“The government is us; we are the government. You and I.” Theodore Roosevelt

I experienced a miracle today. I woke up in my warm, dry home, flipped a switch and the room filled with soft, warm, glorious light. I turned a spigot and fresh, clean, cold water flowed from my tap. I take these things for granted because I have had them all my life. Another miracle that I take for granted, like electricity and clean water, is our democratic form of government. And, like my lights and my water, I rarely give government a second thought. That is, until it stops working. I have been thinking about government a lot lately.
“The Government” has always seemed like an invisible force beyond my ability to control or affect, and I don’t like being at the mercy of something I can’t control. But, because of my involvement with MCCOY’s Public Policy and Advocacy Committee, directed by Mindi Goodpaster, I am learning how advocacy can affect outcomes in the democratic process. I have watched others advocate for themselves, and have done it myself by sending emails and letters, making phone calls, and testifying at the Indiana Senate and House of Representatives. And, my friends, you, too, can become an advocate for what you believe in.
Recently I was proud to watch as members of MCCOY’s Youth Advocacy Committee testified to the Indiana House of Representatives Education Committee regarding HB 1423, “Anti-Bullying”. The students were bright, articulate, organized and impressive as they spoke, and the effect they had on the committee was obvious. Our side carried the day. The bill passed through the House and is now waiting to be heard by the Senate. These young citizens, Caleb Rohadfox, a senior at Decatur Central, Justin Winterrowd, a senior at Ben Davis, Ali Tahir, a senior from Zionsville High School and Shanze Tahir, also a senior at Zionsville High School, testified fearlessly, had their opinions heard, and positively influenced an issue that just last year did not even make it to the floor. Two of MCCOY’s AmeriCorps Vista interns, Danielle Guerin and Anne West, work with the Y.A.C., but Anne told me that the Y.A.C. students did all of the prep work for their testimony on their own. When I think of the enthusiasm and energy these young citizens showed that day I feel more optimistic about the future of our country.
So what about you? Have you ever felt frustrated with the way your government works, or fails to work? What have you done about it? Would you like to do something about it if you could? It is easier than you might think to have a voice in your government. The first step is to find out who is the legislator for your district. Here’s how I did it: type “Indiana General Assembly” into a search engine, then click on the tab that says “Who is your Legislator”. You will be directed to the Indiana General Assembly District Lookup Service. You will then need to fill in the blank with your address, city, and zip code, then you will get a list of your state and federal legislators and their contact information. Or you can call 1-317-232-9400 for the Indiana State Senate, or 1-317-232-9600 for the House, and ask the operator for your state legislator’s information. The next step is up to you. Write an email or a letter, or pick up the phone and make a call. Personally, I like to write out a formal letter, because that helps me organize my thoughts. Then I copy and paste the text of the letter into an email, then send the email, then mail the letter. If it is an issue I feel strongly about, I will call my legislator and speak to someone directly. Always stay respectful, and keep to one topic. If there is more than one topic on my mind, I write a second (or third) letter. I don’t know if any of my efforts will ever have a positive result, but that does not really matter. What does matter is that I have done something to express my thoughts, and that my ideas reached my legislator. One state representative I spoke to told me that he considers one email, letter, or phone call to represent similar sentiments of 2,000 other people about any particular issue. Your congress person, local, state, or federal, want to hear from you.

Getting Youth Excited about Volunteerism

By: Ivy McConnell
Public Relations Intern at MCCOY, Inc

According to Peter Levine, the director of Tufts University Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning, children who volunteer are more successful in school and more likely to graduate from high school and college.

Helping others can have a lasting impact on the life of your life. As volunteers, youth are able to assert their independence and make a real difference in their communities. They learn how to respect people with differences. They become more considerate of others. They develop communication and leadership skills. Youth that volunteers just one hour a week are 50% less likely to abuse drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, or engage in destructive behavior. They are more likely to do well in school and to graduate.
Parents/Guardians should teach their child that volunteering can help him establish a lifetime of friends, service and civil responsibility. Studies show that youth who volunteer are three times more likely to volunteer as adults. These young volunteers are more likely to vote and be philanthropic when they get older. If the parents are enthusiastic and volunteer with their child they will see the importance and value of giving through service. 

These are some great ways to motivate youth to volunteer:

1. Encourage them to create their own volunteer project
  • They can create a name of the project and invite close friends and family join them at a local humane society or food bank. Afterwards they can go out for pizza and talk about their experience.

2. Recommend them to use their talents and work independently 

  • If they love sing dance or play instruments, they go to a nursing home or a after-school program to entertain other youth
  • They can make blankets and donate it to animal shelter or children hospital
  • If they are an artist they can make greeting cards to the troops over seas and ask for a reply or donate their art to a local museum

3. Talk to them after their experience

  • Give them words of affirmation
  • Ask them detail questions about their experience
  • Ask them what else would they like to do
  • Suggest them to keep a journal of their experience and read it afterwards

Those are just a few ways to encourage youth to get involve in their communities  People are more willing to volunteer if they are asked. If you or a teacher ask them to be a activist in their communities they are more likely to get involved. 


Summer learning can be a game changer

Written by: Stephanie Freeman, Communications Director at MCCOY, Inc.
Now that spring is officially here (although it doesn’t feel like it yet), the next thing to anticipate for most youth is summer break. As a youth, I dreamt about long summer days, playing with friends, sleeping in, going to camp, and having no homework. However, now we know that “to succeed in school and life, children and young adults need ongoing opportunities to learn and practice essential skills. This is especially true during the summer months” (www.summerlearning.org).
According to the National Summer Learning Association, youth experience learning losses when they do not engage in educational activities during the summer, which leads to lower test scores and decreased graduation rates. Youth also are at risk of rapid weight gain during out-of-school time.
In Indianapolis, we are lucky to have many quality summer programs that combine both fun for youth as well as learning experiences. However, many families are not aware of these organizations and programs. For the past 17 years, MCCOY has produced, printed and made available to the community the Youth Activity Directory (YAD). The YAD is a comprehensive list of youth services that highlights activities such as: summer camps, fun family activities, leadership and volunteer opportunities, and educational/enrichment programs for youth. The 2013 YAD will be available for pick-up on April 8th. To reserve your copies, fill-out the attached request form and email to Juli.
Make this summer memorable learning experience – and have fun while you’re at it!

Youth (Not) on the Job

A 2012 Annie E. Casey Foundation report on Youth Work and Policy highlights the following statistics:

  • Youth Employment is at its lowest level since World War II
  • In Indiana only 27% of 16-19 year olds are employed and only 60% of 20-24 year olds
  • Nation-wide, 6.5 million people 16 to 24 years old are both out of school and out of work

The economic recession significantly affected rates of adult employment. But it also increased competition for low-wage, entry level jobs—the same jobs that once provided job experience for working youth. “Kids haven’t gotten anywhere in the economy’s recovery,” said Northeastern University Director of Labor and Market Studies, Andrew Sum. “Adults and older kids are filling those jobs. When kids go to look, they have so many people ahead of them in line they go to the back of the line.” 
A study from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that underemployment in the youth population has lasting consequences. Youth who miss out on early work experience are more likely to experience unemployment later in life and are less likely to achieve higher levels of career attainment.
In my experience, employment opportunities in my teens helped build essential “soft-skills” like responsibility and determination, as well as basic budgeting and personal finance skills. These opportunities allowed me to demonstrate substantial work experience as I searched for work study jobs in college and after graduation. Moreover, those employment opportunities helped give me a sense of the kind of career path that would use my talents and bring me enjoyment—and also those career paths that would not suit me!
If you’re looking for a program that’s hitting the mark in preparing high school students for employment opportunities in high school and beyond, check out the Jobs For America’s Graduate’s Programwhich currently operates career and college preparation courses in several Indianapolis schools.
If you’re looking for a meaningful conversation for youth who are interested in learning more about youth entrepreneurship and job opportunities, check out the Real Talk Youth Summit put on by the KI Eco Center in partnership with the Mid North Quality of Life Plan. Topics for the April 13th summit include youth entrepreneurship, jobs, drugs, and hip hop.
And if you’re looking for a way to advocate, why not contact the Mayor? There are plenty of examples mayors and municipal leaders across the US that are creating employment opportunities specifically for youth. Let’s make that happen in Indianapolis!

Show your appreciation to the troops

Show your appreciation to the troops
Written by: Mandi Wainscott
As a Marine Wife, the recent death of the 7 seven Marines from Camp Lejeune has left an achingly big hole in my heart. All of the Marines that were killed were in their 20s, but one and he was only 19. Their lives were all cut too short. These Marines have family and friends that are now forced to grieve the loss of their loved one. I cannot even imagine the pain that they are feeling right now.

Being a Marine wife has taught me to be strong, independent, and patient. It did not come easy to me.  I got married at 20 years old, moved across the country to California, had my husband deploy for the second time, and was left living alone across the country from my family and friends in just a few short months. It was definitely an adjustment.
I am so thankful that after three tours in Afghanistan and many field trainings that my husband is still here with me. Although, I still worry every time he leaves.  I am so proud of my husband and everything he does. No matter how difficult the months apart are and how very little the communication between us is I would not change a thing. Experiencing a homecoming after not seeing them for so long is the best feeling in the world. It is definitely indescribable.

Many people do not realize the sacrifices that the men and women in uniform experience and others do not even take the time to even think about it. These men and women sacrifice their lives for you and this country and it is important to show them your appreciation.  There are many different ways that you can show your appreciation to the military. You can adopt a soldier at www.adoptaussoldier.org. Adopting a soldier gives you the opportunity to send thank you letters and care packages to the soldiers deployed overseas. You can also volunteer or donate at a local military organization. You can even just extend your hand and say thanks. Simply acknowledging their service and thanking them personally means a great deal to them.  It is important to stand by and support the troops because they sacrifice so much for all of us. What are other ways that you can think of to show your support?

Fight to be Fit

In January, I decided that I wanted to live a healthier lifestyle. The main part of this change would be starting a new work out routine and fitting exercise into my schedule. Like many, I dreaded the typical gym scene and wanted to find a new and exciting option for my physical activity. This new adventure led me to Title Boxing Club. When I first came across boxing, I envisioned scenes from Rocky and bloody duals with muscular men. This was very intimidating for me, however, I decided to give the club I had found a tour. What I actually found was a laid-back environment, great staff, and a clean club to spend my daily hours dedicated to exercise. The classes are called “power hours” because you burn up to 1000 calories per session through boxing or kickboxing. What most surprised me about my new adventure was how much fun it could really be! The classes are tough, I won’t lie, but they are definitely worth it and the instructors are awesome. The instructors are encouraging, motivating, and even make you laugh through the power hour. I have found boxing to be extremely stress-relieving on top of being a great workout. The classes are 7 days a week and are offered at a variety of times. (Your first power hour is FREE so try it out!) What I also like about Title Boxing Club is how diverse the people in the classes are. I have seen little kids do the classes with their parents, other college students, grandparents, everyone! I have lost almost twenty pounds from this experience and it has been awesome! More importantly, this experience has taught me how valuable trying new things can be. Even if the new experience seems scary or intimidating, it is important to step outside of our comfort zones because we never know what we might be missing out on.

Here is more information on the Title Boxing Club I attend 🙂
2625 E. 62nd Street Suite 1007
Indianapolis, Indiana 46220

Gambling Among Our Youth

 Gambling Among Our Youth

Written by: Greg Henderson

Gambling has an established history in our country and community and is seen as a fun and mostly harmless pass time; most people never have issues related to gambling, but many in our state suffer from pathological and problem gambling. IPGAP (Indian Problem Gambling Awareness Program) estimates that roughly 1 out of every 100 Hoosiers qualifies as a pathological gambler and that 2-3 more qualify as problem gamblers. “Problem gambling is gambling behavior that causes disruptions in any major area of life: psychological, physical, social, spiritual or vocational.”  While this seems like a rather small population the problem is growing, and the largest numbers of new gamblers are adolescents.

This seems improbable, state casinos require proof of age to be admitted and lottery and scratch off tickets are only sold to adults. How then are our children even being exposed to gambling?  Social media and video games have become the gateway to gambling behaviors.

Facebook is among the most commonly used social media sites and it hosts a wide array of free games, many of which are gambling types, free slots, poker, and match games are chief among them. the argument for these games being permissible is that no real currency ever changes hands, yet points are being wagered at each turn.  These games indoctrinate children and lessen their sensitivity to losing “points”, which is how most casino style games refer to the money deposited in them. Even the themes of many new casino games seem geared towards children.

Video games for home systems are also adding gambling components to many already established titles.  Often times these are side games, games within the game that unlock new levels or add bonus points and gear, and have no direct relation to how the rest of the game operates.  While no money is being wagered, items that are of value to the player certainly are.  Winning at these games gives a false sense of being “lucky” and can motivate some to try their luck with real money, via internet gambling sites.

Internet gambling laws are confusing and complicated, but gaining access to these sites and playing with a credit card is far too easy.  In most cases the only proof of age required is a drop down box.  With just one click and mom or dad’s credit card children have access to international high stakes betting.  There is almost no over site in these virtual casinos and huge sums can be lost in minutes.  This is yet another good reason to be active in communicating our values and expectations to our children and to closely monitor what’s on our kids monitors.

2013 IN Youth Legislation

Several bills that MCCOY has been advocating for have successfully crossed over and we are thankful to all of our friends and colleagues who have been helping to advocate with us.  Right now, we are seeing tremendous momentum on children’s issues and we are increasingly optimistic that this session will yield some great victories for children!
Below is a list of bills that MCCOY is following as they move forward.
MCCOY’s High Priority Bills
Senate Bill 1: School resource officers (Pete Miller, Arnold, Charbonneau, Nugent, Wyss, Hume, Pat Miller, Landske, Randolph)
Creates a two-year grant program for schools to hire school resource officers. Passed the Senate 43-7. House sponsors: Torr, Steurwald, Lawson, Behning
Senate Bill 125: Committee on child services oversight (Holdman, Broden, Lanane, Zakas, Steele, Head, Glick, Eckerty, Randolph, Hume, Pat Miller, Charbonneau, Stoops, Tomes)
Establishes the commission on improving the status of children in Indiana to: (1) study issues concerning vulnerable youth; (2) review legislation; (3) cooperate with other entities; and (4) take other actions relating to children.  Establishes the subcommittee on child services oversight to: (1) review data reports from the department of child services (DCS); (2) review annual reports from the DCS ombudsman; (3)make recommendations to the commission to improve the delivery of child protection services; and (4) submit an annual report to the commission. Passed the Senate 50-0.  House sponsors: Mahan, Kubacki
Specifies requirements that must be met by a child care provider as a condition of eligibility to receive a federal Child Care and Development Fund voucher payment. Sets forth a disciplinary process for suspension or revocation of eligibility.  Passed the Senate 50-0. House sponsors: Mahan, Kubacki
Requires the department of education to provide resources and guidance to school corporations concerning evidence-based practices and effective strategies to reduce absenteeism. Makes changes to the definition of: (1) chronic absenteeism; and (2) habitual truant. Requires school corporations and schools to identify contributing factors to absenteeism and to develop chronic absence reduction plans. Provides that a school corporation must include the number of students who are habitually truant in the school corporation’s annual performance report. Provides that a school corporation’s strategic and continuous school improvement plan must include objectives relating to the educational needs of students who are chronically absent or habitually truant from school. Requests the legislative council to establish a study committee to examine issues related to absenteeism. Passed the Senate 50-0.  House sponsors: Behning, Porter, Rhoads, V. Smith
Senate Bill 352: School policies on gang activities (Hershman, Buck, Rogers, Randolph, Merritt, Kruse)
Allows the Indiana safe schools fund to be used to provide educational outreach and training to school personnel concerning the identification and prevention of, and intervention in, criminal gang activity. Requires the Indiana department of education (department) to develop model educational materials and a model policy concerning criminal gang activity. Requires the department, in collaboration with certain other agencies and organizations with expertise in criminal gang education, prevention, and intervention, to identify or develop model education materials and develop a model policy to address criminal gangs and criminal gang activity in schools. Requires the governing body of each school corporation to develop and maintain a criminal gang policy. Requires each school corporation to develop: (1) an educational criminal gang awareness program for students, school employees, and parents; and (2) a school employee development program to provide training to school employees in the implementation of the school corporation’s criminal gang policy. Requires a school employee to report any incidence of suspected criminal gang activity, criminal gang intimidation, or criminal gang recruitment to the principal and the school safety specialist. Requires the state police department to conduct an assessment to map gang activity and identify existing services and programs and to report the results to the department by July 1, 2014. Passed the Senate 50-0.  House sponsor: Truitt
House Bill 1004: Early education pilot program (Behning, Crouch, VanDenburgh, Bosma)
Establishes the early education scholarship pilot program to provide supplemental funding for eligible children receiving eligible services from certain early education providers. Establishes the early learning advisory committee. Provides that a child who receives an early education scholarship and meets certain other criteria is eligible for purposes of the school scholarship program. Passed the House 93-6.  Senate sponsor: Pete Miller
House Bill 1015: School safety (Koch, Burton, Errington)
Urges the legislative council to establish an interim study committee to examine issues related to student discipline and safety. Passed the House 95-0.  Senate sponsor: Kruse
Establishes the commission on improving the status of children in Indiana (commission). Requires the commission to: (1) study and evaluate services, programs, and laws for certain youth; (2) establish the department of child services oversight subcommittee (subcommittee); (3) review and make recommendations concerning pending legislation; (4) promote information concerning vulnerable youth; (5) promote best practices, policies and programs; (6) cooperate with commissions, the executive branch of government, the judicial branch of government, stakeholders and members of the community; and (7) submit an annual report regarding the commission’s work. Requires the subcommittee to (1) review reports from the department of child services; (2) review reports from the department of child services ombudsman; and (3) make recommendations to the commission to improve the delivery of child protection services. Establishes a local child fatality review team in each county. Establishes the statewide child fatality review committee and requires the committee to: (1) compile and analyze data recorded by local child fatality review teams; (2) review child mortality records; (3) assist local child fatality review teams; (4) assist in or conduct a review of the death of a child in certain circumstances; and (5) create strategies and make recommendations for the safety of children and prevention of serious injuries or deaths of children. Requires the state department of health to employ a state child fatality review coordinator.  Passed the House 98-0.  Senate sponsors: Holdman, Yoder, Lanane
House Bill 1423: Anti-bullying (Porter, Behning, Battles, Burton)
Requires the department of education, in consultation with school safety specialists and school counselors, to develop guidelines to assist school corporations and safe school committees in establishing bullying prevention programs, investigation and reporting procedures, and discipline rules. Requires each school corporation to include the number and nature of bullying incidents that occur within the school corporation on the school corporation’s annual performance report. Requires each school corporation to provide training to school employees and volunteers concerning the school corporation’s bullying prevention program, and to provide annual bullying prevention education to students. Modifies the definition of “bullying”. Requires each school corporation to include detailed procedures for investigation and reporting of bullying behaviors in the school corporation’s discipline rules. Requires each school corporation to include detailed procedures outlining the use of follow-up services for support services for the victim and bullying education for the bully in the school corporation’s discipline rules. Sets out a bullying reporting requirement for each school corporation. Requires that if a board of trustees of a state educational institution elects to govern, by regulation or another means, the conduct of students, faculty, employees, and others on the property owned, used, or occupied by the state educational institution, the regulation must include a policy prohibiting bullying.  Passed the House 77-17.  Senate Sponsors: Wyss, Kruse, Rogers, Kenley
For questions about MCCOY’s Advocacy efforts, please contact Mindi Goodpaster, Director of Public Policy & Advocacy at 317-921-1286 or [email protected].

Growing up with pets taught me a great deal of responsibility, but it wasn’t until I got my own dog that I realized the depth of the responsibilities that came along with a pet.  My senior year my parents finally gave in and agreed to my never ending nagging to get my very own dog.  As a family we always had dogs, cats, and even some 4-H pigs and goats, but this dog was going to be strictly mine, including his expenses, making sure he was exercised and eventually even taking him to school with me.  I of course had to have one of the largest dog breeds there are, an English Mastiff.  I still remember the night I went to adopt him, mid November and cold, but my heart could have burst from excitement.  I decided on a fawn English Mastiff, who I named Zeke.  At just 6 weeks old he tipped the scales at 18 pounds and grew before my eyes for the next several months.  I will be the first to admit that I had no idea the amount of responsibilities caring for a dog, let alone a puppy would entail, not realizing the hard work that goes into caring for a pet is the underlining reason why so many pets are in shelters today.
            Throughout the last two years I have volunteered at the Indianapolis Humane Society, which has opened my eyes to how many desperate pets are waiting for loving homes.  According to Indianapolis Humane Society:      
  • ·         The Indy Humane Society takes in roughly 10 animals per day, just over 3,000 per year
  • ·         Indy Humane can care for 250-275 animals at any given time
  • ·         In 2011 the Indianapolis Humane Society was able to help 2,361 cats and dogs

Too many people today use shelters across the country as “dumping grounds” to get rid of their pets.  I’ve heard every excuse under the sun as to why a person is surrendering their pet such as, the dog got too big, we don’t have time for him anymore, he doesn’t listen, she sheds too much and the most heartbreaking, I just don’t want him anymore.  Don’t get me wrong I believe that in desperate situations the humane society is a great place to turn when someone can no longer care for their animal, but too often people just aren’t prepared and don’t want to put the time or effort into the pet. 
            I cannot even fathom not having Zeke to come home to every day.  Even though he has cost me a fortune over the last four years and hours worth of headaches, I wouldn’t change a thing I’ve gone through.  It really is true that a dog is man’s best friend.   Please consider all the responsibilities that come along with a pet before getting one and adopt not shop!
Written By: Madison Mendenhall

Teen Dating Violence: What the 2/3’s Can Do!
Representative Mark Green said, “If the numbers we see in domestic violence were applied to terrorism or gang violence, the entire country would be up in arms, and it would be the lead story on the news every night.”  Domestic violence has spilled into the young adult world and the numbers are staggering.  Teen dating violence is an issue nationwide and affects nearly 1.5 million high school students every year.   1 in 3 adolescents will experience dating violence, that statistic is far too high. 
To help combat teen dating violence it is vital that we are able to help a friend in need in an effective manner.  1 in 3 adolescents will experience violence, but that leaves 2 out of 3 adolescents to be supporters.  If you find yourself supporting a friend or family member remember these following guidelines to help your loved one.
Don’t be afraid to reach out to a friend who you think needs help. Tell them you’re    concerned for their safety and want to help.
•Be supportive and listen patiently. Acknowledge their feelings and be respectful of their decisions.
•Help your friend recognize that the abuse is not “normal” and is NOT their fault. Everyone deserves a healthy, non-violent relationship.
•Focus on your friend or family member, not the abusive partner. Even if your loved one stays with their partner, it’s important they still feel comfortable talking to you about it.
•Connect your friend to resources in their community that can give them information and guidance. Remember, loveisrespect.org can help.
•Even when you feel like there’s nothing you can do, don’t forget that by being supportive and caring — you’re already doing a lot.
Remember to be supportive and non-judgmental when helping your loved one through their abusive relationship.  Together we can stop teen dating violence.
Written By: Erin Sass