Last week was a busy one over at Reach Higher.
The Reach Higher Advisory Board gathered for its first-ever salon dinner Thursday evening at Hogan Lovells to discuss plans for the future and celebrate the 2017 successes since departing the White House. Food Network Chef Amanda Freitag created the menu for over sixty guests who engaged in an intimate conversation about the state of education and the future of Reach Higher. Several board members attended, including former U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King, Jr., ACT CEO Marten Roorda, as well as celebrity guests such as Food Network’s Ted Allen and Friday Night Lights star Connie Britton.
Robert Moser, Executive Officer of the Cadets Against Sexual Harassment and Assault program at the Military Academy at West Point, is a guest contributor for It’s On Us.
In the national effort to eliminate sexual harassment and assault, the United States Military Academy at West Point has taken great strides to lead the charge. One of the ways in which the Academy has undertaken this initiative is by partnering with It’s On Us, the national nonprofit organization against sexual assault. On February 10th, West Point will host its annual It’s On Us basketball games as Army takes on Navy at Christl Arena. Since its launch in 2014, It’s On Us has developed a national footprint, and West Point hosts IOU-sponsored sporting events every season.
Newly arrived to the US at age four, I would watch the news in order to learn English. By age five, I could read, so I would devour anything I got my hands on.
One of the most impactful moments in my life was reading President Obama’s biography. I was in the 5th grade and learning about the Civil War. That a black man was to be President of the United States proved to me that despite any institutionalized barrier, despite any seemingly overwhelming setback, anything was possible. I read that President Obama graduated from Columbia University, so despite being undocumented, I decided I too would graduate from Columbia.
Together, we’ve built the women’s empowerment movement into a powerful force. And with the help of supporters across the country, the United State of Women is bringing resources to women and girls in their communities to turn their passion into action. We’re training women through our Galvanize Program, arming people with the tools to take action with our Action Network, and empowering the next generation of leaders to be catalysts for change.
The United State of Women team is committed to making sure the movement for gender equality is accessible—which is why we strive to keep our resources free and provide scholarship opportunities to our low-cost trainings like the Galvanize program. But we need your support to make that happen.
Civic Nation announced today that the team is hiring an Executive Assistant. This position will work for the Executive Director and manage multiple components of the day-to-day operations of the organization.
Here is the official description: Job Announcement – Executive Assistant.
Check out full coverage on Variety.
The new-model Erase the Hate is a much-expanded effort to be conducted in partnership with Civic Nation, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that tackles social ills through organization and civic engagement. The initiative to revive Erase the Hate was spearheaded by NBCUniversal Cable chairman Bonnie Hammer, who launched the original campaign during her tenure as head of USA.
“When we launched Erase The Hate over 20 years ago, it was truly inspiring to see so many people rally around the call for inclusion over prejudice. We’ve dedicated a lot of thought for a very long time re-imagining this campaign for today’s digitally-connected world because sadly, this work feels more urgent now than ever before,” said Hammer. “I’ve always believed people aren’t born knowing how to hate…they are taught to hate. It’s time to channel our energy into doing what we can to break this destructive cycle.”
Erase the Hate and Civic Nation will administer an “accelerator” program that will offer grants, coaching and mentoring support for activists working on a range of causes. A discretionary fund has been assembled to offer micro-grants to organizations that take action in moments of crisis.
Erase the Hate-related promos and programming will air on the linear networks and digital extensions of all channels in the entertainment cable group that Hammer oversees for NBCUniversal, including USA, Syfy, Bravo, Oxygen and E! The Universal Cable Productions and Wilshire Studios production entities will also contribute to the campaign that marks a seven-figure commitment of air time and marketing support from NBC.
The larger goal of Erase the Hate is to combat prejudice, hate crimes, and the spread of hate speech via digital and social media. NBCU has assembled an advisory counsel to help guide the effort and help select grant recipients. The members include GLAAD’s Sarah Kate Ellis, Republican strategist Ana Navarro, the Anti-Defamation League’s Jonathan Greenblatt, Voto Latino’s Maria Teresa Kumar, UnidosUS’ Janet Murguia, and Teach for America’s Brittany Packnett.
Civic Nation in the past has focused on encouraging voter participation in elections, campaigns to help underprivileged youth attend college, female leadership development, and efforts to end sexual assault on college campuses.
The original Erase the Hate initiative earned USA Network the Governors Award from the Television Academy in 1996.
Former First Lady Michelle Obama welcomed back TRL with some tips on FAFSA for college students.
Step one: Fill out the FAFSA form (Free Application for Federal Student Aid)
Step two: Get free money for college!
Step three: Text this number to get text alerts with helpful hints like these
Text your first & last name to:
– HS Seniors: 240-623-8319
– College Students: 240-623-2789
A new PSA by the It’s On Us campaign demonstrates just how absurd it is to blame survivors of sexual assault for their violators’ actions.
In the video, an admiring hotel guest wanders by a wedding cake — “It looks so delicious,” she observes — before taking a huge handful of cake without asking the baker for permission. When the baker reacts, aghast, she blames him for making such a great looking cake.
“You were the one that made it so tempting,” she tells him. “Tahitian vanilla icing and pretty little flowers? It’s like you were begging me to taste it.”
If that language sounds familiar, that’s because it’s something we hear all too often when talking about survivors of sexual assault. How was she dressed? Did she consume alcohol? Why wasn’t she aware of her surroundings? Questions like these excuse violators and put blame on victims, adding to the stigma that can discourage survivors from speaking up.
It’s On Us launched the PSA on the 23rd anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act. Written by then-senator Joe Biden, VAWA established a national hotline for victims to call, as well as greatly expanded the number of services and shelters available to survivors nationwide.
While the PSA is meant to be tongue-in-cheek, its message is a serious one. Victim-blaming prevents many victims of sexual assault from speaking out.
Written by Blaine Boyd of Civic Nation. Read the article below or on Forbes.com
Rochelle Fraenig, Darius Wesley, and Tenzin Choenyi had never met. Rochelle went to Brighton High School in Brighton, Michigan; Darius attended North Lawndale College Prep in Chicago, Illinois; and Tenzin grew up across the world in Nepal.
However, the three were always united in their relentless pursuit of an education—even in the face of tremendous adversity.
As fate would have it—three years ago—their paths would cross at the White House after a phone call they never expected. The Reach Higher team was on the line from Washington, DC, and they were inviting Rochelle, Darius, and Tenzin to meet with then-First Lady Michelle Obama.
“It really was incredible,” Rochelle agreed. “I felt like I was actually in a dream, and I kept thinking, ‘Who, me? Really?’”
Rochelle, Darius, and Tenzin were part of a select group invited to take part in a roundtable with Mrs. Obama and her staff. That first year, only twelve students gathered at the White House to share their stories with the First Lady. But in the years that followed, Beating the Odds (BTO) grew into a summit with 150 student participants from every state, celebrity partners joining the effort, and the President, First Lady, and Secretary of Education leading panels and workshops.
“I have never met so many intelligent young men and women who all have the same mindset and aspirations to be successful all in one place.” Darius said, “It was an amazing feeling to be around such a group.”
“When I came to this country as a Tibetan refugee in 2010, I would’ve never thought in a million years that I would be surrounded by hundreds of students who were just like me in so many different ways,” said Tenzin. “Hearing their stories gave me a sense of comfort and made me realize that I was not alone in this journey.”
“My experiences with [Beating the Odds Summits] have been incredible. I met Tyler Oakley, Jidenna, and Lana Parrilla. And I’ve been able to make many connections and friends with other BTO alums,” Rochelle said. “I’m thankful that I’ve also been able to continue to share my experiences and give advice on the student panels.”
As veterans of BTO, the trio has joined as contributors during the summits, serving as speakers on panels and in breakout sessions.
“BTO has given me the opportunities to work with organizations from all over and to be an advocate for education, to show others how important it is to get a higher education,” said Darius.
Beating the Odds not only focuses on the students’ stories—the summit also equips students with skills and a support network that will help them complete their degrees.
“During BTO, I learned that asking for help is not a sign of weakness and that relying on others can help us better reach our goal,” said Tenzin.
“I have met so many mentors and people who have invested time into helping students like me succeed, not only in college but also in life,” Darius said. “I’ve learned that you can achieve anything when you have determination and a great support system.”
The lessons of Beating the Odds stayed true for the three as they started their college careers.
“Once I got comfortable with my college workload around my sophomore year, I started to really get involved around college and started to meet new people. Today, as I look forward to my senior year of college, I am excited for the new challenges facing me,” said Tenzin.
“Life since my freshman year of college has been complicated,” Rochelle said, “but I’ve learned that the route to and through college, it isn’t just one path. And most importantly, I learned that no matter what, you must always keep fighting.”
As Rochelle, Darius, and Tenzin close in on their ultimate goal of completing their higher education, they never forget the example they set for those who follow.
“I’ve taken my Beating the Odds Summit experience to encourage others to work hard. I’ve had little kids in my community ask me if my picture with the First Lady is wax or real,” Tenzin said laughing. “Somehow, I always end that discussion around how hard work pays off in the end.”
Written by Clarissa Unger, Civic Engagement Director for Young Invincibles and a guest contributor for the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge. Read the article below or on Forbes.com
The year was 2008, and I was an undergraduate at the University of Kansas (KU). November was quickly approaching, and I was anxiously awaiting the first election I was eligible to vote in. Though I was studying political science and was very engaged on campus, when it came time to actually register and vote, I needed help. As young voters new to the process, many of my fellow students also faced challenges figuring out how to register and where to vote.
At KU, it was staff at the Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics—an institute on campus dedicated to promoting political and civic participation as well as civil discourse—who helped me navigate the voting process. Beyond that, they organized events with politicians, journalists, and subject-matter experts that helped me become not just a voter, but an informed voter. Their dedication to promoting civil, public discourse by always offering both sides of any issue and fostering debate taught me how to not only discuss polarizing topics with people that I did not always agree with but how to be friends with them as well. After all that I learned at the Dole Institute, when Election Day came in November, I was ready.
Colleges and universities across the country have a responsibility to graduate active and informed citizens and to foster civic learning and democratic engagement, but not every campus has the resources to do this well. Because of this, since the fall of 2015, the organization that I work for now—Young Invincibles—has convened a national coalition of over 150 nonpartisan groups to form the Students Learn Students Vote (SLSV) Coalition and to help provide campuses with the resources and expertise they need to ensure that in the future, no college student will struggle—like I did—to figure out how to register and vote.
SLSV Coalition Partners understand that while voting is just one form of civic participation, it is fundamental to the success of our democratic society, and it is measurable – so we can clearly see progress. In fact, the Higher Education Act of 1998 specifically requires that colleges and universities make a “good faith effort” to distribute voter registration materials to all of their students.1
Unfortunately, a “good faith effort” just isn’t cutting it on most campuses. The National Study of Learning, Voting & Engagement (NSLVE) found that only 45 percent of students in their study, which included 783 higher education institutions, voted in 2012.2 In 2014, that number dropped to 18 percent, meaning only 18 percent of college students made their voices heard in the last midterm elections.
Colleges and universities across the country must more effectively promote voter engagement among their students. To aid in this, the SLSV Coalition created a set of guidelines to help campuses feel confident promoting voter registration, voter education, and voter mobilization among their students.
First, campuses should identify someone to lead and coordinate these efforts. Too often, voter engagement efforts on a campus are uncoordinated and only reach certain communities of students on a campus (i.e. political science students or those already engaged). That’s why, after someone is chosen to lead these efforts for the full campus, we encourage them to sign up for the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement (NSLVE) so they can see—even by area of study—where students are underperforming on their own campus. Following enrolling in NSLVE, we ask the campus lead to convene a committee of representatives from student affairs, academic affairs, student leaders, and other areas on and off-campus to coordinate campus-wide voter engagement efforts and together write an action plan that can be shared and learned from year after year.
SLSV Coalition Partners fully believe that campuses that put in this much effort to ensure their students are engaged and voting should be recognized for their efforts—which is where the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge comes in, an important partner in the SLSV Coalition. The ALL IN Challenge is a national recognition program for colleges and universities committed to increasing student voting rates that elevates the work of campuses with large percentages of their students voting. Over 260 campuses across the country are now participating in the Challenge and I am very proud to say that my alma mater, KU, is one of them!
Colleges and universities can and should educate students as active citizens. But that means doing more than giving a “good faith effort” and really ensuring all of the students on campus have the tools and resources they need to fully participate in our democracy. A great first step is connecting with the SLSV Coalition—or one of our Coalition Partners—and signing up for the ALL IN Challenge. It’s time for every college and university in our country to move from “good faith” to #allin4democracy.
1 1998. Higher Education Amendments of 1998. 105th Congress.