Monday, April 28, 2014

Education is My Super Power

This morning I attended a press conference to kick off College Week in San Antonio.  About 25 adorably proud students from Briscoe Academy stood up straight and tall, all dressed in their college t-shirts behind the Mayor while he read aloud a proclamation for the week ahead.  The Superintendent of San Antonio Independent School District was also there and he talked about how every kid can go to college, but they have to be told that the opportunity awaits them.  They need to hear it from the supportive adults in their lives. 
Unfortunately, though, so many youth today are growing up without positive one-to-one support and guidance from adults.  We all know that this is exactly what they need in order to reach adulthood successfully, but it's by no means a given.  Every successful adult can identify the role models and mentors who helped him or her navigate the challenges of childhood, but every prisoner can describe the lack of positive role models or worse, a surfeit of bad role models in their lives.  Without this critical adult support, youth fall prey to destructive cycles of poverty, failure, abuse, neglect, teen pregnancy, gang violence, substance abuse, truancy and  juvenile delinquency. As I have written about in the past, I'm lucky to work for an organization that helps fill the gap; having a Big Brother or Big Sister has been proven in volumes of research to stop these cycles. 
A report released in January 2014 by MENTOR, an organization dedicated to closing the mentoring  gap for our nation's youth, revealed that there are an estimated 9 million at-risk youth who will reach the age of 19 without ever having had a mentor (formal or informal).  The report also reveals that these youth are far less likely than their mentored counterparts to get the support they need to succeed in school and aspire to higher education.  In contrast, surveys of youth mentored in the Big Brothers Big Sisters of South Texas program in 2003 show that: 
·         93% of students expect to graduate from high school, and
·         85% of students plan to attend college
These results are what spur our organizational leadership to grow the BBBS mentoring program to the point that every student who needs or wants a Big Brother or Big Sister is able to get one, immediately.

When I graduated high school I knew I wanted to go to college but I had no idea how to make it all happen.  I ended up taking it, literally, one class at a time (often 1 class a semester or less) and I managed to graduate, albeit on the 10 year plan.  This week I am really looking forward to the 4th annual College Week during which hundreds if not thousands of elementary, middle and high school students in my community will learn more about college and how to get there than I ever did in school!  You can show your support by joining in each day's activities and events found on the Destination College website.  And don't forget the following:    

  • Monday - Wear your Sunglasses, cause your future's so bright
  • Tuesday - Silly sock day
  • Wednesday - Hat's off to Education
  • Thursday - Dress for Success in a Tie
  • Friday - College T-shirt Day

On my way out of the press conference this morning I saw this bulletin board and I had to snap a quick picture because isn't it the truth!? 

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Most I Can Do

Update: The Blood Drive is being rescheduled.   TBA

I bet there are a lot of people out there who know that you have to wait 12 months after getting a tattoo before you can donate blood, but did you know that if you lived in England for more than 3 months between 1980 and 1996 you can never donate blood in the US, ever again?!  Apparently, my adventure in the UK in the late 80's/early 90's was an adventure with a strange consequence.

The last time I remember being able to donate blood was in Oklahoma City after the Murrah Federal building was bombed by Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols.  This was in 1995, about 4 years after I returned to the States.  The first time I remember being told I was prohibited from donating blood was in 2001 when the YMCA had a blood drive across the street from my job in San Antonio.  My co-workers and I trooped over at lunch-time ready to do the least we could do for people in need of a blood transfusion.

But no.

At that time there was no tell-tale form you had to fill out asking about your travels (that would come later).  I was merely asked if I had traveled outside the US, and if so, where.  I replied that I lived in England from 1988 - 1991.  A nice technician told me that I couldn't donate blood "at this time" because of "mad cow disease."  I asked for details but they told me to "check back later."  I was disappointed, but although I told myself I would look into it (omg, did I have a disease related to a mad cow?!  hahaha, of course not), in the face of the many demands on my time, I forgot.

I did have a very dim memory of some problem in England with cows not being able to stand up and dying in droves.  My distant recollection kinda registered the fact that this had adversely affected the beef industry in England.  I was not concerned:  "English food really pretty much sucks and the beef couldn't get much worse," I thought.  This is why on Friday night when you are deciding where to go for dinner you consider the following:  Italian, Greek, Mexican, Thai, Chinese, Mongolian, even French (San Antonians, think La Madeline), but you rarely say, "Let's go get some English food!"  Right?  There is a reason.  Take a look:

This is what makes this mad cow thing so ironic.  Apparently I am a carrier of this thing and I didn't even get to enjoy good food in the process of being infected. I did, however, become an avid, life-long devotee of Indian food while living in England.  The first time I was taken to an Indian restaurant I had Chicken Tikka Masala and I thought my head was going to catch on fire. I think I was 24, but even having grown up in the jalapeno mecca of San Antonio, I was seriously, obviously, sadly, sheltered.

But I digress. 

Let's go back to 2006, the last time I remember trying to donate blood.  I was in Leadership San Antonio (Class 32!) and we made a trip to the South Texas Blood and Tissue Center.  I remember what a fascinating day that was, but even more vividly I remember talking to a staffer there about the possibility of never being able to donate blood again, because of my supposed affliction.  Perhaps I am slow, but I had always thought before that this mad cow crisis was gonna play itself out, like other media-hyped up calamities (bird flu, anthrax, violent video games - you gotta check out this awesome, relevant info-graphic ASAP- sorry to my media friends and daughter.  And I guess, while I am apologizing, sorry to my English friends who have to deal with English food everyday...).  Also - here is a fun trivia fact I heard while I lived in England, no-idea-if-it's-true - but "they said" that the number-1 take-out in England was Indian food but the number-1 take-out in India was fish and chips.  The grass is always greener...wait, no!  Indian food is totally awesome. 

Again, I digress, so I must bring us back to today, 2014, in which Big Brothers Big Sisters is hosting a special blood drive at the El Tropicano Hotel on April 14 to benefit the 5 year old daughter of a Big Brother volunteer.  She has Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.  When I got the email notifying me of this cause and opportunity, I decided that since I couldn't donate any of my blood (afflicted and contaminated - I'm just sayin'), the least I could do was blog about it.  But really, since my O-positive fluid is so undesirable, it was actually the most I could do to ask everyone else to donate - and help me make up for my deficiency.

Go here to learn more about this opportunity!  And if you're inspired by this post to donate, please let me know.  Cheers, mate!  

I will now officially and enthusiastically blame all of my faults and failings on the mad cow.