Stories of Hope (Part 2)

Young Racinians take to the air, thanks to volunteer pilots and

a community policing mindset

By Dee Hölzel, Racine Journal Times, July 5, 2022

RACINE — It all began over Thanksgiving dinner.

Sue Schwaab, who was a pilot with United Airlines for more than 30 years, was talking about how recent research determined that only approximately 10% of commercial airline pilots are women and approximately 7% are of minority descent.

She is now retired and promoting aviation — especially for women — with her program Wings to Fly.

Officer Travis Brady, a COP House officer, was at the table listening to his aunt talk about giving women and minorities opportunities in commercial aviation.

As she spoke, Brady wondered, “What would it take to bring Wings to Fly to Racine?”

Within months, it was Brady (and others) who pulled it off.

Pilot Kenny Mejia-Cruz pins wings on Melanie Figuereo-Colon. Meijia-Cruz felt so passionate about

the project that he rented a plane in order to take a teen flying. (photo by Dee Holzel)


After months of extensive planning, on June 4, members of the Racine Police Department and Racine Unified School District escorted eight young people to the Batten Airport for a day in the sky, accompanied by lessons on the physics that make flying possible. To read more and see more pictures, click on this link:


This past April, I was part of a program at Alverno College in Milwaukee, WI. The program was sponsored by the Wisconsin Character Education Partnership WCEP promotes character education as a key to student success in and out of the classroom and in their communities.

The keynote speaker for the event was Dr. Michele Borba.

Dr. Borba is an educational psychologist, best-selling author, and TODAY show contributor who has spoken to over one million participants on five continents and to countless media about child development issues. She blends 40 years of teaching and consulting experience with latest science to offer sound, realistic advice to parents, teachers, and child advocates about helping children thrive. Her most recent book is Thrivers: The Surprising Reasons Why Some Kids Struggle and Others Shine. To read more, click here: Michele Borba, Ed.D.

One of the topics she discussed at Alverno is Mentally strong kids understand the value of hope

Research shows that hopefulness can dramatically reduce childhood anxiety and depression. Hopeful kids have an inner sense of control. They view challenges and obstacles as temporary and able to be overcome, so they are more likely to thrive and help others.

Yet despite its immense power, hope is largely excluded from our parenting agendas. The good news? Hope is teachable. One of the best ways to increase this strength is by equipping children with skills to handle life’s inevitable bumps.

Here are nine science-backed ways to help kids maintain hope — especially during tough times. To read more, click on this link:

From ‘Public Nuisance’ to Public Servant: A Nonprofit Group Helps Previously Incarcerated Firefighters Secure Careers

By Eden Stiffman, The Chronicle of Philanthropy, May 11, 2022

Photo by Ed Kashi of TALKING EYES MEDIA

Firefighters from the Forestry and Fire Recruitment Program in the Angeles National Forest.

For years California, Florida, Oregon, Washington, and other states have relied on prisoners to fight wildfires. These men and women are trained to perform grueling work while earning just a few dollars, sometimes as little as $2 a day.

As wildfires have become more frequent and intense, the U.S. Forest Service has struggled with staffing shortages due in part to low pay. Incarcerated workers who serve as volunteer firefighters have helped contain and combat the blazes.

Nonprofits like the American Civil Liberties Union have advocated for increasing wages and protections for these workers. And now philanthropies are backing another approach to support this labor force: efforts to help incarcerated people who have been trained as firefighters secure careers in the profession once they leave prison.

Navigating the hurdles to a steady firefighting job isn’t easy. Brandon Smith knows those challenges firsthand. In 2012 he was at Wasco State Prison, near Bakersfield, Calif., about eight months into his sentence for nonviolent charges, when his prison counselor suggested he move to a fire camp. He would be able to live there and learn to fight fires while earning the same certifications as California’s seasonal firefighters.

At Bautista Conservation Camp in Riverside County, about 100 miles southeast of Los Angeles, Smith came to love firefighting. It was one of the first times he was out in nature, and he was good at what he did. He became the leader of his hand crew, wielding a chainsaw at the front of a team that cut back flammable brush and trees to create perimeters that contain fires.

“When you’re incarcerated, you have this stigma of being a public nuisance, but being a firefighter provided an opportunity for me to give back to the community and also give myself a sense of pride,” Smith said. “It was something that I wanted to continue as a way of giving back to the community once I came home.”

But after completing his sentence in 2014, the pathway to a firefighting job wasn’t clear. The certifications he received while incarcerated didn’t count, and he couldn’t even apply for some positions due to his criminal record. To read more, click on this link: From ‘Public Nuisance’ to Public Servant: A Nonprofit Group Helps Previously Incarcerated Firefighters   Secure Careers (

While in prison, Derrick Seay Sr. turned his life around.

Now, he's a Credible Messenger for Racine's youth

Holzel, Racine Journal Times, Jul 16, 2022

Derrick Seay hands a meal to man on the morning of April 30, 2020, at the Styberg COP House on Anthony Lane. Three hundred meals were given out that day…through a collaboration between the Racine Police Department, Mt. Pleasant Police Department, SC Johnson, and Malicki’s Piggly Wiggly.

RACINE — Derrick Seay Sr. was 13 years old when he started dealing drugs and running with the Vice Lords on Racine’s north side in the early 1990s.

He was 14 years old when he was charged with homicide as a party to a crime for a shooting that occurred following a clash between the Vice Lords and a south-side gang where a bystander was shot. Seay did not pull the trigger, but he was with the gang when the shots were fired. He later received another prison sentence on drug charges.

Seay knows a lot about street life, juvenile crime and finding the way forward when there is no one to show you the way. In the time between his last prison sentence and now, 13 years, he has worked steadily mentoring youth.

“I truly believe that God took me out of there for this, what I’m doing now,” he said of his transition from street life to prison to mentoring at-risk youth.

He is one of three Credible Messengers employed by Racine County. They work with young people in the youth justice system, hoping to guide them out of trouble.

Maurice Horton, who manages Racine County Credible Messenger, explained that each of the other two mentors also fell into the criminal justice system, but now have turned their lives around and are working to guide the next generation.

The Credible Messenger model, which pairs justice-involved youth with mentors who have a shared, lived experience, was first used in New York City and is now being adopted in other U.S. cities — like Racine.

Credible Messenger, Seay explained, is not a program. It does not have a beginning or an end. It’s a movement to enhance restorative justice for at-risk youth. To read more, click on this link: While in prison, Derrick Seay Sr. turned his life around. Now, he's a Credible Messenger for Racine's youth | Local News |

Being Part of the “Wretched Refuse” By Robert Beezat

Immigrants to the USA over the years have very frequently been attacked and considered to be a detriment to our country.

I was a “Dumb Polack” growing up in the 1940’s and 1950’s. Some of my friends and neighbors were “Dumb Dagos.” Others were “Shanty Irish.” Puerto Ricans were “Spics.” Mexicans were “Wetbacks.” The list goes on and on over the years as new groups of immigrants have come to our shores.

My grandmother was a Polish immigrant. My other grandmother and my two grandfathers were the children of immigrants from Poland. They were part of the “wretched refuse” who came to America for a better life for themselves, and, very importantly, for their children and grandchildren.

My great grandparents, grandparents, my parents, and to some extent, my sisters, brothers, and me, had to put up with and overcome demeaning images and ideas of who they were as immigrants in America.

But my grandparents, their children, their grandchildren, and their great-grandchildren have all been positive contributors to our country’s growth and well-being. All of us (Your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free…) have helped make America a beacon of light and freedom to the rest of the world.

So have the many immigrant families I grew up with, along with the many newer immigrants with whom I have lived and worked with over the years.

Generations of immigrants since our country was founded have contributed to our country’s greatness.

The diversity of people, their ideas, their histories, their customs, and their hard work have helped make the America a beacon of light and freedom to the rest of the world.

I love my country.

I am glad and thankful that I was born, raised, and continue to live my life in the U.S.

But we are not perfect as individuals, and we are not perfect as a country.

Our light and lamp of freedom and opportunity are fading for many people within our country and to many people across the world.

We are the wealthiest country in the world. We need to invest some of that wealth to “Re-imagine and Re-invent” our country so that we continue to be and be seen as the “Golden Door” contributing to national and international peace and opportunity.

God Bless America

A song of hope and inspiration written by a Russian-Jewish immigrant to the USA, Irving Berlin.

Click on this link to see and hear an early version of this song: Kate Smith: God Bless America - 1943 - Bing video

Teachers are the start of much Hope From the Bottom Up

Three Racine Unified School District Music Teachers named quarterfinalists for special teaching GRAMMY award

Ryan Patterson Jun 19, 2022 in the Racine Journal Times


                                                          Amberleigh Cellak                     Elizabeth Steege                    Laura Shapovalov

Quote from Amberleigh: “All the music teachers are amazing in our school system,” Cellak said. “I am not more special than anybody just because of this award.” Cellak said she felt “pretty Zen” about the recognition but was honored to be nominated by colleagues who “appreciate what I do.”

Quote from Elizabeth: “So many kids tell me if it wasn’t for choir, they wouldn’t be there, or they would never have graduated,” Steege said. Steege said the best part of her job is connecting with students and seeing the crucial role music can play in their lives.

Quote from Laura: “It’s rewarding to see them work hard and achieve what they have worked hard on,” Shapovalov said. “It’s not what I’m doing. It’s what I showed them how to do, and they were able to do it themselves, and that’s really cool.”

To read more about the teachers and their GRAMMY award nominations, click on this link: Three RUSD music teachers named quarterfinalists for special teaching GRAMMY award | A+ |


50th Anniversary of Title IX Of The Civil Rights Act Of 1964

“No person in the United States shall, based on sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” This legislation passed by Congress and signed by President Nixon on June 23, 1972.

The purpose of the Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972 was to update Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which banned several forms of discrimination in employment, but did not address or mention discrimination in education. Contrary to popular belief, the creation of Title IX had nothing to do with sports.

However, even though the law applied to many aspects of women’s lives, one area which stood out then and continues to be very important today is the impact it had, and still has, on the funding of school sports programs for women students and adults.

To read more about Title IX and its history, click on this link: Vintage Chicago Tribune: 50th anniversary of Title IX