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Education pathways: K-12 students find success in virtual school

Education - Thu, 09/11/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - With more school choices than ever and the evolution of technology, students are redefining their own pathway to a successful K-12 education. More families are building complete, harmonious educational experiences for their children by choosing schools that meet their needs at a point in time – whether the school is traditional brick and mortar, private or charter. Over the past decade, families have added fully online and blended schools to their list of options – making online learning one of the fastest growing forms of education in the U.S. today.

According to the national report, “Keeping Pace with K-12 Online & Blended Learning,” in the 2012-13 school year, roughly 310,000 American students in kindergarten through 12th grades attended fully online public schools. Blending elements of brick and mortar schools, distance learning and homeschooling, online public schools deliver public education directly to students in their home via the Internet. Students work with certified teachers online while a parent oversees progress in the home – they even go on field trips and take part in after-school clubs and activities. Curriculum is aligned to state standards and students take required assessment tests. And as a public school, it’s free.

One of the main reasons families and students choose online school, as revealed in a recent survey by e-learning provider Connections Academy, is they simply want a different school environment – and one that offers greater flexibility in terms of scheduling and pace of lessons.

“Virtual school meets the needs of all types of students and families – some students find a perfect fit online and attend for the majority of their educations; others attend for a few years and then go back to the traditional school,” says Tisha Rinker, director of counseling at Connections Academy. “Students aren’t bound to one method of education or another – they can mix it up and develop a more personalized school experience.” Rinker says that most students who come to online school for a shorter period of time (one to three years) attend because they are looking for a solution to a typical school challenge – they are advanced and want to move more quickly through their lessons, they need to catch up, or are dealing with social issues like bullying. “Students transition between online and traditional school all the time,” she says. “In fact, for many kids, the time they spent in online school is exactly what they needed to succeed later on.”

Those skeptical of learning outside a traditional setting feel that students need an in-person classroom experience to gain social skills. But parents with students enrolled in online school say that their kids socialize just like other kids: with friends from school (through online clubs and activities or in-person field trips, proms) and after school, playing community sports, taking dance and music lessons, through youth groups and more.

The Keffer family of Marietta, Ohio, needed more schedule flexibility than was possible in their local neighborhood school. Their son Sean is a talented quad-runner racer who competes all over the East Coast, and it had been a struggle to attend traditional school, practice, train and travel to races, without missing school and/or getting behind in schoolwork. The family enrolled Sean in a virtual school, where he thrived academically while still actively participating in quad-runner racing. This year, with less of a need for flexibility, Sean opted to switch back to his neighborhood high school.

The Leake family of Southern California had different children in different schools. The family’s oldest son just graduated from their local public school, where he had a successful experience. Their younger son, Austin, is a gifted student who just wasn’t getting the academic challenge he needed in the traditional bricks and mortar classroom. This 14 year-old member of the high IQ society, MENSA, thrived with the personalized curriculum and set-your-own pace learning environment at Connections Academy. Austin graduated early from Connections last year and is currently attending Arizona State University/Lake Havasu.

“Families are embracing the fact that they have options for building a school experience that meets the needs of their child,” Rinker says.  “When it comes to their child’s education, one size doesn’t fit all – and what ‘fits’ might even change from year to year and from child to child.”

Categories: Lifestyle

Health care teams demand nurses with doctorate degrees

Education - Tue, 09/09/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - When open enrollment for the Health Insurance Marketplaces closed earlier this year, more than 7.1 million Americans had signed up for health insurance coverage. As millions of new patients continue to gain access to insurance under the Affordable Care Act, industry leaders are facing the challenge of providing quality care while meeting the needs of an aging population and patients with more chronic health issues. One emerging solution is the concept of “care teams” that more closely engage health care professionals from all disciplines.

The Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommends health care delivery through such multidisciplinary teams, among other tools, to help health care systems lower costs while continuing to provide the best possible care for each patient. Care teams that include nurse practitioners and physician assistants are proven to alleviate demand for physicians without increasing their supply, according to 2013 research from RAND Corporation, a nonprofit research and analytics institution.

Doctoral education in nursing practice prepares nurses with enhanced leadership skills to strengthen practice and health care delivery, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN). For this reason, nurses with doctoral education are being emphasized as an option for future leadership of care teams, as noted in the IOM’s report, The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health. Nursing educators are taking note, with more institutions offering advanced nursing degree programs that prepare nurses through specific curriculum focused on implementing efficiencies in health care delivery and enhancing nurses’ leadership skills.

Nurses are responding to meet this need and leading the care team charge through continued education. The AACN reports nearly 15,000 students were enrolled in Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree programs in 2013, a 21.6 percent jump from 2012.

Chamberlain College of Nursing is one education provider that is responding to the industry call to action to prepare nurses to develop and drive care teams. Chamberlain offers a DNP Healthcare Systems Leadership specialty track designed for master’s-prepared nurses who want to pursue advanced leadership roles within their chosen specialty. Students learn about leadership in the context of nursing informatics, health policy, higher education administration and executive health care practice.

“The DNP graduate should be equipped with the tools to address modern health care delivery issues and improve the health care setting  through more integrated, streamlined care,” says Mary Brann, DNP, MSN, RN, Chamberlain instructor and executive director for clinical excellence and regulatory compliance at a 540-bed university medical center. “Chamberlain’s DNP Healthcare Systems Leadership specialty track prepares advanced practice nurses to lead and manage complex health care systems. In my clinical role, I seek doctoral nurses to fill leadership roles and help lower health care costs by establishing more effective, patient-centric models of health care delivery.”

As Brann points out, industry advancement requires more nurses be prepared to facilitate the transition from practice that occurs in silos to practice that includes comprehensive input from all disciplines and the patient to ultimately elevate patient care and improve system efficiencies. Under these models, patient satisfaction increases because they are receiving more coordinated care and have more access to the resources and services they need.

“Nursing students today are developing skills to lead nurse units in providing comprehensive, cohesive, contiguous patient care; partner with health care educators to increase the pipeline of future nurses; and provide a heightened level of patient engagement,” Brann says.

As health care continues to evolve and progress, so will the responsibilities and contributions of nurses. Nurses today are integral to responding to issues facing the health care industry. Those with doctorate degrees will be essential to incorporating new approaches and solutions, such as care teams, within the future health care setting.

Categories: Lifestyle

Don't be stuck in the heat walking on your feet: how to prep your car for summer driving

Automotive - Tue, 09/09/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - It is summer and you can’t wait to get out on the road to head to the cabin, on vacation or just a nice carefree ride with the windows down. But while you may be ready to go, is your car? These quick vehicle inspection tips will help you make sure your vehicle is ready for the open road.

Is it cool in here?

Make sure your vehicle is ready to beat the heat by inspecting the air-conditioning (AC) and engine cooling systems. This means removing dirt and debris from the fins of the AC condenser and radiator.

While you’re near the radiator, check the coolant level. Look in the owner’s manual for the right anti-freeze. A newer car might require a completely different anti-freeze then what was used by that car’s brand a few years ago. “Mixing incompatible anti-freezes can instantly gum up the cooling system,” says Tom Taylor, engineer and vice president of auto parts retailer RockAuto.com.

Also check the cabin air filter that freshens the air flowing into the interior. This filter typically needs to be replaced annually, but it can clog up much faster if the car is driven on dirt roads or parked under trees. “Owners are so relieved when they discover their AC problems are solved by simply popping a new cabin air filter in place behind the glove box,” says Taylor.

Kick the tires

Wherever you plan to go this summer, your tires will take you there; make sure they’re in great shape.

Start by checking the tire pressure. Most tires have a maximum tire pressure printed on the side of the tire, but you want to inflate the tires only to the cold tire pressure printed on the decal inside the driver’s door jam. “With today’s low-profile tires, the difference between the maximum and cold pressures might be 20 PSI or more. Inflate a cold tire to the maximum pressure printed on the tire and it will be seriously over inflated once it hits the hot pavement,” says RockAuto.com’s Taylor.

Keep up that strict oil change schedule

If you want your engine to stay cool and last, it’s essential that you change the oil at the appropriate times and with the proper oil. With older cars, owners might have used lighter weight oil in the winter and heavier oil in the summer. Today’s engines often require the same weight oil year round. “Modern engines use oil as a hydraulic fluid for operating valves and doing other new things. Pour 10W-30 into a new engine that requires 0W-20 and there will likely be problems,” says Taylor. Use the weight of oil recommended in the owner’s manual and don’t forget to change the oil filter too.

Take care of your vehicle and follow these tips and you can be sure it will be there with you for every new mile marker and memory this summer and beyond.

Categories: Lifestyle

Life after the Olympics: Luger offers insight on balancing work, school and life

Education - Tue, 09/09/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - A natural-born athlete, Erin Hamlin grew up playing a variety of sports, although it wasn’t until the age of 12 that she was introduced to luging. Her prior athletic experience instilled a great deal of concentration, dedication and strength of mind and body, and it wasn’t long before she worked her way through the national team’s developmental luge program and was living and training full-time in Lake Placid, N.Y.

Hamlin’s hard work paid off and she went on to compete in the 2006 and 2010 Olympic Winter Games and recently made history when she became the first American luger to win a medal when she earned bronze at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia. In addition, her momentous feat was recognized by the United States Olympic Committee at its 2014 “Best of Us” Awards Show where she earned the title of Best Female Olympian of the Winter Games.

Q: What was it like to compete at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi and make history by becoming the first U.S. singles luger to win an Olympic medal?

“Each time I’ve competed at the Olympics, I’ve learned and grown so much. The challenge of being the greatest in the world is what drives me to pursue my Olympic dreams,” says Hamlin. “Becoming the first American luger to win a medal in the history of the sport was a surreal experience. Standing on the podium and accepting my medal was the culmination of years of preparation, dedication and persistence to achieve success in my sport.”

Q: Now that you’ve made history and achieved Olympic success, what other life goals are you looking to reach?

“After I retire from competing, I want to help corporations plan more environmentally friendly events. Being a part of many sporting events over the years has shown me that there is room for improvement from a sustainability standpoint. Continuing my education and earning a degree will allow me to explore a career in which I can achieve this,” says Hamlin.

She adds, “To help me reach this goal, I am preparing for my career by earning a bachelor’s degree in technical management with a specialization in sustainability management at DeVry University.”

Q: How do you balance you athletic training with your academic endeavors?

“Since I can take my courses online it allows me to balance my school work and my rigorous training schedule. I feel that learning helps me look forward to what is next and earning my degree will prepare me to achieve success off the track, as well,” Hamlin says.

Q: What advice do you have to share with young athletes who aspire to compete in the Olympic Games?

“It can certainly be intimidating to balance school and other life responsibilities – especially when you aspire to be successful in athletics or any extracurricular activity,” says Hamlin. “The big picture can be very overwhelming. It’s important to remember to stay focused on the end goal and break it down into smaller steps – that way it becomes much more manageable.”

DeVry University is an official education provider of the United States Olympic Committee. To learn more about Hamlin or other Team USA student athletes who have competed in the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, visit newsroom.devry.edu.

Categories: Lifestyle

When freedom rings: top tips to help launch your own business

Education - Fri, 09/05/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - With summer bringing the celebration of our country’s freedom and a bit more flexibility in our hectic schedules, it’s also a time to reflect on the American dream: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. For many Americans, that means seeking success and prosperity by building their own business.

Approximately 15 million people in the United States are self-employed, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. These small business owners are the lifeblood of the economy, accounting for 63 percent of net new jobs created between 1993 and 2013. Many small business owners find running their business extremely rewarding, according to the Bank of America spring 2014 Small Business Owner Report, a semi-annual study exploring the concerns, aspirations and perspectives of small business owners across the country. The report found that when asked what their greatest accomplishment is, the top three answers among small business owners are: having enough money to support their family, being their own boss and doing what they love.

However, entrepreneurship takes extreme dedication; the report found that nearly three quarters (72 percent) of small business owners have made significant sacrifices in their personal lives to run their business. While running a business can be exciting and liberating, it can also be challenging. So how do you know if it’s the right time to take the leap and start your own business?

“Starting your own business can seem daunting, but most of the time, once you go solo, you will never look back,” says Steve Strauss, a leading small business expert and columnist. “Small business owners truly embody the American dream. There are seemingly endless opportunities when you are your own boss. It allows for more creativity and flexibility, not to mention more independence. But before you begin, talk to experts and other small business owners who have gone through the process. Just because you are in charge does not mean you have to figure out everything alone.”

Here are four tips to consider before you launch your own business:

1. Do your research before writing a business plan. As a first step, analyze the market to make sure your idea is something that will resonate with people in your area. Are you filling a void? Are other businesses already offering the same product or service? Figure out what sets your business apart, and then write a detailed plan taking everything you’ve learned into consideration. This document will serve as your roadmap for the first three to five years.

2. Set up a support system. Find an accountant who specializes in your type and size of business. Retain an attorney to review your paperwork and help you identify the best legal structure for your business. Connect with other small business owners through online platforms like the Bank of America Small Business Community or through networking events and ask them to share their best practices. Having a reliable support system that you can depend on for guidance and advice will ensure you get started on the right foot.

3. Determine your source of financing. A dedicated small business banker who knows your community and industry can provide advice on what traditional financial products, such as term loans and lines of credit, your business may qualify for. Crowdfunding, venture capital, lending clubs and angel investors are also potential options, depending on the size and structure of your business.

4. Leverage your digital assets. With the rise of the mobile revolution, the size of your business doesn’t matter nearly as much as how connected it is. Learn how to manage your business accounts on your phone or tablet. Develop a social media or mobile marketing campaign to reach new customers. Download apps that help with everyday tasks like note taking, scheduling and website building. A multitude of affordable tools are available online to help you get started quickly.

The number of small businesses in this country has increased 49 percent since 1982, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration, and many view small businesses as the cornerstone of the U.S. economy.

“Entrepreneurship allows individuals to pursue their dreams and to contribute to the success of their neighborhoods,” says Robb Hilson, small business executive at Bank of America. “Our most recent Small Business Owner Report shows that the majority of small business owners are feeling optimistic about growth in the coming year. This optimism underscores the need for dedicated resources in their communities, which is why we’re hiring an additional 200 small business bankers around the country this year."

Categories: Lifestyle

When freedom rings: top tips to help launch your own business

Business/Careers - Fri, 09/05/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - With summer bringing the celebration of our country’s freedom and a bit more flexibility in our hectic schedules, it’s also a time to reflect on the American dream: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. For many Americans, that means seeking success and prosperity by building their own business.

Approximately 15 million people in the United States are self-employed, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. These small business owners are the lifeblood of the economy, accounting for 63 percent of net new jobs created between 1993 and 2013. Many small business owners find running their business extremely rewarding, according to the Bank of America spring 2014 Small Business Owner Report, a semi-annual study exploring the concerns, aspirations and perspectives of small business owners across the country. The report found that when asked what their greatest accomplishment is, the top three answers among small business owners are: having enough money to support their family, being their own boss and doing what they love.

However, entrepreneurship takes extreme dedication; the report found that nearly three quarters (72 percent) of small business owners have made significant sacrifices in their personal lives to run their business. While running a business can be exciting and liberating, it can also be challenging. So how do you know if it’s the right time to take the leap and start your own business?

“Starting your own business can seem daunting, but most of the time, once you go solo, you will never look back,” says Steve Strauss, a leading small business expert and columnist. “Small business owners truly embody the American dream. There are seemingly endless opportunities when you are your own boss. It allows for more creativity and flexibility, not to mention more independence. But before you begin, talk to experts and other small business owners who have gone through the process. Just because you are in charge does not mean you have to figure out everything alone.”

Here are four tips to consider before you launch your own business:

1. Do your research before writing a business plan. As a first step, analyze the market to make sure your idea is something that will resonate with people in your area. Are you filling a void? Are other businesses already offering the same product or service? Figure out what sets your business apart, and then write a detailed plan taking everything you’ve learned into consideration. This document will serve as your roadmap for the first three to five years.

2. Set up a support system. Find an accountant who specializes in your type and size of business. Retain an attorney to review your paperwork and help you identify the best legal structure for your business. Connect with other small business owners through online platforms like the Bank of America Small Business Community or through networking events and ask them to share their best practices. Having a reliable support system that you can depend on for guidance and advice will ensure you get started on the right foot.

3. Determine your source of financing. A dedicated small business banker who knows your community and industry can provide advice on what traditional financial products, such as term loans and lines of credit, your business may qualify for. Crowdfunding, venture capital, lending clubs and angel investors are also potential options, depending on the size and structure of your business.

4. Leverage your digital assets. With the rise of the mobile revolution, the size of your business doesn’t matter nearly as much as how connected it is. Learn how to manage your business accounts on your phone or tablet. Develop a social media or mobile marketing campaign to reach new customers. Download apps that help with everyday tasks like note taking, scheduling and website building. A multitude of affordable tools are available online to help you get started quickly.

The number of small businesses in this country has increased 49 percent since 1982, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration, and many view small businesses as the cornerstone of the U.S. economy.

“Entrepreneurship allows individuals to pursue their dreams and to contribute to the success of their neighborhoods,” says Robb Hilson, small business executive at Bank of America. “Our most recent Small Business Owner Report shows that the majority of small business owners are feeling optimistic about growth in the coming year. This optimism underscores the need for dedicated resources in their communities, which is why we’re hiring an additional 200 small business bankers around the country this year."

Categories: Lifestyle

Young adults are getting serious about money sooner than you think

Education - Fri, 09/05/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - More evidence has emerged that parents are doing a better job teaching kids about money, and young adults are getting better at managing it.

For instance, the majority of millennials are investing for retirement by the age of 24, according to the Spring 2014 Merrill Edge Report. This is in sharp contrast to older generations who began investing for the future at an average age of 33. It shows that younger Americans are paying attention to money and learning lessons from the recession, but it also indicates that parents are doing more to teach these lessons early.

“Parents should add a money talk to their checklist of everything that needs to be done to set kids up for success this fall,” says Aron Levine, head of Preferred Banking and Merrill Edge for Bank of America. “We see young millennials taking money seriously, so if you’re a parent of younger kids it’s time to make money management a regular part of the parenting conversation.”

Money issues demand frequent conversation and teaching moments, and back-to-school season is the perfect time to explore financial lessons and encourage kids to benefit from the experience of others. There is no age limit for helping kids learn to manage money - teenagers and young children alike can become financially literate. Whether you have youngsters or college-bound kids, there are ways to teach your children how to manage money responsibly.

Here are tips for teenagers:

* Show your teen how to create a budget
Work with your kids on making a plan for spending an allowance or earnings from a job. By age 13 or 14, they may be thinking about buying a car or similar big purchase. That takes effort and smart planning.

* Introduce and explain investing
Investing smaller sums with limited consequences is a great way for kids to learn about managing risk. For 43 percent of Merrill Edge Report respondents, choosing among different investment products is the most complicated part of investing; starting early can help build a base of knowledge.

* Plan for college
Talk about the cost of college. Let your children know how much you can cover and how much they need to contribute. If you have established a savings plan, discuss how it works. Explain the difference between costs at a private and state school. Discuss loans options, and let them research scholarships.

* Create learning opportunities
If your kid is shocked by how much of their first paycheck goes to Uncle Sam, sit down and explain taxes, Medicare and Social Security. If your kid wants a bank account, show them how to balance a checkbook and track the account online. Consider bringing your kid along when you visit your financial advisor to establish a baseline understanding of the financial planning process.

Tips for younger kids:

* Teach budgeting
An allowance can be a great first step in showing your kids how to manage money. Consider giving money every week to young children, at two-week intervals for preteens and monthly for teenagers. Spreading out the timing helps children understand the need to set goals and manage spending.

* Show the value of saving
It’s natural for money to burn a hole in the pockets of young kids, but you can help them discover the benefits of delayed gratification. If there’s a toy they want, suggest they forgo spending on ice cream and instead save to make the bigger purchase.

* Let them earn extra
You probably expect your kids to do daily chores. Consider offering them the chance to make extra money by helping clean the garage, wash windows or taking on another job beyond the routine. Earning for extra work instills good habits and gives children more control over saving and spending.

* Introduce philanthropy
When kids are very young, they can understand charitable gifts. Talk about organizations they might like to support, then earmark part of their allowance for donations.

* Create learning opportunities
If your child spends an entire allowance right away, resist requests for more money before the next allowance is due. Negative consequences can carry powerful lessons. Talk with your child about how to do better next time.

Teaching money lessons early and reinforcing the messages as you go will help your children learn to avoid major money mistakes as adults. For additional resources you can also visit BetterMoneyHabits.com, a web site developed by Bank of America in partnership with education innovator Khan Academy with the goal of providing free, objective information to make it easier for everyone to understand the fundamentals of personal finance. With a little coaching from parents, kids of almost any age can learn how to make wise spending choices and become better prepared to live financially responsible lives later on.

Categories: Lifestyle

Driving tire safety for teens: Road safety begins with the only part of the car that touches the road

Automotive - Thu, 09/04/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - New research on driver’s education and training shows a gap in teen drivers’ knowledge – one that, if closed, could help prevent some of the nearly 300,000 car crashes involving inexperienced drivers every year.

That knowledge gap concerns the only part of the car that actually touches the road: the tires. A National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) analysis of the 2.2 million car accidents in 2012 shows more than one in 10 (12 percent) were among inexperienced drivers and involved tire-related issues, such as insufficient tire tread or improperly inflated tires.

Despite the importance of tire safety, only 16 states include comprehensive tire safety information in their driver’s education curricula, according to new data from Michelin North America and the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA), the governing body for world motor sport.

Michelin and FIA conducted an audit of driver’s education curricula across all 50 states, as well as a survey of 1,001 teens and their parents. Surprisingly, only 49 percent of teens surveyed and 47 percent of parents believe their driver’s education program completely prepared them to drive.

“Auto accidents are the top cause of death among American teens, claiming more than 5,000 lives each year, NHTSA data shows,” says Pete Selleck, chairman and president of Michelin North America. “Teenagers in this country are dying in car accidents or are involved in car crashes that are preventable, and require only very simple behavior changes.”

The need for a behavior change when it comes to vehicle and tire maintenance is apparent, Selleck says. Of the teens surveyed, 27 percent admitted they never check tires, and less than half (48 percent) said they check tires at least monthly (the recommended frequency).

Parents don’t have to wait for driver education courses to adopt tire safety lessons. They can begin teaching teenage drivers the basics of tire safety immediately. Michelin has joined with FIA to raise tire safety awareness through the “Beyond the Driving Test” educational program, and Selleck offers some advice:

* Teach teens to do “the penny test” on their vehicle’s tires at least once a month. Place a penny in the tire groove with Lincoln’s head pointing down. If you can see all his head, the tire treads are too worn to be safe.

* Demonstrate the proper use of a tire pressure gauge and teach teens to look for the recommended PSI on the label inside their car’s door jamb. Everyone should check tire pressure at least once a month.

* Log on to BeyondtheDrivingTest.com with your teenage drivers and watch the instructional videos on tire pressure and tread wear together.

“Tires are the only parts of a car that touch the road, so it makes sense that driving safety begins with tire maintenance,” Selleck says. “Driver’s education today has done many things well; however, it has generally ignored some key safety facts – driving with unsafe or improperly inflated tires – that can be life threatening.”

To download a handy glove box guide with five simple tips to help you stay safe on the road, visit BeyondtheDrivingTest.com.

Categories: Lifestyle

The equation for stronger performance in school begins with a better breakfast

Education - Wed, 09/03/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, especially for students embarking on a learning adventure. But all too often, kids head out the door with sugary pastries, cereals and bars – or worse yet, nothing in their stomachs at all. Children who eat breakfast perform better in the classroom and on the playground, with better concentration, problem-solving skills and eye-hand coordination, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

But not all breakfast foods are created equal. Starting the school day off right begins with a healthy and well-balanced breakfast, complete with three important nutritional components. Learn the right equation for a filling and balanced breakfast with these tips to keep kids at their best and brightest all year long.

1. Choose complex carbohydrates: Carbohydrates are important to give kids an initial burst of energy in the morning. This helps them feel awake and alert in order to tackle school projects and assignments during the first part of the day. However, parents should be giving kids the right carbohydrates. Instead of sugary cereals or breakfast bars – which can lead to a mid-morning sugar crash, signaling to the brain that it needs more fuel, thus making concentration more difficult – give kids complex carbohydrates like whole-grain cereals or bread with a side of fruit.

2. Pump up the protein: Protein provides kids with the right fuel for the entire day. Not only does it keep energy levels up, but it also contributes to higher attention spans, greater concentration levels and improved memory, which all lead to better school performance. Opt for breakfasts containing dairy products, meats and cheeses, like El Monterey breakfast burritos. Made with real ingredients like scrambled eggs, pork sausage, cheddar cheese and fresh-baked flour tortillas, El Monterey breakfast burritos can be an excellent source of protein to charge kids’ brains and bodies for the day ahead.

3. Fill it with fiber: Fiber is the final factor for a better breakfast. Fiber keeps kids feeling full for longer, alleviating hunger pains during the school day. It also discourages overeating and cravings for snacks, which can be high in fat and sugar, and low in nutritional value. Less snacking ultimately leads to better weight control. Some fiber-rich options include whole-grain breads, oatmeal, fruits and vegetables.

Performance in the classroom begins with a healthy start at home. With so many healthy and convenient breakfast options to choose from, the hectic morning routine doesn’t have to compromise a good start to the school day. And with these three essential components for a well-balanced breakfast, kids will have everything they need to start the day (and the school year) at their very best.

Categories: Lifestyle

Your credit scores: What you don't know could cost you

Community Cares - Wed, 09/03/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - Do you know what your credit scores are? If you don’t, you’re not alone. In fact, many people know very little about their credit scores, what they are or how they work. And they certainly don’t understand that having low credit scores can have a big impact on their future.

Are you one of these people?

Recent research from the Consumer Federation of America and VantageScore Solutions highlights some of the crucial credit score information most people don’t know. According to the survey that polled 1,000 American consumers, almost half of the respondents did not know that a credit score measures the risk of a person’s likelihood to default in 90 days, as opposed to factors such as knowledge of - or attitude toward - consumer credit. This is paramount, as lenders typically review a person’s various credit scores before authorizing a loan.  

The youth factor

Although people of all ages showed a lack of knowledge regarding important credit score information, the results show that the wider knowledge gap exists with Millennials (ages 18 – 34) than with older Americans.

Less than half of all Millennials understood that age was not used when calculating credit scores, according to the data. Meanwhile, more than 60 percent of adults (45-64) understood this.

Millennials also were less likely than older adults to know that credit scores are based on information collected by each of the three main credit bureaus.

“It isn’t a big surprise that consumers in the 45-60-year range know more than younger consumers about credit scoring, but the generation of consumers coming into the workforce is particularly challenged by massive student loans. A student loan is a great opportunity to help establish good credit for these consumers, but the concern is that many of these young adults could miss payments and begin their financial lives deep in debt with low credit scores, putting them in a difficult position,” says Barrett Burns, president and CEO of VantageScore Solutions.

Knowledge is power

Many people fail to realize how many different ways poor credit scores can affect their lives. Credit scores affect not only whether a person can receive a loan but also the interest rate a person pays for the loan.

The data shows that while the majority of all respondents understood that their credit scores would be reviewed by credit-card issuers and mortgage lenders, they did not know that electric utilities, home insurers, landlords and even cell phone companies may also review this information.

In short, a good credit score could save you hundreds or thousands of dollars in interest or rate payments when compared with possessing a poor score. If you want to improve your scores, the first step is to obtain your credit scores so you know where you stand. Not surprisingly, individuals who obtained their scores in the past year knew more about credit scores and how they are used by lenders in the market than those who didn’t obtain their scores in the last year.

“We know that education can help consumers improve their scores, and whatever the consumer’s age, our aim is to arm him or her with accurate, unbiased information and resources to help them become good managers of their credit,” Burns said.

To get a true picture of your credit status, it’s best to review your credit reports and credit scores from multiple sources.  Test your knowledge about credit scores at www.CreditScoreQuiz.org, which was created by VantageScore Solutions and Consumer Federation of America. Both the online quiz and a corresponding brochure are available in Spanish at www.creditscorequiz.org/Espanol.

For more tips and resources to educate yourself regarding credit scores, visit the VantageScore Website. There you’ll find useful information regarding what impacts your credit score and how to be a good manager of your own credit.

Categories: Lifestyle

Your credit scores: What you don't know could cost you

Business/Careers - Wed, 09/03/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - Do you know what your credit scores are? If you don’t, you’re not alone. In fact, many people know very little about their credit scores, what they are or how they work. And they certainly don’t understand that having low credit scores can have a big impact on their future.

Are you one of these people?

Recent research from the Consumer Federation of America and VantageScore Solutions highlights some of the crucial credit score information most people don’t know. According to the survey that polled 1,000 American consumers, almost half of the respondents did not know that a credit score measures the risk of a person’s likelihood to default in 90 days, as opposed to factors such as knowledge of - or attitude toward - consumer credit. This is paramount, as lenders typically review a person’s various credit scores before authorizing a loan.  

The youth factor

Although people of all ages showed a lack of knowledge regarding important credit score information, the results show that the wider knowledge gap exists with Millennials (ages 18 – 34) than with older Americans.

Less than half of all Millennials understood that age was not used when calculating credit scores, according to the data. Meanwhile, more than 60 percent of adults (45-64) understood this.

Millennials also were less likely than older adults to know that credit scores are based on information collected by each of the three main credit bureaus.

“It isn’t a big surprise that consumers in the 45-60-year range know more than younger consumers about credit scoring, but the generation of consumers coming into the workforce is particularly challenged by massive student loans. A student loan is a great opportunity to help establish good credit for these consumers, but the concern is that many of these young adults could miss payments and begin their financial lives deep in debt with low credit scores, putting them in a difficult position,” says Barrett Burns, president and CEO of VantageScore Solutions.

Knowledge is power

Many people fail to realize how many different ways poor credit scores can affect their lives. Credit scores affect not only whether a person can receive a loan but also the interest rate a person pays for the loan.

The data shows that while the majority of all respondents understood that their credit scores would be reviewed by credit-card issuers and mortgage lenders, they did not know that electric utilities, home insurers, landlords and even cell phone companies may also review this information.

In short, a good credit score could save you hundreds or thousands of dollars in interest or rate payments when compared with possessing a poor score. If you want to improve your scores, the first step is to obtain your credit scores so you know where you stand. Not surprisingly, individuals who obtained their scores in the past year knew more about credit scores and how they are used by lenders in the market than those who didn’t obtain their scores in the last year.

“We know that education can help consumers improve their scores, and whatever the consumer’s age, our aim is to arm him or her with accurate, unbiased information and resources to help them become good managers of their credit,” Burns said.

To get a true picture of your credit status, it’s best to review your credit reports and credit scores from multiple sources.  Test your knowledge about credit scores at www.CreditScoreQuiz.org, which was created by VantageScore Solutions and Consumer Federation of America. Both the online quiz and a corresponding brochure are available in Spanish at www.creditscorequiz.org/Espanol.

For more tips and resources to educate yourself regarding credit scores, visit the VantageScore Website. There you’ll find useful information regarding what impacts your credit score and how to be a good manager of your own credit.

Categories: Lifestyle

5 college entrance exam tips to achieve success

Education - Tue, 09/02/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - If you’re a high school junior or senior, or you’re the parent of one, you know the college rush crush can be bewildering and stressful. To get into the college of your choice means a whirlwind of applications, university visits, admission interviews and exams. However, there are steps that students can take to have the best chance at success.

Steve Kappler, assistant vice president of career and college readiness and head of postsecondary strategy at ACT offers these tips to help navigate the world of college entrance exams:

* Test what you’ve learned: Some exams are designed to test aptitude and reasoning, but the ACT exam shows what you’ve learned in the classroom over the last 3 or 4 years. Use what you know to make your college dreams to come true.

* Free test prep: ACT has free online tools and test-taking tips that help you prepare for and know what to expect on the exam. ACT even offers a question of the day to keep you practicing as the test date approaches.

* Don’t stress, it’s okay to guess: On the ACT, you do not lose points for incorrect answers, which is what happens on some other college entrance exams. So if you don’t know the answer, take your best guess on the ACT: it can’t hurt your score.

* Send your scores: Let schools know you are interested in them. The myth that certain schools only accept certain tests is just not true. All four-year colleges and universities across the country accept ACT scores. Your scores help colleges see if you are ready to succeed in first year courses on their campus.

* Writing – yes or no: Not all colleges require students to submit writing scores. The ACT Writing Test is optional. Save yourself time and money by checking to see if the schools you hope to attend require writing.

* Apply for financial aid and scholarships: Many scholarships are extremely competitive, so start researching early. Use your ACT scores to apply for financial aid and scholarship opportunities. There are numerous online resources dedicated to helping students find the financial support they need for college.

Most importantly of all though, students and parents need to register for the ACT, the nation’s most-taken college entrance exam, in order to help achieve the best chance for success. Registration for the June 14 test date runs until May 9, with late registration available until May 23. Fall test dates are also available in September and October. For more information or to register, visit ACTStudent.org.

Categories: Lifestyle

Family turns grief into action; offers advice for raising awareness for a cause

Community Cares - Tue, 09/02/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - Mother and rare disease advocate Lora Moore knows all too well the value of good health and how quickly it can slip away. In 2004, she tragically lost her 12 year-old daughter Lyndon to Hereditary Angioedema (HAE), a rare genetic disease characterized by repeated swelling attacks that can occur anywhere in the body such as the limbs, abdomen, face and even the throat, which can be life-threatening. Lora herself suffers from HAE, as does her oldest daughter Hillary. For their family, living in fear of the unpredictable swelling attacks of HAE is a way of life.

Lyndon’s untimely death was devastating to the Moore family, but inspired by the creation of the first-ever internationally recognized annual HAE Day on May 16, 2012, Lora and Hillary turned their grief into action.

“Lyndon had the kindest and most caring heart. She wanted everyone to feel happy,” said Lora. “We knew we had to do something to keep her memory and wonderful spirit alive.”

Beginning in 2012, Lora and Hillary organized an annual memorial walk in their hometown on HAE Day to raise awareness about HAE and honor Lyndon’s memory.

Having no event experience prior, they had little time to prepare for the inaugural memorial walk in 2012. Lora went door to door to local businesses trying to get as many sponsors as she could and also made T-shirts printed with a picture of a butterfly that Lyndon had drawn. As a result of her hard work and dedication, the memorial walk went on without a hitch and around 100 people came out to support the walk and celebrate the first HAE Day, all while raising funds for the U.S. Hereditary Angioedema Association (HAEA).

The next year, Lora enlisted the support of the HAEA to help coordinate the second annual ‘Lyndon Brooke Stidham Memorial Walk’ so that they could make an even bigger impact than the year prior. Not only did they double the number of participants, they raised four times the amount of money as the year prior.

Through their work to organize the walk, Lora and Hillary learned a number of valuable lessons that are applicable to anyone hoping to raise awareness for an important cause. These include:

* Tap relevant local and national organizations for help; they often have valuable experience and resources to leverage

* Use social media to help get the word out and don’t be shy about asking people to “share” the news; this can be a great (and inexpensive) way to raise awareness

* Local businesses are often looking for ways to help out the community; consider approaching them for donations of funds or items to help with your event (e.g., food and beverages or items for raffle prizes) or even to post flyers about your cause

* While organizing an event can be hard work, the rewards are immeasurable

For Lora, the walk provided more than just an opportunity to raise awareness and celebrate Lyndon. It also connected her with many others facing a similar challenge.

“It’s so empowering celebrating HAE Day with other HAE patients. Having a rare disease can sometimes make you feel alone and isolated, so bringing people together who can relate and share stories is incredible,” said Lora.

As for the future of the ‘Lyndon Brooke Stidham Memorial Walk,’ Lora’s dream is to take the memorial walk across America.

“I want to bring this event to people all over the U.S. so that we can continue to raise awareness about HAE across the country,” said Lora.

To learn more about HAE Day, visit www.HAEDay.org. To find a health care professional, visit www.HAEA.org, the official Web site of the U.S. Hereditary Angioedema Association.

This content provided courtesy of Shire.

Categories: Lifestyle

Protecting your kid's data starts with you

Education - Fri, 08/29/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - To succeed in today’s classrooms, students must be more than book smart - they must be digital learners as well. Modern technology such as e-books, online tutorial programs, educational social media options and apps are providing access to personalized learning opportunities which were not available to previous generations of students.

And while this technology is helping children learn and develop in innovative ways, it is also collecting important data about how these students are learning. E-books, for example, have the ability to track which pages a student has read, monitoring a student’s progress. Data collected during learning sessions can help teachers evaluate student progress and recognize those students who are facing challenges. This can help to personalize learning for all students.

These technologies can help improve the educational experience for students, but there is the potential that the collected data could be accessed by others. Companies who create some of the apps used in an educational setting are typically able to review the data the apps generate; they may even be able to sell it to marketers.

The thought of student data ending up in the hands of marketers may make parents anxious, but the potential sharing of student data is preventable. When school districts adopt new technology for use in their classrooms, there will be a user agreement that accompanies the technology. As a parent you have a right to be informed about the data being collected about your student and how it is being used.

The first step in monitoring your child’s data is to access a full list from the school of the technologies or apps students will be using in the classroom. This list may be posted online as part of the supplies needed list or handed out during the first week of school with the rest of the important school information.

Once you have this list, go online to read the user agreements for those sites. This is where you’ll discover how the data collected will be used. Some questions to keep in mind while reviewing the user agreements are:

* What data points are being collected about my child?

* Why do you need that data? How are you going to use the data about my child?

* What are you doing to protect my child’s data? What measures are in place to protect the data?

User agreements can often be long and difficult to understand, so look for these terms as you read to help you make a more informed decision:

* Staff responsibilities: Here you will learn what staff’s role is in using the data, especially as it applies to privacy.

* User responsibilities: What actions are expected of the user to ensure data is being used correctly and accurately? You’ll find that information here.

* Acceptable use: What is defined as acceptable use, both for the technology and the data? This section should outline how that data can be used and by whom.

* Unacceptable use: Don’t expect acceptable use to cover everything. There may be a section entitled unacceptable use that will provide insight into what practices are forbidden regarding the technology and the data it attains.

* Differentiating characteristics. This term itself won’t be included but you’re looking for mentions of gender, age, ethnicity and other terms that may be used to quantify your student.

“The responsibility of safeguarding students’ data can be overwhelming to schools and parents alike. Use this opportunity as a ‘teachable moment:’ together, with your kids, look at the default settings of the apps and sites’ your kids like to use, and read the privacy policies,” says Darri Stephens, director of digital learning for Common Sense Media. “Ask your kids about their favorite digital tools and gain insight as to how they communicate, collaborate, and create online. At the same time, stress the importance of never relinquishing any private ‘Personal Identifying Information,’ when setting up personal online accounts. Too often, our kids don’t understand that the data they generate by engaging in the digital world is valuable to many companies, third party marketers, and others who would take advantage of it. Kids need our support and guidance in considering the long-lasting consequences of over-sharing in the digital world.”

You can learn more about user agreements and the educational benefits of technology by visiting www.k12blueprint.com, which is sponsored by Intel.

Categories: Lifestyle

Exciting STEM careers and opportunities aplenty in the Navy

Education - Thu, 08/28/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - There’s a big push for students to excel in the subjects of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), and for good reason. The careers available to students pursuing degrees in these areas present students with plenty of exciting and challenging opportunities. What you might not realize is how many of those opportunities exist in the Navy.

The Navy is looking for intelligent students with critical thinking skills who are interested in careers that involve working on the world’s most-advance weapons systems, developing the next generation of medical technology, or a number of other fields of STEM study. It is estimated more than 1 million STEM jobs will be created by 2020, creating a great need in the market for qualified employees.

For these reasons, talented, committed individuals with a STEM education will be needed to maintain the U.S. as a world technology leader. The U.S. Navy is partnering with organizations across the U.S. to help promote an interest in STEM subjects among elementary to college-level students. The Navy STEM for the Classroom tool is available for teachers and students, providing lesson plans and interactive tools to increase learning in these subjects.

One program incorporating STEM subject learning with real-world experiences is the Oceanography and Meteorology lesson, which provides students and teachers in the classroom tools to learn, study and measure the principles of oceanography like waves, tides and currents. Once they understand how these principles affect ocean navigation, students will be able to pursue other exciting opportunities like a hands-on search-and-rescue scenario.

The Navy also offers the Navy Proving Grounds widget, which is an interactive tool for students to test their minds in diving missions, flight school or at-sea trials.

Students with a background in STEM courses have the opportunity in the Navy to work with some of the most awe-inspiring ships, submarines, aircraft and communications systems, develop unmanned vehicles and robotics that keep people out of harm’s way, and pioneer advances in everything from nuclear propulsion to biofuels or medical research. A STEM-related career in the Navy provides almost limitless possibilities for leadership and relevant experience.

Joining the Navy allows students interested in STEM subjects to continue their learning with ongoing development opportunities during nearly all stages of their career. These opportunities include:

* Navy Reserve Officers Training Corps (NROTC) scholarship program with up to $180,000 available for college.

* Nuclear Propulsion Officer Candidate Program, which offers up to $168,300 for students who finish a degree in math, engineering, physics or chemistry, and allows them to begin the process to become a commissioned Navy Nuclear Officer.

* Civil Engineer Collegiate Program giving students pursuing civil engineering degrees the opportunity to pursue projects around the world right out of college. This program also offers up to $113,100 while finishing a college degree.

For more information about opportunities to serve in the Navy, call 866-408-1241 or visit navy.com.

Categories: Lifestyle

The growing burden of diabetes

Community Cares - Thu, 08/28/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - Next time you're looking around in a crowd, there is something you won't see that will be there - Type 2 diabetes. Most Americans have heard of the condition, but very few understand just how prevalent it has become across the nation. In fact, Type 2 diabetes affects at least one in every 10 Americans. That’s about 9.3 percent of the population or 29.1 million people and a dramatic increase from 2010 when 25.8 million people, or 8.3 percent, were living with diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). If this growing health problem isn’t addressed, the CDC estimates it will affect one in every three Americans by 2050.

Diabetes also affects loved ones and places an unsustainable burden on the health care system. With current medical costs at $176 billion annually as reported by the American Diabetes Association, people with diabetes have, on average, 2.3 times higher medical expenditures. Factor in the $69 billion in indirect costs – disability, work loss, premature death – and you can understand the substantial burden diabetes represents in this country. Diabetes remains the seventh leading cause of death in the United States. Many of those who die are vulnerable because they are low-income, uninsured or under-insured individuals with limited access to quality health care. 

What’s being done?

Initiatives like the Alliance to Reduce Disparities in Diabetes, supported by the Merck Foundation, are helping tackle this problem. The Alliance works to improve the delivery and quality of care for people most affected by the disease. Working with national, regional and community partners, the Alliance is implementing programs to educate the public about diabetes prevention and teach people living with diabetes how to manage their condition and take charge of their health. Programs include diabetes management classes, home visits and cultural awareness/communication training for health care providers as well as innovative health care system changes to ensure that programs are sustained over time.

The Alliance is delivering hope to people with diabetes across the country with program sites in Camden, New Jersey; Chicago; Dallas; Memphis, Tennessee; and the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming. People with diabetes who are enrolled in the Camden program have already seen a substantial reduction in the number of preventable hospital and emergency room visits. Patients enrolled across all five sites have also shown a decrease in blood sugar – an important step in preventing complications from diabetes. If similar programs were established across the country, cost savings could be considerable.

Know your risk

As the saying goes, you can’t manage what you don’t measure - so understanding your risk of diabetes is half the battle. Type 2 diabetes can affect people of any age in any region, but certain ethnic groups are more likely to be diagnosed with the disease than others.

In particular, African Americans are almost twice as likely to be diagnosed with diabetes as non-Hispanic whites and more likely to experience complications. Diabetes is more prevalent among Hispanic populations as well. On average, Hispanics are 1.7 times more likely to have diabetes than non-Hispanic whites. Native Americans and Alaska Native adults are also twice as likely to be diagnosed with diabetes as non-Hispanic white adults.

While many vulnerable, underserved populations are at increased risk of diabetes, there is hope. Diabetes is a serious condition, but one that can be effectively managed by medication adherence, proper diet and exercise and receiving more coordinated health care. Initiatives like the Alliance are working to close gaps in access and improve the quality of health care for vulnerable populations. To learn more about diabetes and the work of the Alliance, visit the Alliance to Reduce Disparities in Diabetes website at http://ardd.sph.umich.edu

Simple tips to lower your risk of Type 2 diabetes
It is essential to seek advice from a medical professional if you feel you may be at risk for Type 2 diabetes. However, these steps presented in The Nutrition Source by the Harvard School of Public Health, may lower your chances of being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes:

* Stop smoking

* Lose excess weight

* Exercise for 30 minutes each day

* Eat healthy foods and limit excess sugar and processed meats

Categories: Lifestyle

Exciting STEM careers and opportunities aplenty in the Navy

Business/Careers - Thu, 08/28/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - There’s a big push for students to excel in the subjects of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), and for good reason. The careers available to students pursuing degrees in these areas present students with plenty of exciting and challenging opportunities. What you might not realize is how many of those opportunities exist in the Navy.

The Navy is looking for intelligent students with critical thinking skills who are interested in careers that involve working on the world’s most-advance weapons systems, developing the next generation of medical technology, or a number of other fields of STEM study. It is estimated more than 1 million STEM jobs will be created by 2020, creating a great need in the market for qualified employees.

For these reasons, talented, committed individuals with a STEM education will be needed to maintain the U.S. as a world technology leader. The U.S. Navy is partnering with organizations across the U.S. to help promote an interest in STEM subjects among elementary to college-level students. The Navy STEM for the Classroom tool is available for teachers and students, providing lesson plans and interactive tools to increase learning in these subjects.

One program incorporating STEM subject learning with real-world experiences is the Oceanography and Meteorology lesson, which provides students and teachers in the classroom tools to learn, study and measure the principles of oceanography like waves, tides and currents. Once they understand how these principles affect ocean navigation, students will be able to pursue other exciting opportunities like a hands-on search-and-rescue scenario.

The Navy also offers the Navy Proving Grounds widget, which is an interactive tool for students to test their minds in diving missions, flight school or at-sea trials.

Students with a background in STEM courses have the opportunity in the Navy to work with some of the most awe-inspiring ships, submarines, aircraft and communications systems, develop unmanned vehicles and robotics that keep people out of harm’s way, and pioneer advances in everything from nuclear propulsion to biofuels or medical research. A STEM-related career in the Navy provides almost limitless possibilities for leadership and relevant experience.

Joining the Navy allows students interested in STEM subjects to continue their learning with ongoing development opportunities during nearly all stages of their career. These opportunities include:

* Navy Reserve Officers Training Corps (NROTC) scholarship program with up to $180,000 available for college.

* Nuclear Propulsion Officer Candidate Program, which offers up to $168,300 for students who finish a degree in math, engineering, physics or chemistry, and allows them to begin the process to become a commissioned Navy Nuclear Officer.

* Civil Engineer Collegiate Program giving students pursuing civil engineering degrees the opportunity to pursue projects around the world right out of college. This program also offers up to $113,100 while finishing a college degree.

For more information about opportunities to serve in the Navy, call 866-408-1241 or visit navy.com.

Categories: Lifestyle

5 secrets to keeping your sanity this school year

Education - Wed, 08/27/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - The summer months are over and the school year is in full swing. As a parent, this means you’ve traded those lazy summer days for school sports and activities, colder temperatures and the morning rush to the bus stop. If you feel like your home’s organization is hanging on by a thread, take heart; there are some simple things you can do to return order and make the rest of your school year run smoothly. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

* Take the hectic out of those hectic mornings. Let’s be honest, the mornings are pure chaos. There’s breakfast to prepare, school supplies to collect and outfits to pick out. It’s a whirlwind. However, you can return some sanity to your mornings by accomplishing some simple tasks the night before. Before they go to bed, have your children pick out their school outfit for the following day and pack their backpacks – this will reduce the risk of forgetting something.

* Make snacking simple. Snacking is a mainstay for families on the run. Whether it’s an addition to a lunchbox, an option for an after school snack or something to eat at halftime, your kids’ snacks need to be simple. Snack Factory Pretzel Crisps Minis are the perfect choice for kids on the move. Pair them with nuts, dried fruit and chocolate for a delicious snack mix, or serve them individually when you’re on the go. Available in Original and Cheddar flavors, and at just 110 calories per serving, Pretzel Crisps Minis are a better option for your children than greasy potato chips.

* Create a homework station. As a parent, nothing is more frustrating than learning your child received a failing grade simply because they lost their assignment. Keep your home organized and your child’s assignments accounted for by creating a designated homework area in your home. A space in your office, a desk in the kitchen or a spot at the dining room table works great. You can even add a calendar to help your students keep track of the due dates for larger projects.

* Adjust the bathroom routine. Of all the routines that create morning chaos, the battle for the bathroom is king. Simply put, this space is a one-at-a-time area, and if you have more kids than bathrooms, tension will arise. You can circumvent this by putting some of your children – or even yourself – on the evening shift when it comes to showers. Small children or children who require less mirror time in the morning are the logical choice, but you may want to set up a rotating schedule to keep the peace.

* Have a plan. If you have multiple kids in multiple activities, it can be impossible to keep track of who needs to be where and when, so don’t try. When your child joins a new activity, ask to see the schedule and instantly add the appropriate dates and times to your calendar. Don’t rely on your kids to remember when they need to be somewhere; they won’t remember until they are already 15 minutes late. You simply don’t need the headache.

The school year is a far cry from those relaxing days of summer, but you don’t have to let the crazy control your life. Institute these simple changes to maintain some order, and you’ll reach the following summer with a smile on your face and your sanity intact.

Categories: Lifestyle

Catch a glimpse of fall colors on these awesome off-road trails

Automotive - Wed, 08/27/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - The fall months are a great time for families to enjoy the great outdoors with the changing of colors and much cooler temperatures. If you don’t already have a fall escape weekend planned, you might want to consider scheduling one soon.

Interest in outdoor adventures is on the rise, especially for women, with more than 80 percent of women surveyed by Polaris considering themselves adventurous.

There’s no better way to experience the vibrancy of fall but to immerse yourself and the family in the brilliance, and an off-road vehicle provides a front-seat view. For family members of all abilities who want to drive their own off-road vehicle on the trails, the single-seat Polaris ACE is designed with the comfort and capability people want in an ATV, but with the security of a UTV for additional confidence when riding the trail. The high-backed, adjustable bucket seat is combined with an adjustable steering wheel to ensure the ride is about experiencing the outdoors in comfort.

If you’re interested in seeing some of the best colors America has to offer, check out these off-road trails designed to showcase vibrant reds, shimmering golds and deep purples that will have you catching your breath in awe of the beauty.

Copper Harbor, Michigan – This small town was given the best of Mother Nature’s talents overlooking Lake Superior. The drive to the tip of the Upper Peninsula is long, but Cooper Harbor provides an extensive system of off-road trails running along the lake’s shoreline. Keep in mind, fall colors change earlier in the UP along the shore, so consider planning your fall trip for around the first weekend in October.

Rock Run Recreation Area, Patton, Pennsylvania – The Allegheny Mountains combine a beautiful combination of oak, cherry, yellow poplar, ash and maple trees for a colorful fall blend that starts around the last week of September and peaks around the second week of October. Rock Run has 140 miles of trails to keep your family entertained for a long weekend, and you can easily find a camping spot in the three campgrounds spread around the recreation area.

Paiute Trail, South Central Utah – As the largest trail system in the nation, this is an opportunity your family can’t pass up, especially if you want to see some gorgeous fall colors. Many of the trails weave their way through Fishlake National Forest, which has a blend of deep green coniferous trees mixed in with the colorful orange and gold hues of aspens. The trail system is so extensive, your family will always be looking around the next corner from your Polaris ACE to capture a glimpse of new canyon, lake, scenic overlook or quiet valley.

Hatfield-McCoy Trails, West Virginia – With 700 trails ranging from easy to the most difficult, your family will have plenty of opportunity to enjoy the off-road riding, the scenery of the mountains in Southern West Virginia and spend some quality time together. There is no camping allowed on the trail system, but there are plenty of bed and breakfasts, cabins and campgrounds, as well as hotels and rental homes scattered throughout the six counties the trails cross. The second and third week in October tend to offer peak fall colors, so be sure to book your lodging early for your family excursion.

Clark and Jackson Counties, Wisconsin – With 227 miles of ATV and UTV trails available in these two counties, your family will have no difficulty filling a long fall weekend with fun and sightseeing. Clark and Jackson counties are known for their beautiful rolling hills, wandering streams and plentiful wildlife. Oaks, maples, birch and pine trees are common, providing a beautiful backdrop of color along the trails.

These are just a few of the many off-road trail options scattered across the country. Start planning a fun, mini fall vacation for your family to experience the colors in a whole new way, from the seat of an off-road vehicle.  With two power options, 32 and 45 horsepower, the Polaris ACE provides just enough power for beginners and a spirited ride for the more advanced rider ensuring a fall colors experience like no other.

Categories: Lifestyle

Shopping for a new vehicle? 5 questions to ask yourself before signing on the dotted line

Automotive - Wed, 08/27/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - It’s that time again - time to buy a new car. Maybe you’re excited because you’ve been dreaming of getting new wheels for a long time now. Or maybe you’re nervous; buying a car is a big financial commitment and you want to make sure you do your homework. If you fall into this second group, don’t worry; these five simple questions can help you find a vehicle that fits your lifestyle.

* Is it a lemon? When you purchase your vehicle, the last thing you want to do is shop for another car in a couple of years. Picking a reliable vehicle is key. So how do you do it? Make a list of the vehicles you’re interested in and head to the Web to research previous vehicle recalls. If you are buying a used car, websites like CarFax.com and others can also show you the history of that particular car, giving you insight into just how reliable it will be.

* Where’s the value? Whether safety is your top concern or you want the most vehicle for your money, it’s all about value. USAA, which provides car buying guidance (or help) and recommendations to its members, recently released its fourth-annual Best Value list identifying the top vehicles for 2014. The list includes vehicles that finished at the top of USAA’s preferred propriety rating system, which evaluates safety, reliability, cost and other factors. There is also a list of the top 10 vehicles for teens, which you can review if you’ll soon be sharing a garage with a new driver.

* How will you pay for it? Behind safety, financing is probably the most important thing to consider when buying a new car. Before you sign on the dotted line, make sure you’ve thoroughly researched your financing options. And remember, you have other options besides what the dealership offers you.

* Are there any physical concerns you need to remember? Not every vehicle is perfect for every person. Think about yourself and who will most often ride with you. If you or your passengers are very tall, a smaller sedan may not make sense. Likewise, people who have mobility challenges may not be comfortable getting into a large pickup truck.

* Will it grow with your family? Sure it fits your needs now, but what about next year? The year after that? Whether it is children, pets or joining the office carpool, consider the fact that the space you need presently might not be the space you need even a year from now.

Shopping for a new car can be an exciting experience, but it can be nerve-wracking as well. As you begin your search, remember these questions and you’ll be closer to finding the vehicle of your dreams. To learn more about USAA’s Best Value list, visit usaa.com/bestvalue.

Categories: Lifestyle
Both of the Malvern High School golf teams had good outings on Thursday, Sept. 4, with the Leopards...
The Malvern Lady Leopards volleyball team hosted White Hall on Thursday, Sept. 4 and came away with...
By Eric Moore, Sports Editor A lot of things have happened in the short history of the Malvern-Glen...
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