April 24, 2014
By Jennifer Bihm
LAWT Contributing Writer
Jamaican born artist Michael Talbot was among the winners at the 30th annual Future Writers and Illustrator Awards on Sunday April 13 in Los Angeles. Associate Administrator for Education at NASA Headquarters Leland D. Melvin, keynoted the event, which featured thirteen science fiction short story and illustration entries, picked from thousands around the world. Talbot’s entry was for the story “Shifter,” written by Future Writer winner, Paul Eckheart.
“[The win] was very shocking,” recalled Talbot.
“I had entered and basically forgot about it until I got the call that I was finalist. I wasn’t expecting it.”
He’s been drawing, he said, for as long as he can remember, choosing to do so while other kids were playing outside. He was attempting to apply for a scholarship but ended up in the Future Illustrators program, created by author L. Ron Hubbard. The 20 year old is currently studying his craft at the Lesley University of Art and Design and says that he feels winning the prestigious award will take him to the next level.
“I’m going to finish college and after that I’m going straight for whatever I want to do [in graphic design and illustration].
Meanwhile, Melvin former NFL recruit and NASA astronaut said he chose to be a part of the event because writers of science fiction are significant in helping to spark ideas for real life advancements on earth and in space.
“Science fiction,” he said, “often becomes science fact.”
“What you do with your writing and illustrations,” he told the finalists during his keynote speech, “you impact not only our world, you impact our world.”
The Future Writers/ Illustrator awards are based solely on the creators’ work, there is no entry fee according to program officials. Winners are published in the latest volume of the Writers of the Future anthology. Prizes also include thousands in cash and royalties, mentorship from experts in their field and TV and radio interviews, helping them to advance their careers.
“To be honest, I don’t think I’m anything extraordinary or beyond the typical artist or lover,” said Talbot.
“But, I do believe I’m able to make an impact on people through my art and that’s precisely what I strive to do.”
April 24, 2014
By Jennifer Bihm
LAWT Contributing Writer
“When it came time for me to think about how I could give back to my community, it ended up coming through school,” said Deanna Jordan, a UCLA student who has teamed up with the university’s Community Programs department to launch her Compton Task Force Project.
The year-old project is aimed at helping kids in Compton schools build the skills and garner the tools they need to effectively navigate their way through the K-12 system and transition to college.
“I saw the difference in how my boys, I have three sons, were being taught in Westwood and Brentwood, which was still LAUSD. But, when you go to Compton or LAUSD schools in the inner city it’s a completely different end of the spectrum. I couldn’t understand that.”
For example, explained Jordan who is a Compton native, when she was in high schooled being bused to the valley, ninth graders were doing algebra and calculus. But at Fremont High in Los Angeles, “we were barely doing geometry,” she said.
The Task Force Project is connected with a variety of other non profits, churches and schools, enabling Jordan to secure resources for her students as needed, whether it be for education or transitional assistance. Under Jordan's leadership, UCLA student volunteers travel to the city of Compton six days a week to work on academics with students at Carver Elementary School, which she herself attended, Willowbrook Middle School and King-Drew Magnet High School of Medicine and Science. On Saturdays, the students go into the center about 10:00 am. They begin tutoring at 10:45.
“If the student is having difficulty reading (for example) we work them on that. If they have homework over the weekend, we help them with that,” Jordan explained.
“With our high school students, we help them the transition from high school to college. We work on the senior portfolio…”
After tutoring, is a breakout session where the younger students are separated from the older ones. The groups engage in open dialogs and free writing projects.
“Outside of the tutoring that’s the most fulfilling part,” said Jordan.
“Because you have these youth who are opening up and divulging a lot of the things they are going through,” she said.
Because, coming from where they come from, she had gone through a lot of the same things.
Higher education and civic engagement weren’t always priorities in Jordan’s life. Just a decade ago, she was focused on finishing high school, getting married and starting a family. By the age of 18, she had done all three.
But as her views and goals evolved, Jordan decided that if she was ever going to establish a greater degree of financial security for her young family, something had to change.
“At the end of the day, I had to say that it was important to me,” Jordan said of her decision to go to college. “I had to want it. Nobody could want it for me. Nobody.”
So just 12 days after her youngest son was born, she started sociology classes at West Los Angeles Community College.
“I returned to school on June 8, 2008, and I never stopped,” said Jordan, who earned an associate of arts degree from community college and transferred to UCLA in 2011. Jordan, a first-generation college student, has been honored as a departmental scholar at UCLA, allowing her to pursue her bachelor’s and master’s degrees concurrently. Ultimately, she plans to work in a field that will allow her to advocate for marginalized people and communities, she said.
April 17, 2014
The L.A. Watts Times would like to apologize to actress/philanthropist Halle Berry for our cover last week that mistakenly indicated her as a breast cancer survivor. We understand that Berry does not, nor did she ever have breast cancer and it was simply a graphic error. We would like to thank our readers as well as Berry’s camp for their understanding and patience.
April 17, 2014
LAWT News Service
Legend has it that the Fountain of Youth restores the youth of anyone who bathes in its waters. For centuries, we have been captivated by the question of how we age. Local high school junior Caleb Smith is tackling that question.
Smith, 16, conducts scientific research that sheds light on how fruit flies --and ultimately, humans – age. Smith was among 1,200 participants in the LA County Science Fair on March 27-29. He won First Place in his category and was one of 7 students who qualified for the prestigious Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF).
Every year, approximately 7 million high school students strive to reach Intel ISEF, the world’s largest pre-college science competition. Intel ISEF showcases top young scientific minds on a global stage where doctoral-level scientists judge their work. Only the best and brightest – 1,600 winners of local, regional, state, and national competitions spanning over 70 countries -- are invited to present their independent research and compete for over $4 million in awards.
Smith’s research project, “Quantitative Analysis of the Role of Mitochondria in Drosophila melanogaster Lifespan” was entered in the Animal Physiology category. “Drosophila melanogaster” is a species of fruit fly.
Scientists knew that as flies age, their mitochondria – the cell’s energy-producing “power plants” — do not function at the same level as they did before. However, scientists did not know how the quantity of mitochondria affects lifespan – until Smith’s research.
Smith nurtured 88 flies, carefully tracking each fly’s mitochondria and lifespan. His analysis showed that flies with more mitochondria tend to live longer. This finding may one day enable scientists to predict lifespan based upon the amount of mitochondria in one’s cells. Scientists may also develop drugs to increase mitochondria in specific tissues, ultimately increasing lifespan.
Smith, an aspiring neurosurgeon, has been conducting research since early sophomore year. His interest was sparked by hearing Dr. Keith Black, neurosurgeon and research scientist, share his passion for both treating patients and conducting research. When asked what he enjoys most about research, Smith responded, “It’s fun to discover something new and be the only person in the world who knows it.”
To find his research opportunity, Smith scoured university websites for professors with intriguing research topics. He sent scores of emails describing his coursework and areas of interest. Smith sought out genetics-related projects because he had enjoyed a summer genetics course in the Johns Hopkins University Center Scholars Program (Center for Talented Youth.)
After weeks of anxiously checking emails – and receiving a host of rejections, Smith finally received a positive response from Dr. John Tower, an expert in the molecular genetics of aging at USC. “I will never forget that day …I still have the email!” said Smith. Smith interviewed, joined the lab, and is now mentored by Professor Tower and Research Assistant Gary Landis. With their guidance, and the support of his Palos Verdes Peninsula High School Science Research teacher Peter Starodub, Smith designed his own research question and experiment.
“If you don’t know where to start,” said Smith, “start by asking a question about everyday life.
A question can become a research project. Or read a professor’s papers and come up with an idea that takes the research in a new direction. Find a problem that has not been solved, and be the one to solve it.”
Smith will represent LA County at the 2014 California State Science Fair at California Science Center on April 28-29. He will compete at Intel ISEF at the LA Convention Center on May 11-16.