Domestic Violence – Shan Foster

I’m sure many of you watched the Super Bowl this year and are ready for the excitement of the NBA and NHL Playoffs. This is certainly a peak time of year for sports. I recently saw a video of Julian Edelman of the New England Patriots that caught my attention. He remained positive and demonstrated tremendous resilience and perseverance while facing the largest deficit his team had seen all season. No team playing in the Super Bowl had ever come back from a 25-point deficit in the history of the NFL. I was not surprised to see Julian’s positive attitude, but what did amaze me was his choice of words. While still trailing by at least three touchdowns and a field goals to the NFL’s leading offense, Julian told his teammates, “This is going to be one hell of a story.”

Wow! Most people wait until the momentum changes or the score gets a little closer before they outwardly express that kind of belief. But not Julian. This is what he said in what seemed to be defeat.

Watching the game, we all witnessed one of the greatest comebacks in the history of sports. And if we’re honest, most of us didn’t believe what Julian did. We simply didn’t think they could do it.

Like the Patriots, MEND has quite the lofty goal to make Nashville the safest city in the nation for women and girls. And, just like in the Patriots in the first three quarters of Super Bowl LI (or 51), many don’t think we have a chance. Some feel defeated when they look at the big screen and see the numbers.

  • 1 in 4 women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime
  • 1 in 5 women will experience sexual abuse before they are 18 years old
  • 1 in 5 women will be sexually assaulted or raped in college
  • 3 women are killed each day by a man
  • Metro Nashville Police officers respond to a domestic violence call every 20 minutes
  • Tennessee ranks 9th in the nation for the rate at which men kill women

Like Julian, I’m not oblivious to the numbers, but I also can’t ignore what else I see. When I look around Nashville, I see men who are committed to change. I see men who have stepped up to join women to end this violence. I see men who will hold other men accountable. And I see men who believe. Men who believe that violence is a learned behavior that can be changed. Men who believe that women are to be valued and respected. Men who believe that we can teach young men and boys a new definition of manhood. Men who believe in the power of love.

Therefore, in the end, we win. Not just we as men, but we as people. Men and women, boys and girls, together. It won’t happen overnight, just like it didn’t happen in one quarter for the Patriots. If we remain committed, persistent, and believe, then we will see a day when those numbers change. We will see the day when women and girls are not only safe, but valued and respected. We will see the day when men and boys are free from stereotypes and the “boys will be boys” expectation will mean that boys will be respectful, loving, and kind! On that day, we all win! So, let’s #MENDit2Endit!

About the Author

Shan FosterShan Foster, Sr. Director of External Affairs and MEND, YWCA Nashville & Middle Tennessee

Shan Foster has served as the MEND Director since spring 2015. Shan graduated from Vanderbilt University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Human and Organizational Development in 2008. During his time at Vanderbilt, Shan was named SEC Men’s Basketball Player of the year and is Vanderbilt University’s all-time leading scorer. Shan was drafted into the NBA in 2008 and was inducted to the Tennessee Hall of Fame in 2009. Recently, Shan was honored as SEC Legend at the 2016 SEC Basketball Tournament. Prior to his work at YWCA, Shan served as Dean of Culture for the Intrepid College Preparatory Charter School, where he now serves on the board of directors.


Andrew Maraniss on Race

The other day I was scanning Twitter and ran across a provocative thread of posts from an attorney, librarian and writer named April Hathcock.

“Ok, friends,” she wrote, “We’re going to stop talking about “diversity & inclusion” when what we’re really talking about is race, racism, and whiteness … We’re going to stop talking about “diversity & inclusion” when what we’re really talking about is queer hate, trans hate, heteronormativity…We’re going to be intentional about the oppression and violence about which we speak. We’re going to be intersectional but also specific … We’ve been using intersectionality as an excuse to use feel good euphemisms. We’re going to stop doing that.”

I was intrigued by April’s reframing of the subject because not only does it appeal to the activists among us, in its specificity it can be used to disarm the cynic who dismisses diversity and inclusion efforts as unnecessary, liberal, PC mumbo jumbo. Let’s get real, April is saying.

In 2014, I published a book called STRONG INSIDE, a biography of Perry Wallace, the first African-American basketball player in the Southeastern Conference. Wallace played at Vanderbilt University in the late 1960s, and as he made history on the basketball courts of the Deep South, Wallace feared for his life. He’d ask himself what’s the worst that could happen, and in his mind, he imagined being shot and killed somewhere like Starkville, Mississippi or Tuscaloosa, Alabama, where he was routinely harassed by fans with threats with lynching or castration. Back on his own campus in Nashville, Wallace was kicked out of a white church, his best friend was addressed by the N-word on his first day of English class.

A few months ago, I converted STRONG INSIDE into a young readers’ edition, aimed at kids 10 and older. With concern over the sensitivities of some readers (or more accurately, their parents), I debated how much of the derogatory language to keep in this condensed version of the book. In the end, I opted to keep all of it. The truly offensive thing, I decided, would be to whitewash history and let the racists off the hook by sanitizing their words, and in so doing minimizing the hostility and discrimination Wallace encountered and so courageously overcame.

So, I appreciate that this isn’t international diversity day. It’s the International Day for the Elimination of Racism and Discrimination. And this year’s theme isn’t “Celebrate (Insert Diverse Name Here) Culture Day.” Rather, the theme is “Racial profiling and incitement to hatred, including in the context of migration.”
This is the kind of real language April Hathcock was calling for. And a reminder that sometimes being careful about the language we use means telling it like it is, not cleaning it up.

About the Author

Andrew Maraniss Headshot Andrew Maraniss is the New York Times-bestselling author of STRONG INSIDE. The original, adult version of the book received the Lillian Smith Book Award for civil rights and the RFK Book Awards’ Special Recognition Prize for social justice. The Young Readers edition has been named one of the Top 10 Biographies for Youth by the American Library Association’s Booklist.

Follow Andrew on Twitter @trublu24, and visit his website at

Strong Inside Cover
Order his book!

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, “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 Bullying Prevention Month

October is Bullying Prevention month, focusing on groups across the country committed to putting an end to bullying, relaying information aimed to bring awareness as well as to provide prevention resources.
October serves as a reminder that bullying is an issue entire communities must address. One valuable way to do that is to educate ourselves and our communities, and be aware of the resources available. STARS has been solution-focused on this issue for over 20 years. Here are some valuable program resources we would like to share with you.

KOTBKids on the Block (KOB): Our program educates children and the broader community about challenges and important issues that affect their lives, reaching nearly 40,000 children and adults in schools and community agencies across Tennessee counties.
“Kids on the Block tailors its bullying prevention programs to fit the needs of the age group. KOB starts talking to Kindergarteners about teasing and name calling and how words can hurt. With 1st graders, we talk about self-control and problem solving, helping them to see that there’s more than one way to solve a problem. With 2nd graders, we talk about differences and how we are all different and that should be celebrated and not used to hurt. With older elementary students, we try to help them distinguish between bullying and conflicts. We also work to empower bystanders encouraging them to be “standbyers” – someone who will go and stand to support kids who are getting bullied or harmed in anyway.” – Melanie Scott, Program Director of Kids on the Block

SAPStudent Assistance Program (SAP): Our nationally recognized, evidence-based program provides counselors in Middle and High Schools to help students address issues such as bullying. SAP has been recognized by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices (NREPP) as one of three evidence-based practices to address intervention services for youth ages 6 to 18.
“Each of the schools we serve has different needs; our Student Assistance Program works closely with the individual school administrators and faculty on how to help spread awareness of bullying and to advocate for bullying prevention within the school. Our Student Assistance Program also works closely with other STARS programs like MOVE2STAND and Kids on the Block to meet the needs of the individual students. Our counselors work individually with students who have been bullied by providing them a supportive place where they can address their feelings and process their hurt. The SAP counselors will also help the young person to set boundaries for themselves and work on assertive communication. For the persons’ that bully, the SAP counselor works to show them how their behavior affects others and works to focus on the personal experiences that have lead them to bullying behavior.” – Kay Higgs, Student Assistance Program Team Leader/Trainer
To see a list of the schools we are currently in, click here.

YODAYouth Overcoming Drug Abuse (YODA): We believe people can recover and we do not give up. YODA provides an intensive outpatient program for adolescents with drug and substance use disorders and co-occurring disorders. While the program does not focus on bullying prevention, we try to meet our kids where they are.
“The reasons why people use drugs are pretty simple: It feels good. Another reason people use drugs is to feel better. Kids get high to deal with poverty, abuse, co-occurring disorders, bullying… all of that. If we can teach them other ways to cope, we’ve done our job and hopefully interrupted the progression towards addiction.” – Lisa Bell, Director of Clinical Services

M2SMOVE2STAND (M2S): M2S is an interactive training program to challenge students to examine their attitudes toward bullying. This one-day youth summit creates empathy and helps young leaders understand how bullying impacts school climate and communities. Additionally, it motivates the students to be the change in their school and to create a positive and inclusive school climate.
“M2S challenges every person in the room to get outside their comfort zone by physically moving and standing beside a person who needs that additional support. It allows bystanders to recognize the harmful effects of bullying and harassment while also teaching them low risk strategies to effectively support students who are getting bullied…M2S gives hope to those who have none.” – Eric Johnson, VP of Youth Development, Program Director of MOVE2STAND
To find out how to bring a training to your school, please contact us.

SSWDHHServices for Students who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing(DHH): Students who are deaf or hard-of-hearing have increased difficulties with communication, isolation, depression, learning and family connections. Our award-winning services have received national and local attention because of the support it provides. From after-school services to in-home services, the program helps Deaf and Hard of Hearing students who may be at a higher risk of being targeted or bullied in their schools.
“We address bullying in a variety of different ways; one of our projects consists of the students creating a video where they address bullying as one of the topics; when they see it done to others, when it is done to them, how it makes them feel, etc. We also address bullying in the daily activities and teachings that we do with our students.” – Laura Lekowicz-Ballard, Program Director of Services for Students who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing
To learn more about STARS follow us online:
Facebook: /STARSNASH

The Stigma about Alcoholism – Alcohol Awareness Month

It’s been three decades since I attended a training offered by Operation Community Awareness Nashville (CAN). That training and one shortly thereafter provided by STARS, (an organization that I only had heard about at the time), changed my life. So much so that I began my own recovery from the impact of addiction, and have been working in the field of prevention, intervention, and now treatment, for the last 30 years.

Three decades later with the all the medical advances and knowledge about addiction so prevalent in our culture, the stigma about alcoholism and drug dependency in the family still exists. This is especially true if you are a child or adolescent living in a family impacted by the disease of addiction. Ask yourself these six questions:

  • Have you ever thought that one of your parents had a drinking problem?
  • Did you ever encourage one of your parents to quit drinking?
  • Did you ever argue or fight with a parent when he or she was drinking?
  • Have you ever heard your parents fight when one of them was drunk?
  • Did you ever feel like hiding or emptying a parent’s bottle of liquor? (Or you choose the substance)
  • Did you ever wish that a parent would stop drinking?

If you responded YES to 3 or more of the questions, it is highly likely that you are a child of an alcoholic.  (Note: These questions are a subsample of the questions appearing on the Children of Alcoholics Screening Test, developed by Jones and Pilat, and have ben rigorously tested.)

April is Alcohol Awareness month.

It’s a time to focus on the families that are impacted by alcoholism; and for over 30 years STARS has been working to alleviate the shame and stigma about this family disease.

Did you know:

  • That according to the National Association for Children of Alcoholics, more than 28 million Americans are children of alcoholics; nearly 8.3 million are under the age of 18.
  • That an estimated 12 percent of children in the United States live with a parent who is dependent on or abuses alcohol or other drugs? Alcoholism and other drug addiction tend to run in families. Children of addicted parents are more at risk for alcoholism and other drug abuse than are other children.
  • That children growing up in families impacted by substance abuse are the highest risk group of children to become alcohol and drug abusers due to both genetic and family environment factors? And that they are also at a higher risk for emotional disturbance, neglect and abuse.  Also, that the biological children of alcohol dependent parents who have been adopted continue to have an increased risk (2-9 fold) of developing alcoholism? (National Association for Children of Alcoholics)
  • That one in four adolescents who start using alcohol and other drugs under the age of 15 end up developing abuse or dependence problems and do not stop until they have gone to treatment 3-4 times over several years?”  (National Institute on Drug Abuse)

The costs to families, our culture, and, most importantly to the young people impacted by this disease are staggering, economically, emotionally, psychologically, spiritually and physically.

Breaking the shame that goes along with the admission that there is the proverbial “elephant in the room” can be painful, disrupting, chaotic, unnerving, humbling as well as restorative, hopeful and healing. Thank goodness that today, for so many children and adolescents, the cycle of silence and shame is being broken. Whether through the work of Kids on the Block, school-based STARS Student Assistance and Deaf and Hard of Hearing services, or YODA’s intensive outpatient treatment services, the stigma of substance abuse and dependency is being broken.

When STARS began in Nashville in 1984 our mission was to help prevent substance abuse among adolescents, to support children of addiction, and walk alongside those adolescents that had already experienced treatment for this disease. Those services are still thriving today and we are fortunate to have been able to add these additional approaches to help young people and their families find the hope, strength, and ability to heal and recover.

Without the support of this community none of this would be possible. For more information about how the many programs and services of STARS might be able to support your school, faith community, or family, please visit our website. For information about how you can support STARS, please visit our website or call us at 615-279-0058. STARS will forever be about providing support to families impacted by addiction, breaking the code of silence and shame that too many are living with, unnecessarily. Help break the cycle this month!