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Posts tagged ‘children’

The Little Person and the Diva

It was a listening silence. Not like the silence you hear when someone is withholding a thought or waiting their turn to speak or being polite, because that is what you do. The amphitheater had 4,000 people generating electrical waves of openness, of anticipation for the next, a silence set to receive.

And I was asked before I went on if I was nervous. Nervous for what? What was there to be nervous about? Well, you know, hejessyenorman1 stammered this and that, there are all these people, millions more viewing on television, an international commemorative event… one would be nervous. But why, and what good would it do, and wouldn’t it ruin it? I’m excited, practiced, prepared and mindful—fully in the moment to give—to claim the stage and fill the listening silence with a full expression of my breath. To sing.

And so it was… I walked upon the stage, with my body taller than I ever remember it being before, as if my head were being lifted high above, into the atmosphere, by the history of all the brilliant ghosts haunting this place. I was standing on the very steps where Socrates stood, and I was as humbled and humanized as I was embodying grandeur and magnificence—a perfect balance formed from this sublime paradox. I sang.

O beautiful for spacious skies,

For amber waves of grain,

For purple mountain majesties

Above the fruited plain!

America! America! God shed His grace on thee,

And crown thy good with brotherhood

From sea to shining sea!

O beautiful for pilgrim feet,

Whose stern impassion’d stress

A thoroughfare for freedom beat

Across the wilderness!

America! America! God mend thine ev’ry flaw,

Confirm thy soul in self-control,

Thy liberty in law!

O beautiful for heroes proved In liberating strife,

Who more than self their country loved,

And mercy more than life!

America! America! May God thy gold refine

Till all success be nobleness,

And ev’ry gain divine!

O Beautiful for patriot dream

That sees beyond the years

Thine alabaster cities gleam,

Undimmed by human tears!

America! America! God shed His grace on thee,

And crown thy good with brotherhood

From sea to shining sea!


So, you asked me what was it like to sing like that, to perform for thousands—millions, and to stand on the very slab of marble where Socrates stood and taught? Imagine being a lightning bolt. Imagine the energy you would give forth, the force and power you would have to summon to create a show as spectacular in the sky as lightening, knowing that your performance is restricted only to one part in a single storm. That is what it was like.

So you asked me about my career as a singer? Imagine having to be a lightning bolt countless times, practicing the art of being the best lightning bolt you can be every day of your life, always preparing for a fresh performance, to be prepared for the next storm when you’re called upon, and the storm may be brief or it may last hours, and you may have a small role, or you may be the entire show, and you must be as prepared for each role with the same level of excellence no matter the scale of your appearance. That’s the job of a singer.

You want me to sing? Sing with me:

He´s got the whole world in His hands,

He´s got the whole world in His hands,

He´s got the whole world in His hands.

He´s got the wind and the rain in His hands,

He´s got the wind and the rain in His hands,

He´s got the whole world in His hands.

He´s got the tiny little baby in His hands,

He´s got the tiny little baby in His hands,

He´s got the whole world in His hands.

He´s got you and me, sister, in His hands,

He´s got you and me, brother, in His hands,

He´s got the whole world in His hands.

He’s got ev’rybody here in His hands.

He’s got ev’rybody here in His hands.

He’s got the whole world in His hands.


So, you want to know what I think matters most of all? That humans care about how they treat one another. I am so tired of hearing about how people need to pull themselves up from their bootstraps, when there are too many people who have no boots. As a society we have a responsibility to our sisters and brothers, a responsibility to be compassionate and to lend a hand up, to reach around to your neighbor and ask, “How can I help?” and lend a hand up—no one needs a hand out—they need opportunities, second chances and others believing in them. If only we would learn that it matters most how we treat one another. In fact, it might be the only thing that does matter.

Now, I think it’s time for a little person to go to bed. Oh, one more song? Well, alright. You start singing your favorite, and I’ll join in…

Silent night, holy night!

All is calm, all is bright.

Round yon Virgin, Mother and Child.

Holy infant so tender and mild,

Sleep in heavenly peace,

Sleep in heavenly peace

Silent night, holy night!

Shepherds quake at the sight.

Glories stream from heaven afar

Heavenly hosts sing Alleluia,

Christ the Savior is born!

Christ the Savior is born

Silent night, holy night!

Son of God love’s pure light.

Radiant beams from Thy holy face

With dawn of redeeming grace,

Jesus Lord, at Thy birth

Jesus Lord, at Thy birth


Pinellas County presents the “Learn and Succeed Network”–New focus on education from cradle to career

Link to full article here:

Education from cradle to career: Learn and Succeed Network

I was invited by the JWB Children’s Services Council of Pinellas County and the Health and Human Services Coordinating Council for Pinellas to conduct a one-on-one interview with David Lawrence. Who is David Lawrence? He is the former publisher of the Miami Herald and head of The Children’s Movement of Florida. When I sat down with Lawrence, he began to interview me at once. He wasn’t subtle about it, and I didn’t resist. I was intregued–having been with myself my whole life, I’ve never found myself to be very interesting. I’m curious when others do.

Anyway, the few questions I did present to Lawrence ended with me being extended an invitation to attend a small, invitation only meeting–a gathering of some very influential leaders in Pinellas County spanning nonprofit, government and business sectors. It was here that I learned a little about the formation of the Health and Human Services Coordination Council’s establishment of Learn and Succeed Network, but more why the formation of this Network is of critical importance to our community.

From the article:

Lawrence has researched and stays up-to-date on many compelling facts to make his case for children in Florida. He reported alarming facts about the state of education right now. These facts illustrated enormous need in that 28 percent of third graders cannot read proficiently, and 3/5 of eighth graders are not reading at grade level. About 80 percent of childcare is nothing more than storage and warehousing with little to no education and learning taking place. When 90 percent of a child’s brain growth ends at the age of five, it is clear that early learning is critical to the future success of our county and its children.

Lawrence also is a man of intriguing etiquette, fully knowledgeable on Pinellas County statistics as well. He knew his audience. He went on to discuss some of the strengths that Pinellas County has, which can be leveraged to make an impactful change for this initiative, including diminishing unemployment, a manageable population growth rate, higher than most Florida counties’ per capita income, strong foundation and infrastructure.

Lawrence also mentioned that Pinellas County has in its midst a pioneer for children’s services—the JWB Children’s Services Council of Pinellas—which was the first children’s services council in Florida. JWB has served as a model for the other 10 children’s services councils in the State.

Yet, while Pinellas County has many strengths, one overarching concern that commonly plagues discussions about education is finances. The cost of reform and new initiatives is a marked concern across the nation, state and even locally.

Recently, Governor Rick Scott allocated an additional $1 billion to education for the State. At first glance, that may seem like a helpful move, but it isn’t. In February of last year, Governor Scott cut Florida’s education budget by $1.3 billion. Now that $1 billion has been added back, the State is still $300 million behind while the State has approximately 30,000 additional students to serve. Additionally, as property taxes support schools, and as property is valued far less than it was two years ago, this is even more revenue subtracted from education.

While this does sound dismal, hope rests in the fact that Pinellas County considers education and children a priority. Lawrence said, “It is not that [we] lack resources. The resources need to be reallocated to reflect the priorities of the people.” Lawrence stresses that for education reform to really be effective there cannot be a focus on “those kids—the disadvantaged ones, the minorities, the ones living in poverty. The focus must be on equality—equal access to high quality education, resources and opportunities of all children.”

One sixth of our schoolchildren are living in poverty and about 50 percent qualify for free or reduced lunches. Many of these same children come to school with more base problems that trump the need for reading, writing and math today such as food insecurity, homelessness, neglect, etc. Schools must then divert its role away from education to managing social problems and triaging issues.

In the end, all of this knowledge needs to translate to change. And this is what the Learn and Succeed Network is hoping to accomplish. The biggest return on investment is in early childhood development. This knowledge is echoed even through St. Petersburg College President William Law. Dr. Law states that even St. Petersburg College is examining pre-kindergarten and elementary school as an initiative, because it is the foundation of all education. Beyond this, career training, apprenticeships and diploma programs are being examined to provide greater employment opportunities to provide a smoother transition from education into careers.

As for the Learn and Succeed Network, it is currently under rapid development. I was invited by the JWB Children’s Services Council of Pinellas and the Health and Human Services Coordinating Council to interview David Lawrence and to learn about the emerging Learn and Succeed Network. I ended up attending a meeting with a select group of rather powerful individuals comprised of local leaders and business persons in Pinellas County. These individuals have been asked to consider participating with this new Network due to the wide breadth of pertinent knowledge and resources that could help ensure the Network’s success.

As a native to Pinellas County and a graduate of Pinellas County Schools, I for one am grateful for these efforts, and I hope for much success as the Learn and Succeed Network forms and begins its important work. On February 8, 2012, the first official activity of the Learn and Succeed Network will take place at the St. Petersburg College, Seminole Campus. This event will focus on creating a common agenda through identifying key goals and measures. Additionally, workgroups will begin developing strategies to achieve these goals. This is an open event and registration is required through the Health and Human Services Coordinating Council here:

Guardians ad Litem Provide a Voice for the Children


In my latest article, I  began recalling my time working at the Pinellas Juvenile Assessment Center–my first job ever with Operation PAR, Inc. in 1999. I spent a lot of time hearing stories from youth–some funny, many tragic and others wildly disturbing. Over the years, some of these stories never leave you. One of these I highlighted in this article. Children need voices, they need someone to look out after their rights. When parents and caregivers fail them, who is there to look out for these kids?

The answer: often it is a volunteer, a dedicated member of the community assigned by the court–a guardian ad litem.

I recently interviewed Maria Costa, community outreach coordinator for the Guardian ad Litem Program in the 6th Judicial Circuit.

“A guardian ad litem is an independent voice, advocating for the best interest of the children,” Costa said. “The guardian ad litem has no other agenda than to see the child in a safe, stable and permanent home.”

Check out the full article here, and please leave a comment or just say hello on the website. Until next week…

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