U.S. Police Officers Have a Bit of a PR problem

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Central Square die in: Courtesy of Tim Pierce http://bit.ly/1wKsHDz

Central Square die in: Courtesy of Tim Pierce http://bit.ly/1wKsHDz

About a year ago, I wrote about how racism is still a relevant issue in recognition of Dr. Martin Luther King Day. Never in a million years did I think that within the year, that there would be consistent protesting in places like New York and Missouri with a march scheduled next week in Washington D.C. that revives memories of the 1960’s.
In some ways, one could believe that these protests are completely spontaneous, that these protesters don’t have anything better to do but take to the streets. Protests and social movements don’t just happen, there is always a history of frustration and then, a motivating tipping point. In this case, Eric Garner’s grand jury ruling was that tipping point. While the debates have focused on institutional racism and the corrupt legal system, I firmly believe that what’s being addressed here is not an effort to right past wrongs, but a need to see each other as human beings instead of the agenda we seem to represent.
For example, I’m afraid of police officers. I know it’s silly, but on the rare occasions I’ve had to interact with one in the States, my hands get all sweaty, I can’t look them in the eye and I am just waiting for things to get out of control. When I first arrived in Haiti, I had similar feelings, but they usually inspired a panic mode reaction. Influenced by the horror stories of police officers conducting check points that led to kidnappings, I often avoided police officers at all costs. But, I eventually had to go through a checkpoint and when I did I contemplated the following actions:
        1) Speed past them before they knew what happened.
        2) Let the car roll slowly, jump out of it and run to the                       nearest house.
       3) Cry and pray that they’d leave me alone.
       4) Just go with the flow and see where things would go.
As the first three would only make a potentially non-threatening situation worse, I opted for #4. After the cop checked my papers, he smiled and I was on my merry way, still in my car, still with my wallet, and in my opinion, safe. Over time, I gained respect and didn’t fear the police officers but saw them as people doing their job to keep Haiti’s streets safe. Not to say that are always successful, but little by little they are changing their reputation.
Returning home, that fear has returned. With the ominous blue lights, the incredible variety of weaponry that police officers have on at all times, and the overall aggression associated with law enforcement. It just makes me wonder, how is it that one of the most dangerous islands has been able to build an approachable police force, and the “land of the free” now has a system of terror? These are just my observations, but what do you think? Is our system justified or are our police officers addressing a threat that’s not there?
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Changing the World Shouldn’t Come Cheap

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Image Credit: http://bit.ly/1GY4e0q

Image Credit: http://bit.ly/1GY4e0q

If there were no obstacles, how would you change the world? I, like many others, want to build a career on making the world a better place. Traditionally, building a career of service has meant working within the public and non-profit sector. In those types of jobs you are able to directly address the problems that companies simply aren’t interested in solving. Though admirable, with rising education and living costs, being a professional do-gooder has become an increasingly challenging career choice.

A few years ago, I had the chance to watch the TED talk above featuring Dan Pallotta. The fundraising genius introduced the world to multi-day human experiences that raised millions of dollars and propelled issues into the spotlight. Now a writer and advocate for the non-profit sector, Pallotta’s TED talk makes the case for why those choosing to pursue this career path shouldn’t be expected to earn and be valued significantly less than their private sector counterparts.

I raise this issue today in response to Kim Kardashian and Paper Magazine’s attempt to “break the internet.” While both entities are encouraged to push the envelope to gain attention, which turn into profits, non-profits are routinely capped by what society thinks they should be doing. Restraining non-profits in this way only stifles innovation in an era where this year’s technology is obsolete in a matter of years, not decades or even centuries. As described in Adam Davidson’s recent New York Times’ piece, for every successful tech startup there are many more that have failed. To investors, it is an accepted risk to starting a business. Why does it have to be any different for non-profits? Donations to a non-profit are just an older version of crowd funding. Why the uproar when one has an incredibly successful fundraising campaign? They did great work and should be rewarded, like a Facebook, Twitter, Uber, etc.

Do you think a non-profit CEO should earn a six figure salary? Personally, as long as the community that is being served is seeing the benefits, non-profit workers should be financially rewarded. They work just as hard, sometimes harder, and shouldn’t be worrying about their finances because they chose to help make the world a better place. What do you think?

Cornerstone Investments for Central Florida’s Start up Community

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Since returning to my hometown of Orlando, I have been trying to check out all of the resources available to startups and enterprising individuals. Earlier this week, I participated in the Melrose Center’s General Orientation to gain access to their video editing resources and what I found literally blew my mind. Made possible by an extremely generous donation by Dorothy Lumley Melrose and her family, the Orange County Library in Downtown Orlando was able to build a $1 million tech facility for it’s patrons.

From the second you step onto the second floor, you are drawn to the smiling face of Dorothy Lumley Melrose and the inviting glass wall behind her. Once you step through the glass doors to the 26,000 square foot space, you forget that you are in a library and get the bug to build something. With your Orange County Library Card, or for a small fee, members have access to a live recording studio, a professional television studio with green screen, sound booth equipment, a photo studio, an impressive array of classes, a simulation room, and, my personal favorite, a 12ft by 8ft interactive media wall.

Although the specifics of what they offer is impressive, the fact that all of it is free (aside from the conference room) is game changing for startups in the area. Equipment and collaboration space are some of the highest barriers to entry when starting a business. Having free access to both? It’s a life saver. This access, in addition to a GoFundMe campaign to address Orlando’s seed fund problem, are crucial pieces building explosive growth in Downtown Orlando’s startup sector.

Are there any other tools that you believe are necessary to build a thriving startup community? Do you know of any other areas that I should feature on my quest to find some of the best resources for entrepreneurs? Post in the comments below or email me directly at marissa@millennialtakeover.com.

Want to help build Orlando’s Startup community? Donate:

For access to equipment and classes, the Friends of the Orange County Library provide financial support to make it happen.

To provide critical seed funding for Orlando startups, go here.

My Take on Central Florida’s Commuter Train – Sunrail

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It’s finally here!! After years of negotiating, being used as a political chess piece and deprived of federal funding the Sunrail is finally a running functioning commuter train. Last Friday, I rode it for the first time from the Winter Park Station to Church Street Station. Although there is plenty of room for improvement, overall it was FAR less stressful than driving and I plan to take it again in the future. Sunrail, here is my constructive feedback:

Things I loved

    • It’s sooooo cheap –  I paid $3.75 roundtrip, a fraction of the cost of parking in a garage downtown.
    • It’s so clean – Yes, I know it’s new, but I guess I was expecting litter or spill stains.
    • It makes you happier to ride it – In other cities you are traveling underground so you can actually see what you are passing.
    • It saves you from having to find parking … and then losing your car – Finding parking in Orlando can set off a minor heart attack. Then losing your white car in the huge parking lot can ruin any good day.
    • You are around people – driving in your car is a very solitary activity. It’s great for some alone time, but there aren’t a lot of opportunities in the Central Florida area where you feel like you are a member of a larger community.

Things that need improvement

  • Collecting fares To purchase a ticket, you go to a kiosk and use your debit or credit card. No cash option is a barrier, especially for tourists. Then, you have to find a cute yellow box to the left or right of the kiosk and tap your ticket before and after you board the train. The unmanned station, the lack of partitions makes for plenty of opportunities to grab a free ride. Admittedly, I had no clue how it worked so I didn’t tap in for my ride to Church Street. Small a request – have that friendly voice on the loud speaker go over those directions or have them written so people can actually pay for the service.
  • That good awful siren – that horrible fire drill sound had me looking for the nearest exit off the outdoor platform, until I realized that the train was approaching. A friendly voice announcing the arrival of the train might be enough and less torture on the ear drums.
  • Pedestrian walkways – moving large numbers of people around safely is one thing. If we are being encouraged to forgo our cars, more pedestrian crossings, especially when leaving the station, should be put a bit higher on the priority list.
  • Frequency – I understand that this is just the beginning, but trains have got to be running more often if you want community buy in. I had to wait 20 minutes on my way to Church Street and 30 minutes on my way back. If I had a tight schedule, I wouldn’t even consider taking the Sunrail.
  • It doesn’t run at night – The last train leaves Church Street at 9:25 pm. If you are going to a concert, a basketball game, or any other event, it’s not an option and a it is a missed revenue opportunity.

Have you ridden the Sunrail? Have you enjoyed the experience? Have I missed any areas of improvement? Comment below or tweet to @themtakeover.

Top 5 Tips to Help You Prepare for Your Next Big Adventure

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When I finally decided to pack my bags and move to Haiti, I didn’t just hop on a plane and wing it. I tried to be strategic enough to avoid hang ups while still keeping some available space for spontaneity. If you are considering on making the big move, especially a foreign country here are some helpful tips to save yourself some major headaches. 

ForiegnMoney

Photo Credit: epSos .de

1. Have enough money saved to pay your obligations. I have some pretty hefty student loan debt and while I often opt for the fun life adventure instead of becoming debt free in 3 years, I always, always, ALWAYS pay my loans. When I took the leap of faith, I made sure I had at least enough money to cover my loan payments for the next three months. You don’t want to be visiting your family on a break to then have the uncomfortable conversation as to why collections has been calling them.

AsiaFarmerPhone

Photo Credit: Ken Banks

2. Contact as many people you know there as possible, even if it is one person. Arriving in a foreign country with a month’s worth of stuff with no one to meet you or a plan, can leave you extremely vulnerable (more on how I learned that another time). Even if you don’t stay with this person, having a friendly face that you can communicate with upon your arrival will ease the already present anxiety. If you are looking for a job, this becomes extremely important as your contact can help you navigate the hiring system and maybe even help you network.

Passports

Photo Credit: J Aaron Farr

3. If you are going abroad, make sure your passport does not expire for at least 3 months. Most countries won’t let you through the airport if your passport is set to expire in three months so save yourself the flight change fees and up date your passport. Also make a copy of that first page. In the countries I’ve visited, a form of identification is needed to buy cellphones, change money, etc. Reduce the risk of losing your passport by carrying a printout, and it will save you time in case you need to replace your passport.

Photo Credit: JannRiik

Photo Credit: JannRiik

4. Give yourself permission to enjoy some of your favorite things. Moving to another country, city, or state will mean that you won’t have the same access to your favorite things. When you have one of those days where you the cashier gets frustrated with your thick American accent, or the power goes out while you were writing the longest email of your life on a desktop, an overpriced tub of Ben and Jerry’s Phish Food may be the thing you need to keep you sane. You already get the gold star for taking the leap, so be kind to yourself and pay extra attention to self care. For me, reading books (thank you, Kindle), watching movies (thank you, Netflix), or “Hanging out” with a friend or two (thank you, Google) were my life savers.

Journals

Photo credit: Wen Long

5. Keep a journal, not only to help you remember the cool things you did 10 years from now, but to off load whatever you don’t feel like sharing out loud. It doesn’t even have to be full sentences, it can even be ticket stubs or business cards. There are a lot of changes that you’ll be experiencing so keeping track of them will help you track the progress you’ve made.

Keeping things open ended and keeping a positive attitude will help you bounce back from those days that just don’t go your way. Now get back to packing, your adventure awaits.

Leaving everything you know to embark on an adventure or just came back from one? Share your top tips for how you made it through. 

How Ferguson Protests Were A National Pressure Release

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Jury duty. That dreaded piece of mail that induces anxiety and panic among every American citizen. Such feelings are probably due the unplanned disruption in the rhythm of life to potentially determine the fate of another human being. What if you get sucked into a 5 day murder trial? The possibility is unsettling.

However, when I was first selected, I was actually excited. I could finally see a trial in real life! Right off the bat, I was selected for a cocaine possession case. The defendant was arrested in that part of town where you double check that your doors are locked, and you hit the gas a little harder than you should. Although the police didn’t find the cocaine on his person, it was found nearby on the side of the road after he ran from the cops. We found him guilty and sent him right back to the jail that he had just left for other drug related charges. As time has gone on, I’ve often wondered what would have happened if he was white, if he had a better lawyer, if he was actually innocent. I think about him even more during these media storms: Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and the news stories of thousands of young men who die every year by gunfire, accidental or otherwise.

Courtesy of Common Dreams

While the media fixates on fanning the flames of the racism and police brutality, how are we as American citizens ultimately affected by violent protests in part of the country that many of us have never visited? What our society often forgets, or chooses to ignore, is that there are systems in place that keep groups of citizens in certain areas and the only way to get out is by luck or remarkable determination. As evidenced by the seemingly over the top reaction to a petty thief’s shooting death. Protests and violence never just happen, they are the result of years of pent up frustration with injustice. For example, the Occupy Wall Street protests were a response to years of abuse by the banking system that sent our once thriving country into a recession that we are still recovering from. 

Courtesy of Creative Commons

Now that the molotov cocktails have been put away and a civil rights lawsuit is being filed, will the fiery conversations and artistic performances come to an end? Will we continue to ignore the injustices our system encourages? Or have we gained a collective understanding that there is something very wrong with our system and we have the power to address it?   

20something profile: Marissa

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Thank you David for reaching out to me and letting me share my experience!

20somethings Blog

IMG_0268This post was written by Marissa, who is working on building a product distribution business in rural Haiti:

At 18 years old, if you asked me about my life plan, I’d straighten my back, I’d grow the already present smile, and I’d inform you, “I’m going to save the world as an international lawyer working at the international criminal court…or something like that.”

After a somewhat dramatic epiphany that law school was not for me, I set to finding a new way to honor the root of my desires: solving problems on an international scale.  It wasn’t pretty, and each step hasn’t flowed perfectly to the next, but my career thus far is a patchwork of some very cool experiences.

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