Citizen panel helps community recover from decades of contamination

Capital News Service
LANSING — Jane Keon has written hundreds of letters. Letters to the state and federal environmental officials. To her local St. Louis government and to the officials of Velsicol, the chemical company that left the small Gratiot County city after it created one of the nation’s most notorious Superfund sites. Keon is the former president of the community advisory group – commonly called the CAG – that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) established to assist the cleanup of the factory site that sits on the Pine River in the middle of St.

Commitment wanted: State seeking more foster parents

Capital News Service
LANSING – Rachel Kornilakis, who has been a foster parent for several years and adopted three children out of foster care, says being a foster parent creates a sense of helping others and belonging to a community. “It is lovely and fulfilling to see children heal, grow, develop and experience firsts,” she said. “Take a kid to the zoo or for ice cream for the first time and your heart will be forever changed. It’s magical.”
Her foster children have stayed with the family for as short as three months and “as long as forever.”
Kornilakis, who lives in Southeast Michigan, says she doesn’t differentiate between her foster children and her own. “Out of the thousands of families I know, I don’t know any who think otherwise.”
According to a national study by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, nearly half of foster parents quit in their first year.

Nationally, teen suicide rate rises as Michigan counties fight trend

Capital News Service
LANSING — Suicide rates among teenagers nationally are at a 40-year high, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The federal study shows that the rate of girls 15 to 19 years old dying by suicide between 2007 and 2015 more than doubled, from 2.4 to 5.1 per 100,000. Meanwhile, the rate among boys in the same age range rose from 10.8 to 14.2 per 100,000. Among states with the highest rates of suicide among residents between 15 and 24 in 2016 are Alaska at 45.6, Montana at 29.2 and South Dakota at 27.9, the American Association of Suicidology reported. Michigan’s rate was 14.7 per 100,000.

East Lansing offering unique assistance to homeless families

While Greater Lansing provides a variety of resources for individuals dealing with homelessness, East Lansing’s Haven House targets families in need. In 2015, members of families comprised over half of the homeless population in Michigan, according to data from the Homeless Management Information System. In Ingham County, the numbers are similar. Roughly 46 percent of people dealing with homelessness are families and children, according to the Greater Lansing Area 2015 Annual Homeless Report. “Homelessness is an issue throughout the greater Lansing region,” said Amy Schlusler-Schmitt, East Lansing’s community development and engagement manager.

Impression 5 science center provides great interactive learning, but always room to improve, say residents and organization

LANSING — Science has a home in the heart of Ingham County. “What we are trying to achieve is giving a space for children to hone their scientific behavior, a space that they can explore things like critical thinking and collaboration and scientific content” says Erik Larson, executive director at the science and learning center Impression 5. Impression 5 is located in downtown Lansing and provides a unique and informal learning environment for children and their families to get excited about science. Larson says, “Impression 5 was created … to create an interactive learning environment so…

Libraries continue to evolve in a technological age

Capital News Service
LANSING — As online technology has crept into everyday life and education, free public access to computers and internet has become an important attraction of public libraries. “There’s a divide between families that have technology available and those who don’t,” said Gail Madziar, director of Michigan Association of Libraries. “If you’re a student that needs to do their homework, sometimes a library is the only place that you have to access information in a safe place.”
Many libraries serving rural populations report significant demand for their online services. For instance, internet services at the Presque Isle district libraries were accessed over 14,000 times in 2017. The county has a population of 13,000.

Trails built, growers boosted with rural development grants

Capital News Service
LANSING — A nonprofit in Marquette is improving trails and promoting sustainable tourism. A distillery in Grand Traverse is buying a second still to contract whiskey distilling using Michigan ingredients. And a pasta company in the same town plans to improve seed processing to further promote the Michigan agriculture industry. These are among the organizations that won Rural Development Fund grants from the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development in 2017. The development grants fund projects to help industries that make use of local land, create jobs and support infrastructure that benefits rural communities.

Some colleges tackle homeless students’ problems

Capital News Service
LANSING – Although homeless college students have access to various types of assistance, many are reluctant to be identified as homeless because of stigma, experts say. “There is a sense of denial about what homelessness actually is,” said Lynn Stufin, a public information officer at the Department of Health and Human Services. “Stable housing is a stressor for many individuals,” Stufin said. “The identification that the individual is homeless may (bring) stress they are unable or unwilling to handle at that time.” Pam Kies-Lowe, the coordinator for homeless education at the Department of Education, said,
“Lots of folks think about the homeless as bad people in the park, or they think the homeless are on the corner of an intersection with signs saying ‘homeless and hungry.’”  
However, an invisible group of homeless consists of students, Kies-Lowe said.

Drink up? Depends on where you live

Capital News Service
LANSING – If you’re thinking of moving in Michigan and worry about water quality, finding the perfect area might be harder than you think. Because of  a wide variety of contaminants, pinpointing one area that has the cleanest drinking water or the worst drinking water isn’t an easy task.  
“It’s hard to say where the most issues are. There are different issues in different communities around the state,” said Sean McBrearty, a program organizer at Clean Water Action, an advocacy group.. Lead receives the most headlines but Michigan’s main drinking water contaminants include arsenic, nitrate, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and lead.