Tuesday, January 21, 2014

OK Mentor Day in Brief

On a sunny, moderately cool day, the second annual Oklahoma Mentor Day on January 15, 2014, began with continental breakfast/networking and registration in the Fourth Floor Rotunda of the State Capitol. Fifty-two outstanding youth mentors from around the state were the honorees.

Tables with blue coverings radiated like spokes on a wheel around the Rotunda's oculus. With two six-foot tables making a spoke, meeting other mentors and guests was easy. Volunteers Marilynn Housley, Mary Ford and Joyce Owens orchestrated gracefully and hospitably the continental breakfast and later sack lunches from Panera.

For the ceremony, mentors and mentees sat on the floor of the House of Representatives while guests sat in the gallery above. Mentors received a certificate and chocolate medallion and their mentees, if present, received a little blue bag of chocolate coins. Former president of the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence, Patti Mellow, read the tributes as current president, Les Risser, shook hands. OKAN's Cedric Currin-Moore and Joe Swanson, who manned the registration desk earlier along with Peju Faboro, assisted with certificates and chocolates, stamped with the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence logo. Travis Caperton, one of the Capitol photographers, took photos of each honoree.

Four photographers, Bill Williams, David Wheelock, Dayna Rowe, and Brenda Wheelock, took the group photos, i.e., of the mentor and his or her entourage, in four lines, two in the Senate Chamber and two in the House Chamber.

Activities in the Rotunda included jazz music by Chris Hicks, sax, with Mitch Bell, guitar; eight tables of the Oklahoma City Zoo's Tactile Taxonomy educational artifacts along with zoo educators guiding; Chris Simon, the STEM coordinator for Girl Scouts of Western Oklahoma coaching Teamwork Towers, an activity to build the tallest pipe cleaner tower while overcoming obstacles; and Bill Williams, teaching juggling with bean bags. Attendees could find plenty to do in addition to networking. Louisa McCune-Elmore and Paulette Black from the Kirkpatrick Foundation, one of the event sponsors, dropped by visit and see.

Press releases and social media will complete honoring those who give of their time to help Oklahoma youths.

Mentoring groups included corporate, community, school, faith-based and collegiate, and mentoring types encompassed peer, team, one-on-one and group.

Let's applaud all these Oklahomans who champion a hand up, not a hand out!

Friday, January 17, 2014

Oklahoma Mentor Day 2014 PR

Mentors honored at Capitol

The Boren Mentoring Initiative honored 52 mentors in Oklahoma City with a reception, lunch and other activities.

By Matt Patterson Modified: January 16, 2014 at 12:00 pm • Published: January 15, 2014

Domonique Anderson goes to Martin Luther King Elementary School every Thursday, and in many ways it's the highlight of her week.

Anderson was one of 52 mentors from across the state honored Wednesday at the State Capitol by The Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence and its David and Molly Boren Mentoring Initiative.

Photo - Alex Harvey, 11, and his mentor Melynda Stone look at a piece of baleen from a whale at The State Capitol in Oklahoma City, Wednesday January 15, 2014. <strong>GOOCH - STEVE GOOCH</strong>
Alex Harvey, 11, and his mentor Melynda Stone look at a piece of baleen from a whale at The State Capitol in Oklahoma City, Wednesday January 15, 2014. GOOCH - STEVE GOOCH

The Boren Mentoring Initiative works to promote mentoring and provide networking for mentoring organizations.

Anderson, who works for Access Midstream in Oklahoma City, spends time with her mentee, 7-year-old Keyaira Jones, at her school. Anderson understands why that's important based on her own life.

"My grandmother raised me so it was like a community raising us with church and other local organizations assisting her, " Anderson said. "I'm serving in the Air National Guard and will complete my 10 years in May. The military is really big on volunteering so it was important for me to step out and pay it forward. And she's awesome. I truly love that little girl."

Chris Greenwell has been a mentor for a year. His mentee, Timmy, 11, is in foster care. Chris and Timmy go to Thunder games or work on homework. It's the time spent together that counts most.

I feel like I'm making a difference in someone's life," Greenwell said. "He's been through eight different homes. He's had an abusive past. He remembers a lot of it when we're together. It's important that somebody in his life is consistent and does stuff with him."
Some of the children in the mentoring programs are in foster care, and others are in single parent homes or being raised by an extended family member. Others have both parents in the home.

"Any youth, whether they have two parents or not could use a friend or an encourager in their life that's not their parent," Boren Mentoring Initiative Director Beverly Woodrome said.

The relationships can extend beyond the one-year commitment. Anderson already has plans to mentor Keyaira again next year.

"Some of the stories, the relationships that the mentors build with their mentees are incredible," Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence President Les Risser said. "This is not the type of thing where you meet once and check it off, these are yearlong commitments and a lot of times lifelong commitments."

[Caption for absent photo, accessed only by clicking the link below.]

Oklahoma City Zoo docent H.G. Wells explains whale barnacles to Eric Franco, 10, at The State Capitol in Oklahoma City, Wednesday January 15, 2014. Photo by Steve Gooch, The Oklahoman.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Community and Youth Salvation from Trash

Some of us older people may have heard relatives talk about the Great Depression and how their families were poor but didn't know it. That may be slightly romanticized for some, but often people "made do" and "had" each other. For example, within our own family history, one little girl never had a store-bought dress of her very own. Her mother creatively remade multiple times the dresses of the older children into "new" clothing for the younger ones. The sisters, though monetarily poor in every way, were always proudly well-dressed.

The story below illustrates how many advantages and opportunities can come from things others feel useless. Ingenuity, creativity and inspiration can change trash into opportunity and joy.


The following script is from "The Recyclers" which aired on Nov. 17, 2013. The correspondent is Bob Simon. Michael Gavshon, producer.

Ever heard of a town built on a garbage dump? We hadn't until earlier this year when we visited a community on the outskirts of Asuncion, the capital of the tiny, impoverished South American country of Paraguay. It's called Cateura and there is trash everywhere -- in its streets, its rivers, in people's backyards -- but we decided to take you to Cateura tonight, not because of the poverty or the filth, but because of the incredible imagination and ingenuity of the people who live there. Our story is also a reminder that, ultimately, music will triumph everywhere and anywhere.

Garbage is the only crop in Cateura and the harvest lasts 12 months a year. It is Cateura's curse, its livelihood and the only reason people live here, providing hundreds of jobs to peasant farmers who were kicked off their plots by large land owners. They are the Trash Pickers. It is their profession. They sift through the stench 24 hours a day, scrounging for anything they can sell -- 10 cents for a pound of plastic, five cents for a pound of cardboard.

You'll be amazed at what else people here are doing with this trash...just look and listen.
This is the Recycled Orchestra of Cateura. The violins are fashioned from oven trays, the cellos from oil barrels. Even the strings are recycled.

The saxophones and trumpets are made from old drain pipes, the keys were once coins and bottle caps. This drum skin used to be an X-ray plate, the guitar from dessert tins.

The idea came from environmental technician Favio Chavez. When he came to Cateura and saw the kids working and playing on this miserable hill, he came up with the idea of starting a music school to lift the kids' lives out of the trash.

From the start, Favio realized that even if he could raise the money, new instruments were out of the question. A factory-made violin would cost more than a house here and would almost certainly get stolen. But these fiddles aren't worth a dime.

They are the handiwork of trash worker and carpenter Don Colá Gomez -- three days a week he goes to the dump to find the raw materials.

Then, in his tiny workshop at the edge of the dump, he goes to work. Favio first asked him to make a violin. But this Stradivarius of South America had never seen one or heard one.

Bob Simon: But do you realize how unusual it is?

Don Colá Gomez: Yes, that's the way it is. When you need something, you need to do whatever it takes to survive.

He was soon making three violins a week, then cellos and finally guitars, drums and double basses...out of trash.

Take a look and listen to what Colá has created. Fifteen-year-old Ada Rios has been playing for three years now. Today, she is the orchestra's first violinist.

Bob Simon: The first time you went and saw the orchestra you saw all these instruments with all these different colors. Were you surprised when you learned that they were made from trash?

Ada Rios: Yes. I was very surprised because I had thought that trash was useless. But thanks to the orchestra I now realize that there are so many different things that can be done with the stuff.

Cateura didn't exist before Paraguay's capital Asuncion started dumping its trash here. The town grew up around the garbage and became one of the poorest places in South America.

Twenty-five hundred families live here now. There is hardly any electricity or plumbing. The drinking water is contaminated. Many of the children move from broken homes to crime and drugs.
But Ada and her younger sister Noelia, who plays the cello, say that music has become their salvation, the centerpiece of their lives. And who do they have to thank for that? Their grandmother, Mirian.

She is a garbage worker, collects bottles in the streets of Asuncion, carries them back to Cateura to sell. Ten cents a pound. Three years ago, Mirian saw a notice advertising free music lessons for children. That's how it all began.

Bob Simon: Why did you want them to learn music?

Mirian Rios: Because I always wanted to be a musician-- or play an instrument. Actually I wanted to be a singer. Sometimes our dreams do come true. Maybe not in our lives, but through people that we love very much.

Ada Rios: When I play the violin I feel like I am somewhere else. I imagine that I'm alone in my own world and forget about everything else around me and I feel transported to a beautiful place.
Bob Simon: Can you describe that beautiful place?

Ada Rios: Yes. I'm transported to a place that is completely different to where I am now. It has clear skies, open fields and I see lots of green. It's clean with no trash. There is no contamination where we live. It's just me alone playing my violin.

Every Saturday, this drab school yard is transformed into a multi-colored oasis of music. The kids flock here to learn and to play.

Cateura is a long way from Juilliard, but these music students are just as dedicated as those prodigies in New York... and they don't get rained on like the kids here. Paraguay is in the tropics and you are reminded of that all the time. But the band plays on.

The veterans --15-year-olds -- are teaching the novices. Many are barely big enough to hold a violin. The music can't compete with the downpour but there is refuge in a classroom.

Favio Chavez says that music teaches the kids respect and responsibility, not common commodities in the gang-ridden streets of Cateura.

Favio Chavez: These values are completely different to those of gangs. If these kids love being part of the orchestra--they are absolutely going to hate being part of a gang.

For the first time, the children are getting out of Cateura, performing around the country and to Chavez, the Pied Piper of Paraguay, that's the most important thing. They are being seen. They are being heard.

Favio Chavez: These are children that were hidden, nobody even knew they existed. We have put them on a stage and now everybody looks at them and everybody knows they exist.

That's mainly because of a documentary that's being made about the orchestra called "Landfill Harmonic." Last November, the producers put their trailer up on YouTube. It went viral... the orchestra began getting bookings world-wide. It is such stuff as dreams are made on.

The film which follows their remarkable journey through concert halls in Europe and America will only be released next year but already instruments are being donated and that's not all -- the kids are getting help.

Paraguay's most famous musician, Berta Rojas, flies down regularly from her home in Maryland to offer master classes.

Remember Noelia, Ada's sister, the cellist? Berta is teaching her how to play the guitar.

Berta Rojas: This is-- an-- a story that is filling my heart and my soul with so much inspiration.

Bob Simon: When you first heard them play, what went through your mind?

Berta Rojas: I couldn't believe that you could make music with trash. I couldn't believe it. And I thought, "Oh my God, this is the best thing that had happened in Paraguay in so many years."

And when you talk to the parents, you hear what you hear from poor people everywhere. They want their kids to have a better life than they've had.

Jorge Rios is Ada and Noelia's father...

Bob Simon: If Ada becomes a professional musician, she'd probably be leaving town. How would you react to that?

Jorge Rios: Yes, the truth is if you asked that question to every parent here they would say they would leave this place if they could. I, of course, would like her to have a better life than the one I've had. And if she leaves I hope she takes me with her!

What's hard to believe is that most of the parents and the people of Cateura had never heard the children play. That was about to change. A concert was finally scheduled. There were banners in the streets, the local radio station was ready to broadcast. The church was transformed into a concert hall.
The children wore their finest. This was, after all, opening night. It could have been New York.
All the students were on stage for the finale. Some of the musicians were performing after just one rehearsal.

The parents were proud, of course. But just listen to the girls' grandma Mirian.

Mirian Rios: I would say it's a blessing from God. People used to humiliate us and call us "trash pickers." Today they are more civilized, they call us the "recyclers." So I feel that this is a reward from God. That our children who come from this place....can play beautiful music in this way.

And here's a final note from the Recycled Orchestra of Cateura. Go on, send us your garbage, we'll send it back to you...as music.

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/the-recyclers-from-trash-comes-triumph/    Ret. 11-17-13 

As a post script, will all of the new instruments, donated with good intentions, change the culture and the younger children's ambition in a negative way?  Will they soon view their recycled instruments as no longer valuable or good enough? 

Monday, January 6, 2014

O. J. Brigance and Perseverance

Quitting is never an option--absolutely incredible story and inspiration!

A must-share story followed by discussion with your mentee(s).  Click the link below to view the CBS video.

(CBS News)     The simple act of holding a football is no longer possible for the man who's the heart and soul of the Baltimore Ravens.  What he CAN do is inspire and motivate his team by his very presence and example.   Here's Rita Braver:

He is the man with the smile that won't quit . . . surrounded by family and friends as he celebrates his 44th birthday. 

But O.J. Brigance has lived a life of stark contrasts. This former pro football player who sports a sparkling Super Bowl ring is now paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair.

"I learned a life lesson through football early on," he told Braver. "I learned that quitting is never an option."

Stricken with Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, a disease that progressively attacks the nervous system, Brigance must take every breath through a ventilator, communicate every thought through a computer-generated voice.

He described the system: "It tracks the movement of my pupils and allows me to type with my eyes, like others type with their fingers."

Born and raised in Houston, Brigance played football for Rice University, then the Canadian Football League, and finally in 1996, number 57 made it to the NFL.

He played first for the Miami Dolphins, then joined the Baltimore Ravens in 2000. They went on to win their first-ever Super Bowl that year.

Brigance made the first tackle of the game.  "I remember seeing the thousands of flashbulbs sparkling in the night. It was my dream come to reality," he said. "

Still, the team didn't re-sign him after that big win. 

He played a few more years for other teams, but -- plagued by a longtime back problem -- decided to retire in 2003.

That's when the Ravens called him back -- this time to be a counselor to players, and a spokesman for the team.

His wife Chanda was by his side through it all. Married for 20 years, they still joke about their first meeting; she thought he was poorly dressed, and kept ignoring him.

"Why did you keep going after her when she didn't seem interested?" Braver asked.

"Didn't need to be dressed because I had the goods!" he laughed.

Their life seemed golden until, while playing racquetball over the course of a few weeks in 2007, Brigance began to notice increasing weakness in his right arm when swinging the racquet.

Then Chanda noticed something, too:
"It was one night, and O.J. was asleep and something just woke me up," she said. "I felt his muscles just jumping."

After a battery of tests, doctors diagnosed ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease (after the major league baseball player).

"The biggest shocker was that ALS was a fatal disease, with a two- to five-year prognosis," Brigance said.

That was six years ago.

O.J. Brigance has not only outlived predictions, but also become the heart of the Baltimore Ravens, continuing to counsel and rally the team, even as his health was declining.

Even as he lost the ability to speak on his own.

Brigance still goes to the office five days a week. He says it gives him a reason to wake up each day.

"You seem so upbeat despite all of this," said Braver. "Do you ever get angry and frustrated?"

"I have experienced times where I have been overcome by the weight of the diagnosis," Brigance replied. "But once I dried my tears and stopped feeling sorry for myself, I realized that God had given me the strength to handle this assignment."

But year after year, Ravens head coach John Harbaugh has always believed in Brigance.

"Some of his counsel now is just by who he is, just by his life, by his presence, by how he attacks every day," Harbaugh said. "You know, the enthusiasm that he brings to it and the strength, that's counsel enough."

O.J. and Chanda have started the Brigance Brigade, a foundation that raises money to help others with ALS. 

The cause of the disease is unknown, but a study released last year did find evidence that professional football players are four times more likely to die from ALS than the general population.

In fact, in the recent landmark NFL settlement on concussions, players with ALS are eligible to receive payments from a $675 million injury compensation fund.

Braver asked, "Do you worry that playing football could have been a cause of this disease?"

"Absolutely," said Harbaugh. "You think about it all the time. I think the players especially think about that, and I think -- and I know the NFL's doing a great job of trying to take the head trauma out of the game as much as they can.  And that's what we should be doing."

As for the Brigances, have they ever thought that football could have contributed to this situation?
"I don't know," said Chanda. "And that's the honest truth. But what I can say is that I am absolutely 100 percent on board with them finding out to see what is causing it."

Meanwhile, O.J. concentrates on his work counseling the Ravens.  And, remarkably, he's also managed to write his life story, titled, "Strength of a Champion."

"I would spend entire days typing until my eyes were crossed," he said. "And of course there were computer issues.  I thought I had saved my work, only to find out it had been erased and I had to type everything over again."

But then, O.J. Brigance has never been one to give up. These days he communicates with players like star running back Ray Rice, mostly through e-mail.

"It doesn't matter what's being said in it, it's the fact that he took his time to think about me while he's going through his situation, so I think that's a bigger stat than scoring a touchdown," Rice said.
Rice and the rest of the team say the fact that Brigance watches almost every practice, keeps them on their toes.

"He's fully there," said Rice, "and that's just one of the things that shows he's never out -- you can never count him out."

Indeed, last year, after the Ravens won the Super Bowl, he was right there with the team when they made the traditional champions' visit to the White House. 

And Coach Harbaugh says, O.J. Brigance will always be the Raven's secret weapon.

"People don't think of football teams as warm and cuddly," said Braver, "as places that nurture people in this kind of way."

"Sure, Sunday afternoon is sort of a battle," said Harbaugh, "and yet, I think the thing that O.J.'s brought to it is that there's a place for love in everything and every place."

Even football? "Even football.  I think that's what O.J. makes kind of obvious."

For more info:
http://www.cbsnews.com/news/oj-brigance-quitting-is-never-an-option/    Ret. 12-1-13

Friday, January 3, 2014

Game Playing II

Although the second part of this article on games also addresses preschoolers, think about its basics with older children. We all want youths, future workforce, to be both free thinkers and team players, don't we?

Remember as the article mentions that some games, even for very young children, are based upon luck while others involve strategy. 

Mentors should consider appropriate types of games in working with children with particular learning styles or disabilities.

The Importance of Playing Games with Your Preschooler
continued from Family Education

Being a graceful loser

No Fair! I Never Win!

Should you let your preschooler win some games? That is, should you throw the game, take a dive, shave points, or lose on purpose?

Well, you might argue that intentionally losing a game patronizes your child. Rather than giving him a false sense of confidence, you should play as well as you can and let the chips fall where they may. If your child loses, so be it. After all, your preschooler needs to get to know both sides of competitive etiquette: how to lose gracefully as well as how to win without rubbing it in.

But then, you want your child to enjoy playing games. And if he loses all the time, chances are that rather than being motivated to try harder and win next time, he will lose interest in the game altogether. So if you want to maintain your preschooler's interest in games, he's going to have to win at least close to half the times he plays.

Of course, this still doesn't mean you necessarily have to throw a game. You can still take a hard line, refusing to take a dive to let your child win. But if you do, then you should probably confine your game-playing with him to games that are ruled strictly by luck or chance, games that involve little or no skill—in other words, games that your preschooler has an even chance to win. Most games for preschoolers—Chutes and Ladders, Hi-Ho Cherry-O, Candyland, and so on—are in fact ruled strictly by chance.

On the other hand, many card games appropriate for preschoolers-Concentration, Crazy Eights, even Go Fish—do involve at least an element of skill. In such games, you will (probably) be a superior player. If you still insist on playing your best and trying to win games that involve more skill and sophistication, then consider giving yourself some kind of a handicap. In Concentration, for instance, you might start your child out with six or eight pairs of cards before you lay out the rest on the floor. Trial and error will help you come up with an appropriate handicap: one that adds suspense (regarding who will win) to the game.

Certainly your child needs to learn to lose gracefully. After all, other preschoolers are not likely to let him win when they play with him. So before he begins playing games with other children, your preschooler needs to understand that every child wants to win the game, but that only one can win.
But at the same time, the lessons of game playing should not revolve exclusively around losing gracefully. Winning a game, especially beating you (who are so much bigger and stronger and smarter, etc.), will give your preschooler great joy and an enormous boost of confidence. It also gives you an opportunity to model grace in defeat (if you can manage to do so).

Ret. 12-23-13

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Game Playing I

Cindi Hemm, retired elementary principal, author, and education consultant, emphasizes the importance of children’s playing games.  This past year a visit to a CEO about allowing his employees to mentor elicited the question, “What will they do?” “Play games,” one of the responses, resulted in a negative look as if playing games were a waste of time.  Not so!

We should also not presume that all youths, especially older ones, have learned to play and enjoy games since childhood. In addition, mentors as well as family members need to mix some fun into all interactions with youths.

Why should we teach children and older youths to play and enjoy games? 

Although the two-part article below focus upon preschooler game playing and Cindi’s advice comes from her own children as well as elementary age, as mentors we must understand that people of all ages can benefit from playing games. Think of the multiple benefits of the elderly playing games with young people, too!

Briefly consider some general benefits of playing games at all ages:

·         Winning and losing with grace

·         Rules

·         Resilience

·         Focus

·         Honesty, fairness, integrity…

·         Luck

·         Strategy

·         Social skills

·         Math skills

·         Team work

·         Hand-to-eye coordination

The Importance of Playing Games with Your Preschoolers
from Family Education

Building skills while playing games

Three is the perfect age to begin playing board games and card games with your child--especially if you like these kinds of games, too. Board and card games help teach your child about aspiration, success, and disappointment. She'll gain experience with both winning and losing--and learn that no matter what the result, the next time she tries she'll begin again with a clean slate. Games also give you the opportunity to teach your preschooler about rules, about integrity and honesty, and about luck. Games also can help increase your child's ability to focus her attention. Playing board or card games also is a very social occasion. Game playing enables and encourages your preschoolers to practice important social skills that she will need to play well with other children.

Nearly all games, for example, involve taking turns, sharing dice or a spinner, waiting for your turn, patience, and learning how to be a good sport. (When you play games with your child, try to emphasize the fun of game as much as possible, rather than focusing on "who's winning.")

Besides helping to acquaint your child with "life lessons" and to practice valuable social skills, most good children's games also afford preschoolers the opportunity to sharpen certain academic skills. Most board games for preschoolers involve matching suits or numbers (Concentration, Go Fish, Old Maid, and Crazy Eights) or comparing numbers (War). Games like picture lotto can help expand your preschooler's vocabulary and give her practice at analyzing and matching pictures.

In introducing board and card games to your preschooler, choose the simplest ones first. If your child has to master a complicated set of rules before even playing the game, she—or you—will soon lose patience with it. Games that involve moving pieces around a board in a race to the finish, spinning a spinner or throwing dice, and counting up as high as six provide the perfect introduction to board games. Some classics include:


Chutes and Ladders

Uncle Wiggly


Hi-Ho Cherry-O


Similarly, when you deal the cards to your child, start with simple games that involve matching pictures rather than skipping straight to Contract Bridge or even Hearts.


Picture lotto is a terrific game for three-year-olds. After your child has mastered simple matching skills, invent some variations. Divide the cards evenly and take turns being the "caller." The caller turns one card over and announces what card she has: "I have a bird. Does anyone have a bird on their board?" This allows your preschooler to practice her new vocabulary.

http://life.familyeducation.com/play/toddler/53823.html   Ret. 12-24-13