Minneapolis mom to sit with First Lady during State of the Union

19 Jan 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Chicago boy who got letter from Obama invited to State of Union address.

WASHINGTON — Among the invited guests to sit in the First Lady’s box at Tuesday’s State of the Union address is Minneapolis mother Rebekah Erler, who had lunch with the president last summer after writing an inspiring letter to him. Michelle Obama invited college freshman Anthony Mendez, 19, to listen to the President’s speech at the Capitol with her — a tribute to the struggles Mendez overcame in high school.

Malik Bryant, a 13-year-old Englewood boy made only one wish in a letter to Santa last year: “All I ask for is for safety, I just wanna be safe,” he wrote.Rebekah Erler, of Minneapolis, made her political mark in June 2014 when President Barack Obama met with her over Jucy Lucys at Matt’s Bar during a trip to Minneapolis just ahead of the mid-term elections. Erler will sit with other guests — DREAMers, students, small business owners and a couple other letter writers — and First Lady Michelle Obama tomorrow night at the U.S. Others are people the president met over the past few weeks as he has traveled the country, playing spoiler to his speech, announcing initiatives such as a free community college plan, faster Internet service and paid sick leave.

After seventh-grader Malik Bryant wrote to Santa, the letter was redirected to the White House by a nonprofit group, according to a White House official who asked not to be identified by name. They also include students, educators, health care officials and recipients, government officials, and a wounded veteran who fought in Afghanistan. “The invitees symbolize some of the themes of Obama’s speech,” the newspaper said. Gross spent nearly five years jailed in Cuba before his release late last year, and his wife, Judy, who advocated for his release, will also be seated near the first lady.

During his freshman year of high school in 2011, his best friend, hoops talent Johnny Moore, was shot dead in Mott Haven in a feud that spilled over from a basketball game. Erler, 36, wrote to the president to tell him about how her family had struggled when the housing market collapsed and her husband’s construction business went under. Erler and her husband moved to Minneapolis from Seattle after the housing crash, because her husband was struggling to find work as a construction worker.

Mendez had to wake up at 4:30 a.m. to make it on time from the shelter in Bedford-Stuyvesant to the Urban Assembly School for Careers in Sports in the Bronx. “It was frustrating and hard to be in school and stay focused after (Johnny’s) passing and being poor and living in a shelter, not being able to buy clothes,” he said. After relocating from Seattle to Minneapolis and a number of difficult jobs, Rebekah’s husband is now back in the re-modeling industry, gets home in time for dinner each night with their family, and is enjoying continued professional growth. He says he plans to study political science, noting that his skills as a public speaker and passion for helping other people might push him toward a life as a public servant. In a reply letter dated Dec. 22, Obama wrote: “Each day I strive to ensure communities like yours are safe places to dream, discover and grow. . . . In 2013, her guests included the parents of Hadiya Pendleton, a 15-year-old drum majorette and honor student from Chicago’s King College Prep High School who was killed by gunfire not long after participating in events related to Obama’s second inauguration.

He also interned for City Councilman Ritchie Torres (D–Bronx) last summer He’s certainly not nervous about meeting the President — and is ready to offer some advice from his own life if the leader of the free world needs help dealing with his own challenges. “Everybody hits a hard time (and thinks), ‘This is so hard,’ ” Mendez said. “They’re not sure how they’re going to get over it. Also on the list are Ana Zamora, an immigration advocate and DREAMer from Dallas, Ebola aid worker Pranav Shetty and Larry Merlo, the CEO of CVS Health, which last year became the first major retail pharmacy to stop selling tobacco products. The president wrote back to Malik, encouraging him and underscoring that Malik’s “security is a priority for me in everything I do as President.” Malik lives with his mother, Keturah, and his two sisters in a neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago. A native of Jefferson City, Tennessee, Chelsey Davis decided that community college was the best path to re-enter her collegiate career with the ideal support and resources. Obama has read letters from people each night throughout his presidency as a way to stay connected with Americans and hear their hopes, fears, hardships and accomplishments. “It’s one of the most important things I do — it’s right there next to my national security briefing and whatever policy issues that we’re supposed to be working on — because it reminds me of why I ran for office,” Obama said in Denver in July. “And so I have a chance just to hear from people as they tell their stories.” The president spent the summer meeting with many of these writers, taking them out for dinner or coffee.

She also participates in the Knoxville Food Policy Council meetings and tutors elementary and middle school children in reading and mathematics at The First Tee of Greater Knoxville Learning Center. She has an interest in national and international humanitarian work and is excited to have an opportunity to study abroad in Segovia, Spain, with the Tennessee Consortium of International Studies (TnCIS) this summer.

As someone who understands the benefits of community colleges firsthand, Chelsey hopes to encourage high school graduates to take full advantage of the opportunity. William Elder Jr. graduated from Stanford, and is currently a third-year medical student at the Boonshoft School of Medicine at Wright State University in Ohio. Bill was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis when he was 8 years old, at a time when most cystic fibrosis patients were expected to live only to early adulthood. But thanks to a unique collaboration between the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, patients, researchers and a pharmaceutical company, Bill, now 27, expects to live a long, full life. Bill’s story is a testament to the promise of precision medicine, an emerging approach to treatment that takes into account patients’ individual characteristics, such as their genetic makeup, to improve treatment.

Born in Compton and raised in the Los Angeles foster care system until she was a teenager, LeDaya graduated high school but found it difficult to secure a stable job, bouncing from job to job as a medical assistant for years. She became one of only two women to complete the program, which included a rigorous boot camp that only one other woman completed, and now she has a good job — a union job — on the crew building the new Crenshaw/LAX light rail line with Walsh/Shea Corridor Constructors as a member of Laborers Local 300. Rebekah’s story is representative of the experiences of millions of resilient Americans: While our economy has made a strong comeback, too many middle-class Americans families with two hardworking parents are still stretched too thin. In July, the president had the opportunity to meet Victor when he visited Kansas City, and Victor thanked the president for his focus on the economy, health care and student loans — issues Victor personally knows are central for hard-working Americans trying to build a decent life for their families. Jason Gibson, a wounded warrior, first met the president in 2012 at Walter Reed while recovering from injuries he sustained serving his country in Afghanistan.

That same day — with Alan’s unjust captivity resolved — the president announced to the world that the United States was changing its relationship with the people of Cuba. In the most significant changes in policy in more than 50 years, the president directed that we would begin to normalize relations between our two countries. While in Cuba, Alan wrote the president letters and since returning has expressed his support for the actions the president’s taken with respect to Cuba. Growing up in South Florida, Nicole Hernandez Hammer knows firsthand the impacts of climate change and sea level rise and is raising awareness to the disproportionate effects felt along the coast and beyond.

She immigrated from Guatemala and also has Cuban heritage, and now Nicole works to mobilize the Latino community to understand and address the devastating effects that disproportionately affect the health of Hispanics and their families. This March, astronaut Scott Kelly will launch to the International Space Station and become the first American to live and work aboard the orbiting laboratory for a yearlong mission.

Additionally, scientists will compare medical data from Scott and his twin brother, astronaut Mark Kelly, to gain insight into how the human body responds to longer durations in space. The company has also established programs to hire long-term unemployed workers, create summer jobs for youth and transition workers off public assistance.

CVS Health also trains pharmacy technicians through apprenticeship programs, offers scholarships to future pharmacists and engages diverse students interested in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers. Prior to the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies could have refused treatment for her pre-existing tumor, but on Aug. 28 — now fully insured — she had surgery to remove the tumor. From Google to IBM to Harris Healthcare Solutions, she has designed health care interoperability software, studied disease trends with data analytics and built data warehouses for hospitals. Today, Kathy is applying the cutting-edge skills she honed in the private sector to improve health IT for more Americans, expand veterans’ access to benefits and transform the way government provides services to families like hers.

The South Los Angeles neighborhood of Watts has seen dramatic improvement in the crime rate since the area was tied to the eponymous race riots of 1965 and a spate of gang violence in the ’90s — and Captain Phillip C. Working for the LAPD since 1980, Captain Tingirides has in recent years spearheaded the CSP program, which fosters cooperation between the LAPD and residents of the Watts housing developments scarred from decades of distrust. Senator Catherine Pugh is a small-business owner who currently serves as the Maryland Senate majority leader and is also president-elect of the National Black Caucus of State Legislators. Pugh has passed more than 100 bills, garnering praise and a reputation as a knowledgeable and passionate advocate for improving the lives of Maryland families.

Pranav Shetty is the Global Emergency Health Coordinator for International Medical Corps, a critical partner in the U.S.-supported effort to bring the Ebola epidemic under control in West Africa. In August 2014, Shetty deployed to Liberia to establish and oversee two Ebola treatment units, teams of rapid responders that deploy to Ebola hot spots across the country and a training center for local and international health care workers now working on the front lines of the Ebola response effort. While serving a six-year prison sentence for robbery, Prophet Walker, now 27, vowed never to get caught in the revolving door of a life of crime and continued incarceration.

Ever since, Prophet has enjoyed a career as construction engineer and served the community, working with InsideOUT Writers, a group that teaches juvenile offenders to express themselves through writing, and also as a founding member of the Anti-Recidivism Coalition, which advocates for sentencing reform and supports young men and women after incarceration. Prophet has also worked to strengthen the bonds between law enforcement, community stake holders, parents and the children of local housing projects by co-founding Harold Robinson Foundation’s’ Watts United Weekend, which provides weekend camp retreats for hundreds of people weekly. They’ve collaborated on the Community Safety Partnership, which encourages building positive relationships and mutual trust between the community and law enforcement. After a year on the job, she saved enough to buy a car and rent a new apartment, and through Chrysler’s Tuition Assistance Program, Tiairris is pursuing her bachelor’s degree in business management. In 2012, she qualified and was granted temporary relief and work authorization — an opportunity Ana credits with getting a job in line with her career path and a better livelihood while finishing up her last year at Northwood University in Texas.

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