Posts Tagged ‘Delaware’

A Week to Make Delaware a Better Place

Friday, April 10th, 2015

Carla-readingThe late American author and poet Maya Angelou wrote that “when we give cheerfully and accept gratefully, everyone is blessed.” Every year, thousands of Delawareans put those words into action, affirming that ours is a state of neighbors. The Week of Service, which runs April 12-18, is an opportunity to highlight the contributions of our friends and neighbors who improve the lives of others and to encourage us all to support worthy causes however we can.

People volunteer in ways that are meaningful to them – mentoring children, delivering meals to seniors or serving the disabled. Others renovate dilapidated buildings, beautify our natural resources and give struggling families a path to self-sufficiency.

They are people of every age and from every walk of life, from Emalie Lawson, a student at Dover High School who started the “My Own Books,” to improve childhood literacy in Kent County, to Marilee Bradley, who at 92 is still actively raising funds for projects and awareness about the Stockley Center in Georgetown. Marilee has spent 45 years advocating for individuals with developmental disabilities and their families.

In the past year, we have honored extraordinary efforts by Delaware residents to help people recover from addiction, raise awareness about Alzheimer’s, work at free tax clinics, provide free legal aid to disabled veterans and much more.

The service of Emalie, Marilee and so many others like them is making a big difference for our state and our people. According to the Corporation for National and Community Service, each year in Delaware:

75 percent of the people help their neighbors.

188,000 people volunteer.

22 million hours of volunteer service are performed.

The cost to Delawareans if these services were not done by volunteers would be some $490 million or an extra $1,430 for every household in the state. But the benefits to those in need and to the community are not the only benefits. Volunteering gives a sense of purpose, provides opportunities for physical activity and helps people live longer, more fulfilling lives.

When my husband was first sworn in as governor, we were overwhelmed by the response we received when we declared a statewide weekend of service in lieu of the traditional inaugural ball. Thousands of friends and families and people of all ages responded by helping those in need that weekend and every year since during what has become a full week of service.

We are asking Delawareans to again donate your time and energy. Look around your community or visit to find ways to volunteer this week, and every week. The 2015 Week of Service also coincides with the recent launch of a new program to make the most of Delawareans’ instinctive generosity. Volunteer Delaware 50+ will help individuals age 50 and over find the best opportunities to use their skills and talents across an array of activities that support their communities. The state has partnered with dozens of not-for-profit organizations involved with education, literacy, health and wellness, the arts, protecting the environment and many other important community needs.

Volunteers in the program receive benefits including:

Personal attention and assistance from dedicated Volunteer Delaware 50+ staff.

Liability insurance while volunteering.

Introduction to a broad range of volunteer opportunities to match your interests and skills with community needs – opportunities which are one-time or ongoing.

Tracking of your service hours.

Recognition events.

The fastest-growing population in Delaware is the senior population, with more seniors living longer and more active lives. Research shows that volunteering can have a profound impact on our health, helping to prevent Alzheimer’s, lowering instances of depression and promoting physical activity.

For those 50 and older, Volunteer Delaware 50+ will be there to provide personalized support and guidance in finding a rewarding service opportunity.

The most important measure of Delaware’s progress and quality of life is whether as many Delawareans as possible have the best chance to reach their potential. We know government, businesses, and nonprofits all play a role, but we all have responsibility to provide for each other.

To learn more about volunteering, Volunteer Delaware 50+ and the annual Week of Service opportunities, please visit Your time, talent and experience can ensure a bright future for all of our residents. Thank you for all you do to make this a better Delaware.

Carla Markell is Delaware’s first lady. This blog post was originally published in The News Journal.

The Real Story About Common Core

Monday, February 17th, 2014

This is a pivotal moment for the Common Core State Standards.

Although 45 states quickly adopted the higher standards created by governors and state education officials, the effort has begun to lose momentum. Some are now wavering in the face of misinformation campaigns from people who misrepresent the initiative as a federal program and from those who support the status quo. Legislation has been introduced in at least 12 states to prohibit implementation and states have dropped out of the two major Common Core assessment consortia. Opposition voices are growing louder as new assessments show students aren’t performing as well as they had on easier state tests offered previously.

The debate about the standards must be changed to ensure politics and mythology don’t derail a vital effort to improve opportunities for our kids as they are falling further behind their international peers. Too often, supporters of raising expectations for our students are refuting broad claims that have nothing do with why we brought together teachers, education experts and employers to develop the Common Core initiative. Instead, we must emphasize the real impact of this initiative in our classrooms.

Contrary to claims by opponents who say we’re taking away local control of curriculum, how educators teach the standards is entirely up to them. We have clear illustrations of teachers and administrators across the country developing innovative ways to help their students meet the new benchmarks.

In Delaware, elementary instructors have come together to teach basic physics concepts such as force and motion. They developed a creative hands-on lesson in which the students build and refine toy sail cars. As one teacher in the program said, the hands-on practice students “are getting now is teaching them way better than any worksheet or textbook.”

In a Michigan elementary school, the shift to the new standards led educators to develop methods for teaching concepts at greater depth and in ways that allow students to apply those concepts to many scenarios, rather than through memorization. A second-grade math class is now using “bar models,” a technique that has proved effective in some of the highest-performing schools in the world. The district’s math specialist says they’ve “seen a lot of positive feedback from teachers because they’re able to take their students a lot further this year.”

And English teachers at South Middle School in Grand Forks, North Dakota, are aligning lessons with Common Core by incorporating a discussion model that leads to a deeper understanding of texts. For example, they ask students to think critically about the values of a narrator, asking questions such as: “What evidence is there in this excerpt that [the narrator] doesn’t care about what she did?”

All of these efforts represent precisely what we hoped Common Core would encourage when we worked with our colleagues at the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers to create the program. They are the reason that unlikely coalitions of Democrats and Republicans, as well as business leaders and union presidents, are urging states to resist political pressures and stay focused on implementing the standards.

According to Gallup’s World Poll, there are 3 billion people looking for work and only 1.2 billion potential jobs available. The jobs will go where the skilled workforce is, and we are in danger of falling behind if we don’t raise the bar for our students. The most recent Program for International Student Assessment shows that even once-struggling nations, such as Estonia, Poland and Vietnam, are surpassing the U.S. This has serious consequences for individual economic opportunity and national economic growth.

In the coming months, elected officials and the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Governors’ Council will team up to publicize the facts about Common Core and challenge misinformation about what the standards mean.

We will help fill the leadership vacuum that has existed among even Common Core’s strongest proponents by providing states with materials to inform the public and assistance in applying best practices. We will share models of how states can successfully teach the standards -– such as ways to bring together the best teachers across districts to share strategies, curriculum and lesson plans.

And we will help advocates find the most effective ways to communicate about the Common Core — such as the back-to-school nights held in Delaware, where community leaders were shown Common Core lessons. Those leaders saw that, in practice, the standards set goals that make sense to parents and teachers, including ensuring fourth-graders can multiply large numbers and write an essay.

If we put the focus on the great work being done to implement Common Core in classrooms across the U.S., instead of debating abstract political rhetoric, we will give our students the opportunities they deserve.

(This piece was co-written by Governor Markell and former Governor Sonny Perdue of Georgia, who were co-chairmen of the Common Core State Standards Initiative. It was originally published by

Unleashing the Potential of Delawareans

Saturday, January 25th, 2014

We must comImage001mit to unleashing the potential of every Delawarean by ensuring equal opportunities to acquire good education and training, find good jobs, and live in safe and vibrant communities. That was my message to our legislature and people across Delaware when I laid out priorities for 2014 in my annual State of the State speech.

We have made significant progress to strengthen the state over the past year:

  • Delaware’s job growth has outpaced the nation’s average;
  • Schools are better preparing our students; and
  • Businesses are dealing with clearer and fewer regulations.

But to paraphrase Will Rogers, even if we’re on the right track, we’ll get run over if we just sit here; we have so much more to do.

Here are some highlights of our plans for the coming year.

Opportunity to Work:

  • Launch a program to help students acquire nationally recognized manufacturing certificates, recognizing that pursuing a traditional degree is not for everyone.

A Culture of Innovation:

  • Support cutting-edge research that leads to new inventions, spawns new companies, and creates jobs.
  • Focus on cybersecurity, a field in which we have hundreds of unfilled jobs and need more qualified professionals.

Opportunity to Learn:

  • Better support our youngest children and their families by expanding the proven Nurse-Family Partnership.
  • Aim to improve our teacher compensation system to attract and retain top teachers in our schools.

Safe and Vibrant Communities:

  • Create development districts to revitalize downtown areas.
  • Invest in infrastructure and clean water projects that create jobs and lay the foundation for future prosperity.
  • Reduce crime by addressing gun trafficking in Wilmington and focusing on ways to help ex-offenders and those suffering from addiction become productive members of society.

You can find more information about how we are pursuing these priorities here. Next week, I will unveil a balanced budget that maintains our fiscal responsibility while making the types of investments I outlined in the State of the State. Every Delawarean has something to contribute if given the chance. We need to make sure they have that chance.

I look forward to working toward that goal this year.

Volunteers build a better Delaware

Monday, July 29th, 2013

Guest post by the First Lady of Delaware, Carla Markell.

Four years ago, Wilmington’s H. Fletcher Brown Boys and Girls Club nearly closed its doors, ending the phenomenal services they provide children at critical times in their development. When my husband, Jack, his staff and I signed up to paint the building as a community service project, we learned the building had much more serious problems: a need for heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system repairs, faulty boilers and a leaky roof, to name a few.

It was a dispiriting situation; however, the disappointment spawned a great Delaware success story. A combination of efforts by businesses, community leaders and kindhearted volunteers transformed the facility from an apparent state of disrepair into a welcoming place with a bright future for serving area children.

Astra-Zeneca stepped in with initial seed money to help with HVAC, electric and roof repairs. Other companies followed, providing for renovations of the computer lab and lobby, new electronic equipment, furniture and a book drive. Meanwhile, compassionate citizens who never gave up on Fletcher Brown donated increasing amounts of their time to run programs at the center. The effort at the Brown club inspired additional companies, foundations and individuals to come forward to renovate the Clarence Fraim Boys and Girls Club.

Project Renewal has demonstrated the chance for every individual to make a difference, as well as the endless possibilities to build a better Delaware when we all work together. With continued community support and wonderful leadership from the Boys and Girls Club Board, this effort was duplicated during the 2013 Governor’s Week of Service Kick-Off and April Week of Service at the Laurel Boys and Girls Club. Renovations and upgrades also are underway at the Smyrna-Clayton facility, including a new roof, electrical system and flooring. If you are interested in taking part in the project, please contact Sharon Biddle at 658-1870.

At the Wilmington, Smyrna and Laurel facilities alone, more than 1,700 kids ages 6-14 attend the after-school programs. Sixty percent of club youths come from low-income families. Students receive assistance with schoolwork, pursue interests from arts to athletics and have a safe place to grow, learn and build great futures.

Promoting volunteerism

Project Renewal represents just one of hundreds of programs run by nonprofits, schools and other organizations to help Delaware reach its potential. They mentor children, deliver meals to seniors and serve the disabilities community. Others renovate dilapidated buildings, beautify our natural resources and give struggling families a path to self-sufficiency. Almost none can reach their goals without volunteers.

The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) has confirmed Delawareans’ commitment to serving others, even after many volunteers’ families were hit hard by the national recession. Our state had the greatest percentage increase (5.3 percent) in volunteering from 2010-11.

According to CNCS, in 2011:

• 65.4 percent of Delawareans did favors for their neighbors.

• 186,760 people volunteered.

• 21.2 million hours of service were performed.

• $462.8 million of service was contributed.

Giving back goes well beyond specific acts of service. It offers a sense of purpose, provides opportunities for physical activity and helps build social relationships, while binding us together and enhancing our sense of community. As the only state that offers a Volunteer Credit for high school students, we must support efforts that give our next generations ways to contribute in their communities. According to a study by CNCS, volunteering even makes us healthier, as shown by lower mortality rates, greater functional ability and less depression later in life among those who volunteer.

The weeks of service held each year since Jack became governor have given us the opportunity to highlight the incredible outpouring of kindness displayed toward friends, neighbors and total strangers every day across our state. We’ve been proud to join the thousands of mentors and tutors who provide that extra measure of support and encouragement for Delaware’s children. At shelters, food banks and mobile health clinics, we’ve seen those who are more fortunate offering comfort to individuals facing hard times.

As part of increasing momentum behind volunteerism, Jack and I will present the Governor’s Outstanding Volunteer Awards this fall. You can nominate Delawareans who have performed extraordinary service in our communities by visiting It’s important that we demonstrate our gratitude to those who make a special commitment to keeping Delaware a wonderful place to grow up, work, raise a family and retire.

While you’re on the site, I hope you will seek out opportunities to get involved with one or more of the many organizations listed. If you have any questions or want to participate, please contact Carrie Hart at 857-5006 or

There are ways to get involved that tap into everyone’s strengths. I encourage you to use them as a chance to follow your passion. Together, we can replicate the story of Fletcher Brown across our state, improving the lives of Delawareans and creating a positive and healthy future for all.

This blog was originally published in the News Journal.

Everyone Wins: A Strategic Plan for Investing in Early Childhood in Delaware

Monday, April 22nd, 2013

Guest post by Jennifer Ranji, Secretary for the Department of Services for Children, Youth and Their Families

The most important investments we make as a society are those that help our children get off to a strong start in life.  That’s why we’ve stepped up our focus in this area, leveraging state and federal investments here in Delaware. We are in the middle of a great story – a story about giving our state’s children a great start in school and in life, but we still have a lot of work to do.

We have been hard at work over the last couple years supporting enhanced outcomes for our earliest learners, including providing a significant increase in early childhood funding.  Just this week we laid out our roadmap. Delaware’s early childhood strategic plan was recently launched and is available online. Entitled Sustaining Early Success, the plan focuses on creating and sustaining a comprehensive early childhood system for all Delaware children and their families, through four strategic goals:

  • Enable Delaware children to become the healthiest in the nation—physically, emotionally and behaviorally. The state will take a ‘whole child’ approach and link children’s health care, social and emotional development and family and community support to help them be ready for school.
  • Assure all Delaware children have access to high-quality early childhood programs and professionals. The state will significantly increase early learning provider participation in the Delaware Stars program, particularly for high-needs children, and offer more professional development  and wage enhancements to support the early childhood workforce.
  • Create an aligned and effective early learning system, birth to third grade.  Delaware will build new bridges between early childhood and K-12 education using cross-sector professional development and the Delaware Early Learner Survey to strengthen understanding of early childhood learning and development and improve later educational outcomes.
  • Sustain system improvement.  Delaware will create a more integrated, sustainable system with strong oversight and accountability and data-driven decision making to continuously improve children’s progress.

Our state must continue to link these elements together to set each child on a course toward lifelong success. Ultimately, the payoff benefits children, their families, employers, teachers and taxpayers. It affects every aspect of our lives, from healthier and safer communities to a stronger tax base and more qualified workforce.  More specifically, students who have attended quality preschool are more likely to graduate from high school and go on to college, ultimately providing Delaware with a stronger workforce and allowing us to compete more effectively in a global economy.

Nobel Prize-winning economist James Heckman of the University of Chicago makes the case for such an investment saying, “Early childhood investments of high quality have lasting effects…. In the long run, significant improvements in the skill levels of American workers, especially workers not attending college, are unlikely without substantial improvements in the arrangements that foster early learning. We cannot afford to postpone investing in children until they become adults, nor can we wait until they reach school age — a time when it may be too late to intervene.”

Our state benefits from a committed community of advocates for early childhood education.  Every citizen has a stake in the success of these efforts, and it’s time now for us to expand our base of advocates to include each of you.   Going forward, we need to do what Delaware often prides itself on doing best – driving change through partnership and collaboration.

The evidence is irrefutable, the path forward is clear and the stakes are profoundly important. This is the single most important investment we can make for a better future. We are in the middle of a great story – and it’s time to write the next chapter. We can do it, and with your help, together we will sustain early success in early childhood education.

Writing the Next Chapter in History

Tuesday, April 2nd, 2013

It has been remarkable to be engaged in the fast-moving transformation of public opinion on the issue of marriage equality – momentum that can be attributed, in large part, to our children. Much as the civil rights and women’s liberation movements served as a call-to-action for young adults of the 60s and 70s, debating issues like marriage equality and gender identity will become defining moments in their lifetime. And yet, for many of them, the current debate leaves them perplexed – rightfully so.

Two years ago, I was proud to sign landmark civil union legislation into law, making Delaware one of only a handful of states to allow same-sex civil unions and fully recognize same-sex relationships. Over 600 people celebrated together at what was described as one of the most emotional bill signings in forty years. Yet, when I got home and told my two teenage children about the event, they couldn’t believe it wasn’t already the law.

The concept of discrimination is something our children first learn about in history class. They learn that, decades ago, someone’s gender or skin color had an impact on where a person could learn, work or even sit on a bus. They learn that young people, just like them, chose to fight against discrimination and won. As a result, our young people today grow up learning tolerance, acceptance and inclusion – important lessons as we progress as a society.

Yet, as we anticipate legislation here in Delaware and hear debates happening across the country regarding the legalization of same-sex marriage, it is evident discrimination still exists. We must use the momentum and the evidence of growing support on this subject to take another historic step toward true equality. Together, we will write the next chapter in history and prove, once again, that in Delaware, justice and equality move one way – forward.

This blog was originally published on The Huffington Post

Guest Post: Susan Cycyk, Children’s Mental Health Matters

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

Susan Cycyk, Director, Division of Prevention and Behavioral Health Services Delaware Children’s DepartmentBy Susan Cycyk, Director, Division of Prevention and Behavioral Health Services Delaware Children’s Department

Today more than 1,100 communities across the country will join forces to celebrate National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day.

image: Children’s Mental Health MattersAwareness Day is a key strategy of the federal Caring for Every Child’s Mental Health Campaign, an effort to highlight the importance of positive mental health from birth. Conditions such as depression, anxiety, and behavioral issues, if left unattended, can evolve to more serious problems later in life, including physical difficulties. However, when we intervene early and connect children and families with effective services and supports, emotional challenges can be addressed and the entire family’s life can improve.

Studies show that at least one in five children and adolescents has had or is experiencing a mental health challenge. Sometimes we blame parents or tell our children to “Just handle it.”  At least one third of our children, youth and their families do not receive help to image: Children’s Mental Health Mattersaddress their issues. With the right resources, children and youth with mental, emotional and behavioral health needs and their families can achieve a better quality of life. When untreated, however, mental health issues can lead to school failure, family conflicts, drug abuse, violence, and even suicide. Untreated mental illness disorders can be very costly to families, schools, communities, and the health care system. The life changing results of early intervention and evidenced-based treatments are estimated to save society between $30,000 and $100,000 per child.

image: First Lady Carla MarkellIn Delaware we work diligently to address the needs of children, youth and families from birth through age 18. We are particularly focused on our youngest population, children between the ages of birth to 5, and their families. Through Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation in early education centers and through the provision of specific counseling approaches and effective treatment, such as Parent Child Interaction Therapy, we are supporting families in living healthier, happier lives.

For more information about children’s mental health services in Delaware call the Division of Prevention and Behavioral Health Services at 1-800-722-7710 or visit Emotional health is as important as physical health – Every Child’s Mental Health Matters!

STEM Education Provides Competitive Edge to DE Youth

Friday, May 4th, 2012

During some particularly challenging times these last few years, our state has made clear – again and again – that whether it was meeting the challenge of the federal race to the top contest, trying to reopen the shuttered refinery at Delaware City, tackling rapidly rising pension and health care costs, or putting our state back on the path to financial stability – our model has always been that Delawareans come together to fight alongside each other for things that matter.

image: STEM Education Provides Competitive Edge to DE YouthAnd I can’t imagine a more pressing challenge than the global battle for talent and jobs currently under way. I had a chance to talk with the CEO of the Gallup Company recently, who said there are 3 billion people in the world looking for work, and only 1.2 billion jobs available. It is truly a global competition for jobs.

image: STEM Education Provides Competitive Edge to DE YouthIn a recent report on what the fastest growing companies in the world looked for first and foremost when it came to how and where they decide to invest, the top factor they mentioned again and again was the talent and training of the available workforce – which is so dependent on great public schools. Specifically, the high-wage, high potential jobs of the future depend on the strength of education in what are called STEM subjects – Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.

Last year, we convened a STEM Council to take a look at how we can be more competitive in this area. It was a great example of how Delaware pulls together – business leaders, educators, researchers – even its co-Chair and former Senator Ted Kaufman. These community leaders donated thousands of hours of time to create a strong series of recommendations on how we can better prepare our kids for the future. The full report is available at

image: STEM Education Provides Competitive Edge to DE YouthThey gave their time because it is critical to our national and economic interest that we own STEM innovation in the future as thoroughly as we owned mechanical innovation in the past. It’s our obligation to nation’s future leaders that we equip them with the tools, networks and opportunities that STEM can offer them, so that the unlimited potential you can sense in this place and in these kids will truly lead our state, and nation, forward.


Education: Join Sec. Lowery to discuss proposed school accountability system changes

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2012

Secretary Lillian Lowery

Guest Post from Dr. Lillian Lowery, Delaware Secretary of Education:

Almost 10 years ago, the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act began requiring states to report disaggregated student test scores. Aggregated results had masked serious deficiencies among many of our country’s most vulnerable students. The law’s great legacy is bringing accountability for states, districts, schools and teachers to the forefront, but it also has its flaws.

Recognizing this, in September, President Obama and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan offered states the chance to apply for flexibility from certain requirements of the law in exchange for aggressive state-led reform. Eleven states applied during the first round in November, and Delaware is among 30 expected to apply in February for the second round.

If our plan is approved, Delaware will get flexibility in the setting of realistic student proficiency targets.  In other words, schools would not be required to meet NCLB’s requirement that 100 percent of students achieve proficiency by 2013-14 or be subject to sanctions, such as school improvement, corrective action and restructuring.  Schools also would gain more flexibility with some funding, such as dollars designated for choice and supplemental education services. The purpose is to allow districts and schools the opportunity to adopt and implement meaningful improvements to benefit their students.

This is a welcome opportunity. President Obama and Secretary Duncan understand the need to move away from the unrealistic and unfair goals of a finite annual target in a finite period of time for all students.

To gain approval, states must address four major reform areas in their applications: college- and career-ready expectations for all students; differentiated recognition, accountability and support for schools based on their performance; supporting effective instruction and leadership; and reducing duplication and unnecessary burden. Thanks to the state’s top-ranked federal Race to the Top plan, Delaware already has initiatives in place to meet the first, third and fourth principles. But the second principle will require major change, namely a new system for school recognition, accountability and support.

Delaware’s proposal targets the state’s achievement gaps, aiming to reduce by half the number of non-proficient students in 11 subgroups by 2017, using the 2011 data to establish the starting points.

Gone would be the old, and confusing, way of ranking schools with the labels of “superior,” “commendable,” and “academic watch” and status designation, such as “under improvement.”  Instead, Delaware would switch to a new system  — developed by Delawareans using guidance delineated by the U.S. Department of Education — that places schools in classifications ranging from Reward and Recognition (for the top performing schools) to Focus and Partnership Zone (for the lowest performing schools). In addition, there will be a support system for all schools regardless of their possible classification.

Reward and Recognition schools would be eligible for financial awards by revising the current award programs. Focus and Partnership Zone schools would receive the most intense state support and interventions, ensuring these buildings have the assistance they need to meet student needs. Delaware already has some of this work underway, thanks to our Race to the Top-funded Partnership Zone schools, which are undergoing aggressive reforms with the support of the state’s School Turnaround Unit.

The state’s full draft plan is available online for public review here. While this opportunity for change is exciting, I know it also can be confusing. Although flawed, the old system at least is recognizable to educators, parents and other community members. So many new rules, names and school classifications can be overwhelming even to those well versed in education matters.

That’s why I hope you will join us at one of three community meetings this month so we can explain this proposal in more detail. The evening meetings – one per county – aim to ensure all questions are answered and feedback considered before we submit our state’s plan to federal officials in February. I look forward to seeing you there.

Community meetings

  • 6 p.m., Wed., Jan. 4 at the James Gilliam Conference Center, 77 Reeds Way, New Castle.
  • 6 p.m., Wed., Jan. 11 at Kent County Government Building, Room 220, Dover.
  • 6 p.m., Thurs., Jan. 19, Sussex County Government Building, The Circle, Georgetown.

If you can’t make these meetings, we’d still very much appreciate your feedback on the draft plan.  You can get in touch with us by email or phone, or connect with us through Facebook.

College Financial Aid – Help & Information

Sunday, December 4th, 2011

Guest Post from Delaware’s Secretary of Education, Dr. Lillian Lowery

Our mission in the Delaware Department of Education is that every student will graduate from our public schools college or career ready, with the freedom to choose his or her life’s course.  Yet I know paying for some of those desired courses can be a challenge for many students and their families.

That is why it is critical that they have all the help and information they need to access the scholarships, grants, work-study programs, loans and other financial assistance available.

This week, the Delaware Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators will re-launch its annualFinancial Aid Nights,” a statewide program running through March that is designed to provide college-bound students and their families with valuable information and free assistance in applying for financial aid.

Attendees will learn about applying for need-based and merit-based aid as well as federal, state and institutional programs—including grants, scholarships, work-study and loans. Financial aid experts also will talk about filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form, explain how colleges determine financial need and explain the role of the college financial aid office.

This help is needed now more than ever. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan outlined the challenge well last week when he spoke at the annual Federal Student Aid conference in Las Vegas:

  • Over the last decade, the net price of college has risen nearly 6 percent a year, after inflation.
  • From 1995 to 2007, the net price of college for full-time undergraduates, adjusted for inflation, rose: 48 percent at for-profit schools, 26 percent at public two-year institutions and 20 percent at public four-year institutions.
  • College seniors with student loans now graduate with an average of more than $25,000 in debt. Fifteen years ago, the figure was closer to $12,500.

But, he reminded the conference attendees, there is help available. In fact, federal support for increased college access has expanded more in the last three years than at any period since the years following the passage of the GI bill. That includes:

  • The federal government now provides half of all undergraduate grant aid — up from a third a decade ago.
  • In the past three years, the number of Pell Grant recipients enrolled in college has increased from 6.2 million to about 9 million. And the value of total grant aid and federal loans per student has increased by about 30 percent in inflation-adjusted dollars.
  • Changes to the American Opportunity Tax Credit made in 2009 have led to a jump in tax credit and tuition deductions of more than 80 percent per qualified student.
  • The federal government is trying to make applying for assistance easier, as well, by simplifying the FASFA application. This has led to an almost 50 percent increase in FASFA applications since 2008.

If you are a college-bound student or the family member of one, I urge you to attend one of the upcoming Financial Aid Nights and find out more about what help is available. The meeting times and locations are outlined below. I hope to see you there.

  • 7 p.m., Tuesday, Dec. 6, Brandywine High School auditorium, 1400 Foulk Road, Wilmington, 479-1609
  • 6:30 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 8, Polytech School District Adult Education auditorium, 823 Walnut Shade Road, Woodside, 697-3257
  • 6 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 5, Lake Forest High School, 5407 Killens Pond Road, Felton, 284-9291
  • 6 p.m., Monday, Jan. 9, Indian River High School auditorium, 29772 Armory Road, Dagsboro, 732-1500
  • 6:30 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 11, Dover High School auditorium, One Pat Lynn Drive, Dover, 672-1553
  • 7 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 18, Caesar Rodney High School lecture recital hall, 239 Old North Road, Camden-Wyoming, 697-3249
  • 6:30 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 18, Middletown High School, 120 Silver Lake Road, Middletown, 376-4158
  • 7 p.m., Monday, Jan. 23, Delaware Technical College’s Owens Campus theatre, intersection of U.S. 113 and Del. 18, Georgetown, 856-5400
  • 7 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 7, Delaware Technical College’s Owens Campus theatre, intersection of U.S. 113 and Del. 18, Georgetown, 856-5400
  • 7 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 15, Newark High School, 750 E. Delaware Ave., Newark, 631-4700
  • 7 p.m., Wednesday, March 7, Delaware Technical College’s Owens Campus theatre, intersection of U.S. 113 and Del. 18, Georgetown, 856-5400

Pancreatic Cancer

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

Pancreatic Cancer Action NetworkToday is the last day of National Pancreatic Awareness Month, but I hope it we’ll work on raising awareness all year round.  As I look back at November, I want to thank all of the advocates – the family members, patients, and survivors – for sharing their stories. 

I also want to share mine.

I lost one of my best friends and one of the finest people I ever knew to pancreatic cancer. She died almost eight years ago.

Mary and I were college classmates. She grew up in Pottstown, Pennsylvania and was the second of five children.  Her family was very close; they were people of faith and of energy.  They loved each other and the community loved them.

After college, Mary’s career developed from news-writing for the evening news in Philadelphia to working in the helping fields, culminating in her position as head of the Women’s Commission for Refugee Women and Children in  New York.  The Commission is part of the International Rescue Committee.

In this role, Mary traveled frequently to some of the most difficult places on earth to advocate and fight for women and children refugees. Mary was truly one of the nicest people I have ever known, but she was also tough as nails when it came to fighting for others.

I think of Mary often and I miss her a lot. She continues to be a great inspiration to me. to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, pancreatic cancer is the 4th leading cause of cancer death in the United States. In 2011, an estimated 44,030 people were diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and approximately 37,660 passed away from the disease.

Please take a moment to learn more about pancreatic cancer, get in touch with the Delaware Chapter of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, or sign up to volunteer.

Delaware Volunteers for Pancreatic Cancer Awareness

Volunteers with Governor Markell as he signed a proclamation naming November as Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month. You can find local volunteers online at