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    Why Healthcare Matters: My Story

    Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014

    As a senior in college, there are a few things that have the ability to instantly put me on edge:

    The first is when anyone asks me that burning question, “What do you plan on doing after you graduate?” This one typically earns the inquisitor a blank stare and some made-up, adult-friendly response so that I won’t have to justify my actual plan to take a year off to enjoy my youth, and enroll in Law School in the fall of 2015.  

    The second is when I’m faced with anything that has to do with health and related health care costs.

    For the sake of current event relevancy, and the close of enrollment for Obamacare, this blog post is going to focus on the latter of the two. So here’s my story:

    I come from a midwest, middle-class, single-mother household and I’ve been working since I could legally hold a job– but it wasn’t until my sophomore year in college when my mother retired and I started working more that things became difficult with my health care coverage. Long story short, I got the boot.

    According to my mother’s health care representative, when I became eligible for part-time benefits at my then employer, I became ineligible for coverage under my mother’s plan– the care that I’d depended on my entire life!  But what my mother’s health care provider did not understand was that I had NO intention of enrolling in coverage under my current employer for the following reasons:

    1. I worked at a grocery store and it was just a college job. My focus was on school and I knew that if the two ever came into conflict, work would have to take the back burner.

    2. I wasn’t planning on staying there long term.

    3. My grocery store job didn’t allow me to be fully self sufficient.

    4. Coverage under my current employer was on the pricey side

    5. My mom’s coverage was much better and cheaper. Switching providers would have been…impractical to say the least.

    For a student who was only making $11.40 an hour as a cashier, I soon found myself at a crossroads between personal expenses and health care. Ultimately and ironically, I took the road most traveled by; that of personal expenses which included important everyday things like food, books, incidentals, toiletries, transportation, etc…

    I didn’t have health care but I figured: “I’m young, I’m healthy, I heal fast and I’ll just avoid getting hurt.” And while I was privileged enough to have minimal coverage under my University’s student health service, every “doctor” visit required me to wait for hours upon hours in the unorganized, overcrowded student health center only for me to be prescribed a $10 round of antibiotics or return a few weeks later with another health problem. I did not have a primary care physician, I couldn’t get my teeth professionally cleaned, I couldn’t get vision check-ups, I couldn’t visit my University’s actual hospital, and most of all, I wasn’t receiving quality medical attention.

    Luckily me and my mother discovered a flaw in the system.  My mother’s health care provider had no hesitation removing me from her coverage, but they had not made her aware that despite her retirement and my increased work hours, my full-time student status maintained my eligibility to remain under her coverage. After a long year, my health care was reinstated, and while I to this day lack vision and dental insurance, I am grateful to have at least some of my bearings back.

    People like my father, haven’t been so fortunate.  He has been uninsured for the past 15 years and admits to not being seen by a doctor in 5 or 6 years.  As a freelance carpenter needless to say, he is at constant risk.  I remember growing up and quizzing him on why he would never go to the hospital for his work related injuries (once he drilled a hole through his thumb) only to hear him quickly change the subject and tell me that he was “fine.” Another time, he passed out at work due to high blood pressure but became infuriated with his colleague for calling an ambulance because my dad had to foot an $800 bill. It took me some time to realize, he wasn’t  pretending to be tough, he had to be.  He wasn’t “fine,” he just didn’t have the means to seek medical attention.

    While I only experienced the inconvenience of not having health-care for a year, I got a feel for what it was like to be uninsured. I compare it to walking on ice, while I’m wearing shoes that have no traction– I could make some strategic steps to avoid slipping but a certain degree of my environment was out of my control; similar to how someone can take precautionary measures to protect his/her/zes health, but some elements and risks will always remain out of grasp.

    Yes, our universities and colleges typically cover some health expenses, but said coverage is limited and only lasts while we are enrolled in classes. Many students in college have parents who are retired or nearing retirement, and will be faced with the fear and challenge of losing support after graduation. Many young people are uninsured or have uninsured family members.

    As a working college student, and daughter of an uninsured father, my experiences with the US health care system have been none other than interesting. While it is relatively simple, this is my  family’s story. This is my perspective. I challenge you to tell your own. Make your voice heard. Inquire about what legislators are and are not doing when it comes to your health care. Try to become as well versed as possible on your medical coverage rights because honestly (to quote the academy award winning rap group Three 6 Mafia), “It’s hard out here for a pimp.”

    Saundrea "Drea" Shropshire
    Bio: Saundrea "Drea" Shropshire is currently a senior at Howard University. Majoring in Political Science and minoring in Swahili Studies, she plans to attend law school in the fall of 2015. An avid biker, knitter, painter, movie enthusiast, music junkie, reader and writer, she takes on all tasks with the utmost tenacity and dedication. She also has many leather-bound books, and her apartment smells of rich mahogany.

    Email the author at: blog(at)rockthevote.com

    Because I’m Happy…

    Friday, March 21st, 2014

    Happy Democracy Day!

    I’m thrilled to share my first note as the new President of Rock the Vote. The past month has been a whirlwind as I crisscrossed the country meeting volunteers, community street team leaders, partners and donors and hearing about all the amazing work the organization has accomplished over the last twenty-four years.

    I’m excited to join this passionate team and advance the dedicated work they do to ensure that young Americans have a voice in our political process.

    We’ve got a big year ahead of us and the timing couldn’t be more important as young people continue to make a critical mark on politics. I’m hoping all of you will join us for the ride.

    I’ll spare you the standard CV type introduction – if you want that you can get it here. But instead I’ll share with you some highlights that I think are much more interesting:

    • I recently returned from a trip from Bali where I spent three months practicing yoga and taking photographs.
    • I’m currently dancing in my office to “Happy” by Pharrell too.
    • I am inspired by the incredible organizing power of young Americans.
    • And last but not least, I voted in my first election in 2002 when Mitt Romney was running for governor of Massachusetts.

    It’s sure to be an exciting year. I’m looking forward to sharing with you our SXSW videos featuring interviews with our friends Mary Lambert, Steve Aoki, Echosmith, and Run River North, just to name a few.

    There are only 228 days until Election Day. We’ve got work to do.

    Don’t be a stranger. Tweet at me @aspillane or drop me a line president@rockthevote.com to say hello — I’d love to hear from you.

    Chief Rocker & President, Rock the Vote

    P.S. I couldn’t sign off without saying: Register to Vote! And remember, if you moved since the last election, you need to re-register.

    Ashley Spillane
    Bio: Ashley Spillane is the President of Rock the Vote. She comes to Rock the Vote with over ten years experience in electoral politics. Known for her innovation and leadership, Ashley most recently served as Executive Director of The Atlas Project, spearheading the development of an interactive web platform that provides political and non-partisan organizations access to the raw data and tools needed to develop smart, strategic programs at the local, state and national levels. While running Atlas, Ashley simultaneously served as the Executive Director of democratic GAIN, the national membership association for over 50,000 political professionals. Ashley has worked on numerous political campaigns in states across the country, including several presidential primary campaigns and governors races in Iowa, Ohio, Florida, Minnesota and Maryland. At the national level, Ashley served on the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s Independent Expenditure in 2010 and in the AFL-CIO’s Political Department in 2008. Ashley has a B.A. in International Affairs from The George Washington University. In 2012, she was named one of Campaign & Election Magazine's Rising Stars for her work in politics. Ashley has a passion for teaching and for traveling; she has conducted dozens of professional development and political trainings around the US and served as a trainer for the National Democratic Institute in Africa and the Middle East.

    Email the author at: blog(at)rockthevote.com

    News Round-Up: Friday, March 21st, 2014

    Friday, March 21st, 2014

    It’s Democracy Day! 
    Today we celebrate the anniversary of the 26th amendment, which lowered the voting age to 18! Visit http://democracyday.com/ and follow @RocktheVote on twitter to learn more.
    The Prime Minister of Turkey threatens to “eradicate” Twitter; Supreme Court may settle dispute over same-sex discrimination; utility company pumps millions of gallons of wastewater into river; and police release new photos from Kurt Cobain’s suicide. Meanwhile, a viral video with Bradley Cooper defies the odds for audience members of Inside the Actors Studio; one of the favored women from the Bachelor gets married; and Johnny Weir talks publically about his recent divorce. 

    - Austin + Maura


    Turkey Prime Minister threatens to “eradicate” Twitter http://rtvote.com/1r58eEs
    Speaking at a rally on Thursday, Turkey Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan threatened to band Twitter and show the international community the “power of the Turkish Republic.” Reports indicate that the ban has already taken effect for some of Turkey’s 10 million Twitter users. Prime Minister Erdoğan unrolled the ban under a controversial law that allows the Turkish government to block websites under “privacy” concerns.

    Justices may decide if vendors can discriminate against gay weddings http://rtvote.com/1l9Y2JG
    A 7 1/2 year case might finally have its day in the spotlight as Supreme Court Justices consider taking up Elane Photography LLC v. Vanessa Willock. Elane Photography, based in New Mexico, had refused to provide services for a same-sex couple’s commitment ceremony, citing religious concerns. The case is considered a fight between freedom of speech and equal protection, and may set an important precedent if decided by the Supreme Court.

    Milwaukee sees top seeds win in NCAA tournament http://rtvote.com/1g8bx9L
    With the first round of games yesterday, the 2014 NCAA tournament is officially underway. Although there were a few bracket-busting games, the dominos fell as predicted in Milwaukee. The Texas longhorns defeated the Arizona State Sun Devils 87-85 and the Wisconsin Badgers beat the American University Eagles in a 75-35 landslide.

    Utility company in North Carolina pumped millions of gallons of wastewater into river http://rtvote.com/OEt5jc
    Duke Energy, a utility company responsible for a toxic ash spill not six weeks ago, is under investigation for pumping millions of gallons of wastewater into a river. The site of the discharge is just upstream from a municipal drinking water intake. The company has been charged with pumping coal-ash discharge, which contains toxic substances including arsenic, selenium, lead, and mercury, into the river.

    Police release new photos from Kurt Cobain suicide http://rtvote.com/1dipwe1
    Police have released new photographs from the site of Kurt Cobain’s suicide. Cobain, former front man for Seattle-based grunge rock band Nirvana died nearly 20 years ago after taking a massive dose of heroin and shooting himself with a shotgun. Although the photographs don’t reveal any new information about his death, they shed some light on the singer’s final moments.


    Viral Video: Bradley Cooper stands in defiance of Louis C.K., http://rtvote.com/1oEFArG

    The Voice Italy Rocked by Singing Nun! Sister Cristina Scuccia Takes on Alicia Keys’ “No One”, http://rtvote.com/1gi6Lrf

    Renee Oteri, Bachelor Star, Married: See Pictures of Her Wedding Dress, http://rtvote.com/1gOVQEi

    You Won’t See Anything More Adorable Than These 14-week Old Polar Bear Twins Playing, http://rtvote.com/1g8bBX3

    Johnny Weir Divorce Drama: Skater Opens Up About Domestic Violence and Nude Photos, Ex Victor Voronov Responds, http://rtvote.com/1etYDlo

    Email the author at: blog(at)rockthevote.com

    News Round-Up: Thursday, March 6, 2014

    Thursday, March 6th, 2014

    Crimean lawmakers have voted to join Russia; a news anchor quits on her live show; Staples plans to close nearly 10 percent of its stores in and around the United States; and parents commit fraud for football. Meanwhile, kids recreate the 2014 Oscar’s best fashion looks; Katy Perry tries her hand at meteorology in Australia; Aaron Carter reveals lingering feelings for a Hollywood star; and see what Oscar winning actors actually do with the statue!

    - Veronica + Maura


    Breaking News: Crimea lawmakers vote to join Russia: http://rtvote.com/1dvBwGw
    Crimean lawmakers voted to leave Ukraine for Russia earlier, forcing citizens to choose if they want to remain in Ukraine or join Russia. Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, however, says that the referendum proposed by the Crimean lawmakers who voted for the separation has “no legal grounds at all” and is an “illegitimate decision.” Justice Minister Pavlo Petrenko says that the referendum is indeed invalid because in Ukraine, referendums can only be passed by the national government. However, Crimea’s government is staunchly pro-Russia, and they do not recognize the interim, pro-West national government in Kiev.

    Anchor quits: I can’t be part of network ‘that whitewashes’ Putin’s actions: http://rtvote.com/1f1C2gy
    Russia Today news anchor Liz Wahl quit her job on-air at the end of her show on Wednesday. She said that due to her past (being a member of a family who fled Hungary to escape the Soviet Union in the 1950s), she “cannot be part of a network funded by the Russian government that whitewashes the actions of Putin.” The network responded, calling Wahl’s actions a “self-promotional stunt.” This action follows the similar outburst from Russia Today personality Abby Martin, who split from the pro-Russian repertoire and denounced Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Crimea.

    Parents, students cheat to attend Atlanta school: http://rtvote.com/1f1GmMQ
    An Atlanta school is under fire from new cheating allegations coming to light. Parents of football players at Grady High School faked their children’s addresses solely so their children could play football at that school. Out of the 58 players on Grady High School’s football team, fourteen have faked papers. Currently, some students connected with the fraud have withdrawn from the school, and others had tuition bills sent to them. The school’s superintendent, Erroll Davis, is debating whether to press criminal or civil charges on the parents accused of fraud.

    Barbie, remove that Girl Scout tie, ad group says: http://rtvote.com/1cF9PHO
    A new ad featuring Barbie tied in with Girl Scouts has sparked controversy from consumer advocacy groups. The “Be Anything, Do Anything” patch allows Girl Scouts in kindergarten through third grade to look at different careers in a booklet with a Barbie theme. The groups believe that using Barbie as a role model for Girl Scouts “undermines the Girl Scouts vital mission.” Susan Linn, director of Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, is bringing the issue to light now because the Girl Scouts of America did not agree to remove the partnership in private talks. Kelly Parisi, a spokesperson for the Girl Scouts, says that using Barbie enables them to tell girls that “they can do anything.”

    Staples to close 225 stores as sales move online: http://rtvote.com/1idGUOj
    Staples plans on closing 10 percent of its North American stores by the end of 2015. The store chain says nearly 50 percent of its sales are online, and that it wants to be more monetarily efficient. A majority of their 1,846 stores are in the United States, and Staples has yet to comment on how many jobs are being cut due to store closures. However, Staples CEO Ron Sargent says that the chain will not give up on actual stores due to the service customers can receive there, and the overall convenience of stores.


    What celebrities do with their Oscars: http://rtvote.com/NXNWgP

    Kids recreating Oscar looks: http://rtvote.com/1gUZOc3

    Here’s the host of the 2014 MTV Movie Awards! http://rtvote.com/1dvUsVM

    Katy Perry’s new day job: meteorologist? http://rtvote.com/1oulQ8d

    Aaron Carter can’t get over a romance that happened over 10 years ago! http://rtvote.com/1qbNqe3

    Veronica Barger
    Bio: Veronica is currently studying communications, law, economics, and government at American University in Washington, DC. Originally from New Jersey, she has held an interest in politics since the 2008 presidential election. Being a newly registered voter, she understands how important it is for young people to register to vote and have their voices heard. She looks to spread that message with Rock the Vote.

    Email the author at: blog(at)rockthevote.com

    #Fight4AFuture: Reflections on Gun Violence

    Friday, February 28th, 2014

    On this past weekend, I was beyond fortunate to attend the Generation Progress Gun Violence Prevention Summit with over one hundred young activists. As activists, we talked about our call of duty to raise awareness about gun violence prevention and the importance of working together to solve the issue.

    The summit featured the White House as well as 41 other organizations who have also been working on the gun violence prevention issue. I’ve done many things in life but nothing has ever left me remarkably inspired like the summit. I’m not sure if it was the amount of power sitting in that room, the knowledge of being a selected attendee or the incredible surrounding of millennials but for the first time in my life, I felt as though I was the change that I sought.

    I realized in the 3 days of the summit that age is only a number and everyday I wake up I can proudly say that I took a stand and joined the #Fight4AFuture movement. The #Fight4AFuture summit wasn’t for the faint of heart, it really made you take responsibility for your stance in the movement. The various panels of the weekend posed questions such as, “How do you keep the momentum going?” and also introduced the audience to heart breaking statistics such as: “Guns are the second highest cause of death for young people ages 15-24”, “Approximately 68 percent of people killed with a gun and 78 percent of people who kill with a gun were under the age of 35” and “Since the mass shooting in Newtown, CT there have been at least 44 school shootings.”

    In addition to these moments from the summit, I had the opportunity to stand in the presence of heroes: Mr. Colin Goddard, a Virginia Tech Massacre survivor, who almost brought me to tears when he spoke on his amazing story of turning tragedy into triumph and Sarah Clem, a Newtown, Connecticut student who mobilized an action alliance immediately after the shooting at her former elementary school, Sandy Hook Elementary School.

    The stories from Colin and Sarah, in addition to the stories from the other activists in the audience demonstrated to me that being “Fired up and ready to go” is more than a chant, it’s a lifestyle. I learned that to be successful in the gun violence prevention fight, we have to invest in our communities and have a conversation that everyone…regardless of race, sexual orientation, social class or gender can join. Michael Skolnik, Editor-in-Chief at Global Grind put it best when he said, “Everybody’s commitment to this issue is important to the conversation.”

    The conversation starts today and I urge to fight for a future for the sake of the young people in this country. Mary Pat Hector spoke my mind when she declared that, “I think the problem is when a young man can get a gun faster than he can get fresh fruit in his neighborhood”. As you join the conversation, ask yourself “How am I making a difference in my community?”, “Am I fighting for a bright future for the youth in my neighborhood?” and lastly, “Am I reassuring love in those young people and inspiring them to be great?”.

    Gianna Judkins
    Bio: My name is Gianna Judkins& I'm a proud Angeleno. I'm also a Political Science Major at Howard University. I pride myself in being Michelle Obama's biggest fan and always being "FLOTUS Inspired”! As a Political Science major, my ultimate goal is to one day call 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue my office. I'm a very determined young woman who understands the power of education and value of hard work while striving to achieve my goal of being one of the nation's next great leaders. I'm not that serious all the time though, for fun I enjoying singing in the choir and hanging out with friends.

    Email the author at: blog(at)rockthevote.com