How a Houston community worked together to make Education a Priority

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Parents are critical links in helping their children achieve educational goals. They are there to ensure that kids are getting their homework done, not skipping school, and hopefully encouraging their children to read since reading opens up a world of possibilities. Moreover, parents are there to stress the importance of education since education is the surest route to success.

Now what about the children who grow up in a house and an environment where education is not the priority? What if they are growing up in a community that has a lot of negative influences? How can a community come together and develop a plan for the creation of not only a safer environment for their kids, but also one where education for the children is a priority for the whole community?

Enter Promise Neighborhood

Gulfton, a community in southwest Houston, was once considered a bad neighborhood, but is being transformed. The community has come together to build a center that provides a safe and fun atmosphere for local residents to learn new things and participate in youth programs. Kids can get help with their homework, take field trips, participate in activities such as arts, sports, cooking, and nutrition, take computer classes, and more. Join their Facebook fan page and watch the video below to learn more.

If your community needs a strong system of family and community support that will not only improve the educational and developmental outcomes of your children, but also help get rid of negative influences in and around the community, look into applying for Promise Neighborhood Grant.

How Texans can help find kidnapped children

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I was driving on my way to work on Oct. 26th around 8:15am. I was feeling pretty good since I had just finished working out and was jamming to one of my favorite songs playing on the radio. I noticed one of those freeway signs was blinking so I read the message: RWG618 white Mazda van: call San Jacinto Police – 4 yo missing.

In just a blink of a moment I went from feeling good to feeling my heart sink. I began to think about the 4 year old’s parents and what they could possibly be going through. To know that this morning, this day, their baby was taken away from them with the possibility that they will never see their baby again.

Soon my eyes were looking everywhere and focusing in on any white vehicle. There’s a white van! Is that it. No. Then I realized, sure everyone going East bound on Interstate 10 can see this sign, but what about the rest of the 4 million people in Houston and the millions other in the State?

Wouldn’t Facebook, Twitter, SMS messaging help reach lots more people instantly? Shouldn’t it be a law that for kidnapped children, instead of having to wait hours before you hear about it on the radio or TV, the message is broadcasted across social sites?

While researching tips on helping to spread Amber Alerts, I stumbled upon – a great site that allows the public to sign up to receive Amber Alert text messages in their city. As they state – by signing up for wireless AMBER Alerts you could play an integral role in the recovery of an abducted child. Signing up only take 10 seconds. Please sign up. I can’t imagine why anyone would not want to aid in the recovery of a kidnapped child.

As to what happened to the 4 yr old who was kidnapped… she was found unharmed the next day. Thank God.



Harris County has the greatest number of gang members in TX

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According to the National Gang Threat Assessment, the Houston region is home to far more gang members than anywhere in Texas. An astounding 225 gangs are roaming the city according to intelligence reports and at least 10,000 members that have been confirmed by police.  Because of their large number, they have a propensity to create a large number and wide variety of criminal acts.

Such acts include home invasions, robbery, kidnapping, murder, extortion and drug trafficking. Worse, these gangs have a younger, more violent membership.

What can we do as Houstonians to help stop crime?

Visit – This site collects, reports information on all types of gangs. The website allows residents to report anonymous tips and suspicious criminal gang activities in an effort to thwart the threat. The site also has great information about how gangs try to recruit new members, how students can avoid gangs, how to help the police anonymously and more.

Original story by Dane Schiller, Houston Chronicle, October 10, 2010.


Texas Muslims are spreading message of peace on Houston streets

Original story by Zain Shauk, Houston Chronicle, Oct. 2, 2010

In an effort to promote a message of peace and love, The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, a national organization for the Ahmadiyya sect of Islam, are walking door to door to speak to Houston residents about the Muslim Religion and help battle growing concerns about Muslims in the U.S. Their goal is to reach 100,000 residents by the end of the year.

How have Houston residents reacted?

Most responses to the door-to-door interactions have been positive, although the community has received some angry notes on their cars. For many who interacted with the visitors, having a face to associate with their message about their faith was significant.

The group will start to include bus signs as part of their campaign for Houston. It is too early to say what kind of impact this will have on peoples thoughts about Muslim since many Americans have deep-rooted ideas about Islam. What are your thoughts?


Hispanics need Texas grant money to go to college?

Hispanics need grant money to go to college? “Officials say college aid cuts would set back Hispanics” article featured in the Houston Chronicle on September 13, 2010, says that there will be a budget shortfall for the program that provides grant money for needy students. Here is a snipet from the story..

“It would be catastrophic if we cut financial aid just as that front edge of the changing demographic hits our colleges. (said Raymund Paredes – Texas commissioner of higher eduction) Those students will go home to their neighborhoods and say ‘Higher education is not for me’.”

This is upsetting that there will be a cut in grant money. For me, it is even more upsetting knowing that I went to graduate school here in the States with students from Russia, France, Romania and other countries and I have to pay a huge student loan bill every month for the next 25 years while these foreigners 1. Do not have any student loan debt to pay off, 2. Were actually given an allowance from the University while in school, 3. and the University found them high paying jobs in the States upon graduation. However, I am not upset about the ‘cut’ in Texas grant money since this is not Europe and we are not expecting the Government to provide free education for us. What upsets me is thinking that college students will give up on going to college if there is no grant money there to assist them with tuition.

This is not how an American thinks. An American believes in himself/herself and overcomes adversity. So what if there is no grant money or scholarships. If a student gives up going to college because they did not get any grant money, chances are, they give up on other things that are meant to better their well-being. Mr. Paredes, the intentions of this ‘grant money’ program are good, but the true factor of anyone’s success in whatever endeavor they choose lies in their ability to overcome adversity and second, the hard work they put into their profession. A  student who really wants to go to college and is not able to receive grant money should brush that off his/her shoulder, and not say something like “Higher education is not for me”.

Men are made stronger on realization that the helping hand they need is at the end of their own arm.- Sidney J. Phil
Your future depends on many things, but mostly on you.- Frank Tyger

Original story by Melissa Ludwig, San Antonio Express News


Houston Mayor and volunteers encouraging kids to return to school

Way to go! to all the volunteers who participate in the annual Houston dropout recovery walk. The ‘Grads Within Reach’ walk began in 2004 and has expanded to 22 Texas school districts.

School dropouts wake up on a Saturday morning to an unexpected knock on their door from volunteers encouraging them to return to school. “One kid dropping out of school is one kid too many.” Message to the dropouts – “We’re all here to tell you that you can do this” says Houston Mayor Annise Parker.

Original story by Safiya Ravat, Houston Chronicle


Are your kids wearing “Spoiled Brat” t-shirts?

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Do you really want your kids to be wearing t-shirts that say “Spoiled Brat” or “I’m with Stupid”? Most likely not and neither did first-grade teacher Meri Zeiff. Meri grew tired of seeing her students come to class with t-shirts that said negative messages. “That’s now how happy kids think. That’s how a jaded adult tells a kid to think” she says.

Turning to her pupils for inspiration and advice, during recess she polled them about what they would like to see on T-shirts. No negative responses here. Instead the kids shouted out messages like “First grade rocks!” and “I love Mommy!”

Children younger than 18 can submit designs and customers can vote on their favorites. Check them out at