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A Moment

I love moments that take my breath away, and lucky for me, one of those moments happened this week at an event in Los Angeles. It’s no secret that I often attend events here in the city that honor many extraordinary men and women. I have met Presidents, tons of celebrities, and other fascinating people. This time it was different.

While attending the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s National Tribute Dinner, which honored actor Tom Cruise, I was introduced to a man named Luis Alberto Urzua Iribarren. You may not know the name, but you surely know his heroic story. Urzua was one of 33 Chilean miners trapped inside a cave below the surface of the earth for 69 days back in the summer of 2010. When the mine ceiling collapsed, the miners were believed dead, but after 17 days a note that was brought up through a drilled hole notified rescuers that all of the miners were alive.

Chile's President Sebastian Pinera holds the letter from the trapped miners.

During the first 17 days, Urzua, the 54-year-old shift supervisor rationed food, giving one spoonful of tuna to each of the miners every 48 hours. Once the rescue effort began, Urzua was also the man who volunteered to stay behind until all his men were safe. The father of four would wait and watch as each of the men were pulled to higher ground. Imagine what each of these men must have gone through physically and mentally. Imagine how grateful they must be every single day to be alive.

I was only able to spend a few minutes with Urzua, who doesn’t speak English well, but because I have been studying Spanish, I was able to get a few nods and a smile from him. It was such a moment for me! I could tell this man, while tenacious, also has a kind and happy soul. Even though we couldn’t communicate verbally very well, I could feel his good energy just being next to him.

With Luis just after he made his speech

In October of 2010, I reported the rescue on television as it happened live. While in the newsroom, my colleagues and I watched with bated breath, as did millions around the world. One by one the men were pulled to safety. One by one, we sighed a bit of relief for them. I still consider those historic moments, and our coverage as one of my most memorable as a journalist.

Miners underground


Just after the rescue

So as many extraordinary people were being honored that night, including Tom Cruise, I found myself enthralled with Urzua’s message of strength and calmness. When he was introduced on stage, I couldn’t resist, and was the first out of my seat to stand. What an honor! During Urzua’s speech, he praised his fellow miners, and pointed to God as the 34th miner. Amazing!

I am grateful that I was able to meet Urzua, and will always use the experience to remind myself that no matter our hardships and struggles, we always deal better with calmness, strength, and knowledge that we WILL eventually see the light at the end of the tunnel.

WATCH THE FINAL RESCUE HERE

Order of miners rescued:

1. Florencio Ávalos, 31,
2. Mario Sepúlveda, 39,
3. Juan Illanes, 52,
4. Carlos Mamani, 23,
5. Jimmy Sánchez, 19,
6. Osmán Araya, 30,
7. José Ojeda, 46,
8. Claudio Yáñez, 34,
9. Mario Gómez, 63,
10. Álex Vega, 31,
11. Jorge Galleguillos, 56,
12. Edison Peña, 34,
13. Carlos Barrios, 27,
14. Víctor Zamora, 33,
15. Víctor Segovia, 48,
16. Daniel Herrera, 37,
17. Omar Reygada, 56,
18. Esteban Rojas, 44,
19. Pablo Rojas, 45,
20. Darío Segovia, 48,
21. Yonni Barrios, 50,
22. Samuel Ávalos, 43,
23. Carlos Bugueño, 27,
24. José Henríquez, 54,
25. Renán Ávalos, 29,
26. Claudio Acuña, 44,
27. Franklin Lobos, 53,
28. Richard Villarroel, 23,
29. Juan Aguilar, 46,
30. Raúl Bustos, 40,
31. Pedro Cortez, 24,
32. Ariel Ticona, 29,
33. Luis Urzúa Iribarren, 54.

 

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Hunger is a Workaholic

I am sad, and here’s why. Just last week I learned about an alarming statistic. One out of every six children in the U.S. is at risk of hunger. (12.4 million children) I also learned that many students leave school on Friday, and are hungry until they return to school on Monday. There is simply not enough food at home.

Blessingsinabackpack.org is trying to change these numbers. The unique program is simple and designed to feed the elementary children who need help the most. Better test scores, positive behavior, increased attendance, and improved reading skills have all been linked to the success of the program.

Actor Omar Miller, from the CBS show CSI Miami, introduced me to Blessingsinabackpack.org. Fans also know Miller from the films Transformers and Spike Lee’s Miracle on St. Anna. I met up with Miller at a local elementary school in Los Angeles recently, and we both stepped in to help stuff backpacks for over one thousand students. It was an eye-opening experience.

At Normandie Avenue Elementary in Los Angeles, volunteers, parents, and teachers work for hours preparing the bags that are filled with non-perishable items like granola bars, soup, cereal, popcorn, and pudding. Every other Friday the students line up to get their bags. I saw the kids come in with their backpacks open. They were not bashful or ashamed. In fact, they were proud and excited. One teacher even told me she saw one child eating out of the bag soon after getting it, and she said to him “The food is for the weekend.” The child quickly responded, “But I’m hungry now.”

It’s simple. We cannot let our kids go hungry.

Miller agrees, and tells me it is exactly why he got involved. He has also started his own 501c3, The Omar Miller Foundation which takes left over food from television and movie sets, and provides it to needy families.

Blessingsinabackpack.org is currently feeding nearly forty thousand students in thirty-two states, but here in Los Angeles, the program is in only one school in the Los Angeles Unified School District. We can help change that because this program is easy to implement. Parents, teachers, community activists, and corporate supporters are finding they can implement the idea quickly. We just have to take that first step.

Children are our future, and as cliché as that may sound, they need our help and our hearts, and they need it fast. Spread the word.

FACTS:

$80 feeds one child every weekend for the entire school year.

Data shows that hungry children are sick more often and have lower academic achievement.

Over 62% of children in the U.S. Public School system are on the Free or Reduced Meal program.

Hunger makes it difficult for children to pay attention and learn.

With Photographer & Editor Carlos Cortes and Omar Miller

 

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Good Kid in a Mad City

Growing up is hard enough. Imagine having to worry about being shot at while walking the streets of your neighborhood. It was a reality for Kendrick Lamar. Now 23 years old, he’s sharing his story of keeping an upbeat attitude in an often-dark place.

Born and raised in Compton, California, a city where violence, drugs, and gang activity looms, Lamar knows what he must do to make it out. He’s found his voice on the microphone as a hip-hop artist, and people are beginning to listen.

Eminem’s manager, Paul Rosenberg, first took notice of Lamar late last year. Rosenberg tipped off rapper Dr. Dre, who gave Lamar a shout-out while on a Los Angeles radio station. Now things are moving fast.

This past January Lamar had his first sold out show at the Key Club in Los Angeles. Dr. Dre has included him on his much anticipated release Detox. Equally impressive, Lamar has landed on the cover of one of music’s most respected magazines, XXL. It’s a sign that the industry is watching and waiting.

Lamar tells me he began singing about his city, his struggles, and his survival at the age of 13. Now years later, he has nearly 300 songs, and must narrow it down to 12 for an album release. When asked which are his favorites, song titles like “The Hard Part 2,” “Cut You Off,” “Average Joe,” and “Faith” roll off his tongue. According to Lamar, all the songs have a message. Whether it’s about the ills of negativity, or the senseless loss of his uncle to prison, Lamar sings with a raw, honest, and sometimes angered voice. Many of his lyrics come from what he’s seen and experienced growing up in Compton.

His parents, who are still married, moved to Los Angeles from Chicago in the 1970’s. Lamar says his dad was always there for him, and admits the tight relationship likely saved his life, and gave him security to fall back on when he pushed the edges and lost focus.

While there has been a big drop in homicides in the city of Compton in the last couple of years, (some say due to better communication between police and residents), Lamar believes it is still not perfect; calling himself “a good kid in a mad city.”

I got a chance to spend the day with the young man who is, by the way, very charming. He and I walked the streets of Compton, visiting the Social Services building where he and his family collected welfare back in the day. We drove by his family’s first apartment, a building where he says he saw drug deals go down on a daily basis. We even stopped by his high school, a place he admits he “actually misses.” I also wanted to see Lamar in the studio. When we arrived, we found a small dark disheveled room in the back of a small house. It has been his place to record for years, and while it is not perfect by any means, sort of like the city of Compton, Kendrick Lamar hopes to help change that with his music.

 

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I get it now.

5 year old Conner donates to the animals. Thanks!

When I created Lu Parker Project I didn’t really know what to expect. After yesterday, it became very clear to me that it was the right thing for me to do. I still sometimes get anxiety because I want to be able to do more and more with the organization, but I am starting to see how volunteers with LPP are taking charge and helping me.

For the last month or so, Beth Brown and Kim Rodgers have stepped up big time creating a Holiday Collection for homeless animals that will benefit Los Angeles Animal Shelters. Yesterday was the final day for people to donate. We gathered on Main Street at PEETS Coffee, and watched as person after person stopped to give us dog beds, cash, dog & cat food, dog bowls, blankets, towels, and leashes. It was a beautiful sight!!!!

We all understand that events like these don’t fix the homeless animal problem, but what they do is bring awareness to the problem. One day at a time, and one volunteer at a time, we can begin to make that change.

Yesterday, volunteers took carloads to the South Los Angeles Shelter, and they tell me they walked away with a FULL heart ready for the next project. What a beautiful thing!

Stay tuned for a Valentines Day special, coming soon. Plan to get roses for someone? You will want to hear what we will offer you!!!

My dog Monkey represents

 

Superman Reminded Me


Many years ago before I was a journalist, I was a high school teacher. At the young age of 24, I was teaching 18 year old Seniors in the public school system in South Carolina. It sounds so ridiculous now, but back then I didn’t think twice about it. I was fresh out of Graduate school, and ready for my first classroom experience. Honestly, I don’t think about it much these days, but I was reminded this week when I saw the new film Waiting for Superman. The film is written and directed by Davis Guggenheim, the same man who brought us An Inconvenient Truth. The title sort of throws you off until you see the film, which highlights the plight of the public school system here in the United States. An educator, featured in the film, who grew up in a poor neighborhood, says he was always secretly waiting on Superman to swoop in and save his family and community.

Looking back on my students, I bet many of them dreamed of the same Superman idea. A majority of them came from broken homes, and communities where education was not a priority, so why should they pay attention and stay in school?

It’s the age old debate. How do we keep our kids in school and keep them motivated when it’s hard enough to get them to class?. Once there, as the film points out, they’ve got a 50-50 chance that their teacher will actually be a decent teacher. According to Guggenheim, the system is so broken, bad teachers are allowed to stay, even if it’s been proven they are performing poorly in the classroom. Everybody knows who they are, but there’s nothing administrators can do. The film points to union contracts and tenure, saying they often give teachers a solid spot in the classroom. Good or bad.

Looking back, as a teacher I likely scored points for enthusiasm and creativity. I didn’t have years under my belt to know how to deal with lets say, discipline issues, but I know I had passion. I wanted to inspire. Eager beyond words, I was early to work every day. I found that many of my students who were from low income, and single family homes, would come to school early too. Eventually I realized these kids were showing up early, not because they wanted to be at school, but simply because they needed a friend, a confidant, a teacher, anyone.. They just needed someone to listen.

I didn’t teach long, less than 3 years, but I have never forgotten the lessons I learned from the profession. My students taught me that sometimes you don’t have to be perfect, you just have to try. You don’t have to know all the answers, you just have to be willing to talk it out. And most importantly, they taught me to listen even when I didn’t want to.

Waiting for Superman, which opens in theaters in Los Angeles and New York today, reminded me that no matter what profession we have chosen for life, there is always at least one student out there waiting for us to reach out and hold his/her hand. If each of us helps at least one child, we are one step closer to healing the system.

 
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Posted by on September 24, 2010 in Journalist, opinion

 

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Am I really doing this?

13.1 miles=Half Marathon

It’s the distance I used to drive as a teenager from my house (in the country) to the small SC town of Estill.

13.1 miles

It’s almost like walking from Santa Monica to Hollywood.

That’s what I’ve pledged to walk. 13.1 miles. Please JOIN me!!! If you can’t join, can you please help support me??

Why you ask? Check out the following letter and info to find out. There’s a lot of cool stuff. THANKS.


Hi,

I am excited and scared!

I have committed to do something that isn’t easy, but will be very rewarding. Along with other volunteers,I will be walking 13.1 miles next month in the LA Rock-n-Roll Half Marathon to raise much needed funds for a non-profit I started this year called Lu Parker Project. Our projects are already helping homeless animals and at-risk teenagers in Los Angeles.

In the last couple of months:

*Along with local teenagers, we re-designed the entire lobby at South LA Shelter.
*We created a more appealing area outside the shelter by planting plants and gardening. (I even mowed the lawn!)
*We bathed and groomed nearly 20 shelter dogs so they would be more presentable for adoption.
*We have helped place over a half a dozen homeless dogs and cats into new homes.

South LA Shelter Lobby
Abbie, a rescue from South LA ShelterUrban Arts Crew paint murals


We did all the above with NO funding, but it’s difficult to continue this way. That’s exactly why many of us have committed to walking the upcoming half marathon.

Please help us by donating anything you can. ($5, $50,..even more if you can) We promise you will see results! Here’s my personal page:

My Fundraising Page

Thanks,

Lu Parker


For more info on JOINING OUR TEAM, or to sponsor a walker, click below.

www.active.com/donate/luparkerproject

To SUPPORT ME individually, please click below.

www.active.com/donate/luparkerproject/luparkerproject

Please check out our website: www.luparkerproject.org

To read more about the race: http://los-angeles.competitor.com/

*To send a tax-deductible donation by mail, send your check to Lu Parker Project, 5042 Wilshire Blvd. Box 389, LA CA 90036

 

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Heal the Bay–UPDATED

*******UPDATE********

KTLA Los Angeles’ “Heal the Bay” Special With Lu Parker & Micah Ohlman airs SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 18, 2010 at 8pm.

Los Angeles, CA (September 17, 2010)— Lu Parker, Emmy-Award winning journalist and animal welfare advocate, along with KTLA anchor Micah Ohlman, will be hosting a must-see, telecast “Heal the Bay”. The hour-long special will give viewers a shocking glimpse into the pollution of our beloved Southern California Coastline as well as the animals so strongly affected by it. Miles and miles of trash and debris along a once pristine coastline is more than an environmental eye sore but also causing detrimental affects to our animal and sea life.  The show highlights the ugly truth about what is happening with our oceans, oceans harmed by humans and suffering from a disease of debris.

Viewers are able to learn the simple things they can do to cure our coast and save our seas as well as have the chance to meet the inspiring individuals dedicated to helping the endangered marine life and coastline, from the open waters to our shores and our valleys. In addition, viewers will see how local neighborhoods and schools are influencing even the littlest of helpers to make a huge difference. 

Join hosts Micah Ohlman & Lu Parker of KTLA News, THIS SATURDAY NIGHT at 8pm on KTLA 5 Los Angeles to help “Heal the Bay!”

 

Hosting HEAL THE BAY Special

Hosting HEAL THE BAY Special

 

Today was a nice break from reporting on the streets, and a good lesson on paying attention to our environment.  

I was honored when I was asked to co-host this year’s HEAL THE BAY special along with Micah Ohlman of KTLA Channel 5.  We shot the show today at Paradise Cove in Malibu.  What an amazing spot to spend the day!

The show will highlight the issues surrounding our oceans and California coastline.  We discussed everything from the importance of recycling, to picking up trash, even teaching our neighbors and friends to get more involved with conservation.  As a society we waste so much, but if we take a second to look at what we can do to help, it’s quite easy.

Today I decided that I will make a big effort to stop using plastic bags.  I will attempt to take reusable bags to the grocery store from now on.  Of course, I’m sure I will forget several times, but I really want to start making a change.  Recently, my boyfriend and I stopped buying plastic water bottles in bulk.  In fact, we rarely use a plastic water bottle anymore. Instead we have switched to reusable bottles.  While it was his idea, and seemed difficult in the beginning, it turned out to be easy.  Just think how many bottles we’ve avoided wasting in the last six months alone.

Can you think of something you might like to do to help?  Got any ideas?  If you want more information go to Heal the Bay

HEAL THE BAY Special airs on KTLA September 21, 2010.  KTLA 

 

 

Hard day at work. :)

Hard day at work. 🙂

 

 

Wait for the Jib

Wait for the Jib

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Crew...

The Crew...

 

 

Kimberly working hard

Kimberly working hard

 

 

 

Jason on the move

Jason on the move

 

 

Frank checks the lighting

Frank checks the lighting

 

 

 

              

 

Crew...Looking for shade

Crew...Looking for shade

 

Micah, me, Don, Karen (Heal the Bay), John 

Micah, me, Don, Karen (Heal the Bay), John
 
2 Comments

Posted by on August 12, 2010 in environment, Inspirational, Uncategorized

 

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From Homeless to High School Graduate

How many times have you heard or said these two words? “I can’t!”

It’s easy to say and often times a great excuse for not doing something in life.  Whether you are looking to change jobs, go back to school, or even get out of a bad relationship, the words can paralyze you.  I admit I have learned the “I can’t” lesson from my own experiences, but was reminded today that none of it was necessary.

The person who reminded me was a teenager from Los Angeles named Kenneth Chancey, but this 18 year old is not just any teenager.  You see, this kid has experienced more difficult situations that you and I may ever encounter in our lifetime.  For most of his school years, Kenneth has been homeless.  He tells me he has bounced around from foster home, to homeless shelter, even admitting to once living in a van with his family.  With all that baggage, Kenneth never gave in, and today he walked on stage to accept his high school diploma.  I was there as a reporter, and have to tell you it was a beautiful sight.  Kenneth could have said “I can’t” but instead he said “I will.”  Here’s his story.

arthomelesscnn

 

Click here to find out more about Kenneth

 
 

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You gotta love Live TV!

For several weeks I’ve been working on an investigative story focused on Puppy Mills.  What I discovered was appalling and sad.  My exclusive story for KTLA revealed sick dogs, and dogs living in cages just large enough to turn around in.  While the video is disturbing to watch, the information could save thousands of animals.  Plus, what happened on set at the end of my story was a FIRST for me as a journalist.  Talk about getting nervous for the camera! 

Click here to view my Exclusive Report

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 

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Sweet Poodle needs Home

 

Cotton Love

Cotton Love

I was at the South LA shelter this week and found this little guy.  I have named him Cotton.  I went back yesterday to bathe him, but the Dr. says he has Kennel Cough.  They didn’t want me to bathe him right now cause he could get very sick.  They will now treat him for Kennel Cough which will make him better in a week.

My Mom and I took him outside so he could smell the grass and feel some sunshine.  He doesn’t feel well, but Cotton is very gentle and sweet.  He let me hold him like a baby.

Cotton is available for adoption right now.  All he needs is his meds for 10 more days.   Please pass on his information!!!!  He will make someone very happy!

 

Cotton Poses for the Camera

Cotton Poses for the Camera

I look good even without being groomed.

I look good even without being groomed.

 
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Posted by on April 24, 2010 in animal shelter, homeless animals