The Atlanta Regional Commission had its official transition of executive leadership Wednesday when it held its first in-person board meeting since the COVID pandemic.
Doug Hooker, executive director of the Atlanta Regional Commission since November 2011, told his board late Wednesday afternoon that he plans to retire at the end of next March.
A challenging economy doesn’t mean you should stop saving for retirement Inflation is at a 40-year high, the stock market is down, and middle-income Americans are finding their income is falling behind the cost of living. In the current economy, it’s OK to cut back or stop contributing to your retirement savings, right? Wrong. For most families, the answer to what you should do about your retirement savings right now is simple: don’t panic and stay the course. In fact, decreasing your retirement contribution is generally a bad idea, says Primerica PFS Investments CEO Estee Faranda. “For most people, now is not the time to be cutting what you’re investing in the market,” she says. “When the market is down, your dollar buys more. Over time, you may very likely end up buying more shares at lower prices — you end up getting a discount.” Fortunately, Primerica’s most recent quarterly survey of middle-income households across the U.S. found that a majority of respondents (55%) plan to keep their retirement contributions at the same level this year. But the temptation to pull back is very real right now for many Americans. Nearly a quarter (24%) of survey respondents said they’ll likely put less money into their retirement account this year due to the economy. Plus, 14% said they will spend at least some of their retirement savings. Faranda understands the impulse, but “if possible, and it’s very often possible, retirement savings need to be prioritized,” she says. “It ultimately comes down to budgeting and taking a hard look at your finances. What is coming in and what is going out — that’s where it all starts. And then making some decisions about what’s going to go into what bucket, particularly those that will strengthen your future financial situation.” Budgeting is even more crucial now, as Primerica’s latest survey found 75% of currently employed middle-income Americans don’t think they have enough saved to retire comfortably, up 10 percentage points from March. Plus, more than two-fifths (42%) say they now plan to work longer before retirement. But tackling the problem can be as simple as setting up an automated, monthly contribution to your retirement account — and then not thinking about it. “If you don’t see it; you don’t spend it. Your savings then has the opportunity to compound over time, and the work is done for you,” Faranda says. Ready to do more to secure your financial future? Here are a few more steps you can take. Educate yourself. Unfortunately, many Americans lack a solid education in personal finances, including how to save for retirement. And it’s not all that complicated once you understand the basics. “Once you educate yourself on your options, you will feel empowered to do something about your retirement savings,” Faranda says. Reach out to a financial expert. You don’t have to become fully educated on your own, however. Financial experts are a great asset in any economy but can be particularly helpful when things start to go sideways. And you’re not alone if you feel the need to seek out advice: Only a quarter (26%) of respondents to Primerica’s latest survey said they were very confident they can make sound financial decisions without outside help. Don’t let emotions take over. Investing can be very emotional. It’s harder emotionally and psychologically to cope with a decrease in value than it is to enjoy an increase in value. But this is where cooler heads really need to prevail. “You want to monitor your retirement savings but not obsess over it,” Faranda says. This is sponsored content.
Project Receives Resounding Bipartisan Support from Local, State & Federal Government MARTA has been awarded a $25 million grant through the Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) discretionary grant program to help transform the exterior of Five Points rail station in downtown Atlanta. The Five Points Transformation Project includes structural upgrades that will improve connectivity, boost safety, and enhance the quality of life for downtown residents and Atlanta’s ten million annual visitors. Additionally, the modernization will accelerate $10 billion in private investment and serve as a catalyst for attracting hundreds of millions of dollars in potential transit-oriented development in an area that has suffered from under-investment. “Transit has proven essential in creating equitable opportunity and sparking development in the metro Atlanta region,” said MARTA Interim General Manager and CEO Collie Greenwood. “The resounding, bipartisan support for this project from the City of Atlanta, State of Georgia, and now federal government underscores its importance and the long-term economic impacts that go beyond the renovation of a rail station and reveals the true transformative nature of transit.” The approximately $200 million project is primarily funded through the More MARTA Atlanta sales tax, with an additional commitment from the State through the Georgia Transit Trust Fund and the $25 million RAISE grant made possible by the continued support of our Federal Delegation, namely Senator Reverend Raphael Warnock, Senator Jon Ossoff, and Congresswoman Nikema Williams. “Here in the best state to live, work, and raise a family, we’ve worked hard to build strong partnerships between state and local transportation agencies, the private sector, and all levels of government so hardworking Georgians can easily get to home, work, and anywhere beyond,” said Governor Brian Kemp. “I’m proud our efforts have been recognized with this grant, and I look forward to seeing its impact – as well as that of our own investments – on transforming this MARTA station into a hub for travel, commerce, and culture.” “Our flagship Five Points MARTA station is a not just a transit hub – but also an economic engine – for our capital city and the surrounding region,” said Speaker David Ralston. “This significant federal grant demonstrates the importance of this investment in our transit infrastructure. Our state government will continue to partner with MARTA on initiatives like this to spur job creation and expand economic opportunity for all Georgians.” MARTA is working closely with the City of Atlanta on final design concepts with a shared goal of deconstructing and removing the canopy in the center of the station, establishing a centralized bus hub, and including a public or green space, creating a safe, inviting, and active rail station that increases accessibility to jobs and opportunities and contributes to the long-term economic development of the city, state and region. “The award of this $25 million RAISE Grant is a big win for Atlanta and will enhance connectivity beyond our city limits—just as connectivity reached beyond partisan lines so our Federal, State and local leaders could deliver a significant infrastructure investment for our communities,” said Mayor Andre Dickens. “Thank you to President Biden, Transportation Secretary Buttigieg, Congresswoman Williams, Senators Ossoff and Warnock and other members our Federal delegation, Governor Kemp, and everyone here at the local level who worked together to strengthen an equitable, safer and modern transportation infrastructure for the people we serve.” The Five Points Transformation Project will have a direct impact for those customers currently using MARTA and make transit a more attractive choice for those who live nearby. Encouraging use of public transit to destinations surrounding Five Points reduces the need for surface parking downtown, allowing spaces to be redeveloped as affordable housing, green spaces, and other amenities that improve quality of life and enhance a city landscape. This effort supports fiscally responsible land use, reducing transportation costs and commute time for residents and reducing traffic congestion. MARTA has selected Skidmore, Owings & Merrill to lead the design of the canopy deconstruction and removal and Skanska Building USA as the Construction Management at Risk (CMAR) contractor to oversee the project. Deconstruction will begin in 2024 with a project completion goal of 2028. All bus and rail service will continue to operate out of Five Points during the work and construction of the City’s first bus rapid transit (BRT) line along nearby Summerhill Avenue with a connection to Five Points, will also progress with service scheduled to begin in 2025. The MARTA Police Five Points Precinct will be temporarily relocated across the street at Underground Atlanta. A separate train platform rehabilitation project at Five Points that is part of MARTA’s multi-year Station Rehabilitation Program is progressing as scheduled with construction beginning in September. This is sponsored content.
By Madgie Robinson The Metro Atlanta Chamber recently invited photographer and author Andrew Feiler to discuss his latest book, A Better Life for Their Children: Julius Rosenwald, Booker T. Washington, and the 4,978 Schools that Changed America, published in 2021 by the University of Georgia Press. Feiler’s second published book of photography brings the story of Georgia’s Rosenwald schools to life – born out of a partnership committed to the education of African American children in the early 20th century. Many are still unaware of the role these schools played in the history of the American South. Coming off his first book, Feiler was developing ideas for his next project. After crossing paths with an African American preservationist, he first heard the story about the Rosenwald schools. “She [was] the first person who told me about Rosenwald schools and the story shocked me,” Feiler said. In 1912, philanthropist Julius Rosenwald and civil rights icon Booker T. Washington launched a program to partner with Black communities residing in the segregated South to create schools for Black children. Before the program launched, Black children attended schools in their living rooms, front yards, church pews or sitting in a field to receive their education. Their schools were severely underfunded stemming from the racism and segregation so prominent in the Jim Crow South. Julius Rosenwald was a leader and part-owner of Sears, Roebuck and Company and utilized his means to create the Rosenwald grant, funding the schools’ building program. His partnership with Booker T. Washington formed an independent foundation to manage the Rosenwald school program. Rosenwald encouraged collaboration between Black and white populations by requiring communities to commit public funds and labor to the schools as well as contribute additional donations post-construction. African American communities raised millions of dollars throughout the South to support better education for their children with white school boards agreeing to engage in maintaining the schools. The collaboration was monumental as an example of Jewish and African American partnership, united to advance Black education nurturing future scholars and civil rights leaders. “Julius Rosenwald and Booker T. Washington are reaching across divides of race, religion and region in 1912 America,” Feiler said. Curious to find any biographical pieces about the history, Feiler began researching the topic finding few published books and no photographic documentation. Between the period of 1912 and 1937, Washington and Rosenwald launched a total of 4,978 schools across the Southern states to which only a selection of those remains. “Only about 500 schools survived, half of those have been restored, and I shot 105 of the surviving schools,” Feiler said. “Over the next three and a half years, I drove 25,000 miles across all 15 of the Rosenwald school program states. With this extraordinary story, it wasn’t immediately clear to Feiler how to visually tell it. After conducting further research, he determined that the architecture of the schools themselves had a compelling story to share. “I started by photographing the exteriors of these schools, which tells us an architectural narrative, small white clapper buildings and by the end of the program, they’re building one-, two- and three-story red brick buildings,” Feiler said. The architecture supported the story but not enough to propel it in a way Feiler intended with only half the schools surviving. He knew in order to get a sense of the history and narrative of the school, he needed to see the interior. Feiler sought permission to see the inside of the schools and met with Rosenwald alumni and staff who proudly shared their own stories. “That is when I meet all these extraordinary individuals, former students, former teachers, civic leaders, preservationists and I bring their connections into this work for portraiture,” Feiler said. One of those individuals was former U.S. Representative and civil rights leader John Lewis, who himself attended a Rosenwald school in Alabama. He shared how influential the program was in not only his education but for all Southern Black communities. “Andrew Feiler’s photographs and stories bring us into the heart of the passion for education in Black communities: the passion of teachers who taught multiple grades and dozens of students in a single classroom; the passion of parents and neighbors who helped to raise the money to build our schools and then each year continued to dig deep to purchase school supplies; the passion of students like me who craved learning, worked hard, and read as many books as we could put our hands on.” Lewis said, in the book’s foreword. Feiler expressed how proud the community was of these schools that played an important role in their family’s history. “They’re proud of the role that education has played in the rise of their families,” Feiler said. “They really welcomed me into this extended family because they appreciate me sharing this story that was central to their lives and lives of their family.” When asked what he hoped future generations would take from this work and the story conveyed, Feiler emphasized the historical significance of the book. “We often think that problems in America are intractable, especially those related to race,” Feiler said. “But this narrative reminds us that individual actions matter and change the world. I think the center of this story is the inspiration to all of us and all those on the frontlines of change in our communities that our actions in fact matter.” A Better Life for Their Children was honored with an Eric Hoffer Book Award, an Axiom Book Award Gold Medal, Association of University Presses Book Award and more. On top of the recognitions and awards received, the book is currently on a traveling exhibition which will be on display at The Do Good Fund Gallery in Columbus, Georgia, on June 25 through Aug. 5. To buy A Better Life for Their Children visit: https://www.andrewfeiler.com/shopping-cart#!/A-Better-Life-for-Their-Children-Photographs-&-Stories-by-Andrew-Feiler/p/294403066/category=0 For more information on Metro Atlanta Chamber events, visit: https://www.metroatlantachamber.com/ This is sponsored content.
by Jim Hackler co-manager Sitting on top of downtown’s Five Points MARTA station is one of the most diverse community gardens in the state. Most people, including the thousands of daily commuters, don’t even know it’s there. The Five Points Farm was established in 2016 thanks to a partnership between Central Atlanta Progress and the Atlanta Downtown Improvement District (CAP/ADID) and MARTA. In spring 2018, we partnered with the City of Atlanta’s Office of Resilience through its AgLanta program. It’s a truly unique group of downtown’s biggest players that has helped us grow the garden into what it is today. We’re an all volunteer group with 23 members who cultivate everything from garden favorites like tomatoes and peppers to more exotic plants like purple tomatillos and za’atar. We’re downtown residents and workers growing healthy and delicious fresh produce in an area not served by a major grocery store (the closest is 1.5 miles). The main part of the garden is grown in galvanized steel tanks, but we’ve expanded thanks to support from Food Well Alliance’s Local Food Grant that’s helped finance a greenhouse, tool shed and compost station. More recently, ChangeX funded our partnership with Community Foodscapes to become an official Pollinator Partner with the planting of fruit trees and other pollinator plants in the MARTA beds around the garden. It’s a pilot project showing how edible landscaping can be a successful option in urban settings. Another invaluable resource is Hands On Atlanta that connects us with volunteers from around the city. We typically get 10 to 20 enthusiastic workers at our monthly Sunday morning events. We also get groups such as SK Collaborative, EY, Apple, and many college and highschool students volunteering their time (a special thanks to our downtown neighbors Newport, Centennial Yards and Mocha Pops who have generously supplied drinks and snacks to our volunteers). The volunteers have helped us transform neglected, weed-filled planters into thriving spaces. Blackberries and muscadines are climbing the metal fencing around the garden. Elderberries and coneflowers fill out the pollinator garden that overlooks MARTA’s Peachtree St. entrance. We even have a dwarf peach tree with half a dozen peaches almost ready to pick (as far as we know, it’s the only peach tree on Peachtree). The garden has also been a gathering space, not only for its members, but groups such as the Atlanta Downtown Neighborhood Association. I’m an ADNA board member, and we’ve held a number of our board and monthly meetings in the garden – including two that featured MARTA’s plans presented by its design team for the redevelopment of the Five Points MARTA station. We were assured by MARTA that there would be public engagement in the design process, as well as the Five Points Farm would be included in the plans. Recently, a number of renderings have been circling online with a comment from MARTA that these are “concepts” and no final design has been selected. One of the posterboard concepts currently displayed inside the MARTA station showed 18 raised beds next to an open-air soccer field. While we’re thrilled that the garden is included, it doesn’t include many of the features of a working community garden in an urban setting – one of the main being security. It’s essential that the design team reach out to the Five Points Farm gardening group to understand our successes and challenges so that the “community” in our community garden will continue in our new home. It’s also an exciting opportunity to bring in garden experts from around the city to create a new model for an urban community garden to incorporate best practices while potentially showcasing concepts such as edible landscapes, hydroponics, and possibly aquaponics. While the Five Points Farm is only a small part of the overall new plan, I encourage MARTA to engage us and the other downtown stakeholders who can be a valuable resource to ensure the success of this exciting transformation. And I also invite your design team and anyone else interested in seeing what we’re about to join us for our next Sunday morning work session at https://volunteer.handsonatlanta.org/ (look for Five Points Farm). This is sponsored content.
The climate crisis is one of our most pressing issues when it comes to envisioning a vibrant future full of opportunity for future generations. We observe the effects every single day: from drying lakes, droughts and wildfires, to flooding coastal areas, severe storms, extreme heat, and an increase in human infections. But the risks and costs of climate change are not equally shared. Research shows that low-income people and communities of color disproportionately live in places with poor environmental quality and the resulting adverse health effects. This is because in most cities, the high cost of housing, coupled with historic segregation and redlining have led to concentrations of people living around industrial sites, transit infrastructure and other polluters that are contaminating the air and compromising the atmosphere through carbon emissions and other toxins. A study published last year in the journal Nature Communications found that in urban areas people of color tend to live in census tracts with hotter summer temperatures than white non-Hispanic people, with Black residents specifically experiencing the greatest differential. Similar patterns were evident for households living below the poverty line relative to those above it. Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) are investors in positive change. CDFIs are federally certified, private-sector, financial intermediaries with community development as their primary mission. Committed to delivering capital to historically excluded communities, CDFI investments prioritize measurable social returns along with financial returns. As a CDFI, Reinvestment Fund is a pioneer in clean energy investments that intersect with community development. Since 1993, we have invested $103 million in clean energy solutions like PosiGen, a for-profit residential solar developer and provider of energy efficiency upgrades that works primarily with low- to moderate income households in communities of color. PosiGen was established in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans when founder Tom Neyhart observed that large segments of the city’s population were being ignored by the solar installers whose systems were going up on the roofs of many houses in the city’s wealthier neighborhoods. The firm forged an entirely different approach to assessing the credit risk of underlying customers. They focused on utility bill payment history and potential energy savings instead of credit scores. While seemingly race-neutral, credit scores are known to have embedded systemic issues as they are based on algorithms that often disadvantage people of color. With these two innovations, the firm has reimagined solar as no longer a luxury that is only accessible to wealthy homeowners. As of last year, PosiGen has installed over 20,000 systems, with over 70% of its customers being low to moderate income households. It has also helped ensure that 100% of customers save money, alleviating some of the financial strain low- and moderate-income households can experience from high energy costs. The company has since expanded and operates in seven states. Closer to home in Atlanta, the Southface Institute works to promote sustainable homes, workplaces and communities through education, research, advocacy and technical assistance. Southface collaborates with a network of partner nonprofits, businesses, government agencies, universities, and technical experts to implement sustainable, high-performance and scalable solutions. A commitment to equity is core to the company’s mission, working to ensure that sustainable communities and healthy and efficient building practices are not just for those with access to wealth and privilege, but accessible for all under-represented communities. Southface’s work included clean and equitable energy, sustainable development, and helping to build healthy, affordable and resilient communities. Also working to create more equitable energy policy and co-create clean energy solutions that benefit everyone is the Atlanta-based Partnership for Southern Equity (PSE). The mission of the PSE is to advance policies and institutional actions that promote racial equity and shared prosperity for all in the metropolitan Atlanta area as well as the southern U.S. PSE’s Just Energy initiative represents an equity ecosystem of frontline communities, subject-matter experts, houses of worship, youth movements, and academia organizing together to engage marginalized communities and communities of color about the sourcing and commodification of power generation in Georgia. Although the best way to slow climate change is to reduce greenhouse emissions by switching to clean energy sources like solar, wind, water, and nuclear energy, the CO2 already in the atmosphere can persist and continue to exert warming effects for centuries. By reducing energy waste and promoting the use of renewable energy, such as wind and solar, we must collectively invest in ways to reduce the adverse health and environmental effects that result from conventional, carbon-intensive energy sources. In a world where the risks and costs of climate change are not equally shared, targeted investments in projects like PosiGen help reduce economic and social disparities as well as improve climate resilience. To learn more about Reinvestment Fund’s clean energy work, visit us here. This is sponsored content.
By Rob Brawner, Executive Director of Atlanta BeltLine Partnership Atlanta’s park system is on the rise. This month marks the one-year anniversary of the opening of the first phase of Westside Park, which was made possible by a leadership gift from the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation and significant City of Atlanta investments to become the largest jewel on the Atlanta BeltLine Emerald Necklace. In the past year, historic contributions from the Robert W. Woodruff Foundation and the James M. Cox Foundation to the Atlanta BeltLine Partnership have provided more than $100 million to work alongside investments from the Atlanta BeltLine Tax Allocation District, commercial and apartment property owners, and the federal government to ensure the full 22-mile mainline BeltLine trail corridor is completed by 2030. It’s not limited to the BeltLine. Transformative projects like Rodney Cook Sr. Park, Lake Charlotte Nature Preserve, and the Chattahoochee Brick Company site are increasing Atlanta’s green assets. City of Atlanta voters further demonstrated their commitment to parks, trails, transportation, public safety, and more by approving the Moving Atlanta Forward infrastructure package in May. These investments are yielding results. Atlanta moved up 22 places to no. 27 in the 2022 Trust for Public Land ParkScore® rankings, led by a perfect 100 out of 100 in park spending per resident. We should feel good about our progress. But this is just a start. It will take sustained investment over many years to become one of the top park cities in the country. We must build the capacity to maintain what we have. We need to continue adding to our acreage (Atlanta scored only 25 out of 100 in the ParkScore’s measure for acreage). And we need to make parks more accessible to residents of all races and income levels (Atlanta scored only 48 out of 100 in the equitable distribution of parks). Succeeding in making Atlanta a top-tier park system will require a coalition of public, private, non-profit, philanthropic, and community partners working together toward these goals. The pieces are coming together. Atlanta has a plan to continue our progress through Activate ATL and an accompanying set of specific action items for 2022-2026. Atlanta’s new parks commissioner, Justin Cutler, hails from Seattle, Wash., which ranks in the top 10 of the ParkScore rankings. Atlanta’s philanthropic community invests generously in our parks and trails, and our residents and corporations invest tens of thousands of volunteer hours each year through local non-profits to care for parks and plant trees. As part of his commitment “to making sure that every resident has access to our beautiful greenspaces—regardless of zip code,” Mayor Dickens created the Greenspace Advisory Council earlier this year to support his administration in delivering a best-in-class park system. The Atlanta BeltLine Partnership is honored to serve with other committed partners, and we appreciate Park Pride’s organization of this group and our engagement with the Dickens administration. At a high level, the group has articulated its desire to serve as a trusted advisor to review plans and priorities, advocate for necessary resources, and partner to engage people and organizations to be part of Atlanta’s park progress. The benefits of investing in parks are well-documented. They catalyze economic development, mitigate climate change, and create workforce development opportunities. We are on the cusp of something special in Atlanta’s park history, but it will take a sustained effort from multiple stakeholders to be successful. The Atlanta BeltLine Partnership is excited to contribute to the work ahead so we can all move forward together. This is sponsored content.
1MBB initiative continues to expand nationwide support Atlanta, GA – (July 25, 2022) – Operation HOPE announced a groundbreaking partnership with the city of Jackson, Mississippi to expand its One Million Black Business Initiative (1MBB), which aims to create one million Black entrepreneurs and business owners by 2030. As part of the city’s ongoing efforts to spur economic development, Jackson’s Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba and John Hope Bryant, Operation HOPE’s Chairman, Founder and CEO signed a formal agreement, signifying the city’s commitment to transforming economic opportunities for minority-owned businesses. Through 1MBB, the city of Jackson will offer 500 aspiring Black entrepreneurs free access to resources needed to successfully build, sustain and scale their business endeavors over the next two years. Launched in October 2020 with the support of founding partner Shopify, 1MBB aims to remove traditional hurdles to Black entrepreneurship by providing the critical tools for success such as technology, education, and increased access capital. The movement is part of Operation HOPE’s broader mission to promote financial inclusion and dignity, aimed at empowering the underserved of America. “The state of Mississippi is largely known as a battleground during the height of the civil rights movement in the 1960s. Today, we’re shifting the tides and ensuring that her next generation benefits from what I call “silver rights.” That means planting seeds of hope through entrepreneurship,” said Operation HOPE founder, chairman and CEO, John Hope Bryant. “I applaud Mayor Lumumba for joining our 1MBB mission and leading the charge to make free enterprise and capitalism work for all.” The partnership with Operation HOPE is a natural extension of the administration’s commitment to building Black businesses in the greater Jackson community. Powered by Trustmark and Cadence Bank, 1MBB will be an integral part of the city’s annual Jackson Minority Business Expo, highlighting black business enterprises and patronage on Saturday, August 20, 2022. To learn more about 1MBB, visit HOPE1mbb.org. About Operation HOPE, Inc. Since 1992, Operation HOPE has been moving America from civil rights to “silver rights,” with the mission of making free enterprise and capitalism work for the underserved—disrupting poverty for millions of low and moderate-income youth and adults across the nation. Operation HOPE has received seven consecutive 4-star charity ratings for fiscal management and commitment to transparency and accountability by the prestigious non-profit evaluator, Charity Navigator. For more information visit OperationHOPE.org. Follow the HOPE conversation on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram. Media Contacts: Lalohni Campbell, for Operation HOPE LA@persemediagroup.com This is sponsored content.
By Kelly Callahan, M.P.H., Director, Trachoma Control Program, The Carter Center Public health work is always challenging, but some seasons are more challenging than others. And wow, have the last three years been challenging — especially in the part of Ethiopia where the Carter Center’s Trachoma Control Program works. The Amhara region of Ethiopia is very large and heavily populated. It is also the most endemic known place in the world for trachoma, an infectious eye disease that can lead to blindness. We have been working with our partners there for decades and making excellent progress. Every year, The Carter Center assists the Ethiopia Federal Ministry of Health extension workers and the all-female, all-volunteer Health Development Army with the distribution of millions of doses of the antibiotic azithromycin (donated by Pfizer under the brand name Zithromax®). The mass drug administration (MDA) normally would take place at a centralized community location like a school or a clinic; it can be quite a spectacle, with huge crowds gathering to receive the medication, along with crucial education about trachoma and how to prevent its transmission. However, as the COVID-19 pandemic gained momentum in early 2020, those gatherings had to be halted to avoid becoming super-spreader events. With significant Carter Center support, the Ministry of Health and the Amhara Regional Health Bureau pivoted to distributing the medication door to door, household by household, a much more labor-intensive and time-consuming method, but one that would not contribute to the spread of COVID-19 while ensuring the people received their annual azithromycin dose. On top of that unwelcome complication, a devastating armed conflict erupted in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, immediately north of the Amhara region. The violence seeped into Amhara, adding mortal danger to medical difficulty brought on by the pandemic. The people of Amhara and in-country Carter Center teams and ministerial partners persevered. The Trachoma Control Program constantly monitored the security situation. When an area was deemed safe, the teams would do as much as possible to ensure the program maintained consistent assistance in all aspects of preventing blinding trachoma. Working around evacuations and constant risk, the program continued to provide sight-saving surgery, hygiene instruction, and the vital annual dose of azithromycin household by household. Unfortunately, we could not do everything we had planned to do, but we did more than many might have thought possible under the circumstances. During this period of COVID-19 and great additional upheaval caused by the insecurity in and around Amhara, over 30,000 surgeries were performed and more than 14 million doses of antibiotics (Zithromax and tetracycline eye ointment) were distributed. In the most difficult of times, The Carter Center, the Ministry of Health, the regional health authorities, and our amazing donors persevere. This perseverance and resilience are born out of a compassionate desire to stop this terrible disease and ensure a world free from trachoma. I could not be prouder of each individual fighting trachoma in Ethiopia — whether Carter Center staff, health extension worker, Health Development Army volunteer, ministry staff, or community member, who all work together to help eliminate trachoma as a public health problem in their community. Together we are stronger, and we continue to demonstrate our resilience through compassion in the face of adversity. For this, I am filled with gratitude. Undoubtedly, not all heroes wear capes, as the saying goes, but a great many of them wear surgical gloves and deliver sight-saving medications. This is sponsored content.
Westside Future Fund (WFF) is excited to be supporting thought leadership in the SaportaReport on Atlanta’s Historic Westside. At the October 15 Transform Westside Summit we announced the Westside Future Fund (WFF) PRI Program! A program-related investment (PRI) is low-cost capital that not-for-profit organizations can use to spur community development. Thanks to charitable support from Truist and PNC banks, WFF will provide low-cost loans to small, minority-owned businesses based in or serving the Historic Westside. This program builds on a pilot initially funded by AT&T and the Beloved Benefit. Our goal is to mobilize people with current, historical, or aspirational ties to the community to organically support the Westside’s economic development. The October 15 Transform Westside Summit highlighted the importance of economic empowerment of African American entrepreneurs with three special guest panelists – Courtney Smith from PNC Bank, Paul Wilson, Jr. from the Russell Innovation Center for Entrepreneurs (RICE), and Keitra Bates of Marddy’s Shared Kitchen and Marketplace. A common theme from the panelists was the need for equity in access to capital for Black business owners. Keitra Bates noted that white startups have access to $100,000 from family, on average, while for black startups, it’s only $11,000. In June 2020, PNC Bank announced its bold $1 billion commitment to playing a role in combatting racism and discrimination. During the Summit, Courtney elaborated on PNC’s commitment to the Westside by helping end systemic racism by donating to WFF for program-related investments. Keitra Bates is a recipient of a WFF PRI that she used to renovate and expand her shared kitchen. Marddy’s focus is on economic inclusion, business development, and growth opportunities for local food entrepreneurs with their primary service groups of people of color, women, and other marginalized populations. With the help of RICE, the PRI recipients will have access to resources to innovate, grow, create jobs, and build wealth. Part business generator, innovation lab, and museum, RICE invests in African American entrepreneurs, strengthens businesses, and creates community. We have many miles to eliminate the wealth gap between white and black startups. Thanks to our panelists and the organization they represent, we are making progress and hopefully serving as models for others! Check out our newsletter to learn more about the October 15 Summit. This is sponsored content.
By Carmen Callaway, DHS/DFCS Well-being Services Section Director and S. Michele Jacobs, Senior Director, Youth Development at United Way of Greater Atlanta As school systems open for another year of educating students during a global pandemic, educators are expected to see more of the residual learning loss impact from the 2020/2021 school closures and remote learning. Research shows that “distance learning has caused a significant setback in achievement, particularly among Black and Hispanic youth and youth with disabilities.” United Way’s College and Career Ready investment priority area focuses on strengthening academic support by investing in organizations that foster academic outcomes, plan for future careers and increase youth engagement in learning and social-emotional development all in effort to reduce learning loss. Learning loss refers to any specific or general loss of knowledge and skills or reversals in academic progress, most commonly due to extended gaps or discontinuances in a student’s education. To address the issue in Georgia, legislators allocated $4.3 million in the FY22 budget directing the funds to the Georgia Department of Human Services’ (DHS) Division of Family & Children Services (DFCS). Over the past year, DFCS and the United Way of Greater Atlanta (UWGA) have worked to align efforts around child well-being and learning loss to create a competitive grant process, managed by UWGA, aimed at funding community-based organizations that serve students who were most negatively affected by the pandemic. To date, 126 organizations have submitted applications and just over 50% of the applicants are projected to receive funding. “When we refer to learning loss, we are not just referring to lost academic learning opportunities, we also have to acknowledge the social and emotional development opportunities that didn’t occur because schools were closed,” said Carmen Callaway, DHS/DFCS Well-being Services Section Director. “We believe the grants will help students with additional learning supports to get back on track.” The funding is focused on reducing learning loss through one of the following strategies. Applicants were asked to demonstrate their approach to addressing one or more of these areas: Building reading skills Improving math fluency Ensuring successful school transitions Strengthening family engagement Learning acceleration Providing access to quality out-of-school time programming Contextualizing learning Organizations without access to other COVID-related learning loss funding were given priority as well as organizations not currently receiving DFCS Afterschool Care Program Funds or receiving state or federal funds to support learning loss. Additionally, five regions in south Georgia were identified as priority areas, as they have fewer resources to support learning loss programming and two preferences for program strategies were identified: 1) programs that promote two-generation outcomes, and 2) programs that support children and families securing basic needs. Grants also could be used to support youth in secondary education to address barriers to learning that impact college and career readiness. To learn about future opportunities to access learning loss grants, go to: https://www.unitedwayatlanta.org/. This is sponsored content.
By Kelundra Smith To understand the “HOOKED” exhibition at Science Gallery Atlanta is to begin at the end. A giant statue at the gallery exit is covered with shopping bags, vape pens, cell phones, liquor bottles, candy wrappers and other items visitors are invited to leave behind to represent their addictions. The piece, “We’re All Searching for Rest” by sculptor William Massey, represents the relief that many people find themselves looking for externally. Co-curators Hannah Redler Hawes and Floyd Hall want to destigmatize addiction by showing how the desire to feel better can morph into an uncontrollable habit. The 22 pieces in “HOOKED” are on display through Sept. 4. “This exhibition is about unpacking all that we think we know about addiction and approaching the topic from a public health perspective,” Hall says. “No one is exempt from struggling with addiction; you just may not have found the right thing yet.” “HOOKED” is the inaugural exhibition for Science Gallery Atlanta, which opened in May at Pullman Yards. The facility is a part of Emory University’s partnership with Science Gallery International (SGI), a Dublin-based organization that aims to “bring together science, art, technology and design to deliver world-class educational and cultural experiences for young people.” SGI has locations at top universities in Dublin, London, Detroit, Melbourne, Venice, Bengaluru and Rotterdam. SGI came to Emory through the work of Deborah Bruner, senior vice president of research, and a faculty advisory board consisting of researchers from Emory College of Arts and Sciences, Goizueta Business School, Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing and Emory School of Medicine. The “HOOKED” exhibition started at Science Gallery London in 2018. The Atlanta version includes work from the London exhibition as well as work by local artists. To infuse the Atlanta flavor, Hall called on some of the city’s most popular public artists to create original displays, sculptures and murals that address addiction. “I wanted to challenge these popular artists to do something outside of their comfort zone and explore a topic that may not necessarily appear in their work otherwise,” Hall says. Exploring addiction through art Artist Frank “Paper Frank” Dunson’s design for “Wrld on Drugs,” a 2018 mixtape by rappers Juice Wrld and Future, is at the entrance of the Atlanta exhibition. The marker illustration depicts a cup of lean (purple cough syrup and soda) pouring out onto the earth, which is covered with pills. About a year after the mixtape release, 21-year-old Juice Wrld died from an accidental overdose. Toward the back of the gallery, Marina Skye, who creates under the name Set by Skye, built a model of the Atlanta skyline out of discarded cardboard boxes. While walking through the large-scale piece, “Trashy City,” visitors hear the beeps of delivery trucks in reverse and Ring doorbells chiming. It’s a comment on the addiction to instant gratification and the cost of that to the environment. For muralist Fabian Williams, collaborating with Science Gallery Atlanta was a chance to express everything he’d been feeling while following the Purdue Pharma investigation in the headlines. He worked with Mara Schenker, an orthopedic surgeon at Grady Memorial Hospital, and the life care specialists at the Christopher Wolf Crusade to conceptualize a piece that addresses the opioid epidemic. The result is “Watch for the Hook,” which he designed with local fabricator Antonio Darden. The piece consists of a three-foot-tall pill bottle labeled “Percotrap” with dozens of white pills spilling out onto a blue counter. There are fishhooks coming out of the pills and the words “got ‘em” are etched on one side. “I talked to a lot of doctors, therapists and counselors to create this piece,” says Williams. “The doctors said in their procedure it’s almost mandatory that they offer a patient opioids for pain, even though we know how addictive they are. I thought doctors had autonomy to give patients options for pain management.” Williams says he tries to balance light and dark in his work, both literally and figuratively. He’s directing his attention to creating youth-arts programs that inspire kids to imagine the type of world they want to see — one where people matter more than corporations. “One of the hardest things I had to do as an artist is decide what we want to see,” says Williams. “We get trained to wallow in the misery mud, and we have to clean ourselves off.” “Staying Alive in Little Five” More than 20 years of working at a restaurant in Little Five Points inspired postdoctoral fellow Sarah Febres-Cordero to collaborate with illustrator Joseph Karg on a graphic novel about addiction. As part of her dissertation in the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing, Febres-Cordero interviewed dozens of restaurant workers in the neighborhood about their experiences either using illicit drugs or encountering people who use them. She wanted to find a way to educate service-industry workers on how to use Narcan and other first-aid tools to help someone who is experiencing an overdose. “A lot of me becoming a nurse was wanting to contribute to the community in Little Five Points to address drug use, mental health and homelessness,” says Febres-Cordero. “Most drug users are recreational users, and most overdoses are unintentional.” The colorful pages in the graphic novel tell the story of a server who sees a customer overdosing on heroin and uses Narcan to help the person until the ambulance comes. One chapter, “Staying Alive in Little Five,” is on display at Science Gallery Atlanta. Karg says that as an illustrator, working on this project made him reexamine his view of addiction. “A lot of illustrators are trained to make everything look one type of beautiful,” says Karg. “It was a challenge to create something that audiences would respond to but that also reflected the types of people being depicted in a respectful way.” He also says that working on “Staying Alive in Little Five” made him think more broadly about his interactions with students at Kennesaw State University, where he is an assistant professor of animation and illustration. “I need to be sensitive to …
By The Rollins Center for Language & Literacy Over the next weeks, early childhood teachers will welcome a new group of children to their classrooms. Current demographics show that an increasing number of these children will be dual language or multilingual learners – children learning and developing in two or more languages. Picture Valentina, a four-year-old entering Pre-K. She is eager to learn and wants to share the experiences she has accumulated in her first four years, yet she can only do so in Spanish, the language of her home, where she has thrived. Imagine Valentina’s experience when her teachers cannot communicate with her, and she is unable to participate fully in the classroom. Valentina is part of a large, diverse, and growing population of children. According to the Migration Policy Institute, one in three children under the age of 8 years in the U.S. are dual language or multilingual learners (DLLs). More than 80 percent of DLLs speak Spanish. However, nationwide, more than 140 languages are represented. While many have immigrant parents, more than 90 percent are U.S. citizens. For many, their first experience with English will be when they enter Pre-K or formal school. From birth, all children are capable of learning more than one language. Multilingualism is associated with many cognitive, social, linguistic, and academic benefits and is common in over half the world’s population. (The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) 2017), . In the US, however, most DLLs are educated in English-only classrooms, unjustly deprived of opportunities to develop and use their first language assets, and often performing academically at lower levels than their monolingual English-speaking peers. Ironically, private and public bilingual education programs are proliferating, mostly due to demands from middle and upper-class families of native English speakers who recognize the benefits of bilingualism in a global society. Despite evidence that DLLs who participate in these programs outperform those in English-only programs, many of them are not afforded the same access their privileged, English-dominant counterparts enjoy. Science and practice are not aligned. Decades of research compel us to reject deficit perspectives leading to misaligned approaches which negatively impact our expectations, and subsequently, outcomes, for dual language learners. Instead, we must view DLLs through the lens of the powerful advantages associated with knowing more than one language. Research shows that having a solid foundation in the first language contributes to learning English. Valentina will thrive when her progress is not measured against expectations held for her monolingual peers. When her teachers are familiar with her cultural and language background, understand her development in more than one language, and intentionally support her learning through the strategic use of the first language and other instructional supports, she will excel. Her peers will benefit from hearing her different life perspectives, which will prepare them well for the world. The Atlanta Speech School’s Rollins Center for Language & Literacy and its free online learning community Cox Campus are committed to literacy and justice for all. For Valentina and all DLLs, we work to co-construct an ecosystem that will support them to become adults with choices and powerful voices in more than one language. Watch The Gift, Rollins Center’s promise to DLLs to celebrate and include the gift of their first language in the classroom. Debunk the myths that exist around multilingualism – Through TALK WITH ME BABY we share with families that language nutrition can be delivered in any language and should be in the language they feel most comfortable speaking. Bilingualism does not confuse children but rather, confers many benefits. Build the knowledge and skills of teachers and leaders – Cox Campus’ free Preschool DLL courses build the expertise of teachers and leaders to construct a language-centered ecosystem where teachers adopt a strengths-based approach and engage in instructional practices that integrate DLLs’ first languages. Ensure Georgia’s Spanish-speaking DLLs have a more meaningful Pre-K experience – Through a ten-year partnership with Georgia’s Department of Early Care and Learning (DECAL), Rollins supports DECAL’s Bilingual Rising PreK Summer Transition Program for Spanish-speaking children entering Pre-K. This summer, over 70 classrooms statewide participated in the six-week program, serving approximately 700 children. Teachers share with us “the incredible growth children experienced in this short period” and “the many skills they acquired through this wonderful program.” Build the capacity of Hispanic family childcare providers – More than 80% of Hispanic children under 3 are cared for by family childcare providers or family, friends, and neighbors in their own communities. Often, these providers have limited training in early childhood education, limited English, and limited access to professional learning opportunities in a language they understand. Through a generous grant from The Goizueta Foundation, we are developing free courses in Spanish to support these providers to launch December, 2022 To achieve literacy and justice for Valentina and all dual language learners, we must equip all teachers with the science-based knowledge, skills, and resources they need to teach dual language learners best. We stand in agreement with the US Department of Health and Human Services and US Department of Education joint vision policy statement on Supporting the Development of Children who are Dual Language Learners in Early Childhood Programs, stating, “Given the growing number of young children who are DLLs and the sizable proportion of the workforce they will make up in the coming years, ensuring they are prepared for school and do well once they arrive is an economic imperative that will directly influence the competitiveness of the U.S. in an evolving global economy. ” We must recognize, as Atlanta increasingly becomes an international city, that our multilingual citizens are an asset and should be afforded the right to decide their own futures, in any language. For more information, contact the Rollins Center for Language & Literacy at firstname.lastname@example.org National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM). 2017. Promoting the educational success of children and youth learning English: Promising futures. Washington, D.C., The National Academies Press. This is sponsored content.