Johnie’s Story

This post first appeared in The Odyssey Online on June 14, 2016. 

Children in foster care often remain voiceless so I decided we need to start listening.


Trigger Warning: Child and/or sexual abuse. The following story is from the point of view of a fictional five-year-old boy named Johnie. His voice represents the voice of thousands of children in foster care and thousands of children with no agency as they are victims of child abuse, sexual abuse, and neglect.

My teacher Ms. Jackson is so pretty. She wears dresses every day when she teaches us. I like learning about math and counting. I think I’m pretty good at counting. I used to help mommy count little bags filled with white dust. I asked her if I could play with it one day and she said no. I played with it anyways and started coughing so she had to punish me bad. That was a long long time ago. I don’t know what day, maybe a Tuesday. But today is a Thursday and Mr. Sun is shining so bright. I love that song in music class, “Mr. Sun. Sun. Mr. Golden Sun. Please shine down on me!”

Last night was a scary night. I had a nightmare but I think I was awake. I was on the mattress next to Mommy’s bed I sleep on and she had friends come over. I think they were having a brown bubbly drink and eating chips. I’m a bit sad because Mommy said she had no food for dinner but then she had food for the friends. One man came in and kept saying scary things to me. His name is Jones and he is really tall. I was sleeping with Peanuts. That is my stuffed elephant. I love Peanuts. He is so soft and a very good friend. He never yells at me and will always play with me. But Jones came into the bed with me and started asking me to play some weird game. I just wanted to sleep and he was scary. I said no and he hit me hard. I got a mark from it. (more…)

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Snap to It: Passing the Torch of Advocacy and Change

Janice Lynch Schuster

Any given week, one of my five Millennial children is out volunteering for community-based groups, or marching in the streets for social justice. Although I like to think that I had some influence on their propensity to serve and advocate, they deny this. Instead, they tell me, they are driven by motives and experiences that are entirely their own.

Even so, they were all in grade school when I took them to their first rally: the Million Mom March on Washington to protest gun violence. They were in middle school when I joined a candlelight vigil to protest the war in Iraq, and in high school when I canvassed for Kerry and Obama. Their father, my former husband, played his part, too, having them volunteer at organizations that serve the homeless in our community, and other groups that help vulnerable people thrive.

It could be, I guess, that children take less notice of us than parents believe (or take notice, for years, of our shortcomings). I have no doubt, though, that my parents influenced me to try to change the world for the better. (more…)

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Preventing Prescription Drug Abuse: Are You Doing Your Part?

Terri Prof Headshot 0412Do you know what your teen is up to when you’re not looking?  What about your spouse, your parents and your friends?  Hopefully they aren’t rummaging through your medicine cabinet to find something they can take to get high. Many of us would never think to use a prescription drug for something other than its intended purpose, or to take something that wasn’t prescribed for us and absolutely necessary.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of other people who not only consider this, but act on the impulse to misuse and abuse prescription drugs.  Sometimes they work the system and see a doctor, or multiple doctors, and get the prescription for themselves, but often, they are looking through your medicine cabinet when you’re in the other room, getting them for free from friends or buying them online or from dealers.

Prescription drug abuse is a growing problem; according to the Centers for Disease Control it is an epidemic.  Just like any addiction, it can ultimately ruin or even end someone’s life.  (more…)

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Alexa Café: iD Tech’s First All-Girls Summer Camp

As a Regional Manager at iD Tech, the world’s #1 summer tech program for kids and teens, I often find myself very proud of the work that our company does.  For example, we inspire thousands of kids every year to Do Something Big in the world of tech, with over 170,000 students enrolled during the past 16 years.  Oh, and then there’s the thousands of trees we plant each year through our One Camper, One Tree initiative. We’ve already sowed the seeds for 75,000 trees and expect to plant 35,000 more in 2014 alone! (more…)

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Up-and-Coming Disruptive Woman: Deidre Freeman

It’s true, nothing really comes easily in life: especially if your goal is to become an Olympic athlete. Recently, DW had the privilege of sitting down with Deidre Freeman, world winning diver and Olympic hopeful, to chat with her about her pursuit of her dream, how she maintains her health, and words of wisdom to empower anyone that is working towards their goal.

DW:  How did you get into diving?

I began diving after the high school swimming and diving coach saw me tumble at a dance recital. She suggested that I try it out because she thought I would have good body awareness and control.

DW: What are some of the most challenging things about entering the sport?

The most challenging aspect of diving when I began was having no prior knowledge of the sport. I had no exposure before experimenting with diving. I didn’t  know what to expect and I didn’t know how to set goals for myself. (more…)

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Pioneers Do Not Fall Apart

Art by Melissa Brooks- 2004

Today our author, who chose to publish anonymously, provides us with an intimate look inside her life and experience with depression, loss and  the journey to finding herself.

Though I moved to Brooklyn in 2008, I will never be able to shake the Midwest from my bones. I grew up in Detroit, MI, a rather complicated place that I’ll never give up on. In contrast to the razor-sharp headlines that have recently grabbed hold of the collective consciousness, Detroit isn’t the place where dreams go to die. It’s the place where dreams – the American Dream, come to life. My grandfathers were autoworkers, pioneers of the Great Migration. Those men worked hard so that their children could carve out a life for themselves that was maybe a little better than their own. Gene & Sandra worked just as hard as their fathers, earning advanced degrees, getting married and having two children of their own. Meatloaf for dinner. Manicured lawns. Ballet lessons and baseball. My childhood was ideal and I am grateful.

Traversing miles and wrangling steel Mustangs makes for sturdy individuals who raise hearty individuals. Like the Stoics before them, pioneer-stock have perfected the art of the levelheaded countenance in the midst of turbulence. I never saw the sweat on my parents’ brow, the struggle in their eyes. They wore their frustrations on the inside and my brother and I reaped the benefits. And for that I am grateful. I am grateful and also wary. For within these romanticized and stalwart walls of strong, black Americana, there is no room to go to pieces. Pioneers do not fall apart. (more…)

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An Insurance Expert’s Perspective on Insurance Exchanges: Q&A with Disruptive Woman Stephanie Cohen

Stephanie Cohen

Disruptive Woman Stephanie Cohen recently spoke with DW’s Alex Masi to discuss an update on the state of health care reform (or ACA) and specifically, Young Adult’s participation in the insurance exchange marketplace. With more than two decades of experience in group and individual health insurance, disability programs and life insurance, Cohen is the co-founder of the Gaithersburg, MD, health care benefits firm Golden & Cohen. Her firm has grown into one of the largest among female-owned companies in the Washington metropolitan area. (more…)

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Janie Gu: Woman to Watch 2014

Janie Gu

Janie Gu

“Great leaders don’t lead for the sake of leading; they lead because they’re passionate about making something happen and they want to encourage, inspire, and influence others to move with them.” – Janie Gu

Inspired by the great inventors of contemporary times, particularly Elon Musk, Janie Gu has set a path forward into the world of true innovation through creating new products, ideas, and dreams. Currently an undergraduate at Princeton University, Janie leveraged her programming skills to create OUTFluenza, an analytical engine for tracking and predicting influenza, for the Surescripts 2013 Technology Challenge and parts of that project will be featured in the final Surescripts product. (more…)

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  • December 2nd, 2013 You’re Invincible. Until You’re Not
    By Glenna Crooks
  • The Real Invincibles: Young Adults with Chronic Health Conditions

    SantiKMBhagatFor the Young Adults Should Be Invincible series, several amazing young adults took huge risks to give us glimpses about how they live with chronic health conditions.  Most likely, you know a few young people like them, considering that 1 in 4 are affected, but do you know what their lives are like?  Probably not.  Do you know why?


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    Living on Both Sides of the Health Care Equation: A Young Doctor with a Degenerative Disease

    Amy LongGraduating from medical school and becoming a physician was my childhood dream.  Naturally, my memories from medical school are filled with pivotal moments and strong emotions;  the excitement when I interviewed my first patient, the exhaustion of my first overnight call, the sheer terror of my first board exam, the joy of the first baby I delivered and the sorrow of my first patient who passed away. In the midst of these experiences, I also remember the sleepless nights of constant pain followed by the apprehension of waiting in a familiar exam room for my health verdict. I recall the anguish associated with the loss of my sense of invincibility as I looked at the x-rays my colleague and professor handed me. Neither my sparkling new white coat, nor my young age protected me from the relentless and painful deterioration of both my hip joints.  Even though I had grown up with a rare bone disease, nothing prepared me for the realization that my body was failing me while I was learning to heal other failing bodies. (more…)

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    The Top 10 Questions You Should Ask Your Doctor

    kbatesDo you struggle to ask your doctor the right questions? Do you find it confusing and are unsure what questions are important? Dr. Kimberly Bates, the Medical Director of FACES at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, OH and academic internist and pediatrician at OSU Internal Medicine and Pediatrics Grandview, shares her recommendations for the most important questions to ask your doctor.  Do you have any other suggestions? Tell us by commenting below! (more…)

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    “You’re not as invincible as you think…”

    Tyler1679-2For most of my young adult life, I lived in extremes—I was either overcommitted in school and extracurricular activities, or I was bedbound and hospitalized. I spent so much time trying to prove that illness didn’t define me that the quest for invincibility itself began to overwhelm my identity.

    I am a lifelong patient with multiple chronic illnesses, including primary ciliary dyskinesia (PCD), a rare genetic lung disease, so I’ve had to co-exist with symptoms and setbacks for as long as I could remember. As a college writing instructor, I interact with young adults every day, and I see firsthand the sense of invincibility that accompanies youth.  My students have little reason to believe the long days, the all-nighters, and the jam-packed academic and social lives they lead will catch up to them. Unfortunately, the presence of chronic illness can exacerbate this tendency—and for many of us, the stakes can be quite high. (more…)

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    Integrating the Patient Voice into Caregiving

    Annie Levy

    Excerpt from an Interview in with Dr. Oliver Sacks: Has your experience changed the way you relate to your patients?

    Sacks: I hope I’m always sort of understanding with patients and try to understand their experiences but now, especially if I see visually impaired people, I can sympathize very intimately. . .There’s an epigraph that I quote in A Leg To Stand On
 from one of [Michel de] Montaigne’s essays in which he says that he would especially trust a doctor who had experienced some of what he had experienced. “Plato, therefore was right in saying that to become a true doctor, a man must have experienced all of the illnesses he hopes to cure. Such a man I would trust.” (more…)

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    An Evening with the TechGirls

    Last year, I was awarded a grant from the Case Foundation through Finding Fearless, an online competition to search for fearless change makers in communities around the United States. Finding Fearless is just one example of how the Case Foundation unites the principles of entrepreneurship, innovation and technology to identify, test, prove and scale ideas and models to create exponential impact. As part of the support offered by the Case Foundation to its grantees, I met Alana Ramo, an emerging woman in technology on their social innovation team. Recently, Alana and I had the opportunity to meet some truly inspiring young women. (more…)

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