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Education and Careers
Updated: 38 min 17 sec ago

Learn how to help college students take control of their health

Mon, 07/21/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - College may provide the first opportunity for many young adults to make important health decisions for themselves. In its Healthy Campus 2020 objectives, the American College Health Association’s Healthy Campus Coalition highlights a number of important topics for improving the health of college students, including vaccine-preventable diseases, nutrition and physical activity, substance abuse, mental health, and sexually transmitted diseases.

“College is an excellent opportunity for young adults to begin to take ownership of their health, especially as we know this population can experience an increase in mental health concerns,” says Dr. Vaughn Rickert, psychologist and professor of pediatrics and the Donald P. Orr chair in adolescent medicine at Indiana University School of Medicine and Riley Hospital for Children. “Helping teens be proactive about managing their health during this time can help establish positive health habits in addressing any concern as soon as it's recognized.”

Once teens start college, their eating, exercising and general health habits may change. One way to help maintain good health is for teens and young adults to get vaccinated. Vaccines to help prevent against HPV, flu and tetanus are recommended for college students and young adults, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Some states may require students entering college to be vaccinated against certain diseases, such as meningitis. It is important that teens discuss these recommended vaccines with their doctor during their annual checkup.

In addition, there are other steps students can take, such as eating right and exercising on a regular basis, that may help them maintain good health. According to the CDC, healthy nutrition starts with eating plenty of fruits and vegetables and balancing high calorie foods with healthier ones. Establishing an exercise routine can also help build and maintain healthy bones and muscles while reducing the risk of obesity, and developing chronic diseases, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

“During college, teens may begin to make new friends and celebrate new accomplishments,” says Dr. Rickert. “It is possible that alcohol will be present during these celebrations and social gatherings. Teens need to understand the importance of making responsible choices.” Alcohol is the most commonly used and abused drug among youth in the United States, according to the CDC. Underage drinking increases the risk of physical assault, school problems and abuse of other drugs.

College can also be overwhelming and stressful. Depression, anxiety and eating disorders are common mental health issues on college campuses. Many campuses run a suicide prevention hotline, which can be the first step in seeking support. Students can also visit the campus health center or a nearby clinic.

Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are another important issue many young adults can face during college. Nearly half of the 20 million new STDs diagnosed each year are among young people aged 15 to 24 years. Latex condoms can reduce the risk of transmission of some STDs when used consistently and correctly.

College students can discuss these important health topics with their doctor during their annual checkup. The best place to go for health services is a regular health care provider, according to the CDC. However, if a college student does not have one, they may be able to visit the on-campus clinic for a checkup.

Parents may also consider scheduling their teen’s annual checkup while their teen is home from college for a holiday or semester break. MyTeensHealth.com offers tips and resources to help ensure parents are prepared to help their teens stay healthy during college, including a checklist for their teen’s annual wellness visit.

Categories: Lifestyle

What employers want: the 3 'Cs'

Thu, 07/17/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - Whether you are an employer looking to hire someone or the person looking to get hired, it’s all about competency.

Only 11 percent of employers believe recent graduates have the skills needed to succeed within their work forces, according to a recent Lumina Foundation report. Two-thirds of employers say recent college graduates may have the skills and knowledge for entry-level positions but less than half believe recent graduates have what it takes for advancement to higher level jobs, according to a 2013 survey conducted for the Association of American Colleges and Universities.

So what are these essential competencies that candidates are missing? At the top of the list are the three “Cs”: critical thinking, collaboration and communication. Hiring officers look for candidates with good problem-solving abilities, the ability to work in teams, and those who have good verbal and written communications skills. For the “traditional” college graduate in his or her early 20’s, much of their focus in school was spent on mastering subject matter, not necessarily on cultivating the three “Cs”. They may have a degree but not much in the way of experience. On the other hand, working adults who are earning their degrees later in life have had ample opportunity to hone these skills and are lacking the credential – a diploma – to get hired or promoted.

A new approach to higher education taking hold on campuses and in board rooms is called competency-based education. Under this model, students can receive credit for knowledge and skills they already possess. A 2013 Gallup poll revealed that 87 percent of Americans believe students should be able to receive college credit for knowledge and skills obtained outside the classroom. Some schools, like Excelsior College, are well-established leaders in this practice. Degree programs like these define what students must know, have well-defined learning outcomes and have a rigorous means of assessing whether students have achieved these outcomes.

How can job candidates, young or older, demonstrate both subject-matter mastery and competence? To start, first evaluate and identify your unique combination of skills, values and personal traits. Research the job that you are seeking and the company that is doing the hiring. Think broadly and don’t confine yourself to the same industry in which you may have experiences, either as an employee or a student who had an internship. List the knowledge you have gained and skills you have developed.

“After you know who you are and what you have to offer, explore and choose the educational and career options that suit you best,” says Maribeth Gunner, director of career services at Excelsior College. “The key to selling yourself is to show your ability to apply knowledge (competence), rather than simply possessing it (mastery).”

Categories: Lifestyle

Seven tips for a greener back-to-school season

Wed, 07/16/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - With back-to-school shopping, changing schedules and preparing kids for the upcoming school year, your family’s environmental impact may be the last thing on your mind

It is possible to have a greener back-to-school season. Here are seven simple things parents and children can do to care for the environment – and themselves – as they return to school.

1. Reuse and recycle notebooks. While high schoolers may go through multiple notebooks per subject every year, it’s rare for elementary school-aged kids to use up their notebooks. Tear out used pages (and recycle them, of course) from last year’s notebooks so that kids can use the remaining blank pages. Use contact paper to freshen and reinforce covers that are worn or written on.

2. Give broken and worn down crayons new life. Gather all the bits and separate by color. Remove all papers. Using a mini-muffin pan (or mini ramekins in fun shapes), fill each cup with crayon pieces in one color. Melt in an oven set at 350 degrees just until crayons are completely melted. Cool at room temperature, then freeze for 30 minutes to make it easier to remove the newly formed crayons.

3. Refresh smelly shoes naturally. Stinky gym bags and tennis shoes don’t have to be a reality for your athletic child, and you don’t have to resort to chemicals to kill odor. You can create a natural deodorizing spray with essential oils. Simply mix 12 to 16 drops of lemon oil, six drops of red thyme oil and 2 drops of patchouli oil and 4 ounces of water in a misting bottle. Shake vigorously and mist inside gym bags and shoes. The formula not only kills odors, it adds an energizing, refreshing aroma.

4. Look for ways to green your commute to school. If you live close to school, consider walking or biking. Families with longer commutes may consider carpooling or using the school bus.

5. Green lunches by packing them in reusable lunch bags (no brown bags or plastic baggies, please). Pack sandwiches in reusable sandwich containers, and use bento-style boxes with multiple compartments to hold snacks, veggies and other sides. Replace plastic water bottles with reusable bottles – plenty of fun, colorful options are available.

6. Energize naturally. Do your kids grab a sugary soft drink or sweet snack to boost their awareness while doing homework? Instead of relying on unhealthy treats for an energy boost that will come with a crash afterward, energize homework time with an essential oil diffusion. Aura Cacia offers this mood-boosting blend:

Ingredients:
10 drops peppermint essential oil
3 drops eucalyptus essential oil
2 drops ginger essential oil
3 drops sweet orange essential oil

Directions:
Combine all oils in a mister bottle and spritz in the air around your child’s work space. To give kids a boost during the school day, soak a cotton ball in the essential oils blend, slip it into a reusable plastic container and place in your child’s book bag. Whenever he needs a burst of energy during the day, he can open it and take a quick whiff.

7. Lighten up your electricity use and carbon footprint. Get kids involved in a fun weekend project by replacing incandescent bulbs throughout the house with energy-efficient CFLs or LEDs. These bulbs give off the same amount of light for back-to-school tasks like homework or picking out a first-day outfit, but use about 80 percent less electricity and can last for eight or more years before needing replacement.

Categories: Lifestyle

Wholesome snacks for back to school

Wed, 07/16/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - The school year is here and with it, all of those hectic schedules. You may think the chaos of another school year means you’re too busy to provide your children with nourishing after-school snacks, but that doesn’t have to happen. There are many easy recipes available that will allow you to provide wholesome and delicious snacks to your kids, and there are easy ways to be sure they enjoy them. Here are a few ideas.

Ask them to help

Your children will be more excited about eating a healthy after-school snack if they have a hand in its creation. Creating a garden vegetable tray is an easy way to let kids customize their snack to their own taste preferences. Smaller kids can organize the grape tomatoes while you cut the peppers, and when you’re finished, you can all enjoy the snack together. This large recipe is perfect if your kids are bringing friends over. You could also create the tray on a Monday and then enjoy it all week long.

Garden vegetable tray

Ingredients

1 package Simply Organic Southwest Ranch Greek Yogurt Dip Mix

1 16-ounce package Stonyfield Plain Organic Nonfat Greek Yogurt

1 small zucchini, sliced

1 small yellow squash, sliced

1 pint grape tomatoes

1 medium jicama, peeled and sliced into sticks

1 orange bell pepper, seeded and sliced

1 green bell pepper, seeded and sliced

1 bunch of radishes

1 bunch green onions - about 10 - trimmed

1 head romaine lettuce, large leaves only for the base of the vegetable platter

1 red bell pepper

Instructions

Mix Simply Organic Southwest Ranch Greek Dip Mix with the 16-ounce package of Stonyfield Plain Organic Nonfat Greek Yogurt. Chill for 30 minutes.

Line a large tray or shallow dish with a decorative napkin and Romaine lettuce leaves.

Seed the red bell pepper by slicing off the top of the pepper, then pull out the membrane and seeds. Discard membrane and seeds, but keep the top for decoration.

Fill the hollow bell pepper with chilled Simply Organic Southwest Ranch Greek Dip and place in the center of the tray or dish.

Arrange corn, zucchini, yellow squash, grape tomatoes, jicama sticks, orange and green bell pepper, radishes and green onions around the red bell pepper dip cup.

Place toothpicks or skewers on nearby serving platter.

Hide healthy foods in delicious flavors

Sometimes the right presentation is all you need for your children to enjoy healthy snacks. This recipe for a banana, pineapple and orange smoothie hides nutritious fruit in a savory offering that feels more like a dessert. Just make sure your kids don’t drink it too fast to ward off brain freeze.

Banana, pineapple and orange smoothie

Ingredients

1 medium sized frozen banana (peel removed before frozen)

1 cup frozen pineapple

6 ounces Greek Yogurt

1/2 cup coconut milk

1/2 teaspoon Simply Organic Orange Flavor

1/2 teaspoon Simply Organic Vanilla Flavoring

Fresh orange slices and shredded coconut, for garnish

Directions

In a blender, blend all ingredients until smooth, about 3 to 4 minutes. Use a spatula to scrape the sides down as needed throughout blending.

Serve immediately.

Snack on the run

After a long day of sitting at their desks at school, your kids may not be interested in sitting at the table for snack time. If you’re kids are on the go, this quick, savory recipe will give them a nutritious snack they can enjoy anywhere so you don’t have to turn to chips or candy.

Roasted chickpeas

Ingredients

2 cans (16 oz. each) chickpeas, drained, rinsed and dried

2 Tbsp. olive oil

1 packet Simply Organic’s Crazy Awesome Veggies seasoning blends

Instructions

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Place chickpeas in bowl.

Toss with olive oil and seasoning blend until evenly coated.

Spread in a layer on rimmed baking sheet.

Bake 30-40 minutes or until crisp.

Creating delicious, wholesome snacks for your kids is easier than you think. All you need is the right recipe. For more easy recipe ideas to make back to school as healthy and nutritious as possible, visit www.simplyorganic.com.

Categories: Lifestyle

Parents: How to pick the right cost-effective technology device for your child's learning

Tue, 07/15/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - When it comes to education, Americans may hotly debate testing, grading and teacher accountability, but one topic that finds wide-spread support among educators, parents, legislators and students is the value of technology in the classroom. With a majority of teachers reporting in a PBS Learning Media survey that they use technology to reinforce and expand on lessons and motivate students to learn, it is only a matter of time before your child will use technology in the classroom.

When your child needs to use technology to support their learning, will you know what type of cost-effective device to buy for maximum learning benefit?

To choose the best device for your child, you need to think about how they will use the device in their learning. Some projects will require work on a PC – such as online assessments or activities that use Microsoft Office applications. If your child needs a quick, easy and cost-effective way to access the Internet for research or online collaboration, a Chromebook might be a good choice. With the Google Apps for Education suite, Chromebooks allow students and teachers the ability to search the Web and do most basic productivity activities. Additionally, if your child’s school system is set up to support Chromebooks, teachers can monitor student progress and streamline communications.

“Chromebooks are stable, dependable [and] provide easy access to learning content,” says Heather Vogel, a teacher at Battle Creek Middle School in St. Paul, Minn. “No bells and whistles, just a no-nonsense portal to a new, highly personalized way of learning.”

If you’re thinking of buying a Chromebook for your child, keep these tips in mind:

* Screen size – Chromebooks vary in screen size so for parents looking for a more generous screen, Toshiba offers a 13-inch screen and HP offers a 14-inch screen.

* Durability – Some Chromebooks, such as the Lenovo X131E, have been developed and designed to be especially rugged with students in mind.

* Battery life – With longer battery life, Chromebooks are less likely to turn off mid-class. Intel-powered Chromebooks boast a 57-percent longer battery life while Web browsing, according to a study by Principled Technologies.

* Speed – A device’s processor should be powerful enough to ensure students can easily and quickly read textbooks and take notes online, complete homework, create presentations and share files. The Principled Technologies study also revealed that Chromebooks powered by Intel offer faster speeds and better performance than competitor processors. Faster access means students will spend less time waiting and more time learning.

* Graphics capabilities – Much of what students do in class will be graphics-intensive (such as an anatomy simulation), so their Chromebook should run on a processor that will allow for smooth, vibrant graphics across all applications.

* Start-up time – Students are busy and easily distracted. Shorter start-up time means the learning process can begin more quickly.

* Price – Although prices on digital devices are becoming more reasonable across the board, Chromebooks can be especially cost-effective. For example, the Acer 720 is a lighter and lower cost device.

* Support/resources – Students don’t learn in a vacuum and their Chromebooks shouldn’t have to operate in one either. It’s important to choose a device that offers students and parents access to support and resources 24/7. Intel supports students, parents, and teachers with K-12 Blueprint, a website that provides information about products, capabilities and features of the Chromebook that are useful for students. Visit www.k12blueprint.com/chromebooks and follow @IntelK12Edu on Twitter for further resources.

Already accustomed to technology in their daily lives, today’s students are eager to embrace technology in the classroom. With educators and parents on the same page, they can create a learning environment where students can thrive.  

“I feel more connected to [my school] now and - in some ways - it feels like the other kids and I are part of a big workplace, except our job is to learn,” says Maria Jiminez, a student at Piedmont High School in Monroe, N.C. “Chromebooks are like a tool that makes everything so simple. And - with my workload and extra-curricular activities, simplicity is a really good thing!”

Categories: Lifestyle

Serve your country and explore the world simultaneously

Tue, 07/15/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - It’s no secret that world travel is one of the most exciting perks enjoyed by men and women in America’s Navy. With more than 100 ports of call around the globe and bases in multiple time zones, there’s a great chance you’ll see the world over the course of your Navy career.

On any given day, 600,000 Sailors and Navy civilians are working together around the globe to perform their mission of deterring aggression and, if deterrence fails, winning our Nation’s wars. Even if that doesn’t satisfy your appetite for adventure, during your ample vacation time, you’ll be able to fly standby on military flights around the world for a small fee. You can cross many international and domestic destinations off your travel bucket list during your time of service.

What’s more, you will often be eligible to stay in base lodging around the world. This includes lodging at any military facility that has rooms available for military personnel and their families, and lodging is usually provided at a cost much lower than you would find at an off-base hotel.

These cost savings on travel are a great benefit that isn’t often found in post high-school or college careers. It all amounts to a lifetime of adventure, culture and memories that you and your family can enjoy throughout your time in the Navy and beyond.

Sailors serve around the world on a variety of missions and at many ports. One of the top port destinations is Sydney, Australia, which has an electric nightlife, plenty of beaches and great recreational activities. When on vacation, it’s just a short flight or bus trip to Brisbane or Cairns to explore the Great Barrier Reef, or take a trip along the Great Ocean Road between Melbourne and Adelaide.

Those who prefer a more European experience will love Rota, Spain, which is the gateway to the Mediterranean. This port is connected to the rest of Europe, thanks to an extensive transportation system that gives Sailors plenty of options for their vacations. Another great European port is Naples, Italy, which is just a short train ride from the beautiful and historic city of Pompeii. The city has been rebuilt, but exploring the unearthed ruins is a very educational experience. Sailors can also take the train up to Rome for a one-day visit or even for a long holiday.

While it’s not an international destination, another top port Sailors love to visit is Hawaii, with its rich history and tropical setting. Sailors don’t need to go far to find beautiful beaches and recreational activities in the water, and relaxing on shore is a perfect way to spend some holiday vacation time.

To see where Sailors are serving today, visit navylive.dodlive.mil/category/inside-the-navy/your-navy-today.

For more information about opportunities to serve, visit www.navy.com.

Categories: Lifestyle

What's the top learning style in America? Hands-on wins hands down, survey says

Tue, 07/15/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - Children learn by doing, and every child has a unique learning style all his or her own, child development experts tell us. The same can be said of adults if a recent survey is any indication. A majority of Americans say hands-on training is the hands-down winner when they want to learn something new in an educational environment, according a Harris Interactive poll conducted on behalf of Everest College.

Surprising in the Internet age when most Americans spend hours a day online, 52 percent of the 1,011 adults polled said active participation through hands-on training was the best learning method, while just 19 percent counted using the Internet as a preferred learning tool. Watching a demonstration by an instructor came in a distant second at 28 percent, and just 15 percent valued watching videos.

“When it comes to what learning methods work best, everyone is different,” says John Swartz, regional director of career services at Everest College. “Clearly, most Americans feel hands-on training works best for them. For our education system to succeed in preparing Americans for the working world, it’s critical for us to understand what learning styles work best for all students, whether they’re pre-K kids or older Americans returning to school for advanced training.”

There’s no arguing the value of higher education in professional life. In 2012, workers with a professional degree earned $1,083 more per week than those with only a high school education, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Unemployment rates for those with only a high school diploma were more than four times that of workers with professional degrees.

With college costs continuing to increase and competition remaining high for available jobs, both high school graduates and working professionals seeking to further their careers through advanced degrees recognize the importance of finding the right educational program for their learning style.

“Students who practice what they’re learning in a hands-on environment can often retain much more information when compared with sitting passively in a lecture room, so it’s not a surprise that hands-on training is the overwhelming favorite,” Swartz says.

Other variables play a role in determining an adult’s preferred learning style, the survey indicates. While both sexes preferred hands-on training overall, men were significantly more likely than women to say hands-on training worked best for them. Women were significantly more likely to say visual demonstrations worked best for them.

Top earners also liked the Internet; 30 percent of those with household incomes topping $100,000 said the Internet worked best for them as a learning tool, while just 18 percent of workers earning less than $35,000 agreed. Twenty-eight percent of Americans ages 45 to 54 chose reading from a text book as their top method.

“It’s no secret that students in the U.S. are falling in the rankings on global achievement tests, so it’s imperative that we invest in early education, retain the top educators, and identify the best forms of training programs and learning methods to prepare future generations,” Swartz says. “One of the major benefits of tactile learning, or hands-on training, is that it develops critical thinking skills that give students the ability to make on-the-spot decisions in a workplace environment.”

Categories: Lifestyle

How to change careers in 5 simple steps

Mon, 07/14/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - A teacher transitioning to a job in the corporate world. A stay-at-home mom rejoining the workforce. A baby boomer choosing a new career over retirement. There are countless individuals every day that carefully weigh the pros and cons of making a major career change. Are you one of them?

Driven by passion and the desire to have more satisfying work, eager individuals are taking the leap of faith and switching to an entirely new career this year. If you’re contemplating a career change, there are some important things to consider so you can plan and position yourself for success. These five tips will help you gain confidence in your decision to transform your work.

1. Define your passion
What do you truly love to do? It could be cooking, working with children, gardening, number-crunching, etc. Start by defining what you’re passionate about and realistically look at how that passion can be tapped so you can make money doing what you love. It’s also wise to analyze the reasons why you want to make a career change. Long-term dissatisfaction with your work might be a good reason to consider a new career, but isolated issues that have taken place recently might not necessarily be the best reason to make such a big life change.

2. Think outside the box
You may already know what you love to do, but finding a way to make it a career might be a more complex task. Think creatively and don’t be afraid to go outside the typical 9-to-5 job options. If you have an entrepreneurial spirit, starting a franchise can be a rewarding opportunity. For example, if you enjoy helping children learn and want to play a role in shaping the future of growing minds, consider being an owner/operator of a Kumon Math and Reading Franchise. By building a career with the world’s largest after-school math and reading academic enrichment program, you’ll be a business owner who is also a driving force for social good by having a profound impact on the lives of children in your community. Visit kumonfranchise.com to learn more.

3. Make time to plan
Changing careers is a huge step that can be challenging. It is not something that should be done impulsively, and you must give yourself time to plan. You’ll want to be sure you are mentally and financially prepared for what’s next. Setbacks are bound to occur along with the successes, and with thorough planning you’ll position yourself for even more positive outcomes.

4. Be practical and research
Changing careers is a journey, not a race. Being practical about decisions and making changes in stages can be helpful. Explore opportunities that are attractive to you and talk with others who work in that industry. They can provide the best insight into what the day-to-day responsibilities would be, including the pluses and drawbacks of the job. Remember to research the outlook for different industries and career paths as well. The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook is a great resource.

5. Build a support network
Having supportive friends and family can be a key factor in successfully making a major career change. Make sure you have a network of supportive individuals who will be there for you through it all. Professional support can make a big difference, too. Franchise owners at Kumon join more than 2,000 individually owned and operated centers across North America, meaning they have the support of many other people who know the industry and what it takes to succeed. Additionally, having a mentor, no matter what career path you pursue, can provide you with expertise and counsel to help position you for a bright future.

Categories: Lifestyle

Keeping kids stimulated all summer can help prevent the summer learning slide

Fri, 07/11/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - For most kids, the final school bell signals a break from learning and a focus on summer fun, but for parents it often means an uphill battle to beat the “summer slide” in their child’s learning. Significant knowledge and skills gained during the previous school year can be lost if children don’t participate in enrichment and learning activities during summer break.

In fact, children run the risk of losing newly learned Common Core curriculum skills they developed during the year.

The good news for parents who are concerned about the summer slide is that several Common Core teachings can be easily adapted from the classroom to fun summer projects conducted at home and in the community.

“The summer slide can mean a child may spend the first two months of the new school year playing catchup instead of learning new material,” says Dr. Ashley Norris, assistant dean of the College of Education at University of Phoenix. “Parents need to plan a balanced mix of activities for their children during the summer that not only include sports and extracurricular activities, but learning activities that emphasize math and reading skills.”

Norris, who prepares prospective and current teachers to address dynamics in schools and the classroom, recommends parents incorporate Common Core themes into the summer curriculum they plan for their children. Here are six fun, educational activities that can help kids avoid the summer slide and also provide parents with opportunities to connect with their children.

1. Turn everyday activities into learning opportunities
According to a recent University of Phoenix College of Education survey, 38 percent of teachers believe Common Core curriculum ties learning to real-world scenarios. Errands are an easy way to engage children in reading and math skills. Consider having your child help make the grocery list, go shopping with you and practice adding up the bill and calculating the tax.

2. Seek inspiration from community events and activities
Visit the farmers market to learn about vegetables and teach the importance of healthy eating. Attend concerts and then ask your child to research his favorite musical instruments. Head to the local nature center to learn about native plants and then return home and ask the kids to draw what they saw.

3. Embrace technology and create interactive projects and activities
Apps and websites such as Pinterest are making Common Core projects available for parents to set up at home. Pinterest has new math and reading challenges that are posted daily. You can also search for Common Core apps developed by schools across the country combining video games with math and science skills.

4. Focus on core competencies
Look for activities that emphasize core skills such as math and reading. Creating a cooking project is one of the best ways to integrate these skills as children are required to follow directions of a recipe and learn about cooking elements such as time, temperature and measuring ingredients.

5. Balance academic and social engagement
Look for activities or summer camps that not only promote social skill development, but allow for knowledge in specific content areas. Science and technology camps provide hands-on learning projects such as bridge building, mouse-trap cars or the construction of robots. Many science museums offer home projects on their websites.

6. Plan a trip to the library
Common Core requires students to conduct in-depth research from multiple sources and then discuss their findings with peers. Families can do similar activities throughout the summer. Each family member can search for information on a chosen topic then set a time to gather and discuss the findings, which research tools were used and if more information is available. Make it a game by voting for the family member who found the most interesting or unique fact.

If you keep them engaged during the summer break, your children can pick up right where they left off when the school bell rings in the fall.

Categories: Lifestyle

From battlefield to boardroom ... jobs report suggests more positive employment environment for military veterans

Fri, 07/11/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - Employment opportunities seem to be on the upswing for military veterans, which is encouraging for the hundreds of thousands of service members returning from duty and veterans who are looking for new civilian career opportunities.

The unemployment rate for veterans dropped to 6.6 percent in 2013, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. While the news is positive, a 2013 University of Phoenix survey conducted by Harris Poll, revealed only one-third (33 percent) of active duty service members reported having made a transition plan for returning to civilian life after separation from the military.

“Service members acquire skills during their military careers that bring value and diverse experience to civilian workplaces,” said University of Phoenix Military Relations vice president, retired Army Col. Garland Williams. “But some men and women leaving the service may not know how to market their skills as they transition to civilian jobs, and may therefore take jobs that do not leverage their experience. As thousands of men and women return from Iraq and Afghanistan to a highly competitive job market, it is imperative that they have a plan to translate their skills into fulfilling and enriching jobs.”

If service members don’t know where to start, there are resources such as the U.S. Department of Labor’s Transitional Assistance Program (TAP) to help veterans translate their skills and find quality jobs.

Service members who have recently returned home might be interested in pursuing careers at firms recognized for hiring veterans. The military has a Best Veteran Employers list as well as current job postings for those companies. This list is updated frequently, so job seekers should check it often. In additional to applying for current positions, service members may consider requesting informational interviews in advance of their job searches to make sure they have the necessary training to be considered for the roles.

Some universities also offer resources for members of the military community who want to understand the available career options, making it easier to get started or continue a career path. For example, the Military Skills Translator Tool provided by University of Phoenix takes a service member’s military occupational specialty code and provides a list of civilian occupations that correlate to the job skills the service member used and refined while in the military. Each military job is linked directly to labor market data to provide background on jobs and the education required to enter a specific field. Service members can also earn college credit toward their degree programs based on their military experience.

Here are some additional tips offered by Williams to help active duty service members and veterans prepare for a civilian job search:

Start early. Begin the transition process from military to civilian life as early as two years before being discharged.

Speak the language. Communicate military experience and training with words, not acronyms, which may not translate on a resume. Promote universal skills such as leadership, management, cooperation, teamwork and strategic thinking.

Don’t be afraid to promote yourself. As every proud service member knows, there is a “we” vs. “me” mentality in the military. The ability to work in a team is important to communicate, but you also have to be willing to discuss your own contributions and results.

Consider flexible education and training programs. Education can help you address knowledge gaps and better understand and prepare for future careers.

Categories: Lifestyle

Intersection of technology and health care improves patient care

Wed, 07/09/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - The health care industry is shifting its focus from volume to value, rewarding health care providers who offer higher quality, more efficient care. The goal is a transition from an outdated model focused on symptoms to one focused on the patient, improving overall population health through disease prevention and customized care.

Many health systems are adopting new technology to enable this evolution. Electronic health records (EHRs) allow health care providers to digitally store patient health information from multiple sources. Nurse informaticists, an emerging profession at the intersection of technology and health care, help facilitate this data sharing across health care teams, enabling a more patient-centric, customized approach to care.

Seventy-five percent of health care providers would attribute improved patient care to EHRs, according to a 2012 study by the National Center for Health Statistics. Dr. Toni Hebda, professor in the Master of Science in Nursing degree program at Chamberlain College of Nursing, says nurse informaticists help make this possible.

“Nurse informaticists streamline information sharing allowing care teams of doctors, nurses and other health care professionals to work together more closely,” she explains. “Seamless function of EHRs means less time charting in records, more time caring and advocating for patients and improved continuity of care.”

Emmanuel Patrick Palma Jr., a registered nurse, is an implementation manager at a leading health care system north of Chicago. He works with an integrated EHR system now used in 70 percent of U.S. hospitals that no longer use paper charts to deliver patient care.

“I like to be the bridge between the nursing and IT sides of health care, knowing how to clinically and technically operate within the system,” he says. “Patients appreciate that with EHRs, they can go to their primary care physician or the emergency room and all of their health care information is available to the nurses and physicians. The care they receive is targeted to address their unique medical history and long-term wellness.”

Like many nurse informaticists, Palma began his career as a registered nurse before the informaticist role was formalized. He had a solid understanding of technology and assisted with EHR integration within the scope of his daily work.

Palma quickly became an expert on informatics but lacked the education required for a promotion within the organization. For this reason, he decided to pursue his Master of Science in Nursing at Chamberlain, which offers an informatics specialty track online so students can continue to work while they earn their degree.

According to a recent Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society survey of nursing informatics professionals, 70 percent of respondents have titles that specify an informatics position. The growing formalization of the role is also reflected in informaticists’ education: two-thirds have post-graduate degrees in informatics and 28 percent have a master’s or doctorate degree in informatics. Subsequently, nursing informatics salaries are rising. The average nursing informatics salary grew from $69,500 in 2004 to $100,717 in 2014.

After graduating with his master’s in October of 2013, Palma is prepared to sit for the national certification exam, which he will take to become fully credentialed and able to take on more formal informatics responsibilities.

“My nursing education at Chamberlain taught me that change happens every day; the only constant in life is change,” Palma says. “A nursing informaticist is a change agent who adapts to the transforming technology at hand to advance patient care and improve outcomes. Accept the change, embrace the change and advocate for the change.”

Categories: Lifestyle

Smart tips to keep your student and their possessions safe this school year

Mon, 07/07/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - If you’re on the way to the cabin or in the middle of an amazing family summer vacation, the upcoming school year is probably quite far from your mind. However, school will be here before you know it, and it’s important to make sure your child or teen has all the tips and tools he or she needs to be successful this year. As those helpful - and oftentimes required - educational tools continue to get more expensive, it is in your best interest to teach your children how to keep their property safe.

“With millions of iPads, smart phones and laptops now essential parts of everyday student life, efforts must be made to keep them secure,” says Rebecca Smith with Master Lock. “The new school year can be stressful enough without worrying about losing expensive electronics and other valuables.”

If you plan to make safety part of your back-to-school preparations this fall, the following tips will ensure your student, and his or her possessions, enjoy a safe, productive year.

1. Safety away from the desk. Middle school and high school mean your teen will be traveling around the building much more than they did in elementary school. This extra travel increases the risk of lost or stolen items. To protect these items, find out what locks are provided by the school and what you need to provide yourself. Then look for a padlock like the Master Lock 1500eXD dialSpeed Digital Combination Padlock to keep your teen’s possessions safe. This easy to use lock, which features a set your own combination for easiest recall, provides a measure of safety for your teen and ensures their clothing and electronics remain right where they left them. You may also consider getting one for their gym locker as well so they can participate carefree.

2. Have a back-up plan. Being a student today means more than just protecting your physical possessions. There are plenty of digital files to be worried about as well. As your teen writes longer, more in-depth papers and reports, it’s important to develop a back-up system for these projects. A paper lost to a power outage or computer error could take hours to recreate. Teens can prevent this by saving their work in multiple locations, including at least one cloud-based system that can be accessed anywhere, such as the Master Lock Vault. Students should also save their online passwords and lock combinations there, assuring they’re never without a code they need.

3. Keep the combination secret. The best way for students to protect the items in their lockers is to make sure they are the only person who can access them. This means encouraging them to not share their locker combination with anyone else. Remind your child that even though sharing lockers with his or her best friend or girlfriend/boyfriend may sound like a great idea, it could lead to other unintended people having access to personal belongings inside, putting the contents at risk. And if your student will have a locker partner, make sure that both teens understand the risk of sharing their combinations with anyone outside of their locker partner.

4. Invest in the proper backpack. Not all backpacks are created equal. Your child’s backpack and its contents should amount to no more than 10-20 percent of their body weight. When shopping for a new backpack, select a pack with dual shoulder straps and instruct your child to wear both to dissuade thieves from trying to steal the pack. If your child’s backpack has only one strap, slinging it across the body protects it better than carrying it over one shoulder. A lightweight portable lock like the 1550DAST Backpack Lock is perfect for warding off pickpockets and protecting your child’s possessions. Older students may not want a backpack at all so remind them that carrying one ensures they have all of their materials where they need them and they won’t leave anything behind to be lost or stolen.

You may not be ready to think about the new school year just yet, but the first bell will ring before you know it. Planning proper safety and security procedures ahead of time will ensure your student has an enjoyable year and can focus on getting the most out of each and every class.

For more advice on back-to-school security tips, visit www.masterlock.com.

Categories: Lifestyle

Money-saving tips so you can earn your degree without going into debt

Thu, 07/03/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - If you’ve just finished high school and you’re headed to college, or if you’re an adult student looking to go back to school, chances are you’ve thought about student debt. You’re not alone.

The epidemic of student debt is taking higher education by storm. In 2011, combined student debt eclipsed the $1 trillion mark. Consider the fact that total credit card debt in the United States was estimated at $798 billion that same year, and you can see why student debt is such a problem.

While concerns about accruing debt may make you nervous, obtaining your college degree is the key to better career opportunities and a higher earning potential throughout your professional life. So how do you earn the degree of your dreams without a mountain of debt? Follow these money-saving, debt-prevention tips and you’ll see the benefits on graduation day.

* Avoid the credit card blitz. As a college student you will be inundated with new credit card offers. While the idea of spending now and paying later may be tempting, credit cards carry some of the highest interest rates available. Frequent use of your credit card without paying the balance off in full will cause you to pile up debt quickly. What’s worse, poor use of your credit card – maxing out the limit or making late payments – hurts your credit score and could make future purchases like a home or car more difficult. Avoid credit cards if possible, but if you must have a card, try to limit your cards to no more than two and don’t charge more than you can pay off each month.

* Maintain your current job or take a part-time job. Paying off credit cards or staying ahead is easier if you’re working part-time. Many students don’t want to work during their college years, but part-time work is an excellent way to avoid debt. Working even a few hours a week can help you pay down your bills and provide for a little financial cushion so you don’t always have to feel like a poor college student.

* Seek advice at your school. Universities across the country are more aware of student debt than ever before, and some of them are even instituting programs to help students save and reduce debt. Columbia College of Missouri’s Money Stacks Program provides students with important financial education and the tips and tools they need to graduate with little to no debt. You’ll learn about saving, spending smartly and how overall financial awareness can help you avoid debt.

* Avoid using loan money for non-education related costs. Think your loans are like a low-interest credit card? Think again. Instead of looking at your loans as a source of free money, budget your loan money solely for tuition, books and related fees. This will ensure your loan money is spent as it was intended and you stay on budget.

* Save money where you can. College is expensive, but there are plenty of ways you can save. Purchase new textbooks only after you’ve exhausted rental or used-book options. Living at home or in the dorms is more cost effective than renting a place of your own. Plus, if you live on campus or close to public transportation, you can eliminate the need to own your own vehicle, which will save you even more.

A college education is an investment that will benefit you the rest of your life, and while you may be concerned about the debt that pursuing a degree can create, saving and spending smartly will allow you to attain your degree without a mountain of bills. To learn more about Columbia College of Missouri and its Money Stacks Program, visit www.facebook.com/CCMoneyStacks.

Categories: Lifestyle

Important guidelines for landing that perfect job

Tue, 07/01/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - Graduating students are out in droves trying to find jobs that will enhance their careers. But before beginning the resume and interviewing process, there are certain do’s and don’ts that students should be aware of so they will be competitive in today’s limited job market.

“Beyond the usual resume and interview, it is also important to note that having a social media presence is mandatory,” says Stephanie Hausladen, director of career services for Heald College – Fresno. “Recruiters will do their homework before they invite you in for an interview – 98 percent of recruiters are using social recruiting according to a recent survey from Bullhorn.”

Hausladen says to keep these tips in mind:

Social networking do’s 

* Recruiters using social media to check out potential employees breaks down to the following: LinkedIn (97 percent), Facebook (51 percent), Twitter (49 percent), Google+ (19.1 percent), and Pinterest (3.6 percent), so make sure your bio, your skill sets and your interests are current and accurate and be sure to have a professional photograph taken and used for these sites.

* Google your name before being interviewed so you know what is out there. Your interviewer will check all social media outlets before talking to you.

* Set those privacy settings. If you don’t, the world will know what you did over the weekend and it could jeopardize your chances of getting the interview or even the job.

Social networking don’ts

* Don’t tweet anything inappropriate, someone is always looking.

* Don’t post compromising pictures, jokes or personal stories on the Internet. Recruiters and potential employers are checking.

Beyond social media, an integral process of job hunting involves having a proper resume, below are some resume do’s and don’ts to remember.

Resume do’s or FAKTA

Focus:  Make your resume reader friendly and use bullet points for specifics.

Appearance: Do not use the title resume. Put name, address, one phone number, an email address, education, and experience. In describing you former employment list your title/position, the name of the employer, the city and state (no street address) and dates of employment. In describing your education spell out the name of the degree (Associate of Arts, Bachelor of Arts), the name of the college, the city and state where it is located and your major and minor. Do not justify margins or use smaller than 10.5 font.

Keywords: In order to get noticed, your resume needs to contain keywords that directly target the jobs you are interested in. Your resume keywords should include specific job requirements, including your skills, software and technology competencies, relevant credentials and previous employers. There are various websites that list keywords.

Transferable skills: Transferable skills are the skills you've gathered through various jobs, volunteer work, sports or other life experiences that can be used in your next job or new career.

Accomplishments: A solid list of accomplishments on a resume can demonstrate your work ethic and ability to achieve results but avoid exaggeration, irrelevancies and ancient history. Accomplishments are more important to describe than duties.

Resume don’ts

* Don’t have misspellings or typos; proofread carefully.

* Don’t put a career objective statement at the beginning.

* Don’t use personal pronouns or include personal interests or hobbies.

* Don’t lie.

* Don’t have an inappropriate email address. What may have been cute in college may not be accepted in a professional setting.

Interview do’s

* Wear appropriate, conservative clothing.

* Arrive at least 10 minutes before the interview to give yourself time to freshen up.

* Treat others in the office with respect. They may be asked how you treated them.

* Have a firm handshake.

* Make eye contact with the interviewer at all times.

* Write the interviewer a thank you note.

Interview don’ts

* Don’t make excuses for past decisions or make negative comments about former employers.

* Don’t bring up salary or appear desperate for employment.

* Don’t treat the interview casually like you are shopping around for a job.

* Don’t chew gum or suck on candy (including breath mints).

* Don’t play with your cellphone while waiting for your interview to start.

* Don’t interrupt the interviewer.

By following these guidelines, prospective employees will have a better chance to compete in the job market and land that perfect job. The Internet is an invaluable source of information on how to be the best candidate for a job.

Categories: Lifestyle

Librarians: unsung heroes of the digital age

Fri, 06/27/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - There has been a substantial increase in students taking online college courses, changing significantly how modern learners access information, and librarians have adjusted to keep pace with an ever increasing demand for knowledge in the digital age.

Recent data on college attendance show that, through the fall of 2012, 7.1 million students, or about one-third of all enrolled students, were taking at least one course online. Sixty-three percent of chief academic officers at the nation’s colleges and universities believe it very likely that within five years the majority of students will be taking at least one course online, according to a survey conducted in 2013 by Babson Research.

Given this anticipated growth in online learning and that anyone, not only college students, can access information on just about anything via the Internet, some may think that libraries and librarians are becoming less relevant in the digital age. The truth is that they are needed now more than ever.

Libraries and the professionals who staff them have risen to meet the needs of a constantly changing digital environment, shifting from gatekeeper of information to educator, a role that extends well beyond the college campus.

Today’s librarians support users by providing access to electronic resources and instructing those who may be unfamiliar with how to use the varied formats in which these resources may exist.  As they experience more new forms of technology, librarians have to stay on the forefront of how these technologies work and how they impact the flow of information.

“Libraries continue to be epicenters of knowledge,” says Anita Norton, director of the online library at Excelsior College. “Online students, for example, rightfully expect and should have access to the same resources and services available as their peers at brick and mortar institutions.  It has always been a responsibility of librarians to ensure that everyone has equal access to information and in the digital age libraries have to be creative and proactive in their outreach to all users.”

In the modern library, users will find opportunities for self-paced learning through video tutorials and professionals who tailor resources for different proficiency levels. They also need to address the varying needs and preferred learning styles of users from all walks of life. The Internet has erased geographical boundaries so librarians have to meet their clients wherever and whenever they are, all over the world and at all times of the day. In helping users navigate the plethora of resources available, such as Excelsior’s online writing lab or OWL, librarians must be able to help them discern the best possible resource for the intended purpose and, once the information is found, help evaluate the obtained information critically.

In an online education environment, like Excelsior College, librarians often collaborate with faculty members in the development of courses to incorporate the research and critical thinking skills most employers say are highly desired and needed. As managers of information across all disciplines, librarians are essential partners in preparing students, both academically and professionally, by helping to provide a much more robust learning experience. This collaboration benefits everyone and is in keeping with the results of research conducted for the Association of American Colleges and Universities in 2013. In this online survey of employers nationwide, 93 percent of those responding said that a candidate’s ability to think critically, communicate clearly and solve complex problems is more important than the undergraduate major potential employees had earned.

Underpinning all of these skills is the ethical use of information along with the ability to interact with others in the virtual environment. In doing so, the modern library gives users the ability to become both consumers and producers of information. Libraries continue to serve as gateways to learning more and librarians still provide the keys to unlocking the potential knowledge that can be obtained. Librarians are the unsung heroes of information in the digital age.

Categories: Lifestyle

The places you'll go: Tips for female graduates on how to lean in to your career

Thu, 06/26/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - More females are graduating from college than ever before, but does gender still play a role in career success? Does the so-called glass ceiling still exist? The truth is females face unique considerations when it comes to growing and navigating a career.

Rachel Thomas, president of LeanIn.Org, still remembers her first negotiation. Heart pounding and palms sweaty, she sat across the table from her boss-to-be armed with tips from her dad and a nervous smile. She ended up with a salary increase so modest, she says, “I could barely afford an extra tank of gas each pay cycle.”

Many negotiations and years later, it finally dawned on Thomas that her dad gave her bad advice. It turns out that what works for men in the workplace often doesn’t work for women.

It’s critical that young women learn how to manage their careers as women. Yet they often don’t have access to the right information. For example, search for “negotiation” in the books category on Amazon, and you’ll find nine out of the top 10 books were written by men. (A co-ed writing team penned the 10th.)

Yet seemingly small missed opportunities can significantly impact a woman’s bank account and career trajectory. Women are four times less likely to negotiate than men. Now consider the difference between a woman who accepts a $25,000 starting salary and a man who negotiates for $5,000 more: when they’re 60, the man will have made $361,171 more in salary. And it’s not just about money – according to one recent study, employees who negotiate are promoted 17 months earlier than those who don’t.

“Lean In for Graduates,” the new edition of Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s best-selling book “Lean In,” offers recent graduates practical advice for choosing a path, finding a job, negotiating a first salary, and positioning themselves for success at work – all through the lens of gender. Here are three tips taken from the book that all graduates, especially women, should know as they transition from school to the workplace:

Adopt the mantra “Proceed and be bold”

Being bold is especially important for women because they often fear putting themselves out there. “Men will apply for jobs if they think they meet just 60 percent of the job requirements, while women will apply only if they think they meet all of them,” says Thomas. Now who’s got a better chance of getting that job – the man who applies for it or the woman who doesn’t?

Adopt the same principle for opportunities at work. Let your manager know you’re interested in stretch assignments and keep your eyes open for projects that will allow you to make your mark. Shift from thinking “I’m not ready to do that” to thinking “I want to do that – and I’ll learn by doing it."

Negotiate wisely

“You won’t get what you don’t ask for, so make it a rule to negotiate,” says Thomas. “But before you do, understand how stereotypes impact negotiations.” Research shows that we expect men to be assertive and look out for themselves, so there’s little downside when they advocate on their own behalf. In contrast, we expect women to be communal and collaborative, so when they advocate for themselves, we often react unfavorably.

One strategy to combat this, says Thomas, is to use communal language. As she explains, “women get better results when they emphasize a concern for organizational relationships.” For example, you might say, “If I join the team, I will do my best to contribute to its success. It’s important that my salary reflects the education and skills that will enable me to do this.”

Sit at the table

It can be hard to feel confident when you’re just starting your career – and research shows it’s even harder for women. Women tend to underestimate their performance, while men tend to overestimate theirs.

“It’s difficult to change the way you feel, but you can change the way you think and act,” explains Thomas. When you walk into a meeting feeling insecure, remind yourself that you’ve earned your position. Then take a seat at the table, raise your hand, and surprise yourself. “When you push past your insecurities and go for it, you gain more confidence, which leads to more opportunities,” says Thomas.

The common thread in all of these tips is, Go for it! When you see an opportunity, imagine what success looks like for you and lean in to it. For more career tips for graduates, visit leanin.org/grads.

Categories: Lifestyle

Balancing active duty and pursuing an online degree

Thu, 06/26/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - As an active member in the U.S. Air Force, Diana Kramer has been deployed five times – twice to Iraq and Afghanistan. In fact, in the past year, she has traveled to Laos, Vietnam, Thailand, Guam and Kuwait, just to name a few. And while she has been traveling the world, it doesn’t mean she can’t pursue a degree at the same time.

Kramer, who is stationed at Eielson Air Force Base near the town of North Pole, Alaska, was recently named a 2014 Tillman Military Scholar by the Pat Tillman Foundation. Her career goal is to help counsel fellow veterans coping with the symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). It was her positive encounter with counseling through the Air Force that inspired her to pursue an academic degree in psychology, but realized that the traditional college route wasn’t realistic with her unpredictable travel schedule. Instead, she decided to pursue a degree in psychology through Arizona State University Online, which is a leading school in the country for online veteran degree programs.

Going in, Kramer was concerned about balancing classes with the requirements of her military duties but she quickly learned that with the flexibility and support provided through ASU Online, she could be a student and have a successful military career. It was also important to her to find a program that understood the specific needs of a military student and could offer guidance as she earned her degree. As a second-year student, she had the opportunity to establish best practices on how to best approach balancing active duty and an online degree:

* Take advantage of military-specific resources. Fortunately, the Pat Tillman Veterans Center through Arizona State University offers dedicated military advisors to help with anything from GI Bill benefits, course selection, tutoring services, to general guidance. Kramer highly recommends finding an online program with advisors and coaches who can offer a military perspective and recognize the unique nature of the military lifestyle. These are important resources to take advantage of in order to seek time management advice and stay on track with your courses.

* Frequently communicate with your online professors. It’s always important to regularly communicate with your professors and inform them of potential issues and obstacles at the start of a term. If you expect to be deployed in combat areas, let your instructors know that Internet access may be unreliable with possible communication blackouts. As expected, there will be obstacles that you can’t predict but Kramer found that if you keep the line of communication open with your professors, they’ll be more understanding of the situation and extend the deadline under extenuating circumstances.

* Plan ahead and learn the course technology. When Kramer first enrolled with ASU Online, one of her biggest challenges was taking care of time-sensitive assignments. Finding a decent Internet connection can be a struggle while on the road so she learned to plan ahead and complete time-sensitive assignments in advance if she knew she was going to be traveling. Kramer also recommends getting comfortable with the course technology prior to a major exam or assignment. Whether the course is delivered by Internet, video, audio or print, test all class components before the term starts to ensure the technology isn’t going to be a roadblock. It’s also important to know where to get technical support prior to any online assignments or exams so you have a direct contact in case any technical difficulties arise on the road.

* Devote time to study. Effective time management can make the difference between success and failure when juggling education, active duty and a family. Many assume that distance learning is easier than a traditional college education, but online programs require the same time commitment as on-campus programs. Kramer typically dedicates two to three hours weekly per credit for studying and online assignments. It’s also important to understand the time commitment of each class you enroll in each term so you are able to realistically meet the study time requirements.

Online education is often a natural fit for active military students. These students already possess the self-discipline and motivation which are two key components to succeeding at online education, but it’s also important to take advantage of the guidance and support from military advisors, professors, family and peers along the way.

Categories: Lifestyle

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

Wed, 06/25/2014 - 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

Student loan aftermath: educating graduates on the importance of credit scores

Wed, 06/25/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - This is a special time of year. Across the nation, graduates are on the horizon of new careers and building their own lives.

While this is an exciting stage in life, it is a concerning time as well. Many students are graduating with student loan debt, and research shows that Millennials (ages 18-34) know comparatively little about how that debt affects their credit scores and what it takes to have great credit, according to recent research conducted by the Consumer Federation of America (CFA) and VantageScore Solutions, LLC.

How concerning is it? The research found that only 40 percent of Millennials claim to have good or better knowledge about credit scores. Furthermore, only 65 percent of Millennials could name the three main credit bureaus. And fewer than half (47 percent) of Millennials knew that age is not a factor when calculating credit scores.

“Most troubling is that only 42 percent of Millennials know that a credit score measures the risk of not repaying a loan rather than factors such as knowledge of, or attitude to, consumer credit,” says CFA Executive Director Stephen Brobeck. “Consumers should be aware that they can take steps to reduce this risk and improve their scores, most importantly by making all loan payments on time.”

Since credit can be the key to home, auto and other ownership, how can graduates improve their credit scores and make their future dreams a reality? Here are a couple of ideas and resources:

* Access your credit reports. The research shows that individuals who have obtained their credit reports previously knew significantly more about their credit than those who have not. If you’re looking to improve your credit, it is important to become more credit literate, review your credit report and find out your existing scores. Websites like www.CreditScoreQuiz.org help people understand their credit scores and the many life situations that are affected by credit scores. You can also obtain a free copy of your credit report from all three national reporting companies at www.annualcreditreport.com.

* Pay your bills on time each month. Making late payments on your monthly bills does more than just damage your credit scores. It causes you to waste money on needless late fees and additional interest charges. Paying bills on time is the most effective way to pay your bills off quickly and, ultimately, maintain good credit health.

* Avoid maxing out a credit card. Credit cards carry some of the highest interest rates around, and the more you charge on your card, the longer it will take to pay it off. Maxing out your credit card may also damage your credit score because it will appear as if you are overspending your limits.

* Pay down the highest-interest-rate bills first. If you’re making the minimum payment on your bills each month, it’s likely that you’re going to be paying interest. Some bills, such as credit cards, will carry higher interest rates than other bills, like student loans. After you’ve set aside the money necessary to pay the minimum balances each month, use your remaining funds to pay down the highest-interest-rate bills first. This will save you money in the long run.

* Don’t take out too much credit at the same time. Some lenders also look at your debt-to-income ratio. A high percentage ratio can signal to lenders that your monthly debt payments are more than what your gross monthly income can accommodate. Therefore, carrying a heavy credit balance may hurt your credit score because it suggests you may not be managing your finances wisely. Work towards maintaining at least less than 30 percent of your maximum credit on each credit card.

The pathway towards having good credit is sustainable if you can consistently demonstrate the ability to manage your credit accounts without becoming overextended and missing payments. Much like earning your degree, improving your credit takes hard work, dedication and time. But, if you develop a sound plan and stick to it, you’ll achieve the scores you deserve in the end.

Categories: Lifestyle

Game on: Kid tested, parent approved?

Wed, 06/25/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - It is no secret that kids love video games - they’re exciting, fun and engrossing. As a parent, you worry about the negative effects of screen time. Nevertheless, many video games are not only fun, but also build and strengthen cognitive development - skills in problem solving, reasoning, math and science. So how can a parent choose?

“In past decades, educational video games were known for poor design and cheap production,” says Jason Wiser, faculty in the Media Arts & Animation program at The New England Institute of Art, “with wonderful exceptions like Zoombinis and Oregon Trail putting all this shovelware to shame. But as gamers have grown up and become parents, the more discerning audience has helped give rise to a new generation of better games for kids.”

Wiser will be launching his own children’s game app this summer, DinoTrucks, where children ages 3 to 10 experiment with open play by excavating bones and building dinosaurs.

A successful educational game’s core purpose should be fun and interactive, yet still teach as part of that interaction.

“As consumers, children are very particular and tend to gravitate toward simple, flashy characters but for a game to hold their interest, it needs to be thought-provoking, creative, exciting and fun at its core - the learning is secondary,” says Mathew Quickel, faculty instructor of Computer Animation at The Art Institute of York-Pennsylvania. “This is a message that is heard loud and clear by game and app developers who create games that were in line with their interests. There has been a notable shift in game creation – it is common to see games created based on what children and their parents’ interests are.” 

The video game industry is one of the fastest-growing sectors in the U.S. economy and is projected to grow by 5 percent annually through 2015, according to the Entertainment Software Association. As a subset of that, children’s apps and video games are expected to continue to grow as parents are willing to pay increased amounts for games that will entertain and teach.

“Parents who buy games for their kids are typically more concerned with content than price; they are willing to pay for a good product,” Wiser says. Current trends include STEM (science, technology, engineering and math)-focused games like “The Counting Kingdom,” the ever-popular first person “shooter” games (good for learning strategy and immersive team play), kids’ versions of adult games (i.e. Minion Dash, the Despicable Me game which is based on the endless runner “Temple Run”) and games based on established properties, like “Olaf’s Quest” from Disney’s Frozen.

Both Wiser and Quickel agree that parents will determine what games they feel are “meaningful” and what they would like their child to play. They offer these tips when selecting games for kids:

* Become familiar with the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (www.esrb.com). Their ratings are designed to help potential players understand the game's content and offer guidance on which games are appropriate for different ages.

* Explore www.familyfriendlyvideogames.com. This site provides a report card on games, with detailed descriptions of game content, technical performance and kid friendliness.

* Understand the types of games on the market: edutainment (educational games focusing on teaching the player), role-playing games (that offer deep story and character development), action games (that train and enhance hand-eye coordination), simulation games (building, vehicles such as planes or cars) and strategy games.

* Use online reviews, ask other parents, ask your local store staff – and play games with your kids.

So what’s the bottom line? Video games are here to stay. And when appropriately used, they can provide an opportunity for children to learn, grow and have fun.

Categories: Lifestyle
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