Things That Matter

A Florida Teen Has Overcome Immense Obstacles, Including Homelessness, To Become His School’s Valedictorian

Right now we are in the midst of so much change. There is so much going on in the world – from a global pandemic that has left millions of us in social isolation to a brand new social justice movement in the wake of murder of unarmed Black men.

We’re being bombarded with so much serious news, it’s hard to remember that there are still people out there leading powerful, incredible lives and making a difference.

One Florida teen has overcome all the odds, including years of homeless, to graduate from his high school as valedictorian and we need to celebrate and recognize this huge accomplishment.

Martin Folsom graduated at the top of his class after struggling through years of homelessness.

Since he was a child, Martin Folsom and his mother Melva have been in and out of homelessness, according to Jacksonville television station WJXT.

Despite all the challenges he faced through the years, Folsom managed to keep his focus on his studies — and his efforts paid off when he was named his class’ valedictorian and graduated from Philip Randolph Career Academy in Jacksonville, FL.

“It kind of gave me a jolt in my chest a little bit, so it was a good feeling,” Folsom said in a video interview shared by KTRK. “It means a lot and it gives me a sense of all I’ve done and all I have accomplished was worth it.”

After college – Martin plans to attend Valdosta State University – he hopes to one day work for the FBI.

Martin credits his mom’s dedication and compassion for helping him succeed.

During his time in high school, Martin’s mom recalled desperately searching for a place to live with her son.

“Martin and I were in downtown McDonald’s and literally had nowhere to go,” she shared with WJXT. “I was on the phone calling people, calling organizations, and by the grace of God, we got into a shelter that day.”

Even with an uncertain living situation, Martin didn’t let that affect his studies.

“I never thought to myself, ‘I can’t do this anymore’ or ‘I’m done with this,'” explained the teen, who served as class president from freshman year through senior year. “It’s always been, ‘Well, it happened again and I’ve gotta keep myself up and keep moving forward.'”

He was set to walk across the stage last week for graduation, but that was canceled due to the pandemic.

Still, he isn’t letting that damper his spirits — especially since Martin had to overcome hurdle after hurdle to earn the high honor. He and his mom have struggled with homelessness since he was a kid, and throughout his four years of high school. They became homeless while fleeing Melva’s ex-husband, who has since been sentenced to 40 years in prison for murder.

Within two years, the mother and son reportedly lived in different shelters across five states before setting in Jacksonville.

“It’s been a rocky road, been a lot of hardships, but seeing myself here right now, about to graduate and go to college, it feels good knowing that all the stuff I’ve done, it was worth it,” Martin said.

He served as the class president for his grade for four years straight, from 9th grade to 12th grade. Now he will go on to college in the fall — and says that will be a big day for his family.

“As far as I know I’m the first person in my family to actually get a college degree,” he said.

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Lawmakers Call For Investigation Into Disinformation Campaign Aimed At Florida’s Latino Voters

Things That Matter

Lawmakers Call For Investigation Into Disinformation Campaign Aimed At Florida’s Latino Voters

H2Woah! / Flickr

A disturbing disinformation campaign is taking place in Florida and it is targeting the Cuban-American community. The racist insert in The Miami Herald recently brought a spotlight to the wide reaching disinformation campaign made to convince Cuban-Americans to stay loyal to the Republican Party.

Politicians are growing concerned about the increasingly aggressive disinformation campaign in southern Florida.

From Whatsapp clips to Facebook groups, there has been an aggressive and seemingly success disinformation campaign aimed at Cuban and Cuban-Americans in southern Florida. QAnon and conspiracies are mainstays in Spanish-language YouTube channels and other social media sites. The ads claim things as extreme as President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton were secretly selling uranium to Russia.

The campaign to mislead Latino voters in one of the larget swing states is causing alarm.

“People see the videos and the disinformation so many times that it gets to them. They feel they can’t trust the media, and that’s the most worrisome part,” Democratic strategist Evelyn Pérez-Vedía told NBC News. “Now they call Spanish-language media fake news.”

Politicians are calling for an investigation into the disinformation campaign to end it.

Representatives Joaquin Castro and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell are calling on the FBI to launch a formal investigation. The disinformation is aiming to move Latino voters to President Trump. A recent influx of Puerto Ricans who fled natural disasters has put the Republican hold on the Florida Latino vote in jeopardy.

Rep. Murcasel-Powell is sounding the alarm that the disinformation situation in Florida is akin to the Russian influence of the past.

“As we rapidly approach election day, Latino circles in South Florida have witnessed a surge in posts containing false or misleading information on social media…While disinformation on social media is, itself, problematic, even more concerning is the fact that disinformation originating on social media is now shaping and pervading more traditional media outlets in South Florida,” reads a letter from Reps. Castro and Mucarsel-Powell “As the FBI works to secure our elections, we urge you to keep the Latino community in mind and consider efforts of foreign actors to spread disinformation and sow doubt in our election systems among Latinos, especially in South Florida.”

It’s a reminder that it is important to be critical of what you see in social media.

It is always very important to double check your sources and do your research. Don’t just believe everything you see on social media, even if it is something that your friends and family are sharing and talking about. It is also important to keep those you love accountable and let them know when they are sharing things that just aren’t true.

READ: Florida Republican Representative Shows Off Cuban Man He Claims Is His Stepson

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A Judge Has Ruled That The University of California System Can No Longer Use SAT And ACT Tests For Admissions And It’s A Huge Win For The Underprivileged

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A Judge Has Ruled That The University of California System Can No Longer Use SAT And ACT Tests For Admissions And It’s A Huge Win For The Underprivileged

Kevork Djansezian / Getty

Advocates against the use of standardized tests for college admissions have long argued that the use of such exams sets back students from underprivileged backgrounds and those who have disabilities. Aware of the leg up it gives to privileged and non-disabled students an advantage in the admittance process, they’ve rallied for schools to end such practices.

And it looks like they’ve just won their argument.

A judge has ruled that the University of California system can no longer use ACT and SAT tests as part of their admissions process.

Brad Seligman is the Alameda County Superior Court Judge who issued the preliminary injunction in the case of Kawika Smith v. Regents of the University of California on Tuesday. The plaintiffs in Kawika Smith v. Regents of the University of California include five students and six organizations College Access Plan, Little Manila Rising, Dolores Huerta Foundation, College Seekers, Chinese for Affirmative Action, and Community Coalition.

In his decision, Judge Seligman underlined that the UC system’s “test-optional” policy on UC campuses has long given privileged and non-disabled students a chance at a “second look” in the admissions process. According to Seligman, this “second look” denies such opportunities to students who are unable to access the tests.

The decision is a major victory for students with disabilities and from underprivileged backgrounds.

News of the decision comes on the heels of the university system’s ruling to waive the standardized testing requirements until 2024.

In May, a news release asserted that if a new form of a standardized test had not been developed by 2025, the system would have to put an end to the testing requirement for California students. On Monday, the judge’s ruling took things further by banning the consideration of scores from students who submit them all together.

“The current COVID 19 pandemic has resulted in restrictions in the availability of test sites,” Seligman wrote in his ruling. “While test-taking opportunities for all students have been limited, for persons with disabilities, the ability to obtain accommodations or even to locate suitable test locations for the test is ‘almost nil.'”

A spokesperson for the University of California said the university “respectfully disagrees with the Court’s ruling.”

“An injunction may interfere with the University’s efforts to implement an appropriate and comprehensive admissions policies and its ability to attract and enroll students of diverse backgrounds and experiences,” the spokesperson said. According to the spokesperson, the UC system is considering further legal action in the case. The system said that its testing has allowed for an increase in admission of low-income and first-generation-to-college-students for the fall of 2020.

With UC being the largest university system in the country, Seligman’s ruling is a massive deal. Students and advocates have long fought for the elimination of these standardized tests arguing that they do not accurately reflect a student’s academic ability.

“Research has repeatedly proved that students from wealthy families score higher on the SAT and ACT, compared to students from low-income families,” reports CNN. It’s important to note that the analysis by Inside Higher Ed revealed that the “lowest average scores for each part of the SAT came from students with less than $20,000 in family income. The highest scores came from those with more than $200,000 in family income.”

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