Skip to main content


Syndicate content
Education and Careers
Updated: 20 min 41 sec ago

New discoveries decode the symbols and mysteries of the Mona Lisa

Mon, 09/22/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - Almost 500 years after the death of artist Leonardo da Vinci, the world-famous Mona Lisa painting continues to fascinate people of all ages. An estimated 6 million people view the painting each year at the Louvre in France, and many more read and study about its history and the theories surrounding the legendary work of art.

The identity of the woman

One of the most debated mysteries of the Mona Lisa is the identity of the woman behind the iconic smile. Following 12 years of investigation, academic and art historian W.N. Varvel has confirmed that the painting took place in the Italian duchy of Mantua, where da Vinci promised to paint in color the portrait of Marquesa Isabella d’Este, considered to be an intellectual prodigy.

“Leonardo made three preparatory sketches during his stay in Mantua in 1500,” says Varvel. “The key to unraveling the mystery behind the painting’s iconic woman was the discovery of the final preparatory sketch of Isabella d’Este within a private art collection in Florence. When you compare Leonardo’s final sketch to the Mona Lisa, her true identity is immediately obvious.”

Varvel explains several new theories about the Mona Lisa in his book, “The Lady Speaks: Uncovering the Hidden Secrets of the Mona Lisa” (Brown Books Publishing Group).Through illustrations and maps, he details research that identifies the woman and explains the correlation between the painting and the bible.

Hidden meaning behind symbols

Intrigue deepens around symbols hidden in the painting. In fact, Varvel has identified 40 separate symbols comprised of 15 geographic landmarks and 25 religious representations. Several of note include:

The composition of the Mona Lisa combines three separate elements: a map of the Old City of Jerusalem, a pen and ink sketch of Isabella d'Este done in 1500, and verses found in chapter 14 of the Old Testament Book of Zechariah.

The symbols within the composition of the Mona Lisa present the message contained within the 21 verses of chapter 14 of the Book of Zechariah. This message states that the Christian concept of the "New Jerusalem" will not begin on earth until women’s rights to the priesthood of Jesus Christ are recognized.

Secret of the smile
The smile of the Mona Lisa is not meant to entice viewers to ponder her physical identity, but to recognize her theological rights and what is being hidden directly behind her back. The answer to this question is the "New Jerusalem." The body of the Mona Lisa has been painted within the exact geographic markers that define the boundaries of the "New Jerusalem" as stated in Zechariah 14:10.

“Leonardo placed symbols in the Mona Lisa as tantalizing clues to reveal the theme of the painting,” says Varvel. “Each of these 40 symbols specifically correlates to a verse found within the fourteenth chapter of Zechariah. This reinforces the theory that Leonardo used this single biblical chapter as his source of inspiration. When Leonardo combined the pen and ink sketch of Isabella d’Este with the map of the Old City of Jerusalem by placing her silhouette within the boundaries of the geographic landmarks, Leonardo married the subject of the painting to its stated theme in Zechariah.”

Summarizing the findings of the research, Varvel concludes, “For 500 years, the general public has suspected that the Mona Lisa was hiding something grand and now we know what it is.”

A video by the author on “The Lady Speaks: Uncovering the Secrets of the Mona Lisa” can be found at The book is available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million and IndieBound.

Categories: Lifestyle

Sports concussions generate attention with start of school year

Thu, 09/18/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - You’re spending your nights standing on the sidelines, cheering your daughter as she dribbles a soccer ball across the field. Or maybe you’re cheering on your quarterback son as he yells “hut” at a football scrimmage. The school year - and its associated sports - is an exciting time. But with that excitement comes the risk of traumatic injuries - including concussions.

Concussions are generating a lot of attention these days as an increasing amount of research highlights the difficulties in treating them.

To this end, the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) has developed Sports Concussion Guidelines - available in both English and Spanish - to help coaches, schools, parents and athletes better understand concussions, and when an injured athlete should be allowed to return to play. The guidelines cover the following:

Players: Concussions can happen in any sport and at any time during the season. A concussion can occur when the head hits, or is hit by, a solid surface. It can also happen when the head’s motion is stopped suddenly, even if it doesn’t strike, or is struck by, a solid surface. If you witness changes in the behavior or personality of a player on your team, or if you see them giving a blank stare, acting disoriented, suffering from memory loss or even vomiting, ask the player if he/she was involved in a collision. Alert your coach if you witness or are involved in any violent contact while on the field.

Parents: Educate yourselves about the signs of a concussion, as you know your child best when he/she might be exhibiting unusual behaviors. Download the AAN’s concussion reference sheet for parents, coaches and players at, and share with your young athlete your concerns about him/her playing with a head injury. While cheering for your child in practice and in games, keep an eye on the play for any potential head collisions and report anything significant that may have been missed.

Coaches: Have a conversation with your players early in the season about the dangers of concussions, and communicate clearly that they can happen in any sport at any time. The AAN offers a Concussion Quick Check mobile app to help coaches, parents, and athletic trainers quickly identify if a player is exhibiting signs of a concussion. Additionally, listen to your players if they are talking about someone having taken a hard hit. Enforce the rule that players should not be allowed to return to play following a head injury until they are evaluated and cleared by a physician.

Physicians: Concussions are also generating more attention in the medical field. Physicians are ethically obligated to safeguard the current and future physical and mental health of the student athletes they treat, whether the student has a concussion or not. This includes providing parents and athletes with information about concussion risk factors, symptoms and discussing the potential for long term brain health effects from repeated blows.

“Brain disease threatens to steal from us what makes us human,” says retired NFL player Ben Utecht, who suffered five known concussions during his football career and is now the spokesperson for the American Academy of Neurology and its foundation, the American Brain Foundation. “I will fight relentlessly to see that through research we can in fact find the origins of healing through the cures that are waiting to be discovered.”

Categories: Lifestyle

How to handle student-teacher conflicts for the benefit of your child's education

Wed, 09/17/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - Conflict and disagreements are a part of life. As an adult you understand this and you employ skills that help you mitigate conflicts and avoid future disagreements. Your children, however, may not have developed these skills yet. That means they will rely on you for help in dealing with these situations. Your help is especially important when the disagreement involves your child’s teacher. Approaching this situation in the proper way is important. It provides a good example for your children and sets them up for a successful learning experience the rest of the school year.

“When parents are active in their child’s education, the child is likely to perform better academically in school,” says Dr. Deborah Hammond-Watts, an adjunct professor in the College of Education at Argosy University, Chicago. “A good working relationship between school and home sends the message to a child that his/her parents and the school work together for his/her educational and emotional benefit.”

When a child approaches a parent with an issue or comment related to school and/or the teacher, parents should be willing to listen and to not jump to conclusions. “Whether you believe what your child is telling you or not, it is important that your child knows you are willing to listen,” says Dr. Dominick Ferello, professor in the College of Arts & Sciences and College of Education at Argosy University, Tampa.

The next step is for the parent to reach out to the teacher directly. Request a conference or time to discuss the matter with your child’s teacher directly (without your child present) to gain some understanding as to what the teacher perceives the concern or issue to be. “When requesting to talk with a teacher, keep in mind that the teacher’s job is to teach the children in the classroom during the school day. Schedule an appointment to make certain that the teacher has time to speak with you. Showing up at school and demanding to see a teacher may not always work in your favor,” says Hammond-Watts.

“Try not to make assumptions about what is going on before you have an opportunity to meet with the teacher,” says Ferello. “The goal for the meeting is to gather information about what may be going on, as well as make it clear that you want to partner with the teacher in helping your child to feel that the focus is on their education and helping them succeed in the classroom,” says Ferello. “Even in some of the most difficult situations, a compromise can probably be reached if both the teacher and parent keep in mind that they are working for the benefit of the child in the educational setting,” says Hammond-Watts.

The reality is that teachers aren’t perfect and neither are parents, says Ferello. As such, the outcome may not always be what either party had hoped for. “Teachers are faced with questions and concerns from a number of parents and children on any given day,” says Ferello. “Given the number of students they teach and the demands placed on them, it’s not hard to imagine that even teachers can get frustrated. Given that parents naturally want to stand up for their children and see the best in and for them, it stands to reason that parent/teacher conversations can sometimes go in the wrong direction.”

“If that happens, it’s important to acknowledge that you got off on the wrong foot,” says Hammond-Watts. “To change the relationship or the conversation, someone needs to address the ‘bad start’ and be willing to start over. Either the parent or teacher can do this.”

If you and the teacher just cannot get along after much effort and frustration, the principal or another administrator may need to get involved. “The presence of a third party may assist both teacher and parent to try to communicate in a way that demonstrates less conflict,” says Hammond-Watts. “After the meeting, the principal/administrator can meet separately with the parent and teacher to critique the meeting and offer solutions toward a better working relationship. While the principal can instruct the teacher to work with the parent in a professional manner, the teacher needs to be sincere in any efforts to do so.”

Categories: Lifestyle

Prime preschoolers for the classroom with developmental games

Wed, 09/17/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - While school prep is normally focused around kindergarten and elementary school students, increasingly preparations are occurring at much younger ages. Enhancing learning-based skills in preschoolers can be invaluable to their development and play is an essential role in early classroom experiences.

Developmental toys, like blocks and play construction tools, for example, have been very popular with children of all ages, creating problem solving situations and helping to spark creativity.

While building blocks have long been known to help young children develop motor skills and spatial awareness, toys such as the First Builders Spell School Bus by Mega Bloks also introduce kids to the alphabet and other classroom subjects. Learn more at

Developmental psychologist and child play expert Dr. Maureen O’Brien is just one of the experts advocating this kind of play for preschoolers. “Studies have shown that when children are actively involved in putting letters together - compared to simply pointing and naming - their memory and recognition skills are improved” says Dr. O’Brien. “Reading experts know that combining learning and fun is a better way to build skills than simply memorizing what letters look like.”

The same principles apply to math and other subjects, where construction toys like the 1-2-3 Learning Train from the Mega Bloks, can help kids get familiar with basic digits in a more hands-on way.

From giving kids their first taste of classroom subjects to helping them with motor skills and socializing, developmental toys like building blocks are a good way to help get kids excited at the idea of going to school. As they begin to mix learning and play, children will discover that school can be fun. They will be that much more ready and eager when it comes time to board the school bus.

Categories: Lifestyle

Teenager danger: Five rules for young drivers

Wed, 09/17/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - If you’re feeling nervous about handing the car keys to your teenager for the first time, you’re not alone. It’s a common sentiment given some sobering statistics. According to, 20 percent of all 16-year-old drivers will be involved in an accident during their first year behind the wheel.  And studies show more teenage motor vehicle fatalities happen during the summer than any other time of year. But there are some things you can do to help keep your teenager from becoming a statistic. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) has some tips and tools to keep your teen safe.

Though auto accidents are a fact of life for most drivers, even a minor fender bender can impact insurance rates, costing parents and teens for years to come. The good news is research shows teen drivers who follow rules are half as likely to get in an accident. Before your teen hits the road, consider establishing some simple guidelines to protect his or her safety and your wallet:

1. Set a driving curfew. More than 40 percent of teen auto deaths occur between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. Set a curfew to keep your teen off the road during these times.

2. Limit passengers. A teen’s relative risk of being involved in a fatal crash increases with each additional passenger. More passengers equal more potential distractions.

3. Make the cell phone off limits while driving. Talking and texting can double the likelihood of an accident. If your teen must use the phone, instruct him or her to pull over before doing so and be sure to set a good example when you are behind the wheel.

4. Empower your teen to exercise his or her rights as a passenger. Only 44 percent of teens say they would speak up if someone were driving in a way that scared them. Remind your teens they are just as vulnerable in an accident as the driver, so they should speak up if they feel unsafe.

5. Be Prepared. Arm your teens with the knowledge of what they should do if they do get into an accident. Mobile apps such as WreckCheck can help take the guesswork out of a tense situation, guiding users through a step-by-step process to create an accident report. WreckCheck uses your device’s location service, camera and audio recorder to document all pertinent information about the incident and provides tips on how to file and follow up on a claim.

A Teen Driver Contract is a simple way to keep your teen accountable. It establishes basic driving ground rules and clearly lays out the consequences associated with driving privileges. The NAIC has developed an online tool to guide parents through building a customized Teen Driver Contract. There’s also a downloadable sample contract to help get you started.

Educating yourself and your new driver about the risks and insurance implications of unsafe driving can save lives and money. As your teen begins his or her journey on the roadways, take time to speak openly and candidly about your expectations for behind-the-wheel behavior.

Categories: Lifestyle

5 secrets to keeping your sanity this school year

Wed, 09/17/2014 - 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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: Lifestyle

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

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

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, 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

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

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

5 college entrance exam tips to achieve success

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

Categories: Lifestyle

Protecting your kid's data starts with you

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, which is sponsored by Intel.

Categories: Lifestyle

Exciting STEM careers and opportunities aplenty in the Navy

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

Categories: Lifestyle
The Magnet Cove cross country teams traveled to Southern Arkansas University on Saturday, Sept. 13...
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...
Add to calendar


Classified Ads

Premium Drupal Themes by Adaptivethemes