LATEST ARTICLES

FedEx offering hub employees tuition toward online degree

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FedEx Corp. plans to offer free tuition to employees at its international hub in Memphis, Tennessee. Multiple media outlets report that the tuition would be good toward an online degree from the University of Memphis. The university says in a statement that about 11,000 employees would be eligible for the program. The university’s online arm has 60 graduate and undergraduate degree programs. FedEx employees who don’t have a high school diploma would be able to earn a high school-equivalent degree.

HIV and AIDS advocates say holistic support is critical and Memphis’ Hope House is getting it right

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By Cole Bradley, High Ground News According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, there are over 7,000 Memphians living with HIV and AIDS. The Memphis MSA ranks No. 6 in the nation among all metro areas for the highest rate of new HIV cases. And Memphis leads the state as 40 percent of Tennesseans who live with HIV and AIDS reside in Shelby County. That figure continues to climb as Memphis has the highest rate in the state for new diagnoses of HIV and AIDS. Memphis’ rates of infection are largely a result of the city’s highest-in-the-state poverty rate, the general poor health of the South, and a serious lack of comprehensive sex ed. “It changes the whole dynamic of relationships, especially here in the South” said Latrina Moore, a healthcare worker and mother of three who was diagnosed six years ago while pregnant with her second child. Despite ample evidence that HIV cannot be transmitted through casual contact, the misconceptions are so profound that many people lose families, healthcare, jobs, and housing and may even begin to stigmatize themselves. “You do it subconsciously … ‘Oh, no, you don’t want to use this person’s restroom,’ or, ‘You don’t want to use someone’s utensils,’ because [when] they find out that you’re HIV positive, they’ll start shunning you or your kids or your family,” Moore said. Luckily Moore has Hope House, a Memphis-based organization for people living with HIV and AIDS (PLWHA) that is working to erase stigma and reconnect people with the support they need.

A Multi-Pronged Solution for Multiple Concerns

The stigma of HIV doesn’t exist in a vacuum. A person living with HIV or AIDS  might also be a person of color, gender or sexual minority, sex worker, undereducated, disabled, low-income, or all of the above. Each adds barriers that furtherseparate people from resources. “That stigma leads to institutional discrimination in all areas. That is a hindrance,” said Dawn ‘Bree’ Cassadine, a client and volunteer at Hope House. Hope House is located in two large, colorful Victorian homes at 23 Idewild Street in Midtown. One serves as a childcare facility, the other as administration and a space for adult clients to meet.
Since opening its doors in 1995, Hope House has evolved from a short-term daycare for mothers living with HIV and AIDS into a comprehensive social services agency for men, women, and children. (Submitted)
Around 450 low-income clients living with HIV or AIDS have access to focused services that range from housing and childcare assistance to mental health care, patient advocacy, support groups, a food bank, and social events. “[It’s] a holistic approach to help our clients to be empowered, to heal, and to thrive,” said Angie Galyean, victim services coordinator with Hope House. Hope House began in 1995 by providing short-term childcare so mothers living with HIV or AIDS could go to the doctor but diversified its services after realizing that a person needed to feel secure in all areas of life — food, housing, life skills, and more —  to truly focus on health. There are other organizations in town that offer some of the same services —  Department of Housing and Urban Development work with housing, Shelby County Health Department provides HIV testing, CHOICES has medical services — but narrower offerings means that client has to spend more time and funds to get between locations and face fear of new discriminations. “Our clients would much rather come here for services. If I make a referral for somewhere else, they may not be as likely to follow up because they don’t want to disclose,” said Melissa Farrar, director of social services.

Helping Kids Helps Mom’s Health

Moore is a client of Hope House and advocate for HIV and AIDS awareness, appearing on WREG for World AIDS Day in December 2016. She first connected with Hope House in 2012 after testing positive on a routine screening during her second pregnancy. Hope House offered Moore daycare services, but she was reticent to believe it was expense free. On the first day, she showed up prepared.
Carol Cole (left) has volunteered at the Hope House daycare for the past two years. (Submitted)
“I packed a whole diaper bag….they turned me right around and said, ‘Latrina, we have everything,’” she said. New diapers, formula, pacifiers, bottles and more were waiting. “That was a load off of me … It’s difficult being newly diagnosed; you’re trying to deal with a diagnosis and take care of yourself and your health and you have another life to take care of … The first thing they did was alleviate that stress,” said Moore. Moore’s son is now in kindergarten, and her 3-year-old daughter is enrolled in Hope House’s pre-K program. The pre-K is in partnership with Shelby County Schools and teaches 20 students from both client families and the general public. It boasts an accreditation by the National Association for the Education of Young Children and highest marks on its state evaluations. Moore’s thrilled with the education her kids received but even more grateful for the judgment-free environment. “It’s the way they held my kids. They don’t hold them like a germ,” she said. Two years ago Moore developed a stomach condition and could no longer eat meat or dairy. The new diet caused problems with her HIV medications and her viral load climbed. Staff helped Moore start a fitness group and brought in a dietitian for lessons tailored to PLWHA. Moore’s viral load returned to undetectable levels. “You alleviate the stress and give the body what it needs — the support, the love, the acceptance, [good food] and adequate sleep — and it can do a lot,” she said. Moore’s also taken parenting and self-sufficiency classes with lessons on financial literacy. “Not only was I able to go back to school, I was able to get a car and now I’m working in my field again but in a better position….I got a chance to get my credit together, it helped with budgeting….The parenting classes, they helped too,” she said.

When You’re Here, You’re Family

Cassadine has been a Hope House client and volunteer since 2010. Like Moore, she attributes her return to college to Hope House’s support. They also helped her move from a group home to independent living and helped her facilitate her gender transition. “I’m really dedicated to being here because I feel like this is the only place in my community that has a solid foundation of support,” she said. Related: “Orange Mound Club serves the black LGBTQ community”
Dawn ‘Bree’ Cassadine has been a client and volunteer with Hope House since 2010. (Submitted)
Cassadine said other agencies can feel cold or bureaucratic but Hope House feels like a home and its staff like family. She also considers members of the transgender support group family and said it opens up safe dialogue around issues of proper HIV treatment in conjunction with safe social and medical transitions. Kayla Gore is the transgender services coordinator for local LGBT+ community center, OUTMemphis. She also helps people access medicines to prevent infection, known as PreP. Gore has worked with Hope House and said these groups are especially important for trans people who face pervasive discrimination from medical professionals. “We’re more likely to rely on our [trans] sisters and brothers to help us through any kind of issue,” said Gore.

Legalizing HIV

Not just the medical system, the legal system also poses challenges for trans people and PLWHA. Gore said in Tennessee, someone can be charged with Criminal Exposure to HIV if they test positive for HIV then bite or spit on someone, despite the fact that HIV is not transmitted through saliva. These laws discourage testing (if you don’t know your status, you can’t be charged) and discourage PLWHA from coming forward when they’ve been the victims of a crime. Trans women and people of color have also expressed fears about interacting with police. “It is difficult for a trans woman to be in a domestic violence dispute [and] report it. Sometimes they aren’t fair to her, they don’t put that much into helping her because of who she is,” said Cassandine. In early 2017, Hope House earned a grant through the Victims of Crime Act to help clients in group and individual sessions process trauma related to past victimizations. It also teaches skills for crime prevention and offers direct supports if clients are victims of a new crime. Staff can help file police reports, act as advocates in court, and more. Domestic violence is a core focus. Galyean said that without comprehensive sex ed, many clients can’t recognize an unhealthy relationship. “I’ve had violent relationships in the past….The class helped me see some of the patterns, how to find safety [and] keep myself safe,” said Cassadine.

The  Future of the Fight

Cassadine sees her personal growth complement Hope House’s expansion over the last few years — five new staffers, new interns, new programs — but she said there are still thousands of PLWHA in the Memphis area they haven’t reached yet. Gore said wrap-around services like those at Hope House are critical for supporting those currently affected, but education for all Memphians is the only way to decriminalize HIV and AIDS, reduce stigma, and prevent new infections. Using proper precautions like condoms and PreP, knowing your status, getting treatment if you are positive, and educating yourself and others if you’re negative are all part of reducing the need for places like Hope House. “Prevention is key, and HIV isn’t biased. It isn’t racist, it doesn’t see class … It’s blind,” said Gore. But we don’t have to be. OUTMemphis offers free and painless HIV testing every Monday and Wednesday from 6 to 9 p.m.  Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Who is Ja’Ron?: 3 things to know about the Black man in the White House

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A National Business Roundtable, with Ja’Ron Smith, Special Assistant to the President on Domestic Policy. (Courtesy of the Council of State Governments)
In case you haven’t heard, Ja’Ron Smith, special assistant to the President for Domestic Policy, is now the most senior Black aide on Trump’s staff. The news comes after Omarosa Manigault Newman‘s recent claims that she heard a tape of Donald Trump using the n-word, calling attention to a paucity high-level Black staffers in the White House. READ MORE: Trump wants Attorney General Jeff Sessions to arrest Omarosa Here are three things to know about the staffer who has been a presence at Trump’s meeting with inner-city pastors and other critical gatherings: 1. When the administration hired Smith last year to serve as an advisor to Trump on Urban Affairs and Revitalization, many people felt he was selling out on the community he should have been helping, one anonymous source told CNN. Among the issues assigned to Smith are prison reform and Historically Black Colleges and Universities. “There were a lot of people who were upset that he joined the administration because they felt that he had turned his back on the community that he said he wanted to help,” a Republican with ties to the White House told CNN. Another source told CNN that Smith was aware that by taking the job, he could be called an “Uncle Tom.” “He was willing to bear the cross at this point in his life,” the source said. “He sees the bigger picture.” 2.He grew up in a single-parent household in Cleveland and earned an undergraduate degree in finance at Howard University before earning a master’s degree in divinity, also from Howard. 3. He’s had a long career on Capitol Hill extending more than a decade and his resume includes work for prominent Republicans. He was an aide to Vice President Mike Pence back when Pence was a congressman and chair of the Republican Conference. He also was an aide to Sen. Tim Scott, a Black Republican from South Carolina who has evolved as the face of Black GOP thought in Washington. Scott told CNN that Smith was a “significant member of my team.” He added, “I’m proud to witness his growth throughout his career in Washington.” READ MORE: Omarosa releases fourth secret recording showing Trump family member trying to buy her silence for $180k Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Study Shows Black Cops Just as Likely to Kill Black Suspects as White Cops 

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Implicit bias toward black men by police is nothing new, and it is not limited to white officers. Black officers can also have implicit bias toward black men because in the case of police forces, that implicit bias is institutional. This is actually news to no one—or shouldn’t be—but a recent study conducted by a research team led by Rutgers University–Newark dean of the School of Public Affairs and Administration Charles Menifield concluded that “white officers do not kill black suspects at a higher rate compared with non-white officers.” Menifield and his team set out to answer the question “Do White Law Enforcement Officers Target Minority Suspects?” To answer that question, the team compiled data from all confirmed instances in which police in the United States used deadly force in 2014 and 2015. Their research found that the vast majority of those killed by police were armed at the time they encountered police, with more than two-thirds of having been in possession of a gun. Less than 1 percent were unarmed. Men comprised 95.5 percent of those victims.

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“While only about 13 percent of the American population is black,” the researchers wrote, “28 percent of people killed by police are black.” While the majority of officers involved in these shootings were white, the researchers attribute this to the fact that 75 percent of officers in American law enforcement are white. “The large predominance of white police officers, then, means that, all else being equal, white officers will likely be responsible for most police killings—specifically, about 75 percent of them,” they wrote. “Furthermore, if black residents are disproportionately killed by police, they will be disproportionately killed by white police officers, precisely because police departments are predominantly white.”

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While there was obviously a huge disparity in the number of black people killed by police, the researchers wrote that the “disproportionate killing of African Americans by police officers does not appear to be driven by micro‐level racism.” Instead, the study determined that public policies that target minority populations combined with the policies and practices of individual police forces were the most likely driver for the high number of shootings involving black people. The researchers assert that while many try to blame the disproportionate number of police killings of black people—especially unarmed black men—is the result of a few “bad apples,” organizational theory research suggests that the problem is “fundamentally institutional.”

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In other words, implicit bias is to police officers as eggs are to bacon. They go hand-in-hand. From the study:
To be very clear, we are not arguing that the disproportionate killing of black suspects is racially innocuous. Indeed, law enforcement officers of all races disproportionately kill black suspects. The killing of black suspects is a police problem, not a white police problem. We believe that the disproportionate killing of black suspects is a downstream effect of institutionalized racism in macro‐level criminal policy and meso‐level organizational factors within many police departments. Put differently, our research contributes to the perspective that persistent racial disparities in police killings are driven primarily by prior disparities in racial policing generally: disproportionate killing is a function of disproportionate police contact among members of the African American community. In this light, the finding that minority police officers are actually more likely to kill minority suspects is not surprising, given that many police departments make efforts to assign minority police to minority neighborhoods.

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The researchers concede that addressing the problem “will not be easy,” and say that “the necessary remedies for this problem involve high‐level policy changes in the criminal code along with changes in many organizational features that combine to produce observed racial disparities in policing in America.” “This unfortunate state of affairs is unlikely to improve until fundamental changes in public policy and policing are undertaken.” And there you have it. Let’s block ads! (Why?)

More funding needed to sustain grassroots community development projects

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Volunteers installed planters that form a dividing wall to passing traffic on National Street. (Photo via High Ground News)
By Michael Waddell, High Ground News Last year, Community LIFT’s Empowerment Fund paved the way for improvement and beautification projects across the city, but a new study shows that much more funding is needed to keep momentum from those projects moving forward. On August 2 at the Community Foundation of Greater Memphis, researcher Madison Spinelli presented findings from her two-month study of the local grassroots development network which centered around Community LIFT’s Empowerment Fund and investments in grassroots leadership projects. Her report analyzes Community LIFT’s Empowerment Fund grant program and similar neighborhood-level programs in Memphis, Cleveland, and Detroit to make the case for increased investment to grassroots leaders and projects as an important element of a broader approach to sustainable community revitalization and economic development. LIFT’s Empowerment Fund provides financial support to grassroots leaders and organizations for community work that improves the quality of life in Memphis’ under-resourced neighborhoods. Last year 30 applicants from 20 different local neighborhoods received up to $2,500 for their neighborhood projects, which included activation, education, and blight removal efforts. Some of those projects could have lasting effects with additional funding. “The Heights Line project was a linear park that was created on a blighted portion of the neighborhood,” said Spinelli, who has been working at LIFT this summer as part of the Princeton Internships in Civic Service program. “The project was to show the community what this area could look like. There was a bike track and games, and they had community events within the month-long demonstration. Hopefully they will get the more funds to make it a permanent project.” Other successful projects included the Diabetes Awareness Day Festival in South Memphis and the Mitchell Heights community garden that was created on a blighted lot. “One neighbor saw the need to create a community garden to promote healthy eating within the community,” said Spinelli. “So a project that started as geared towards the environment and blight removal turned in to an educational project as well.” Nonprofit JUICE Orange Mound, which collects spare change from community members for neighborhood improvement projects, used grant money from LIFT in the past year to fund its first Round the Mound 5K Walk/Run that took place last October. “When I came home five years ago from Teach for America, I was really struck by the lack of development in my community, particularly in comparison to Copper-Young, which is just two bridges away from Orange Mound,” said Britney Thornton, founder of JUICE Orange Mound. “The model seems to be to displace poor people,” said Thornton. “We want to get ahead of that trend and show people that you don’t have to keep shooing people, you can develop people.” This year’s Round the Mound 5K Walk/Run will take place on October 27. The project for the Crosstown Community Development Corp. centered on preserving the historic overlays for Speedway Terrace. “A lot of what the empowerment grant is about is little things and how they can create big things,” said Justin Gilles, president of Crosstown Community Development Corp. “Our project was really all about ensuring that, as things grow and improve in the areas around us, the residents have a voice in what happens with their neighborhood.” Their work in the Crosstown area spilled over the other areas of the community like VECA and Orange Mound that also want to define their own historic overlays. Leaders from VECA and Orange Mound will now be working with Gilles and others from Crosstown toward most efficiently achieving their goals. Leaders from neighborhood organizations recently joined together to create the North Memphis Neighborhood Collaborative for Resilience with a focus on creating partnerships and connections that will improve the community.. “We have very informally formed the  North Memphis Neighborhood Collaborative in order to stay in touch with each other, to work together, and to help drive positive change in Memphis,” said Gilles. The ultimate goal of LIFT’s grant money is to promote community cohesion, improve the physical spaces in the neighborhood, cultivate financial stability, and/or assist neighborhood stakeholders in collaborative action. Ultimately, Spinelli recommended greater funding by local organizations, stronger community collaboration between non-profits, and providing training and tools for grant recipients to be successful. Let’s block ads! (Why?)

House where Aretha was born draws crowd

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406 Lucy is being adorned with salutes to the late Aretha Franklin, who was born there. (Photo: Karanja A. Ajanaku}
As fans in myriad cities and towns in various parts of the world absorb the news that Aretha Franklin has passed, a stream of them are making their way to a stretch of Lucy St. in South Memphis where the “Queen of Soul” was born.
(Photo: Karanja A. Ajanaku)
On Friday morning, a day after Franklin died in Detroit while in hospice care, City of Memphis workers were out cutting the grass around the house at 406 Lucy. The workers, too, took out their cameras to snap shots of the vacant building that once had been home for Franklin. Pastor Gloria Wright works with children in the surrounding neighborhood. She was there to pay her respects to Franklin and survey the scene. “I do a youth outreach ministry; pick up the children and take them to church. We’re going to do something tomorrow (Saturday) at our church for her (Franklin). We’re gonna kind of march them back around here so they can meet the different celebrities.” Wright is prayerful that more can be done to help the children and others in the neighborhood.
Dorothy Ann Walls. (Photo: Karanja A. Ajanaku)
Wright spotted Dorothy Ann Walls as she stood on the front porch of her nearby home. Walls, she said, had a family connection to Franklin “My sister-in-law adopted her when she left here and went to Detroit. She’s been dead, a good long time,” Walls said, having learned of the connection much later. “I was shocked yesterday when a lady told me (that Franklin had died.) I was standing right out here. I didn’t cry, though. I just started thinking about her. She had gotten so little (from illness), so tiny. …I’ve got some of her records and CDs that I play quite a bit.” Walls has lived in the house where she stays for 21 years. “Houses,” she said when asked what she would like to see happen in the neighborhood. “This used to be full of houses. There used to be a store right there (across the street). There used to be house up where Aretha Franklin’s house is.”
(Photo: Karanja A. Ajanaku)
The extra traffic in the neighborhood is no bother, Walls said. “It’s fine. I’m used to people.” To view Pastor Gloria Wright’s reflection: https://youtu.be/x7dJWGj_Y8g  

Most schools in Tennessee’s largest district show growth on state test

Most schools in Shelby County Schools showed progress in all subjects except science, but students still outshined their peers across the state in science, earning them the state’s highest rating in growth. About half of schools in the Memphis district saw a bump in English scores, also earning the district the highest rating of growth under the Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System, known as TVAAS. Superintendent Dorsey Hopson attributed the gains to a renewed focus in preschool education in recent years, adding a reading curriculum more aligned with state standards, and doubling down on literacy training for teachers and students. “When you think about the investments that we’ve been able to make in schools over the last two years, I think the data is showing that we’re seeing a good return on our investment,” he told reporters Thursday. But the scores don’t come without tension. Hopson recently teamed up with Shawn Joseph, the director of Metro Nashville Public Schools, to declare “no confidence” in the state’s test delivery system, which has been plagued with online problems since it began in 2016. Still, Hopson said educators are utilizing the data available to adjust strategies. “It’s an imperfect measure, but it’s the measure we have right now,” he said. Hopson worries the failures of the state’s online testing system used by high schoolers made “some teachers and students lose focus.” “There’s impact on those kids that we may never know about,” he said.

Find your school and compare here

The state doesn’t release data for an exam if fewer than 5 percent of students performed on grade level or if 95 percent of students were above grade level. An asterisk signifies that a school’s score falls in one of those two categories.

How did your school perform on TNReady tests? Search here for results

  District-wide results released in July show that more young students are reading on grade-level, and that math scores went up across the board. But the percentage of high school students who scored proficient in reading dropped by 4 percentage points. Shelby County Schools still lags significantly behind the state average. Shelby County Schools also improved its overall growth score, which measures how students performed compared to peers across the state who scored similarly to them the year before. It increased from 1 to 2 on a scale of 5. More than half of schools scored 3 or above, meaning those students scored on par or more than their peers. The district’s nearly 200 schools include about 50 charter schools that are managed by nonprofit organizations but receive public funding. The rest are run by the district. Below are charts showing the five schools that performed best and worst in the district in each subject, as well as those that grew or declined the most in each subject. The state doesn’t release data for an exam if fewer than 5 percent of students were on grade level or if 95 percent of students were above grade level. The charts below only include schools that fall in between that range.

English Language Arts

Graphic by Samuel Park
Graphic by Samuel Park
Graphic by Samuel Park
Graphic by Samuel Park

Math

Graphic by Samuel Park
Graphic by Samuel Park
Graphic by Samuel Park
Graphic by Samuel Park

Science

Graphic by Samuel Park
Graphic by Samuel Park
Graphic by Samuel Park

Graphic by Samuel Park

Social Studies

Graphic by Samuel Park
Graphic by Samuel Park
Graphic by Samuel Park
Graphic by Samuel Park
The post Most schools in Tennessee’s largest district show growth on state test appeared first on Chalkbeat.

BancorpSouth seminars deliver homebuyer education via churches

by Michelle Wilson Bradley Special to The New Tri-State Defender BancorpSouth is conducting citywide Homebuyer seminars for those seeking to purchase and refinance their homes. Through the MaxAccess Assistance Program, mortgage borrowers can obtain down payment assistance up to $7,250. The next scheduled seminar is August 18, 10 a.m. to noon at New Direction Christian Church, 6120 Winchester Rd., where Dr. Stacy L. Spencer is senior pastor. The events are free and open to the public. “BancorpSouth is committed to investing in our communities, and that’s why we created this program,” said Johnnie Owens, mortgage loan originator. A lot of people need homebuyer education, Owens said. “Our program focuses on the home itself, not income or the credit of the individual. …Memphis has the highest rental rate in the country. This (program) is needed.” Tina Pillow, branch manager at the 1222 Raines Rd. location in Whitehaven, said, “We want to break (down) barriers to homeownership by providing these homebuyer seminars for the next three to four years.” Senior Pastor Dr. Christopher Davis and St. Paul Church hosted a seminar on Aug. 3. Pillow plans to take the seminars to schools, library branches and neighborhood association groups as well. “I do all the planning from beginning to end, which includes serving lunch to attendees and giving out gift card door prizes,” she said. At the St. Paul event, teachers were given a $250 drawing prize to assist with school supplies and an additional donation was awarded to Oakshire Elementary for student school supplies, Pillow said The seminars feature credit professionals, realtors, City of Memphis Down Payment Assistance (DPA) representatives and BancorpSouth mortgage staffers committed to answering questions and discussing topics associated with the home-buying process. “Our program can qualify more applicants for DPA and expand homeownership opportunities,” Owens said. BancorpSouth can provide up to $7,250 assistance that can be coupled with up to $10,000 of DPA assistance from the city’s program. The City of Memphis has the Homebuyer Incentive Program for Citizens, which has income guidelines according to family size, and the Homebuyer Incentive Program for Police, Fire and Teachers, with no income limits.  “Both programs can work with the (BancorpSouth) MaxAccess program. In addition to these two, borrowers may be able to obtain $15,000 from the Tennessee Housing Development Agency’s (THDA) Hardest Hit Fund Down Payment Assistance program,” Owens said. The City of Memphis may provide funds to assist homebuyers with down payment and closing costs to purchase a home inside the city limits. The program is available for first time homebuyers and for existing homeowners who want to sell their homes to upgrade or downsize.  THDA offers assistance to eligible homebuyers who purchase homes in targeted neighborhoods hard hit by the downturn. “We are here to offer personal guidance through the entire process,” Owens said. Lenders must be approved by DPA to use the program. Once the first mortgage loan with the lender is approved, it is submitted to DPA for processing. THDA has eligibility criteria as well. (Anyone interested in the BancorpSouth program should contact Owens or Pillow at 901-344-7872. Email johnnie.owens@bxs.com or tina.pillow@bxs.com. For questions about the DPA program, call 901-636-7474 or visit www.memphistn.gov/dpa. For THDA, call 1-800-228-8432.)

Whitehaven seeks gold-ball award for championship-caliber team

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Tigers head coach Rodney Saulsberry says, “Games don’t happen on paper. You have to perform and get it done in live action.” (Photo: Terry Davis)
Tigers head coach Rodney Saulsberry says, “Games don’t happen on paper. You have to perform and get it done in live action.” (Photo: Terry Davis)
Most high schools would love to have their football teams go 11-3 and make it to the state semi-finals. Whitehaven High School hit that mark last season. However, after coming off of a perfect 14-0 season and a state championship, the Tigers wanted badly to repeat. This season, the Tigers are once again harboring state championship aspirations and the gold-ball dividend. Thus their goals: Defend the home turf, pay back the two teams (Lausanne and Germantown) that handed Whitehaven home losses last season and make it back to Cookeville for the state championship game. Vincent Guy once again is the starting quarterback and head coach Rodney Saulsberry has added elite-caliber players to an already stacked lineup.  Running back Devin Boddie Jr. has transferred to Whitehaven from Lausanne. Keveon Mullins, a 6’4” 205-pound wide receiver, transfers in from East and will give Guy a big downfield target. Although experienced at quarterback, Guy’s scholarship offers are for the defensive back position and he will be used on defense this season. Keyshawn Harris, a junior, will be pushing Guy for playing time at quarterback. In Mullins, the Tigers have a receiver that caught 52 passes for 1,011 yards last season. He will be called upon to give the Tigers some aerial punch to go with their traditionally strong running game.  Whitehaven leading rusher Chris Witherspoon has graduated, which brings an opportunity for other backs to step up. Cameron Sneed rushed in five games last season and showed some dynamic ability.  He – along with Ariyon Paige, Antonio Hall and Jamal Frazier – will be leaned upon to make plays behind a big and powerful offensive line. None of the running backs are seniors. Bryson Eason, one of the best players in the city, will anchor the Tigers’ defensive unit. Eason, a 6’1” junior linebacker, weighs 238 pounds and is being recruited by Arkansas, Florida, Florida State, Georgia and Memphis. “Bryson is a physical specimen, but now it is just playing the mental part of the game now for him,” Saulsberry said. Asked if this is one of his most talented teams on paper, Saulsberry said, “Right now it looks that way. Games don’t happen on paper. You have to perform and get it done in live action.  In practice, these guys work hard. This is a hard working group that likes to get everyone better.” Cormontae Hamilton, a 6’-3” 230-pound wide receiver and tight end, took an 18-hour bus ride to an Ohio State summer camp and landed a scholarship offer. “The mere fact that the kid rode the bus up there to a camp is amazing. This day and age you don’t see that from kids; humble enough to take that trip,” Saulsberry said. “Ohio State is getting a great player, a humble player that is only going to get better as he improves and he taps into the potential that we see he has.” The Tigers open their season hosting the Whitehaven Classic on Saturday (August 18). They play Fairley’s Bulldogs in the last of three games. Former Whitehaven assistant football coach Gene Robinson coaches the Bulldogs. At 3:30 p.m. Westwood takes on Hamilton, followed by Southwind vs. Mitchell at 5:30 p.m.

Growing into 24…

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Brianna A. Smith
Brianna A. Smith
Now, I may have faith to make mountains fall But if I lack love then I am nothin’ at all I can give away everything I possess But left without love then I have no happiness I know I’m imperfect (I know I’m imperfect) And not without sin (and not without sin) But now that I’m older all childish things end…” ~Lauryn Hill (“Tell Him”)  I turn 24 next Monday, Aug. 20. It’s scary and exciting. I know 24 isn’t an “old” age, but it’s such an overwhelming feeling knowing another year has passed. Oftentimes, I like to read my old journals and remember who I used to be, what I used to feel. I keep current journals so I can get to explore myself better, take care of myself, vent and be a better and more productive me. I like to think of 23 as my “welcome to adulthood” year. It was full of anxiety and adjusting, learning and relearning; falling down and picking myself up. In this journey to 24, I’ve come to understand that life is less about appearance and more about what goes on in the heart and the mind. It’s about things of truth and beauty, courage and kindness, and of strength and sweetness. I now know that panicking about growing older is pointless. I must embrace it. “Everything is everything What is meant to be, will be After winter, must come spring Change, it comes eventually~Lauryn Hill (“Everything is Everything”)  On the way to 24, here are 9 things I’ve learned – and hold dear: Be gentle in words and actions. Gentle people attract the trust of others because of that strength. Consistent of character, they keep promises and are reliable and steady. They are aware of the needs of the people around them and are willing to bring their peaceful disposition to any situation.  Determine to be strong.  I’ve learned that the way I respond to trials can have a great effect on whether they become roadblocks or expressways to learning and growth. Viewing life’s trials as part of the great plan of happiness helps me to see them as opportunities to grow and learn. Patiently trust in God’s plan and discover how to use adversity to grow stronger. Care for your health. Eat healthy foods, exercise and get enough rest. If you care for yourself, then you’ll be better able to care for others. Health can really affect happiness and stress levels.  Always be willing to work hard.  Working hard is not the key to success; it’s merely the price of admission. Greatness isn’t handed to anyone; it requires a lot of hard work. The best people in any field usually are those who devote the most hours to their crafts. Look for the joy in your tasks and take on what must be tackled. Invest in a few good friends. Make time for and pursue relationships with those who can encourage, inspire and challenge you. On Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s new album (“Everything Is Love”) is a song called “Friends.” It features these lyrics: “Pull me up, pull me up, pull me up. And never let me down (they never let me down). Never let me drown. They pray and pray for me. See better things for me. Want better days for me unselfishly. Whenever I’m need.” Be kind to others. Kindness isn’t all that hard to offer and yet has such a significant impact on those around you. Have compassion on others and use your gifts to bless them. Pray about all things. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”  Seek wisdom. Study many different things. Decide you’re going to be a lifelong student. Learn about gardening, ancient history, baking, new languages, natural medicine, geography or anything else that fascinates you. Once you stop learning, you truly stop growing! Say “I love you” all the time! Life is short! Tell those you love that you love them. People need to hear it.