Written by Phil Cerroni
By Sissy Courtney
Physical fighting, name-calling, threats, power struggles, competition, manipulation, secrets, rumors, and ostracizing – sounds like an episode of The Real Housewives of New Jersey, but instead it was the topic of girl against girl crime and how to dispel it.
“Every single female has encountered an experience in which they become aggressors or victims of girl-against-girl crime,” said Lauren Parsekian, 22, one of the co-founders of Kind Campaign. Lauren and her best friend, videographer Molly Thompson, also 22, started the non-profit program four years ago. The pair talked to middle and high school girls and their mothers in the Coppell High School auditorium Nov. 19.
Four years ago, Lauren and Molly traveled across America in a mini-van with their mothers to interview hundreds of females about the “mean girl” phenomenon. The girls combined their experiences and passion to uncover the truth within the world of girls. They said they learned about themselves, females, the truth behind the issue and our culture’s influence.
Kind Campaign is an internationally recognized movement, documentary and school program based upon the powerful belief in KINDness that brings awareness and healing to the negative and lasting effects of girl-against-girl crime.
What they discovered is that mean girls have been here forever. Controversial girls and queen bees have been here forever. The Greeks were writing about Helen of Troy who started a war with her beauty. Everybody’s been fascinated with being that kind of character in life.
“It’s clearly not a new phenomenon; it’s been going on for generations, but the scope and intensity is greater now than ever before,” Lauren said. “Why are we accepting this as our so-called rite of passage? Girls today see 30,000 more commercials and images in advertising a day than our mothers did, everything from billboards, to commercials on the internet, to messages we wear on our clothing, and the images that come through our mobile devices, and magazines. Media is such an ingrained part of this world.
“Ten or 15 minutes of a young girl’s looking through a magazine decreases her score on a self-esteem measurement,” Lauren said. “TV shows and movies glorify violence against women, and portray women pitted against women for love, for success, for money, for beauty. Every message out there tells women, ‘You’re not okay where you are; you have to fight that other girl or woman to get where you want to be, and you can’t trust women.’ That is a recipe for disaster.
“With cell phone, text messages, blogs, twitter, My Space, and You Tube, it’s increasingly easy to say whatever, whenever we want with no face attached. (We can do that) 24 hours a day, seven days a week. These new forms of communication have created a new world of cyber bullying, a world created and controlled by our fingertips – a world dominated by girls. There are messages on My Space against girls our age by girls our age.”
According to the National Crime Prevention Council, cyber bullying is the biggest threat kids face, especially girls. It is through the speed of technology that the speed and the scope of girl against girl crimes have grown so large.
“Girls are now doing cyber bullying, going to the Internet to post videos of some of their physical fights,” Dr. Phil said in the Kindness Campaign documentary shown at the assembly.
A Florida girl was beat up by other girls and the video posted on You Tube. The girls who did it were convicted and face up to a year of detention. The girls said they did it because of the victim’s trash talking.
Authorities decided not to file charges in the Internet hoax that caused a teenage girl to commit suicide.
The file note read, “This world would be a better place without you.”
A short time later, the girl hung herself.
“Girls view the world in a 2D format,” said a therapist interviewed for the documentary. “They don’t go out and play; they sit and text. They do not have to look into one another eyes, they do not have to feel responsible for another person’s feelings, and they do not have to deny their feelings, because they are just looking at you through a screen.”
She said good questions for girls or women who are bullies would be:
Are you aware of the consequences?
What happened to you?
What did you go through (with the presumption being that we bully because we’ve been bullied)?
“Why can’t girls get along?” a young woman in the documentary asked. “We can be the meanest creatures to one another.”
“We all want to be liked,” Lauren said. “It’s already hard enough to accept ourselves for who we are, let alone accept the perceptions and judgments that other girls have of us. Over the years, the vicious ways in which females treat each other have become societal norms, with various media outlets that mock and even glamorize the issue. What we often choose to ignore is the fact that these experiences very often lead to depression, anxiety, loss of self-worth, eating disorders, drug abuse, alcoholism, attempted suicide and actual suicide in millions of girls’ lives.
“Finding a way to stop girl-against-girl crime from happening is something that has been on my heart since I was twelve years old. For me, the hardest time was middle school, when a group of my girlfriends turned on me. I can still vividly recall every torturous experience they put me through throughout seventh and eighth grades.
“I think the most important part of my story is how those experiences affected me as a young girl. I became scared to go to school, my grades started to drop. I was scared to answer the phone, and finding places to hide on campus became a daily routine. Through this time, I battled depression and got to the point where I tried to take my own life in seventh grade. I know first-hand how much it hurts to be called names, to be threatened and to feel like you are all alone.
“I promise you it gets better and I am so thankful that I am here today, able to tell you that and to do the work that we do,” Lauren said. “I know it’s extremely hard to be a girl. It’s hard for all of us. However, I have confidence that through Kind Campaign, we will all come together to create a community and an awareness that will change this problem.
“I wouldn’t take back a second of my middle school experience because it led us here in relationship and conversation with each other and amazing girls all over the country. There’s no definite reason why these things happen. You can blame media, society, parents, gender rules, technology, the school system, but it’s not about that, although they do pay a huge role.
“The solution is simple: It’s us. It’s you and it’s me and it’s the way we consider how to treat other females – other people,” Lauren said.
How to change
Consider what others might be going through.
Apologize for things you’ve said or done, even if it happened 30 years ago.
Talk to your friends about the issues you’ve had with them.
Be happy with who you are.
Stick up for the kid being bullied in class.
If you don’t have anything nice to say, just don’t say anything or find something nice to say.
“The kids that are out there hurting others are hurting themselves on an emotional level,” one mother said. “We need to be helping each other, not tearing each other down.”
Another therapist in the documentary said, “Everybody is insecure. Even the pretty girls are insecure. It’s tough to be at the top too because you’re always worried about being dethroned. We’re all struggling for the same thing. I find acceptance in the fact that you’re seeking it too. We may not all be beautiful, we may not all be smart, we may not all be talented, but we can all be kind.”
“We need to just lean on each other,” Lauren said. “Be kind.”
Information from www.kindcampaign.com included.
Last Updated on Sunday, 23 December 2012 22:27
Written by Phil Cerroni
By Sissy Courtney
Those are just a few math strategies fourth grade students at Valley Ranch Elementary predicted they would use to complete their latest Problem Based Learning (PBL) assignment in Math. This holiday season, the math classes adopted four families in need.
Students planned what to buy for each family based on lists provided of the families’ wants and needs, and local businesses and organizations provided funds for the students to spend on the project. They shopped online to find the stores that had the best deals and checked newspapers for coupons. Then, they went shopping.
“We were able to get all (the four families’) wants and needs, plus a bonus gift card,” said Nadya Gulam.
Through Internet links teachers provided on classroom computers, students did their initial shopping online but went to the stores to purchase items.
“We tried to choose stores that fit the items we needed the best, stores like Target and Wal-Mart that have pretty much everything and then places for clothes to fit (the families’) wants and needs,” fourth grade math teacher Parrish Nolan said while on a shopping trip to Vista Ridge Mall in Lewisville. “Today, we’re going to JC Penney’s, Macy’s, Bath and Body Works, and Justice.”
At Macy’s, the students had a 20-percent-off coupon for their items.
“(The students) went through and found the prices and printed out pictures, so they could go find the exact same outfit or item that they were looking for,” Gulam said. “We divided the money we had by the number of individuals and were able to spend $87 per person. We thought that would be the fair way since some families had two members and some had five. And then we realized we were going to have to pay what, kids?”
“Tax,” the students said in unison.
“Since they have to keep money aside for tax, they calculated the money for that, Gulam said.
“We used calculators,” student Jenell Van Luvan said. She had they had to multiply using a decimal.
Janell’s dad, Jesse, went shopping with the teachers and fourth graders.
“The PBL itself is just amazing, and then to put a project like this together is just fantastic,” Van Luvan said. “There is nothing I want more than for my kids to learn how to problem solve, and to do it and help others at the same time is absolutely wonderful. That’s something we try to instill in our children. Giving back is huge to our family, especially this time of year.”
“I think it’s cool that we get to help people that aren’t as fortunate as us,” Jenell said. “It was fun looking online for the presents. We looked for shoes, pajamas, a board game, candles and other things like that.”
While shopping, students compared prices and quality of items and learned to use the Price Check station in the stores to verify an item’s price. Before paying for items, they estimated how much the item would cost and how much money they would need to give the cashier.
“We round by either the nearest 10 or 100,” Max MacRae said. “(For rounding money) we would usually round by tens.”
Trey Pearson jumped in to help Max.
“If it’s five or above, you round it up,” Trey said. “If it’s four or below, you round it down.”
“Five or more, you raise the score; five or less, you let it rest,” their teacher, Ms. Gulam said.
Their end product will be a SmartBoard presentation of the budget for each person in the family along with how much they spent and what they purchased with pictures of the items inserted into the SmartBoard presentation.
“I think it’s really fun for a kid to learn to budget and use a spread sheet,” said fourth grader Kevin Ly. “And it’s good and kind to help others.”
The families were referred by Irving Bible Church. Donors for the project were Gold’s Gym in Valley Ranch, Las Colinas Federal Credit Union, Irving Chamber of Commerce, Ray Gulam with Mortgages USA, and Volunteers of America.
Last Updated on Sunday, 23 December 2012 22:38
Written by Phil Cerroni
By Amanda Casanova
After more than an hour of intense discussion and questioning, the Irving City Council voted Dec. 13 to pay about $220,000 in unpaid invoices to Dean International, Inc. and renew two contracts with the company.
According to invoices, Company owner David Dean billed the City about $197,000 for work in October, November and December after his contract expired in the fall, but the consultant was told to continue working.
Dean’s consultant and event planning contract with the City expired in September, but City leaders could not decide whether to renew the $1.1 million agreement, and Dean was told to continue working and bill the City without a contract.
City leaders said at the meeting that confusion and mistakes had ignited conflict over Dean’s contract and invoices. eventually leading to a heated debate on all sides.
“Government doesn’t move as quickly as we want it to,” Councilman Gerald Farris said. “We probably should have known better. I should have known better. At this point, we’ve learned something, and it’s not constructive that we all point fingers.”
The City Council voted 7-2 to pay Dean. City Council members Michael Gallaway, Roy Santoscoy, Dennis Webb, Joe Putnam, Rose Cannaday, Farris and Thomas Spink voted in favor. Only Councilmember Brad LaMorgese and Mayor Beth Van Duyne voted against.
Discussion about Dean’s payment elevated when Van Duyne asked Dean for a specific account of the invoice.
“I don’t see a whole lot of specifics on (this invoice),” Van Duyne said. “I’m looking for accomplishments. It’s a tremendous amount of money. I’m asking for three months, what has been accomplished?”
Talk intensified until Councilman Gallaway called for the question, a council procedure that would end discussion and require an immediate vote on the issue. The motion to call for the question failed, however, and questioning continued.
Dean listed a range of meetings, including some in Washington, D.C., and others with Texas Department of Transportation officials, DART representatives and others in preparation of the Annual Transportation Summit.
“Our history is rich and robust together and complete with many, many, many accomplishments,” Dean told the Council.
Dean International, Inc. has worked for the City for about 15 years and has provided services for acquisition and development of water resources and development of transportation and organizing the Transportation Summit.
“I think you should be paid in full,” Cannaday said. “Over the past 15 years, his work has generated over $2 billion in transportation dollars that we weren’t getting before.”
The City Council also voted to extend Dean’s consulting contracts for transportation and water. The transportation contract is about $394,000 and will be paid from the general fund and the water contract, about $63,000, will be paid from the water resource department fund.
Both motions passed 6-3. Van Duyne, Farris and LaMorgese voted against extending both contracts, instead pushing for the City to go out for a request for proposals for the work.
“The competition process is very critical without diminishing or compromising our position in transportation and water,” Farris said.
But Webb said the Council had missed an opportunity and needed to learn a lesson.
“I’ve been confused about a lot of things and I’m not afraid to say it,” Webb said. “This is where all the confusion comes from, and I feel sorry for staff. They get caught in the middle of trying to please everybody and stay out of hot water.
“Like my mom used to say, ‘if you don’t lay the foundation right, the house is going to fall.’ We didn’t lay this foundation right.”
Last Updated on Sunday, 23 December 2012 22:41
Written by Phil Cerroni
By Jess Paniszczyn
Though they have gone to their eternal rest, regardless of the era or branch they served in, deceased military veterans were not forgotten this holiday season. In thousands of communities across the nation, people gathered to remember these honored dead by placing wreaths upon their places of rest. This beautiful tradition also serves to teach a new generation to be mindful of those who have come before them.
In Irving, the staffs of Aria, Brown’s Memorial, Calvary, Chism-Smith, Donnelly’s Colonial, Mt. Carmel and Restland Coppell Chapel funeral homes joined with Oak Grove Memorial Gardens to welcome the public to the Wreaths Across America Project’s third annual event on Dec. 15. Following a brief ceremony, family and community members helped volunteers lay over 1,000 wreaths.
Representing Ennis Legion Post 361, Michael Cook and Torry Robinson traveled to Irving to participate in the wreath laying.
“I think it is great,” Cook said. It would be cool if we could get some of the cemeteries nearer to Ennis to participate in this event too, because this Wreaths Across America is pretty much the closest one around us. I love doing this. I think it’s fun.”
“We were walking around to make sure the graves that just have emblems didn’t get missed,” Robinson said. “There are a lot of graves with just an emblem, so you kind of need to know what the military emblems from WWI all the way up look like.”
Last Updated on Sunday, 23 December 2012 22:26
Written by Phil Cerroni
By Amanda Casanova
The Irving City Council voted down adopting changes to the City’s ethics code, which hasn’t been amended since its adoption in 1994.
The Council voted 5-4 against the changes to the code, which applies to the Council, City staff, board and commission members, and City contractors and consultants. Council members Michael Gallaway, Roy Santoscoy, Dennis Webb, Joe Putnam and Rose Cannaday voted against. Mayor Beth Van Duyne and council members Brad LaMorgese, Thomas Spink and Gerald Farris voted for the adoption.
“We’ll have this then on our next agenda,” Van Duyne said after the vote. “We’re going to bring this back with minor adjustments.”
An ethics committee started work on updating the code in December 2011 and worked on the policy until May.
The 29-page policy, up from the City’s current five-page policy, includes specific dos and don’ts, an enforcement section and addresses topics such as gifts, political campaigns and the registration of lobbyists.
The draft adds language stating those under the policy may “not engage in or facilitate any discriminatory or harassing behavior” and also specifies that they may not “persuade or attempt to persuade any employee of the City to leave the employ of the City or to become employed by any person or entity other than the City.”
Other specific additions include prohibiting employees or officials from accepting gifts valued at more than $50. An employee or official cannot accept more than $500 in gifts in a single year, according to the draft.
Also, the draft defines a “prohibited financial interest” in a contract with the City if the employee or official or a member of their immediate family directly or indirectly owns 10 percent or more of the voting stock of the business or 10 percent of the fair market value of the business.
The draft also spells out the process for filing an ethics complaint with the City.
But public criticism pointed to the length and complexity of the changes, while Council members against the changes said they were worried about people abusing the policy and falsely accusing Council members of ethics violations.
“The state of Texas has an ethics policy that if you’re an elected official you have to abide with,” Cannaday said. “With ours, it leaves it open for abuse. We can have frivolous complaints and whether you’ve done anything or not, it’s in the news, and it’s nothing.
“That will deter anyone from running for Council,” she said. “It’s a setup.”
Last Updated on Sunday, 23 December 2012 22:24
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