Making a List, Checking It Twice

Being an educator in the summer or a consultant all year long leaves a lot of unstructured time. Read on to see how to make sure the necessities get done and downtime is still achieved.

Forbes Dividend Investor – March 29 Weekly Update

The 21 stocks in last Friday’s Forbes Dividend Investor portfolio gained 1.33% on average over the past week. West Texas intermediate crude oil gained 1.8% for the week, helping energy services outfit RPC, Inc. (RES +13.31%) turn in the best weekly performance of our stocks.

Youth Environmental & Conservation Employment, Education and Engagement Project Grants

GRANT FOCUS: Job/Career Training, Environment, Environmental Education, Conservation, Youth Development, Civic Engagement
Amount: $10,000 – $500,000 (est.)
Deadline:
Sept. 11, 2019

“[The funder] seeks to develop collaborative partnerships with non-profit 21st Century Conservation Service Corps qualified organizations who have the expertise to develop and administrator youth development programs that focus on providing employment, education, and engagement opportunities for U.S. citizens and legal residents in NPS units and affiliated sites such as National Register of Historic Places, National Heritage Areas, National Wild and Scenic Rivers, National Historic Landmarks, National Trails and adjacent gateway communities.”

Funder: National Park Service
Eligibility: Nonprofits having a 501(c)(3) status with the IRS, other than institutions of higher education.
Contact: Link. 


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Researchers discover oldest fossil forest in Asia

The Devonian period, which was 419 million to 359 million years ago, is best known for Tiktaalik, the lobe-finned fish that is often portrayed pulling itself onto land. However, the “age of the fishes,” as the period is called, also saw evolutionary progress in plants. Researchers reporting August 8 in the journal Current Biology describe the largest example of a Devonian forest, made up of 250,000 square meters of fossilized lycopsid trees, which was recently discovered near Xinhang in China’s Anhui province. The fossil forest, which is larger than Grand Central Station, is the earliest example of a forest in Asia.

NM Education and Community Outreach Grants

GRANT FOCUS: Education, Community, K-12, Early Childhood, Human Services, Native/Tribal Youth
Amount: Up to $2,500
Deadline:
Sept. 15, 2019

“[The foundation] exists to enhance the vitality of Northern New Mexico by investing in education, learning, and community development. We support education efforts along the cradle to career spectrum by directing our grant dollars into school districts, nonprofit education programs, and community projects. Education – This category of grants must directly support education programs for public school children in grades K–12. Community – Community Outreach Grants meet our mission and vision of innovative programming, collaboration, and advocacy for lifelong learning. Community Outreach Grants are not required to solely support K-12 public education – Early Childhood, adult learning, basic needs initiatives or community events are a few areas that fall under this category.

Funder: The  Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) Foundation
Eligibility: “School districts, nonprofit New Mexico educational institutions, IRS-qualified 501(c)(3) organizations, government agencies, and Pueblo/Tribal communities serving Los Alamos, Mora, Rio Arriba, San Miguel, Sandoval, Santa Fe, and Taos counties.”
Contact: Link. 


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These Tools Help Coach College Youth Aged Out of Foster Care to Develop Relationships

coach: Man hugging young man.

pixelheadphoto digitalskillet/Shutterstock

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What does it take to engage students who age out of foster care into supportive relationships on the college campus? It helps to understand that relationships formed with supportive adults, such as caseworkers, foster parents, guardians ad litem and other professionals, while in foster care can change frequently for youth, and often without warning, due process or closure. 

Some youth have experienced multiple relationship changes throughout their adolescent years, which compounds any already existing challenges related to ambiguous loss, grief, attachment injuries and developmental gaps related to separation from their birth families. Moreover, youth who age out of foster care often live with some degree of trauma, which is stored in the nooks and crannies of implicit memory and the reflexive nervous system, or outside of conscious control. All these conditions bring unique challenges to relationship development.

coach: Yvonne Unrau (headshot), director of Center for Fostering Success at Western Michigan University, smiling woman with brown hair, multicolored glasses, white jacket at beach

Yvonne Unrau

Although trauma is typically unwelcomed (both by youth and people relating to them), it is most helpful to view it not as a problem but as an adaptation to problematic events and circumstances. Children raised in abusive, neglectful or otherwise violent conditions adapt to survive. Much of the adaptation is unconscious and focused on survival. 

For example, the nervous system adjusts to stay “on alert” to the unpredictable moods of a caregiver so as to minimize physical abuse; the digestive system recalibrates so that hunger is not felt when food provisions run out; or an environment mute to encouragement, praise, play and supportive communication shapes the social engagement system to be suspicious of compliments. 

Engaging, establishing and maintaining relationships with youth who live with trauma and without continuous nurturing relationships from adult caregivers is not a straightforward process. The unwieldy path of untangling trauma, especially complex trauma, is a difficult road that cannot be forced or rushed. The human body organizes in response to trauma in favor of self-protection; that is, keeping oneself safe from harm at all costs, including the price of relationships with other people. 

While there is no guidebook, there are several helpful resources to prepare supportive adults (who may or may not have professional training) in establishing and maintaining relationships with youth who age out of foster care. For example, the “Child Development and Trauma Guide” highlights indicators of how trauma manifests and impacts children and youth at different stages of development. The guide also provides general tips on how to respond to youth who exhibit trauma symptoms. The “Transformational relationships for youth success” report reveals characteristics of supportive adults who help youth thrive, such as individuals who consistently show up for youth during the highs and lows, and challenge them to be a better version of themselves without judging them. Finally, “Relationships First: Creating Connections That Help Young People Thrive” provides a developmental framework and a wide variety of tips to creating strong relationships with youth.

THE EMERGENCE OF A COACHING MODEL

It’s been over 10 years since the Seita Scholars program emerged into existence as a program of pride at Western Michigan University. The program, designed to support youth who age out of foster care to earn a four-year college degree and to thrive after graduation, was an incubator for developing strategies to build relationships with supportive adults. 

When the program began in 2008 there was little research and few resources available to guide efforts to support successful transitions from foster care to college campus. We operated from the belief that the primary driver of the human experience is relationship to others, and we understood that attachment and belonging is compromised for many youth aging out of foster care owing to abuse, neglect and system failures.

Given the dearth of information available at program startup, we learned about building relationships with the students as we created programming elements. We regarded every youth enrolled in the program as an expert on the experience of aging out of foster care and into college. Collectively guidance from the student body — known as Seita Scholars — greatly shaped program decisions and operations. 

The campus coach role was created in 2008, and five years later, through careful listening and many instances of trial-and-error, the Fostering Success Coaching model emerged as our primary approach to supporting college students aging out of foster care. Our efforts to investigate the coaching model’s effectiveness in 2017 through survey research indicated that coaching matters to students. 

COACHING INTERACTIONS

Individuals hired for the coach role are screened to have some level of exposure to the experiences that youth face in the foster care system. We have found that it’s critical that supportive adults listen fully, without judgement, and believe youth as they share their stories. Once coaches are selected, the coaching model trains them to engage youth in relationship by applying a communication structure that is predictable, strengths-oriented and promotes well-being. The fostering success coach model is specifically designed to equip coaches with a skill set designed to address complex challenges in multiple life areas for youth. 

Coaches learn a three-part structure of communication, known as a coaching interaction, that involves the following:

Step 1: Students assess their strengths and struggles in seven life areas (i.e., education, finances, housing, health, relationships, identity and life skills);

Step 2: In partnership with students, prioritize with students their current needs in the context of the long-term goal of college graduation. This step uses a modified Maslow’s hierarchy that prioritizes need by examining opportunity for individual growth as well as action for system change;

Step 3: Apply the teaching and learning cycle wheel to focus on developing student’s insight, knowledge or skill in a particular life domain.

The three steps comprise the coaching interaction, which, when consistently and predictably applied over time, develops a trusted pattern of communication between coach and student. This lays the groundwork for youth to thrive in relationship with the coach, as well as develop other relationships on campus. 

Predictability builds trust in relationship. Trust creates a felt sense of safety, which promotes generalization of skills learned across time, topics and people. The benefit of a predictable pattern of communication for youth who have encountered a multitude of state-appointed caregivers and decision-makers in their lives is that youth learn how to discern the message from the messenger and distill the information that is most needed in the moment and best fits their particular situation and preferences.

COACHING ATTITUDE

In addition to the coaching model, and other sources of knowledge listed earlier, an understanding that all youth (and supportive adults for that matter) are trying their best, and an attitude of gentle curiosity lays the groundwork for experimenting with a strengths-oriented approach to developing relationships. Even with the best available knowledge and a positive attitude, relationship development is not always smooth. 

It helps to lead with the question: What does it take to support youth to heal from trauma histories filled with ambiguous loss, grief and “things no child should have to experience” (a phrase commonly expressed by students in the program)? The coaching communication interaction is a staple to anchor communication and promotes a felt sense of stability or safety in the relationship between coach and student.

Research by Timothy Huffman showed that supportive adults who exhibit “embodied aboutness” — which literally means making your body about the other person — were most effective at engaging homeless youth in relationships that ultimately brought them benefit. Peter Levine refers to the notion of “touching another with your presence.” 

These authors help us understand that relationship development with youth who have aged out of foster care requires much more than learning knowledge and developing communication skills; it also requires a keen sense attunement to both self and others. The felt sense of the relationship dynamic between coach and student ebbs and flows over time along with the content of life as it unfolds. 

The structure of coaching interaction provides a map that affords repetition without redundancy through the emotional and intellectual highs and lows of the ever-changing context of relationship development and the evolving college experience. It also allows for the uniqueness of each youth to be revealed and rooted in a stable sense of self. And it provides coaches a frame for reflection on their own growth and learning.

There is no magic recipe for building optimal relationships with youth, even with the many different tools to learning relationship skills. The past decade of working with youth who have aged out of foster care have taught me that genuine curiosity in learning another person without expectation that they be fixed or changed is a healing way forward. Viewing youth from a lens of how did they adapt to adversity to survive gives clues about how their actions (or inactions) are responses learned and shaped by previous environments. 

Furthermore, this view prompts us to seek to create new experiences and expose youth to new environments that yield healing, supportive and thriving relationships. It helps to remember that we are always in relationship with youth, whether the nature of the relationship is expressed as energy-giving (e.g., joy, reciprocity, sharing and celebration) or energy-draining ways (e.g., mistrust, avoidance, frustration). Although the purpose of the coaching relationship is to provide opportunities for youth, when authentic interdependence is achieved meaningful learning, growth and connection happen for both parties.

Yvonne A. Unrau, Ph.D., LMSW (clinical and macro), is a professor of social work and the director of the Center for Fostering Success at Western Michigan University. She has dedicated her career to improving services to youth and families whose lives have been touched by foster care, and is a developer of the Fostering Success Coach Training model.

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Climate change likely to increase human exposure to toxic methylmercury

Add another item to the ever-growing list of the dangerous impacts of global climate change: Warming oceans are leading to an increase in the harmful neurotoxicant methylmercury in popular seafood, including cod, Atlantic bluefin tuna and swordfish, according to research led by the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) and the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health (HSPH).

Beyond Suspensions: Examining School Discipline Policies & Connections to the School-to-Prison Pipeline for Students of Color w/ Disabilities

See Full Report

Author(s): U.S. Commission on Civil Rights

Published: July 2019

Report Intro/Brief:
“For this report, the Commission investigated school discipline practices and policies impacting students of color with disabilities and the possible connections to the school-to-prison pipeline, examined rates of exclusionary discipline, researched whether and under what circumstances school discipline policies unfairly and/or unlawfully target students of color with disabilities, and analyzed the federal government’s responses and actions on the topic.

The Commission’s report reflects that several decades of research demonstrate persistent racial disparities in disciplinary rates and disparities based on disability status but much of scholarship based on this data has not analyzed how these policies affect those students who live at the intersection of these two identities. The literature available, however, does suggest that students of color with disabilities face exclusionary discipline pushing them into the school-to-prison pipeline at much higher rates than their peers without disabilities.And while exclusionary discipline has been shown to be harmful for the educational attainment of all students, students with disabilities, particularly those who are students of color, face even more challenges when they are not able to receive a quality education.

Key findings from the Commission majority include:

  • Students with disabilities are approximately twice as likely to be suspended throughout each school level compared to students without disabilities.
  • Students of color as a whole, as well as by individual racial group, do not commit more disciplinable offenses than their white peers – but black, Latinx, and Native American students in the aggregate receive substantially more school discipline than their white peers, and receive harsher and longer punishments than their white peers receive for like offenses.
  • Most recent available U.S. Department of Education data reflect that black, multiracial, Native American/Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander American students with disabilities were more likely than white students with disabilities to be expelled without educational services.
  • According to Department of Education data 1.6 million students attend a school with a sworn law enforcement officer (SLEO) but not a school counselor and by the 2015-16 academic year, schools reported having more than 27,000 school resource officers (SROs), compared to 23,000 social workers. Latinx, Asian, and black students were all more likely than white students to attend a school with an SLEO but not a counselor.”

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