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April 2018

Career Opportunity

Science Teacher

Would you like to provide educational direction and instruction to Virginia’s disadvantaged youth in a small class setting?  A private rural accredited residential special education facility seeks experienced Virginia licensed secondary Science Teacher.  Qualified candidates must possess the analytical and observational skills to make decisions which safeguard the health, safety, and educational plans of students in care.

Competitive salary & benefits including employer sponsored health, dental, vision, &life insurance and a 401(k) retirement plan with an employer match.

Jackson-Feild Behavioral Health Services is an equal opportunity employer and drug free work place.  Applicants must satisfactorily complete criminal background, CPS, and drug/alcohol screenings.  Position Open until filled.

Mail, e-mail, or fax resume and cover letter to:

Chris Thompson
Re:  Job #: 2018-9
546 Walnut Grove Drive
Jarratt, Virginia 23867
Fax: (434) 634-6237
E-mail:  cthompson@jacksonfeild.org

CAREER OPPORTUNITY

LICENSED MENTAL HEALTH CLINICIAN

LCSW or LPC

(In-Patient)

Psychiatric residential treatment facility for adolescent girls and boys located 15 minutes north of Emporia, Virginia seeks experienced licensed clinician (LCSW or LPC) to provide therapy and case management services on an inpatient basis.  Substance Abuse and Addiction Counseling experience and certification preferred.  Population served includes adolescent girls and boys with complex developmental trauma, co-occurring mental illness, and substance abuse issues.  Position provides individual, group, and family therapy within a psychiatric residential setting. 

Virginia license is required.  Two years’ formal experience counseling adolescents is required.  Residential experience is preferred. 

Seeking experienced candidates.  Highly competitive pay & benefits including employer sponsored Health, Dental, Vision & Life Insurance and employer matching 401(k) retirement plan.

Jackson-Feild Behavioral Health Services is an equal opportunity employer and drug free work place.  Post offer criminal background and drug screenings required.  Position open until filled.

Submit resume and cover letter to:

Jackson-Feild Behavioral Health Services
Chris Thompson
Attn: Job # 2018-4
Fax: (434) 634-6237
E-mail: careers@jacksonfeild.org      

Career Opportunity

Social Studies Teacher

Would you like to provide educational direction and instruction to Virginia’s disadvantaged youth in a small class setting?  A private rural accredited residential special education facility seeks experienced Virginia licensed secondary Social Studies Teacher.  Qualified candidates must possess the analytical and observational skills to make decisions which safeguard the health, safety, and educational plans of students in care.

Competitive salary & benefits including employer sponsored health, dental, vision, &life insurance and a 401(k) retirement plan with an employer match.

Jackson-Feild Behavioral Health Services is an equal opportunity employer and drug free work place.  Applicants must satisfactorily complete criminal background, CPS, and drug/alcohol screenings.  Position Open until filled.

Mail, e-mail, or fax resume and cover letter to:

Chris Thompson
Re:  Job #: 2018-12
546 Walnut Grove Drive
Jarratt, Virginia 23867
Fax: (434) 634-6237
E-mail:  careers@jacksonfeild.org


Moving/garage sale, Fri & Sat, June 1 &2, rain or shine, 1579 Doyle's Lake Road, Emporia.

Saturday, June 7 Yardsale hosted at Roanoke-Wildwood Vol. Fire Dept., 790 Lizard Creek Rd. (aka River Rd.), Littleton, NC, (252) 586-5737. 9:00-1:00 rain or shine. Furniture, household goods, electronics, tools, toys, linens, and much, much more are for sale. Proceeds go to support the Fire Dept.

  1. Keeping Athletes in the Game is A Cool Job for this SVCC Alum

    Lannie Hales’ job is cool because she gets paid to attend sporting events.  As the athletic trainer for East Carolina University’s Cross Country/Track and Field team, she attends events in the fall, winter and spring to keep her athletes healthy throughout their seasons.  Athletic trainers are highly qualified, multi-skilled health care professionals who collaborate with physicians to provide preventative services, emergency care, clinical diagnosis, therapeutic intervention and rehabilitation of injuries and medical conditions.  Athletic trainers are licensed as health care professionals in about 48 of the 50 states in the USA.

    Not surprisingly, Hales got her higher education start at Southside Virginia Community College.  Since her mom (Christie Hales) has worked full time for the college since before Lannie’s birth, it was just a natural pathway to follow.

    Her first classes at SVCC began as a ninth grader at Brunswick High School through the Dual Enrollment Program.  As a junior, she was accepted into the Governor’s School of Southside Virginia and attended morning classes at the Christanna Campus in Alberta for two years. 

    In May of 2012, Hales received her Associate’s degree from SVCC a month before her high school graduation.

    For the next move in her career path, she registered at James Madison University, a school she chose because she could major in Athletic Training.    With plenty of credits to transfer, she began at JMU as a sophomore and started taking the pre-requisite classes necessary for acceptance into the prestigious program. 

    Hales was overjoyed to learn she had been chosen for the program that only accepts 18 students each year.  For the next two years, Hales studied the necessary classes, observed athletic trainers in the field for over 1000 hours and assisted in the health care and rehabilitation of athletes at Eastern Mennonite University and JMU. 

    One of the greatest opportunities was working with JMU Softball in 2014, highlighted by being in the dugout during the Colonial Athletic Association Championship game and travelling with the team to the University of Kentucky at Lexington for the NCAA regionals.

    While a senior at JMU, Hales researched and applied to programs offering Graduate Assistantships in athletic training.  She landed a full scholarship to North Carolina State University where she practiced clinically as an athletic trainer and went to school for the next two years.  As a member of the Wolfpack’s Sports Medicine team, she was assigned to the Cross Country/Track and Field team consisting of about 80 athletes.    This was an excellent chance to hone her skills, gain valuable knowledge in the field and continue her lifelong passion and involvement with sports and healthcare. 

    She graduated from NC State with a Masters in Adult and Community College Education (with a specialization in Health Professions Education) in May of 2017 and searched for a full-time job as the next step in her journey.  In July, she happily accepted a position as assistant athletic trainer at East Carolina University.

    Hales said, “I am very fortunate to have had the career opportunities I’ve had so far as a young professional in athletic training. When I look back on the reasons why I have been so fortunate, my education always comes to mind first. Being an athletic trainer is the perfect job for me; I get to combine my love for sports with my passion for quality health care for others. Getting my degree at SVCC really served as the kickstart for my athletic training career and I couldn’t be more grateful. “

    Lannie is the daughter of Gil and Christie Hales of Lawrenceville and the granddaughter of Annie Ruth Kirk Clarke of Lawrenceville.

  2. Jails Struggle to Help Mentally Ill Inmates

     

    By Yasmine Jumaa and Irena Schunn, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – Arrested for taking $5 in snacks from a convenience store, Jamycheal Mitchell was placed in a cell in the Hampton Roads Regional Jail in Portsmouth. Authorities planned to send Mitchell, who suffered from schizophrenia, to a mental hospital. But that never happened.

    Over the next four months, Mitchell withered away, losing more than 40 pounds. He died in his cell on Aug. 19, 2015.

    “I had to ask again: ‘You sure this is my cousin?’ ” Jenobia Meads told reporters after seeing Mitchell’s body at the funeral home. “It looked like he was 67 years old.”

    Mitchell’s death underscored the prevalence of people with mental illnesses in Virginia’s jails. More than one in six inmates is mentally ill, according to a 2017 study by state officials. Despite years of discussion and attempts at action, lasting reforms have proved difficult to achieve.

    “As a mental health reformer, I’ve told people for a long time it’s like eating an elephant,” said Sen. R. Creigh Deeds, D-Bath. “You take a bite and you feel full, but then you look at what’s ahead of you, the work ahead of you, and you realize that you haven’t really done much.”

    A senator motivated by tragedy

    In 2013, Deeds was stabbed multiple times at his home in Bath County by his 24-year-old son, Gus, who then committed suicide. Gus Deeds had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, but mental health care system officials released him after they could not find an open bed in the state psychiatric system during the six-hour window allotted by law at the time.

    The tragedy motivated Deeds, a member of the state Senate for 17 years, to become an advocate for mental health reform. He heads the Joint Subcommittee to Study Mental Health Services in the 21st Century.

    The subcommittee expects to issue a report on its findings by the end of 2019. In the meantime, members of the panel have endorsed several budgetary and legislative proposals on such issues as alternatives to incarceration, crisis and emergency services, and housing.

    The work will continue under a new state mental health commissioner. Hughes Melton, chief deputy commissioner for the Virginia Department of Health, was recently named by Gov. Ralph Northam to head the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services. He will succeed Jack Barber, an agency veteran who has been commissioner for three years.

    “The joint subcommittee is at a critical point in our work, as we only have about a year and a half of life left,” Deeds said. “We cannot afford to lose one inch of ground or one moment of time.”

    Deeds said he looks forward to working with Melton to achieve the subcommittee’s goals.

    Virginia’s lack of psychiatric beds

    The move will be closely watched in the state, which has struggled to improve mental health services. Among the challenges has been the loss of thousands of psychiatric beds since the 1960s, when mental health advocates pushed for community-based programs and the deinstitutionalization of patients.

    Community-based treatment is cost-efficient in managing mental health problems and establishes a level of care that can address problems before they become emergencies. But psychiatric hospitals and other residential facilities are necessary in the event of a mental health crisis like the one experienced by Gus Deeds.

    According to a 2017 survey by the nonprofit Treatment Advocacy Center, Virginia has about 1,500 psychiatric beds – not nearly enough to meet the needs of people with severe mental illnesses.

    When left untreated, severe mental illness may result in behavior that can put the person in the custody of law enforcement – placing the burden of psychiatric treatment on correctional facilities.

    “People with mental illness are sometimes caught up in situations where paranoia, or whatever drives them to do something that somebody may consider a criminal act, and the result is they wind up in jail,” Deeds said. “There’s probably a better way for us to respond to that.”

    Individuals with psychiatric diseases like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are 10 times more likely to be in a jail or correctional facility than in a hospital bed, according to research by the Treatment Advocacy Center. About 4 percent of U.S. adults have a serious mental illness, while 20 percent of inmates are diagnosed with a severe mental disorder – leading some to characterize prisons and jails as America’s “new asylums.

    The Hampton Roads Regional Jail, where Mitchell was held at the time of his death, has become an unofficial mental health institution for Newport News, Hampton, Norfolk, Portsmouth and Chesapeake. Nearly half of the jail’s 1,100 inmates are diagnosed as mentally ill, according to a study by the Virginia Department of Corrections and state Compensation Board.

    The Compensation Board works with sheriffs and other constitutional officers. The General Assembly has directed the board to issue an annual report on the number of jail inmates with mental illness. The board’s 2017 report put the number at more than 7,450 – almost 18 percent of the statewide jail population.

    Mitchell’s death prompted a criminal investigation by the Virginia State Police, an investigation by the U.S. Justice Department into whether the facility violates the rights of prisoners and a $60 million federal lawsuit filed by Mitchell’s family. Both investigations and the lawsuit are ongoing.

    The punitive approach of correctional facilities creates an environment ill-suited for the rehabilitation of mental illness, critics say. The Compensation Board reported that 1,335 jail inmates diagnosed with mental illnesses were placed in solitary confinement last year.

    Another death, this one in Fairfax County

    Jamycheal Mitchell wasn’t the only mentally ill person to die in a Virginia jail. Natasha McKenna, who also suffered from schizophrenia, died in the Fairfax County Jail in 2015. A lawsuit filed in 2016 against the Fairfax County Sheriff’s Office alleges that insufficient training factored into McKenna’s death.

    McKenna, 37, died after being repeatedly shocked with a stun gun by correctional officers trying to move her to another cell. Attorney Harvey Volzer, who is representing McKenna’s mother, declined to comment on the case. However, when Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Ray Morrogh investigated the case in 2015, he determined that no crime was committed and that no charges would be filed against the officers.

    The Treatment Advocacy Center has found that individuals diagnosed with severe mental disorders are more likely than other offenders to end up back in jail.

    “We need to make sure we have discharge plans, that we have a way for them to kind of parachute into the community and seek and receive treatment services,” Deeds said. “We need to be looking at the whole person and the way we can treat them.”

    Addressing that need, the 2016 General Assembly awarded six regional and local jails $3.5 million to establish pilot programs that provide mental health services to inmates while incarcerated and after their release.

    A ‘pretty ambitious’ list of solutions

    In 2014, the General Assembly passed a bill proposed by Deeds that extended the time limit on emergency custody orders, established a registry of available psychiatric beds in public and private hospitals, and designated state hospitals to serve as facilities of last resort. The legislation sought to ensure that beds would be available for citizens, including inmates, who experience a mental health crisis.

    Deeds has asked the Institute of Law, Psychiatry and Public Policy at the University of Virginia to study alternative solutions for people having severe mental health issues.

    Having options is crucial because the state hospital system is overcrowded, said Rhonda Thissen, executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness in Virginia. “If we can find alternatives for people that are in the community, that are not in jail, it would make it easier for people in jail to get a bed in the state hospital.”

    Deeds said possible solutions being examined by his subcommittee include:

    §  Diverting less serious offenders to treatment facilities, instead of prisons and jails. “If you have a real diversion program, you reduce the number of people with serious mental illness that are in our jails and prisons,” the senator said.

    §  Providing treatment services and programs to inmates to lower recidivism. “You’ve got to make sure that the jails and prisons, the jails in particular, have a real connection with mental health,” Deeds said.

    §  Offering treatment options for inmates being discharged to ease their reentry into society.

    “All of that is pretty ambitious,” Deeds said. “We need to be looking at the whole person and the way we can treat them.”

    Recent Developments in Mental Health Reforms in Virginia’s Jails

    §  2014: An online bed registry is launched to expedite the search for available psychiatric care.

    §  2016: Gov. Terry McAuliffe requests nearly $32 million from the General Assembly to update and standardize mental health care in correctional facilities across the state.

    §  2016-17: More jail officers receive crisis intervention training.

    §  July 2017: A new law requires mental illness screening for people booked into jails.

    §  2018: The General Assembly approves a bill granting correctional facilities the authority to treat individuals incapable of giving consent. That gives correctional staff the same authority as those employed by psychiatric institutions.

  3. Pathways to Prevention: Measures to Curb Gun Violence

    (Editor's Note: This is the final installment of an in-depth series by the Student Journalists of the VCU Capital News Service)

    By Claire Comey and Sarah Danial, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – Lori Haas’ daughter is pregnant with her second child. That might sound like an exciting but somewhat mundane life event for most adults, but for Haas, it means more. Eleven years ago, her daughter, Emily, sat in a French class at Virginia Tech when a gunman entered the room and killed 12 of her classmates and 16 other students.

    So when Haas tells people Emily is pregnant, she is excited, but she always thinks of the parents who will never get to be grandparents because of gun violence.

    “It’s visceral pain for those families, and they don’t get over it,” she said. “There’s no closure.”

    After a mass shooting such as the Tech massacre, community leaders consider policy solutions and ask the “what if” questions about security problems and mental health awareness. But what can actually be changed to help prevent another mass shooting? Haas is pushing for answers.

    In the wake of the April 16, 2007, shooting, Haas became friends with some of the victims’ parents. They still grieve.

    “They cry every Christmas, they cry every birthday, they cry every anniversary, they cry every Mother’s Day,” Haas said.

    That’s why Haas spends every day working for gun control legislation as the Virginia state director for the National Coalition to Stop Gun Violence.

    “Sometimes I just don’t understand how our lawmakers can put the ease of access to a firearm above somebody’s life, and that’s what they’re doing,” Haas said.

    Haas advocates for national “extreme risk laws,” which allow families or law enforcement authorities to ask a court to remove someone’s access to guns if the person “poses an imminent danger” to themselves or others.

    Haas is also a proponent of universal background checks on all firearm purchases.

    “You can prohibit someone from purchasing or owning a gun, but if they can just go online or go to a gun show or go to the street corner and buy one, the prohibition doesn’t do you any good,” she said.

    Regulation works in America, Haas said, so it would be common sense to regulate firearms more.

    “The notion that we can’t regulate access to firearms is harming our friends, our families, our neighbors, our communities,” Haas said. “It’s deadly and there are deadly consequences, and I find it morally objectionable that people place more value on convenience than on someone’s life.”

    Security: Be ALERRT

    In the case of an attack, the most important thing is to be vigilant and aware of your surroundings, said Pete Blair, the executive director of Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training at Texas State University in San Marcos, south of Austin. Being conscious and reactive is key.

    “The first thing is to have situational awareness, and if something seems wrong, to start acting as if it is wrong as quickly as possible,” Blair said.

    ALERRT is becoming a national standard for first-responder training for active attacks. It began as a collaboration between the San Marcos Police Department and the Houston County Sheriff’s Office in response to the Columbine Massacre of 1999. Now the training is the standard for all agents in the FBI, and many states have adopted it for all first responders.

    Mike O’Berry, assistant chief of the Virginia Commonwealth University Police Department, said that having the same training is key in collaborating with other agencies responding to an attack on campus.

    “We’re going to get lots of agencies that we don’t work with every day,” O’Berry said. “We’ve all been trained the same so we can seamlessly all get together in groups and all deal with the situation based on the same training.”

    ALERRT trains not only first responders but also civilians on how to prepare for any kind of attack. The program teaches a three-pronged strategy – avoid, deny and defend:

    • Avoid means to simply get as far away as possible from an attacker.
    • If that is not possible the next step is to deny them access to your location. “Close and lock the door, barricade it and keep them from getting to you,” Blair said.
    • The final step and last resort is to defend yourself by any means necessary. “You have a legal right to do that, and if the choice is to do nothing or be murdered, we encourage people to try to protect themselves,” Blair said.

    The ultimate way to stay safe, according to ALERRT and the VCU Police Department, is to report any suspicious activity to authorities. O’Berry said safety is everyone’s responsibility.

    “Those are the things that we need people to call in,” O’Berry said. “And it’s the only way to keep VCU safe – everybody looking and observing the environment because the police can’t do it alone.”

    Mental Health Treatment

    After a mass shooting, many people say the shooter’s mental health triggered the violence.

    That assumption not only reflects an incorrect causal relationship but also contributes to a harmful stigma, said psychologist Peter LeViness of the University of Richmond, who served as an expert witness for the defense after the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting.

    “I think people are quick to connect mental illness to the shooters,” LeViness said. “I don’t think it’s as common a link as people want to believe.”

    There are only a few disorders that “actually increase the risk of violence,” and even then, the connection is not obvious, he said.

    According to a 2016 American Psychiatric Association study, mass shootings by “people with serious mental illness” account for fewer than 1 percent of all gun-related homicides.

    “I don’t think it’s causal,” LeViness said. “Ninety-nine-point-nine percent of people with the same disorder wouldn’t do that, and then when people say it was the depression, that just makes the stigma worse.”

    More often, shooters have had a grievance or grudge they want to settle, or they had a childhood filled with violence, he said.

    “They think, ‘I’ve been treated badly, and someone needs to pay back for that,’” LeViness said.

    After a mass shooting, survivors can have lasting mental effects, said LeViness, who is also director of counseling and psychological services at Richmond and a threat assessment trainer in Virginia.

    In the short term, survivors might exhibit a loss of concentration, appetite or sleep – possible signs of post-traumatic stress disorder.

    Support from family and friends can help. At school, administrators can bring in grief counselors to help with returning to normalcy.

    Even people miles from a mass shooting can be affected by the event.

    Lissa Brown, a school psychologist for Henrico County, said the children she works with in Virginia are experiencing secondary trauma in the aftermath of the February shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

    “It’s just the veiled threat that something might happen to them,” Brown said. “These children are still traumatized.”

    Many students and teachers told Brown that they don’t feel safe.

    “We see a lot of hyperactivity, a lot of hyper-vigilance, because children are just concerned about what’s going to happen during their school day,” Brown said. “Sometimes they’re not able to focus because they’re always on guard or thinking about how they’d react.”

    Brown emphasized the need for accurate threat and risk assessment in determining if a student could harm themselves or others.

    “I feel that all children who are at risk for harming themselves or harming others need mental health care,” Brown said. “And if that was my child, he would need mental health care, and if he had killed my child, I would be so hurt, but that child was asking for help.”

    LeViness supports what he sees as sensible gun control. Research shows that restricting access to guns can prevent suicide, he noted. But more than that, LeViness said people must be more interested in one another.

    “The more we can connect with people and be socially engaged,” LeViness said. “Who is not connecting? Who is on the fringe?”

  4. "G. G. Hunter"

    to all you out there with a pet
    I ask that you listen up
    it matters not if it's a kitten
    or a pup.
     
    They will not live forever
    though at times this may seem
    yes in all reality
    this is but a dream.
     
    Now they are a great companion
    and all will return your love
    yet don't forget what's written
    in the paragraph above.
     
    Well I had a cat named G. G.
    and I thought she would forever be
    now it seems the Lord did need her
    a little more than me.
     
    The Vet told me there was nothing else
    that for her he could do
    so I took her home and held on my lap
    repeating that my love was true.
     
    She look up like she understood
    and snuggled in real tight
    well the one I was counting on forever
    did pass away that night.
     
    Well for all the love I gave her
    I got it back two-fold
    yes and I learned about forever
    before I got to old.
     
    Roy E. Schepp
  5. Greensville County High School SkillsUSA organization attended Virginia State Leadership Conference

     

    The Greensville County High School SkillsUSA organization attended the 54th Virginia State SkillsUSA Leadership Conference April 20-21, 2018 in Virginia Beach, Virginia at the Virginia Beach Convention Center. The conference was attended by the following members:  Nathanial Grizzard, Mae Hammad, Destiny Johnson, Antonio Atchinson, Neal Powell, Samantha Dickens, Taylor Powell, Kamaray Sykes, and Joshua Sutton. The following club advisors were in attendance Jerry Brown, Brittany Wright, Marsha Campbell, and James E. Wright. Students’ competition areas include Presidential Volunteer Service Award, American Degree, promotional bulletin board, and chapter display. The chapter also competed in the Chapter of Excellence program. Nathanial Grizzard, Kamaray Sykes and Mae Hammad represented the chapter as voting delegates. The students placed in the following competitions:

    • Chapter Display: First Place: Neal Powell, Destiny Johnson, Antonio Atchinson

    • Promotional Bulletin Board: Third Place: Samantha Dickens, Taylor Powell, and Joshua Sutton

    • American Degree- Samantha Dickens

    Service usually springs from selflessness. Through the Presidential Volunteer Service Award, the President of the United States recognizes volunteers for sustained service.

    The President’s Volunteer Service Award recognizes individuals, families and groups who have achieved a certain standard — measured by the number of hours served over a 12-month period or cumulative hours earned over the course of a lifetime.

    The following students won the Presidential Volunteer Service Award:

    Gold Level- Samantha Dickens

    Silver Level- Taylor Powell

    Bronze Level- Neal Powell and Maci Powell

    The chapter also received the following awards:

    • Chapter of Excellence- Chapter of Quality Award
    • Chapter of Excellence- Chapter of Distinction Award- Gold Level
    • 100% Membership Award
    • Plus Member Award

    The Chapter Excellence Program relates to the development of personal, workplace and technical skills.  The framework actualizes SkillsUSA’s mission “to empower members to become world-class workers, leaders and responsible American citizens”.  It also serves as the blueprint for career readiness--- our ultimate goal as an organization.  Greensville is one of only two schools to earn Gold out of 125 Virginia schools.

    The first place winners will represent the state of Virginia at the National Leadership Conference June 26-30, 2018 in Louisville, Kentucky.  Students will be sponsoring fundraisers during April- May. Please support the club in their efforts to attend the national conference.

    Members will be selling tickets for the Annual Boston Butt sale starting this month until the day of the sale, Wednesday, May 23, 2018.  Please see any member to purchase a Boston Butt party pack for $50.00 or Boston Butt Only for $35.00.

    If you would like to make a donation to support the club, send to Greensville County High School SkillsUSA Club, 403 Harding Street Emporia, Virginia, 23847. If you need additional information please contact one of the advisors: Jerry Brown, Brittany Wright, Gerald Wozinak, Marsha Campbell, Stephen Wells, or James E. Wright at 434-634-2195.  Greensville County High School SkillsUSA would like to extend a special thanks to the GCHS CTE Department, GCHS faculty, parents, and community for their support and donations to the club.

  6. A New Generation Takes the Forefront in Gun Control Debate

    (Editor's Note: This is part three of a four part series by the Student Journalists of theVCU Capital News Service. Alexandra Sosik has prepared a timeline of school shootings that is available here.)

    By Alexandra Sosik and Fadel Allassan, Capital News Service

    For the second time in as many months, thousands of students throughout the country united in a national school walkout last week, demanding government action on gun control with their piercing cry of “never again.”

    The walkout marked 19 years since Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris opened fire in Columbine High School in Colorado, murdering 12 fellow students and a teacher. In the aftermath of that bloodbath, President Bill Clinton urged Congress to pass gun control laws. But nothing happened then – or after the mass shootings at Virginia Tech in 2007, Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, the Pulse nightclub in Orlando in 2016 or Las Vegas last fall.

    But after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman High School in Parkland, Florida, on Valentine’s Day, the political winds seemed to have shifted in favor of gun control. What made the difference? Generation Z – roughly defined as those born in the mid-1990s through the early 2000s.

    On March 24, 17-year-old Harry Kelso stood atop a van with a megaphone in one hand and a piece of paper in the other. He looked at the crowd of some 5,000 gun control advocates gathered before him at the Richmond March for Our Lives.

    “I pray for the school year without the drills and the hide-and-lock exercises we’ve experienced since elementary school that remind us of the ever-present danger we face,” Kelso, a senior at Hermitage High School in Henrico, told the crowd. “I pray for the day I don’t have to pray about this anymore.”

    Cameron Kasky – the 17-year-old firebrand and Marjory Stoneman Douglas student who made a name challenging Florida Sen. Marco Rubio during a CNN town hall – echoed a similar message at the main rally happening simultaneously in Washington, D.C. More than 800,000 people attended that demonstration.

    “My generation, having spent our entire lives seeing mass shooting after mass shooting, has learned our voices are powerful and our votes matter,” Kasky said. “We must educate ourselves and start having conversations that keep our country moving forward. And we will. We hereby promise to fix the broken system we’ve been forced into and create a better world for the generations to come.”

    Kelso and Kasky, in Richmond and D.C., respectively, were two of the many voices participating in the March for Our Lives – a protest sparked by the shooting that killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14. The protest, like a school walkout staged 10 days earlier, was organized primarily by high school-age youths.

    It all started Feb. 16, two days after the shooting in Parkland, when the hashtag #NeverAgain began trending on Twitter. That became the impetus for a rally that was originally planned for Washington but then spread to cities and towns across the nation and world.

    The movement, inspired by tragedy and fueled by anger, has used social media to galvanize members of Generation Z. Among other tactics, they have confronted businesses and excoriated political leaders who accept financial donations from the National Rifle Association.

    The students have had some success. Just weeks after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting, Florida enacted a gun-control law that bans rapid-fire “bump stocks” and raises the minimum age for buying a firearm from 18 to 21. Although Virginia did not follow suit, Democratic legislators have formed a committee to consider ways to stop gun violence, and Republican lawmakers appointed a panel to bolster school safety.

    It’s not unusual to see Kasky or other survivors of the Parkland shooting such as David Hogg and Emma Gonzalez on cable news promoting their cause nationally. In Richmond, students such as Kelso and Armstrong High School freshman Corey Stuckey lead the charge.

    The recent activity among young people surrounding gun control has been a long time coming.

    Since 1982, there have been 98 shootings in the U.S. in which three or more people were killed. Sixteen of those incidents happened at schools. Of all mass shootings, Marjory Stoneman Douglas had the seventh-highest number of fatalities; Sandy Hook ranked fourth; and Virginia Tech, where 32 people were killed in 2007, was third.

    On Dec. 14, 2012, 20 children and six staff members were gunned down at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. In response, parents created the Sandy Hook Promise to “prevent gun-related deaths due to crime, suicide and accidental discharge so that no other parent experiences the senseless, horrific loss of their child.”

    But the Sandy Hook tragedy did not prompt governmental action on gun control. After the Columbine massacre in 1999, Larry Sabato, founder and director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics, explained why such incidents don’t necessarily result in new laws.

    “The Columbine shootings have energized the gun-control debate, and moreover, they have given the emotional edge to the gun-control advocates,” Sabato told the Denver Post. “However, an edge in a debate is not an edge in Congress or the state legislatures.”

    Today’s generation of students advocating gun control faces a similar test, and questions remain about whether they can impact the 2018 midterm election.

    “One of the most difficult times for a movement is after the initial burst of energy when grinding work needs to be done,” said Derek Sweetman of the School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University. “The movement will not end on Election Day, but I do expect many students in the movement will view the results as a measure of their influence, and therefore will work toward that date.”

    The Sandy Hook survivors were too young to understand the magnitude of their tragedy, much less utilize technology to express their emotions. The Columbine survivors lived in a pre-digital age. The students leading the #NeverAgain movement, Sweetman said, are in the right place at the right time.

    “Our political environment has destabilized some established political truths, and that has left more room for real action than we saw after Sandy Hook,” Sweetman said. “The students are taking advantage of that.”

    U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia said the students’ efforts have already been more successful than previous attempts to influence gun policies. For example, Kaine noted, Walmart agreed to stop selling firearms to people under 21; Kroger decided to stop selling guns altogether in its Fred Meyer stores; and Dick’s Sporting Goods announced it would stop selling assault-style rifles.

    Kaine, a Democrat, also credited activity in Congress to young activists. A spending bill passed by Congress and signed by President Donald Trump in March lifted a decades-long ban that prevented the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from conducting research on the causes of gun violence. In addition, the bill prods federal agencies to upload records into the background-check system for gun purchases.

    “I had grown somewhat despondent in my efforts with the General Assembly and Congress. But then I saw the students of this country ... standing up and saying to adults, ‘What matters more – our safety or political contributions?’” Kaine told students at the March rally in Richmond. “Now I have more hope because of you.”

    Scott Barlow, a member of the Richmond School Board, said he has been inspired by the students’ grassroots activism.

    “Students haven’t had the opportunity to lend their voice in this debate. Now they’re bringing the perspective of people who are most impacted by school shootings, and the most impacted by gun violence in our city,” Barlow said about the rally. “It was the first time in a long time I felt optimistic about our ability to legislate gun safety.”

  7. Tuition and Student Debt Increasing in Virginia

     

    By Adam Hamza, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND, Va. — Most students who graduated from Virginia’s public colleges and universities last year left not only with a degree but also with a financial burden: an average student loan debt of about $30,000.

    At Virginia Commonwealth University, once among Virginia’s most affordable institutions, students owed an average of nearly $31,000. As college and university tuition continues to rise, new laws that take effect this summer aim to help students get a grip on how much they owe.

    Tuition increases have become the norm as decreases in state funding have pushed universities to boost prices to cover costs. These tuition hikes coincide with statewide trends in higher education costs and student loan debt.

    At VCU, officials are proposing an increase of $844, or 6.4 percent, in tuition and mandatory fees for the coming academic year as part of the 2018-19 budget, said Karol Kain Gray, vice president of finance and budget.

    Other institutions also are raising tuition. Virginia Tech approved a 2.9 percent hike in tuition and mandatory fees, the University of Virginia adopted a 2.5 percent increase and the College of William & Mary raised tuition 6.5 percent for incoming in-state undergraduate students. Current William & Mary students will continue to pay the tuition in effect when they were admitted.

    From 2007 to 2017, college tuition and fees in Virginia have increased each year by an average of $578, or 6 percent. During the decade, VCU’s tuition and fees have increased annually by an average of  $743, or 8.4 percent.

    This year, in-state undergraduate students at VCU paid $13,624 in tuition and mandatory fees. That was the fifth-highest amount among Virginia’s 15 four-year public colleges and universities. VCU’s tuition has more than doubled — it’s up 120 percent — since the 2007-08 school year. Back then, in-state undergraduates at VCU paid $6,196 — the fifth-lowest amount in Virginia.

    At a recent forum hosted by the VCU Student Government Association, Gray outlined the university’s budget goals and explained how the school uses its funds and why it needs a tuition increase. About 40 people attended the session, including students, staff and members of the Board of Visitors.

    For VCU, the 6.4 percent increase is part of a $33 million request to fund its “highest priority” needs and other academic and administrative priorities. Some of the high-priority needs, according to Gray, are raises for teaching and research faculty and adjuncts, and additional need- and merit-based financial aid for undergraduates.

    VCU’s average instructor salary of $49,000 is lower than other four-year institutions in Virginia. Tech, U.Va., George Mason University and William & Mary have average instructor salaries between $53,600 and $63,700, according to the American Association of University Professors 2016-17 report on university salaries.

    “We have to start looking at where we’re going and at having reasonable increases to support the things we deserve to have,” Gray said. “This hurts our ranking, it hurts our [faculty] retention and it’s a morale issue.”

    Tripp Wiggins, an 18-year-old VCU freshman, said he came to the forum looking for fiscal transparency from the university. He left feeling like there wasn’t enough information about why VCU is relying on tuition as its primary source of revenue.

    “I feel like I understand how the funds are being managed,” Wiggins said. “But I still don’t have a clear understanding why the burden [of education costs] is going towards student tuition when there are other ways of getting revenue.”

    From a Public Good to a Private Benefit?

    In Virginia, the state shares the cost of education with students by providing general funds to universities. Universities then set tuition based on how much state funding they will receive. This educational and general fund is used to finance faculty salaries, financial aid and improvements to classrooms and academic buildings.

    In 2004, Virginia set a cost-sharing goal: The state would cover 67 percent of the educational cost, and students would cover the remaining 33 percent through tuition. But it hasn’t worked out that way.

    According to the 2017-18 tuition and fees report by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, students are paying for 53 percent of the cost of their education, with the state picking up 47 percent.

    Changes in state funding and the economy have pushed universities to increase tuition and fees to maintain their academic standards and growth, officials say.

    At the VCU budget forum, Dr. Charles Klink, senior vice provost for student affairs, said this represented a shift in the perception of higher education overall.

    “At one point people saw higher education as a public good. Now it seems more like a private benefit,” Klink said.

    For students paying for their education through loans, lawmakers in the most recent General Assembly session passed new laws to protect borrowers from drowning in debt.

    Sen. Mark Obenshain, R-Rockingham, introduced legislation that would help students manage their federal loans, while Del. Marcia “Cia” Price, D-Newport News, sponsored a bill to create a student loan ombudsman. Both bills have been signed by Gov. Ralph Northam and will take effect July 1.

    Obenshain’s bill, SB 568, requires public colleges and universities to provide students with an annual statement about their federal loans. This statement includes how much money they have borrowed so far, the potential amount they will owe and estimated monthly payments.

    “I want to ensure that college students know how much they are actually borrowing and how much it will cost them in interest so that hopefully we can help get under control the overwhelming debt that our students often face upon graduation,” Obenshain said.

    Price’s bill, HB 1138, created a state student loan ombudsman within SCHEV. According to the bill summary, this office is will be an advocate for borrowers by helping them understand their rights and responsibilities under their loan. The office also will review and attempt to resolve complaints from borrowers.

    There are other methods universities can use to keep tuition hikes low while maintaining growth. Gray said one way is increasing the number of out-of-state and international students, who pay higher tuition.

    At VCU, for example, 10 percent of students are from out of state, according to SCHEV reports. Tech and U.Va. enroll about 30 percent from outside Virginia.

  8. Moses Clements VT Scholarship Golf Tournament

    Over the last 20+ years the Emporia/Roanoke Rapids Hokie Club and Alumni Chapter (ERRHC) has supported freshmen entering Virginia Tech with scholarships exceeding $40,000.  These donations have been funded by hole sponsors and teams entering the annual golf tournament as this is the one fund raiser annually.

    This year the tournament has a new name as the Scholarship Committee has been run for years by Moses Clements, our beloved Hokie who passed away this past year.  The Scholarship and the Tournament will now bear his name Moses Clements VT Scholarship Golf Tournament, in remembrance of his dedicated service to the club and especially the Scholarship Program.  It was his annual joy to review and present the scholarships at the summer dinner.

    This year the tournament will be held on Friday May 11th at the Emporia Country Club at noon.  The event will start with a box lunch and open driving range.  There will be a shotgun start at 1:00 PM.  The cost to play is $60 per player which includes golf, golf cart, green fees, goody bag, beverages, 2 mulligans, box lunch and hors d’oeuvres after the event at the awards ceremony.

    The Emporia Country Club is located at 578 Country Club Road, Emporia.

    Hole sponsorships are $100 and should be reserved in the next 10 days as the new signs will need to be produced and placed on the holes.

    To enter the tournament or to be a hole sponsor, please contact Barry Grizzard at barry.grizzard@littleoilco.com or 804.929.3146 or any ERRHC Board Member – Wilson Clary, Meade Horne, Mike Roach, Jeff Robinson, Hall Squire, Kevin Swenson, Brian Thrower or Roly Weaver.

    The registration form may be downloaded here.

  9. KAINE, MANCHIN, CAPITO INTRODUCE BIPARTISAN LEGISLATION TO CARE FOR CHILDREN IMPACTED BY OPIOID ABUSE

    Bristol Virginia Public Schools Superintendent: this bill ‘will equip us to better achieve our vision of enabling all students to thrive’

    Washington, D.C. – Yesterday, U.S. Senators Tim Kaine (D-VA), Joe Manchin (D-WV), and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) introduced the Handle with Care Act to connect children who experience traumatic events, including domestic violence situations, drug raids, overdoses, and more, to school resources that are designed to provide the child with trauma-informed care.

    “All too often, traumatic events have a devastating ripple effect across children’s lives. Given the right resources, schools can play a critical support role for kids impacted by trauma and provide them with a safe haven. I’m proud to partner with Senators Manchin and Capito to help ensure students affected by the opioid crisis and other trauma get the resources they need to thrive,” Kaine said.

    “Unfortunately, schools are seeing more and more students dealing with trauma outside of the normal school day,” said Dr. Keith Perrigan, Superintendent of Bristol Virginia Public Schools. “Even though we try to keep that in mind in all of our interactions with students, this bill ensures that lines of communication are open between community agencies as we all try to support our most vulnerable students. The Handle with Care Act will equip us to better achieve our vision of enabling all students to thrive, regardless of the obstacles they may face.”

    “We are happy to support legislation that makes the Handle with Care initiative a national model for replication. Crittenton Services, Inc., in West Virginia has been a key partner in this initiative and can attest to the difference it makes when schools, law enforcement and their partners work together with a sense of urgency to mitigate the impact of childhood trauma and support healing for children and youth, particularly marginalized girls and young women, across this country,” said Jeannette Pai-Espinosa, President of the National Crittenton Foundation.

    The Handle with Care Act of 2018 is important legislation that will boost coordination between law enforcement and school-level personnel to better support students affected by trauma-related events. We must do all we can to ensure these students receive timely interventions to mitigate the impact of trauma so they can focus on learning,” said Dr. L. Earl Franks, Executive Director of the National Association of Elementary School Principals.

    “Nothing offends a principal more than the loss of human potential. Yet every, day, principals see that potential robbed from their students by an opioid epidemic that devastates their schools and their families. With every student who suffers the trauma of opioid abuse, we lose a bit more of our future. I applaud Senators Manchin, Kaine, and Capito for casting a spotlight on this public health crisis and, more important, for championing legislation to battle it,” said Joann Bartoletti, Executive Director of the National Association of Secondary School Principals.

    The Handle with Care program, which originated in West Virginia, is as simple as law enforcement sending a “Handle with Care” alert to the child’s school. While the school does not receive any information other than the child’s name and the alert, it enables the school to exercise the trauma-informed training provided in coordination with the Handle with Care program. The goal of the program is to promote safe schools, and communities, while ensuring that every child is able to thrive in school even when they face trauma at home. 

    The Handle with Care Act would authorize $10 million in federal funding to establish 5-year demonstration grants for states to address the impact of substance use related and other trauma on children and youth in public schools by strengthening or building Handle with Care programs. These programs would:

    1. Develop and share evidence-based or evidence-informed training for trauma informed care and provide that training in schools connected to the program.
    2. Connect students who experience trauma at home to those resources in schools via the “Handle with Care” alert from law enforcement.
    3. Require programs to report on the success of the Handle with Care programs in improving student outcomes.

    Endorsed By:            

    • National Association of Secondary School Principals
    • AASA – School Superintendents Association
    • American School Counselor Association
    • National Association for School Psychologists
    • National Education Association
    • The National Crittenton Association
    • National Association of Elementary School Principals
    • American Psychological Association
    • West Virginia Center for Children’s Justice
  10. Examination of NRA Spending Shows a Tactic of Hidden Influence

    (Editor's Note: This is the second part of a four part series produced by the Student Jurnalists of the VCU Capital News Service.)

    By Jacob Taylor, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – All 33 bills related to gun control and gun issues in Virginia were killed during the 2018 General Assembly session by a Republican-majority House of Delegates committee that received more than $4,000 in donations from the National Rifle Association.

    The NRA uses money to influence and impact gun reform on all levels of government through political donations and independent expenditures. Since the NRA is a tax-exempt nonprofit organization, its tax returns are public records. These records give a glimpse into the amount of money the organization actually spends.

    For the year ending in December 2016, the NRA’s 990 form Schedule C ‒ the most recent 990 form available online ‒ shows that it spent $5.45 million nationally on political campaign activities.

    The NRA also spent $33.3 million for Section 527 exempt function activities, which are defined as “all functions that influence or attempt to influence the selection, nomination, election, or appointment of any individual to any federal, state, or local public office or office in a political organization, or the election of Presidential or Vice-Presidential electors, whether or not such individual or electors are selected, nominated, elected, or appointed,” according to the Internal Revenue Service website.

    Yet, these numbers are small compared to the amount of money the NRA spends on independent expenditures.

    The National Institute on Money in State Politics, a nonprofit organization, tracked 5,133 NRA independent expenditures over the last 13 years, on local, state and federal levels, totaling $115.9 million. Some of these expenditures include television, internet and radio advertising, postage and phone calls.

    At the state level, specifically in the Virginia General Assembly, the numbers show a general trend: Republicans receive the majority of donations. Not a single dollar was donated to Democratic legislators by the NRA in 2017.

    The largest individual donations in 2017 ‒ $1,500 ‒ went to House Speaker M. Kirkland Cox of Colonial Heights and Del. Michael Webert and Sen. Jill Holtzman Vogel, both of Fauquier County.

    NRA donations to all Virginia candidates and committees in 2017 totaled $31,580, while current Republican legislators received $16,450, according to the Virginia Public Access Project.

    A further examination of contributions for all Virginia candidates and committees, from 1996 to 2017, showed the NRA spent $685,478 on Republicans, including $85,660 donated to the Republican Party of Virginia. During that same time span, $88,007 was spent in donations to current assembly Republicans, according to VPAP.

    “I do think that the NRA has an oversized voice,” Del. John J. Bell, D-Loudoun, said. “Some of the contributions have had an undue influence, and in Virginia, it’s kind of a worst-case scenario because we have unlimited contribution amounts.”

    Bell is a member of the House Militia, Police and Public Safety Committee, where every Republican member received an average of $366 in donations from the NRA during the 2018 legislative session, for a total of $4,400. Bell also said that two NRA lobbyists had been present at nearly every meeting during this year’s session. Hiring lobbyists to go to committee meetings is another tactic used by the NRA to spread influence.

    One of those lobbyists is Beatriz Gonzalez, who works for Capital Results LLC and is retained by the NRA, according to VPAP. She did not return an email requesting an interview.

  11. DRUG TAKEBACK DAY EVENTS TO BE HELD ACROSS SOUTHSIDE VIRGINIA

    ~Attorney General Herring reminds Virginians to dispose of unused prescriptions, especially opioids, at one of many drop-off sites across the Commonwealth~

    RICHMOND (April 24, 2018) - Attorney General Mark R. Herring is encouraging Virginians to take advantage of Saturday's National Prescription Drug Take Back Day to dispose of unused or expired medications, especially prescription opioids, before they can be misused, abused, or accidentally ingested. Law enforcement agencies, community partners, and members of the Attorney General's team will be stationed at dozens of locations throughout the Commonwealth to accept medications for proper disposal. Takeback locations in the Southwide area, which will be open from 10am - 2pm, are listed below, and you can find a site near you by searching here.

    "One of the simplest things we can all do to fight the opioid epidemic and make our homes and our communities safer is to get rid of unused prescriptions before they are misused, abused, or even accidentally ingested by a child or grandchild," said Attorney General Herring. "We know that opioid abuse often starts with drugs from the medicine cabinet, not the streets. Taking just a few minutes of your weekend to clean out your medicine cabinet and get rid of unneeded medication can be a huge step forward in making your home and you family safer."

    There is a strong link between misuse of prescription opioids, opioid addiction, and even subsequent use of heroin once prescriptions become too expensive or are no longer accessible. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse:

    • Heroin abuse is 19 times more likely among those who abuse prescription opioids.
    • Half of young people who used heroin got started by abusing prescription opioids.
    • One in fifteen individuals who misuse prescription opioid painkillers will try heroin within 10 years.
    • Studies show a link between the availability of prescription and illicit drugs and the likelihood of abuse.

    In Virginia, opioid overdose deaths have risen steadily since 2010:

    • Heroin overdose deaths have risen more than 1,060% between 2010 and 2015, from 48 to 558.
    • Fentanyl deaths have risen by over 1,500% percent from 2007 to 2017, from 48 to 770.
    • Prescription opioid overdose deaths have risen 26% between 2007 and 2017, from 400 deaths to 504.

    Attorney General Herring has made combating the heroin and prescription opioid epidemic a top priority, attacking the problem with a multifaceted approach that includes enforcementeducation, prevention, and legislation to encourage reporting of overdoses in progress, expand the availability of naloxone, and expand access to the Prescription Monitoring Program. He has supported federal efforts to improve the availability of treatment and recovery resources and made prescription drug disposal kits availableacross the Commonwealth. Attorney General Herring recently outlined his recommended next steps for combating the crisis, focusing on law enforcement initiatives, support from the medical community, and recovery, treatment, prevention and education. He is also participating in a multistate investigation into the practices of drug manufacturers and distributors to determine what role they may have played in creating or prolonging the crisis.

    Drug Takeback locations include:

    DANVILLE POLICE DEPARTMENT

    CENTRA MEDICAL GROUP DANVILLE 
    PARKING LOT - WEST END OF THE BUILDING

    414 PARK AVE

    DANVILLE

    VA, 24541

    PITTSYLVANIA COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE

    MT. HERMON SHOPPING CENTER 
    FOOD LION PARKING LOT

    4048 FRANKLIN TURNPIKE

    DANVILLE

    VA, 24540

    PITTSYLVANIA COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE

    PITTSYLVANIA COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE 
    IN FRONT OF SHERIFF'S OFFICE

    21 NORTH MAIN STREET

    CHATHAM

    VA, 24531

    PITTSYLVANIA COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE

    FOOD LION 
    PARKING LOT

    100 VADEN STREET

    GRETNA

    VA, 24557

    MARTINSVILLE POLICE DEPARTMENT

    MARTINSVILLE FIRE DEPARTMENT 
    FRONT ENTRANCE

    65 WEST CHURCH ST.

    MARTINSVILLE

    VA, 24112

    LAWRENCEVILLE POLICE DEPARTMENT

    LAWRENCEVILLE MUNICIPAL BUILDING 
    AT THE ENTRANCE TO THE POLICE DEPARTMENT

    400 N. MAIN STREET

    LAWRENCEVILLE

    VA, 23868

    FARMVILLE POLICE DEPARTMENT/LONGWOOD UNIVERSITY PD

    MIDTOWN SQUARE 
    IN FRONT OF CHICK-FIL-A

    156 S. SOUTH STREET

    FARMVILLE

    VA, 23901

    VIRGINIA STATE POLICE

    VIRGINIA STATE POLICE DIVISION III HQS 
    POC: SGT DREW MCCORMICK

    240 THIRD DIVISION LOOP

    APPOMATTOX

    VA, 24522

    APPOMATTOX COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE

    KROGER

    7851 RICHMOND HWY

    APPOMATTOX

    VA, 24522

    AMELIA COUNTY SHERFF'S OFFICE

    AMELIA PHARMACY INC. 
    FRONT SIDEWALK BY STORE ENTRANCE

    15412 PATRICK HENRY HWY.

    AMELIA

    VA, 23002

    AMELIA COUNTY SHERFF'S OFFICE

    RITE AID PHARMACY 
    FRONT SIDEWALK BY STORE ENTRANCE

    15105 PATRICK HENRY HWY

    AMELIA

    VA, 23002

     

  12. From Gun Shows to Capitol Debates, Firearms Are in the Crosshairs

    Gun Culture in Virginia

    By Kevin Walter Johnson, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – Forty days after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, and a day after nationwide rallies organized by student advocates against gun violence, Virginia’s ninth gun show of the year was held at Richmond Raceway. Standing beneath the Pepsi sign in the food court of the exhibition hall, two men with rifles on their backs discussed current events.

    “I’ve been deliberately avoiding the news. They’re lying just to attack us,” one man said. The other replied, “There’ll be a war coming if they keep this up; they’re asking for it.”

    That conversation reflected the tone of many people attending the Showmasters Gun Show on March 25. Through the sets of double doors and past the state’s most well-defended hot dog stand, the tables of red, white, blue and camouflage stretched to the back of the room. The expo center held more than 750 vendors, according to the event organizers, selling tactical gear, military history and especially firearms. Attendees of all ages shuffled between the collapsible tables that displayed guns of all calibers. These veterans, hunters and gun enthusiasts offered a glimpse of the modern culture surrounding guns in Virginia.

    *****

    To understand part of the gun culture in Virginia, consider the results of the 2017 gubernatorial election.

    Republican candidate Ed Gillespie ran a campaign emphasizing the importance of the Second Amendment, a message reinforced through donations and advertisements from the National Rifle Association.

    To counter this, Democratic nominee Ralph Northam supported gun control legislation and spoke out against gun violence after the Las Vegas shooting in October. In the general election, Northam beat Gillespie 54 percent to 45 percent.

    After the election, the debate shifted to the Virginia Capitol, the most prominent battleground for gun-related legislation. Dozens of firearm-related bills were introduced in the House of Delegates and state Senate.

    Democrats pushed for gun control bills including efforts to establish universal background checks for gun buying and to ban bump stocks and similar gun modifications. Republicans advocated bills to expand gun rights, including a measure to repeal the prohibition on carrying firearms or other dangerous weapons into a place of worship.       

    In the end, almost all of the bills failed in what Gov. Northam characterized as a bipartisan legislative session.

    On March 2, the friction over guns and gun legislation boiled over in the House and led to a heated speech from Del. Nick Freitas, R-Culpeper. He admonished the Democratic delegates for their criticism of the Republican Party in the wake of the school shooting, furthering the divide between the two parties on the issue. The Democratic response was similarly impassioned, with many representatives calling for an apology from Freitas.

    *****

    At the March 25 gun show, another symbol of Virginia’s gun culture stood 30 feet from the entryway, behind a table and handing out stickers that read “Guns Save Lives.”

    That table, manned by the Virginia Citizens Defense League, was neatly set with pamphlets and flyers carrying the group’s information. The VCDL spokesman at the gun show, who asked not to be identified, described the group as a “grassroots gun rights organization protecting Virginia citizens’ right to the Second Amendment.” The group has received attention from the news media since its founding in 1994 for attacking many Democratic state officials for their positions on gun control.

    “We’re here to provide information and a sense of representation for the gun owners of Virginia,” said the spokesman. “While we lobby through grassroots methods, we are totally bipartisan.”

    The group’s website proclaims its philosophy to “go on the offensive.” Information on membership and events are placed between articles decrying the “Dangers of Universal Background Checks” and alleging a media bias against firearms.

    *****

    While Virginia gun culture is most exposed in the public setting of a gun show, a more hyperactive and radical portion of gun enthusiasts live in anonymity online.

    On vaguntrader.com, internet servers provide a home base for more than the buying, selling and trading of guns. The online forum plays host to hundreds of topic boards, organizing site visitors into categories ranging from posts about recent Virginia gun legislation to members’ recent fishing trips to blatant political statements.

    In a forum post titled “WARNING!!! Our Governor has us in his sights,” anonymous users attack Democratic legislators and officials both in state and national politics for their efforts to enact gun control measures.

    When messaged for a comment on these and similar posts, no site moderators responded. The site’s thousands of members create a web of gun owners in Virginia, hidden in internet anonymity and holding an important role in Virginia’s gun culture.

    *****

    The NRA’s registration table was the first and last thing visitors saw at the Richmond gun show, placed squarely in front of the entrance. For groups like the NRA and the VCDL, visibility plays a crucial role in their establishment of modern gun conventions in Virginia. These groups act as the face of gun culture in the state, while sites like vaguntrader.comcontribute a buried forum for the spread of far more than weapons.

    In the parking lot outside the exhibition hall, the sound of conservative radio host Alex Jones’ show “Infowars” projected from the open door of a Dodge pickup, an older man in the driver’s seat with his rifle next to him. When approached, he refused to speak about the event or his personal views on the culture of guns in the state. He shut his door and turned up the volume.

    “These are dangerous times for gun owners,” the voice on the radio yelled. “Be prepared to defend yourself and your rights at any cost.”

  13. 2018 SVCC Corrections Awards

    Southside Virginia Community College recently hosted the 10th Annual Corrections Awards Banquet  sponsored by Lawrenceville Correctional Center at the Christanna Campus in Alberta.  This night recognizes an officer of the year and employee of the year for Southside Virginia's correctional facilities.  Those recognized are (Front Row, Left to Right) Dora D. Hardy, employee for Baskerville Correctional Center, Officer Kathy Turner for Greensville Correctional Center, Officer Regina Pearson for Lawrenceville Correctional Center, Officer Joyce H. Bruce for Baskerville Correctional, Lt. Cynthia Power for Deerfield Correctional Center, Dinah Kreitz, employee for Lawrenceville  Correctional, Cecilia Presseau, employee for Lunenburg Correctional Center, and Sgt. Elsie Pennington for Lunenburg Correctional and (Back row, L to R) Sylvia Lawrence, employee for Greensville Correctional, guest speaker Warden Eddie L. Pearson of Greensville, Elizabeth Carr, employee for Deerfield Correctional, Sheron Jenkins, employee for Dillwyn Correctional Center, Officer Dolly Scruggs for Dillwyn, Pamela Labriola for Nottoway Correctional Center, Officer Tyrone Craighead for Nottoway Correctional Center, Officer John Towns for Buckingham Correctional Center, and Jennifer Andrews, Employee for Buckingham  Halifax Correctional  #23 was unable to attend but awards went to Officer Jonathan Carey and Rickey Childress, employee. 

  14. USDA Rural Development Innovation Center Launches Interactive Webpage to Share Best Practices for Rural Economic Development

    RICHMOND, April 25, 2018 – Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development Anne Hazlett today unveiled a new interactive webpage to identify best practices for building rural prosperity.

    “Rural communities need forward-thinking strategies to build strong, resilient futures,” Hazlett said. “USDA’s Rural Development Innovation Center is focused on identifying unique opportunities, pioneering new, creative solutions to tough challenges, and making Rural Development’s programs easier to understand, use and access.”

    The webpage highlights effective strategies that have been used to create jobs, build infrastructure, strengthen partnerships and promote economic development in rural America.

    An interactive feature allows webpage visitors to submit comments on ways USDA can improve Rural Development program delivery. Innovation Center staff will review these recommendations and direct customers to resources, services and expertise that will help their communities create transformative solutions to complex rural challenges.

    The webpage also highlights USDA resources that can be used for investments in infrastructure and innovation. These resources include USDA’s Distance Learning & Telemedicine Grant ProgramCommunity Connect Grant Program, and Community Facilities Programs.

    Secretary Perdue established the Rural Development Innovation Center to streamline, modernize and strengthen the delivery of Rural Development programs. To do this, the Innovation Center is focused on improving customer service to rural communities and increasing rural prosperity through strategic partnerships and capacity-building, data analytics and evaluation, and regulatory reform.

    In April 2017, President Donald J. Trump established the Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity to identify legislative, regulatory and policy changes that could promote agriculture and prosperity in rural communities. In January 2018, Secretary Perdue presented the Task Force’s findings to President Trump, which included 31 recommendations to align the federal government with state, local and tribal governments to take advantage of opportunities that exist in rural America.

    To view the report in its entirety, please view the Report to the President of the United States from the Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity (PDF, 5.4 MB). In addition, to view the categories of the recommendations, please view the Rural Prosperity infographic (PDF, 190 KB).

    USDA Rural Development provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities and create jobs in rural areas. This assistance supports infrastructure improvements; business development; housing; community services such as schools, public safety and health care; and high-speed internet access in rural areas. For more information, visit www.rd.usda.gov.

  15. Greensville County High School Scores $986 Athletics Grant from California Casualty

    (L to R): Assistant Superintendent - Roland 'Tommy' Coleman, Coach - Charles D. Ross, Greensville County High School Principal - Lameka Harrison, Greensville UniServe Director Evette Wilson, Greensville County Education Association Building Rep Nateesha Maryland, California Casualty’s Scott McKenna
     
    Emporia, VA, April 24, 2018 – Athletes at Greensville County High School (Emporia) will benefit from the 2018 California Casualty Thomas R. Brown Athletics Grant program. It is one of 79 public middle schools and high schools in 32 states awarded a total of $83,000 to aid sports programs affected by tight budgets.
     
    The school will use the $986 to provide new resistance bands, medicine balls and other equipment for the weight room that will benefit all PE classes and student athletes. Coach Charles Ross says the new equipment will help him provide a quality sports program at the school, and the items will have a positive effect on student-athletes for years to come.
     
    Two other Virginia schools, Holston High School (Damascus) and Huguenot High School (Richmond), also received athletics grants from California Casualty this year.
     
    The grant is named for California Casualty Chairman Emeritus Tom Brown, an avid sportsman who believes that teamwork, confidence and sportsmanship help develop high achievers in academics and in life.
     
    Since its inception in 2011, more than $660,000 has been awarded to some 600 schools across the nation.
     
    “All students should have the opportunity to compete,” said Lisa Almeida, Assistant Vice President. “California Casualty’s 67 year commitment to educators and schools also reaches to athletic fields.”
     
    Public middle and high schools in the Old Dominion State with an unmet need for a sports program can try for next year; applications for the 2018/2019 California Casualty Thomas R. Brown Athletics Grants are now being taken at www.calcasathleticsgrant.com. The deadline for consideration is January 15, 2019.
     
    California Casualty has other initiatives that give back to educators for all their hard work including the “Wherever Your Journey Takes you…We’ll be there” sweepstakes for a chance to win a Dodge Journey, www.winajourney.com; $7,500 School Lounge Makeover®, www.schoolloungemakeover.com; and $200 Help Your Classroom grants, www.calcas.com/help-your-classroom.

     
    Founded in 1914, California Casualty provides the NEA® Auto & Home Insurance Program, available to VEA members. Headquartered in San Mateo, California, with Service Centers in Arizona, Colorado and Kansas, California Casualty has been led by four generations of the Brown family. To learn more about California Casualty, or to request an auto insurance quote, please visit www.calcas.com/NEA or call 1.800.800.9410.

  16. VA, WV SENATORS INTRODUCE LEGISLATION TO RENAME DEPT OF AGRICULTURE AS ‘DEPT OF AGRICULTURE AND RURAL DEVELOPMENT’

    ~ Bipartisan legislation would recognize Department’s focus on increasing economic opportunities in rural communities ~

    WASHINGTON — Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Joe Manchin (D-WV), and Tim Kaine (D-VA) introduced bipartisan legislation that would rename the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) as the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. The change would accurately reflect theDepartment’s increasing focus on improving the quality of life of more than 45 million Americans living in rural areas. The Department already provides significant financial resources and technical assistance to rural communities in the form of loans, loan guarantees, and grants that help support economic development in these areas. Renaming the agency would help highlight its mission of providing rural communities with access to critical infrastructure, broadband, telecommunications connectivity, capital, healthcare, and other essential resources.

    “President Lincoln called USDA ‘The People’s Department’ because, dating back to its founding in 1862, it has always been the primary government entity charged with boosting economic development in rural communities. But at the time of USDA’s creation, nearly half of all Americans lived on farms, compared to just 2 percent today,” said Sen. Warner. “This bipartisan bill would highlight the USDA’s ongoing efforts to help rural communities thrive and underscore that part of its mission is increasing economic opportunity in rural America.”

    “USDA plays an instrumental role in improving the lives of millions of Americans living in rural areas—especially in states like West Virginia,” said Sen. Capito. “The department has provided West Virginians access to increased broadband connectivity, improved health services, and critical infrastructure, and remains an important partner in these and other efforts. Renaming USDA will make it possible to recognize the agency’s role in creating more economic opportunity in rural communities, as well as its increasing role in rural development.”

    “Today, the Department of Agriculture does more than provide assistance to farmers, it provides residents in rural areas in West Virginia with financial and technical assistance to confront the challenges many areas currently face,” said Sen. Manchin. “That’s why I believe the Department should be renamed and known for the services it should be focusing on, such as improving access to critical infrastructure, broadband, telecommunications connectivity, capital, healthcare, and other essential resources. Last year, I co-chaired the Appalachia Initiative where I discussed ways to address the challenges the rural communities in West Virginia face. This legislation will help shine a light on the Department of Agriculture’s vital work to ensure rural America does not get left behind.”

    “USDA plays a critical role in promoting infrastructure and economic development in rural America. Too many rural communities lack clean drinking water, reliable broadband internet, and adequate health and transportation resources,” said Sen. Kaine. “The rural development mission of USDA is just as important as its agriculture, food safety, and nutrition missions and should be reflected in its title.”

    President Abraham Lincoln signed into law an act of Congress in 1862 that established the United States Department of Agriculture. Currently, USDA is made up of 29 agencies and offices with nearly 100,000 employees who serve the American people at more than 4,500 locations across the country and abroad. The Department is the federal agency in charge of meeting the needs of farmers and ranchers, promoting agricultural trade and production, working to assure food safety, protecting natural resources, fostering rural communities and ending hunger in the United States and internationally. In 2012, USDA commemorated its 150th anniversary.

    “Rural communities are a key pillar of America, however, they are often challenged by geographic isolation and persistent poverty. For the residents of rural America that continue to feel left behind in today’s economy, The Department of Agriculture and Rural Development Act of 2017 offers a renewed focus on the economic matters specific to their community. BPC Action hopes this step by Sens. Mark Warner (D-VA), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), and Joe Manchin (D-WV) will better focus federal efforts around conditions in rural America and produce pragmatic solutions such as those recommended by BPC’s Appalachia Initiative,” said Michele Stockwell, Executive Director of BPC Action.

    “The National Cotton Council greatly appreciates the work and support of Sen. Warner to help address economic challenges facing the cotton industry and broader concerns in agriculture and across rural America.  We support the Senator’s efforts to highlight the critically important role of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in providing rural development support and economic opportunities in our rural communities,” said Reece Langley, VP of Washington Operations of the National Cotton Council.

    "America's turkey farmers appreciate Sen. Warner's support for the rural communities that supply our farm inputs and where many of the facilities that process the turkeys we raise are located. This effort to rename the Department of Agriculture "the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development" reinforces the importance of rural development in the mission of the Department and to rural communities. The National Turkey Federation thanks Sen. Warner for working to ensure the communities where our families, friends and neighbors work and go to school have access to the infrastructure and resources needed to thrive and grow" said Joel Brandenberger, President of the National Turkey Federation.  

    “Historically, Rural Development programs have not been a priority within the Agriculture Department, regardless of political party in charge. We believe renaming the Department would elevate the Rural Development mission area and better reflect the importance of these programs for rural communities across the country,” said Robert A. Rapoza, Executive Secretary of the National Rural Housing Coalition.

    Sens. Warner and Manchin, along with Sens. David Perdue (R-GA) and Thom Tillis (R-NC), are co-chairs of the bipartisan Appalachia Initiative, a task force convened with the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) to find pragmatic, bipartisan solutions to Appalachia’s challenges. Last year, they released a report with a set of bipartisan recommendations to boost economic growth in Appalachia. Sens. Warner, Capito, and Manchin, along with Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS), have also introduced bipartisan legislation to expand economic opportunity in Appalachia.

    The text of the bill can be found here.

  17. Own a Business or Live in Brunswick County? Take the Broadband Survey

    Dear Editor,

    Greetings from the Brunswick County Board of Supervisors!

    The Board of Supervisors adopted its Vision for 2035 in February 2017 to provide a guide, or road map if you will, for our County. Among those priorities in the Vision for 2035 included the following:

    Premier Location for Economic Growth and Development

    In response to this goal the Board of Supervisors voted to partner with the Center for Innovative Technology (CIT) - at no cost to the County — to conduct a comprehensive Broadband Needs Assessment Survey for the County to:

    • Identify gaps in broadband service,
    • Identify key vertical assets that could address the un-»“under-served areas,
    • Provide funding options for new infrastructure,
    • Define strategies for partnering with incumbent providers, and
    • Document methods for addressing broadband awareness and adoption to improve utilization for all citizens.

    As you may be aware, better broadband access can enhance the quality of life for many through increased access to health services, improved communication with friends and family, and faster home entertainment streaming, as well as opportunities for working, shopping, and education from home.

    I am certain that by now everyone has either seen in our local newspaper or on social media a request to go online to complete the Brunswick County Broadband Needs Assessment Survey. If you have filled out the survey we GREATLY appreciate your participation. The deadline to respond to this survey has been extended to Monday, April 30, 2018 at 11:59 p.m. The deadline to participate has been extended to permit more households and businesses an opportunity to be heard — as we stand today we are at an average of 9 % participation whereas we need to be in the 12 to 15 percent participation level to attract and be competitive with various broadband providers. The higher level of participation clearly signals that our citizens are serious about their interest in as well as showing concern for our education systems (public/private/higher ed/job retraining) and dire interest in attracting Economic Development opportunities to the County! Again, we need EVERY HOUSEHOLD OR BUSINESS to either complete a paper copy that is located at the public library, the County Government Building — Administration or Planning Offices or the Chamber of Commerce. You may still go online and complete the Broadband Needs Assesment Survey.

    We look forward to your responses to the County’s Broadband Needs Assessment Survey.

    Sincerely,

    Barbara Jarrett Harris

    Chair Brunswick County Board of Supervisors

  18. Benchmark Bankshares, Inc. Reports First Quarter Earnings

    KENBRIDGE, VA, April 23, 2018 - Benchmark Bankshares, Inc. (BMBN), the Kenbridge-based hold­ing company for Benchmark Community Bank, announced unaudited results for the first quarter of 2018.  Net income of $2,127,433, or $0.41 per share, for the first quarter of 2018 was up $459 thousand, or 27.5% over net income of $1,667,506, or $0.32 per share, for the first quarter of 2017.  Return on average assets increased from 1.20% to 1.45% and return on average equity increased from 10.43% to 12.52% when comparing the first quarter of 2018 the same period one year ago.

    Loan demand remains strong.  Total loans, up by $5.9 million year-to-date, have increased by $39.8 million over the past twelve months.  Loan demand in the Henderson, NC and Wake Forest, NC markets have been the primary driver of this growth.  Total loans have increased by $7.5 million and $3.3 million, respectively, in these markets for the quarter and by $13.9 million and $21.6 million, respectively, over the past twelve months.  Yield on loans increased from 5.28% to 5.42% as the Federal Reserve continues to increase interest rates.  The result was an increase of $658 thousand, or 11.21%, in interest and fees on loans when comparing the first quarter of 2018 to the first quarter of 2017.

    Total deposits at quarter-end amounted to $536.1 million, an increase of $12.2 million during the quarter and an increase of $29.2 million over the past twelve months.  During this time noninterest-bearing checking deposits are up $8.2 million, interest-bearing checking accounts are up $10.7 million, savings accounts are up $5.3 million, money market accounts are up $17.1 million, and time deposits are down $12.1 million.  The bank’s cost of funds has remained steady at 0.40%, resulting in a small $28 thousand increase in interest expense for the quarter.  The bank’s net interest margin increased from 4.47% to 4.71% when compared to one year ago. 

    Net interest income, before the provision for loan losses, amounted to $6.35 million in the first quarter of 2018, up 11.3% from $5.70 million in the first quarter of 2017. 

    Total noninterest income declined by $44 thousand, or 2.93%, as the gain on the sale of loans decreased from $292 thousand to $223 thousand for the quarter.  During the first quarter of 2017 the bank incurred a gain on the sale of securities of $52 thousand while no securities were sold during the first quarter of 2018.

    Net charge-offs for the quarter amounted to $32 thousand, down from $139 thousand charged off during the first quarter of 2017.  Although charge-offs remain low and past-due loans are declining, management provisioned $156 thousand to the loan loss reserve during the first quarter of 2018, primarily as a result of loan growth.  Management provisioned $181 thousand to the reserve during the first quarter of 2017.  The current loan loss reserve stands at $4.8 million, or 0.98% of total loans. 

    Foreclosed assets, at $3.2 million, are down from $3.8 million one year ago.  The bank incurred expenses, including valuation write-downs, related to foreclosed assets of $227 thousand in the first quarter.  This compares to $42 thousand expensed during the first quarter last year. 

    The common stock of Benchmark Bankshares, Inc. trades on the OTC Pink marketplace under the symbol BMBN. Any stockbroker can assist with purchases of the company's stock, as well as with sales of holdings.

    Benchmark Community Bank, founded in 1971, is head­quartered in Kenbridge, VA, and is the company's sole subsidiary which oper­ates twelve banking offices through­out central Southside Vir­ginia and loan production offices in Wake Forest, NC and Henderson, NC.  Additional information is available at the company’s website, www.BCBonline.com.

      Three Months Ended March 31,
      (Dollars in thousands, except per share data)
      2018   2017   2016
    Assets $608,800   $576,196   $535,440
    Loans (gross) $492,684   $452,823   $427,689
    Deposits $536,165   $506,992   $469,501
    Equity $69,399   $65,672   $61,801
    Equity to Assets 11.40%   11.40%   11.54%
    Loans to Deposits 91.89%   89.32%   91.09%
               
    Net Income $2,127   $1,668   $1,600
    Effective Tax Rate* 19.09%   30.51%   30.61%
               
    Return on Avg. Equity 12.52%   10.43%   10.48%
    Return on Avg. Assets 1.45%   1.20%   1.21%
    Earnings per Share $0.41   $0.32   $0.31
    Book Value per Share $13.49   $12.71   $11.97
    *Corporate tax rate reduced from 34% to 21% as part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017.
  19. Erma F. Vincent

    Erma F. Vincent, 85, of Emporia, passed away Monday, April 23, 2018. She was the daughter of the late Joseph W. and Annie Harrell Ferguson and was also preceded in death by three brothers, Kennon Ferguson, Wade Ferguson and Clayton Ferguson and sisters, Mamie Driver and Avis Frazier.

    Mrs.Vincent is survived by her husband, Arnold S. Vincent; two daughters, Vicki V. Story and husband, Robert “Bobby” and Cindy V. Holloman and husband, Ricky; two grandchildren, Brandon R. Story and wife, Kristin and Eric L. Holloman; two great-granddaughters, Allison Grace Story and Anna Morgan Story; two sisters, Ruby Pearson and Bettie Veliky; a brother, Melvin Ferguson and a number of nieces and nephews.

    The funeral service will be held 11 a.m. Wednesday, April 25 at Forest Hill Baptist Church where the family will receive friends one hour prior to the service. Interment will follow in the church cemetery.

    In lieu of flowers, the family suggests memorial contributions be made to Forest Hill Baptist Church Cemetery Fund, 2103 Pine Log Rd, Skippers, VA 23879.

    Online condolences may be shared with the family at www.owenfh.com.

  20. VCU Health CMH Saved My Life

    Karen Kurz, a native of Ohio, whom currently resides in Bracey, VA.

    SOUTH HILL -- You might not think it’s possible to mistake an appendicitis attack for the flu, but if you ask Karen Kurz from Bracey, Virginia, she will assure you it was actually pretty easy.

    Karen was scheduled for a colonoscopy on a Wednesday at VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital and began her prep on Tuesday. But prior to starting the prep, she began experiencing stomach cramps, which she attributed to being hungry since you can’t eat prior to a colonoscopy.

    Being a compliant patient, Karen started her prep, but quickly realized it wasn’t going to work as she got sick to her stomach. Stomach cramps, nausea and what inevitably happens when you begin prep for a colonoscopy certainly check off a lot of boxes that would lead a lay person to believe she had the flu. She also started running a slight fever that first day.

    Move to day two and now the fever is rising and all the other symptoms continue unabated. She even had her husband text their son to let him know they wouldn’t be traveling to visit the grandkids that weekend because she ‘had the flu.’

    Day two saw her fever spike to 102.2 with no let-up of her other symptoms. Unable to keep things down, Karen was quickly becoming dehydrated. Fast forward to day three and she finally experienced right lower quadrant abdominal pain  - severe enough abdominal pain to prompt a visit to VCU Health CMH’s Family Care.

    There she was seen by Teresa Parham, nurse practitioner, and Dr. Paul Weidman.  A blood draw showed an extremely high white blood cell count, coupled with severe dehydration, nausea and pain and the Family Care providers moved her quickly to the Emergency Department.

    That move, according to Karen’s husband, Ken, most likely saved her life.

    “You have to know my wife to understand how tough she is,” he said. “I knew she was truly ill because she didn’t fight going to the doctor. For two days she thought she had the flu. But Teresa (Parham) took one look at her and sprang into action ordering a stat complete blood count to go along with a urinalysis and the physical exam. I firmly believe they, along with the ED staff and Dr. Michael Tozzi, saved her life. I can’t say enough good about the care provided by them and everyone at CMH.”

    As Karen was wheeled from the CARE Building to the emergency department, things were already in motion. A CT confirmed a ruptured appendix which meant emergency surgery on a Thursday night.

    Ken explained, “Dr. Tozzi came in and told us he would be performing the emergency appendectomy and he feared that she was going to face a serious ordeal. He explained that he would most likely have to open Karen up completely to take care of the problem.”

    Normally the appendix can be removed through laparoscopic surgery, but because of the rupture, Karen would be looking at a full-blown 3-4 hour surgery.

    “Karen was really, really sick,” her husband said. “When we got to the doctor’s office her blood pressure was 80 over 50 and everyone was afraid she was going into septic shock. Dr. Tozzi told me after surgery that she was in shock. This is the kind of stuff that people die from.”

    According to Ken they worked in the emergency department infusing fluids into Karen prior to the surgery to get her BP up, but they also began an extensive regimen of antibiotics to battle the poison that was flooding her system from the ruptured appendix.

    A three-hour surgery that saw Dr. Tozzi use about 10 liters of saline to flush Karen’s abdominal cavity saved her life.

    “I can’t say enough about how everyone worked so well together, from Teresa and Dr. Weidman through the Emergency Department, Dr. Tozzi and all the nurses,” Ken said. “When someone you love experiences a life-threatening emergency, you don’t want to worry about the people taking care of that person.  I will tell you that I never once worried that she wasn’t receiving outstanding care. They kept me informed throughout the surgery, they all answered questions about what was going on, what could happen, what should happen.  It was exactly how I feel things should have been handled. They showed confidence in their abilities and I felt they were certainly capable of taking care of my wife.”

    The good news is, Karen is home now after a six-day hospital stay.  She has an eight-inch incision to show for her “flu.” She does face a prolonged recovery period because of the seriousness of the surgery, cutting of her stomach muscles, and the infection because of the ruptured appendix, but the prognosis is very good.

    “I believe we owe an incredible debt to VCU Health CMH, Teresa Parham, Paul Weidman, Michael Tozzi and all the other staff,” Ken said. “I know they saved Karen’s life.”

  21. VSU Receives $249,800 Grant to Expand Urban Agriculture Education Through Distance Learning

    Virginia State University has been awarded $249,800 by the United States Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA-NIFA) to expand its urban agriculture education through distance learning.

    “On behalf of the Sustainable Urban Agriculture Program, I am very excited about the new grant award, which will to enable us to expand the program and to reach a wider audience through distance education,” said Dr. Leonard Githinji, Extension specialist, sustainable & urban agriculture. “The distance-learning format will give many more people access to course content developed by experts from Virginia State and Virginia Tech Universities, and will appeal to participants who cannot physically attend the classes due to distance or time conflicts.”

    Githinji plans to adapt his Sustainable Urban Agriculture Certificate Program from its current face-to-face format to a self-paced, online option that will increase the number of participants. The grant money will help cover the costs of acquiring the technology to deliver the program and supporting the personnel needed to implement the distance learning modules. The online learning format will offer participants some flexibility to complete the course’s 16 modules according to their schedules. Upon completing the program, participants will receive a certificate in Sustainable Urban Agriculture.

    The program’s target audience includes Extension educators, Master Gardeners, teachers, home gardeners and commercial growers. At least 17 percent of Virginia’s population is affected by limited food access or food deserts. Urban agriculture, defined as the growing of plants and the raising of animals for food and other uses within and around cities and towns, has a huge potential in mitigating food deserts and situations of limited food access. Urban agriculture can help to remedy food desert situations, create economic opportunities in urban neighborhoods and help to nourish the health and social fabric of communities.

    Extension is a joint program of Virginia Tech, Virginia State University, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and state and local governments. Virginia Cooperative Extension programs and employment are open to all, regardless of age, color, disability, gender, gender identity, gender expression, national origin, political affiliation, race, religion, sexual orientation, genetic information, veteran status, or any other basis protected by law. An equal opportunity/ affirmative action employer. Issued in furtherance of Cooperative Extension work, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Virginia State University, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture cooperating. Edwin J. Jones, Director, Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg; M. Ray McKinnie, Administrator, 1890 Extension Program, Virginia State University, Petersburg.

  22. SVCC Offers Apprenticeship Opportunties

    Global Safety Textile (GST) of South Hill, developers and manufactures of airbags, airbag textiles and technical textiles, has partnered with Southside Virginia Community College to help develop and train twelve employees to become industrial maintenance technicians.

    “In today’s current economy, hiring qualified maintenance mechanics is a challenge”, said Rob Deutsch, Director of Human Resources for the company.

    For years, colleges saw enrollments declining in technical degrees such as Electrical and Mechanical. Unfortunately, for manufacturing this decline presents a real crisis. In fact, the hardest segment of the workforce to staff has been in the skilled trades: welders, electricians and mechanics.

    GST, collaborated with SVCC’s Dr. Chad Patton, Dean of Career and Technical Training, and Kelly Arnold, Apprenticeship Coordinator, to formulate a strategy to train current employees. Apprenticeship is a tried and true method for training, remarks, Arnold.

    “By combining educational classes with on-the-job training, apprentices learn exponentially,” she said.

    Each class the employees are taking was selected with the intention of transforming the twelve into maintenance technicians for GST.

     The group began in January taking classes at Lake Country Advanced Knowledge Center in South Hill.  The instructor applies hands-on training to the AC/DC Electrical class. 

    Dr. Patton said, “All of our teachers in the program have real world experience.  We have former department lead instructor for Mechatronics and a host of teachers who are currently working in the Industrial Maintenance field to ensure the instruction is relevant.”

    The college has also run apprenticeship training for Beach Mold, Georgia Pacific and Toll Brothers located in Emporia/Greensville.  

    Each week the employees build on the previous class. While some are coming after work and others before work; both groups arrive ready to learn. Long days or nights at work, coupled with educational classes, homework, and tests all prove the group is willing and able to invest in themselves but also into preparing GST to beat the skills gap challenge.

    While maintenance technician may not be the new career buzz, it is certainly a profession where both men and women can find employment in Southside Virginia. In fact, recent statistics indicate that job seekers are realizing that skilled trades are in hot demand. For the twelve at GST, the future is bright. The industrial maintenance program involves taking one class per week, for about 18 months, but provides an easily attainable goal. For more information about industrial maintenance or apprenticeship training, visit LCAKC or www. southside.edu   SVCC also offers an Associate in Applied Science degree in Industrial Maintenance Technician.

  23. Virginia Schools Participate in National School Walk-out - a CNS Social Media Story

  24. VIRGINIA STATE POLICE DEDICATE HELIPAD TO HONOR TROOPER-PILOT KILLED IN THE LINE OF DUTY IN 2017

    RICHMOND – Two Virginia governors joined more than 200 family and friends Wednesday (April 18, 2018) to formally dedicate and name the helipad at the Virginia State Police administrative headquarters in Chesterfield County. Governor Ralph Northam and former Governor Terry McAuliffe, along with Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian Moran and the family of Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates unveiled the new sign that designates the helipad in Bates’ memory.

    (Pictured L-R) Virginia Deputy Secretary of Public Safety & Homeland Security Ryant Washington, Governor Ralph Northam, Fmr. Governor Terry McAuliffe, Virginia Secretary of Public Safety & Homeland Security Brian Moran and Colonel Gary Settle with Trooper-Pilot Bates’ wife, Amanda, and their children.

    “The Trooper-Pilot Berke Bates Helipad will serve as a lasting tribute to Berke’s incredible spirit and legacy as a public safety professional, aviator, father, son, brother, and friend,” said Col. Gary T. Settle, Virginia State Police Superintendent. “This memorial will be seen by those visiting our administrative headquarters and Academy. It is also rightly located just across the way from the very Academy doors Berke proudly walked through in January 2004 to begin his career as a Virginia State Police trooper. We hope this simple, but meaningful, tribute brings added and lasting comfort to his family, friends, and colleagues.”

    Bates, 40, and the State Police Aviation Unit Commander, Lt. H. Jay Cullen III, became the Department’s 64th and 65th Virginia State Police line of duty deaths when their helicopter crashed Aug. 12, 2017, in Albemarle County. The Department dedicated its Chesterfield Aviation Base and Headquarters in Lt. Cullen’s memory in February 2018.

    Trooper-Pilot Bates was born in Manassas, Va. and graduated from Brentsville District Middle-Senior High School in Nokesville, Va. in 1994. He served as a Trooper with the Florida Highway Patrol from 1998 until he joined the Virginia State Police in 2004. He graduated from the Virginia State Police Academy on August 27, 2004 as a member of the 107th Basic Session. His first assignment was in Virginia State Police Richmond Division’s Area 8 Office, which encompasses the City of Richmond and Henrico County. Less than a year later he became a member of the office’s Motors Unit, serving as a motorcycle trooper until 2013. He joined the Governor’s protection detail, known as the State Police Executive Protective Unit, in October 2013 and served with the unit for three years before accepting promotion to Special Agent with the Virginia State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation’s Richmond Field Office General Investigations Section. In July 2017, he became a Trooper-Pilot with the Virginia State Police Aviation Unit. Bates is survived by his wife, twin 12-year-old son and daughter, parents, and siblings.

    The Virginia State Police initiated an aviation program in 1946 with four trooper-pilots who voluntarily worked on as an-needed basis and the acquisition of three Aeronca Chief 11AC airplanes. Helicopters were added to the fleet in 1970. The Department established an official Aviation Unit in 1984, which was the same year the Virginia General Assembly authorized funding for the creation of the Med-Flight program. Today the Virginia State Police Aviation Unit has 16 trooper-pilots, 13 flight nurses, 12 flight paramedics and four full and part-time mechanics assigned to its bases in Chesterfield, Lynchburg and Abingdon. The unit is equipped with three Bell 407 helicopters, two Airbus EC-145 helicopters, two Cessna 182 Skylanes and one Cessna 206 Stationair.

    The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigation into the fatal helicopter crash remains ongoing at this time.

  25. Marvin Dallas Caish

    Marvin Dallas Caish, 91, died Wednesday, April 18, 2018.

    A native of Greensville County, he was the son of the late William Henry Caish and Mary Pearson Allen Caish. In addition to his parents, he was preceded in death by his wives; Adrinne Lynch Caish and Annie Kidd Caish, his brother; Lewis Caish, and sisters; Rebecca Weaver Caish and Lillian Carpenter.  A World War II Navy veteran, Mr. Caish retired from Georgia Pacific in Jarratt, and was a longtime member of Calvary Baptist Church. An avid gardener, he also enjoyed fishing and swimming with his family.

    Mr. Caish is survived by his son; Marvin D. Caish Jr. of Ruckersville, Virginia, grandsons; Christopher D. Caish of Barboursville, Virginia, and Timothy J. Caish of Fredericksburg, Virginia, Great-grand-daughter; Charlianna Caish of Barboursville, Virginia.

    Graveside Services , with military honors, will be held Sunday, April 22, 2018 at 2:00 P.M. at Greensville Memorial Cemetery with Rev. Andy Cain officiating.

    Online condolences may be left at echolsfuneralhome.com.

  26. BETTY CLARKE HARRIS

    Betty Clarke Harris, 60, of Bath, NC, died Saturday, April 14, 2018 at Vidant Medical Center in Greenville, NC.

    Betty was born Richmond, VA., the daughter of the late W. Lawrence Clarke and Evelyn Weaver Clarke.

    She graduated from Furrman College in Rocky Mount, Va., then graduated from the Nursing Program at Wilson Community College.

    She obtained her Bachelors of Science Degree in Nursing, and her Master of Science in Nursing from East Carolina University.

    Her Nursing career included serving as a Flight Nurse for East Care; working in different departments at Vidant and was currently a Nurse Education Specialist in the East Carolina Heart Institute.

    Betty loved the ocean, sand, and fishing. Most of her spare time was spent at the coast casting her fishing rod and taking in God’s beautiful creation.

    Surviving are: a brother, Edward Lawrence Clarke and his wife, Janet Tindall Clarke, of Roanoke Rapids, NC; a niece, Nicole Clarke Luck and her husband, John Michael Luck of Houston, TX. Also, two great nephews; Colin Clarke Luck and Noah Graeme Luck of Houston, TX. and all of her nursing family at Vidant.

    A memorial service will be held on Saturday, April 28at 4:00 pm in the Inter-Faith Chapel at Vidant Medical Center, Greenville, NC. with Rev. Jane Rose officiating.

    In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to:  College of Nursing Scholarships at East Carolina University. Make checks to: ECU MHSG and make notion on check in memory of Betty C. Harris. Mail to:  Elizabeth Maxwell, 525 Moye Blvd., Mail stop 659, East Carolina University, Greenville, NC, 27834-4354 or you can go online to make a donation at: http://www.ecu.edu/csdhs/nursing/support_us.cfm

    Online condolences may be left at wrennclarkehagan.com

  27. VCU Health CMH to Offer Babysitting Training Course

    SOUTH HILL --The Health & Wellness Department of VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital in South Hill will offer the Smartkids 101 Babysitting Training Course this summer.

    The Smartkids 101 Babysitting Training Course is especially designed for student’s age 11 to 14.  It teaches essential child care skills needed for responsible babysitters caring for infants, toddlers and older children.

    The class will include child and infant safety, poison control, CPR, first aid and basic child care skills.  At the end of the class students will receive a babysitting certificate, and be certified in American Heart-Heart Savers CPR and First aid.  Students will also be taught to react in an emergency situation and know who to call.  Students will learn about the babysitting business, build self-esteem and learn skills that will last a lifetime.

    This one day, 8-hour course will be taught in the VCU Health CMH Education Center (inside the C.A.R.E. Building) at 1755 N. Mecklenburg Avenue in South Hill from 8:00AM to 4:15PM on the following dates- June 15th, June 29th, July13th and July27th.  The class is free but limited to 10 participants. To register for one of these courses, please contact the Health & Wellness department at 434-774-2541. These classes fill up quickly, so call today!

  28. Monument Reflects ‘Abiding Admiration’ for Native People

    INDIAN MEMORIAL

    By Yasmine Jumaa, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – Gov. Ralph Northam and the Virginia Indian Commemorative Commission welcomed leaders of Native American tribes at the state Capitol for a ceremony to dedicate “Mantle,” a monument honoring Virginia’s first inhabitants.

    Tuesday’s ribbon-cutting celebrated the culture, contributions and significance of Native Americans. Many of the attendees dressed in traditional Indian garments, and each speaker passed to the next an eagle’s feather conveying strength, courage and wisdom.

    “It’s apt, I think, that we gather here on Capitol Square – in many ways the very heart of our commonwealth’s diverse, vibrant and engaging civic life – to show our respect, to show our gratitude and to show our abiding admiration for native peoples who have lived in this land for thousands of years,” said Paul Nardo, clerk of the House of Delegates and a member of the commission.

    Members of the community joined in celebrating the completion of “Mantle,” for which ground was broken last summer.

    “Virginia Indian history goes back thousands of years before those settlers stepped ashore,” Northam said. “For the first time, we will recognize the courage and resilience of Virginia Indians on the same sacred ground where we write the history of tomorrow.”

    The governor said the monument was a “long-overdue acknowledgment.”

    “My hope is that progress, and the completion of this monument, will begin our journey toward healing,” Northam said. “We also celebrate the accomplishments of future generations who trace their ancestors to Virginia’s native tribes.”

    At the ceremony, Frances Broaddus-Crutchfield, a commission member, read a poem she had written, also titled “Mantle.” During the reading, she played an Indian drum to symbolize “the heartbeat of the first Americans.”

    The poem described the symbolism of the origin, structure and design of the monument:

    Mantle is a chief’s cloak

    A pathway, water

    A seat for the weary

    Strong from the remembrance of the rivers and the people

    Strong from the beginning of time, unto eternity

    A tribute to the first Americans

    The monument was created by Alan Michelson, an installation artist and member of the Mohawk Nation. He described the public art as “a collaborative medium with many moving parts and players bringing their skills and experience to bear.”

    “I was fortunate to work with a stellar design team,” Michelson said. “A concept is only as good as its design, and a design only as its implementation.”

    Michelson traced his creative journey that led to the creation of “Mantle” as well as the many meanings its name may represent.

    The monument has a spiral shape surrounding an infinity pool that lists the rivers in Virginia with Native American names. The name “Mantle” comes from the deerskin cloak reportedly worn by the Native American chief Powhatan.

    “I wanted my design to embody not only the landscape past and present but the sacred harmonies underpinning and uniting all life here on Turtle Island,” Michelson said. “In contemplating a title for it, the word mantle seemed to fit.” He said it is a reference to:

    • Geology – the mostly solid layer of the earth between the crust and core.
    • Mollusk anatomy – the layer that forms, maintains and repairs the shell.
    • Leadership – the responsibilities and duties passed from one person to another.

    Ken Adams, chief emeritus of Virginia’s Upper Mattaponi tribe, concluded the ceremony by leading a prayer to God and blessing the monument.

    “As we celebrate you and celebrate the legacy of Native Americans,” Adams said, “as we place this memorial in your honor on these grounds, we cannot ever thank you enough for bringing us out of the dark ages that we experienced not so long ago.”

  29. After Rally, House OKs Budget Expanding Medicaid


    Delegates Mark Levine and Wendy Gooditis pose for a photo with Medicaid expansion supporters on Capitol Hill (Photo credit: George Copeland Jr.)

    By George Copeland Jr., Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – The House of Delegates passed a state budget that expands Medicaid in Virginia after advocates for the measure held a rally outside the Capitol.

    Meeting in special session, the House voted 67-33 in favor of a budget for the 2018-2020 biennium that provides Medicaid coverage to more low-income Virginians. The legislation now moves to the Senate, which during the regular legislative session opposed Medicaid expansion.

    Nineteen Republicans joined 48 Democratic delegates in voting for the House version of the budget.

    “Our budget expands health care to 400,000 uninsured Virginians, and it increases funding for our schools, creates jobs and gives raises to teachers and law enforcement,” Del. David Toscano of Charlottesville, the House Democratic leader, and Del. Charniele Herring of Alexandria, the chair of the House Democratic Caucus, said in a joint statement.

    “We are hopeful that our Republican colleagues in the Senate have seen the light and have heard the chorus of voices in support of expansion.”

    House Speaker Kirk Cox, a Republican from Colonial Heights, expressed optimism that delegates and senators can reach an agreement on the budget.

    Cox said the House passed “a strong, structurally-balanced two-year state budget that I am confident can serve as the foundation for a bipartisan, bicameral compromise.”

    “Virginia has seen extended budget negotiations before, but what sets us apart from Washington is our willingness to work efficiently and directly to adopt a balanced budget before the current fiscal year ends” on June 30, Cox said.

    The House vote came after legislators and citizens from across the commonwealth gathered Tuesday afternoon on the Capitol grounds.

    Medicaid expansion advocates from Caroline County, Norfolk, Arlington and Charlottesville were joined by Democratic Dels. Mark Levine of Alexandria, Wendy Gooditis of Clarke County and Alfonso Lopez of Arlington.

    “I really think our chamber will do what it needs to do, and I have to say, I think some Senate Republicans are coming around,” Levine said.

    During the regular session, the House voted 68-32 in favor of a budget that included Medicaid expansion – a priority for Democrats. Expansion would include a Republican-proposed work requirement for those seeking Medicaid coverage.

    Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam has expressed his displeasure with the work requirement. (One Democratic delegate, Sam Rasoul of Roanoke, voted against the House budget on Tuesday because of the work requirement.) President Donald Trump signed an executive order earlier this week mandating a similar requirement for food stamp recipients.

    Gooditis, who was elected last fall, said her political career was driven in part by her struggle to obtain Medicaid coverage to assist her late brother with post-traumatic stress disorder. She credited the “all-around caregivers” she met during these years for both her election victory and the high spirits she felt going into the special session.

    “Keep making noise. It’s how I got here, and it’s how we’ll get it done,” Gooditis said.

    Some at the rally are already looking ahead to what policies could follow the proposed Medicaid expansion. They expressed enthusiasm for a single-payer health care system, or “Medicare for All.” Levine said he supports such a system.

    “People need to know that these are real people’s lives,” Levine said. “They need to know this isn’t some theoretical question; this is a question of whether people get health care or not.”

    Legislators at the rally were critical of the current state of health care coverage in Virginia. While Levine praised the efforts of Doctors Without Borders in providing services in Southwest Virginia and the Northern Neck, he was nonetheless “ashamed” that residents there must rely on an international group that normally serves developing countries.

    Lopez discussed the good financial fortune his family had when their newborn baby was delivered prematurely last year, a comfort he stressed wasn’t shared by everyone in his House district. Lopez said the 49th District, which includes parts of Arlington and Fairfax counties, ranks as “one of the most educated” in the U.S. and yet has the “fourth-highest number of people who could benefit” from Medicaid expansion.

    “Think about the family that has a baby born prematurely,” Lopez said. “Think about the family that’s struck down by a horrible disease or in a horrific accident. Health care could be devastating for their finances.”

    “We’re going to get this done,” Lopez said. “We have to get this done.”

  30. Waverly United Methodists Spruce Up Jackson-Feild

    On a bright and beautiful – but windy – recent Saturday, nine volunteers from Waverly United Methodist Church performed a task of epic proportions.  They repainted 1,100 feet of fencing at Jackson-Feild Behavioral Health Services.

    When one turns onto Walnut Grove Drive in Jarratt, two columns and a white fence can be seen at the end of the long, straight country road.  Up close, it was evident that the fence was no longer as white and pristine as it once had been.

    Waverly Church provided not only the volunteers, but 25 gallons of fence paint and spray equipment as well!  Mother Nature, though, provided the stiff breeze that resulted in a number of painters sporting a light coating of paint by the end of the day’s work.

    The children and staff at Jackson-Feild wishes to thank these wonderful volunteers from Waverly United Methodist Church for all they’ve done to benefit the organization.

    If you would like to offer a helping hand on a future project, please call Vice-President of Advancement Tod Balsbaugh at 804-354-6929 to see what the current needs may be.

  31. VSU Celebrates Fourth 'Tree Campus USA' Award for its Dedication to Campus Forestry

    Dignitaries show Tree Campus USA plaque updated with year 2017 for Virginia State University campus.

    Petersburg, Va. – A crowd gathered on the campus of Virginia State University (VSU) on Tuesday for the 2017 Tree Campus USA Award Celebration. It is the fourth consecutive year that VSU has been recognized by the Arbor Day Foundation for its commitment to campus forestry management and environmental stewardship.

    “I’d like to recognize the great leadership that has made this possible. It really does take all of us working together, the commitment that you have to this campus, to your green spaces, and to trees,” said Bettina Ring, Virginia’s secretary of agriculture and forestry.

    Secretary Ring attended the recertification event along with Senator Rosalyn Dance, a VSU alumna, and administrators from the university.

    “I’m proud of all the great stuff that’s happening here,” Dance said. “Tree Campus USA, VSU, all the way!”

    “On this day, being honored and recertified is very special to us,” said VSU Provost Dr. Donald E. Palm. “Not only does it bring the community together, it brings the campus together, especially for our students to learn, our faculty to do research. It’s an awesome day.”

    Events were held during the morning, including the creation of a living wall of flowers and strawberries. There were also presentations on water quality, sustainable foodand goatscaping, an environmentally friendly alternative to property clearing and weed removal. 

    VSU was first named a “Tree Campus USA University” in 2015 and has been recertified annually. The university is only one of four post-secondary institutions in Virginia—along with Old Dominion University, the University of Mary Washington and Virginia Tech—to be recognized. The initiative was led by Joel Koci, associate Extension specialist in urban forestry with the College of Agriculture, who works each year with a committee comprising faculty, students and campus staff. To receive the designation, a university must meet five core standards: establish an advisory committee, develop a campus tree-care plan, allocate annual dedicated expenses of $3 per full-time student; hold a service-learning project; and host an Arbor Day celebration.

    “Keep up the great work and thank you for all that you continue to do to support students and learning in agriculture and forestry,” Ring said.

    The recertification ceremony was held beside a sycamore tree planted in 2015. The sycamore was selected because it grows large and has a long lifespan. The ceremony ended with the dedication of a plaque to recognize the march in Selma, Alabama, during the Civil Rights movement.

    The Arbor Day Foundation is a million-member nonprofit conservation and education organization dedicated to inspiring people to plant, nurture and celebrate trees. J. Sterling Morton, a Nebraska newspaper editor who served as secretary of agriculture under President Grover Cleveland, initiated the Arbor Day holiday in Nebraska in 1872. He is considered the father of Arbor Day nationally. Virginia celebrates Arbor Day is celebrated on the last Friday in April.

    Founded in 1882, Virginia State University is one of Virginia’s two land-grant institutions and is located 20 minutes south of Richmond in the village of Ettrick.

  32. Congressman McEachin Introduced Disabled Access Credit Expansion Act

    WASHINGTON – Congressman A. Donald McEachin (VA-04), a co-chair of the Reinvesting in our Returning Heroes task force, introduced the Disabled Access Credit Expansion (DACE) Act to assist small business owners comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), aiming to expand access and job opportunities for disabled Americans.

    Currently, small businesses can receive a tax credit worth 50 percent of costs incurred to meet accessibility requirements under the ADA, up to a limit of $10,250. The DACE Act incentivizes proactive ADA compliance for small business owners by doubling the maximum allowable credit, which will reduce their liability and increase their ability to employ individuals with disabilities, including veterans.

    “I introduced the DACE Act to help veterans and others with disabilities, while also helping small business owners make necessary structural improvements under the ADA—changes that will enable them to employ, and serve, more individuals with disabilities,” said Congressman Donald McEachin. “Unfortunately, far too many of our dedicated servicemembers come home with permanent injuries. As our returning veterans transition to civilian life, we need to do more to help them find well-paying jobs and continue to support themselves and their families. Enabling businesses to more easily hire these veterans, and any American who wants to work, is one of the best steps we can take.”

    “Our veterans bring unique skills and experiences to the workforce and it is our duty to ensure that they have every opportunity while transitioning back to civilian life and finding meaningful employment,” said House Democratic Caucus Chairman Joe Crowley (D-Queens, the Bronx). “Congressman McEachin’s Disabled Access Credit Expansion Act will give veterans with disabilities the opportunity to secure well-paying jobs while providing incentives to our nation’s small businesses. I am proud to join him and my colleagues in this effort to help our veteran communities transition to the civilian workforce.” 

    “The Disabled Access Credit Expansion Act led by Congressman Donald McEachin reinforces House Democrats’ commitment to improve access for Americans with disabilities,” said House Democratic Caucus Vice Chair Linda Sánchez (CA-38). “I am proud to join with members of the Democratic Caucus Jobs for America Task Force to introduce legislation that helps America’s small businesses comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act and increases access for people with disabilities and veterans.”

    The Disabled Access Credit Expansion (DACE) Act would:

    • Increase the maximum eligible expenses to $20,500;
    • Double the maximum possible credit for small business owners from $5,000 to $10,125;
    • Make the credit more widely available by expanding the definition of “small business” to include companies with income of $2.5 million or less; and
    • Index the updated maximum eligible expenses to keep pace with inflation.

    “In light of legislative efforts like H.R. 620, it is more important than ever that we champion basic fairness and equal access,”said Congressman McEachin. “My bill takes a better path, helping not just people with disabilities, but our hardworking small business owners.”

    This bill is endorsed by Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA). Full bill text is available here.

  33. More Greyhounds May Need Homes if Florida Bans Racing

     

    By Yasmine Jumaa, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND, Va. — Greyhound rescue organizations in Virginia and elsewhere may see an influx of dogs needing adoption if Florida decides to ban greyhound racing.

    Florida’s Constitution Revision Commission is considering putting such a ban on a statewide ballot in November. Florida has 12 greyhound racing tracks.

    If voters approve the constitutional amendment, Florida would “phase out the racing over the next several years,” said Mark Lane, president of James River Greyhounds, a nonprofit dog-adoption organization, and Greyt Love Retirement, a foster shelter for retired greyhounds awaiting adoption.

    Lane said the constitutional amendment being considered in Florida doesn’t address the future of retired racers and “finding a home for the vast number of racing greyhounds that would be without a career.”

    Early Life and Racing

    Kristen Avent, foster coordinator for James River Greyhounds, said the race dogs are not inhumanely taken from their families to immediately start training.

    “Basically, from birth, they’re with their littermates and their mama,” Avent said. “Then, when they go to their kennels, they have all the dogs with them and they have the trainers there.”

    James River Greyhounds has formed relationships with racetracks in Alabama and Florida. The organization arranges foster and adoptive homes when racing greyhounds from those tracks are retired.

    “We’ve been down to the racetrack facilities in Birmingham, Alabama, and Daytona, Florida. The dogs are well taken care of,” Avent said. “The people at the track absolutely love them, they have dog treats for them and play with them — that sort of thing.”

    Florida state Sen. Tom Lee, a member of the Constitution Revision Commission, said many racing greyhounds “live in inhumane conditions” and face mistreatment. However, Avent said the dogs:

    ● Are let out into the yard at least four times per day

    ● Practice racing around the track

    ● Sometimes get to go on car rides around the facilities

    ● Eat well

    ● Have constant company

    Life After Racing

    Avent said greyhounds usually have a smooth transition after their racing days.

    “When you get them off the tracks when they retire, they’re sweet and easy to bring into a home because they’re already used to being handled by people,” Avent said.

    Greyhounds are made available for adoption as early as 21 months old. But ultimately, the determinant is their racing ability, or lack thereof.

    “When you bring them into a house, you just have to teach them, sometimes, how to use steps,” Avent said. “Then they just have to learn about furniture and things like that. But they learn very quickly, and they’re extremely loving. They love to be with you.”

    Why Greyhounds?

    “When deciding what type of dog that I wanted to adopt, I came across the retired racing greyhound breed and found them to be extremely laid-back, awesome personality and a very regal breed overall,” Lane said. “Once I adopted my first, the rest has been history, and I don’t regret it at all.”

    Avent said the dogs’ sweet disposition and gentle nature won her over.

    “They’re very affectionate, are eager to go anywhere you want to go — they want to be with you,” she said.

    Lane said among his favorite greyhound mannerisms and attributes are:

    ● The greyhound roo, a sound they make that is a mix of barks, grunts and whines

    ● Their teeth chattering

    ● Their relaxed demeanor. Lane said a greyhound is “a 45-mph couch potato” that sleeps for most of the day.

    Greyhound Adoption

    “The importance of greyhound adoption is that once these athletes are finished their careers, they make awesome pets,” Lane said. “Adoption groups all over the U.S. and Canada fill the need to find appropriate retirement homes for these wonderful retired racing greyhounds.”

    Lane started Greyt Love Retirement for two main reasons.

    “The first was that I wanted to build a facility to be able to bring more retired racing greyhounds to the Richmond area to continue to educate about, advocate for and adopt out the retired racing greyhound,” he said. “The second was a realization that some potential applicants wanted to touch, feel and connect with their new family member, and JRG (James River Greyhounds) could not facilitate that request without having a foster shelter with potential available hounds.”

    Besides the two groups headed by Lane, there is an organization called Around Town Hounds, which holds monthly walks and other events for members of the Richmond greyhound community.

    “I have found that once you adopt a greyhound, you are now involved with a tighter knit community of dog owners,” Lane said. “As adopters, we rely on each other for dog sitting, being a knowledge bank of questions and answers, playdates and general camaraderie.”

  34. Legislators, Advocates Show Support for Medicaid Expansion

  35. Panel Discusses Solutions to ‘Bipartisan Problem’ of Gerrymandering

    By Zach Joachim, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – Leading redistricting reform advocates and Virginia Commonwealth University students explored ways to end gerrymandering at a panel discussion hosted by the VCU Political Science Department.

    “Redistricting in Virginia: A Bipartisan Problem” brought together students and experts to discuss the practice in which legislators draw political districts with partisan intent. Panelists expressed optimism regarding the prospects of redistricting reform in Virginia and around the country.

    Brian Cannon, executive director of OneVirginia2021, the commonwealth’s leading redistricting reform group, said the current process for redrawing legislative districts lacks transparency.

    “It’s like sausage making, but worse, as to how they get these districts. Some of the lines are just abstract works of art that should be in the ICA,” Cannon said, referring to VCU’s new Institute for Contemporary Art.

    Dr. John Aughenbaugh, a professor in the VCU Political Science Department, said the U.S. Constitution is not specific about redistricting, and that is the root cause of gerrymandering. The Constitution’s “time, place and manner clause,” Aughenbaugh said, gives states the power to determine election logistics. The panelists agreed that this is the foundational cause of traditional partisan redistricting practices commonly referred to as gerrymandering.

    But Cannon argued the constitutional ambiguity can be employed to end the same practice it fostered.

    “What works for redistricting in Iowa doesn’t work in California and might not work in Ohio. We can learn from all of them to improve redistricting in Virginia,” Cannon said. He said the Constitution “gives us the laboratory of democracy the states are supposed to be.”

    This state-by-state approach to tackling gerrymandering has prompted a national climate in which states are looking to the courts for answers. Pending cases before the U.S. Supreme Court could mandate anti-gerrymandering legislation in states such as Colorado. Cannon said cases such as Bethune-Hill in Virginia, which alleges district lines were drawn based on racial demographics, could come down “any day now” and expedite the process.

    Participants in Thursday’s panel discussed possible solutions to gerrymandering, such as having an independent commission draw political boundaries. But Sen. Siobhan Dunnavant, R-Henrico, said the solutions many reform advocates seek may simply not exist.

    “This is complicated, and there is no perfect answer, or else we’d already be there,” Dunnavant said. “If you get voices in the room so that there’s transparency and accountability, that’s the best we can do.”

    The panelists urged redistricting reform advocates to conceptualize solutions as approaches and principles in drawing districts, rather than logistical absolutes. Del. Lashrecse Aird, D-Petersburg, emphasized trust and transparency as foundational principles for reforming the redistricting process.

    “Trust among the people we represent is extremely important,” Aird said. “Right now they don’t trust that the process includes things like transparency, or the removal of the ‘sausage making.’”

    In addition to a collective insistence that a principled approach is the answer, Aird and the other panelists considered the establishment of independent commissions as a viable end goal for redistricting advocates to look toward.

    “If moving to an independent structure actually builds that trust among the people we represent, it seems like that would be the thing to do,” Aird said.

    The panelists went on to caution those in attendance about setting too much store in the idea of independence and nonpartisanship in the redistricting process. In an inherently political process, there will always be bias, they said.

    “You’re not going to get rid of politics. We’re deciding who gets to vote in what jurisdiction,” Aughenbaugh said. “That’s a fundamental element of almost any definition of democratic politics – who gets to hold whom accountable.”

    The panelists agreed that any hopes for an absolute solution would be idealistic. Rather, they emphasized the need for institutional accountability and transparency between voters and their representatives in a process long devoid of such principles.

    “You want the rules to reflect our communities,” Cannon said. “Some will be blue, some red, some a shade of purple. But what’s important is that the communities are making the decisions.”

    Dunnavant added, “There will never be a redistricting map that does not get contested. And so the conversation is a little unrealistic to think we can be

    ​​

    proscriptive enough in law to create something that everyone can agree on.”

  36. Nonprofit Helps Virginia Maintain Lowest Recidivism Rate

    By Thomas Jett, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND — Over the past 14 years, Richard Walker went from dodging incarceration to running a volunteer organization aimed at helping other ex-offenders stay clean and out of prison. The efforts of groups like his are one reason Virginia has the nation’s lowest recidivism — or reoffense — rate for former inmates, state officials say.

    The story of Bridging the Gap in Virginia began more than a decade ago.

    “I had a substance abuse problem back then; this was in 2004,” Walker said. “I was a fugitive of justice from Henrico County. They arrested me at 2 o’clock in the morning, and I’m hitting golf balls into a quarry in Prince George County after being on a two-day crack binge.”

    After making bail at Riverside Regional Jail, Walker absconded to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he was arrested for writing fraudulent checks.

    Walker served time at a Virginia Department of Corrections camp in Halifax County. After re-entering society, he found that his criminal record kept him from landing jobs offered through the Richmond Career Advancement Center. Ultimately, he found work selling cars. 

    "That was short-lived because I made good money and I hadn’t dealt with my drug problem,” Walker said. “I ended up going into treatment in 2006, and I haven’t looked back since.”

    Within three years, Walker created a job for himself.

    “We started in 2009 as a direct result of my incarceration,” Walker said. “I started Bridging the Gap in Virginia because I knew there were people with less experience, less credentials than I had, that were having a challenge in Virginia. When I found out the legislation and the laws in Virginia, it just motivated me to make changes.”

    Charlotte Gomer, the public information officer for Attorney General Mark Herring, said re-entry programs like Walker’s are valuable resources for ex-offenders.

    “Re-entry services have been proven to reduce crime, strengthen communities and ... can reduce violent reoffending by as much as 83 percent,” Gomer said. “The attorney general has made it a real priority to support re-entry, which is why he hired Virginia’s first full-time local jail re-entry coordinator to start and strengthen programs around the commonwealth.”

    The efforts of Herring’s office and groups like Bridging the Gap in Virginia seem to be working. For the past two years, Virginia’s re-incarceration rate has been the lowest in the country among states for which data was available,according to the governor’s office.

    About 22 percent of inmates released from the state’s prisons and jails end up re-incarcerated within three years. Virginia’s recidivism rate has fallen a full percentage point since the previous year. It’s the lowest among the 45 states that report three-year incarceration rates for felons. Nationally, more than two-thirds of convicted criminals reoffended in the past three years, according to the National Institute of Justice. 

    Gainful employment is the key to helping ex-offenders re-enter society — and that is the main focus of Bridging the Gap in Virginia. Lawrence Bibbs III can vouch for that. The nonprofit helped him after he was released from prison on Aug. 29 after 30 years of incarceration.

    “Since I’ve dealt with Bridging the Gap, each person has been a specialist in knowing how to focus your skill set into a specific area,” said Bibbs, who works for Amazon and owns a bricklaying company. “This situation where people are saying they can’t get a job — you just didn’t go to the right specialist that could employ you.”

    Walker has several legislative allies. He has worked with Del. Delores McQuinn and Sen. Jennifer McClellan, both of Richmond, on issues pertaining to re-entry and criminal justice in general.

    “I have always tried to work collaboratively with some organization or group to do that — looking at how do we provide a service to returning citizens so that there is a certain quality of life that they can expect as they exit the prison system,” McQuinn said.

    McClellan said re-entry programs help not only ex-offenders but also the community.

    “I support any efforts that remove barriers for returning felons resuming their lives,” McClellan said. “Once you get out of jail, if you can’t get a job, you’re more likely to do something to cause yourself to go back to jail.”

    Walker, McQuinn and McClellan are behind legislation enabling former felons to find employment more easily.

    The “Ban the Box” proposal seeks to remove questions about arrests and convictions from employment applications. In 2015, then-Gov. Terry McAuliffe issued an executive order that banned the box on state government applications.

    During the General Assembly’s 2018 session, attempts to make that executive order a state law failed, although one bill cleared the Senate before dying in the House.

    Even though there’s no state law, Walker said 16 cities and counties in Virginia have “banned the box” for ex-offenders.

    “They have more of an opportunity to get a one-on-one interview with potential employers in various cities for city employment through ‘Ban the Box,’” Walker said. “People want to work; they don’t want to sit in squalor.”

    Walker’s efforts extend beyond legislative changes. His organization also helps ex-convicts rebuild their lives through drug treatment, housing referrals and other services.

    “God didn’t put me in here for me to give up, so I’m going to keep on doing what I do, believing that that million-dollar grant is sitting there waiting on me,” Walker said. 

  37. Customized, Job-Driven Training

    Businesses across the Commonwealth of Virginia, including right here in the Southside region, continue to report a skills mismatch between job seekers and open positions. Skilled workers, especially in information technology and advanced manufacturing, seem to be in short supply. Entrepreneurs often testify to the fact that nurturing a business is a challenging proposition, but when companies cannot find workers with the skills necessary to fill critical positions, business success can be even harder to achieve.

    At the same time, escalating college costs sometimes put higher education out of reach. Many young people and transitioning workers are looking for ways to prepare for well-paying careers without amassing heavy burdens of debt.

    The solution for growing businesses and the answer for the potential future workforce may be the same: apprenticeship programs. Apprenticeship is more than just assisting in a workplace, more than just on-the-job training. Registered apprenticeship programs provide a formal plan that combines at-work elements with rigorous classroom preparation and mentoring. They culminate in a certification that the graduate is fully prepared, experienced, and job-ready.

    Traditionally, U.S. apprenticeships have focused on skilled trades, but recent innovations and policy changes are bringing the model to other industries. Penny Pritzker, former U.S. Secretary of Commerce explains that “by building regional partnerships with education, workforce, and social service institutions, businesses and government can create training programs that connect workers with middle class careers.” For diverse companies, she notes that “developing talent through apprenticeships results in a more dedicated, flexible, loyal workforce that is poised to rise into leadership positions and make the companies more competitive.”

    Southside Virginia Community College is proud to be able to bring these benefits to the communities of south-central Virginia. Through ApprenticeVA, a collaborative effort among four community college partners, we can help businesses leverage the resources needed to create registered apprenticeship programs and customize them to meet specific training requirements.

    Rob Deutsch, Director of Human Resources at Global Safety Textile acknowledges, “In today’s current economy, hiring qualified maintenance mechanics is a challenge.” His company is one among several with whom SVCC has worked to establish registered apprenticeship programs. Others include Beach Mold and Tool, Toll Brothers, Huber Woodproducts, Presto Products, and Microsoft.

    At SVCC, more than 40 apprentices are currently registered and working on the job and in the classroom. They will graduate with industry-recognized credentials in fields such as industrial maintenance and network technician.

    Apprenticeship programs have a proven track record and are well situated to meet 21st century needs. If your business would like more information about how it can benefit from a registered apprenticeship program, contact SVCC’s Apprenticeship Coordinator, Kelly Arnold at Kelly.arnold@southside.edu or call 434-579-7260.

    Dr. Al Roberts is president of Southside Virginia Community College, an institution of higher learning that provides a wide variety of education opportunities to a diverse student population within a service area that spans ten counties and the city of Emporia. He can be reached via email at al.roberts@southside.edu.

  38. Virginia Governor Declares April as Women and Girls’ Wellness Month

    By Sophia Belletti, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – Eating disorders, stress, alcoholism, addiction and depression are leading medical problems affecting women and girls, but they are often forgotten because of the way breast cancer and intimate partner violence are highlighted with dedicated months.

    Miriam Bender, chair of the group Women’s Health Virginia, commends the efforts of what she calls the “disease organizations.” But Bender said there is a need to raise awareness about the overall well-being of women and girls. So more than 15 years ago, Bender helped establish April as Women and Girls’ Wellness Month.

    “A lot of days and weeks and months celebrate awareness of diseases, and a lot of issues don’t get highlighted in those individualized months,” Bender said. “They always focus on disease prevention or a problem instead of talking more positively about wellness.”

    In July 2002, Bender and other activists pitched Women and Girls’ Wellness Month to 50 health organizations, women’s organizations and other groups.

    “It was overwhelmingly positively received,” Bender said. “It was in July, and I thought who was going to show up in the middle of July – and the room was full.”

    On Thursday, Gov. Ralph Northam, like his predecessors, signed a proclamation recognizing April as Women and Girls’ Wellness Month.

    “It’s an important day and month,” Northam said at a ceremony at the MathScience Innovation Center in Richmond. “We have declared the entire month of April so that we can recognize the important contributions girls and women make to our commonwealth and to help you all keep healthy and get a good education and a good job.”

    The ceremony was attended by fifth- through eighth-grade female students from the MathScience Innovation Center. Northam encouraged them to get involved, pointing to the pay gap and the lack of women in health care, policy and STEM-related fields.

    “That’s why all the girls and the women need to stand up and say, ‘Enough is enough – I want to be equal to everyone else,’” Northam said.

    Bender said that once people and organizations bought into the idea of Women and Girls’ Wellness Month., they decided it would best be celebrated in April.

    “We wanted to do it at a time when organizations who served women and girls could do something. And if it’s too close to the end of the school year, girls’ groups and university groups wouldn’t be involved,” Bender said.

    The MathScience Innovation Center was chosen as the location of the proclamation signing to encourage young girls to enter STEM fields.

    “We know that health and wellness are tied to the physical attributes of the body, but they’re also tied to the wellness of the spirit and the soul and how we persevere, overcome adversity and how we deal with trauma,” said Hollee Freeman, executive director at the center.

    The governor was joined Thursday by Virginia first lady Pam Northam, Sen. Jennifer McClellan of Richmond and Virginia Secretary of the Commonwealth Kelly Thomasson.

  39. Richmond’s New Art Gallery Raises ‘Important but Difficult Topics’


    The Mending Project by Lee Mingwei is an interactive project where visitor's can bring their clothes to get stitched and pinned to the wall. (CNS photo by Katrina Tilbury)

    Curtis Talles Santiago's "Infinity Series" uses jewelry boxes to depect scenes of violent injustice. (CNA photo by Katrini Tilbury

    By Chelsea Jackson and Siona Peterous, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – With an inaugural exhibit that challenges the city’s Confederate history and racial divide, Virginia Commonwealth University will open its Institute for Contemporary Art next week, and it’s generating excitement not only in Richmond but also in national and international art communities.

    The 41,000-square-feet Markel Center, where the ICA is housed, cost $41 million and sits at the corner of Broad and Belvidere streets – the city’s busiest intersection, with an estimated 60,000 cars passing by every day. The location signifies the impact that officials hope the institution brings to Richmond.

    The city’s only stand-alone gallery of contemporary art, which will open to the public April 21, sits between VCU’s Monroe Park Campus and the historic Jackson Ward community – a point that for decades was the divide between black Richmond and white Richmond in the one-time capital of the Confederacy.

    Joe Seipel, the interim director of the ICA, said the idea for the project has been around for decades. Seipel and the ICA team say they have worked to ensure that everyone feels welcome to come enjoy the art gallery, a goal he hopes to accomplish by keeping admission free.

    During a press preview Thursday, New York-based architect Steven Holl said he looked to Richmond’s deep and complicated history for inspiration and incorporated certain aspects to bridge a gap between the growing presence of VCU and the larger Richmond community. Holl’s firm, known for specializing in educational and cultural projects, was chosen from more than 60 that submitted proposals for the building.

    “This may be one of my favorite buildings I’ve been working on because it makes an urban statement, because there is a relationship between the campus and the city, and it also is a statement on the concept of time,” Holl said.

    The relationship among time, space and race relation was a strong influence on the ICA’s opening exhibit, “Declaration,” said the institute’s chief curator, Stephanie Smith. She conceived the idea with Lisa Freiman, Seipel’s predecessor.

    “After the 2016 presidential elections, myself and Lisa Freiman decided to reshape the ICA’s inaugural exhibition given the climate of our country,” Smith said. “We were inspired to create a project that we would speak and give a platform to a diverse group of artists whose works reflect currents in contemporary arts but also catalyze change, convene people across the divide and to speak to important but often difficult topics that are relevant here as well as our nation more broadly.”

    Freiman abruptly stepped down as the institute’s director in January after five years of overseeing the planning phases of the project. In a press release at the time, Freiman stated it was time for her to resume other projects she had put on hold. Despite her absence, Smith continued with the vision that created “Declaration.”

    The exhibit includes projects from more than 30 artists, many of whom were commissioned by the ICA and whose work speaks to social issues of the environment, gender inequality, race and sexuality. “Declaration” features a range of mixed media platforms – from audio and film to painting and graphic design.

    Expanding on one of his previous exhibits, Paul Rucker, the ICA’s artist in residence, created “Storm in The Time of Shelter” for the ICA. It features Ku Klux Klan robes in urban and contemporary fashions. The life-size figurines wear KKK robes made of colorful fabrics such as African prints and various shades of camouflage.

    On the opposite end on the first floor is a massive wall featuring a series of individual screen prints. The piece is the work of Amos Paul Kennedy Jr. and was created with the collaboration of local barbershops and salons. Each print is a quote from a conversation overheard in the shops, capturing the role these spaces play in the city’s black neighborhoods.

    The diversity of “Declaration” reflects VCU President Michael Rao’s hope that the ICA will make the city an international destination.

    “We hope to become through VCUs Institute of Contemporary Art a world-class cultural hub,” Rao said. He said the ICA will help “advance the arts and invoke human senses like they have never been invoked before.”

  40. 200 Rally for Gun Rights at State Capitol

    The crowd at Saturday's gun rights rally. (CNS photo by Katrina Tilbury)

     

    By Katrina Tilbury and DeForrest Ballou, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – About 200 people, some with handguns on their hips and others with rifles slung across their backs, gathered on the grounds of the Virginia Capitol on Saturday for a rally in support of the Second Amendment.

    The peaceful crowd assembled at the Bell Tower at Capitol Square with the goal of defending their rights to self-defense and educating the public about the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The rally quickly turned political when Republican candidates Ryan McAdams, Corey Stewart and E.W. Jackson took the stage.

    “We’re here today because we honor the Constitution and the God-given liberties and rights that have been endowed to us by our creator,” said McAdams, who is running for the 4th Congressional District seat currently held by Democrat A. Donald McEachin of Richmond. “Those same God-given rights are under assault, and they’re being threatened.”

    Stewart, who is vying with Jackson and state Del. Nick Freitas for the GOP nomination for the U.S. Senate, spoke after McAdams. He cited a recent op-ed by former U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens that argued that the Second Amendment should be repealed.

    Stewart, who hopes to take on Democratic U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, said every time a mass shooting occurs, gun control advocates blame law-abiding Americans, conservatives and President Donald Trump. Stewart said that gun-owning Republicans are also heartbroken when shootings happen and that they are the ones who want to protect their families.

    “Unlike the left, who actually enjoys the fact that these tragedies happen because it plays into their narrative. It plays into what they are trying to do,” Stewart said. “They don’t honor life, folks. They disparage it.”

    One of the main arguments made by the rally organizers, politicians and speakers was that the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. Critics dispute this. They point to a Harvard study of the National Crime Victimization Survey showing that fewer than 1 percent of victims defended themselves with a gun between 2007 and 2011.

    Stewart said he opposes any compromise on Second Amendment rights; however, he said he supports enforcing existing laws against violent felons, the mentally ill and the potentially dangerous receiving guns.

    Stewart, who chairs the Prince William County Board of Supervisors, said he plans to place retired police officers in all of the county’s schools in the coming months.

    McAdams and Jackson also said they want to focus on enforcing existing gun laws. They noted that the FBI was notified in advance that Nikolas Cruz posed a threat, but failed to act. Cruz has been charged with the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in February.

    “That young man who killed those 17 people should never have been allowed to get those weapons because he was clearly mentally ill and people knew about it even so much as to call the FBI about him,” said Jackson, a minister from Chesapeake.

    Joe Savarese, who attended Saturday’s rally, agreed that the Second Amendment should not be compromised. He said gun control advocates are twisting the words of America’s Founding Fathers.

    “They’re putting a 21st-century mindset, No. 1, into 18th-century men, and then they’re not reading their words as they were intended to be read. They meant exactly what they were saying. They weren’t offering opinion,” Savarese said.

    The event was organized by the National Constitutional Coalition of Patriotic Americans. Richmond Capitol Police Public Information Officer Joe Macenka said authorities weren’t expecting any trouble from the crowd.

  41. Ethel Mae Prince Allen

    Ethel Mae Prince Allen, 80, widow of Nathan Allen, passed away Friday, April 13. She was also preceded in death by brothers, James Prince and Billy “Buck” Prince; and sisters, Mag Banner, Shirley Allen and Jean Veliky.

    Mrs. Allen is survived by two sons, Babe Allen and wife, Cindy, David Allen and wife, Sherri; three grandchildren, Brian Allen, Brett Allen and fiancée, Lacey, and Logan Whitley; two sisters, Louise Phillips and Bernice Phillips; a brother, “Preacher” Prince and wife, Nellie and a number of nieces and nephews.

    The funeral service will be held 2 p.m. Monday, April 16 at Faith Baptist Church where the family will receive friends one hour prior to the service. Interment will follow at Mt. Vernon Baptist Church.

    Floral tributes are welcomed or memorial contributions may be made to Faith Baptist Church, 951 W. Atlantic St, Emporia, Virginia 23847.

    Online condolences may be shared with the family at www.owenfh.com.

  42. WARNER, KAINE CALL FOR FEDERAL INVESTMENT IN LOCAL PUBLIC SAFETY AND COMMUNITY POLICING

    ~ Senators ask appropriators to fund federal program that helps local law enforcement bolster community policing ~

    WASHINGTON — U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) joined a group of Senators in a letter to congressional appropriators requesting a minimum of $225.5 million in federal funding for the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Hiring Program to help local law enforcement bolster community policing efforts. While February’s bipartisan budget agreement established how much money should be provided for local law enforcement efforts, leaders of congressional appropriation committees are ultimately in charge of deciding how that funding is allocated. The Senators requested at least the same level of federal funding as was appropriated for COPS in the last fiscal year.

    “The COPS Hiring program represents a fiscally responsible solution to ensure that our communities remain safe….When officers establish a presence on their patrols using community policing principles, they can develop positive relationships with the communities they serve.  In turn, these relationships increase law enforcement’s ability to solve local crimes and resolve public safety problems,” the Senators wrote.  “This program plays an essential role in our federal government’s support for local law enforcement and should therefore receive the highest possible level of funding.”

    The COPS program was designed to advance public safety by addressing the full-time officer needs of state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies.  COPS provides funds directly to law enforcement agencies to hire new and/or rehire career law officers, and to increase crime prevention efforts.

    Since its inception, the COPS program has been responsible for putting 129,000 additional police officers on the job in 13,000 local communities across the country, including 48 police officers in Virginia in the last five years alone.  

    The program has deep support among major law enforcement organizations, including the National Association of Police Organizations, Fraternal Order of Police, Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, and the Major Cities Chiefs Association.  

    Other Senators joining Sens. Warner and Kaine in signing the letter include Sens. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Tom Carper (D-DE), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Tom Udall (D-NM), Angus King (I-ME), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Ed Markey (D-MA), Jack Reed (D-RI), Gary Peters (D-MI), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Chris Coons (D-DE), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Tina Smith (D-MN), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Bob Casey (D-PA), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Jon Tester (D-MT), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Doug Jones (D-AL), Ben Cardin (D-MD), and Bernie Sanders (I-VT).

    Full text of the letter is available here and below:

    Dear Senator Moran and Senator Shaheen:

    As you consider funding levels for Fiscal Year 2019, we urge you to fund the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Hiring Program at a minimum of $225.5 million, the amount appropriated for the program in FY 2018.  This program plays an essential role in our federal government’s support for local law enforcement and should therefore receive the highest possible level of funding.

    The COPS Hiring program represents a fiscally responsible solution to ensure that our communities remain safe; the Brookings Institution found it to be “one of the most cost-effective options available for fighting crime.” When officers establish a presence on their patrols using community policing principles, they can develop positive relationships with the communities they serve.  In turn, these relationships increase law enforcement’s ability to solve local crimes and resolve public safety problems.  This proactive approach to policing prevents crime from occurring, saving taxpayers the high societal costs associated with crime, incarceration, and services for victims.

    Since its creation, the COPS Office has assisted over 13,000 of the nation’s 16,000 jurisdictions with over $14 billion in funding to hire approximately 129,000 additional officers. In FY 2017, the COPS Hiring Program granted over $98 million to 179 law enforcement agencies to hire, preserve, or rehire 802 full-time law enforcement officers.  There were heightened restrictions for funding requests in FY 2017, leading many communities to forego applications, but still over 3,000 officers were requested, representing close to $410 million in funding. The $225.5 million requested is a small fraction of the $1 billion appropriated by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and less than the $298 million previously appropriated in FY 2010.

    We are supported in this request by law enforcement organizations including the National Association of Police Organizations, Fraternal Order of Police, Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, and the Major Cities Chiefs Association.  We appreciate the hard work and leadership that you have shown on these issues. Ongoing crime and violence in our cities continue to demonstrate the vital need for increased police protection in our communities.  Therefore, as you determine the funding levels for this program, we ask that you support funding for the COPS Hiring Program at the highest possible level.

    Thank you for your consideration of this request.

    Sincerely,

  43. Celebrate SVCC During Community College Month

    Once again, Virginia’s Community Colleges are marking national Community College Awareness Month (CCAM) in April designed to raise awareness of the benefits of attending one of our 23 community colleges.  Southside Virginia Community College has been part of the community since 1970 and is still the best deal around. 

    In honor of the Community College celebration, here are a few tips to remember. 

    Top 5 Ways to Save Money on Your Bachelor’s Degree
    Student debt has reached crisis levels in this country. The typical bachelor’s degree graduate in Virginia leaves college nearly $30,000 in debt. That burden is forcing people to wait longer to get married, buy a home, and even retire. So why would anyone take on more debt than necessary?

    Below are five guaranteed ways to save money while pursuing your bachelor’s degree in Virginia.

    1. Know what you really want to do: There’s nothing wrong with changing majors while in college. Lots of people do it. But it means you’re going to pay for classes that you won’t serve you in the long run. Take the free assessment tests on the Virginia Education Wizard. They can help you decide before ever spending the first tuition dollar.
    2. Start college while you’re still in high school: Sign up for Dual Enrollmentclasses which allow you to take college-level classes while still in high school, often at a reduced price. Ask your school counselor or Career Coach about it. Use these credits to jump-start your pursuit of an associate degree at a community college.
    3. Earn your associate degree first: Thanks to an amazing collection of Guaranteed Transfer Agreements, you can earn an associate degree at a community college first, which guarantees placement as a junior at one of more than 30 Virginia universities. Community college tuition and fees are only about one-third of what you'll pay at a public university.
    4. Get free money from the state to attend a university: Virginia’s Two-Year College Transfer Grant Programwill give you up to $3,000 a year, for two years, at a university to finish your bachelor’s degree. That’s FREE money! But, you should graduate from a community college first.
    5. Always take 15 credits every semester: No matter where you go to college, go full-time, which means 15 credit hours every semester. Time is money.

    If you follow all five of these steps, you will save at least $52,000 on the cost of that shiny new bachelor’s degree. That's about one-and-a-half times the average student debt load of a graduate in Virginia, and one more way to show that you’re smarter already.

    For information, www.southside.edu

  44. STUDENT OF THE MONTH KARLY HALL BLACKWELL MARCH 2018

    Brunswick Academy is pleased to announce that Karly Hall Blackwell has been chosen the March 2018 Student of the Month.  Karly, a senior, is the daughter of Kevin (Class of 1975) and Terri Blackwell of Dolphin.  She has two sisters, MacKenzie (BA Class of 2011) and Kelly (BA Class of 2013). 

    Karly is in the Brunswick Academy Honors Program, which is the most rigourous and challenging program of studies.  This year she has been taking dual-enrollment classes at Southside Virginia Community College, as well as her upper-school classes at Brunswick Academy. 

    Regarding academics, she is a member of National Honor Society (Treasurer) and is the Class of 2018 Treasurer.  She has also been a member of the Student Council Organization, Brunswick Academy Honor Council and Spanish Club. 

    Throughout her years of attending Brunswick Academy, Karly has participated in athletics, both at the JJV, Junior Varsity and Varsity levels.  She has been a member of the Volleyball team and the JV and Varsity Cheerleading Squad.  She has been a Captain of the Cheerleading Squad and has earned the Most Valuable player award and The Coach’s Award.  Karly has also been a member of the JV and Varsity Softball teams and was awarded All Academic. 

    Karly currently works at Trinity Custom Apparel in South Hill and has been of member of the Appalachian Service Project at her local church.  She enjoys spending time with her family and friends at the Rappahannock River in her spare time. 

    She has been accepted to James Madison University, Virginia Tech, Radford University and Coastal Carolina University.  She plans to major in Hospitality and Tourism Management.

    CONGRATULATIONS,WAY TO GO KARLY!

  45. Making Prom Special at Jackson-Feild

    At high schools across the country, May means “Prom,” and Jackson Feild’s Gwaltney School is no exception.

    Each year well in advance of prom, Tod Balsbaugh and Jackson-Feild’s Office of Advancement reaches out to donors and community partners to literally outfit the boys and girls on campus for this special event.

    The Short Pump Rotary Club recently conducted a Blue Blazer Drive and collected enough very-gently-used blazers for every high school boy on campus. Balsbaugh was honored to attend the club’s April meeting and receive this generous donation.

    Since 2006, the Fairy Godmother Program at The Collegiate School in Richmond has been providing prom dresses, shoes, accessories and an on-campus personal shopping event for the girls at Jackson-Feild. Over the years, more than 400 girls have experienced the fun and excitement of choosing a dress and accessories for prom.

    This year’s prom at Jackson-Feild will be held on May 18 and will feature a new special event. Members of Jackson-Feild’s Young Professionals Organization will host a special pre-prom dinner to help make the evening a night the boys and girls will remember for life.

    Jackson-Feild Behavioral Health Services treats children with severe mental health and/or substance use disorders. If your child needs help, don’t hesitate to call 434-634-3217.

  46. Job Fair Thursday!

    THE GEO GROUP (LAWRENCEVILLE) IS SEEKING CORRECTIONAL OFFICERS, LPN, SERGEANT OF CORRECTIONS AND A VOCATIONAL INSTRUCTOR (ELECTRICAL).

    JOB FAIR WILL BE HELD AT THE VIRGINIA WORKFORCE CENTER
    LOCATED AT 1300 GREENSVILLE COUNTY CIRCLE
    SUITE C, ROOM 105
    EMPORIA, VIRGINIA ON
    APRIL 12TH  10AM - 2PM

  47. KAINE, YOUNG, JONES INTRODUCE BIPARTISAN BILL TO ENSURE ADDICTION RECOVERY PROGRAMS INCLUDE JOB TRAINING

    WASHINGTON, D.C.—Today, U.S. Senators Tim Kaine (D-VA), Todd Young (R-IN), and Doug Jones (D-AL), members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, introduced the Jobs Plus Recovery Act to incorporate job training into drug addiction recovery programs. The bipartisan legislation would establish a pilot program that gives individuals impacted by opioid addiction or substance use disorders access to job training and support services to aid in their recovery and lower their likelihood of relapse. Research has shown that having consistent work improves the likelihood that addiction treatment will be successful. The pilot program allows local communities to create partnerships between substance use disorder treatment and recovery providers, as well as job services and training providers. The legislation will help communities in Virginia and across the country where the opioid crisis has had severe consequences on the economy and local workforce.

    “The substance abuse epidemic has had a devastating effect on communities across the country, and a lack of job opportunity has exacerbated this crisis,” Kaine said. “We must find a way to address this crisis and to help those who are trying to get back on their feet, stay there. By ensuring that job training is a part of the recovery process, we are investing in better outcomes, which will have a positive impact on the economy, employers, and entire communities.”

    “During one of my recent Fair Shot Agenda roundtables, I heard from an Indiana plastics manufacturing firm that took a chance by hiring a Hoosier who had struggled with addiction issues. This week, that same Hoosier is graduating from drug treatment court and serves as a valuable employee. With the Jobs Plus Recovery Act, we can replicate this success story across Indiana and the entire country. This legislation would create pilot programs that help individuals struggling with opioid addition access employment opportunities. Our goal is to give businesses the tools needed to positively impact addiction treatment outcomes, and to change how the nation treats individuals with addiction issues so that they can turn their lives around and meaningfully contribute to the economy,” said Young.

    “Across the country and in Alabama, the opioid epidemic has devastated so many families, communities, and local economies. When folks are working hard to recover from opioid addiction, we should make sure they have the support they need to be successful and re-enter their communities fully. Through this job-training initiative, we are taking steps to help them thrive in recovery and break the dangerous cycle of addiction,” Jones said.

    In 2014, Congress passed Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), which provides job training assistance to individuals with a barrier to employment. The Jobs Plus Recovery Act would allow programs funded through WIOA to provide targeted support services to individuals with substance use disorders and consider their needs as part of state and local strategic planning processes to tackle the opioid epidemic.  It would also allow community workforce entities to educate employers about how to hire and retain employees with a history of substance use disorders. This pilot program would be the first to integrate job skills training with addiction treatment and recovery. The program would provide supportive services to ensure participant success in work-based learning that would be divided between three stages: pre-employment, early employment, and continuing employment, which may include peer recovery support services, networking and mentorship opportunities, and other wraparound services.

    “This legislation, which NAWB is proud to endorse, will play an important role in combatting America’s opioid epidemic. It builds on the well-established link between recovery and job security. Those suffering from addiction are often in need of opportunities and purpose. This aligns with NAWB’s forty-year history of delivering on economic opportunity for Americans through skills training and job placement. We are partners in the effort to help those affected by this opioid crisis find their purpose through the workforce,” CEO of the National Association of Workforce Boards Richard Painter said.

    "Virginia Career Works of the Blue Ridge Region is proud to support the Jobs Plus Recovery Act of 2018. While our region can proclaim strong economic growth and historically low unemployment, opioid abuse is a significant barrier for people still seeking employment or those that have given up hope.  This legislation will make it easier for citizens to access needed addiction treatment, while also helping them create a path towards economic prosperity. It will also grow our workforce to meet the expanding employment needs or our businesses.  Local Workforce Development Boards will be a critical partner in providing hope and opportunity to those most affected by this crisis," Executive Director of Virginia Blue Ridge Works in Roanoke, VA Jake Gilmer said.

    Kaine has been a leader in the Senate both on efforts to address the opioid epidemic and to support workforce development programs that prepare Virginians for good-paying, in-demand jobs. In December, Kaine co-sponsored The International Narcotics Trafficking Emergency Response by Detecting Incoming Contraband with Technology (INTERDICT) Act to provide U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) tools including hi-tech chemical screening devices to help detect and interdict fentanyl and other illicit synthetic opioids. Kaine haspushed for funding to support health education initiatives to combat the opioid epidemic in vulnerable communities in Virginia. In October, Kaine introduced the Combating the Opioid Epidemic Act, which would invest $45 billion for prevention, detection, surveillance and treatment of opioids and opioid addiction. 

    The Jobs Plus Recovery Act is endorsed by the Association of Career and Technical Education (ACTE), Jobs for the Future (JFF), the National Skills Coalition (NSC), and the National Association of Workforce Boards (NAWB).

    Text of the Jobs Plus Recovery Act is available here.

  48. From Doughnuts to Dancing, ‘The Bachelorette’ Films in RVA Hot Spots

    A group of men participate in a group date at the Capitol where they debated why each of them would make the best partner for Becca. April/8 (Credit: Reality Steve)

     

    By Alexandra Sosik, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – The Bachelorette is in town and looking for love – and Richmonders love to look for her.

    Fans of “The Bachelorette” have been in a frenzy since photos of the hit ABC reality show filming in Richmond surfaced on social media over the weekend.

    Rebecca “Becca” Kufrin, the show’s current love interest, was spotted filming a one-on-one date at Sugar Shack Donuts on Lombardy Street on Saturday. The shop posted that it would be closed to the public from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

    “She seems super down-to-earth and the kind of person that would live in RVA in real life,” said Peyton Hannon, 23, who attended a taping of the ABC reality show on Monday night at the Carpenter Theatre in the Dominion Energy Center.

    Hannon said she and more than 1,000 other fans were told to arrive at the theater at 7:30 p.m., but Kufrin and contestant Leandro Dottavio arrived closer to midnight. The pair danced on a stage surrounded by fans as they were serenaded by Australian country music singer Morgan Evans.

    A Twitter account by the name of “TheBachelorTV” invited Virginia “Bachelorette” fans to participate in the show’s taping with a tweet on Thursday: “Virginia #bachelornation it’s your turn! Come on a date with Becca and her men this Sunday 4/8!! Email BachelorRSVP@gmail.com now to save your spot #thebachelorette.”

    Kufrin, 28, is originally from Minnesota. She was announced as the next bachelorette after unedited footage was televised showing bachelor Arie Luyendyk Jr. breaking up with her to pursue a relationship with runner-up Lauren Burnham.

    Reality Steve, a “Bachelor” blogger, officially tipped off fans that the cast and crew had arrived when he tweetedphotos of Kufrin and Chris Harrison, host of “The Bachelorette,” filming at the Quirk Hotel on Saturday.

    Kufrin was also spotted by fans several times on a private trolley ride around Richmond, making stops at the Veil Brewing Co. and the Edgar Allen Poe Museum.

    On Sunday, a group date was filmed at the Capitol, where a banner displayed “Beccalection 2018.”

    “The group date was essentially an election debate,” said “Bachelorette” fan and VCU nursing student Sarah Daniel.

    Daniel said Harrison, Becca and men dressed as Abraham Lincoln and George Washington asked the contestants questions to decide who would be the best partner for Becca.

    Harrison has been spotted by many fans trying to guess where he might pop up next.

    Melissa Hipolit, a reporter for CBS 6 News (WTVR), said she and her friends decided to eat dinner at Graffiato, an Italian restaurant next to the Quirk Hotel, hoping to catch a glimpse of the action. They never thought Harrison would walk through the doors.

    “We never expected to be sitting down to eat and have him literally sitting behind us,” Hipolit said.

    Sherri Zhang, who was with Hipolit, said she was surprised when Harrison initiated a conversation.

    “He saw my friend taking a pic of him, and when he walked by our table to be seated, he actually talked to us first,” Zhang said.

    Hipolit said Harrison asked them how the food was and even took an interest in their jobs. She said Harrison told her he watches the local news wherever he travels. “I told him I was a local news reporter, and then one of my promos came on the television and I pointed to it.”

    Season 14 of “The Bachelorette” premieres on May 28 on ABC. The Richmond episode is expected to air in July.

  49. Gov. Northam Signs Rear-Facing Car Seat Requirements into Law

    By Siona Peterous, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND — Beginning next year, Virginia will join more than a dozen states that prohibit children under the age of 2, or children who are below the manufacturer's suggested weight limit, to be placed in a forward-facing car seat.

    The new law, House Bill 708, which Gov. Ralph Northam signed last month, will go into effect July 1, 2019. It was introduced by Del. Eileen Filler-Corn, D-Fairfax, after she was approached by AAA about the issue.

    “I’m very proud to patron this bill because I have always worked on issues about public safety and kids’ safety,” Filler-Corn said. “How could I not introduce a bill that will save lives and protect our most vulnerable Virginians, our children?”

    According to Martha Meade, the public and government affairs manager for Virginia’s AAA’s Mid-Atlantic region, the association has lobbied for issues of public safety on the roads for decades.

    “This is an important change for Virginia because it is confusing for many folks who don’t know when the the right time is to switch their child to be forward-facing in vehicles,” Meade said. “All the major traffic safety organizations — AAA, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, National Highway Safety Administration and the Academy of Pediatrics — recommend a child stays rear-facing until age 2, or until they've reached the minimum weight and height requirement.”

    Filler-Corn said she was surprised, but not discouraged, by the intensity of the opposition to what she views as a “common-sense safety measure.” Critics of the bill argued that the government should not have a role in how parents choose to raise and protect their children.

    The bill went through several rounds of amendments before passing the House 77-23 and the Senate 23-17. Filler-Corn said she received bipartisan support. Sen. John Cosgrove, R-Chesapeake, and Sen Jennifer McClellan, D-Richmond, were “amazing and very supportive” advocates for the bill.

     “Everyone has the right to raise their children as they see fit, but this really is a safety measure statistically proven to work,” Filler-Corn said. “When I’m faced with opposition, I compare the enforcement of rear-facing child seats to the requirement of everyone having to wear a seat belt. It’s very similar, but one is focused on children who can’t make decisions to protect themselves.”

  50. Shirley Harrell Sledge Williams

    Shirley Harrell Sledge Williams, 83, passed away on Sunday, April 8, 2018. The daughter of Rufus and Sally Harrell, she was preceded in death by her husbands, Louis Sledge and Raymond Williams; her son, David Sledge and wife, Patsy; two sisters, Paige Gay and Lucy Wilson and two brothers, Rufus and Melvin Harrell.

    Shirley was born in Jarratt, Virginia. She spent most of her adult life in Emporia, where she was a faithful and beloved bus driver for the Greensville County School System for 25 years. Her Christian faith was central to her life and she was a member of the Emporia Assembly of God Church for many years.

    Mrs. Williams is survived by three sons, Jerry Sledge, Steve Sledge and wife, Betty Jo and Michael Sledge and wife, Ginny; a sister, Joyce Nowell; eight grandchildren; two great-grandchildren; two step-grandchildren; three step great-grandchildren; three step-great-great grandchildren and a number of nieces and nephews.

    The family will receive friends 5-7:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 12 at Owen Funeral Home, 303 S. Halifax Rd, Jarratt, Virginia. The funeral service will be held graveside 2 p.m. Thursday, April 13 at Greensville Memorial Cemetery.

    Online condolences may be shared with the family at www.owenfh.com.

  51. Why Be An Organ Donor?

    Community Out-Reach Education

    South Hill – Transplantation gives hope to thousands of people with organ failure.  Today, there are 115,000 men, women and children awaiting lifesaving organ transplants. What is organ donation and transplantation?  What organs and tissues can be transplanted? How can I become an organ donor?

    If you are seeking answers to questions like these you should attend April’s C.O.R.E. (Community Out-Reach Education) Program at VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital to learn about the life-saving benefits of organ and tissue donation.

    This FREE program will be on Tuesday, April 17th at 4:00 p.m. in the VCU Health CMH Education Center inside the new C.A.R.E. Building located at 1755 N. Mecklenburg Avenue in South Hill.

        

    Hannah Lee, MD and Dhiren Kumar, MD

    The speakers for the program with be Dr. Hannah Lee and Dr. Dhiren Kumar.  Dr. Lee is a practicing transplant hepatologist with VCU Health Hume-Lee Transplant Center in Richmond, VA. Dr. Lee graduated from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine. She completed a residency at New England Medical Center. Dr. Lee also specializes in Gastroenterology and Internal Medicine.  Dr. Kumar is a transplant nephrologist with VCU Health Hume-Lee Transplant Center. Dr. Kumar graduated from University of Virginia School of Medicine. He completed a residency and a fellowship at VCU Medical Center. Dr. Kumar also specializes in Internal Medicine.

    Reservations are not required for this program; however, they are recommended.  For more information or to register to attend, please call (434) 774-2550 or visit www.vcu-cmh.org.

  52. VSU Researchers Will Use $475,000 AFRI Grant To Study How to Make Crops More Resilient Under Climate Change

    Many crops are experiencing heat stress caused by rising global temperatures, which can result in lower crop yields. With the first 17 years of this century being the hottest on record since 1880 when modern recordkeeping began, staple crops are under increasing threat. Researchers at Virginia State University (VSU) are researching ways to help crops better tolerate extreme temperatures.

    Dr. Shuxin Ren and Dr. Guo-liang Jiang, researchers at VSU’s Agricultural Research Station (ARS), have been awarded a three-year, $475,000 grant from the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) program. AFRI is administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, the nation’s leading competitive grants program for agricultural sciences. The focus of this study is a potential heat stress tolerance gene derived from purslane, a unique plant species that tolerates heat stress and drought extremely well. 

    “A newly identified gene from purslane has the potential of improving crop production, especially under the stress of elevated temperatures,” said Dr. Ren, associate professor of plant biotechnology. “High-temperature stress will significantly affect agriculture production and warrants quick action by scientists to develop heat-tolerant crops that can thrive in circumstances of heat stress.”

    The awarded project will enable the ARS researchers to test the novel gene PoBAG6, isolated from purslane, for its potential to improve crops’ heat tolerance ability. The PoBAG6 gene will be transferred to corn and soybean and researchers will evaluate the ability of the transgenic corn and soybean to tolerate heat.

    Laboratory research will also be conducted to evaluate molecular mechanisms used by PoBAG6. Drs. Ren and Jiang aim to identify partner proteins that interact directly with the PoBAG6 protein. It is hoped these newly identified partner proteins can provide new strategies to improve crop heat tolerance, and also enhance existing knowledge about how PoBAG6-mediated gene networks can help plants withstand heat stress.

    “This research money will help us to continue to focus on wild species and identify more novel genes that can be used for crops’ abiotic stress tolerance,” Dr. Ren said. “We hope that, upon completion of this three-year project, the PoBAG6 gene can be used to engineer crop species, not only corn and soybeans but others, and enhance their ability to fight against heat stress during their growing seasons.

    Founded in 1882, Virginia State University is one of Virginia’s two land-grant institutions and is located 20 minutes south of Richmond in the village of Ettrick.

  53. WARNER & KAINE ANNOUNCE FEDERAL FUNDING TO HELP REDUCE VETERAN HOMELESSNESS IN VIRGINIA

    ~ More than a half million dollars awarded to help reduce veteran homelessness ~

    WASHINGTON— U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-Va.) announced today that the U.S. Departments of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Veterans Affairs (VA) are awarding $693,962 in federal funding to Virginia housing authorities to help homeless veterans and their families find affordable and stable housing.

    “Those who have worn our nation’s uniform deserve to know that their country will take care of them when they return home,” said the Senators. “These federal dollars will help ensure that these heroes have the support they need to find safe and affordable housing.”

    The selected Virginia housing authorities and funding amounts are listed below:

    • Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority—$35,369
    • Chesapeake Redevelopment & Housing Authority—$34,821
    • City of Virginia Beach—$39,161
    • James City Council Office of Housing & Community Development—$29,164
    • Newport News Redevelopment & Housing Authority—$35,663
    • Norfolk Redevelopment & Housing Authority—$39,661
    • Richmond Redevelopment & Housing Authority—$6,858
    • Roanoke Redevelopment and Housing Authority—$24,043
    • Virginia Housing Development Authority—$53,293
    • Arlington County Department of Human Services—$161,556
    • Fairfax County Redevelopment & Housing Authority—$121,507
    • Loudoun County Department of Family Services—$56,249
    • Office of Housing Development of Prince William County—$56,617

    This funding was granted through the HUD-VASH voucher program, which is a collaborative effort between HUD and the VA that uses targeted vouchers to offer permanent supportive housing opportunities to veterans experiencing homelessness. On March 23, 2018, the Senators voted in favor of the omnibus bill that fully funds homeless prevention programs at the Department of Veterans Affairs, including HUD-VASH

  54. Students Get a Close-up View of the General Assembly

    Taylor Thornhill (right) with Sen. Lewis, D-Accomack, (middle) and staff.

    By Sarah Danial, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – Among the assortment of legislators, aides and staff members who call the Capitol home, 23 Virginia Commonwealth University students experienced a close-up view of the General Assembly’s 2018 session.

    The students were a part of the Virginia Capitol Semester program sponsored by VCU’s L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs. The program allows students to witness the legislative process from the inside by interning with legislators and other officials.

    “We want our students to be engaged and involved in the legislative process. We want them to see how policy impacts us all, it impacts them, and they can then cause an impact on our community,” said Shajuana Isom-Payne, director of student success at the Wilder School.

    Payne directs the internship program and, with the approval of a panel, matches students with legislators. The application process includes a personal essay, list of policy interests and an interview.

    “We really try to connect our students with the members who are on committees and doing solid work in those areas that the students have expressed specific interests in,” Payne said.

    The program is open to students of all majors – not only those in the Wilder School. Besides devoting 20 hours a week to their internship, students attend a weekly public policy seminar with a former staff member of the Senate Finance Committee, Richard Hickman.

    The seminars often feature guest speakers such as House Speaker Kirk Cox, R-Colonial Heights, and the Democratic leader of the House, Del. David Toscano, D-Charlottesville. Hickman believes it is important for young adults to be engaged and involved in the legislative process because one day they will be the ones in charge.

    “It important to give them a real-world-oriented experience as part of their collegiate career so that they’re not coming into the job with no experience of actually how the General Assembly works,” Hickman said.

    Del. R. Steven Landes, R-Augusta, said the internship provides invaluable knowledge to the students. Landes echoed Hickman’s belief of the importance of being engaged.

    “Our representative democracy would not exist without the participation of members of our society. Being a part of that process is especially important for young adults,” said Landes, a VCU graduate. “In the case of student interns, they are exposed to a learning process from which they can take something away.”

    Ryan Kotrch, a junior at VCU, said he learned a lot participating in the Capitol Semester program this semester. He said interacting with legislators and seeing the process firsthand was unparalleled.

    “It’s one thing to learn about the process in a course, but to actually be there, hands-on, it’s a totally different thing, a totally different experience,” Kotrch said.

    Kotrch said he plans to return next session to serve as an intern again for Del. Gordon Helsel, R-Poquoson. One thing that Kotrch learned was the unique community and collaboration at the General Assembly.

    “You think about partisanship in D.C. all the time, and you think in Virginia, it must be the same way. And it is in some aspects, but at the same time they’re all friends,” Kotrch said.

    Payne and Hickman agree that the next step in the program is expansion. Both expressed their desire to bring in more students from all fields of study because the skills learned are transferable across disciplines.

    “The skills that they will learn from this internship experience are going to be dynamic and are going to take them far in whatever career route that they choose,” Payne said.

    Taylor Thornhill, another VCU junior in the Capitol Semester program, interned for Sen. Lynwood Lewis, D-Accomack, during the past session.

    “It taught me how to be a woman in the legislative field. My legislative assistant I worked for was a female and she’s only 28 years old. This is her second year being there,” Thornhill said. “She taught me how to be strong and independent and confident.”

    Hickman said he has enjoyed seeing how students have grown not only in their practical knowledge of the General Assembly but in their skills such as time management and effective communication. He encourages students with doubts about the program to go for it.

    “If you have any interest at all in learning how your government works as opposed to what you read on social media or just hear from other people,” Hickman said, “this is a great way to have an internship and have a face-to-face opportunity to meet the people who really do make the decisions in the General Assembly.”

  55. Northam Vetoes 8 Bills; 1 Would Block Higher Wages

    By Deanna Davison, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – Gov. Ralph Northam vetoed a flurry of bills Monday, including one to prohibit local governments from requiring contractors to pay their employees more than minimum wage.

    House Bill 375, introduced by Del. Glenn Davis, R-Virginia Beach, passed the House and Senate on party-line votes during the General Assembly’s 2018 regular session. Northam said he rejected the bill because he believes employee wage and benefit decisions are best left to individual localities, pointing to differences in the cost of living and workforce factors.

    “The ability of local governments to make this choice should be supported, not limited,” the Democratic governor said. “Decisions regarding municipal contacts should be made by local leaders who fully understand local needs and the needs of their workforce.”

    HB 375 was one of eight bills Northam vetoed Monday. He also rejected:

    • Senate Bill 521, which would require local voter registrars to investigate the list of registered voters whenever it exceeds the estimated number of people age 18 or older in a county or city. The sponsor, Republican Sen. Mark Obenshain of Rockingham County, called the measure “a critical election integrity bill.” But Northam said it would unduly burden election officials and that Virginia already has a process to ensure accurate voter registration rolls.
    • HB 1167, which would require jury commissioners to collect information from people who are not qualified to serve on juries and present that information to voter registrars for list maintenance purposes. “There is no evidence or data that jury information is a reliable source for voter list maintenance,” Northam said. He said using this information “could endanger the registrations of eligible voters and prevent them from successfully casting a ballot.”
    • HB 158, which would allow the General Assembly to alter legislative districts outside the constitutional process so they correspond with local voting precinct boundaries. Northam said this would allow members of the General Assembly to adjust districts at their own discretion, threatening Virginians’ rights to equal apportionment.
    • HB 1568, which would assign certain functions of the Department of Small Business and Supplier Diversity to the Virginia Economic Development Partnership Authority. Northam said he believes this is an unnecessary move.
    • HB 1257, which states, “No locality shall adopt any ordinance, procedure, or policy that restricts the enforcement of federal immigration laws.” Northam said the legislation “would force local law enforcement agencies to use precious resources to perform functions that are the responsibility of federal immigration enforcement agencies. It also sends a chilling message to communities across Virginia that could have negative impacts on public safety.”
    • HB 1270, which would forbid state participation in adopting regulations on carbon dioxide cap-and-trade programs. Northam said the bill would limit Virginia’s ability to tackle climate change and provide additional clean energy jobs.
    • HB 1204, which would require Arlington County to assess two private country clubs there as land dedicated to open space rather than its current method of highest and best use. “This is a local dispute over a local government’s method of assessing land for property taxation,” Northam said. “As such, the solution to this dispute should be reached on the local level without the involvement of the state.”

    The General Assembly will reconvene for a one-day session on April 18 to consider the vetoes and recommendations issues by Northam. It takes a two-thirds majority in both the House and Senate to override a veto. Democrats hold enough seats in each chamber to prevent an override.

  56. First Citizens Bank Presents Check to VCU Health CMH Foundation

    South Hill – First Citizens Bank representatives Dean Marion, Cindy Thomas and Tammy Manning present Ken Kurz, Director of Marketing & Development for VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital, a check that benefits the Health Care for Life Capital Campaign.  The check that was presented is part of a $25,000 pledge First Citizens Bank made during the Health Care For Life Capital Campaign last year.  Donations for the Capital Campaign are still being accepted, for more information call (434) 774-2575.

  57. Virginia Governor OKs Paying ‘Norfolk Four’ $3.5 Million

    By Logan Bogert, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – Gov. Ralph Northam has signed legislation to provide nearly $3.5 million in compensation to the “Norfolk Four,” the U.S. Navy sailors who were wrongfully convicted and imprisoned for a 1997 rape and murder.

    Northam last week signed identical House and Senate bills to compensate Danial Williams, Joseph Dick, Derek Tice and Eric Wilson, who were wrongly convicted in 1999 of raping and killing 18-year-old Michelle Bosko.

    Under the legislation, Williams will receive $895,299; Dick, $875,845; Wilson, $866,456; and Tice, $858,704.

    On Thursday, Northam signed the measures containing the compensation package – Senate Bill 772, proposed by Sen. Scott Surovell, D-Fairfax, and House Bill 762, proposed by Del. Chris Jones, R-Suffolk.

    The legislation notes that the “Norfolk Four” defendants “spent nearly four decades in prison collectively for crimes they did not commit, and another collective 30 years after release from prison under highly restrictive parole and sex offender registry conditions that imposed onerous barriers to their reentry to society.”

    The four men were “imprisoned and experienced assaults and other horrific experiences during the imprisonment that irreparably broke them in a manner that no time or money will ever fix,” according to the legislation.

    The defendants were convicted because of their coerced confessions, even though the real rapist and murderer, Omar Ballard, confessed in 1999 to committing the crime alone and his DNA was found at the crime scene, bills state.

    Ballard is currently an inmate at Sussex II State Prison and serving two life terms plus 42 years for capital murder, two rapes, two counts of malicious wounding, and abduction.

    In 2009, then-Gov. Tim Kaine granted conditional pardons to Williams, Dick and Tice. That action ended their sentences, but the men remained on the sex offender registry. Wilson had already been released from prison in 2005 after serving more than eight years behind bars.

    A decade after their convictions, U.S. District Judge John Gibney dismissed the convictions of Dick and Williams.

    “Considering the evolution of their admissions, their subsequent recantation and the other physical evidence, the admissions of guilt by Williams, Dick and Tice are far from convincing,” Gibney’s decision stated. “Any reasonable juror considering all of the evidence would harbor reasonable doubt as to whether Williams, Dick, or anyone else, was with Ballard in Bosko’s apartment.”

    In March 2017, then-Gov. Terry McAuliffe granted the “Norfolk Four” unconditional pardons, fully restoring their civil rights. However, the legislation signed by Northam states that “all four men have struggled to rebuild their lives and have lived vastly reduced lives due to the strong stigma of their wrongful convictions.”

  58. New Law Puts Focus on Suicide Prevention Efforts in Virginia

    By Scott Malone, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – As suicides have risen in Virginia – including a 29 percent increase among children in 2016 – Gov. Ralph Northam has signed legislation calling on state officials to report how they are addressing the problem.

    House Bill 569, introduced by Del. Wendy Gooditis, D-Clarke, requires the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services to report annually its progress and activities on suicide prevention. The report will go to the governor and General Assembly.

    The bill is of special significance to Gooditis, who was elected in November to represent the 10th House District, which includes parts of Clarke, Frederick and Loudoun counties. During the first two weeks of her candidacy, Gooditis lost her brother to alcoholism and post-traumatic stress disorder.

    “He had a number of suicide attempts. It was part of the reason I was running in the first place. I found him dead two weeks after I announced my candidacy,” Gooditis said. “At that point, I don’t think anyone would’ve penalized me for quitting. But I had met so many who needed help, I couldn’t quit. I had to run and try to get the seat to try to speak for people who need someone to speak for them.”

    Northam signed Gooditis’ bill last month – about the time that the state’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner released its latest annual report on causes of death in Virginia.

    Compiled by Kathrin Hobron, a forensic epidemiologist, the study provides statistical details on deaths that occurred in 2016, including homicides, suicides, accidents and other causes. The report states that it “reveals several trends of which the citizens and leaders of Virginia should be aware.”

    Those trends include a spike in suicide rates for children (defined as 17 and younger) in Virginia. In 2016, the rate was the highest it has been in at least 18 years.

    In 1999, the report said, 23 children in Virginia committed suicide – a rate of 1.3 suicides per 100,000 population. In 2015, 35 children committed suicide in the state. In 2016, the number jumped to 45 child suicides – or 2.4 suicides per 100,000 children.

    “Child suicides are very similar to adult suicides as they occur more frequently in males (roughly 62 percent) and whites (roughly 78 percent). White males have the highest rate of child suicide,” the report stated.

    Twenty-two – almost half – of the 45 child suicides in Virginia in 2016 involved firearms, usually handguns. That was the most common method of child suicide, followed by asphyxiation.

    Under Virginia law, it is a misdemeanor to “recklessly leave a loaded, unsecured firearm in such a manner as to endanger the life or limb of any child under the age of fourteen.” Even so, some children manage to obtain a gun and commit suicide each year.

    Gooditis said in an interview that she was familiar with the medical examiner’s report. It further demonstrates that something must be done, she said.

    “It’s just horrific. We have to intervene and teach [children] ways of handling their emotions so those emotions don’t take over,” Gooditis said.

    The number of suicides of Virginians of all ages also has increased in recent years. In 2016, it reached 1,156 – up from 1,097 the previous year. By comparison, there were 884 suicides statewide in 2006.

    In 2017, the General Assembly passed a bill requiring the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services to issue a one-time report about its suicides prevention measures. HB 569 builds on that legislation by having the agency report on its efforts every year.

    In its report last year, the department updated the governor and the General Assembly on projects such as the Lock and Talk Virginia Campaign, which aims to reduce suicides by restricting individuals’ access to firearms and poisons when they are in a mental health crisis. The agency also discussed its efforts to educate the public on how to recognize and respond to suicidal warning signs.

    Under the bill Northam signed into law March 19, the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services must issue such a report by Dec. 1 every year.

  59. WARNER, KAINE ANNOUNCE $1 MILLION IN SCHOLARSHIPS FOR CYBERSECURITY STUDENTS AT ODU

    WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine announced $1,000,000 in federal funding from the National Science Foundation to support high-achieving students with demonstrated financial need as they pursue the cybersecurity program at Old Dominion University (ODU).
     
    “Ensuring students have the support they need to pursue careers in cybersecurity is critical to building our federal workforce and defending the nation’s economic and national security,” the Senators said. “We are thrilled that ODU and the National Science Foundation are partnering to help make that a reality for more students.”  
     
    The funding will provide up to 18 scholarships for students in the cybersecurity program as well as additional mentoring and program activities.
     
    As Vice Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Warner has been a strong voice for protecting the integrity of our election systems, introducing bipartisan legislation to bring accountability to online political adsand secure our elections. He is also the author of bipartisan, bicameral legislation that would provide states and local government funding to counter cyberattacks. As cofounder of the Senate Cybersecurity Caucus, Warner has been a leader in calling for the protection of consumers’ personal information and timely disclosure of data breaches, authoring legislation to hold credit reporting agencies accountable for such breaches.
     
    Kaine, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, also co-chairs the Senate Career and Technical Education (CTE) Caucus and has become a leader in the Senate on policies to prepare students for careers in cybersecurity.  Last year, key provisions of Kaine’s DoD Cyber Scholarship Program Act of 2017, which would improve and expand an existing DoD scholarship program for students pursuing degrees in cybersecurity fields, were included in the committee-passed Fiscal Year 2018 National Defense Authorization Act. The DoD Cyber Scholarship Act creates a jobs pipeline from Centers of Academic Excellence (CAE) to the Department of Defense.
  60. JOHN A. ST. SING

    John A. St. Sing, 74, of Emporia, VA, died Thursday, April 5, 2018. He was born in Halifax County ,NC, son of the late Thomas J. and Katie Carter St. Sing. Mr. St. Sing  retired as Sergeant with the Emporia Police Department with more than 33 years of service. He loved his family and  community.

    Preceding John in death were his wives, Carolyn Taylor St. Sing and Doris Willis St. Sing.

    Surviving are his son, David St. Sing (Pheobee); step daughter, Kaye Jackson; grandchildren, David N. St. Sing, Dustan Jarratt (Emily), Sarah Jackson (Daniel),Lynsey Overstreet (Keith); six great grandchildren, among them, Hudson Jarratt, Reed and Audrey Overstreet.

    Funeral services will be held at 1:00pm Monday, April 9,2018, at Echols Funeral Home Chapel. Burial will follow in Greensville Memorial Cemetery.The family will receive friends at the Funeral Home Monday from 11:00 am until 1:00pm

  61. MIT Bound SVCC Governor's School Student Feels, Deals With Pressure

    The pressure to succeed has always been ‘off the charts’ for Ahmad Negm as the third in a family of educationally gifted siblings.  A senior at Nottoway High School and candidate to graduate from Southside Virginia Community College(SVCC) through the Governor’s School of Southside Virginia(GSSV), there were many pre-conceived expectations to reach during his educational journey.

    His sister, Maggie, and brother, Mostafa, were both valedictorians for Nottoway, both attended Governor’s School and Mostafa is a senior at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).  Guess what, Ahmad just received his acceptance to MIT recently (sigh of relief) and plans to attend and study Electrical Engineering.   He was accepted at California Institute of Technology located in Pasadena, CA, also.  Oh, and his sister is a graduate of the University of Virginia.

    On the day of the interview, Ahmad was in class with Brent Richey studying advanced math courses such as Abstract Algebra and Discrete Math.  Abstract Algebra studies algebraic structures such as rings, vector spaces, fields, lattices, modules and algebra and Discrete Math is the study of mathematical structures that are fundamentally discrete rather than continuous. (Just FYI).

    Richey advocates strongly for Dual Enrollment courses at the college. 

    He said, “GSSV STEM students have the opportunity to attend classes on the campus of Southside Virginia Community College with other top students from multiple area high schools. I have the privilege of teaching these students Calculus and as part of the class for the last five years we have been building and launching big high-powered rockets. Our students graduate from high school with an Associate’s Degree and then go on to some great universities. Currently,  I have students at Virginia Tech, UVa, NC State, VCU, JMU and MIT. Many of them go into engineering programs but they also pursue other STEM fields like computer science, mathematics, biology and chemistry.” 

    “I like to remind people that though these students are academically gifted, they are not necessarily economically privileged. They come from every kind of home situation imaginable. And like other students, some are economically disadvantaged. It is extremely rewarding for me to see these students succeed here at SVCC then again at their university of choice,” he concluded.

    Since Negm can independently maintain his studies in a class entitled Computer Programming for Engineers, he is able to spend 2.5 hours a week studying these special advanced math courses.  The math whiz took Algebra I in seventh grade and has been ahead of the game ever since.  He scored a perfect 800 on the Math SAT, just to mention another accomplishment.

    His parents, Hussein Negm and Samira Elshebaily, were born in Egypt and came to America for a better life and opportunities for their children.  They settled in New Jersey first and later, came to Virginia.  All the children in the family felt the pressure to succeed and exceed academically.  Although, Ahmad also exceeds in sports running cross country and playing soccer for his school.    

    The STEM curricula of the GSSV offers a chance for students to take classes that often cannot be made available at their local high school.  These include Physics and of course, the advanced math Negm is taking. 

    Negm is excited to attend MIT.  He has visited Cambridge three times and likes the proximity to Boston.  He will travel with the GSSV STEM Seniors to Sumter, South Carolina in April as part of the launching of a rocket the students designed and built.

    As the pressure wains for the third sibling, one can assume the heat is turning up for Abdullah, the last of the family who is currently in ninth grade at Nottoway.  Stay tuned. 

  62. Northam Signs ‘Stop Gun Violence’ License Plate Bill

    By Katie Bashista, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – Gov. Ralph Northam signed legislation Thursday authorizing a “Stop Gun Violence” specialty license plate.

    In a session when gun safety proponents failed to make gains despite concern over recent mass shootings in Florida, Texas and Las Vegas, even the license plate bill was controversial.

    Del. Marcus Simon, D-Fairfax, introduced HB 287 after one of his constituents, Carol Luten, came up with the idea. Luten is involved in raising awareness about gun violence prevention and gun safety in Falls Church.

    “Mostly it was a constituent request that happened to fall in line with one of my priorities anyways,” Simon said. “She said it’s like a moving billboard for her cause.”

    The bill was more controversial than Simon expected. What he thought as simple license plate bill turned out to be more, as it drew opposition from the pro-gun Virginia Citizens Defense League.

    “The license plate’s proposed wording implies that violence which is not committed with a firearm is somehow acceptable by comparison, or that the inanimate object itself is responsible for human violence,” the league said in its position statement on the bill.

    Another controversial portion of the bill came up when Del. Matt Fariss, R-Campbell, introduced an amendment that would make the plates revenue-sharing rather than simply highlighting an interest. Starting in 2020, the plates will cost $25: $10 will go toward making the plates themselves and $15 will go to the state Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services

    “I am against all gun violence,” Fariss said. “I feel like most gun violence is due to behavioral and mental issues. I wanted to make sure that funding would be directed to and available for the Department of Behavioral Health to help.”

    Simon says this was the most controversial portion of the bill.

    “Suggesting our gun violence problem is really a mental health problem and a lack of mental health resources really misses the point,” Simon said. “Certainly there are some cases where better mental health care may have prevented certain incidents, but most gun violence doesn't have anything to do with mental health, and most people living with mental illness are not dangerous.”

    Simon described the session as a tough year for bills related to guns. More than 70 such measures were filed at the start of the session.

    “This is the one piece of legislation on either side that managed to thread the needle and get out of the legislature,” Simon said.

  63. VCU Student-Athletes Lead Campaign To Stop Sexual Assault On Campus

     

     

    By Ahniaelyah Spraggs, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND — Virginia Commonwealth University student-athletes collected more than 300 signatures Wednesday from students, faculty and staff who pledged to do their part to stop sexual assault on campus.

    The event was part of the national “It’s On Us” movement that began in 2014 with a goal of changing conversations surrounding sexual assault. Since its launch, the campaign has accumulated almost 300,000 pledges.

    Binal Patel, who double majors in chemistry and biology, said she felt empowered and as if she was standing up for something she believed in when she pledged by signing her name on a banner.

    “I have had a personal connection to the topic. I believe that anyone who has experienced sexual assault, or knows someone who has, should speak up and tell someone,” Patel said. “Sexual assault is never acceptable, and I believe individuals who have faced it should always be supported.”

    Artis Gordon is the Director of Student-Athlete Development. He was one of the key players in organizing this event.

    Director of Student-Athlete Development Artis Gordon helped organize the VCU event, which coincided with Sexual Assault Awareness Month and the “It’s On Us” Spring Week of Action. Gordon described “It’s On Us” as an initiative to raise awareness that “it’s on all of us to not be bystanders and be part of the solution.”

    Alaina Madeline is the president of the VCU Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and one of several student-athletes who helped during Wednesday’s event. She said the campaign has been happening on campus annually since 2014 and the banner will be displayed as a reminder to those who made the commitment.

    For more information or ways to donate to the national campaign, visit the “It’s On Us” website.

  64. Environmentalists Urge Governor to Oust DEQ Director

    By Jessica Wetzler, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – An environmental group reiterated its call Wednesday for Gov. Ralph Northam to fire the head of the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, saying David Paylor “has regularly sided with polluters over the environment.”

    The Chesapeake Climate Action Network made that statement after Northam signed an executive order instructing the DEQ to conduct an internal review. Northam said the review would include updating regulations, strengthening enforcement of environmental standards, identifying the causes of permitting delays and improving transparency.

    “We agree with Gov. Northam that the Department of Environmental Quality needs to be seriously reformed, so we commend him for that,” said Mike Tidwell, director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. “However, we are highly skeptical that DEQ Director David Paylor can oversee this internal review in a fair and comprehensive manner. The DEQ is a broken agency, and Director David Paylor is the one that broke it.”

    Peter Anderson, Virginia program manager for the group Appalachian Voices, expressed skepticism about the DEQ’s ability to conduct the internal review.

    “Gov. Northam’s announcement today calls for vital improvements at DEQ for protecting Virginia communities and the commonwealth’s natural resources,” Anderson said. “But it remains to be seen whether any real changes will occur.”

    Anderson said the DEQ has a history of aligning with industries over the public interest. “Nonetheless, we hope DEQ seizes this opportunity to revamp its operations and prioritize the public interest over the interests of the companies it regulates,” he said.

    Paylor has served as the director of the DEQ since 2006 when appointed by then-Gov. Tim Kaine.

    Since 1973, Paylor has spent his career serving with environmental agencies such as the State Water Control Board and the Environmental Research Institute of the States. The Virginia Natural Resources Leadership Institute recognized Paylor as the recipient of its 2015 Gerald P. McCarthy Award for Leadership in Environmental Conflict Resolution.

    However, the Chesapeake Climate Action Network says Paylor is too close to the companies DEQ regulates.

    “We believe David Paylor should be replaced as DEQ director,” Tidwell said. “If Gov. Northam keeps him on, however, Paylor should recuse himself from this much-needed agency review. We hope Gov. Northam will consider turning the review over completely to the Secretary of Natural Resources in order to ensure real and substantive changes at the DEQ.”

    Tidwell criticized Paylor’s relationship with energy companies and other businesses.

    “In 12 years at the DEQ helm, Paylor has consistently sided with polluting industries over environmental advocacy groups,” Tidwell said. “The director has outraged health and environmental leaders by siding with Dominion on the dumping of coal ash in rivers and, most notoriously, the construction of patently harmful pipelines for fracked gas like the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and Mountain Valley Pipeline.”

    Tidwell commended Northam for taking “several positive steps” to improve environmental protection and advocacy in Virginia. “He has supported joining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and has pushed Dominion Energy to invest more in renewable power and efficiency,” Tidwell said.

    But he said the governor “dropped the ball” by reappointing Paylor on Monday.

    Tidwell said the timing of the reappointment was painful for landowners living along the route of the Mountain Valley Pipeline. Last week, the DEQ gave final approval to begin cutting trees and clearing land for the project, which will run more than 300 miles from northwestern West Virginia to southern Virginia.

  65. IT’S national social security month!

    By Jacqueline Weisgarber

    Social Security Public Affairs Specialist in Richmond, Virginia

    National Social Security Month is celebrated in April and is dedicated to educating you about Social Security programs and services.  From programs that help support you through life’s journey, to services that help put you in control, to systems that help protect what’s important to you, Social Security is committed to helping secure today and tomorrow for you and your family.

    During National Social Security Month, we encourage people to take control of their future with my Social Security at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount. Create a my Social Security account to check your earnings history, confirm you have enough credits to retire, see an estimate of future benefits while still working, or manage your monthly benefits once you begin receiving them. You can also check the status of your claim or appeal, request a replacement Social Security card, and get an instant benefit verification letter.

    Our Retirement Estimator is another great tool that provides you with immediate and personalized benefit estimates based on your own earnings record. This allows you to receive the most accurate estimate of your future retirement benefits. Estimate your benefits now atwww.socialsecurity.gov/estimator.

    After you have viewed your earnings history for accuracy, confirmed you have enough work credits to retire, and determined the best age to retire, you can get started on the next phase of your life right away by retiring online! It’s fast and easy at www.socialsecurity.gov/retireonline.

    For more than 80 years, Social Security has changed to meet the needs of our customers. During National Social Security Month, and throughout the year, Social Security puts you in control with secure access to your information anytime, anywhere. From estimating or managing your benefits, requesting a replacement Social Security card, to retiring online, visit SocialSecurity.gov today, and see what you can do online at www.socialsecurity.gov/onlineservices.

  66. Virginia Department of Health to Receive $2+ Million for HIV Programs

    Richmond, Va. – Today, Congressman A. Donald McEachin (VA-04) announced that the Virginia Department of Health will receive $2,070,445.00 in grant funding to support their Integrated HIV Surveillance and Prevention programs.

    “In the midst of STD Awareness Month, I am so pleased to see this grant funding awarded to the health department so that we may increase awareness and stress the importance of prevention,”said Congressman Donald McEachin. “Prevention is a key element in the successful fight against a disease. With this funding, Virginians will be able to better protect themselves and their family, which will save lives and money in the future.”

    The Virginia Department of Health will receive this grant from the National Center for HIV, Viral Hepatitis, STDs and TB Prevention, housed under the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

  67. ATTORNEY GENERAL HERRING FILES SUIT TO BLOCK TRUMP ADMINISTRATION FROM UNDERMINING 2020 CENSUS

    ~ Census Bureau itself has said that proposed citizenship inquiry is likely to depress response, threatening billions in critical federal funds and states' fair representation in Congress and Electoral College  ~

    RICHMOND (April 3, 2018) - Today, Attorney General Mark R. Herring-as part of a coalition of 18 Attorneys General, six cities, and the bipartisan U.S. Conference of Mayors-filed a lawsuit to block the Trump administration from undermining the 2020 decennial census with a "poison pill" citizenship inquiry that the U.S. Census Bureau has said is likely to depress response and compromise the accuracy of the census. Demanding citizenship information would particularly depress Census turnout in states with large immigrant populations, directly threatening those states' fair representation in Congress and the Electoral College, as well as billions of dollars in critical federal funds for education, infrastructure, Medicaid, and more.

    "This poison pill from the Trump administration is about ideology, not accuracy," said Attorney General Herring. "The Census is one of the most important things our government does. It determines how many congressional representatives and electoral votes Virginia gets, and how much federal money comes to the Commonwealth for things like healthcare, education, and transportation. There is overwhelming evidence that including this provision will cause underreporting and produce an inaccurate census, violating the Enumeration Clause in the Constitution, which calls for an actual count of all persons in the Country. In the current climate, many immigrants are already wary of the government, and there is no question that this is just another attempt to intimidate and instill fear in immigrant communities." 

    The lawsuit is brought under the Enumeration Clause of the U.S. Constitution, as this action by the Trump administration will impede an "actual Enumeration" of "the whole number of persons in each state," as required by the Constitution. It is also brought under the Administrative Procedure Act, which permits courts to set aside unlawful or arbitrary and capricious agency decisions.

    In their suit, the bipartisan coalition describes the reasons that the administration's decision is inconsistent with the Census Bureau's constitutional and statutory obligations, is unsupported by the stated justification, departs from decades of settled practice without reasoned explanation, and fails to consider the availability of alternative data that can effectively serve the federal government's needs.

    The lawsuit also emphasizes the irreparable harm that will result from inaccuracies in the 2020 Census caused by demanding citizenship information. Hundreds of billions of dollars in federal funds are directly tied to demographic information obtained through the census, including the Highway Trust Fund and other Department of Transportation grants, Child Care Development Grants, and Medicaid. Consequently, inaccurate counts can potentially deprive states of much-needed funds designed to protect low-income and vulnerable communities.

    A total of $700 billion is distributed annually to nearly 300 different census-guided federal grant and funding programs. In FY2015, Virginia received over $953 million in Highway Trust Fund grants, over $131 million in Urbanized Area Formula Grants, and nearly $64 million in Child Care Development grants, all based on census data.

    In addition to the significant financial implications of an inaccurate census, the decennial census is also used to apportion seats in the House of Representatives, and each plaintiff state relies on population information from the Census Bureau to draw statewide redistricting plans for their Congressional and state legislative districts. Demanding citizenship information would cause disproportionate undercounts in communities with immigrant populations and therefore prevent plaintiff states from fulfilling the one-person, one-vote constitutional requirement, as well as create inaccuracies in the data states use to draw district lines. Currently, immigrants account for 12.3 percent of Virginia's population.

    As the Census Bureau's own research shows, the decision to demand citizenship information will "inevitably jeopardize the overall accuracy of the population count" by significantly deterring participation, particularly in immigrant communities, because of concerns about how the federal government will use citizenship information. These concerns are amplified by President Trump's anti-immigrant rhetoric and pattern of actions that target immigrant communities.

    In 1980, the Census Bureau rejected the addition of a citizenship question, saying, "Any effort to ascertain citizenship will inevitably jeopardize the overall accuracy of the population count. Obtaining the cooperation of a suspicious and fearful population would be impossible if the group being counted perceived any possibility of the information being used against them. Questions as to citizenship are particularly sensitive in minority communities and would inevitably trigger hostility, resentment, and refusal to cooperate."

    In 2009, all eight former Directors of the Census Bureau dating back to 1979 - who served under both Democratic and Republican presidents - affirmed that a citizenship question would depress participation and lead to a significant undercount, undermining the purpose of the Census itself.

    The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York by the attorneys general of New York, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia; the cities of New York City, Chicago, Philadelphia, Providence, San Francisco, and Seattle; and the bipartisan U.S. Conference of Mayors.

  68. Richard T. Harrell

    Richard T. Harrell, 83, passed away Monday, April 2, 2018. He was preceded in death by a brother, Eugene Harrell. Mr. Harrell is survived by his wife, Shelvia E. Harrell; two daughters, Donna Cluesman and husband, Jerry “Goose” and Debbie Gilliam and husband, Paul; five grandchildren, Chelsea Cluesman, Makenzie Cluesman, Andy Gilliam, Chase Cluesman and Wesley Gilliam; two brothers, Jett Harrell and wife, Ruth and Albert Harrell and wife, Kathy; a sister-in-law, Joyce Harrell and a number of nieces and nephews. The funeral service will be held 2 p.m. Friday, April 6 at Joyner United Methodist Church with interment to follow at Capron Cemetery. The family will receive friends at Mr. Harrell’s home 4-7 p.m. on Thursday, April 5 and at church one hour prior to the service. Memorial contributions may be made to Joyner United Methodist Church, c/o Jeannette Everett, 17413 Everett Rd, Capron, 23829. Online condolences may be shared with the family at www.owenfh.com.

  69. Flu season’s not over but headed in the right direction Southside Regional Medical Center and Southern Virginia Regional Medical Center lift visitor restrictions

    Petersburg, VA – According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), this year’s flu season has hit its peak, and is in a steady decline – finally. After one of the worst flu seasons of the past decade, Southside Regional Medical Center (SRMC) and Southern Virginia Regional Medical Center (SVRMC) have resumed normal visiting hours and guidance.

    "We are confident that the worst of a tough flu season is over and we are encouraging patients who may have put off care to make sure they get back on track,” says Clifton A. Hawkes, MD, an Infectious Disease physician.

    According to the Virginia Department of Health, the flu is still considered widespread in Central Virginia. But at SRMC, microbiologist Thomas Harkins reports a decline in positive flu tests over the past few weeks. Compared to peak flu season in mid to late February, they are seeing less than half as many positives. Lab Tech Martha Tranka confirms similar findings at SVRMC in Emporia.

    Flu season can also cause some people – especially the elderly – to postpone care for chronic or elective health issues, either due to cases of the flu itself, or out of a fear of contact with flu in public spaces. 

    "Taking precautions is the best possible way to avoid catching any virus,” adds Dr. Hawkes. “You can still get your flu shot, take proactive hand-washing and hygiene steps, and eat more fruits and vegetables. But don’t put off important care of chronic conditions, or allow an emerging condition to get worse by waiting out the season. Southside Regional Medical Center and Southern Virginia Regional Medical Center take aggressive measures to prevent the spread of viruses – likely more so than any other public space.”

    This year’s flu season was a good reminder of the importance of getting vaccinated, building immunity early and over time. According to the CDC, it’s not too late to get your flu shot this year. If you need a flu shot, or assistance with a plan for building your general health and immune system, call your primary care physician and develop a personal and comprehensive wellness plan that will support you throughout the year. If you need a primary care physician, visit www.southsidephysicians.com

    For more information on the flu, visit the special flu section at http://bit.ly/2FFb1EM. For further flu inquires contact Dr. Hawkes at (804) 998-0470.

  70. Test of Faith - A Local Transplant Success Story

    A man of God, Dr. Wayne Guynn ministers to his congregation at Olive Branch Baptist Church in Blackridge, and he travels abroad to fulfill his mission. Yet, his faith was severely tested when at the age of only 49 his heart suddenly failed. Only one thing could save his life and return him to his family, his work and life as he knew it — a heart transplant.

    In April 2016, Wayne returned home from a two-week mission trip to Ghana. Over the weekend he felt tired, short of breath and mildly ill. Thinking that his symptoms were due merely to the long flight and being a bit out of shape, he went about his business and worked Monday and Tuesday. But, by the end of the week and two trips to the emergency room at VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital, it became apparent that this was more than a mere case of jet lag. Wayne’s kidneys were shutting down and he was immediately transported to VCU Health in Richmond.

    The doctors at VCU Health Pauley Heart Center quickly realized that Wayne was suffering from heart failure. The medical team could not find a direct cause, and determined that a virus might have attacked and damaged Wayne’s heart. The specialists initially hoped the problem could be treated with medication, but in a matter of days they realized more aggressive measures were needed. Several options were considered, from a pacemaker to an artificial heart called a “Freedom Driver” that would serve as a bridge until a heart for transplant could be located.

    Ultimately, the treatment team determined that the best solution would be a left ventricular assist device (LVAD) — a mechanical device that is surgically attached to the heart and helps pump blood from the left side of the heart to the rest of the body. The LVAD was a temporary measure and a heart transplant would still be needed, so Wayne and his family settled in for what they thought would be a two- to four-year wait for a new heart. “The LVAD worked well and was nothing more than a minor inconvenience,” comments Wayne. “My life pretty much went back to normal.”

    Unfortunately, that state of normalcy was short-lived. The Monday before Thanksgiving, Wayne suffered a mild stroke and was transported by medical helicopter to VCU Health in Richmond. “It’s hard to believe, but my stroke was actually a blessing in disguise,” he reflects. “I immediately moved up the list for a heart transplant from a priority B to an A.”

    On May 14, 2017, Wayne and his wife, Sarah, were celebrating Mother’s Day in Richmond with their children, Ashleigh, Christian and Jonathan. During dinner, the family received the phone call they had been waiting for. Wayne was told to come straight to VCU Medical Center. A heart that was a perfect match was waiting.

    The very next day, Wayne had his heart transplant, performed jointly by VCU Health’s Hume-Lee Transplant Center and Pauley Heart Center. His recovery was miraculous. He was discharged from the hospital after only 12 days, and subsequent heart biopsies performed periodically after surgery show no signs of rejection. “I’m feeling better and stronger every day,” he says. “I’m even back at work about three quarters of the time. We’re very fortunate to have access to this level of healthcare — starting here in South Hill and then up in Richmond.”

    Wayne is now a real advocate for organ transplants, saying, “It’s amazing that one person as an organ donor can help many other people — and it makes perfect sense in the context of Christian faith.”

    “I feel very fortunate to know another heart transplant patient right here in our community,” says Wayne. “Jimmy Murray, a friend and member of our congregation, received his heart 12 years ago. It’s encouraging to see how well he is doing and reassuring to think that I might have such a positive outcome.”

    “This experience has had a profound effect — extending far beyond the scars on his chest and the 20+ pills that Wayne takes every day. “Now, when I hear my own heart beating, I am reminded that this heart once lived in someone else’s body and that a family lost a loved one. I was given a second chance at life. Now, I have to be a good steward of this amazing gift.”

    To learn more about being an organ donor, please call the VCU Health Hume-Lee Transplant Center at (804) 628-0711 and speak with one of our living donor coordinators.

    If you or a loved one needs an organ, contact the VCU Health Hume-Lee Transplant Center at (804) 828-4104 or vcuhealth.org/transplant.

  71. ‘Safe Virginia’ Task Force Will Address Gun Violence

    By Deanna Davison, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – Virginia House Democrats announced the formation Tuesday of a “Safe Virginia” task force to address gun violence in communities across the commonwealth.

    Del. Charniele Herring of Alexandria said the initiative is a direct response to House Republicans’ Select Committee on School Safety, which the GOP members said would not take up gun issues. The Democrats have sent a letter to House Speaker Kirk Cox, R-Colonial Heights, inviting Republican delegates to join the group.

    Del. Kathleen Murphy of Fairfax, who will co-chair Safe Virginia with Del. Eileen Filler-Corn of Fairfax, said they commended Cox and Republicans for creating the select committee, which will hold its first meeting April 26. But Murphy said she believes it is important to do more and discuss questions regarding guns.

    “It is not possible to separate school safety from gun safety,” Murphy said. “People are focused on the tragedy of gun violence, so now is the time to move forward.”

    Republican Del. Roxann Robinson of Chesterfield, a member of the select committee, said its efforts are also borne from the desire to do more. She said panel members want to focus on bipartisan school safety improvements without unduly burdening schools and taxpayers.

    “The committee will not consider issues Republicans and Democrats disagree on, such as restricting gun access or arming teachers,” Robinson said. “Rather, it will consider such tactics as adding metal detectors in schools, improving the check-in process for people visiting the school during school hours, and how to safely protect students in the event of an attack.”

    Murphy and Filler-Corn said the Safe Virginia task force will focus on gun violence not only in schools but across the state. They hope the recent spike in activism from young people in Virginia and the United States will inspire state lawmakers to take action.

    “Three out of the 10 deadliest mass shootings have taken place in our country in the last six months,” Filler-Corn said. “We need to get to work to find common sense, bipartisan solutions to address this crisis.”

    The House Democratic Caucus has selected regional chairs for the panel: Del. Delores McQuinn for Richmond, Del. Marcia Price for Hampton Roads, Del. John Bell for Northern Virginia and Del. Chris Hurst for Southwest Virginia.

    Safe Virginia plans to hold meetings from May to October across Virginia to hear comments from constituents, law enforcement authorities and state and local leaders.

  72. Virginia Schools Will Teach How to Prevent Child Abuse

    By Katrina Tilbury, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – Virginia is taking a step toward teaching children how to recognize and prevent child abuse, abduction, sexual abuse and sexual exploitation after Gov. Ralph Northam signed a bill to include age-appropriate instruction in those areas in the state’s family life education curriculum.

    Current law already requires age-appropriate education on preventing dating violence, domestic abuse, sexual harassment and sexual violence, but child advocates like Patty Hall, the director of community engagement and volunteer services at Hanover Safe Place, have pushed for stronger measures.

    “The work that I do with the kids shows that they don’t know often and understand the concept of being able to say no if somebody is touching them or doing something that makes them feel uncomfortable. Whether it is by a family member, or a friend or a dating partner, many of them do not understand these concepts,” said Hall, who does prevention education with children of all ages in Hanover County.

    On Thursday, Northam signed SB 101, which was sponsored by Sen. Jennifer McClellan, D-Richmond, and incorporates proposals by Sen. Jennifer Wexton, D-Loudoun, and other legislators. Wexton is an advocate for Erin’s Law, a national movement urging states to implement prevention-oriented child sexual abuse programs.

    LaTonsha Pridgen, founder of the advocacy group Stomp Out the Silence, also supports Erin’s Law. Pridgen said she was sexually abused from the ages of 8 to 13. Her experience inspired her to start S.O.S., a nonprofit dedicated to preventing childhood sexual abuse through awareness and legislation.

    “I know firsthand what it means to be a child and not understand that adults can do you harm – not even know that I could go to my teachers or to another adult outside of my home to report this,” Pridgen said. “So I wholeheartedly support educating our children and giving them the information they need to prevent child sex abuse.”

    The final version of SB 101 will create guidelines on age-appropriate programs on the prevention, recognition and awareness of child abuse, abduction, sexual abuse and sexual exploitation, but it does not require schools to implement such programs. Still, advocates say it’s a step in the right direction.

    “The law gets us one step closer to #ErinsLaw in Virginia,” Wexton stated on her Facebook page after SB 101 passed the House on March 7.

    Besides adding child abuse prevention programs, SB 101 clarifies that sexual harassment by digital means will be included in the existing curriculum.

    The bill takes effect July 1.

  73. Embrace leadership at your library: celebrate National Library Week April 8-14

    (LAWRENCEVILLE, VA) – The week of April 8-14, the Meherrin Regional Library System will join libraries nationwide in celebrating National Library Week and the many ways libraries lead their communities through the transformative services, programs and expertise they offer.

    National Library Week, sponsored by the American Library Association (ALA), is an annual celebration of the life-changing work of libraries, librarians and library workers. Libraries aren’t just places to borrow books or study—they’re also creative and engaging community centers where people can collaborate using new technologies and develop their skills and passions.

    Libraries of all types have long been evolving to meet the needs of the communities they serve. Diverse groups including elected officials, small business owners, and students depend upon libraries and the resources they offer. Resources like e-books and technology classes, materials for English-language learners, and programs for job seekers are just a few ways libraries and librarians are transforming to lead their communities. Community members can also develop their own leadership skills at the library, with endless opportunities to build skills and confidence through resources and programming.

    The Meherrin Regional Library System serves Brunswick County, Greensville County, and the City of Emporia with branches in Lawrenceville and Emporia, Virginia. The Library helps lead the community by providing access to print and e-resources, reference services, assisting with genealogical research, and encouraging early and lifelong learning through a variety of programming.

    Visit the Library during National Library Week to learn more about how your Library can serve you, and participate in our community art project, “Stick Together: Let’s Read!”

    For more information, visit the Brunswick County Library at 133 West Hicks Street, Lawrenceville, or the Richardson Memorial Library at 100 Spring Street, Emporia, or visit the Library’s website at www.meherrinlib.org.

  74. Expanding Medicaid Will Aid Schools, Governor Says

    By Sophia Belletti, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – Gov. Ralph Northam and U.S. Sen. Mark Warner are urging the General Assembly to expand Medicaid, saying such a move would free up money to help schools.

    On Thursday, the two Democrats sat down with more than 20 teachers, faculty and parents from Richmond Public Schools and surrounding counties to discuss how this would work.

    Last week, Northam introduced a new state budget proposal that includes Medicaid expansion and takes a slightly different approach to spending that could shape the debate when lawmakers return for an April 11 special session.

    The special session was called because legislators couldn’t reach an agreement on the budget during their regular session. The House of Delegates wants to expand Medicaid, the health-care program for low-income Americans. The Senate opposes that idea.

    Because the House’s Medicaid expansion plan would be funded with federal dollars and a new tax on hospitals, budget writers had more money to spend on public education and other services. The Virginia Education Association estimates the House budget allocated $169 million more to K-12 schools than the Senate version.

    “We have had the opportunity since January 2014 to expand Medicaid, to give approximately 400,000 working Virginians access to quality and affordable health care,” Northam said at Thursday’s meeting at Albert Hill Middle School. “Morally, it’s the right thing to do in Virginia. No individual, no family, should be one illness away from being financially alive.”

    The House version of the budget would increase state aid to $5,617 per student next year and $5,690 in 2020. In the Senate version, state aid per pupil would be $5,583 in fiscal year 2019 and $5,589 in 2020.

    “It’s budget time in Virginia, and we, the General Assembly, did work in a bipartisan way,” Northam said. “All of this happened because of folks coming from both sides of the aisle. The most important bill we haven't finished this year is our budget.”

    Warner said the commonwealth faces same challenges he encountered as governor in 2002-06.

    “Gov. Northam has inherited a challenge that has been around for the last six or seven years,” Warner said. “That is the question of when we talk about education, we also have to talk about health care.”

    People at the meeting pointed to numerous funding issues in education, including outdated resources, dilapidated school buildings and overcrowded classrooms. They also said schools don’t have enough full-time staff members such as guidance counselors and nurses,

    Northam asked teachers who had full-time nurses at their school to raise their hands. He then asked teachers who did not have full-time nurses. The response was split 50-50.

    Rodney Robinson, a social studies teacher at the Virgie Binford Education Center, said the lack of guidance counselors and nurses caused some schools to lose accreditation.

    “Instead of just being a teacher, we’re now being a social worker, the counselor,” Robinson said. “If we can get those (guidance counselors and nurses) back in the school systems, I can guarantee you’ll see more teachers in those harder-staffed schools because there is less work burden on them.”

    Melinda Lawson, an eighth-grade English teacher at Albert Hill, echoed Robinson’s frustration.

    “For Richmond, we have a very difficult time creating 21st-century learners when we don’t have the resources to do so,” Lawson said. “I’ve been in this building for 14 years, and I’ve worn many hats in this time. We’re always trying to get there, and everyone else seems to be where we’re not, and we’re aspiring to get there.”

    Northam said “providing a world-class education” is a priority for his administration.

    “There is power in every child, and we need to make sure every child in Virginia reaches their maximum potential,” he said.

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