Tag: Barbara Cole

In Maywood, Community Leaders Lament President Barack Obama’s Departure

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President Barack Obama delivers his Farewell Address on Jan. 10 in Chicago. | Getty Images/Bloomberg

Thursday, January 12, 2017 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews

On Thursday afternoon, Maywood Park District Commissioner Bill Hampton was still basking in the reflected glow of President Barack Obama’s Farewell Address, delivered two days earlier on Jan. 10 before a crowd of around 18,000 people in Chicago’s McCormick Place.

Hampton had been given two tickets to the historic speech — one for himself and another for his mother, Iberia, who died last October at the age 94. Hampton took his sister in his late mother’s place.

“I thought the speech was really good,” Hampton said during a regular meeting of the Maywood-Proviso Rotary Club, held Jan. 12 inside of the Meal of the Day Cafe, located on the fourth floor of Eisenhower Tower, 1701 S. 1st Ave.

“I thought it would be a little longer, but it was good. With all that’s going on in Chicago, I thought him being here would help us with our problems,” Hampton said. “I was glad to get invited.”

During the Rotary meeting — which featured a speech by Augustine Kpehe Ngafuan, a former foreign minister for Liberia who is running for president of that country — numerous civic leaders shared their thoughts on the country Obama inherited and the one he’ll be leaving behind.

“I loved his presidency from beginning to end,” said former village trustee, former village clerk and Rotarian Gary Woll. “That doesn’t mean I didn’t think, at times, that he should’ve pushed harder or sooner on things. My wife and I cried a little bit when we were watching the speech in our home. It was like a campaign rally.”

Woll said that he was proud that his north Maywood neighborhood voted for Democrat Hillary Clinton, Obama’s preferred successor, by nearly 90 percent over Republican Donald Trump.

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Maywood-Proviso Rotary Club President-elect Talei Thompson interviews Augustine Kpehe Ngafuan, whose running for president of Liberia, during a Rotary meeting Thursday afternoon. | Michael Romain/VFP

“That was the exact same percentage Obama received on the north side of Maywood four years ago,” Woll said.

Debra Vines, the executive director and founder of The Answer, Inc., the autism awareness nonprofit, was among many civic leaders who praised Obama’s performance over his two terms.

“He did a lot for people with disabilities,” Vines said, adding to the accomplishments voiced by others.

“He made so much progress,” said Rotarian Karen Thompson. “So much has improved over the last eight years. Unemployment went down and the economy has shown so much improvement.”

Barbara Cole, the founder and executive director of Maywood Youth Mentoring, said that, although she was encouraged by the president’s passion for community involvement, she was also disappointed by his inaction on an issue close to her heart.

“I was disappointed that he didn’t create a commission to study the impact of slavery on African Americans,” Cole said. “I was hoping he would announce it in his farewell speech. Hopefully, he’ll still do it.”

If there were other areas where the nation’s first black president failed, it wasn’t for a lack of trying, said some leaders.

“The Republicans have not said a positive word about him,” said Maywood author Mary Morris, who recently published a new calendar book called “Kings and Queens of Ancient and Modern Africa.”

Morris said she’s currently working on an essay about how two Republican politicians, in particular, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio — both of whom ran for president last year in the Republican Primary — have treated the outgoing Democratic president.

“Everything that comes out of their mouths about Obama is ugly,” Morris said. “They don’t know what they’re doing to their grandchildren. Obama’s presidency, I think, has been awesome. My dad worked for General Motors and Obama brought that company back from the brink and some people still can’t say a single good word about him.”

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Barbara Cole and Mary Morris during a Jan. 12 Rotary meeting. | Michael Romain/VFP

Leonor Sanchez, the deputy clerk for Broadview, reinforced Morris’s opinions about Republican efforts to block Obama’s agenda.

“He was the hope,” she said. “He tried his best to implement as many things as possible, but he was bombarded with people constantly trying to block his agenda.”

Alexander Gbayee, Liberia’s former Consul General in Chicago, said that he recalls Obama’s days on the South Side, when the future president was still just a rising community organizer. The years that have been marked by the president’s rise, Gbayee said, are ones that people of African descent all over can take pride in.

“We’re very, very proud of him,” Gbayee said. “While he was in office, he didn’t make us feel shame in any way. He’s a very brilliant person and he carried himself in a dignified way. All black people should be proud of him. It’s a loss, but I think we’ve made some progress. He brought us as blacks to the table. I hate to see him go. I don’t know what will happen once Trump takes over.”

Ngafuan touted Rotary International’s motto of “service above self” as a possible antidote to a world marred by self-interest, corruption and greed.

“Whether in public or private service,” Ngafuan said, “ I believe our world can be a better place for a critical mass of people. I move to light the candle wherever we see darkness; for as Martin Luther King once said, ‘The time is always right to do the right thing.’” VFP

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Op-Ed: Maywood Youth Summit Poor in Attendance, but Rich in Solutions

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Maywood Police Chief Valdimir Talley, left, and Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin listen to a young person share her opinions at a recent youth summit in Maywood. | Courtesy Barbara Cole

Op-EdSunday, August 7, 2016 || By Barbara Cole || OPINION 

Youth Takeover Maywood  was convened by Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin at Maywood Park District on Aug. 6. Despite the low youth turnout, the parents and concerned citizens in the room offered some compelling testimony.

Unfortunately, only a handful of policymakers from the entities listed as sponsors on the event flyer attended. The following is a list of 10 issues and solutions that came out of the meeting:

Proviso Youths See Google, Tech World Close Up

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Nikyah Little, left , and U.S. Rep. Danny K. Davis (7th), experience Google Cardboard viewers, which take wearers on a wraparound 3-D trip of virtual reality. Davis hosted a youth tech summit on June 17 at Google’s new Chicago headquarters. Below, Brittany Orr, left, and Barbara Cole, during the summit. | William Camargo/Wednesday Journal

Google summit_B Cole and OrrMonday, June 20, 2016 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews || @village_free || Updated: 6:05 p.m.

It was Brittany Orr’s first time at Google’s chic new Chicago headquarters. The 19-year-old graduate of Proviso East High School wants to break into computer coding and network security, but could see herself checking in at the high-tech 10-story office building with wraparound views of the Chicago skyline.

“I like it here,” said Orr, who had come at the insistence of Barbara Cole, the executive director of Maywood Youth Mentoring. “I wish I worked here, actually.”

Orr was one of at least 100 young people from the western suburbs and Chicago’s West Side who attended the June 17 Youth Technology Initiative hosted by U.S. Rep. Danny K. Davis (7th).

Davis said the tech summits are designed to bring young people, particularly minorities and young women, face-to-face with leaders in business, technology and government. The summit at Google, his office noted, is the first in a series of others that will take place inside tech hotspots. Another will be held inside Microsoft’s Loop headquarters.

The congressman said he hopes to make stories like that of Kaitlyn Lee, a recent graduate of Barrington High School who’ll head to Harvard in the fall to study computer science math, routine in schools like Proviso.

The summit couldn’t come at a more pivotal time, according to Bernard Clay, the executive director of Introspect Youth Services who brought a small group of young people who participate in his organization along with him to Google.

“We’re in a race to get as many African-American kids involved in STEM as possible and we need to step up the pace,” Clay said.

Sabrina Chung, Lee’s best friend and co-presenter, fleshed out the opportunity ahead for the enterprising student of color who decides to forge a path in the STEM field.

“The number of computer science jobs will triple by 2020, so just the sheer number of computer engineers we need by this time is huge and we are not fulfilling the number of jobs that we need,” said Chung. “This still leaves 25 percent of the estimated 1.35 million jobs vacant, which is really, really scary. So we just need engineers to fill these jobs. The salaries of these computer scientists is twice the national average.”

But it could be difficult for minority and female students to realize the high pay and prestige of STEM careers, many of the summit’s attendees noted. Just responding to those challenges takes its own kind of innovation.

“You’ll have many, many, many challenges,” said summit presenter Dyani Cox. “But I encourage you today, while you’re here, to not focus on your challenges, but on your endless possibilities. You can do anything you want to do, because there are people to support you.”

Cox, who heads up Black Girls Code’s Chicago chapter, eventually overcame those high hurdles to earn bachelor’s and master’s degrees in electrical engineering.

Chung and Lee took matters into their own hands and started a computer coding club for girls in response to the intimidation, Lee said, of being one of two girls in her AP computer science class at Barrington High.

Proviso Township District 209 Board President Teresa McKelvy said she brought along around 24 district students to Google. McKelvy said the trip is one part of a more comprehensive plan to expose students in the district to career paths in the tech field.

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“Education is moving to blended environments,” McKelvy said. “Most of the children know way more than we did at their age, but technology is here to stay. So we have to keep investing in them and in their education, and provide them with the tools and career paths so they know that options are available We’re trying to put them in contact with organizations like Google and Microsoft to show them the way.”

In addition to networking with leading technology experts, the students also got hands on with one of Google’s newest ‘it’ gadgets — the Google Cardboard viewer, a pair of binocular-shaped cardboard eye pieces that are this century’s DIY equivalent to the View-Master — and a robot named Eragon.

Jackie Moore, the founder of Chicago Knights Robotics, an organization that promotes STEM learning among young people by, among other activities, taking them to robotics competitions, said technology is a metaphor for life in a modern society.

Eragon, Moore said, was built by one of her robotics teams for a competition in Australia, where it won awards for its resilient design. The robot, however, is merely the product of  a much more comprehensive process involving a team of different people with specialized skills, she noted.

“The team is much more than just the robot,” Moore said. “In addition to building the robot, we have to market the robot, recruit students, raise funds and develop an online presence via social media. The way we do robotics is really very holistic. There’s probably not a subject in a class you’ve taken that doesn’t get addressed.”

Davis reinforced Moore’s metaphor, before sharing a high-tech experience of his own.

“In this summit, we’re trying to teach young people not only about technology, but about life,” he said. “Society now is so data-driven that technology is the absolute wave of the future. I’ve seen people using robotics to perform surgery and it’s nothing unusual, you know. The doctors were getting ready to operate and rather than putting on rubber gloves they were pecking on the computer.” VFP

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