The Hidden Victim

By Amanda Spencer

WASHINGTON–For Caroline Jones, it’s sometimes hard to realize the impact her work as president and CEO of Doorways for Women and Families, a domestic violence shelter in Arlington, Va., has on the survivors. That is, until she is faced with it firsthand. Jones remembers one client in particular, a woman who came into the shelter with her pets. This woman and her pets shared something in common: they were attacked by the same abuser.

“She felt like it was her fault that her pet had suffered that and that her abusive partner routinely would make her watch while he injured her pets because he knew nothing got to her more,” Jones said. “She had such a bond with these pets, they were really like her children. The first week that she got there, she insisted on sleeping in the kennel with her pets. She was so so so traumatized that she just really needed that and we didn’t have a rulebook for that, we didn’t have a way to do that, but we figured it out.”

Jones and her staff were able to set up a makeshift bed for the woman so she could sleep with her pets for the first few days of her stay. Cases like the one described by Jones are common. According to the Animal Welfare Institute, around 86 percent of women entering domestic violence shelters reported that their abuser had abused or killed their pet. This connection between animal abuse and domestic violence is causing animal welfare and domestic violence advocates to come together to try to solve the issue by lobbying for Congress to pass the Pet and Women Safety Act, or PAWS Act. The PAWS Act would allocate funds to domestic violence shelters to build on-site housing for the pets of victims like the one who came to Doorways for Women and Families.

Before building the animal shelter, Jones and other workers started to notice a pattern in the calls coming in through their domestic violence hotline.

“What we were hearing is people were calling the hotline in incredible danger,” Jones said. “They, or they and their children, were in danger and we would say, ‘ok, it sounds like you really need to come in,’ and we would start making arrangements for them to come to their safe house, to find out later in the call that they had a pet and they would refuse to come if their pet couldn’t be with them.”

For domestic violence advocates, this trend is alarming. The American Humane Association notes that between 25 and 40 percent of abused women have not sought shelter from abusive relationships because they worried about what would happen to their pets. After further investigation, Jones discovered that the reasoning behind why victims wouldn’t leave their pets often times had to do with the pet being abused as well.

Graphic by Amanda Spencer

“We heard horror stories of people who if they said if they were going to leave the relationship, the pet would be harmed or maimed and if they did leave, they were incredibly fearful, and rightfully so, that the pet would be killed,” Jones said.

In order to fix the problem, shelters including Doorways for Women and Families partnered with local animal shelters that gave temporarily house the victim’s pets while the victims were getting their lives back on track. These animal shelters are known as safe havens. Currently there are 1,436 registered safe havens spread across the country that are known by the Animal Welfare Institute. Yet Jones and other organizations found that some clients still refused to temporarily give up their pets to safe havens.

“Having the pet go not with the family but to the Humane Society was really terrifying for these survivors,” Jones said. “It was one more trauma that we felt we could avoid and more and more research on understanding trauma and how human-beings respond to it, there’s so much therapeutic value in keeping families together and having pets, who are definitely family members, as part of the healing.”

Jones brings up a mission that those who work with domestic violence share: trying to make the process of leaving their abuser as easy as possible. That’s one of the reasons why Jessica Katz created the Safe Haven Network. The Safe Haven Network serves as a connection between domestic violence victims and the animal shelters that serve as safe heavens. Instead of the victim having to call around to different shelters to secure a safe location for their pet, a member of the Safe Haven Network will do it for them. This allows the victim to focus on other aspects of his or her safety plan.

“It’s one less thing to worry about,” Katz said. “She’s got so many things to worry about. Based on what I see, eight to nine times out of 10 if they need our service they have kids too. Imagine being young and being relocated and not knowing where your pet is going. Now imagine being that kid’s mother. Everything is up in the air, but at least they know that their pet is safe. It’s kind of an anchor.”

When Katz or another member of the group submits for an animal to stay in a shelter, they can usually secure a spot for the animal for about a month, with the possibility of a two-week extension. However, this time frame doesn’t match up with the average stay for a woman in a shelter, which is double that at 60 days. Moreover, according to the Domestic Abuse Shelter of the Florida Keys, on average a woman will leave her abuser seven times, yet some safe havens have a one-time only policy. While those numbers make Katz’s job harder, in her mind it doesn’t change anything.

“However many times she comes back that’s how many times we’re going to help her,” Katz said. Our slogan is pets are family. When you’re in that situation, when your family is running for your life, you shouldn’t have to pick and choose which members of your families get safe and which don’t. We make sure that every member of the family is safe.”

The discrepancy in the average stay for domestic violence victims and in how long safe havens can keep pets are two examples of why shelters like Doorways for Women and Families have decided to make their own shelter for animals. Nevertheless, this brings about new issues of how to best help all the victims, not just some of them.

“We need to make sure that this is a space that works for everybody,” Jones said. “And having pets in a communal setting [with] other clients who are with us who like pets is very easy and it’s very positive. But at times we have people from a wide range of cultures and a wide range of backgrounds and life experiences that maybe don’t have a positive relationship with pets. So there’s a constant balancing act of how to make sure that we’re inclusive of everybody’s needs.”

Additionally, another issue shelters face has to do with funding. At Doorways for Women and Families alone, there has been a 53 percent increase in calls to their hotline. Nearly every day of the year their safe house has been full and operating over capacity, which leads to a problem of having enough funding. Jenny Nahrwold, the clinic operation manager for PAWS Chicago, cites this as the main barrier to domestic violence shelters building on-site animal housing.

“Most domestic violence shelters are small non-profits without much funding,” Nahrwold said. “They don’t have the resources needed to provide to their victims, let alone pets. We encourage shelters to build places for animals but it’s hard. There are so many regulations.”

That’s where the PAWS Act comes in. If passed, the PAWS Act would allocate funding to domestic violence shelters to build on-site shelters. As a Huffington Post article said, as of right now, less than 5 percent of domestic violence shelters have a place for women to bring their pets. This bill would remove the barrier of victims not wanting to seek help for fear that their pet would be harmed by their abuser. Instead, their pet would be able to join them and be a part of the recovery process. Furthermore, the PAWS Act would protect pets in interstate stalking, protection order violations, and restitution federal laws while including pets under protection orders.

The PAWS Act has attracted attention from animal welfare and domestic violence lobbyists alike, including the Animal Welfare Institute, a non-profit organization that works to end the suffering of animals at the hands of people. Nancy Blaney, the senior policy advisor, uses a variety of tactics to try to get legislation like the PAWS Act passed.

“It’s just a matter of really just working it, getting our members to contact their representatives and senators to cosponsor,” Blaney said. “Sponsoring briefings for staff so staff will go back and talk to their bosses. We talk about this at the prosecutors’ conferences. It’s just really a matter of talking to offices, getting those personal stories out there, getting other groups that sometimes have better entre than we do.”

When it comes down to it, Blaney sites cosponsors as one of the most important things needed to get a bill passed. Yet with 191 cosponsors in the House of Representatives and 27 in the Senate, a lack of cosponsors doesn’t seem to be the reason why the PAWS Act has yet to move out of committee. Instead, the problem might lie in the type of bill.

“Stand alone bills are having a hard time, because nothing’s getting done,” Blaney said. “It’s hard enough just to get the funding approved to keep the government operating. So, you have to find other ways.”

Even more important than cosponsors are the opinions of constituents themselves. For those who want to see animal welfare laws get passed, Blaney emphasizes the power of reaching out.

“Contact your congressman, contact your state legislators,” Blaney said. “When you get an email or something that says ‘we really need your voice,’ we really need your voice! When push comes to shove, it’s hearing from the constituents that really makes the difference.”

It can be challenging to get people on Capitol Hill to pay attention to animal welfare issues in comparison to issues that deal with people. Still, according to Blaney the climate on the Hill has improved dramatically.

“In Congressional offices when I first started out you would try to find somebody who was working on animal issues and it was like, ‘well let me see who’s doing that,’” Blaney said. “But now you have a person on the roster. Animal welfare always has somebody assigned to it. And that’s a big big difference….things have changed remarkably if you kind of take a long view. But on a day-to-day basis, you’re still kind of butting heads with a lot of obstacles.”

Currently, Jones acknowledges that not a lot of victims need the service the on-site animal shelter provides. However, those that do need it make it worth it.

“Maybe 10 to15 percent of clients come with their pets,” Jones said. “But that’s 10 to 15 percent of clients that we would be turning away each year if we didn’t have it. So I look at it that way. When it’s not occupied it’s very cost neutral so it’s something that is pretty easy to provide to make that path of help just a little bit wider.”

At the end of the day, there is a lot of work to be done relating to not only domestic violence and animal abuse, but all kinds of animal welfare issues. Anna Payton, the Executive Director of the Naperville Area Humane Society in Naperville, Ill., encourages people to take the time to think about what issues are prevalent in the community and then do something about it.

“I just would encourage other shelters, other organizations, to take a look at their community and see if there’s not a program in their area to help and partner with the family shelters or women’s shelters and see if you can fill a void where it’s really needed,” Payton said. “And, encourage people to keep having these conversations and realize that there is a connection between domestic violence and animal abuse or violence against humans and animal abuse, and take it seriously. That’s again where we’re going to see change, when people start to recognize and change their mindset and outlook on things. That’s where you’re going to see any type of social change.”

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Only Miles, Huge Deviations in Concussion Protocol between MCPS and DCPS Athletics

The 2015 movie Concussion was the solidifying factor in completely turning concussions in to a mainstream topic. Before that, the subject of concussions was swept away like dust, a taboo concept relegated to back doctor’s offices and old files collecting dust in administrative file cabinets. But the genie has now completely, albeit slowly been let out of the bottle. With increasing pressure from medical professionals, families of suffering retired athletes, and former professional football players themselves, the NFL is slowly but increasingly admitting the obvious link between contact sports and degenerative brain disease. Most recently in late March, the NFL made its most straightforward acknowledgement of the link to date when its senior vice-president for health and safety policy indicated that he was certain of the connection between contact sports and subsequent neural malfunctions.

Now that the proverbial cat is out of the bag, even though many were aware of said cat for years before the NFL would acknowledge it, concussions are just an addition to the bevy of silent threats that infiltrate the medical world. You can’t see them, but the effects can become glaringly obvious if these injuries aren’t handled correctly.

“Concussions have come in and out of the public eye for over 130 years” said Katherine “Price” Snedaker, a Connecticut-based concussion advocate and founder of SportsCAPP, a concussion awareness program for those involved in youth sports leagues. “But there are no hard, fast numbers for anything or any one age group when it comes to a concussion because all facts are based on ‘reported concussions.”’

It is clear that collegiate programs are lacking in their establishment of effective concussion protocol. In a 2014 survey of 1066 collegiate institutions completed by the American Journal of Sports Medicine, researchers found that while a large majority of collegiate athletic programs have protocol for when an athlete sustains a concussion, the guidelines need many improvements. Of 2,081 participants in college athletics in 2012-2013, 206 of those students (roughly 9 percent) sustained a total of 211 concussions.

Weaknesses within collegiate athletic training programs are called in to question as the dark shadow cast over the NFL gains more acknowledgement. This has resulted in a bottom-up approach in concussion prevention and treatment in sports. The foundation for advocacy and proper ways to deal with concussions has been established within youth sports programs and high school sports programs. The effectiveness of many different youth programs has served as a framework for many collegiate programs.

Concussions in Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS)

MCPS concussion specialist Jeffrey Sullivan considers MCPS policy as one of the top in the country; way ahead of the mainstream when it comes to the education and treatment of brain injuries that are the result of athletics.

“We are at the forefront of medical changes in high school sports; we had many of these protocols in place before a lot of the state concussion laws were enacted” Sullivan said in an April 18 telephone discussion.

The concussion policies within MCPS athletics are based on education. The priority for administrators is to educate students, parents, trainers and coaches. At the beginning of each athletic season, the county presents student-athletes with an Athlete Healthy & Safety PowerPoint that highlights the most common symptoms of concussions, what one should do if he or she believes a he has suffered a concussion, and how a student’s return to play should be handled. In recent years, athletic trainers have been a priority in MCPS.

“This is the first year that all 25 MCPS high schools have athletic trainers for sports,” Sullivan said. “Trainers attend all home games on-site and treat both competing teams when an injury is sustained.”

The pool of trainers employed by MCPS is picked from four local vendors that the county has entered in to a three-year contract with: Adventist Healthcare, MedStar Health, Pivot Physical Therapy and Maryland Orthopedic specialist.

Concussions in MCPS
Concussions in MCPS

In an article published in the Washington Post in 2015, MCPS director of athletics William “Duke” Beattie said the county pays roughly $20,000 per trainer that it employs.

MCPS, like many other counties, also uses ImPACT testing for its student-athletes. Every two years, all athletes are required to undergo ImPACT baseline testing. The test measure brain functioning in students under normal circumstances and is taken again post-concussion when a student is injured. The two tests are then compared to measure an athlete’s brain functioning. However, while the test is mandatory within the county, it is an optional resource that can be used by a student-athlete’s personal doctor.

“MCPS as a whole is very in-tune with what’s going on with concussions and our students,” Sullivan said. “The county as a whole has a five-step concussion plan established whereby we use education, baseline testing, trainers, procedures, and a step-by-step return to play procedure that we are confident is effective.”

While Sullivan notes that the recent spotlight on concussions has not lead to a noticeable decrease in participation in contact sports, they county is already planning to usher in courses and training programs on how to properly block and tackle in football.

“Many members of the MCPS athletics administration are a parents too,” Sullivan said. “We are all very worried about our children and just want them to be safe and have their well-being placed in good hands.”

Concussions in D.C. Public Schools (DCPS)

While only a short drive or metro ride away from MCPS, DCPS’s athletic department takes a very different approach to concussions from their suburban-Maryland counterparts.

The DCPS administration does not have the rock solid foundation that has been a hallmark of MCPS for decades. DCPS Athletic Director Stephanie Evans has been on leave since late 2015 amidst reports of high turnover, inconsistent records, and a floundering budget.

When a DCPS student-athlete suffers a concussion, the athlete is removed from activity, and is not allowed to participate in athletics the next day. In order to begin the return-to-play process, the athlete must be asymptomatic for at least 48 hours. If an athlete sustains multiple concussions in one season, they need a doctor’s approval to return for the next season. DCPS began mandatory ImPACT testing for all student-athletes only five years ago.

According to DCPS Lead Athletic Trainer Jamila Watson, DCPS uses a return-to-play protocol that was created by the concussion department of Children’s National Medical Center

“We use [Children’s] as guidance for how we handle brain injuries, and their recommendations have been successful in effectively treating concussions” Watson said in an April 21 telephone conversation.

While not as in-depth as MCPS, concussion protocol and safety within DCPS has been a priority since before studies on concussions and their lasting impacts became in vogue.

“The way DCPS handles athletic injuries can really be considered a benchmark because we have had 12 full-time athletic trainers for 26 years, way before other schools had trainers on staff,” Watson said. “We were that benchmark and everyone followed suit.”

A testament to the dedication of athletic trainers within DCPS is that fact that some of these original athletic trainers are still on staff. These days, they focus on being present in practices and pushing coaches to modify student-athlete techniques in hopes of eliminating concussions in practice that could result from a poorly executed hit or tackle.

The policies DCPS currently has in place appear to be effective. According to the athletic administration, during the 2014-2015 academic year 61 our of 2,922-or two percent- of student athletes suffered a concussion.

Future Protocol

While public schools work hard to create guidelines and reforms in order to decrease concussions in public schools, there has also been an increase in awareness programs throughout towns and sports leagues.

Snedaker’s program, SportsCAPP, is the primary program used to educate and evaluate concussions in all of Norwalk, Connecticut’s recreational sports leagues and athletic programs. The goal of SportsCAPP is to lower the liability for the city and its sports programs in the event that a major head injury is sustained.

“It is suspected that only less than half of the number in each age group actually report concussions,” Snedaker said. “Missed concussions are the first big issue because students keep playing and run the huge risk of getting hit a second time.”

Snedaker’s program aims to educate athletes and coaches on how to accurately evaluate a hit to the head and understand when it is really okay to return to play. SportsCAPP has been implemented in five baseball leagues, two soccer leagues, lacrosse leagues, basketball leagues, field hockey leagues and football leagues throughout the area. It has resulted in over 1,000 trained coaches for 6,000 youth players.

Through SportsCAPP, the city of Norwalk has established a concussion protocol that in some ways is similar to that of MCPS. Parents, coaches and athletes are informed through free online training sessions. Athletes are removed from play if they experience concussion-like symptoms. In order to begin the return-to-play process, athletes must wait 24 hours after the initial hit before getting permission from their doctor. All concussions sustained while playing in one of Norwalk’s recreational leagues must be recorded and submitted to Norwalk’s parks and & recreational facilities office.

“There is this misconception that athletes fake concussions in order to get out of practice but it’s just not true,” Snedaker said. “With all of the new lawsuits arising… that’s the push we need in our society right now.”

As for the future of concussions, many- like Snedaker- believe it is all about raising awareness, increasing education and eliminating the misconceptions that have been existent for years. The NFL’s full admittance of the danger of repetitive head injuries is a major step towards ushering in a new era of concussion management.

A Bright Future for the Anacostia River

“The Forgotten River,” is what the Anacostia River used to be referred to. Many people didn’t know the Anacostia River flows from Maryland into Washington D.C. before emptying into the Potomac River. The once clean and healthy river turned for the worse when sedimentation and heavy erosion started to seep in when the area started to urbanize. “As the Washington, D.C., area grew, urbanization claimed forest and wetland habitat, altered stream flows, and fed ever-increasing amounts of sewage and polluted runoff into the river,”attributed to an article by Jeff Turrentine. Major initiatives by different organizations have given hope that a change in the future is possible. The Anacostia River Watershed Society believes by 2025 the river will be fishable and swimmable. The different organizations have different individual goals, but share the common goal, which is to clean up and fix all the problems the Anacostia River has. There is still work to be done, but this once forgotten river looks like it has a bright future ahead.

The initiative to clean the rivers all over the nation started when Congress passed the Clean Water Act of 1972. “Under the CWA, the Energy Protection Agency has implemented pollution control programs such as setting wastewater standards for industry. We have also set water quality standards for all contaminants in surface waters,” (EPA’s website). This means that not only are rivers and large rivers protected protected by the Clean Water Act, but also smaller creeks and tributaries that flow into other bigger bodies of water. This is important for he Anacostia River because the river has many tributaries that flow into the river. These tributaries are a contributing factor the river’s poor conditions. In order, the clean the Anacostia, all the tributaries that flow into the river have to be clean too.

John Coleman, the Public Information Officer of the Maryland Department of Planning said in an interview, “It started with the Clean Water Act and focusing on the biggest body of water in the area, the Chesapeake Bay. The movement to clean up the Bay has encouraged other rivers in the region to do the same. By cleaning up the water in D.C. we are improving the economic and value of the area.” Coleman said, “Cleaning up the water is also about the community buying into it. Organizations can only do so much, but its up to the people living in the area to be more eco friendly and take responsibility for the community they live in.”

A recent decision by the Supreme Court to not review a case challenging the legality of the Chesapeake Bay Clean Water Blueprints is great news for the Anacostia and Potomac Rivers, according to Doug Siglin, Executive Director of Anacostia Waterfront Trust. “This means that Congress doesn’t see the need to further investigate the Chesapeake Bay area because of the positive steps that are being taken by the different organization helping clean up the rivers,” said Siglin. It also means that the different organizations are following the Clean Water Act and not doing anything illegal. In the Anacostia’s case this is a huge momentum swing because of the shape the river was just a few years ago. This being said the Anacostia still has away to go in cleaning up the entity of the river. “In 2011, a report dubbed the Anacostia one of the most polluted waterways in the nation,” attributed to Valentine.

There are a number of organizations that are working to help clean up the Anacostia River. This is an info graph of the different organizations and their different goals in what they want to accomplish.

untitled-infographic-2

Quotes are from the mission/goal statements from each organization’s websites. (http://www.anacostiaws.org, https://www.nrdc.org, http://www.cleanwateraction.org, http://www.healthyanacostiariver.org/#about, https://www.anacostiawaterfront.org.)

Stopping the pollution that is entering the Anacostia is the main goal. There was a recent report done by the Department of Energy and Environment, which has pointed out the toxins that are still seeping into the Anacostia River. “The report unveiled earlier this month confirmed the existence of polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs, and PCBs, chemicals that have been banned for decades can cause cancer. Pesticides, lead, and mercury were found, too,” attributed to an article by Fragoso. This report was done to help identify the locations of these pollutants and where help is needed. The findings are surprising however because so many companies have changed how they operate to be more eco friendly. “While the report says further sampling is needed to confirm sources, it points to contaminants in various locations including the Washington Navy Yard, the former Steurart Petroleum terminal and outfalls near the former Washington Gas Light Company’s coal gasification plant,” said Fragoso.

This report will help organizations like the Clean Water Action who has been working with the Anacostia for numerous years. The organization focuses on the water quality of the Anacostia and this report identifies the chemicals in the water. This information can help Clean Water Action focus in on how get rid of the specific chemicals in the water. “Restoration efforts with Clean Water Act goals have been ongoing in the Anacostia River for more than 20 years, due to red tape and the lack of adequate funding required to eliminate toxins such as, sediment remediation,” (Clean Water Action website). Brent Bolin the Chesapeake Region Director for Clean Water said in an interview, “We are going to be doing a lot of work to make sure that clean up moves forward. We are about the people and the environment and we will always work towards making the area a better place for the community.”

These locations will help the Anacostia River Watershed Society narrow their immediate initiatives. “Watershed is an area where water collects to flow into a river, lake, or another large body of water” (Watershed website). The Anacostia has 13 major tributaries creeks that affect what flows into the river. Jorge Montero, the Anacostia River Watershed Society’s Steward Program Director of Natural Resources Montero said in an interview, “We have to manage the storm water, manage the legacy toxic sites and fix the sewage systems. Right now the springtime is our busiest time because we have to focus on the regeneration of the ecosystems. We especially have to monitor our bigger gardens to make sure they are managing the storm water successfully.”

This is an audio clip from Montero as he describes how important it is to have a clean Anacostia River for the community.

Jorge Montero

An article published by the Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC) promotes their recent initiative to get involved with the Anacostia’s major problem of runoff storm water. “Its called low-impact development or sometimes green infrastructure, this solution involves measures that meld technology with simple common sense: strategically placed beds of native plants; rain barrels; vegetation-covered “green roofs”; porous parking lots, sidewalks, and courtyards; and other tools that help rainfall evaporate back into the atmosphere or soak into the ground instead of sluicing downhill and into the river,” attributed to Turrentine. This effective and affordable solution will be following the plans that other organizations are taking. This the first time the NRDC has made a recognizable effort towards the Anacostia River, according to the NRDC’s website. The NRDC is protoming their low-development program this upcoming year. Montero said, “Its great to see the NRDC contributing with what looks like a plan that could be very effective.”

A contributing factor that the Anacostia Waterfront Initiative looks to turn around is the poor community that surrounds the river. “The project involves spending $10 billion over 30 years to turn the river’s beleaguered shoreline into a vibrant and dynamic asset to the several communities—most of them poor or working-class—that flank it. Its vision for the Anacostia is one in which the many abandoned and derelict stretches of waterfront are transformed into parks, recreational facilities, bike and walking paths, and commercial centers that will create jobs,” according to Turrentine. The river has to be much cleaner before this can be done. “The D.C. government has issued warning not to eat the fish that are caught out of the Anacostia and Potomac Rivers, but still, a study commissioned by the Anacostia Watershed Society found that 17,00 people eat the fish they catch out of the river each year, despite signage warning them not to. Most of the fishers in the study were African American or Hispanic, and many were sharing the fish with hungry people who approached them, begging for fish,” attributed to Valentine. If these fish contain toxins that could be cancerous tumors, it could be a factor of cancer in humans.

United for a Healthy Anacostia River is an organization that was founded in 2014. This organization works specifically in managing and cleaning up the pollution in the legacy toxic locations. Robert Shwartz, the Communications Consultant, said in an interview, “We know that the sewage systems and managing storm water gets a lot of attention, so we are focused in cleaning up the toxic sites. We feel that this is the biggest problem because so much pollution has accumulated throughout the years. We understand that the pollution has died down, but there is still pollution seeping into the river.”

The Anacostia River was once one of the most polluted rivers in the nation. All of the organizations are working to help make sure the image of the Anacostia River changes. Bolin said, “It’s about taking pride in the area that you live in. Everyone should have the opportunity to use the rivers that is around them.” Each organization has a specific focus in helping the river. Whether its specifically cleaning the legacy toxic sites or managing the storm water runoff, everyone knows their role. There is a bright future for the once “Forgotten River,” that many people thought would never be possible. The goal to make the Anacostia swimmable and fishable by 2025 won’t be easy. All of the organizations are willing to do what is necessary to make sure this goal is met. “We take each season as a new opportunity to make sure what can be being done is being done,” said Montero. “There are a lot more eyes on the river today. People are starting to take responsibility and I feel we can only go up from here in making the Anacostia River healthy again.”

 

By: Joseph Iraola

Music Education Hitting High Notes in Every Student Succeeds Act

by Katelyn Becker

Although most people agree that music education is a positive addition to school curriculum, these programs have often been left on the cutting-room-floor after budget allocations and funding. Despite the benefits, schools were constricted by standardized testing and the No Child Left Behind Act.

On December 10, 2015 President Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The act emphasized a holistic education for students meaning an education where they get more than just math and language arts. It also recognizes music education as an integral part to a holistic and well-rounded education.

Ronny Lau is the Legislative Policy Advisor at The National Association for Music Education. According to him, “music education now has a seat at the table.”

For people who have rallied for better funding for music education, this law is groundbreaking. Music education is finally recognized and validated as an important step to shaping the minds of students. As school systems begin to chart their courses going forward with ESSA, many students, teachers and advocates are anticipating the impact that it will have on music education across the country.

Going forward, the impact of the law has yet to play out in school systems in D.C. and across the country but some advocates are hoping for some changes.AAA

Every Student Succeeds Act

ESSA is replacing the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), which both parties and educators criticized for the amount of standardized testing and rigidness in funding for schools. The country is shifting from a federal common core structure to giving the power back to states, however the Department of Education is overseeing their actions by monitoring the states. After the NCLB Act was unsuccessful, Congressional leaders from both political parties worked together to propose the ESSA that passed in December.

In a recent hearing at the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, committee member Robert Scott said that this legislation was a bipartisan effort.

“In a time when Congress is often chastised for its brokenness and compromise we clearly accomplished a great deal coming to a consensus to pass this major legislation,” Scott said.

The policies described steps toward holistic education and more importantly a shift in power to the state and local governments. The legislation gives most of the control for education to local governments, and the federal government will have the responsibility of overseeing the implementation.

Chairman John Kline said that the country had tried the “top-down approach to education during the common core era.” He said therefore, ESSA is a clear push for education to be mostly controlled by the state and local governments across the country.

States and school districts now have the power, which makes the allocation of funding a lot more flexible. Music educators now have the chance to convince their communities that they need to be recognized. The funding of the music programs continue to be up to the school systems, but hopefully without less testing, there will be room for funding for the arts.

Inside the classroom

Sarah Frei is the performing arts teacher at Horace Mann Elementary School in Washington, D.C. She understands the education system in D.C. through interacting with music students at her job.

Frei has been a teacher since graduating from college. When she returned after raising her children, she said she looked for a job that would combine her passions for teaching, music and history.

“As I recall, there was not enough funding for a full-time music teacher,” she said. “I began teaching music and performing arts to the 3rd-5th graders only but as more money became available, I eventually became the full-time performing arts teacher for the entire school.”

When it comes to music education, she said the counterargument is that school systems tend to focus on programs that help the core subjects.

“I think music education has not been funded in the past because when all is said and done, priority has always been given to those programs that directly deal with the teaching of reading, writing and math,” she said. “The classroom teachers’ schedules and needs come first and it’s hard to argue against that when test scores loom large in our school system.”

Now, ESSA is changing how the education system views standardized testing while evaluating a school. At the House hearing, Secretary of Education John King said that No Child Left Behind narrowed the idea of education excellence. ESSA is pushing to broaden this by changing the way the U.S. uses testing.

The new law will allow the state to determine how important test scores really are in the scope of the evaluation of a school. He said this would alleviate test anxiety, stop teachers from teaching to the test and allow for a more well-rounded evaluation of both teacher and student. The act also gives the state the option to decide whether parents can opt their children out of standardized testing.

As ESSA slowly changes the scope of test scores and evaluation of schools, this would allow even more flexibility for school systems to adjust their funding. With the alleviation of this pressure, schools can allocate money where they see fit.

“If I had my chance, I’d invite lawmakers to see one of my musicals…then there would be the proper funding for music education across the land,” Frei said.

Paving the Way to Grassroots Advocacy

Music education may now be included in the law, but what really matters is what goes on in the classroom.

The National Association for Music Education (NAfME) is an advocacy group based in D.C. NAfME has been fighting the good fight since 1907. They have 60,000 members across the country and all of them are music educators who work with kids K-12 and beyond.

Ronny Lau, along with two other NAfME registered lobbyists, try to convince the government for more funding and allocation for music education. They also provide educators with the tools that they need to lobby their superintendents and school districts for more funding.

“The state of music education is fantastic, but at the same time there’s a lot of work that needs to be done,” Lau said.

NAfME is taking advantage of this progressive time in education by providing educators tool kits and information to present to the people in charge. Lau said that previously the law included the arts in their core education policy, so administrators could interpret “art” in any way they wanted. Often music programs were the first to get cut. That meant the money that school districts allocated for the arts ended up being split between art and music programs.

Lau said it’s up to music educators to communicate their needs to their local governments to slowly create change.

“What we’re really working on right now is making sure all 60,000 members are engaged and understand what the law actually means so that they can actually present it to their administrators, school boards and those who make these financial decisions so they know that there are these funds now available to support their music programs” he said.

Now that music education is specifically named in the law, the hope is that programs will finally receive funding if superintendents understand the new law and care to fund the music programs.

“It all starts from the power of numbers,” Lau said.

What benefits does music education offer?

Music education has been long regarded as beneficial for students, especially K-12. Many advocates differ on how they view the benefits of music education, but most agree with ESSA-music should be included in the promotion of a well-rounded student.

Ty Russell is the director of student affairs and outreach at Sitar Arts Center in the Adams Morgan neighborhood of D.C. Since music education programs have been cut in the past, Sitar Arts Center is a place where students can go after school to take music and art lessons in a variety of disciplines. The center is also focused on teaching life skills, alongside honing a student’s craft.

“Even more than we try to teach the particular art forms, we want to impart what we call 21st century life skills,” Russell said.

He said that teaching the arts can help students learn skills like problem solving, planning, completion and follow through. They also learn to apply creativity to any situation.

“I see the benefits of arts education on a daily basis,” Russell said. The benefits of this type of education can be quite personal. One example he used was a student he was working with who had problems with impulse control and at school she was being disruptive in class. She also had difficulty focusing. But, she came to Sitar and found that she loved collaging and art. She got so involved in her collage project that it is helping improve her focus issues.

“Self expression involves being in touch with yourself and investigating, delving into what makes you tick, and as you learn to express yourself through whatever art form it is you’re working in, you discover things about yourself,” Russell said.

Russell sees the addition of arts education giving people a vehicle to communicate who they are.

Another benefit is that the arts allows for feedback from others. Russell said this enables students to take pride in their ability to express themselves, especially in a way that they never thought they could before trying an instrument or learning a new skill.

Nancy Snider is the director of the music program at American University. In March she attended a roundtable of advocates with arts administrators to discuss a recent film about a choral program. Having served on the panel discussing the importance of music education, she recommended Americans for the Arts as a helpful resource for advocates.

In the panel, a man from Americans for the Arts was presenting various pitches to help spread the word about arts education. Snider said that to get your point across, you need to connect it to something your audience is interested.

“If you’re speaking to a room of scientists and mathematicians about the arts, sure, get them interested by talking about the transfer values of the arts or talking about how music and the mind intersect,” she said. Transfer values are hard skills that can be applied to other things such as: working with others, and improving from feedback.

Then advocates need to take it to the next level. She argued that schools should have music education, not just for the transfer skills, but also because music is art and art helps shape a better society. After finding common ground with your audience she said, “talk about the quality of the art, and the art for art’s sake.”

 

She also said that it’s important people receive this education at a young age because it is more difficult to start an instrument later in life.

“It’s essential that we start to teach people from a very young age so that they have a strong foundation and so that they’re able to fully develop as artists and to develop their vocabulary in whatever their discipline happens to be,” Snider said.

If you visit the NAfME website, they provide research and examples of studies showing the hard data of the benefits of music education. For example, they link to a study by College Board in 2012 that shows the increase in test scores when a student takes a class about music appreciation or performance. In addition, there’s also a chance that participation in a musical activity shows that the student is well-rounded, increasing his or her chance of being accepted to a competitive college program.

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This graph shows the SAT scores of students who took music classes versus students who took none. Graph made by Katelyn Becker using the statistics fro College Board’s study 2012

 

 

What’s Next

About 200 executive board members and chairs of The National Association for Music Education will attend the NAfME Hill Day event in D.C this June.

“They usually have a specific task or agenda that they take to their legislators office, whether it’s their senator or their house of representatives member,” Lau said. “They’ll talk about what our legislative priorities are for the upcoming year.”

With ESSA being implemented this year, they will have a lot to talk about.

Do Religiously Affiliated Universities Act as a Barrier to Access to Contraception for College Women?

 

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Emily Stephens at Zubik v. Burwell rally in front of the U.S. Supreme Court / Photo Credit: Feministcampus.com

WASHINGTON, DC— Emily Stephens is one of many women on college campuses across the United States who is being denied access to contraception by her university. Although Stephens is personally able to access birth control from her parent’s health insurance plan, she notes that not all female students at her Jesuit university have this privilege. The disparity in access to contraception has encouraged her and members of H*yas for Choice, a student group that is not recognized by Georgetown University, to pass out condoms and pamphlets explaining safe sex practices.

H*yas for Choice has identified a barrier many women on religiously affiliated college campuses are facing—contraception is simply not available. Georgetown University, the oldest Jesuit and Catholic university in the United States, grounds its education and university policies in Jesuit values, according to its mission statement. The university’s religious ideologies have influenced policies banning the sale and distribution of contraceptives on campus, leaving sexually active female students without campus resources for preventing unplanned pregnancies.

“Personally for me getting pregnant at this point in my life would be the worst thing to ever happen to me and I feel like a lot of other women are in that position, and to not have control over whether or not that happens is really, really scary,” Emily Stephens, the organizing coordinator for H*yas for Choice said.

Stephens is not alone in her search for family planning services to avoid unplanned pregnancy. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 62 percent of women of reproductive age in the United States use at least one form of contraception and 99 percent of women aged 15-24 who have engaged in sexual intercourse have used contraception at least once. On college campuses, 40 percent of women report specifically using prescribed oral contraceptives as their main means for preventing unwanted pregnancy, according to the American College Health Association, an advocacy and research organization focused on the health of college students.

 

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Infographic created by Emma Thomas

 

Despite the high demand and use of contraception among college-aged women, many female students like Stephens are running into barriers accessing contraception while at college.

In the case of two private Washington, D.C. universities– Catholic University of America and Georgetown University– the religious affiliations of the institutions are a significant factor into their students’ lack of accessibility to contraception.

At both Georgetown University and Catholic University of America, the sale of condoms is prohibited whether the university owns the campus store or it is rented by a third party. Student health centers, resident assistants and recognized student groups are not permitted to distribute condoms on campus. Stephens says the closest place Georgetown students can purchase condoms is at a nearby CVS about a mile walk from the front gates of the university.

Every day, rain or shine, H*yas for Choice members sit behind a table and pass out condoms and sexual health information in Georgetown University’s Red Square, the designated free speech area on campus, according to Stephens. As the organizing coordinator of the club, Stephens has been leading the organization’s efforts to pressure university administration to expand free speech areas on campus and to permit third-party campus stores to sell condoms. Her long term goals for the organization are for students to be able to obtain birth control from the student health center for pregnancy prevention purposes, and for H*yas for Choice to become a recognized club. The organization’s most recent success was getting permission from the university to allow members to tape envelopes filled with condoms to their personal dormitory doors, so that all students had access to free condoms.

While some students like Stephens and other H*yas for Choice members oppose the religious mandates creating barriers to accessing contraception, other students say they are in support of the policies. “I came to this school knowing it had a lot of Catholic identity and it’s right that we are following that tradition of a Catholic school to not support any contraception or abortion,” Michael Khan, president of Georgetown University’s Right To Life, a pro-life student club, said.

Khan is a sophomore at Georgetown University and grew up passionate about the right-to-life movement. He joined Right to Life his freshman year to help plan the university’s national Cardinal O’Connor Conference on Life, which Khan says is the largest pro-life conference in the country. “We don’t really take a perspective on contraception,” Khan said. “We just have abortion, death penalty, and euthanasia, and we obviously oppose all those.” He says Georgetown’s Jesuit values are a foundational component of the education at the university, which is why Right to Life supports the school’s anti-contraception policy.

Georgetown University declined to comment on its anti-contraception policy for this story, but according to the Student Health Services section of their website, student health insurance plans provided by the university do not cover contraceptive services for the purpose of preventing pregnancy.

“The organization that sponsors your health plan has certified that it qualifies for a temporary enforcement safe harbor with respect to the Federal requirement to cover contraceptive services without cost sharing. Coverage under your health plan will not include coverage of contraceptive services.” (Retrieved from Georgetown University’s Student Health Services website under the frequently asked questions page).

The one exception to this policy is if birth control medication is requested “for treatment of a covered sickness.” Stephens says this exception allows women on campus to get prescriptions for birth control without the university breaking their religious obligations to the Catholic Church. “If you want it for contraceptive purposes you have to lie and want it for acne control or period control,” Stephens said. “So it is possible. But only if you are willing to lie to get it.”

Khan said this exception is not the only instance where the university is lenient in regards to the Catholic faith, mentioning that the university is allowing a recognized student group to bring Planned Parenthood president Cecil Richards to campus to speak. “She’s using university resources and even though she’s not getting a direct fee— there’s a lot of costs involved coming from the university,” Khan said.

According to Khan, Right to Life is organizing a protest for the day of Cecil Richards’ speech. “We’re continuing to work to make sure Georgetown emphasizes pro-life because I think these last few years they haven’t emphasized as much,” Khan said. Sometimes even Georgetown sends conflicting messages. We’re a Catholic school, but by most accounts we’re the most progressive Catholic school.”

The policy exception allowing Georgetown University students to access contraception for medical reasons originates from a mandate by the Affordable Care Act, which legally requires that all employer-provided insurance plans include complete coverage for contraception. For universities, this federal law applies to insurance plans for both staff and students.

Churches, places of worship and non-profit religious organizations—including universities and hospitals—can be exempt from this contraception mandate for religious opposition to the use of contraception. To be exempt, these religiously affiliated entities must explain why they object to the mandate in a two-page form.

Stephens says Georgetown University prides itself in founding its teaching in Jesuit values, including “care for the whole person.” “And if you look at care for the whole person, part of the whole person is your reproductive organs and what they need to make choices for themselves and your own happiness,” Stephens said. “I think there’s a really strong case to be made that they need to value the sexual health of their students over this small aspect of Catholic theology.”

Catholic University takes an arguably stricter approach than Georgetown University in restricting access to contraception. Unlike Georgetown University, employees of Catholic University are not entitled to health insurance that covers contraception use, and students are unable to request birth control prescriptions for medical reasons.

In addition, Catholic University has had strong involvement in efforts by religiously affiliated universities to oppose the two-page exemption form requirement. According to Robert Tuttle, a professor of constitutional law at George Washington University Law School, their argument is that submitting the exemption form is an undue burden to their institutions.

Currently, the Supreme Court of the United States is hearing a case addressing this opposition in Zubik v. Burwell. The case against the Affordable Care Act mandate is a compilation of seven different cases, but is being led by Bishop David Zubik of the Roman Catholic Church at the Diocese of Pittsburg. Geneva College and East Texas Baptist University are also plaintiffs in the case. The defendant is Syliva Burwell, the secretary of the United States Health and Services.

“The government says there is no statutory burden on their religious exercise by simply requiring them to turn in a piece of paper,” Tuttle said. He says the main question will be whether or not the plaintiffs can successfully articulate a distinction between the forms being an undue burden and their moral opposition to contraception, when asking for this exemption. “If they frame it as wanting to block an individual’s legally protected conduct, then it is very difficult to sustain that as a legitimate argument,” he said. “If this is the argument that the religious lawyers make, there is a good chance it’ll be a five to three vote in favor of the government.”

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In lieu of comment for this story, Catholic University administration provided a written statement of an oral testimony university president John Garvey gave on February 12, 2016 to the U.S. Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. Garvey testified on behalf of Catholic University’s opposition to being required to submit the two-page exemption form. “The rule forces us to deny in one part of our operation what we affirm in another. We teach our students in our classes, in our sacraments and in the activities of Student Life and Campus Ministry that sterilization, contraception and abortion are wrong,” Garvey said in his testimony to the Congressional committee. “The rule requires our Human Resources staff to offer these very services to our students at no additional cost, as part of our health insurance program. It makes hypocrites of us all, in the most important lessons we teach.”

Katie Sharma, a senior studying political science and Islamic world studies at Catholic University of America, said she understands the administration’s position. “It’s not that you can’t use contraception, it’s that they aren’t willing to pay for it because part of the Catholic faith is that sex should be between a man and a woman, but the biggest reason is that the point of sex is to have kids,” Sharma said. “Basically the answer our university always gives is like, what you want to do with your life isn’t our business, but you can’t expect us to pay for something that is morally against our teachings.”

Sharma has been vocal on campus about her opposition to contraception and support for Catholic University’s policies stating that the university will not pay for students’ contraception as it morally conflicts with the Catholic values of the institution. “Because Catholic University is the only university in the world that was chartered by the Vatican and by the Pope, they have to follow Catholic teachings very closely,” Sharma said. “You did choose to come to the Catholic University of America, so you kind of have to understand that with that, and with the affiliation with the Vatican, is going to come certain teachings.”

Unlike Georgetown University, Sharma says there is a not a strong presence of pro-choice advocates on Catholic University’s campus. To her knowledge there are no student groups campaigning the university to change its anti-contraception policies and there are not efforts to find unofficial ways to distribute contraception the way H*yas for Choice has done.

Sharma says students’ health should be a priority of universities, but sexual health—particularly access and use of contraception and abortion—is not a critical element of wellbeing. “Any issue to do with health should be funded if its necessary and not against the Catholic teachings,” Sharma said. She does not believe Catholic University, or any private university—religiously affiliated or not—should be responsible or required to provide funding for contraception or for insurance plans that include coverage for contraception. “Especially with religious and private universities it should be up to their decision. They’re their own institutions and every student makes a conscious decision to go to a private or religiously affiliated university,” she said.

The Supreme Court heard oral arguments for Zubik v. Burwell on March 23, 2016. In an atypical move, the Court asked the plaintiff and the defendant to file supplemental briefs addressing whether or not and how employees whose companies have religious exemptions could receive contraception coverage from third-party insurance companies in a way that does not involve the employer. On April 20, 2016 responses to the supplemental briefs were due. The Court will have to come to a decision on the case before summer recess begins at the end of June.

Black Twitter: Fostering Community through Communication

By Genevieve Kotz

At a predominately white institution (PWI), black students can often feel isolated or frustrated with the lack of black community surrounding them on campus.

“Being black at a PWI radicalized you real quick,” Tatiana Laing, 22, said in an e-mail interview.

Laing, a senior at American University, is an active member of Black Twitter, a virtual community of black users engaged in discussing issues of interest to the black community and bringing about sociopolitical changes.

“Even when I go to a PWI, I can go onto Black Twitter and be inundated with anecdotes, jokes, news and commentary made for and by black people,” Laing explained. “It’s the greatest.”

Black Twitter became a prominent phenomenon following the shootings of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown.

Padriac Kane, a graduate student focusing on media and education at Syracuse University, said he personally noticed the phenomenon of Black Twitter through trending hashtags like #HandsUpDontShoot, #IfTheyGunnedMeDown and #TrayvonMartin. He said Twitter is a modern-day technological force that allows the suppressed black voices to be heard.

“They had the power to start conversation,” Kane said of the hashtags, “Not only within in the Black Twitter community but beyond.”

In a study published by Deen Freelon of American University, Charlton D. McIlwain of New York University and Meredith D. Clark of the University at North Carolina with the Center for Media & Social Impact at AU, they tracked the rise in Black Lives Matter through social media to track how it developed.

They found that social media posts were the main force behind spreading Michael Brown’s story and that social media allowed activists to tell narratives that were being ignored by the mainstream media. The study focused on groups discussing police brutality, from black youth to conservatives.

The study found that the Black Lives Matter hashtag started being used politically following the death of Trayvon Martin in 2012 by the neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman. However, #BlackLivesMatter did not gain serious traction until several months after the death of Michael Brown, who was killed by a police officer and whose body was left in the street for several hours. The hashtag became more popular as it was developed from just a hashtag into a movement, when Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, Opal Tometi and others created chapter-based activist organizations under the name.

The study noted that Black Lives Matter is an example of how social media uniquely benefits oppressed populations.

“The general idea here is that social media helps level a media playing field dominated by pro-corporate, pro-government, and (in the United States) anti-Black ideologies,” the study said.

Kane also noted how social media helped provide a platform for oppressed voices.

“It has become a mass form of self communication for the Black community,” Kane said in an e-mail interview. “Especially during a time where we have governmental and corporate figures seeking to limit Black voices.”

Kane said he believes that Black Twitter is an essential network for young black people in the current age.
“Twitter has given Black people a space to tell their own stories, and not through the lens of white America,” Kane said.

Chelsea Burwell, a graduate student at Georgetown University, said Black Twitter fosters creativity and camaraderie by creating a place of diversity in a digital community.

“I just imagine the reconnecting of a big family tree, like a massive family reunion for the African Diaspora,” Burwell mused in an e-mail interview.

Burwell said Black Twitter celebrates the black identity, through hashtags like #BlackGirlMagic and #BlackExcellence, which encourages pride in one’s identity even in a oppressive society that makes them feel otherwise.
“Black Twitter is lit,” Burwell said. “The creation of this community is beyond dope.”

Burwell got involved with the DMV chapter of Black Lives Matter after a jury chose to not indict Darren Wilson, the officer who fatally shot Michael Brown. For her, activism was also sparked by feeling suppressed as a black female scholarly voice at a majority-white graduate program. While Burwell said she is not as heavily involved in social media activism as others, she does consider herself a part of the Black Twitter community.

The current racial activism movement, Burwell said, has helped her feel less afraid to speak out against microaggressions and challenge people’s racist tendencies.

“I am so proud of the unapologetic nature of this movement. My pride in my identity, specifically my blackness and womanhood is at an all-time high,” Burwell said. “It’s lit and beautiful to be black in 2016.”

Laing, who also got more involved in activism following Michael Brown’s death, said she felt outraged after the non-indictment of Wilson, who shot Brown at least six times. Her response, Laing said, was to organize that outrage and educate others at her university.

As a result, Laing, along with AU students Chante Harris, Angelica Pagan, Shannon Trudge and Fito Akinrinade, created the Darkening, an on-campus group aimed at dismantling white supremacy and advocating for racial justice for the black community to create an accepting environment for all students. The group has staged protests after racist posts were spread on Yik Yak, an anonymous social media app and has hosted events and teach-ins for students and allies on ending anti-blackness.

Laing said she views this current racial-justice movement as not separate from ones before it.

“The work that our elders did in the 60’s did not end racism – it barely dented white supremacy,” Laing said. “This is just a continuation of their fight.”

Social media itself hasn’t necessarily resurged the civil-rights movement, but has acted as a tool to make information more accessible and communication more open. Communities across the nation – and across the world – can interact and communicate through social media platforms. During the Ferguson protests, Palestinian activists tweeted advice to protestors on how to treat tear gas exposure, according to the study.

“Twitter is the perfect place to educate and have discourse all the time,” Laing said.

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Jennifer Grygiel, an assistant professor in the communication department at Syracuse University who focuses on social media, said Twitter has become such an important platform for activism because of its functionality. Since many users have public profiles, it fosters an open dialogue expanding past people’s local virtual communities, despite having a smaller population of active users with 320 million as opposed to Facebook’s 1.59 million.

Unlike Facebook, in which people generally stick to friending people they know in real life, Twitter users regularly follow and engage with people they do not know personally in real life.

“It’s a more open network and therefore, we’re more exposed to things happening outside our immediate world,” Grygiel said.

And unlike Facebook, Twitter works much more regularly in real time. Tweets appear on users’ timelines chronologically and are not based on algorithms, as Facebook is.

“Real time conversations can turn into real time reporting and real time action and democracy in action literally because of the transparency and the ability to communicate,” Grygiel said about Twitter, as seen in the case in which Michael Brown’s story was spread through social media quicker than it was through the mainstream news media. Grygiel noted that Twitter is also readily utilized because of users’ easy access through their smartphones.

For Kane, Twitter is essential for activism because of its large user base. Millions of people use the app everyday and a majority of those users fall into the age group of 18 to about 29, Kane said.

Twitter also gives users the platform to talk about more complex and nuanced conversations, involving racism, white oppression and police brutality, Kane said.
Overall, Kane said he has seen more positives than negatives with social media. The main downfall he noticed with Black Twitter is the reaction from those outside the community. Kane said he has noticed people accusing Black Twitter with playing the race card.

“In reality, Black voices have never been privileged to stand on the same platform as the majority for others to hear their voice,” Kane explained.

Grygiel explained that a downside to social media is that with visibility, there is a risk of harassment, doxxing (when an individual’s private information is published on the Internet with malicious intent) and bullying.

“You don’t even have to be on social media to have your video captured and disseminated,” Grygiel explained.

“Social media also allows people to hide behind problematic dogma and attacks,” Burwell said.

Trolling as well as triggering subjects are also prominent, which is why Burwell encourages practice self-care and knowing when to disconnect for a user’s own personal sake.

“Social media is a whirlpool of delusion and abrasive wake-up calls at times,” Burwell said. “That’s when I have to sign-off and just put my phone down.”

Social media is an important part of activism in terms of communication, but it is certainly not the only part. Laing, who said she prefers a balance of both social media and face-to-face communication, said she believes social media will not become more prominent because of the importance of face-to-face communication.

Social media, Laing said, does not replace direct action, but instead acts as a medium to help organize the direct action.

Burwell also stressed the importance of in-person communication as a way to keep it from losing the emotional touch.

“Policy change must happen face-to-face,” Burwell said. “Sentiment often gets lost in social media.”

But Burwell still said social media, in tandem with the unheard narratives of oppressed groups, is a vital part of activism. She compared social media as a bullhorn amplifying the voices in the back of the room, allowing the voices of movements like Black Lives Matter to be heard. When you have a voice, Burwell said, you know you have power.

“We are saving ourselves,” Burwell said. “We are our own heroes and heroines.”

The Senate Hears The Navy’s Request for Their New Budget Plan

Washington- The Navy’s shipbuilding programs for the fiscal year 2017 was addressed at the Senate’s Subcommittee on Sea Power. The plan’s key issues were focused on how to lower the budget to fix old ships and to increase the number of ships in the Navy’s fleet. The two groups also addressed the superior Russian fleet and how to be more effective in the Mediterranean area.

Chairman Roger Wicker from Mississippi said, “The current fleet of 272 ships is insufficient and the Navy is not going to reach its goal of 308 ships until 2021. The Navy shipbuilding programs for 2017 and future years look to accelerate this process with the help of the committee. While we want to increase our number we also want to better equip our current ships with the latest technology.”

The three witnesses who took the task of answering questions and promoted the navy’s plan were: Secretary Sean Stackley, Vice Adm. Mulloy, and Lt. Gen. Walsh. Each witness opened with statements that focused on tough choices that have to be made because of the recent cut to the Navy’s budget. “I do believe that our 2017 budget provides the best balance between capability capacity greatness within our fiscal guidance. We made focused investments, hard priority choices, and innovated reform efforts to deliver a global sea-based force that can fight and win against our five major challenges,” Vice Adm. Mulloy said. The five major challenges he said include: dealing with China, Russia, maintaining stability in the Mediterranean and the Pacific, and increasing the naval readiness in dealing with these issues.

Lt. Gen. Walsh discussed the importance of accelerating the building of the new amphibious ships, the LPD 17. Amphibious ships help the navy and the marines employ on land with a heavy ground support. The older ships do not have this capability and do not offer the advantage that the new ship brings which is to be in two places at once. “The LPD 17 Class of ship is able to bring tremendous aviation capability, medical capability, along with most importantly command and control capability.” Said Lt. Gn. Walsh. “We can now split that ship with an aviation deck with a pretty good significant punch to go with it to be able to deploy independently.” The Navy is making a push for this in the 2017 budget because the LPD 17 ships are mostly used in the Mediterranean area. The Navy is highly involved in this area and feels it is necessary to pursue the acceleration of making these ships.

Along with the Mediterranean area the Navy has a high responsibility in the Asian-Pacific area. “As we focus on the newest platforms and technology, we position them in the Pacific and the numbers go up,” said Vice Admiral Mulloy. He also points out this is very important to have in the Asian-Pacific area because of the rise of China and the strong Russian weaponry. By matching their technology the navy is ready to deal with anything that may happen. Lt. Gen. Walsh said, “Once we secure our stand in this area it will give us more opportunities to fucse on where our fleet may lack. The important issue is to be able to be up to the technology that other fleets have. Right now this can’t be said.”

Senator Jeff Session from Alabama is part of the Republican part. Senator Sessions questioned the problem that is occurring with lowering the standard of 52 ships to 40 ships. Sec. Stackley summarized the reason for this because of the budget reduction and increase building of bigger ships that will be more useful. Sec. Stackley said,”The smaller ships are not performing well and it would not be in the best interest fiscally to continue to keep these number of ships at a large number. With the budget reduction we have to make certain tough decisions and this is one of them.

Vice Ad. Mulloy added, “It will be harder to mobilize a smaller fleet of only 40 ships. It is a necessary risk with more responsibilities else where like the Asian-Pacific. It is a bigger region with the need of more ships their compared to the Mediterranean. “I think you do well, I think you managed the situation right with not being satisfied with that aspect and you are demanding that it be fixed,” said Senator Session.

There is a worry that with a low number of ships there will be a problem with deploying the ships at a fast rate. Vice Admiral pointed out that right now without the budget to support a higher number of ships, a lower number of ships with more to offer is a necessary risk to take.

The Ohio Replacement Program is a program that the Navy has to replace three old ships a year with newer ones. Vice Ad. Mulloy said, “This is and has always been something that the Navy prides itself on. We hope to increase this standard by replacing two submarines a year. This will be hard to do if our budget continues to be reduced. I hope that you understand this and the right steps are taken towards helping us reach our goal in the upcoming years.”

The two parties will meet again in the near future to specify exactly what will be done with the navy ship building request and make decisions on what to move forward with and what might have to be cut from it.

By: Joseph Iraola

No Still Life: D.C. artists look for new options to work amidst cycle of displacement

By Eli Fosl

As Aaron Martin marched his way to the front of the D.C. Zoning and Planning Commission on the first night of this past February, he stifled a laugh.

“Do I look familiar?” He asked the commission, grinning.

That night was the first of many hearings for Martin and many more paint-splattered, sign-carrying men and women that packed the hearing room beyond capacity to protest the fate of Union Arts, an arts space on New York Ave. set to suffer the same fate as many before it: redevelopment.

But for many crowding the hearing room, the issue is not just this building, but a greater narrative of displacement.

Over the past year, District artists have more and more begun to distress over a lack of affordable working spaces. The city’s finite boundaries and rising rent prices have led to a pattern of creative workers moving from one place to the next, being unable to secure a long-term space. Though some have tried to create communities within this nomadic framework, others hope the city government will chip in to stop the cycle.

Martin himself was forced out of the DIY venue Gold Leaf Studios in 2012, but now he said when he passes the old Gold Leaf building on bike rides with his daughter, it’s still completely empty. He’s worried the same will happen to Union Arts, and again to whatever place he finds next.

Martin is a veteran of this process. He’s seen many studio spaces come and go. And he’s far from alone in that.

 

A temporary fix, permanently.

George Koch, President and CEO of the Center for the Creative Economy, has been dealing with the problem of space in the D.C. area for years. He sees the District in a uniquely difficult situation: no large industrial warehouse space and no possibility of expanding the city’s size.

“If I went to Baltimore I could get five times the space I could get here because Baltimore’s had a warehouse district” Koch said. “D.C. has never had that, so we don’t have buildings to recycle.”

Koch has led the establishment of multiple spaces he said are still in the hands of artists such as the Jackson School or the Takoma Metro Arts Center. But for now in D.C. he finds hope in a different plan: something he calls the “incubation method.”

What Koch means is this: though there are many buildings reserved for development in D.C., some of those spaces won’t be developed for years. Koch hopes artists and real estate entrepreneurs can work together to turn these buildings into temporary art spaces.

“As D.C. continues to develop, these opportunities [for the long term] are going to diminish,” Koch said. “But the fact that there’s temporary space isn’t. There will always be temporary space that can be utilized.”

Even in the short time since the announcement of Union Arts’ redevelopment, a few of these incubation spaces have already begun to sprout.

The S&R Foundation, a D.C.-based non-profit, recently announced it would be opening the doors of its Fillmore School building, a recently acquired historic studio building in Georgetown, for artists to use free of charge.

Ten up-and-coming artists whose work demonstrates both skill and attention to social issues will be chosen to join the free program and given six months of free studio space this coming year.

Following in the footsteps of S&R, philanthropic giant The Morris & Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation announced a similar –but much larger– project called Art Place at Fort Totten. This multi-faceted development plan is set to include over 900 apartments as well as 170,000 square feet of cultural and art spaces, as reported by Inside Philanthropy.

Although these projects show promise for a more accessible future for artists –141 of the apartment units in the Fort Totten plans are listed as “affordable”– there are still concerns in the long term.

In terms of space and numbers, the openings for 10 artists at Fillmore school building can’t compete with the closing Union Arts, which served as a space for dozens.

And, most importantly of course, there is always the question of where the artists will go when their six months are up.

In addition, some who work in art spaces have their reservations about private development.

Jack Rasmussen, the director and curator for the Katzen Arts Center museum, has worked to make space for arts in the District since he moved here in 1973. Framed by his bookshelves in his American University office, he said he thinks the city should be stepping in to subsidize the arts, not just private enterprise.

“The question is always who’s gonna pay for it,” Rasmussen said. “The Fillmore School will be a philanthropic endeavor, the Fort Totten project might be a speculative venture by entrepreneurs, but it will be doomed by its own success sooner or later.”

Rasmussen clarified this latter point in an email, saying that the prices in these areas are too high to be self-sustaining, and therefore they must rely on philanthropy: an unstable predicament, he pointed out, because philanthropic interests change.

But for Emily Arden, the potential for artists and real estate entrepreneurs to work together may be the best way for artists to make it work in the area.

In order to find available spaces, Arden worked with her friend and fellow D.C. artist to start ReCreative Spaces, an organization designed to find unused spaces and turn them into creative environments.

But, even for Arden, the preferred end goal would still be a permanent space, because finding cooperative spaces can be difficult.

“A lot of business owners don’t like the idea of having artists in their space,” she said. “For a long time we took what we could get.”

Arden paints a picture of this displacement cycle similar to that emphasized by Martin, Koch and many others. Artists look for an affordable place to be creative, she said, which is often in a lower-income neighborhood. But soon, the neighborhood becomes their community too, and then it isn’t long until developers jump at the opportunity.

“I think we all know intuitively arts and culture is what makes a vibrant neighborhood or city,” Arden said. “A lot of times development follows that, then capitalizes on that.”

Arden said many artists don’t move to a neighborhood in order to make huge financial gains, but to get more space and inspiration to create, so once development begins to increase the prices, they can’t stay.

 

Searching for state support in the long term

The issue of gentrification in the arts is not confined to the District’s nomadic young artists.

Quique Aviles, who came to D.C. from El Salvador in the 80s and has worked here since, is the youth leader at Gala Hispanic Theatre’s Paso Nuevo Youth Program.

Aviles uses theater and the humanities to teach kids about their own identities, a task he said has become increasingly more important in the face of gentrification.

“You have to be able to use your voice, to speak up, to say what you need to say about your own situation and your own reality,” Aviles urges. “You have to do it with a sense of dignity. We teach the kids that we don’t owe anything to anybody.”

Although Gala has stood overlooking 14th St. for decades, the neighborhood around it has changed drastically over the past few years. Whereas the families that make the Paso Nuevo community used to live walking distance from the theater, they now live far away, in the Northeast or the South. For some parents, it’s too far to continue sending their kids to Gala.

As for the new residents, Aviles said there has been a serious disconnect between them and those who have lived their for years.

“Why move into a cultural neighborhood just to hang out with your own? Because that’s what’s happening,” Aviles said. “You go to bars and restaurants and you see large congregations of just white professionals.”

Aviles, along with many protestors of the Union Arts closure, places a generous portion of blame on D.C. Government.

Even though, Aviles said, it has worked in other places like Brooklyn and Baltimore, the D.C. government has failed to ensure the longevity of the arts by giving insubstantial economic incentives for artists.

“You don’t need to reinvent the wheel,” Aviles explained. “You just have to convince and make a condition for developers that if they’re going to develop certain sections of the city,  certain numbers of that square footage should be reserved for artist working space.”

Rasmussen points to similar examples –Mount Rainier and Maryland neighborhoods specifically– where artists are more likely to work because the state government has encouraged the arts. Whereas in D.C., Rasmussen said there is practically no commensurate encouragement for the arts, thus making long-term affordable arts spaces very difficult to come by.

More financial encouragement may be on the horizon, though.

Last November, Arthur Espinoza was enlisted as the newest director for the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities. Siting the space limitations of D.C. of both its borders and its height ordinance, Director Espinoza addressed in an email statement the unique challenge D.C. artists face when looking for affordable space.

This issue, he wrote, is one he plans to see addressed in the city’s first Cultural Plan, which is currently being drafted by the Office of Planning in consultation with the DCCAH and forecasted to be released in early 2017.

“Through our grant programs and professional development opportunities,” Espinoza wrote. “The D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities seeks to ensure that those who are interested in pursuing their passions are supported in a way that allows them to do that for the benefit of District residents.”

 

Looking forward while looking back

Without the possibility of a long-term space with help from the D.C. government, many facing displacement at Union Arts fear they will lose the sense of community they hold dear.

For Martin, the inevitably loud nature of his art –alto saxophone and freeform jazz– will make the hunt for a new space more difficult, as many places have noise ordinances.

On top of that, the nomadic lifestyle is unappealing to Martin, who is happy to stay where he is with the people he’s surrounded by.

“A whole community vibe will be lost,” he mused to himself, preemptively mourning the walls around him in his small, equipment-filled studio. “Here we are again. I love this place.”

Aaron Martin playing saxophone
Aaron Martin practicing on his saxophone in his Union Arts studio space. (Photo by Eli Fosl)

Even for Arden, who works most often in short-term spaces, community can be difficult to uphold. But, she said, they make every attempt to keep community strong even while relocating again and again.

“Whether you’re doing this for three weeks or three years or 30 years, it’s about staying connected with those people afterwards,” Arden said.

Arden added that the key was not only staying in touch, but also being open to new neighborhoods, meeting the people and learning popular places whenever you move into a space in order to add to that community rather than just live there.

Ava LaTanya Hilton hopes artists will be able to hold onto their community as well. Hilton is the interim director for CulturalDC, the arts group working with the developers of the Union Arts building to include a creative element in the building’s new design as an arts hotel.

“There are all types of ways to preserve these cultures,” Hilton said. “It can be preserved regardless of where [the artists] may be.”

Hilton said they have reached out to the artists at Union Arts to include them in the new project in order to retain their goal of creating long-term opportunities for artists.

But Martin said he isn’t interested. Instead, he’ll try to find some new place to practice, whether it’s a new independent studio or a university that will let him practice if, he said, he got on his knees and begged. Either way, he’ll carry on his work.

“You can get in here for 5 bucks! You don’t need money to see a quality performance,” Martin said. “This is going to be hard to replace.”

For now, whether it’s with ReCreative Spaces, at the Fillmore School, at Fort Totten, or in creating a new space, artists leaving Union Arts will have to find a new temporary fix, a bandage for a wound that needs more proper care. That’s the only option, Arden said, at least until they can reach the goal of a long-term opportunity.

“What it’s going to take is artists not only feeling they have a stake in the face of what’s happening, but that they really have a place at the table,” Arden said. “There’s a lot of good intention with setting up these artists spaces, but if artists in the area haven’t been consulted or aren’t part of the process or don’t have access to that space, it’s not actually creating anything helpful.”

Joe Biden’s Moonshot May Not Fall Among The Stars

By: Katerina Pappas

 

Screen Shot 2016-04-21 at 11.16.20 AM

American Cancer Society, Facts & Figures (http://www.cancer.org/acs/groups/content/@research/documents/document/acspc-047079.pdf)

Vice President Joe Biden is planning to cure cancer with his “moonshot,” but cancer researchers aren’t sure this is the right approach.

The Vice President released a statement on January 12th, Inspiring a New Generation to Defy the Bounds of Innovation: A Moonshot to Cure Cancer, which explains what the “moonshot” will consist of and why he started it.

According to The Washington Post, the Vice President’s son, 46-year-old Beau, died in May of 2015 after a several year battle with brain cancer. In Biden’s statement, he adds, “It’s personal for me. But it’s also personal for nearly every American, and millions of people around the world.”

According to the government-funded National Cancer Institute, in 2016 approximately 1,685,210 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed in the U.S. and 595,690 people will die from cancer. Biden’s statement addresses cancer as the leading cause of death worldwide and that the numbers are only expected to increase with time. Biden explains, in his statement, that through his own experience he’s seen research and therapies very close to breakthroughs and the goal of his initiative, the “moonshot, is to “seize the moment.”

Biden’s research plans to do two things: increase resources, both private and public, and to bring all cancer fighters together to share information and end cancer.

“And the goal of this initiative is simple – to double the rate of progress. To make a decade worth of advances in five years,” says Biden’s statement. And to do that, Federal funding is necessary.

According to The Washington Post, on December 29th 2015, the Obama Administration announced that it’s aiming to spend $1 billion to fund a cancer “moonshot” in hopes of a cure. But not every cancer research see’s the progress that can be made through this approach.

Cancer researcher, Dr. Leena Hilakivi-Clarke, said cancer research needs new ways of thinking of how to prevent and treat cancer, not just more money. Hilakivi-Clarke is a breast cancer researcher at Georgetown’s Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center in Washington, D.C.

Hilakivi-Clarke explained that cancer research involves studying cancer cells in culture and no matter how well those cells respond to various treatments or manipulations, it is tough to predict if similar results can be expected when treating cancer in humans. Human cancer transcends the activity of cancer cells, and is significantly dependent on the environment where the cancer is, including the immune cells, nerve cells, and adipose cells. The interactions the cancer cells have between the surrounding cells are as important and possibly even more important than identifying and eliminating the cancer cell alone.

“We need to find better models than cancer cells in vitro/culture or inoculating them to nude mice (mice without immune system) to achieve anything meaningful,” Hilakivi-Clarke said. “Finding the models is not necessarily that expensive, but require thinking outside the box. I hope somebody is able to think outside the box.”

Another common approach to cancer research, Hilakivi-Clarke said, is to study changes in cancers extracted from humans. These changes in gene expression, protein levels, epigenetic modifications, mutations, and metabolic changes, can be used to study cancer treatments but don’t help in studying how to eliminate cancer all together. In treatments, the initial changes will change further and the new changes lead to resistance in treatments.

“One can easily use 1 billion to do these studies, but again these studies are not so meaningful in trying to beat cancer,” Dr. Hilakivi-Clarke said. “If they are combined to innovative new research approaches, perhaps some success follows. But where is the innovation? I am worried that the same people who have wasted a lot of money to expensive experiments and achieved very little will be given the money and cancer just continues killing people…”

While many articles, such as The Atlantic’s, “What Is the Point of Joe Biden’s Cancer Moonshot?” criticize the project on its approaches and how much it can feasibly do, cancer researcher, Todd Waldman feels lucky to live in a country rich enough to even have the ability to support research, including cancer research. That being said, he does also have ideas on how the government should fund cancer research projects more effectively.

“I would say that the best thing that the government, through the NIH, could do is to consistently fund research over long periods of time with small or moderate increases every year that we could count on, rather than injecting large amounts of money at sort of moments where it seems politically possible,” said Waldman. “I don’t know whether that’s feasible, instead of the moment of excitement which happened for example during the Clinton administration, the most important thing that could be done is to regularize increases in the budget.

Biden’s moonshot shows government involvement in research, which is necessary in fighting this disease, but researchers find that more has to be done to eliminate cancer.

 

 

Leave No Man, Woman, or Child Behind: Addressing Issues in Homeless Women Veteran Services

By James Patch McLaughlin

BALTIMORE –– The Maryland Center for Veterans Education and Training (MCVET), an organization that helps combat homelessness among veterans, has at least one woman veteran seeking assistance walk through its doors every week that cannot utilize the program’s services because she has children, said Stephanie Wiggins, assistant program coordinator at MCVET.

     “We believe in leaving no veteran behind,” she said. “Unfortunately,
we’re leaving them behind because of their children. It’s almost like a punishment to have children.”

     The Baltimore-based organization that utilizes military structure to help veterans get and stay off the streets can take up to 250 veterans, 17 of which are designated spots for women, but doesn’t have any accommodations for veterans with children, said Jeffery Kendrick, executive director of MCVET.

     “I have found that many of the homeless women veterans that come here seem to be much more aggressive in terms of how quickly they want to progress through the program,” he said. “What we’ve found is that many of the women veterans that come here ––because we are not a facility that is equipped to handle a family –– the women veterans sometimes have to leave their children behind with their mothers or with their spouse, come to MCVET to receive their services, and then go back. We are not equipped to help veterans with families but we are looking to be. As any organization needs to, you need to expand and move to the future. So what MCVET is doing for the future is, number one, we want to offer more facilities for women, but also have accommodations for a veteran with family.”

     Women veterans face distinctive challenges after the military that can make them susceptible to homelessness. Women veterans that are already homeless face unique difficulties when seeking assistance from the many government and nongovernmental organizations that offer services for veterans.  Women are increasingly making up a large percentage of the U.S. armed forces. A Pew Research Center study shows that since 1973, when conscription ended, women’s presence in the military has increased from 4 percent to 16 percent.  According to a Syracuse University Institute for Veterans and Military Families October 2013, women make up 8 percent of veterans that are homeless and more can be expected VET GRAPHICto end up on the streets as women veterans return home from operations overseas.

     After helping conduct an online survey of women veterans through the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), Katherine Keleher, a legislative associate at the National Legislative Services for the VFW, identified 72 homeless women veterans and 58 women veterans in need of assistance. She began working with the women, trying to get them into permanent housing, and quickly learned they faced a number of issues, chief among them children.

     “The difficulties these women faced blew my mind,” she said during an interview in Washington, D.C. “I had never thought of it as women having more obstacles. I always looked at it like –– I mean obviously veteran homelessness is a huge problem and it’s upsetting no matter what, but the issues women specifically face, the hurdles they have to overcome blew my mind. A lot of them had problems with children. They weren’t able to receive their benefits because of their children, because they didn’t have anybody to watch after their kids. I had a woman that was told to leave the VA because her children were a risk. They want you to go and use your services without your children, but they don’t have buddies or family to watch their kids and they can’t afford childcare.

     Army veteran Tanya Anderson, from New York, has been in the MCVET program for 87 days. She moved to Baltimore to work as a clinical case manager. She said she wanted to help people in Baltimore with drug addictions. Anderson however couldn’t find a job and was soon in need of housing opportunities and turned to MCVET for help. During a Narcotics Anonymous meeting she attended several nights earlier she said she met a 25 year-old woman veteran living in a homeless shelter.

     “She stood up and talked about her drug history and she said that she was a veteran,” Anderson said. “So we traded numbers and I told her, ‘you can get in here (to MCVET). This would be great for you.’ Then she says, ‘Well I have three kids and in a shelter right now.’ I’m thinking, well okay, there probably won’t be any place for her. I’ve never heard of a place where a female can take her children as a veteran. So there is a limitation there.”

     Anderson said women are reluctant to seek help from programs like MCVET if they have someone they’ll need to leave behind like children. She said that even significant others and spouses can serve as an obstacle for women seeking treatment.

     Sharon Alvarez Folkes, a Navy veteran, is at MCVET for the second time. She returned in December after a relapse. She said her husband, who was also a homeless veteran at MCVET when they met and started dating, caught her using heroin and told her she had to go back into the program. 

     Folkes said she wasn’t introduced to heroine until she was 43 years old. Her first husband introduced her to the drug.

     “I quickly learned that to be with him I had to be high, high as I could be, because he was very abusive in so many ways,” she said. “He also introduced me to boosting, stealing. I’d never stolen anything in my life and by the end of our run I was doing it better than him.”

     Folkes and her first husband were eventually arrested.

     “I was looking at ten years,” she said.

     Folkes says that prison was a wake-up call for her. She had never been incarcerated and it was obvious to the other inmates.

     “I read the book,” she said with a laugh. “I don’t know if you know but they give you a book in jail of all the rules to follow –– I read the book. I didn’t know you weren’t supposed to read the book. So jail was very rough for me. I stuck out.”

     After prison Folkes started the program at MCVET where she met her future husband. She said they dated in secret for a year before they both graduated the program and moved out on their own and married. When Folkes returned to MCVET after her relapse her husband gave up their apartment in Baltimore County and moved back into the permanent housing wing of MCVET to be near his wife.

     “It’s so important in recovery to keep that family dynamic,” she said. “We’re each other’s cheerleader.”

     Because of the current rules at MCVET and because Folkes is still going through the program, unlike her husband, they can only see each other during the day. They are not allowed to visit each other in their rooms. They are one floor apart and Skype every night, Folkes said. They are currently appealing the rule.

     Keleher said another obstacle for women veterans is that they aren’t fully aware of the benefits they’re entitled to or they simply don’t self-identify as veterans, making outreach towards woman more difficult for someone like Wiggins at MCVET.

     In addition to her responsibilities as assistant program coordinator, Wiggins is a member of the MCVET Census Task Force Committee, which works on ways to spread the word about MCVET’s program to veterans in need as well as ways to improve the program for the future. She said that locating women that can benefit from MCVET is especially difficult.

     “They’re actually going from house to house and are in general much more elusive than men, and again that’s mostly because of children,” she said. “A mother’s first instinct is to make sure her children are safe and healthy. There are also women with children in shelters. So we do outreach to various women’s shelters hoping to find a woman veteran that can benefit from MCVET. But I’d say nine out of 10 times she has children.”

     Another outreach program MCVET uses to locate and help veterans is day service where anyone that’s homeless can come in off the street. Kendrick said it’s a good way of finding homeless veterans.

     “They sit in a room, they watch TV, they get to shower, shave, and a bite to eat,” he said. “Its a way to get out of the elements whether is extremely cold or extremely hot. What we’re hoping is that if a veteran comes in during that time, they may decide to be a part of the program. If not, we’ll find another program for them. Our goal is not to send any veteran back out onto the street. Women veterans don’t come in. I don’t know if they don’t come in because they’re out on the street because they’re trying to raise money. But we’ve never had a woman veteran come in to utilize that drop-in resource.”

     Wiggins said that Census Task Force Committee has been exploring new ways of expanding their services to include veterans with families. One of the options they have been exploring is purchasing property adjacent to the MCVET property in Baltimore and turning them into apartments for families.