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Women Make 79 Cents To The Dollar!

Watching the crowd’s reaction to one of my student’s artistic political message was both humbling and inspiring to me. 

Nathan Decena meticulously painted a dollar bill, but instead of putting George Washington’s face in the center of the bill, he placed Martha Washington’s, his wife’s image.  Then, instead of placing a “1,” he placed “79” – to show that women make .79 cents to the dollar that men make.  He wanted to symbolize society’s historical disparagement of women.  Wow! 

Nathan was just 17 years old when he painted this.  He has vision and wisdom that I wish our current administration would have.  I love the fact that he is a young man with such respect for women (has great parents!) and he uses his art to send poignant messages to the world.

Nathan is launching his inspirational website with a gallery of his art collection.  Can’t wait to see what he produces next!

What If Every Student Did An Independent Project?

How our youth can solve climate change

It’s not surprising to see the mudslinging between the Baby Boomers and the Millennials.  After all, who’s to blame for the insidious state of affairs that have developed over the decades?  Is it the selfish and indulgent Boomer who made tons of money on real estate (when it was nearly impossible not make huge financial gains buying houses in the ‘70s and ‘80s) or the entitled lack-luster Millennial who is strife with student debt, housing crises, and low-paying jobs? I’m not going to enter this contentious arena, but instead offer a solution that may bring everyone together – and could possibly save human civilization.

We need people who are not part of a government that has fired the scientists in our EPA and stripped funding from all climate-related research. We need people who aren’t controlled by special-interest groups whose hidden agenda is to make colossal profits and creates environmental degradation.  We need people who realize that we need to drastically reduce carbon emissions NOW and are willing to do the research, make personal changes, and promote community action. 

To do this, WE NEED OUR YOUTH!  Yup, it is going to be the Millennials who are going to bare the brunt of climate disasters and they are the ones who will pull us out – and yes, save the Boomers.  But the beauty here is that the Boomers are going to support the Millennials with their knowledge, experience, and funding, and the Millennials are going to do the work, spread the word, and ultimately save us all. 

Here’s how:

  1. Every high school and college student needs to do a project.
  2. Projects can be as simple as promoting alternative transportation or as involved as building energy systems or carbon sequestration solutions.
  3. Retired professionals will mentor the students as they complete each phase of the projects.
  4. Other Boomers will fund these projects and support/buy the products when they’re rolled out.

When 4 million students enter high school every year in the United States, just imagine how many problems they can solve before they graduate. Besides, these projects will help them get into top colleges/grad schools and win scholarship dollars! To learn more about how to do projects, check out ProjectMERIT. I’ve also written Beat the College Admissions Game: Do a Project! to guide students through the entire process of doing a project. 

So, let’s encourage our youth to find innovative solutions to climate change by supporting and guiding them through the process.  Stop the name calling and start working together. It’s going to take the Millennials to lead the 99% to save human civilization. 

Drugs In Our Drinking Water?

Ten years ago, Becca Kassel’s project hit the TV and news headlines because her idea won then-Senator Joe Simitian’s Ought-to-be-a-law Contest.  Outraged by pharmaceutical drugs in our drinking water, she was determined to make drug companies take back unused meds to properly incinerate them.  Becca was appalled by the deformities she saw in fish as she researched the negative effects of drugs in our waterways and oceans.  Becca joined Senator Simitian in Sacramento to create a law to force pharmaceutical companies to take responsibility for the take-back program.  Check out her project! As it turned out, the pharmaceutical lobby was too powerful and succeeded in defeating the bill. 

When we flush our meds down the toilet or they end up at the landfill, these drugs end up in our water.  Becca talked with the water treatment plants to find out that they DO NOT TEST or REMOVE DRUGS from our WATER!  That’s right.  They don’t have the funds to pay for the expensive tests and equipment to deal with drugs in our water.  So, we’re drinking cocktails of hormones and antidepressants! 

Researchers are finding intersex development in fish and amphibians, and antidepressants in the brain tissue of fish downstream of wastewater treatment plants.  Worried about drugs in our water?  You should be.  High concentrations of drugs are found in waterways after music festivals and social events. 

But pharmaceutical companies are profit driven – even at the cost of the well being of their very customers that they claim to be helping.  Today, my husband Rob has been working to implement a local law requiring pharmaceutical companies to develop and finance take-back programs for unwanted and expired medications.  They’ve resisted the plan and have millions of dollars to avoid their responsibility. 

Considering that 70% of American take prescription medications, which calculates to almost $310 BILLION in sales per year, the pharmaceutical companies should do their part to keep the drugs out of our water. Don’t throw out your expired or left-over meds.  Take them to a local drop-off location to ensure that they don’t end up in our drinking water.  Visit www.dontrushtoflush.org.

Why You Should Stop Using Antibacterial Soaps!

Back in 2009, Natalie Kassel, one of my ProjectMERIT students, organized a campaign to get local public schools to stop using triclosan in schools.  She had conducted an experiment to prove that regular soap kills just as many germs as antibacterial soap.  After reaching out to every school in the county, she successfully banned triclosan and protected thousands of students.  Her project, WASHUP (Worthless Antibacterial Soap Harms Us Permanently) brought attention to this problem almost a decade ago.

Today, eight years later, researchers have found that triclosan interferes with hormones and reproductive systems.  Yup!  And what’s worse?  Triclosan is found in most Americans! It pollutes the environment and it harms our bodies.  What’s alarming is that it is in many personal care items (lotions, shampoos, conditioners, toothpaste, and soaps), as well as clothing (underwear, sports apparel, sweatshirts, dresses, wet suits, and shoes).  For a complete list of items, check here!

Grade Inflation is Real...

...and how it will affect your child’s college admissions is alarming.

We all hear about grade inflation – when teachers give A’s to average students – and we look the other way, especially when our kids benefit from them, right?  I’ve heard about teachers giving students a full-letter grade bump just for showing up to take the standardized tests at school each year. Others give students 10 points for bringing in snacks or class supplies.  What’s worst of all are teachers who offer so much extra credit that students don’t do their work or study for tests because they know that one way or another, they can pull their terrible grades up to A’s by the end of the semester.  None of this builds character or prepares students for college.

Grade inflation hurts the students.

Yup!  Because so many schools are inflating grades – especially in white, affluent schools—colleges can’t rely on grade point averages (GPAs) to assess whether or not the students will be successful in their colleges.  So when colleges can’t rely on the students’ grades, they revert to the SATs and ACTs.  After all, college-bound students take the exact same test in a proctored classroom on the same day across the country.  If we’re comparing apples to apples, this may seem more reliable than GPAs. 

But SATs and ACTs don’t determine which students will be our next Bill Gates or Steve Jobs.  Testing reading comprehension, grammar, math and science skills in a timed, multiple-choice format does not weed out students who would do poorly in college. Instead, students who do well on standardized tests today are those who can afford private SAT/ACT tutoring and spend years preparing for these tests.

Both the inflated GPA at wealthy white schools and high SAT/ACT scores due to expensive prep programs give these affluent students an unfair advantage.  They aren’t better equipped to succeed in college; they’re simply able to afford to attend schools that give away A’s and spend many hours under the expensive supervision of SAT/ACT coaches.

The good news is that college admissions officers receive school profiles that list GPAs and demographics so they know which schools inflate grades.  And colleges that require personal statements, essays, letters of recommendation and interviews use an eclectic approach to selecting their incoming classes.  When a student stands out because they’ve done a project or something remarkable, colleges notice. 

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TEDxMeritAcademy Speaker Pascal Costa

Thrilled that we are hosting a TEDx event at the Rio Theatre in Santa Cruz! Join us on Aug 14, 2017 at 7 pm.  Get your tickets for TEDxMeritAcademy at wwwtedxmeritacademy.com.  Meet Pascal Costa, one of our speakers!

“How to stop overpopulation before we reach 10 billion people on Earth”

Overpopulation is a huge problem. We have too many people, and because of our immense growth experienced in the last century, we are experiencing new problems. Because of overpopulation, we have recklessly produced dirty energy and destroyed fertile land to meet the needs of our ever-expanding population. Forests have been decimated in order to make room for farmland and to produce lumber. We have exploited natural resources such as soil, water minerals, oil, and coal because we have grown dependent on them. As a result of our growing numbers and exploitation of natural resources, we have caused the extinction of 130 mammal species, and have endangered 250 species. Today, about 1000 species are now threatened. Through overpopulation, we have increased pollution, consumption, and the deterioration of land. There’s a simple way to reduce the world’s population and I’ll share my idea with you.

About Pascal Costa:
Pascal Costa founded Preventing OverPopulation, a non-profit organization that educates child-bearing people about how their decisions to have children directly affect the world.  She has presented her project at the Earth Day Santa Cruz festival and she was interviewed on Earth Watch Radio. Pascal recently graduated from high school and plans to continue to advocate for population control in college.

Summer Plans for High School Students

If you’re a parent of a high school student, you’re probably getting a lot of pressure from other families to send your child to some expensive summer camps on prestigious college campuses and load them up with SAT-intensive classes.  Umm. You’re probably hearing about how your neighbor’s kid is booked solid with back-to-back camps and programs that cost thousands of dollars. And, you worry that your child won’t be able to compete in the college admissions race.

But, don’t worry that your child isn’t keeping up with the Joneses this summer because colleges aren’t looking for those kind of students. Nope!  They might want the parent, but certainly not an entitled child whose parents did the research, paid the exorbitant fees, and forced them to participate.

Instead, keep your kids home this summer and encourage them to do a project. That’s right.  By brainstorming about doing something on their own over the summer, they’ll be using their creative parts of their brains and implementing something that they build by themselves.  This teaches kids how to innovate – which will make them more confident and capable young people.  Isn’t that what every parent wants for their children?  We don’t want robots who regurgitate facts or complain about life – we want kids who solve problems by creating solutions.

And, colleges want these innovative thinkers, too!  They don’t want students who insist on having study guides for tests because they don’t want to learn anything that will not be on the test.  They want students who demonstrate that they can start projects that can solve problems or that they do what they are passionate about. 

If you want your middle or high school student to have a life-changing experience this summer, have them do a project!  Check out ProjectMERIT for ideas.

Learn more about specific classes and the many ways we can make your child's summer the turning point in their academic careers!

[Check out the brochure here!]

3 Steps to Starting a Project That Will Get You Into Top Colleges!

Worried about how your child will get into top colleges?

It still surprises me when my new teenaged clients tell ME what they need to do to impress college admissions officers. They come with their lists of AP classes, expensive summer camps, and all of the sports teams and clubs they belong to.  I smile and nod as they tell me about all of the “hard work” and how they’re “so busy” they don’t have time for anything else.  When they’re done with their monologues -- and feeling quite accomplished with themselves, I honestly can’t remember one thing they did that made them stand out amongst the other millions of kids vying for those coveted acceptances to the top colleges in the US. And that’s why their plan doesn’t work.

When everyone across this nation takes the same AP or IB classes on the exact same day each year, and they’re all taking SAT/ACT prep classes to artificially inflate their scores, perfect GPAs and SATs don’t guarantee admission into selective colleges because these students don’t stand out. So what do you need to do to get into top universities?

Do a PROJECT.

Yup, it’s as simple, and yet as difficult as that. Forget all the AP classes, starting or joining dozens of clubs, and dedicating ridiculous hours for practices and rehearsals. If everyone is doing them, unless you’re the MVP or you’re winning Academy Awards, it sounds like busy work – because it is.

Here’s what you need to do:

1.Choose a project

Spend time brainstorming before moving forward.  Think about issues that need to be fixed, applications that need to be written, and books that need to be published. It really doesn’t matter what it is as long as you’re fascinated and passionate about it.

2.Delve into it

Research what others are doing about your idea to determine whether or not there’s room for you.  Find your niche and create your brand. Then, get the word out and grow your idea or market your product. Make calls. Be persistent. Don’t give up.

3.Realize your goal

Every step you take will get you closer to your goal.  For every student I guide, I watch doors open for them because of their persistence and their eye on the goal.  They get invited to speak at conferences or on TV/radio.  Success begets success. They accomplish their goals.

Students who do projects have fascinating stories to tell on their college admissions essays.  Nobody wants to read about your team spirit or how grateful you felt after you went to an elite summer program. Instead you’ll captivate admissions officers by telling them about overcoming the inevitable obstacles you had faced when developing an app or trying to talk to the governor. When they read about how you protected the weak or started a non-profit organization to stand up to corruption, you’ll have their undivided attention.

Colleges don’t want robotic students who are good at memorizing facts, take overwhelming AP classes and spend all their free time at practices working under coaches or directors.  These types of students will not be our future leaders of innovation or the world.  Instead, admissions officers want interesting students who find solutions to problems and have unwavering drive to reach their goals.

Naturally, these projects must be done by the student – not their parents.  If you need help with starting a project, check out my book Beat the College Admissions Game: Do a Project! or if you need support, meet with me at one of my offices or on Skype.  The ideal time to start a project is in 8th or 9th grade so you have time to develop amazing ideas.  But, I work with juniors who develop their projects just in time for applications in 12th grade.

It’s time – DO A PROJECT!

How to Ensure a Successful Life and Career By Choosing the Right College

The Criteria for Choosing Colleges has changed; Make sure your child considers these factors!

6 factors to consider when choosing your college

If you have a child who is considering which colleges to apply to or if they’re already seniors and they’re weighing their college options now, consider behavioral economics instead of rankings. Forget about the US News and World Report – they collect data based on admissions yields, retention, grades, test scores, and graduation rates. While this may seem important, they don’t include career satisfaction or how prepared grads are for real life.

The Gallup-Purdue Index has surveyed 60,000 graduates (over 80 years) about their satisfaction with their college experience and preparation for a successful career and a happy life.  It lists 5 essential elements of a “Great Life”: Purpose, Social, Financial, Community and Physical Well Being.

Here is what is key in getting the most out of the college experience.

Instead of looking at rankings, prestige of college, and physical characteristics of the college, successful college grads who have a great life now consider the following elements essential to the college experience:

  1. At least one professor who made them excited about learning
  2. One professor who cared about them as a person
  3. One mentor who encouraged their goals and dreams
  4. Long-term PROJECT (more than a semester to complete)
  5. Internship or job where they applied class learning
  6. Extreme involvement in extracurricular activities and organizations

Sadly, less than 30% of college grads in the US experienced any of the above.  Seriously? Those who had a job or internship in college where they applied what they were learning in the classroom were twice as likely to be engaged at work later in life. 82% of those who experienced all 6 elements above feel that their college experience prepared them well for life after college; and by a strong contrast, only 5% of those who did NOT experience any of the above felt well prepared for life.

The US News and World Report does not consider any of these vital factors into their rankings today. Hmm. Now that Gallup has conducted behavioral economics studies about colleges and universities, we’ll see more information about what really matters when our children go to college.  So as your child starts considering colleges, ask questions about how engaged your child will be with professors, internships and student activities. Seems like these are more important considerations than the old ranking system.

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