Project Update: Student...
The UU Congregation of the Lowcountry (Bluffton, SC) sends us an update on their successfully funded project, Student Tech Connect: Our Faithify campaign raised $4,100 for Student Tech Connect. These funds came from generous donations of UU Congregation of the Lowcountry (UUCL) members and friends, and from UU friends across the country. Hear inspiring stories […]
UU Free Library | Philippines
We live in an era of incredible story-telling and the recentering of peoples and communities who have been historically exploited, marginalized, and invisibilized. Books are at the center of lifelong learning, building community, and making meaning.
As new literature and media expand, there remains however a deep inequality. Throughout much of Southeast Asia, books are a luxury and public libraries are rare. For millions here, a book costs a week’s salary. Many cities and barangays (neighborhoods) lack a public library. Few feminist, liberal religious, environmental justice, and human rights books are available.
CORAL is a Unitarian Universalist community ministry based in Southeast Asia. We are establishing a small free library in line with our liberal religious and social change mission. We seek to collect, steward, and lend progressive books that are more difficult for ordinary people to find. We are based in Antipolo City, just East of Metro Manila in the foothills of the Sierra Madre mountains as part of a larger cohousing community. Learn more about us at www.coralph.org.
As Unitarian Univeraliasts, we believe deeply in the ongoing search for truth and meaning. For many of us, this has meant a loving relationship with literature. Lending and gifting books are an incredible way to build connections between people, and introduce new ideas to keep our “mind on fire” as Emerson might say. We seek donations of books, and small financial contributions to help us ship and organize donated books.
Help Undocumented Students Stay in College
It’s a long road to a college education for most undocumented students. About 98,000 graduate from high school in the U.S. each year, but only 5-10 percent go to college. Once there, they walk a financial tightrope to graduation.
Tuition and living costs add up quickly; tuition alone is more than $44,000 at UC Davis for those who don’t qualify for protected status or in-state tuition. Often the first in their family to go to college, students may juggle two or three jobs to make ends meet. Those who can’t work legally have an even tougher burden, but more than 730 undocumented students have beaten the odds to attend UC Davis this year.
This campaign, supported by the Unitarian Universalist Church of Davis, aims to raise $5,000 for emergency grants to lighten their load. We have developed a relationship with SPEAK, a student-run organization at UC Davis that supports the undocumented students who are the beneficiaries of this campaign.
UUCD raised money via Faithify for the same purpose in 2017 but student need continues to outstrip resources. Last year, only a quarter of the 73 students who applied for emergency grants got them. The need is even more urgent this year.
“Especially now, with COVID-19, there’s more need for financial support,” said Ana Sandoval Contreras, co-coordinator of SPEAK. “Students have used emergency grants for paying rent, buying groceries and providing support for their families. At $200 to $300 each, it is not a lot, but money that is needed. I have received one in the past. It was very helpful. I used it to buy groceries and books.”
We see this campaign as a simple matter of social justice and access to education. It also follows UU traditions of reaching out to under-represented and vulnerable groups and collaboration across age, ethnic and economic divisions. We have received an urgent request from SPEAK leaders for help.
We hope you will support this effort to help undocumented students at a particularly scary time for immigrants in this country.
Ana Sandoval, 21, is a fourth-year student who expects to take five years to graduate. She has relied on a variety of grants, scholarships and food vouchers to stay afloat and healthy during her college days. She currently works at the AB540 and Undocumented Center at UC Davis as a community advocate.
Born in Puebla, Mexico, she came to the United States in 2009 with her mother and sister. She was nine years old. Her father already lived here. Sandoval was told to pack one backpack with a couple of sets of clothes for a visit to her father.
“My aunt knew we were never coming back but for me, it didn’t click that this was the last time I’d see grandparents and everybody I knew back there,” she said. “It’s hit me now: the whole trauma of leaving my childhood for a whole new identity. I can’t go visit.”
Reunited with her father, Sandoval grew up in the San Fernando Valley outside Los Angeles. Her mother cleans houses. Her father is a plumber and construction worker. A variety of cousins, uncles and aunts now live nearby. A few relatives have visited from Mexico.
Sandoval started fourth grade in a year-round school that sent her back to second and third grade in off quarters so she could catch up. She learned English, made new friends but never shared her story.
When others began working on college applications, Ana didn’t think she could go. Then she attended a conference put on by the Chicano Latino Youth Leadership Project, a nonprofit that emphasizes the importance of culture, community, college and careers.
“I didn’t know I was undocumented,” she said. “It was not until I attended the conference, became really comfortable with others — and another person told their story — that I wanted to learn more about college. It was a milestone for my aspirations, my understanding about being undocumented and wanting to give back to my community.”
Now a senior at UC Davis, Sandoval is majoring in sociology and Chicano studies with a minor in education. She’s looking at graduate school and careers that range from student affairs to higher education to help students learn how to get involved and go to college.
She applied for a long list of emergency grants and scholarships to be able to afford college.
“It does feel like I’m on edge,” she said. “You can apply to 10 programs and hear from only one or two. Very few people get them. Thankfully, I’ve gotten some state support as well as grants.” Immigrant students with DACA protection have work permits, but the future of the program remains unclear. Sandoval missed qualification for DACA by a few months.
With your help, SPEAK hopes to provide emergency grants once again.
Laura Monica Bohorquez Garcia, Director of the AB540 and Undocumented Student Center
11/12/2020 marked the one year anniversary of the SCOTUS DACA Supreme Court decision. It is a day that I will always remember not only because of the decision but because of the power, strategy, and joy that I witnessed outside of the Supreme Court on 11/12/19. I carry this memory and I get to relive it everyday as I work alongside the AB540 and Undocumented Student community at UC Davis. I witness this power and joy every day when I talk to my family as someone who is part of a mixed- immigration status family and when I meet with students as the Director of the AB540 and Undocumented Student Center. Everyday I am reminded that we as an immigrant community are powerful as I see how UC Davis students own and navigate their power and use their courage to ask for help, to provide help, and to be helped. I invite you to join UC Davis students in their strength and give what your capacity allows you to.
Don Saylor, Yolo County Supervisor
Supervisor, Second District
County of Yolo
625 Court Street, Room 204, Woodland, CA 95695-1268 (530) 666-8622
District Office: 600 A Street, Suite B Davis, CA 95616 (530) 757-5557
October 23, 2020
To Whom it May Concern:
I am writing to you in my capacity as a Yolo County Supervisor representing District 2 to convey my strong endorsement and support of the Scholars Promoting Education, Awareness and Knowledge (SPEAK) program.
As a County Supervisor, I am committed to serving and supporting all members of our community, regardless of their immigration status. In my district in Yolo County, which includes the City of Davis, City of Winters and the University of California, Davis, (UC Davis), many of the young people who attend UC Davis are first generation college students, DACA youth, or are undocumented. UC Davis is ranked as one of the top public universities in the nation, and these young people contribute greatly to its success.
SPEAK provides small emergency grants to undocumented UC Davis students to help with critical expenses when money gets tight. They are among the hardest working people I have met, but have little access to the basic resources other students take for granted. I know of cases where students chose not to eat or buy textbooks to make ends meet. During these challenging COVID-19 times with less work opportunities available, these students need our support now more than ever.
I invite you to join me in supporting the SPEAK program to offer critical support and community to these students.
In shared service,
Don Saylor, Yolo County Supervisor, District 2
Member, Unitarian Universalist Church of Davis
Help Jon Sallée Attend Seminary
Jon Sallée, currently a member of the First Unitarian Universalist Society of Burlington, Vermont, and previously of the Unitarian Universalist Society of Geneva, Illinois, has been called to serve should-to-shoulder, ministering to the soldiers and families of the Vermont Army National Guard (VTARNG) as their chaplain. Jon seeks to bring peace to soldiers as they contemplate purpose and meaning, navigating the moral complexities of citizen soldiership.
Unitarian Universalism, as a liberal theological tradition, is uniquely situated to meet both the spiritual needs of soldiers in the least religious state in the US as well as the interfaith orientation of the Chaplain Corps. Jon also has affiliation with Buddhism (through the Fo Guang Shan Chicago temple, in the Chan tradition), a frequently-requested topic of inquiry from religiously-unaffiliated soldiers.
His current status as a Chaplain Candidate and Second Lieutenant allows Jon to serve in the Guard while completing seminary, and while there are normally tuition benefits, none will apply in his specific situation. While Meadville Lombard Theological School has granted Jon a generous named scholarship, the remaining balance and related expenses are still significant.
Student Tech Connect
Your money is needed to further Student Tech Connect. Student Tech Connect has successfully helped financially underprivileged students connect online with their teachers and classrooms. Still, many more students need help. Beaufort county, on the coast of South Carolina, is a wealthy county. There are a string of counties along the I95 corridor known as the corridor of shame due to long term chronic underfunding of their school districts. Students in these districts are in dire need.
The youth of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the Lowcountry (UUCL) realized the impact that the coronavirus had on classmates who don’t have access to their online teachers and classes. Members of the UUCL’s Social Action committee were concerned about the pandemic’s pandemic’s growing disparity of educational opportunity. So the two committees joined forces to become the Religious Education Social Justice committee (RESJ). Although many synergies were discovered in the combined committees, we quickly realized the problem’s size and complexity meant we would need partners.
The RESJ joined forces with the Martin Luther King committee for Justice to add their weight to Student Tech Connect, a program to help financially underprivileged students connect online with their teachers and classrooms and improve their learning experience. The partnering by itself was a huge success, with nearly 10% of our congregants newly serving on MLK committees and establishing working relationships.
The next step in the process was to identify the underprivileged students and what they need to connect with their teachers and classrooms. Obviously, we don’t know which students were underprivileged, but the school district has that information. So we partnered with the school district and its Superintendant, Dr. Frank Rodriguez. Dr. Rodriguez had already negotiated a very favorable discount for internet connectivity for needy students.
Student Tech Connect has been so successful that we now have several funding sources so we have partnered with the Community Foundation of the Lowcountry. The Community Foundation disperses funds to the school district to purchase hardware and pay rental fees. The Foundation also disbursed funds to the internet service provider. The Foundation also has established donors that Student Tech Connect will be able to access.
Our partnerships with the MLK committee, the school district, and the Community Foundation have greatly increased UUCL’s incarnational growth. We are becoming much better known in the community for our justice work.
All Souls’ Children’s...
Nowhere is the shadow of racism longer in American than when it comes to educational disparities. You can change this.
Our six-week, evidence-based program, developed by the Children’s Defense Fund, has been proven through rigorous research to improve literacy skills, build character and engage parents. During our first two summers, All Souls hosted the only CDF Freedom School in the state of Indiana. In 2017, we got 501(c)3 status, and in 2018, our parternship launched a second site. This will be our fifth summer offering this impactful program.
Thanks to our donors last year, 84% of our scholars experienced no summer-learning loss of gained literacy skills. Normally their peers would lose 2-3 months of reading ability; such summer learning loss, compounded year-after-year accounts for 50% of the achievement gap. Faithify is our single largest individual donor source, covering just over 20% of our program costs. $125 covers the cost of a scholar’s program for one week. Thank you for helping us mitigate the educational disparity gap that keeps so many of our children behind.
There have been three waves of “Freedom Schools” in American history, and Unitarian Universalists have been part of all three. Northern whites, often women, went to the South soon after emancipation to teach formally-enslaved persons to read. Then in 1964, as part of the Mississippi Freedom Summer, the National Council of Churches and SNCC formed summer “Freedom Schools,” focused specifically on literacy, humanities, science and math. These schools, often “taught” by white, northern college students, also had a larger purpose: to show young, Southern black Americans that they were valued and to engage them in community problem-solving.
The Children’s Defense Fund has initiated the third wave with the development a modern, evidence-based summer learning and family engagement model. The model retains the historical focus on offering a culturally-appropriate program designed to empower and promote civic engagement and literacy. The model is defined by five essential components:
- High-quality academic enrichment, which includes age- and culturally-appropriate books that are part of an Integrated Reading Curriculum involving reinforcing activities, field trips and games.
- Parent and family involvement at multiple levels, from morning introductory activities to classroom assistance to supporting community projects.
- Social action and civic engagement by our children and youth so that they are prepared to be active citizens. Participants engage in solving community problems and do social justice work, including through a Children’s Defense Fund yearly National Day of Social Action.
- Intergenerational servant leadership development, by engaging college students and recent graduates to deliver the program, many of whom have had Freedom School experience themselves.
- Nutrition, health and mental health, by requiring programs to provide—at a minimum—two USDA-compliant meals and a snack each day of operation, while training staff to recognize the importance of providing therapeutic health and mental health services.
With your financial support, All Souls Unitarian Church would offer six-weeks of programming for 40 school-age children in summer 2020. Indianapolis has pervasive educational and opportunity disparities and our congregation sits in a high-need community. The church is in close proximity to two struggling public elementary schools. Robert Lee Frost is 87% African-American and over 80% free and reduced-price lunch. In 2014, only 51% of students passed both English and Math in ISTEP. Only 65% of students passed the IREAD-3. At Brook Park, 76% of students are African-American or Hispanic and over 76% qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. Only 52% passed ISTEP in 2014. Opportunity disparities in is high. Nearly 25% of individuals in the All Souls zip code (46226) live in poverty and nearly 40% of children live at or below the poverty level. We know from national-level research that poverty is correlated with fewer summer learning and other enrichment opportunities.
All Souls has already begun to build a diverse coalition of organizations and individuals committed to making a Freedom School a permanent fixture in Indianapolis. Our partners include, but are not limited to, the Indianapolis Freedom School Partnership (the umbrella organization we helped form), the neighborhood elementary schools near the church, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Indianapolis, neighborhood organizations, the League of Women Voters, the Indianapolis Public Library, and the education departments of Indiana University, Butler University, and Marion University.
“Indiana Black Expo, as the backbone support organization for the Your Life Matters Initiative, is in full support of All Souls’ endeavors with the development of a Freedom School in Indianapolis.” – Tanya Bell President & CEO Indiana Black Expo, Inc.
“The development of a Freedom School in Indianapolis is an important service and support for youth in the northeast part of our city. I applaud All Souls Unitarian Church for its vision and for making social justice visible for children who need a supportive community and gifts that participation in a Freedom School provides.” – Dr. Cindy Jackson, Positive Discipline Coordinator, IPS district, and member of the education committee of the Your Life Matters Task Force
Empower Marginalized Bolivian Women to Create Change!
Background. The project builds on a pilot leadership development program implemented with funds raised on Faithify in 2018. It took place in District 7 of Viacha (near the Bolivian capital, La Paz), home to indigenous Aymara, where women are mostly street vendors (and thus part of the informal economy). The initiative consisted of bi-weekly training courses in sewing, hairdressing, and baking, over a three-month period (August-October 2018). The practical trainings were complemented with workshops addressing economic empowerment and entrepreneurship, leadership, gender and society (with a special topic on masculinity, machoism, and femicides), prevention of domestic violence, and spirituality and meditation. The training was an inspiring spark for the 45 participants to think about paths to better livelihoods and to confront their situation of gender marginality. Project leader Calixta Choque Churata, a Unitarian from Viacha, would now like “to move forward and reach more women and girls who feel the need to be trained and empowered.” Given the success of the pilot training, interest in the continuation of the program is high. Please read more information about the pilot program here.
How will the funds be used? Funds will be used to implement practical courses in cooking and developing healthy food habits, hairdressing, sewing and making eco products; as well as leadership training focusing on capacity building in areas such as self-esteem development, gender equality, economic empowerment and entrepreneurial skills, prevention of violence, environmental education, and women in environmental decision-making. The participants will be selected by the local organizing team. Training sessions will take place twice weekly, over three months. Funds will be used for educational materials, training supplies, logistics, and the cost of trainers. The participants will enhance their ability to better manage their finances, be confident of their rights, and have a marketable skill. These results will decrease their level of vulnerability and discrimination and increase their ability to be financially independent. Graduates of the program can become resource persons for future training sessions.
Calixta Choque Churata, project leader (text of the video above): Life for women in Bolivia is difficult. “Machismo” culture is deeply entrenched. Sexism, misogyny, and violence are everyday occurrences. Many women are economically inactive and have limited job opportunities. That is why I believe that this program is a great opportunity for economically disadvantaged and marginalized women in Viacha to acquire tools and skills, gain confidence, develop leadership competencies, and achieve greater economic independence. This program offers marketable job skills – such as sewing, cooking or hairdressing – as well as business and leadership training. When women and girls are provided with training and entrepreneurial opportunities, they can challenge patriarchal norms and stereotypes; they can enter the workforce, build better livelihoods, and take on leadership roles in their communities. They can become role models to others. They can even start their own income-generating businesses. Please consider pledging to this project to give these women a dream. A dream to improve her livelihood. A dream to reach her financial independence. A dream to become a leader in her community. A dream to create her own future. Thank you! Gracias!
Participants in the Pilot Program
Delia Alexandra Fernández Vargas: I am 18 years old. This is my last year of school. I want to go to the university. I am thinking of studying biochemistry. I took the hairdressing training course because I like to learn hairstyles, hair care, new looks. I learned many useful things: for example, skin lightening, facial cleaning, hair care, massages, hair and skin hydration, new looks, and types of hair dyes. The teacher was very good. She knows her profession. I see myself doing hairstyles, hair dyes, or facial cleaning. I can offer these new skills. This training will definitely help me in the future. I wish I could learn so much more. The training course lasted a short time. I am grateful for what I learned. My heartfelt thanks go to all the people who gave us the opportunity of taking these courses.
Katharin Maldonado Tarqui: I am 14 years old. I come from a family with very limited resources. I took part in the hairdressing courses, which helped me get a job as a hairdresser’s assistant, during weekends, to supplement our small family income. I would like to continue this practical workshop as well as learn as much as I can about leadership and entrepreneurship – which will help me in my future. Who knows, I may be able to put my training towards starting my own business!
Project Partners. The Bolivian organizing team is made up of Unitarians from La Paz and surroundings. The project leaders, Calixta Choque Churata and Xiomara Salinas, attended IWC’s 2015 Gathering in Bolivia; Xiomara also attended IWC’s Third Women’s Convocation in California (February 2017). Our project partner is also the Unitarian Universalist community of La Paz, Bolivia (Comunidad Unitaria Universalista Boliviana).
Youth Captures: Our Life After Hurricane Michael (A Youth-led Photo Voice Project)
Hurricane Michael made landfall at 2 pm EDT on October 10, 2018 in Bay County, FL with top sustained winds of 155 mph; altering the lives of families profoundly to this day. One of the greatest challenges has been housing. Thousands of families have been displaced from their homes, leaving climate-induced trauma to children.
Bay District Schools has been reporting on this trauma, and continuously advocates for resources and support for their students. Five months after the hurricane, Bay Schools Superintendent Bill Husfelt spoke before the State Board of Education about homelessness and the mental health struggles of Bay County Schools.
“More than 70 percent of the apartments in Panama City are uninhabitable. Before the storm, there were 738 homeless students in the district. Now, there are more than 4,800,” Husfelt shared, “[There have been 700] Community of Care referrals to mental health agencies. We’ve had 70 Baker Acts since we’ve reopened, 35 since Feb. 25th, 62 since Christmas Break.”
As school begins this Fall and almost a year after Hurricane Michael, the effects of the storm continue to linger. Families are still living in temporary or sub-standard housing, including: RVs, tents, sheds, cars, substandard trailers or houses, living with friends or families, FEMA trailers, hotels, motels, and weekly rentals with no lease.
This Photo Voice project is meant to help 10 teens in Bay County, Florida share their stories in their own voices, with their own pictures, and see the world through their eyes. It will be a close look into the reality that they and their families have to endure. With their photos, people will see the stories that aren’t usually covered by traditional media.
Initially, their photographs will be shared with the Bay County Community during a special event later this year, and subsequently with other coalitions and organizations via a pop-up exhibit.
The life journeys of our youth inform our future. Lived events shared in personal stories have the power to open hearts and minds, and inspire us to collective action. People can change their communities for the better, and understanding the lives of people in difficult circumstances better prepares us to work together to change conditions that affect their lives.
What is a Photo Voice Project?
Photo Voice is a process in which people – usually those with limited power due to poverty, language barriers, race, class, ethnicity, gender, culture, or other circumstances – use video and/or photo images to capture aspects of their environment and experiences and share them with others. The pictures can then be used, usually with captions composed by the photographers, to bring the realities of the photographers’ lives home to the public and policy makers and to spur change.
About The Exhibit:
The exhibit will consist of 10 stories, with 5 images associated with each. The images will be printed on canvas; and a QR code will enable visitors to scan the code and listen to the narratives in the teens’ voices. If the budget allows, there will be a printed booklet of the images and accompanying narratives.
Who are the Collaborating Partners?
Our partner in Bay County is well positioned to support youth: LEAD County Coalition of Bay County. LEAD is an acronym for Leadership, Empowerment, and Authentic Development.
The mission of LEAD Coalition of Bay County is to facilitate collaborative work toward increasing safety, building trust, and restoring neighborhoods in the City of Panama City and its surrounding areas. The LEAD Coalition of Bay County is a diverse, public-private partnership among a cross sector community organizations and agencies.
What are the Project Specifics?
Location: Project participants will meet weekly and at the LEAD Coalition’s Special Event unveiling the exhibit.
Timeline: September 2019 – November 2019
Point of Contact: The Project Manager will be a young adult affected by the Hurricane Michael housing crisis, and Ana Maria De La Rosa, Senior Grassroots Organizer for the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee will facilitate the project.
What is the process for this Photo Voice project?
- Kickoff Meeting with UUSC facilitator
- Photography and Weekly Gatherings with the Project Manager
- Photo Selection and Narrative Polishing with UUSC facilitator
- Exhibit Preparation with all partners assisting
The Budget Narrative:
Dollars donated to this campaign will be used to print the photographs on canvas, and prepare them for display. Funds will also be used to prepare the exhibit itself, including preparing the QR codes to accompany the display and the recordings prepared by the students.
The cameras, stipend for the Project Manager from Bay County, and funding for the UUSC facilitator will be funded by UUSC.
LEAD Coalition will provide grant administration, event planning for the exhibit showcase, and coordination with the high school. The high school will provide the meeting space, and facilitate the identification of students to participate in the project.
Suggested Budget Spending:
Ana Maria De La Rosa Covered by UUSC
Project Manager Stipend Covered by UUSC
10 Cameras Covered by UUSC
Exhibit/QR Code Supplies $500
(To be covered by the UUJF Faithify Campaign)
50 Photos on Canvas $2,000
(To be covered by the UUJF Faithify Campaign)
Ana Maria De La Rosa Covered by UUSC
Grant Administration Covered by the LEAD Coalition
Exhibit/Gala Covered by the LEAD Coalition
Ramapough Lenape Art...
Ramapough Lenape Art & Literacy Lab expands to summer sessions!
Scholarships for Dreamers in Arizona
Because Granite Peak Unitarian Universalist Congregation believes in the inherent worth and dignity of every person, we created a scholarship for undocumented students enrolled at Yavapai College in Prescott, Arizona. Please join us in helping DACA recipients attain their educational goals.
In Arizona, due to an Arizona Supreme Court decision on April 9th 2018, Dreamers must now pay out of state tuition even though they may have lived in Arizona since childhood. The increased intuition for these DACA recipients can be from $2,580 a year to $8,900 per year depending on the institution in which they are enrolled. As an example of this increase at Yavapai College, tuition jumped from in-state $152 per credit hour to out-of-state $451 per credit hour for a full-time nursing student.
The ‘Opportunity Scholarship’ is specifically designated for “Recipients [who] must not be eligible for any type of federal or state grants”. There are many students in our community who have been paying their own tuition and now fear they will not be able to finish their college education as a result of this ruling. Last year’s recipient was about to drop out before learning about this resource. Recipients are chosen by Yavapai College based on need and grade point average.
There is an urgent need to fill this fund. Please donate now!
Our goal is $2,000 on Faithify to provide a minimum of one scholarship, but with more money we can provide help to more students.
Help Support Body...
Izabel has grown so much, from the shy young girl feeling “othered” by schoolmates and strangers, with deep doubts in herself, into a young woman strong in her identity as a capable and creative individual. What is more, she has developed a worthy, larger vision that includes others who have faced, and will face, similar challenges without a strong role model and advocate. Her first year was paid for with financial help from the school and from me and other family and friends. This year, while the school is offering some support, I cannot. I lost my partner Dana, to Lewy Body Dementia recently, and the financial toll has made it impossible for me to help. Dana and I have given and received a great deal as Unitarian Universalists over many years, not the least of which is an appreciation for the generous spirits of UUs. As members of this movement, this faith, and our shared commitment to support programs and people who seek to make a real difference in our communities, I wanted to reach out to you now. It’s a compassion issue. It’s a justice issue. It’s an opportunity to be part of a special young woman’s unfolding. Please, be as generous as you can. Help Izabel continue in school and build a space for people with disabilities and different abilities to thrive in the world of theater. The possibilities are great…and so is the financial cost. Please. And thank you in advance!
Izabel says :
My goal is to use my education to change the face of disability representation in theater and film, and I need your help to do it. I am a daughter, a sister, a lover of dogs, music, art, makeup, acting, dancing, singing. I am also a disability advocate; I was born without my right hand and with a partial right foot.
When I was little this did nothing to stop me. I played freely without a care in the world about what I looked like or how I presented myself to other people. I was determined and creative. I existed with my disability, and I saw it as a part of me that I worked with and adapted to. I learned how to do the monkey bars, I played the violin, I skied and ran cross country. I was unstoppable. Middle school proved more difficult for me. I became extremely self-conscious about my physical difference. A lot of this was because I never saw people like me doing the things I was interested in. I loved music and acting and dancing, but I saw no representation in the music and films and plays that I idolized. At the time, I just accepted that that was how it was.
Because I was born with a limb difference, it often feels that, in my everyday life, I am confined to being one type of person: “disabled.” People who look like me are rarely featured, and if they are, their entire character arc and personality is that they are disabled even though oftentimes the actor playing the character with the disability isn’t even disabled themselves!
In tenth grade, I decided that despite this extreme doubt that I had in myself, I wanted to act. I started auditioning for–and getting cast in–shows at my local youth theater and high school. These years in high school when I began acting and theater were a revelation. I knew the first moment I stepped on stage and found confidence in my uniqueness that I could be whoever I wanted to be, and that this was what I wanted to do. When I’m acting I can forget that label of “disabled,” and explore other aspects of being human while adapting to whatever comes my way.
I knew I wanted to act seriously not just because of the euphoria that comes with performance, but because I never wanted children like me who were born with a disability or lost a limb to feel like they didn’t exist or that they couldn’t pursue what they were passionate about just because they didn’t see anyone like them doing it.
I knew when I applied and got excepted to NYU Tisch School of the Arts for Drama that I wanted to use my degree to represent body diversity in theater and film. In the future I hope this will involve much more than just acting; I would love to choreograph for disabled bodies and direct accessible and adaptive shows.
I believe that I was given this opportunity and accepted to this amazing program, in a city that is the heart of theater and film, to make this difference. My first year at the program completely opened my eyes and further confirmed that this is what I need to pursue. I fell in love with the program and all of my classes and teachers and long studio days. I am in the Meisner studio, and I spent nine-hour days, three days a week there, learning acting and voice and speech and movement and clown and stage combat and crying and laughing.
I noticed, though, that apart from one other girl who was in a different studio, I was the only one who had a physical disability in the drama department at NYU. That’s ridiculous! That under-representation is ridiculous. I know for a fact that there are many talented and creative disabled actors out there, and the under-representation in the industry which is reflected at my school makes me sad.
One community to whom this project is important is a group I am a part of called the Helping Hands Foundation. This is a group of people and families with limb differences. I started going to their gatherings when I was two years old, and now I see the little kids in that community growing up. I want to be a role model for them and help create a world where they can see themselves reflected on screen and stage. At every winter gathering of this community, there are guest speakers (limb different athletes, models, scientists, etc). It would be amazing to stand up in front of that community as a working actor, director or choreographer!
This program at NYU is so important to me. In one year I have grown and changed so much, and I can feel that this is the right place to be in pursuit of all of these things that I’ve mentioned. However, as of right now, I cannot afford to return. After weeks and months of back-and-forth with the financial aid office, I still do not have enough money to attend next fall.
I understand that it is a privilege that I even got to go for one year and that many students cannot afford higher education. But I also understand that this is an important opportunity, and I will do everything in my power to make the most out of it because it is about so much more than me and my getting a college degree.
The total cost of attendance at NYU for next year is $72,000. Here is a breakdown of what I’ve got so far:
$37,000 covered by loans ( I am borrowing the maximum amount I can), scholarships, parent contributions, friend contributions, and summer work
$15,000–help from my great aunt
$21,000—this is what I still need
NYU is notoriously stingy with financial aid. As part of my package, they included a $51,000 parent loan (for one year). My mother is a single mom and a teacher (and I have a younger brother, too), and this loan is larger than her annual salary, so we could not accept it. I knew when I decided to go to Tisch that it would be a massive financial stretch and might not work out. Against my mother’s practical advice, I decided to try to make it work. I would not have succeded without the help of literally hundreds of people who made small contributions last year; my first year was, in part, a gift from my community. This is part of what makes me want to see this through. I don’t want to let them down!
My tuition payment is due the first week in August. If I have not raised the funds by then, I will move on to plan B. This would either be studying at a non-degree (less expensive) studio in New York or living at home with my Mom in rural Vermont, working at the local general store, and taking some community college classes.
Here is a link to my NYU program if you would like to read more about it.
Thanks so much for considering my project!
Freedom Summer Camp at the Museum
How do children and teens in Rural and Low-Income Communities spend their summer when school is over? In Opelousas, St Landry Parish, Louisiana, Summer School is provided by church congregations and a few local public schools. However, this year 2019, a large number of students won’t be able to attend Summer School after the burning of three black Baptist churches in St Landry Parish by an arsonist during a string of 10 days in April 2019.
The burning of black churches was a common intimidation tactic during the Jim Crow era.
For decades, African-American churches have served as the epicenter of survival and a symbol of hope for many in the African-American community.
The burning of the Saint Landry Parish black churches was classified as a hate crime.
With a predominantly agricultural community with a deep pride in a francophone heritage, Black Baptist churches in Saint Landry Parish, LA offer church-based educational programs, from after-school tutorials to summer schools, computer classes to family science activities. Black churches have an historic commitment to education, and educational agencies see black churches as their best link to children in neighborhoods beset by poverty, violence and school failure.
To accommodate our Community and help our youth in Opelousas, St Landry Parish, LA the Rural African American Museum has offered to sponsor a summer camp for the children of the congregations affected by the destruction of their churches, the suppression of their place of worship and the suppression of their churches’ activities ensuing struggles.
I offered my Unitarian Universalist fellowship of Lafayette, Louisiana Congregation members the opportunity to participate as volunteers in the Rural African American Summer Camp project.
- Inspire a culture of innovation that extends the reach of UU values
The Rural African American Museum will offer a summer Camp program from 2-6pm at the Rural African American Museum, in Opelousas, with focus on providing educational services to youth of Opelousas during 4 weeks in July 2019 (July 1 – 26, 2019).
This all day program will be free, except for administrative fees.
In order to ensure the integrity of the program, the local Committee “Rural African American Museum” will monitor and visit the home of any child who may miss summer camp. The Committee “Rural African American Museum” is composed of Board members, educators and local leaders who will be following up to ensure that the children will complete the summer camp program at the African-American Museum.
At a time where there is a continued rise in racial and religious based hate crimes, Opelousas is facing a situation that requires an immediate effort on the part of Louisiana government and local organizations to support underprivileged children who are marginalized due to issues of economic class. It is imperative to support these youth by providing technical assistance and educational tools that could enable them to benefit from a good education that meets their needs.
Recognizing the critical importance of education to community empowerment and economic development in St Landry Parish, Louisiana, to help the local youth acquire the skills necessary in communication, help them believe in themselves, to empower their success and self-esteem.
The Rural African American History Museum was formed to establish, collect, hold, and preserve exhibit as a way to relate to the history of Rural African-American in St Landry and rely only on donations. Sponsoring the Summer Camp will help our local youth establish links, relate to their culture and respect their roots even in the face of adversity and hate crime.
This campaign will support the summer school to raise $ 3,500, which is needed to meet the budget expenses.
SUMMER CAMP PROGRAM
The program for the Summer camp will be offered to ten St Landry Parish school students age 12-15, with the following activities:
ACTION and RESEARCH PROJECT “POETRY and CIVIL RIGHTS”
- First week: RESEARCH and CREATIVE WRITING SKILLS
ENHANCING STUDENTS‘ CREATIVE WRITING SKILLS: a Social Studies research project using Chromebooks laptops, books, articles and artifacts available at the Rural African American Museum.
As I raised educational funds in 2018 for my Community in St Landry Parish to equip my students with technology, summer school students will have the opportunity to work with chromebooks for their research and presentation.
- Second week: Computer literacy SKILLS
Applied Digital Skills to improve digital literacy with Google, using Google classroom. Students will use Google slides to present their research findings.
Students will incorporate French poetry to their presentation.
- Third Week: Performing arts SKILLS
Theatre techniques to build youth communication skills and self esteem.
Students will be using their research findings to write poetry and perform a slam Poetry / Spoken words performance.
- Fourth week:
Art skills: Organizing, framing artifacts for the Rural African American Museum display.
Students will be using their research findings to write poetry and perform a slam Poetry / Spoken words performance.
- Inspire a culture of innovation that extends the reach of UU values
- Bridge geographic and generational borders using 21st century technologies
Technology: Three Chromebooks will be available for students to use for students’ research and presentation findings, with a projector for display. This material is the property of the teacher working for the Freedom Summer Camp at the Rural African American of Opelousas.
ARTS / Performing Arts: Colors, crayons, paper, mic. This material is the property of the teacher working for the Freedom Summer Camp at the Rural African American of Opelousas.
Library: Use of books, articles, artifacts available at the Rural African American of Opelousas.
Teachers’ Salary (2 teachers)
- Teaching artist spoken word, slam poetry $1,500
Teaching Artist qualified and certified
- Teaching Creative writing and performing Art $1,500
Teacher qualified and certified
- Art workshop supplies (craft, notebook, frames, colors) $ 500
TOTAL Expenses: $ 3,500
My claim as a UULALA Congregation Social Concerns Co-Chair and member of the Unitarian Universalism Association
- Inspire a culture of innovation that extends the reach of UU values
- Lower the walls between existing congregations
- Members of the Baptist Black Churches will volunteer for the Summer Camp project.
- Members of the UULALA (Unitarian Universalist fellowship of Lafayette, Louisiana) will volunteer for the Summer Camp project.
Our Congregation voted unanimously June 4, 2019 in favour of the project at our UULALA Congregation executive meeting.
I offer my UULALA Congregation members an opportunity to participate as volunteers in the Rural African American Summer Camp project.
Background information on the Opelousas, LA churches’ fire:
As June 12, 2019, a young man from Opelousas, Louisiana, was charged by a federal grand jury for a hate crime