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The Television Emmy and the World’s Forgotten Refugees

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The Television Emmy and the World’s Forgotten Refugees

Posted on 12 November 2012 by Patricia Gras

I didn’t realize until later in life that my grandparents were all refugees. Let me explain. My grandparents on my dad’s side were Catalan from northern Spain. At the time my grandfather was a very young man who was about to be sent to fight in northern Morocco, a Spanish colony. His father decided to send him away before he could end up in the sand war.
My other grandfather, a Syrian Christian had to flee his country at the age of six because at the time the Ottoman empire was sending very young men to the front, so families in these small towns would collect money to make sure the young men could flee from the madness of war. Today the story is repeating itself, except Syrians are fleeing from their civil war to Turkey (former Ottoman empire and Lebanon.)

I have always had a soft spot for refugees. They are forced to live elsewhere from the familiar, the common, and what is comfortable. They often suffer tremendous trauma. Many lose everything; their homes, their jobs, family members and many are forced to lose their dignity through no fault of their own. They are often discriminated for being the wrong religion, color or tribe. Some end up living in refugee’s camps all their lives in squalid conditions. Today the country with the largest number of refugees is South Sudan with 5 million. In Syria where over 35,000 people have died in the civil conflict, hundreds of thousands refugees are fleeing daily from the violence. http://bit.ly/Tw3vto

While the world watches the bloodbath without much action, I wonder when humanity will stop its relentless cruelty towards others.

Last year I found out from friends at the Alliance for Progress, a refugee resettlement center that they were struggling to get funding for the refugees. Houston is one of the largest recipients of refugees in the United States. What grabbed my attention is how little is known about this mostly self-sufficient communities. They come here, hardly speaking the English language. They have suffered so much trauma, including rape, physical and mental violence, starvation, isolation and tremendous loss. Yet what I found so incredibly uplifting was their spirit. These people tend to live in the same apartment complexes. Therefore, they all learn to help each other, even if that means they don’t speak the same language. They know if someone needs bread, or daycare. They worry if someone needs a ride, or a bus token. They simply care for each other and they know they can’t survive any other way. I was blessed to meet three women who came from three very different cultures Congo, Burma and Bhutan. Their stories were similar but also very different. What they had in common was a sense of loss and the inability to go back. Can you imagine being forced out of your country, culture, and people and know you most likely never see that place again?
That is the case of the three strong, intelligent, peace warrior women I featured in the special that won most probably last Emmy I will win for HoustonPBS. What they suffered cannot be put in words or images, yet they were not angry. They focused in the future and what they would do for their children. They were full of hope and what they taught me is much more valuable than any award could give me.

They taught me that you can’t look back, that family has to remain strong and driven to survive, that their children will have to value every bit of life they have been given because they were lucky enough to survive, that there is no time to think of the past, that work is a way out and education is a way up. These three quiet women are my heroes.

I am full of gratitude for this Emmy, my 7th. It is the most meaningful to me because I am no longer working for the station and because we worked really hard with the team (Fujio Watanabe, Joe Brueggeman, Shannon Harrison and Julie Coan) and my production interns Todnesha Brown, Esti Garcia, Hiren Yoshi, Monique Andy, Blanca Perez to give a voice to the voiceless.

I thank God for this opportunity. Now every time I complain about life, I think of these women and what they have endured and I smile at heaven for I am so blessed to have met them. They remind me what’s important, resilience and love of family and community. They just won the Emmy for us. They did it.

If you are interested in helping out this community, please contact me.

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College Smart: Communicating as Journalists

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College Smart: Communicating as Journalists

Posted on 20 July 2011 by Michelle Reed

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Successful businesses tend to have effective leaders, but what qualities make up a good leader?

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Successful businesses tend to have effective leaders, but what qualities make up a good leader?

Posted on 08 July 2011 by Michelle Reed

BY Sara Dhanji and Patricia Gras

In the upcoming episode of “Living Smart with Patricia Gras”, airing Sunday July 10 at 3 p.m. on HoustonPBS and repeating Friday July 15 at 10 p.m., author and former Coca-Cola Vice President of Marketing Laura Lopez will discuss the different aspects of an excellent leader and show viewers that being a good parent at home can translate into being a good leader in the workplace.

Laura Lopez after giving an inspirational speech in Texas

In her book The Committed and Connected Leader, Lopez discusses seven aspects of a good leader that include “be curious and see everyone, believe and let go, be receptive and yield, bereal and serve, be vulnerable and give of yourself, be consistent and clear, and be humble andkeep your ego in check.”


Insights like ‘believe and let go’ very clearly demonstrate Lopez’s belief that you must bring your heart to work because this aspect is very similarly applied as a mother at home and as a leader in the workplace. There is a constant balance between knowing that your child –or employee- is ready to take the next step in their learning, but also not letting go too soon. This balance is very important for an employee to tap into their potential and progress to a greater level. At the same time, you must believe that the people you are working with truly have the potential to improve and again, never doubt their abilities.

Being humble is also a core feature of a true leader. In our society, we’re  trained to make ourselves look the best. We are constantly competing against each other and vying for the top spot. But there is a very fine line between humble confidence and arrogance. The latter can destroy a leader. Believing that you’re better than any of the people you work with won’t allow you to stand side-by-side with them or connect with them either.

Lopez also emphasizes being receptive and yielding. Using the metaphor of a hurricane, she explains that rigid oak trees are broken after being buffeted by a storm while palm trees survivebecause they are supple –they ‘receive’ the winds that try to knock them down. In the same wayleaders can draw strength from being flexible. When a rigid leader walks into the room, there’sisn’t space for anyone else. A flexible leader on the other hand allows other people’s energy inthe process.

Lopez believes that the actual skills for leadership are not the ones that would come to mindfirst. She says the traditional “control and command” model is no longer successful in today’sbusinesses because the world is much more centered on people having a human connectionnow because of the diversity of the people working and the global nature of the workplace.Instead, Lopez emphasizes that a good leader takes the focus off him or herself and instead putsthe spotlight on the employees. This positive approach puts confidence into the employees andallows them to do their best work. The worst thing a leader can do is be doubtful of people in theworkplace. This lack of support will definitely result in people having less motivation to do greatwork.

Examples of leaders Laura Lopez considers to exemplify these aspects are people such asMahatma Gandhi and Mother Teresa. These people would make good leaders and good parentsbecause they led people without being authoritarian. People wanted to listen to them becausethey were so humble and receptive. The true test of a leader is someone who is able to guide andinfluence without having to resort to the command and control model.

As the former VP of Marketing at Coca-Cola, Lopez is an expert in advertisement and shebelieves branding can be compared to the emotional connections between leaders and thepeople around them. Consumers often select brands they ‘trust’ because they have an emotionalconnection to it rather than an actual logical reasoning behind it. In the same way, leadership isabout the emotional connection between the people involved. The quantity of the people mattersless than the quality of the emotions involved.

Whether you are raising a child or overseeing others at work, it is very important for a leaderto empower the people they are working with and help them realize their full potential withoutstepping in too much.

What do you think makes a great leader?

Sara Dhanji is a contributor to patriciagras.net, she is also a Houston PBS intern and Journalism junior at the University of Texas at Austin.

Note: The views expressed in this article are not the views of Houston PBS.

Questions? Comments? Concerns? We would love to hear from YOU. Don’t be afraid to leave us a message.

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Find What You Love, Love What You Do

Posted on 19 May 2011 by Michelle Reed

This Week on Living Smart:

The Living Smart episode “Finding Job Fulfillment,” airs Sunday May 22nd at 3 p.m. on HoustonPBS. This episode features Rebecca Lunstroth, a former corporate Human Resources Manager. In this episode, Lunstroth discusses how people allow the uncertainty of job transitions to rule their lives, and advises others to not be afraid of looking for their dream job.

Missed last week’s episode?

Don’t worry, we’ve got your back. This Friday at 10 p.m. check out the Living Smart episode “Healthy Mother, Healthy Child,” featuring yoga instructor and author Elizabeth Irvine. In this episode, Irvine shares insight into how to sustain a healthy and meaningful lifestyle that incorporates an integrative approach to great health, meaning focusing on diet, exercise and breathing, sleep, proper relaxation, meditation and positive thinking.

Find What You Love, Love What You Do
By Cassady Lance, Production Assistant

What are you passionate about? Is this a question you ever really think about? With
the effects of the recent recession still weighing heavy on many Americans, and the
monotony of a daily routine, few think about what really motivates them.

Rebecca Lunstroth, assistant director of the John McGovern Center for Humanities
and Ethics at the University of Texas Medical School in Houston, finding your true
passion should be a priority when it comes to your career.

In this upcoming episode of “Living Smart with Patricia Gras,” Lunstroth tells us why
it is never too late to make a move and find fulfillment in your job. As an instructor,
she teaches medical humanities and ethics. She oversees all of the programs,
including the center’s sacred vocation program, a workplace change program which
seeks to create sustained changes by helping employees experience meaning in their
daily work.

Prior to her current position, Lunstroth had a well-paying corporate career at
an oil company. After 14 years, she says she realized she was never cut out for it.
Lunstroth decided to make a change. She knew it was time to leave her passionless
corporate job behind, and look for a position that would be both meaningful and

Whether you are a recent graduate who is looking for a new career or a professional
who just isn’t feeling fulfilled in your current job, Lunstroth stresses it is never too
late to search for the job you want and that will make you happy; and she has some
helpful advice on how to go about finding a fulfilling career.

“The first thing to do is to put down on paper kind of what makes you tick, and so
much about what you do has to do with where you work and the people you
work with. What is the kind of environment you think you would do best in? Is
it a creative environment? Is it an office environment? Is it a field job? It’s really
looking—you don’t need a career coach to do this. It’s really sitting down and
finding out what makes you tick. Everyone needs to ask themselves that question.
What is going to get you up in the morning? What is going to make you work your
hardest, be your proudest, motivate you, etcetera, etcetera. “

It turns out that Lunstroth is not the only person who feels this way. Jessica
Hernandez, president and CEO of Great Resumes Fast, also says it is important to
keep passion on your checklist at any stage in life.

“Sometimes, simply making a list will cause you to see a common theme and you
can easily identify a career that would best suit your talent, passion and interests,” Hernandez says.

While soon-to-be or recent college graduates should still keep their passions and
interests in check, they may need to approach the job search in a different way.
Kendra Nelsen, director for student services at the UVA Office of University Career
Services stresses that flexibility is key when it comes to finding a job after college.
Students also need to be proactive when it comes to finding employment in their
first few years after graduation.

Katy Hopkins, a journalist for US News gives job seekers more to think about when
she references more of Nelsen’s expertise:

Instead of focusing solely on scoring a dream job, UVA’s Nelsen prods her students
to be open to positions in fertile industries that use similar skill sets as their ideal
position might. Even if a student wishes to become an event planner or work in
marketing, for instance, it might be best to consider how those job attributes might
fit into positions in the healthcare or technology fields, where jobs are relatively
ample, in the hopes that skills acquired there can one day be parlayed into their
ideal career, she says. “Of course pursue what might be your ideal [job], but also
break it apart and get experience wherever you can get experience,” Nelsen
said. “Any experience that has a piece or two of what you’re trying to go for
eventually can still be valuable.”

Some other valuable information to consider: the job outlook for 2011 graduates is
much more positive than it was for graduates in recent years. According to studies
by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), this positivity is
coming from early economic indicators. The NACE also says that 53 percent of
employers surveyed intend to hire more college graduates from the class of 2011
than from the previous year, a jump from less than 50 percent who reported they
would in a fall survey.

Regardless of statistics or what experts say, it is up to you to find your own
interests and passions. Statistics cannot tell you what will make you happy, and
experts cannot tell you if you are where you need to be. Only you can answer those
pertinent questions that can lead you to a life of happiness and fulfillment.

And while happiness is important, don’t confuse it with reality. Lunstroth reminds
us that we need to keep ourselves in check as we search for our dream jobs.

“They call it work for a reason. There is seldom is going to be a job that you like
every single aspect of it, whether it be your commute, how far away the bathroom is,
the co-worker, any number of things, but it’s really figuring out what it is you don’t

Whether you approach your checklist with likes and dislikes or pros and cons, just
make one, and find out how you can make your professional life a happier one.
Whether you are just starting out or ready for a mid-life change – IT’S NEVER TOO

So now that you’ve had some time to think, let me ask you again… what are you
passionate about?

To learn more about job satisfaction tune in to “Living Smart with Patricia Gras” on
Sunday, May 22 at 3 p.m.


US NEWS (Brighter Job Outlook for 2011)








TRADING ECONOMICS (US Unemployment Rate)


HUFFINGTON POST (Outlook for College Graduates)



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The three things to be aware of in keeping a healthy lifestyle

Posted on 12 May 2011 by Michelle Reed

This week on Living Smart:

The Living Smart with Patricia Gras episode on “Healthy Mom, Healthy Child,” this Sunday at 3 p.m. features motivational speaker, yoga instructor and author of “Healthy Mom, Healthy Child: Creating Whole Families from the Inside Out,” Elizabeth Irvine. In this episode, Irvine shares insight into how to sustain a healthy and meaningful lifestyle whether it be in exercise, mental health, or nutrition during the chaotic days motherhood brings.

Missed last week’s episode?

Don’t worry, we’ve got your back. This Friday at 10 p.m. catch the re-run of Living Smart “Connecting your Disconnected Life,” featuring promotional speaker and author Mary LoVerde. In this episode, LoVerde, the former director of the Hypertension Research Center at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, shares insight into how we can improve the quality of our home, work and inner life.

Want more Living Smart? Visit us on the web at www.youtube.com/houstonpbs.

This week’s blog: The three things to be aware of in keeping a healthy lifestyle

By: Kristen Khalaf, production assistant

We are always told to eat healthy, exercise at least three times a week and don’t smoke. It seems like a broken record, which might make it hard for us to actually take some action. Miracles can happen if we actually have a healthy and balanced life.

In this upcoming episode of “Living Smart with Patricia Gras,” Elizabeth Irvine shares the story of her son, who was cured of Urticaria Pigmentosa—a skin disease that causes lesions and intense itching—and severe eczema. By changing her family’s diet, cleaning up their surroundings and adding integrative therapies into their lifestyles, Irvine was able to find a healthy lifestyle that worked for her family. This event caused her to write her inspirational and informative book Healthy Mother, Healthy Child.

“When a woman betters her life, her whole family benefits,” Irvine said.

Irvine teaches us that we can control what we put in our bodies to better our health. Here are some ways YOU can better your life.

First: Eat breakfast! In the fast paced world we live in, it’s easier to pour a cup of coffee than milk into a cereal bowl. We can’t eat cereal while driving, so it can be easy to forgo it. According to journalist Dulce Zamora in a WebMD article, breakfast eaters take in more “vitamins and minerals, and less fat and cholesterol.”

Second: Eat more fish and Omega-3 fatty acids. Yes. The “F” word. Fatty acids are the good guys. Pamrotella.com says fatty acids “support the cardiovascular, reproductive, immune, and nervous systems.” We need these in our body to help “manufacture and repair cell membranes.”

Third: Sleep! We are wired to our phones, televisions and computers. It can be difficult to log off of Facebook at midnight to go sleep, but we have to allow ourselves the luxury of sleep. The National Sleep Foundation says that “more than two-thirds of older adults suffer from sleep problems and many American adults don’t get the minimum amount of shuteye needed to stay alert.” Sleepy drivers have been the cause of over 100,000 car crashes, 1,500 deaths and thousands of injuries.

Irvine also uses breathing exercises to maintain her healthy lifestyle. Irvine says in times of distress, close your eyes and bring awareness to yourself and where you are at the moment. Then think about your breathing and open your eyes. Bringing awareness to your body helps calm a person. Meditation doesn’t have to take long, and you can do it anywhere.

How do you keep yourself and /or your family healthy? What do you do to calm yourself when you’re stressed?

To learn more about having a healthy self, family and life, tune in to “Living Smart with Patricia Gras” on Sunday, May 15 at 3 p.m.

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Must Read Books

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