Teens in Broward County Make Life-Changing Choices

ImageMore than 230 students from 11 Broward County middle schools participated in a life skills maze called the “Agents of Change A-MAZE-ING Choices” at the 2012 Broward Youth Summit. The hands-on, educational simulation was organized by Region 7 Gang Reduction Task Force in collaboration with Choose Peace/Stop Violence, and sponsored by The Jim Moran Foundation, United Way of Broward County Commission on Substance Abuse, Broward County Public Schools, The Sheriff’s Foundation of Broward County and the Children’s Services Council of Broward County.

Designed to help teens better understand consequences of life decisions, the maze was an interactive simulation taking youth on a journey through possible scenarios that can occur in a teen’s life. The students were led through a variety of rooms as they were confronted with choices or chances beyond their control in the areas of violence, drugs, alcohol, smoking, bullying, teen pregnancy and peer pressure.

Choose Peace/Stop Violence is a county-wide anti-violence movement overseen by United Way of Broward County’s Commission on Substance Abuse, whose vision is a violence-free community. For more information, visit www.choosepeacestopviolence.org.

To view a slide show with photos from the maze, click here.
To view local media coverage of the maze, click on the videos below.

LIVE UNITED on MLK Day 2012

United Way of Broward County is asking you to LIVE UNITED this Martin Luther King Jr. Day and help make our community a better place to live and work. Twenty-five years ago, the MLK Day of Service was established to empower individuals, strengthen communities, bridge barriers and create solutions to social problems. This year, United Way of Broward County is asking you to celebrate MLK Day by participating in a local volunteer project, becoming a mentor to a child or making a pledge to support United Way of Broward County all year long.

United Way of Broward County and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. share a vision for a world where every individual is able to achieve their full potential. If we all work together, we can help create the changes needed to help kids succeed in school, families become financially independent and all residents live a healthy life. The best way to honor Dr. King on January 16 is by volunteering.

Soar to New Heights, LIVE UNITED

Thanks to the generous support of Delta Air Lines, Inc., United Way donors will be able to win airfare to anywhere in the continental U.S. Each month from now until March 1, 2012, one lucky visitor to www.delta.com/give can earn a chance to win two round-trip Economy Class tickets to go skiing in the Rockies, play on the beaches of Florida, visit your grandmother in Philly, or enjoy the sights of San Francisco.  Each month is a new chance for a pair of tickets.

For all the rules and how to enter, check out delta.com/give (donation not required to enter the sweepstakes).

The wonderful donors and volunteers of United Way certainly give wings to the dreams of people in need every day, what a wonderful way to say thank you for all that you do.

Enter the LIVE UNITED sweepstakes today!

Teachers ROCK

Truly amazing teachers are a rare breed. They spend long hours grading papers, preparing lessons, and digging deep into the things that will help our children succeed. These dedicated men and women pour much of themselves into the lives of children everyday. But, once a student passes through their classroom, they may never hear from them again.  Teachers often give years of service and see very little of the impact that they have on the lives of their students.

We all have a special teacher that made a difference at a critical point in our lives.  Someone in a classroom inspired you, encouraged you, pushed you to be a better person. Maybe you are a teacher today because someone inspired a passion for learning early in your life. Maybe you are a journalist because an English teacher took an interest and encouraged your writing. Maybe you are a doctor today because a science teacher opened your eyes to what is possible.

In recognition for all that teachers give to children and the communities they serve, United Way of Broward County would like to invite you to share your story of a special teacher. Click on the picture below and take a moment to tell us your story of encouragement and share how grateful you are for a teacher who inspired you.

Supporting Broward’s Military

Everyone knows how difficult it is for our troops fighting overseas. Unfortunately, life can still be difficult even after they return from the front lines. Reintegrating back to civilian life can, in many ways, be just as challenging as serving.

All too often, we’ve seen soldiers fall on hard times after serving our country. A disturbing number of veterans wind up on the streets, many right here in Florida.  They’ve performed an invaluable service for all Americans, and now United Way of Broward County is doing its part to help return the favor.

United Way of Broward County’s new initiative, “Supporting Broward’s Military Families” is now focusing on this very issue. The Community Impact team has identified a qualified service provider to help provide educational, emotional and financial support to returning service members from Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), as well as their families. The collaborative grant was awarded to Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 8195 and Nova Southeastern University. Through this new initiative, veterans and their immediate family members will receive support as they transition and readjust to life at home and in the community. United Way of Broward County is providing $750,000 over the span of three years to help provide these critical services.

The need now is more crucial then ever, especially here in the Sunshine State. According to a study presented to Congress in 2009, “Veteran Homelessness: A Supplemental Report”, more than 75,000 veterans in the US were either in a shelter or living on the streets in January 2009. Four states account for almost half of the homeless veteran population, with Florida being one of them. (This mirrors the overall homeless population in the U.S.)

In fact, while most states account for less than 1% of the homeless veteran population, Florida represents a staggering 9.5% of that number. While 8% of the population are veterans in this country, they represent 12% of the homeless population.

Many veterans state that they experience an identity crisis when arriving home. The bonds they share with their fellow soldiers, who become somewhat of a surrogate family to them, are often hard to replicate with their actual families.

Divorce is all too common for returning veterans. The need for services almost immediately upon their return is absolutely necessary. Seemingly ordinary decisions, like what brand of cereal to buy, can sometimes be overwhelming.

When most people hear the word “veterans,” they think of men, but there is a growing number of women now actively involved in war. A recent Sun-Sentinel article written by a Veterans Affairs staffer stated, the percentage of women in the military has doubled in the last 30 years.  Forty-four percent of female OIF/OEF veterans have enrolled in VA services, the most of any group.

That’s why United Way of Broward County’s Women’s Leadership Council kicked off its efforts to honor and help Broward County’s female veterans in the spring. The group hosted a private screening of the movie Lioness, which tells the story of the first female soldiers in US History to go into direct combat.

After the movie, the attendees heard firsthand from a panel of women veterans and service providers about the unique challenges women veterans experience when readjusting to life in the community.  The panel’s personal stories were incredibly powerful and gave insight as to how service providers can best help soldiers readjust to civilian life, particularly from a woman’s perspective.

Many of the veterans said it was hard to leave behind the things they saw overseas. “You see the worst in people and you’re expected to do the worst to people,” one former soldier said.

The panel also agreed that even in 2011, the military remains a boys club, and how they often feel ignored when they come back to the states. “If I could afford it, I would buy billboards along the highway saying, ‘Welcome home, ladies!’” one panel member said.

For more information about United Way of Broward County’s Supporting Broward’s Military Families initiative, visit http://www.unitedwaybroward.org/health.

The Art of Caring: A Look at Life through Photography

They say a picture is worth a 1,000 words.  We couldn’t agree more.

That’s why we’re partnering with the Museum of Art in Fort Lauderdale, which has unveiled a massive new photographic exhibit called “The Art of Caring: A Look at Life through Photography.

This exhibit touches on seven themes, all which speak to the United Way’s core values, and its mission to help the community around us.

The exhibit has compiled over 200 photographs which span 60 years, starting with the end of World War II, and capture everything from key moments in history to intimate family scenes.

Each theme weaves through time, tragedy and triumph, to show what connects us at each stage of our lives. Each snapshot shows what unites us, throughout different cultures and situations. One of United Way’s core values is inclusiveness, and woven throughout these seven themes are stories of what keeps our community thriving, even in extreme or uncommon events.

In “Family,” you’ll find pictures of blended families, through people taking on a parenting role to children who need them. The “Love” section shows remarkable descriptions of romance, from the merging of cultures into one new blended family and the inspiring relationships of elderly couples that have survived decades. You’ll also explore the struggles of same-sex couples to being accepted on both the national stage and within their communities.

“Wellness” illustrates what the human body is capable of and the demands put on it by the modern athlete. “Caregiving and Healing” shows how we rehabilitate and recover, and the compassion people show to people in pain, like a young man carrying his grandmother to his room.

In “Disaster” you’ll see the wide-reaching impact a natural disaster will have on a community and how they rebuild.  It also explores the compassion that arises from such desperate times.  “Aging” demonstrates both the physical pain and the difficult emotions that often comes with growing old.

Finally in “Remembering” the pictures pay tribute to those who’ve left us, yet still inspire us every day.

These pictures come from a vast array of artists, museums, private collections and the TIME/LIFE picture collection.  World-renown celebrity photographer Annie Leibovitz composed a group of compelling images to visualize all seven themes as a concise introduction. Throughout the exhibit, you’ll find works from many other well-known photographers as well as younger up-and-coming-artists.

United Way is proud to use this exhibit to not only illustrate its mission, but also those of several health organizations and local charities. Each will have the opportunity to host their own day at the exhibit to promote their cause.

You can visit from now through September 25th. Learn more about the exhibit here.

Supporting Broward’s Military

Everyone knows how difficult it is for our troops fighting overseas. Unfortunately, life can still be difficult even after they return from the front lines.

Reintegrating back to civilian life can, in many ways, be just as challenging.  All too often, we’ve seen soldiers fall on hard times after serving our country. A disturbing number of veterans wind up on the streets, many right here in Florida.  They’ve performed an invaluable service for all Americans, and now United Way of Broward County is doing its part to help return the favor.

That’s part of what our new initiative, “Supporting Broward’s Military Families” is now trying to accomplish. Our Community Impact team is searching for a qualified service provider to help us provide educational, emotional and financial support to returning service members from Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, as well as other veterans and their families.  United Way of Broward County will distribute $750,000 to help provide these critical services and help these heroes reintegrate into society.

The need now is more crucial then ever, especially here in the Sunshine State. According to a study presented to Congress in 2009, “Veteran Homelessness: A Supplemental Report”, more than 75,000 veterans in the US were either in a shelter or living on the streets in January 2009. Four states account for almost half of the homeless veteran population, with Florida being one of them. (This mirrors the overall homeless population in the U.S.)

In fact, while most states account for less than 1% of the homeless veteran population, Florida represents a staggering 9.5% of that number. While 8% of the population are veterans in this country, they represent 12% of the homeless population, according to the study.

Many veterans have told us they experience an identity crisis when they come home.  The bonds they share with their fellow soldiers, who become somewhat of a surrogate family to them, is often hard to replicate with their actual families when they come home.

Divorce, many on the panel said, is all too common for returning veterans.  The need for services almost immediately upon their return is absolutely necessary. Seemingly ordinary decisions, like what brand of cereal to buy, can sometimes be overwhelming.

And its not just male veterans who are in need of our help. A recent Sun-Sentinel article written by a Veterans Affairs staffer states, the percentage of women in the military has doubled in the last 30 years and women are enrolling for VA services more than ever.  Forty-four percent of female OIF/OEF veterans have enrolled in VA services, according to the article, the most of any group.

That’s why our Women’s Leadership Council kicked off its efforts to honor and help Broward County’s female veterans last month.  The group hosted a private screening of the movie Lioness, which tells the story of the first female soldiers in US History to go into direct combat.

After the movie, the attendees heard firsthand from a panel of women veterans and service providers about the unique challenges women veterans experience when readjusting to life in the community.  The panel’s personal stories were incredibly powerful and gave insight as to how service providers can best help soldiers readjust to civilian life, particularly from a woman’s perspective.

Many said it was hard to leave behind the things they saw overseas. “You see the worst in people and you’re expected to do the worst to people,” one former soldier said. The panel also agreed that even in 2011, the military remains a boys club, and how they often feel ignored when they come back to the states. “If I could afford it, I would buy billboards along the highway saying, ‘Welcome home, ladies!’” one panel member said.

For more information about United Way of Broward County’s Supporting Broward’s Military Families initiative, visit www.unitedwaybroward.org.

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