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Archive | September, 2010

Virtual Schools Are Growing

Virtual schools ‘clicking’ for many students this school year (ARA) – A record number of students went back to school this year – without ever stepping foot inside a classroom. A growing number of virtual schools (also known as cyber schools or e-schools), combined with booming parent (and student) demand for high-quality virtual education, have more students than ever logging on, instead of boarding a school bus, this year. More than 2 million children in kindergarten through 12th grade are learning online, and their ranks are growing by almost 20 percent each year, according to research by Ambient Insight. Currently, 45 states have significant supplemental online learning programs, or full-time programs, in which students take most or all of their courses online.

“One reason families are turning to full-time virtual schools is that parents are seeking a more personalized education for their children, where students’ studies are tailored to their abilities and interests, and they can work at their own pace,” says Dr. Steven Guttentag, executive vice president and chief education officer for Connections Academy, a leading virtual school provider that offers both public and private virtual school programs. “Of course most importantly, they work. Students are achieving at high levels and matriculating into some of our nation’s best universities.” Many parents are drawn to the quality curriculum a virtual school can offer their student – and programs they might not have access to at the local brick-and-mortar school. The current economic climate has forced many neighborhood schools to eliminate programs like foreign language instruction, Advanced Placement (AP) courses and more. At the same time some virtual schools are adding courses like Mandarin Chinese and AP Chemistry. Continue Reading →

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Career Advice For Job Seekers

Winning ways to sharpen your career search in a challenging economy

(ARA) – Five unemployed people are competing for every job opening in the country, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. At the beginning of the recession in December 2007, there were less than two people vying for each vacancy.

With more candidates going head-to-head for jobs, organizations can be very selective in finding the ideal employee – someone who fits all of the position’s qualifications or even goes beyond the requirements.

How can talented workers stand out from the competition?

“More than ever, job seekers need to proactively manage their job search with precision and focus to help them stand out from others,” says Mark Gasche, vice president of career services for Colorado Technical University, a leading provider of education for career-motivated students. “It’s all about targeting your search, doing your homework, and leaving the best impression – on paper and in person.”

For those looking for smarter and more effective ways to differentiate themselves in a challenging job market where supply continues to outstrip demand, Gasche offers these tips:

* Customize every cover letter and resume. When it comes to a cover letter and resume, one size doesn’t fit all. Job postings always include specific qualifications or responsibilities. A cover letter should be just as specific (and error-free), with each job requirement addressed point by point with your relevant experience and skills.

Recruiters and human resources professionals can quickly weed out cover letters and resumes that are generic versus those in which applicants took the time to thoughtfully demonstrate how they meet the criteria. In many cases, you’ll need to apply via an online database, where there’s a lower likelihood of being identified through this electronic screening process. Increase your chances by being resourceful and proactive in finding and applying directly to people who have the power to hire you.

* Take five: Get to know the organization from the inside out. Beyond researching the organization on the Internet, conduct five brief interviews with current employees at the company. You can find them through your social networking channels, referrals or colleagues. Ask them about the corporate culture and what it means to be an effective employee at their organization. This will give you valuable insights into the company, helping you personalize both your cover letter and resume while being better prepared than most candidates for a future interview.

* Nail the interview. Your preparation doesn’t stop when you land an interview. In interviewing and coaching hundreds of job applicants, Gasche says the questions that candidates ask – or don’t ask – demonstrate their level of enthusiasm and initiative.

“Your questions during an interview reveal how well you’re prepared and how much you sincerely want the position,” Gasche says. “You should run out of time in the interview before you run out of questions.”

A good question for interviewees to ask: What does success look like in this position and how will it be measured over time? Other questions should dig deeper into topics discussed during the interview, a direct reflection of your listening skills and level of engagement in the conversation.

* Identify and fill education gaps. During the job search, networking and interview processes, you may discover that further education is needed for your chosen profession or that you want to pursue new career opportunities that go beyond your current skill set. This may lead you to weigh the time, costs and benefits of going back to school. If so, one option to consider is attending a career-focused college such as Colorado Technical University, which offers online classes that make higher education accessible anytime and anywhere for those juggling work, family commitments and managing a career.

* Turn a negative into a positive. If you’re not hired after an interview, consider it an opportunity to follow up with the interviewer and seek constructive feedback to apply to your ongoing job search. Ask if he or she is open to providing any advice on what you can do to improve – whether on your resume, interview techniques or overall skills. It also gives you the chance to show your continued interest in the organization should further positions arise.

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Compassionate Gifts

Giving the gift of compassion

(ARA) – When Sharon Saxelby’s first grandchild was born last year, she knew baby Reece would be showered with generosity by other family members, friends and well-wishers, and she was right. But, as president and CEO of a nonprofit organization called Friends of the Orphans, which transforms the lives of children in need in Latin America and the Caribbean, Saxelby was thrilled that one of the most thoughtful gifts Reece received wasn’t an expensive stroller or baby play mat.

Colleagues from work, in the spirit of celebrating Reece’s birth by helping those less fortunate, made a monetary donation in her name to their charity. Saxelby was touched by the gesture and so were Reece’s parents.

As the hectic holiday season once again approaches, gift givers frantically compile their annual lists: an iPad for their spouse, a PS3 game for their tween son, pricey jeans for their high school junior. According to the National Retail Federation, in 2009 the average amount spent on holiday gifts, food and decorations was $682.

When looking at the escalating cost and proliferation of electronic gadgetry, the clutter of DVDs, books or clothes and the time spent trying to find that special trinket, givers are realizing they could do a lot better. Creative gift giving or charitable contributions in the name of others is a lasting way to make an impact and transform the lives of those desperately in need.

Not to mention the fact that the gift of nonprofit giving will withstand the next technology iteration and continue long past this year’s fashion fad.

When heavy charitable hitters Bill Gates and Warren Buffett announced in early August their “Giving Pledge,” a recession-inspired commitment to sign over at least half of their assets to nonprofits over their lifetime or after their death, they hoped to inspire others to contribute to worthy causes as well.

For organizations like Friends of the Orphans, which supports more than 3,600 orphaned, abandoned and disadvantaged children in nine Latin American and Caribbean countries, this commitment to help children in need, resonates especially powerfully this year.

“Realizing that if each family donated just 10 percent of their estimated holiday spending to a charity instead of spending it on material gifts, many recipients who are deprived of life’s most basic needs would be afforded the chance for a brighter new year,” Saxelby explains.

“For instance, an amount as small as $12 can provide a child with no shoes a brand new pair, or $100 can provide one of our children anti-retroviral HIV medication for one month. When put into the right perspective, it’s easy to see how a small amount can have a huge and lasting impact.”

Each charitable organization has different methods of encouraging holiday giving, and each is an important part of the vitality and growth of the nonprofit.

This year, Friends of the Orphans has created a unique and memorable way donors can help children in need, especially during the Christmas season. The 2010 Gift Catalog, at www.friendsoftheorphans.org/GiftCatalog, allows visitors to learn about the special Christmas celebrations each orphanage has, and through donations either in their own names or on behalf of others, provide useful and appreciated gifts to the children.

Saxelby says that for the thousands of children Friends of the Orphans raises, Christmas is an especially poignant time for them, because for many, it is the first time they have felt love, warmth and hope for their future.

“Watching a happy child enjoy holiday traditions, a warm meal and then open up a bag of gifts containing shoes and clothes, when perhaps a year ago they were homeless and afraid, and knowing that our supporters make that transformation possible, is a very powerful thing,” she says.

The holidays are all about celebrating, and regardless of which organizations donors choose to contribute to, giving can make their season more rewarding and truly enrich the lives of those less privileged. Realizing that you are able to transform someone’s life is often the best gift of all. For more information about Friends of the Orphans, visit www.friendsoftheorphans.org.

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Do You Forgive?

In light of the recent news that is surfacing…..everywhere. I think it’s ever so important to remember Galatians 6:1-3.

¬†1-3 Live creatively, friends. If someone falls into sin, forgivingly restore him, saving your critical comments for yourself. You might be needing forgiveness before the day’s out. Stoop down and reach out to those who are oppressed. Share their burdens, and so complete Christ’s law. If you think you are too good for that, you are badly deceived. (Galatians 6:1-3, The Message)

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Shaun King And Twitchange

Pastor Shaun King of Atlanta, GA is leading an amazing effort to bring tangible relief to victims of the devastating earthquake in Haiti. And he’s doing it with Twitter! The first EVER celebrity tweet¬†auction is taking place now. Check out the video below that was recorded yesterday for more information. Not only that, but you can participate by visiting TwitChange.com.

Either you’re part of the solution or part of the problem. Do something.

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