AROUND THE VALLEY
Reps. Trahan and Castor, Sens. Markey and Blumenthal Press Facebook on Plans to Develop Instagram for Children
U.S Reps. Lori Trahan and Kathy Castor, both of whom pressed Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on his company’s targeting of kids during a recent House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing, partnered with Sens. Edward Markey and Richard Blumenthal to demand answers regarding Facebook’s recent announcement that the company is exploring plans to develop a version of Instagram for children. In their letter, the lawmakers express concerns about Facebook’s past failures to protect children on Facebook’s messenger kids app and highlight evidence that young people’s use of social media platforms like Instagram may be detrimental to those users’ well-being and mental health.
“Children are a uniquely vulnerable population online, and images of kids are highly sensitive data,” write the lawmakers in their letter. “Facebook has an obligation to ensure that any new platforms or projects targeting children put those users’ welfare first, and we are skeptical that Facebook is prepared to fulfil this obligation.”
In their letter, the lawmakers ask Mr. Zuckerberg a series a questions and request detailed commitments about how any future version of Instagram for children would operate.
The lawmakers’ letter concludes, “Should Facebook fail to provide adequate responses to the questions above or otherwise fail to demonstrate that a future version of Instagram for children would meet the highest standards of user protection, we would advise you to abandon your plans to launch this new platform.”
A copy of the letter may be found here.
UML Prof. Creates Mentoring Network for Asian American Teachers
UMass Lowell (UML) Associate Professor Phitsamay Uy was the first refugee from Laos to receive tenure as a professor of education in the United States. And for years, she was the only one.
Determined to change that, Uy has started a mentoring network for Asian American and Pacific Islander teachers and education students.
“One of my goals is to try to bring as many Asian American educators up through the K-12 and higher-education ranks as I can,” said Uy, who joined UML’s college of education in 2011.
Working with educators in Canton, Charlestown and Medford, Uy launched the Asian American Educator Mentor Program in 2019 with a $35,000 award from a National Education Association grant program that provides support for diverse teachers. The grant was just renewed.
Teachers of color are greatly underrepresented in the nation’s schools, even as the school-age population is becoming more diverse, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Nationwide, 79 percent of teachers are white, but nearly half of K-12 public school students are Black, Hispanic, Asian American, Pacific Islander, Native American or multiracial, according to the U.S. Census.
The need to support Asian American and Pacific Islander educators is particularly acute, according to Uy. Although educators are highly respected in most Asian countries, many Asian American families discourage their children from pursuing teaching careers in the United States in favor of higher paying jobs in other fields, Uy said.
Only 2 percent of U.S. public school teachers are Asian American, and less than 1 percent are Pacific Islanders, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
The mentoring program has 40 participants and has expanded this year to include several veteran teachers in California and Minnesota. Connecting via Zoom meetings, the full group convenes regularly for educational presentations and discussions with scholars and leaders of community organizations. Smaller mentoring groups that include one education student, one or two early-career teachers and one veteran teacher also meet on a rotating basis.
MassDevelopment Bond Helps CREST Finance New Location in Andover
MassDevelopment has issued a $17 million tax-exempt bond on behalf of Collaborative for Regional Educational Services and Training (CREST), a nonprofit that provides educational, vocational, and therapeutic programs for children with developmental disabilities. CREST used bond proceeds to buy an approximately 127,470-square-foot newly renovated school building in Andover, where the organization will consolidate programs offered at its three existing locations in Methuen under one roof.
The new facility, which was recently converted from its previous use as an office building, consists of 62 classrooms, 10 conference rooms, 55 private offices, a gymnasium, a cafeteria, several workshops, including art, music, computer, and woodshops, an auto repair facility, group restrooms, and a kitchen area. TD Bank, N.A., purchased the bond, which MassDevelopment enhanced with a guarantee.
CREST is comprised of 16 member school districts including Andover, Dracut, Greater Lawrence Technical School, Haverhill, Lawrence, Lowell, Methuen, Newburyport and North Andover. The organization offers educational programs and services for students with developmental disabilities to supplement and strengthen existing school programs and services that otherwise would be neither affordable nor accessible to each local school district on its own.
Pentucket Bank & Cote Family Establish Memorial Scholarship at Haverhill High School
Pentucket Bank and the family of former bank president and CEO Edmund Cote Jr. have established a scholarship for graduating Haverhill High School Seniors in the name of the late Mr. Cote, beginning in 2021.
Cote served as the president and CEO of Pentucket Bank for more than 15 years from 1983 to 1998 and remained a part of the Pentucket Bank family as a director and corporator until his passing in June 2020. Cote was instrumental in several strategic growth initiatives at Pentucket Bank, most notably spearheading the purchase of what is now the bank’s main office branch and office building at One Merrimack Street in downtown Haverhill.
As a tribute to Cote, his family raised $20,000 to establish a memorial scholarship in his name at Haverhill High School. In honor of the bank’s former leader, Pentucket Bank matched the funds in full, providing the city of Haverhill with a $40,000 investment to The Edmund J. Cote Jr. | Pentucket Bank Scholarship Fund.
The scholarship will be awarding two $1,000 scholarships annually to two Haverhill High School graduating seniors beginning in 2021.
On the Move Inc. Announces “Reading with Rowdy” Literacy Program
On the Move Inc. (OTMINC), in partnership with Jeanne D’Arc Credit Union and UMass Lowell, launches “Reading with Rowdy,” a program that encourages reading and literacy. Local Division I head coaches, politicians, celebrities, business leaders, and other members of the community have come together to share some of their favorite books in a series of videos with mascot Rowdy the Riverhawk for the children of Lowell.
The goal of this collaboration is to help students achieve reading proficiency by the time they complete the third grade. To help foster children’s love of reading and to help build home libraries, OTMINC has purchased over 3,000 books to go along with the stories. The students of the Abraham Lincoln and the S. Christa McAuliffe schools, as well as the Cardinal O’Connell Early Learning Center in Lowell, will each receive an age and reading level appropriate copy of one of the featured books, so that they may read along while watching the videos on YouTube.
“Literacy is such an important factor in a child’s life. Not only did we want to do something to help the kids in our community, we wanted to make it fun,” said Mark Cochran, president and CEO of Jeanne D’Arc Credit Union.
Area Child In Need of Life-Saving Transplant
With the cost of a life-saving transplant often exceeding $800,000, most transplant families are unable to shoulder that financial burden. The Children’s Organ Transplant Association (COTA) is a national 501(c)3 charity dedicated to organizing and guiding communities in raising funds for transplant-related expenses. In Newburyport, volunteers are raising funds for COTA in honor of transplant patients like local child, Heeth Atanasoff.
Heeth is the son of Molly and Todd Atanasoff. Born in 2012, Heeth was diagnosed with aplastic anemia. The transplant team at Tufts Medical Center in Boston, Mass., recommends a life-saving bone marrow transplant. Newburyport volunteers are raising $100,000 for COTA to assist with transplant-related expenses.
Volunteers are needed for this COTA community campaign. Individuals and groups interested in more information should contact Community Coordinator Kerry Marshall at (978) 609-0866 or email@example.com.
Heeth’s family has asked for assistance from the Children’s Organ Transplant Association. One hundred percent of all funds raised for COTA in honor of patients assist with transplant-related expenses.
Contributions may be sent to the Children’s Organ Transplant Association, 2501 West COTA Drive, Bloomington, Indiana, 47403. Checks should be made payable to COTA, with “In Honor of Heeths Hope” written on the memo line. Secure credit card gifts are accepted online at COTAforHeethsHope.com.
NECC Health Students are Administering Vaccines in Lawrence
When the city of Lawrence was in need of staff for its vaccine clinics, Northern Essex Community College answered the call.
Since March 11, 35 health care students have been volunteering at the site located at the Arlington Middle School. Nursing and medical assistant students are administering the vaccines and medical office administration students are registering those getting the vaccines.
It all started with a phone call from Elicia Miller ’13, community coordinator of the Mayor’s Health Task Force in Lawrence, to Kathy Hudson, her former professor.
“They wanted to open another vaccine site and they needed help,” says Hudson.
At the time, Hudson was struggling to find externships for her medical assisting students because many of the sites were no longer available due to COVID restrictions.
The end result was a win-win. The city had staffing help for the vaccine sites and students were gaining valuable experience administering vaccines and working with patients and their health records.
Medical assistant student Catherine Ripalda of Methuen was volunteering for the first time last week and she says it’s “a really good experience.” With each vaccine, she became “a little more comfortable” and she said she is proud to tell her son “I’m doing something for the community.”
Ripalda is bilingual as are most of the students in the college’s medical assistant program, which is a plus when giving vaccines in Lawrence, a city which is over 80% Hispanic.
Before giving the vaccines, students are fielding questions about side effects, existing health conditions, and COVID-19, according to Hudson, all under the supervision of NECC faculty.
Outdoor Dining is Open at Tuscan Kitchen Burlington, Salem & Tuscan Sea Grill in Newburyport
Tuscan Brands has announced that their Burlington and Salem locations are open this weekend for dining, as is the new Tuscan Sea Grill in Newburyport.
Additionally, they have announced that the Salem Tuscan Market is moving to Tuscan Village, with a grand opening scheduled for May 2021. To learn more or to make reservations, click here.
MOVERS & SHAKERS
Physics Professor Wins $1M in Funding for Quantum Information Processing Research
UMass Lowell (UML) researcher Archana Kamal has won two early career development awards totaling more than $1 million from the U.S. Air Force and the National Science Foundation (NSF) for her research in the emerging field of quantum information processing (QIP) with open quantum systems.
QIP is based on the principles of quantum mechanics, which mathematically describe the behavior and interaction of matter and light on the atomic and subatomic scale.