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American Mothers National Convention in Washington, D.C.

When I was escorted by a military officer into a grand ballroom as the California Mother of the Year, I was proud to represent my progressive state. Networking and meeting the Mothers of the Year from states across the USA, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands was both humbling and inspiring. We all met in Washington DC at the 3-day conference at the historic Mayflower Hotel. I enjoyed learning about each mother's journey through motherhood.

The common thread that wove us together was that we are all momma bears. In our unique ways, we protect, we guide, we overcome, and we cherish our children. Some of us have been raped, some live without modern conveniences, and some are single moms. Others are raising children with challenging disabilities and mental health issues. But we're all moms who have changed our lives so we can be there for our children forever.

We discussed major issues that we face as mothers: child care, gun violence, education/student debt, mental health and more. I shared my platforms for setting up free child care in the home, and getting students to do projects to get into top colleges and win scholarships (without cheating!) while solving major issues we face as a nation -- and as a civilization. Many mothers have set up non-profit organizations and started lucrative businesses to support mothers and children.

I look forward to developing these new friendships and sharing our journeys with the other 2019 Mothers of the Year over this exciting year!

Early Application Dilemma

Applying early improves odds of getting in, but reduces your financial aid packages.

Applying early admission improves your chances of getting admitted to highly selective colleges IF you have a competitive application.  That means that your GPA and SAT/ACT scores are stellar, and you have something interesting or unique to bring to the freshman class (a project!). This year, top colleges saw a significant increase in early applications (Early Decision and Early Action), and they admitted more students from this pool than regular admissions.

Students who can afford to apply Early Decision because their parents don’t need to consider financial aid, have a big advantage over students who need to compare financial aid packages from several colleges. Almost 30% of students who applied Early Decision (this is binding, which means you have to attend) last year have family incomes of more than $250,000 per year, compared to just 16% of students with families who make less than $50,000. This significantly changes the demographics of the incoming class.

Most high school seniors don’t have the organizational skills to select all of their colleges, complete the applications, write the essays, request letters of recommendation, take the SAT/ACT, and put together portfolios (for art/music) by October or November of the senior year. These students who do apply early are most likely working with a private college advisor who organizes and helps them meet these early deadlines. Again, this system caters to the wealthy. Regular admissions deadlines are usually around December-January (November-December for public colleges) for selective colleges.

If you’re applying to colleges this fall, select a few Early Action colleges and complete the applications and essays during the summer.  Request letters of recommendation during the first week of school – before your fellow students ask – and you’ll be more likely to get those applications completed and improve your odds of getting in! Share this with low-income students so it evens the playing field.  Remember, applying Early Action is not binding so you can wait to compare financial aid packages before making your decision.  If you need a substantial financial aid package, don’t apply Early Decision.

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Can't Afford to go to College Because of Childcare Costs?

Check out how I did it for free!

Only 8% of single mothers graduate from college within 6 years. The Achieving a Dream and the Biden Foundation are working together to find solutions to help these mothers go to college and get a degree, but they don’t have any funding.  Congress just increased funding to the Child Care Access Means Parents in School program (CCAMPIS) from $15 million to $50 million.  This program gives grants to colleges that support child care on campus but supports only 5,000 college students nationwide.

Mothers who don’t have family or friends who can help out with child care can set up free child care in their homes while they go to school and work part-time. I set up a preschool for my 2 daughters for 9 years so I could work full-time. By inviting 3-4 children to join the program and hiring a teacher to teach the classes, the parents’ tuition covered the cost of the teacher’s wages and materials. Check out The Millennial’s Guide to Free Child Care in Your Home to learn how to set this up for your children.

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Why are Legacies Legal in the College Admissions Process?

An analysis commissioned by Students for Fair Admissions found that legacy applicants (children of alumni) were accepted at a rate of almost 35% from 2009-2015. Wow – 35%! While this is legal, is it ethical?

On college application forms, just about every college asks applicants if their parents or grandparents are alumni. While admissions decisions are determined by a wide variety of rubrics, Brown University offers their alumni special counseling to help their children prepare to apply to Brown. They call it the Alumni College Advising Program and it is free for these lucky students. Each of these students gets 3 hours of advising. They’re also offered one-on-one meetings with Brown faculty, who then write letters of recommendation to the admissions office.  The admissions committees favor applicants who “demonstrate interest” and these special meetings and letters satisfy that interest. Really?

If colleges are accepting students because their parents are alumni and they’ve donated huge sums of money, I wonder how that’s different from parents who bribe admissions officers to get their kids in. When they bribe admissions committees with new buildings or sports arenas, their less-qualified students get in while better-qualified students are denied admission.  The median family income of students at Brown is $204,000, and 70% of the student body comes from the top 20% of family income in the United States. Hmm. While the rich negotiate deals behind closed doors, and the honest, hard-working families don’t get in because Brown seems to value legacies more than merit.

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All Families Should be Able to Afford Child Care

Affordable child care continues to plague both families and day care workers.  The cost of child care often exceeds the cost of tuition at four-year public universities! That’s ridiculous!

Then, consider that day care workers make on average less than $23,000/year and 75% of them earn less than a living wage. So naturally, there’s a shortage of child care in most cities across the nation.

This hits low-income families the hardest because they pay about 30% of their income for child care. Higher-income families pay only about 8% of their income for child care.

The Child Care for Working Families Act proposes to cover 90% of the cost of infant-toddler care and meet quality standards and provide a living wage to teachers. Unfortunately, the current administration will only give funds to states that “remove unnecessary regulations” and the funds are insufficient to make a difference in the current child care crisis.

How Can a 4-Year Plan Save You Thousands?

Why is it that parents carefully plan out what schools, classes, and extracurricular activities for their children until they graduate high school, but they don’t plan out courses, internships, research and projects for college?  Sounds ridiculous when considering the cost -- $80,000-$250,000 – of a bachelor’s degree. Parents, and students, should carefully map out a plan for their four years in college before they move out so they make the most of this incredible opportunity.

Instead, parents send their kids off to college carefully checking off items like extra-long bed sheets, shower slippers, and laptops.  They expect the college to help their children navigate the college course selection process on their own. The advisors at college help students select classes for the upcoming term and loosely guide them as they choose courses that satisfy general ed (GE) and major requirements.  So what’s wrong with this? 

By selecting classes each term – instead of looking at the big picture,  students don’t consider upper division courses that they’ll take later that may have several prerequisite courses that should be taken during freshmen or sophomore years.  That means that when they’re juniors or seniors, they won’t be able to take some of the more interesting courses in their major because they won’t have time to take the prerequisite courses before their graduation.  In other words, without careful planning, students don’t get to take advantage of the many courses and programs that are offered at that wonderful college that their parents are giving up their retirement savings for.

Before heading off to college, students who create 4-year plans that include GEs and lower-division, upper division, and elective courses for their majors are more likely to take the interesting classes and double dip (take classes that satisfy more than one requirement).  What does that mean? These students graduate in 4 years, instead of 5 or 6!

By choosing majors, GEs, all courses and electives BEFORE students head off to college, they’re more likely to get the courses they need and take advantage of research, internships, and paid jobs. That’s why we help students create these 4-year plans for students right after high school graduation.  This ensures that parents avoid unnecessary college expenses and that their children move on to higher ed or a career sooner rather than later.

College Tuition Costs are Crushing Families

With college tuition costing over a quarter of a million dollars, parents are desperate to find funds. Originally, federal Parent PLUS programs were designed for middle-class parents to bridge the gap between selling assets and paying off loans. In other words, these parents just needed time to liquidate money they already had.  But today, many parents are borrowing money that they’ll never be able to pay down.

A new report finds that more than 60% of borrowers in 2015-2016 exceeded their expected family contribution (EFC).  This same report finds that Republican proposals to cap parent lending at $12,500 annually wouldn't address over-borrowing from lower income families trying to give their children a college education. While it might seem smart to stop families from borrowing money they will never be able to repay, not allowing families to give their children access to higher education will only perpetuate their poverty.

How can colleges around the world offer free tuition to all of their students, when our public and private colleges are charging exorbitant tuition? This isn’t sustainable. We need to rethink higher education.  Maybe we’re heading towards a college experience that might be comprised of an affordable mix of online classes, credit by examination, and on-site courses.

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2019 California American Mothers Gala

It’s official – I’m the 2019 California Mother of the Year! My platform will be two-fold: (1) Set up FREE childcare in the home; and (2) Start projects for teens to get into college (ethically!). We’ve created a new website: AmericanMothersCalifornia.com where we’ll share tips, blogs, podcasts, and deals. For the first time ever, we’re going to host a TEDx event for American Mothers (California) to share their parenting/education ideas. I’m thrilled; this is going to be an exciting year!

I attended the gala in Southern California last weekend where I met fascinating women at all levels of this incredible organization. These dynamic women have powerful stories (some enlightening, others tragic) that inspired them to start non-profit organizations, write books, create podcasts and blogs, and more. We’ll be featuring these women on our website, so keep checking back to see what’s new.  I’m heading to Washington, DC for the national American Mothers convention next week!

Susan Tatsui-D'Arcy Honored as 2019 California Mother of Year

It’s official – Susan Tatsui-D’Arcy is the 2019 California Mother of the Year! Her platform will be two-fold: (1) Set up FREE childcare in the home; and (2) Start projects for teens to get into college (ethically!). She’s building a new website: AmericanMothersCalifornia.com where she’ll share tips, podcasts, and blogs. For the first time ever, she’s planning to host a TEDx event for American Mothers (California) to share their parenting/education ideas. This is going to be an exciting year!

Last weekend, California American Mothers hosted a lovely gala in La Canada Flintridge (southern California). Lauraine Clark moderated the event. Isabella Torrez won the 5th Grade Essay Contest and read her sweet poem “What my Mother Means to Me.” Mary Zakrasek won the Distinguished Service “Francis Eleanor Smith” Award and Sharon Brown won the Humanitarian Service Award. Joy Burkhard won the California Mother of Achievement Award. California Honor Mother Awards went to Susan Graham, Jessica Relph, Chanelle Neilson, and Aalia Lanius. These dynamic women have powerful stories (some enlightening, others tragic) that inspired them to start non-profit organizations, write books, create podcasts and blogs, and more. She’ll be featuring these women on the new website, so keep checking back to see what’s new. 

As the guest speaker, Dr. Greggory De Vore shared fascinating stories about his incredible career in fetal medicine and how he’s worked hard to improve the outcomes of complicated pregnancies and premature babies. Dorothy De Vore, 2007 California Mother of the Year and American Mothers Board Member, received the American Mothers, Inc. Lifetime Membership Award. We’re thrilled that Dorothy will continue to be part of the California American Mothers and national American Mothers organizations.

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