Sunday, March 10, 2013

California students leave hundreds of millions in aid untapped

February 28, 2013 | 6:05 pm
Only about half of California ’s high school seniors applied for federal and state financial aid last year -- leaving hundreds of millions of dollars on the table, according to a report by Education Trust-West, an Oakland-based nonprofit advocacy group.
The report, released Thursday, found that low-income students who qualified for college aid essentially left millions in financial aid untapped simply by not completing the federal and state applications.
About 54% of seniors in the state completed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, known as the FAFSA, in the 2012-13 financial aid year. About half of those students applied for a Cal Grant, the state-funded, need-based financial aid program that provides guaranteed awards to graduates with at least a grade point average of at least 2.0.
“Too many California students never get the opportunity to attend college because their families believe they can’t afford the tuition,” said Orville Jackson, the author of the report. “Our analysis suggests that thousands of academically qualified, low-income students are losing out on their college dreams because they weren’t given the information and encouragement they needed to fill out a financial aid application.”
In the Los Angeles Unified School District , application rates varied widely.
At Los Angeles High School of the Arts, 92% of seniors completed the federal aid application.
About 75% of seniors at Fairfax High School completed the federal and state applications.
At Jordan High School in Watts , however, only 36% of seniors completed the federal application and 44% sought state aid.
The report suggested that lawmakers and educators increase communication to districts, schools and students about the availability of aid and the importance for applying for it. The report also encouraged greater transparency on aid application rates to further publicize the gap in participation.
“In the coming years, California will need millions more college graduates and certificate holders just to meet the needs of our economy,” said Arun Ramanathan, the nonprofit's executive director. “As Californians, we must ensure that all of academically and financially qualified students access the financial aid they need to attend college and transform their lives.”
Is Someone You Know in a Cult?
Survivor Shares 5 Warning Signs
The difference between “religion” and “cult” can often seem slight.

These days, many are apt to describe believers as one big community of faith, but the fact remains that there are very important differences among various belief systems, says Richard E. Kelly, a self-described “survivor” of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

“On the spectrum of faiths, I put the Watchtower Society – Jehovah’s Witnesses – closer to the (Charles) Manson Family cult than I do, say, the Lutheran Church,” says Kelly,, author of “Growing Up in Mama’s Club – A Childhood Perspective of Jehovah’s Witnesses” and “The Ghosts from Mama’s Club.” The books detail his experiences growing up in a Jehovah’s Witnesses household, the ensuing family disharmony and how the cultish legacy contributed to his sister’s murder.

The following beliefs should be considered cult constructs, he says.

• Certainty that the world will end in one’s lifetime: This is a crucial pill to swallow for a subsequent list of cult beliefs, which keep followers in a perpetual state of fear. If only one holds true enough to a strict set of rules – like avoiding pledges of allegiance at school, for example – then they may be spared at Armageddon.
• Social manipulation: For Jehovah’s Witnesses who are not observant of all rules, ostracism and shunning is used. How to handle someone who questions policy? Make sure their family ignores them!
• Cripple half of the members (women): For Jehovah’s Witnesses, women are seen as creatures trapped somewhere between men and animals in God’s hierarchy. No woman can have a position of authority, which means it's men only for preaching, teaching and praying. If there’s an official meeting and a woman prays she must cover her head out of respect for the angels who might be there.

• Scorning education: Who needs advanced learning when the world is sure to end in a few short years? Kelly’s sister, Marilyn, had very little education, so when she was finally able to leave home, she had few coping skills. She ultimately met an abusive third husband, who later murdered her.

• Sexually repressive: Jehovah’s Witnesses are thoroughly indoctrinated in how to harness the power of the sex drive to please God. It’s obsessive compulsive when it comes to creating rules about sexual do's and don’ts, from masturbation to the role of women; from conception to sexual pleasure. Sex before marriage is an onerous crime, punishable by shunning and death at Armageddon.

About Richard E. Kelly

Richard E. Kelly grew up as a member of Jehovah’s Witnesses. At 20, while working at the religion’s headquarters, he left the group to live with his wife, Helen, in New York City . Because Kelly’s family believed Armageddon was imminent, his education was limited to what was required by law, since there would be no future. However, he went on to earn a bachelor’s in accounting, a master’s in business and become president of a Michigan manufacturing company. He now enjoys retirement with his family and friends.

Friday, November 26, 2010

From Here to Prosperity

How God Took Me From $300 to $30,000 a Month … Overnight! by Harold J. Perkins (Vision Publishing, ISBN: 978-0-9762730-8-0, $10.99)

One characteristic of good men is that they “man up” when the chips are down.

So it was with Harold J. Perkins.

With an injury ending his professional baseball career, followed by several failed attempts at sales, Perkins found himself broke, busted and disgusted. Rather than run for the hills, blame his family, or pin his misfortune on bad karma, Perkins looked inward. He realized that no matter what, it was still his duty as the head of the family to provide, so he sought God for help.

But we’re jumping ahead of the story.

Perkins acknowledges in How God Took Me … that his teen years weren’t exactly ideal. He writes:

As a young teenager, I had been involved in alcohol, drug-taking and drug selling. From ages thirteen to seventeen I don’t think there was a day when I wasn’t high on something. I had gone from a kid that was very active in athletics -- football, basketball, and baseball -- to the point where the most strenuous form of physical exercise I got was running from the police. I was either on my way to jail or an early grave, but God interrupted the enemy’s plan in a powerful way.

One day while getting high with friends in his mother’s living room, God intervened. Suddenly, Perkins was out of his body and lifted above the room, witnessing everything below in slow motion. Then a life-changing thought occurred to Him:

“Is this all you’re going to do for the rest of your life?” his mind inquired.

After a few minutes, he announced to his friends: “You guys have to get out!”

As far as we know that group hasn’t been back. Perkins stopped using drugs and hanging out. He returned to high school and resumed his participation in athletics. After junior college, he transferred to California State University, Los Angeles, and was later drafted by the Dodgers.

Perkins says that during his years in both the minors and big leagues he got heavily into the Word. After the baseball injury, he eventually joined Crenshaw Christian Center and feasted on Dr. Frederick K.C. Price’s teachings on prosperity. Still, eleven years later, he was so bad off that his kids would duck on their way to church because they didn’t want to be seen riding in the family’s beat-up car.

Perkins writes:

I understood enough about the heart of God to know that the problem was with me, not with Him, however. … I could have easily thrown in the towel and quit, but I got desperate for a solution because I knew the answer was with God. I went on a three-day fast with the attitude that I was willing to do anything God told me to do …


That was the opening God was waiting for. God spoke three principles to him that changed his financial life almost immediately.

I would do the author a great disservice if I revealed the three principles God gave him without giving you the chance to buy the book and read them and the many other gems of wisdom for yourself. Suffice it to say that God led him to a series of positions that each prospered him immensely.

With a lucrative job raising venture capital about to play out, Perkins began looking for work at another office. But he kept hearing inside that he should work from his apartment. “Finally, I realized that it was God speaking to me, even though it seemed to make no sense,” but he began to take steps to work from home. He had a phone line put in and went out and bought a $300 fax machine.

As soon as the line was in God showed up,” Perkins writes. Within a few months of his act of obedience, the $300 investment was pulling in $30,000 a month.

Of course, there is a much more to this book than what can be put into this review. Perkins, an entrepreneur and ordained minister, shares wonderful insights on such subjects as hearing God’s voice, the importance of walking in love and obedience, and meditation as the foundation for blessing.

Above all, How God Took Me From $300 to $30,000 a Month … Overnight! proves that prosperity is not such a distant place when you’re traveling with the Lord.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Young, Gifted, and Black Farm Laborer

Dreamer in the Fields: My Life as a Child Migrant Farm Worker By John Hill (Vision Publishing, ISBN: 978-0-9762730-7-3, $12.99).

Langston Hughes in his poem Dream Deferred asks this question: “What happens to a dream deferred?”

Perhaps he should have consulted the parents of John Hill, who once had dreams of succeeding as entertainers -- the father, Thomas, as a singer; the mother, Alberta, as a dancer. Instead, they wound up as dirt-poor farm laborers in California’s Central Valley.

What happens to a dream deferred? It slowly turns into a nightmare. The dreamers turn to alcohol, and potentially good parents become bad parents.

In Hill’s case, his parents went a step further. They became combatants. So fierce were some of their drunken battles that both would seek medical attention. As might be expected, these fights took their toll on the nine surviving Hill children. (One had drowned at seven.)

“My parents’ battles were thoroughly upsetting to me,” writes Hill. “My siblings and I would take bets on who was going to win, but when it was all over we’d go outside to sit and cry. We were all losers, and I think that thought alone may have been the most devastating part of my young life.”

But young Hill was a dreamer himself, and his dreams did not include slave-like work in the hot California sun or the fall chill, picking fruit, vegetables and cotton. He dreamed of a stable home with regular meals, a chance to get an education, and parents who loved each other enough not to try to kill one another. In fact, he often daydreamed in the fields instead of working. “almost always envisioning a more normal existence far away from the labor camps.”

“We moved around,” Hill writes, “following the crops and traveling as far north as Washington. But most of our time was spent in California. We worked in small towns between Bakersfield to the south and Marysville and Yuba City to the north …and other places such as Oxnard, Santa Barbara, Paso Robles, Salinas, Gilroy, San Jose, and Santa Rosa."

The family lived in horrid camp shacks, sometimes bathed in rivers and streams, slept on filthy mattresses strewn around on dirt floors and used outside toilets that were both unsanitary and dangerous.

“We never allowed our sisters to go to the restroom alone,” he writes. “The boys would always accompany them and stand by the door and walk them back to the cabin or tent, but it was also dangerous for young boys who were unaccompanied. We learned as kids how to survive.”

Hill recalls that he began working in cotton fields around age five or six, with the unreachable quota of picking 100 pounds a day. Rising around 4:30 a.m., the family was in the field well before daybreak. Work didn’t end until dusk, and there were often seven-day work weeks. In spite of their dire poverty, Hill’s dad would frequently take all the family’s earning and drown his sorrows in a night of hard drinking while the children went hungry.

There were some good times, especially when the parents weren’t drinking. During such times, the parents would be lovey-dovey, and all seemed right in the world. When Thomas took a regular job in the town of Paso Robles, the family had a period of stability. Hill’s mother was able to see that children went to church. Young Hill, a gifted reader, loved the Old Testament stories, and he developed a love of church. But one day he was impressed to rise above the normal Sunday school fare that made up the children’s church service.

“After Sunday school the younger children would usually be sent into another room until the main service was over. However, on this particular Sunday I felt I needed something more. A voice kept telling me to go inside and listen to the minister. … The minister spoke of the goodness of God and how He would do anything for us, if we only believed in Him. He said, ‘Just ask and you will receive; seek and you shall find; knock and the door will be opened.’ ...Those words struck a chord in me, and the minister seemed to be speaking exclusively to me.”

By age eight, Alberta had abandoned both the abusive and philandering Thomas and her nine children. By age nine, Hill was so miserable that he determined to run away. That’s when a divine visitor intervened to counsel and console him. Hill explained his longings and asked the visitor for help. A short time later, Thomas was sentenced to a lengthy jail term and the children made wards of Fresno County and put in a foster home.

Hill delighted in his new home and foster parents, the Rev. James Seals and his wife, Velma. It is what he prayed for, although all the children regretted somewhat the loss of contact with their biological parents. But Hill reveled in the normalcy of his new life, and found comfort in the strict requirements to attend church and school, and to help with chores around the big foster home. At last, he was able to embark on the educational journey he had always desired.

Today, in comfortable retirement with his wife Mattie, Hill does book tours and holds speaking engagements.

Just what he prayed for: heaven on earth.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

How to Get Going: Journal Your Way

“I want to write a book. How do I get started?”

My answer rarely varies: “Start writing.”

It’s impossible to get a book written simply by saying you want to write one.

“But, Stanley, I’m not a writer!”

Guess what? None of the books we’ve published at Vision Publishing other than my own were done by writers. All were amateurs who had never written anything approaching a book before.

Several, however, were by women who were wise enough to keep a journal during an important episode in their lives. (Men generally are much less likely to journal.)

Alice C. Hamilton was sixty-six years old when she began a mission to pray in every state capitol in the nation. The idea came to her while taking part in a monthly prayer session in the fall of 1995. Later, as she walked to her car, she heard a voice say, “You can do it. You can pray for one hour at each capitol in every state of the union and plead the blood over that state and its political leaders.”

She knew immediately who was speaking to her. It was the Holy Spirit.

Four months after she heard the voice she boarded a flight from Los Angeles to Houston, on her way to her first destination – Austin, Texas. She visited nine other capitols before returning home thirty days later.

Alice made four other treks, a second covering ten states, a third covering twelve, a fourth covering seventeen (including Washington D.C.), and the fifth covering two, Alaska and Hawaii. Six months after her first trip, she left Honolulu, having prayed in the last capitol.

Mission accomplished!

In most places she had recorded dates and times, memories of plane or taxi rides, lines of conversations, the weather, the scenery, descriptions of the capitols, what she did in each capitol, Bible verses that seemed relevant to the issues she faced at the time, meals, etc.

Sure, words were misspelled, the grammar was often incorrect, sentences were fragmented, and information was patchy in places. Still, though she didn’t know it, she was writing a book, and a good one at that.

Traveling Mercies: My Personal Prayer Journey to the 50 State Capitols was published in August, 2008. (Vision Publishing, ISBN 978-0-9762730-5-9, $8.99.)

It is an inspiring work that finally saw light of print eleven years after her journey – or journal – began. Alice is now seventy-seven years old. See her review under the month of September.


Julie Landry took a much more melancholy road to publishing success. It clearly was not a road she would have chosen.

Her book concerned the death of her husband, Allen Landry. Allen was an assistant pastor at Crenshaw Christian Center, the mega-church founded in Los Angeles by Pastor Frederick K.C. Price.

During the final months of Allen’s life, with cancer brutally sapping every ounce of his strength, Julie began keeping a journal. She would cheerfully attend to her husband’s needs during the day, but at night she would cry herself to sleep. Her notes are a record of her desperate plight over the prospect of losing her husband of thirty-four years, information about his treatments, his faith, his strength, their son’s strength, and his last moments as life ebbed away.

Like Alice, Julie’s journal was crucial to the formation of her book. Although both journals were far from being publishable on their own, they formed an excellent basis on which to start.

And that’s where an editor comes in.

I did several interviews with both authors, restructured the material, and fleshed out the details. Without their notes the task of editing would have been almost too difficult.

Julie’s book, published in October, 2008, is titled In Sickness and in Health: How to Keep Going When Death Interrupts Life (Vision Publishing, ISBN 978-0-9762730-6-6, $9.99). See a review under the month of October.

It is a wonderful resource, and includes fifteen lessons for overcoming grief.
To be continued.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Short, Happy Life of a Beloved Pastor

Anyone who ever hung around Allen Landry knew he loved to have a good time. A fun guy, he could easily be the life of the party. He loved people, he loved dancing, and he loved to laugh.

There was something else he loved – the Word of God.

Allen Landry was an assistant pastor at Crenshaw Christian Center up until his death last October.

But, apparently, there was something lurking in Allen’s body that he wasn’t aware of. Right up until the time of his diagnosis in 2005 he didn’t know he was dying.

His wife, Julie Landry, recounts his life – and death – in her book, In Sickness and in Health: How to Keep Going When Death Interrupts Life (Vision Publishing, $9.99, EAN 978-0-9762730-6-6). The book can be ordered at your favorite bookstore.

Allen began experiencing intense back pain while on assignment as pastor at Crenshaw Christian Center East, the New York version of the huge Los Angeles church founded by Dr. Frederick K.C. Price.

Nothing seemed to give him relief.

Months later, having transferred back home to Los Angeles, he sought advice from his doctor. A blood test indicated the problem was his prostate. Then, a biopsy confirmed that a bigger problem was cancer.

Worse, the exam indicated the cancer was Stage 4, the highest level. Doctors gave Allen no hope that either chemotherapy or radiation would help. Instead, they projected that he had only six to eight months to live.

Julie writes:

“…When we were alone, we discussed the findings …. I told Allen he could not die on me. In fact, I made him promise that he was not going to die, and then I just ‘blew it.’ I broke down right there. Panic and fear began to take over, and Allen had to keep reassuring me that he was going to be all right. I spent the night in the hospital with him, but it was the worst night of my life. I got no sleep at all. I heard every breath Allen took, fearful that each one might be his last. I kept thinking he was going to die right there.”

Allen was determined to fight the condition, using the Word of God and natural remedies. He tried to continue his duties as pastor, but because of the pain he was forced to give up working after about two months.

Julie admits to having been thoroughly spoiled during their almost thirty-five years of marriage. “I was a kept woman, and I loved it,” she writes.

Allen was romantic, confident, thoughtful, giving, and a good provider. The couple proved to be an excellent complement to each other. He offered strong encouragement in whatever pursuits Julie undertook, even when she tried to learn belly-dancing.

He offered the same encouragement to their son, Aaron, an aspiring professional golfer. To further support Aaron, Allen had taken up the game himself. That way father and son could spend more time together.

No longer awash in Allen’s constant loving attention because of his illness, Julie instead became his caregiver. Eventually, Allen could do nothing for himself. Julie describes the transition she was forced to make, reminding herself often that no matter how hard the task of care-taking became, Allen would have done as much for her.

In Sickness and in Health is a touching tribute to a loving husband, but its core may be the fifteen lessons Julie shares with readers to help them through their own grief at the loss of a loved one. She also shares important information about the prostate, which will be helpful both to wives and their husbands.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Traveling Mercies: A Mission to Pray

Some people like the strong, silent types.

I confess that I do, too.

I love the Clint Eastwood movies, especially the old spaghetti westerns. But it’s as Harry Callahan in the Dirty Harry series that Eastwood garnered his most enduring early fame.

Remember the classic line from his movie Sudden Impact? “Go ahead, make my day.” Callahan said it while aiming his .44 Magnum at a robber’s head.

Alice Hamilton is also a strong, silent type.

But Alice wouldn’t harm a flea – unless, of course, it jumped on her. She doesn’t carry a .44 Magnum. She carries something much more explosive. She carries the Holy Bible.

Alice is also a prayer warrior, which means she’s armed and doubly dangerous.

Like Eastwood, she speaks in quiet, measured tones. She’s not demonstrative, and she wouldn’t stand out in any crowd, unless it was a crowd of young folk.

You see, Alice is 77 years old.

Alice has traveled far and wide, carrying the gospel. She’s been to Africa three times, once to Nigeria and twice to Namibia where she worked with Christine Benson, her friend who was a missionary there. During one trip to Namibia, she visited South Africa, and toured the cities of Capetown, Durban, East London, and Johannesburg.

Alice is not a pastor; nor is she an evangelist, teacher, apostle or prophet. She’s one of those often unnoticed people in the pews at Crenshaw Christian Center. Alice is a servant, out to do the will of God. Her role is to seek and save those who are lost.

In September 1995, while interceding at Carson Prayer, a small prayer group that meets once a month at the community center in Carson, California, an idea struck her: Why not visit every capital city in the United States and pray in the state capitol? Alice, a single lady who retired in 1992, never let her mind dwell on the difficulties of her new assignment. She gave little more than passing consideration to the weather, the logistics, or the financing of her mission. She would finance it from her life savings.

In fact, Alice was a little tickled that the Lord had entrusted her with such an important assignment. Where she could she would stay with friends, relatives or acquaintances and contacts. At least that was her intention.

But who would she stay with in Montana, or North and South Dakota? Who would put her up in Alaska or Hawaii? How about Wyoming, or Iowa, or New Jersey, or most of the other states?

Get the picture?

“I am totally relying on the Holy Spirit to give me contacts and directions,” Alice said at the time. Even on her Africa journeys, people asked her if she was afraid. “Why go?” they would ask.

“I told them if the Lord is sending me – and I know He is – then He is well able to take care of me,” Alice replied.

But fifty states?

What of the hours of travel? What of the cold and snow? What of night landings in nearly deserted airports, and flagging cabs with her heavy luggage? What of too many McDonald’s meals and not enough hours of sleep? What if she got sick, hurt, or lonely in some god-forsaken place? Who would she talk to, or how would she communicate in these days before the cell phone became a part of everyone’s dress code?

Alice only smiled.

She would pay from her life savings. She would travel with her three companions – the Father God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. What was the big deal?

On January 20, 1996, Alice, armed with $10,000 worth of Continental airline coupons, took off on the first leg of her journey. She hit Austin, Texas; Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Jackson, Mississippi; Little Rock, Arkansas; Nashville, Tennessee; Atlanta, Georgia; Montgomery, Alabama; Tallahassee, Florida; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and Denver, Colorado, before heading back to Los Angeles on February 21 for a rest. She had been gone thirty-one days and had covered ten states!

Only forty more to go.

But before that first leg was over, she had been given two valuable pieces of advice that allowed her to cut the length of the next four legs by more than half. I’ll tease you by not revealing what they were. She had also begun keeping a journal, thinking that one day she would write a book of her experiences.

Some would have called the mission off right there. “I’ve done enough, Lord,” they would say. Not Alice. No halfway job for her. She would see the whole thing through – no matter what.

Her second leg began on March 17 with Phoenix, Arizona. From there she moved on to Santa Fe, New Mexico; Salt Lake City, Utah; Cheyenne, Wyoming; Boise, Idaho; Helena, Montana; Olympia, Washington; Salem, Oregon; Sacramento, California, and Carson City, Nevada. The trip ended on March 25, a mere eight days later! Thank God for advice she had gotten on the first leg!

Topeka, Kansas, was the first stop on her third leg, which began April 10. From there she went to Jefferson City, Missouri; Lincoln, Nebraska; Des Moines, Iowa; Pierre, South Dakota; Bismarck, North Dakota; Madison, Wisconsin; St. Paul, Minnesota; Springfield, Illinois; Lansing, Michigan; Indianapolis, Indiana, and Columbus, Ohio. She returned home on April 22, twelve days later.

In some of her earlier trips, Alice had, on occasion, visited two capitols in one day. On her East Coast swing during the fourth leg of her trip, she would visit four in one day! She began on May 10 with Frankfort, Kentucky, and then on to Columbia, South Carolina; Raleigh, North Carolina; Richmond, Virginia; Charleston, West Virginia; Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Washington, D.C.; Albany, New York; Montpelier, Vermont; Concord, New Hampshire; Hartford, Connecticut; Boston Massachusetts, Providence, Rhode Island; Augusta, Maine; Dover, Delaware, Trenton, New Jersey, and Annapolis, Maryland. She ended on May 19, 1996, having covered 17 capitols, if you include Washington, D.C.!

Alice began her fifth leg by flying to Juneau, Alaska, on June 12, and back to Los Angeles on the thirteenth. However, rather than leave the airport, she immediately caught a flight to Honolulu, Hawaii, arriving there the next day. After praying in the last capitol, she was ready to return home.

Alice Hamilton completed her mission on June 14, 1996, flying back home from Honolulu, Hawaii, her last stop. She had prayed at all fifty state capitols, pled the blood of Jesus over them, and anointed them with oil. Along the way, she led many people to salvation in Christ, and the infilling with the Holy Spirit.

Don’t take my word for it. Read all about this remarkable woman in her wonderful book entitled Traveling Mercies: My Personal Prayer Journey to the 50 State Capitols (Vision Publishing, $8.99, ISBN: 978-0-9762730-5-5). It will soon be available online.

It is in the book that you will discover the two tips that allowed Alice to cut her travel time by more than half.

Traveling Mercies takes you from Alice’s early days in DeBerry, Texas, and through her search for the Holy Spirit. She recounts her three trips to Africa and, of course, you’ll meet the interesting people she met during her trek through the States.

Don’t ever underestimate the strong, silent type.

Their actions speak louder than they do.