Written by Phil Cerroni
By Jess Paniszczyn
The sounds of children cheering filled the gymnasium of John Haley Elementary as the Dallas Cowboys Rookie Club presented a Futbol Americano Play 60 Youth Clinic and Fuel Up to Play 60 on Sep. 18. The event, designed to introduce the team’s newest members to the importance of giving back, was part of the National Football League’s annual celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month.
Rookie players kicked off the event with a nutritional pep rally before heading outdoors to lead students through a variety of physical activities and drills. The National Football League’s Play 60 initiative hopes to tackle childhood obesity and inspire kids to play well and eat better.
“This is an incredible opportunity for our kids,” vice principal Chris Born said. “To be chosen by the Dallas Cowboys to come out and do this for us is a once in a lifetime experience, that I hope they will never forget.
“We teach a lot of nutritional education in our P.E. classes. Most if not all of our kids know the value of nutrition and activity.”
Sarah Beth Ghozali, a dietician with Dairy Max, spoke about the need for youngsters to have fun while being active.
“Today we are introducing kids to ways of staying fun and healthy all the time,” Ghozali said. “So the Fuel Up to Play 60 program is one of the leading school nutrition and physical activity programs nationwide. It is a collaboration between the National Dairy Council and the National Football League, and today we have paired together with United Health.
“We are introducing the kids to new ways to stay active and healthy while having fun. Obviously, the kids have had a great time today. We are very excited to see how interested they are in staying active and healthy.
“We are incorporating the star power of the Dallas Cowboys players in our messages of eating right and staying healthy. We hope to have an impact on the kids’ lives today and in the future.
We are going to be starting a Fuel Up to Play 60 program at John Haley Elementary, which will help encourage the kids on a daily basis to eat right, study hard and play 60.”
Some information provided by Irving ISD.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 25 September 2012 19:47
Written by Phil Cerroni
By Jess Paniszczyn
Coppell ISD administrators, teachers and students were joined by members of the Coppell Chamber of Commerce to celebrate the ribbon cutting for CISD’s newest building, Victory Place @ Coppell. Formerly known as the Education Annex, the new school occupies a slightly modified, former business building at the corner of Denton Tap and Natches Trace.
The Victory Place houses two of the district’s programs: Turning Point, a specialty program for students, and the Compass program, which serves as the district’s Disciplinary Alternative Education Program.
Coppell ISD superintendant Dr. Jeff Turner expressed his pride in the new facility.
“First of all, I want to say thank you to the school board for making the funds available for this building. We were actually able to match the quality of the building to the quality of the staff and students here in the district,” said Turner.
“The Turning Point program takes care of kids who for some reason or another had situations in their lives, sometimes not even about them, that caused them to get out of step with their graduation plans. So it became a drop out recovery program that is individualized per student according to their needs and where they are in their education plan. The staff here is specially selected to work in their content area and hold kids to rigorous standards while also being very relationship oriented and helping students through the phases of their lives and situations.
“These are not kids who have not generally been successful in school. A lot of the kids who graduate from here, go on to a community college and continue to be successful through life.
“We have another group of kids who attend the Compass Center here who are in disciplinary situations. Students are assigned over here for a short period of time for some violation of the student code of conduct before returning to their home campus.”
“Victory is about the students, and helping the students to be the best they can be,” said Anthony Hill, president of the Coppell ISD Board of Trustees. “When you take people who have had trials and tribulation and give them hope once again, that is a great thing. It is about perseverance.”
Well mannered, professionally dressed students in the Turning Point program greeted visitors as they arrived for the event. Giovanni Brigida (17) chose to attend the Victory Center to help him earn a high school degree as soon as possible.
“I came here to catch up, because I lost a lot of credits going to other schools. I heard a lot of positive things about this program, so I decided to come here,” Giovanni said. “I knew it would really help me in the long run.
“All of the teachers really push you, so you can do your work and get out of here as soon as possible. It was rough at first, but it was for the best.
“I don’t feel like I’m missing out on ‘high school.’ I really didn’t feel like dealing with the whole ‘high school’ thing. We can still go to homecoming and prom, but all of that stuff is cut short, so you can get out of here and get on with your life.”
Fellow student, Tyler Reed (17), is looking forward to attending Blinn College in the spring before eventually transferring to A&M’s main campus.
“I’m a senior, and I spent three years at the high school, before deciding to come here,” Tyler said. “I really like it here. You get to work at your own pace.
“I work at a fast pace, and I’m ahead in all of my classes. I will be graduated by November. I will be able to get my first semester of college in before the majority of my class graduates, which is great. I would suggest Turning Point to any student who doesn’t like the traditional high school setting.”
Victory Place @ Coppell’s principal Ron-Marie Johnson is very proud of her students and is ecstatic with the new facility.
“We are excited to be in a new facility,” Johnson said. “Our kids are awesome. They are your kids and my kids.
“Students apply for the Turning Point program, because they need a smaller, specialized environment. For whatever reason, they are struggling to graduate on time with their peers on the main campus. Life has happened, and they get lost in the big setting of another school. Coppell has so many great programs at all of their campuses, but you still have those few who slip through the cracks, and that is why we are here.”
Last Updated on Tuesday, 25 September 2012 19:46
Written by Phil Cerroni
By Amanda Casanova
Wes Siegrist jokes that he uses gnat eyelashes to paint his painstakingly small miniature art pieces.
The small artwork he and his wife create average about 2 ½ by 2 ½ inches and sometimes call for painting spaces “smaller than your fingernail,” he told attendees at the Irving Arts Center’s “Gallery of Artists” on Sep. 15.
“It just requires a fine point and a steady hand,” he said, pointing to a detailed 3⅛ x 2⅜ inch portrait of President George W. Bush.
Siegrist was one of nine nature artists to participate in the two-day “Gallery of Artists” event, which featured lectures and demonstrations from the nature and wildlife artists.
Part of the proceeds from the sale of the artists’ work, which range from the miniature art paintings of tigers to stone sculptures of birds, will go to the Dallas Ecological Foundation.
“We’re really excited to be able to host these talented, prestigious artists and support a mission of supporting conservation and the arts,” said Marci Inman,director of exhibitions and educational programming for the center.
It’s also a chance to showcase work from national artists to north Texas.
“A lot of people here in the Metroplex are interested in nature and wildlife art,” she said.
But for the artists, it’s an opportunity to share their creative process as well as support conservation efforts.
Sculptor Paul Rhymer, another of the featured artists, said the Gallery of Artists is a group of committed nature artists from all across the United States.
“We all have a common desire to support the arts and to support conservation,” he said. “Some of the proceeds go to the venue we’re at and some go to a local conservation society. It’s a way to have our cake and eat it too.”
It’s a passion he said he enjoys being a part of and an artistic process worth the wait.
“It varies how long it takes me to finish (a piece),” Rhymer said. “I’ll work on one and then come back and change it.
“I’ll let the piece tell me when it’s done,” he added. “Hopefully, I’m listening.”
Last Updated on Tuesday, 25 September 2012 20:14
Written by Phil Cerroni
Nurses fight to eradicate meningitis
By Phil Cerroni
Vaccination has become a common practice from infancy until we shuffle off this mortal coil. Although more and more children have access to these vital shots, thousands of kids still lack protection against extremely dangerous diseases.
One of these diseases is meningitis, and as the school year gets underway the Texas School Nurses Organization has been advancing the Voices of Meningitis campaign and the “Boost our Rates!” initiative in order to make everyone saver in the school place.
Kimberly Clark, a school nurse in Richardson, is deeply involved with Voices of Meningitis. She stressed that because meningitis is particularly insidious and can be difficult to treat; the best protective measure is vaccination.
“The most important preventative measure parents can take is to get their child vaccinated,” Clark said. “It is very hard to avoid meningitis, because it’s transmitted by having close contact with people. It’s transmitted relatively easily, and the initial symptoms are quite vague; people don’t always realize it’s meningitis. The fever, chills, and nausea are just general things which you can attribute to a cold or the flu. With meningitis the symptoms progress so quickly that within 24 hours it could be fatal.”
Children and adolescents have a much higher chance of catching the disease than adults.
“They’re sharing food, sharing drinks, coming into close contact with their peers, kissing. The older teens are suddenly in a dorm room instead of being at home,” Clark continued. “Anybody can catch meningitis, but that age group seems to be exhibiting those behaviors that make them more susceptible.”
Joel and Tammy Futterman lost their daughter, Rachael, to meningitis five years ago when she was a sophomore at University of Southern Florida in Tampa. She was 19.
Joel retold what it was like seeing his oldest child in the hospital the day after she was admitted.
“She was on life support. Everything was stable but assisted by machines. By this time we learned that Rachael was already brain dead,” Joel said. “Friday she was having flue like symptoms, Friday night she started having seizures.
“Her body was in great shape, but when they disconnected everything, they wanted to see the brain fight back and try to recover, and that never happened. She had a perfectly physical body, athlete volleyball mostly, dancer – healthiest of the three children. She went from everything is fine, to flulike symptoms, to gone in an eighteen hour window.”
The Futtermans say that awareness is one of the most important battles to fight on the issue and have been actively raising community awareness since 2007.
“We didn’t know anything about meningitis when all this happened. Meningitis, hepatitis it all got sort of muddle up in our heads –we weren’t educated about it,” Joel admitted matter-of-factly.
“There are a lot of kids who go to the hospital and are sent home with Advil, Gatorade and end up dying at home alone. No one has ever died from the vaccine,” Tammy added.
They both maintain that their daughter’s death could have been easily prevented if both they and their doctor understood the risks.
“We moved to Texas Rachael’s senior year. She went to an adult doctor, not a pediatrician, who didn’t carry the shots, and we didn’t know about them,” Joel said. “I guess she didn’t deal with children and vaccines. She didn’t recommend it, and she didn’t push the issue.”
Dr. Stephen Slaughter, Assistant Professor in the Biology Department at the University of Dallas, shared some insights into the diagnostic aspects of meningitis.
“The anatomy of the brain and the spinal cord is such that there is a covering called the meninges – it serves as protection and support for the brain,” said Slaughter. “It is really the infection of this covering that the phrase meningitis comes from. We have both bacterial and viral meningitis. Overall, bacterial meningitis is considered the most lethal form you can have.
“The vaccine protects against bacterial meningitis. Although the viral strain is still serious, it is not nearly as life threatening. Viral meningitis, while it can be severe, and you may end up in the hospital, is considered a lesser form,” he continued. “In treatment you help control the symptoms of that, but the prognosis for patients with viral meningitis is much better than with bacterial.”
Slaughter went on to explain why meningitis is so dangerous.
“Probably the main side effect of having a bacterial meningitis infection is a change in the permeability of the membrane surrounding the brain thus leading to increased fluid on the brain,” he said. “If we increase the amount of fluid in the brain, the area of the expansion becomes the brain itself, causing the damage.”
This explains some of the symptoms people have reported.
“Usually what happens, individuals will report with bacterial meningitis, they generally run a fever; they also will often report the worst headache they’ve had in their life,” continued Slaughter.
Sometimes survivors come out badly scarred.
“If you do have bacterial meningitis and treatment does not occur quickly, these individuals will often suffer organ failure, kidney failure things like this as well as losing limbs – ultimately because of damage around the brain,” Slaughter said. “I’ve seen kids who’ve lost the use of limbs as a result of it. “Sometimes, no fault of the parents, but treatment is delayed, because you don’t necessarily know if it’s a cold or something that children commonly get. So it is sometimes a tragic situation, but many of these individuals with today’s treatment receive therapy on time and have few side effects from that.”
This is why Voices of Meningitis in cooperation with the National Association of School Nurses and Sanofi Pasteur has been conducting vaccination campaigns across the country and specifically in Texas with the “Boost our Rates!” program.
State lawmakers have also responded to the problem by making vaccination mandatory for both incoming seventh graders and college freshmen under the age of thirty.
“Each school district does different things. There are several local immunization clinics, the Care Van that parks in a McDonald’s parking lot and offers vaccinations, and we do rely on those places to help get vaccinations to these kids,” Clark said gratefully.
All of this hard work has apparently been paying off. 2010 data showed that 65.4 percent of children and teens in Texas were vaccinated. In 2011, 79.1 percent had been protected from the disease.
Slaughter’s figures on how many people actually contract the disease were no less impressive.
“The incidents since these vaccinations have become popular and more widely used has dropped noticeably. It used to be 2 in 100,000 were susceptible. It’s moved more into the ones, 1.3 or something per 100,000 acquiring this particular disease,” he said.
Clark said the greatest challenge is, “Really and truly just spreading the word and making parents aware that the vaccine’s there. It’s really just a simple treatment for something that’s rare but could be fatal. We’re just trying to spread the word.”
For more information visit www.voicesofmeningitis.org
Last Updated on Tuesday, 25 September 2012 19:45
Written by Phil Cerroni
By Phil Cerroni
Big Brothers Big Sisters’ American Future Series is a colloquium of sorts about the direction that America is taking and how to continually make it an even greater country. The September 11 luncheon at the Irving Convention Center was an especially touching tribute to those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice for their country as well as an injunction to the rest of us to honor their sacrifice.
One of the speakers was entrepreneur and energy baron T. Boone Pickens who admonished the assembly about America’s energy potential. It is our part to take bold action to complement with the sacrifice of a few to insure their sacrifice is not in vain.
“Every day 90 million barrels of oil produced in the world ever day. We use 20 million barrels of it. So we’re using approximately 20 percent of all oil produced with 4 percent of the population, and we’re the only country in the world that doesn’t have an energy plan,” Pickens stated bluntly.
He continued saying that, in the United States, the price of oil hovers around $96 a barrel, which is significantly less expensive than anywhere else on the globe.
“The Iranians have $123 a barrel for them to meet their commitments. When I say $96, we’re talking about West Texas. [If] you’re talking about [the] global price for oil, you’re talking about $17, higher which is going to be $115. The United States has the cheapest energy in the world. Believe it or not, it’s true; you don’t have to do any fancy arithmetic to get there.”
Pickens went on the say that gasoline is half the price over here as it is in Europe, and natural gas in the United States is a quarter of the price it is in the rest of the world.
“We’re like $3. Beijing in $15,” he said.
Pickens is convinced that inexpensive energy is the key to getting the United States’ economy back on track.
“If you have the cheapest energy in the world you can rebuild an economy. I can assure you that because [if] you go back to the industrial revolution, that was built on the back of cheap industry,” Pickens said matter-of-factly. “You’re in the same spot again. You have the cheapest energy in the world, but the leadership in Washington doesn’t understand that, and if the leadership in Washington did understand it, they could come up with a plan to rebuild the economy.”
Although Pickens bemoans legislative inaction, he does think that leaders are beginning to realize the importance of effectively harnessing our resources.
“I think Romney will have an energy plan, and Obama keeps talking about natural gas from time to time,” he said. “So they’re all aware, and we could have an energy plan in the next five to ten years.” One of the measures Pickens mentioned was a possible North American Energy Alliance comprised of the United States, Canada and Mexico.
A strong plan is only part of the solution, however. The other part is strong individuals, especially mentors, because it is they who form the next Greatest Generation. Pickens related a humorous memory about one of his own mentors, a high school basketball coach whom the team nicknamed “TG.”
“He didn’t know what TG stood for. It was tough gut – but nobody every told him what we called him behind the scenes – but he was real good,” Pickens laughed. “He never used a board on you; he just kicked you in the ass. He was very accurate.”
The comments given by T. Charles Pierson, the CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of America and most recent inductee into the T. Boone Pickens Hall of Fame for mentoring, were of a soberer nature.
“When you are recognized, you’re humbled because it’s only because of so many people that made that recognition possible,” Pierson said quietly. “Those who have fallen 11 years ago, this is so fitting for each one of us because every one of us as men and women here to day are who we are because of many people who made sacrifices for us to be who we are.”
The last speaker, former Secretary of the Army Peter Geren, tied the various topics discussed over lunch into an inspiring address about the American Spirit and a tribute to the men and women who, for centuries have made that possible.
“When I first went to work for the Department of Defense in September of 2001, my office looked at the North East toward the Potomac River, at the Capitol, the Jefferson Memorial and the Washington Monument,” began Geren. “That was my view. The view was magnificent and inspiring, particularly for someone who spent most of his life in government politics – legislative branch and law.
“For me at that time, and for most Americans, I suppose, the Capitol and the landmarks that frame our Mall mentioned the story and foundation of our country, and that’s where most of us go when we go to Washington.
“My second week at the Pentagon was September 11th, 2001. At 9:37 that morning the American Airlines 757 slammed in the west face of the building killing 189 people and wounding scores more. That morning I watched Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines go to the sound of the explosion, and for eight years I watched them go off to war. I was inspired by the service of those soldiers, and I was humbled by the sacrifice of those families. But that experience – I didn’t realize right away – but from that moment on, my perspective began to change and so did my view.
“When I became secretary of the Army in 2006, I lost my view of the National Mall. My window faced Arlington Cemetery and the waves of chalk headstones that lined the rolling hills and marked the graves of generations of Americans who served our nation in times of war and in times of peace. Outside my window every day, horse-drawn and flag draped caissons carried our nation’s heroes to their final resting place and, if it had not been for the bomb proof windows, I would have heard the mournful tune of taps throughout the day and the crack of rifles fired in salute at those funerals.
“Arlington is filled with the graves of more than three hundred thousand of our honored dead. It’s also the place where the ideal of selflessness and sacrifice live strong, and that ideal itself of sacrifice is celebrated throughout the day, everyday. And that is the spirit that gave birth to our nation and sustains our freedom today.”
Last Updated on Tuesday, 25 September 2012 19:44