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Miss UVI’s First to Bring Home National Hall of Fame Crown

miss-uvi-nbca-gown_2014_300Miss UVI Elisa Thomas made history when she won the title of Miss National Black College Alumni (NBCA) Hall of Fame – becoming the first Miss UVI to win that crown. Thomas competed against 20 other college queens from Historically Black Colleges and Universities from across the nation on Sept. 27, in Atlanta. In addition to winning the crown, Thomas won the “Hats and Heels” segment of the competition.

“Being crowned Miss National Black College Alumni Hall of Fame is an amazing feeling,” said Thomas. “To hear my name and school be called literally brought tears to my eyes. I’m proud that I was able to achieve this national recognition not only for the prestigious University of the Virgin Islands, but also for the United States Virgin Islands.” She continued, “I’m honored to represent an organization geared toward the relevance of Historically Black Colleges and Universities, promoting African American achievement, individual school pride and collective HBCU pride.”

“We are elated Elisa will be representing our HBCUs during the next twelve months as Miss Hall of Fame,” said Thomas Dortch, Jr., NBCA Hall of Fame Foundation founder and board chairman. “She has proven herself to be very capable of conveying the message of educational excellence that our HBCUs send. I am also happy that the University was able to have one of its queens to hold this coveted title.”

“I am extremely proud of Elisa Thomas, Miss UVI, for achieving this outstanding honor of being selected as Miss National Black College Alumni Hall of Fame,” said UVI President Dr. David Hall. “She represented UVI in an excellent way, and now she will represent Historically Black Colleges and Universities.” He continued, “When we consider the number of HBCUs and the important role they have played in the past and will continue to play in the future, this honor takes on an even greater significance. Elisa’s accomplishment is a compelling reminder that UVI prepares our students to take on and lead the world.”

“The entire UVI Division of Student Affairs is especially proud of Elisa,” said Doris Battiste, dean of students on the St. Thomas Campus. “This is something that we dreamed of for many years and we finally got it. We believe that she will represent UVI and the NBCA Hall of Fame well during her reign.”

“This win increases awareness that our students are second to none,” said Battiste. “Although we are geographically isolated from other HBCUs, our students measure up and do very well academically and socially. They assume leadership positions locally, regionally, nationally and internationally and serve their communities admirably.”

Thomas traveled to the Miss NBCA Hall of Fame Queens competition in Atlanta with UVI Student Activities Supervisor Leon Lafond and UVI Chaperone Marisel Melendez. She also had a group of 10 supporters, including two integral camp members Sheldon Turnbull and Lorna Freeman that assisted her in the journey and attend the show.

“To see Elisa successfully advance in the competition was superb,” said Lafond. “The various standing ovations that she got from her talent during the preliminaries and the final competition definitely spoke for itself. She is the true definition of a queen.”

Lafond thanked “Team Bubbles” – Thomas’ team of supporters who assisted her during the competition. “Without everyone’s support, none of this would be possible,” he said. “Team work makes the dream work.”

Thomas is a communication major at UVI. She said that her communications classes solidified her presentation skills.

“Communications has definitely helped me,” said Thomas, who plans to own and host her own talk show. She also plans to start an organization geared toward pre-adolescent girls entitled the “Building Blocks of Empowerment,” become a published writer and start a college fund for students in need of financial assistance. “I just think it’s imperative that we always ask ourselves what we can do for others, because any of us would not be where we are today, if it wasn’t for someone assisting us along the way,” she said.

The NBCA queen contestants are judged in four categories, including talent, poise, image and personal and private interviews. In the interviews the contestant has up to two minutes to introduce herself and discuss her platform. As Miss NBCA Hall of Fame, Thomas will serve as a national representative and advocate of HBCUs, and was awarded an academic scholarship and other prizes.

“Elisa is unquestionably a person who is the essence of beauty and intellect,” said Prince Brown, NBCA Hall of Fame Foundation executive director. “We look very much forward to having her represent us.”

During her reign as Miss NBCA Hall of Fame, Thomas plans to be an advocate promoting the importance of HBCU’s, serve as an effective panellist at the various seminars, campus tours and the events she attends. She will also promote more awareness and preventative measures to Domestic Violence. Her platform as Miss UVI and Miss NBCA Hall of Fame is “Combatting domestic violence by Building Stronger Women from a Young Age.” “If I’m able to positively influence at least one person, then I feel I have efficiently carried out my duty as a true queen – a humble servant,” said Thomas.

The NBCA queens competition is sponsored by the NBCA Hall of Fame organization, which is dedicated to the growth and development of HBCUs through scholarships, internships, training and technical assistance, alumni recognition, and programs to encourage humanitarian involvement.

The California Wellness Foundation Announces Launch of its Advancing Wellness Grants Program

Woodland Hills, CAThe California Wellness Foundation (Cal Wellness) today announced the launch of its new Advancing Wellness grants program designed to promote equity through advocacy and access. The grantmaking will focus on three interconnected portfolios: Bridging the Gaps in Access and Quality Care; Promoting Healthy and Safe Neighborhoods; and Expanding Education and Employment Pathways. The grants program also includes the Opportunity Fund to support innovation in the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors.

“We are excited to launch the next phase of our grantmaking,” said Judy Belk, president and CEO of The California Wellness Foundation.  “Advancing Wellness builds on the Foundation’s long history of responding to the needs of California communities and addressing the root causes of health and wellness inequities.”

The process for submitting letters of interest to the Foundation has been streamlined with the introduction of an online grants application process to increase efficiency and support grantees’ efforts. Grantseekers can apply here.

Building upon its legacy, the Foundation remains committed to responsive, statewide grantmaking; core operating support; funding of direct services, public policy and capacity building; and improving the health of underserved populations.

Grants made under the Bridging the Gaps in Access and Quality Care portfolio will be related to: the equitable implementation of the Affordable Care Act; the health care safety net; oral health care for low-income adults, including seniors; and increasing diversity in the health care professions.

Grants made under the Promoting Healthy and Safe Neighborhoods portfolio will be related to: ensuring that effective systems, infrastructures and resources are in place to support healthy living and to minimize trauma and injury resulting from violence, particularly gun violence.

Grants made under the Expanding Education and Employment Pathways portfolio will be related to: charting a path to greater access to resources, opportunities, and support for adolescents and young adults whom Cal Wellness defines as “resilient youth,” i.e., young people who are in, or have exited, the juvenile justice system; are current or former foster youth; have been or are currently homeless or runaways; or are pregnant and/or parenting youth. The goals of this portfolio are also to ensure that there is access to sufficient income and other resources through fair employment and appropriate government benefits, as well as the building and protection of financial assets for resilient youth, military veterans and formerly incarcerated adults.

The Opportunity Fund will support capacity building, public policy and innovation among nonprofit agencies and philanthropic organizations working to improve the health of Californians.

To view a video and other materials on the grantmaking program, please visit the CalWellness.org newsroom.

The California Wellness Foundation is a private independent foundation created in 1992 with a mission to improve the health of the people of California by making grants for health promotion, wellness education and disease prevention. Since its founding in 1992, Cal Wellness has awarded 7,523 grants totaling more than $899 million.

 

“Praise God Anyhow!”

Lou Coleman

Lou Coleman

By Lou Coleman

I tell you we should all be like Habakkuk… Instead of standing staring in the face of his problem he backed off from the problem and he stood on solid ground. He gave up on what he didn’t know and started remembering what he did know and instead of worrying about why things were going the way they were going, and why in the world God was allowing this and allowing that, he just stood back and said, “Now wait a minute, my God is an eternal God, He’s a righteous God, He hates sin and He never does wrong, He always does right.” Once he had established what he knew about God then it was much easier to cope with what he didn’t know about the events around him.

Habakkuk’s attitude was: God I don’t understand everything; I don’t understand why you let Israel go. I don’t understand why you’re bringing the Chaldeans to judge them. I don’t understand why you’re going to wait to judge the Chaldeans after that. I don’t understand any of the things, but I know one thing God, You’re the God that is righteous. You’re the God that’s eternal. You’re the God that never makes a mistake. You’re the God that hates sin. You’re the God that never does anything wrong and I’ll stand on that and praise you anyhow.

In Chapter 2, Habakkuk is standing in the midst of an absolute dilemma. He is afraid. He is afraid for himself, he’s afraid for Israel. He can’t seem to justify and rectify all the parts of the situation, though he understands that God who allowed the situation is always right. He’s caught in a dilemma, but he does not ask for deliverance, he does not ask for personal escape, he does not ask for ease, he does not pray that God should spare Israel, he doesn’t even pray that there would be no victory for the Chaldeans and that they would lose the battle, he doesn’t pray that Jerusalem wouldn’t be sacked, he doesn’t pray any of these things because he knows in view of the kind of God that God is, God must judge. So he doesn’t even bother with those things. What he does pray is this: that God will do His work and that God will have His way…. What a tremendous prayer. He knows how to pray, contrary to most of us. He knows what to pray for. He’s not praying selfishly, he’s not praying biased in favor of his flesh or his people. He is praying singularly that God’s work come to fulfillment.

I tell you when you can arrive at that kind of position in prayer you have arrived. When you can look at the problems around you and the problems in your life and the problems in your world and say, “God I don’t care about those things, all I care about God, that you be glorified.” What a tremendous, tremendous prayer. Habakkuk had one thought in his mind and that was that God receive the due glory for doing His work. He says, God, if you’ve got to do it that way I want you to do it, revive your work in the midst of the years. His one desire was that things be right according to God’s plan, not comfortable according to his desires. Not peaceful, not easy, not happy, just right like God would have them. He wanted things to be the way God wanted them, and if you want a New Testament equivalent to that kind of a prayer you’ll find it in the prayer commonly called the Lord’s Prayer, “Thy kingdom come.”

Habakkuk had made a fantastic transformation from fear to fate. He started out shaking like a leaf in Chapter 1, but he come to the consciousness of faith in a God that he knows is doing right. Our prayer ought to sound something like Habakkuk’s. We ought to be praying daily God be glorified in my life. God be glorified in my church. God be glorified in this world. That should be the cry and the prayer on the heart of every believer. Habakkuk had the right perspective. He had first things first. What really mattered to him were not the circumstances in the world around him, or his problems, although there were unbelievably bleak. The thing that really mattered to him was that God receive the glory. And that ought to be the thing that matters number one to us. Our concern should be the things of God that God’s work is coming to its fulfillment. What a tremendous lesson here. What can a person do in a state of human weakness? What can you do when you’re faced with all sorts of problems? Habakkuk said,” I’m going to stand here and love God and just keep on loving Him and praising Him no matter what happens.” Job said, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.”

Unless we see the big picture of what God is doing through the difficulties of life, the suffering, the pain, the iniquities, the injustices of life, we will miss the profound and foundational truth that God is using all of it for our ultimate good and His glory. So when all hell breaks loose in your world; when the worst comes to the worst; when everything is lost, step back from your problem, remember your God and start to rejoice with a holy joy based on love and adoration that nothing will ever touch. That you’re His and He’s yours and He cares for you and nothing will ever affect that in anyway. The sweetness of the spirit of Habakkuk. His problems were solved, not because he understood everything, but because he knew his God and he put his trust in Him. His circumstances caused him to shake, but his relationship to God was absolutely unshakeable. “Praise God Anyhow!”