A Letter Dedicated to Dr. Arliss Roaden

Dr. Arliss L. Roaden, age 85, of Nashville, a member of the STARS Board of Directors, recently passed away. As his obituary stated, he was a loving husband, father, grandfather, and great grandfather.
Dr. Roaden was an educator, at all times. He had a long and distinguished career, formally serving as the Executive Director of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, as well as President of Tennessee Technological University.

His list of accomplishments is far too long to list in this space.
Arliss meant so much to all of us at STARS. He was a former Chair of the Board and member of the Executive Committee several times. He was a voice of calm, reasoned approaches to issues, and a brilliant problem solver. He was always extremely optimistic, pleasant even in his dissents. Arliss was a master of conflict management.

I had the privilege of attending his celebration of life service last week. What I heard from all those that served with him in educational institutions, those who worshipped with him and served as his pastor, reminded me what a mentor, dedicated and faithful man this gentleman, Arliss Roaden, really was to all he encountered

Most importantly, it was priceless to hear from his granddaughter about what kind of granddad and man he really was. He was deeply loved and always took the time to do things that are really important, such as spend time with those he loved, enjoy the moments with his family and treasure the most important thing in life -relationships.

Arliss loved rocks and stones. References were made by those that spoke of him as a “rock”. Arliss was indeed a “rock” to his family. He was the same for all of us at STARS. Our thoughts will be with Mary Etta, his loving wife of 65 years, his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. We will miss you, Arliss!


P. Rodger Dinwiddie

Importance of Providing Trauma Informed Care


Imagine a female whose runaround in the foster care system began when she was only two years old. Her mother, an addict, struggled and eventually lost custody of her nine year old daughter due to neglect. The daughter is now sixteen with a brain traumatized by the early loss of her mother. To survive, she has learned to be hyper-vigilant; she is always on her guard, watching for harm. She responds to a ringing phone much the same as to a car crash. The smallest incident can produce floods of stress hormones in her brain, prompting a “fight or flight” response. Her life is lived in anxiety and fear, whether she recognizes it or not.

Now imagine this girl discovering a “magical substance.” This potion replaces her fear and anxiety with an overwhelming sensation of well-being. She is cradled in the arms of a benevolent being that soothes her and says, “Nothing bad will ever happen again.” It is as though the sun has risen in her soul.

Does this sound dramatic? It should. Trauma is, by definition, dramatic. And traumatized teens often learn to abuse drugs to escape those feelings of anxiety and fear. That’s one reason it’s so hard to get them to stop.

It’s a fact! Though the moment may be brief and the cost great, traumatized teens abuse drugs because drugs make them feel better—until the impact of substance abuse on their developing brains manifests itself in a never-ending spiral of even more trauma, and all hope of escape fades.

STARS’S gender-specific intensive outpatient program for females 13-18—exists for this reason.

By providing trauma-informed substance abuse treatment in a safe, female-only setting, STARS gives young women a new option for living. They learn skills to self-regulate without drugs, grow healthy relationships, practice safe sex, and build self-esteem. STARS helps them build resilience and find the courage to change.

STARS’S YODA-Girls meets at the Youth Opportunity Center at 1704 Charlotte Avenue Suite 200, Nashville, TN 37203

For intake and more information call 615 983-6819 or 615 983-6809.

Are you interested in learning more about childhood trauma?

Head on over to read guest blogger, Jennifer Drake-Croft’s contribution on our blog about compassion and trauma. 

Young Artists Are Not Just a Sound Bite

I want to begin with a young artist who has always inspired me, Jean Michel Basquiat.

Young Artists are Not Just a Sound Bite

Basquiat was a highly intelligent, teenage graffiti artist, known by other street artists as ”Samo,” His curated mark-making and sayings on public buildings around Manhattan were numerous and impossible to ignore due to his use of events, vocabulary and lettering. By the late 70s Basquiat had achieved a kind of cult status amongst the East Village hipsters. His choices were informed, intelligent, highly individualistic and not about claiming space but cultivating thought through careful placement and idea sharing. Eventually he began to use television images, comic-book heroes, fragments from the Bible, slogans; he appropriated it all into his work. Art at the time was intellectualized and devoid of humanity. When Basquiat took his work from the street to canvases inside galleries, he could barely keep up with the demand. His jazzy, improvisational paintings, influenced by masters like Matisse, Picasso and Twombly, breathed life back into a sterile art world. Especially his colorful triptych painting Notary, which was thirteen feet of words and images scrolling the panels connecting his own personal stories with pop culture.


Jean Michel Basquiat was born on December 22, 1960, and died August 12, 1988, at only 27 years old. The impact Basquiat made on contemporary art in the 1980s and thereafter is undeniably epic.


The American education system is known for producing the best and brightest minds in the world. Our curriculums’ push towards the study of math, science, technology, medicine and law. Our curriculum is losing its focus on the arts as a valuable piece to help our students invent, communicate and problem solve in creative ways. The arts and musical education are devalued and dismissed as a legitimate pathway to successful life. The arts matter! We must create more opportunities for young minds like Basquiat to grow and change the world.


According to DoSomething.org, “Children who study a musical instrument are more likely to excel in all of their studies, work better in teams, have enhanced critical thinking skills, stay in school, and pursue further education. Much like expert technical skills, mastery in arts and humanities is closely correlated to high earnings.”


I know the arts help create community and transform academic spaces while maintaining cultural heritage and building voice. This is not a short quote, this is not a sound bite, the arts make America memorable, exciting and innovative. The arts will always be the secret ingredient the American educational system has over the rest of the world. Giving permission to think outside the box while exploring opportunities for youth to be creative is essential to being a better country. Together through art we will change the world.

Happy Youth Art Month…#dostuff and go make a difference!

To learn more about Andee Rudloff visit her website. 

10 Rudloff

STARS Literacy Programs 2016

Research shows when an activity is fun, we tend to perform better. At STARS, we believe, we can make reading a fun activity and impact the community by improving reading proficiency!

Services for Students who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing (DHH) – Literacy Program

Thanks to funding provided by Community Enhancement Fund, STARS was able to develop a program focused on Literacy for the deaf and hard of hearing students we serve. STARS DHH – Literacy program works individually and in small groups with students who are deaf or hard of hearing to improve their reading comprehension, writing skills and sign language proficiency. Additionally, we work with teachers and parents on best practices to assess and support the students in these areas.

The program currently provides services to 12 deaf and hard of hearing students in three different schools: Hillsboro High School, West End Middle and Eakin Elementary School. Using the Fairview Literacy program, we meet with each student weekly, either individually or in a small group.  The program focuses on improving reading comprehension, writing skills, sign language proficiency, bridging multiple meaning words and conceptual signing of topics and items translating from English to American Sign Language.

One unique aspect of this program is the lessons are specifically customized to meet the students at their level of learning, as well as incorporate their individual interests.

Kids on the Block – Literacy Program

Kids on the Block (KOB) is excited to partner with Shwab Elementary in piloting a six-week literacy program focusing on reading as a fun activity. Based on over 30 years of experience in classrooms, we believe this new literacy program will help bridge the gap for many young people who feel intimidated by reading.

During the six-week pilot program, KOB will take groups of Tier 2 students and work with them to help increase their reading scores. We will begin with an educational puppetry presentation for the entire group of students. The Kids on the Block presentation helps children understand choice in the reading process as well as the social and emotional aspects of the difficulties of being a reader that is behind their peers. The students will work in small groups, as well as pair up, to read with each other. At the end of the program, the students will walk away with two books chosen for them, and a third book of their choosing, as research shows when a child chooses a book in which they are interested, it increases their chances of being a better reader.

So, with the use of puppets, educators, hardworking kids and a lot of compassion and enthusiasm, Kids on the Block is working to help students in Middle Tennessee to have bigger and brighter futures!

Compassion: The Antidote to Trauma

Do you ever feel overwhelmed by negativity?  Turning on the news you see a stream of violence, drug abuse, scandal and scary statistics.  The weight of our social ills, mental health issues and rates of physical disease can make many feel helpless…or even worse, cynical.

Compassion: The Antidote to Trauma

One research study has begun to transform the way people think about these issues; instead of feeling overwhelmed, they feel hope.  The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) study was conducted by Kaiser Permanente and the Centers for Disease Control in the mid 90’s.  Surveying over 17,000 patients, they found a strong relationships between childhood adversity and later development of disease, disability and social problems.  From crime to cancer, from academic failure to alcoholism, high rates of childhood trauma was the common denominator.

Fifteen years later, scientists have found that toxic levels of stress hurt the developing brains and bodies of children.  Specifically, toxic stress from trauma changes the very architecture of your brain, kills your cells and even changes the way your genes are expressed. Getting deep beneath the skin and putting cracks in the foundation for lifelong health and wellness.

Why would this knowledge create hope?  Because now, we better understand how to meaningfully solve our most enduring problems with one approach.  Since ACEs are the root cause, we need to decrease and alleviate childhood trauma.

When a child is displaying negative behavior, it is often due to stress hormones surging through their bodies which put them in fight, flight or freeze mode.  This is a natural survival response.  When kids come from traumatic backgrounds, they frequently experience this survival reaction.

The CDC’s recommendations for driving down rates of ACEs are safe, stable, nurturing relationships and environments.  It may seem overly simple, but empowering coaches, teachers, pediatricians, parents and mentors to understand how childhood adversity impacts health and behavior creates a powerful response which is the antidote to trauma.  Suddenly these adults change their question from “what’s wrong with you?” to “what happened to you?”

Science shows we heal child trauma and promote resilience through trauma-informed, or compassionate care.  When hurt and reactive kids are met with calm and safe adults, they can begin to learn these skills themselves.  The brain continues to grow and develop through 25 years of age.  This means adults can help kids build neural connections to combat trauma and improve functioning simply by modeling the behavior they want to see.

Many adults are highly motivated to help and support youth but they become burned out because they deal with challenging behavior, they don’t understand on a daily basis.

For example, when a child curses you, it is difficult not to take it personally.  When these same adults recognize what is happening in the brains and bodies of these children and adolescents, they can respond in a compassionate way that doesn’t worsen trauma symptoms but begins to heal them.

Programs that treat families and youth break the cycle of physical disease, health risk behaviors, addiction, violence and mental health issues.  Realizing the deep impact of trauma, recognizing signs and symptoms, and responding in a way that reduces symptoms are the keys to trauma informed care and a healthier society.  By doing what is morally right for children, we are doing what is logically and fiscally right for all Tennesseans.   This science provides hope that we can move from marginal to massive results in addressing our most burdensome problems.