The Buzz on the Streets

The 47th District: Issues, Insight & Interaction

Kent East Hill is Perfect for a New Kent International District

December 20th, 2011 at 12:51 pm by lesliehamada
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Last Wednesday while attending the Kent East Hill Partnership Meeting there was discussion about having an event to draw recognition and business to the East Hill area. Lots of good discussion on past events and what would work in the future. I had tea with Harpret Gill of Punjab Sweets some time ago and she had discussed how her vision for that business area was to concentrate on all the diverse businesses and the International flare of the area. I brought this up in the meeting. Next meeting there is going to be more discussion regarding the potential of this and the Kent East Hill Partnership may decide to take a more active role in making this happen. The KEHP falls under the Kent Chamber of Commerce.

Focusing on a great strength of the area and developing it into an International business location makes a lot of sense. It would draw attention for people surrounding the area to come see what is happening up on the hill and it would also be a tourist attraction so visitors could sample all the food of the area and various diverse shopping. It would be a great place to showcase all the art and cultural events that take place. The Kent School District is one of the most diverse school districts and drawing in from all the youth activities in the area could even add to this becoming a place to come and visit. The India culture puts on many sporting events in other areas and maybe they could tie in some of their events at a school field to correspond with a business International Fair. This would be a totally different experience that the East Hill has to offer from downtown Kent or Kent Station making visitors want to experience many parts that Kent has to offer and not having them have to compete with each other. Marketing that area with colorful flags or signage to designate the area could build a new, fresh look to the Hill. Turning a vacant lot into a small artistic park in that area could be a welcoming place for artists to show off their work from various cultures and begin to give a business district a sense of Community. When you build a Community you take care of the businesses in that Community and perhaps graffiti would be less.

Kent East Hill Partnership has the opportunity to really take this idea and run with it and develop it and it would build an Identity to that area that is unique. Keep up the great discussions on this and all the other great activities you are building through business partnerships.

A THANKSGIVING TO PONDER ON: WHAT TYPE OF COMMUNITIES ARE WE BUILDING

November 21st, 2011 at 9:47 pm by lesliehamada
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We are in challenging times and have been for some time. Record bail outs, record job loses, record foreclosures, and record cuts to National, State, and local government entities. Record cuts to Human Services. I represented the Covington Human Services Commission and Kent United Methodist Church at a gathering at the Kent Station campus for Green River College on: “The State of Human Services in King County.” It was an assessment of the impacts of what is happening in the community around us. The great recession began in December of 2007, since then the belt tightening measures have grown to the dismantling of the basic infrastructure of human services. These reduction affect our most vulnerable populations, including children, the elderly, people with disabilities, and communities of color. The result of these reductions have forced many of our neighbors in the community to survive without access to food, shelter, jobs and health care. The quality of life in our communities is affected in a big way as people lose access to these necessary services. We are seeing increases in poverty an example of this is in the City of Kent from 1999 to 2010 the number of people listed at the poverty level has increased 80%. We are seeing increases in homelessness in the Kent School District already in 2011 they are up about 100 students listing homelessness issues from 2010 and expect to end the school year around 500 students listed as homeless. Because many have lost their health care benefits emergency rooms are seeing a huge increase in case loads. This will also help release another set of factors that will explode such as : decreases in children’s readiness for school success, graduation rates, workforce preparedness and overall public health. In addition to those most vulnerable which we hear a lot about what we are not hearing about is the growing numbers of people who were stable in the past—middle class individuals or families that have now fallen on hard times. The foreclosures have brought on a middle class population that is now facing homelessness. People who donated to charities now are out of work. Because human services falls in the part of the state and local budgets that is not protected the next round of cuts are not falling under the word cuts, they are now facing total elimination.
Now is a time when we need to be having serious discussions in our households, in our meetings, in our churches, and in our Communities. Is this the way we want our Communities to look like or do we need to have a new sense of urgency to re-group and start building a new foundation that we can all live with but slowly build and protect our neighbors in need and raise our children in our communities where all have a chance to succeed and thrive. Do we not have to have a long look at what our communities are going to look like if we all fail to see what is so clearly happening all around us.
Let’s just take a look at some facts:
* In King County the food bank visits from 2007-2010—have increased by 44%.
* More than one in six Washingtonians currently rely on Basic Food (the state name for the federal food stamp program or SNAP) a more than 80% increase since 2008.
* In 2010 nearly 1 in 4 families with children and 1 in 7 Washington households without children -couldn’t afford enough food during the year.
* More than one-third of Washington students participate in the free or reduced-price lunch program.
* More than 1.5 million Washingtonians visited food banks supported by Emergency Food Assistance.
* 9,000 homeless people were living on the streets, in emergency shelters, or transitional housing at time of the 2010 King County One Night Count.
* Nearly two-thirds of the homeless are people of color though they only account for 28% of the total King County population.
* Up to 21% of all single homeless adults in King County are veterans.
* 10% of the homeless population are between the ages of and 18-25.
* More than 200,000 people are seen in community health centers and public health centers, where the ability to serve them is being eroded
It is also important to realize statistically that locally, public funding supports 90% of our health and human services, while private donations account for only 10%. While many churches and philanthropic and charitable groups have stepped up the giving,w private donations will never replace the loss of public funding. What needs to occur is first for the general public to really understand the magnitude of the problem. Then make suggestions that will help build a foundation how government priorities can help and deliver support services and build healthy communities. Begin discussions how your city and regions in King County can respond to the uniqueness of your community. We all have to participate in these discussions in our communities. We need at the center of everything to build healthy communities. I can think of no better place to begin these discussions than around a beautifully set table, with an abundance of great food, and relatives or friends gathered around it. As we ponder on all we have to be thankful for let us not forget our neighbors around us are suffering and how can we as a community begin to repair these lives, these programs, these needs and begin to include and expand our table so that all are welcome. Let’s begin these discussions soon for the traditions we all celebrate could cease to exist if we do not again gain a sense of community and actively engaging in building the foundation of it. Let’s put our Thanksgiving into action.

Leslie Hamada/currently sits on the Human Services Commission of Covington
currently is the Emergency Assistance Director of Kent United Methodist Church
currently is a Board Member of the InterFaith Task Force to End Homelessness

***the statistics and information base was taken from a United Way Report on Human Services in King County Nov. 15,2011

EAST HILL ELEMENTARY & KENT MERIDIAN HIGH SCHOOL BBQ-BUILDING HEALTHY COMMUNITIES

August 28th, 2011 at 3:15 pm by lesliehamada
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BUILDING HEALTHY COMMUNITIES -EAST HILL ELEMENTARY SCHOOL
                           BACK TO SCHOOL BBQ   AUGUST 26, 2011
The East Hill Elementary and Community Network put on a great back to school event Friday for the kids attending that school and their parents, teachers, and community members. The weather was great and the food was wonderful and the cafeteria of  that school was filled with joyous laughter from kids, parents, teachers, administrators, and community member interacting and just getting to know the school and the people around them. This is one step in building “Healthy Communities”.  Barbara Phillips, Ray Lee, Neschella Mitchell, Dr. Michael Smith, Sharon Cornish, and Willie Wright who make-up the leadership of that organization put together a great crew to implement the feeding of the school. It takes vision and leadership like Barbara Phillips has displayed to put on an event such as this and they have more coming up for East Hill. While I attended I had a chance to talk to one child that was entering kindergarten–his eyes lit up when he talked about his first day of school coming up and his mom said she planned to be very involved in his education. Another fourth grader told me who he hoped would be his teacher as he was enjoying a great hamburger and chips. The Principal, Mrs. Daxa Thomas gave a short welcome and presentation that all kids can succeed. This is the type of event that builds a great start to the school year and lays a foundation that this is a good place to be and learn. The first ingredient in making a successful student is building an atmosphere that is conducive to learning. 
As the afternoon continued, I dropped by the Kent Meridian High School Back to School Barbecue and again great food and entertainment and the community turned out. Another example of building “Healthy Communities”. This event planned by the school and sponsors was great and they had several different entertainment acts that were an added benefit. The planning of such event should show how Kent Meridian High School wants to partner with parents and the community. I really enjoyed both events.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Allegro Dancers Perform  August 26 @BBQ K

THE COMMUNITY ENJOYING GREAT FOOD


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LET’S BUILD HEALTHY NEIGHBORHOODS AND SCHOOLS INSTEAD OF PRISONS

July 30th, 2011 at 4:33 am by lesliehamada
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The statistics for the dropout rate for the Kent School District went down in the 2009-2010 school year somewhere around 4.4 which equates to about 392 kids a year. We always want to celebrate our wins. The new stats are not out yet and I will be watching for those. Some could point to the fact that we are collecting data better to track kids when they move from school to school. There is certainly evidence to show that alternative methods of graduation seem to be helping—the ability to work online—at your own pace at Phoenix Academy. The ability to have much smaller class size and not get lost in the numbers. If you ever spend much time at Phoenix Academy which I have had the opportunity to do with my volunteer work–you see so much more. You see relationships that young people are able to build with adults that make them feel that someone cares if they show up for school that day. It starts when you enter the building and sign in. The lady that first greets you just has to be practicing for some commercial to advertise welcome to Pleasantville—she is a kind, caring face when you enter the school. When you sit and listen to kids talk about their everyday challenges to be where they are today you are pretty amazed and most share with you a teacher or a friend or a mentor that has helped them get to graduation. The United States is a country that has led the world in many areas but we are seeing statistics on graduation rates and test scores compared to other Nations that are fueling debates on education issues right and left.

If you look at 4.4% you might think, well, that is not that bad and it is really not my problem. Ponder on it a little more and multiply it by 4 years and multiply that number 4 times again. After a few years you begin to envision a group of individuals that could make up a small town. Then factor in that it does not stop it just keeps going. What happens to these kids even becomes more frightening statistically. Without even a high school diploma things at best get harder to obtain—a job, the ability to support yourself, and the doors do not open very fast and some even slam shut.

One of the biggest line item cost on the State budget and the National scene is incarceration. For about 6 years I volunteered with the Department of Corrections and worked to help individuals on parole or coming out of Prisons turn their life around. One of the requirements of the program when we first met them was to complete a thinking report. A set of questions they were to answer about their lives—such as: what do you think led you to being where you are today? The saddest part of my experience doing this is when I would looked at these papers and saw very quickly that many of these individuals had difficulty spelling, writing a complete paragraph, and they struggled to just do what kids in elementary school are charged with doing. If they were able to write proficiently you began to learn that their home life made it very difficult to learn. There were the substance abuse issues in the household, the economic issues, the mental health issues, and their safety nets as children had holes everywhere in them.

If you as an individual are not concerned about this on a moral or faith based or social justice level it should hit you in the stomach as a financial issue. Crime costs money–personally and collectively. Prevention of crime costs money. Social programs and subsidies cut hugely into budgets. When an individual begins to not contribute to the city, state, or nation’s tax base it affects everyone whether you have had kids, or not had kids, whether you care about education issues or you could care less about education issues. Every time you turn on the TV or pick up a paper or flip through the Internet everyone is talking about we can not continue on this path of spending and entitlements. Providing food stamps where statistics say 1 in 7 are now on Food Stamps and money to help families through hard time TANF costs all of us. Incarceration costs are out of control. The idea that Texas thought was going to cure all those costs—privatizing or outsourcing has become another nightmare for that State. We need to have people educated in textbook learning and vocational skills learning and that has to come from keeping kids in school and graduating. We need to see that they are prepared for the workforce so they can contribute and support themselves and feel a part of society and the “Community”. They need living wage jobs which is a whole other topic of conversation.

There are many different approaches to education today and even the experts are at odds over these issues. I think it starts with some basics—you have to build the foundation long before you enter the formal education process and long afterward. It starts with building “healthy communities”. Communities that reflect the values and needs of that particular community itself. A place where everyone buys into being a part of it and has much more to lose if that community does not succeed. In a community that has 120 different languages spoken in the school district it is going to be a vision that is very different from person or family to family. The natural starting point is around schools—getting that community together—partnering—talking—listening and learning about one another. Making sure that everyone has a place at the table and their voice is heard. We can not just talk about partnering more we have to live it. We have to turn to the community to step up more and more in after school programs, using our school building after the school day ends, and engage one another in the process. Whatever that community looks like has to be developed by the individuals in it and whatever their needs each has to contribute to its development and bringing it to a reality. If that community needs more day cares to help working families individuals have to pull their resources to make it happen. If a community is experiencing more crime or graffiti in its area individuals have to get involved to find out why it is happening and come up with solutions to stop it. Governments and institutions have to be working to meet the needs of their communities this is paramount to curbing drop out rates in schools, and many more critical issues.

KENT EAST HILL KIDS PAL BOXING CLUB SIGNS CONTRACT CITY OF KENT

July 1st, 2011 at 7:55 am by lesliehamada
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PARTNERSHIP OF KENT EAST HILL KIDS PAL BOXING CLUB  SIGNING

In the picture Jeff Watling Parks Director, Lori Hogan Parks, Dennis Higgins, City of Kent Councilman, Jeff Johnson, President PAL, Sgt. Reid Johnson PAL, Glen Hamada, KEHKPBC, John Brown, coach, partners: Bailey Stober and Project (u) th.

JUNE 30, 2011 started a new after school program for kids from 8-18. Phoenix Academy weight room gym will be the new place where all practices will be held 3 nights a week. This collaboration will includes the following government entities: The Kent School District, The City of Kent Parks Department, and the Greater King County Police Activities League.

The Club will act as an Independent Community organization with many partnerships such as: The African American Cultural Center, The Lucy Lopez Center, The JACL, and Project (u)th. The coach of the Club’s organization is John Brown.

In challenging economic times where budgets on all levels have been reduced partnerships in the Community become even more important to help Communities grow and thrive.

DIRECTORS SIGN CONTRACTS–JEFF WATLING CITY OF KENT

The Vulnerable Will Face Greater Challenges

June 27th, 2011 at 10:50 am by lesliehamada
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Are we ready for what is ahead?

Sitting on the Human Service Commission of Covington I was given a paper breaking down the cuts that the State will be facing and it was interesting to overview. The State Budget that passed has moderate to severe reductions in health and human services funding for low income King County residents and especially those that are not eligible for Medicaid funding.

Effective October 1, the Disability Lifeline Program will be eliminated. The new structure creates three new programs: Aged, Blind, and Disabled Program, Pregnant Women Assistance Program, and the Essential Needs and Housing Support Program. Medical coverage for participants is preserved but the monthly cash grants for Disability Lifeline-Unemployable recipients are eliminated and the replacement program is Department of Commerce grants to counties or community-based organizations for essential needs and housing support. The $64 million for the last program will not be sufficient to provide housing to all who need it. The failure to extend and increase document recording fees supporting Home Security funds will result in cutting funds for existing community programs supporting homeless and formerly homeless persons in housing.

In Mental Health Services there will be a 4% cut for non-Medicaid and 3% cut in Medicaid

Mental Health Services. Reduction in Medicaid reimbursement rates may require reduction in rates to community mental health providers. Reduction in outpatient and residential treatment services for non-Medicaid eligible individuals will make it more difficult for people to receive needed services.

Immigrant and Refugees services were affected by the cuts in many human service areas including support for naturalization, employment services, medical interpretation and food assistance. The State Food Assistance Program was set at $4.8 million and this is half the current funding level.

They have capped the level of families they will cover for subsidized child care and that figure is 32,500. This will create a waiting list of low-income, non-TANF families who need subsidized child care to continue working. Payments to community health center and Public Health—Seattle and King County are reduced by 10.6% which results in $86.3 million cut state wide.

Community Health Centers provide care for approximately 200,000 low income and medically vulnerable people throughout King County. Maternity Support Services was reduced 30% or state wide $23.9 million. Adult dental coverage for Medicaid beneficiaries is eliminated. This will affect 30,000 adults in King County alone.

Some other health related reductions are reduced support for WIC by $800,000 and elimination of Community Health Service Grants by Community Health Center.

Senior Services will face elimination of eyeglasses and hearing aids and restriction on dental coverage. Possible reductions to Meals on Wheels, and transportation help.

The successful WIN211 information and referral system phone line will receive $1million half the amount received in past funding just when needs are rapidly rising.

Education issues also were not funded I-728 and I-732 that address class size and COLA increases and teachers will face a 1.9% reduction in their salaries. Support for state universities and technical colleges were also dramatically cut.

These cuts in prevention and intervention services could likely result in more people using emergency rooms, becoming homeless and incarcerated.

Today’s world is very complex from the world I grew up as a child. I grew up in a very small town in Montana  and when I started my formal education every grade was housed in one building. This school did not have to worry about small class sizes as it just happened because of the small population of the town. Most of the teachers knew every student in the school and everybody in the town pretty much knew every body’s individual situation. We did not have computers in the classroom or for that matter TVs. I could ride my bike all over town by myself and my parent’s felt quite safe with me doing so. Teachers were highly respected in the community and could live comfortably on their salary.

Today I reside in a school District that is huge compared to the one my education started in. The level of education is hooked to the Internet Highway and kids in Kent can talk to kids in India or Germany via Skpe and have the use of advanced technology tools online. There are over 120 different languages spoken by students in the district. Teachers are faced with major challenges in the classroom. Budget cuts everywhere seem to be the everyday norm in conversations on every social media and coffee shops.

I have over the years advanced my little world from growing up in rural communities by attending colleges in major cities and reading and learning constantly. I have been fortunate to travel and see many parts of the world and been forced through my professional work to gain a certain level of competency with computers—cell phones and the latest of what’s new in communication and technology.

I have been spending alot of time getting up to speed on the latest in educational techniques and approaches. Reading a great deal on what’s working—what’s not. Best practices —charter schools—Innovative schools—class sizes—-testing methods—closing the achievement gap—-supporting new teachers that come into a district and the list goes on and on. One could become buried in data, statistics, and theory.

The bright spot for me and what I want to focus on today is I found something that was true when I grew up and still remains true today. It is something that is simply so valuable but yet the cost is attainable by the most strapped school districts.  It is a determining factor in whether a child soars to great heights or falls into the abyss. It is the ability of a child to feel that someone cares enough to validate their presence. It is the ability to really see that this young person matters and to believe in them when perhaps at times they do not even believe in themselves. It is the power of the human touch which can be demonstrated in such a healthy way by a high five or handshake or arm around a small child saying–your work is incredible. The past two years I have as a community member judged Senior Presentations. In 95% of those presentations the student spoke to the issue how a certain teacher made a difference in their academic progress. How they believed in them and helped them grow.

The past year working with kids at Phoenix Academy it has taught me that kids transferring into this school are successful there because they do not become invisible in the numbers—their presence is validated and they are recognized more easily because the school is smaller and the class sizes are smaller. Again allowing that power of touching or getting to know the student as an individual and validating their presence everyday.

A friend of mine, Joe, who works with Homeless people everyday shared with me that if you can give  people on the streets anything to help them it is to look at them and not look away—validate their presence and their being. Say hello. It costs us nothing and can mean so much to those we validate. Kids are no different. They are born with such zest for life and energy and enthusiasm that we need to kindle those feelings inside them and nuture those primary instincts.

In the real world we are facing some schools in Kent that have huge enrollments and teachers simply are torn in so many directions to help so many. You and I can help those odds. We can mentor—tutor and spend just a small tenth of our week in a school volunteering to be that one on one person that makes a difference.

If you are a business person or just investing for the security of your retirement or family security—when you see guaranteed results for a small investment of time—how could you not find an hour of your week or more to get involved?

We are facing challenging times in our World—Nation–and Communities. Many believe our education system holds the answers to what will happen to future generations. We do not have to run statistics or pilots or test studies on what works to help our next generation succeed. If we do not want to give up more in taxes in our schools can we not afford to give of our time and talents to our future generations?

In making this choice you could be the catalyst to changing the course of education in this Country. You could be addressing the alarming increase in drop out rates. You could make up those statistics in closing the achievement gap.

In return, you might be surprised that the person that has received the most in return is yourself.

CLOSING THE ACHIEVEMENT GAP and THE CHANGING DEMOGRAPHICS OF SKC

April 28th, 2011 at 1:52 pm by lesliehamada
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Paying attention to the demographics of King and South King County are important. Washington State has about 6 million residents and breaking down those numbers 1 in 5 are persons of color. This number is expected to grow by the year 2030 to 1 in 3. Washington ranks 7th in the number of Asians that make up our population and 13th in the number of Latinos from a National perspective. Washington is the home to a growing and thriving immigrant and refugee population and 1 in 10 residents were born outside of the United States. There are many reasons we should be paying close attention to these numbers from a business perspective to name a few: community, health, and of course Faith perspective. Today, I plan to focus on the educational component. This component flows over into communities, businesses, tax base, health systems, and our future. Alan Kay, a scientist said:”If you want to predict your future…..invent it.”

What exactly do you think he meant by this quote? I take it to mean being pro-active in the direction we as a Nation, Society, State, and Community head. Taking statistics from the Education Trust and Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) Washington State is ranked in the bottom-five of all states when it comes to closing the achievement gap. At the current pace (nothing done differently) it will take 45 to 50 years to close the gap between students of color and their White counterparts. If you are not practicing a Faith—which I definitely fall into that category—we should be our brothers keeper to a point, and just looking at it from a general perspective you need to also take note of what this could do the world around you as you know it today. If you are approaching Social Security age or even heading toward it in the future—the workers that contribute to that program will help your benefits stay stable and grow with inflation, if the working class coming up is being paid good money to work. Businesses now more than ever need an educated and skilled labor force to grow their business and develop the creativity to develop new visions and technology. If, we, as citizens do not become invested more in our education systems and closing the gap in achievement before you know it we will not (personally) have this great country that is able to set the pace in technology, provide wonderful health care, produce innovation that builds new business because the future or the predictability of it will come from inventing it. Really inventing it by investing in the education system of this country and paying attention to kids of color that are falling behind and making it a paramount duty to get involved and do something about it. How many of us can give a few hours of the week to tutor a child in reading? Yes….we are all busy but if we do not find the time every single person will be affected by this Gap in the future. Look at the numbers and they will calculate the future. The business communities have to push for more involvement in their local schools success. I challenge the Chamber of Commerce of Kent and Covington and Maple Valley to put on a Forum on the Crisis we have now with education and the crisis with closing the achievement gap. How many cuts in local school budgets can we afford to watch before our community becomes outraged? How many children have to fall behind before we see that investing today will be the pathto a Strong Nation and a great community that thrives. Politicians say the voters have spoken: “no new taxes.” I get this–I see people struggling…I see the trust of our citizens in government is diminishing overall. But…I have great Faith in the people in my neighborhood…in my communities that we have to start educating ourselves and our neighbors and perhaps even volunteering if necessary to help our kids do better in life. We have to care about our neighbors again because short term vision is going to become a long term reality that really none of us are prepared to live with. Again: “If we want to predict the future….we need to Invent it.”

We are in challenging times but as the saying goes:”when the going gets tough….the tough get going.” Our children and youth are this Nation and this community’s most important resource. Investing in them and closing the Gap in Achievement has to become our community’s focus. We are close to a point where we cannot turn this Nation and Community around but we still have time to wake up and roll our sleeves up and get to work.

INTRODUCING CANDIDATE FOR KENT SCHOOL BOARD

April 6th, 2011 at 8:16 am by lesliehamada
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I am running for the Kent School District Board Position 3

Because:

I believe kids are our biggest resource and we need to invest in them to reach their fullest potential in whatever career they choose to follow. We need to keep in mind, the one size fits all approach, does not work. I want to give our students a chance to compete in the global job market with the latest skills in technology if that is the career path they choose to follow. I want to offer vocational education skills if that is the area students wish to pursue. Community service, job shadowing, running start programs need to be continued at a high level to prepare students for future success. I want to offer the ability for students to learn online or in the classroom to meet their needs. I value the diversity of our School District and believe we should embrace it and celebrate it with our students and the people we seek out to employ in this District. I value teachers as the one component that can make a major difference in a child’s life and we should give them in every capacity the tools to effectively do the job and limit class size so they can make this possible. I believe I work for the taxpayers of this District and I need their input and partnership every step of the way to make this school district exceed all goals and expectations. I believe in fiscal responsibility and accountability.I am open to new techniques in learning and individual plans to meet each student’s needs.

“The best way to predict the future is to invent it”-Alan Kay

Developing and sustaining effective learning strategies will make this happen. I plan to be an on hands participant in being involved in what is taking place in all schools and at all levels.         

 Website:   http://www.votelesliehamada.org/

IN CELEBRATION OF BLACK HISTORY MONTH: QUINTON MORRIS

February 27th, 2011 at 5:33 pm by lesliehamada
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Quinton L. Morris

It is almost the end of February and I have been pondering over this article most of the month. February is about to draw to a conclusion and it is designated as the month we call: Black History Month. Yet….perhaps it is OK that my article is just now being posted as it will carry over to March. Really recognizing achievement of all races should just be an ongoing event and celebrating our diversity and great examples that stand out every day should continually be recognized. I was going in a total different direction on this article until I had the privilege of hearing this gentleman at a reception last week that I was invited to attend.

“What we think, or what we believe is, in the end, of little consequence. The only consequence is what we do.” This statement by John Ruskin really sums up  Quinton Morris. When he walks on the stage to perform with his violin the only object you are focused on is the unbelievable quality of the music and that he makes the violin sing to you in such a way that you are transcended to a place where time and place do not matter. It is what he does with the violin that speaks volumes about the man and you do not even have to know him or his background. You just feel this sense of achievement, education, deep passion, hard work, love of life, overcoming barriers and you are lifted into a great feeling of euphoria.

Upon coming home I did research on this gentleman and what I found actually parallel the feelings projected in his playing.  Dr. Morris is an Assistant Professor, Music Fine Arts, Global African Studies. He has performed solo and chamber music in the United States, Europe, and the Middle East. He has performed with Metropolitan Opera soprano Indra Thomas and Byron Schenkman at Benaroya Hall, concerto performances at the Champs-Elysee Theatre in Paris, France. the Guildhall School in London, England, the Roman Catholic Theatre in Bohn, Germany and the Austin Chamber Music Center in Austin, Texas. As the founder of The Young Eight String Octet the list of concerts is even more extensive. This group received a Medal of Honor by the United States Military for their commitment to public and community service.

Dr. Morris grew up in Renton. He began his education at Xavier University of Louisiana, where he studied Pre-Law and violin. He holds a Bachelor of Music degree from the North Carolina School of Arts and a Master of Music, degree from the Boston Conservatory. Recently, he earned a Doctor of Musical Arts at the University of Texas at Austin. In the community, he was the youngest member sworn in as vice-chair for the King County Children and Family Commission. Dr. Morris was recognized during Black History Month by the State of Washington’s House of Representatives for his accomplishments as both a teacher and musician.

His music when heard speaks to years of education and training but it also tells us so much more. He loves to read, swim, play basketball, roller-skate, ride go-carts,play jazz and he loves hip-hop music. What his playing also says is: he is a survivor-cancer survivor to be specific and one of the scariest musical experience he had was when he was in high school at a senior recital. At this time he was taking heavy doses of radiation for his treatment, it was extremely painful to play his violin, and during this recital he became very, very sick in the first half. During the second half of the concert he could hardly stand up but he finished that concert.

He is such an accomplished African American male like many have become. He certainly is one to be recognized and receive accolades for all his work, but he is so much more. He has had the benefit of so many before him that blazed the trail so he could become educated and recognized and have the opportunity to go after a higher and higher education. Yet….when you hear the music and what he does all you concentrate on is the music and his unbelievable ability to touch your emotions with the power of a human being that lives life to the fullest, reaches out to his community to serve, and has survived huge challenges in his own life because he loves life. You feel all that in the notes. What he does transcends who he is.

In closing,  a quote from Martin Luther King plays in my head:” With this Faith we will be able to transform the jangling of discords of our Nation in a Beautiful symphony of brotherhood.” The symphonies that Dr. Quinton Morris has played in professionally and in his personal life demonstrate the transformation of discords of our Nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.

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About lesliehamada

Leslie is a wife, mother, & grandmother. She has worked in marketing, communications, & writing professionally. For the past 17 years she has resided in the Covington area and doing volunteer work in the King County Area. While her children attended University Place Schools she was actively involved in youth activities and PTA. She was in executive leadership in the organization as President in school PTA on all levels. In addition she held a District PTA leadership position. Currently her youngest child Lisa is a teacher and last year was recognized as NASPE 2009 High School Physical Education Teacher of the Nation. Her two sons are employed in Computer and engineer firms. She has two beautiful grandchildren. Leslie's pride & joy is Pee Wee Hamada her stay at home Cocker spaniel and her inspiration for her first Children's Book: "Pee Wee's Adventure In the Woods" which addresses boundaries for young children and safety issues through an exciting animal book. Leslie has been actively involved in her Community volunteering for over 40 years. She has mentored in high risk elementary schools since college. Presently she is Director for emergency services for her church Kent United Methodist. She is Chair of the Kent Ecumenical Network Board. It is her sixth year on Catholic Community Advocacy Board. She received an award last year from Governor Gregoire for work with felons. This past year she was recognized for work in social justice and poverty by the South King County Human Service Commission. Last year she received an award from the Southern Sudanese Organization in Seattle. In 2005 she received the SKC Award for the Spirit of Caring. In 2005 she traveled to San Francisco to work at the Soup Kitchen of Glide Memorial and help with immigrant Chinese pre-school students at Gum Moon Community. Her passion is working with kids and social justice issues. Presently she is working to start a Kids Boxing Program in the Kent East Hill area to give the kids a great after school program.

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