Dec 01

Virtual Internship – Real Experience

learn online

When I tell others that my internship is online, I usually know what is coming next.  It most likely will be laughter followed by comments such as “That must be so easy” or “I wish I could go to work in my pajamas”.  Remarks such as these are made by those who may not be aware of the benefits of an online internship and the real world experience one can gain.

Virtual internships have grown in popularity in recent years for a variety of reasons such as family commitments, internship training sitelocation and flexibility.  This type of arrangement allows a student to gain real work experience in a remote work setting.  Students complete assignments from home and communicate on a regular basis with employers by telephone, instant messaging, email, Skype, webinar or social media.  

I reside in a rural area without many agencies that offer internships for graduate students.  I have to admit that I didn’t know what to expect when this all began in January but as my year comes to an end, I can truthfully say that I would not trade the experience.  The numerous opportunities provided to me as an intern with the SISGI Group have challenged me and pushed me completely outside of my comfort zone.  

The professional and personal growth I have made during this year has increased my confidence and provided me with real world skills in marketing, development and fundraising, event planning, research, grant writing, conflict resolution, leadership, cultural diversity, social media, networking, consulting and time management.   I am thankful for this unique learning experience and I would definitely want to pursue other virtual opportunities in my career.

Perhaps your agency might be willing to offer a distinct experience to students who are open to a virtual internship.  By structuring it in such a way there is regular one-on-one supervision, learning opportunities, individual and team assignments, it can be a win-win situation for both the organization and student.  Learn more about the Social Change Leadership Program at the SISGI Group and contribute today towards allowing more students, like me, to have this experience at  


Nov 17

Best Practices for Grief – Parental Deployment


This series began with an introduction of multiple grief experiences of youth in foster care placement.  This series continues with a look at parental deployment and its impact on youth.

Multiple relocations.  Loss of friendships.  Loss of pets.  Parental deployment.  Death.  These are a few of the many grief experiences military children and teens in the United States may face today.


Out of the 5 million Americans  connected with the military family, 2 million are children.  On average military children will move 6-9 times between kindergarten and high school.

Studies continue to show heightened stress and pressure being put on families with increased deployments.  There is a need now more than ever before for increased understanding of military culture in non-military schools.  We need to help students with military connectedness get the support required for them to be successful both academically and emotionally.  It’s time for us to create more conversations around how to better serve this population of military children and teens.

Below is the second video in our video series highlighting best practices for teachers and other key players impacting the lives of grieving youth today.  I interviewed Benjamin Wilson, California Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) for this conversation about grief and loss experiences.  Wilson is a Certified FOCUS Trainer and FOCUS Site Director for Naval Base Ventura County (NBVC). Wilson offers best practices when working with children and teens experiencing parental deployment. He provides insight into the importance of recognizing each military connected child or teen as an individual and the importance of meeting them where they’re at in their grief.  This interview includes practical tools and helpful resources for parents, teachers, educators, and other adults working with military connected youth.

One of my favorite takeaways from this video is that we must not forget that although military connected youth may be impacted by multiple grief and loss experiences, they are highly resilient and have a strong ability to overcome adversity.  

November 19th, I will be hosting a twitter chat to discuss best practices when working with grieving youth.  Leading up to this twitter chat,  I will continue to post more information and highlight our campaign using the hashtag #Grief5.  You can see images from the hashtag campaign on Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram here.

In the meantime, use our hashtag #Grief5 to share our information, start your own conversation, and follow our campaign for updates.  You can find us on Facebook at The Alliance for Positive Youth Development and The SISGI Group.  On Twitter we are @NotEnoughGood and @Ideas4youth.  We are also @Youth4change on Instagram.

To see all the videos in the series please view the playlist on our ISC Youtube channel.


Nov 16

Best Practices for Grief: Foster Care

We remove them from their homes with promises of a better life.  We elude them with dreams of safety and a life free from the trauma and pain that often silences the voices of this population of children and teens living in foster care.


Often, key players in the lives of foster care youth struggle to understand the magnitude of loss a child or teen in the foster care system has experienced.  Abuse and neglect.  Loss of innocence.  Trauma.  Separation from parents.  Loss of security.  Multiple placements.  These heavy experiences not only impact children and teens in our foster care population short term, they are far reaching.  The long term impacts of these experiences of foster care youth are evidenced by the staggering statistics of foster care alumni.  Homelessness.  Crime.  Unemployment.  Mental health concerns.  Lack of education.  These are a few of the many issues that continue to impact foster care alumni fostercare2.jpegtoday.

In order to effectively serve this underserved population it’s time for us to acknowledge how much we really don’t know about foster care youth in the United States today.  It’s time to create more conversation about the needs of children and teens in foster care placement and the realities of their experiences.  It’s time we meet them where they’re at in their grief.

Below is the first video in our series highlighting best practices for teachers and other key players impacting the lives of grieving foster care youth today.  In this video I interview Evangelina Reina, LCSW, Assistant Regional Administrator for DCFS – Los Angeles and Adjunct Assistant Professor for The University of Southern California.  Reina offers her insight into best practices when working with children and teens in foster care placement as well as her expertise on what sets foster care youth apart from youth impacted by the other experiences of death, divorce, parental incarceration, and parental deployment.

November 19th, I will be hosting a twitter chat to discuss best practices when working with grieving youth.  Leading up to this twitter chat,  I will continue to post more information and highlight our campaign using the hashtag #Grief5.  You can see images from the hashtag campaign on Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram here.

In the meantime, use our hashtag #Grief5 to share our information, start your own conversation, and follow our campaign for updates.  You can find us on Facebook at The Alliance for Positive Youth Development and The SISGI Group.  On Twitter we are @NotEnoughGood and @Ideas4youth.  We are also @Youth4change on Instagram.

To see all the videos in the series please view the playlist on our ISC Youtube channel. 

Nov 04

November: Veterans, Thanksgiving and Military Families

Have you ever been defined as the problem? You know that feeling when someone says it’s because of the place you lived, the color of your skin, your socio-economic class or earning potential, how long you’ve been with the organization, the school, in your community, or even what gender you are or who you love, that determines the access to opportunities you have. I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of being defined by limits, identified by a characterization, and placed on the outside.

Who am I you might be asking? I am a military spouse, a military family member, or even to some in federal circles, a dependant. Clearly I see myself and other military families differently. I see a career professional, social change agent, advocate, parent, friend, supporter of all things Star Wars and Star Trek, patriot, lover of laughter, ice cream, and animal videos on YouTube and ice hockey.

What really gets me is when someone defines me as a military spouse or family member implying the underlying stereotypes that come with it and then limits my opportunities for potential growth and achievement. After all, I see myself and others as an asset, not a liability. I don’t see family members as problems as much as I believe we are limited by our environment. We have become socially disadvantaged and marginalized.

Infographic on military families

Source –

The total active, Reserve and National Guard force equals around 2 million service members. 53% of the active duty force and 48% of National Guard and Reserve are married; 43% of all service members have children. America’s leadership recognizes with service members come families. As a matter of fact, military research shows that the family (spouse, children, parents, siblings) is the single most influential source impacting enlistment and reenlistment.  So then why are there only temporary fixes to the problems created by a military lifestyle? Where is the buy-in missing?

For me, all military family members have identified strengths, talents, and abilities. They are simply confronted with barriers that they must realistically assess to match their personal situation in hope of achieving opportunities. Too many times to count, I have been stopped in my tracks by local, state or federal rules or citizens who are biased against the diversity of military family structures and our mobility.

Local communities need to see our potential as a proud, serving, and dedicated family. Know that my nomadic children and I desire the same opportunities to succeed and fail as each of you who have had your roots firmly planted.

I have interviewed for a job, only to be questioned on my consistently inconsistent employment history. I fight to be under-employed, to establish a career, to even volunteer. Corporations, businesses, and organizations need to see my potential and invest in me. Know I am just as dedicated to my career as to my military lifestyle and the nation!

To honor military families, Congress designated the first Military Family Appreciation month in November 1999, and since then every US President has signed a November proclamation declaring a month long celebration honoring the commitment and sacrifices made by the families of the nation’s service members. That’s nice.

Is it a coincidence that November was chosen for the month long observance? Our nation already has significant November holidays that celebrate sacrifice and service to our nation (Veterans Day) and a celebration of family, gratitude, and gifts bestowed upon each of us (Thanksgiving).

As a 20+ year military spouse, I appreciate the symbolic gesture. I mean who wouldn’t want to say they support and stand behind family members whose loved ones work 24/7 in service of our nation, sometimes far from home duringSloniker 2015 key family life moments.

Who wouldn’t want to acknowledge their support of a military spouse and military children who move every two to three years. And in doing so, indirectly recognize that military mobility can contribute to a postponement or even forfeiture of the family member’s own careers and goals.

Who wouldn’t want to give a thumbs up and a pat on the back to a military child that just found out they will move to their fourth or fifth school. And while they were talented in sports, music or some club activity at the other school, it comes down to the new coach or the faculty instructor not really knowing them. So they sit and wait, hoping for a big break just so they can belong.

American society should know that my family and I, after a decade and half of constant deployment, are no different than any other American family that has faced piling on challenge after challenge. We are strong and resilient; and that carries over to whatever neighborhood, school, community, or job we find ourselves.

I also understand the ambiguity behind such a hollow proclamation; the applause for simply being there, for giving something up. Like I said, I have lived that “tag-along” lifestyle now for 20+ years, where my service and sacrifice is notable because of what I have given up – not for what I have achieved.

Let’s be honest, the proclamation has value and meaning only to the military and veteran communities. The other 99% of American citizens have no awareness of the service and challenges a military family faces; or if they do, it’s noted in the same way I did – “that’s nice.”

If you ever want to understand what it is like to be a military family member, the internet is a wonderful place to get multiple perspectives. I’d like to point you to two resources: one long and one short. For an in depth understanding of what a military child experiences, watch the documentary “Brats: Our Journey Home.”

 You’ll quickly understand that the paradox is that they never really find home because of the sacrifices those Presidential proclamations extol – that make their lifestyle and childhood tough.

For the short version, look for a YouTube video called “It’s Not About the Nail.” Many times, the strengths that I have, that many other family members have, are negated, marginalized, or self-silenced because the focus is on the circumstances.

Other times, the policies and directives currently in place simply are not reflective of what is required to maintain a 21st century household. They put the military family member at a disadvantage by defining them as the problem that doesn’t fit neatly in the box and implying that they should simply acknowledge it, create a personal workaround or “suck it up.”

Lastly, the lifestyle creates barriers for transition into local communities where both bias and judgment exists. How can a family be expected to successfully integrate into communities, build ties, thrive and breakdown barriers, only to move 2-3 years later.

So how do we as a society stop defining people by their problems? I don’t even want to propose the philosophy of some who claim they “don’t see race, or status, or gender. Everybody is equal.” Honestly, that is baloney. Everyone has unconscious bias, there exists structural barriers in society, and our personal context does matter. What’s needed is an inclusive approach where we define each person on their own merits and strengths, as well as learn to constructively appreciate the differences we all have.

Nov Military FamilyI’m not saying, with regards to military families, that the federal government or the local citizenry is off the hook. Or that each family member must pull themselves up by their own “bootstraps.” No, we all have a vested interest in success. I believe  judgment with bias must end in order for any person, not just a military family member, to be defined by what they bring to table and not how much of a headache it is to simply invite them. America needs to finally create a society where all people have dignity, honor, and humanity. That begins with each one of us.

If the proclamation has not already been released, there will be one to declare November as National Military Family Appreciation Month. When you see or hear the beautifully eloquent words by the President honoring the families of all who have served our nation, I hope each citizen of the United States remembers this important saying, “The strongest people are not those who show strength in front of us, but those who win battles we know nothing about.” I am a military family member. See me as an asset to your community, as an asset to the nation, and as one more quality of diversity that adds beauty to the tapestry of America.


Nov 02 2015

It’s Grief To Me – Death, Divorce, Incarceration, Deployment and Foster Care

When I graduated from high school, I never intended on going back. Then 13 years later, I found myself walking the halls of someone else’s high school thinking about that period of my own life that was so fraught with darkness. But this time my role was different. I was different.

thepainisreal.jpegI was a mental health practitioner preparing curriculum for an after school grief group within the high school mental health program where I worked. My role was to plan lessons and co-facilitate the group with my supervisor, a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW). When one student was referred to the grief group because of her father’s military deployment, I remember initially not understanding what deployment had to do with grief and loss.  That quickly changed as facilitating the after school grief group provided a whole new awareness of how different grief and loss can look for a teen.

After finishing up my role as co-facilitator of the high school grief group and as my years working in the mental health program began to accumulate, I began to realize many of the youth I was surrounded by daily were grieving.   Not only were they grieving, they were hungry for acknowledgement of their loss. They wanted validation of their pain.  

All key players need to be on the same page when it comes to the many emotions youth experience in connection to grief. Who are these pivotal players? Not only are they the parents and caretakers of the grieving children and teens, but also educators and other key adults in the lives of youth.  Every year, our educators in the public education system spend roughly 180 days and approximately around 1,000 hours with our children.  For many children, the time spent with their classroom teacher accumulates to more time then the time they spend with their own parents.  For many children in the foster care system for example, or for those with an incarcerated parent, their schools and their teachers become the one constant in their lives. Read the rest of this entry »

Oct 19

Grief and Loss – Grieving Children in the U.S.

Each of us are impacted by grief and loss.  For some, the words “grief” and “loss,” signify the pain one feels after they’ve lost a loved one to death.  For others, the words “grief” and “loss” have a different meaning. November 19, 2015 is Children’s Grief Awareness Day.  In an effort to help spread the word and bring awareness to this important event, for the next month we will be highlighting five grief experiences of children and teens.  Starting today October 19, 2015 we will focus on grief and loss not only as pertained to death, but also divorce, deployment, incarceration, and foster care.  November 19th, Children’s Grief Awareness Day will be a culmination of our efforts where we will be hosting a tweet chat to discuss #Grief5. The goal of our social media conversation on November 19th will be to highlight these 5 aspects of grief and provide best practices to educators and others connected to youth.



Look for an upcoming blog post November 2, 2015 with more information regarding this campaign and plan on joining us November 19, 2015 to discuss what educators can do to best support our grieving children and teens.  Follow @Ideas4youth and @NotEnoughGood on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram and join us in the chat all month long using the hashtag #Grief5.

Oct 05

Down Syndrome: A New Perspective

Eleven weeks ago I gave birth to my second daughter, Hope.  As we began to adjust to life as a family of four, it became clear to me that each of our girls is unique.  Not only are they unique from each other, they are unique from their father & me as well.  Harper, my eldest daughter, has luscious, curly and at times, tangly hair.  I’m jealous.  She has the hair I’ve always wanted.  You see, my hair is straight.  Because her hair is so different from mine, at first I found it hard to manage.  But after 4 years of trial and error, I have found a groove and her hair care routine is no longer daunting, in fact, it’s fun.


So you may be thinking, what does my daughter’s beauty routine have to do with Down syndrome?  It’s as simple as this, diversity is beautiful.  For me, celebrating the world with it’s vast array of colors, abilities, shapes, and sizes is what makes life fulfilling, whether it’s curly hair or an extra chromosome.


I became an advocate for the Down syndrome community quite by accident.  I was a music teacher at the time and one of my students introduced me to a family who had a son with Down syndrome.  Having little experience working with children with Down syndrome, I was pleasantly surprised at the amount of love, joy, and vigor for life that exuded from his tiny body.  While his diagnosis might have handed him a long list of limitations, he was determined to live his life to the fullest.  Meanwhile, as I reflected upon my own life, I quickly realized how much I take for granted and often forget to be grateful for what I have.  From that brief interaction with him I was inspired to appreciate my own gifts. This is when I began to see life through a new lens. Read the rest of this entry »

Aug 14

First Day of School Too Common a Phenomena for Youth in Foster Care

Anyone who has ever had to start a new school in the middle of the year probably remembers the barrage of feelings about the situation.  Perhaps anger at having to leave the familiar school and all of your friends behind; the anxiety felt about whether or not you will be accepted by your new peers; the fear of not being on the same level as the new school.  You may have thought about your grades not transferring, your testing scores being obsolete, you may not be able to make the sports team that you have been so dedicated to at your last school.  These are all typical feelings when starting at a new school.  Now, think about the feelings that are being compounded when you are living with strangers, separated from your siblings, and, to top it off, this is the third school you have attended in the past two years.  This is an unfortunate reality for many of the more than 300,000 youth in America’s Foster Care System and the effects can last a lifetime.

        The average length of stay for a child in the American Foster Care system is 12 months.  During this year, it is estimated that 85% of youth remain in a single placement.  This number drops to 64% in the second year, than to 35% for the third year.  The trend tells us that the longer a child stays in the system, the more likely it is for them to get shuffled around.  About 39% of all children in Foster Care are teenagers and the likelihood of them being put in a permanent home is significantly less than that of a younger child.  In a survey of adults who were involved in the foster care system, 1/3 reported that they had changed schools five or more times. Read the rest of this entry »

Feb 05

Why Redistribution is a Quality Investment

Income inequality. It’s a dirty term, but someone has to use it. Unless you’ve been actively hiding from any conversation, headline, or news report involving wealth and income inequality, you probably already know that the income gap between the mega-rich and the “regular folk” has grown exponentially since the 1970s.

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Tell you something you don’t know? Well, how about inequality’s ties to the U.S.’s slow economic growth since its attempt to bounce back from the Great Recession?  According to economists, our country is in a “permaslump”, which basically means the economy is moving about as fast as a sloth.

We know our economy is largely based on capitalism. Spending money is a big part of most of our lives (think Black jump start imageFriday, Back to School season, and even Valentine’s Day), but the biggest spenders are typically not the biggest money makers.  And here is where income inequality comes in to play.

“House of Debt”  bloggers, authors and economists Atif Mian and Amir Sufi have shown that low income households spend money, on average, more than high income households who tend to save their money. This was a big problem during the Great Recession because low income households were spending less due to unemployment, uncertain job security, and housing instability. Meanwhile, the higher income households continued to save. Even in a healthy economy, the savers still save.

With the majority of the country’s capital concentrated amongst so few households, our nation’s money is essentially being held hostage. When so much of it is tucked away, there is little spending money left to go around, and it prevents the needed reinvestment of capital into businesses and banks that is necessary to truly jumpstart the economy.

Luckily, we are not without solutions in addressing this. Unfortunately, many of them are considered to be the words Read the rest of this entry »

Jan 29

What’s in a Twirl?

What’s in a twirl? That which by any other twirl would be so sweet…. Okay so I am taking poetic license with a classic work by William Shakespeare. Yet we should as a society be asking the question “why ask a professional female athlete to twirl and show off her outfit?” ( )

We should also question whether we should just blow it off by calling it “entertainment news” or harmless?  Just for the record, I am a 40 to almost 50 something female who grew up in the US.  I grew up loving sports, playing sports, and not fully understanding why girls had limited options for types of sports to participant in as well as progression into higher levels of sporting competitions. I was by no means an outstanding female athlete; but to participate in sports is not about how good you are, it’s about what you learn about yourself, competition, strategies, and even what you can learn about others.

Title IX policy and advocacy came about when I was in elementary school. At the age of 6, I loved football.  After all, Read the rest of this entry »

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