Tag Archives: Jack Cameron

5 Question Friday With Joslin Bernard From Babes For Boobs

Last week I was contacted by a woman named Joslin Bernard. She lives in Seattle, but she’s a former resident of Tacoma and she has a good cause that I feel people who come to this site would want to know about. It’s called ‘Babes For Boobs’. It’s a cancer charity.  Next Thursday my mother-in-law is going to have cancer surgery. She’s been fighting cancer for the last year. So cancer charities are something I pay a lot more attention to now. I feel bad that I didn’t before. What Joslin and the others are doing with Babes For Boobs is good for cancer and fun. I’m glad that Joslin and Babes For Boobs could take the time to be part of this week’s 5 Question Friday.

1. What is your personal history with cancer?
We are a group of friends, and friends of friends who decided to get together and take a stand against breast cancer. Most of the women involved in this project have had a friend or relative that has battled cancer at one point. Sisters Joslin and Darci have a mother who fought and defeated breast cancer, Babes for Boobs was founded in her honor.

2. How did Babes For Boobs get started?
In 2010 a group of us wanted to participate in a breast cancer walk. We were looking for a fun way to raise money and came up with this idea. We ran with it and within a week we had 12 models and a photographer lined up! Our photographer, Derek Johnson, stepped in and made it all happen. He had the experience we didn’t, and Babes For Boobs was born!

3. Where did you get the idea for the calendar?
I’m not sure how I came up with it. I was just sitting at home brain storming and it hit me! Instead of just asking for money, we could “sell” something that people would enjoy and would support a cause. At first it was said jokingly, but when I told my sister she loved the idea. We ended up shooting a few weeks later. Derek took the photos, edited them, created the calendar and even set up our website!

4. How can people get involved with Babes For Boobs?
They can “like” us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/BabesforBoobs, share the love on their wall, buy a calendar, or become a model in next years calendar. Our website is http://www.babesforboobscalendar.com

5. What do you see for the future of Babes For Boobs?
We would love to gain 501c3 status and have this be a huge money maker. We want to continue supporting cancer research, education and help fund things like mammograms for women that can’t afford them. The sky is the limit for Babes for Boobs!

I want to thank Joslin for taking the time to be part of this. I wish her and her group the best of luck. For more information about Babes For Boobs, check out the links above.

If, like Joslin, you think you might want to be part of 5 Question Friday, email me at jackcameronis@gmail.com.

5 Question Friday With Fingerprint Confections’ Clay Richart

I first met Clay Richart about ten years ago when we both worked at Amazon.com. He’s a fairly laid back guy with an incredible music collection. We got along well. Thanks for Facebook, we’re still in touch. Since then he’s moved on to bigger and better things much like I have. The big difference being that he’s making candies with bacon in them and he has an Awesome mustache. Since five questions about a mustache would be somewhat dull, I decided I’d ask him about Fingerprint Confections, the new candy business he’s started with his wife, Holly. 

1. How did you and your wife start Fingerprint Confections?

I came across spicy candied Bacon through a friend of Holly. You dredge Bacon in sugar and chili pepper, and bake it. It comes out all candy coated and amazing.
We were making this like all the time, kids parties, afternoon snacks, you name it… I was commenting on how we needed a different delivery method for this flavor, and the wife mentioned candy.

2. What varieties have you made so far?

Well, Bacon was the first. After much insistence from Holly and her friends – I made my first batch of sea salt. I used Morroccan at first, now I use my own blend of 3 different French sea salts in all of the flavors. So aside from Bacon and sea salt the other flavors are:
-Caramel Loves Coconut
-Caramel Loves Lavender
-Caramel Loves Gingerbread

3. What’s your most memorable moment so far in this enterprise?

Some of the most memorable moments are really hard to remember. We have pulled a few all night scrambles to put the finishing touches on some special orders. I really like that Holly and I are able to collaborate in a way that we really never had before.

4. Where can people get your candies?

Well up until really recently, we were bootleggers – so you either had to know us, or someone we knew. Now we have opened it up a bit more. We have a FB page, just search for “Fingerprint Confections”, and we are just getting our website together: fingerprintconfections.com

5. What’s next for Fingerprint Confections?

Total global confection domination.

I’d like to thank Clay for taking the time to participate in 5 Question Friday and for making one more thing with bacon in it, though honestly, I like the sea salt ones better.

As always, if you or anyone you know would like to participate in 5 Question Friday, email me at jackcameronis@gmail.com

About My Tacoma Homicide Posts

Originally, I started writing about homicides in Tacoma because of Tacoma’s reputation as a city of crime. Tacoma has a long and colorful history of crime and corruption. That history continues, but when it comes to homicides, Tacoma really isn’t as dangerous as it used to be. Crime rates have dropped significantly since the 1990s. My original purpose was to show that there really aren’t that many homicides in Tacoma. Usually about one a month.

Since most media reports tend to focus on the killer, I chose to focus instead on the victim. Personally, I don’t think killing someone should make you a household name. So whenever possible, I don’t mention the name of the killer. Another aspect of it is that the victim is usually forgotten and little if anything is written about who the person was. I wanted to write about these people who could no longer share their story, whatever their story was.

Soon after I started doing this, I found a new purpose in writing about these murders. I found that friends and relatives of the victim would often contact me. Some would be old friends who hadn’t seen the victim in years and only found out they had died through a Google search that found my site. Others would be mothers, wives, fathers and children of the victim. It became clear that what I was doing mattered to some people.

There was also the flipside of that coin. Particularly when gangs were involved, I’d get other messages. I’d get threatening emails. Once I got one with information only someone directly involved with the killing would have known. I forwarded that one on to the police. At the time, it occurred to me that while some liked what I was doing there were others who didn’t and some of those others were killers. And so I stopped for a few years.

During that time, I’d occasionally reread the emails from the friends and relatives of victims. I was contacted by one who asked me if I could find the name of the person who killed a woman a few years ago. It took a bit of research since I don’t mention killers, but the person who wrote me wanted to know who killed her mother. I sent her the information I had. I was reminded that what it comes down to is that the victims can no longer tell their story and someone should.

I started writing about Tacoma homicides again in 2011. I plan on continuing to do so for the foreseeable future. Because there have to be limits on something like this, I only write about homicides that occur in the city limits of Tacoma. I include police involved shootings because I am told that they are counted in official homicide statistics and because those victims have a story too. I don’t include vehicular homicides because they are much more difficult to write about. Often charges aren’t filed until much later, and writing about everyone who is killed in a car accident in Tacoma goes a bit outside of what this is for.

When writing about these crimes, I use whatever information is available to me at the time. I read newspaper articles, news sites and television news broadcasts. I also use whatever personal knowledge I might have of the victim, the area or any other information I might have. Whenever possible, I try to write it with a sympathetic ear towards the victim. This year, that’s been a bit difficult. There were two police involved shootings and two instances where a homeowner shot intruders in their house. While it’s debatable whether they were justifiable or not, there were no charges filed in these cases and in each of them, it’s understandable why events occurred the way they did.

I’m not a reporter. I’m not objective. I do have an opinion on each homicide I write about. I try not to let that influence me too much, but it’s impossible to keep my bias out of something I write. I’ll be the first to admit that occasionally I get it wrong. Often this is due to a lack of information on the case at the time that I’m writing about it. This is why I tend to wait until the name of the victim is released. Usually by that time, the story of what happened is out there and reasonably complete.

It’s my hope that telling these stories helps those who have lost someone and gives others a better picture of people Tacoma has lost.

– Jack Cameron

5 Question Friday With Jamie Chase from Credit Union Strategic Planning

I first met Jamie Chase many years ago. There are people you meet and you forget about them. If life were a movie, they’d be an extra. Jamie Chase could never be that. She’s smart, outspoken and willing to back up what she thinks with action. She’s exactly the sort of person I want participating in 5 Question Friday and amazingly enough, she took the time to indulge me.

With all the talk about corporate greed and big banks, I can think of no better time to start talking about credit unions. And there’s really no one better to do that than Jamie Chase. Here she is.

1. For those who don’t know, what are the major differences between a bank and a credit union?

There are two major differences between a credit union and a bank:

    1. Credit unions are not-for-profit service organizations. They exist to provide a community service. Banks are profit driven companies. In this environment banks are profit maximizing. Banks make choices to make the most profit possible for their business. Credit union make choices to give the best service possible.
    2. Credit unions are member-owned cooperatives, like the Tacoma Food Co-op, REI, USAA, and PCC. The member-owners elect volunteers to represent them, to protect them. As a result, the volunteer board of directors make sure the credit union never makes choices like Bank of America did this week to charge $9 a month to use a branch and $5 a month to use a debit card. This is one reason, beyond being not-for-profit, why credit unions do not have sky-high fees on credit cards and didn’t trick people into buying houses they couldn’t afford.

2. BofA and Citibank have both announced monthly fees for use of debit cards resulting in many people considering credit unions instead. What should a prospective customer look for in a credit union?

Given that all credit unions are not-for-profit. They are all a better choice than banks. When a person switches, they should look for a credit union that is located close to their home or work. I also recommend a credit union that is part of the shared branching network. With shared branching, credit unions from all over the country share facilities to give members thousands of convenient locations to perform transactions just as if they were in their home credit union. Imagine Bank of America sharing their branches with Key Bank, hilarious. Yes, credit unions really do this. Why? Because their mission is service. They work together, cooperate, instead of competing.

3. What is CU  Strategic Planning?

It is a small business located in Tacoma, WA that invents poverty reduction programs deployed through not-for-profit credit unions that serve distressed communities across the United States. We are the number one writer of Department of Treasury, Community Development Financial Institution grants for credit unions. As a result, every year we assist credit unions with obtaining millions of dollars in grants so that they can deploy loans to small businesses to create jobs, moderate and low income people to purchase or maintain affordable housing and for unsecured alternatives to payday loans that move people from debt to asset building.

4. For Tacomans, what credit union(s) would you recommend?

My top recommendation is BECU. It has the best rates and along with Seattle Metropolitan Credit Union (SMCU) is the most philosophical for consumers that love the cooperative principles.

Harborstone offers the best small business services. TAPCO has the friendliest head teller, Cindy, but they are not part of the shared banking network. Heather at Sound Credit Union’s 38th Street and Pacific Ave. location is one of the best tellers in the state.

Express Credit Union and TULIP Cooperative Credit Union serve low income consumers with poor credit scores. If your friends can’t open an account at a mainstream credit union, these credit unions have a special mission to help out.

5. With all of the recent bank consolidations, what do you think the future holds for credit unions?

Credit unions are the solution, and that will become more clear to people. Right now, we can all move our car loans and credit card balances to credit unions from the higher interest charging banks. Why would you not do this immediately. Run, don’t walk.  The mission of credit unions is, “People helping people to help themselves.” That is exactly what people need. I also see credit unions providing financial education and helping consumers to improve their credit. The new answer for credit unions that may have declined a loan to a consumer in the past will not be, “No, we can’t lend to you. “ It will become, “We can’t give you a loan right now, but if you take this class your credit score will improve and we will give you a loan in two months.” That is very powerful. They do this because they exist only to serve.

I’d like to thank Jamie for taking the time to participate in 5 Question Friday. Feel free to comment below. Got comments you just want to send to me? Got someone in mind for a 5 Question Friday? Email me at jackcameronis@gmail.com

–          Jack Cameron

As an added bonus, Jamie included the following piece below for those of you interested in leaving your big bank for a local credit union. Enjoy:

How to move your money from a profit-maximizing bank to a not-for-profit credit union:

  1. Withdraw your money. Close your corporate bank account.
  2. Use theGo to http://www.findacreditunion.com/ to find a not-for-profit credit union you are eligible to join.
  3. Joining the credit union is just like opening an account at a bank, only when you “join” you become an owner/member of the cooperative. Yes, credit unions are cooperative and you are the owner, in addition to being not-for-profit. This is the big ideological difference between the creation, management and motives of credit unions and banks.

The most important step in the switch from a bank to a CU:

  1. Ask the credit union to transfer your car loan, credit card balances and mortgage from your various banks into the credit union.
    1. You will save hundreds of dollars and pay off the loans faster! Credit union not-for-profit rates are much lower than profit-maximizing banks.
    2. This is how you really Occupy from Home. Stop the banks from making money off of YOU! They make their money from the interest you pay on your loans, far more profit than from your debit card fees.

And finally:

  1. Set up online banking, direct deposit and automatic payments that were previously connected to your account at the evil bank.

Your new credit union will help you with all of this. Why? Because you will be an owner, and credit union’s exist to serve. In fact the credit union mantra is:

“People helping People to Help Themselves.”

By: Jamie Chase, Instigator of Goodness, and inventor of poverty reduction programs deployed through credit unions across the nation serving distressed communities and underserved populations that are unprofitable to corporate banks.

5 Question Friday With Journey Quest’s Matt Vancil

Last year, one of my favorite shows wasn’t on television. It had no big studio backing. The last time I’d seen one of the lead actors, I was talking to him at Comic Book Ink. The people behind JourneyQuest weren’t part of the great entertainment machine that tends to push out cop/lawyer/doctor shows in every flavor imaginable. Instead, JourneyQuest takes you back to the time of elves, orcs and magic. And before you start rolling your eyes, don’t worry, they get how silly that is too. The humor in JourneyQuest is smart and funny. The writing is fun. It’s the sort of show that would last one season if it were able to get on television at all. Lucky for us, they didn’t go that route.

JourneyQuest is back. Or at least it will be. The scripts are written. The cast is set. Now all that’s left is the funding and if the last few days are any indication, that’s not going to be a problem. I decided to catch up with Matt Vancil, the writer and director of JourneyQuest and see how things are going. And what better way than with a 5 Question Friday? (Full disclosure: I’ve been friends with Matt Vancil for many years.) Some of you long-time readers may recall that this isn’t the first time I’ve talked to Matt Vancil and his crew. Just because someone has previously participated in 5 Question Friday doesn’t mean they’ll never be back. Especially if they have something new to say.

Here’s Matt:

1. Last time we talked, JourneyQuest was just getting noticed. What’s happened since then?

A whole smorgasbord of good things. We got the DVDs out just before the big summer con season, and had screenings at a series of major and minor cons across the nation. A few hundred thousand people have found the show and shared it, and we’ve seen a lot of fan art and remixes pop up, which is exactly what we were hoping for. That’s Creative Commons in action, and I can’t think of a better way get new people interested in the show. We also have another celebrity, MMA superstar Bob Sapp, joining the cast in the second season, and he’s bringing with him a huge fan base of his own. Two very big pieces of news have happened fairly recently. We just got the entire first season of JourneyQuest — which cost our producers $30,000 — paid off with a combination of fan contributions and DVD sales. The moment we were in the black, we launched our Kickstarter campaign to raise the budget for a second season. Our goal is $60,000, which is modest (borderline anemic, really) by Hollywood standards, but is still several times higher than the average Kickstarter campaign. So we decided to be conservative and give ourselves the maximum 60 days in which to meet our goal. If we can raise $1,000 a day, we’ll hit the goal and be into our second season. By the end of the third day, we’d raised $30,000 — 50% of our goal, and what it had taken us a year to raise for Season 1. In three days. We’re blown away. And we’ve seriously got a chance to raise enough to shoot more than one season at the end of the campaign.

2. You’re filming the second season locally. Besides the fact that many of you live locally what are the other advantages of filming in Western Washington?

Washington’s vast and varied natural beauty makes it an ideal place to shoot outside. We’re about two hours from any kind of terrain you could want — mountains, coastline, forests, desert even — which is incidentally what made Hollywood Hollywood in the first place. There’s also a very strong maker culture here, so we can go directly to artists and performers to round out our crew and cast instead of needing to fly in folks or purchase our props and costumes from out of state. We also have a very strong film community, and until this year had tremendous incentives for filming in the state. These incentives were not renewed in last year’s congressional session, which does not bode well. Our neighbors to the north and south in Vancouver and Portland are dominating the northwest film scene because they’re offering massive incentives — not just for locals and indie films, but for major studio projects — to attract flimmakers and productions. At the moment, Washington is not competing, and we need to change this if we want to keep production in the state. You can learn more about the state of film in Washington at Washington Filmworks.

3. Your Kickstarter campaign has had an incredible response so far and I know there are many fans out there who love the show but can’t contribute financially. What can they do to help Journey Quest?

The easiest thing to do is share the project, let people know we exist. Our biggest challenge has always been obscurity. JourneyQuest is out there and is free to watch — you can see it on Hulu or YouTube. The more people who know about the show, the more potential contributors there are to keep it going. Again, it’s why we released the show under a Creative Commons license — we want the fans sharing it, and playing with it, and cutting it up and remixing it and sharing it with their friends. Anything that helps us be heard above the din. And as far as the Kickstarter campaign goes, and I know this gets said a lot but it’s honestly true, every little bit helps. Even a $1 donation, the minimum, helps raise the profile of the project on the Kickstarter page, which can put it in front of new people. It’s been hovering in the “Popular This Week” row in the Film & Video section of the site since we launched, which has only been to its benefit.

4. Most of your productions have a fantasy bent to them. Are there plans for doing things in other genres, is so, what?

Oh, yes. The first two movies we made were horror-comedies, the Demon Hunters films, and it would be fun to explore that territory again. I’d love to do a sci-fi piece, play with some of the tropes of comic book heroes. There’s too much to cover in a thumbnail, and a list of projects wouldn’t be very informative. What I can tell you is that every one of the projects I’ve made with Zombie Orpheus and Dead Gentlemen fit into the same umbrella universe, the hopjockey universe. Hopjockey is a show I actually pitched around networks in Hollywood with an Emmy-winner on my side, and unsurprisingly it didn’t find a home — it’s a pastiche of genres, a science-fantasy adventure, sort of an American Doctor Who. Anyway, we’ve been planting storyline seeds in our projects for years — in JourneyQuest, bothGamers films, and in Rude Mechanical, our new weekly news and entertainment show for our fans — seeds that will ultimately pay off when (if) we create Hopjockey. It all ties together, and will take us years to tell the whole story. I sincerely hope we get our chance to tell it.

5. This may relate to the previous question but, what are your plans beyond JourneyQuest?

Well, my immediate plans are to get Episode 1 of March 32nd made. I work for Chromed, a video game studio in Seattle. March 32nd,which I’m directing and co-writing, is an episodic graphic adventure game that’s looking to bridge the gap between games and television. I’m in love with the art style (check out our game trailer) and the story, and there’s a ton of crossover with folks from JourneyQuest, especially in the cast. On the ZOE and DG fronts, there are three new Gamers films in the works — Humans & Households, a short Gamers webseries; Pwned, an MMO-based Gamers adventure in development at Machinima that I’m having a phone meeting about in a couple of hours; and The Gamers: Dorkness Ascending, another feature-length Gamers film that chronicles the continuing in- and out-of-game adventures of the characters introduced in Dorkness Rising. That’s nowhere nearly everything, but now my hands are tired and I have freelance deadlines approaching.

I want to thank Matt for taking the time to participate in 5 Question Friday. You can find out more about Journey Quest and his other projects in links throughout this article. If you want to be part of making Season Two of Journey Quest happen, go to their Kickstarter Campaign at: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/zombieorpheus/journeyquest-season-2

As always, if you or anyone you know might be interested in participating in 5 Question Friday, contact me at jackcameronis@gmail.com

-Jack Cameron

5 Question Friday With TV Tacoma’s Amanda Westbrooke

I’ve been fairly busy finishing up my novel and dealing with some personal issues. I honestly didn’t have time to do a 5 Question Friday this week. Luckily, Luke Byram was able to help me out. Here’s Luke:

I first met Amanda when she taught drama at First Pres. She has been a long-time resident of Tacoma and an active member of Tacoma. She was the Education Director for Tacoma Little Theatre. She is co-host of TV Tacoma’s Cityline with Carol Mitchell. She attends many Tacoma events and is present at them, I’ve bumped into her at a couple events myself. Without further a due, I put 5 Questions up to her for 5 Question Friday, here are her responses.  

1. When did you start at TV Tacoma?

I started 6 years ago by accident. I was the Ed. Director for Tacoma Little Theatre and was scheduled to chat about our upcoming season. That morning our host was ill and the producer Phil Chang was going to cancel the show.I distinctly remembering saying to him that he couldn’t cancel…that I would never get my board president to come back with me and that this was so important. Phil calmly asked if I wanted to host the show. I thought about it and told him that I needed to go walk the hall and talk to my GOD in private for a bit and I would let him know. He said I have 5 minutes. I remembered in those 5 min that I have journaled 2 weeks earlier that I wanted to try TV and didn’t know how to go about it. It was then that I knew that I had to jump and do it…that I would sprout wings. The rest as we say is history!

2. Who has been your favorite guest on Cityline?

Well…all of them…Because they are passionate about Tacoma and love to serve. I have the pleasure and privilege of interviewing angels. Most of my guests have full time careers, families in addition to the project that they are currently promoting. Every single one of them has a ministry…I love them all and feel honored to sit next to them in all their brilliance.

3. What is your favorite Tacoma event?

Well…  it is a tie between Relay 4 life and Ethnic Fest. Yes I know…2 radically different events. Relay 4 life started in Tacoma and every year they surpass themselves in sponsorship, participation and courage. I leave Relay 4 life born again with a renewed sense of love, compassion and empathy for all the survivors, caregivers and those we lost to this dreaded disease.. Ethnic Fest has it all. A huge party with the best food, art ,music and people that Tacoma has to offer. It is a tapestry of diversity and harmony…it is Tacoma at its best.

4. What is your favorite place in Tacoma?

Wright Park. I fell in love with this park 15 years ago when I moved here. I would take my daughter to that park and we would spend the afternoon picnicking, reading and exploring every tree and swing. It is spectacular…I often imagine how if felt 100 years ago. I love how it has become a hub for our community. Don’t even get me started on the conservatory…it is mind blowing!

5. What are your plans for the future?

I would love to travel to Lesotho South Africa and spend some time with the children there teaching creativity, journalism etc,. I would love to stretch my wings on Network news…. For the most part however I measure my future one day at a time.I believe the following poem says it all!

My Symphony
“To live content with small means;
To seek elegance rather than luxury,
and refinement rather than fashion;
To be worthy , not respectable, and wealthy, not rich;
To study hard, think quietly,
Talk gently,
Act frankly;
To listen to stars and birds, to babes and sages, with open heart;
To bear all cheerfully,
Do all bravely,
Await occasions,
Hurry never.
In a word, to let the spiritual, unbidden and unconscious, grow up through the common.
 William Henry Channing (1810-1884)

You can catch CityLine at http://www.cityoftacoma.org/Page.aspx?hid=10248

I want to thank Amanda and Luke for taking the time and being part of 5 Question Friday.

As always, if you think you or someone you know wants to participate in 5 Question Friday, email me at jackcameronis@gmail.com

-Jack Cameron

5 Question Friday With Tacoma Teacher Delonna Halliday

When I was in the third grade, my teacher, Mrs. Hixon told me I should ‘write more.’  I thought she meant that the assignment I turned in wasn’t long enough. What she meant was she liked my writing. She introduced me to the concept of writing because I wanted to rather than for an assignment. Teachers are among the most important people on the planet. A good teacher can change a kid’s life.

In Tacoma, teachers are currently working without a contract. They voted 77.2% to strike. They needed 80% to approve the strike. In a little under two weeks, they vote again. Personally, the idea that your average reality show contestant makes more money than your average teacher bothers me. I could go on about my feelings on teachers and what we should and shouldn’t do for them. But I thought maybe instead, it might be a good idea to simply ask a Tacoma Teacher.

Delonna Halliday is a teacher at Grant Elementary School. My son went there a few years ago. (Full disclosure: I’ve known Delonna for twenty years and she’s a good friend.)  This week I asked her if she’d take time out of what is probably the busiest part of her year and participate in 5 Question Friday. I’m glad she was able to do so. Okay, students, here’s Mrs. Halliday.

1. What’s your teaching background?

I decided to teach after spending a year in China teaching in a public high school. I discovered that I loved teaching and that I might actually have a knack for it. I came back to the US, earned my Master’s and teaching cert and started at Grant a little over 6 years ago. Since, I earned National Board Certification in Visual Arts.

If you ask my mom, she’d mention that I’m a 4th generation teacher. I grew up in a house that valued education in many different forms. I was always teaching my brothers all sorts of random things. I taught one of my brothers all the parts of their hand when they were in first grade. I’m not sure what the teacher did when he came in with that information. Of course, I also convinced that same brother he was made out of spare parts.

 
2. What information did you use to determine your vote?

This is a sticky issue in so many ways for me. First, I don’t like the idea of striking. I think it is unfair to place the burden these negotiations on the students. On the other hand, I voted for my union leadership and know enough of the people on the bargaining team to believe them.
My concern is the proposed evaluation system. I’m interested in reforming the current seniority-based system with something with more criteria. I want the criteria to be measurable and objective. The District’s proposal is very subjective. One of the criteria is based on positive family communications. How would they determine that? I know I have a lot of family support from my students’ families, and I wonder if there are phone calls I don’t know of that came to the principal at some point.
I just want facts. Instead, I feel like I have to wade through propaganda from both sides. I don’t want pathos, I want facts.

3. What do you think is the biggest challenge of teaching in public schools these days?
The biggest challenge? Oh dear, there are so many challenges.
I happen to like a good challenge.

I’ll give you my answer for today, and if you ask me tomorrow, I will most likely have a different answer.
There is so much pressure to get those high test scores. Meanwhile, I have students in 4th grade who read at 2nd grade level. That means they can’t read the math book. Let’s say I have a student who needs help in math. In our LAP program (with a fabulous teacher), students cannot be pulled during our math time nor reading (because we can’t interrupt our 90-minute reading block), so that means they will miss Science, Art, Social Studies or Writing. What do I have that student miss? Do I keep them in recess (my planning time) to make up the time? I want those kids out playing and making those important social discoveries.
How do I do what is right for these kids?

It would be so easy to say that the answer is more money. Money is objective and identifiable. People expect a return on investment. You can follow and trace money. I’m not sure it is so simple. There are plenty of examples of money being tossed onto an educational problem only to have it back-fire.

 

4. What is the biggest misconception people have about teachers?

That all we teach is math, science, reading, social studies and writing (or other curricular areas). I teach students how to create strong friendship and how to get out of bad friendships. I teach them to say “Thank you” and push in their chairs. I teach them to greet people with a polite handshake and smile. I teach them to compliment each other. There is the unwritten curriculum of responsibility and that deep love of learning. I want my students to be as passionate and as thirsty for knowledge as I am. I need time in my day to do that, and I need encouragement from families to continue.

If you want another misconception: I do not have an easy schedule. I work from 8am and rarely leave school before 5pm. I work at home after my kids are in bed until about 10pm most nights. I easily spend an extra 3 hours a day outside of my contract hours. When invited by families, I attend football games, religious services, soccer games and tons of school events because I want to encourage my students to be well-rounded and model life-long learning. Those summers? I direct a kids camp and teach classes. I also spend a few weeks packing and unpacking my room. Then, there are files to read on my students so I can prepare for the next year. Sure, I can stop doing those things, but those are things that help enable me to relate to my students and be a more effective teacher for them.

 

5. What can people do to help teachers educate children?

Be the parent your child wants you to be. You are the parent, not their friend. They have chosen their friends: they get you as a parent. It isn’t easy being a parent and there are resources out there if you want ideas. Choose your battles wisely and be consistent. The expectations you set at home continue into the type of respect we will get at school. I can spend energy on managing students behavior and/or I can spend it on fun creative lessons for the entire class. Some days, I can’t do both as well as I wish.

Read to them. After dinner sit at the table and everyone work until all the homework and reading is done for the night. Show them you think their education is important. Invest time into demonstrating this to them.

Let them learn in a caring environment. The person holding the pencil is doing the learning. Learn these lines, “Suzy, I am more than happy to help you work on your assignment. I help kids who are polite to me.” OK, not those exact lines because that might feel too fake, but help them only when you are not in the middle of a power struggle. You want to cultivate a love of learning. They’ll figure out the associative property of addition at some point if you can keep learning a positive experience.

Tell your teachers you appreciate them. You are busy, and teachers understand that. A simple note from the student and the family goes a long way. Again, this models the value of education to the student. I keep a notebook of my favorites.

You might not agree with everything the teacher does, but talking bad about them only creates divisiveness. If you have an issue with an adult, talk to the adult and leave the student out of it.

I could go on this for hours. I send home a booklet for families in my class full of ideas. I’ve probably covered enough screen space here.

 

I want to thank Delonna Halliday for taking the time and being part of 5 Question Friday.

As always, if you think you or someone you know would want to participate in 5 Question Friday, email me at jackcameronis@gmail.com

-Jack Cameron

5 Question Friday With Tacoma Blogger Luke Byram

Once Tacoma was named America’s most wired city. So I suppose it’s not a surprise that there are quite a few people out there who just love writing about Tacoma. Luke Byram is one such writer. He recently contacted me asking if he could do a guest post on Tacoma Stories. I told him I’d welcome the submission. Then I did some quick online research and when it comes to Tacoma websites, Luke Byram is all over the place. He’s a frequent contributor to TacomaMama.com and other local blogs.  The most surprising thing about all of this is that Luke is in 9th Grade. So here are five questions I put to Luke Byram for 5 Question Friday.

1. You’re one of the youngest and most prolific bloggers in Tacoma. How did you get started writing creatively?

I am a news junkie, especially for the Puget Sound area but also nationally a bit. My quest to write started when I was in 7th grade. I stumbled upon a Tacoma news site that recruited Tacoma Community Bloggers for their community blogger program. I am contributing to feedtacoma.com and tacomamama.com.

2. What are some of your favorite things about Tacoma?

My favorite thing about City of Destiny is… Tacomans who care and want to be involved. I love T-Town’s arts and culture as well as the many amazing events.  

3. What’s your favorite Tacoma blog right now and why?

There are many great T-Town blogs out there. I love food so you can’t go wrong with TNT’s Diner Blog written by the awesome Sue Kidd.

4.Where is your favorite spot in Tacoma?

A favorite spot on a sunny day in the summer is Owens Beach. I have to say there are many great spots in Tacoma.

5. What are your writing plans for the future?

Just to continue to write about Tacoma.

As always, if you think you or someone you know would be good for 5 Question Friday, email me and let me know at jackcameronis@gmail.com.

The Tacoma Youth Initiative

Jen Kurkoski surrounded by others in the TYI (including me in the lower right hand corner.)

In 1995 I was nineteen. I got a phone call from someone.

“Mr. Cameron, we’d like to start the Tacoma Youth Initiative again. We’d like you to run it.”

“No. I’m not interested.”

“May I ask why not?”

“The youth of Tacoma do not deserve the Youth Initiative.”

My participation was from 1992-1993. I don’t remember how I got started, but I think it was a girl. At the time, I was known for joining groups simply because a girl I was interested in was a member. It’s how I ended up being a Quaker for a while. More often than not, I’d join the group and get just as interested in the group as I was in the girl. The Youth Initiative was no different in that respect.

To explain what the Tacoma Youth Initiative was and what it did, it’s important to explain the environment in which it existed. The first Gulf War had ended. Bill Clinton was in the White House with a bunch of new optimism. And Starbucks had just gone public. When it came to young people, the general fears were drugs, gangs, pregnancies, and AIDS. Each of these fears resulted in various programs to help kids who were addicted, or stuck in gangs, or pregnant. Almost all of the programs out there were reactionary programs for kids who had already screwed up.

The concept behind the Tacoma Youth Initiative was a bit revolutionary at the time. What if there was a program full of resources for young people before they got messed up with drugs, gangs, or anything else? More importantly, how about a program that helped these teens do what they want to do?

The Tacoma Youth Initiative supported and promoted groups and activities geared towards teenagers in Tacoma. An environmental group called SAVE (Students’ Actions for a Viable Environment), various Safe Streets programs, and Crossroads Coffee Shoppe were all among the programs championed by the Tacoma Youth Initiative.

I know this is hard to believe, but there was a time when there wasn’t a coffee shop on every other corner of Tacoma. And the coffee shops that did existed were not exactly teen friendly. Most of the time a bunch of us would just go to Shari’s or Denny’s. A bunch of us would arrive at the restaurant. The waitress would roll her eyes as each of us ordered just a cup of coffee. 

Soon they made rules that we had to order food or they’d say we could only stay for an hour. This was the genesis of Crossroads Coffee Shoppe. The Tacoma Youth Initiative helped fund the concept of a coffee shop where teens could drink coffee, listen to music, and hang out indefinitely.  Since it was non-profit, there wasn’t any worry of patrons ruining our bottom line.

Crossroads existed in part of a large warehouse owned by the Boy Scouts of America. Part of it was used for the Sea Scouts, but the rest of it was donated to the Youth Initiative. It was located on Dock Street just below the 11th Street Bridge, otherwise known as the Murray Morgan Bridge. It was essentially in a forgotten part of Tacoma. This was before there were gigantic empty condo buildings or the Museum of Glass. Most people who ended up on Dock Street were lost, homeless or drunk. Once, a drunk guy in a pick-up truck took out four small trees next to the warehouse while we were there.

Those of us who were part of Crossroads Coffee Shoppe met every Tuesday at 7pm. We talked about getting equipment and finding the financing for our little part of Tacoma. We also had work parties where we put up walls and made the warehouse space into a place people could actually hang out. Occasionally as a fund raising strategy, we’d open our doors to the public for a night at a time. It was always a low-key affair. No one got crazy drunk or stoned out of their minds. There was never any violence. It was a group of teenagers responsibly hanging out with like minded people. I made many friends at Crossroads that I still talk to on a regular basis.

Crossroads Coffee Shoppe

Eventually I decided to get more involved with the Youth Initiative. The Tacoma Youth Initiative’s offices were located in two small rooms on the first floor of the Tacoma Central School building. Youth Initiative director, Jen Kurkoski was always happy for any help she could get. Many days after school, I would go into the office and help stuff envelopes, fold newsletters, or do whatever else needed to be done while listening to Jen’s radio ever tuned to National Public Radio.

In a very real way, Jen Kurkoski was the Tacoma Youth Initiative and yet, it never felt like she was controlling us. She was the first adult I’d ever met who I felt was on our side. She had a quality about her that got the best out of you and made you feel optimistic. At the time I had no idea how rare it was to work with a genuine leader.

After a while, I started writing for the Tacoma Youth Initiative newsletter. One month, I saw the newsletter and noticed that a paragraph in my article had been changed. I actually left school and went down to the office to yell at Jen for changing my article. She calmed me down immediately. It was the first time I’d been edited.

I was still attending weekly meetings at Crossroads, but it was becoming increasingly clear that Crossroads was never going to be more than a glorified clubhouse for us and our friends. No matter how much we tried to promote the place, we couldn’t get the amount of people in it that we needed to make it an ongoing thing. I decided it was due to our terrible location which I believed was donated to us because no one else on Earth would want it. More than once, I half-jokingly suggested we should burn the warehouse and use the insurance money to get a real location. One time we ordered a pizza once and the guy got lost. I said, “This guy is getting paid to find us and he still can’t find us.”

Back at the Youth Initiative Offices things were getting even more desperate. We weren’t just running out of funding for Crossroads. We were running out of funding for everything. Giving money to homeless kids or drug rehab for kids or for runaways or for former gang members has always been a good way to get in the papers. But giving money to average teenagers who weren’t in any sort of trouble? Hell, didn’t they just give $20 to their kid for gas? The fact of the matter was the Tacoma Youth Initiative simply wasn’t sexy enough to garner ongoing support.

In January of 1993 Jen announced that the Youth Initiative was closing its doors. This announcement got us more publicity than anything we’d ever done. Suddenly we were being interviewed by the News Tribune. Some were happy to see them. I saw them as vultures picking on a corpse. We’d had press releases all but ignored during the majority of our existence and now suddenly we were news…because we were dying.

Jen tried to put a good face on it. She had one last gathering. A cast party for the Tacoma Youth Initiative. She invited us to her apartment on Stadium Way. It was a chance to see some of the people from the other branches of the Youth Initiative. We talked and hung out and worked on a big poster of scraps from our various endeavors.

And then it was gone. As if it had never been. I never saw Jen Kurkoski again. I remained friends with many of people from Crossroads. In the time since we had tried to start Crossroads, coffee shops had sprung up like a disease. There was Temple of the Bean over on Division and North I Street and across the street from it, there was Buzz City. Later there was Café WA and later still Shakabra Java. Crossroads was gone, but at the same time, in a way, it was everywhere.

In the years following the demise of the Tacoma Youth Initiative, I got jaded. I felt that not only did the media and local philanthropists not do enough to save the Youth Initiative, but neither did my fellow young people. More and more I saw that the majority of my peers seemed to think that the world owed them something and the last thing they wanted to do was work for it. So when I got that call in 1995, I turned it down. And as far as I know, the Youth Initiative never started up again.

Now, almost twenty years after I first heard the words ‘Tacoma Youth Initiative’, I’m not nearly so jaded. I see it was something that helped shape who I am. It’s where I started writing things that people other than my friends read. The Youth Initiative is no more. But the people from the Youth Initiative are still around. One is a principal at a high school. One works at corporate offices at Zumiez. Another works in a law office downtown. And Jen Kurkoski is in California working for Google. We’ve all gone on to different things, but I think each of us was changed by our experiences with the Tacoma Youth Initiative and I’m thankful for that.

Could the Tacoma Youth Initiative work in today’s Tacoma? I don’t know. I’d like to think so, but as always, the problem is money. The question is, what would the youth of Tacoma do if they had the resources? I bet it would be something amazing.

– Jack Cameron

Were you part of the Tacoma Youth Initiative? Do you have stories of TYI to share? Email me at jackcameronis@gmail.com. It’d be great to hear from you.

Note: Don’t worry. 5 Question Friday isn’t gone. We’re just skipping a week.

5 Question Friday With Tacomic’s R.R. Anderson

Photo Courtesy of KevenFreitas.net

R.R. Anderson is a true Tacoma original. He was one of the people I thought of when I came up with 5 Question Friday but there was a part of me just a bit afraid to have him participate. As anyone who follows R.R.’s online activity can attest to, he has no problem saying exactly what’s on his mind. Personally, I think that’s a fantastic personal trait but, it wasn’t how I wanted to start out the column. Now that we’ve got a few month’s under our belt, I think the site is ready for R.R. Anderson. Of course I could be wrong. I’m only responsible for the questions. I have no control over the answers. This week I’m glad. Enjoy.

1. What is Tacomic?

A hyper-local political cartoon drawn by a blurry-eyed cartoonist in the wee hours of the night and appearing as if by magic elves every Thursday morning in the comics section of the traditional-newspaper-killer site FeedTacoma.com.  The Tacomic is quiet, dignified and rational; balanced in a fundamental philosophy of examining not both sides, but all three sides of every issue of every topic for any discussion. The Tacomic takes the secular, non-partisan political world view, asphalting the footpath through the dank forest moon of enlightenment without bogging down in the mud or partisan name-calling.  Yes the Tacomic is verily all things to all people. And any resemblance to any hyper-local person, living or dead is purely coincidental. Hello seeker! The Tacomic will be there with hand extended. Whenever you’re ready to act like a big boy, unclenching fists or whatever.  New creative-commons, open-source political cartoon every Tuesday morning. No refunds.

2. You’ve been vocal of your boycot of the Weekly Volcano. What’s the story there?

I, humble cartoonist, R.R. Anderson, once named by Weakly Volcano readers as the most creative person in Tacoma 2010, had the honor and privilege to besmirch the pages of this divinely-inspired entertainment journal called the Weekly Volcano with my little political cartoon for about two years before the economy drove itself in a non-partisan way into an open sewer and the economic burden of a staff cartoonist became too great, and I was forced at gunpoint to leave the building.  Forsaken, dejected, I dove into the water. Only through blind rage was I able to muster enough synergy to loosen the bonds placed tightly around my thumbs, freeing them just enough to paddle down river, surfacing out-of-range of their radio-mind-weapons. I vowed that day to make a difference in the City of Destiny. To free her of foreign (Lakewood) influences that would just as easily fornicate with a billboard advertisement than shiv a young cartoonist in the back with a sharpened flat-head screwdriver.  Marsha Moody, The Weakly Volcano, Egg McFuckingMuffins… I don’t just boycott them for feeding the monoculture of Clear Channel Outdoor, I boycott the HELL out of them.  Which is sad because I like the Driscolls, Ron Swarner and Paul Shrag. If you guys are reading this, MUTINY! ARISE!

3. What’s your favorite thing about Tacoma?

The empty, post-apocalyptic feel. Especially downtown… the feeling that you’re one of the few survivors and it’s up to us to rebuild. You want to be the Omega Man/Last Man on Earth? You can.  Start sharpening stakes.

4. You get to ban someone from Tacoma for life. Who is it and why?

The Chinese must go.  ha!  Our evil racist city forefathers already did that one.  I say Tacoma can not afford to lose one more human soul. We need everyone!  I don’t care if you’re legal, illegal, good, bad, ugly, red, brown, black or blue… if you draw breath, you’re needed in this fight against the trans-national, mega corporation person-hood non-entity.  You know let’s use the “Tacoma Method” for GOOD for a change!  Start with Clear Channel Outdoor and these proposed digital billboards. Here is a corporation so evil, they’ve invented a way to install potholes in the sky. Here is a corporation so horrendously black-hearted, they use missing children–dead raped children as one of the main talking points to justify their commercial advertising format.  You want to fight crime? Fight gangs?  Child Obesity? Global climate change? Pollution?  Terrorism? Drugs? Homelessness? Mental illness?  Aids?  Cancer?  The Police State? Step one: take control, reclaim your public spaces. It is the only way to win the war on apathy.  The only way to preserve slack and crush the conspiracy.

5. Where’s your favorite place in Tacoma to get a drink?

Our backyard garden hose.

Thanks to R.R. Anderson for participating in 5 Question Friday and not holding anything back. You can read his Tacomics at http://comics.feedtacoma.com/tacomic/2011/07/#archives . You can also buy his book at http://www.holisticforgeworks.com/

As always if you or anyone you know would like to participate in 5 Question Friday or if you have any suggestions, feel free to email me at jackcameronis@gmail.com