Whether in The Voice or in VOiCE, Dreams Can Come True

I am addicted to The Voice, and, yes, I cry nearly every single episode. I can’t help it. Watching dreams collide with hard work is too much for me to take. It’s okay, you can make fun of me. My kids certainly do, every time.

Even though I didn’t name VOiCE after The Voice, I see them as similar. They both resonate down deep in a place where your perspective and your take on things actually matter. Check that. Your perspective, your take on things are actually sought out. It’s the moment in time when you realize your voice matters.

In 2009, a group of students told me that, essentially, all the things we were doing to build them up were being ruined by the media. “The only people we see in the news who look like us are in mug shots,” one girl said. Now, that’s not a new complaint but what was new to me was the fact that it was undoing what we were trying to do. Really, could it be that the front page and the opening minutes of the six o’clock news has the power to diminish the encouragement we pour into people? 

The answer is regrettably but quite simply, yes. In fact, the disproportionate amount of minority mugshots in the media not only impacts individuals but also perceptions of others. It seems that we think less of each other if we don’t look alike, begging the question, do we think less of each other even when we look alike? Our students showed me that, yes, people simply can’t fight the suspicions of strangers especially when coupled with the media seemingly perpetuating those doubts.

Well that struck me in a way I can’t describe. My organization, The Florida Endowment Foundation for Florida’s Graduates was already maxed out with the three programs we offered at the time. There was our marquee program, Jobs for Florida’s Graduates, which is the state affiliate for Jobs for America’s Graduates. We were also just incubating Students United with Parents and Educators to Resolve Bullying (SUPERB) and Girls Get I.T. We didn’t have the capacity to take on one more thing.

But VOiCE, as it would later be known, spoke to me. How could I let our core belief that “your past doesn’t have to dictate your future” be undone by the “if it bleeds, it leads” mentality?

Currently minorities make up 37.02 percent of the U.S. population; that number will increase to 42.39 percent by 2025, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Yet, the American Society of News Editors reports that newsrooms “continue to be about two-thirds male … and …12.37 percent of minority. 

While we didn’t build VOiCE to encourage students to go into journalism, we did create it as a place where art and technology collide in a way that students may feel the power of their stories, their culture, their voice without regard to what the media was choosing as its lead story. What we discovered was that when art collides with technology, some of the most powerful stories of resilience and courage emerge. 

And when you have those stories, leading with mugshots is just … well … just meaningless. 


The Foundation Resurrects Pride in One of Florida’s Poorest Communities

This week marks the grand opening of a youth center in the poorest neighborhood of Florida’s poorest county. After seven years of development, the effort of the community and the ambition of the students involved has resulted in a new teen center on the corner of 1100 Madison Street in Palatka. 

The area surrounding the center was once the epicenter of black commerce. The street was dotted with dry cleaners, car dealerships, restaurants, jazz clubs and retail stores. As far as the eye could see, black entrepreneurs were thriving and just down the road was Floridas’ first African-American accredited high school. 

Today, the neighborhood is in the throes of crime and poverty. Entrepreneurs have been replaced gang members, drug dealers and prostitutes. The Florida Endowment Foundation for Florida’s Graduates, which operates Jobs for Florida’s Graduates, Girls Get I.T., VOiCE and SUPERB, believes its new teen center will act as the catalyst for other investments in the area. 


Skilled tradesmen were hired to develop the two buildings, and then The Foundation brought in a team to recruit and train local residents in construction skills. “I realized that there was no reason to hire professionals to build a deck, install a fence, or landscape when I could be teaching someone how to do that so they can use those skills in their lives,” said Heather Beaven, CEO of The Florida Endowment Foundation for Florida’s Graduates (The Foundation) and recognized expert in school-to-work transition for young adults entering the workforce.

Representative Travis Hutson (R-St. Augustine) attended the grand opening, and during his remarks to the crowd, he said, “Giving people the hands-on skills they need to go to work or start their own small business is necessary for Florida’s economic success. That’s why I fight for programs like Jobs for Florida’s Graduates.”

Six years ago, a local businessman donated a commercial building to The Florida Endowment Foundation for Florida’s Graduates, which operates Jobs for Florida’s Graduates (JFG). “Our Palatka High School students told him that they just wanted a safe place to study after school,” said Beaven.

Unfortunately, the building was beyond repair. The City of Palatka, Putnam County and the Florida Department of Corrections joined forces to demolish the building and make way for two donated portable classrooms donated by Mobile Modular, Inc. When the buildings were raised, however, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FLDEP) discovered four large underground tanks. The documentation of what those tanks once held had long been lost. 

Beaven said, “I really thought that was the end of our students’ dreams. As a not-for-profit, it is terribly difficult to find funds that will pay for any kind of property improvements, much less something of this magnitude.” FLDEP, with the help of the US Department of Environmental Protection (US EPA) had other ideas. The two agencies came together to cover the expenses of the contaminated site. Their involvement has left the door open for a Browns Field designation, which could result in a significant infusion of federal dollars in downtown Palatka. 

“Today, we have our first class enrolled and we simply couldn’t have done it without the unwavering support of AT&T, Mobile Modular, Career Source of Northeast Florida, the Florida Department of Education, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the US Department of Environmental Protection Agency and, ultimately, Governor Rick Scott,” said Beaven. 


The first class is made up of eighteen to twenty-four year-old unemployed young adults. They enrolled in construction skills training with the Homebuilders Institute and employability skills classes through Jobs for Florida’s Graduates. Upon graduation, they will earn a nationally-recognized certification in facilities maintenance. While building a wood deck connecting the buildings, twenty-three year old Antwan Johnson said “I love it. I love using math to figure out how to build things. I really love it.” The project has won two national awards as a model collaboration for the US EPA.

“This is the story of the little building that could” said Beaven.


Heather Beaven is a social entrepreneur, consultant, speaker, author and media personality, as well as the CEO of the non-profit organization, The Florida Endowment Foundation for Florida’s Graduates. Beaven believes preparing young people for jobs is how we grow the economy and improve life for all Americans. Learn more at http://floridagraduates.org and http://heatherbeaven.com.

Workforce development and education expert Heather Beaven illustrates how bullying affects future economy.

Heather Beaven to speak at Clemson about bullying issues

Flagler Beach, FL, 01/28/2015 –  Clemson University has invited Heather Beaven, CEO of The Florida Endowment Foundation for Florida’s Graduates (The Foundation), to present at the annual At-Risk Youth National Forum. Beaven’s presentation is entitled “Isolation, Exclusion and Bullying in Schools is a Workforce Development Concern.”

The At-Risk Youth National Forum is an annual event designed to enhance the leadership skills of all adults who are seeking to strengthen interventions among school, community, and families, especially to assist those in at-risk situations. The forum will be held Sunday, February 15, 2015, through Wednesday, February 18, 2015, at the Kingston Plantation in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.


Be the CEO of You, Inc.

America needs to start talking about cold hard facts. We have been in the throes of a recession; our economy is broken. We lost upwards of 20% of our economy in the last decade. Credit, mortgages, securities, banking, real estate, construction, manufacturing and every business and service in between were devastated. Some are gone forever and the people who map out their academic and professional success will have the best chance of navigating this transformation to their financial benefit.


How Entrepreneurs Are Going to Kickstart America’s Employment Rate

Summer is coming to a close. Back to school sales are springing up everywhere. BBQ briquettes are smoldering, lemons are being squeezed, and beer is on ice. Boats. Bikes. Tents. No matter how you celebrate, take a minute to remember American workers, past, present and future. Take a minute to remember the “99ers” whose lifeblood is threatened by members of Congress who earn more than five times the average American.


Do We Work Just Because God Says So?

Human beings build, or dream of building, a life that benefits them.

A worldwide survey of entrepreneurs found that Americans cite independence as the main reason for starting a business. Brazilians overwhelmingly start businesses to provide jobs in their communities, and over half of Chinese entrepreneurs are driven by building a business they can pass on to their heirs.

But what if work is more than just a need for independence and security? What if it is essential to the soul because there has never been nor will there ever be another person made up of the same gifts, talents, interests, abilities, and purpose?


15 Steps America Can Take to Create Jobs Now

America has struggled with how we create jobs, how we prepare people for jobs, and how we keep jobs here since the Industrial Revolution when we moved from small business owners to employees of large companies. We can’t afford to put these decisions off for one more minute or we risk being swamped under by countries who took their economic health seriously.


The GED is An Epic Fail, But Not For the Reason You Think

As young Americans marched off to fight the Nazi’s in World War II, millions traded their diploma for a draft card. It soon became clear that if a warrior was smart enough to liberate Europe, he was smart enough to graduate from high school.

The GED was developed to give warriors and veterans an opportunity to test out of courses as an alternative to returning from war and taking your seat, for example, in eleventh grade civics class. So the military commissioned the American Council on Education to develop a battery of tests covering including English, math, science and social studies. Within five years, many states had began administering the GED test to other non-traditional students including disabled students and students who needed to get into the workforce faster for personal economical reasons.


Education Reform: Taxpayers Spend $55B On a Failing Education System, But Here’s How to Fix It For Free

In 1867, with the stroke of his pen, President Andrew Johnson created the first federal Department of Education. Johnson, who was illiterate until adulthood, created the agency to collect data on the successes and failures of education across America. Less than a year later, it was killed out of fear that the federal government would take over education.


Sequestration 2013: Are We Abandoning Military Children, Our Littlest Heroes?

The Global War On Terrorism has surpassed the conflicts of the 20th century to now rank as our nation’s second longest war. Yet, we sequester. Repeated deployments with insufficient “dwell time” between have created stress on service members, their families, and their larger support systems including theDepartment of Veterans’ Affairs. Yet, still, we sequester.