Editor’s note: Donna Beegle is president and founder of Communication Across Barriers, a consulting firm that works to increase communication across poverty, race, gender and generational barriers, in part with “Poverty 101” workshops. She has a doctorate in education leadership from Portland State University.
Beegle is taking part in the CNN Dialogues event, “Today’s Other America: Living in Poverty,” at 7 p.m. tonight at the Rialto Center for the Arts in Atlanta.
By Donna Beegle, CNN
(CNN) - My dream is that a person will not be able to graduate from college without taking a Poverty 101 course. Poverty hurts all humanity and it’s the responsibility of everyone to bond together to eradicate it. Our ignorance about poverty perpetuates it and divides us as a nation.
I didn’t always know this. I was born into generational poverty; for many decades, most of my family members were uneducated, unskilled and, like 44 million Americans, illiterate. They survived in temporary, minimum wage jobs that didn’t pay in respect, nor provide opportunities for advancement.
My dad worked temporary seasonal jobs, the only ones he could get with limited literacy, no education and no specific job skills. My mom, like her widowed mom, picked cotton. We were highly mobile and survived mostly on migrant labor work in Arizona, California, Oregon and Washington. We followed the fruit season to pick cherries, strawberries, oranges and grapefruits. We picked green beans and dug potatoes. They were workers of the land, never owners. My family worked very hard and worked very long hours, but we were still evicted.
In school, I did not know the middle-class life examples teachers used to explain academic subjects. I was unable to understand and speak in their middle-class language; I said “ain’t,” didn’t know whether to use “gone” or “went,” didn’t know a difference between “seen” or “saw.” When told to “go look it up,” I dutifully went to the dictionary, only to find five more words I did not know and words no one in my world used. This just reinforced there was something wrong with my family, friends and me. It reinforced that education was not for me.
By Ted Rowlands, CNN
Ishpeming, Michigan (CNN) - Eric Dompierre has Down syndrome, but he's been welcome to play sports with other kids in Ishpeming Michigan since he was in elementary school. When he got to high school, Eric was invited to keep playing.
Now he's on both the Ishpeming High School football and basketball teams. He attends every practice and works out with the other players and if it's appropriate he plays a few minutes at the end of the game.
During this season's basketball playoffs Eric brought the house down. The team after maintaining a nice lead put Eric in the game and he hit a three-point shot against rival Negaunee High School.
"I was on the left side behind the three-point line and they passed me the ball," Dompierre says smiling as he recounts the game. "I heard the fans, including my mom crying."
Even though Eric is only a junior, his high school sports career may be over. Eric turned 19 in January, which puts him six months over the maximum age limit to play. Eric was held back in kindergarten because of his disability.
According to the constitution of the Michigan High School Athletic League, students who turn 19 before September 1 are not allowed to compete in sports. The rule is intended to prevent the possibility of injury or competitive advantage from an older more developed athlete playing against younger students.
For the past two years Eric's parents, with the support of the Ishpeming High School District, have tried to get the rule changed so Eric can play during his senior year.
But a committee with the Michigan High School Athletic Association has refused two proposals which would allow kids like Eric to participate.
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By Dan Merica, CNN
Washington (CNN) - Kevin Kloosterman, a former Mormon bishop, said he “came out” last year – just not in the way that many people associate with coming out.
“I came out and basically made a personal apology to (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) folks for really not understanding their issues, not really taking the time to understand their lives and really not doing my homework,” Kloosterman said in an interview with CNN.
Though not speaking on behalf of the church, the then-bishop stood in front of a crowd of gay and straight Mormons at a November conference on gay and lesbian issues in Salt Lake City, Utah, where the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is headquartered.
Donning a suit and tie, Kloosterman was visibly shaken, struggling to find the right words as tears welled up in his eyes.