Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Cirone on Schools - Sydney Hunt

Sydney Hunt
Youth in Service

From “why” to “why not?”

News column

“This is a book about the most admirable of human virtues — courage,” then-Senator John F. Kennedy wrote in the opening of his Profiles in Courage, published in 1955 and awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1957. In the book, Kennedy examines acts of political courageousness undertaken by eight different U.S. Senators during the 19th and 20th centuries. If integrity is informally defined as doing the right thing when no one is looking, courage, at least as Kennedy saw it for the purposes of his book, was doing the right thing when the world is watching, and when it could potentially come at extraordinary personal and professional cost.

It goes without saying, of course, that you don’t need to be an elected official or undertake life-altering risks to demonstrate courage. And you certainly don’t have to belong to a specific age group. Today I would like to profile a local young woman whose steadfastness and determination is making a difference in the lives of people in her community. Her name is Sydney Hunt, a 2015 graduate of Santa Ynez Valley Union High School who will be attending UCSB on a Regents Scholarship in the fall. She was also a winner of the Youth in Service Award, presented by the Santa Ynez Valley Foundation last spring.

I had the privilege of talking at length with Sydney last month, and I find her story — and her focus and energy — to be a source of inspiration and encouragement. Sydney, with a little help from her parents, grew a feel-good, solitary junior high volunteer effort at an assisted living facility into a high school club activity, and eventually into an incorporated non-profit entity replete with a charter, by-laws, and a board of directors.

“In my sophomore year of high school,” Sydney told me, “my grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. I wanted to learn everything I could about this neurological disease,” she continued. “But as I watched my grandmother’s condition worsen, I also felt the need to do something.”

She began simply by visiting a handful of residents at the nearby Solvang Friendship House, which provides personalized care to meet the needs of those suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia. Those visits would typically start with a conversation, but as her comfort level grew, she began participating in different activities, such as crafts, baking, and making floral arrangements. And creating playlists.

“Studies show that music can be therapeutic for Alzheimer’s patients, and there are indications that listening to music can slow the advancement of the disease. It sounds very simple,” Sydney says, “but building customized playlists for the residents of the Friendship House can make a big difference in their day. And perhaps their well-being.”

Despite the heartwarming vibe of “Pirates with Hearts,” the official club she started in Santa Ynez High after she began sharing the value of her volunteer work with her classmates and peers, it would be incorrect to characterize it as an overnight success. The group created a Facebook page, and Sydney and her friends would email high school administrators around the state touting some of their notable, but still very local, successes. It wasn’t until the Anacapa School in Santa Barbara responded enthusiastically and started their own club that Sydney caught the non-profit bug.

“I was trying to create a wider reach, but didn’t quite know how,” she says. “To incorporate and become a non-profit was my dad’s idea, and I think in doing so, we can take it to the next level.” Their non-profit, Students with Hearts, has already established an unofficial partnership with Tennessee-based Brookdale Senior Living Solutions. The partnership enables Students with Hearts the ability to begin a program in any one of Brookdale’s senior communities. The first chapter will begin this fall in Santa Rosa. Sydney will also be involved in forming a volunteer group at UCSB this fall.

Sydney is fond of quoting Gandhi: “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” She certainly walks that talk. But when I think about Sydney, I think of the quote Edward Kennedy used as he concluded his moving eulogy to his late brother Robert. “Some men see things as they are and say ‘Why?’” Kennedy said. “I dream things that never were and say, ‘Why not?’”

I am grateful to the Sydney Hunts of the world — women and men of all ages and abilities whose dreams consist of “Why nots?” They make our community and our world a better place. 

Helping a cause

Radio Commentary

It’s important for children to learn how to be good citizens, and one of the best teaching methods is for parents to model the right behavior.

One good place to start is to find at least one cause or need in your community where you can volunteer your help.

Let your children know why you think that area is important, and spell out for them how you are trying to help. Let your child join you if he or she wants.

Most children will be eager to become involved — but don’t force it if they’re not.

It’s important to let each child choose where and how to help, so they can take ownership in the progress that is made.

Opportunities range from helping other young people or senior citizens, to helping animals, or tackling an environmental project.

It’s also good to find and share success stories with your children.

It’s easy for any one of us to become overwhelmed by the problems in the community or the world. But the truth is that individuals can and do make a difference.

Talk to your children about the importance of joining forces. Encourage them to involve their friends in tackling big projects such as a creek or playground cleanup.

All these activities help reinforce the actions of good citizens. They help plant the seeds that individuals make a difference, and that in a democratic society we all have a responsibility to do things “for the good of the order.”

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Teen partying

Radio Commentary

Where there are teenagers, there will be parties, and summer vacations are often a likely time for these to occur.
If your teenager is attending a party, here are some key points to consider:

Know where your teenager will be. Get the name, address, and phone number of the host. If the party's location changes, have your teen let you know the new location.

Contact the parents of the party-giver to verify the party location, offer your help, and make sure that an adult will be present. You’ll also want to confirm that alcohol and other drugs will not be allowed.

Transportation to and from the party should also be discussed.

Let your teen know that you or a specific person can be called on for a ride home, no questions asked.

Discussing possible scenarios ahead of time gives teens a good idea about how to respond in a variety of situations.

Another important point to consider is curfew. Let your teen know when to be home. Stay up or have your teen wake you when he or she gets back. You may find it’s a good time to ask how the evening went.

Sleeping over at the location of the party may also be appropriate, but talk to your teen and the host's parents ahead of time.

Communication is essential. Build a sense of trust with your teen and you're more likely to get honest information.  

Monday, July 27, 2015

No child left INSIDE

Radio Commentary

It’s hard to believe it has come to this, but childhood is no longer synonymous with outdoor play.

Children are spending an average of 45 hours a week in front of a screen – televisions, computers, computer games. They are not spending time outdoors.

Children know how to build websites at a very early age, but not necessarily forts or tree houses.

Nature is becoming something on a television channel, not something in their backyard.

Research has confirmed what our grandmothers always said: “Go play outside. It’s good for you.”

It turns out that nature is important to children’s development in every major way —intellectually, emotionally, socially, and physically.

Playing in nature is especially important to help children increase their capacities for creativity, problem-solving, and intellectual development.

For children’s sake, parents need to be sure they play outdoors at least some of the time.

Leave No Child Inside is the name of a nationwide movement aiming to do just that, but parental encouragement is still the best way to reconnect kids with nature.

It’s an easy way to make a positive difference in children’s development in so many areas. Just send them outside in a safe area to play. They’ll figure out what to do. 

Friday, July 24, 2015

Beating the heat

Radio Commentary

In the excitement of a good pickup basketball game or even a leisurely game of tag, children might not notice the temperature rising.

But as the day progresses, their bodies react to the heat, and if children aren’t careful, they could come down with heat cramps, heat exhaustion, or heat stroke.

The body’s natural control mechanisms normally adjust to the heat. But those systems could fail if exposed to high temperatures for prolonged periods.

Here are some tips for beating the heat and staying cool:
  • Limit most exercise or at least the most strenuous exercise to the coolest part of the day — early morning or late afternoon.
  • Have children wear clothing that is loose, lightweight, and light-colored. Choose clothing that draws perspiration away from the skin to keep the body cooler — cotton T-shirts and shorts, for example.
  • Make sure children drink plenty of water – don’t wait until they say they’re thirsty to take a drink. The thirst mechanism kicks in only after a body is too depleted. If children are exercising heavily in hot weather, aim for two to four glasses every hour.
  • Stay away from liquids that contain caffeine or lots of sugar — these actually cause the body to lose more fluid. Also, remember that a drink that is too cold might cause stomach cramps.
  • Make sure children periodically take a break in a shady area to cool down.
These are all smart, effective practices for beating the heat.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Talking with Teachers - Katie Curry

Katie Curry
Santa Barbara Junior High School

Boating, sun safety

Radio Commentary

Summertime usually involves water recreation, which can be a source of great family fun. It also poses some dangers.

So it is important to teach your children water safety rules, to help protect them when boating, swimming, or enjoying other water sports.

First, have children learn to swim, but never alone — use the buddy system.

They should know the items that can be used to help save someone in trouble — a rope, an oar, a branch, or a life preserver, for example.

They should never swim where there is no lifeguard on duty. When on a boat, they should always wear a life jacket and stay seated.

Another great danger associated with water sports has to do with the sun. Many people believe that a tan looks healthy, but prolonged exposure to the summer sun can be very dangerous.

In fact, excessive sun exposure during the first 20 years of life is a key risk factor for all skin cancer. And young children are especially vulnerable.

To help protect your children, keep infants up to six months old out of the sun or shaded from it. For young children, use sunscreen liberally, at least 30 minutes before exposure, and reapply often.

Use extra protection in areas with reflective surfaces such as water.

And beware: A cloud cover only partially reduces radiation. Skin won’t feel warm until it is already too late.

With the right precautions, summer can be a time of fun and enjoyment for all ages.