Foster Youth and Education

When I lived in Rhode Island, I worked as a case manager for an independent living program for young adults who were transitioning out of foster care. Leah was my sweetest and brightest client, and now she is an advocate for other foster care youth. She’s awesome. Check out this feature piece about her journey: from a failing foster care system to graduate school. She now works in Higher Ed, and continues to fight for educational opportunities for foster youth. This kid is awesome, and I am so proud 🙂

http://www.childrensrights.org/news-events/cr-blog/a-struggle-for-education-in-foster-care/

The Trouble Makers

Written by: Anna Cope, student at IUPUI’s School of Social Work

Last December I became a big sister with Big Brothers Big Sisters and it has been the best experience for me.  From the beginning my little sis’ mom has told me the reason why she wanted her daughters to be with Big Brothers Big Sisters is because she believes their neighborhood is not safe enough for them to play outside.  I had no clue how dangerous it was until one night while I was dropping her off.  She pointed to her neighbor’s house and nonchalantly said, “They are major trouble makers.”  I naively replied, “Oh really? Do you think that because they play their music too loud?” That is how I would describe troublesome neighbors at the young age of nine.  But that was not her reasoning for calling her neighbors trouble makers.  Without even blinking she said, “No, their house gets shot at all the time.”  I had no idea what to say, I tried to hold back tears, I was shocked that at nine years old she could talk about her neighbor’s house being shot at like it was an everyday occurrence.  Although, hearing my little talk about the violence in her neighborhood I realized how Big Brothers Big Sisters is such an amazing organization and it gives kids, like my little sis, experiences that they never would have had a chance to experience.  Big Brothers Big Sisters really does make a huge difference in our community.

Child Sexual Abuse Happens Here

1 in 4 boys and 1 in 6 girls are sexually abused during their childhood in the United States.

90% of these children are abused by someone they know, love and trust.

Through a generous grant from the Department of Children’s Services, MCCOY is offering FREE trainings in the nationally recognized Stewards of Children child sexual abuse prevention program for up to 500 adults.

This brief, video-based training about child sexual abuse prepares adults to better protect the children in their lives. The revolutionary training is for any responsible adult who cares about the welfare of children. It is also appropriate for organizations such as day cares centers, sports leagues, after-school programs, church groups and more.
Click on the links to learn more and register for the October 6th or October 25th trainings.
Photo by D. Sharon Pruitt

Lessons from Volunteering at the VA Hospital

Last Saturday, September 17th, Shahana and I went to volunteer at the Indianapolis VA Hospital through the Living History program. We were fortunate to be able to interview Veterans about their lives and hear many stories about people who did amazing things, like traveling around the world as a musician and beating cancer twice. Through the Living History program, we record our conversations with Veterans and add our notes to their medical record, allowing the patient’s health care team to build more meaningful relationships with the Veterans by recognizing and appreciating their humanity.

Volunteering at the VA Hospital allowed Shahana and me to interact with a population that we typically do not get to work with very often. It was a valuable, eye-opening experience that taught us an important lesson about remembering the goal of our service. Just as doctors may become engrossed in medical charts and symptoms and lose sight of the actual person they are treating, we as youth-serving workers may become so immersed in details about our specific initiatives that we forget that we are trying to improve the lives of individual children, who have aspirations and interests just like the inspiring Veterans we met this weekend. Volunteering at the VA Hospital helped remind me that my work at MCCOY is only meaningful if all the planning and preparing eventually translates into opportunities for individual young people in my community to live more vibrant, fulfilling lives.

Service which is rendered without joy helps neither the servant nor the served. But all other pleasures and possessions pale into nothingness before service which is rendered in a spirit of joy.”

Finding Peace Among the Bullies

Author: Annette Leasure, IUPUI School of Social Work student
I was in the third grade when I first learned that I wasn’t like most other students.  Oh, I liked to do my school work, play on the playground, and try to be the first in line for the school bus so I could get a good seat.  What was different for me, though, was the fact that I was poor.  I didn’t have the best clothes to wear, nor the neatest looking house to live in, or even a “good neighborhood” to live in for that matter.  That made me an easy target for bullies I soon learned.    It started with not-so-nice comments about my clothes.  They were always clean, but they were also faded and didn’t always fit quite right.  Then came the jokes about my house, and how some of the siding was missing, or how my yard was mostly dirt.  First it was just one person who gave me a hard time, but then her two friends joined in.  They laughed a lot.  I cried a lot, but never in front of them.  I pretended not to care, but inside I hurt.  This went on for a few months, and then finally tapered off.  Finally I had peace again.
In the seventh grade, it started all over.  That was the year the grade schools in my city were combined into a middle school, and children from all over town shared one big building.  To this day, I can remember “her.”  For the sake of this blog, I’ll refer to her as “Mary.”  Mary’s favorite time to harass me was just before science class started.  It was my first class after lunch, and often the teacher was running a little late.  Until he came to unlock the classroom, we had to stand in line against the wall and wait for him and this provided a perfect time for Mary and her friends to bully me.  I couldn’t leave because class was about to start, but I didn’t say anything because I was always outnumbered.  Most of the kids in my science class came from the “rich” side of town.  So, again, I stuck out like a sore thumb.  Mary would make comments about my clothes, and ask if she could borrow them to wear.  This would just send her friends into hysterics.  Sometimes they would kick the table into me as I was trying to take my seat.  I would never tell my mom how I got those bruises on my legs.  It was embarrassing to talk about.   She also liked to make fun of my hair.  Like my clothes, it was always clean, but I didn’t have the popular hairstyles like most other girls did.  My mom couldn’t afford to take me for haircuts.  When you barely have enough money for food, a professional hair cut is a luxury.  About half way through the school year, Mary and her friends must’ve grown bored with me because they found someone else to bully.  Looking back, I wish I would’ve befriended their new target because we obviously had something in common.  I was so happy they’d moved on from me though that I didn’t make the effort.  That’s something I wish I could’ve changed.
I’m much older now, and both grade school and high school have long come and gone.  There are some things I wish I had known then that I certainly know now.  School days are temporary.  They will come and they will surely go.  There are people during that time that will make your life fun, and those that will make it difficult.  Be thankful for the ones who make it fun.  As for the ones who make it difficult, remind yourself that time spent with them is temporary.  How they see you is not how you have to see yourself.  You decide your own self value and worth, and don’t let anyone take that away from you.  There’s a reason bullies want to make you feel bad.  My guess is that 10 times out of 10, it has to do with something they’re not getting in life that they need.  Don’t be too hard on them even though they may be not so nice to you.  Kindness can go a long way, especially to those who know they probably don’t deserve it.  Be kind anyway, and above all, TELL SOMEONE!  It is never o.k. to be bullied.  Telling someone doesn’t make you a snitch, or a tattle-tell, nor does it make you appear weak.  It means that you’ve identified a problem, and you have the courage to let someone know.   If someone calls you a “snitch” for telling, they’re only doing that because they don’t like the fact that you’ve shed some light on their misbehavior!
If you’re being bullied, I understand the world you’re living in.  Yes, it completely stinks getting bullied, but please know this:  there is life after being bullied.  Please don’t let it overwhelm you.  Keep in mind that what may be happening today may not be happening next week, or even next month.  

 If you’re in a situation that you’re not comfortable with, just know that life is full of great changes and wonderful surprises!  If they can happen to me, they can happen to you too!

Live United!


Last Friday, the United Way of Central Indiana launched an ambitious campaign goal of $39.2 million. This kickoff event was held on the Circle and sponsored by the Colts. MCCOY, and several other UWCI member organizations were on hand to kick off this year’s season of giving. Without funding from the United Way, many of these organizations would have a difficult time serving their constituencies.

So please, give generously this year. If you don’t donate this year, that crazy Colts superfan (posing with MCCOY staff) will crush you.

If you don’t have a workplace campaign, you can still participate:
http://www.uwci.org/index.asp?p=30

Indy Star article on the event:
http://www.indystar.com/article/20110909/LOCAL/109090412/1001/NEWS

Personal Reflections

As with the rest of the country, and quite possibly the world, I find myself reflecting on the events that happened ten years ago on 9/11. That date and that year in particular changed a lot of people’s lives in dramatic ways and also changed our country. We became much more aware of our vulnerabilities and our impact – both positive and negative – on the world stage. We began to question what, exactly, does freedom and democracy mean? What is the USA’s role in world affairs? And, we as citizens gained much more insight and transparency into the affairs of our government.

For me, personally, September 2001 changed my life. Not only did I live outside of Washington DC and witness what the attacks did to that area, but my brother had just moved to New York City one week before the World Trade Center was hit. It took half a day just to reach him to find out that he was ok.

In September 2001, I also met the man who would become my future husband. In the past ten years I have become a wife and a mother to two beautiful children. As the anniversary of 9/11 draws near, I find myself thinking about how the world was when I was growing up and how the world will be as my children grow. During my life, I witnessed the creation of the space shuttle, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War. I witnessed the U.S. become a major player on the world stage. To me, the country seemed invincible and full of ambition, achievement and promise.

But things have changed now and I’m wondering what the future holds for our country and what legacy I’ll be handing off to my children. Change can be good – it can bring new ideas, new directions and improvements. But, change is also unsettling for a lot of people because of it’s uncertainty.

As an advocate, I try to create awareness of the importance of investing in children so that they can thrive and succeed. But personally, because I hope to give my children those opportunities, I also want to instill in them a sense of personal and global responsibility. I want to make sure that they understand that it’s not enough just to be successful, but that we need to share with others who are less fortunate. We need to give back to our community so that others may have opportunities. And, most importantly, that respect for our fellow human beings is paramount to our success as a society.

I truly hope that all of the conflicts and global strife that my generation is seeing is creating a sense in our young people that we, as a country, are not one, but that we are all. We are not just Hoosiers or Americans, we are global citizens. I hope that the next generation will understand that with freedom and democracy also come respect and responsibility. Freedom is not just for one group or ideology, but freedom for all. Democracy is not just the right to vote, but also about being an informed citizen.

I look forward to seeing what the next decade holds and I will continue to try to do my part to ensure that the upcoming generations are equipped to take over where we leave off. I

Labor Day Activities for the Whole Family

Indianapolis has much to offer to you and your families over the Labor Day weekend. There are fairs, festivals, concerts, parades, and numerous other events to keep you and yours happy and busy over the weekend. The following is a listing of events that are happening in Indy. Learn more about these events and specific details at: http://www.aroundindy.com/fairs or http://visitindy.com.

Friday, September 2, 2011:
16th Rib America Festival at Military Park – Award winning BBQ and live music featuring The Doobie Brothers, KC and the Sunshine Band, Jennie DeVoe, Rev. Peyton, and many more.
Fall Festival at St. Joseph Parish – Parish festival with good food, rides, games and more!
First Fridays – Visit more than 25 downtown galleries and art venues that are participating in the First Friday Art Tours to promote visual art in a manner similar to walking tours in cities across the United States. Patrons are encouraged to walk or drive throughout the downtown culture districts, and visit the city’s diverse visual art offerings. Find out more: http://visitindy.com/indianapolis-events-idada-first-friday.
Food Con – Build around the concept of food “biomes”, attendees will move through the building an courtyard to experience each of 5 biomes, (the Dessert, Prairie, Wetlands, Forest and Tundra) as they are interpreted by artists and others involved in the local food movement. Learn more: http://butlerfoodcon.com/.
Inaugural Aviation and Autovation Fair in Noble County – Featuring the 75th anniversary of the 810 Cord automobile, vintage World War II aircraft, excursions, classic aviation, and memorabilia auction, and more.

Saturday, September 3:
4th Annual Taste of Duneland in Chesterton – Highlighting the many fine cuisines in the Duneland area, with Butler Winery wines, live music, and more.
16th Rib America Festival at Military Park – Award winning BBQ and live music featuring The Doobie Brothers, KC and the Sunshine Band, Jennie DeVoe, Rev. Peyton, and many more.
Fall Festival at St. Joseph Parish – Parish festival with good food, rides, games and more!
Inaugural Aviation and Autovation Fair in Noble County – Featuring the 75th anniversary of the 810 Cord automobile, vintage World War II aircraft, excursions, classic aviation, and memorabilia auction, and more.
Labor Day Parade – Parade of labor organizations, union members, elected officials, community supporters, bands and floats through downtown Indianapolis.
Old Time Music Festival – Free music, workshops, and demonstrations. Two stages, over 30 regional groups performing – free admission.

Sunday, September 4:
16th Rib America Festival at Military Park – Award winning BBQ and live music featuring The Doobie Brothers, KC and the Sunshine Band, Jennie DeVoe, Rev. Peyton, and many more.
Fall Festival at St. Joseph Parish – Parish festival with good food, rides, games and more!
Old Time Music Festival – Free music, workshops, and demonstrations. Two stages, over 30 regional groups performing – free admission.

Monday, September 5:
16th Rib America Festival at Military Park – Award winning BBQ and live music featuring The Doobie Brothers, KC and the Sunshine Band, Jennie DeVoe, Rev. Peyton, and many more.
Labor Day Festival at St. Peter Parish in Brookville – Parish festival with country style chicken dinner, turtle soup, quilts, games, and more.
Labor Day Street Fair – Once a year, the Jazz Kitchen moves things outside the club. It all centers around the stage, which will host Clifford Ratliff, Sunset Stomp and Rob Dixon & Friends. Inside the Kitchen, Chuck Workman will host the second edition of his charity jazz garage sale, with a silent auction for rare jazz collectables.

Are there other events that we haven’t posted here? If so, leave a comment and share with others. Now have fun, and be safeJ