Education

Friday, November 16, 2018

District 11 says it's testing school floors for mercury vapor

Posted By on Fri, Nov 16, 2018 at 6:39 PM

PHOTO BY ECODALLALUNA VIA FLICKR
  • Photo by ecodallaluna via Flickr
Flooring in several Colorado Springs School District 11 schools have been found to release mercury vapors, the district said in a news release, but added, "There are no indications that the flooring is cause for any immediately health and environmental concerns or alarm."

Testing showed rubberized flooring of this kind at the following schools:

Doherty High School
Sabin Middle School (main gym floor was replaced with hardwood in August 2018)
Russell Middle School
Chipeta Elementary School
Fremont Elementary School
Grant Elementary School
Henry Elementary School
King Elementary School
RudyElementary School

However, to be safe, the district plans additional testing as "a necessary precaution."

Read the news release here:
  • Favorite

Tags: , ,

Monday, October 15, 2018

Tony Wolusky wants to be on University of Colorado's Board of Regents

Posted By on Mon, Oct 15, 2018 at 8:17 AM

Dr. Tony Wolusky - J. ADRIAN STANLEY
  • J. Adrian Stanley
  • Dr. Tony Wolusky
After the Indy endorsements were released this week, we received a lot of email and phone calls.
There were a few thank yous in there, along with some complaints, and a few candidates disappointed that we hadn't made an endorsement in their race.

We've said it before and we'll say it again: It was a very long ballot this year, and we just couldn't  examine every race.

Still, one call stood out. Dr. Tony Wolusky, the Democrat running for University of Colorado Board of Regents in District 5 (that's us) said he had been frustrated by the lack of attention on the race — especially since it was such a key role when it comes to controlling student debt.

OK, you got us Wolusky. We're pretty sympathetic to that issue. It's hard not to be considering how the heavy burden of debt steers a young person's life and opportunities. Plus the nine-member regent board, long dominated by Republicans, does a lot of important things like pick the next president of the CU system, for instance, and approve the budget, set policies, determine degree programs and (important to Wolusky's point) decide whether to raise, lower or freeze tuition.

While we still aren't endorsing in the race, we agreed to meet and talk with Wolusky about his race against Republican Chance Hill, and we encourage you to learn more about your regent candidates.

Here are a few things Wolusky wanted to point out:
• Big student debt loads (the average in Colorado in 2017 was estimated to be $26,095 by the Congress & Student Debt report) take young people years to pay off and create a lot of emotional pressure in their lives. Wolusky, who teaches at several colleges, has had students at Pikes Peak Community College who couldn't afford textbooks and says about half his students at Metropolitan State University of Denver are single moms. Food insecurity is incredibly common among his students. The CU system, he says, doesn't need to cost students so much. Perhaps it could cut back on salaries, some of which are near $1 million (and that isn't including the multimillion dollar contract given to CU's head coach).
He adds that the system spends too much on "prestige projects," such as huge figures expended on marketing, when it could use that money to help students. CU ranks 48th nationally in state funding for higher education. "They do a lot of things," he says, "that I think are a way to pat yourself on the back."
If the system could cut back on such expenses, he says, perhaps it could at least freeze tuition for a year instead of raising it. The system might also be able to offer students with heavy course loads some free classes each semester.

• Wolusky is a big proponent of diversity in the system. He notes that many young minority students are priced out of the system. That's a particular shame, he says, because one of the most enriching part of college should be learning about, and befriending people, who are different than you.

• Stopping sex assault on campus has to be a major priority, Wolusky says. He thinks we should educate students within the first month, focusing particularly on men. Wolusky says that in his time as an attorney he saw how deeply scarred victims of sexual assault are and wants to do whatever he can to prevent it.

• Wolusky says the current regents spend too much time on political issues, saying he's witnessed them discussing the need to classify conservative students as "minorities" and offer them the same support as, say, students of color. Another time, he says, the regents spent a long time talking about how to take the word " liberal" out of liberal arts.
The University of Colorado at Colorado Springs - THE UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO AT COLORADO SPRINGS
  • The University of Colorado at Colorado Springs
  • The University of Colorado at Colorado Springs
Here are a few things you should know about Wolusky's background:
• He went to the Air Force Academy and served in the Air Force for 28 years, even teaching at the AFA as an Associate Professor of Law and serving as the Deputy Staff Judge Advocate for the Superintendent before retiring from active duty in Colorado Springs in 2004.

• He has five degrees: A bachelor's in public administration and international relations, a master's in education, a master's in international relations, a juris doctorate and a Ph.D. in education. (In contrast, Sue Sharkey, the current chair of the Board of Regents, which oversees the entire CU system, doesn't have any degree.)

• He teaches and has taught at many colleges including current stints at Pikes Peak Community College and Metropolitan State University of Denver.

• He's an attorney with 30 years experience who has served both as a deputy district attorney and a public defender.

• He has four daughters and a grandson.
  • Favorite

Tags: , , , , , ,

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Mental Health Colorado helps kids handle back-to-school stress

Posted By on Tue, Aug 21, 2018 at 3:30 PM

SHUTTERSTOCK.COM
  • Shutterstock.com
When it comes to youth mental health, Colorado doesn't score well. Mental Health in America ranks it 48th in the country, in fact, according to a set of factors that include rates of youth depression, substance use and available services.

Suicide is the leading cause of death for youth ages 10 to 24 in Colorado, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. (Nationally, it's the third leading cause).

And Colorado ranks ninth in the nation for overall suicides, with El Paso County among the hotspots. In 2016, there were 15 completed youth suicides, a jump from seven in 2014 and 14 in 2015, according to El Paso County Public Health.

These statistics are a dismal way to start the conversation about how to treat mental health in schools, but represent both a crisis and an opportunity, says Andrew Romanoff, CEO of Mental Health Colorado.

"The crisis is that kids are struggling and suffering and too often dying on account of untreated mental illness," Romanoff says. "And the opportunity I think here is to become a national leader. I mean Colorado is growing fast, but we’re still a relatively small state, and we could turn this state around. We could become a national leader in mental health."

Mental Health Colorado hopes to help the state edge closer to that goal through its School Mental Health Toolkit, a free online resource released in June meant for schools, districts, teachers and parents across the state. It outlines steps schools can take — such as screenings, suicide prevention and wellness plans — to combat mental illness and keep their students safe.

Romanoff, a former state House speaker, wants to make the toolkit available in every district around the state. With 178 districts and 1,800 schools, that's no small task. Mental Health Colorado is working with local allies to launch the toolkits in schools, and seeking grant money to make the strategies easier to implement.

There's a crucial difference between mental health challenges students face now, versus just a generation ago, Romanoff points out.

"In the era of social media where your life is often online 24 hours a day, seven days a week, that can add to the stress," he says. "It used to be that your chances of being bullied might have gone down dramatically once you got out of school, and now that threat can follow you home and keep you up all night and drive you to some pretty bad consequences."

To help parents and kids understand and deal with that reality, Mental Health Colorado also provides free five-minute, doctor-approved online screenings. The informal questionnaires test for a range of disorders, including anxiety, depression, eating disorders, PTSD and more.

There's also a questionnaire for parents, which helps them identify whether their child may be showing signs of mental illness.

Romanoff says he's heard from some districts that they've met with resistance from parents when trying to implement new strategies. For that reason, he says it's important to educate parents in particular about mental health.

"Parents don’t want their kids to be labeled or diagnosed or branded," he says. "Some parents feel like it’s a reflection on their skills as parents. What we’re trying to help people understand is that mental illness is not a character flaw. It’s a medical condition. And it doesn’t have to be a death sentence: It’s treatable."

Anyone — teens, parents, teachers, readers — experiencing a mental health crisis can call Colorado Crisis Service's free, confidential number at 844/493-8255, or text “TALK” to 38255.
  • Favorite

Tags: , , , , ,

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

NAMI offers free "Mental Health First Aid" events

Posted By on Tue, Jul 17, 2018 at 2:00 PM

41828488362_f81eefbd5f_k.jpg

A series of free events from the National Alliance on Mental Illness-Colorado Springs, better known as NAMI Colorado Springs, will help family, friends and supporters of those dealing with mental illness learn how to best help.

The first, NAMI Bridges of Hope, is geared toward faith communities. At this July 24 breakfast, participants will learn from presenters about how mental illness affects individuals, families, and communities; and how "faith communities can help congregants touched by mental illness," according to an email from spokesperson Lisa Hawthorne. The event is 8:30 to 10 a.m., and location information will be provided upon registration. Call 473-8477 or email info@namicos.org to register.

Then there's NAMI's Mental Health First Aid Training, an eight-hour class in partnership with AspenPointe that teaches participants "how to help someone who is developing a mental health problem or experiencing a mental health crisis," and how to "identify, understand, and respond to signs of addictions and mental illnesses."

Mental Health First Aid trainings are offered in 23 countries, says Madeline Arroyo, class coordinator with AspenPointe. The class helps participants learn to recognize symptoms of major mental health issues including anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, substance abuse and suicide.

Arroyo says the training is best suited to those over the age of 18, because of the emotional toll that comes with interacting with someone in crisis.

Out of everyone else, "there’s not one person that wouldn’t benefit."

"One in five individuals in any given year is faced with a mental health crisis," Arroyo says. "In the course of a lifetime, one in two. And if it’s not us, it’s one of our loved ones."

Those classes are offered on Aug. 24, Sept. 21, Oct. 26 and Nov. 16 (all Fridays) in the Nautilus Room of the Citizens Service Center, located at 1675 Garden of the Gods Road. Register online at http://www.mhfaco.org/findclass.

A survey released in June by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that 17 percent of Colorado teens had seriously considered suicide in the past year, 13.3 percent had made a plan to commit suicide and 7.2 percent had attempted suicide, according to a statement from the Jason Foundation.

We recently wrote about NAMI's Below the Surface campaign, which seeks to raise teens' awareness of Colorado's Crisis Text Line, a free, 24/7 service for people feeling depressed, anxious or upset.

The crisis line, run by Colorado Crisis Services, is free and confidential. Anyone seeking help can call 844/493-8255 or text “TALK” to 38255.
  • Favorite

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Cross-country cyclist stops in Springs to hear refugees' stories

Posted By on Tue, Jul 10, 2018 at 2:30 PM

Alana Murphy, front right, with Lutheran Family Services staff in Colorado Springs. - COURTESY OF ALANA MURPHY
  • Courtesy of Alana Murphy
  • Alana Murphy, front right, with Lutheran Family Services staff in Colorado Springs.


Alana Murphy's not your typical 25-year-old. In the past two months, the former Fulbright scholar, world traveler, nonprofit worker and government intern has biked more than 1,800 miles through ten states, and clocked in about 50 interviews with refugees and refugee families.


She calls her journey "The Beautiful Crossing," and hopes, through the stories of the people she interviews — from New York City to Portland — to educate her online followers about the value of the United States' refugee admissions program.

(Read our recent reporting on refugees here.)

Murphy has only been able to upload a handful of interviews to her website so far because of limited access to internet. In August, she plans to have all 75 to 80 interviews from her trip online, where viewers can scroll through a state-by-state archive of photos, text and audio clips.


The trip is funded by a couple of private donors and Murphy’s personal savings, and she says she’d rather have supporters take the time to listen to the interviews than donate money.


Murphy stopped in Colorado Springs on July 6 and 7, speaking with five refugees through Lutheran Family Services Rocky Mountains, a local resettlement agency, before departing for Denver on July 8.


The Independent spoke to Murphy about what she's learned on the trip so far. (This interview has been edited slightly and condensed for clarity.)


How did you come up with the idea for this project?

I've worked with refugees and migrants for the last eight years of my life. I went overseas when I was 17, and I was learning Arabic, and I started working with a group of Syrian and Iraqi women who were waiting for resettlement. That kind of got me interested in international resettlement and what it was like for people who came from refugee backgrounds. From then on I started working with World Relief in Chicago, first as a volunteer, then as a full-time intern and then as staff, and I also had several other experiences working overseas in response work other than resettlement, direct response work in either refugee camps or with refugees who are living in urban city centers. I was able to intern full-time with the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, which is the bureau within the State Department that manages the Refugee Admissions Program, and saw from that end kind of a policy side, and then I also was able to work here in resettlement, welcoming refugees to my home city, which is Chicago. So I’ve actually been able to see a lot of different sides and positives and negatives, and just really fell in love with being part of a team that’s welcoming people here to the U.S.

Murphy, right, leaves New York City with friend Joy Bitter, who accompanied Murphy for the first six weeks of her journey. - COURTESY OF ALANA MURPHY
  • Courtesy of Alana Murphy
  • Murphy, right, leaves New York City with friend Joy Bitter, who accompanied Murphy for the first six weeks of her journey.

How long are you expecting the whole journey to take?

I started on May 12 and the entire journey’s about three months. So it’s 95 days, and I travel about 4,300 miles. So now I’m on the second half of the trip and after Colorado I go up through Wyoming and Idaho, Montana and I go over to Spokane, Washington, and then Seattle and then Portland. And that will be the end of my project.


Is there anything that's surprised you?

The best part of this project has definitely been doing the interviews. And I’ve been, I feel really blessed to meet the people that I’ve been able to talk to. Some of my questions are focused on American culture, living in the United States. And I think it’s always interesting to learn about your own country and your own culture from someone who can see it from the outside. I’ve had some participants say some really interesting things. So kind of like a funny one, for example is one participant talked about how he was shocked when he realized how much money Americans spent on dogs and pets, he was like, they have these pet stores, all pet supplies for dogs, and that was so surprising to him, he could never really kind of get over that — 'Wow, so much money on these pets!'


Then another participant, he was from the Congo, and he had started doing talks in schools where he would go into public schools in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, where he’s living now. He would speak with schoolchildren about his experience, coming from the Congo and what that was like. And he had kids asking him, 'So do all Africans live in trees?' And at the time when he got this question, actually, I believe it was President Bush had been in Africa doing a diplomatic tour, doing some official visits with different countries and different presidents. And his response to these kids was, 'Well, I guess if all the Africans live in trees, then President Bush is in the trees with us.' For him of course, he knew it was kids, he wasn’t really offended, but he was concerned that in a day and an age when we have the internet and we have access to so much information, why are these children growing up — if they’re part of what some people consider the most powerful nation on earth — why are they growing up and they have no concept of what it’s like in modern-day Congo or modern-day Ghana or these other countries in Africa?


So those have been, it’s been really interesting to hear that from participants, and also just to hear how much they value living here in the United States and the things that we might take for granted. Another participant talked about how he was shocked when he realized you could return things here in the U.S. I know that sounds like a silly thing, you know, like not an important thing, you’re fleeing a conflict zone, that’s not the No. 1 thing you’re going to value. But he was saying he had bought something and it didn’t work. And he brought it back to the store and they gave him his money back. He was just shocked that that was even possible, that kind of freedom. He just thought that was really cool. And other people, of course, have talked more about, they really value that there are laws here that apply to everyone, and not just people of a certain class — that even though we have obviously people that are from a higher class or lower class, they still feel that people are expected to follow the laws and follow the same rules, and to them that really meant a lot.


Refugee admissions are way down right now, because the cap has been lowered and then the whole process has just kind of been slowed down from the top. What's your reaction to that? And do you think that getting these peoples' stories out there can help maybe create some change?

My project is independent, but in my opinion and from talking to different resettlement agencies and kind of reading a lot and being really interested, I do think that it’s very clear that very few refugees are arriving right now to the United States through the admissions program. The first cause of that is probably the cap, but then of course there’s a list of countries that are still banned, but then I think the third kind of indirect cause, that maybe isn’t really being seen or talked about as much, is that President Trump decided that there was a need for new processing procedures in order for people to come here. But there was not a lot of direction or clarity given in terms of how the procedures and interview process could actually be approved, and so then at this point I believe that for a lot of people, even who might be coming from the Congo for example, a country that’s not banned, the processing has actually been significantly slowed down, and very few people are even being admitted from countries that aren’t per se banned, simply because the Refugee Admissions Program has kind of been put on hold until new procedures can be put in place.


I believe at this point just over 13,000 people have come in fiscal year 2018, and the cap for this year is set at 45,000. And that cap of 45,000 is actually the lowest number of people that would be admitted to the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program since it was started in 1975. So 45,000 might sound like a big number to some people, but it’s actually less than 0.5 percent of people who are displaced internationally because of conflict. So it’s a very small percentage of actually the need globally.

Murphy at Union Station in Denver. - COURTESY OF ALANA MURPHY
  • Courtesy of Alana Murphy
  • Murphy at Union Station in Denver.

And in terms of whether this project or other advocacy measures can help with raising numbers again, I do think it’s really important to show support for the Refugee Admissions Program and show that our country historically has welcomed refugees. The Refugee Admissions Program started after World War II, and actually it was started by citizens and local faith-based organizations that wanted to open up doors to people fleeing Hitler and other regimes in World War II. So it was a citizen-based initiative which then was formalized by the government and became the Refugee Admissions Program. It's a huge part of the image that we’ve kind of shown to the world overseas. And I think it’s important to show that we continue to support and value that, but it is true that it’s within Trump’s constitutionally given powers to set a cap on the program and grant special immigrant visas. And so I don’t believe that, necessarily, advocacy efforts can change the restrictions that have limited the program at this time, but I do believe that the program will survive the current situation and the current political environment, and I hope that more people, hopefully through my project and other advocacy efforts come to learn more about the program, and value the program and the impact that it’s really had here in the United States. I hope that when things change and the political environment changes there will be more support and more people that are trying to welcome refugees to the United States.


Do you see yourself continuing to do work like this in the future?

Yes, I definitely do. I feel very passionately about working with refugees, especially here in the U.S. in resettlement. My field is actually international migration policy, so that’s what I study and what I pursue. My next step is, actually, I will be going to Beijing and I’m going to do a master’s program in China, and I'm studying government response and government policies to respond to internal migration within the country.

  • Favorite

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Recent Comments

All content © Copyright 2018, The Colorado Springs Independent

Website powered by Foundation