By Megan Sack
Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, is observed in 2012 from sundown September 25 to nightfall September 26. The Hebrew date for Yom Kippur is 9-10 Tishrei 5773.
The Day of Atonement, also known as the Sabbath of Sabbaths, is the most important day of the Jewish year. More people go to temple on Yom Kippur than any other holiday.
Yom Kippur marks the end of the Days of Awe, a 10-day period of teshuvah (literally "return," commonly understood as repentance) that begins with Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.
During the Days of Awe, Jews seek forgiveness from friends, family and co-workers, a process that begins with Tashlich, the symbolic casting off of sins that is traditionally observed on the afternoon of Rosh Hashanah by throwing bread into a body of water. On Yom Kippur, Jews attempt to mend their relationships with God. This is done partly by reciting the Vidui, a public confession of sins.
The holiday has the most extensive prayer schedule of the Hebrew calendar and significant abstinence from food, drink, animal-based clothing and sexual intimacy. Communal prayers for Yom Kippur begin with Kol Nidre, a legal document that is hauntingly chanted and emotionally charged. The Book of Jonah is read during the afternoon prayer service on Yom Kippur day. The Day of Atonement is the only Jewish holiday that includes a fifth prayer service, called Ne'ilah, which is a final plea of repentance before the gates of heaven are said to close. The Ne'ilah service precedes the shofar blowing and the end of the fast.
Though Yom Kippur is characterized by fasting and prayers of repentance, it is actually considered the most joyous day of the Jewish year because it commemorates God's forgiveness of the sin of the Golden Calf, and is considered a time to start anew spiritually.
G'mar Hatimah Tovah.
By Eric Carter
CHICAGO - Children attending Chicago Public Schools returned to school on Wednesday after teachers ended a seven-day strike that made the city a flashpoint in the debate over union rights.
Austin Howard, a 17-year-old student on the North Side, shared his feelings. "While I am happy to be back in school, I am even happier that my teachers maybe will be treated better."
Union delegates voted Tuesday night to suspend the walkout after discussing a proposed contract settlement with those in charge of the nation's third-largest school district. They said the contract wasn't perfect, but that it included enough concessions on proposed new teacher evaluations, recall rights for laid-off teachers and classroom conditions to return to work pending a vote by its more than 26,000 teachers and support staffers in coming weeks.
It was also a relief to parents. The strike stranded roughly 350,000 students and left many parents scrambling to arrange alternative care for their children even though the district kept more than 140 schools open for several hours a day for meals and activities.
Some parents expressed hope Wednesday that the tentative contract agreement would benefit students in a district grappling with high dropout rates and poor performance.
"They'll hopefully win from the strike," said Isabela Sanchez, referring to her children as she walked them to a South Side elementary school.
Her son, 8-year-old Jose, said he was excited for another reason: "Learning about planets."
Mayor Rahm Emanuel – who filed a lawsuit this week to try to force teachers back to work – called the settlement "an honest compromise."
Union leaders pointed to concessions by the city on how closely teacher evaluations will be tied to student test scores and to better opportunities for teachers to retain their jobs if schools are closed by budget cuts.
"We said that we couldn't solve all the problems of the world with one contract, and it was time to end the strike," said Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis.
But the evaluations and job security measures stirred the most intense debate. The union said the evaluation system relied too heavily on test scores and did not take into account outside factors that affect student performance such as poverty, violence and homelessness.
The union also pushed to give laid-off teachers first dibs on open jobs anywhere in the district. The district said that could prevent principals from hiring the teachers they thought most appropriate for the position. The tentative settlement proposed giving laid-off teachers first shot at schools that absorbed their former students and filling half of district openings from a pool of laid-off teachers.
Marion Sticks, a school psychologist, said she is interested in learning how the students she counsels fared over the summer.
"I have so many questions for them," she said. "I'm glad to be back for all kinds of reasons."
By Chuck del Valle
In the early hours of September 16th, 1810, Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, a priest in the small town of Dolores, Guanajuato, rang the church bell to gather the townspeople. He called for the people of Mexico to rise up against the Spanish Crown, thus initiating Mexico's War of Independence.
Spain ruled Mexico for 3 whole centuries, spreading diseases and creating rigid racial hierarchies that facilitated the attempted annihilation of the indigenous population. While a diverse array of architecture - modeling styles of Baroque Spain - and culture flourished during this time frame, wealth and opportunities were limited to the ruling class: the Spaniards and peninsulares (Europeans of predominantly Spanish and Portuguese ancestry living in the "New World"). During the years that led to Mexican independence, many found themselves devoted to ending foreign rule on Mexican land. Many contributed to the independence movement by providing sons to fight the great battles, donating homes to house wounded families, and providing a safe haven for women and children during.
The country did not achieve independence until 1821, but it is this event, known as the Grito de Dolores which is commemorated every year in town squares across Mexico, the United States, and everywhere with a passionate Mexican population.
The largest Independence Day celebration takes place in Mexico City's Zocalo, which is decorated from the beginning of September with red, white and green lights and Mexican flags. On the 15th, at 11pm the President of Mexico - currently Enrique Peña Nieto - goes out onto the central balcony of the Palacio Nacional (National Palace), rings the bell (the same bell Hidalgo rang in 1810, brought to Mexico City in 1886) and cries to the people gathered in the square below, who enthusiastically respond "¡Viva!"
The words of the Grito may vary, but they go something like this:
¡Vivan los heroes que nos dieron patria! ¡Viva!
¡Viva Hidalgo! ¡Viva!
¡Viva Morelos! ¡Viva!
¡Viva Josefa Ortiz de Dominguez! ¡Viva!
¡Viva Allende! ¡Viva!
¡Vivan Aldama y Matamoros! ¡Viva!
¡Viva nuestra independencia! ¡Viva!
¡Viva Mexico! ¡Viva!
¡Viva Mexico! ¡Viva!
¡Viva Mexico! ¡Viva!
The names mentioned are the founding figures of modern Mexico - those that helped pave the way for future generations free of formal colonial rule. At the end of the third ¡Viva Mexico! the crowd goes wild waving flags, ringing noisemakers and spraying foam. Then fireworks light up the sky as the crowd cheers, and later the Mexican national anthem is sung.
The celebrations continue on the 16th with civic ceremonies and parades - the largest taking place in Mexico City - but perhaps the most touching festivities are those in small communities in which school children of all ages participate. In the United States, the Mexican/Mexican-American community celebrate in similar styles, but also use this event as an opportunity to take pride in their Latino heritage.
Like most festivities, certain foods are considered representative of Independence Day. A favorite is pozole, a soup made of hominy and pork. Other foods have the colors of the Mexican flag - red white and green, like chiles en nogada, traditional Poblano-style peppers stuffed with pomegranates and adorned with a sweet cream sauce.
And of course, it just wouldn't be a party without plenty of mezcal and tequila! Mexican Independence not only paved the way for Mexico’s self-determination, it also paved the way for an annual reventón (awesome party) of epic proportions. In essence, it’s really the gift that keeps on giving.
Most Mexicans and Mexican Americans celebrate by gathering the 4 Fs: family, friends, food, and fun. Many folks like to use the word convivir, a Spanish verb roughly translated as "the essence of placing your heart and mind with those you care about", to describe the manner in which the holiday is traditionally celebrated. The Mexican people are a fun-loving, hard-working group of folks that appreciate the joys of strong family unity, respect the importance of friendships, indulge in life's treats - such as sopes, tostadas, enchiladas, and guacamole, and fundamentally know how to have a good time.
On el día de la independencia, Mexicans and Mexican Americans are blessed with internationally-recognized beers, such as Corona, and decadent tequilas that come in over 600 varieties. However, don't underestimate the power of mezcal. This alcoholic wonder is distilled from the maguey plant and packs a powerful boxeo punch, so watch out.
On Mexican Independence day, do as the Mexicans do: eat, celebrate, drink (in moderation), and convive with those close to you - whether at home or at a chic tequila lounge.
By Megan Sack
What do you know about Rosh Hashanah? Most people have a vague sense of what this means to followers of the Jewish faith, which in the United States alone constitute nearly 5.3 million people.
However, the following things will help you make sense of the Jewish New Year, which begins sundown on Sunday.
1. Rosh Hashanah means the beginning or entrance of the year. According to the Jewish calendar that happens on the first of the month of Tishrei, which occurs this year at sundown on Sunday, Sept. 16. It always occurs in early autumn, but the exact date on the Gregorian calendar changes because the latter is a solar calendar while the former is a lunar calendar which keeps things seasonal by regular adding an extra month to close the gap between the moon’s cycle and solar months. The Muslim calendar, in fact, doesn’t make those additions, which is why the same Muslim holidays occur at different seasons during different years.
2. According to Jewish tradition, Rosh Hashanah celebrates the birth of the world and humanity. While the number 5773 corresponds to the age of the world, according to ancient calculations, it speaks to a much larger issue which remains central to understanding Rosh Hashanah. By celebrating the birth of the world and of humanity, not the birth of the Jewish nation or of the first Jew, Rosh Hashanah celebrates that whatever particular faith we follow, we share a common origin and destiny.
3. Rosh Hashanah affords everyone a second chance, even if it’s their hundredth one. The New Year also carries the promise of a new you. We are invited to see both ourselves and each other in light of that promise. In fact, Rosh Hashanah teaches that with a bit of work, there is no past that cannot be overcome, and no person who does not deserve the opportunity to do so.
4. Symbolic foods, such as apples and honey, are central to the holiday. The adage that we are what we eat is taken quite seriously on Rosh Hashanah, as those celebrating the holiday break out all kinds of foods symbolizing the sweetness, health, success, and good deeds which they hope the coming year will bring.
5.Rosh Hoshanah is also called “the day of the horn sounding.” The horn referred to is known in Hebrew as the shofar, a curving ram’s horn that is mentioned numerous times in the Torah, always associated with life- changing events. Perhaps the best way to think of a shofar is as an ancient alarm clock, and Rosh Hashanah as the day on which set to help wake ourselves up to becoming the person we most want to be.
6. Rosh Hashanah is about relationships. Whether between individuals and God, communities, and the traditions which define the Jewish people, or simply between individuals, whether any God or tradition is a part of their lives, it’s all about sustaining relationships which sustain us and help us do the same for others. Rosh Hashanah invites us to reconnect, repair, and renew.
Furthermore, on the first night of Rosh Hashanah after the evening prayer, it is the Ashkenazi and Hasidic custom to wish Le'shana Tova Tikoteiv Vetichoteim (Le'Alter LeChaim Tovim U'Leshalom), which is Hebrew for "May you (immediately) be inscribed and sealed for a good year (and for a Good and Peaceful Life)". Shana Tova is the traditional greeting on Rosh Hashanah, which in Hebrew means "A good year".
Whether celebrating with family or friends, make sure to bring some fresh apples and honey to indulge on such a sweet occasion.
Happy Rosh Hashanah!
By Eric Carter
CHICAGO - 25,000 teachers in the nation's third-largest district have responded to Mayor Emanuel's demand that teacher evaluations be tied to student performance by walking off the job for the first time in 25 years.
Chicago's teachers have drawn the hardest line in recent memory against using student test scores to rate teacher performance. "It has been a very tough issue across the country," said Rob Weil, a director at the American Federation of Teachers, one of the nation's two largest teachers' unions. "Teachers in many places believe that they see administrations and state legislatures creating language and policies that's nothing more than a mousetrap."
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is excited to implement the new evaluations, and that is one of the main points of contention in a challenging negotiation between the Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Teachers Union, which president Karen Lewis has called "a fight for the very soul of public education."
The strike, which has left approximately 370,000 students out of class as the city and the union also fight over pay and job security, entered its fourth day Thursday. After late night talks Wednesday, both sides expressed optimism that students would be back in class as soon as Friday.
The push to judge teachers in part by their student's work stems from the reform efforts of the Obama administration, which has used its $4 billion Race to the Top competition and waivers to the federal No Child Left Behind law to encourage states to change how teachers are assessed.
Teachers unions argue that doing so ignores too many things that can affect a student's performance, such as poverty, a child's family environment, the ability to speak English, or even a school's lack of air conditioning. As Carmen Delgado, a science teacher in Chicago, stated, "You are going to judge us on the results of the tests where there could be some external circumstances that are beyond my control? Are we as teachers responsible for our child's home culture as well?"
Illinois lawmakers voted in 2010 to require that all public schools use student achievement as a component of teacher evaluations by the 2016-17 school year. In Chicago, Emanuel is attempting to stick to his promise made during his inauguration speech by demanding the Chicago Teachers Union agree to make the change years ahead of that schedule.
"As some have noted, including (his wife) Amy, I am not a patient man," Emanuel said after he was sworn in as mayor a year ago. "When it comes to improving our schools, I will not be a patient mayor."
The issue of teacher evaluations has only been on the table in Chicago for a few months, and Emanuel acknowledged this week that his swift push for change could be a factor in why his relationship with the union has been so contentious. In other big cities, a more patient approach has led to success in finding agreement with reluctant teachers.
The deal reached Wednesday in Boston will allow administrators to rely more heavily on student achievement in crafting teacher evaluations and remove from the classroom those receiving poor evaluations within 30 days. That contract came after 400 hours of contract negotiations that spanned more than 50 separate sessions over two years.
"Change is hard and is often hard-fought. But we should make special note that through all the tough negotiations, neither side let their frustrations spill onto the students of the Boston Public Schools," said Mayor Thomas Menino. "I tell you, this is a contract that's great for our students, works for our teachers and it's fair to our taxpayers."
As of Thursday morning, negotiations between the Chicago Teachers Union and Mayor Emanuel were said to be developing.
By Eric Carter
CHICAGO - Parents and caregivers who scrambled Monday to figure out what to do with more than 350,000 idle children must do it all again Tuesday – and perhaps longer – after the teachers union and district failed to reach a settlement to end the first strike in the city's schools in a quarter century. On Monday, only about 16,000 students showed up at schools and other venues where authorities organized activities and provided meals for those in need. That means the vast majority of parents had to make alternative arrangements or leave their children unsupervised through the day.
Chicago School Board President David Vitale said he thought an agreement could be reached on Tuesday. But Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis sounded less optimistic, saying the district has not changed its offers on the two most contentious issues, performance evaluations and recall rights for laid-off teachers.
The walkout – less than a week after most schools opened for fall – has created a tense political distraction for Mayor Rahm Emanuel. In a year when labor unions have been losing ground nationwide, the implications were sure to extend far beyond Chicago, particularly for districts engaged in similar debates.
"This is a long-term battle that everyone's going to watch," said Eric Hanuskek, a senior fellow in education at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University. "Other teachers unions in the United States are wondering if they should follow suit."
The union had vowed to strike Monday if there was no agreement on a new contract, even though the district offered a 16 percent raise over four years and the two sides had essentially agreed on a longer school day.
Parents and caregivers said they were upset that the two sides can't seem to agree. About 11,000 students showed up Monday at the 144 schools kept open by the district to offer breakfast, lunch and activities; another 5,000 attended activities at other sites, including churches, park district buildings and libraries.
Michelle Li walked her 5-year-old daughter, Amber, to Mays Elementary but turned back once she realized she didn't know which adults would be watching her child. She said that the kindergartner just started school last week.
"I don't understand this, my little girl just started kindergarten," she said.
Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy said he took officers off desk duty and deployed them to deal with any protests as well as the scores of students who might be roaming the streets, but police said there were no incidents on Monday.
Martha Malloy, whose husband dropped off their two elementary-age children and a granddaughter at Mays Elementary – where some picketers yelled "don't go in!" – said she doesn't blame the teachers and thinks Emanuel should give them what they want "because he's not in the classroom with those kids."
"They need to be at school and learning," Malloy said. "I don't want my children or others to get off track."
Teacher Kimberly Crawford said she is most concerned about issues such as class size and the lack of air conditioning.
"It's not just about the raise," she said. "I've worked without a raise for two years."
So teachers walked the picket lines at the schools in the morning, then thousands of educators and their supporters took over several downtown streets during the Monday evening rush. Police secured several blocks around district headquarters as the crowds marched and chanted.
The strike quickly became part of the presidential campaign. Republican candidate Mitt Romney said teachers were turning their backs on students and that Obama was siding with the striking teachers in his hometown. Obama's top spokesman said the president has not taken sides and is urging both the union and district to settle the dispute quickly.
Emanuel, who recently agreed to take a larger role in fundraising for Obama's re-election, dismissed Romney's comments as "lip service."
But one labor expert said a major strike unfolding in the shadow of the November election could only hurt a president who desperately needs the votes of workers, including teachers, in battleground states.
"I can't imagine this is good for the president and something he can afford to have go on for more than a week," said Robert Bruno, a professor of labor and employment relations at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
For two decades, contract agreements have slowly eroded teachers' voices, Bruno said. "But this signals to other collective bargaining units that the erosion of teachers' rights isn't inevitable. They (the union members) are telling them, `You don't have to roll over.'"
Emanuel, who has engaged in a public and often controversial battle with the union, is not personally negotiating, but he's monitoring the talks through aides.
Not long after his election, the mayor's office rescinded 4 percent raises for teachers. Then he asked the union to reopen its contract and accept 2 percent pay raises in exchange for lengthening the school day for students by 90 minutes, a request the union turned down.
Emanuel, who promised a longer school day during his campaign, attempted to go around the union by asking teachers at individual schools to waive the contract and add 90 minutes to the day. He halted the effort after being challenged by the union before the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board.
The district and union agreed in July on a deal to implement the longer school day, crafting a plan to hire back 477 teachers who had been laid off rather than pay regular teachers more to work longer hours. That raised hopes the contract dispute would be settled soon, but bargaining stalled on the other issues.
By Eric Carter
CHICAGO - Thousands of teachers walked off the job Monday in Chicago's first schools strike in 25 years after union leaders announced that months-long negotiations had failed to resolve a contract dispute with school district officials by a midnight deadline.
The walkout in the country's third-largest school district posed a tricky challenge for the city and Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who said he would push to end the strike quickly as officials figure out how to keep nearly 400,000 students safe, off the streets, and occupied.
"This is not a strike I wanted," Emanuel said Sunday night, not long after the union announced the action. "It was a strike of choice...it's unnecessary, it's avoidable and it's wrong."
Some 28,000 teachers and support staff were expected to join the picket. Among teachers protesting Monday morning outside Charles Darwin Elementary School on Chicago's North Side, seventh-grade teacher Emma Jackson said she wanted a quick contract resolution.
"I don't like the idea of a strike, but we are overworked and underpaid...we need to resolve this quickly" Jackson said, adding that wages and classroom conditions need to be improved.
Contract negotiations between Chicago Public School officials and union leaders that stretched through the weekend were expected to resume Monday.
Officials said some 130 schools would be open between 8:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. so the children who rely on free meals provided by the school district can eat breakfast and lunch, school district officials said.
City officials acknowledged that children left unsupervised – especially in neighborhoods with a history of gang violence – might be at risk, but vowed to protect the students' safety.
"We will make sure our kids are safe, we will see our way through these issues and our kids will be back in the classroom where they belong," said Emanuel, President Barack Obama's former chief of staff.
The school district asked community organizations to provide extra programs for students, and a number of churches, libraries and other groups plan to offer day camps and other activities.
Police Chief Garry McCarthy said he would take officers off desk duty and deploy them to deal with any teachers' protests as well as the thousands of students who could be roaming the streets.
Union leaders and district officials were not far apart in their negotiations on compensation, Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis said. But other issues – including potential changes to health benefits and a new teacher evaluation system based partly on students' standardized test scores – remained unresolved, she said.
"This is a difficult decision and one we hoped we could have avoided," Lewis said. "We must do things differently in this city if we are to provide our students with the education they so rightfully deserve."
Before the strike, some parents said they would not drop their children at strange schools where they didn't know the other students or supervising adults. On Monday, as only a few students arrived at some schools, Esther Sanchez said she wouldn't leave her daughter with an adult she didn't know. Her daughter, Esperanza, started school just a week earlier.
"I don't understand why Emanuel is being so stubborn: give the teachers what they want so my baby can go back to school," Sanchez said at Rudy Lozano Elementary in Chicago's Wicker Park neighborhood before turning around and taking her daughter home.
Some students expressed anger, blaming the school district for interrupting their education.
"They're not hurting the teachers, they're hurting us," said Moniqua Jones , a 17-year-old student at Jones College Prep High School. She said her mother made her come to class to do homework so she "wouldn't suck up her light bill."
But there was anger toward teachers, as well.
"I think it's crazy. Why are they even going on strike?" asked Mike Thompson, a 16-year-old student at Jones.
Emanuel and the union officials have much at stake. Unions and collective bargaining by public employees have recently come under criticism in many parts of the country, and all sides are closely monitoring who might emerge with the upper hand in the Chicago dispute.
The timing also may be inopportune for Emanuel, whose city administration is wrestling with a spike in murders and shootings in some city neighborhoods and who just agreed to take a larger role in fundraising for Obama's re-election campaign.
As the strike deadline approached, parents spent Sunday worrying about how much their children's education might suffer and where their kids will go while they're at work.
"They're going to lose learning time," said Margarita Simmons, whose son is in the sixth grade on the city's Northwest Side. "And if the whole afternoon they're going to be free, it's bad. My boy has to learn and I have to go to work."
The school board was offering a fair and responsible contract that would most of the union's demands after "extraordinarily difficult" talks, board president David Vitale said. Emanuel said the district offered the teachers a 16 percent pay raise over four years, doubling an earlier offer.
Lewis said among the issues of concern was a new evaluation that she said would be unfair to teachers because it relied too heavily on students' standardized test scores and does not take into account external factors that affect performance, including poverty, violence and homelessness.
She said the evaluations could result in 6,000 teachers losing their jobs within two years. City officials disagreed and said the union has not explained how it reached that conclusion.
Emanuel said the evaluation would not count in the first year, as teachers and administrators worked out any kinks. Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard said the evaluation "was not developed to be a hammer," but to help teachers improve.
When he took office last year, Emanuel inherited a school district facing a $700 million budget shortfall. Not long after, his administration rescinded 4 percent raises for teachers. He then asked the union to reopen its contract and accept 2 percent pay raises in exchange for lengthening the school day for students by 90 minutes. The union refused.
Emanuel, who promised a longer school day during his campaign, then tried to go around the union by asking teachers at individual schools to waive the contract and add 90 minutes to the day. He halted the effort after being challenged by the union before the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board.
The district and union agreed in July on how to implement the longer school day, striking a deal to hire back 477 teachers who had been laid off rather than pay regular teachers more to work longer hours.
By Eric Carter
As the Obama administration makes efforts to reach their college graduation goals by the end of the decade, attention turns to the over 50 million Latinos in the U.S.
As the largest minority population in the country, Latino college graduation rates will play a vital role in the nation's quest to become the world leader in college completion by 2020. Latino students will need to earn 5.5 million certificates or degrees over the next several years for the U.S. to meet Obama's goal, according to Excelencia in Education's initiative, "Ensuring America's Future by Increasing Latino College Completion,". Excelencia in Education is a Washington, D.C.-based education research organization.
Socio-economic factors, however, limit Latino access to college and graduation rates.
"Over 40 percent of Latinos who are enrolled in college are the first in their family to go to college. And so you already have issues not just of enrollment but persistence to completion that require academic support," stated Deborah Santiago, Excelencia in Education's co-founder and vice president for policy and research.
Earlier this month, the Pew Hispanic Center reported that Latinos became the largest minority group on college campuses across the country--with 2 million Latino students enrolling in two-year and four-year college institutions in 2011.
Despite this increase, Latino high school and college graduation rates continue to lag behind those of other groups. The majority of Latinos who earn degrees also do not leave campus with degrees in fields with strong hiring prospects or high-earning potential. With many economists predicting that the nation's labor market will remain tepid for some time, the drive to expand the Latino college completion rate could benefit from aligning what more students study to workforce needs.
James Hinojosa, a 3rd-year student at DePaul University in Chicago, mentioned his feelings towards his educational goals and current major. "I'm the first in my family to graduate from high school, the first to go to college," Hinojosa stated. "Growing up in Pilsen, I've seen crime, gangs, and drugs: I want to change that. I think getting a major in Sociology with a focus on Latin American and Latino Studies will help me work directly with my community."
James, who grew up in Pilsen, one of Chicago's predominantly Mexican/Mexican-American neighborhoods, believes that working at the grassroots level will create the bigger changes the Latino community desires. "I know that working with local people - families, immigrants, youth - is more important than talking policy somewhere in D.C. because my people have seen this happen. (Latinos) have been victims of policy-work that doesn't reflect the realities of our communities. Education, healthcare, safe neighborhoods, we really need this."
In July, the national unemployment rate sat at 8.5 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The nation's Latino workers faced the second highest unemployment rate in the country, with 10.3 percent, seeking work but unable to find it. Latino unemployment has become such a persistent problem that in July, Latino joblessness sat just 1 percent lower than it did during the same period a year ago.
This is a primary reason that Carlos Valle, a freshman at Loyola University Chicago, decided to pursuit a degree in finance and accounting. "While I believe that Latinos need to help other Latinos, the reality is that money talks," Valle confidently stated as he walked to his condo in the upscale Gold Coast neighborhood. "There is too much pressure from the Latino community to give back to the poor, those without anything. I think that's great, but the reality is you have to help yourself become someone in the world before offering your money away."
Despite an increase in college enrollment, the number of Latinos graduating from two-year and four-year institutions lags behind that of other groups. In 2010, according to the Pew Hispanic Center, 112,000 associate degrees and 140,000 bachelor's degrees were conferred on Latinos. Compared to the 1.2 million bachelor's degrees awarded to non-Hispanic white students and the 165,000 bachelor's degrees conferred to non-Hispanic black students.
Nonetheless, the number of Latinos graduating from college continues to grow. In 2010, the number was seven times higher than it was four decades before.
The number of Latino students graduating from high school has also grown, a 76 percent rise from 2010 to 2011. However, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, the Hispanic high school dropout rate of 15.1 percent continues to outpace that of all other racial and ethnic groups.
"We can't be satisfied with such low graduation rates for Latinos," Hinojosa told Le Prestige. "I think it's selfish and unsustainable when we have Latino politicians, celebrities, business elites, and lawyers who aren't putting their time, money, and effort to the communities they come from and represent."
While some believe that Latinos themselves have a commitment to giving back to the Latino community, others don't feel the same way. Trish Calvillo, an investment banker from Manhattan, believes hard-work and persistence is crucial to improving the state of the Latino community across the United States. "No, I will not donate a bunch of my money to your local organization, but I will perform workshops on financial literacy and offer my time," Calvillo stated.
"I believe that if you have the right attitude and you work hard, good things will come. I have offered my time and knowledge to Latino communities in Chicago, New York City, and Miami, but time and time again I find that they simply want money from you. The sad thing is that if you also don't live among la raza, and look and talk like them, then you are automatically considered a malinchista - a traitor. It's not fair: no one helped my mom and dad when they struggled to find employment in the '60s."
By Eric Carter
ST. PAUL, MN - Heights Community School parents have filed a lawsuit that is now moving to federal courts against the St. Paul Public School District in Minnesota, amid an investigation into allegations that teacher Timothy Olmsted discriminated against black students.
Olmsted resigned after the district placed him on paid leave in the spring after parents complained that he called African American students "fat, black and stupid" and told them, "you will never amount to anything" and "you only have one parent."
The teacher also allegedly forced black students to sit in the back of the classroom, or sit with their desks facing the wall.
"He told the whole entire class that it is easier for him to teach rich white folks than poor black people," stated Margot Chase, a parent of one of the students in Olmsted's class. Chase mentioned to Le Prestige that this incident "doesn't surprise (her)."
Olmsted resigned in March, but is still being paid through the first week of October, and parents are dissatisfied. He is also not facing disciplinary action due to the resignation.
In the suit, parents claim that the district failed to protect their children from Olmsted, the Star Tribune reported. LaTeyva Morgan, mother of 12-year-old Jamia Ware, said she made nearly 100 calls to school officials in the fall regarding Olmsted's classroom behavior, but the no one acted until January.
District representatives, however, told Le Prestige that an investigation was launched promptly and all complaints against the teacher were addressed immediately. Olmsted's attorney notes that the teacher "denies any improper conduct and believes that the claims against him are baseless."
But the educator has a record of controversy. The St. Paul School District reported in 2002 that Olmsted gave a sixth grade girl a birthday card with sexual innuendos, and requested that she read it to the class. He was also accused of giving a graphic description of castrating horses and throwing testicles into a field to feed cats.
For the various incidents over the years, disciplinary actions against him have ranged from written reprimands to days of suspension without pay. Students also find his more recent, racial comments strange.
"He would say random things like when I get out of the shower my dog dries me off," student Natasha Bohn told the press in a separate report.
Her father, Michel Bohn, has moved the teen to another school district, and asserts that there should be no question about whether Olmsted should be allowed to keep teaching.
"I wouldn't stand for it," Bohn said. "Right is right. Wrong is wrong."
Minnesota does not have statewide regulations regarding disciplinary action for teachers, so process is followed based on district decisions and as outlined in teachers' union contracts.
The allegations in St. Paul are similar to complaints against Kathleen Pyles, a math teacher at North End Middle School in Waterbury, Conn., who was placed on paid leave in June while officials investigate claims that she addressed a black student with a racist remark.
Parents have accused Pyles of inappropriately calling a student "black boy" when she couldn't remember his name. When she first called the boy by the wrong name, he pointed out her mistake. So she responded, "How about black boy? Go sit down, black boy."
Parents are calling for her dismissal.
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