Posts Tagged ‘Governor’

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.

http://www.knowitfightitendit.org/According 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 www.facebook.com/PanCAN.Delaware

Walk on the WILD Side of Volunteering

Saturday, October 29th, 2011

The fall is a great time to be outside (probably not today though).  And…it’s always a great time to volunteer.  That’s why we asked Lynne Staub, our volunteer coordinator for the Division of Fish and Wildlife to tell us more about the incredible variety of volunteer opportunities they offer.

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Lynne Staub, Division of Fish and Wildlife

Have you ever listened to frogs calling on a warm summer night, or gotten so close to Delaware’s shorebirds you could almost count their feathers? Have you ever had an opportunity to help restore wildlife habitat with a simple pair of loppers? Volunteer with DNREC’s Division of Fish and Wildlife and you’ll soon find yourself in the middle of exciting activities such as these and much more!

Volunteering with Birds!The Division is committed to the conservation and restoration of wildlife species and habitats, and to providing safe and enjoyable fishing, hunting and boating opportunities.  Volunteers play a key role by monitoring wildlife species, restoring native habitats and helping teach environmental education programs.

So if you want to come over to the WILD side of volunteering, DNREC offers plenty of programs to unleash your inner-environmentalist.

Just next month, the Division of Fish and Wildlife is looking for volunteers to help with three projects in state wildlife areas:

The Division of Fish & Wildlife’s volunteer activities range far and wide, covering fish and fowl and plenty in between.

  • Happily Volunteering with DNRECWant to do more toward helping wildlife? Check out the Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program, which include monitoring opportunities for frogs, shorebirds, piping plovers, osprey, bats and breeding birds.
  • Is education a little more up your alley? The Division is always looking for volunteers to assist with educational programming at the DuPont Nature Center near Milford, the Aquatic Resources Education Center on the Rt. 9 Greenway outside Smyrna, and with the hunter and boater education programs throughout the state.
  • Or just wanting to get outside a little and get moving? Why not sign up for a wildlife area project and help to maintain duck blinds and deer stands, plant trees, remove invasive plants, or keep an eye out for other restoration projects!

Speaking of restoration projects, click here for the calendar of upcoming volunteer opportunities and visit this page to see the broad range of activities. (Please note: there are some age restrictions). Please call ahead to register with contact information in case of inclement weather:  Lynne Staub at 302-735-3600 or lynne.staub@state.de.us.

Do something wild and lively this fall,

and get outside with Fish & Wildlife!

Volunteer with DNREC!

Guest Post from…Smokey the Bear!

Saturday, October 22nd, 2011

We’re excited to feature a guest post by…none other than…Smokey Bear!

Smokey and Governor MarkellDid you know that wildfires have burned almost 8 million acres in the United States this year? And did you know that most of these wildfires were caused by humans?

In 2010, humans caused 64,807 wildfires, while 7,164 were started by lightning.

That’s nine times as many fires due to human carelessness than any other reason!

This is why I simply can’t “bear” the fact that some people haven’t gotten the important message about wildfire prevention and fire safety.

Smokey Bear greets students at South Dover Elementary

Smokey Bear greets students at South Dover Elementary

Even though Delaware is small, almost a third of its land area (around 30 percent) is still forested. Not only do these scenic areas provide cleaner air and water, the woods are where some of my dearest friends – squirrels, raccoons, deer, and birds – make their homes.

Trees are a sustainable source of paper, building materials, medicines and other goods that make life easier and provide jobs and income for many people. But a tree lost to a needless fire is gone forever. That’s why our forests depend on us to protect them so that future generations can enjoy their many benefits.

Because October is National Fire Prevention Month (and Delaware’s forests are very beautiful this time of year!), I’m partnering with Governor Jack Markell and the Delaware Forest Service to visit first-graders in the state’s public and private elementary schools this month. I’m happy to report that I’ve met some very smart and enthusiastic students who’ve been quick to learn my “Five Rules for Fire Safety”:

  1. “Only you can prevent wildfires!”
  2. Smokey’s A-B-C’s – “Always Be Careful” with fire.
  3. Never play with matches or lighters.  If you find matches or a lighter or see a fire, tell a grown-up quickly.
  4. Always watch your campfire.
  5. Make sure your campfire is completely out before leaving it.

Last year, I visited 102 schools in Delaware and met almost 9,000 children. I cannot express how extremely happy I am when a child shakes my hand, looks me in the eye, and tells me: “Smokey, I promise to never play with matches.”

But remember, fire safety isn’t just for young people. If you’re over 13 years of age, you can take the Smokey Pledge (click here) and also sign up for a free newsletter. You can also learn about my story and find out how I got started in wildfire prevention.

Don’t forget, I’m counting on YOU.

South Dover Elementary School students listen to Henry Poole of the Delaware Forest Service talk about the importance of fire safety and wildfire prevention. The visit is part of the annual Smokey Bear educational programs for Delaware first-graders.

South Dover Elementary School students listen to Henry Poole of the Delaware Forest Service talk about the importance of fire safety and wildfire prevention. The visit is part of the annual Smokey Bear educational programs for first-graders.

Cool Spring Farmers Market – Rain or Shine Tonight

Thursday, October 13th, 2011

Delaware Fresh: apps.delaware.gov

The leaves are turning and it’s a great day to get outdoors.  We helped kick off the Sussex Outdoors Summit this morning and we’ll be celebrating the success of Cool Spring Farmers Market in Wilmington this evening.

It may be getting colder, but you can still get fresh fruit and vegetables.  There are plenty of ways to enjoy Delaware agriculture this season – there are a few farmers markets still open; you can visit on-the-farm stands and shops; and for a more hands-on experience you can pick your own pumpkin!

The Delaware Department of Agriculture has put together this great guide with plenty of options.  You can also download Delaware Fresh for Androids or iPhones – it will lead you to the closest farmers market or stand.

Farmers markets can help you live healthier, but they’re also a lot of fun.  Come out today (Thursday, Oct 13, 4pm – 8pm) to celebrate the success of Cool Springs Farmers Market, offered by West End Neighborhood House’s Bright Spot Ventures Program and the Cool Springs Neighborhood Association. It features a selection of Delaware produce from leading farmers’ market producers: Tommy Eliassen and Fifer Orchards Farm and is located in Cool Springs Park at 10th and Jackson Streets in Wilmington.

A variety of fruits, vegetables, cheeses, meats, spreads, and homemade pastas, breads and snacks are available for sampling and purchase while enjoying live musical performances.

In addition to providing the community with healthy alternatives, several farmers have donated portions of their unsold crops for distribution through the emergency food closet and for healthy cooking workshops conducted by the Life Lines program for former foster care youth.

The market is also providing employment opportunities and training for a group of former foster care youth through the Bright Spot Ventures social enterprise. They have been doing a great job setting up and taking down the market every week, as well as selling some of the fruits and vegetables.  A portion of all sales are given to Bright Spot Ventures to support continued vocational training.

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For more information on how to enjoy fresh produce and Delaware agricultural activities, check out the Department of Agriculture’s 2011 Agricultural Directory.

If You Really Knew Kirk: How Delaware Kids Stand Up to Bullying

Saturday, September 24th, 2011

Our kids are back to school – and as parents, we worry when they’re not around.  Across the country, many students, parents, and educators are concerned about bullying.  Bullies can make kids – and adults – feel weak.

But often, kids can surprise and inspire us with their strength, their passion, and their creativity.

To honor the memory of their classmate, John Sullivan, a team of middle school students at Kirk Middle School created ”If You Really Knew Kirk.” Working together, the students created a program for their peers that confronted four issues: grief, acceptance, family and bullying.  You can learn more about John and his classmates here.

Now the students have come together again to tell their story by video.

Please take some time to watch it, share it and be inspired.

Watch on YouTube: http://youtu.be/FxlhjDa-Mss

Delaware Emergency Mortgage Assistance: Deadline Approaching

Saturday, August 20th, 2011

Guest post from Delaware State Housing Director Anas Ben Addi.

DSHA Director Anas Ben Addi

Have you seen all the Sheriff Sales in the newspapers?  I have, and the numbers are staggering.  With the downturn in the economy over the last few years, more families than ever are losing their home to foreclosure.

If you, or someone you know, have fallen 90 days or more behind on their mortgage due to unemployment, under-employment, illness, or injury – there is help available!

Delaware State Housing Authority (DSHA) offers the Delaware Emergency Mortgage Assistance Program (DEMAP).  The goal of this program is to stop foreclosure and keep families in their home. DSHA’s DEMAP program recently received a huge boost of $6 million from the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development to help even more families save their home.

I hear from many families who think they are too far behind and their home can’t be saved.  Many times, that’s not the case at all.

DEMAP offers up to $50,000 to bring your mortgage, taxes and insurance current, and may be able to help make your mortgage payments for up to two years.

I know this sounds too good to be true, but it’s not!  Even if you’re not sure that you will qualify, give us a call and let us try to help you. The $6 million in federal assistance is only available until September 30 – so call now!

The toll-free number is 888-363-8808, or visit www.DeStateHousing.com/SaveMyHome.

 

Delaware State Fair: Celebrating Agriculture and Communities

Saturday, July 23rd, 2011

I’m looking forward to this year’s Delaware State Fair!  Here’s a guest post by Delaware Secretary of Agriculture Ed Kee.

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July in Delaware means it is State Fair time.

Secretary KeeThe Fair means a lot of different things to different people, but there is no doubt that celebrating our agriculture is the major theme.  After all, Delaware agriculture is based on 2,500 farmers and generates $1.2 billion in sales every year, which expands to $8 billion worth of economic activity in the state. 

Our state ranks 9th nationwide in the percentage of land area devoted to cropland.  Thirty-five percent of Delaware’s land mass is devoted to cropland, 42% of our land is in farms.  When cropland (35%) is combined with forestlands (31%), 65% of Delaware is open space.

The livestock competitions, the 4-H and FFA youth exhibits and contests, the produce and crop-judging contests and the incredible display of farm equipment illustrate that Delaware agriculture is alive and well.

In the Department of Agriculture’s Commodity and Education Buildings, virtually all of Delaware’s agricultural commodities will be on display.  The building will be full of farmers and producers to explain, demonstrate, and promote the farm products they depend upon to make a living.

All of this activity reflects the diversity of our agriculture.  We also have a great new display that illustrates Delaware Agriculture’s 300-year history and celebrates its critically important role for our state.

The Fair, to me, and I am sure to hundreds of others, is about people and the memories of being with those great people over the years.

I’ve kissed a pig, cleaned the stalls and laughed so hard my ribs hurt. Most of my best fair memories revolve around my great friend and former colleague Dave Woodward and all the other University of Delaware Extension workers and Department of Ag riculture staff who have been dedicated to the fair and what it stands for.  Of course, we were all there for the farmers and the youth, which is a great and continuing reason to be at the Fair.

I also must reveal my favorite Fair foods: The Grange chicken platters; the Farm Bureau cheeseburgers and milkshakes, and a long-gone lemonade stand sponsored by the Red Clay Lions Club.  Just thinking of those treats, brings back a flood of memories of fun and fellowship with a wide array of friends at the fair.

State Fair Cooking

 

Looking Back at the Legislative Session

Monday, July 11th, 2011

I want to thank the Legislature for a very productive session. We worked together to achieve many of the priorities I set forth in my State of the State address: enhanced tools to create jobs, investments in education and infrastructure, pension and health reform, public safety initiatives and responsible tax reductions.

Signing FY 2012 Budget

This session presented us with both a chance and a choice. A chance to make progress on the issues we care most passionately about and a choice on how we were going to get there — whether it was going to be through the kind of bitter and divisive debates that you see in other states, or whether we were going to work together.

We not only chose to work together, but we chose to do so in a way that was financially responsible. Here are some of the highlights of what got done this session:

  • Enhanced tools to help create jobs, including the New Jobs Infrastructure Fund and the New Job Creation Credit, based on practical feedback from employers.
  • Investments in infrastructure and higher education projects to create jobs immediately while strengthening our long-term economic foundation.
  • Responsible tax reductions to provide help for industries critical to Delaware’s economic core — manufacturing, small business and financial services — promoting job creation and our state’s competitiveness.
  • Pension and health reform, which will result in more than $480 million in savings over the next 15 years. We took a more respectful and inclusive approach, and it succeeded.
  • Landmark civil unions legislation, taking a step forward in civil rights that will make a real difference in the lives of many Delaware families.
  • Investments in early childhood education that will have a lasting impact on our economy and our children’s future.
  • Continued efforts to improve K-12 education with legislation to strengthen the charter school system, better enable schools to attract the best teachers, add more teachers, improve accountability, expand language education and deliver services for children with disabilities more equitably and effectively.
  • Concrete steps to improve public safety, working together with local law enforcement and moving forward efforts to keep guns out of the hands of people who are not legally eligible to have them.

To learn more about the FY 2012 Budget and read a more in-depth summary of our legislative accomplishments, please click here.

As we move forward to implement these efforts together, we want your ideas and feedback. Please join the conversation on our Facebook page, find us on Twitter, or contact us through ideas.delaware.gov.

Scenes from Around the State

Prepare for Weather Emergencies

Friday, May 27th, 2011

We are very saddened by the devastation caused by the tornadoes in Missouri, Alabama, North Carolina, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Kansas and Texas.  I hope your thoughts and your prayers are with our fellow Americans.  Please consider donating to the American Red Cross or giving blood.

I also hope you will take a moment to read the message below from the Delaware Department of Safety and Homeland Security on how to prepare for tornadoes.  If you don’t have an emergency kit and an emergency plan – this is a great weekend to get prepared.

Emergency Preparedness Tips for Tornadoes

And Other Weather Emergencies

Tornadoes can appear suddenly and can be invisible until dust and debris are picked up and propelled away from the funnel or a funnel cloud appears. Planning and practicing specifically how and where you take shelter is a matter of survival.

Be prepared to act quickly. Keep in mind that while tornadoes are more common in the Midwest, Southeast and Southwest, they can occur in any state and at any time of the year, making advance preparation vitally important.

There are three important steps all families must take to prepare for an emergency.

First, get an emergency kit that includes items like non-perishable food, water, a battery-powered or hand-crank radio, extra flashlights and batteries and store it in your shelter. Also include copies of personal identification, insurance papers, homeowner related paperwork and documentation of your furnishings, preferably electronically stored on a disk or card. Strongly consider downloading a weather warning application to your cell phone and the purchase of a weather radio for your home.

Second, make a family emergency plan. Your family may not be together when disaster strikes, so it is important to know how you will contact one another, how you will get back together and what actions you will take in the event of an emergency.  Identify several locations where your family will meet, both within and outside of your immediate neighborhood.

It may be easier to make a long-distance phone call than to call across town, so an out-of-town contact may be in a better position to communicate among separated family members. You may also want to inquire about emergency plans at places where your family spends time: work, daycare and school. If no plans exist, consider volunteering to help create one.

Determine in advance where you will take shelter in case of a tornado warning:

  • Cellars or basements provide the best protection.
  • If underground shelter is not available, go into a windowless interior room or hallway on the lowest floor possible.
  • In a high-rise building, go to a small windowless interior room or hallway on the lowest floor possible.
  • Stay away from windows, doors and outside walls. Go to the center of the room. Stay away from corners because they attract debris.
  • A vehicle, trailer or mobile home does not provide good protection. Plan to go quickly to a building with a strong foundation, if possible.
  • If shelter is not available, lie flat in a ditch or other low-lying area. Do not get under an overpass or bridge. You are safer in a low, flat location.
  • Plan to stay in the shelter location until the danger has passed.

Third, familiarize yourself with the terms that are used to identify a tornado hazard.

  • A tornado watch means a tornado is possible in your area.
  • A tornado warning identifies that it is actually occurring, take shelter immediately.

For additional information visit the DEMA web site at http://dema.delaware.gov/services/disaster_prep.shtml

Register Special Needs with 911

$tand by Me: Helping Delawareans Achieve Financial Goals

Wednesday, May 18th, 2011

As we keep our focus on putting Delawareans to work and improving our state’s future, we’re working to provide tools that can enable individuals to improve financial responsibility and save up for college, to buy a new home or achieve other financial goals.

I’m particularly excited about a new effort called $tand By Me DE—the Delaware Financial Empowerment partnership. This brings together state employees, the United Way, major banks, non-profits—dozens of groups who are volunteering their time, resources and talents to make a real difference in our community.

(Interested in joining with us to volunteer?)

Here are some of the services offered through $tand By MeTM available to all Delawareans:

  • One-on-one coaching, sticking with you as you work towards goals
  • Help with creating a budget and understanding credit
  • Advice for college and financial aid applications
  • Access to consumer loans and savings accounts
  • Referrals for additional resources if needed

We’ve been hearing some tremendously positive feedback about $tand By MeTM.

One participant told us: “This is exactly what I need—a place that does not tell me what I have to do, but lets me tell the coach what I want to work on and what I think I need to do first. It’s great to have someone to listen to my concerns and help me sort out what I can do next.”

At the $tand By MeTM website, you can set up a meeting with a coach, find a wide assortment of resources designed to help manage your finances, or volunteer to help grow the program. Initially, sessions will be held at the first $tand By MeTM Financial Empowerment Center in the Hudson State Service Center in Newark, with these efforts later spreading to public agencies, businesses, and non-profit organizations around the state—free help will not be far away.

Financial literacy and responsibility are keys to economic growth and personal stability, and we hope you’ll take advantage of the resources that $tand By MeTM has to offer.

Visit standbyme.org to learn how they help you or sign up to volunteer!