Learned Lessons

By Patrick M. Chierichella, Educational Coordinator

The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation

Life teaches hard lessons to the old and the young. Yesterday, my wife and I probably took for granted the usual, causal motions of the moment: Hugging our son, feeling the love in the hugs of his children, embracing dear friends, the handshakes of others. Add to those losses the quiet of our neighborhood, the disappearance of school buses on our roads, the silence of school playgrounds at recess, the exuberance of students rushing to board buses for the ride home. Further the drive to the local supermarket takes us past businesses we frequented but now fear will struggle mightily once reopened, that is, if they ever do. Never mind “No shoes, no shirts, no service”. Signs announcing limits to the number of shoppers at any one time in a store are everywhere. Gloves and masks needed for shopping make us more anonymous than ever. We feel the need to ask, who was that masked man/woman? The Lone Stranger is our guess.

We are amazed by the number of heroes in this world. Where do they find the courage to do what must be done? We are touched by the grief of families who have lost so much.

My father was born during the great pandemic of 1918-1920. Two siblings, a brother and a sister, both passed on the same day due to the flu. His story was not unique. The randomness of that disease and today’s scourge is the stuff of nightmares. My father, like many of his generation, spoke of graduating from the “school of hard knocks”. He told me you learned from life. Life didn’t learn anything from you.

The primary lesson taught by the Rose Brucia Educational Foundation concerns personal space. As applied to epidemics, it is called social distancing. With today’s virtual connections at one’s fingertips, it would seem difficult to keep social distance. I read an essay by a psychologist that suggested physical distancing as a more appropriate expression. Your daily actions reinforce our teaching strategy. Dorothy Nolte, author and family counselor, stated, Children do learn what they live. Then they grow up to live what they’ve learned.

There an awful lot of stuff on your plates right now. Maybe you are looking for some other resources to bolster your home schooling responsibilities, to give your child or children some relief from the sameness of the day. We offer the videos from our site as short breaks from the day’s lessons. Go to our site, www.rosebrucia.org, and check them out. Scroll under “Free Curriculum”. There are video lessons and lesson plans for Kindergarten, First and Second grades. Short in duration, hopefully engaging and age appropriate; make use of them as you will.

This crisis will produce knowledge about the world we live in and especially about ourselves. It has left its mark on us all, some more devastatingly than others. It is a very different world now where Be Safe and Stay Safe now mean the same as I HOPE to see you again. I can’t wait to be with you once more. 

Please Be Safe!

About The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation
Founded by Matthew J. Barbis after his 11-year-old cousin, Carlie Brucia, was abducted and murdered in Sarasota, FL in 2004. The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation’s goal is to reduce the number of child abductions in the U.S. by educating and empowering young minds with the knowledge necessary to avoid abduction. Utilizing puppets and a formalized educational curriculum, the foundation provides elementary-aged children with the Stranger Safety Awareness Program, free of charge. The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.

The Off Chance

By Patrick M. Chierichella, Educational Coordinator

The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation

In days past, as I was sitting in the darkened movie theater, I watched and listened as the screen filled with an avalanche of popped corn with its signature popping sound. Then the sound of tinkling ice came as the cubes filled a glass. Soda loudly effervesced as it poured over the ice. Images not so subtly urging me to visit the refreshment stand are as old as movies themselves. These messages are easily dismissed as being the ever present nuisance I must sit through before the film begins.

It was what followed the advertisements that got me thinking: A picture of the theater with its exits along with this voiceover, In the unlikely event of an emergency…Aren’t all emergencies unlikely events?

Unlikely event? Given our population, certainly! Stephen King wrote, There’s no harm in hoping for the best as long as you’re prepared for the worst. Ann Landers wrote, It is not what you do for your children but what you taught them to do for themselves. A former teaching peer often spoke of prior planning in formulating strong lessons. Planning does not guarantee success. Planning does develop a sense of confidence.

Before a hurricane season several years, my wife and I attended an emergency preparedness meeting at our local high school. We listened to town officials talk about power outages and local flooding potential. As we left the meeting, we were given a bright red backpack, our go bag courtesy of the American Red Cross. It included the Town’s Resident Guide to Hurricane and Emergency Preparedness, lists of essentials for families, supply suggestions for our car, for our formulation of an evacuation plan, for anything and everything aligned with our safety.

According to the FBI, in 2016 there were 465,676 entries concerning missing children in the Bureau’s National Crime Information Center (NCIC); in 2017, there were 464,324 entries. Doing the math, on average, there are about 1,270 or more entries per day concerning missing children in our country. In 2017, our population was 325.7 million people. I can do the math. The total entries for missing children reflect .1% of our population in these years. Doing research on the issue of child abductions, I come across statements on the net from people out there who claim groups such as ours, along with the media, overplay the frequency of child abductions, of school shootings, emphasizing fear over reality. If you are only into numbers, then, yes, that number speaks to your argument. However, the impact upon the missing child, the child’s immediate family, the child’s extended family, the friends, classmates, and the community becomes multiplied into a significant value that cannot be denied. The event, singular though it may be, has a rippling effect that can rock many groups.

At the Foundation, we urge informing and preparing your child for whatever emergency life may throw their way. They need their own go bag. We urge you to review in as an engaging manner as possible the following points:

Practice performing a formal introduction with your child. Give your child a strong idea of who a stranger is. Advise your child never to go anywhere with a stranger. Let your child know a stranger may be lying to them. Tell your child never to take a gift from a stranger. Teach your child to use the Buddy System and always go somewhere with a friend. Create a Secret Word with your child that must be used to identify someone who is sent by you with any message or suggestion to go with them. Insure your child can use 9-1-1 properly and easily. Play observation games to heighten your child’s awareness skills.

Our lives are more complicated today than ever before. At the Foundation, we hope our suggestions do not insult nor overwhelm you.

There is an old saying, Fool me once, shame on me. To be fooled by a dangerous stranger, by a predator just once, is truly more than enough.

Be safe.

About The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation
Founded by Matthew J. Barbis after his 11-year-old cousin, Carlie Brucia, was abducted and murdered in Sarasota, FL in 2004. The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation’s goal is to reduce the number of child abductions in the U.S. by educating and empowering young minds with the knowledge necessary to avoid abduction. Utilizing puppets and a formalized educational curriculum, the foundation provides elementary-aged children with the Stranger Safety Awareness Program, free of charge. The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.

See you in the funny pages!

By Patrick M. Chierichella, Educational Coordinator

The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation

 I am of an age that my first reading lessons involved the funnies or comics in various New York City daily newspapers. My mother would sit me at the kitchen table and go panel by panel through various strips pointing to and sounding out the words scripted in the balloons floating above the characters heads. Sunday’s edition was especially awaited because it was printed larger and was in glorious color. To this day I still read the funnies. With time and, ahem, maturity, there are fewer that I follow. These still bring chuckles, provide agonizing groans and surprise with poignancy.

I have been asked where I get the ideas for my essays. They come from so many different sources. A well- turned phrase in a novel, an editorial, a conversation, a reflection, a photo, a comic strip. On Thursday, May 30th, I was taken by the Wizard of Id strip. It was a three panel strip that had only one drawn character, the Wizard. If you didn’t see it, I’ll describe it for you: The Wizard is walking along a street. He is passing a sewer or storm drain. A balloon is floating above the sewer with its attached string leading down to the sewer grate. The Wizard produces his magic wand, points, touches the balloon. Zap! The balloon is destroyed. In the last panel he says, Not in my neighborhood, Chuckles!

This set off various threads of thought in my mind. My mind filled with many recollections: to Stephen King’s It; to the incredibly nasty, evil Pennywise feeding on the fears of children; to King linking the worst desires of this frightening villain to where he lives in the sewers; to Neighborhood Watch signs I see posted throughout American locales; to the See something. Say something! Campaign publicized on TV.

We are all ready to be savage in some cause. The difference between a good man and a bad one is the choice of the cause American philosopher William James said. Count the Wizard as a good, good man. Sets a great example, he does. Mason and Marc Mastroianni, the team responsible for the current run of the comic strip, deserve our thanks for making such a brilliantly succinct point about what evil still lurks out there in the world. Additionally, you can check out the recent PBS Frontline documentary from May 28, 2019, Sex Trafficking in America. It is not an easy watch.

In a beautifully tender essay in the New York Times, Sunday June 2, 2019 Amber Scorah wrote about loss. The essay concerned her coming to grips with the unexpected death of her 4 year old son at a day care center. She wrote the child was a means of capturing immortality …I would die first and that made him immortal for me. Further, I will never know who my child would have been, but I know his love.

All this leads me again to the reason our foundation exists, the loss of a child through violence. We are diminished as John Donne would say. That bell is tolling to ask us to remember and to discover a connection between ourselves and those who surround us with their love in this time of loss.

As John Lennon wrote, There’s nothing you can do that can’t be done. Nothing you can say but you can learn how to play the game. No one you can save that can’t be saved. It’s easy. Would that it would be easy! Here’s to the ongoing task of keeping our children safe in this day and age. It can be done. It isn’t a game. Save one child then another. Surely worth doing no matter the effort! See you around the neighborhood!

About The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation

Founded by Matthew J. Barbis after his 11-year-old cousin, Carlie Brucia, was abducted and murdered in Sarasota, FL in 2004. The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation’s goal is to reduce the number of child abductions in the U.S. by educating and empowering young minds with the knowledge necessary to avoid abduction. Utilizing puppets and a formalized educational curriculum, the foundation provides elementary-aged children with the Stranger Safety Awareness Program, free of charge. The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.

Wish you were here!

By Patrick M. Chierichella, Educational Coordinator

The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation

Luddite : noun, a person opposed to new technology or ways of working.

Lurker:  noun, a person who lurks, in particular a user of an Internet message board or chat room who does not participate; an observer.

In terms of fashion or technology, my family claims I am woefully behind the times in both areas. They joke I purchased a leisure suit on the last day it was in style. Similarly, they point out how I refused for years to use a cell phone. I hated (and still hate) the ability and/or need for anyone to attain instantaneous contact with another person at any given moment. Over time, I begrudgingly accepted my conversion to the utility of messaging.

I confess that former Luddites can and do regress. It’s like a flare up of a dormant disease. I know it’s 2019. Adapt or face the consequences. Yet I find comfort in my belief that there is something so incredible, so undeniably creative about putting pen in hand and pen to paper, structuring your thoughts to reach out and communicate, connect to another in so reflective and personal a manner. The written word! The letter! The postcard! The POSTCARD?

When was the last time you sent or received a postcard from a relative or friend? Remember the frequent message inscribed on them? Wish you were here.

My wife has shown me the visual postcards she scrolls through on her Facebook page. I read in my mind their electronic inscriptions: Look here. See me. Some draw smiles. Others make me shake my head in disbelief. Since I offer no comments, I realize I am a lurker.

My wife has shared beautiful postings celebrating life: its love, humor, tenderness, longing, accomplishments. I have viewed posts of families celebrating the passages we all wish to commemorate. Look, there’s the newborn, the toddler, the first day of school. There’s someone with their BFF, at their prom, their high school graduation, all grown up with their parents and grandparents. They all seem to say to me, Don’t you wish you were here? How plaintive these moments in time must seem to the families such as the Brucias.

It is ironic that the first platform for Facebook (available only to students at Harvard University) debuted on February 4, 2004, three days after Carlie’s abduction. Her social media presence will always be missing.

February 1, 2019 is the fifteenth anniversary of Carlie’s passing. Wish you were here, Carlie.

About The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation

Founded by Matthew J. Barbis after his 11-year-old cousin, Carlie Brucia, was abducted and murdered in Sarasota, FL in 2004. The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation’s goal is to reduce the number of child abductions in the U.S. by educating and empowering young minds with the knowledge necessary to avoid abduction. Utilizing puppets and a formalized educational curriculum, the foundation provides elementary-aged children with the Stranger Safety Awareness Program, free of charge. The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.

 

Pass/Fail

By Patrick Chierichella, Educational Coordinator

The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation

Questions are posed by students that never fail to amaze me: Is this on the test? Why do I have to learn this? (As a counterpoint I found the following bit of information incredible: At 88, on his deathbed Michelangelo’s supposed last words were, “ancora imparando”- “I’m still learning”). Can you tell me when I’m gonna use this in real life? How can you expect us to know this stuff? Do these sound familiar to you in your role as parent, guardian and educator? Children are nothing save pragmatic. Every kernel of Science, English, Social Studies, Math, and so forth must have a practical purpose. Students focus during review classes; they attend extra help sessions. Inevitably one or two will say upon receiving their grades, I studied the wrong stuff.

Parents like numerical grades. Numbers give them that grit, that meat, that concrete evaluation of performance. So do letter grades. However proud my dad was of my report card, he would always add a caveat: There’s room for improvement. And so, the next day would begin the quest to repeat or improve my scholastic skills.

Robert Fulghum, author of Everything I Needed to Know I learned in Kindergarten, suggested these basic ideas among others are the underpinnings of what enables us to grow, thrive and survive.

Share everything. Play fair. Don’t hit people. Don’t take things that aren’t yours. Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody. Live a balanced life–learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some. When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together. And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first word you learned–the biggest word of all–LOOK. (And there are no exams!)

These beliefs are simple, commonsensical, in and of themselves harmless, written in a feel good way that captured people’s psyches. It vaulted to the top of the New York Times best seller list in 1989. That was almost 30 years ago. The world appeared simpler and safer.

Real life, as students like to call it, will provide situations for them that leave no room for improvement. It is one thing to study for a quiz, a unit exam, a practical, or a final and receive a numerical or letter grade. It is a totally different evaluation when a stranger attempts to enter a child’s personal space; there is only one chance without possibility of a retest: it is Pass or Fail. This test can be taken at any time in anyone’s lifetime. Just scan the news for the past months and read the ages of those encountering sexual predators: preteens, teenagers, and college-aged students!

In Robert Fulghum’s list, certain words stand out in relation to stranger safety awareness: Watch out; Stick together; and LOOK. Awareness is learned more by copying a parent’s behavior than by a structured lesson in a classroom. Emphasizing the Buddy System is not only smart in school hallways but when allowing a child freedom of movement to visit friends or playgrounds. Playing games such as I spy with my little eyes from an appropriately early age develop a keener sense of one’s surroundings. The emphasis on who might enter a child’s personal space cannot be overemphasized. Fulghum’s view, Don’t take things that aren’t yours, might be used as a discussion starter between parent and child concerning invasion of personal space. This all comes down to preparation for a test, possibly a once in a lifetime test, that a child must PASS.

People are welded to the present. In the here and now a person must act. Adam Grant, an organizational psychologist at the Wharton School of Business, wrote in a book review for the New York Times, Since you’ll never have enough information to make the best choice, all you can do is make the best of the choice you’ve made. The task as parents, guardians and educators is to engagingly, quietly, and assuredly prepare our children as best we can for something we hope never happens. A former peer loved to opine the five P’s: Prior planning prevents poor performance.

WATCH OUT! STICK TOGETHER! LOOK! Well stated.

Be safe!

About The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation

Founded by Matthew J. Barbis after his 11-year-old cousin, Carlie Brucia, was abducted and murdered in Sarasota, FL in 2004. The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation’s goal is to reduce the number of child abductions in the U.S. by educating and empowering young minds with the knowledge necessary to avoid abduction. Utilizing puppets and a formalized educational curriculum, the foundation provides elementary-aged children with the Stranger Safety Awareness Program, free of charge. The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.

Make it so!

By Patrick Chierichella, Educational Coordinator

The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation

Just the other day, September 18th, Matt and I presented two sessions to students an elementary school on Long Island. In the first session, kindergarteners, first graders and second graders in attendance, we spoke of issues concerning personal space and the need to be aware of just who the people you are near to are. Our second session, third graders, fourth and fifth graders, dealt with internet safety.

That evening, I listened to a news item concerning an internet sting operation that New Jersey police had successfully enacted wherein twenty-four, TWENTY-FOUR, potential child predators were apprehended. Today in the Long Island daily, Newsday, police captured a recently released violent offender who had wantonly murdered a coed in Ames, Iowa. According to the article, the alleged predator had spoken about how he wished to “rape and murder a woman.” Previously the similar murder of Mollie Tibbetts had played across the airways, print and social media.

Matt has told me often of comments he has received from other child advocates that our mission was too narrow; that we had to address the issue of predators being familiar to their victims. Others have said we were alarmists in promoting fear of strangers in parents and thereby children. We are not burying our heads in the sand concerning the overwhelming issue of child abduction by persons known by the children. We are responding yesterday, today and tomorrow to what so achingly ravaged a family, the Brucia family. If the news items above don’t speak to the legitimacy of our mission, I ask the doubters to look again.

I leave you with this:

One day, an old man was walking along a beach that was littered with thousands of starfish that had been washed ashore by the high tide.  As he walked he came upon a young boy who was eagerly throwing the starfish back into the ocean, one by one.  Puzzled, the man looked at the boy and asked what he was doing. Without looking up from his task, the boy simply replied, “I’m saving these starfish, Sir”.  The old man chuckled aloud, “Son, there are thousands of starfish and only one of you. What difference can you make”?  The boy picked up a starfish, gently tossed it into the water and turning to the man, said, “I made a difference to that one!”.

THAT ONE! As Jean Luc Picard, captain of the USS Enterprise, echoing the commands of his predecessors in the British navy, would say to his crew, MAKE IT SO!

Be safe! Let all of us make it so!

 

About The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation

Founded by Matthew J. Barbis after his 11-year-old cousin, Carlie Brucia, was abducted and murdered in Sarasota, FL in 2004. The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation’s goal is to reduce the number of child abductions in the U.S. by educating and empowering young minds with the knowledge necessary to avoid abduction. Utilizing puppets and a formalized educational curriculum, the foundation provides elementary-aged children with the Stranger Safety Awareness Program, free of charge. The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.

Don’t Tell Your Mother

By Patrick M. Chierichella, Educational Coordinator

The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation

My college aged granddaughter and her friends love horror/thriller movies. The scarier the better, she tells me. These films, according to psychologists, can provide catharsis of suppressed aggression, an adrenalin rush, pure excitement, curiosity, intense emotions, and dispositional alignment, a concept in which the viewer enjoys the violence visited on those the viewer feel deserve it. Wow! As a teenager I loved the old school Universal Studios monsters: Dracula, Frankenstein, The Wolf Man. I am not a big fan of the genre, but will sit through one, waiting to be scared, then being surprised when I am startled. As I have aged, the appeal of horror films has greatly diminished.

Do you like scary movies? Recognize the quote? Horror film buffs will remember it as the opening of the movie, Scream. The phone rings and Drew Barrymore picks it up and hears that line. In another thriller, When a Stranger Calls, a young woman answers the phone and hears, Have you checked the children?

When I started writing this blog, those two lines of dialogue immediately came to my mind. Phone calls in both films introduce the dread that is about to impose itself upon the actors who answered. Reread those lines of dialogue, so effectively spooky, so ominous! In the former instance, a stranger implies you are about to participate in your own existential nightmare; in the latter, a nightmare beyond belief has already unfolded.

The first principle of stranger safety awareness that Matt and I present to school assemblies is the concept of personal space. We ask student volunteers to demonstrate wordlessly what this idea means to them. We attempt for a child to be able to easily describe the space around them using extended arms to make visible to all the sacred area that no one may enter without the child’s permission. We ask the children to name people they would allow into their personal space. We believe it is an effective teaching method. Any story, any fairy tale that uses a ruse by a stranger to get near a child is exploited by us.

Read the newspapers and you will understand why I get apprehensive that times have changed so quickly that we have to up our game. The instant communication of today amazes and dismays me. Letter writing seems so quaint and archaic. Texts with emojis and phonetic abbreviations glut messages from those younger than I. Voicemail, mostly unwanted and unsolicited, fills answering machines no matter that your number is on a state no call list!

Here’s a sample of what I mean. This headline appeared in Newsday, Wednesday, June 27, 2018. The article below the banner filled half a page.

Voicemail left for girl helps nab sex predator

 Astute mom, LI police lead to capture in Calif.

How’s that for sending a shiver down your spine? The registered sex offender who has done this phone tag before had made a call that was answered by an 11 year-old girl. Think of the odds of dialing THAT number! The apprehended predator said he was calling random numbers and the girl’s voice sounded young. He had warned the 11 year-old not to tell her parents. The mother luckily overheard part of the voicemail and took the phone away from her daughter. She then purchased a phone app she used to unblock the predator’s phone numbers.

The concept of personal space must be updated. How much more personal is the space when a complete stranger can be invited into it with a simple hello? The whispered message of a predator does not easily recede from the mind. The sex offender was arrested through the teamwork of Long Island’s Garden City Police Department and the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department on felony charges of making criminal threats, attempted child molestation and annoying or molesting a minor.

Many years ago a fellow teacher told me he was giving up all his coaching duties. Why, I asked. When the kids were younger, he said, I could actually believe that I didn’t need to be there 24/7. Trust me, he added, as the kids age you have got to be there more than ever.

Parent involvement matters. Who knows what message might hook your child when a strange message is heard. I think the following partial list of expressions that might be heard forms the basis for a good conversation with your children concerning messages from unknown sources. You can call them warning sounds, bells, or whistles. Tell your children that should they hear any of these statements in a message, they must immediately tell you. You must tell the police. Use any, some, all of these statements or one you believe focuses your child’s mind on the danger lurking on unsolicited calls.

  • I’m here for you.
  • You’re so funny.
  • You have great ideas.
  • I would love to spend time with you.
  • You seem very smart for someone your age.
  • You are so impressive. Will you show me how you did that?
  • If I hurt your feelings, will you forgive me?
  • We have a lot in common.
  • I really think we should meet.
  • You’re really cute. How about sending me your picture?
  • I believe in you.
  • I’m proud of you.
  • Go for it! Don’t let anybody hold you back!
  • I really, really like you.
  • Are your parents as clueless as mine were?
  • What we have may be special. How about we keep it just between you and me?
  • I love you.

 

Do you like scary movies? Have you checked the children? These classic movie lines thrill and chill, for sure. Now, if we add a real life predator’s plea, Don’t tell your mother, how much fear does that instill?

Stephen King had one of his characters realize Grownups are the real monsters!

Being safe takes time, effort, patience and vigilance. You’ve got to be there more than ever. What a world!

About The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation

Founded by Matthew J. Barbis after his 11-year-old cousin, Carlie Brucia, was abducted and murdered in Sarasota, FL in 2004. The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation’s goal is to reduce the number of child abductions in the U.S. by educating and empowering young minds with the knowledge necessary to avoid abduction. Utilizing puppets and a formalized educational curriculum, the foundation provides elementary-aged children with the Stranger Safety Awareness Program, free of charge. The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.

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