Crusaders cruises in the 2nd half to win NCAA DIII

Posted by:  , December 20, 2021

By Okon Ekpenyong

The University of Mary Hardin-Baylor Crusaders won their second Stagg Bowl title on Friday, December 17, 2021, defeating North Central College Cardinals 57-24 at the Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, Ohio.

It would have been their third, but in their 2016 Championship run, the NCAA stated that the program violated an NCAA Policy, taking away that win. The program played in 2004, 2016, and 2017 and won it in 2018, but their 2016 and 2017 run violated NCAA Policy.

Both teams came into the title game undefeated, and throughout the season, looked good on paper both defensively and offensively. Both teams struggled to put points on the board during the first two quarters, but UMHD managed to end the first quarter on a 16-7 lead. However, in the second quarter, North Central College did outplay them scoring 10-3. In the third QTR, UMHB took advantage of NCC offensive struggles by scoring 14-0, and in the fourth QTR, the UMHB receiving squad of Brenton Martin & Brandon Jordan proved to be much for the NCC Cornerbacks outscoring the Cardinals 24-7 to end the game.

Former receiver for the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, Eric Schoenert, spoke to the New Americans Magazine about the Crusader Football Alumni Association.

The association organizes tailgates for home and away games, and it is part of the Christian fellowship program that connects former and current players. The majority of the players attending the tailgates and the championship game played 2004-2018.

2021 Stagg NCAA DIII Championship game prediction:

We are very proud of the success we’ve had and what we’ve been able to get back from the program. North Central is a good team, and they got here for a reason. UMHB is firing from all cylinders, and offensively I don’t know how they will stop all of our weapons. We are significantly faster than they are and in a similar size. I think we will win the game, probably by a touchdown, and the team that gets to thirty the fastest will have a better chance of winning it all.  (Eric Schoenert)

Eric’s prediction was 24-17, but the UMHD ended up winning 57-24 to take home their second Stagg Bowl for the 2nd time in school history.

Eric added that they had been successfully capitalizing on third and fourth-down conversions. We still like to run on third-down conversion, but we become more of a passing team in the last four to five weeks of play. Because we have outstanding receivers, their corners will typically back off on the opposite side so we can run a hatch route and get a first down on a third and 7 by running a pass and play.  (Eric Schoenert).

Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium:

The city of Canton and Hall of Fame committee has done a fantastic job taking care of both teams and showing UMHB and NCC the Hall of Fame Stadium and around the Hall of Fame Museum itself. The Committee made it a memorable experience for both programs, specifically the players. It is a great stadium, and it will be something special for the players on either side.  We play at a magnificent stadium at Crusader Stadium in Belton, TX, and we are lucky and blessed to have a quality program and facility.  Eric added that they are intimidated playing at the stadium, but it is an opportunity that the program will remember forever.  (Eric Schoenert)

Growth of Division III:

Players want to go places they think would make a difference and be active right away. Fans can expect those numbers to increase across any football division. Also, with the rise of social media, accessing quality games that are more accessible means that fans will be more aware of better teams versus only following the schools that everybody already knows. It helps put more spotlight on smaller schools. (Eric Schoenert)

“We are in the heart of Texas, so we recruit players from Dallas and down to Houston. The University sells itself, but because some of those players are in weight or height, it may disqualify the DI from giving them a chance. But if they have a passion for the game and are willing to sacrifice to prove themselves, we would love to have them”, Coach Pete Fredenburg said.

“It is always about team chemistry because when you see other players stepping up at the highest level, you too as a player, challenge you to complete with all of your heart and might. And when the team is as successful as we are, it gives us hope that a DIII program will arise, and everybody, including future players, should notice”, QB Kyle King said.


Division III Football has continued to grow since I played back in 2004. Our most famous alumni Darrell Freeman would play for the Indianapolis Colts, Chicago Bears, and many successful seasons. Other programs did overlook Freeman for his sizes from DI schools across Texas, and so he came in with a chip on his shoulder by doing everything asked to make himself better and get noticed by the NFL. There’s always an opportunity for the coaching staff to find players committed to the game itself and have a chance to make it to the league stage after their collegiate careers are over.

Crusader Football Alumni Association:

We are a proud alumni association; we support our players and student-athletes across campus. We also support other sports on campus, but Football is our primary focus.  (Eric Schoenert)

Coaches and Players reaction:

Fredenburg, Mr. Pete Head Coach, Football, commented on the player Alumni association. We have strived to focus on Team Chemistry since we started the program in 1998. It solidifies the team concept of people that care for one another. Within the association, current and past build a bond, and the players genuinely care for and love one another, and have fun being a part of it, indeed.

“We go through so much being a student-athlete, and because these guys understand and have been there, it helps,” one of the UMHD players added.

USCIS Announces 855,000 new U.S. citizens for FY 2021 Accomplishments

Posted by:  , December 16, 2021
  • Approves USCIS approximately 835,000 requests for initial DACA and over 2.3 million requests for renewal of DACA

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, USCIS has welcomed 855,000 new U.S. citizens, including derivative citizens during FY 2021.

Despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, with the help of video-facilitated interviews and pandemic-safe interview procedures, USCIS continued to process naturalization cases at pre-pandemic levels during FY 2021 and completed approximately 895,000 naturalization applications, conducted more than 52,000 video-facilitated interviews, and hosted more than 40,000 naturalization ceremonies.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services said in its preliminary fiscal year (FY) 2021 agency statistics and accomplishments release that, “these preliminary statistics highlight important immigration trends and illustrate the work accomplished by USCIS in FY 2021,” adding that “the agency will publish final, verified FY 2021 statistics in January 2022.”

“I’m immensely proud of the USCIS workforce and for their achievements in a year of many challenges and rebuilding. From responding to the COVID-19 pandemic and addressing processing delays to enacting numerous operational and policy changes in response to executive orders from the Biden-Harris Administration, FY 2021 marks a year of growth and renewed vision for our agency,” said USCIS Director Ur M. Jaddou.

“In the upcoming year, we will continue to serve the public with compassion and reflect America’s promise as a nation of welcome and possibilities for all. As we administer our nation’s immigration system as an engine of American strength, we will adjudicate requests with fairness, efficiency and integrity.”

The release said “USCIS continues to promote and improve access to naturalization pursuant to EO 14012 and the Interagency Strategy for Promoting Naturalization, which was released publicly on July 2, 2021.

“USCIS has taken a number of steps to reduce barriers to naturalization and promote citizenship, including phasing out the 2020 version of the Naturalization Civics Test and reverting back to the 2008 Test on March 1; decreasing the pending naturalization case queue by approximately 14% from January to September 2021; conducting video interviews of overseas military members and qualifying family members, as well as video naturalization ceremonies, with the assistance of the Department of Defense; reusing approximately 838,000 naturalization applicants’ biometrics since March 1; relaunching the Outstanding Americans by Choice initiative; and releasing $10 million to 40 citizenship grantees for FY 2022.”

Addressing Challenges

Fiscal Health: USCIS fiscal health has improved significantly during FY 2021 as a result of measures the agency implemented to reduce spending, as well as an increase in Immigration Examinations Fee Account revenue receipts, which have exceeded projections.

Temporary Flexibilities in Response to COVID-19: The health and safety of our workforce and those we serve remained a top priority. USCIS continued temporary flexibilities related to COVID-19, including allowing more time for responses to certain USCIS requests and notices.

Employment-Based Adjustments: USCIS faced the unprecedented challenge of processing over 237,000 employment-based Green Card applications—not only the agency’s usual 115,000, but an additional 122,000 immigrant visa numbers that the Department of State was unable to process in FY 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. By the end of FY 2021, USCIS approved over 172,000 employment-based adjustment of status applications, an increase of 50% above the typical baseline.

Processing Delays: Across the agency, the volume of pending cases increased as well as the associated processing times. USCIS has made significant strides in addressing processing delays caused by COVID-19 and other factors while responding to new executive orders. USCIS made significant strides in addressing processing delays in the following ways: reusing biometrics for 2.5 million applicants since March 2020; reducing the number of pending biometrics appointments from 1.4 million in January 2021 to 155,000 as of the end of September; and fully eliminating the “front-log” of cases awaiting intake processing (which was more than 1 million receipts in January 2021 and was eliminated in July) by expanding staffing and overtime at our Lockbox facilities.

Response to Executive Orders

Breaking Down Barriers: USCIS continues to identify efficiencies and remove barriers to benefits and services pursuant to executive orders (EO) 14012 and 13985 and received over 7,400 comments to its Request for Public Input, “Identifying Barriers Across U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Benefits and Services,” which closed on May 19, 2021. USCIS has already announced a number of updates responsive to comments received, including reverting to prior criteria for interviewing petitioners requesting derivative refugee and asylee status for family members, clarifying that it will consider E and L dependent spouses to be employment authorized incident to status and that H-4, E, and L dependent spouses may qualify for the automatic extension of their employment authorization, and providing deferred action and work authorization for petitioners living in the U.S. with pending, bona fide U nonimmigrant status petitions and who merit a favorable exercise of discretion. USCIS continues to review and consider comments received in response to the Request for Public Input, alongside other feedback received, such as in stakeholder engagements.

Promoting Naturalization: During FY 2021, USCIS welcomed 855,000 new U.S. citizens, including derivative citizens. Despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, with the help of video-facilitated interviews and pandemic-safe interview procedures, USCIS continued to process naturalization cases at pre-pandemic levels during FY 2021 and completed approximately 895,000 naturalization applications, conducted more than 52,000 video-facilitated interviews, and hosted more than 40,000 naturalization ceremonies. USCIS continues to promote and improve access to naturalization pursuant to EO 14012 and the Interagency Strategy for Promoting Naturalization, which was released publicly on July 2, 2021. USCIS has taken a number of steps to reduce barriers to naturalization and promote citizenship, including phasing out the 2020 version of the Naturalization Civics Test and reverting back to the 2008 Test on March 1; decreasing the pending naturalization case queue by approximately 14% from January to September 2021; conducting video interviews of overseas military members and qualifying family members, as well as video naturalization ceremonies, with the assistance of the Department of Defense; reusing approximately 838,000 naturalization applicants’ biometrics since March 1; relaunching the Outstanding Americans by Choice initiative; and releasing $10 million to 40 citizenship grantees for FY 2022.

Public Charge: DHS published the Public Charge Vacatur Final Rule in the Federal Register on March 15, 2021, which removed the regulatory provisions promulgated by the 2019 Public Charge Final Rule that the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals vacated on March 9. USCIS released a letter to interagency partners on April 12, seeking their support in communicating to the public that the 2019 Public Charge Rule is no longer in effect. On Aug. 23, USCIS published an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) to seek broad public feedback on key considerations associated with the public charge ground of inadmissibility that will help with the development of a future regulatory proposal. As announced in the ANPRM, USCIS conducted a listening session for the general public on public charge on Sept. 14. Resources on public charge, including questions and answers, are available on our website. USCIS hopes to issue its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on public charge in the near future.

U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) Improvements: USCIS continues to work with the Department of State (DOS) to take steps to improve the efficacy, integrity, security and transparency of the USRAP pursuant to EO 14013.

Family Reunification Task Force: USCIS continues to serve on the Family Reunification Task Force and established a parole process and approved approximately 100 individuals for parole during FY 2021 to help reunify families separated by the prior administration’s Zero-Tolerance and related policies.

Expansion of Lawful Pathways from Central America: USCIS and DOS reinstituted and expanded the Central American Minors Refugee and Parole Program (CAM), including the resumption of interviews. In Phase One, USCIS and DOS began processing eligible applications that were closed when the CAM program was terminated in January 2018. In Phase Two, eligibility criteria were expanded for certain U.S. based individuals—to include legal guardians in qualifying categories (such as lawful permanent residence, Temporary Protected Status (TPS), parolees, deferred action, Deferred Enforced Departure, or withholding of removal), and parents or legal guardians with a pending asylum application or petition for U nonimmigrant status—to apply for their children to access the CAM program.

Humanitarian Programs

Operation Allies Welcome: USCIS set up temporary field offices and mobile biometrics processing stations in eight federally approved facilities to process arriving Afghan nationals and family members who assisted the United States in Afghanistan. At these facilities, Afghan nationals applied for employment authorization and have been referred to resettlement services, if they are eligible. USCIS personnel are adjudicating applications for employment authorization and conducting other immigration processing. During FY 2021, USCIS collected biometrics for more than 52,000 individuals and adjudicated more than 28,000 applications for employment authorization.

Asylum Processing: This past year, USCIS completed approximately 39,000 affirmative asylum cases, 44,000 credible fear determinations, and more than 4,400 reasonable fear determinations. On Aug. 2, 2021, USCIS opened a new asylum office in Tampa, Fla., in response to an increasing asylum workload in Florida.

Adjudication by Asylum Officers of Protection Claims after Positive Credible Fear Determinations: On Aug. 20, 2021, a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking was published that would amend regulations so that individuals in expedited removal who are found to have a credible fear of persecution or torture could have their claims for asylum, withholding of removal, or protection under the Convention Against Torture initially adjudicated by a USCIS asylum officer through a nonadversarial proceeding, rather than in immigration court by an immigration judge. If implemented, this rule would allow for more efficient adjudication of the protection claims of individuals who establish a credible fear while in the expedited removal process, while ensuring fairness and safeguarding due process. The 60-day public comment period ended on Oct. 19.

Refugee Interviews: USCIS expanded its capacity to conduct certain refugee applicant interviews remotely using video-teleconferencing, which enabled USCIS to mitigate the impact of COVID-19-related restrictions on international travel for much of the year. USCIS also deployed officers to 12 overseas locations to conduct in-person initial refugee interviews or to provide support for video interviews conducted remotely from the United States. USCIS interviewed approximately 6,600 refugee applicants in person and over 3,300 refugee applicants remotely in 23 countries.

Temporary Protected Status: In FY 2021, USCIS began accepting applications and renewals for TPS under new and/or extended designations for South Sudan, Burma, Somalia, Syria, Venezuela, Yemen and Haiti. On July 21, 2021, USCIS publicly launched online filing for initial TPS registration applications for Burma, Somalia, Syria, Venezuela, and Yemen. On Aug. 3, when DHS published the designation of Haiti for TPS for 18 months in the Federal Register, USCIS made online filing available for initial TPS registrations. On Aug. 4, DHS announced the extension of the initial registration periods from 180 days to 18 months for initial applicants under the TPS designations for Venezuela, Syria and Burma, similar to the same-length initial registration periods in place regarding applicants from other countries, such as Haiti.

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA): Since DACA began in 2012, USCIS has approved approximately 835,000 requests for initial DACA and over 2.3 million requests for renewal of DACA, as of September 30, 2021. The median processing time for DACA renewals and related employment authorization applications through September 30, was approximately 54 days. On Sept. 28, DHS published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that would preserve and fortify the DACA policy, with a 60-day public comment period that closed on November 29. If finalized as proposed, the rule would codify the existing DACA policy with a few limited changes.

U Nonimmigrant Bona Fide Determination Process: USCIS announced the U Nonimmigrant Bona Fide Determination Process on June 14, 2021, to address increases in the volume of U nonimmigrant petitions and a growing number of cases awaiting placement on the waiting list or final adjudication. With this initiative, USCIS will be able to provide efficient reviews of U visa petitions and provide work authorization and deferred action to victims of crime in a timelier manner.

Increased Public Engagement

USCIS hosts public engagements on local and national levels involving our community relations officers and subject matter experts. In March 2021, we conducted an agency-wide review of public engagement to reinvigorate our outreach efforts. The review identified key priorities and ways to increase engagement opportunities.

During FY 2021, USCIS adapted to a virtual engagement environment and had record numbers of attendees for these events.

USCIS held more than 2,000 virtual engagements with approximately 74,000 attendees, including 2,069 local engagements and 47 engagements at the national level.

USCIS hosts engagements in English, Spanish, and other languages including Arabic, Haitian Creole, Mandarin, Dari, and Urdu.

We covered more than 20 topics, including citizenship/naturalization, online filing, TPS, public charge, avoiding immigration scams, Liberian Refugee Immigration Fairness (LRIF), family-based petitions, business immigration, and COVID-19 visitor procedures for local offices.

Online Filing and Tools

The agency’s transition from paper applications to a fully digital filing and adjudication experience continues to be an important priority for USCIS. Consequently, USCIS continues to expand our online filing capabilities.

USCIS has continued to expand and enhance the self-help tools available to applicants online and through the agency’s Contact Center with the goal of providing more efficient, timely service.

Through continued outreach and promotion, the number of myUSCIS online accounts grew from 6.1 million in FY 2020 to 9 million in FY 2021, a growth rate of 48%.

In FY 2021, approximately 1,210,700 applications were filed online, a 2.3% increase from the 1,184,000 filed in FY 2020.

In FY 2021, USCIS added two forms for electronic filing:

Form I-821, Application for Temporary Protected Status; and

Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, for:

Temporary Protected Status applicants seeking employment authorization who have an approved form I-821 (a)(12) or a pending form I-821 (c)(19); and

F-1 students seeking optional practical training (OPT) if they request employment authorization under one of these categories: (c)(3)(A) – Pre-Completion OPT; (c)(3)(B) – Post-Completion OPT; and (c)(3)(C) – 24-Month Extension of OPT for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) students.

Increased Data Transparency

USCIS has increased data transparency and availability of new and expanded quarterly reports continues to be an important priority for the agency.

USCIS has created new quarterly reports for benefit programs, including LRIF that include reporting on receipts broken down by state, gender, as well as fee waiver information.

For FY 2022, USCIS will be launching a new quarterly report for TPS that includes receipts and approvals for all countries, including new designations from 2021 such as Venezuela and Haiti.

As part of the efforts to increase naturalization promotion and outreach, USCIS also launched a new webpage outlining key statistics around naturalization highlighting citizenship accomplishment over the last few fiscal years.

Somali Community loses faith leader

Originally Posted by: , December 25, 2021

By Okon Ekpenyong

As investigations continued into the missing Somalian American Imam, Mohammed Hassan Adam, the Columbus Police Department has confirmed that the body found inside a missing yellow van was that of the “missing” Imam of Masjid Abuu Hurira in Columbus, Ohio.

Meanwhile, the Somali community is offering $10,000 to anyone that could lead to solving the case.

Columbus Division of Police Deputy Chief Tim Becker provided updates on the missing yellow van reported “missing” on Christmas Eve off Windsor Avenue and 17th street.

Dr. Mohammed Hassan Adam was last seen on Wednesday, December 22, 2021, around 6 pm, after leaving Al Huraira Mosque, where he was the Imaam.

A missing person report was not filed until Thursday when families, friends, colleagues, and community members could not reach him after trying for several hours. Community leaders then held a press conference at Abu Huraya Mosque Imam in Columbus around 11:30 am on Friday, December 24, 2021, asking for public help.

At a briefing, Deputy Chief Tim Becker said, “we discovered a body deceased in a wooded area and a vehicle, and homicide detectives are on scene. The coroner’s office will be here, processing this as a homicide investigation. This is in conjunction with a missing person investigation started by Columbus Police on December 23, 2021, and they have been tremendous community support.”

Chief Becker added that volunteers and members of the Somalian Community spotted the vehicle and reported it to the authorities.

Hiiraan Online, a well-known Somalian online newspaper, stated that sources closed to the magazine did confirm that Dr. Hassan, a former respiratory therapist at the Ohio State University, was probably a victim and a hostage of an unknown group of a gang.

The source added that those who targeted the Imaam tried using their victim’s credit or bank cards, but in this case, it was declined. At one point, the individuals called from Hassan’s phone requesting money. Authorities could not confirm this report because it is still an active investigation.

“Today, the Somalian-Americans have lost “a great friend” faith leaders and colleagues. I’m confident that everybody that knew Dr. Hassan will agree that he will be greatly missed in our community,” former candidate for the Columbus Public School Engr Mohamed Farah said.

Hassan was a husband, father, businessman, respected faith leader, mental health advocate coach, and graduated from Ohio State University with a degree in respiratory therapy.

Dr. Hassan often appeared on “Shaaciye TV,” a Somalian Broadcasting and media production company based in Columbus, touching on all topics, but addressing mental health in the community was one of his crucial concentrations.

“We as faith leaders are ready to stand by and support his family and our community in Ohio by bringing the perpetrators of this heinous crime to justice,” Somalian Community member Burhan Ahmed said.

Ohio Ethio-Eritrean Americans plan #NoMore rally January 4

Originally Posted by: , December 29, 2021

The Ethio-Eritrean communities of Ohio will stage a rally on January 4, 2022, in solidarity with the #NoMore Movement to stop and draw international attention to the ongoing armed conflict in Ethiopia at the State Capitol Square in Columbus, Ohio, with participants expected to converge at Goodale Park beginning at 9 am.

A spokesperson for the rally in Columbus, Ohio Tsemere Desta said ‘the #NoMore movement is an international grassroots movement addressing the ongoing conflict within the country of Ethiopia and the international media coverage of this conflict. This conflict involves the legitimately elected government of Ethiopia and the separatist Tigray People Liberation Front (TPLF) organization.”

“We encourage our fellow Ohioans and our fellow Americans to join us as we embrace the truth and say NO MORE to false narratives, lies, and deception that have traumatized innocent Ethiopians and Eritreans.”

Tsemere said that “the NoMore rally on January 4th in Columbus, Ohio along with others being held in major cities across the world will look to dispel the lies perpetrated by the TPLF organization and will shed light on the truth.”

“We encourage the U.S. to rethink its stance on the conflict and revisit its relationship with the Ethiopian government and its people. We encourage the international media to cover this conflict in an unbiased way, instead of feeding into and perpetrating false narratives being spread by the TPLF organization and its accomplices.”

The #NoMore campaign was created by a coalition of Ethiopian and Eritrean activists led by former Al Jazeera and CBS journalist Hermela Aregawi. Its central objective is to oppose the ongoing Western media disinformation campaign, Western economic warfare, diplomatic propaganda, and military interventions in Africa in general, and the “Horn of Africa” in particular.

Firefighters 4 Kids partners with NBC4

Originally Posted by: , December 15, 2021

By Okon Ekpenyong

For 43 years, NBC4 has partnered with Firefighters 4 Kids to make miracles happen all year round, especially during the holiday season. Generally, they put together quarterly and annual events like a toy drive to collect toys for the neighborhood children.

Firefighters 4 Kids began in 1977, and Mike Mullin, a Columbus Firefighter, noticed a need for it, and that’s how the vision started.

The New American Magazine caught up with the organizers of this year’s Firefighters 4 Kids toy drive at CAS (Empowering Innovation and Scientific Discoveries) headquarters in Columbus.

Josh Combs is the Creative Service Director at NBC4 and has been with the station for five years. Combs spoke to the New Americans Magazine about this year’s Firefighters 4 Kids Toy Drive.

How it all started:

It is the first year doing it at CAS, typically the last 43 years; we’ve had it at NBC4 located at 3165 Olentangy River Road and other locations. But this year, due to the Pandemic, we wanted to be outside in an area where people could spread out. They passed 525 cars within two and a half hours around 2:30 pm; it started at noon and ended at 4 pm.

CAS down the road from the station partnered up with NBC4 allowing this year’s toy drive to be at their campus, showcasing their commitment to the community. CAS and the station have teamed up for other events in the past, but it is the first year that the station, CAS, and Columbus Division of Fire are teaming up for the toy drive.

Relationship with New Americans Community:

Firefighters 4 Kids has a long history of delivering toys to kids across Central Ohio to make them feel the love on Christmas Day. Central Ohio is a giving community, and that was on display today. It will all manifest itself to kids across the district on Christmas morning.

Drop off locations:

Dec. 12th-24th (Christmas Eve) anyone wanting to donate a physical gift or unwrapped items can drop it off at any CME Credit unions or Franklin County Fire Stations. An individual can also visit the NBC4 website, and there’s a link to firefighters 4 Kids if you wish to donate online. It has been a great event, and this is what Central Ohio is all about, and it is just really a blessing to witness it all.

CAS staff member:

Barb Fleeter is a staff member at CAS as a Computer Scientist. They provide chemical researches and beyond chemistry in the scientific world.

“We are on the first shift doing the cheering, especially when there are cars lining up, we pump up the crowds. When our required “shift” is over, we are anxious to head back to the staging here to see how many toys are out there.”

Firefighters 4 Kids:

Doug Smith retired as battalion chief for the Columbus Division of Fire six years ago and was with the department for thirty-five years. Chief Smith started volunteering with the organization 25 years ago.

“We’ve been partnering with the station since the organization started. We still have the same toys to start it off from two years ago, but we are running thin, so today’s donations will help out while getting us back to where we need to be, indeed. It is, however, our first season with CAS, and we are delighted with this location. CAS staff are very engaging with everybody, and hopefully, we can continue to work with them.”

Today’s Toy drive will stay in Central Ohio and focus more on helping Central Ohio families. Once all of the toys are collected, it heads to the organization’s warehouse, and come Christmas let the joy begin.

If the organization receives cash donations, they buy large balk of toys/gifts throughout the year. Visit their website at to see how you can help.

Restored! A Jay Pullen helping to restore citizens like himself

Photo credit: A. Jay Pullen
Photo credit: A. Jay Pullen

Since May of 2020, A Jay Pullen has served as the Worthington Alliance of Black Families and Educators president. But before that role, he volunteered for numerous causes advocating for change in the lives of youth and adults throughout Central Ohio. From July 2013 through June 2017, Pullen served as the Drug Awareness Committee Co-chair for the Westerville City Schools. He also served as the PTSO President for the Thomas Worthington High school and was a mentor for the Alvis, Inc. Alvis is a second chance recovery nonprofit organization that works with adults re-entering the workforce and getting their lives back on track. Pullen worked for the Central Ohio Youth and Adult Program for four years as a program manager and executive director.

A. Jay Pullen graduated from the Colorado Christian University online campus with a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice and completed his master’s degree in Public Administration from Indiana Wesleyan University. His passion for the youth and working with adults is a way to change the status quo in the community that he grew up in that often gets overlooked.

How does the phrase “Prevention is better than Cure” help define the “People like me Project”?

I feel that Prevention is very important. If we can prevent a young person or individual from doing drug or doing crime, that is the goal. We are trying to break and prevent generational curses and having people become better.

As a youth pastor, how does that role help with the success of the People like me Project?

As a former Youth Pastor faith has guided me and many others throughout this Journey. You have to be prayerful to deal with God’s work. Even though we are not a faith-based organization, but we were built on biblical principles. We teach that to our participants daily. You have to have faith to get this work done for sure, because faith without works is dead.

You previously served as a mentor for the Alvis Re-Entry Program. Because such an initiative is good for our community, how do the People like me Project (PLMP) continues to be a gateway of second chances?

As a Restored Citizen I feel that I have to give back and help others succeed. People Like Me Project helps connect resources for Restored Citizens like me. We help with housing, employment, and other wrap-around services.

What is the initiative behind the People like me Project?

It’s my personal story and testimony. I wanted to help people that were in the same or similar situations. Guilt and fear can hold a person back. I wanted to create a platform for individuals that they can no longer feel ashamed about their past. It’s not about what you have done, but where you are going. Pick yourself up and get back in line. I just want to empower people and have a no judgement zone.

Young African American journey to success often comes with multiple trials and tribulations; how has the Central Ohio Honors helped connect the youth and individuals with different professions to make a difference.

It is having the youth see someone that looks like them and from their community. Young people need someone to look up to positively. So, the Honors Events have broadened their horizons.

In 2020, while we were under a global pandemic, the world witnessed George Floyd’s death. What were some community engagement activities and outlets that the organization made available as a coping mechanism for those in need?

We did a lot of Community Conversation events. Talking about the problems in the word and in the community. We protested and also educated people on the issues. Racism never went away but I feel that we must keep addressing it and keep the conversation going.

You have a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice and currently pursuing a master’s in Public Administration. What is the outlet program?

Yes. The Outlet Program is a community-based prevention program for young males ages 10-18.

Community Engagement: What are some of the special events that the People Like Me Project is involved in? In what ways is it making a difference in the community?

Since the pandemic, we have been host Helping Hands Events monthly. These events have helped over 2000 people. We have provided clothing, school supplies, food, personal care, and cleaning items for people in need. Also, we are providing resources to the community. We have helped 230 individuals obtain permanent employment during this crisis

There are two honors, Miami Valley and Central Ohio: Sheed light on its mission.

Yes. To recognize the achievements of African Americans in the community that is not only speaking of change but are making a positive impact within the community.

Men like me will be a new initiative for the organization; when does it launch, and whom will it benefit?

Men Like Me is our Fatherhood and Re-Entry program. It will focus on parenting and re-entry services. This program will be open to males 18 and up that have insolvent with the criminal justice system in Franklin County.

Writer: Okon Ekpenyong

Editor: Deba Uwadiae

originally posted on Posted by: , August 31, 2021