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Loretta Ross, a self-described “professional talker” and “professional feminist,” inspired students and locals that took her from a painful childhood to becoming a vital part of the human rights movement on Wednesday, March 5 in the Old Main Ballroom.

In this final Women and Gender Cultural Series lecture, Ross spoke on “Women of Color, Leadership and Reproductive Justice.”

Ross joined the human rights movement when she first co-founded the SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective in 1997. SisterSong is composed of African American, Middle Eastern, Asian, Latina, and Native American women, working to educate and protect women’s rights in reproductive and sexual matters.

Standing for reproductive justice, Ross defines the movement’s priorities of giving women “the right to have a child, the right to decide not to have a child, and the right to parent in a safe and healthy environment.”

To a mixed audience of visiting middle school students, college students and ladies from surrounding communities, Ross told the story of how she became passionate in women’s rights following a childhood of sexual assault, incest and teenage pregnancy. Having a baby at 15, she was kicked out of school for fear she would influence other young girls’ behavior.

She said she was forced to fight the school board for her right to an education, and although this didn’t make her a feminist, it made her angry enough to want to see a change in the system.

Ross soon went on to volunteer at a rape crisis center and eventually become executive director, where she said she wanted to work to end violence and help people share their stories.

In 1985, Ross succumbed to the pressure of a new title and had a feminist “coming out party.” She said that while feminists tend to give off a negative stigma, it’s more about believing in equality, freedom and ending oppression.

“I became a feminist because I want better men,” Ross said. “I want men who don’t oppress women, men who treat them well.”

Being part of the women’s rights movement, she said the most important thing is that everyone is moving in the same direction – toward making a better world.

SisterSong is framed around eight protections of human rights: civil, political, economic, social, cultural, environmental, developmental, and sexual human rights.

Ross shines a light on human and women’s rights at each speaking engagement she attends because our stories “are not out of a book,” she said. Whether good or bad, Ross encourages everyone to tell their story for the sake of the movement.

Senior Brittany Wendt was compelled to share part of her story with the audience, feeling encouraged after hearing Ross speak.

“I have a very similar story,” Wendt said. “I now have a four-year-old daughter, and have been trying to go to college for seven years now.”

Wendt is currently working on a degree in international studies, graduating in December. She was especially touched listening to Ross recount her struggling years in college with a young child.

“It’s inspiring to hear stories like Loretta’s, and I feel empowered by the ones similar to mine,” Wendt said.

The upcoming lecture in the Queer Cultural Series, is with former Green Bay Packer Esera Tuaolo, on his experience of coming out in the NFL. It will be held Wednesday, April 9 at 7 p.m. in the University Center Hamilton Room.

Steve Jobs shared insights from his life to college graduates at Stanford University’s commencement this morning, encouraging graduates through three personal stories to “have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.”

Jobs, 50, a college dropout himself, is CEO of Apple Inc. and Pixar Animation Studios. He had only attended Reed College in Portland, Ore., for six months when finances interfered, compelling him to drop out. Jobs continued dropping in on classes for the next 18 months, not fully realizing the impact these classes would have on his future.

Years later, in designing the first Mac computer, Jobs was able to use the information from calligraphy class for the typography.

“If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on this calligraphy class,” Jobs said. “Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backwards ten years later.”

Jobs was not encouraging students to drop out of college, but rather seeing the importance of believing things will work out.

This is a lesson I’m sure he has come to learn from the challenges throughout his life. Although he and friend Steve “Woz” Wozniak co-founded Apple Computers in a garage when Jobs was only 20, it was after the company grew to 4000 employees and $2 billion that Jobs was fired from his own company.

Jobs had wrangled John Sculley away from his previous job at Pepsi-Cola to work for Apple Computers in 1983. Sculley joined the company as CEO and the two soon began to butt heads. Following several disagreements, Sculley and the board of directors forced Jobs out of Apple Computers.

Jobs thought the setback made him “let the previous generation of entrepreneurs down.” But it was during this time that he was able to create two more innovative companies in a new chapter of his life.

Pixar Animation Studios was purchased by Jobs the following year in 1986. Pixar would soon begin production with Toy Story, the first feature-length computer-animated film. With Jobs serving as executive producer only one year after leaving Apple Computers, Toy Story earned over $361 million worldwide.

NeXT Inc. computers were also released during this time, gaining recognition from several big investors. The computer company, aimed at academic and financial communities, was eventually bought out by Apple Inc. in 1997, reinstating Jobs as CEO.

Jobs met his wife, Laurene Powell, while she was a graduate student at Stanford University in his time without Apple Computers. They married in 1991 and went on to have three children in Palo Alto, Calif. Jobs believes if he would have stayed with Apple Computers none of these events would have happened.

“Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick,” Jobs said. “I’m convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did.”

The final story Jobs shared was a somber event, being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer just last year. He was told to not expect to live longer than six months and prepare himself and his family for the inevitable death. During surgery to get a biopsy of the fatal tumor, doctors were relieved to find the cancer curable.

Jobs shared how this process has encouraged him to not waste his life or listen to others’ opinions more than his own.

His final farewell to the graduates came from “The Whole Earth Catalog,” a publication with tools and products for the creative.  Jobs shared the catalog’s message listed on the back of their last issue in the mid-1970s, that has served as an inspiration for himself and hoping it will be an inspiration to the graduates, “Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.”

Mayor Gustavus Petykiewicz released his proposed city budget for 2015 today. As Kittatinny is currently facing financially difficult times following the decommissioning of one of two blast furnaces at Susquehanna Steel Corp., many cuts have been suggested to regain money lost from the steel factory.

With a decline of over $100 million in the assessed value of industrial properties, the mayor will need to find this money from other areas in Kittatinny in order to maintain the city’s tax levy.

“I come to you with a heavy heart,” Petykiewicz said at the news conference this afternoon. “I see a lot of hardships in the years ahead.”

Although the mayor also mentioned his propositions are not given lightly, the proposed budget includes a 7.5 percent tax rate increase from four mills to 4.3 mills. This raise would mean the owner of a $100,000 house would pay $30 more than they have in previous years.

An increase in taxes is not the only change Kittatinny may see if the City Council agrees to pass the budget as is. The city’s garbage pickup may soon be added to residents’ city water bills, tacking on an estimated $200 a year per household.

Kitattiny’s police department may see the most changes in 2015.

The 10-officer police force could see a reduction of two cops. With the potential layoff of these two officers, the police shift from 4 a.m. to noon will no longer be staffed by city’s officers, but rather by Schuylkill County sheriff’s deputies.

The county sheriff hopes to retain response times of less than 15 minutes for emergencies during the early hours, although this could be unlikely if no deputies are within city limits of Kittatiny when receiving a call.

Chief of Police Roman Hruska said the staffing loss could potentially be putting citizen’s lives at stake.

“I can’t stand idly by and watch a city of this size lose police protection for one-third of the day,” Hruska said.

Hruska was among several city officials who suggested raising the tax rate to five mills to solve the city’s problems, which is a 25 percent increase.

The police department could see significant losses, yet the mayor has remembered the need for a new police cruiser. The proposed budget reallocates money previously used for police wages to replace the police department’s oldest 2003 Ford Fairlane Police Special.

Pennsylvania Police Association President Bjarne Westhoff said he believes the new car is necessary, but not for the price of a police shift from Local 34.

“I’m very upset at the [possible] shift loss, I believe it’s irresponsible,” Westhoff said.

There has been a rise in domestic violence in Kittatiny, which often occurs in the early hours of the morning, Westhoff said in agreement with Hruska. They believe it’s important to have the local police department near to answer these calls at any hour.

Besides the police department, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees could look forward to layoffs of two personnel, one from the city clerk’s office and one from the city engineer’s office.

While it’s up to a potential four layoffs for Kittatinny, other than the 600 already out of jobs from the Susquehanna Steel Corp., Petykiewicz believes 2015 is a good time to purchase a new riding mower, a drivable weed-removal vehicle, and and a combination dumb truck/snow plow, costing over $50,000.

What isn’t expected to be adjusted on this budget is the mayor and city officials’ salaries as a salary freeze has been proposed. The mayor said the freeze is negotiable, and he is willing to accept a 10 percent pay cut if other officials do the same.

As of this time, Hruska, Westhoff, Kittatinny’s AFSCME President Martha Mittengrabben and City Council President Denelda Penoyer have expressed interest in a 10 percent salary cut if everyone agrees to this shared sacrifice.

Penoyer understands the City Council is in a difficult position and welcomes advice from Kittatinny residents.

“Tell us how to do it better,” Penoyer said. “Come to meetings, we want your input.”

Residents can share ideas with the city council before the budget is passed on Dec. 1, 2014.

From Illness to Healthy Living

Katie Anderson understands exactly how fragile life can be, but not without running into some challenges along the way.

Growing up in Green Bay, Wis., Anderson never recognized anything unusual with her health until fifth grade.

After bouts of unknown weight loss, sudden loss of appetite, and extreme stomach pain, Anderson was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in the summer of 2001.

“Crohn’s disease is a chronic inflammatory condition of the gastroenterology tract,” according to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America.

It was a long and painful diagnosing process, Anderson said. Doctors had originally told her and her family they was unsure of the cause of her pain, sending them to a child gastroenterologist several hours away.

She went through dozens of tests, and biopsies were taken to finally diagnose Anderson at the age of 11.

“It’s hard knowing you’re sick and you can’t make it go away,” Anderson said. “There were plenty of nights where I would have intense pain all night.”

Her family, especially her mom, carried her though the difficult days, she explained. Anderson recalled her mother staying up through the night with her, calling the doctors to ask questions, and being her constant support.

She described the ups and downs of Crohn’s disease, and its unsuspecting pain. Eventually, with her pain and resulting depression, Anderson took a semester off during her junior year at UW-Stevens Point to focus on her health.

Resuming school at UW-Whitewater, she said she knew her body better, and herself.

“I learned to trust God because my health is so uncertain. I found out the fragility of our humanity, realizing every moment is a gift,” she said.

She encourages others to do what’s best for them and their health – eating healthy foods and taking care of your overall wellness.
Anderson is currently working toward a Master of Social Work degree at George Williams College in Williams Bay, Wis. She looks forward to helping her patients cope with their struggles, as her own challenges have given her empathy for others.

Today is a new day for writing.

The air is clear, the snow is pristine, and my slate is untouched.

Words flutter within, waiting to take their form.

Tomorrow has stories of its own, but today is waiting to be written.