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Posts published in May 2012

Scenes from my aunt’s house

By Kristan Hoffman

One tree in the front yard, or two? Wood siding, or brick? Have I ever even set foot in the backyard?

These questions roll through my mind during the drive to Dallas. It’s been over 10 years since I last visited my aunt’s house, but 4 short hours later, here we are. The front walk is like memory lane, leading me to answers I didn’t realize I had forgotten.

I’m 7 years old, sitting at the dining table, legs tucked underneath me. I hold out one finger, my body tensed in fear of being bitten. Inside a brass cage, yellow and blue feathers rustle, punctuated by twin chirps. My aunt opens a little door and slips her hand in. Next thing I know, tiny claws are dancing across my pointer finger. I relax and smile.

I’m 9 years old, playing Hearts on my laptop. My cousin, older and wiser, leans over and shoulders me out of the way. “Have you heard of an mp3?” he asks. As I shake my head, he is already typing and clicking and downloading a few things from his server at MIT. “It’s the future of music,” he assures me. Soon we are listening to some song called “Sweetest Thing” by some band called U2 on some program called Winamp. Impressed, I nod to the beat and try to sing along with the chorus.

I’m 10 years old, knocking tentatively on my cousin’s bedroom door. He doesn’t say to come in, but he doesn’t say to go away either. I close the door softly behind me. He’s sitting on the bed, face red with anger, eyes wet with tears. I sit down on the floor in front of him, but he just keeps staring hard at the opposite wall.

After several minutes of silence, I ask if he wants to play Connect Four. He still doesn’t say anything, but he scoots off the bed and slides the board game out. We’re dropping our red and black checkers into place when his father comes in to apologize. But he never actually says he’s sorry. He just holds his arms out and waits. They hug silently, my cousin’s small body stiff, my uncle’s hand heavy on his back.

I’m 12 years old, up late for no real reason. While the rest of the house sleeps peacefully, my typing fills the darkness. A childhood friend is teasing me over chat, but I feel something else coming. Something exciting and frightening.

Oh god, there it is. But what do I do now? What do I do with those three little words? I want them — of course I want them — but not from him, not right now.

Joy, regret, and panic churn inside me. With tears in my eyes, I type, “I’m sorry.” I hit send. I sign off.

I don’t sleep that night.

I’m 26 years old, sharing a mattress with my mother. In the morning we wake to soft light filtering in through the windows. Still half-asleep, we stay in bed, lying on our backs and talking. Catching up, sharing stories.

Memories layer one on top of the other, new on top of old, hers on top of mine. It’s been over 10 years since I last visited my aunt’s house, but pieces of me linger, hanging on the walls next to the photographs. I collect them now, questions and answers no longer forgotten.

One tree. Brick. Still not sure.

Buckner, YOUTH celebrate in transformation ceremony

ALDINE– After 22 years of service to her community, almost single handed at times, Aldine YOUTH Founder Sylvia Bolling had more than 100 helpers attend a “transformation” ceremony last Wednesday. The nationally known service agency Buckner International and Aldine YOUTH have completed an affiliation, making YOUTH’s programs part of its service to the Houston area.

Buckner is headquartered in Dallas, but has had a presence in Houston since 1955, with a retirement facility now known as Parkway Place in West Houston. Buckner was formed 133 years ago.

In his welcoming remarks, Albert Reyes, president of Buckner, said “The goal and mission of Buckner is to transform the lives of people we serve,” and noted that YOUTH has been doing this in Aldine for 22 years.

Like Buckner, YOUTH is a faith based, Christian organization. With 28 programs to offer, YOUTH serves 5000 households in the Aldine area. Bolling said “You must heal a family to help a child.”

As part of the presentation, Bolling performed a sign language number, “His eye is on the Sparrow.”

Volunteers and supporters were welcomed and thanked by Bolling, and board chair Mark Rome. It was noted that Martha Turner and husband Glen Baugus had been instrumental in introducing Buckner to Aldine YOUTH.

Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, chair of the Congressional Children’s caucus, presented Bolling with a Congressional Recognition certificate, noting that Bolling gives people hope. State Representative Armando Walle told a personal story that emphasized the importance of Bolling to his life.

North Houston Association 2012 Awards Presented

By Paula Lenz, Executive Director North Houston Association

NORTH HOUSTON– City of Houston Mayor Annise Parker was the keynote speaker at the North Houston Association (NHA) Annual Awards Luncheon on Thursday, May 17, 2012. In addition to participating in the awards presentation ceremony, Mayor Parker received a special cake in honor of her birthday.

The following awards were presented by Chairman Mark Froehlich, Brown and Gay Engineers, and others during the luncheon:

Commissioner Ed Chance, Montgomery County, Precinct 3 was presented with the North Star Award. The North Star Award is presented to an individual(s) or entity in North Houston that has made a long-term, significant contribution to the region.

Gary Montgomery, CEO of Montgomery & Barnes, Inc., and member of the NHA Board of Directors, was presented the Compass Award by James Curry, Hines, and member of the NHA Board of Directors. This award is bestowed on an individual who is a member of the North Houston Association, and has made a significant contribution to the area and to the programs and projects of the Association.

Barbara Schlattman, Barbara Schlattman Interiors. Inc., was presented the Environmental Impact Award for the Greens Medians Project on FM 1960. The Environmental Impact Award recognizes a company or entity for its efforts in preserving and protecting the environment in north Harris or south Montgomery County.

On behalf of NHA, Mayor Parker presented The Visionary Award, a special one-time award, to Jack Drake, President of the Greenspoint District, and member of the NHA Board of Directors. This special award is presented to an outstanding NHA member for initiatives, leadership for those initiatives, and for an innate ability to empower leaders and inspire action that benefits the entire Houston region.

The North Houston Association is a non-profit organization that identifies, advocates and supports projects and initiatives which advance the business environment and improve the quality of life in north Harris and south Montgomery counties.

See www.north-houston.com and Facebook.

Griner Day at Nimitz: Aldine honors accomplishments of basketball star Brittney Griner

ALDINE– Nimitz Senior High School honored Brittney Griner with Brittney Griner Day on Friday, May 18.

Brittney, a 2009 graduate of Nimitz Senior High School, was honored for her accomplishments in leading Baylor University to a 40-0 record and the 2012 NCAA Women’s National Championship.

Brittney gave an “honorary” key to the school and addressed Nimitz students on college life, preparing for college academics, the Final 4 and what it has meant to be named the 2012 National College Player of the Year.

National Education Conference Workshops held in Houston

NORTHEAST– As part of his national campaign to enpower minority children with a better education and enhanced quality of life, the Tavis Smiley Foundation held one of its six Education Summits last Saturday in Houston, at the Houston Community College Northeast main campus.

About 100 interested parents and others participated, with the all-day format including lectures, lunch, and workshops.

The summit was held in the new Northeast Learning Hub, a sparkling and spacious building. Attendance was constrained by the fact that several other educational activities, including the graduation ceremonies for HCC and UH, were being held simultaneously around the city.

Parents who attended heard from keynote speakers Vonda Paige, Executive Director of the Tavis Smiley Foundation, and Zafar Brooks, of Hyundai, one of the sponsoring companies of the Tavis Smiley Foundation and the Parent Education Summit. Brooks comments were on the history of the Tavis Smiley Foundation, and the goals of the “Too Important to Fail” movement. Brooks spoke in place of Smiley, who was unable to attend.

Attendees were able to hear two morning workshops, have lunch and socialize with the presenters, and then attend a Closing Session where speakers presented the ways to Empower the Parent, and achieve the goal of “Youth to Leaders”.

The summit entitled “Too Important To Fail” is meant to recognize the critical role parents play as their child’s “first teacher”. The summit is a grassroots parents’ engagement effort designed to inform parents about education initiatives and programs, family and school partnerships and school district resources available to them.

The goal of the program is to help parents make informed choices about what they can do to support their son or daughter’s educational development.

The summit sessions are selected to provide parents with information from experts and researchers on key learning challenges facing children.

Workshops in this summit included:

Parenting Matters, presented by Kimberly Johnson of Prevention Research Center

The ABC’s of College, presented by LaShawn Launza and Nicole Donaldson of the Princeton Review

Third Grade Learning, presented by Jae Simpson-Butler of Hemmenway Elementary School

Summer Brain Drain, presented by Cassandra Jones of Guidepost Education Solutions

Father Figures & Mentors, presented by Charles Savage of the Fifth Ward Enrichment Program

Teachers Count, presented by Toni Fisher-Monamodi of the Sisterhood Creations

What if Microsoft Were Hiring? presented by Camille Alleyne, the Brightest Star Foundation.

Participants were encouraged to continue their involvement after the workshops, through the interactive website at www.tooimportanttofail.com. Attendees should use this site to dialogue, network, share ideas and success stories as well as take advantage of the resource information available.

Tavis Smiley founded the Tavis Smiley Foundation in 1999 as a program to identify young people with great potential and then provide training to help them develop into leaders.

To date, more than 6,500 teens have participated. More than $500,000 in scholarships have been awarded to 200 students.

On resolutions and the new year

Kristan

Sometimes turning the calendar to a new page isn’t enough. For a fresh mindset, I need a bigger, bolder signal of change. So I pick a different desktop picture for my computer; I rearrange the furniture in my living room; I cut my hair.

Still, the world is not new, and I don’t have a clean slate.

Every January, I have to come to terms with this all over again. I have to remind myself that the new year isn’t about a new me. It’s about a better me. Resolutions are meant to build upon the foundation we already have — to improve it, not erase it.

I think the best resolutions are small and simple. Something like “Become a millionaire” sounds great in theory, but it’s too big, too vague. Resolutions should be achievable — with clear, actionable steps that are completely within your control.

I prefer to make just a couple resolutions each year, in order to set myself up for success. After all, if these things were so easy to do, wouldn’t I have done them already?

This year, one of my resolutions is to make better use of my to-do list. I read somewhere that the best to-do lists have no more than 5-6 items per day. More than that and people start to feel overwhelmed. If/when they can’t cross everything off, they feel like they have failed. Plus the unfinished items carry over into the next day, along with their negative outlook.

So I plan to assign only a handful of tasks to each day, and to tackle them one at a time in an efficient and timely manner. It may sound small, but I think the ripple effects will be far-reaching.

Angie

Since moving to New York, I started recording my new year’s resolution as a pithy statement on my cell phone. The first year I moved here it was “Don’t forget about you,” to remind myself that I should stand up for my own decisions. Last year it was “Help others.” For 2012, I chose “Dream big. Act bigger.”

There are many things I would like to learn this year, from expanding my skills at work, to learning how to surf and ski. I also would like to continue traveling to other countries, seeing new sights and experiencing different cultures. Do I need a resolution to accomplish these goals? Of course not. But it helps.

Unlike Kristan, I find the point of a resolution is not to set measurable goals, but instead to shape your values and beliefs into something important. Resolutions create a focal point, and they represent your commitment to accomplish something you never thought you would. Seeing my new mantra on my cell phone every day helps frame my thinking and influence my actions in the right direction.

For example, there is a particular goal that I’ve had in mind since last year. “Dream big and act bigger” is a promise to myself that I will work hard to achieve it, continuously pushing myself out of my comfort zone without comprising who I am. That may mean I accomplish the goal, or it could mean along the way I change my course. But as long as I try, then I know I’ll be happy.

It also means I will look beyond myself and understand my impact on my peers. My decisions may be for myself, but we only reach them with the help of others.

This past year I have been very grateful for the faith that my family, friends and colleagues have in me, along with the opportunities I’ve been given. But I know there is more that I can learn as well as contribute. So I can’t settle for the status quo. I have to dream big and act bigger.

Texas Commissioner of Education Robert Scott announces resignation

Texas Commissioner of Education Robert Scott announced on May 1 that he will resign his office, effective July 2 on the fifth anniversary of his appointment to the state’s highest public education post.

Scott, 43, began his career at the Texas Education Agency in 1994 as an assistant director of governmental relations.

“I’ve been here since Jon was one and Katie was three months old,” he said, referring to his children. “It’s time.” Both children have now graduated from Texas public schools.

Scott, a lawyer, has dedicated his career to education policy matters, whether serving as a congressional aide, education aide to Gov. Rick Perry or through a variety of jobs at TEA, including serving as interim commissioner and deputy commissioner.

“It’s been a privilege to serve as commissioner. I want to thank Gov. Perry for entrusting me with this job.

I also want to thank the State Board of Education for working with me to provide the best public schools possible for our students,” Scott said.

Scott served as interim commissioner of TEA from Aug. 1, 2003 to Jan. 12, 2004 and again from July 2, 2007 to Oct. 15, 2007, before being appointed as commissioner on Oct. 16, 2007.

Scott is the only person to twice serve as interim commissioner and is now the fourth-longest serving commissioner in the agency’s history. No one has had a longer tenure in the past 20 years.

Although there were many new initiatives begun during his tenure, it also fell to Scott to twice oversee drastic downsizings of TEA during a budget crisis.This prompted reorganizations of the agency and the way it operates.

“As someone who has risen through the ranks, I’ve seen firsthand the dedicated service provided by TEA employees. I want to thank them for their unwavering devotion to Texas children,” he said.

“I want to express my sincere thanks to the educators who work tirelessly in our schools. I can’t thank them enough.”

Cinco de Mayo events throughout Houston and Northline Commons

By Julieta Paita

Northeast News

HOUSTON–Last weekend the city celebrated Cinco de Mayo with several parades and festive events.

Northline Commons celebrated the “Cinco de Mayo” with music, games and entertainment for entire family. During the celebration Community leaders such as Rep. Gene Green and Council Member Ed Gonzales and many others attended the event to enjoy with the community.

“I’m glad Northline Commons started a new tradition for the third year to celebrate Cinco de Mayo here at Northline Commons, said Rep. Gene Green. “The most important thing is talking about freedom, it’s about liberty” because during the Battle of Puebla which took place on 5 May 1862 near the city of Puebla, the Mexican army defeated the French forces.

During this celebration, Houston Area Community Services (HACS), was providing free cholesterol, blood sugar and blood pressure screening. Kids enjoyed moonwalks as well as Radio Disney show and games. One thing that could not be missing is Marichis, food and many exhibitors.

The event gold sponsors was Houston Area Community Service (HACS), Capital One Bank and Chick-Fill A.

Sheriff Garcia addresses naturalization ceremony in Aldine

(HOUSTON, TX) April 25, 2012– Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia today congratulated 1,864 people from 114 countries as they became naturalized United States citizens and challenged them to become role models for the nation’s immigrants.

“I know you have sacrificed. I know you have worked hard to get to this particular point. But as I learned from my parents, the easy part has been done. The hard work now begins,” Sheriff Garcia said as a guest speaker at a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services ceremony at the Aldine Independent School District’s M.O. Campbell Education Center.

“I asak you to continue to be the ambassadors that you are. I need you to encourage others like you, like my family (was), to work hard to complete their (citizenship) journey to this country,” the sheriff added.

Sheriff Garcia recounted in his speech how his parents and five siblings moved from Mexico City to Houston in 1959 as legal immigrants and later became naturalized citizens.

“I hold dear to my heart the travel, the sacrifice, the hard work they endured to get to this country and to be role models of American citizens that they have been,” he said. “And that’s why I believe I am able to stand here today as the sheriff of this great county.”

Sheriff Garcia, the youngest of six children, was born and raised in Houston.