Students Stake a Claim

To Leftover Prom Money

It seems the entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well in Texas, even among some high school students.

A few seniors who helped organize the annual prom for central Texas's Georgetown High School decided to divvy up $5,000 in donations left over from the event, held April 27 at a large hotel in nearby Austin. With the blessings of a school staff adviser, the students helped themselves to the excess proceeds, which they decided to call "scholarships."

At a school assembly on May 11, grants of $500 each were awarded to nine students. The parents of a 10th student discovered the source of the funds and would not accept the money, according to the Austin American-Statesman.

School officials who learned of the scheme were taken aback. After all, the funds had been raised -- through bake sales and other events -- over several years and were meant to pay for the senior prom, not enrich its organizers.

On Thursday, school officials intervened. They blocked the self-awarded grants and decreed a new system: Any senior in the graduating class of 500 was eligible to apply for a portion of the money, which would be parceled out with faculty review based on a student's fundraising efforts and involvement with class events.

"Hopefully, we have resolved this problem to everyone's satisfaction," said Jim Gunn, superintendent of schools in Georgetown.

The original 10 students, who were not identified but were said to include some class leaders, did manage to identify worthy causes other than themselves. They voted to donate more than $1,200 of the prom money to buy a heart defibrillator for use by the school nurse, and $2,000 to finance a new marquee for the high school. Those grants will stand.

-- Lee Hockstader

California by the Numbers:

20 Million More by 2050

California, here they come: By 2050, the Golden State, where elbow room is already in short supply, is projected to be home to 20 million more people.

That is the latest prediction of state demographers. They released a new analysis of 2000 census figures and other population indicators a few days ago and said that all signs point to sustained multicultural growth.

The trend is likely to present enormous challenges to a state struggling with gridlock on roads and crowding in schools. But population explosions have occurred in California since the Gold Rush.

The state has nearly 35 million residents, by far the most in the country. Five years ago, California claimed another demographic distinction: It became the first state in which no racial group exceeded 50 percent of the population.

That multicultural milestone was only the beginning of California's transformation, demographers say. By 2040, Latinos are projected to gain majority status.

By 2050, whites are likely to make up only about 23 percent of California's population, the new report concludes. Asians are projected to constitute 12 percent and African Americans 6 percent.

Demographers say no part of the state will feel the population boom as much as the Central Valley, which is one of the nation's biggest agricultural regions. In some areas there, the population is expected to triple over the next few decades.

-- Rene Sanchez

To Bring In More Workers,

States Turn to the Van Plan

Suburban business owners have long eyed with envy New York City's pool of cheap immigrant workers.

If only, they lamented, these would-be dishwashers, cooks and waiters could be imported to outlying villages and townships. But one thing has stood in the way: transportation.

Many workers can't afford to buy cars or live in the towns. Public transit can be unreliable and time-consuming.

The states of New York and Connecticut have introduced a pilot program to solve the labor needs.

They have dispatched vans to ferry about two dozen workers from city boroughs to the suburban jobs.

Business owners pay a small fee for van upkeep, and immigrants drive the shuttles.

Peggy Hetherington, spokeswoman for the states' van service, says the project is "a benefit for the commuters to be able to get to work." But immigrant advocates wonder whether more could be done.

"It's interesting that New York state would provide funding for a program such as this but not raise the minimum wage so they can afford their own cars," said Margie McHugh, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition.

-- Michelle Garcia

Aftermath of a Blackout:

Less Light, More Babies?

People in Detroit lately have been giggling about the "blackout baby boom." That is because it has been about nine months since a massive blackout hit the Midwest on Aug. 14.

And births were up in Detroit hospitals in mid-April, according to news reports and Theodore B. Jones, an obstetrician at Hutzel Women's Hospital in Detroit and professor at Wayne State University.

The thinking goes: When the lights, TV and stereo are out, there is nothing else to do but, well, you know.

But Jones and other doctors are calling the baby boom a myth.

Jones notes that the spike in births happened about 36 to 37 weeks after the blackout, whereas a normal pregnancy lasts 37 to 40 weeks. More important, does a blackout really lead to increased intimacy?

"It's a common-wisdom type of phenomena where people think there's nothing else to do," Jones said. But "I remember coming home that night and being frustrated and concerned about getting all the things we needed to survive the night. It doesn't seem like a recipe for intimacy to me."

-- Kari Lydersen