Add This

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

PD gets a good story on page 1

Since I'm often disappointed by what I find in The Plain Dealer, I thought I would take a second to report that I was pleasantly surprised by one of today's front-page stories. (I won't even begin to tell you how much time I wasted on searching for the story. I had to Google Brian's name to find the link.)

I first wrote about Brian Mauk and his work with the homeless for the Catholic Universe Bulletin. What struck me was that Brian's name kept coming up in so many others stories I worked on—about missions, corporal acts of mercy and social justice. So I'm delighted to see that his work will continue and with funding from the Intercollegiate Studies Institute of Delaware. Congratulations and good luck, Brian. Let us know how we can help.

The front page of the business section also had a unique feature by Frank Bentayou on Elmer Fridrich, the guy who invented the halogen bulb. This I consider an "almost" story because it skirted around being a great story, but didn't quite dance. It lacked so many details that would have made it more a rich narrative and less a news story.

What do I mean by this? There's no tension in the story. Let's get to know Mr. Fridrich. Describe him (I know there's a photo, but I want to know about his hands or the sharpness of mind), give me a scene (describe his surroundings--number of screwdrivers, lamps hanging from the ceiling, stuff that would give a housing inspector heartburn) and for the love of storytelling, build a scene based on how he came up with his ideas. What does he sound like? How does he talk about his work? Where does he get his inspiration? Let's hear a little less about how the bulb works and little more about the man behind its creation.

Who says narrative doesn't belong on the business pages? Some of the greatest stories told are about inventors and their inventions. If you're going to donate that many column inches, then let's have a good yarn.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Tuesday Tidbits: Why Joe Biden rocks, WAPO Wonder bread, power and sex in the church and another broken bone

Why Joe Biden rocks
I've been a fan of Sen. Joe Biden's for one simple reason: he is a no-nonsense guy unafraid to speak his mind. It's a shame his presidential run didn't get very far ironically in part because of his forthrightness. If you missed his op-ed in last Friday's Wall Street Journal, I suggest you give it a look. There's also a video bit on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" program below. Biden for veep? Secretary of State?

He does a nice job of talking about the current administration's squandered opportunities. There's this:

At the heart of this failure is an obsession with the "war on terrorism" that ignores larger forces shaping the world: the emergence of China, India, Russia and Europe; the spread of lethal weapons and dangerous diseases; uncertain supplies of energy, food and water; the persistence of poverty; ethnic animosities and state failures; a rapidly warming planet; the challenge to nation states from above and below.

Instead, Mr. Bush has turned a small number of radical groups that hate America into a 10-foot tall existential monster that dictates every move we make.

And this:
Terrorism is a means, not an end, and very different groups and countries are using it toward very different goals. Messrs. Bush and McCain lump together, as a single threat, extremist groups and states more at odds with each other than with us: Sunnis and Shiites, Persians and Arabs, Iraq and Iran, al Qaeda and Shiite militias. If they can't identify the enemy or describe the war we're fighting, it's difficult to see how we will win. (Bold is mine.)

Wonder Bread at WAPO op-ed
Last week was one of those weeks when I was working in triage mode getting through various deadlines so I missed getting some things posted that caught my eye. One was WAPO ombud Deborah Howell's look at the complexion of the paper's op-ed pages.

I love the Post, but I have to agree that its op-ed pages are so vanilla that I tend not to read them very often. The old tucks have been holding court so long (and vociferously) that I'm sure there's a "why bother" mentality of some would-be contributors.

But the answer to why bother is that this nation desperately needs to hear new voices. It's the only way to ensure our democracy, which frankly feels "less than" these days. And that's partly because we've been living under an administration that labels citizens as unpatriotic for having a difference of opinion. I saw a bumper sticker on a car in the Bay Village Library today that said, and I'm paraphrasing: Dissent is the truest form of patriotism. If you know anything of Bay Village, you know that it just warms my heart to know that there are few others like me in this town.

A variation of the same could be said of the Catholic church.

Power and sex in the Catholic church
On Thursday, June 5, Cleveland-based FutureChurch welcomes Australian Bishop Geoffrey Robinson who will speak on his book, "Confronting Power and Sex in the Catholic Church: Reclaiming the Spirit of Jesus." Father Donald Cozzens, who used to be a frequent celebrant at my church and is now teaching at John Carroll University, wrote the forward. The public lecture will be held at 7 p.m. at 3430 Rocky River Drive.

This is one of only 10 stops on his U.S. tour. He's been banned from speaking on church property in some places and word is Cleveland Bishop Richard Lennon is not pleased with his appearance here in Cleveland, but (at least for now) is allowing it to take place.

Cardinal Roger Mahony of the Los Angeles Archdiocese banned him because he believes his work is counter to doctrinal teaching. I wonder if Mahony has even read the book. Here's what he wrote to Robinson.
I have come to learn that you new book is being investigated by the Australian Bishops' Conference because of concerns about doctrinal errors and other statements in the book contrary to Church teaching.

I have also learned that His Eminence, Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, the Prefect for the Congregation of Bishops, has urged you to cancel your visit to the United States.

Consequently, I am hereby requesting that your cancel you visit to the Archdiocese of Los Angeles now set for June 12, 2008. Canon 763 makes it clear that the Diocesan Bishop must safeguard the preaching of God's Word and the teachings of the Church in his own Diocese. Under the provisions of Canon 763, I hereby deny you permission to speak in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

What are they so afraid of that they would seek to deny someone's opportunity to have a voice? More to the point: WWJD?

Another broken bone
My little Mikey broke his wrist on Friday while riding his bike home from a friend's house. A very kind mom drove him and his bike home and I wish I knew who she was so I could properly thank her. (I was at my neighbor's and she had left by the time my older boys found me.) Today he is sporting a royal blue cast that goes above his elbow and is already filled with signatures from his friends and teachers. He wouldn't let me sign it first because he didn't want me to spoil the clean look. So I signed after school in very large lettering on the under side of his arm, "LOVE, MOM (smiley face)."

Fortunately, we are only looking at a total of four weeks for this injury and at most, some lost baseball games, a week or two of three-on-three summer hoops and some pool time.

My baby must have been on my brain because I had one of those bizarre dreams in the early dawn today where I was getting everyone off to school—high school and middle school—when a 2-year-old version of Mikey came around the corner and said, "Hi, Mama." And a surprised me said, "Hi, Baby Boy." It was so real that I could see and smell his little toddler face, with his precious little cheeks, his chubby bare feet and his long, fluttery eyelashes.

It was the very best kind of sweetness. Unfortunately, at a beefy 9 years old, there's no way I could balance him on my hip these days.

Word of the day
Manichean: a believer in religious or philosophical dualism
Example: "You're either with us or against us." — President George W. Bush

Latest Monitor story: 'Foreclosure tourism' is a ticket to opportunity

Here's a link to my latest story and audio in today's Christian Science Monitor, which provides an unusual look at the foreclosure crisis.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Monday odds and ends

I'm trying to keep my Mondays and Fridays as "office" days so I can sift through the myriad items requiring constant follow up. I spent the weekend proofing pages for a book project so my tired eyeballs could really use a break.

In addition to following up with folks I haven't seen in a while (thanks to the SPJ DSA), I'm also going through my reviewer checklists for fall titles from publishers, getting my writer's group submission together and setting up interviews for upcoming story assignments. Once the mail arrives, I'm also hoping to update my May receivables.

Meanwhile, I found an interesting contradiction in today's Plain Dealer that I thought I'd toss out for your reading and commenting pleasure. Did you happen to see the full-page ad on the back of the A-section for St. Martin de Porres High School? The ad states that every one of the 50 seniors of this private school for those of modest means was accepted into at least one college or university. Cool, huh?

There's no story in the paper on this school, but there IS a cover Arts & Life story on idol nonsense. Are you kidding? It's not as if "American Idol" is some new phenomenon sweeping the nation. It's a tired TV show with sinking viewership. WHY give valuable editorial space to Idol when the achievements of students at an alternative inner-city school are reduced to having sponsors (Forest City) buy ads for them?

If Idol is deemed such a cool story by the editors, throw it up on the web, where the cool "Idol" fans are anyway. I highly doubt they are reading the print version of the paper.

A new kind of urban school, committed to transforming students and preparing them for college deserves better than an ad.

This Catholic college-prep school is not run by the Diocese of Cleveland, but is one of 19 schools across the country in the Cristo Rey Network. Check out the 60 Minutes video about Cristo Rey in Chicago and tell me if you could get through the last 30 seconds without tears. Students, some of whom lack supportive home environments, are in school four days a week for a longer period of time during the day and then work one day at local companies, such as Forest City and even The Plain Dealer!

It's founding supporters are: The Detroit Province of the Society of Jesus, The Sisters of the Humility of Mary, The Cassin Educational Initiative Foundation, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

I spoke with Kim Mantia, associate director of advancement for St. Martin de Porres, who tells me that she scheduled a college signing day with the top 11 students in the class of 2008 (the school's first graduating seniors) and no one from media showed. Now if this involved athletic scholarships, you can bet the city's sportswriters would be there.

A PD photographer who was covering the school during its first year in 2004 did come and he admitted it had been a while since he saw the students (as freshmen), when the paper was committed to observing and writing about its efforts. I certainly hope the PD plans to follow up because if you have any inkling of how difficult education reform is, you'll realize that success of this kind is truly inspirational and contagious.

Regardless of what they do, I plan to write about St. Martin de Porres because I happen to know a little something about education reform efforts. And the school's success is a BIG deal.

Word of the day
dichotomy: a division into two especially mutually exclusive or contradictory groups or entities

Thursday, May 15, 2008

UPDATE: My SPJ/DSA speech from today

The Cleveland Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists honored me today with the chapter's Distinguished Service Award. I was proud to receive the award today at the City Club along with fellow honoree David Marburger. We also honored this year's SPJ scholarship winner, Melissa Kory, from North Ridgeville High School. I was so happy to have my good friend and fellow writer Jill Miller Zimon as presenter. Here's her speech, which was so incredible in that she sought out the input of so many friends. Thank you, friend.
Thank you, Jill, my dear friend and number-one traveling companion. You’ve been an important part of my professional growth. I’m glad to have you beside me.

Thank you to Betty Clapp and Steve FitzGerald and the rest of the Cleveland board for this great honor. I have one question: Didn’t anyone bother to consult Jerry Masek’s travel schedule before setting this date?

I want to congratulate my fellow honoree, David Marburger. Even though I could never afford to have you defend me in a lawsuit, I am grateful to know that you are working on behalf of journalists in Ohio. Well done, David.

And to Melissa Kory, whom I’ve just had the pleasure of meeting. Congratulations on earning your scholarship. Cleveland SPJ is proud of the ranks of young journalists it has supported over the years. As anyone who has ever served on the scholarship committee will tell you, it’s the best work we do. May you find the pursuit of journalism as rich, fulfilling, challenging, frustrating, inspiring and hopeful as I have.

This event marks the first time in my nearly 20 years as a journalist that my family life has crossed paths with my professional life. My parents, Chuck and Nancy Lewis, are here as is my husband, Dan, who frankly bears the brunt of all my professional frustrations. I’m so thankful for their love and support and patience when I am off on my crusades. Even though they are not here, I am profoundly inspired daily and hourly by my three boys—Ryan, Patrick and Michael. They represent the very best part of me.


I once heard someone describe journalists as frustrated idealists. I think that’s a fitting description of me and certainly of my work with SPJ.

I never really paused long enough to reflect on the work I was doing. I was so busy “doing.” My efforts with SPJ and leadership were always centered on inclusion. That’s why I joined in the first place. SPJ gave me a sense of belonging to my chosen profession.

From the very beginning of my professional involvement, however, I was challenging an organization that I felt was not inclusive or lacked strong communication. I counted myself fortunate, because for most of my off and on 22 years in SPJ, leaders listened when I questioned.

In January 1993, I was coming off of my first maternity leave. I was a weekly reporter for The Sun Press and frustrated because I wanted to become a better journalist and there were so few opportunities to learn. I was incensed when I learned that SPJ had held its national convention in Cleveland in the fall of 1992 and I, working at one of the city’s major news organizations, had no knowledge of that event happening.

I went to my first Cleveland chapter board meeting when my now 6’2” son was only eight weeks old with the intent of giving them a piece of my mind. Instead, I found myself volunteering at the tender age of 25 to chair the 1996 regional convention in Cleveland. It was three years away—plenty of time to get my SPJ sea legs.

And so I did, learning from the elder statesmen of the Cleveland chapter, especially Faye Sholiton, Tony Kozlowski, Jerry Masek, Lee Bailey, Stan Bullard, Bob Tayek and so many others who were all important to my development as an SPJ leader.

We join professional organizations out of the belief that it will somehow translate into work, preferably paying work. While that was never my primary motivator, my work with SPJ did lead to a job as assistant editor at a city magazine on the recommendation of Faye Sholiton, who was impressed by my management of the 1996 Regional. Just a few weeks ago I had my first story published in the Christian Science Monitor based on contact I had with the editor through the SPJ National Freelance Committee. A follow-up story will be in next week's Monitor.

No question I’ve had so many wonderful opportunities through SPJ. I’ve traveled to Texas, New York City, Tampa, Chicago and Las Vegas. I was one of the only female speakers at the East Asia Journalist Conference in Seoul, South Korea, where I also gave toasts, sang karaoke and drank boilermakers with journalists from Bangladesh, China, Indonesia and Vietnam. I’ve fetched coffee for Gay Talese at an SPJ narrative workshop in Alabama (a service only previously rendered for my dad) and conducted an exclusive interview in Las Vegas with New York Times reporter Judith Miller just after her release from prison. I introduced William Zinsser, a journalistic hero of mine before an audience of hundreds in New York City in 2004.

I’ve written columns urging professionalism in freelancing, listening in leadership and caution in legislating press freedoms. I’ve interviewed some of journalism’s greatest practitioners, including Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post reporter Dana Priest and New Orleans Times-Picayune Editor Jim Amoss.

I’ve spoken about my work and encouraged good friends and colleagues to do the same. I’ve planned national conference panels and facilitated at the Ted Scripps Leadership Retreat. In fact, this June marks the first time in five years that I won’t be in Indianapolis for the annual leadership retreat.

And I’ve tried—through my articles, panels, e-mails and conversations—to demonstrate that the way we traditionally view journalism is limiting and that if SPJ was to survive into the future, it needed to broaden its concept of journalists. And that good, timely communication is a key component of that effort.

Just because we don’t work in a newsroom doesn’t mean we are not serious journalists. I’ve talked with freelance investigative journalists exposing medical malpractice on a broad scale, backpack journalists who travel the globe collecting vibrant video images in addition to words and storytellers whose gift for narrative through written and spoken word speaks to the humanity in us all.

This is all very exciting, but it isn’t necessarily happening in newsrooms.

Independent journalists, in order to survive, are naturally more entrepreneurial and experimental, which is why I pushed so hard for the freelance committee. How journalism is done is changing and I felt that for independent journalists offered depth and innovative thinking to SPJ’s ranks that it sorely lacked.

I talk a lot about making connections and bringing people together. That’s how I view leadership—sharing a vision in which people naturally feel a stake and are willing to get involved to make that vision a reality.

A good leader understands that HOW you say something is as important as WHAT you say.

When I questioned SPJ’s national leadership on a decision made last summer, I was told that if freelancers wanted to be involved in the many decisions SPJ leadership must make in short order, they could feel free to run for leadership.

Well, I was encouraged to run for SPJ’s national leadership ladder. But I had three very important reminders named Ryan, Patrick and Michael—of why my involvement with SPJ should rightly be limited.

During their preschool and early elementary years, I stayed away from SPJ, working out of my house to be near my three boys, something I continue to this day. But by 2001, I was getting calls from Jerry Masek to rejoin the board. If you know Jerry, you know how persistent he can be.

After a bit of a leadership shakeup I found myself as president of the chapter a year ahead of my term—and chair of the 2003 regional convention.

I was so grateful to have such terrific partners on the board, especially Jay Miller who was always supportive and helped me to see things that may have been obscured by my enthusiasm or lack of experience. He and the rest of the board tolerated my energy and agreed in 2002 to send me to my first national convention in Fort Worth, Texas.

It was not a good first national experience. I was so turned off by the old-boys-club that upon my return I fired off a series of e-mails to the national leadership challenging them on their openness. I touched a nerve with one who recognized that if the organization were viewed as closed and cliquish, it would not be very successful in attracting new and diverse members.

As a result of our e-mail exchanges, I learned about and accepted an invitation to attend my first Ted Scripps Leadership Retreat. There—while the national leaders stood in front of us one evening giving us a state of the society address—I pointed out the obvious contrast between the existing leadership and the future leaders in the audience. How could we be an organization committed to diversity when there was no one who looked like us or worked like us standing in front of the group?

To their great credit, the leaders of the time listened and recognized what I saying about the society’s public face and its goal to achieve diversity. The conversation that night turned to a frank discussion of the challenges and opportunities of serving nationally.

That would be my role. Nurturer for the ideals of SPJ on the one hand, critic when I felt the Society wasn’t living up to its mission to improve and protect journalism for all.

What makes me most proud as a member of SPJ is the work I did on behalf of freelance journalists. Up until I left last August, I was still pushing the society to get away from its newsroom culture and focus instead on individual journalists, however and wherever they did their work.

At the 2003 national convention in Tampa, I was struck by the number of freelancers in attendance, who had paid their own way hoping to become better journalists. We were milling around the halls of the convention because so much of the programming had little value unless you worked in a newsroom.

We talked over drinks and it was suggested that I attend the committee chairs meeting and inquire about starting a new national committee for freelancers to make sure our views were represented. By January 2004, we were up and running, fielding a number of inquiries from freelancers who had thought they would have to leave SPJ because they no longer worked in a newsroom.

I took the part-time position as membership manager for SPJ a few years later because I thought I could extend my work with freelancers and the Cleveland chapter to the rest of the organization.

It didn’t make sense to me that taking a paid position would suddenly alter the credibility of my input. But a paycheck effectively canceled out my ability to weigh in on matters affecting the national organization, something I had always felt comfortable doing.

My success, if indeed I had any in that position, was in implementing the early work of the freelance committee—a plastic membership card that could function as a press pass, and a searchable database of freelancers to help editors find qualified writers.

A year ago, when the database launched, freelancers were the largest growing segment of SPJ’s membership and their numbers were well over 500. That I was responsible in any way for making that happen made me incredibly proud.

I don’t want to go into the ugly details that caused my rift with SPJ national leadership. I’m sure it’s long forgotten. Suffice it to say that I felt the executive committee did not give due diligence to a legal matter, broke from its longstanding policy of not weighing in on labor/management issues because it has members of both, violated the hard-earned trust and support of a growing portion of its membership and willfully ignored the persistent and legitimate questions of two dedicated, long-time volunteers of the organization.

Under pressure from members, the board eventually reversed its decision. But the damage had been done. I had promised freelancers that SPJ cares about them just as surely as it cares about the many newsroom staffers in its ranks. I had sold members on inclusion.

Aside from reflecting a fundamental misunderstanding of the challenges and opportunities of working as an independent journalist, the leadership’s decision drew a line in the sand—the Society’s priority was protecting staffer jobs, even if that decision threw non-staffers under the bus. I had no choice but to resign.

Sometimes you have to rock the boat. Hell, sometimes you have to be willing to tip it over. You can’t be a journalist today and not recognize that it has never been more important to question even in the face of great adversity and accusations. And that demands courage and leadership—two things not always present in journalists.

But if you had 9,000 like-minded journalists, no matter where or how they worked, working equally hard and standing beside you then you could press forward in the face of pressure and subpoenas and threats of prison. THAT was the promise of SPJ.

I’ve tried to live that promise, to create a sense of fellowship—first here in Cleveland and later nationally—that we are united in our common purpose to improve and protect journalism.

My determination toward that end sometimes makes people uncomfortable. My husband says it gives him heartburn and honey, truly, I’m sorry about that. But I like to think that some of that fire is also what makes me a good journalist.

I confess that I was conflicted about receiving this award. I have not renewed my membership because I felt I needed some distance and perspective. My input was no longer valued. It was time to walk away and let others lead.

Aside from that, my achievements seem so micro in a profession that demands change on a macro level. I just wanted to make sure that the nation’s largest organization for journalists included ALL journalists, no matter how or where they work.

But as I stand here today, I realize that maybe change really IS made on the micro level, by bringing people along one by one. People like Jill, whom I first met four and a half years ago in an e-mail correspondence about the value of SPJ.

Or people like Jen Boresz, whom I first got to know in 2002 when she was Cleveland State’s student chapter president.

Or Amy Green, a freelancer in Orlando, Florida, who called a few weeks ago for my advice about becoming the next SPJ freelance chair. And the countless others I have met along the way.

It’s work I continue without my SPJ hat because I still believe you have to send the elevator back down. Countless people have taken the time to help or share information with me along my journey and I wouldn’t be standing here before you if they hadn’t bothered.

Being an SPJ leader for me has always been an ongoing struggle to balance the idealist with the realist. The Society will celebrate its centennial beginning next May. What will SPJ look like in the next 100 years? I will be watching to see which way the pendulum swings.

Thank you SPJ Cleveland for considering me worthy of the chapter’s highest honor.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Lighting a candle for Stephie

Bay Village tonight mourns the passing of 7-year-old Stephanie "Stephie" Lufkin. She was a first-grader at Normandy Elementary and the daughter of Bay Middle School sixth-grade teacher Katie Lufkin and her husband, Doug. Her Aunt Kelly is a photographer and has been capturing photos posted on flickr for the past few days that will break your heart.

Here's the obit on Stephie's grandmother and children's author Sara Holbrook's blog.

We're holding our children a little tighter tonight.

Pedaling for peace

"I believe in women taking a role to make peace in the area," Youssef adds. It's a perspective shared by most in the group: that dialogue by people like themselves, and not politicians behind closed doors, is the key to improving relations between countries and laying a foundation for peace.

From "Women on two wheels: A Middle East dialogue tour" in today's Christian Science Monitor.

Word of the day
buoyant: capable of maintaining a satisfactorily high level

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Education reform is...

From Washington Post:

Reform "is like a bus -- you're either going to be on it [as a passenger] or you're going to be driving it," Greg Ahrnsbrak, a Denver teacher whose middle school received autonomy from the school system, told a crowd of educators at the Capital Hilton in downtown Washington today.

"I see no policy, as far as reform goes, from my union," he added. "We need people out there willing to take risks and do bold and imaginative things."

Education Sector, an independent think tank focused on better student outcomes, recently released a report on teacher views on reform, evolving profession and unions. Called Waiting to Be Won Over, the report contains these findings among others:

-- Three out of four teachers said they think too many burned-out veteran teachers refuse to leave because of the benefits and tenure.

-- Fifty-five percent said the process for removing ineffective teachers in their school systems is "very difficult and time-consuming."

-- Sixty-eight percent said they thought giving principals and teachers more control over schools would be better for students.

-- Twenty-five percent of the teachers said they would be willing to trade tenure for a $5,000 raise, while 29 percent said they would prefer to hold onto tenure.

Here's more educational food for thought this morning.

Should U.S. education be guaranteed?

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Clay Shirky on cognitive surplus

Check this out from Web 2.0 Expo. The video is about 16 minutes, but well worth the time.

The entire presentation in couched in the context of a conversation he had with a TV producer pre-screening him for an appearance. His point: media targeted at you but not including you may not be worth sitting still for. Just ask your nearest preschooler.

Word of the day
audacity: the quality or state of having intrepid boldness

Monday, May 05, 2008

UB story: Benedictine seniors helping to end violence against women

Here's my latest feature in Friday's Catholic Universe Bulletin:

Benedictine seniors helping to end violence against women of the world
Senior Honors Theology project transforms beyond a graded effort; it’s now become an educational, social justice and charitable mission for change.
By Wendy A. Hoke

Spring sunshine is seeping into the windows at Benedictine High School where Senior Nathan Szabados is leading a discussion on the senior project. “We’re going to be planting a garden at Transitional Housing on West 25th Street,” he tells his classmates.

“Wednesday we need to make a meal for 50 people for Ronald McDonald House Meals the Heal,” he says. “We’re going to St. Ann’s to talk at the Masses, but I need someone to go to St. Gregory’s to talk about the project,” he says.

Szabados double-checks his list and then the group of about 25 breaks into small groups to tackle their assigned tasks.

What started as a senior project, something required for a grade, has morphed into a mission—to stop the cycle of violence against women. “Men of Benedictine Helping Women of the World” is their third-quarter senior project for Senior Honors Theology class.

“We did research and found that 50 percent of the area’s homeless are women and children affected by domestic violence,” says Jason Petroff. “It takes men to stop the violence.”

That an all-boys school is taking on the issue of domestic violence against women came as something of a surprise to area women’s shelters, says Szabados.

But they are passionate in their cause.

“This is one of those issues that doesn’t come up in society,” says Peter Barrett. “But not only does it affect the person who is abused, it also has a trickle-down affect for family and friends.”

When asked if any of the boys know someone who has been the victim of domestic violence, several nod solemnly. Beyond families, however, they also acknowledge the importance of discussing the issue with teens who may find themselves in abusive relationships.

“We’ve shared a lot of information,” says Barrett. “Nathan and I went to Regina High School and gave our presentation to five different classes. We also sold tickets to our benefit concert,” he says.

The concert, held March 16 at The Grog Shop in Cleveland Heights, featured bands with Benedictine students and benefited the group’s project to the tune of $1,400.

“It was a forum to raise awareness,” says Barrett. Education is one part of the project.

Another is charity. Szabados contacted shelters to find ways to help, and so they are providing food and items needed to help the women.

“That’s the closest we can get to the root of the problem here,” says Barrett. But they are finding ways to use their time, too.

“Nathan has done a good job of identifying where we can go out and help to cook a meal or plant a garden,” says Petroff.

Of the money raised, 40 percent goes toward battered women’s shelters. The remaining 60 percent will be donated to a micro-financing Web site called Kiva “The site allows for loans to people in third-world countries that are paid back with low interest,” explains Riley Smith.

On a Mother’s Day Luncheon on May 4th, $1,500 of the $2,500 raised so far will be given to the moms, sisters, grandmothers and girlfriends of the boys to invest in the Kiva entrepreneur of their choosing right from the luncheon via three computers.

“We’re trying to get women who are important to us choose who they want the money to go to,” says Szabados.

There’s a symbolic purpose to this, say the boys. The money was donated to on a local level and will partially be used to support local battered women’s shelters. But it also is being channeled into supporting women of the world to become more financially self-sufficient.

“They can see their money making a difference and hopefully that will inspire them to keep going with this effort, not just in school but also beyond that,” says Stephan Dober.

Indeed, the boys would like to broaden the project to make sure it continues with younger grades and to reach out to parent and alumni groups.

“The project started as something we were doing for a grade,” says Petroff. “But after a while it stopped being about that and now we’re just doing it because we want to.”

“I realized there are different ways to help people,” says Szabados. “It’s not just about putting in time, but also spreading the word,” which he has done through the Catholic Schools for Peace and Justice, news media, masses and parent networks.

“I’m learning more about this issue as I’m forced to write about it to share in our presentations,” he says. “It’s not just a class now, it’s an organization.”

To donate to Benedictine High School Love Fund, call (216) 641-7053. You can drop of nonperishable foods, paper products or gift cards at Benedictine High School, 2900 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. Or you can visit
Word of the day
vellum: a fine-grained unsplit lambskin, kidskin, or calfskin prepared especially for writing on or for binding books

Thursday, May 01, 2008

The perfect summer tennies

When I was in college in the 1980s, there wasn't a spring or summer that came without me sporting a new pair of Tretorn tennis shoes. Those were the warm-weather counterpoint to the L.L. Bean blucher moccasins of fall and winter.

I preferred the white canvas style, but would mix it up with the color of V on the side of the shoe (kinda like the Nike swoosh). My favorite was a pair with pink and blue plaid V that happened to match a pair of pink and blue madras shorts I had. Ultimate prep for sure, but this was the eighties.

The best part about Tretorns was the terry cloth insole, perfect for wearing with no socks and far more breathable than, say, your leather Keds. Plus, they look great with tan legs.

I decided that this spring I was going to go retro and sport a pair so I set about Googling them. I'll admit to a bit of sticker shock—$55 a pair! I'm sure I used to pick them up at TJ Maxx for $17.99. Not sure who carries them in stores today, but they are certainly available online.

American Eagle's new Martin + Osa line is even carrying a more modern version of the Tretorn. For my money, I want the traditional, terry-lined insole. They will be perfect to wear while riding my new (hopefully) bike that I want for Mother's Day. I've declare a moratorium on driving in Bay Village this summer in protest of outrageous gas prices. But that's another post.