Friday, November 26, 2010

Digital Forgiveness vs. The End of Forgetting

We all know the Drunken Pirate story of the woman who lost the opportunity to obtain a teaching degree because of a photo on her online social networking profile. While most of us don't know, or can't remember her name, Stacy Snyder knows that "the Internet" won't ever forget her. A seminal event in modern culture, Snyder's denial of a teaching degree by the Millersville University School of Education and the US district judge that upheld that decision, are two stories that will be remembered by many as the moment of proof that privacy doesn't exist on the Internet.

I've been thinking about this topic recently after reading Jeffrey Rosen's article in the NY Times "The Web Means the End of Forgetting."

"We’ve known for years that the Web allows for unprecedented voyeurism, exhibitionism and inadvertent indiscretion, but we are only beginning to understand the costs of an age in which so much of what we say, and of what others say about us, goes into our permanent — and public — digital files. The fact that the Internet never seems to forget is threatening, at an almost existential level, our ability to control our identities; to preserve the option of reinventing ourselves and starting anew; to overcome our checkered pasts."

These ideas hit home when I came across this photo of myself taken by my daughter a few weeks ago. In it I believe I look a little bit like the "nutty" or "absent-minded" professor with my hair and posture.

When I first saw the photo I thought I would just delete it and nobody would have ever seen it. Then I thought, what if someone had seen it? What if someone else had taken this photo and decided to publish it without my consent? How would I feel about it. When I saw the next photo in the series I felt much better about myself and thought I don't look so terrible after all. Still, the first photo doesn't lie about me. That is what I looked like at that moment when the picture was taken. At any time someone could publish a photo of me just like that.

This is, of course, simply an exercise in my own desire to control my personal identity on the Internet. Whereas I might teach others about the need to publish one's own social networking site in order to control how people see you. Increasingly it is obvious that, with the advent of digital recording devices, people can (and do) publish images and video of just about anything they can point their lens at.

Is it naive to still believe that if you work to stay on top of your identity you can prevent any negative images or publications about you? Can new services help you defend your reputation, remove unsightly images, and clean up your digital personality?

One other idea that comes forward in these thoughts is the fact that identity can be manufactured by the user as well. This is where we started on the Internet with people creating fake or embellished identities. The fear associated with digital prowlers seems to have subsided a bit as we now point our attention to protecting our own online identities.

As Rosen states:

". . . the future of our online identities and reputations will ultimately be shaped not just by laws and technologies but also by changing social norms. And norms are already developing to recreate off-the-record spaces in public, with no photos, Twitter posts or blogging allowed. Milk and Honey, an exclusive bar on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, requires potential members to sign an agreement promising not to blog about the bar’s goings on or to post photos on social-networking sites, and other bars and nightclubs are adopting similar policies. I’ve been at dinners recently where someone has requested, in all seriousness, “Please don’t tweet this” — a custom that is likely to spread."
At the end of my 50th birthday party a few people stayed afterward to hang out and enjoy a more intimate time singing and playing a guitar. I handed someone a Flip video camera to record some of the fun. One of the group kept hiding his face in order to "protect my identity." It was a sign to me that posting such video online would be off limits. At the same time, everyone at the party fully expected to see themselves online the next day. One friend jokingly complained that there was no photo of her in my online album. Being able to read these signals is a dicey skill that we are all learning now.

Digital memories are growing. Forgetting them may not be as easy as we think.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Is Your Brain Or Your Life Evolving Because of Technology?

Matt Richtel, New York Times Technology correspondent, won a Pulitzer Prize for his 2009 series on new technology and it's impact on driving and multitasking. Now he's taking on evolution with claims that research is showing that all this time we spend with technology is changing the chemical and physiological nature of the human brain.

In his June essay "Your Brain on Computers" Richtel proclaims "Scientist say juggling e-mail, phone calls and other incoming information can change how people think and behave. They say our ability to focus is being undermined by bursts of information." And, "these (distractions) can inflict nicks and cuts on creativity and deep thought, interrupting work and family life."

Richtel quotes scientists who are "discovering that even after multitasking ends, fractured thinking and a lack of focus persist." Scientists are using the phrase "rewiring our brain" to describe what they claim is an evolutionary change in our brain activity.

"For better or worse, the consumption of media, as varied as E-mail and TV, has exploded" says Ricthel. "In 2008, people consumed three times as much information each day as they did in 1960. And they are constantly shifting their attention. Computer users at work change windows or check E-mail or other programs nearly 37 times an hour, new research shows."

"We are exposing our brains to an environment and asking them to do things we weren't necessarily evolved to do," says Adam Gazzaley, a neuroscientist at the University of California, San Francisco, "We know already there are consequences."

What exactly are those consequences? That's what I want to know and I want us to all think and talk about. What exactly are we gaining and what are we giving up when we spend all this time "online?" I don't really want to know if my brain is evolving I just want to know what's happening in my life and the lives of my friends and family as a result of all the time we spend being interacting with screens.

Gazzaley isn't actually saying he knows the brain has evolved in the last 40 years as a result of technology. He says our brain isn't "necessarily evolved" to deal with all this information. That's a pretty weak claim in my opinion. What are some of the conclusions we can make?

We can look at all these technological distractions and quantify how much time we aren't spending with our family or friends. You have to do that for yourself. Read Richtel's article and see for yourself how much your life mirrors that of the family he follows.

We can quantify the incredible increase in the incidence of obesity in the US. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association the prevalence of obesity in adults had increased 8 percent in adults in the United States between 1988 and 1994 after being relatively stable between 1960 - 1980. "Analyses of data from 1999-2000 showed further increases in obesity for both men and women in all age groups."

We can quantify how much less time we are spending outside.

Obviously the nature of the food we eat has a great impact on the health of our bodies and obesity rates but I would claim that our time spent in front of screens has a great impact on our overall health as a nation. It turns out that research now shows people feel better when they spend more time outside. "We have a natural connection with living things" says University of Rochester professor of psychology Richard Ryan. "Nature is something within which we flourish," says Ryan, "so having it be more a part of our lives is critical, especially when we live and work in built environments."

Having just spent a few days hiking in the Rocky Mountain National Park this Summer I can agree. Here I am with my wife Dena near the end of a difficult 6.5 mile hike. We were tired and our bodies sore. But we were happy and we felt good!

Those of you who know me know that I spend quite of bit of time interacting with technology. E-mail, online social networking, web searching, digital photography and filmmaking are all a big part of who I am and what makes up my life. Again, I worry less about the rewiring of my brain than I worry about the rewiring of my family and social life.

Richtel does back off a bit from the evolutionary claims by quoting Steven Yantis, a professor of brain sciences at Johns Hopkins University. "The bottom line is, the brain is wired to adapt," says Yantis. "There is no question that rewiring goes on all the time" Yantis concludes. Richtel then admits that it is not clear if changes from interaction with technology are different from other changes in the past.

We can fight this change if we want. Anne Lamott wrote a beautiful piece on Finding Time in the April 2010 edition of Sunset Magazine. She challenges us to think about taking time out from all the "busyness" in our lives to explore our own humanity.

Let's all remember that the technology is here to help us be human and not simply to take up all our waking hours. That way perhaps we can evolve the use of technology to suit our needs as a species rather than it change our nature.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Cell Phone Sex

A student at school sent an E-mail message to all other students recently because he'd lost his cell phone. He didn't care so much about the phone, he said, but "if you took it, at least put my SIM card in my box."

I thought about it for awhile and wondered how important a memory card in a cell phone would be to a anyone much less a teen in today's mass mediated world. Is it the database of contacts that he would have to recreate?

One recent study by the the Pew Internet and American Life Project shows the wide spread importance of the use of cell phones for teens to stay connected with family and friends. It's not surprising, then, that this young man would be hoping to get that card with all his contact information back. Teen life is so centered around cell phone use and texting that it's difficult to imagine their life without a cell phone.

But we knew already that. Teens depend on cell phones for their daily communications. However it is ironic that parents first began purchasing these devices for their children for safety reasons. Another recent PEW study on Teens and Sexting shows that a growing number of teens send and receive partial or fully nude images of themselves to friends. Also not surprising is the fact that social pressure is a big part of this new activity.

One young woman is quoted in the study saying: "Boys usually ask for them or start that type of conversation. My boyfriend, or someone I really liked asked for them. And I felt like if I didn't do it, they wouldn't continue to talk to me. At the time it was no big deal. But now looking back it was definitely inappropriate and over the line."

But that's just the beginning of this growing problem. Now the legal system is getting involved with teens getting charged in child pornography cases. One 18 year old Florida teen is now listed as a registered sex offender after being convicted of sending nude images of his 16 year old girlfriend to family and friends after an argument. Legislatures across the country are looking at how they can protect teens from over zealous district attorneys and at the same time protect them from the real dangers of child pornography and online predators.

The PEW study and many others point to the ease at which these images and video can end up in the wrong place. School yard dramas play out to the degree that could leave teens either in trouble with the law or much worse.

To me this is yet another place where adults who are responsible for young people in this world need to step in and make sure their charges are educated, knowledgeable of the issues, and that they know how to be safe. Once again, it's not the technology that causes the problem. It's how the technology is used. Keeping track of teen texting and online activities is a healthy and important task for parents, guardians, and schools.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Being a Father in America - Father's Day 2010

Tony Pandola wrote a nice piece this week on "The American Father" for KQED FM in San Francisco. His perspective includes a lovely set of comments on the problems in our society with regard to the common image of Fathers, manhood in general, and the relationship between parents and children. This is not just a problem for Dads but Moms too. It is also a problem for children of all sorts, those without parents or other adult role models, and those with one or both parents or guardians. 

This image portrayed of the American Father is also a problem in a society that marks so many special days in the calendar. We have sales at the stores, special events (usually athletic) on TV, days off from work, and, of course, the typical greeting card or a balloon with some silly catch phrase. These images and catch phrases do not generally match either the reality of our relationship to the person(s) we are celebrating or what we would like it to represent about them -- which is the most important thing the card should do.

Personally I find it difficult in the space of a greeting card to write what I want to say to a person. That's why I prefer to make my own cards with blank insides and lots of room to write. Over the years though, I've written less of these cards because the whole business of it seems insincere or I simply can't find the time to do it. Now, of course, we can send our friends and family good wishes with the click of a mouse and the typing of a few words on their social media pages, or even just a text or E-mail.

What I take away from Tony's perspective is the fact that the best way to tell your Dad you love him, and how much you appreciate him, is to do it directly. Pandola also reminds us that it is important simply be aware of who your Dad is and what kind of a person he is toward you and others. 

But I also take away the fact that the image of the American Father today is not what it should be. We can do better in what we do as men and in how we see and describe the expectations of men in our society.

I'm celebrating my second Father's Day without my Dad this year. Sometimes I wish I could still send him a card again but the truth is I rarely ever mailed him such a thing. I would just drive there with my family and visit.

My Dad died suddenly in late 2008 after a bad car accident. He was 78 but still young enough to get out there and volunteer in his community. Just the type of Father who would go out and do things to make the world a better place for the sake of doing the right thing with your time on this planet. He enjoyed his sporting events and watched lots of TV. But he wasn't like all those lazy beer drinking images of men we see in greeting cards today.

As a Father myself I try to emulate some of those characteristics whenever I can. My Dad wasn't perfect, nor would I be so bold to suggest I'm any better with my own family and what I do in the world. But I do keep trying and, thankfully, I have a great role model to follow and guide me in my own journey of manhood and fatherhood. I volunteer on school boards and coach in youth athletics. I never miss a parent/teacher conference. 

And on Father's Day I make sure my kids get to spend a long period of time with our family doing something where we get to talk and just be together. I also am quick to remember the fact that every day is Father's Day. Everyday is Father's Day because every day we can create opportunities for each of us to make a difference with our children, the friends we know and love, and with the rest of the world.

Today we walked to the local mall and had bagels for breakfast. It was a three hour tour and a five mile walk. We stopped in the local (Marinwood) park and sat next to Miller Creek where there is still a little water trickling down from the Spring rains. Mia talked about all the memories she has of playing games in the park during Summer camp over the years. We remembered some of the fun times we've had in the park since moving to this neighborhood. And I thought about all the good times I had like that growing up. That felt good and I didn't need a greeting card to let me know that my day was special.

Here's wishing all the Fathers and Mothers and children in the world a happy day today, and everyday.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

eReaders Loose Out to Paper and Ink?

A friend of mine sent me a link to a study of eReaders at Reed College. In his E-mail message he stated that "Looks like real paper and ink wins...."

I didn't get the same impression from reading this article. In fact, the only real educational issue raised in the study was related to comprehension. It turns out that not being able to highlight the text made students more passive in their reading of the material and, therefore, were less able to comprehend and retain the information. However, the authors noted that new technology (already in the iPhone and iPad) will allow for electronic highlighting which they suggest will, in the long run, improve comprehension over traditional paper and ink methods.

"Both faculty and students agreed that this problem, though critical to the academic use of eReaders, could be easily addressed by technology that would allow quick and easy text highlighting and annotation. Indeed, they pointed out that effective digital highlighting and annotation would have the benefit of being easily searchable, shareable, and usable for doing research and writing papers. While the Kindle DX had a negative impact on content comprehension, there was considerable optimism that future eReaders would be able to overcome this problem and might actually help to increase comprehension."

The days of the Kindle may be over, but not electronic readers. I can't remember where I heard this but I believe that most of the traditional texts students read in English course are already available via the Gutenberg Project and other eReader options.

In the end the authors of this study conclude:

"In closing, we may note that while students and faculty in Reed's Kindle study were unanimous in reporting that the Kindle DX –– in its current incarnation –– was unable to meet their academic needs, many felt that once technical and other issues have been addressed, eReaders will play a significant, possibly a transformative, role in higher education."

I usually don't like to predict the future. In this case I can see this technology reduce paper use, decrease the weight of backpacks as well as the cost of class materials, and quite possibly improve the educational outcomes of our course work.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Online Learning -- Is It Right For Schools?

I am somewhat bothered by current discussions to take our school's courses online. Part of my concern is that some people see it as a money making opportunity. I'm not opposed to the idea but too often the opportunity to make (or save) money overshadows the pedagogical choices we make in how we design our schools.

I have a hard time getting my arms around the idea that our classes can somehow be taught better online then they are taught in the classroom. I have yet to see that be the case.

Mostly I don't believe we should loose the direct contact our teachers have with our students.

All of us, especially young people, spend an increasing amount of time online:

"Average number of hours a U.S. child aged 8 to 18 spends using an electronic device or watching television each day: 7.6" - Harpers Index, April 2010 (from Kaiser Family Foundation study 2009).

What we need in education is more time spent engaging with each other as humans and less time engaging with each other via electronic media.

Do I believe we should be using more interactive tools in education then we currently use? Yes, of course we do. This does not necessarily mean we ought to be teaching our courses entirely online. Are there opportunities to open a new world of learning through online courses? Yes, but this does not mean all or even most of our courses make sense being taught online.

Even though the tools of online learning have improved significantly over the past two decades they still remain simply that -- tools. Tools for the educator to use (or not use) depending on the subject and content. We should use these tools wisely and make sure we stay in touch with our human side.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Film as Art or Medium to Convey Information?

Last week a student asked me if I thought their was value in film as an art form or as a medium to convey information. I answered that we use it in class every day, we connect with it online or on TV at home all the time. It's a great way to communicate your thoughts and ideas. Students should learn how to communicate this way now and for their future life.

With the advent of highly popular online video sites, the use of video is proliferating at an exponential rate. According to one report posted in April 2009 YouTube alone hosted over 120 million videos with 200,000 being added each day. A TechCrunch report from July 2009 says over 1.2 billion videos are viewed each day via Google and YouTube. In fact, the TechCrunch report states that video viewing reached 80 billion videos viewed each month. Surely by now the numbers are much higher.

But what's the point of all this video production, uploading, and viewing? Are we just entertaining ourselves, fulfilling a need for amusement?

Educators have taken to showing videos on a daily basis in class. While they are not intending to entertain their students they are mindful that the younger generation has become used to life on the screen to such a degree that sitting and just listening and discussing is not a common practice in their lives. In fact, the word boring is now a regular part of the conversation when I ask my own kids how school was today. That is, unless they got to watch a video in class.

When you think about the impact of James Cameron's Avatar it's difficult to deny the influence of film as an art form with an ability to convey important information. However, when you consider the cultural appropriation in that film I have to wonder about just what sort of influence films like this have on our society. To me, this film is a combination of FernGully and Dances With Wolves with a little Jar Jar Binks on steroids thrown in to placate all those who would otherwise be bored with the story. It seems as though if things aren't blowing up or people aren't being killed the lack of action in a film makes it boring for our younger generation.

Being a documentary film maker who loves to go to the movies I can appreciate a good film with a strong message like The Blind Side. Personally I wish more people would go and see films like Food Inc., The Cove, and the Most Dangerous Man in America three Oscar nominated documentary films from 2009. In fact, I would like to see more people make films like this so everyone would get the opportunity to learn about what's going on in our world. Young people don't watch the news and spend more of their time with the "news" of their friends on Facebook then gathering the news of the world or even their own local community. That is, unless they are assigned such a task by a teacher.

When Michael Moore started making films about the problems he saw in our society everyone thought he was crazy. Who would watch such a thing? Why would anyone want to know about a cab company in Madison, Wisconsin?

It turns out that lots of people do want to see that. Despite the fact that Sacha Baron Cohen co-opted Moore's concept with his wacky Borat movies for entertainment purposes I believe Moore will have a much greater impact on society because he has managed to make documentary film entertaining. Borat is an attempt to take entertainment and make it seem like documentary. Even though Cohen raises lots of important issues from our culture the spoofing of these issues makes them seem like fiction to most viewers. He is so outrageous that it's difficult to believe that all of his subjects are not staged as he is in the films.

Is there value in film as an art and as a way of conveying information? Sure. Do we have enough good film out their that goes beyond simply entertaining the masses? Not even close. Go out and communicate your ideas, we need more people to do that so the world will be a better place in the future.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Rushkoff Cringes About Our "Digital Nation"

I am sure that not enough people watched the new Frontline documentary film Digital Nation by Douglas Rushkoff last week. If you watched the show you would know why nobody else was watching it. Everyone is online or otherwise just too busy to sit and watch a 90 minute documentary on live TV. 

Sure you could watch the film online as it was being produced over the past year. The producers even posted rough cut footage as they shot it and gained feedback from viewers. Video blogs sent by visitors actually made it into the final version of the film. But, I didn't even know this film was in process and I'm on Rushkoff's mailing list! I literally happened upon it while channel surfing through our local PBS station KQED-TV late that night.

Really, who watches live TV any more? OK, 106 million people watched the Super Bowl, but what else?

If you watch the Frontline show "Digital Nation" you will see something amazing. Rushkoff has spent the last two plus decades promoting the uses and benefits of technology in our lives (we used to use the word evangelizing . . . I'm glad people have stopped using that word). Rushkoff has written extensively and produced several documentaries about virtual worlds and the future of a society and a world immersed with technology in our daily lives. His last Frontline piece called "Growing Up Online" explores how young people spend their time online every day.

In Digital Nation you see him literally cringing at different points in the show as he witnesses (and brings us face to face) with many of the problems technology creates for us as humans and for our society. At one point early in the show he is almost apologizing for his previous work promoting technology.

However, as Rushkoff points out some of the pitfalls in the way we use technology in our lives, he also draws our attention to success. For example, one middle school in New York was literally saved from itself when laptops were introduced into an environment that was spiraling out of control. Then we get the chance to watch the vice principal monitoring student screens. We see them off task looking at themselves in the "mirror" of the built in web cam doing their hair. They are also chatting online, watching You Tube videos, and playing computer games. Everything except what they are supposed to be doing. In the end, I believe you could argue that this particular school community is better off dealing with those problems then the ones they had before computers were introduced (fights, gangs, drop outs, and school wide dismal academic achievement).

This conversation brings me back to something I wrote last year when discussing technology and literacy and how it made me think of the National Rifle Association's slogan. The key word in this conversation is how we use the technology. "Technology doesn't make people stupid, people using technology makes people stupid."

To me the lesson for us is that people, especially parents and educators, need to promote a balance of integrating technology and not. The benefits for learning are obvious and many. The pitfalls are also obvious and many. I believe it is possible to draw ourselves into a place where we can gain most, if not all, of the benefits of technology and maintain a semblance of order that allows us to reach our goals as educators and people without turning into mindless consumers of digital entertainment.

As Rushkoff says "The trick, at least for me, is to unplug from the digital for long enough to regain my bearings; re-establish myself as an organic life form, primarily, and a virtual presence only secondarily.  And during those interludes, to remember what it is I want in the first place -- for myself, my loved ones, and my society."

Unless we get to that point we are most certainly in trouble as a society and the human race. Perhaps one day we can say that we helped society reach a place where the use of technology does not turn into an all-encompassing world that keeps us from being who we really are -- human.

Monday, February 01, 2010

When Will We Know How Much Technology Is Too Much Technology?

When I was a kid my brothers and I went outside with our friends and built forts out of huge tumbleweeds. We rode our bikes out in the country along the irrigation ditches and dove into the water to cool off from the hot Summer sun. When it was time to eat our parents went outside and yelled for us to come home. It was a big event to go to the big Fox Theater downtown to see a movie. When I think about it those were very good times. If there were a computer invented at that time we didn't know about it until 2001 - A Space Odyssey came out in 1968. I was eight years old at the time.

In college I used a Tandy (Radio Shack) computer a roommate of mine had to write my term papers  --  when I wasn't typing them on a typewriter. We used to go to the student center and play pinball at a quarter a pop. Sure, it was a game but it was physical. You had to go someplace where they had the machine and we had to use our body to make the game go. No couch potato for us.

The pervasive technology we now have has helped us improve life in so many areas it's hard to complain about it's overall impact on our lives and our society and the world as a whole. Things change, sure, but how do we know they've changed for the better?

Last week I began to wonder how Steve Jobs sleeps at night. We heard about how he believed this would possibly be the greatest new technology he had ever introduced. When you look at the new iPad it seems pretty obvious that Jobs and Apple have created one of the greatest portable gaming machines every invented. And, when users aren't playing games on this device they will most certainly be consuming other media. What happened to creating insanely great devices that help people communicate their ideas? Is Apple giving that up? Between the iPod, iPhone, and now the iPad the vast majority of their product line is now a consumers paradise.

It turns out things are as bad as they looked when I wrote about how many hours the average 21 year old in the US spends consuming media (through technology) in their lives. A new study (one of the largest and most comprehensive publicly available sources of information on the amount and nature of media use by American youth) describes in detail how "media are among the most powerful forces in young people's lives today."

According to the New York Times, this study by the Kaiser Family Foundation, reports that the "average young American now spends practically every waking minute -- except for the time in school -- using a smart phone, computer, television or other electronic device." The evidence indicates a correlation between media consumption and behavior problems and lower grades. "47% of the heaviest media users -- those who consumed at least 16 hours a day -- had mostly C's or lower compared with just 23 percent of those who consumed media for three hours a day or less."

This is the third installment in a long term Kaiser study. When they last reported media use statistics five years ago the authors felt they had reached a ceiling and that young people couldn't possibly be consuming even more media per day than before. Now however, with the advent of portable digital devices many youth are interacting with multiple electronic devices at any given time thereby doubling the number of hours spent with media each time they use more than one device.

"This is a stunner." said Donald F. Roberts, a Stanford communications professor emeritus who is one of the authors of the study. "In the second report, I remember writing a paragraph saying we've hit a ceiling on media use, since there just aren't enough hours in the day to increase the time children spent on media. Now it's up an hour."

To me the scariest part of this discussion is the impact of multi-tasking with media. Media publishers now integrate multiple, complex information sources on any given screen. Our brains must sift through all the information (pictures, text, animations, pop-ups, etc.) and capture what it needs to help us understand what we are watching. Even PBS does this.

Kind of makes me want to go on an outing . . . give me a beautiful redwood forrest please. I'm feeling like I need to get outside.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Lakritz Family Scholarship

Dear Friends and Family,

I hope this letter finds you well during the holiday season. May the new year bring you good health, much happiness, and strong friendships and family ties.

As most of you know Dena and I lost both our fathers in late 2008. We spent most of 2009 recovering from the loss and I can honestly say that this was a good year for us despite all the trials and tribulations we’ve gone through this past year. We have our close family and friends to thank for holding us up and carrying us through the difficult times. Thank you for all that you did for us. We love you all. We know now that 2010 will be a very good year and we hope it will be for you too.

As we reach the time of a new year I am writing to bring you up to date with our family and how things are with all of us. I am also writing with an appeal for more help.

One of the most amazing things happened when my dad was badly injured in a car accident last year. A group of citizens in our home town of Hanford, CA got together to create a scholarship in his name. They planned to honor him for his fifty years of service to the community at the first fundraiser held in late September 2008. Unfortunately he passed away just a few days before the event.

In the meantime so much has happened. We’ve raised over $5,000.00 and created the Lakritz Family Scholarship in honor of Si and Mimi Lakritz. More importantly we awarded our first two scholarships to students graduating from Hanford High School in June 2009.

I’ve included links to more information about the scholarship fund and how our parents had such a vital impact in the community. I know it’s easy for a son to be proud of his parents contributions but I am confident you’ll be as amazed as I was while compiling all this information. In fact, my son Noah was so moved by this scholarship he donated a portion of his Bar Mitzvah money to the fund.

That’s where you can help. Our goal is to raise $50,000.00 over the next five years to ensure this fund will last and to continue the good work of helping the community that my parents began in 1958 when they moved to Hanford to start a new life and raise their family. Click here to download a gift form.

I know it sounds like a large sum of money but the truth is it’s very little. Our daughter Emily is now in college at UC Davis. Believe me when I tell you that these two $1,000.00 scholarships will go a long way to help students in need. Any amount you can give is wonderful, even just a note to support the effort will make a difference.

Thanks for listening and thank you all so much for the love, support, and strength you’ve given us over these past months. With your help 2010 will be a very good year indeed.

With Much Love Always,

Brad, Dena, Emily, Noah, and Mia