Giving Every Young Person in PENNSBORO WEST VIRGINIA a Path to Reach Their Potential
Our nation’s most basic duty is to ensure that every child has the chance to fulfill his or her potential. This isn’t the responsibility of one individual or one neighborhood: it’s up to all of us to pave these paths of opportunity so that young people — regardless of where they grow up — can get ahead in life and achieve their dreams.
That’s why My Brother’s Keeper (MBK) is such an important initiative. Launched by President Obama last year, MBK brings communities together to ensure that all youth — including boys and young men of color — can overcome barriers to success and improve their lives. I got to see this work up close during a recent trip to Oakland, California. I joined Mayor Libby Schaaf, City Council President Lynette McElhaney, and other stakeholders for a conversation about efforts that are making a difference in the lives of local youth.
One of the participants was a teenager named Edwin Manzano. The son of a hard-working single parent, Edwin found encouragement and support at the East Oakland Youth Development Center (EOYDC). Thanks in part to the academic and mentoring services offered by the EOYDC, Edwin will become the first member of his family to attend college when he begins his studies this fall at San Francisco State University.
Edwin is grateful for the opportunities that EOYDC afforded him. “Everyone needs a support system,” he says. That’s true whether you are a teenager or HUD Secretary. I was lucky when I was growing up on the West Side of San Antonio. Although it was a modest community in terms of resources, it was rich with folks who took an interest in my future. I had family members, teachers — and even policymakers — who paved a path that allowed me and other young people like me to succeed.
Unfortunately, not every child is as fortunate. That’s why My Brother’s Keeper is so close to my heart. The future of every young person in America should be determined by their heart, their mind and their work ethic. It should never be determined by their zip code.
In Oakland, I talked with 17 young people who have big hopes and aspirations for the future. It’s in our nation’s interest to help them achieve their goals. And we’re committed to doing our part at HUD.
For example, we’ve introduced a Jobs-Plus pilot program that will provide public housing residents in eight cities with intensive employment training, rent incentives and community building focused on work and economic self-sufficiency.
We’re also working on a broadband initiative to ensure that students living in HUD-assisted households will benefit from the life-changing opportunities available through high-speed internet. This project will provide the access to online resources that young people need to succeed in the 21st century global economy.
On the housing front, we expect the recent expansion of our Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) initiative to aid HUD-assisted properties in raising billions of dollars in private sector investment — funding that will be used to secure our nation’s affordable housing future. And recently, our Federal Housing Administration lowered its Mortgage Insurance Premiums to make homeownership more affordable for responsible families, helping them put down roots and build wealth for the future.
But I know HUD alone won’t solve the issues facing America’s youth. These challenges require our Department to maintain longstanding, effective partnerships with other federal agencies and key stakeholders. Most importantly, President Obama understands that My Brother’s Keeper will only succeed if local leaders take his call to action into their own hands.
Folks in Oakland are stepping up to answer this call. During the Community Conversation, I spoke with leaders from Oakland’s nonprofits, philanthropic institutions, and faith-based organizations that are putting our young people on the path to success. Groups like the East Oakland Youth Development Center, the East Bay Foundation, and the Allen Temple Baptist Church are using promising and proven approaches to make a real difference in their communities.
This kind of work is happening all across the nation and will benefit generations of Americans. We’ve got to keep it going by continuing to support our young people. When they succeed, our nation grows stronger, and our future becomes brighter. And by giving everyone an opportunity to reach their goals, we can ensure that the 21st century is another American century.
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The Guardian and a warning to PENNSBORO WEST VIRGINIA: Jehovah´s Witnesses´ silencing techniques, as terrifying as child abuse
Growing up in a Jehovahs Witness family is different. As a child, I didnt celebrate birthdays, Christmas or July 4. Nor did I, or anyone I knew, mix with non-Witness families in Little League or Girl Scouts. Instead, I spent much of my time sharing the good news. I used to go door-to-door on my own with a big, strong, well liked man in my congregation, named Jonathan. I was just 9 and 10 when he repeatedly sexually abused me.
It is really hard for kids to speak up when theyre abused. But the Jehovahs Witnesses make it a lot harder.
They have a 2 Witness rule, which says that anyone who accuses an adult of abuse must have a second witness. If there is no second witness, the accuser is punished for a false accusation - usually by ordering that no Witness may talk with or associate with the false accuser. This is called dis-fellowshipping. For a kid raised only with other Witnesses, it was horrifying. Even your parents would have to ignore you. It was more terrifying than Jonathan.
It was the elders of my congregation who had assigned Jonathan to team up with me. When we separated from the others, he forced me into his pick-up truck and drove us to his house. Then he would say Lets play. It happened too many times. Like everyone else in the congregation, my parents liked Brother Jonathan and trusted him in our family.
My parents were consumed with some really huge problems in those years, and later divorced. I was emotionally alone - and wanted to be the best Jehovahs Witness I could be. Thats why I went out to field service - the door to door ministry that Witnesses are known for.
What my parents didnt know, was that Jonathan had sexually molested another girl in our congregation. The elders knew this and had kept it a secret. They were following orders from Watchtower leaders, based in the world headquarters in New York, who in 1989 had issued a top-secret instruction to keep known child sex abusers in the congregations a secret. This instruction became Exhibit 1 at my civil trial.
The elders and the Governing Body all knew that child molesters hide in religious groups and often are people who are likeable and friendly - like Jonathan. They knew molesters would likely do it again. But they chose to ignore the safety of the kids, in favor of protecting their image - and their bank account - from lawsuits. It was all in that 1989 letter.
A recent report by the Center for Investigative Reporting revealed that they have continued to issues directives urging silence around child abuse. Last November, elders were instructed to avoid taking criminal matters like child abuse to the authorities. Instead, they were told to handle them internally in confidential committees. The report also showed that Jehovahs Witnesses evoke the First Amendment to hide sex abuse claims.
It took me learning about Jonathans other victims for me to speak up. In 2009, I looked on Californias Megans Law website, the states official list of registered sex offenders. There, I found he had been convicted a few years before for sexually abusing another 8-year-old girl. I felt horribly guilty that I hadnt spoken up about him earlier. Now, I need to stop predators from doing this again.
The only way to end this abuse is by lifting this veil of secrecy once and for all.
That's more people than the populations of New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago combined. This number includes parents who can finally afford to take their kids to the doctor, families who no longer risk losing their homes or savings because someone becomes ill, and young people who are now free to pursue their dreams without worrying about losing access to health care.
2. Medicaid is helping millions.
The Affordable Care Act allows states to expand eligibility for Medicaid, and 28 states and the District of Columbia have done so. Across all 50 states, there are 11.2 million additional Americans enrolled in Medicaid compared to a baseline period in the fall of 2013.
While not every state expanded Medicaid, those that did are seeing especially strong coverage gains. In Medicaid expansion states, the uninsured rate among families with incomes below 138 percent of the federal poverty line declined by 13 percentage points, nearly double the decline in non-expansion states.
3. Those with pre-existing conditions can no longer be denied health insurance.
Prior to the Affordable Care Act, health insurance companies could deny you coverage or charge you more because of a health problem that you had prior to applying for insurance. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, health insurance companies can’t refuse to cover you just because you have a pre-existing condition and they can’t close you out of coverage by charging you more than someone who doesn’t have a pre-existing condition.
This key provision means that up to 129 million Americans with pre-existing conditions are no longer at risk of being denied coverage. This includes the parents of over 17.6 million children with pre-existing conditions who no longer have to live with that worry.
4. The uninsured rate for young Americans is at its lowest point since at least 1997.
Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, the uninsured rate for young Americans has declined by more than 40 percent over the past five years. Since 2010, more than 5 million young adults have gained coverage. This includes 2.3 million young adults who have gained coverage by being able to stay on their parent's health plan. Under the Affordable Care Act, young adults can stay on their parent’s coverage until age 26. With all that can happens in a young person's life, this provision helps ensure that those who are just starting out in college and work careers can plan with the assurance that they have access to quality and affordable coverage.
5. Americans no longer have lifetime and annual limits on their coverage.
The Affordable Care Act has lifted the lifetime health benefit caps for 105 million Americans. Previously, many plans set a lifetime limit on how much they would spend for your covered benefits during the entire time you were enrolled in their plan. If you went over, you’d be paying out of pocket. Annual limits also constrained families and inpiduals by restricting how much they could receive per year. That's not how it should be. That’s why the Affordable Care Act prohibits health plans from putting annual or lifetime dollar limits on most benefits.