Tag: Head Start

67 Year-Old Vivian Stancil Becomes Swim Champ after Weight-Loss Ultimatum from Doctor (and Despite Her Blindness)

Seventeen years ago, her doctor’s words shook her like an earthquake: “If you don’t lose weight, you won’t get to your 60th birthday.”

Vivian Stancil, a retired Long Beach school teacher, was 50. She stood 5 feet tall and weighed 319 pounds.

“A bowling ball wouldn’t even describe what I was,” Stancil says. “I could barely walk. But I wanted to live, so I instantly knew what I had to do: change my diet and start exercising.”

That would not be easy. Stancil’s social life revolved around going out to eat every day with her friends. As for exercise, Stancil hadn’t done it in 40 years — ever, really. She not only didn’t know how to swim but was so afraid of water that she couldn’t dunk her head in past her eyes.

On top of that, she was legally blind.

Nearly two decades later, at 67, Stancil not only lived but became one of the country’s most honored age-group Senior Olympics swimmers, with 176 medals. In June, 1976 Olympic gold-medal swimmer John Naber presented her with the prestigious Personal Best Award, given once a year to the senior athlete who best helps to spread the word about health and wellness.

Circumstances made Stancil an unlikely role model. Stancil and her three siblings were separated and placed in foster homes when both parents had died by the time she was 7. At 16, pressured into a marriage by her cash-strapped foster parents, Stancil had two children and began slowly losing her sight because of an inherited condition called retinitis pigmentosa. Divorced at 20 and raising the kids alone on welfare, she survived a self-described “two-year pity party,” got married and divorced again, and started working as a Head Start preschool teacher in her late 20s. That would prove to be her salvation.

She earned a two-year degree in early education, married for the third and final time, to an usher at her church named Turner Stancil, and went on to get a bachelor’s degree from La Verne College. For the next decade, as her eyesight deteriorated, she was the first and only blind teacher in the Riverside and Long Beach school districts. She retired early in her late 40s.

“I did not lose weight with that,” she says with a laugh. “I’d carry pliers to loosen the wires or just drink protein shakes — lots of them.”

Stancil did not laugh, however, several days after she turned 50, when her doctor told her the party was over. “The next day, I broke the news to the Eating Club: ‘I love you all, but you’re killing me. ‘So this is goodbye. But before I go, I need your help: What sport should I do?'”

The Eating Club pondered. “‘You’re too fat to run or ride a bike,’ they said,” recalls Stancil. “‘What about swimming? After all, fat floats.'”

But, determined to live, she eventually found her way to Bob Hirschhorn, an instructor at Silverado Park Pool who was well-versed in training middle-aged adults petrified of the water.

Her sight wasn’t a problem, save for her inability to see lane lines painted on the pool bottom, Hirschhorn says.

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Couple donates $10 million, Keeps Head Start Open During Government Shutdown

Children from the Head Start program at the Edward C. Mazique Parent Child Center join supporters and members of Congress to call for an end to the partial federal government shut down and fund the comprehensive education, health and nutrition service for low-income children and their families outside the U.S. Capitol October 2, 2013 in Washington, DC. The federal government is in the second day of a partial shutdown after House Republicans and Senate Democrats refused to agree on a budget. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Children from the Head Start program at the Edward C. Mazique Parent Child Center join supporters and members of Congress to call for an end to the partial federal government shut down and fund the comprehensive education, health and nutrition service for low-income children and their families outside the U.S. Capitol October 2, 2013 in Washington, DC. The federal government is in the second day of a partial shutdown after House Republicans and Senate Democrats refused to agree on a budget. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Philanthropists Laura and John Arnold have offered up to $10 million in emergency funding to the National Head Start Association in an effort to keep them open during the government shutdown.  The personal donation will help keep Head Start and Early Head Start programs, who were forced to close or are facing closure, open. The programs service more than 1 million low-income children each year, providing them with meals and health care and getting them ready for elementary school.

On October 1st, 23 programs in 11 states, servicing over 19,000 children were to be funded and are expected to lose that money.  “For nearly fifty years, Head Start has been the window of opportunity for more than 27 million of our nation’s poorest children as they embark on their journey to achieve the American Dream,” said Yasmina Vinci, Executive Director of the National Head Start Association. “The Arnolds’ most generous act epitomizes what it means to be an angel investor; they have selflessly stepped up for Head Start children to ensure their path toward kindergarten readiness is not interrupted by the inability of government to get the nation’s fiscal house in order.”

According to an NHSA press release, the Arnolds offered assistance after learning about the government shutdown’s paralyzing impact on Head Start programs. Following the government shutdown, if Head Start programs receive funding for a 52-week period, Head Start programs will begin to repay the funds from NHSA at no interest through the Arnolds.

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Darren Walker to be Named President of the Ford Foundation

Darren Walker (pictured above)  was born in a charity hospital in Lafayette, La., and grew up in the 1960s in a single-parent household in rural Texas, where his mother worked as a nurse’s aide and he was enrolled in one of the first Head Start programs. He went on to the University of Texas at Austin with help from a Pell grant scholarship, awarded to low-income students based on financial need. He put in a few years at a prestigious Manhattan law firm and a Wall Street investment bank. Then he moved into the nonprofit world, first in Harlem, where, among other things, he worked on the project to build the first full-service supermarket there in a generation.

On Thursday, Mr. Walker, 53, will take the next step in a career that has taken him from Harlem to world-famous foundations five and a half miles away in Midtown Manhattan. He is to be named president of the Ford Foundation, the nation’s second-largest philanthropic organization. He will succeed Luis Ubiñas, who announced in March that he would step down. For Mr. Walker, the new job is a promotion. He has been a vice president at Ford since 2010, when Mr. Ubiñas hired him away from the Rockefeller Foundation, where Mr. Walker had worked for several years, also as a vice president.

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Whitney Young Documentary On PBS Tells Story Of Unsung Civil Rights Leader

 Whitney Young Documentary

WASHINGTON — Just before the March on Washington in 1963, President John F. Kennedy summoned six top civil rights leaders to the White House to talk about his fears that civil rights legislation he was moving through Congress might be undermined if the march turned violent.

Whitney Young Jr. cut through the president’s uncertainty with three questions: “President Kennedy, which side are you on? Are you on the side of George Wallace of Alabama? Or are you on the side of justice?”  One of those leaders, John Lewis, later a longtime congressman from Georgia, tells the story of Young’s boldness in “The Powerbroker: Whitney Young’s Fight for Civil Rights,” a documentary airing during Black History Month on the PBS series “Independent Lens” and shown in some community theaters.

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