Why Diversity Matters: The Benefits of Recognizing Overlooked and Untapped Talent

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fist pump between a white and black hand

By Santura Pegram

Growing up, most of us were taught that brilliant innovators of everything from electricity to the lightbulb, automobiles, pharmaceuticals-medical devices, materials, alloys like steel-iron-aluminum-copper, and everything else under the sun were created by European (white) inventors.

However, while such figures certainly deserve recognition for their creations, and ongoing generations should be grateful to those individuals for their contributions, what was omitted from such history lessons was the fact that equally skillful black people and incredible thinkers of other diverse backgrounds also played equally pivotal roles. These latter groups of people helped to create some of the greatest inventions, took others to the next level or devised a new product or service altogether that are still relied upon today.

Disappointingly, most schools and institutions of higher learning have failed to teach material that revealed such hidden truths – both then and now. Thankfully, recent developments in several industries are enlightening increasing numbers of people about the historic and almost unknown contributions of black and brown people throughout the world.

Most affluent Americans and countless others have little clue that it was black people alone who kept the automobile brand, Cadillac, afloat in the U.S. In the 1930’s, as America was struggling to recover from The Great Depression and as racism continued to ruin opportunities for everyone who held onto to such nonproductive beliefs, a low-ranking German immigrant – Nicholas Dreystadt – who worked for General Motors at the time boldly entered a boardroom after overhearing perplexed white executives discuss consideration of abandoning the brand due to increasingly poor sales. The problem: GM was relying solely upon white Americans to buy the cars. Yet, from his menial position as a service division employee, Dreystadt quickly recognized that it was large numbers of black customers who owned Cadillacs who often were found waiting for their vehicles to be serviced at GM dealerships.

At the time, Cadillac had a strict practice against selling any of their luxury cars to black customers. Interestingly, through his own experiences of interacting with many such black customers, Dreystadt learned that black people routinely paid a white person (i.e., a front man) a fee to go into a dealership and purchase the Cadillac of choice for them. Thus, determined to make his point and show what could happen if GM abandoned their discriminatory policy, Dreystadt was successful at implementing a new diversity marketing approach, which increased sales of Cadillacs by 68%, and helped to make the brand profitable within 18 months. His same strategy was later adopted by Mercedes Benz to include black people and increased sales of their once-struggling brand too.

Still not convinced that diversity makes a huge difference in the world? Then consider the story of Nathan “Uncle Nearest” Green and how he revolutionized whiskey. Green, a former slave in Lynchburg, Tennessee was the first black master distiller in America who taught Jack Daniel how to make the liquid gold. For more than a century, Nathan “Nearest” Green’s name was purposely left out of history books and absent from most conversations which tied him to the Jack Daniel’s brand. It would have likely remained that way had it not been for the relentless curiosity of Fawn Weaver, a California businesswoman, who in 2017 spearheaded the launching of what is now known as the Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey brand in an industry that generates $3 billion dollars annually.

If those two examples are not enough proof that the creative (yet often unwisely ignored) potential of black and brown people continue to be a legitimate factor to consider throughout every sector of business, then consider other little-known facts that prove minorities are capable of being far more than the brawn behind an endeavor, they can also be the brains too.

Did any of the schools you ever attended teach you that Dr. Domingo Liotta – a South American native – was the person responsible for creating the first artificial heart that was successfully transplanted into a human being? Did they teach you that Dr. Alejandro Zaffaroni – who was born in Uruguay – not only invented a bandage that administers medicinal drugs through a patient’s skin, but he was also responsible for helping to develop several other widely used products for the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries, including the nicotine patch used to aid smokers in breaking their nasty habit? Were you ever informed that it was an enormously intelligent medical doctor – Julio Palmaz, who was born in Argentina – that invented the balloon-expandable stent frequently used to treat one of the most common health conditions (cardiovascular disease)?

Do your research on Dr. Thomas O. Mensah, the engineer and genius inventor who played a critical role in the development of fiber optics and nanotechnology. While you’re at it, take a few moments to delve into the impressive educational program known as ‘Make Music Count,’ created by Marcus Blackwell which aims to eliminate the fear of math and simultaneously teach children between the 3rd grade and 12th grade how to perform better mathematically while enjoying culturally relevant lessons through music.

Explore the insightful exploration of incredible thinkers like Elijah McCoy, Granville T. Woods, Patricia E. Bath, Frederick McKinley Jones, Jessica O. Matthews, Jasmine Crowe, Diishan Imira and countless others.

Then, imagine what could be accomplished if people of all ethnic and cultural backgrounds throughout America and around the world were to put our heads together and entertain the thought of what has yet to be discovered? Quite possibly, that could include creating a cure for most (if not all) chronic diseases and health ailments. Maybe finding the answer to eradicate poverty, homelessness, and world hunger. Perhaps devise better public policy solutions focused on bringing people together instead of fanning insignificant flames which have only kept us apart.

Whatever the case and despite our achievements as segmented human beings, it’s not difficult to debate that we have only scratched the surface of everything that can be accomplished – if we will commit our hearts and minds to doing it together.

Santura Pegram is a freelance writer and socially conscious business professional. A former protégé-aide to the “Political Matriarch of the State of Florida” – the Honorable M. Athalie Range – Santura often writes on topics ranging from socially relevant issues to international business to politics. He can be reached at: santura.pegram@yahoo.com

The I PROMISE Village: How Lebron James is Helping His Hometown

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LeBron James wearing #23 jersey standing on basketball court smiling

Despite the current circumstances of the world and the approaching NBA season, professional basketball star Lebron James has found another way to give back to his hometown of Akron.

Citing his hometown as an essential part of his success, James founded “The Lebron James Family Foundation” to give back some of his success to his Ohio hometown. For years, the organization has utilized tools in education to help the citizens of Akron, but as of late, has taken on one of its most ambitious projects yet: to help the disadvantaged families of the city.

On July 22, The Lebron James Foundation opened up the I PROMISE village, a transitional building set to provide families of an immediate home in the case of abuse, homelessness or other emergencies. The building will finally be opening after six months of refurbishing in partnership with 23 other companies.

Besides providing a space where families can feel safety of having a roof over their heads, the village will also be providing meals, community engagement, and life skill classes to help their tenants get back on their feet.

“This is about more than just getting kids to school,” the foundation executive director, Michele Campbell announced. “This is about keeping them alive. We’re seeing families struggling every day with very real and oftentimes unexpected issues that turn their worlds upside down. This will allow the family time and opportunities to grow while not worrying if they’ll have a roof over their heads.”

From Homeless Shelters to College Bound: Meet the Valedictorian who Defied all the Odds

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Martin Folsom wearing his graduation cap and gown

Martin Folsom, a former high school senior at Philip Randolph Career Academy, has just graduated as his class’ valedictorian. Folsom and his mother, Melva, have been in and out of homeless shelters since he was a child in an effort to escape from Melva’s ex-husband, a convicted murderer.

Though having lived in a few different states throughout his life, Martin and Melva somewhat settled in Jacksonville, where Martin went to high school.  

During Folsom’s high school career, the family struggled with finding a place to live twice, once during his freshman year and again in his junior year.

But despite his living situation, Folsom continued to work hard, having his mother’s support the entire time.

“I never thought to myself, ‘I can’t do this anymore’…it’s always been, ‘Well, it happened again and I’ve gotta keep myself up and keep moving forward.’” Folsom told WJXT News, “At my school, there are a lot of other smart people there too,” he added. “And if I let myself slip, they would take it from me in a second.”

Folsom plans to attend Valdosta State University in Georgia this upcoming fall with plans to join the FBI upon receiving his degree.

Target Announces Juneteenth As An Official Paid Company Holiday

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After the tragic death of George Floyd and the protests and riots that followed, corporations are making changes one move at a time. Target is the latest company to announce that it will honor Juneteenth as an official paid holiday.

In a statement released Brian Cornell, CEO and chairman stated, “We recognize that the racial trauma the country is experiencing now is not new, but throughout recent weeks there has been a sense that this time is, and has to be, different,” says Brian Cornell, chairman and CEO, Target. “Juneteenth takes on additional significance in this moment. Moving now to recognize it on an annual basis—as a day to celebrate, further educate ourselves or connect with our communities—is one more important action Target can take as a company to help the country live up to the ideal of moving forward in a new way.”

Distribution centers and stores will remain open, but hourly team members who work on June 19 will receive time and a half. Eligible team members will have the option to take the day off with full pay. Corporate offices will be closed.

Target has also donated $10 million dollars to advance social justice and support rebuilding efforts in local communities.

Other companies that have announced Juneteenth observance are Nike, Twitter, and Square to name a few.

In a statement, CEO John Donahoe sent a message to his staff and stated, “As many of you may know, next Friday, June 19, is Juneteenth, a day commemorating the end of slavery in the U.S. Starting this year and going forward, Nike will recognize Juneteenth as an annual paid holiday in the U.S,” he wrote.

Twitter’s Jack Dorsey stated, “Both Twitter and Square are making #Juneteenth (June 19th) a company holiday in the US, forevermore. A day for celebration, education, and connection. Countries and regions around the world have their own days to celebrate emancipation, and we will do the work to make those dates company holidays everywhere we are present.”

Continue on to the original post on The Shade Room here.

Ava DuVernay Launches ‘When They See Us’ Online Education Initiative

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Ana Duvernay at a press event for her new initiative

Ava DuVernay’s When They See Us educated many people on the story of the Exonerated Five, the young men wrongly convicted in the attack on a Central Park jogger in 1989.

Now, the award-winning director and writer is using the groundbreaking miniseries for a new online education initiative.

Via ARRAY, her multi platform media company and arts collective, DuVernay is launching ARRAY 101.

On May 28, the Oscar nominee revealed on Instagram, “Today, I’m so, so proud to launch a project that my comrades at @ARRAYNow and I have been working on for over a year. Today, we launch #ARRAY101: dynamic learning companions for all our film/TV projects.

Continue on to BET to read the complete article…

Photo Credit: Getty Images

These Five Tips will Make Teachers Better LGBTQ+ Allies

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A whiteboard with three silhouettes labeled as he, she, and they

Teachers work every day to support their students, no matter their students’ walk of life. The impact that teachers make can be everlasting, but this can be especially true for LGBTQ+ students. LGBTQ+ youth have shown to be more likely to experience bullying, depression, and have a higher chance of attempting or committing suicide, especially if they come from families who do not support them.

Especially now, as students are ordered to stay home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, teachers have the power to bring the safeness that can be found in school into their students’ homes. Here are five ways that teachers can support their LGBTQ+ students who may not be receiving the support they need at home.

Make Yourself a Known Ally

Specifically telling your students, LGBTQ+ or not, that you are a safe place for them to come to is major. This allows you to be a trusted source if they ever feel unsafe or need help. Making yourself known as a LGBTQ+ ally can also be done by teaming up with the school’s GSA, should your school have one.

Use Your Students’ Preferred Pronouns

This simple act does more than just show respect for your students who have pronouns that may differ than their “assumed” pronouns—it lets your class know you accept the LGBTQ+ community. Using the improper name or pronouns for students who wish to be called something else can be a hurtful reminder. Students who identify under a different name and pronouns than their assumed ones experience 71% fewer depression symptoms and are 59% less likely to attempt suicide.

Utilize Online Resource

Many online resources can help increase LGBTQ+ students’ needs for support. The Family Acceptance Project, for example, has been providing families of all different backgrounds and religions with the educational tools they need to learn to accept their LGBTQ+ children. The program’s resources have proven to shown results in all kinds of families

A variety of support groups also are available virtually to LGBTQ+ youth. The Gender Spectrum and Gender Diversity groups are just two examples of this, but more can be found on The GSA’s Official Instagram page

Make Your Curriculum LGBTQ+ Inclusive

Guides, such as Developing LGBTQ-Inclusive Classroom Resources, are great for seeing how to properly implement this. Affirming the identity of LGBTQ+ students can not only decrease risks of harm and increase self-acceptance but also help to normalize the LGBTQ+ community to students who are not a part of that community

Become Familiar with Crisis Prevention Resource

Many LGBTQ+ students, as discussed before, are more likely to face a more severe level of bullying and mental health issues. One of the greatest sources that can help LGBTQ+ students during the most crucial times is The Trevor Project, which can be reached at this number: (1-866-488-7386) at any time and day. The Trevor Project also has a virtual chat that can be accessed if students cannot call the hotline. They also have an abundance of resources for LGBTQ+ youths that are definitely worth looking into.

Princeton names its first black valedictorian in the university’s history

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Nicholas Johnson headshot

Princeton University has named its first black valedictorian in the school’s 274-year history. Nicholas Johnson, a Canadian student majoring in operations research and financial engineering, has been named valedictorian of Princeton’s Class of 2020, the university announced in a news release.

“It feels empowering. Being Princeton’s first Black Valedictorian holds special significance to me particularly given Princeton’s historical ties to the institution of slavery,” Johnson told CNN. “I hope that this achievement motivates and inspires younger black students, particularly those interested in STEM fields.”

The graduating senior’s favorite memories at school were those spent with “close friends and classmates engaging in stimulating discussions — often late at night — about our beliefs, the cultures and environments in which we were raised, the state of the world, and how we plan on contributing positively to it in our own unique way,” Johnson said in the school’s news release release.

He also said he appreciated the university for encouraging him to explore his interests by supporting him with international internships and cultural immersion trips to Peru, Hong Kong and the United Kingdom.

Johnson’s senior thesis focused on developing algorithms to design a community-based preventative health intervention to decrease obesity in Canada. A member of the Princeton chapter of Engineers Without Borders, Johnson also worked as a software engineer in machine learning at Google’s California headquarters during his time at Princeton.

Johnson also has a lot to look forward to. This summer, he will intern as a hybrid quantitative researcher and software developer at the D.E. Shaw Group, a global investment and technology development firm.

In the fall, Johnson will begin his PhD. studies in operations research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Although the coronavirus pandemic canceled Princeton’s in-person graduation ceremony, the school is still holding a virtual one on May 31.

Johnson told CNN it’s “disappointing” to not be able to celebrate as a class together in person this year. However, he said he is thankful to the administration for its commitment “to hosting an in person commencement for my class in Spring 2021 to celebrate our achievements.”

Continue on to CNN to read the complete article.

LeBron James, Bad Bunny, Jonas Brothers to throw class of 2020 a virtual graduation

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LebRon James speaking in front of large audience

The LeBron James Family Foundation recently announced that it will celebrate seniors in a special event called “Graduate Together: America Honors the High School Class of 2020″ at 5 p.m. Pacific on May 16 with help from superstar guests.

The Los Angeles Lakers star has drafted Bad Bunny, Pharrell Williams, the Jonas Brothers, Chika, YBN Cordae, H.E.R., Ben Platt, Megan Rapinoe, Yara Shahidi, Lena Waithe and Malala Yousafzai for the hourlong special. It will air simultaneously on ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC and the streaming platforms Complex Networks, Facebook app, Instagram, People TV, Snapchat, TikTok and YouTube.

We learned early on in our work with students and families in Akron that education is so much more than academics. It’s about a shared experience, a journey we’re all on together — students, parents, educators, community members and everyone around them. With that not being possible right now, we’ve been working to find ways to help families get through this really difficult time,” James said in a release.

“These students have worked incredibly hard for this and there’s no way we can let that go unrecognized. While this won’t be the graduation experience they were supposed to get, we hope we can still give them something special because they deserve it,” the basketball great added.

The commercial-free, multimedia event — which will be curated by high school students and educators across the country with support from the American Federation of Teachers — will feature a collection of vignettes, commencement speeches and celebrity performances.

Students, families and teachers will be encouraged to submit photos and videos using #GraduateTogether for a chance to have them included in the telecast. Don’t know what to do with your senior portrait? Artist JR is inviting seniors to share them for the virtual yearbook celebrating the nation’s 2020 high school graduates. Local TV stations also will feature shout-outs to high school students in their communities.

Continue on to the LA Times to read the complete article.

African Roots is a Big Part of the Roots Java Coffee Company

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Three bags of Root Coffee sitting in a bowl with balls made of twine

African Bean Company is the first nationally certified, African-American-owned coffee supply company providing national distribution. The company’s coffee is branded Roots Java Coffee.

From small communities on the Mississippi Delta to Brownstones in Harlem, African Americans have historically been devoted coffee consumers—helping to drive this multi-billion-dollar industry. African Bean Company, founded in 2010 by Dr. Fitzgerald Hill, is making history as he and his partner, Clifton L. Taulbert (President & CEO) ensure that African Americans are now on the owner/supply side of the industry.

The company’s rich tasting coffees are the result of beans grown by independent Rwandan farmers in the fertile, high mountain region of the country. These farmers, many of whom survived the horrific genocide, are now transforming their lives and their country by growing and harvesting the most sought-after coffee beans in the world.

Taulbert, who heads the operations of this national company, always smiles when asked about their market receptivity. “It’s not easy to tackle a market that is dominated by major international corporations with little or no room for a start-up company to play,” Taulbert said. “However, African Bean Company is here for the long haul. Using entrepreneurial tactics and plain ol’ hard work, they are making their way into homes (Online) with their signature 12 oz. bags of Ground and Whole Bean, along with their cases of filter and fractional packs for hospitals, country clubs, restaurants, and academic institutions commercially delivered across America. The premium brand’s smooth taste is rapidly becoming a highly sought-after item for holidays and special occasion gift giving and corporate gifts by loyal customers worldwide.”

Taulbert spoke to Black EOE Journal about his journey and his advice for black entrepreneurs:

“While growing up on the Mississippi Delta, embracing Entrepreneurial Thinking (ET) was a necessity if one were to move beyond the cotton fields that sought to define our lives. I was fortunate in that ET became part of my life early on—though simply called gumption—through the life lessons I learned at the Glen Allan Ice House, which was owned by my Uncle Cleve. Watching him chart this ownership path for himself was not lost on me. I wanted what I saw. As a young man who was part of the last migration North, gumption came North with me and eventually to Oklahoma. And to that extent allowed my company to be part of the Oklahoma team that introduced the then unknown Stairmaster Exercise System to the world.

Years later, my involvement with Stairmaster caught the attention of Dr. Fitz Hill, who convinced me if I could sell Stairmasters that no one wanted, surely, I could sell coffee. The rest is history; we became partners, and I became the president and CEO of African Bean Company LLC. Just as with Stairmaster, I knew nothing about coffee, but I learned at the Ice House that learning more is living life.

African Bean Company is a great story of unselfish leadership and the diversification of the coffee supply chain. This business has taught me more than imagined. The journey is long between the Beans of Rwanda and your cup of Java. Aligned with an incredible international supply chain—our beans are sourced from the country of Rwanda. Our company is self-funded, which has its restrictions, but we are creative and innovative. Uncle Cleve had to be…owning the only Ice House in a strictly segregated community. I packed his mindset in my small suitcase more than 40 years ago, and it continues to serve me well.

One of our entrepreneurial stories is having the opportunity to provide our coffee on a regular basis to Virgin Islanders for their growing retail coffee businesses. And not to forget BMW, who chooses to use our coffee each year at their North American Headquarters when they host their national supply diversity conference. Our Roots Java brand has become their brew of choice. One of our well-kept secrets is that we value hard work and keep our word to our growing customer base. We are moving out of the start-up phase with great hope for the future.

My advice to entrepreneurs about succeeding in their businesses and in life are five strategic tips that we share globally:

  1. Embrace inquisitiveness
  2. Accelerate your imagination
  3. Question your present reality
  4. Choose the right mindset
  5. 5. Ensure the presence of RAI in all you do: Respect, Affirmation & Inclusion

My greatest dream will be the day when no one is surprised that we exist.

I want every young African American to fully understand that they are endowed with the qualities that are essential for global success. Uncle Cleve could only go so far…but he left me the blueprint to go further. In 2010, Uncle Cleve became a book that is now on nearly every continent and was the subject of my talk at an international innovation conference held in the Assembly Hall of the United Nations. The book to clearly understand that the impossible is possible is, Who Owns the Ice House? Read the story while drinking your cup of Roots Java Coffee…the taste unforgettable.”

Source: Black PR Wire

A Paralyzing Injury Brings New Perspective

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Oluwaferanmi Okanlami, M.D., M.S.

By Lauren Love

Oluwaferanmi Okanlami, M.D., M.S., distinctly understands both sides of a catastrophic medical event. That’s because he has been both a patient and a doctor in that scenario.

In 2013, Okanlami was on his way to becoming an orthopaedic surgeon. The University of Michigan Medical School graduate was in his third year of residency at Yale New Haven Hospital in Connecticut.

But his dreams were almost derailed after sustaining a spinal cord injury at a Fourth of July pool party with friends and fellow residents.

“I jumped into the pool,” he says. “I didn’t do a backflip or anything like that. There was no diving board, but I hit either the ground or the side of the pool or someone’s leg. I can’t be completely sure, but immediately I was unable to move anything from my chest down.”

Okanlami’s medical instincts kicked in. “In my mind, I was thinking of next steps: Stabilize my spine, get me onto the stretcher and get me to the hospital,” he says. He also credits his colleagues for the expert care he was given from the beginning—quickly springing to action, getting him from the pool to the emergency department and onto the operating room table in record time.

Faith and Progress

Okanlami’s journey after the accident seems like something out of a Hollywood movie. Despite breaking his neck and becoming paralyzed from the neck down, he never doubted he’d be able to live a productive and independent life, still planning to leave his mark on the world.

“I have an interesting intersection of science and faith, such that even if doctors had said I would never walk again, I wasn’t going to let that limit what I hoped for my recovery,” Okanlami says. “I know there is so much we don’t know about spinal cord injury, and I know the Lord can work miracles.”

On Sept. 8, 2013, just two months after the accident, Okanlami moved his leg again.

“It was one of the most amazing days of my life,” he says. “It wasn’t a small flicker of a little muscle. I extended my leg at the knee. It was pretty sweet.”

A Renewed Energy

The accident didn’t end Okanlami’s professional pursuit, but it did send him down a different path. After months of inpatient rehabilitation, he moved home to South Bend, Indiana, to live with his parents—both doctors themselves—to continue extensive outpatient rehabilitation.

While learning to walk again, Okanlami found time for many other achievements.

He earned a master’s degree in engineering, science and technology entrepreneurship from the ESTEEM Program at the University of Notre Dame. He was appointed by the mayor of South Bend to sit on the county’s board of health. He became the coach of the River City Rollers, a wheelchair basketball team.

And as if all of that weren’t enough, he also went back to being a doctor.

“During my rehabilitation period, I was blessed with the opportunity to return to work as a physician in the family medicine residency program at Memorial Hospital in South Bend,” says Okanlami. “I was able to take care of patients from cradle to grave—delivering babies, taking care of patients in nursing homes and everything in between.”

His journey came full circle in early 2018 when he joined the Family Medicine and Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation faculty at Michigan Medicine.

Shifting Attitudes and Awareness

Dedicated to the belief that disability does not mean inability, Okanlami is more than just a doctor. He’s also an advocate and mentor for physicians and patients with similar backgrounds.

More than 20 percent of Americans live with a disability, after all, but as few as 2.7 percent of them are practicing physicians. One reason for the gap: Technical standards used for admission at many medical schools require physical aptitude, which can inadvertently exclude applicants with disabilities.

Okanlami found a perfect match at UM Family Medicine. A new social media campaign, #DocsWithDisabilities, based out of the Family Medicine department, is working to raise awareness about doctors with disabilities. Okanlami and his colleagues share a passion for and a focus on disability inclusion in medicine that is fueling their research agenda. Doctors Philip Zazove, Michael McKee, Lisa Meeks and others are researching mechanisms for improving access to medicine for physician, learner and patient populations.

“Increasing physician diversity has a positive impact on patient care and access for other marginalized groups,” says Meeks, a leading researcher in disabilities in medical education and a clinician scholar at U-M’s Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation.

Okanlami’s vision led to a joint appointment in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation as well as a role in The Office for Health Equity and Inclusion—partnerships he hopes to further his desire to “disabuse disability” and create a health system that is inclusive and accessible to all.

Standing Strong

While he can’t run yet, Okanlami can walk using assistive devices, some of which he has worked with a rehabilitation engineer to design and create. He also has a standing frame wheelchair that has been more versatile than he could have imagined. Despite his love for gadgets, he still tries to make time for regular exercise to stay physically fit for now, but with a goal of leaving the assistive devices behind one day.

Source: Michigan Medicine

Photo Credit: Michigan Medicine – University of Michigan

Here’s Everything That’s Happened With Your Student Loans In 2 Weeks

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Graduation mortar board cap on one hundred dollar bills concept for the cost of a college and university education loans

In case you missed it, there have been major changes regarding your student loans. President Donald Trump signed the CARES Act, which includes a $2 trillion stimulus package in response to the Coronavirus health emergency.

Among other benefits, the CARES Act has major implications for the way you pay your student loans, think about student loan forgiveness, and manage your money during Coronavirus.

Fortunately, let’s make it easy for you and put all the updates in one place so you’re up to speed. Here are the major changes:

Student Loans

President Donald Trump signed the CARES Act, which is a $2 trillion stimulus package that provides economic relief as a result of COVID-19. The CARES Act includes several benefits for your student loans, which are intended to help you manage your money due to the coronavirus emergency. Among other benefits, the CARES Act provides:

1. Stop paying your federal student loans through September 30, 2020.

That’s not a typo. You can stop paying your federal student loans through September 30, 2020.

What This Means: This means that you have the option to stop paying your federal student loans. If you choose this option (and you don’t have to), you will not face any penalties or late fees.

What This Doesn’t Mean: This doesn’t mean you can stop paying all your student loans. Remember, this is only for federal student loans that are owned by government agencies such as Direct Loans. However, this does not include private student loans or FFEL Loans.

2. Pay no interest on federal student loans.

What This Means: This is not a typo either. Through September 30, 2020, no interest will accrue on your federal student loans. This means that for this period, the interest rate will be set to 0% and no new interest will accrue on your federal student loan balance.

What This Does Not Mean: This only applies to federal student loans only, not private student loans or FFEL Loans.

3. Student loan debt collection has been halted.

What This Means: This means that wages, tax refunds and Social Security benefits will not be garnished during this period to pay for federal student loans. Trump previously stopped student loan debt collection for 60 days.

What This Doesn’t Mean: This does not mean the federal government is forgetting about student loan debt that is in default. Rather, the federal government has suspended student loan debt collection during this period.

4. Pausing student loan payments won’t negatively impact your payments for student loan forgiveness.

What This Means: If you choose to pause federal student loan payments during this period, the federal government will still count these “payments” (even if you don’t make any) as part of any required federal student loan forgiveness program, including public service loan forgiveness.

What This Doesn’t Mean: This doesn’t mean that you will hurt your chances to qualify for public service loan forgiveness because the 120 payments do not need to be consecutive.

Important Questions

1. If I don’t have to make federal student loan payments, is the federal government paying my student loans for me?

No. Your federal student loan balance will not change. Consider this a break from student loan payment. However, no one is paying your federal student loans during this period.

2. Is all my federal student loan interest being waived?

No, your existing federal student loan interest will remain. The only portion that is being waived is new student loan interest that would have accrued on your federal student loans through September 30, 2020.

3. Can I still make federal student loan payments if I want to?

Yes, you can still make federal student loan payments. Even though your interest rate is 0%, your monthly student loan payment unfortunately will not be lower. Rather, your student loan payment can help pay off your existing student loan balance (since there is no new interest accrual).

4. So, how much student loan forgiveness will I get?

Many borrowers ask, “What should I know about student loan forgiveness and Coronavirus?” Senate Democrats proposed a student loan forgiveness plan that would forgive at least $10,000 of federal student loans for all borrowers. House Democrats proposed that every borrower receive $30,000 of student loan forgiveness. Former Vice President Joe Biden supports $10,000 of student loan forgiveness, although this new plan differs from Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s original student loan forgiveness plan to cancel student loan debt. Despite these proposals, the CARES Act does not include any student loan forgiveness.

5. I checked my student loan servicer’s website and it says that if I stop making payments on my federal student loans, I won’t qualify for public service loan forgiveness. This must be wrong.

Since this legislation is new, many student loan servicers have not yet updated their website to reflect these updates. (Also, make sure you know how not to get disqualified for student loan forgiveness).

Remember, this announcement applies only to federal student loans (not private student loans).

Continue on to Forbes to read the complete article.

Program Provides Full Spectrum Learning

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Samuel Coleman, a Tennessee State University senior civil engineering, wearing a hard hat inside a warehouse

By Antwaun Parrish

Working alongside industry experts provides university interns with a comprehensive and elaborate spectrum of experience, which can help them secure employment in the future.

Oluwaferanmi Ogundana, a junior civil engineering student, and Samuel Coleman (pictured left), a senior civil engineering student, were both selected as the Advancing Minorities’ Interest in Engineering interns for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), Far East District (FED).

The AMIE program provides the interns with real world experience in several capacities throughout the district.

Ogundana attends Morgan State University—he states that he selected this program for his first internship because of his interest in learning new skills and his interest in East Asian culture.

“This is the first time I have been this far away from my parents, and I wanted to experience that feeling,” said Ogundana. “I was interested in Korean culture and the technology here. When they started telling us about 5G being in use here, it was impressive to me.”

The district interns are placed on a learning rotation throughout their stay where they work within the project management, engineering and construction divisions during the nine-week program. This rotation provides them a full scope of how daily and long-term operations are executed here.

According to Ogundana, in school, he is shown what he can look forward to within the engineering field, but here he can see the process, which he describes as eye-opening.

“I actually know what the program managers are doing and what the construction and engineering teams are doing throughout the project development process,” said Ogundana. “It actually put everything into perspective and gave me more of a focus of what I can reach toward. I came here with the idea that I wanted to learn engineering, but definitely my eyes opened up to program management, and the construction division.”

He went on to state that it is fun going to construction sites and observing the facilities actually being developed.

“When I was in school, I was looking at a screen and they were trying to describe it [project management] to me,” said Ogundana. “Now that I actually see it, I can actually understand it more, and I feel like it is going to help with my upcoming year in school.”

Ogundana wishes that the district could implement a winter program, however, he is definitely interested in being selected as an intern next summer.

Oluwaferanmi Ogundana, a Morgan State University junior civil engineering major, is interviewed at a construction site, Camp Humphreys, South Korea, July 15. Ogundana is currently working as an intern at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Far East District, as a part of the Advancing Minorities wearing a hard hat inside a warehouse.
Oluwaferanmi Ogundana, a Morgan State University junior civil engineering major, is interviewed at a construction site, Camp Humphreys, South Korea, July 15. Ogundana is currently working as an intern at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Far East District, as a part of the Advancing Minorities Interest in Engineering program.

Coleman attends Tennessee State University and states he wanted to experience working outside of the United States. He said he expected to learn the full range of project management and how it all ties together for project delivery.

“I wanted to learn why the Corps of Engineers was so prevalent in influencing other engineering companies and why it was a great place to work,” said Coleman.

Coleman enjoys the rotation program that FED provides him as an intern at the district. He goes on to explain what he learned from each division within the district.

“In project management, I learned the process of a project and how it’s executed from start to finish, and all the different people that are involved,” said Coleman. “I learned how to talk to different clients and different contractors and engineers, and how it ties them all together to get the project done.”

For Coleman, this is his fourth internship and as he completes his senior year this fall, he said that he feels prepared to apply what he’s learned toward his near-future career.

“This experience will assist me with future employers and describing my experience to them,” said Coleman. “This internship was different because it provided me the full scope of engineering and I appreciate this experience.”

Source: army.mil

Photo credits: ANTWAUN PARRISH

Cecily Myart-Cruz becomes 1st woman of color to lead L.A. teachers union

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Cecily Myart-Cruz speaking into microphone at a rally

The L.A. teachers union has elected the first woman of color, Cecily Myart-Cruz, to lead the organization, part of a familiar and experienced team that will include outgoing union President Alex Caputo-Pearl, who was elected as a vice president.

“I’m proud of the way we have worked with members to create a union that is inclusive, that is a fighting union, that cares not only about educators, but about parents, the community and students,” said Myart-Cruz, 46, who as union president assumes a role of influence and power in the Los Angeles Unified School District, the second-largest in the nation.

Myart-Cruz received nearly 69% of the vote to represent some 31,000 Los Angeles teachers, school nurses, counselors and librarians. The next closest was Marisa Crabtree, with nearly 11% of the vote in the five-candidate field. Crabtree had proposed to turn the union more toward classroom and teaching issues, while deemphasizing politics.

But Myart-Cruz said she sees the fight for political influence as essential to improving teaching and classroom learning conditions.

A little over a year ago, United Teachers Los Angeles went on strike for six days, bringing a focus to overcrowded classrooms and staffing shortages. While Caputo-Pearl headed that effort, Myart-Cruz was a key advisor. Caputo-Pearl is barred by term limits from seeking a third three-year term.

“The work is not done. Our educators need the resources and our babies need the resources as well,” Myart-Cruz said.

“By almost any measure, Caputo Pearl has been a strong and effective leader,” said Charles Kerchner, professor emeritus of the Claremont Graduate University School of Educational Studies. “The plan to swap offices with Cecily Myart-Cruz would essentially keep the leadership regime in place. That creates stability in ideas and agenda.”

All the same, Myart-Cruz emphasized that she will be fully in charge when she takes office in July.

The momentum from last year’s strike carried over into the May election of Jackie Goldberg, a union-backed candidate, to the school board. But soon after, L.A. voters defeated Measure EE, a parcel tax that would have increased local resources for schools.

The union is currently engaged in a high-stakes, big-money battle with supporters of charter schools for three contested seats on the seven-member Board of Education. If even one union-endorsed candidate loses, the direction of the board could shift away from some union priorities. These include limiting the expansion and spread of nonunion, privately managed charter schools and pushing for higher pay and increased school staffing.

Myart-Cruz, a district parent and single mother who identifies as biracial, black and Latina, has 25 years of teaching experience in elementary and middle schools. She has long been part of the union’s activist wing and helped lead a campaign to remove principals whom the union felt treated teachers unfairly.

As a regional chair she also helped organize a yearlong boycott against some standardized testing to take on what the union described as the “overtesting” of students. Union leaders argued that students took too many standardized tests and wanted the number reduced because they take away from learning time.

The new president also has been active at the state and national level in teachers unions.

The election turnout was low, but that’s been a consistent recent pattern in union internal elections. Close to 5,300 union members cast ballots out of about 31,000 eligible voters.

Continue on to the LA Times to read the complete article.

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    August 24, 2020 - August 27, 2020
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