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Girl Scouts Meet to Discuss Diversity, Inclusio

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By Jordan Brown

The San Gorgonio Girl Scouts took the time to meet with troop leaders, former scouts, and scout parents about diversity and inclusion of scouts of color. One hundred people, mostly women, gathered this last weekend for a Diversity Summit with San Gorgonio Girl Scouts Chief Executive Officer Cynthia Harnisch Breunig.

The Summit is a continuation of an over half-century conversation about how girls and women of color fit in scouting. The first scouts were admitted in the early 1940’s in the southeastern United States. Racial inclusion was not national scouting policy until many years later. In the Inland Empire, there were various board members of the Boys and Girls Scouts who encouraged the development of scouting efforts on the Westside of San Bernardino, the area’s Black mecca. Cheryl and Hardy Brown, co-owners of Brown Publishing Company that publishes the Black Voice News, were among those who started troops and encouraged scouting in the area.

Ms. Brown addressed last weekend’s gathering with the story of how her eldest daughter, Lynn, first joined her father at Boy Scout events because none were available for girls in her neighborhood. It was not until Ms. Brown helped form Troop 252 at Rio Vista Elementary School that girls and their families had opportunity to engage the leadership development and programming of this lauded organization. Additionally, she shared how she was impressed enough with scouting to remain a troop leader for over a decade and being honored as a “Green Angel” for dedicated service to the organization. She was also a missionary ambassador to Cuernavaca in Morelos, Mexico on behalf of the City of San Bernardino and the Girl Scouts.

The Cuernavaca visit was an opening for other Mexican cities to become sister cities of San Bernardino and help foster understanding and respect across cultures. Ms. Brown constantly made the point that the Girl Scouts were in unique position to promote tolerance and affirmation irrespective of background.

The meeting was a positive step in reminding all involved with the Girl Scouts to honorably try to serve God and country, help people at all times, and to live by the Girl Scout Law.

RUSD Leads Healthy Changes to School Lunches

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By Ashley Jones

Under First Lady Michelle Obama’s Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids (HHFK) Act of 2010, Riverside Unified School District (RUSD) has implemented major improvements to their nutritional programs in hopes of promoting better nutrition and reducing childhood obesity. RUSD currently serves 43,000 students and has 47 school sites.

Childhood obesity in California is a growing epidemic with 17 percent (approximately 12.5 million) of children ages 2-19 suffering from this disease. In response, RUSD will now offer both fruits and vegetables every day; increased offerings of whole grain foods; fat-free or low-fat milk; limited calories based on your child’s age; and decreased saturated fats, trans fats, sugars and sodium in school meals.

Prior to recent regulations, RUSD began to transform their nutrition services in 2002 with the implementation of salad bars. The first salad bar appeared seven years ago at Jefferson Elementary School in Riverside. The salad bar concept was introduced and led by Rodney Taylor, RUSD’s current Director of Nutritional Services. Mr. Taylor has served in school nutrition for 16 years and joined RUSD in 2002. Upon his arrival, RUSD had a debt of $3.1 million in the food service fund. Through the salad bar revenue, he not only resolved the budget, but also profited greatly.

“Don’t let anyone tell you that serving nutritional meals in schools are too expensive,” said Taylor. “Here I am, 16 years into this, and I still have people telling me that this model cannot work. I stand before crowds and say, why are you telling me you cannot do what I have been doing for 16 years? Why do you not tell them the truth? Tell them you do not want to work that hard. This is hard work, and it is for those that are committed to children,” said Taylor.

For a while, Taylor faced great opposition with the salad bar concept. Principals and employees did not want them. Taylor was fortunate to find Jefferson Elementary, the right school to adopt the concept. In its first day, 675 students ate from the salad bar. After that, about 300 salad bar meals were sold a day. The success of the salad bars grew and soon enough, 29 of the 31 elementary schools adopted the concept. Today, all of the elementary schools have the salad bar. In the last 7 years, Taylor said kids’ eating habits and their attitudes toward food have evolved. Children are now consuming more fruits and vegetables.

In 2010, RUSD introduced Fresh Express to its high schools and middle schools. Fresh Express includes a variety of specialty salads and sandwiches such as the Wally (Waldrof salad), mandarin salad, fruit parfait, and the fajita chicken on ciabatta. The Fresh Express menu was established by the Executive Chef and Catering Supervisor, Ryan Douglas.

Chef Douglas was a former Culinary Operations Manager at UC Riverside. “We have to be way more creative on how we present our food to the students. The creativity aspect bumps up against the wall by what we can give [the students] because our menu has to meet federal guidelines,” said Douglas. Chef Douglas is also working with the Riverside County Department of Social Services to produce a video program that aims to help low income families prepare healthy meals and enroll in CalFresh, the federal food stamp program. Reportedly, millions of dollars in food stamp benefits go unclaimed in Riverside County annually. The videos, produced by RUSD high school students, will be shown in lobbies of WIC offices (both Riverside and San Bernardino Counties), county offices, senior centers, community centers, and health clinics.

RUSD will continue to transform its nutritional services by furthering the reduction of processed foods, expanding the use locally grown fruits and veggies and continuing to establish the district’s wellness policy. More information about RUSD’s Nutrition Services can be found by visiting HYPERLINK "http://www.rusdlink.org"www.rusdlink.org or by calling the Nutrition Services Department at 951-352-6740.

San Manuel Hosts Transcontinental Prayer Run For Peace And Dignity

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Indigenous Runners Relay Message of Protecting the Waters From Alaska to Guatemala

San Manuel Indian Nation –The San Manuel Band of Mission Indians hosted a leg of the Peace and Dignity Journeys 2012 intertribal run that joins the American continent in a prayer for peace for all peoples, dignity for the Native Nations and awareness of water and indigenous water rights.

San Manuel leadership greeted and led 20 runners onto the San Manuel Indian Reservation at dusk on the evening August 28, welcoming them to spend the night and share in cultural observances tied to the land and water. The San Manuel Indian Reservation, located along the steep foothills of the San Bernardino Mountains, presented the runners with a physical challenge as they completed their run for the day.

The group is running to raise awareness about water and indigenous water rights including diminishing access to good sources among tribes in Central and South America. The run is held every four years and began in 1992, to bring awareness to the indigenous history of the American Continent as a counterpoint to the 500th anniversary of Columbus’ landing. Runners begin on opposite ends of the continents (Chickaloon, Alaska and Tierra del Fuego, Argentina) and run for six months through hundreds of Indigenous communities. The run is broken up into legs with runners relaying prayer staffs among groups of runners with select runners continuing on to Guatemala.

Upon leaving San Manuel runners continued on to Sherman Indian High School in Riverside before embarking for Soboba, Cahuilla and the Quechan Indian Nations. Additional information and routes can be found on: HYPERLINK "https://pmail.sanmanuel.com/PoliteMail/default.aspx?page=JJNh_cbpT0Wxng7GYF92YA&ref_id=UA5rIfqTcEuAHEO3XebnUQ" \t "_blank" www.peaceanddignitysocal.net

Without a Gun How Many Lives Would Have Been Saved?

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By Marian Wright Edelman

NNPA Columnist

When news broke of the murders at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin on August 5, people of all faiths and backgrounds and the first responders who came to the scene to help were horrified by the ambush on men and women as they prepared for worship services. Leaders across the country quickly denounced the hate crime and the FBI immediately began investigating the attack as a possible case of domestic terrorism. But as easy as it was for all of us to be outraged by another senseless attack and heartbroken by the congregation’s stories, it was difficult to be surprised by how it took place again in a nation unwilling to curb guns designed just to kill lots of people in the hands of lawless people. Would this have happened without a semi-automatic gun and high-capacity clips of bullets?

The shootings at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin came only two weeks after James Holmes killed 12 people and injured 58 others at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, in one of the worst mass shootings in American history. Would this have happened without an AR-15 assault rifle, a Remington 870 12-gauge shot gun, and a semi-automatic handgun with high-capacity clips of bullets? After the Aurora massacre, the Denver Post published an interactive timeline listing some of the others:

August 1966, University of Texas at Austin, Texas: 16 people killed, 31 hurt. July 1985, a McDonald’s restaurant in San Ysidro, California: 21 people killed, 19 hurt. October 1991, a Luby’s Cafeteria in Killeen, Texas: 23 people killed, 22 hurt. May 1998, the community of Springfield, Oregon: four people killed, 21 hurt. April 1999, Columbine High School, Colorado: 13 people killed, 26 hurt. April 2007, Virginia Tech University, Virginia: 32 people killed, 27 hurt. February 2008, Northern Illinois University, Illinois: five people killed, 16 hurt. March 2009, Coffee and Geneva counties in Alabama: 10 people killed, six hurt. April 2009, a community center in Binghamton, New York: 13 people killed, four hurt. November 2009, Fort Hood, Texas: 13 people killed, 24 hurt. Other shootings, like the January 2011 shooting in Tucson, Arizona that killed six people and injured 13, including U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords, could be added to this list. Would any of this devastation have happened without semi-automatic guns and high capacity clips of bullets?

Every time another mass shooting happens in the United States, the debate over gun control comes fleetingly to the forefront—until political fear paralyzes courage and action. Inevitably, some people repeat the argument that the solution to preventing mass shootings is not better gun control laws—even control of assault weapons which have no place in nonmilitary hands—but getting even more Americans armed. The apparent fantasy result would be something straight out of Hollywood where every single time a bad person stands up with a gun a good person with their own gun would quickly rise up out of the crowd, shoot the bad person, and save the day.

But arguments like this ignore both common sense and scientific evidence about the connection between the ready availability of guns—including assault weapons and guns with large ammunition capacity—and the epidemic of gun violence in America. Daniel W. Webster, professor and co-director of the Center for Gun Policy and Research at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health and a panelist at the Children’s Defense Fund’s recent conference, wrote after the Aurora shootings: “We should not brush aside discussions of gun policy as too politically difficult to expect meaningful change, or ‘the price for our freedoms.’ Instead, we should reflect on why the U.S. has a murder rate that is nearly seven times higher than the average murder rate in other high-income countries and a nearly 20 times higher murder rate with guns. And we should consider how flaws in current gun policies contribute to this disparity . . . Following mass shootings, gun control opponents have not been bashful about pushing for laws to remove restrictions on carrying guns in schools, bars and churches. Indeed, calls for removing restrictions on carrying concealed firearms will not stop mass shootings. Research indicates that so-called right-to-carry laws don’t reduce violence, and may increase aggravated assaults. But studies I have conducted indicate that stricter regulations of gun sales, whether by retail dealers or by private sellers, are associated with fewer guns diverted to criminals. Moreover, national surveys show that a large majority of citizens favor these reforms to our gun laws, including most gun owners.”

It is way past time for common-sense gun law reform in America. Many of the victims of mass shootings have been strangers—sometimes children—who were personally unknown to the shooters but were simply in “the wrong place at the wrong time,” even if the “wrong place” turned out to be going to class, attending a worship service on a Sunday morning, or going to the local movie theater on a summer evening. In other words, they could have been any one of us.

What will it take for us to do something about it?

Marian Wright Edelman is president of the Children’s Defense Fund whose Leave No Child Behind® mission is to ensure every child a Healthy Start, a Head Start, a Fair Start, a Safe Start and a Moral Start in life and successful passage to adulthood with the help of caring families and communities. For more information go to www.childrensdefense.org.

The Domino Effect of Student Debt

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By Charlene Crowell

NNPA Columnist

When this year’s student debt burden surpassed the $1 trillion mark, it became even larger than the amount of debt held on credit cards. New findings now conclude that heavy student loan debt delays the ability of young graduates to buy a home and in the worst scenarios, strips Social Security benefits and even disability income paid under Supplemental Security Income.

“There has been a 46 percent increase in average debt held at graduation from 2000 to 2010. Moreover, total outstanding debt held by the public has skyrocketed 511 percent over the past decade”, according to Denied: The Impact of Student Debt on the Ability to Buy a House, a new research paper by the Young Invincibles, a national youth advocacy group.

Their research shows that the challenges of becoming a homeowner are magnified with student debt. Student loan debt has been rising much more rapidly than salaries for college graduates. When researchers compared salaries of the typical single student loan borrower to the cost of a median-priced house, they concluded that potential borrowers with a student loan and average consumer debt are not likely to qualify for a mortgage. If a married couple carries a double burden of student debt, it becomes even harder to qualify.

Although student loans are usually considered to be a problem for young people, the reality is that many seniors share the same debt dilemma. The Treasury Department reported earlier this year that people ages 60 and older owed $2.2 million on student loans that were 90 days or more past due. As a result, Treasury reduced benefit payments on Social Security checks for 115,000 retirees. Legally, the share of benefits withheld can be as high as 15 percent. In 2005, the United States Supreme Court upheld two federal laws that enable the government to take money from federal benefits to make student loan payments. The Higher Education Technical Amendments Act allows the federal government to collect funds without statutory limitations from defaulters.  A second and related act, the Debt Collection Improvement Act, authorizes reductions in Social Security payments for past due student loan borrowers. The only exemption to this second law is on monthly benefits of $750 or less.

Consumers who owe $60,000 or more on federal student loans are allowed by Treasury to take as long as 30 years to repay the loan. An additional eight years of repayment is allowed in the event of economic hardship or long-term unemployment. In these instances, payments are deferred while the interest continues to accrue.

Who would ever have imagined that a student loan repayment would take 30 years or more? In bygone years the only loans that incurred such lengthy indebtedness were mortgages.

Consumers with blemished credit scores or those with limited funds for a down payment may seek an Fair Housing Administration (FHA) or Veterans Affairs (VA) financing with down payments as low as 3.5 percent. However these loans can be expensive and typically take a longer time to be approved. Since October 2010 three separate price increases on FHA loans have occurred. The most recent was the addition of an upfront mortgage premium payment announced in April that will add $1,500 in upfront costs for a typical home of $200,000.

The domino effect of debt begins with a student loan and then delays the ability to qualify for a mortgage. With other consumer debt payments such as car loans, and credit cards taking a larger share of net income, the ability to gain wealth is limited if not stymied.

Consumers opting for rental housing may find the monthly payment more affordable on a cash-flow basis; but no equity or wealth is derived on rentals. Further, as the rental housing market has tightened, the cost of rental housing continues to increase, leaving fewer disposable dollars to save for a home down payment. And if parents or grandparents signed for a student loan, the benefits they worked for most of their lives are siphoned and tarnish what ought to be the proverbial ‘golden years’.

The Denied report reaches a thoughtful conclusion: “Policymakers who may be unmotivated by individual struggles of borrowers, or unconvinced of the extent of the problem today, would be wise to begin to view student debt in an additional light: as an encumbrance on the recovery of the housing market, and as a result, a potential hindrance to economic growth.” Charlene Crowell is a communications manager for the Center for Responsible Lending. She can be reached at: HYPERLINK "mailto:Charlene.crowell@responsiblelending.org"Charlene.crowell@responsiblelending.org.

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