Beginning last year, the Deseret News began identifying individuals and organizations that have inspired us because of uncommon commitment to the values that undergird our six areas of editorial emphasis, often in the face of tough odds. Once again we are pleased to share our list of heroes for the year. » Read best of: The family Financial responsibility Care for the poor Education Values in the media Faith
After a decade of foreign wars, thousands of American families that have already sacrificed by sending a spouse, or parent or child into combat are learning that war is always brought home. Oklahoma-based therapist Cynde Collins-Clark, the mother of a disabled veteran, has turned her insight and expertise into a powerfully simple and effective resource for families of veterans, Veterans' Families United Foundation (veteransfamiliesunited.org). It is a web-based all-volunteer initiative that connects veterans and their families to professionally vetted information and resources that can help families that have been separated because of war to begin the challenging but hopeful journey of reintegration and healing.
Given the aging population of the country, entitlement programs for the elderly pose one of the greatest long-term threats to the nation's finances. Most proposals to reform entitlements, however, have been cast as blunt weapons in Washington's partisan bickering. It is a breath of much needed fresh air to have Democratic Senator Ron Wyden and Republican House Budget Chair Paul Ryan reach across the aisle and present a thoughtful plan to provide seniors with a medical safety net that gives them options for their Medicare coverage while reigning in Medicare costs. The Wyden-Ryan plan would give seniors the choice of maintaining current Medicare benefits or choosing new private, but carefully protected health plan options. Both Wyden and Ryan recognize that time is running out for effective solutions to this looming fiscal crisis and hope that their hybrid approach will help break the partisan logjam that stands in the way of addressing and solving it.
Homelessness is often considered a chronic condition. For Matt Minkevitch, executive director of the Road Home (www.theroadhome.org), homelessness is a problem that can be solved and overcome. Minkevitch and his dedicated staff have transformed the response to homelessness along Utah's Wasatch Front by effectively implementing proven models, such as "housing first" coupled with home-based case management. The Road Home's interventions have helped thousands of homeless individuals successfully return to independent living in relatively short order. Having previously served as director of Utah's state Community Services Office and administrative director of Catholic Community Services, Minkevitch brings unprecedented experience, insight and compassion to the effort to alleviate chronic homelessness.
Salman Khan's young cousins sought his help as tutor because he had successfully navigated his way to three technical degrees from MIT and an MBA from Harvard. But Khan was working as a hedge fund manager on the East Coast and his cousins were in Louisiana. So Khan began making concise but laid-back YouTube lectures on individual topics that his cousins could view them at their leisure. Little did he know at the time that these informative explanatory videos would gain a popular following from other students thrilled to have a chance to supplement their lecture notes with on-demand, repeatable explanations of hard concepts. Khan's familial tutoring has now grown into a powerful tool for improved learning as the non-profit Khan Academy (www.khanacademy.org) has seen nearly 100 million lessons shared from its thousands of short, free educational videos. Because of Khan Academy, some teachers are now embracing the idea that students can do the lectures for homework and enjoy one-on-one tutoring while doing exercises in class.
Since joining PBS in 2003 as head of children's programming, Linda Simensky has brought together her experience of rising quickly through the male-dominated ranks of the children's entertainment industry and her experience as the playful mother of two elementary school-aged children to ensure that children's programming on PBS is both entertaining and educational. If you've ever enjoyed watching a PBS Kids program like "Curious George," "Super Why," "Dinosaur Train" or "Sid the Science Kid," you (and your children) owe a debt of thanks to Simensky's resilience, creativity and uncompromising eye for quality family entertainment.
» Read the story: Cool toons: Creating interesting content for children is not rocket science
When Shelby County, the most populous county in Tennessee, suffered from Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the leaders of local churches and synagogues realized that they and their congregants were not as prepared for natural disaster as they would have hoped. As a result, the interfaith leadership in the county formed an organization called Shelby Cares to coordinate disaster planning and response among local churches and synagogues. When Tennessee was threatened by unprecedented flooding this last spring, Shelby Cares' proactive planning and coordination was so effective at disseminating information before the floods and in providing shelter and resources during and after the crisis, that government disaster relief and the Red Cross were able to redeploy most of their resources to less prepared areas of the state.