Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Why I Hate For-Profit Colleges

I have a very strong detest/abhorrence for for-profit colleges (i.e. Remington, University of Phoenix, ATI, Everest, Argosy, etc).

I hate them because...
...they charge students $400 a credit hour when a community college charges $50/credit hour...just so they can get the maximum in financial aid reimbursement from the government.
...the work I see students produce isn't corrected or graded well, which leads students to assume they are doing quality work.
...I have friends who have worked at them and were told to recruit people at any cost as long as they got them to sign on the dotted line so they could make money.
...they prey on vulnerable people (even going into homeless shelters) who aren't likely to go to college so that they (the college) can get the reimbursement from the government then when the student drops out the college gets paid and the student (not the for-profit college) is left with the bad credit and tons of debt.
...they have low graduation rates and turn out unemployable students.
...students who go to their 2-year programs have to start over when they go to a real college because the for-profits aren't accredited. Real colleges don't accept their credit hours. They won't transfer.
...if students decide to continue, the for-profit has often used up all of the financial aid the student is eligible for because they max out their cost for their own profit. Plus, because students default on their debt to the for-profits (because it's so enormous), they can't qualify for any other financial aid.
...students leave these colleges with thousands of dollars in debt and no credible degree to show for it.
...very rich people are collecting enormous amounts of government funds by exploiting poor people and using our/MY tax dollars to do it.

Senator Dick Durbin fought against them last year and this year (you can tell him your story here) and Nightline did a special called College, Inc if you want more information. I hadn't known Romney to promote and encourage for-profits. I'm flabbergasted and disgusted. Talk about a waste of tax payer dollars!!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Allen High School Performing Arts Center 

The other night I was invited to attend an Allen High School choir concert. I went to support the teenager who asked me. I've known him since he was three and was interested in seeing him in his musical element that he has decided is his focus of study.

He had told me the performance was at the PAC at the high school. Ok. No problem. Every high school I've ever been to has an auditorium so I'll just go there and get directed to the PAC auditorium, I assumed. I "turned left" as Rosie (my GPS system) told me to but instead of being in front of the school I was on a street with multiple buildings. 

The new, $60 million stadium was on my left. I saw a building on my right and thought maybe that was it. As I pulled up to the building I could see through the windows and saw people with swimsuits. Obviously, not the right place. I pulled away and saw the sign, "Don Rodenbaugh Natatorium." I kept driving. Several lit-up tennis courts were on my right. I kept driving and started thinking, Good grief this is a college campus, not a high school! I saw the high school on the right, heard cheering from a smaller football field ahead of me, and finally noticed a sign, "Performing Arts Center." Oh. Wow. It's it's own building.

When I walked in, 10 students were on stage. One kid was introducing the band members and the students on stage. He projected his voice. He was confident. He spoke to the audience of about 1000 people with as much ease as if there was no one in the room. He asked the other students to introduce themselves and they all oozed with confidence just like he did. The auditorium was full. Parents and students were clapping and cheering and encouraging the students in a way that would make anyone feel good.

I nearly teared up.

I thought about the kids I've worked with over the last 17 years. I thought about how I don't know a single one who would have the confidence to stand on that stage and command that audience as those kids did. I looked around at the amazing facilities. The auditorium was full of cheering parents. Even the kids who didn't have parents there (like the kid I was there to see) couldn't help but feel good and gain some confidence in an environment like that.

I thought about the kid I was there to see. He's contemplated Juliard and some very well-known colleges. I know his friends are all thinking about similar colleges. I thought about the kids in Dallas. Most are hoping to get accepted into a local university. Many will need to take developmental courses. Several of them don't have any parental support.

I was a little sad and, I admit, a little angry. Not at all at the kids...not at the parents. I was so happy that they have that opportunity. How great to be a parent in that area. How nice to know everyone around you is so focused on making sure their child succeeds. How great to be in a like-minded community who votes for large bonds to build things like $60 million stadiums and have natatoriums and tennis courts, etc. all on a single campus. 

I was probably more irritated than angry. I wanted to tell someone, "I dare you to tell me money doesn't matter! I dare you to try to convince these parents and these kids that they have to switch their kids to one of our DISD high schools (not Townview or TAG) and tell them their kids will have the same opportunity for success! I dare you!" I bet not a single parent would believe them or take that chance with their kids.

I've always thought that part of the problem is that DISD is so huge. When I look at Allen ISD, that theory goes out the window. There are over 5000 students...and that's just 10th-12th ONE school. Yeah...kinda destroys my argument.

So, all I'm saying is if you see me on the street, just don't ever tell me that quality education isn't about money. After seeing that campus and those parents and students, you'll never be able to convince me.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

My street's flood rating is "excellent"???

At the encouragement of a friend, I just looked on the city's map for the upcoming 2012 bond package that is supposed to reduce flooding. I almost didn't because I was sure my street would be included.

See, my neighbor and I called the city 5 years ago...and even eventually got them to come out and take pictures. You can see my blog about it back in 2007 here: Look down to the paragraph that starts with "no drainage." I emailed Leo Cheney then. A few years later I went to one of Carolyn Davis's town hall meetings and brought it up again because I noticed that they seemed to be fixing the streets across East Grand where the official Jubilee Park Community Center is. I thought it was odd that they wouldn't come across East Grand. She informed me that there was a bond package and they would be getting to our street...eventually.

Well, eventually hasn't come. I don't know what happened to that other bond package, but now here's another one. Maybe this is our chance. I looked up the map, fully expecting my street to be a yellow or a red line...or at the very most a green line according to this guide:

Instead, my street was given a purple!! See the map here:

Now, if my education serves me right and I can read maps and understand colors correctly, purple is for excellent. That doesn't make any sense to me. When I have visitors over to my house after a rain, they have to leap to get out of their car. In an early morning trip, a friend dropped her keys into the probably 4" water abyss (yes, I just measured it) and then had to reach into that nasty abyss to fish them out since we couldn't see anything in the dark.

Here are some photos so you can see for yourself:

To be fair, I walked on down our street and the further you go from East Grand, the less standing water there is. But just because half of the street drains for the most part, does that mean we on the other half have to deal with standing water, mosquitoes, and the mud and junk it brings to our front door?? 

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Necessary for Life: Education + Hope + Justice

For some odd reason, I still underestimate the power of the WORLD WIDE web and Facebook. With my excitement about being able to leave 2011 behind and start a new year and new possibilities, my friend encouraged me to use my new tattoo as my Facebook profile picture. I hadn't planned on showing the world my tattoo but I put a lot of thought into my tattoo and it has a lot of personal meaning for me so I thought, "Sure! New profile pic and new meaning on life!" So I changed the profile pic, cropped it so you could only see the tattoo (and not the rest of my body) and posted it.

What Facebook doesn't tell you is that they add your cropped photo to your profile, but they also add the original (uncropped) picture to your pictures. I only had a picture of my stomach, but it's still a little more risqué and exposed than I like to be.

I started getting comments on the picture saying, "You got a tattoo???" Seriously, for some crazy reason, I guess I assumed people would think it was just a picture and not me. I started answering coyly at first and have since changed my mind. After all, if you see me in a swimsuit this summer, you'll see it anyway. If you don't, well, that was intentional. I didn't get it for you. :)

However, now that the word is out, I feel the need to explain it so you can understand it's entire meaning.

The hand: I have a piece of jewelry with this hand on it. The card that came with it explains: "This design represents the ripple effect when we touch the lives of others." I have always used the term "ripple effect." I believe we will never know the true ripple effect of the people we touch. It reminds me of It's a Wonderful Life. Take any one of us out of someone's life and their life would be completely different.

Every once in a while one of my "kids" (who are now either in college or graduated from college) will mention something like, "Yeah, I'm helping so-and-so with their college applications," or "No, I don't need any help with my financial aid, [insert former college student's name here] is helping me with that. It makes me happy beyond belief knowing that I helped the former college student with their paperwork and it only took that one little ripple for so many others to get the help they need. What's even more rewarding about this ripple effect is that my neighborhood is one where the percentage of kids going to college is much lower than average so to know how they have begun helping each other and extended beyond my reach is wonderfully satisfying to me.

The words: A while back I emailed a bunch of my friends and asked them to write three words that described me. It was a little awkward for me to ask this but I thought it would help me figure out the words I wanted on my tattoo and I value my friends so much that I thought it would be significant that they were included in creating the tattoo...even though they had no idea why they were participating in my random request. After getting many words back, I categorized them. I didn't want to write things like "stubborn," "passionate," or "writer" on me. I didn't want to label myself. Instead, I thought about the things that made me stubborn and passionate and the content of my writing. I boiled it down to Education, Justice, and Hope.

The placement: I am a brown belt in kung fu. I have learned that if a kick or punch is executed directly on the solar plexus, it disrupts the entire the point of not being able to function. Thus, I placed my tattoo directly on the solar plexus. (No, it wasn't intended to create a target for any of you who might be getting any ideas!) In my mind, the center of my body is the core. Education, Justice, and Hope make up the core of my being. I truly believe if any of those three are taken out or messed with, it will completely disrupt our ability to function...personally and within our society. Eduction + Justice + Hope = Life and Life Change.

So now you know. I thought long and hard about the why behind the what. I wanted it to be meaningful and out of the ordinary. It's because of that, I know I will have absolutely no regrets. Here's to 2012!

Monday, January 02, 2012

Blogging While Black

A little over three years ago I met Shawn Williams. It was an unlikely meeting. We were both attending the Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorado. Blogging had taken off fairly recently and I had gotten sucked into reading several of the local blogs on a daily basis. Shawn's was one of those. As I walked down the streets of Denver, we bumped into a couple of guys who introduced themselves as bloggers with Dallas South. I immediately professed my dedication to reading their blog and as Shawn explains on page 104 of his book, we became fast friends.

We stayed in contact after returning from Denver. I was thrilled to be asked to be on the board of his new initiative, Dallas South News, and since then have been excited to see the release of his new book, Blogging While Black.

What is fascinating to me is how much things have changed in such little time. In 2008, while at the Democratic National Convention, Shawn and I were having conversations about how impressed we were about how cutting edge the Obama campaign was for welcoming and encouraging bloggers at the convention. Blogging was personal. It gave an intimate perspective and allowed information to spread that would have previously been swept under the rug by mainstream journalists. It provided connections.

These days everything moves fast. By the time you purchase the iPad 2, the iPad 3 is right behind it and outdating what you already have. New technology and new ideas are pushed out rapid-fire. It's hard to keep up with the many things whatever new piece of technology offers. Yet Shawn's book captures a moment in time that I haven't heard of anyone else capturing. He talks about what the blogosphere offered and how it allowed he and other common people to get the word out about important issues. His capitalization on this new tool allowed him (and others) to disperse important information and become a 2008 version of inspiring people to take action and become a type of civil rights movement. We became engaged in ways that hadn't seemed possible.

The other great thing about this book is that Shawn doesn't limit these possibilities to himself. The book provides a historical documentation of the blogging efforts challenged America to look at life differently but also provides sections and tips on how "U Can 2!"

I love documentaries and memoirs. Blogging While Black provides the kind of documentation that flows well and provides that historical context that makes me think, "Wow...that's what was happening three years ago??"

Pick it up at Amazon or see Shawn in person at some of the upcoming book signings. If you don't know him already, you'll really enjoy meeting him. 

Jokae’s Book Store & Framing
Saturday January 7, 2012 3-5 PM
3223 West Camp Wisdom Road, Dallas, TX

The Dallas Institute
Monday January 9, 2012 6:30-8:30 PM
2719 Routh Street  Dallas, TX

New Year Book Jubilee
Saturday January 28, 2012 11AM - 4 PM
Southwest Center Mall
3662 West Camp Wisdom Road, Dallas, Texas