Jennie Noll, director of Penn State’s Network on Child Protection and Well-Being, had just asked if anyone in the audience knew how many children in the United States were affected each year by abuse. Not one person raised a hand.
Noll revealed the answer: nearly 2 million. Silence again.
“How come we don’t know that?” asked Noll. “How come everyone doesn’t know that?”
That difficult question was the focus of last night’s panel discussion, “Making a Difference, Every Day… Preventing Child Abuse Begins With You.” At the event, sponsored in part by the Alumni Association, keynote speaker James Hmurovich, CEO and president of Prevent Child Abuse America, led an honest, emotional discussion about the issues of child abuse, neglect, and maltreatment — and the ways communities can keep kids safe. Some highlights from Hmurovich’s address:
-Because of his background in the Indiana Department of Corrections, Hmurovich became aware of the strong link between child abuse and juvenile delinquency. When he learned that 63 percent of the girls and boys in the Indiana juvenile correction system had been abused as children, “I started to put together the puzzle pieces,” he says.
-In his work with the Child Welfare Department, Hmurovich recalls talking with women who were able to successfully get off welfare. In describing how they did it, he says, their stories all began with the same phrase: “Someone took the time to …” Hmurovich’s takeway: It’s up to us, individually and as a community, to “create a norm of caring.”
-Hmurovich says federal legislators must create public policy and provide tools for parents and caregivers to ensure healthy childhood development, he says. “Our public policy in the U.S. isn’t exactly where it should be.”
Later in the evening, as part of the panel discussion, Montgomery County assistant district attorney and Alumni Association vice president Kevin Steele ’92g talked about the importance of child advocacy centers, like the ones he’s helped establish throughout Pennsylvania with non-profit group Mission Kids. Because these centers employ “investigative teams” of experts to interview children after abuse, victims aren’t forced to retell their stories to multiple people during the legal process — an experience that’s often painful, he says. The goal of Mission Kids and programs like it, explained Steele, is not only to achieve justice, but to promote healing for victims of abuse.
Steele also encouraged students in the audience to stay involved with child abuse prevention programs even after graduation, explaining that many PSAA chapters are active with child protection organizations around the country.
At the end of the evening, guests were invited to take blue pinwheels — a symbol, explained Hmurovich, of “every child’s right to a happy, healthy childhood.”
Mary Murphy, associate editor
Funny business: Our March/April cover boy, Ty Burrell ’97g, scored a new role: bar owner. Burrell just opened Beer Bar, a cozy brewpub in downtown Salt Lake City. The new spot is right next door to Bar X, a cocktail lounge Burrell co-owns. Like its name, Beer Bar’s menu is nothing fancy (think bratwurst and fries). The real attraction: a whopping 150 brews on tap.
Speaking out: April is sexual abuse awareness month (more on this later today), and a powerful event last night on campus helped spread the word. At “Take Back the Night,” now in its fifth year at Penn State, survivors of abuse — both men and women — gathered in front of Old Main to share their stories. Said senior Nicauris Rosario: “To see men stand up and share how they are affected by these situations, it opened a lot of people’s eyes.” Check out the Collegian‘s coverage here.
Big money: Just how successful are the Weebly guys (David Rusenko ’07, Dan Veltri ’07, and Chris Fanini ’12)? Onward State helped answer that question yesterday, in a story about the Web startup’s founders. Thanks to recent funding from Chinese company Tencent and a California-based venture capitalist, Weebly’s now valued at $455 million. So yeah. Pretty successful.
Mary Murphy, associate editor
ICYMI, Brian Cuban: Here’s the best piece from Penn State student media I’ve read this week: a profile of Brian Cuban ’83, a “recovered anorexic, alcoholic, drug addict, and bulimic” who is working to raise awareness by telling his story. The author is the the soon-to-be-managing-editor of Onward State, Tim Gilbert, and this story is the very definition of a good read.
‘Forbidden Food’: Restricting food from children may not be a productive way to teach them to eat healthy foods, according to work by Penn State researchers that warranted a story this week on the New York Times’ Well blog. (Aside: Great source for health and fitness and wellness news, with good comment threads, too.) Post-doc Brandi Rollins was lead author on the study, in which preschoolers were given the chance to “work” for food—clicking a mouse four times resulted in a cinnamon-flavored graham cracker. The concept: to study “reactive eaters,” who are highly motivated by food. As with most medical studies, this research doesn’t lend itself to a simple takeaway, so it’s worth it read the whole piece.
A new Paterno statue: Jessica Tully of Onward State reports that a Kickstarter campaign will begin in July to raise $300,000 to build a bronze statue of Joe Paterno in the brick alley near The Tavern. The restaurant’s owner, Pat Daughtery, expressed interest, and Kim Intorre got permission from State College, which stipulated that the statue be built on private property.
Weekly BOT election reminder: The election for three alumni seats on the Board of Trustees opened April 10, and so far, turnout is down. If you’ve not yet voted, check out our Three Questions project to familiarize yourself with the 31 candidates. Voting ends at 9 a.m. EDT, May 8.
Lori Shontz, senior editor
Photo finish: At last year’s Boston Marathon, Erin Strout ’97, a writer for Running Times magazine, was in a media center one block from the finish line when two bombs exploded. She recounted her experience in our July/Augsust 2013 issue: “There was … an instinct to start reporting, absorbing reactions, setting aside my panic.” This year, the scene at the finish was much more celebratory for Strout, who posed for a photo with (American!) victor, Meb Keflezighi, and posted it to Instagram with the caption: “Sorry. Sometimes you gotta take off your professional hat for a minute & be a fan.”
She’s a morning person: It was announced yesterday that Good Morning America lifestyles anchor Lara Spencer ’91 has been promoted to co-host. Spencer nabbed the anchor spot in 2011, and since then, GMA has ousted Today as the No. 1 morning show in the country. Says ABC News chief James Goldston:”Lara is clearly an essential ingredient in the success we have enjoyed.” Way to go, Lara!
Instant mood boost: Everyone at Penn State Berks is happy — and we do mean everyone. A huge crew of students, faculty, staff, and a certain mascot all get down to the song of the moment in this fun YouTube video, created by Berks student Connor Hough.
Mary Murphy, associate editor
Smile, you’re in Beaver Stadium: Security is a major priority in the second-largest stadium in North America, and as our buddy Bill DiFilippo writes in today’s CDT, that means lots and lots and lots of cameras in the most prominent building on campus. Penn State’s director of physical security, Scotty Eble, says there are “approximately” 63 cameras in the stadium, a number he says is “constantly changing.” That of course doesn’t count the 100,000 or so phones and handhelds in the building seven Saturdays each fall.
The winds (and drought, and flooding…) of war: Retired Navy Rear Admiral David Titley arrived on campus last fall to direct the Center for Solutions to Weather and Climate Risk, and as this story from Slate reinforces, there’s a very real impetus for his and the Center’s work: the growing threat of political instability caused or exacerbated by a warming planet. The story includes a Q&A with Titley in which he talks about striving not to politicize the climate change discussion while emphasizing that it’s not “just an environmental issue; it’s a technology, water, food, population issue.”
On the bench, and off: A couple of cool behind-the-scenes features on Penn State sports from student media outlets: The Collegian profiles Dwayne Anderson, a Nittany Lion basketball assistant coach who earned the respect and admiration of Pat Chambers when Chambers was an assistant, and Anderson a player, at Villanova; and Onward State introduces us to the women of Penn State’s nationally competitive club power-lifting team.
Ryan Jones, senior editor
No place like home? A team of astronomers that includes Penn State scientists might beg to differ after the discovery of Kepler-186f, the first Earth-sized planet orbiting a star (not our sun) in a “habitable zone” that would allow for the presence of liquid water. Astronomy and astrophysics professor Eric Ford is co-author of a paper on the discovery, which utilized NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope. It’s a big deal, although probably not somewhere any of us should plan on relocating to anytime soon: Kepler-186f is about 500 light years from Earth.
How their garden grows: Here’s a cool example of collaborative learning and making a positive impact in your community, compliments of students and faculty at Penn State Berks. Undergrads Melissa Sauer and April Moore, both future schoolteachers, were looking for a way to contribute to the local elementary school where both are student teaching. The decided to create a garden, and with the help of Berks faculty from social sciences and biology, as well as classmates majoring in biology, they turned the idea into reality. Now, the garden at Glenside Elementary is a hit, inspiring hands-on learning among a growing number of young students. Says Sauer, “some of the shyest, most withdrawn students are the most involved.”
Diamond days: The State College weekend forecast is 60s and sunny—not quite Blue-White Weekend warm, but still perfect weather for some baseball. The Nittany Lions, who host Illinois in a three-game series starting tonight at Medlar Field, are off to a great start under first-year coach Rob Cooper, including an 8-0 mark at home. I met Rob recently and came away impressed by his positive approach to building a winner in Happy Valley; he also claims to have beat James Franklin to the “dominate the state” recruiting motto, although, as he laughingly admits, “When Coach Franklin says it, they put it on the front page of the newspaper.”
Ryan Jones, senior editor
Space jam: It was a party yesterday afternoon at the HUB for the announcement of the Homecoming 2014 Honorary Grand Marshal. The lucky leader: Michael Paul, director of the Lunar Lion team. We told you all about Lunar Lion’s mission to the moon back in the fall (it was the cover story in our Nov./Dec. 2013 issue), and since then, the team has made huge strides, with 120 students now working on the project.
More than words: Here’s a feel-good story about a Penn State fencer who’s helping promote LGBT equality in college sports. Working with non-profit group Athlete Ally, Heather Nelson wants fellow athletes to understand the power of their words: “It can be hard to be an athlete who isn’t out to their team and be forced to listen to teammates make derogatory comments,” says Nelson. “It can drive you to feel less like you belong and less like a welcome member of the team.” Check out Athlete Ally’s Q&A with Nelson here.
Groovy movie: Well, this is… interesting. Ripped! is a psychedelic, sci-fi, musical film about a British rock group in space. Film profs Rob Bingaman and Maura Shea co-created the film, which premiered last night at the State Theatre. Penn State students and alums make up the entire cast and crew. Trust me — the trailer is worth your 2 minutes and 33 seconds.
Mary Murphy, associate editor