Monthly Archives: June 2012

Expose Sexual Abuse

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By Cheryl Mattox Berry 

Everyday, there are stories on TV, radio, the Internet and in newspapers about children and teens being sexually abused by men trusted to look after them – priests, relatives, teachers, police officers, mentors and state workers. I can’t imagine the pain and suffering victims endure at the hands of these predators.

No matter how embarrassing the incident may be, victims must tell someone so that the abuse can stop and healing can begin. The man who is taking advantage of you may have threatened to kill you or your family, and you’re scared. Don’t be. The law is on your side. He can’t hurt you behind bars, but he‘ll continue to do so if you don’t report him.

If the abuser is someone in your house, tell your mother. If she doesn’t believe you, go to another relative, a godmother or counselor if school is in session. Keep talking until someone believes you. Act out. Scream. When the person comes near you and other people are around, yell at him: “I told everybody that you … (describe in graphic detail what he did.) And I’m going to call the police.”  Then, pick up the phone and call 911. You should get the help you need after that.

Whatever you do, don’t keep silent and give the abuser a chance to hurt someone else. Rarely, is sexual assault confined to just one person. He may be molesting other members of your family.

You didn’t ask to be victim, so don’t be. By speaking out, you take back your power. No one has the right to violate your body. You’re not to blame for what happened because you’re a child. An adult committed a crime against you and should be punished to the fullest extent of the law.

Girls who hide the fact that they’ve been sexually assaulted often face a lifetime of emotional problems. Many aren’t able to enjoy a loving relationship with a man. Don’t let the abuser victimize you twice by destroying your chance to live happily ever after.

A Little Bit of This and That

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By Cheryl Mattox Berry

When was the last time you performed a random act of kindness? You know, doing something nice for someone just because it was the right thing to do. When we’re in a hurry, we aren’t always courteous to people around us. It doesn’t take but a couple of seconds to be polite and make someone’s day a little easier. It’s the little things that count. Here are a few acts of kindness:

  1. Giving up your seat on the train to an elderly person or anyone who looks like they’ve had a rough day.
  2. Letting a mom with a wailing child skip the line at the grocery store.
  3. Holding the door for the person entering a building behind you.
  4. Letting another driver change lanes.
  5. Obeying signs that say “No Cellphones Allowed.”

Genericans on the Rise

On a recent trip to the mall, I noticed that all the teen girls – black, white and Hispanic – dressed the same. Their uniform: mermaid hair, short shorts and smoky eyes. They looked like they belonged to a cult. What happened to individuality? Be the first in your circle to change things up. Get a new hairstyle, try a different shade of eyeshadow, blush and lipcolor, wear a sundress, just do something different, puh-leeze.

Speak Up

Every now and then, you have to tag along with your parents to visit their friends. You don’t have to sit mute on the sofa or text under the dinner table. It’s okay to join the conversation, just don’t monopolize it. For example, if the family friend has interesting art, you might ask questions about the pieces. Collectors love to share stories about when and where they bought a particular item. You just might learn a thing or two.

HPV Vaccination

Have you received the vaccine yet? The HPV vaccine prevents human papillomavirus that causes most cervical cancers. It’s given in three shots over six months. Females should get it before they become sexually active and exposed to HPV, but sexually active young women can still derive some benefit. HPV infection is common in people in their late teens and early 20s. There are two vaccines. Gardasil is recommended for females and males ages 9 to 26. Cervarix is for females ages 9 to 25. Take charge of your health.

Making the Case

So, you want a few new things for the summer. Mom isn’t convinced that you need any more clothes because your closet is overflowing. Here’s what you do to convince her: Clean out the closet. Create three piles – donate, toss and keep. Pack the items for charity in a plastic garbage bag. Fold and hang the clothes you’re keeping. Make a list of pieces you want. Make sure you can mix and match them. Now, invite mom to your room and explain to her that you really don’t have as many clothes as she thinks because some were too small or worn. Show her the list and ask her how many pieces can you buy.  She’ll be impressed that you’re so organized and brought calm to the chaos in your closet. Happy shopping!

Can’t Find a Job; Start a Business

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By Cheryl Mattox Berry

It’s official: Summer is here.

What are your plans? School, travel or work? If you haven’t snagged a job yet, join the club. The summer job market is still tight for teens, but that doesn’t mean you should give up. Don your entrepreneurial cap and think of ways to make money.

There are opportunities around every corner. For real. Someone is always willing to pay for something they hate doing and have put off too long. Consider yourself a businesswoman in shining armor ready to take that task off their hands. If you do this many times over, guess what? You’ve got a business. Here are some ideas I came up with off the top of my head:

  1. Mother’s helper. Stay-at-home moms have a ton of stuff to do. Offer to run some of their errands or stay with the kids while they do them.
  2. Clean out your garage. This is a job that no one voluntarily does, so things just keep piling up. Offer to give dad a family discount to get rid of the junk.
  3. Garage sale. With all the stuff you’ve hauled out of the garage, you can have a Saturday morning garage sale.
  4. Become a garage sale expert, organizing sales in your area. Charge a flat rate or percentage of the sales.
  5. Bake sale at church or synagogue after weekly services. Give the church a percentage of your sales.
  6. Adult day care. Sit with senior citizens while their caregivers run errands or get a cup of coffee with friends.
  7. Pet sitting. Some folks don’t like kennels and prefer their animals be kept at home while they vacation.
  8. Movie night for kids/Date night for parents. Invite kids over to your house for movies and popcorn. Charge a flat rate or your babysitting rate for each child.
  9. Flea market. Collect mom, dad and grandma’s old clothing, jewelry and trinkets to sell at a flea market.
  10. Clearinghouse for quick jobs. Some of your friends are experts at doing things, such as setting up computers/troubleshooting or explaining how to use a cell phone. You may also know lifeguards, yardmen and party helpers. Book them for jobs and get a percentage of their earnings.

Advertise your business in church and synagogue bulletins, online sites and job bulletin boards at businesses in your community. Set firm prices. If you’re working to save money for a specific item, such as a laptop or school clothes, share that information. Clients like to know where their money is going.

Running a small business will teach you organizational skills, communication skills, marketing strategies, money management, negotiating skills and time management. These are valuable skills that you will use for the rest of your life no matter what career you choose.

If you can think of any other business ideas, drop me an email, and I will share them with readers.

Weight Loss Becomes #1 Priority for Friends This Summer

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By Paola, 16, junior

Oreo cookies, potato chips and gummy worms are my favorite snacks, but they’re also the main reason why I’m struggling with a weight problem.

When I was a child, I learned that my family had a history of diabetes, so I tried my best not to eat so many sweets. Being young, I gave in to temptation and gained weight. I come from a family that hasn’t always been very healthy and gradually started gaining weight when I was around 7 years old.

I finally noticed what I was doing to my body in middle school and wanted to slim down but still didn’t have the motivation to do so. When I went to the doctor in April, he told me I was 35 pounds overweight, and if I kept this up I’d be in a hospital bed pretty soon. That’s when I knew something had to be done.

This summer, I am determined to lose weight. My plans for working at my aunt’s bakery in the Dominican Republic fell through, so I’ve decided to work on me. I’m going to exercise every morning and try to eat less and healthier. My goal is to lose 20 pounds before school starts in August.

I tried to lose a bit of weight during the school year, but between my studies and family issues I was never able to lose more than five pounds. My self-esteem is so low that I’ve prevented myself from going out with friends because of my body issues. I realized that this has to stop as soon as possible. I need a healthy lifestyle, and that’s what I’m going to get. I’ll be more confident and able to go out again without feeling terrible about myself. In total, I plan on losing 40 pounds by Christmas

Most of my family members, including my mother and aunt, for the most part are fit. However, some of my relatives and friends are trying to slim down, too. I want to show my relatives that it is possible to lose weight. My mother is the one who is mostly telling me to start losing weight, as well as my grandfather. They keep me motivated.

My friend, Nicole, 16, who has been trying to shed pounds for almost a year, is serious about losing weight this summer. Right now, she is about 30-40 pounds overweight. We’re using an online nutritional diary called www.myfitnesspal.com to help us track our progress. It calculates our calorie intake and how many calories we need to consume a day. We plan to start running and working out in the gym.

Another friend, Monica, also 16, gained weight during the school year. She went from about 120 pounds to 137 pounds. Between snacking at school and not eating very healthy, she gained almost twice what she wanted to lose initially. She has committed to working out and eating healthier. Because she has a tight schedule, Monica plans to walk right after work near her job. Her mother, who has struggled with weight since she was a teenager, is very supportive.

My cousin, Luisa, is overweight, too. She’s a year younger than me and never cared what people thought about her until she got to high school and saw all the nice looking girls. Then, her self-esteem dropped. When she came to me for help, I told her what I was going to do. She’s staying with my family for the summer, so we plan to support each other.

The main reason girls our age are gaining weight is because we don’t move much anymore. Technology has made us lazy. This summer, all four of us plan to lose weight and finally be able to say that we’re happy with our bodies. I’ll let you know how everything turned out at the end of the summer.

“Your body is the baggage you must carry through life. The more excess the baggage, the shorter the trip.” – Arnold H. Glasgow

Two Dads Mean Double the Love

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By Courtney, 15, sophomore

I’m a daddy’s girl.

I’m not going to lie; I was a little bit of a brat when I was younger. When my mom didn’t want to get me something or didn’t want to talk about what I wanted, I whined and whined to my stepfather until I got my way.

Trust me, if I didn’t get it from my stepfather, I would call my father, who lives in Mississippi, and say, “Daddy, do you think you could buy me a new dress for this party I’m going to?” Within a week, I’d have a box sitting at my front door with two new dresses folded inside with the receipt.

I call my father and stepfather “daddy,” but they are radically different. My stepfather is all about sports. Anything that has to do with sports, he would be there. On the other hand, my father is all about school. He checks my grades every week and calls when he sees something wrong. I know that I’m lucky because most kids don’t have two dads.

Both of my fathers knew that I was a tomboy. They took me fishing and bandaged my scrapes from playing football with the guys at school when I was growing up. Although my stepfather came into my life when I was 8, he has had a very big influence on me. Every volleyball game and basketball game, he was there. Even if it meant that he had to drive from Homestead, Fla., to Atlanta, Ga., he did it.

My stepfather puts on a macho man act, but he is honestly a big softie. He tries to encourage me by continuously cheering me on even when I fail miserably. When I was playing a basketball game against our rival team and we lost, he told me to believe in myself. The next time we played them I had so much confidence that I was able to help lead our team to victory.

Many people are surprised when they hear that he isn’t my biological father. He filled the spot after my parents ended their relationship. My father and stepfather are my biggest cheerleaders and protectors. They have no animosity toward each other and are good friends. I think they work together to make sure that I grow up in an environment where I don’t hate my parents. They know that I have enough stress being a teenager. They would go out of their way to take care of my baby sister, Caitlyn, and me. I hope that when I’m older I will be able to do what my dads do for me.

Every day, my stepfather sacrifices the time he could have sleeping in to take me to school. He also takes me to practice and games. My father works as hard as he can to pay for school and sports activities. He tries to make me work to my fullest to become the greatest person I could ever be. My stepfather taught me how to drive and promote confidence in others. I don’t say thank you as much as I should, but I know they feel the love I have for them. Happy Father’s Day to all the fathers out there who are superheroes just like my fathers!

Confidence Helps Teen Cope With Hearing Challenge

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By Kennedy, 16, junior

Confidence is sometimes difficult to explain and sometimes difficult to understand. Nobody wants people to think they’re cocky, but nobody wants to be stepped all over either. The right balance is absolutely crucial. My confidence comes from the lemons that life has handed me and what I have learned from them.

I was born profoundly deaf. At 22 months, I underwent cochlear implant surgery, making me one of the first children to receive the implant in Texas. A cochlear implant is an electronic hearing device implanted in the inner ear that is activated by a device worn outside the ear. It truly is a miracle device because it allowed me to hear sound.

After the surgery, I was put in intensive, rigorous speech therapy where I learned to speak. I eventually caught up with my peers, allowing me to be mainstreamed in kindergarten. Because I was so young, I didn’t really think about who I was or feel different. Since then, I’ve been going to school like any normal teen. I’m starting my junior year this fall.

My parents never gave up on their deaf daughter. They wanted me to hear, and they wanted me to succeed. They pushed me and told me anything was possible. I played soccer, danced (ballet, flamenco, tap and jazz) and did things any regular kid could do. My life has been incredibly normal, and I have always been graciously welcomed by my peers who are fascinated and intrigued by my so-called disability.

I won’t lie, sometimes it has been hard. There have been days when I ask myself “why me?” There have been days when my life almost seems like a dream when I realize that in the blink of an eye my world can become silent. I always have to push back negative thoughts and stay positive because life could be so much worse.

Sometimes school can be a challenge, not necessarily keeping up the grades but making sure I get the accommodations I need. For the most part, I’m just a normal girl with teenage issues – parties, drama and boys. I just have the advantage of being able to turn off whenever I want. I get my fair share of deaf jokes from my guy friends, but I’ve learned to just brush it off and laugh along. I can’t change who I am, so I just accept it.

Growing up, I realized that by carrying my disability with pride and always welcoming questions, people have come to accept me. I also realized that the people who aren’t accepting are the ones who are ignorant and don’t know any better. I have discovered a confidence in myself that allows me to believe that I am able to do whatever I want because I am just the same as the person sitting next to me. I have the mindset of a social butterfly and a powerful spirit. I don’t let people walk over me. That personality comes from my parents and from within.

So, the moral of my story? Be yourself. Be proud of who you are. Be proud of what you can do. If people don’t accept you, that’s their problem. Every girl has something special; something that nobody else has. Own that. Carry yourself with confidence, and you will go far. Stay inspired. Stay motivated and know that you can absolutely conquer what you set your mind to regardless of what everyone tells you. Be proud of who you are, what you can do and stay true to yourself. Those qualities will make even your enemy admire you.

Father’s Day Gift Ideas for the Broke and Thrifty

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By Cheryl Mattox Berry

If money is tight this Father’s Day, you’ll have to be a little more creative when it comes to dad’s gift. Trust me, he won’t be upset if he doesn’t get another tie, mug or white dress shirt. Use your imagination. If you can’t think of anything, choose a gift from the list below:

  1. Take a picture of you and your dad, frame it and present it to him. He’ll find a special place for it at work or home. While you’re at it, make a copy for yourself and put it on the nightstand.
  2. Buy all his favorite snacks and arrange them in a basket. They will come in handy when he’s watching his favorite sports team on TV.
  3. Sports paraphernalia, such as a baseball cap and T-shirt of his favorite team.  T.J. Maxx and Marshall’s have a good selection.
  4. Create coupons for five car washes. FYI: That includes dusting the dash and console, vacuuming and polishing the tires. If you have siblings, ask them to pitch in.
  5. A CD of his favorite recording artist or put together a playlist for his MP3. Throw in a couple of your faves just for fun.
  6. His favorite adult beverage. Don’t even try going to the liquor store. You’ll need a grownup to help you with this one.
  7. Clean the barbecue grill. The whole family will appreciate this.
  8. Volunteer to do one of the chores your dad hates for one week. Put a Post-it note on your bathroom mirror to remind yourself.
  9. Update dad’s personal care products. He’s probably been using the same deodorant, shampoo and aftershave since high school. Introduce him to new fragrances, body wash and shower gel
  10. Give dad a mani/pedi. He’ll love the pampering, and his feet will thank you.

Many outlet and discount stores have a wide selection of inexpensive Father’s Day gifts under $15, including car care kits, personal grooming kits, gadgets for electronics and tools. Also, browse thrift stores and consignment shops. They carry gently used and new merchandise. You can buy picture frames and baskets to hold an assortment of gifts for dad. Hurry up before all the good stuff is gone.

 

 

 

 

 

Faith and Hard Work Make College a Reality

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By DeAira, 17, Class of 2012

I will never forget the day that I logged onto my Spelman College student account and saw that I would get a full scholarship. I thought my eyes were deceiving me, so kept logging off and on. I was in complete awe and admiration for the miracle that God performed for me.

In addition to the Spelman scholarship, I received a laptop and $15,000 in extra scholarship money from my church, private donors, sororities and other organizations to use at my discretion. I graduated cum laude (with honors) as a theater major from New World School of the Arts in Miami, and have many honors behind my name. It was extremely easy to share the first part of my story.

Now, here’s the reality of the situation. I have not always had blissful moments on my road to a higher education. I come from a single parent home because my father passed away when I was 10 years old. He struggled with drug addiction years before his death. I have dealt with molestation from the men closest to me. My family, which includes two older siblings, has survived off an extremely modest income.

I have many memories of being made fun of because I had outgrown my clothes and didn’t have the latest technological equipment. I am no stranger to struggle. I wanted to share this because I want you know that you are not alone.

Throughout my life, I have had people tell me what I would never accomplish and speak negatively of my skin tone because it was “too dark” to be so pretty. I want you to know that you are beautiful, and you are worthy.

God designed you perfectly, and He knows that you can triumph over any situation. To accomplish your dreams, you must first KNOW that you can achieve them and be ready to roll up your sleeves and put in the work.

Lord knows how many scholarship/college applications I filled out and how many rejections I received. However, one day I prayed and completely surrendered, and gave the situation over to Him. I trusted that He would provide for my needs, and praying about it was the best thing that I have ever done. Never give up. Be determined to earn a college degree and make it happen. I plan to major in biology and become a cardiologist. With God’s help, I know it can be done!

Drama Queen is a Time Thief

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By Cheryl Mattox Berry

Just when you’ve settled in to watch “Pretty Little Liars,” the phone rings. It’s your BFF, and she’s in crisis. Again. She’s sobbing and threatening to run away. You listen and try to calm her down. Before you know it, your favorite show has gone off.

You get angry with yourself because you’ve let her hijack your time again on something trivial. Her distress calls seem to come more frequently now and always at the wrong time.

She’s been your BFF since middle school, and you two have stuck together through thick and thin. You want to continue being her friend, but this act is getting old. Go ahead and admit it: Your friend is a Drama Queen starring in her own reality show, and you have become her audience.

Her life is filled with fights with her boyfriend, mom, sister, teacher, coach, tutor – everybody she comes into contact with. She thrives on conflict and having everyone within a 50-mile radius come to her aid after a blowup.

Whenever there’s an issue, you’re the first person she calls. It’s gotten to the point where you hate to see her name on the caller ID. The problem is usually resolved quickly but not before she has disrupted your day or night. Then, she laughs it off like it was no big deal.

Enough is enough. To get off this merry-go-round and maintain your sanity, you can impart some traditional “Dear Abby” advice or try reverse psychology. On a serious note, tell her that she needs professional help because her problems are way over your head and you don’t want to give bad advice. Then, refer her to a 24-hour help line, school counselor or therapist.

Option No. 2 might be more fun. Wait until your friend is in a good mood. Tell her you’ve been doing some research and think her life would make a good reality TV show because it’s full of drama. Give her a rundown of every crisis you can remember. Urge her to pitch a show based on her life to a TV production company.

Of course, deliver this suggestion with a straight face. She’ll either see that she’s been a pain in the butt and stop the drama or she’ll take you up on your suggestion. Either way, you should get some relief.

YOLO Can Be a Good Thing

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By Kennedy, 16, sophomore

YOLO. You only live once. Ever since this four-letter acronym surfaced in “The Motto,” by Drake, featuring Lil Wayne, it has made plenty of impact. Teens use YOLO as a way to justify their actions.

      “Finna get drunk #YOLO”

      “Just met this guy #YOLO”

      “Crazy night last night #YOLO”

It’s shocking to witness such stupidity and might I mention a lack of accurate grammar on social networking sites. Our generation has been a victim of the fast life. We try to grow up too quickly. We drink. We smoke. We hook up. Why? Because we only live once? The concept of justifying your wild actions with a word is silly, and it doesn’t make you look any better.

People see your actions, and believe it or not, they start to develop opinions about you. If you hooked up, guys will see you as an easy catch. If you got wasted, people will see you as someone who can’t handle herself. Whether we like it or not, we are constantly being judged, and we have to make an effort to prevent the world from being able to scrutinize us.

You might think using YOLO to take such actions is cool, but it really isn’t. It’s immature and unimpressive. Stop using YOLO so easily, and start thinking about your actions. Analyze the cause and effects. Don’t just go on a whim because the outcome could be dangerous.

You only live once, which is exactly why you should prevent yourself from using a saying to dominate your life and make decisions that you will most likely regret. YOLO can mean whatever you want it to, but it shouldn’t be used to justify immature choices.

It is neat to think about having some sort of saying that helps you become a braver, stronger person. So how about changing what you use YOLO for? Instead of using it to justify your drunken nights, use it to create a fun, healthy and better life. You can reinvent the word to fit into your lifestyle.

Do you have a passion for design, writing or cinema? YOLO. Do something with it! Design a line, write a collection of short stories or make a movie! Maybe you see something that touches your heart? YOLO. Make a difference and support your cause. Scared of heights? Go on an adventure and overcome your fear. The opportunities are infinite.

Create a dream board. Write a goal list. Think big because you only live once. You don’t want to regret any mistakes you made as a teenager because you let a term take over your life. Instead, love what you accomplish because you let a term inspire you. Appreciate the small moments and big accomplishments that such a saying can give you. You only live once, so make the best of it. Pursue your passions, overcome your fears and reach your goals. Because well, YOLO.