4th Annual Summit (Zoom)
On August 21, 2020, Louisiana Fosters held its 4th annual summit. Knowing the mission of Louisiana Fosters is not lost or void during these times, the team knew they needed to continue pressing into the “One Church, One Family, One Child” initiative launched one year ago. Innovation was the key when planning and coordinating this event and eventually bloomed into a zoom webinar where the focus would be on people of faith and their organizations doing great work within the foster care community to ignite a fire in Louisiana churches. See below for a recap of what our speakers had to say.
First Lady Donna Edwards spoke on her initiative: “One Church, One Family, One Child” – a statewide call for faith communities to recruit and support families within their congregations to foster a child in the State’s custody. “On any given day, Louisiana has over 4,000 children in foster care. We also have over 4,000 churches,” First Lady Donna Edwards said. “If each church-family recruited one foster family for one child, then wrapped themselves around that family in support of that child, we could change the direction of that child’s life, their future, and the future of our state.”
Secretary Marketa Garner Walters, of the Department of Children and Family Services, welcomed our guest and emphasized the faith-based community’s need to partner with DCFS. She explained how great the need is for foster parents and foster parents to see the child as a whole person and effectively meet that child’s needs. The secondary need is support for the foster parents themselves and the organizations that offer support for them as well.
Elizabeth Green, Project manager, Home Development, Faith and Community partnerships with DCFS, spoke of her experience with the private, faith-based sector and her work with DCFS and how valuable and irreplaceable those partnerships are for our foster children. Her experience in both government and community gave her a unique experience and platform to advocate for foster children.
Anna Palmer is the Executive director of Crossroads roads NOLA, which exists to recruit Foster families in the faith-based community, equip and guide them through the certification process and support them through their journey. Anna’s presentation is about the importance of quality support for foster families and helping the families get the training to meet the needs of kids from hard places effectively. To do this, Crossroads Nola trains caregivers through Trust-based relational intervention- TBRI.
Bryana McGee, a Louisiana Elite Advocacy Force Board Member, spoke of her time in the foster care system and how important quality and loving foster parents are. Her experience has shaped her world view, and she is now advocating for foster youth. Her first-hand experience brought a valuable perspective to the summit.
Kim Bigler, the founder of James Samaritan, saw a need and met a need. That is where it all began. Kim talked to the church and charged them with becoming involved in the Foster care system. She passionately explains that faith-based communities need to be the backbone of the foster care system.
Dr. Mark Johnson Sr., the Senior pastor of Edgewater Baptist church and a professor at the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, spoke on pastors and church leaders’ roles in being a part of the foster care system. He talks about taking care of children should be part of the church’s DNA and not something to do during the holidays. He states that foster care is a privilege to be apart of and changes everyone that’s involved.
Antonica Fraizer gave a powerful testimony of her experience in foster care. Antonica has the first-hand experience with several different types of placements and the effect it has on self-esteem. Having quality foster homes is essential and needed in the foster care community.
Over 100 participants got to experience these powerful testimonies of the extraordinary work done around the State. In the future, Louisiana Fosters is planning to connect with local churches to develop foster care ministries in their congregations. Everyone can do something; whether you provide a meal for a foster family, meet the practical needs of a child in care, or become a foster family, you can make a difference.
at the Governor’s Mansion
Special thanks to our Master Gardeners who provide tours of the Governor’s Mansion.
In August 2017, Kathleen Randall approached the East Baton Rouge Master Gardener Association about providing tours of the newly refurbished gardens at the Governor’s Mansion. Kathleen, who was working at the Capitol, had participated in the Louisiana Master Gardeners Association (LMGA) program several years prior. She explained that First Lady Donna Edwards was very interested in opening the gardens to the public for educational purposes and was seeking a group to help. As a result of this conversation, Skippy Berner and Ken Bosso (who were the President and President-Elect of the LMGA) met Mrs. Edwards and Bobbie Johnson, personal assistant to Mrs. Edwards at the time, to discuss the project. After that, the LMGA membership took off with this idea, and the tours began. Since that time, the garden tours have been a popular success at the Mansion. The tours started in the Spring of 2018 with Master Gardeners, Kitty Bull, Ken Bosso, Leo Broders, Sherry Eubanks, Angie Wall, Mary Tauzin, Karen Baiamonte, and Kathy Conerly. A total of 18 tours took place in 2018. A special thanks to Ken Bosso, Leo Broders, Mary Tauzin, and Vicki Anderson, who were involved with making this a reality.
In 2019, the group led 38 tours reaching 1,695 students and visitors with ten different tour leaders. New additions from the Master Gardeners were added to lead tours this year, and they included Vicki Anderson, Debi O’Neill, Ann Monroe, and Helen Clement. The current year, 2020, has been a challenge with the COVID-19 pandemic stopping all tours in Mid-March. Before the shut-down, eleven tours 480 visitors toured. Also, the Master Gardeners added Kerry Hawkins and Debbye Calmes as tour leaders in 2020.
East Baton Rouge Master Gardeners are so grateful to share their love for gardening and educate others about gardening of all kinds, especially through tours at the Governor’s Mansion.
Louisiana Board of Regents’
Dr. Kim Hunter Reed
Louisiana Commissioner of Higher Education
Louisiana Board of Regents’ COVID-19 Response
Thank you, First Lady, for allowing me to reflect on the challenges and opportunities higher education faces in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the aftermath of Hurricane Laura and so much more. We are grateful for your passion for education and the students across Louisiana.
This academic year will be one of the most challenging we have ever faced – with a global pandemic, a devastating hurricane, racial unrest, and significant economic hardships impacting our state and our students. In the face of these challenges and all of the uncertainty that abounds, we are certain of this – higher education is a strategic asset and is critical to Louisiana’s recovery.
Getting people back to work with the education and training they need – that’s what we do. Advancing critical research to fight this pandemic, save lives, solve the pressing challenges of the day, and lead the economic future of the state – we do that too. Joining together to provide donations, clean up campuses, and respond to the needs of our communities in the aftermath of a natural disaster – we proudly do that as well.
As we in higher education prepared for this fall, it was never with a focus on reopening, because we never closed. The education and learning never stopped, even in the midst of a global pandemic, because we knew that students were counting on us to offer access to opportunities. We could not let them down. We are also vital members of our communities, and they too were counting on us.
As the fall semester began across Louisiana a few short weeks ago, we welcomed students back to campus – mostly online, but some in person – with masks and social distancing required. Though it’s not easy, our institutions are committed to keeping the education and training going safely and effectively. Our focus is on maximizing equity of opportunity for all of our students. Our priority is to minimize disease spread through our campus safety and sanitation protocols, informed by public health experts and CDC guidance. In the end it’s about the students and we are counting on them to keep each other safe.
In responding to these many challenges, collaboration is key. When planning for a safe return to campus in the midst of the ongoing pandemic, we partnered with Louisiana’s Office of Public Health to make sure education and public safety are always closely paired. Our partnership has helped to inform individual planning processes for all institutions across our state – public, private, proprietary, two-year, four-year, and HBCUs – and that collaboration continues.
As we all know, Louisiana is battle-tested, so in that sense we are always crisis-ready. Emergency planning is in our DNA. Whether responding to a hurricane like Laura or a pandemic like COVID-19, our state has an effective emergency response structure led by our Governor that fosters continuous cross-agency communication and collaboration to respond to critical situations. Any time we have a disaster, the lessons learned from large-scale events like Hurricane Katrina are immediately discussed and relevant best practices are implemented.
While I remain confident in our processes, my work as Commissioner of Higher Education must transcend policy and paperwork. This work is about people. We know there are challenges. We hear every day from students and parents worried about campus safety. Others are financially struggling and can no longer afford tuition, while many of our student parents are trying to figure out if they can balance their children’s hybrid schedules with their own classes. We continue to make sure students and families know that there are many academic options and resources available to help keep them on track.
This week I surveyed hurricane damage on our college campuses filled with debris and buildings in disrepair. I’ve spoken with students and walked with families, including my own, in Lake Charles, my hometown, who have lost so much to Hurricane Laura. Our people are hurting and tired, but our resolve is stronger than our fatigue and together we will rebuild and move our state forward.
I am so very proud of our system and campus leaders, faculty and staff and my own Board of Regents team who have responded so impressively and immediately to keep education going throughout these crises, support the health care surge, provide relief and recovery efforts, and support our amazing students.
In many ways, Louisiana’s higher education institutions were made for this challenging moment. As we face two major emergencies, we know that we can’t rebuild or recover without education and our unwavering commitment to our people. That’s what makes Louisiana special and Louisiana strong.
For more information on the Louisiana Board of Regents’ COVID-19 response, click here.
5 ⅓ C. Flour
4 teaspoons Cream of Tartar
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 pound (block) of butter (softened)
3 cups Sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Set oven to 350 degrees
Whisk together the flour, cream of tartar and baking soda and set aside
In another bowl, with an electric mixer, mix the butter and sugar on high speed until blended and smooth. Add eggs and vanilla and mix until smooth.
Take the flour mixture and slowly start incorporating the flour mixture into the butter mixture, on medium, until all ingredients are incorporated.
Take an ice cream scooper (with the thumb release scraper) and scoop out the dough mixture, scraping the edges clean, and release the scoop onto a sheet pan.
In a small bowl, mix together ¼ cup sugar and ¼ cup cinnamon. Take each cookie scooped dome and dip the top of the cookie ball into the cinnamon/sugar mixture and place back on baking sheet.
Bake for 11 minutes (until edges are golden brown).
Set on rack to let cool for about 10 mins.
Serve and eat!
Jeanea Charbonnet Bandi
Jeanea Charbonnet Bandi of JCB Creations is known as the “cookie lady” in New Orleans.
In 2002 Jeanea started decorating cookies and cakes with her sister as a “part-time” hobby business while raising new babies under the name “SugarMAMAS”! It was an overnight success, and they quickly had a successful “full-time” business on their hands. It was a fantastic whirlwind, but, in 2005, Hurricane Katrina wiped out the company. Their families moved to different cities. In 2006, Jeanea went out on her own as JCB Creations. She worked out of her house where both her business and her son got bigger by the day.
In 2011 she opened a storefront on Oak Street. Business kept growing, and she added more products to the menu. In 2016 Jeanea had the opportunity to move the store to a Magazine Street location in New Orleans, where it grew even more! Eventually, the expenses of having a storefront increased, and complications from the pandemic added to this complication. So, she decided to go back to her roots and closed the storefront. This move turned out to be a blessing as she was able to spend more time with her son before he left for college. Moving back to her workshop at home allowed her that time. JCB creations now delivers all the products directly to customers.
Jeanea has a fiercely loyal clientele who followed her everywhere and has helped the business grow through word of mouth and social media. The most popular item is the almond-flavored Butter Shortbread cookie that is hand decorated for almost any occasion. The decorated cakes are also very popular.
Jeanea keeps all her recipes secret, but has offered to share a fan favorite – her snickerdoodle! This cookie’s pillowy softness with just a little cinnamon and sugar on top makes the perfect afternoon treat with a cold glass of milk.
CANDICE MARIE DIXON
Founder and CEO,
CANDICE MARIE DIXON Founder and CEO, RENEE MARIE
Candice Marie Dixon is the founder and CEO of RENEE MARIE, a jewelry and accessories brand specializing in products for Sororities and other membership-based organizations. Candice’s goal with her brand is to give her customers versatile and fashionable ways to amplify their personal beauty and style and display the history and pride for their organizations.
Candice credits her mother for inspiring and encouraging her entrepreneurial interests, which were evident as early as nine years of age. Candice remembers setting up shop on the front porch of her home in Alexandria, Louisiana, carefully setting up a display and sign to sell the hairbows she’d designed herself. After sitting outside all day, she didn’t make any sales.
Despite the failed business attempt as a young girl, Candice didn’t let that crush her entrepreneurial ambitions. She pursued a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering with a scholarship from Southern University and A&M College. During her freshman year, she was accepted as a member of the inaugural class of Gates Millennium Scholars, an award that would fund her undergraduate and graduate studies. She went on to earn a Master of Science in Information Systems from the University of Maryland-Baltimore County, and EdS in Educational Technology from LSU.
Years later, into an advanced career, Candice learned that she enjoyed the process of turning a concept into a tangible product. In 2014, a year before her Sorority, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority’s National Convention in Houston, Texas, where over 10,000 members were expected to attend, Candice decided it was time to become a licensed vendor. Over the next year, while still working full-time as a healthcare information technology consultant, she would spend $35,000 from her savings account and credit to develop her brand and design various products.
She launched her business in the summer of 2015 at the weeklong Sorority Convention, where she recouped her investment. RENEE MARIE has become a licensed vendor for all four of the Sororities in the Divine 9 of historically Black greek letter organizations. She is honored to create products representing the rich history of these 100 – years- old-plus Sororities who positively impact their communities.
After five years in operation, the business experiences consistent growth year after year. In 2019, Candice was selected to participate in the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program. She developed and implemented a growth plan that immensely helped increase her 2018 revenue by 70 percent in 2019. As her full-time consulting project came to a close in late 2019, Candice made the courageous decision to forgo consulting and is now a full-time entrepreneur, something that she admits both excites and scares her.
Despite the challenges of entrepreneurship, Candice is determined to push through fear to develop her brand further and grow her business. Two things she always reminds herself of is the scripture, 2 Timothy 1:7, “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power” and the adage that “Failure is just data.”
WOMEN'S HEALTH BLOG September 2020
Improving the Mental Health of
Louisiana’s Women and Families
Written by Ayesha Umrigar, PhD
The state of current events isn’t doing favors for anyone’s mental health, especially for women and children. Traumatic events experienced by children can have negative consequences that follow them well into adulthood. Sometimes this trauma is referred to as Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), a phrase developed by the CDC Kaiser ACE Study1. These experiences include exposure to domestic violence, abuse, neglect, neighborhood violence, and unfair judgment or treatment based on race/ethnicity. Exposure to these situations in childhood can lead to higher rates of health problems such as substance abuse, depression, obesity, and heart disease. This is a significant public health concern, as 20.5% of children ages 0-17 in the United States and 25.2% have experienced two or more ACEs. In Louisiana, this percentage is 25.2%. For women, exposure to ACEs can increase their risk of being the victim of domestic violence. In addition, the effects of ACEs can ripple across generations, as the children of mothers exposed to ACEs are at an increased risk for adverse outcomes such as delayed developmental milestones.
We know that ACEs are a serious problem, but how do we fix it? This is not a problem that can be fixed overnight, nor is there a single solution. Earlier this year, I attended the 2020 Health Summit: Advancing Health Equity for Children and Families. Dr. Jonathan Goldfinger MD, MPH, FAAP, a pediatrician and a renowned expert in maternal and infant health, delivered the keynote address. A part of his talk that resonated with me was his discussion on ACEs and the compartmentalization of healthcare services. For instance, the physician a woman sees before she gets pregnant is not the same doctor treating her throughout her pregnancy. A different provider then provides care for her child. If we want to improve outcomes for Louisiana’s women and children, we need to expand our focus and deliver continuous, coordinated care from pre-conception to pediatrics. Part of this starts with screening not only the children of Louisiana but also their mothers regarding their exposure to ACEs.
This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to improving Louisiana’s women and families’ mental health. To address the root of ACEs, we will need people from all walks of life, including policymakers, educators, community stakeholders, and healthcare professionals, to work together to create systemic changes and provide trauma-informed interventions to the communities they serve.
- Felitti, V. J. et al. Relationship of childhood abuse and household dysfunction to many of the leading causes of death in adults: The adverse childhood experiences (ACE) study. Am. J. Prev. Med. 14, 245–258 (1998).
- Explore Adverse Childhood Experiences in Louisiana | 2019 Health of Women and Children Report | AHR. https://www.americashealthrankings.org/explore/health-of-women-and-children/measure/ACEs/state/LA.
Ayesha Umrigar, PhD
Dr. Ayesha Umrigar received her PhD in Human Genetics from Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center (LSUHSC). She is currently working as a postdoctoral fellow at LSUHSC, where she conducts research in health and science policy. Her current research interests include legislation regarding adverse childhood events (ACEs), hospital community benefits, and insurance coverage genetic for testing.
America’s Oldest WWII Veteran,
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
LAWRENCE BROOKS America's Oldest WWII Veteran
For some, being called the oldest isn’t appealing. But for World War II veteran Lawrence Brooks, it’s an honor. Brooks is America’s oldest WWII veteran, and he’s about to celebrate his 111th birthday.
Born Sept. 12, 1909, Brooks was raised in Norwood, La. During WWII, he served in the predominantly African-American 91st Engineer Battalion, which was stationed in New Guinea and then the Philippines. Private First Class Brooks was one of more than 1.2 million African-Americans who served in the segregated U.S. Armed Forces in WWII.
For the past five years, Brooks has celebrated his birthday at The National WWII Museum. Due to the pandemic, the traditional gathering can’t take place, but museum officials are asking Louisianans to send Brooks at birthday card to commemorate his special day. Cards can be mailed to the museum at:
The National WWII Museum
c/o Happy 111th Mr. Brooks!
945 Magazine St.
New Orleans, LA 70130
THE HOPE TEAM
Since its inception in 2010, Empower 225 (E225) has provided comprehensive services for adult and minor victims of all forms of trafficking. While E225’s mission is to serve at-risk youth in the 70805 and 70802 zip codes, the Hope Team serves survivors of human trafficking across Louisiana. In 2019, they worked towards recovery with nearly 100 adult and minor victims. Using a trauma-informed approach, the program creates an environment of care and consistency to help survivors cope through trauma and lapses of hardship, while also empowering survivors to forge their own path.
The Hope Team is committed to empowering survivors of human trafficking through a long-term care plan. Survivors face compounding challenges as they navigate the challenges of trauma, economic hardship, and legal restrictions often arising from crimes committed during their exploitation. Through federal grants, the program provides direct assistance, peer-to-peer mentorship, and comprehensive case management to survivors, including victim advocacy. They work closely with other E225 programs and partners in the community to connect survivors with the resources and skills to build their resiliency— including counseling, education, job training, and parenting classes. Furthermore, E225 received the Department of Justice’s Human Trafficking Housing Assistance grant. The grant provides housing assistance for up to 24 months, filling a significant gap in services for adult victims 25 and older. Together, these wrap-around services are the key to recovery, healing, and reintegration of survivors.
The Hope Team aims to reduce and prevent human trafficking by ensuring that survivor engagement is at the forefront of their advocacy efforts. The team provides survivors meaningful opportunities to share their experiences and advocate for change by hosting the Youth Trafficking Collaborative Survivor Advisory Council. They have trained more than 6,000 community stakeholders in Human Trafficking 101, Trauma-Informed Care, and Trauma-Speak, all of which are presentations created by survivors. Through these trainings, they raise awareness of human trafficking in Louisiana and educate individuals at critical intervention points—such as law enforcement, medical professionals, and hotel staff— on trauma-informed approaches to victim identification and intervention. As a member of the Governor’s Human Trafficking Prevention Commission and Advisory Board (HTPCAB), they inform policy responses to human trafficking. The response to human trafficking lies in the guidance, input, and perspective of survivors. E225 seeks to empower survivors to teach and lead us towards a safe, healthy, and inclusive community where all people can reach their full potential.
Vermilion Parish High School Teacher of the Year, 2019-2020
Louisiana State Teacher of the Year Finalist, 2021
Abbeville High School English Department
An Open Letter to Teachers:
In Times of Crisis, Don’t Forget Your Power
Vermilion Parish High School Teacher of the Year, 2019-2020
Louisiana State Teacher of the Year Finalist, 2021
Abbeville High School English Department
An Open Letter to Teachers: In Times of Crisis, Don’t Forget Your Power
I am an accidental teacher. I do not descend from a dynasty of educators like many of my peers. I never consciously thought about entering education as a profession. I was always going to be a lawyer and work in some form of public service. I wanted to work my way up and cultivate the connections, experience, and power to make systemic change happen. I wanted to help achieve real change for the impoverished, the marginalized, the condemned, the weak. My law school orientation experience revealed to me; however, that law was not the path intended for me. Now what? I thought to myself. About a week or so later, a friend of a friend reached out and asked if I would be interested in substituting at a local high school. The Navy had activated her husband, so she and her family relocated to a Georgia military base. “Sure,” I said. “It’s an English class. I have an English degree. At least it’s a job for now,” I thought. To make a too-long story short, that’s how I fell in love with education and began to recognize my power as a teacher: a substitute position I planned to leave over six or seven years ago. Fast forward to today, and I’m working toward a Masters in Curriculum and Instruction with my sights set on an Ed.D. Funny how our passions find us, isn’t it?
My tenure in education as a teacher (short-ish) and a student (much longer) has taught me a few very simple but substantial things. First, whether consciously or not, school communities look at our actions as a reference for their own reactions. This is especially true in times of crises like a pandemic and a major hurricane. Like every teacher in 2020, my colleagues and I experienced setbacks, letdowns, glimmers of hope, and even some successes. During the COVID-19 quarantine (which I talk about in this video), I became acutely aware of how our school community looks to the staff to know how to react to the new normal. I noticed that if we were positive and proactive, our students and their families generally reacted similarly. In preparation for Hurricane Laura, I saw the same phenomenon. As our faculty united in positivity during this crisis, our school community naturally gravitated toward our behavior. As devastating as hurricane season can be on the Gulf Coast, nothing quite like it brings us together. It’s a remarkable thing to witness. From what I see, our voices are loud, but our actions are deafening. That’s a powerful thing to consider!
The second thing being a teacher has taught me is that teachers have the power to make students believe just about anything about themselves if said with enough conviction. Teachers can make a C+ feel like a Congressional Medal of Freedom. Students’ presentations look like post-game press conferences, and class discussions resemble the respectful conversations that sometimes seem to be missing from our society. Teachers can make students feel like they can do anything, no matter the scale: draft the essay, solve the problem, right the wrong, apologize, forgive, know their worth, think big, dream bigger, plan a future, start over, and work for change.
The third and, to me, the most striking thing I’ve learned is that teachers work on the hardest edges of love. Compassion and love must supersede high standards and expectations, which isn’t always easy when working with our most challenging students. Structuring schools around socio-emotional equity and making every child feel not only safe but wanted, is paramount if academic growth is the goal. The large-scale events we are witnessing in 2020 demonstrate the power teachers have to influence the future directly. Many of our students are challenged by poverty, social injustice, inequity, food insecurity, negative influence from peers, themselves, disabilities, exceptionalities, low school attendance, and unstable home lives. As stewards of our country’s future, our job is to equip our kids with the skills to change these circumstances, not just for themselves, but for everyone. By that logic, teachers affect the future. Setting high standards and expectations while exercising compassion and patience is how teachers deliver the inspiration and strength students require to believe they can move the earth.
I previously mentioned that the goal of my life was a career in public service. I wanted to work toward the justice Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. believed the moral arc of the universe bent toward. At the time, I didn’t understand that the classroom is where I was meant to work toward the fundamental social changes I so desperately wanted. I see now that classrooms are where we have tremendous power to invest in our future. Classrooms are where we build confidant kids who go on to illuminate the world. Classrooms are where we work toward the equity our students deserve. I wanted to help achieve real change for the impoverished, the marginalized, the condemned, and the weak. I’m in a position to do that now, which is a humbling feeling heavy with welcome responsibility.
Teachers are highly trained professionals who also happen to have superpowers. In these challenging times, I want to remind my colleagues of the power we hold. What we say and do has meaning and influence. No matter the grade level you teach or the content in which you specialize, no matter your years of experience or path to education, no matter your teaching style, the size of your school, or which part of our beautiful state you call home – we all play a role in nurturing a facet of our communities, our state, our nation, and our global village. You. Are. Powerful. Don’t ever doubt it.