in 2010. Says Motzenbecker, “I’m hoping to find a little insight into who I am as well as inspire others to get out of their routines and do something new for a change, however big or small.”
Of all the activities she has planned, Motzenbecker most looks forward to pole dancing lessons. She describes herself as reserved and hopes the lessons will help her become more outgoing and self-confident. She’s most anxious about flying in a tiny stunt plane because she’s afraid of jets. She also plans to get acupuncture and cook a live lobster, among dozens of other things.
Despite everything she has planned, Motzenbecker will “wing” most of the learning process, explaining that, “the spontaneity is part of the ride.”
Like Surber, Motzenbecker will chronicle her progress on a blog. The resolution gives her the opportunity to write, which will be an incentive for her to do it more often, as she loves to write. Motzenbecker also has the enthusiasm of her friends to back her up. “Company always makes these things so much more amusing,” she says.
Making an ambitious resolution is admirable, but how can a person maintain it? According to a survey done by Franklin Covey, 35% of people break their resolutions by the end of January.
That makes Amber Logue’s and Joe Piehl’s stories admirable. They made vastly different resolutions, but they kept them for a whole year.
When she was 21, Logue (now 24) of Las Vegas, NV, lived the whole year according to the life philosophy of The Secret. Based on the theory of the laws of attraction, followers of The Secret believe that what you envision for yourself is what you get out of life. Among other things, Logue strived to become an assistant manager at her job. In nine months, she was promoted to manager.
For other people looking to accomplish their resolutions, Logue advises, “Find someone to do it with you, or to give you the encouragement you may need.” She partnered with her friend Kristin to live The Secret. They shared lists of their intentions, swapped encouraging messages and celebrated whenever one of them achieved a goal, no matter how small.
Logue adds, “Be mentally ready to achieve your goal.” She believes she was successful with her intentions only because she was ready to do what was necessary to achieve them. She focused her energy on the three factors of The Secret - ask, believe, receive - and achieved her life list.
In 2009, Piehl, 24, of Chicago, IL, resolved to cook one homemade meal a week. He saw a contrast between the full meals he’d eaten growing up and his current situation of frozen meals and rummaging through the fridge. He decided that he wanted to make the effort to cook and eat more completely.
Piehl’s friends and co-workers encouraged him, asking about his dish of the week, and forwarding recipes to him. Typically, he shopped and cooked on Sundays. The experiment also provided him with leftovers for the next few days.
If others are interested in the same resolution, Piehl advises them to tell their family and friends. He says, “Everybody loves a home cooked meal, and nothing will motivate you more than if the people closest to you are asking about your latest attempt in the kitchen.” He hosted dinner parties to practice his skills and show off his favorite new dishes.
These creative people prove that New Year’s resolutions don’t need to be boring and that it’s possible to stick with them for the whole year. Hopefully, they’ve encouraged more people to try a quirky resolution.
© Danielle Bullen 2010
Gifted Grads Give Back
This article originally appeared in Too Shy to Stop.
When they apply, prospective City Year corps members get to choose the city where they will work if they are accepted. The program places corps members in schools, where they work as in-class aides, after-school tutors, and club leaders.
The work doesn’t stop with the last school bell, though. Volunteers help out with neighborhood transformation projects, like building playgrounds, planting gardens, and refurbishing schools.
In exchange for their 1,700 hours of service commitment, volunteers receive a stipend to cover living expenses, $4,725 from AmeriCorps to be used for tuition or student loans, basic health insurance, and a T-Mobile cell phone with monthly minutes.
Since it began in 1988, the program has attracted 12,500 corps members. More than 1 million children have been helped by City Year, making it an extremely valuable resource to the communities it serves.
But City Year is not the only post-graduate service program. A member of the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, Josie Diebold of Buffalo, NY serves as a house parent at foster/adoptive agency Casa de Esperanza in Houston, TX.
The Jesuit Volunteer Corps, or JVC, places volunteers ages 21 or older in a variety of service sites. The JVC focuses on four core values: social justice, simple living, community, and spirituality. Participants don’t need to attend a Jesuit university or even be Christian to succeed, but they must be committed to the core values. Volunteers receive the AmeriCorps educational award, free housing, money for food, transportation to and from service sites, and a small stipend.
Josie, who graduated from Canisius College in 2009, decided on the JVC as her post-grad service program because of those values. She says, “When I come home from work, I am actively part of my community - we eat together, reflect together, pray together. We also challenge one another to constantly learn more.”
The JVC has both a domestic and an international presence, and applicants apply to one of the programs. Unlike City Year, the Jesuit Corps does not allow its members to choose an exact service location, which adds to the sense of adventure. They can give input to the type of the work and serve as paralegals, addiction counselors, job search specialists, and AIDS case managers, among many other assignments.
As a house parent, Josie’s responsibilities include changing diapers, giving baths, making meals, and just being there for the kids, who came to Casa de Esperanza because of abuse or neglect. She calls it “an amazing yet challenging position”.
Another player on the year-long service scene is the Lutheran Volunteer Corps, or LVC. Like the JVC, the organization accepts people of all faiths, ages 21 and older. The program is built around three principles: community, social justice, and simplicity.
“Being conscious about those three areas of life leads to living a spiritual existence everyday, and they are issues that I want to explore more,” says Katherine Jarvis of Edmond, OK, a 2009 graduate of Grinnell College. Katherine serves as a Volunteer Coordinator at Hospice House: The Josie Harper Residence in Omaha, NE where she coordinates activities for the residents, supervises volunteers, and helps with administrative duties.
Katherine knew for a long time that she wanted to do service after college. She describes service as having a great deal of meaning to her. Katherine was drawn to the Lutheran Volunteer Corps in particular because of its three principles. “Both my house and my work environments are incredibly supportive,” she says.
Corps members receive similar financial and housing benefits to the JVC. Currently, the LVC has volunteers in10 US cities. They work at clinics, community centers, food banks, and think tanks.
Katherine encourages students interested in a post graduate service opportunity to carefully weigh all their options as there really is something for every interest. “There are many service opportunities out there and all of them bring something different to the table.”
“You will never have another opportunity to live as a full-time volunteer,” says Josie. “I cannot encourage you enough to consider it.”
© Danielle Bullen 2009
e3bank: A Study in Sustainable Banking
This story originally appeared in Padosa.
e3bank’s web site says, “By leveraging the full spectrum of available technologies, reducing our real estate presence to a bare minimum, and employing a broad range of sustainable business practices, we have decreased both our environmental footprint and our operating costs.”
On the podcast, The Ecoman and the Skeptic, Frank Baldessarre Jr., President and CEO talked about this new venture. He wants e3 to “provide financial tools for people to incorporate sustainability.”
He believes banks have a key role to play in the green economy, because without financing the greenest building can’t be built.
Baldessare believes that financing eco-friendly construction products are ultimately less risky than traditional projects. He explains that energy efficient buildings cost their owners less money to operate, meaning they have more capital to use to payback loans.
Environmental Tools and Customer Service
Both bank headquarters, which consist of a LEED-certified building, and a planned Philadelphia customer service center, are easily accessible by public transportation.
Every loan officer will be a LEED accredited professional to assist lenders who want to secure capital for green building projects.
To help people build green, interest rates for new construction projects will be lower if the building is LEED-certified.
The bank will have a program called “Green Assist.” To eliminate confusion around green upgrades, like solar panels, it will offer customers single process financing, fill out government rebate forms, and recommend installers.
Banking from home
Unlike traditional banks, e3bank won’t have branches. Each branch can cost more than $3 million to open and even more to operate. Instead, employees will meet with customers at pre-existing public spaces instead of traditional branches, thus saving both costs and environmental impact of more construction. Customers can use any ATM in the country for free.
Although the internet is not a completely green technology, e3bank had embraced it as a source for paperless banking. It’s also a way to reduce customers’ carbon footprints, since they won’t need to travel to the bank. e3bank will let customers deposit checks from home scanners, text and web chat with representatives, and sign documents in a secure, electronic format.
What others are saying about e3
The bank has received press from The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, and The Nation, among others, for its efforts. It was also recognized as a B Corporation, one of only 3 banks in the U.S. to get that honor.
B Corporations are companies that “use the power of business to solve social and environmental problems.” Businesses’ environmental impact are measured by accountability, facilities, energy inputs, and design and development. e3bank received an 82% score on its pro-environment efforts.
“We are excited to participate in this type of endeavor,” Baldessare said on the podcast.
© Danielle Bullen 2009
Shopping for and Seeking Internships
This story originally appeared in Too Shy to Stop.
But what is the best way to land an internship? In the current economic climate, undergraduates must compete with laid-off, experienced workers for valuable internships. Some students are turning to placement agencies, like the University of Dreams. The company reports that this year, it received over 9,000 applications, a 30% spike from 2008.
For approximately $8,000 each, students are guaranteed placement at an internship in a field of their choice, housing, five meals per week, and seminars and social activities.
University of Dreams Chief Marketing Officer Eric Normington explains that the organization connects interns with the right people in companies like Nike and MTV, by “securing personal relationships with hiring managers”.
Students choose to live for the summer or a semester in 16 different cities in the US, Latin America, Europe, Asia, and Australia. According to their web site, the company offers over 2,000 internships in fields ranging from advertising and public relations to finance and real estate to music and television. Students are connected to the 6,000 program alumni, allowing them to leverage the power of the University of Dreams network.
Normington prefers to think of the University of Dreams as an investment. He says, “Internships are no longer an option, but a necessity.” The company believes that any investment in education, whether it’s tuition or a program like theirs, will provide a good return.
The University of Dreams boasts that 47% of students in the program in 2008 were offered full-time jobs. One of those lucky graduates is Korre Heggem, University of Nevada, Las Vegas alum. In 2007, he interned at Halcon Entertainment, a visual effects studio, and was hired full-time. He credits the “hard work and dedication of the University of Dreams” with placing him at that company, where he later won two Oscars for visual effects work on The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.
But programs like this are not the only path to internships or the only way to post-college success. One invaluable resource is the career services office. Nancy Dachille, Director of Career Services at Chestnut Hill College in Philadelphia, PA says, “We are constantly being contacted by organizations looking to hire interns.” Her office does not think paid placement services are worth the cost because of all the other mandatory expenses students have.
Assistant Director of Career Development at Arcadia University in Glenside, PA, Lisa Boyle agrees. Since the services offered at Arcadia and other colleges, like access to job databases, resume critiques, mock interviews, and on-campus recruiting are free to students, she says, “We do not recommend services with a charge.”
One recent grad who had success with the career development office is Kara DeSalvo, who graduated in 2008 from Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, PA. She worked with the career placement office to research summer positions at companies near her hometown in northern New Jersey. The career office was in communication with hiring managers about internship opportunities and alerted DeSalvo about a position at L’Oreal. She applied and interned there for two summers.
A hiring freeze prevented her from working at L’Oreal full-time, but a recruiter from Maybelline New York-Garnier received DeSalvo’s resume, was impressed with the two internships, and now DeSalvo works as a business analyst.
Networking is not just something for executives, but a way that many students have landed internships. Hersh Parekh, a 2009 graduate of Boston University, was interested in government work but didn’t know how to break into the field. Luckily, he had a friend who was interning for Senator John Kerry. His friend reached out on his behalf, and Normington secured an opportunity as a Constituent Services Intern.
Rachel Stark, a 2009 graduate of Goucher College in Baltimore, MD, wanted to intern at a major publishing house in New York. Stark says, “I became extremely vocal about my aspirations, making sure each of my teachers knew about my dream of becoming an editor.”
She asked her professors to put her in touch with people in the industry. She set up informational interviews with editors and publicists, asking how they broke into the business, and whom else she could talk to. By getting to know people on the inside, she became more than an anonymous resume when she applied, and eventually landed an internship at Scholastic books.
Cold calling probably takes the most persistence and works the best for small companies. Experience.com, a web site dedicated to helping students find internships and entry-level jobs, recommends students contact companies where they’d like to intern and even suggests students create their own internship opportunities if there isn’t a formal program at the company. Start-ups and other organizations with small budgets will tend to give their interns more responsibilities.
Max Smith, 2009 graduate of George Washington University in Washington, DC, relied on cold calling to get a radio play by play internship with the Clemont Mavericks baseball team.
Smith says, “Now I have opened up an entirely new group of people that I can go to should I need anything in the future. In addition, I hope to end up as a play-by-play broadcaster, so it gave me great experience that would have been difficult to find elsewhere.”
Whether it’s a placement agency like the University of Dreams, the career development office, or pounding the pavement, there are so many ways to find an internship that there’s no excuse not to try.
© Danielle Bullen 2009
Young and Invincible: The New Insurance?
This story originally appeared in Too Shy to Stop.
“Don’t stay uninsured for too long,” said Magnanini. “Get health insurance because you never know when you will need it.”
Health care is on everyone’s mind these days. A Gallup pollfrom June 2009 shows that 27.6% (the highest percentage of any age group) of people aged 18-29 are uninsured. Not surprisingly, 71% of people aged 18-44 want guaranteed health care for all Americans.
Many young people are unemployed, working part-time jobs that don’t offer benefits. Some are attending graduate school and are unable to afford the insurance available through their universities. Jessica Lent of New York City earned her masters degree earlier this year.
“Health insurance is a big thing on my mind as I’m looking for a job,” said Lent.
Belts are tightening during the recession, and, scarily enough, many 20-somethings are cutting back on their health care. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 23% of people polled have skipped a recommended treatment, and 21% didn’t fill a prescription.
Ian McElroy, of Brooklyn, NY, summed it up in a recent New York Times story. “I’ve got to make rent and eat.”
Some young people are using WebMD to diagnose themselves and getting medicines from their friends, two dangerous practices. Antibiotics, for example, are not one-size fits all, so someone’s leftover prescription could do more harm than good. Barbie Gatton, an emergency room physician from New York, told The New York Times about these self-diagnosers, “The problem is, they haven’t really treated their illness, and they’re breeding resistance.
”There are safer options out there for young people to stay healthy. AETNA and other providers offer basic plans for people with income limits. The Freelancers Union offers health care to people with part-time or temporary jobs or who work for themselves.
Earlier this year, Walgreens began offering diagnostic tests and free treatment at the walk-in Take Care Health Clinics. Patients who have lost their jobs and health insurance can get treated for things like allergies, infections, and skin conditions.
For more involved medical attention, one option is Planned Parenthood. Not just for reproductive health, many sites offer general physical exams for men and women, flu vaccines, tetanus shots, and many other forms of health care. Costs vary by service, but there are payment plans and sliding scales, where patients pay based on their income.
If you need prescriptions, CVS has a new program called the Health Savings Pass that offers a 90-day supply of over 400 generic drugs for $9.99 plus a $10 annual membership fee.
Anne Zachan of Irvine, CA lost her job as a high school teacher at the end of last school year, and her coverage will run out at the end of August.
“I have always lived a fairly healthy lifestyle, but I am certainly more aware of my daily choices now that I am about to bid farewell to my good friend HMO,” she said. Zachan and her fellow uninsured friends are eating healthier, exercising more, drinking less, and getting more sleep. This is stay-healthy advice that’s good for everyone, insured and uninsured alike.
Like Magnanini said, though, being without insurance for too long is risky. Just ask Jess Noonan of Urbana, IL. Since finishing graduate school, she’s been working part-time as an adjunct professor and is therefore unable to participate in her employer’s group plan. Noonan, however, has a pre-existing condition, and she can’t go without certain medicines.
“Failure to keep up on my prescriptions will just lead to health problems/complications and more medical costs in the future,” said Noonan, who must pay the expensive costs out of pocket.
One of the plans Congress is considering will forbid insurance companies from refusing to cover people like Noonan who have a pre-existing condition. Another will let young adults stay on their parents’ plans until the age of 26. Young Americans might also qualify for insurance premium subsidies in another plan, said the Associated Press.
Lent, Zachan, and Noonan are just three of the millions of Generation Y-ers who have been negatively affected by the health care industry. They realize the value of taking care of themselves, especially now that jobs are scarce and health coverage even rarer. Hopefully, they won’t have to walk the precarious line of being uninsured for much longer.
© Danielle Bullen 2009
Your Card is in the Mail
This story originally appeared in Too Shy To Stop.
“I most certainly do,” said Carl Christian Gross of Harboro, PA. Despite the Digital Age and the availability of e-cards, Gross and millions of other people still send cards to mark special events.
Sending cards to mark holidays, birthdays, and anniversaries has been a tradition for centuries. The greeting card museum, a virtual guide to the industry and history of cards, says that the oldest greeting card in existence is a valentine from the 1400s!
Cards were a novelty reserved for the wealthy until the introduction of postage stamps in the 1840s. Better printing techniques soon created mass-produced cards, and the industry took off.
According to the Greeting Card Association, currently seven billion cards are exchanged per year in the US.
The excitement of getting a paper card in the mail is something that e-mail cards can’t quite duplicate. One person who understands that is Steve Anderson. He created his own business, Your Thank You Card, to produce hand-made greetings.
“More than ever, our mailboxes are filled with bills and junk. This makes getting a card all the more exciting,” Anderson said.
He and other people save cards, while e-mails are deleted. Anderson, an acupuncturist by trade, remembers sending one of his cards to a patient going through grueling physical therapy.
He said, “The next time I saw her she threw her arms around me and thanked me profusely for the card I had sent to her. She was in tears.”
It’s not just small, craft card makers like Anderson that are trying to raise sales. Hallmark, the best-known manufacturer that celebrates its 100th birthday in 2010, makes 19,000 cards and related products each year, like party goods, ornaments, and gift wrap, as part of its $4.5 billion in annual sales.
Last year, the greeting card giant introduced Sound Cards, which allows people to record their own message, taking the personal aspect to a whole new level. According to a story in the Times Record News, Hallmark hopes that a recordable card will keep it “relevant in a modern world where e-mail, cell phones and streaming video keep people connected over long distances.”
The first people to send the cards were children with mothers deployed overseas, emphasizing the one-of-a-kind, human connection that opening up a card creates. “The Sound Cards have turned around a card business that had remained flat for several years as e-mails and e-cards became more popular.”
E-cards, more convenient, and cheaper, will continue to grow in popularity. But paper cards will never be replaced.
Said Anderson, “Sometimes simple heartfelt words expressed in writing can have a profound effect on a person’s spirit.”
© Danielle Bullen 2009
Examining the Hulu Effect
This article originally appeared in Too Shy to Stop
Arnold is far from the only person who has embraced this convenience. In April, Americans streamed 16.8 million online videos, according to a study conducted by the comScore Video Metrix service. 76.8% of Internet users saw at least one video, with the average viewer watching 6.4 hours of content in a month. Watching on a set is still the preferred method, with Americans watching on average, 151 hours each month, according to A.C. Nielsen.
As with many technological trends, this tendency started on college campuses. Anne Louie of King of Prussia, PA, works as a college administrator and first learned about Hulu from students. Dorm square footage is scarce, and if students can save money and space by only bringing a computer to campus, then why not?
Hulu.com is an advertiser-supported site, so it’s free for users. It legally partners with over 160 content providers, including major networks NBC, ABC, and Fox to give the public access to current and cancelled television shows. To watch, all someone needs to do is set up an account with their birth date, a username, and a password.
After graduation, as young people enter the working world, increasing numbers are eschewing cable in favor of high-speed Internet connections. A survey conducted by Arbitron Inc. says that 56% of 18-34 year-olds subscribe to cable but 64% of 35-49 year-olds do.
As people look for more ways to pinch pennies, cable and satellite TV bills seem more and more outlandish. With the exception of programs on premium networks like HBO and Showtime, many popular primetime shows can be found on Hulu, Fancast, or the web sites run by individual networks, like NBC.com.
Arnold prefers the network web sites, because she can watch shows like “Pushing Daisies” in high definition, a service offered free by ABC. She and her roommate do not subscribe to cable and have one TV set in their apartment. Watching on her computer means no waiting for the television or arguing over the channel.
Convenience is of the main reasons some people watch online. There’s no longer the need to program a DVR or VCR or to coordinate your schedule around your favorite shows. Those of us with laptops can even take our favorite shows with us when we’re on the go, whether it’s to the corner coffee shop or a business trip to another state.
Says Philadelphian Alex Derderian, “I’m usually not around a TV when the shows I want to watch are on.” He catches up on shows like Lost in large chunks whenever he has free time.
Nostalgia is another reason that draws people to the Internet. Kate Podlesney, of Rosemont, PA, occasionally watches episodes of 1980s and 90s shows like “Buffy” or “Doogie Howser” on Hulu.
She says, “I watch them online because they’re offered for free and I don’t need to buy the DVD box set.”
Sitcoms and dramas are not the only content young people get online. Marc Miller, a resident of Rosemont PA, streams highlights from ESPN.com on the computer because he can chose the clips from the teams he follows and doesn’t need wait for Sports Center to come on TV. Although she prefers watching television on a set, Louie will occasionally stream videos on CNN.com if the news story especially intrigues her.
Just as cable revolutionized what we watch on TV, the Internet is revolutionizing when and how we watch TV. It has moved from a passive experience to user-controlled and more importantly, user-friendly entertainment.
© Danielle Bullen 2009
Kick up Your Heels for Kidneys
This article originally appeared in MavenMag Philadelphia
26 million. That’s how many Americans suffer from chronic kidney disease. Surprised? Most people are, as “kidney disease is an under-the-radar disease,” says Kimberly Hamm, Community Events Manager of the Delaware Valley Chapter of the National Kidney Foundation. However, the foundation is intent on changing this perception. Through community outreach and support programs, the foundation is dedicated to increasing knowledge and awareness about kidney disease and its risk factors while also supporting those affected by it.
Chronic kidney disease is an umbrella term for any condition that damages your kidneys and affects the normal function of the kidneys. Your kidneys are primarily responsible for filtering waste from your body, regulating blood pressure, controlling red blood cell production, and producing Vitamin D. No wonder it’s so important that they do their job well! They help your body maintain healthy levels of salt and potassium, and too much or too little can throw your system into distress. The two main causes of this are diabetes and high blood pressure; however other factors, both hereditary and adopted, can also play a role. And, it can happen to anyone, Kimberly emphasizes, so it’s important to be educated about what it is, and how to help prevent it. To learn more about the kidneys and chronic kidney disease, see the National Kidney Foundation’s Web Site’s section on Kidney Disease.
Fortunately, kidney disease can be treated in many cases. The two main methods are dialysis, where machines do the work of healthy kidneys, and transplants. And the National Kidney Foundation is dedicated to providing support to both.
The Emergency Financial Assistance program provides support to dialysis patients who are suffering financially due to the high costs of care. On average, health insurance covers just 80% of dialysis costs, so the finance program, which is supported through donations, gives people money for necessities like utilities and groceries while undergoing this treatment. It also administers a state-run program that subsidizes transportation to and from dialysis for patients who can’t get there on their own.
Transplant education programs: Since patients must be on dialysis their whole lives, the foundation also works to raise awareness of transplants as a treatment. The foundation, says Kimberly, “works to spread word about [the importance of] donating all organs.” Representatives visit middle schools and explain organ donation, answer questions and give kids, “the tools to make the decision” to be organ donors, she explains. Sadly, there are 10,000 people currently on the waiting list for a kidney in the U.S., and Kimberly encourages everyone to save a life by becoming an organ donor, either living or non-living. Becoming a non-living donor is as easy as checking a box the next time you renew your driver’s license. To learn more about being a living organ donor, visit the United Network for Organ Sharing.
In addition to financial assistance and spreading awareness of organ donation, the foundation also runs KEEP, the Kidney Early Evaluation Program. KEEP is the Foundations biggest program and consists of volunteers who go into neighborhoods and screen people for risk factors. Philadelphians, in particular, have a 1 in 6 rate of chronic kidney disease, higher than the 1 in 9 national average, which makes this project even more crucial. KEEP also provides an opportunity for nursing and medical students to practice their patient skills and to give back.
Even if you’re not in the medical profession, you can still help the foundation. Volunteers are always needed for administrative tasks at their office in Center City. In addition, the foundation has several major events every year and volunteers play key roles in pre-event planning and fundraising, day-of set up, clean-up and guest services. Events are the foundation’s primary way to raise the money needed to run their initiatives, and every year, there are five regional kidney walks in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware. This year, the Philadelphia walk is scheduled for October 4. Visit Kidney Walks for location, registration and information on walks in other cities.
One upcoming fundraiser for the foundation is High Heels for Kidneys, at Liberty Place I on April 29. Now in its third year, High Heels for Kidneys is a networking and private shopping event. Many of the stores in Liberty Place will be open after-hours exclusively for attendees, and representatives from other stores will sell their goods as well. California Pizza Kitchen and the Capital Grille will provide food, making it a great event for your stomach and your style. This year, the event will honor Mary Fox Donnelly, as 2009 marks the 30th anniversary of her kidney transplant. At age 27, with no family history and otherwise healthy lifestyle, Mary was diagnosed with kidney disease. She was the recipient of a living kidney donation from her sister (who will also be honored) and is now the successful CEO of Fox Specialties. Mary’s story proves the importance of both organ donation and monitoring your health for potential signs of the disease.
Another way you can shop and save lives is through the National Kidney Foundation’s partnership with Jewelry for Life. Started by Nancy Hercer after her diagnosis with kidney disease, Jewelry for Life creates bracelets and necklaces featuring charms with inspirational messages, like hope, love, promise, faith, health, and family. Other jewelry styles are sold on their web site, so you can find something to suit your taste. A percentage of the profits from the event goes to the foundation, keeping their message of hope alive. Whether it’s through health screenings, school visits, social events or helping patients with bills, the National Kidney Foundation’s purpose can’t be carried out without donors and volunteers. So, kick up your own heels for your kidneys by monitoring your risk factors, giving a little time or donating money to this under-the-radar, yet very deserving cause.
© Danielle Bullen 2009
Granting the Greatest Gift
This article originally appeared in MavenMag Philadelphia
“Imagine your family doesn’t exist,” says Main Line native Becky Fawcett. For many people, this is their reality, but Fawcett is doing something to change that. Together with her husband, Kipp, she founded Help Us Adopt , a non-profit dedicated to giving financial support to potential adoptive parents.
Becky and Kipp’s commitment to the cause is personal. Over three years, they endured five rounds of in-vitro fertilization and three miscarriages at a total cost of $82,000. The end result — no baby. After that painful experience, they set off on a new path — adoptionIt took another year for their son, Jake, to come home to them. Even more startling is that after lawyers, social workers, counselors, the birth mother’s medical expenses, travel expenses and more, the cost was almost $40,000. “To do an adoption right takes a lot of different people and you can’t expect these people to work for free,” notes Becky. The Fawcett’s recognize they were extremely fortunate to have had the resources; approximately 80% of adoptive parents first try fertility treatments, which cause their resources to drain. Becky and Kipp realized that, as a result, many people face either financial ruin or a life of childlessness, and they decided to change that.
As Becky observes, not everyone can write a check for $40,000 to pay for adoption expenses. So, Help Us Adopt identifies families in need, such as those who have made sacrifices or taken a second mortgage, but still can’t seem to scrape all the funds together. The grant recipients are real people who don’t earn exorbitant amounts of money; they are average Americans who need a helping hand to achieve their dream of being parents. Erica, for example, couldn’t have children because of a heart condition and sought to adopt two boys. Heather and Alan are another example. Heather, herself an adoptee, and her husband wanted to grow their family but had medical debt from Alan’s successful cancer treatments. Joani and Steve, a couple already blessed with two adoptive sons, one with Down’s Syndrome and one with Muscular Dystrophy, opened their home and maxed out their credit cards to welcome another boy with Down’s. Lori and Jason came to adoption after their twins died and they learned they were unable to conceive again. Jennifer took a hefty pay cut so she could work fewer hours to spend time with her special needs son. Traci and Todd, inspired by their work at a home for pregnant homeless women, reached out and adopted three children-all siblings.
These are just some of the fourteen recipients the foundation assisted in 2008, with grants ranging from $500 to $15,000. “We do what we can and know we’re making a difference,” says Becky, acknowledging that choosing the awardees is the hardest part. To help with the process, Help Us Adopt has put together a five person selection committee. These friends and co-workers of Becky and Kipp were hand-selected because of what they do for a living, the size of their hearts and, most importantly, because they are all parents. Applicants submit proof of home study, demonstrate financial need, and write a personal statement. That last part is the soul of the process. The selection committee doesn’t care about writing style, but rather the emotion in the essay. Every story is touching and without people explaining their journey to become parents in their own words, all the forms look the same. Fortunately, in the first two rounds of awards, the selection committee was unanimous about who to give money to, making a challenging process a little easier. Help Us Adopt places priority on families but, beyond that, couples and single parents from all backgrounds are given equal consideration.
Becky is actively working to grow the foundation because there were over 240 applicants who did not receive a grant last year. Their resources come entirely from private donations; “I look at this as a team effort. I couldn’t do it without the donors,” Becky says. Everyone has a little extra cash, she adds, and “twenty dollars makes a difference.” While the volunteers at Help Us Adopt — which include a pro bono lawyer, a technical consultant and Kipp Fawcett, who gives much-needed financial advice — are priceless, at its heart it is a one-woman show. All applications must be logged and distributed, and checks processed and acknowledged, for which Becky has part-time help. She stays in constant communication with applicants and donors and potential donors, and maintains a network of adoption professionals who refer clients. Becky considers herself lucky to be skilled at multi-tasking; to be able to juggle and keep it all straight in her head. And, she does all this while working full-time running her own public relations firm in New York, where she and Kipp and Jake now live. But, as she says proudly, “this is such a blessing to these families and a blessing to my husband and me. To us it became clear why this was the road we’re on.”
If you’d like to help the Fawcett’s on their path to aid more adoptive families, visit their website for donation information. Help Us Adopt will host a shopping fundraiser in April in the Philadelphia area, so check out the website for details. Complete instructions for grant applications are also online; deadlines for the 2009 grants are April 17 and October 16.
“We can’t imagine life without our son,” Becky concludes, “and we want to do our part to help others adopt the children they desperately want to love."
©Danielle Bullen 2009
Who Needs New York or Paris?
Philadelphia University Students Strut Their Fashion Stuff
This article originally appeared in MavenMag Philadelphia
Philadelphia has an emerging fashion scene and a host of bright young designers who are ready to take the retail world by storm. On April 30, the creations of 85 fashion design students from Philadelphia University took to the stage for the 2008 Fashion Show. The storied Academy of Music played host and provided a grand backdrop for the event, which was organized by the university’s Fashion Industry Association, a group of fashion design, fashion industry management, and fashion merchandising students.
Three piece drum ensemble Soul Samba played and belly dancers performed as the crowd trickled in. The evening began with emcees Bill Henley and Lori Wilson of NBC’s The Ten Show showing clips from Runway Challenge—a Project Runway type show that challenged ten students with projects such as making outfits out of materials bought at Staples. The winner, Regina Amato, received special recognition at the event.
Then Philadelphia University president Dr. Stephen Spinelli presented the Spirit of Design award to Francisco Costa, the creative director of the Calvin Klein collection for Women. The award is given to an “individual who has shown excellence in design or support of design education,” a fitting tribute at a student-run event.
The theme of this year’s show was Eco-Couture and students were encouraged to use organic and recycled materials in their creations. Denelle Green-Drake from Neiman Marcus gave commentary as the models walked down the runway. Music pulsed in the background, the song changing with each collection. The designers appeared to have had relative freedom in making their collections. Some created men’s wear and a few designed for children. The youngest models definitely got the loudest applause from the spirited crowd. Lourdes Cisneros Madrigal and Althea Pappas both included bridal gowns. Anna Ludwig showed a lime green cut out one-piece bathing suit and several other designers sent bathing suits down the runway, as well.
But the majority of the show was devoted to women’s wear, both sportswear and evening gowns. What looked like a classic black ball gown by Stephanie Rena Singh surprised the audience when the model turned to reveal a train made of peacock feathers. The skirt of one of Shannan Carlino’s ball gowns was constructed of basketball jerseys, making it one of the cleverest pieces of the night. Runway Challenge winner Regina Amato combined old fashioned elegance with a touch of grunge in a blue and red plaid hoop-skirted dress with a brown and blue patchwork bodice. The dress received the most enthusiastic response from the packed house and won the most creative garment prize. Sara Tool embodied the eco couture theme with a fiberglass mini dress adorned with real leafs and twigs.
The night had plenty of ready-to-wear looks that could easily be taken off the runway and into modern women’s closets. Melissa Tsui added a hood to a burnt orange long sleeved jersey dress, putting a youthful spin on a classic piece. Starr Davis’ coral linen maxi sundress fit right in with what is hot for summer 2008. Gray shorts, a white swiss dot blouse and cropped black vest designed by Megan F. McCormick was a great example of the feminine menswear trend. A pair of white wide-legged pants paired with a blue and white polka dot top was part of Janelle Frank’s blue and white themed collection that won the most saleable award. A yellow empire waist, square-necked dress with green overlay and tortoise belt helped Amy Lydanne to win the Mothers Work award for excellence in sportswear design. A series of simple cream and brown summer dresses perfect for both the office and brunch were designed by Carly Franks and Bethany Santos, who collaborated for their collection and won the best senior collection award.
All of the designers showed flair and finesse. It won’t be long before the “student” is dropped from their names and they become designers in their own right.
©Danielle Bullen 2008
Spread a Little Holiday Charity
This article originally appeared in MavenMag Philadelphia
Fighting Breast Cancer with a Wink and Smile
This article originally appeared in MavenMag Philadelphia
It’s tough to smile when you learn a loved one has been diagnosed with breast cancer. There are three amazing women, though, who faced the challenges of this disease with a good helping of love, laughter, and style.
Kelly Rooney was a thirty-nine-year-old mother of five when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2002. “Kelly was someone you wanted be around,” says close friend Kelly Day.” As she fought the disease, she never stopped laughing or joking. Three years later, Day and Kelly’s sister Erin Dugery participated in the breast cancer three day 60 mile walk in honor of Rooney. Kelly designed team shirts with baseballs across the chest and the phrase “Save 2nd Base.” Fellow walkers embraced the concept and a mini phenomenon was born.
That mischievous attitude buoyed Kelly’s spirits and the spirits of those around her. Says Day, “She had us laughing.” Although Kelly eventually succumbed to breast cancer and passed away in 2006, everyone around her was amazed at how she faced death with courage and dignity.
“We wanted to carry on her legacy,” Day explains as to the start of Save 2nd Base. Keeping their motto “pink with a wink” in mind, Day and Dugery began to sell shirts with variations of the tongue-in-cheek logo, some with a more discreet “S2B.” Kelly had designed the shirts before death. The original design is of course, the Kelly, and each of the other tee-shirts is named after one of her children—Jack, Quinn, Casey, Haley, and Molly. A golf shirt is named after her husband, Sean.
Save 2nd Base will sell their shirts at Shop for the Cause, Philadelphia Maven’s fundraiser for brestcancer.org on October 21st.. You’ll have the opportunity to honor Kelly’s legacy as you shop and socialize for this good cause.
The response to the shirts has been nothing but positive. In September, Newsweek ran a piece on the organization and sales shot through the roof. Jen Dailey of the Stone Harbor boutique People People, a store that carries the shirts, was quoted in the article: “We can’t keep them in stock-they’re catching on like fire.” Some customers, many of whom are cancer survivors, leave comments on the website: “I thought it was hysterical.” “Thank you for sharing your story,” “Thanks for providing a smile through this horrible, disgusting disease.” “I will wear it with pride.” Those are just a few of the uplifting posts.
“We’ve come across the most amazing people” says Day. She mentions a widower, who lobbied for the passage of “Karen’s Law” in memory of his late wife. The law allows families to donate their loved one’s unopened and unused medicine to less fortunate patients, instead of discarding it as was the protocol.
But none are more amazing than the Rooney family, who started a charity of their own, the Kelly Rooney Foundation. Fifty percent of sales from Save 2nd Base go to this organization that focuses on breast cancer prevention and treatment in young women. In 2003, according to figures from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 181,646 American women were diagnosed with breast cancer and 181,646 women died.
Throughout her battle, Kelly and her physicians discussed how her daughters could prevent the disease. To help with the fight, The Kelly Rooney Breast Cancer Research Fund at the University of Pennsylvania began this year. Researchers will focus on identifying genetic risks that will help with earlier diagnoses. They will also increase knowledge of how breast cancer develops, hoping to stage earlier and more powerful interventions.
Rooney was posthumously honored with a “Courage and Inspiration Award” from the Women’s Board of the American Cancer Society to commemorate her relentlessly positive attitude.
The Kelly Rooney Foundation will host a Strikeout Breast Cancer bowling fundraiser on November 18th at Devon Bowl Lanes. Grab some of your girlfriends and spend an afternoon at this fun event.
A bowling tournament is exactly the type of quirky event that Kelly would have loved. Says Day, “Watching someone die from this disease is horrorific, but if we can have the last laugh, so be it.” It seems that Kelly is still smiling from heaven.
©Danielle Bullen 2007
Rittenhouse Residents Feast on Fresh Produce
This article originally appeared in Rittenhouse Magazine
Arranging fresh cut flowers in a vase, biting into a juicy peach, chopping brightly colored vegetables for a salad; these are just a few activities which scream “fresh!” Urban living has many perks but access to high quality, locally grown fruits and vegetables has not always been the first one that comes to mind. Farm to City (FTC) is looking to change that. FTC operates eleven farmers’ markets in the greater Philadelphia region. The tradition of such outdoor markers dates back centuries. The benefits are mutual: consumers gain access to produce, and family farms, a dying breed, earn much needed capital. The US Census Bureau reports that we have lost 4.7 million small farms since 1935. Even the smallest effort, to curb this tide by supporting the farmers who are left, can help.
Being able to interact with the people who grow the food means shoppers can ask questions about its origin. Were pesticides used? Is it genetically modified? Those questions can’t be asked at Pathmark or Superfresh. According to the Homegrown Worldwatch Institute, Food travels between 1500 and 2500 miles from farms, or 7-14 days in transit. The fruits and vegetables in the supermarket are chosen for their ability to withstand harsh transportation, not for taste or nutritional value. Wouldn’t it be more enjoyable to take a bite out of an apple picked hours ago, not weeks?
There is a real sense of community involved in farmers’ markets. Residents and workers in the Rittenhouse area know the square is an ideal meeting place and people watching spot. Now, they can add food shopping to that list. Every Tuesday from 10 am to 1 pm through October and every Saturday from 10 am to 3 pm through November, Farm to City sponsors a market along Walnut Street between 18th and 19th Streets. Pumpkinridge Creations of Quarryville, PA and Beechwood Orchards, a five-generation farm from Biglerville, PA are just two of the area organizations represented.
On a recent Saturday afternoon, shoppers had their pick of herbs, sunflowers, lilies, zinnias, cherries, blueberries, raspberries, plums, peaches, apricots, zucchini, cucumbers, squash, tomatoes, corn, peas, and potatoes. Whew! It’s enough to make anyone hungry. On Saturdays, the Rittenhouse market also offers meat, poultry and dairy products from pasture-fed animals. These are animals who were allowed to eat grass, their naturally occurring diet. They have higher omega-3 fatty acids, (the good fats), and less cholesterol than their corn fed counterparts. Just another way buying local helps your health.
©Danielle Bullen 2007
This article originally appeared in Campus Philly
An old, shady tree to read a book under; an expansive open field to play Frisbee with your friends; a garden of beautiful flowers to smell on a summer day: just some of the reasons we need to maintain outdoor living spaces.That’s where Project EverGreen, a non-profit based in Minnesota, comes in. Project EverGreen’s mission is to teach people the benefits of healthy landscapes, such as parks, lawns, golf courses, etc. While everyone can appreciate green spaces, some people take that enthusiasm a step further and choose an environmental-related major like horticulture, botany or water management.
To encourage more students to pursue studies in these and similar areas, the organization is offering two $2500 scholarships to current students majoring or minoring in a “green” field.
Applications can be downloaded atwww.projectevergreen.com. The application deadline is June 1, 2007, and winners will be announced in mid-July.
“The green industry is an ever-expanding field, with a wide variety of career possibilities,” said Den Gardner, Executive Director of Project EverGreen. Possibilities are as broad as golf course superintendents to public relations specialists representing green industries.
“We were impressed with the quality of our 2006 applicants,” Gardner said. Project EverGreen started the awards to “reach as many students as possible as we meet our mission of raising awareness of the economic and lifestyle benefits of well-maintained green spaces,” he added.
Last year’s winners were Amy Hegwood of Gwinnett Technical College in Georgia, and Tao Fan of Brigham Young University in Utah. Hegwood, an environmental horticulture major, would like to educate children about the importance of green spaces. Tao became interested in landscape management after immigrating from an over-crowded Chinese city.
According to the Project EverGreen website, green spaces are more than recreation. They have economic and health perks, too. For example, landscaping reduces the amount of nitrate that leaks into the water supply. Each year, a single tree removes 26 pounds of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, equal to 11,000 miles worth of car emissions.
Psychologists have found that access to plants and green spaces provides people with a sense of rest and allows workers to be more productive. Neighborhoods that promote landscaping see a decrease in vandalism. According to scientists, access to plants can even lower blood pressure, improve attention span, and reduce feelings of fear, anger, or aggression.
Even those who aren’t studying environmental subjects can do their part. Gardner encourages students to take care of the landscapes surrounding campus houses. Project EverGreen launched Green Care for Troops, a program that’s looking for volunteers to maintain the lawns and gardens of families with members serving overseas.
Through the scholarship, Gardner hopes to “inspire and support students who share our passion for this industry.”
©Danielle Bullen 2007
Philly Dragon Boating
This article originally appeared in Campus Philly
“It’s an overnight sensation twenty-five years in the making.”
That sums up dragon boating in America, says Jim Morris, Vice President of the Philadelphia Dragon Boating Association. The ancient sport has hit its stride locally, with the Philadelphia team consistently one of the best in the world.
Simply put, dragon boating is, “Chinese crew with 20 people”, plus a steersman and a drummer, according to Morris. In this disciplined sport, each paddler hits the water at the same time, at a rate of about 80 strokes per minute.
The boats have carved dragons' heads at the bow and tails at the stern. Thousands of years ago, a Chinese warrior drowned himself in a river as a political protest. People organized races in his memory, and that tradition continues today in dragon boating.
How did this ritual cross over the ocean? In 1983, the Hong Kong tourist association gave dragon boats to U.S. cities with strong crew traditions. They promised a free trip to Hong Kong to the winner of an American competition. Philadelphia had the winning team.
With that introduction to the sport, local dragon boating was off to a strong start. At the first world championships in 1995, the Philadelphia team earned a silver medal in the 500 meter race. Races are 250, 500 or 1000 meters in male, female, or co-ed teams.
The premiere teams of the Philadelphia Dragon Boating Association have members ranging in age from 18 to early 40s. There are also youth teams, and teams for people over 40 and over 50 teams. This year, the Philadelphia school district became the first in the nation to offer dragon boating as a varsity sport.
The best Philadelphia team will attempt to continue the city's winning ways at the world championships in Australia this fall. It earned the right to represent the U.S. after winning the national championships in 2006. In Sydney, this amateur team will compete against international squads that include former Olympic rowers. Morris has confidence in the team. It won the gold medal at the 1999 world championship with “a bunch of local guys,” he said.
Those local guys want to know if you’d like to join them. As members who have been with the team for more than twenty years grow older, they are looking for replacements. Said Morris, “We are absolutely looking for new members. ”
He describes the sport as easy to learn and forgiving to beginners. The Philadelphia Dragon Boating Association is recruiting new members in their twenties. Participants peak in their early thirties, a higher average age than most other sports, so joining fresh out of college gives you many years of excellence ahead of you.
Dragon boating is an intense sport. Morris credits the team’s success to the member's efforts, which include practices five times a week, and individual training. All of that work is in addition to team members' regular jobs and family commitments, making their participation a real labor of love.
Besides staying in shape and traveling the world, dragon boating offers social perks. Morris recalls the “core friendships of the people on the team for a long time.”It’s multi-generational, with fathers and sons and mothers and daughters sharing the experience.“People get into the team and love it and stick with it.”
©Danielle Bullen 2007
Another Week Without Classes
This article originally appeared in Campus Philly
Last week, 1400 faculty and staff at the Community College of Philadelphia went on strike, cancelling classes indefinitely for 37,000 students.
Members of the Faculty and Staff Federation, American Federation of Teachers, Local 2026 and college administration are unable to reach an agreement over a new five-year contract. The college is offering average annual salary increases of 3.62 percent, but employees are asking for 3.92 percent average increases.
The average salary for a full-time assistant professor with a doctorate at CCP is $55,900. That is less than the average salary for a Philadelphia school district teacher, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Education. A labor mediator has met with both sides, but the college is holding firm with its offer.
Although CCP faculty members earn less than their counterparts at some other regional community colleges, they do enjoy a lucrative benefit: no health care premiums. That issue is not at stake, and the college will continue to pay the premiums for its employees.
One issue at stake is a recently launched 1.5 million dollar advertising campaign. The college plans to start its first capital fundraising effort next year. In defense of the ad spending, CCP President Stephen Curtis told the Philadelphia Inquirer, “We need visibility in the community so that when we approach donors, they know why we have value.”
Union officials believe that money would be better spent on salaries.
“We want to invest in our employees. I think that is absolutely important to the institution,” Curtis said.
Another issue is lack of funding from the city. The operating budget is supplied by the State, the City of Philadelphia, and tuition dollars.
According to Curtis, Philadelphia only contributes 19 percent of the budget; and CCP’s $3,500 tuition is already higher than the national average for community colleges, which is $2,200.
CCP has points of pride. Its dual admissions program allows students to fulfill requirements toward a bachelor’s degree at eight regional universities. The college offers free job training to workers at local companies. It ranks in the top 20 in minority community college graduates; and 40 percent of current students are the first in their families to attend college.
Fay Beauchamp, an English and humanities professor, said of her students, “They’re creative, expressive, wonderful, interesting people. . .They have the chance, from here, to go anywhere they want.”
Right now, the students want what is fair for their teachers. Business student and Student Government President Salah Saunders sympathized with both the teachers and the students by saying that the faculty deserve a higher salary, but not at the expense of students.
There are some rumblings over the walkout. Students with plans to take summer classes, like communications major Taifa Savage, worried the strike would change their plans. Striking faculty are also concerned about the academic impact of a prolonged work stoppage. Assistant chemistry professor Michael Byler worries about the effect on a summer program he coordinates.
Most students, though, support the faculty. “It’s a pain, but they’re fighting for what they deserve," said computer science major Brandon Quzack.
Art history student Kristina Djordjervicova said, “We have some really great professors, and they need to get this resolved.”
Sources: The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Philadelphia Daily News and www.ccp.edu
©Danielle Bullen 2007
Career Services Office
This article originally appeared in Campus Philly
Identity Crisis! How to Protect Yourself from the Insidious-and Rapidly Growing-Crime of ID Theft
This article originally appeared on the web site Making Bread
Remember “The Net,”a 1995 movie starring Sandra Bullock as a software engineer whose ID is stolen by vcomputer hackers? Ten years later, that chilling scenario can happen to anyone, not just beautiful computer nerds. According to Consumer Reports, identity theft is “an equal-opportunity crime, affecting victims of all races, ages and incomes.” In today’s high-tech world, it’s easier than ever for thieves to access your confidential data. It’s critical to stay one step ahead of the hackers. But beware, too, of those you know, because, as they say, “ you never know . . . .” Shockingly, as with violent crimes, the perpetrator may be someone close to you. According to a study conducted by the Better Business Bureau and Javelin Strategy and Research, those under age 34 are more likely to be victimized by acquaintances than other segments of the population.
Here, MAKING BREAD identifies some warning signs to watch for, suggests ways to protect your identity, and recommends steps to take in the event that identity theft happens to you. If it does, you will not be alone.
How vulnerable are you? The BBB/Javelin study reveals that 9.3 million people were victimized by identity theft in 2004. Identity theft is growing rapidly despite the fact that The Identity Theft and Deterrence Actmakes it a Federal crime to “knowingly transfer or use, without lawful authority, a means of identification of another person with the intent to commit, or to aid or abet, any unlawful activity.”
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) distinguishes four types of identity theft. In financial ID theft, a person applies for telephone service, credit cards or loans, buys merchandise, or leases cars or apartments using another person’s name or Social Security number. Criminal ID theft is when an imposter gives the victim's information instead of his or her own when stopped by law enforcement. In identity cloning, the perpetrator establishes a new life using someone else’s identity. Finally, commercial ID theft is the case of a thief opening accounts in the name of a business.
But wait—it gets more complicated: Beth Givens of the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, a non-profit consumer advocacy organization in San Diego, explains that financial identity theft can be divided into two categories—account takeover and new account creation. The former happens when someone posing as you uses your credit card. Since the breach is evident on your statements when you notice charges you did not make, this type of fraud takes less time to clear up. With new account fraud, someone sets up an account in your name. Often, victims are unaware of the transgression until they apply for a loan and are rejected because of bad credit—not theirs, but their “alter ego’s.”
While this crime can strike anyone, certain factors make some people more of a target. The BBB-Javelin survey results indicate that those between the ages of 45-64 have the highest incidence of identity theft of any age group. In addition, the FTC, in its own 2003 study, lists the top 10 U.S. locations for victims of the crime. Washington, D.C. tops the list, followed by California, Arizona, Nevada, Texas, Florida, New York,Washington, Maryland, and Oregon. Perhaps not coincidentally, Washington, D.C. is one of three areas, along with Colorado and Vermont, that does not have a specific anti-ID theft law.
‘Weakest Links’ & Warning Signs
Linda Foley, Executive Director of the Identity Theft Resource Center, a non-profit organization also in San Diego tells us the elderly, the military and college students are the most at-risk segments for identity theft. As she explains, “identity theft is an opportunistic crime. The thieves find the weakest link.” Anyone over the age of 65 must carry a Medicare card with their Social Security number on it. They visit more doctors and are hospitalized more, so their personal information is in more databases. Many seniors live in assisted-living facilities, where people ranging from maintenance workers to nurses have access to their living quarters. Members of the military also carry identification cards with their Social Security number imprinted on them. Some Iraqi war veterans returned home to find their finances drained by wives or girlfriends to whom they’d granted temporary power of attorney during their tour of duty, says Foley. Additionally, in college, people live with total strangers, at least for the first year. Students often leave confidential information, like checkbooks and credit cards, unlocked in dorms. Foley states that four percent of victims in 2003 were under the age of 18. Most of them were victimized by relatives or acquaintances.
Givens reminds us that in nearly half of identity theft cases, victims don’t know how their personal information got into the wrong hands. One such man is Liam Morris, a 42-year-old Delaware resident whose information was pilfered from thieves who set up credit cards in his name, according to Newsweek. The FTC, however, reveals that in 26 percent of cases, the victim knew who misused their information. Chevonne King-Lewis, a 23-year-old Atlanta woman, told Newsweek thather personal data was stolen by a houseguest who charged $37,000 in her name. King-Lewis fits squarely into the BBB-Javelin findings that those under age 34 are more likely to be victimized by acquaintances than other segments of the population. Givens conjectures this may be because younger people are less protective of sensitive financial documents and may leave information accessible to roommates and visitors.
“All that ID thieves really need to . . . drain your . . . accounts are three pieces of information: your full name, Social Security number, and date of birth,” says Consumer Reports. Some of the signs you’ve become a victim include odd charges on your credit card bills, missing bills, snubs from lenders, PINs not working at the ATM, out of whack credit scores, and angry phone calls from creditors, says AOL Personal Finance.
Identifying the Thieves
If there are few common dominators between victims, are there any similarities between identity thieves? According to a 2004 study of more than 1,000 identity-theft arrests conducted by Michigan State University criminal justice professor Judith Collins, 50 percent of the cases originated with a disgruntled employee hacking company systems. The Federal government is doing its part to reduce that number. Under the proposed Identity Theft Penalty Enhancement Act, which is currently under consideration by the House of Representatives, insiders who steal company data for criminal purposes would face an additional two years on top of existing punishments. Givens explains that drug use, especially the rising methamphetamine epidemic, drives a lot of ID theft. Abusers use false identification to buy either meth or the supplies needed to make the drug themselves. Congress even commissioned a study in July to evaluate connections between meth-related crimes and identity theft.
Organized crime rings have found ID theft to be a low-risk, high-reward way to make money because very few cases are investigated. In fact, the FTC says that only one-quarter of victims contacted their local police. Gartner, Inc, an information technology research company, reported in a 2003 survey that only 1 in 700 identity thieves are caught by Federal authorities. In those cases that are prosecuted, penalties tend to be low because the crime does not involve physical violence. Lance Neil, a victim of ID theft, told Consumer Reports, “I wish people would stop calling this a victimless crime. It takes a lot of time to fix.” Indeed, Givens says the biggest common dominator among victims is the loss of time clearing their name. The FTC survey shows that Americans spent a collective 300 million hours in 2003 resolving problems related to this crime
While they are not responsible for charges incurred while someone else was using their identity, victims are hit with out-of-pocket costs to clear their name for such things as faxes, mailings and phone calls. The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse indicates it takes an average of two years for people to clear their name, with each person losing an average of about $800 dollars. In all, victims lost a combined $5 billion in 2003, according to the FTC.
The methods criminals use to access your identity are almost as varied as the type of victims they target. According to The Wall Street Journal, among the techniques used is hacking into corporate Web sites or databases to retrieve personal information. In 2005, 1.4 million customers’ names were stolen from Designer Shoe Warehouse. One of the victims was FTC chairman Deborah Platt Majoras, proving again that this crime can affect anyone. The biggest data breach in U.S. history occurred this year, when the security system of CardSystems, a company that processes credit cards, was breached, resulting in 40 million credit card numbers being exposed to hackers. In fact, Consumer Reports writes, “Identity theft is a problem largely because financial institutions, merchants, credit bureaus and the government do not adequately safeguard . . . databases . . . containing consumers’ sensitive information. . . .”
E-mail spammers trick people into revealing unnecessary private information. One 18- year-old New Yorker was arrested twice in 2003 for sending e-mails to AOL users, claiming to represent a company and requesting credit-card numbers to update accounts. He charged $40,000 in goods to the stolen credit cards, says Consumer Reports. Also, beware of e-mails requesting financial information from Web sites like Yahoo!, Citibank, EarthLink, PayPal, BestBuy, Discover Card and SonyStyle, says Bankrate.com. Customers of these sites have received phony notices regarding problems with their accounts, instructing them to correct their financial information. Do not respond. The notices link to a fake Web site, where scammers can access your information. Gartner, Inc reports that one million consumers have been fooled by these “phishing” scams, for losses totaling $1 billion. Users of on-line file-sharing programs, such as Kazaa and LimeWire unknowingly download spyware, software secretly installed on individuals’ computers to gather information on them. Handheld magnetic card readers can reveal personal info off magnetic strips on credit cards. Hard-drives of discarded computers also provide ID thieves with treasure troves of personal data.
Every day criminals are becoming cleverer and cooking up new ways to access your personal data. Here, according to Bankrate.com are just some of the latest scams. You may have heard that the Federal Trade Commission is setting up a Do Not Spam Registry. While they are looking into the possibility, no such database exists yet. The site unsub.us was set up by spammers to mimic the official Federal Trade Commission Do Not Call Registry website. It is not affiliated with the FTC. Registering at the site leaves people vulnerable to hackers. Monster.com has warned its users not to post confidential information on the site. Identity thieves are posing as prospective employers and asking applicants for Social Security numbers and bank account information for human resources purposes. Finally, scammers are preying on Americans good intentions by setting up fake charities to collect donations for soldiers fighting in Iraq, war orphans and the rebuilding process. Be sure to verify any charity with the Better Business Bureau or Federal Trade Commission before shipping money or supplies overseas. Some of these are dummy companies.
Yet one does not need to be a techie to perpetrate the crime of identity theft. All these high-tech hijinks make headlines, but Javelin Strategy and Research says that traditional avenues—stolen wallets, mail theft, data misused by family and friends—remain the most common ways identities are stolen. In fact, in cases where the victims knew how their information was obtained, non-electronic methods outnumbered electronic ones, 68 percent versus 11 percent. And the FTC reports that one-quarter of victims’ personal information was obtained via lost or stolen credit cards, checkbooks, or Social Security cards.
What to Do If You Become a Victim
So, what happens if your identity is stolen? The FTC offers these steps in the event it happens to you: Contact the fraud department of all three major credit bureaus (www.equifax.com, www.transunion.com, www.experian.com). Ask that a fraud alert be put on your account. This will force creditors to notify you before making changes to your accounts. Close the accounts that were tampered with. File a police report. File a report with the Federal Trade Commission.
Recently, the Federal government is becoming more proactive about preventing identity theft. In just this past year alone, more than 20 bills relating to identity security were introduced by Congress. Chief among them is the Comprehensive Identity Theft Protection Act, which would establish an Office of Identity Theft under the jurisdiction of the Federal Trade Committee. This office would create a Web site and a toll-free number to help consumers with identity theft questions, employ professionals to assist victims, and create a uniform complaint form that could be used instead of individual Federal, state and local forms.
But a little common sense is your best and first line of defense against your information falling into the wrong hands. As the old adage reminds us, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” MAKING BREADhas collected the following hints to help you reduce your risk factor.
Get in the habit of shredding all documents, such as bank statements or payroll stubs, that contain your name, address or Social Security number. Don’t carry your Social Security card with you unless absolutely necessary. Look for the lock icon on the bottom of the screen when shopping or donating online and pay online only with credit cards. Data stolen from checks and debit cards isn’t Federally protected and you might not recoup your losses. Choose passwords and PINs carefully. Don’t pick easily identifiable choices, like birthdates, middle names, etc. Instead, pick combinations of letters, numbers and symbols, or foreign words. Install virus protection software on your computer. Sign up for the National Do Not Call registry at www.ftc.gov/donotcall. Install a locked mailbox. Don’t let store clerks take your credit card out of your sight. Finally, order your credit reports annually from one of the three major credit bureaus.
Thinking about identity theft is frightening, but the consequences are even more daunting. Unfortunately, not all cases of identity theft are preventable. But by staying alert and guarding financial and other sensitive documents, you can reduce your chances of becoming a target.
©Danielle Bullen 2005
Why You Should Consider Wearing the Union Label
This article originally appeared in Making Bread Magazine
Women have a rich tradition of union activism in America. One of the best known female union organizers was Crystal Lee Sutton, who was the inspiration for the spitfire character played by Sally Field in the 1979 movie “Norma Rae.” Sutton successfully organized workers at a dusty, noisy North Carolina textile plant, where conditions were so poor that laborers were not permitted to take bathroom breaks.
Pro-union films like “Norma Rae” and 1983’s “Silkwood,” starring Meryl Streep as Karen Silkwood, a union activist in a nuclear-fuels production plant—get glowing press coverage. But beyond the glamorous world of Hollywood, union workers are often perceived as troublemakers: employers, who have to pay three times more for retirement and savings benefits for union workers than nonunion workers, blame price increases on union demands, and consumers complain loudly whenever a strike threatens to impact their daily life.
Just ask union members, though, and you’ll get another story. To them, unions don’t symbolize inconvenience, but bigger paychecks, better benefits, and safer working conditions—especially for women and minorities. Whereas decades ago the word “union” called up images of hard-driving, rough-around-the edges Teamsters, today, “the face of the labor movement is young and female,“ says Barbara Byrd, a senior instructor and Portland Center coordinator at the University of Oregon’s Labor Education and Research Center. “Union shops” have become a fact of life in white-collar as well as blue- and pink-collar professions.
Giving New Meaning to Student Union . . .
April Logan of Temple University’s Graduate Students Association in Philadelphia is one union leader who exemplifies both of these trends. “There are a lot of risks that come along with unionizing,” admits Logan, “but the rewards are amazing, especially for women and minorities.” She and other Temple graduate students reaped significant rewards when they confronted the University’s unfair pay practices for teaching and research assistants.
The students’ drive to unionize began in 1997, sparked by the administration’s move to cut teaching-assistant positions by 10 percent and reduce the number of remedial courses for students—moves that Logan and her fellow assistants felt weakened the university’s mission to draw working-class students from Philadelphia. They became concerned about the direction in which the university was headed—away from diversity and affirmative action. On a more personal level, they were also concerned about what they saw as increasing exploitation of teaching and research assistants at the school. In addition to their own coursework as Masters and Doctoral students, the assistants handle a heavy workload, teaching undergraduate courses. At Temple, they were paid $11,000 annually, but they worked far more than the expected 20 hours per week, doing everything from writing the syllabus for the undergraduate courses to conducting lectures to grading papers and conferencing with students.
“Our working conditions are Temple’s learning conditions,” argues Logan. “It affects our ability to serve our undergraduates. Many of us appreciate the teaching and research experience, but we wanted to get respect as employees, too.” Seeing strength in their numbers, she and her fellow teaching and research assistants formed the Graduate Students Association, a branch of the American Federation of Teachers, to demand a fair wage and better health insurance. (Their existing health plan had called for prohibitive premiums of 32 percent.)
The road to unionization was rocky. Temple took the assistants to court twice to block the union on the grounds that its members were students. The court ruled that they were employees, a major victory. During the negotiations over teaching workloads, the university was represented by administrators who had never taught. Logan compellingly presented the assistants’ viewpoint, serving on the contract negotiations team and as a union spokesperson. She acknowledges the union would not have succeeded without the support of political and religious leaders across Philadelphia. City Council even passed a resolution urging Temple to recognize the union.
According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, in 2001, 290 assistants voted for the union, and only 16 voted against it. It is the only recognized graduate students union in Pennsylvania. As a result of its negotiations, the Association won wage increases of 13 to 22 percent, better teaching preparation in the form of orientation and professional development, a cap on the number of courses assistants could teach each semester at two, and extraordinary health care coverage—nine months of free Keystone Health insurance with no co-pays and low deductibles. Currently, Logan serves as the Association’s staff organizer. “Working for the union gives me the opportunity to feel empowered and make a difference,” she says.
That sentiment is echoed by union women all across the country. Dawn Schaffer, a member of the United Steel Workers of America Amalgamated Local 1165 in Coatesville, Pennsylvania, has worked at ISG Plate, Inc. for 32 years, an astounding amount of time in today’s unstable economy. Without the union, it is doubtful that she would have remained at the same job for more than three decades. “The way our country’s going, we’re going to need more and more unions just for our job security,” she says. Schaffer, an employee of the steel mill, has served as union treasurer for two years. Her responsibilities as treasurer include paying bills, organizing fundraisers for struggling fellow union members, and reviewing outside requests to the union for financial charity. Just as Logan recognizes the importance of community support in maintaining a union, Schaffer notes, “Unions and the community go together.” She acknowledges that she is fortunate to have enjoyed a respectful relationship with management at the mill. Her overall experience as a union worker has been very positive. Schaffer encourages other female laborers to look into the possibility of joining a union, explaining, “You have nothing to lose—and everything to gain.”
Everything to Gain
Schaffer’s and Logan’s stories are just two examples of how unions are changing women’s lives for the better. American women, as a group, still earn only 76 cents for every dollar that men earn. Yet for union women, the outlook is not as daunting. Union women earn 34 percent more than nonunion women do, overall, according to the AFL-CIO, and they are more likely to have health insurance and pension plans than their nonunion counterparts. In a society where women constantly lag behind men financially, is it any wonder that 6.7 million women, representing 41 percent of the 16.1 million total unionized employees, have joined a union? Or is it any wonder that the AFL-CIO also reports female union participation has increased 14 percent over the last two decades. Of course, not.
Women have far more to gain from union membership than men do. Consider these statistics: 43.6 million females have no health insurance on the job, and minority women are especially affected. Because women earn less and are less likely to work in jobs that offer 401(k) or pension plans, women also save less and are thus less equipped to face retirement than men. Fewer than 20 percent of female retirees received income from a private pension in 2000; those who did receive the benefits received $3,000 less annually than men did.
Union membership guarantees workers decent health coverage and retirement benefits. Unions also fight to protect their members from abusive overtime practices. Since many working women depend on overtime pay to make ends meet—according the AFL-CIO’s annual “Ask a Working Woman” Survey from 2002, 63 percent of women work more than 40 hours per week—once again there is a huge upside for women who “wear the union label,” professionally speaking.
In January 2005, for instance, the AFL-CIO championed the rights of overtime workers hurt by recently passed revised overtime laws. The Fair Labor Standards Act requires overtime pay for people who work more than 40 hours a week in certain industries. A bill passed last August, however, exempted six million salaried employees from possible overtime pay, in favor of “flex” or “comp” time. The AFL-CIO voiced its opposition to the bill, and at the beginning of the year, in response to lobbying efforts, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) introduced the Overtime Rights Protection Act to “repeal weakening of overtime protections.” The bill is currently under review by the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.
But it isn’t just hourly wage or overtime workers who benefit from union membership. The success of the graduate students’ union at Temple disproves the stereotype of union members as blue-collar workers. Close to half of union members currently work in white-collar industries, according to the AFL-CIO. Women in a variety of industries are profiting from union membership. Fields as diverse as law, medicine, sales, entertainment, media, finance, and education are among the many where unionized workers earn a higher median weekly salary. And more women are considering joining the movement daily. ”The women of Enron never considered joining a union before they lost their retirement savings,” says Suzanne Ffolkes, of the AFL-CIO Media Relations department. With the backing of the AFL-CIO, 4,200 laid-off employees successfully sued for $13,500 each in severance packages, after the energy-trading company went bankrupt, according to one CNN report.
Working Women’s Best Friend . . .
In 2002, the AFL-CIO, which represents 13 million American workers, the International Federation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU), with a membership of 145 million people on five continents, 40 percent of whom are female, and the Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW), which has 75 chapters across the United States and Canada, joined forces in a global campaign, “Unions for Women, Women for Unions.” Its goals were twofold: to increase the number of women in unions and to improve working conditions for unionized workers. The campaign educated women about their rights on the job, the positive outcomes of strength in numbers, and cautioned against illegal tactics, such as intimidation, which employers have been known to use against workers interested in forming unions where they work.
The AFL-CIO based the initiative on the results of its 2002 survey of more than 20,000 American women, “Ask a Working Woman,” which highlighted several concerns shared by many working women. For example, 30 percent of respondents said they worked nontraditional hours, making it difficult for them to spend time with their families. By improving wages and benefits, unions improve families’ quality of life. “In many cases, having better working hours is a priority,” explains Ffolkes. The survey, which also solicited responses from men, found that men and women share many common concerns. Affordable, accessible health care should be a top legislative priority, according to 69 percent of both genders. Discrimination in the workplace was a concern for 57 percent of both men and women. In fact, 86 percent of men surveyed support stronger equal-pay laws, as do 92 percent of women. Clearly, women’s financial situations matter to the men in their lives.
Beyond the obvious economic perks of union membership, there are other significant benefits. For working-class women, unions offer an outlet for leadership development that they might otherwise lack. “Some of the best, most creative leaders of local unions are women,” says Barbara Byrd. “A lot of energy in the labor union is women’s energy.” Every summer, the United Association of Labor Education (www.uale.org) offers programs to help unionized women hone their leadership skills.
Then there are the advantages that come when you join forces with others. “You can accomplish together what you can’t accomplish by yourself,” Byrd points out. If a group of employees approaches the boss with a request for change, the effort is more likely to be successful than it would be coming from a single worker making the same request.
And when sexual and racial discrimination occur, unionized workers have grievance proceedings that non-unionized workers lack. Neutral third parties act as arbitrators of the complaints, following prescribed, step-by-step processes to investigate and handle them.
Weighing Risk Versus Reward
So what’s stopping women everywhere from becoming card-carrying union members? There are, undeniably, risks involved in joining a union, some actual, others merely perceived. Many career-oriented women worry that joining a union might hurt their chances of being promoted to management positions, and some non-union companies are, in fact, openly resistant to unionization of their employees.
Although the National Labor Relations Act protects the rights of workers to organize unions, enforcement of the law is weak and Byrd admits that employers, by and large, are hostile to unions. Employers have been known to discipline or even fire people who have organized unions—though the reason for the firing may be disguised. Crystal Lee Sutton of “Norma Rae” fame was reportedly fired for “insubordination.”
The classic example of corporate resistance to unionization today is Wal-Mart, which has kept labor unions out of at all but one of its 4,458 North American stores. The company’s official policy is succinctly stated on its corporate Web site: “There is no formal relationship between Wal-Mart and unions, because at Wal-Mart, unions are not necessary.”
In practice, that policy has played out this way: After employees at a Jonquiere, Quebec, Wal-Mart successfully organized a union, the store closed in May 2005. The official explanation was that the branch was losing money, but union supporters disagree, reports MSNBC. Two years earlier, in June 2003, after meat-cutters at a Jacksonville, Texas, Wal-Mart voted to join the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, the store closed its meat department.
Their actions sent a strong message. But you can’t keep a good woman down. Without a union to protect them against alleged discriminatory pay and promotion practices (women reportedly represent more than two-thirds of hourly workers at American Wal-Mart stores but only 15 percent of store managers), female Wal-Mart employees got resourceful and filed a class-action lawsuit against the company. All current and former female workers—that’s more than 1.5 million people—are listed as plaintiffs. Perhaps if the largest private employer in the country had believed that unions were necessary, it might have been able to avoid the largest employment discrimination case in history.
©Danielle Bullen 2005
Reversing the Brain Drain:
Haverford House Encourages Grads to Stick Around Philly
This article originally appeared in News@Haverford
After commencement, Haverford students follow different paths. Some continue their educations at graduate school, while others head straight for the career world. Five recent alums, though, serve the city of Philadelphia. These former Haverfordians are Fellows at Haverford House. For one year following graduation, they live together and volunteer at various agencies that focus on housing, the environment, literacy, immigration, and other issues. The 2004-2005 Fellows are: Amalie Andrew, Alexander Craig, JeAnne Reyes, Kyle Smiddie, and Paige Widick. They will give their time and talents to American Friends Service Committee, the Philadelphia Association of Community Development Corporations, the Friends Neighborhood Guild, and the People’s Emergency Center.
Haverford House, which is now in its third year, was created by Associate Professor of General Programs Kaye Edwards. She was inspired by Quaker Experimental Service and Training, or QuEST, a post-baccalaureate service program in Seattle. Says Edwards, “I wanted to set up a QuEST in the East and have it focus on Haverford and our urban neighbors.” Although there are other residential service programs, Haverford House is the only one exclusively for alums from one particular college. Edwards also credits her personal volunteer work with the Quaker Ministry for Persons with AIDS, and her experience coordinating undergrad internships at public health agencies with planting the idea for this new program.
In the winter of their senior years, applicants apply for the program, indicating their top three placement choices. A committee of Mary Lou Allen, head of 8th Dimension, Steve McGovern, Assistant Professor of Political Science, and Edwards reads the applications and interviews select candidates. This year, 16 students applied for the five slots. In the summer after graduation, they move into a house in the Fairmount neighborhood, near the Philadelphia Museum of Art. This location was chosen for its safety, proximity to public transportation, and above all, its diversity. Fellows have come from a variety of majors, including political science, history, growth and structure of cities, English, psychology, and sociology. One thing they have in common, however, is a commitment to community service. During their undergraduate years, the Fellows led 8th Dimension projects, held Center for Peace and Global Citizenship summer service internships, and participated in other volunteer opportunities. Following their year at Haverford House, several alums have been hired full-time by their agencies, allowing them to continue their social justice work.
Recently, there has been an increased demand from agencies to become involved in Haverford House. “This is an exciting time for the program. We’re poised to expand,” says Edwards, referring to the plan to add an additional house and five more Fellows. All this is remarkable considering many current students are unaware of the program. Edwards is working to change that. Faculty members publicize Haverford House, and Fellows act as mentors to current students. Nora Cohen, a 2003-2004 Fellow, hosted a Customs group at her service site, the Village of Arts and Humanities. Edwards hopes to arrange similar opportunities in the future.
According to Edwards, one goal of the program is to develop crucial service leadership skills. “Haverford has a long-standing commitment to social justice,” says Edwards. The year spent at Haverford House gives alums the “opportunity to test out the theories they learned in the classroom.” Haverford House also works to reverse the brain drain, the flight of recent graduates from the city of Philadelphia. Although not all the participants were originally from the area, all have decided to make Philly their permanent home. Most importantly, the main goal of Haverford House is to “help our campus community develop a stronger relationship with the city.” The program seeks local solutions to global problems. Adds Edwards, “It’s not providing band-aids, but working for real social change.”
©Danielle Bullen 2004
Paths to Peace
This article originally appeared in News@Haverford
In March, a group of 15 Haverford students, along with Associate Professor of Political Science Anita Isaacs, Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Center for Peace and Global Citizenship Program Director Leslie Dwyer, and Associate Professor of Spanish Roberto Castillo-Sandoval, had the opportunity to spend 10 days in Guatemala. The students were members of Issacs’ course “Peace Building: Reintegration, Reconciliation and Reconstruction,” which focuses on peace building in the aftermath of civil war.
As part of their coursework, the students studied Guatemala’s armed internal conflict between guerilla groups and the military. Guatemala has a long history with violence, beginning with a coup to overthrow the government in 1954. Although a peace accord was adopted in 1996, it did not solve the country’s problems. A second, long-standing conflict between the wealthy landowners and the forced laborers continues to affect Guatemala. “We were trying to understand the political and social situation before we went,” says Jennifer Trowbridge ’04.
However, it was not until they arrived in Guatemala that the students could fully grasp the situation. “Doing something like this adds a personal experience to what we’ve learned,” says Trowbridge. For her, the trip was another milestone in a social justice career. Trowbridge, an anthropology major, has an interest in Latin American studies, and participated in the college’s trip to Cuba for the past two years. “This course is extremely beneficial to students because it makes things come alive,” she says.
Trowbridge and her classmates were able to experience various aspects of the violence’s aftermath firsthand. They visited a refuge community; Pargue de Paz, the site of a massacre; and the town of Santiago Atitlan, a particularly hard-hit community. There they “got to know the community and talked to people directly involved with the conflict,” according to Trowbridge. They also went to the Ministry of Defense, which put a different perspective on the events. Trowbridge recalls the government workers denied their involvement in the conflict, which contradicted accounts from the victims. The students also visited a forensic anthropology lab and attended an exhumation site, where bodies are removed from hidden graves. These bodies showed evidence of torture, which was intended more to scare the victims’ families than to cause physical pain. Trowbridge calls the day spent at the site “fascinating scientifically, yet very hard to deal with.” She is especially proud of their final activity: They brought different communities together to initiate collaboration. Actors portrayed a conflict and each group gave a presentation. Their presence “forced connections” between different groups of people, according to Trowbridge.
The dialogue did not end when they returned to Haverford. For 10 days, the class sponsored Guatemalan students, who attended classes, gave presentations at area schools, and spent a fun-filled day in New York City. On April 16 and 17, the Center for Peace and Global Citizenship sponsored a conference, “The Challenges of Reconciliation: Truth, Justice, and Repair.” The conference provided an opportunity to understand the conflicts better. Participants included members of the military, guerillas, human rights activists, psychologists and anthropologists. Panelists not only from Guatemala, but from South Africa and Indonesia as well, held discussions on the questions raised by the reconciliation process. Among the dilemmas addressed were the steps to reconciliation, the meaning of justice, and the need for reparations.
Trowbridge appreciates the opportunities Haverford gives its students to engage in experiences such as this one. She recognizes that other colleges don’t afford their students the same advantages. Overall, she says, both Isaacs’ course and the trip to Guatemala were “experiences I’ll never forget.”
©Danielle Bullen 2004
Students Work for a Greener Haverford
This article originally appeared in News@Haverford
At a Fall 2001 Plenary, the students of Haverford College resolved to form the Committee for Environmental Responsibility. The committee’s task was to write a green plan, “A Vision for a Green Haverford,” which, according to the Haverford website, “delineates overarching principles of environmental stewardship.” During the interim, the committee worked to have the plan approved by President Tom Tritton and the senior administration. They are now focusing on its specific issues.
Members of the committee include students from each class, professors, and other Haverford employees. Students meet once a week as does the entire group. In addition, the students frequently collaborate with the Big Green Posse, an “umbrella organization of environmentally-minded people on campus,” according to CER member Stephanie Rudolph ’06. Both students and faculty/staff must undergo a rigorous selection process. Student applicants are selected by the Student Council Appointments Committee and current CER members; faculty and staff are appointed by the president. Tom Tritton has been supportive of CER’s agenda. He issued a presidential challenge to the student body: If they conserve energy and water, he will donate a portion of the money saved back to student council.
Committee members offered a variety of reasons for electing to join the group. Joe Townsend ’04 says, “Haverford College has the opportunity to be an environmental leader.” Another student, Ingrid Weiss ’07 remarks, “It’s really cool they give students a chance to be on committees like this.” John Francone, head of the Dining Center, one department that generates the most waste on campus wants to “work with the community to reduce waste.” Everyone echoed associate professor of English Jim Ransom’s sentiment: “If it wasn’t for the students, this would not be happening.” He gave credit to the Haverford undergraduates for their dedication.
One of CER’s major goals is to create an interdisciplinary environmental concentration in partnership with Bryn Mawr. It would be “broadly based throughout different divisions,” says Ransom. It would include English, political science, economics, anthropology, and the natural sciences. The committee wants the College to hire environmentally focused faculty. Progress on this initiative is being made, and the student affairs committee invited Christine Lamanna ’04 to discuss the curriculum issue at February’s Board weekend.
The committee is also heavily involved with the creation of Haverford’s new athletic center. Members helped get the construction proposal approved by Leadership in Environmental Engineering and Design, a firm that certifies high-performance, sustainable buildings. “Thanks to their efforts, the new athletic center from the ground up has had a clear policy to be as environmentally responsible as possible,” says Ransom.
Another plan is the creation of the “green fund,” an endowed fund for environmental issues on campus. Some of the proposed projects include motion sensors for lights in certain rooms, “turn me off” stickers for light switches, and “solar panels in strategic places,” according to Bruce Boyes, research machinist and instrument maker in the Instrumentation Shop. The group also intends to use the fund to offset the upfront capital needed for alternate heating and energy sources in new campus construction. “The creation of a uniform recycling system is another green fund project,” says Stephanie Rudolph, one of the students tackling that job. Along with Ingrid Weiss, she plans to install clearly labeled containers everywhere on campus. Allie Rosenberg ’05 is working with Physical Plant to start a program allowing students to recycle batteries, toners, ink cartridges, and computer parts, because they are toxic.
Kathleen DiJoseph, the physical plant liaison, says “This committee is making key strides.” The group is thrilled by the early positive response to its goals and looks forward to creating permanent improvements in Haverford’s attitude toward environmental responsibility.
©Danielle Bullen 2004