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Common Ground: Lesson planning for the future

Today is my final Common Ground column. Through this column, I have had the opportunity to share a plethora of experiences and snippets from my life and from those of others I have encountered. My columns were rarely planned; I just waited on life to happen. Whether it was taking my son on his first… Continue reading →

Common Ground: Old School Christmas vs. High Tech

Years ago, well before Xboxes, iPods and high-tech toys hit the scene, there were simple, old-fashioned board games, action figures, Barbie dolls and record players on most kids’ wish lists. I still remember begging my parents for a Superstar Barbie after she hit department store shelves in 1977. I wanted the doll so badly that… Continue reading →

Common Ground: Cruising ahead with mom’s help

Some of my most treasured moments with my mother were spent during long car rides to unfamiliar places where hills and mountains dotted the landscape, or during a brief hike through the Andes mountains in Peru or while sitting in a concert hall listening to a symphony perform “Star Wars” music. Reflecting on my friendship… Continue reading →

Common Ground: Snail mail still delivers the news

How often does anyone take the time these days to write a letter and mail it? Texting, emailing and social media have made it all too easy to get in touch with the press of a button. Some say letter writing has gone the way of the quill pen. But that’s not the case everywhere.… Continue reading →

Common Ground: Attacks not enough to cancel trip to France

The majority of students in Kayla Wolf’s French classes are growing up in the shadow of 9/11, global travel alerts, terrorism and last month’s attacks in France. Layla Jumonville, 15, a student in Wolf’s class, was born less than a year before the attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001, and she is disturbed by… Continue reading →

Common Ground: Getting into the science of it all

Science fair experiments have turned my dining room into a mad scientist lab cluttered with my children’s papers, glue sticks, buzzers, tape, rotten apple slices and some gooey gelatin residue. During science fair week, hundreds of students are putting their hypotheses to the test with experiments. When it’s all over, we parents are just… Continue reading →

Common Ground: Magnet school making students more career-ready

Learning styles have changed dramatically since I graduated from Scotlandville Magnet High in 1987. Then, teachers were still using chalkboards and overhead projectors. We took tons of notes longhand and completed English term papers using the card catalogue at the local library, where most students hung out. But even then, during its early magnet… Continue reading →

Common Ground: Homecoming high school memories

My high school didn’t have organized sports, so I never got to experience the excitement and hooplah of pep rallies, homecoming parades and ball games. That all changed this year. I watched and attended a weeklong series of homecoming festivities at the Math, Science and Arts Academy-West campus in Plaquemine. There I was yelling “Throw me… Continue reading →

Common Ground: Hispanic contributions recognized

When students recognize the significance and importance of each of other’s culture, it can make a difference in the school environment. During national Hispanic Heritage Month, students at the Math, Science and Arts Academy East in St. Gabriel displayed Latin culture through song skits, dance, artwork, food and student-made projects. “We commemorated the… Continue reading →

Common Ground: Manship School to honor two at Legends Forum

As a young black LSU journalism student in the late 1960s and early ’70s, Jinx Coleman Broussard developed a thick skin against the racial prejudices she encountered in the classroom, on campus and even in Tiger Stadium. She refused to succumb to “the curses hurled at me and my girlfriends when we went to a football game,”… Continue reading →

Common Ground: Dance crazes keep us all on our toes

Can you do the “Whip” and the “Nae Nae”? If you can, then you’ve jumped on board with the latest dance craze. I took my first crack at it in my living room where my three children were performing it. Unfortunately, they laughed at my attempts. “That’s not the right way, Mommy,” my youngest daughter… Continue reading →

Common Ground: Survivors - 'Inspire and motivate'

Breast cancer survivors can be inspiring and uplifting. They can teach us how to confront the unexpected and to rely on faith to get through life-changing events. Many of the women who have faced the diagnosis wrestle with job disruptions and changes in their physical appearance. Daily schedules grow to include chemotherapy and radiation treatments… Continue reading →

Common ground: Critters on the move pay heaviest price

During my daily and sometimes nightly travels along rural highways and byways, I’ve encountered an unfortunate amount of roadkill lately. Possums, turtles, skunks and squirrels have not fared so well at the hands of motorists in their bid to make it across. On one particular evening drive home, I hit a large raccoon. The impact… Continue reading →

Common Ground: No joke, McGowan’s a Saints superfan

Advocate file photo by ELIOT KAMENITZ -- That evil smile. That cunning stare. That fleur de lis. Who could it be but Saints superfan Scott McGowan as his alter ego The Joker.

Superfan Scott McGowan is ready to fire up Saints crowds again this season in the Superdome. “People look for us in the stands,” said McGowan, who will dress as Batman’s archenemy, The Joker, for the Sept. 20 showdown between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Saints. His goal: “To strike fear in our opponents when… Continue reading →

Common Ground: Being big helps bullied kid fit in

When the tall chiseled man with the purple/pink mohawk, tattoos and Looney Tunes belt buckle walked into my school’s front office, I wondered how far he really thought he might get beyond our secured lobby. Turns out, my first impression was overly judgmental. Roman Pizzolato, 34, of Plaquemine, simply wanted to give a motivational speech to… Continue reading →

Common Ground: Navigating the terrain of safety

With our 15th wedding anniversary approaching, I wondered what early gift my husband had planned to entertain us with this year. The answer came in the form of an ATV named Grizzly that he parked beside my minivan. “Are you ready to ride?” he asked. “Huh? What are we going to do with this?”… Continue reading →

Common Ground: Faith, family and big hearts

Odelia Lewis, 84, will never forget the April 27 storms that rolled through her rural neighborhood. Aunt Lu Lu, as my husband and his siblings affectionately call her, was sitting comfortably on the den sofa in her brick home in Rosedale that morning. Just before 9 a.m., the sky turned black and she heard… Continue reading →

Common Ground: Grateful for dad who was always there

Since kindergarten, I vividly remember waking up to the smells of buttered toast, eggs and crunchy bacon each morning after my father awakened me. He was the breakfast chef in my home, the motivator, the main disciplinarian and the one I leaned on through good and bad times. He made me believe in myself and… Continue reading →

Common Ground: On the right track to a nice day

There’s more to a track meet than meets the eye. I followed my children to the Betty Smothers K-Y Relays in May and got my first look at what is involved in an all-day meet. They are long, but seasoned track parents are some of the most prepared people you’ll ever meet at… Continue reading →

Common Ground: The stress before the relaxation

Packing, planning and executing a summer family vacation is not a part of the process that I look forward to. It is tiring and even stressful. One time I waited until the last minute to wash clothes, fold, pack my children’s suitcases, clean the house and load the van in the wee hours of the morning.… Continue reading →

Common Ground: How to stay young when you’re not

After talking with several seniors — they were between 86 and 94 years old — I realized that growing older is a journey that we can choose to face with optimism and opportunity. The folks I spoke with are not rocking-chair types. They are outgoing people who live for the moment, travel, dance and share… Continue reading →

Common Ground: A lesson on staying on school track

Royal Stewart, of Maringouin, will become the first student to graduate from the Iberville Parish Math, Science and Arts - North Virtual Academy on Friday, May 15.

Graduation day will mean much more than earning a diploma for 19-year-old Royal Stewart Jr., of Maringouin. Stewart is the first grandchild on the maternal side of his family to graduate from high school, and on Friday he will be the first student in Iberville Parish to graduate from the Math, Science and Arts — North Virtual… Continue reading →

Common Ground: Running away the negativity

Photo provided by CHANTE WARREN -- Getting ready for the Girls on the Run South Louisiana 5K on Saturday are members, from left, Alanis West, 11; Anyla Wilson,11; Imani Martin, 11, and Troylasia Louis 11.

When fourth- and fifth-grade girls in Kimberly Clopton’s class are feeling discouraged or maybe even a little upset, they head to the track. It was there, on the North Iberville Elementary School track in Rosedale, where I caught up with Clopton’s Girls on the Run members. Anyla Wilson, 11, told me how she learned… Continue reading →

Common Ground: L.A. to La. move just might work

Since my sister moved to California 10 years ago, it has been pretty tough convincing her to move back to Louisiana. While in Los Angeles, she landed a job working in her field, bought a home, married last fall and is now expecting a baby. Two weeks ago, she and her husband flew… Continue reading →

Common Ground: Tell your secretary ‘thank you’

Today’s the day to shower your secretary with sweets, flowers or a “thank you” card. April 22 is Secretary’s Day, and without secretaries — the most common job for women in America since the 1950s — offices would likely fall into disarray, administrative tasks would go undone and corporations, plants and businesses would become unorganized and inefficient.… Continue reading →

Common Ground: Life of public service rings true for Bell

Photo provided by SHANNON DOMINGUE -- State Beta Club president -- Iberville Math Science & Arts Academy East Junior DWayne Bell II was elected as Louisiana Senior Beta Club president on Jan. 16 in Lafayette.

At 17, D’Wayne Bell II has made academics and community service a priority at his high school, where he is honing his skills for public service and leadership. Since becoming president of the Louisiana Beta Club in January, the junior at Iberville Math, Science and Arts Academy-East in St. Gabriel is out to let teens know… Continue reading →

Common Ground: Is it clutter when you’re really busy?

Bedside clutter is one of my worst organizational challenges this spring cleaning season. At the end of a long work day, I toss clothes, shoes and tote bags anywhere they might land on my side of the room, bed or on the adjacent wingback chair. “What’s happening over there?” my husband will occasionally ask… Continue reading →

Common Ground: Better living through couponing

While unloading my grocery items onto a checkout counter at the Plaquemine Wal-Mart last week, I watched the cashier scan a heap of coupons for the woman ahead of me. “You saved $107,” she told the shopper. The woman looked pleased with the amount shaved off of her original $450 bill. “I… Continue reading →

Common Ground: Building on the strength of women

Women have proven that resiliency, patience, fearlessness and a self-sacrificing spirit are key to affecting change. They are motivators, caretakers, cooks, educators, leaders, soccer moms, super moms and a major force behind helping make America better. When I reflect on my grandmothers’ contributions, it reminds me that the struggles of women today, though challenging and… Continue reading →

Common Ground: Raising kids and raising awareness

About 13 years ago, Donna Montgomery made a promise to a dying mother that she would raise and care for the woman’s six children. Montgomery, 47, was already raising her four teenagers as a single working mom. She took on the challenge of raising 10 children on her stretched budget from her job… Continue reading →

Common Ground: Teen sex and life goals don’t add up

After being invited to a couple of baby showers for teen mothers in recent years, I explained to my 12-year-old daughter that, while babies are a blessing, raising them requires an enormous amount of maturity, planning and responsibility — something for which a teenage mother may not initially be equipped. I was relieved when… Continue reading →

Common Ground: Clearing the hurdles in mathematics

My son competed in his first math tournament last month along with 445 other fourth- and fifth-graders who spent 90 minutes solving pre-algebra problems and more. While he struggled with some test problems, at least one young test-taker felt at ease with the exam. About an hour into the test, my son recalled seeing a… Continue reading →

Common Ground: Little pitchers always have their ears on

I found out the hard way that not everything you say in your home is going to stay within its walls, particularly if you have Wi-Fi and internet. As the old saying goes, “watch what you say around your children.” Sometime during the Mardi Gras break, I tripped on the shower curtain and the… Continue reading →

Common Ground: The journey of hairstyles through ages

Helping my daughter research her Black History Month project on Madam C.J. Walker gave me time to ponder what the hair mogul might have thought about today’s hair, some 100 years later. I am pretty sure Walker would be disappointed to hear people of color still using the phrases “good hair” and “bad hair” to describe hair… Continue reading →

Common Ground: Click your way out of traffic jams

Ahh, what the click of a button can do to expedite our lives. During the past two months, UPS, FedEx and U.S. Postal services have delivered to my door dozens of packages — everything from a comforter set, shoes, e-tablets, a foot scrubber, pantsuits, two pairs of eyeglasses, phone cases, speakers, rugs and heavens knows what… Continue reading →

Common Ground: Coaching next wave of educators

Coach Karen Ross is not blowing a whistle or pacing up and down a field motivating players. She coaches and trains teachers to work through life struggles, hectic family schedules and obstacles to prepare to lead challenged schools. I met Ross, a 25-year educator, former principal and now Iberville Parish school administrator, in January during… Continue reading →

Common Ground: Teen readers to pick their top books

Photo provided by EVANGELYNN CLARK -- Scotlandville Magnet High School senior and SGA president Anthony Kenney votes Wednesday for his favorite Louisiana Teen Readers' Choice Award.

The polls don’t lie. If you think teen readers are a dying group, then it might be worth visiting Scotlandville Magnet High today when hundreds of students will cast ballots for the year’s top teen book. The 2015 Louisiana Teen Readers’ Choice Award program is fueling the excitement, said school librarian Evangelynn Clark, whose library… Continue reading →

Common Ground: We all need support from others

From overcoming the death of a parent to strengthening bonds between a father and son, winners and nominees in area Student of the Year contests have pushed though life’s challenges to become academic scholars, star athletes and activists in their communities. While reading essays on Iberville Parish students, I discovered the sources behind their success: Families, teachers,… Continue reading →

Common Ground: Growing up with my growing girl

After my daughter turned 12 last summer, I knew it was time to start talking more with her about puberty. She was changing both physically and emotionally. Where do I start? Woman’s Hospital registered nurse Meghan Bardwell helped me find the answers after my daughter and I attended her 90-minute class, Body Basics for… Continue reading →

Need a pick me up? Chante Warren: Poetic Van Davis Sr. finds unique ways to deliver smiles, inspiration to Rosedale school community

Photo provided by CHANTE WARREN -- Van Davis Sr. is an Iberville Parish School custodian who writes and shares his poetry with school staff each day.

In between cleaning classrooms, buffing floors, tending to emergencies in pre-k restrooms or fixing equipment, Van Davis Sr. delivers an infectious smile and poetic inspiration to teachers, staff and principals throughout the Rosedale school community. “How are you doing?” he often will ask me and other staffers. “Is is still sunny inside?” If… Continue reading →

Common Ground: Escaping the problems of the past year

It is challenging to sum up 2014. One poll found that about 53 percent of Americans say race relations are worsening. Ebola fears stirred mandatory quarantines throughout the globe, and national protests were widespread against police use of force. And our Saints did not fare very well. And it does not stop there. Leading up to… Continue reading →