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One-On-One With Swimming Pioneer

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By Leland Stein III


LONDON - When 17-year-old African American swimmer Lia Neal climbed out of the pool in the Aquatics Centre at Olympic Park following the United States women’s bronze medal finish in the 4x100m freestyle relay, she had the obvious look of disappointment on her face, because all want that gold medal. If only she had known that First-Lady Michelle Obama had made her way over to the Aquatics Center to see her and her teammates swim. When I told her she flashed a 100kilowatt smile saying, “That was so amazing. I wish I could have seen her. I did not know she was here. Wow!” Amazing was Neal and her swim mates Missy Franklin, Jessica Hardy and Allison Schmitt as they traversed the pool in an American record time of 3:34.24, which was just off the Olympic record pace set by Australia and second place Netherlands. Upon reflection the young Neal will sit back in wonderment, with a big smile and realize where and how she started and how far she has come. “Sure there were some huge expectations for this team to win a medal,” Neal told me right after her historic swim, “but I was not that nervous once I got to the Aquatic Center. I did not know what to expect because this was my first Olympic Games, but I knew that I generally swim better in finals, so I was ready.

“Sure this bronze medal is special, but we have been performing well throughout the rounds as a team. We knew we have a chance to get that gold medal, so from that stand point it is a little disappointing.” There is absolutely nothing that Neal should be disappointed about. She had after all made history becoming only the second African-American woman to make a USA Olympic swim team. “I realize that there have not been many people in the African-American community that have been at this level in swimming,” New Yorker Neal told me. “I’ve heard so many stories from different people, even in my own family, about urban kids having bad experiences being in the water and swimming that I can really relate.

“The fact of the matter is my mother got me started in swimming at age six just so I could learn water safety. She and I never even dreamed I would be an Olympian. Up until last year I never even thought I had a shot at making the USA team.”

Neal said that she is “flattered that people might look at her as a role model.” She also noted that she is not even in college yet and that she has a lot to learn herself. However, she said when she gets home and people think she has something to offer as far as swimming safety and exposing African-American youth to the water, she would gladly do it.

Neal made the Olympic swim team by finishing fourth in the 100-meter freestyle finals at the Olympic Trials in Omaha, Neb. Her fourth place finish earned her a spot on the 4x100 relay team. It did not take long before people started saying who is that girl and quickly went to the record books to see if any other African-American female had made an US Olympic team. As soon as she got out the water she was asked if she knew about her precursor Maritza Correia, who won a silver medalist in the 4x100 freestyle relay in 2004. Neal acknowledged that she never thought she'd be the second black female swimmer to make an Olympic team.

Now after her first Olympic experience Neal told me, “I’m looking forward to the next chapter. I’m done at these Olympics, but in four year I hope to drop my times even further and qualify for an individual event. Right now I’m just going to cheer for my other teammates.”

Leland Stein can be heard on WGPR Radio (107.5) every Sunday from 11 p.m. to midnight. He can be reached at lelstein3@aol.com.

No More Back to School Jitters

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By Jordan Brown

Every year it happens. When kids go to a new school or even the same school, they get very nervous. This happens to me too. I get butterflies in my stomach and just plain scared when I walk on the campus. This year, I’m entering high school at Pacific High School in San Bernardino. I’d like to avoid the “back to school jitters” this year. Here are some helpful tips to avoid the butterflies and calm down.

Confidence is Key: Confidence is my trick to look like I’m not nervous. Stand up straight, put a smile on, and don’t look at the ground. If you do this, people will see you as inviting and you can make friends quicker and easier. Also, if you have friends going to your school, walk with them in school so you won’t have to be alone. When you look like you’re open to talk, people will talk to you and when you have friends, you won’t be nervous anymore because you’re not “a loner.” Be Prepared: Get yourself back into school habits. Get up early in the morning and make breakfast it helps keep your mind fresh for a stress free day. Get your clothes out the night before and anything else you need. Continue doing this routinely or to get used to your new schedule.

Don’t be Late: I know you want to take those last days and get as much rest as you can, but it doesn’t help if your late the first day of school. Teachers will appreciate you being there on time so class can flow easily. To be on time, schedule your mornings. If you take the bus set it by the time you need to be at the bus stop. If you walk, walk to school a few times before school starts and time yourself so you know how long it takes you. If you take a car, find out what time school starts and how long it takes you to get there.

So now that you have some tips to ease those butterflies, you can start to pay attention to your learning. I’m going to use these tips to help me on my first day and you should too!

Make Sure Your Business Is Prepared for the Summer Heat

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As a business owner, I know that, with the high energy demand of summer, finding ways to manage my business’ energy use and costs is more important than ever. I’m hoping for a mild summer, but preparing now for heat waves that could come our way, especially since state officials are saying that we may have limited power supplies in Southern California. It's important that we all do our part to maintain service reliability and stay informed, and I’m doing that by taking a few key steps with my business:

I’m going to make a few simple modifications to my operations, such as reducing lighting levels, turning off unneeded equipment not in use and shutting down unused rooms and facilities. I’ll also raise cooling thermostat settings to 78oF and pre-cool work areas or cycle air conditioning and ventilation.

I’m going to pay attention to when the state issues Flex Alerts, which are urgent calls to save energy. When that happens, I know it’s critical that I conserve immediately.

I’m also checking out www.SCE.com/energytips to learn more about how to make smart energy choices, such as Business Energy Advisor, a free and easy-to-use online energy assessment tool that provides an in-depth analysis of my facility’s energy use and shows where my energy dollars are going, and since my Edison SmartConnect meter was enabled, My Account, which helps me make smarter energy choices by monitoring and managing my business’ electricity usage online. This summer, I’m committed to making smarter energy-saving choices that can help my community and my bottom line.

Sponsored by Southern California Edison.

Blacks, Latinos Strongest Supporters of Financial Reform

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By Charlene Crowell

NNPA Columnist

Blacks and Latinos support financial reform more than any other group, according to a new poll released by Lake Research Partners. When consumers were asked if Wall Street caused the financial crisis, eight out of 10 African-Americans agreed. Sixty-five percent of Latinos agreed, compared to an overall rate of 64 percent. The telephone poll, conducted in July by Lake Research Partners, was jointly commissioned by the Center for Responsible Living (CRL), AARP, and Americans for Financial Reform (AFR) and the National Council of La Raza. Considering that communities of color have lost the most financial ground during the greatest recession since that of the 1930s, racial and ethnic differences in responding to the poll are not surprising. In general, people of color tend invest more in their personal residences than in stocks or bonds. Unfortunately, many times our communities are also the unfortunate targets of predatory lenders offering a range of high-cost products that often leave consumers in worse financial shape than before. For example, in a recent guest commentary in The Hill, Congresswoman Maxine Waters [D-Calif.] said, “Many of us on Capitol Hill who feel strongly about the need for reform have been struggling with the sometimes-subtle, sometimes-overt, but always tenacious, attempts to undermine financial reform over the last two years. And because we’re sensitive to making sure that the law we passed works in practice, even some allies of financial reform are often too quick to believe the industry when they cry wolf about the unintended consequences of Dodd-Frank.” Similarly, Jose A. Garcia, policy fellow, Wealth-Building Policy Project, National Council of La Raza, stated: “Latino voters, regardless of party affiliation, overwhelmingly support consumer protections as a means to ending decades of costly and deceptive credit that has disproportionally affected Latino families and the economic security of the Latino community.” The 2010 Dodd‐Frank Wall Street Reform law was enacted in the wake of the economic meltdown to overhaul of the financial regulatory system. The law created the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, which consolidates the consumer finance protection authority previously scattered among seven different agencies into a single entity whose mission is to protect consumers from deceptive practices by banks, credit card companies and other institutions. Consumers of color polled favor a strong CFPB and also called for the Bureau to:

Require clearer explanations of lending rates, terms and fees; Oversee non-bank lenders; Write tough rules matched by Bureau enforcement; Create a searchable database where consumers can report unfair practices and/or view complaints and Protect military service members who have been deployed from mortgage and foreclosures.

In the aftermath of devastating financial losses, followed by a string of lawsuit settlements against many of the nation’s largest banks to resolve charges of discriminatory lending practices and lack of maintenance of foreclosed homes, many people of color are not just hoping for – but expecting redress.

Mike Calhoun, CRL president said, “Everyday Americans know what’s good for their pocketbooks, their families, and our economy – that’s why a large, bipartisan majority is calling for financial reforms to take effect. Let’s hope policymakers hear them loud and clear.” AARP Executive Vice President , Nancy LeaMond, said, “During the financial crisis, too many older Americans lost their savings due to the failure of an outdated and compromised financial regulatory system. That’s why most Americans say they want clear, accurate information so they can make the best financial decisions for their families, and a watchdog that will protect them from financial abuse.

Additional information on poll results is available at: http://rspnsb.li/P4tU0D. Charlene Crowell is a communications manager with the Center for Responsible Lending. She can be reached at:Charlene.crowell@responsiblelending.org.

Upperclassmen Help

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By Jordan Brown

Summer for me this year was all about getting ready for high school. I went to cheer practice, got my school schedule, and went to many events. One thing that was really valuable for me this summer was talking to upperclassmen. They taught me resources and tips that I need to “survive” the school year. I’m going to share with you some of the tips they shared with me.

In movies, they always say not to mess with or talk to upperclassmen, but in reality they can be a great source of wisdom because they’ve been through it all. I’ve talked with many upperclassmen from different high schools this summer and they all tell me one tip in particular, join clubs and sports. I recommend you do this because it keeps you out of trouble, colleges love it, and you can have twenty or more friends with the same interest as you.

Another thing upperclassmen say is to keep up with your grades. During high school there are so many different things going on, between sports, friends, and events. You can do all that but you need to focus on your grades most importantly. You come to high school to learn that’s why you’re in class all day, so use your resources wisely. Get a schedule together and put everything in your agenda. Keeping up with your classes is key because your grades are important.

Friends are important in your high school life. They help you get around easier that’s why you need to choose good ones. Joining a sport or club helps with this one, if you really don’t care for the kids in your classes, the kids in your club more than likely will share some of your same interest. Your friends can also help you study if you found them in your classes even if not, they can help.

This year you can succeed. Just remember to eat breakfast in the morning to relieve stress, get help when you need it, and make friends with upperclassmen. Don’t be afraid to make friends, just be you.

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BVN National News Wire