Recognizing Black History Month Langston Hughes

contributed by Courtney Napier, ABA Classroom Lead, Easterseals Crossroads

Courtney’s greatest role model and influence in her life has been her grandmother who was was a beautiful writer and loved writing poems. Despite her sudden death when Courtney was 15, she has had her guidance and influence in her life through her writings. When Courtney misses her, or wants her advice, she can look to her poems and hear her voice all these years later. When Courtney was thinking about who to write about for Black History Month, she wanted to find someone whose creativity and artistic expression made a mark on the world, like her grandma’s writing made on her. This led Courtney to Langston Hughes, who used his writings to advocate for his community.

Langston Hughes was born February 1, 1901, in Joplin, Missouri. His parents divorced when he was young, and he was raised by his mother and grandmother. In high school, he began writing poetry and went on to become an established writer, eventually becoming one of the leaders of the Harlem Renaissance. Although mostly known for his poetry, he’s also written novels and plays and was a journalist for the Black newspaper called The Chicago Defender. Hughes focused on a wide variety of topics and spoke often on the injustices of segregation and the continued racism and mistreatment of Black people, even decades after the end of slavery.

One topic that was important to Hughes was celebrating Black culture rather than attempting to assimilate to white culture. In 1926, he wrote an essay titled The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain where he spoke about witnessing Black families try to act white in an attempt to fit in and be American. He urged Black people to embrace their culture and stand out, to remember where they came from and to continue the fight of their great grandparents and ancestors for true freedom and peace.

This stance was not popular at first, and Hughes became a divisive topic among the Black community with many feeling that Hughes painted Black culture in a negative light. Others, however, felt that Hughes showed pride in his community, and wanted to continue to build a culture outside of the oppression that was so often associated with the Black population. Hughes encouraged other Black artists and advocates to be upfront and embrace who they were to differentiate themselves from white culture.

Even decades after his death in 1967, people can still look to Hughes’ writings to learn and broaden their horizons. This one particular poem by Langston Hughes’ summarizes his impact.

I look at the world
From awakening eyes in a black face —
And this is what I see:
This fenced-off narrow space
Assigned to me.
I look then at the silly walls
Through dark eyes in a dark face —
And this is what I know:
That all these walls oppression builds
Will have to go!
I look at my own body
With eyes no longer blind —
And I see that my own hands can make
The world that’s in my mind.
Then let us hurry, comrades,
The road to find.
-I Look at the World by Langston Hughes

Academy of American Poets. (2016). Langston Hughes | Academy of American Poets.

Hughes, L. (1926). The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain.

2024-02-27T15:19:42-05:00February 27, 2024|Our Blog|

Recognizing Black History Month – Fannie Lou Hamer

contributed by Sarah Jungemann, ABA Program Specialist, Easterseals Crossroads

Last weekend, staff member Sarah Jungemann had the opportunity to attend a show at the Indiana Repertory Theatre showcasing the music and life of Fannie Lou Hamer. Prior to attending this show, she didn’t know who Fannie Lou Hamer was or her accomplishments towards equal rights for all. The one-woman show was engaging, informative and emotional. Sarah would like to share a little bit of what I learned about Fannie Lou Hamer’s life and the impact she made.

Fannie Lou Townsend was born in 1917 and died in 1977. She was the 20th and last child of Lou Ella and James Townsend, sharecroppers from Mississippi. When Fannie was about 6 years old, she joined her family picking cotton. She attended school until the age of 12, at which time she left to work in the fields. Fannie married Perry Hamer in 1944 and became Fannie Lou Hamer. She and her husband worked on a plantation owned by B.D. Marlowe. Fannie, being the only worker who could read and write, was the plantation’s timekeeper.

In the summer of 1961, she attended a meeting led by civil rights activist James Forman of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and James Bevel of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). She was enraged when others sought to deny Blacks the right to vote. At this time, she became a SNCC organizer and led 17 volunteers to vote at a Mississippi Courthouse. The volunteers were required to complete a rigged literacy test and their right to vote was denied when they were unable to complete it. The volunteers were also harassed on their way home and charged a $100 fine by police stating that their bus was “too yellow.” When Fannie arrived home that night, B.D. Marlowe fired her for attempting to vote and told her to leave the property. She and her husband then moved to Ruleville, Mississippi.

In June 1963, after successfully completing a voter registration program, Hamer and several other Black women were arrested for sitting in a “whites-only” bus station restaurant in Winona, Mississippi. While they were in jail, she and several of the women were brutally beaten, leaving Fannie Lou with lifelong injuries.

In 1964, Fannie Lou Hamer became famous for co-founding the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP), which challenged the local Democratic Party’s efforts to block Blacks from exercising their right to vote. She and other members of the committee went to the Democratic National Convention and spoke before the Credentials Committee calling for integrated state delegations. While she was speaking, President Lyndon Johnson held an unscheduled press conference so that Fannie Lou Hamer would not get screen time during her speech. However, later that night, her speech was televised nationally and gained notoriety for her descriptions of racial prejudice in the South. In the summer of 1964, Fannie Lou helped organize an event called Freedom Summer, which brought college students together, Black and white, to register African American voters in the south.

While this is just a short description of Fannie Lou Hamer’s life, Sarah wants to stress how important and influential Fannie Lou Hammer was in advancing the equal and fair right to vote. She was steadfast, prominent; and an amazing leader who dedicated her life to this cause. After seeing this show about her life and all the adversity she faced just to gain a right that so many so easily take for granted, Sarah is truly am thankful for her and all the other influential people who have paved the way for Black people.

As Fannie Lou Hamer famously said, “We are sick and tired of being sick and tired.”

Credit to Michals, D. (2017). Fannie Lou Hamer. National Women’s History Museum. Learn more.

2024-02-16T08:59:32-05:00February 16, 2024|Our Blog|

Recreation Therapy 2024

Recreation therapy is an integral part of services within our Community Day Supports division. We are so fortunate to have five recreation therapists on staff as well as one recreation therapy assistant. Our RTs are Payton Chelmella, Alex Cheney, Rachel Reed, Gina Schulz and Jennifer Weber; our RT assistant is Nicole Scheive who is currently completing coursework to obtain her certification.

Recreation therapy is a healthcare field focused on helping people with potentially limiting conditions make the most of their lives through purposeful activity that addresses their needs and goals. Recreation therapy is person-centered, enjoyable and outcome-focused. Activities often break barriers (physical, emotional, cognitive or social) and can provide choices for each individual participant. Participants can include individuals of all ages and all ability levels.

Recreation activities can include arts/crafts, dance/movement, community outings, sports/events, spending time with animals, music and more. Activities help maintain the physical, mental and emotional well-being of participants through participation and socialization.

Gina and Tyler

Gina recently spent time with Tyler riding go-karts at Rascals Fun Zone. Tyler drove and told Gina “I love it! I love doing fun things!”

Gina and Tyler having fun on a roller coaster

Nicole and Adam

Nicole is close to completing her RT certification. She was drawn to RT because she wanted to help improve the quality of life for people with disabilities in a holistic manner.

Nicole loves to make each day unique for program participants and creates challenging goals. She and Adam recently spent time together reading, learning new things and telling jokes.

Rachel and Stacy

Rachel was drawn to recreation therapy because of the potential that it opened for participants. Each day is different and she loves incorporating the things that people enjoy doing to help them achieve goals.

When working with someone, Rachel listens to what they want to do and creates activities around those wants and interests. She loves creating opportunities for people to reach their goals and discover new interests.

Program participant Stacy loves spending time with Rachel. “I like the fun things that we do! When we workout, I get stronger,” said Stacy.

Rachel and Stacey enjoying an outing

Jennifer and Julianna

Jennifer loves running, riding her bike and hanging out with family and friends. She brings that enthusiasm to her job as a recreation therapist with the activities she and her program participants plan; she loves seeing the smiles on their faces from doing the things that they love.

Recently Jennifer and Julianna went shopping – something that Julianna likes to do. “I like getting Panda, shopping for new clothes and hanging out with Jennifer,” said Julianna.

Julianna after a shopping adventure

Payton and Ricky

Payton loves the opportunity to help people explore their leisure interests and gain the benefits that will last throughout their lifetimes. She challenges her program participants with games and activities while they plan and explore interests, which makes the goal setting fun.

“Seeing the looks of accomplishment on the faces of people after an activity makes me love my job even more than I already do,” said Payton.

Payton and Ricky smiling

Alex and Rachel

Alex learned more about recreation therapy from her brother while they were in college. She began working in the field as a volunteer; she loved it so much that she changed her major to become a recreation therapist.

She has worked with many individuals doing all sorts of things from working out at the gym, participating in water aerobics, playing board games and visiting a parade.

She and program participant Rachel recently did water aerobics. “I like that I can go out and do the things that I like such as working out,” said Rachel.

For more information about recreation therapy at Easterseals Crossroads, contact us.

Alex and Rachel swimming

2024-02-12T13:10:38-05:00February 12, 2024|Our Blog|

Parent Cafes

Easterseals Crossroads has partnered with Be Strong Families and been trained by them to bring Parent Cafés to our program participants. Cafés are physically and emotionally safe spaces where people talk and listen to each other on topics that matter to them, such as the challenges and victories of raising a family, navigating landscapes of inequality, enhancing well-being or being involved in the recovery process of someone they love.

Through individual deep self-reflection and peer-to-peer learning, participants can explore their strengths, learn about the protective factors and create strategies from their own wisdom and experiences to strengthen their families. Participants can leave Cafés feeling inspired, energized and excited to put into practice what they’ve learned.

What is the Goal of Parent Cafés

Be Strong Families Parent Cafés are a research-informed practice, drawing on the research base of the Strengthening Families™ Protective Factors. The effectiveness of Parent Cafés is supported by over a decade of experiential evidence in communities in the US and internationally, as well as by evaluation and research conducted independently which shows that Parent Cafés are effective in achieving short-term outcomes that are the foundation for the intended long-term outcomes, such as families experiencing increased well-being. The program was first developed in 2007 by parent leaders from Strengthening Families Illinois; today, the Parent Café remains a parent-to-parent way to build the Strengthening Families™ Protective Factors within families.

Our goal is to offer Parent Café to any families of children with disabilities who are receiving services in an Easterseals Crossroads program. It is our hope that we can provide from four to six Cafés per year. It will provide families with an opportunity to make connections with other families of children with disabilities who face similar issues and concerns in a safe setting. Our hope is that in addition to the connecting and sharing that takes place at each Parent Café, families will develop relationships and a support circle that can extend outside of the Café events as well.

Ultimately, it is our hope that attendees will develop social capital to help improve feeling alone and isolated while raising children with disabilities. It will benefit families who are utilizing services in our autism, children’s therapy, and our Family Opportunity Program. It is a great fit for Easterseals Crossroads because parents of children with disabilities need an opportunity to share like experiences and often don’t have it or can’t take advantage due to childcare or cost.

Meeting Content

At each Parent Café , we provide a meal for both the parents and children, as well as safe, free childcare so the parents can relax and engage fully. The parents are divided up into small groups of three or four at tables. Each table has a parent participant designated as table host who will facilitate the discussion using the Parent Café in a Box conversation deck of cards. The table host receives a gift card as a stipend for working at the event.

At Parent Cafés every voice is valued, and everyone has the opportunity to both learn and lead. Participants discuss questions from a few different categories out of the five Strengthening Families Protective Factors which include Parental Resilience, Positive Social Connections, Knowledge of Parenting and Child / Youth Development, Concrete Support and Social and Emotional Competence. Each parent can respond to the questions. After the questions are discussed at separate tables, the entire group shares and discusses what was learned.

Parents learn from peers (other parents); our staff are present to implement and provide a setting that is comfortable, safe and conducive to sharing and learning.

More Information

Our next Parent Café will be held in March 2024, which will be the second event this calendar year.

If you are interested in learning more about Parent Cafes at Easterseals Crossroads, please let us know by completing this brief form.

2024-02-02T07:28:47-05:00February 2, 2024|Our Blog|

Your Financial Journey in 2024

Carletta Clark, JPMorgan Chase, Community and Business Development Manager image

How Indianapolis’ Chase Community Manager Can Empower You in Your Financial Journey in 2024

Community Manager Carletta Clark discusses her plans to help Indianapolis’ communities grow. You can work with her to chart your path forward and meet your financial goals in the new year. For more information, contact Carletta Clark, Community & Business Development Manager, JPMorgan Chase, 3501 Lafayette Road, Indianapolis IN 46220 or / 317.345.1780.

For more than 185 years, JPMorgan Chase has supported Greater Indianapolis and 2024 is no different. This is more than a place where we do business. It is home to our customers, clients, employees and community partners. Since 2019, the firm has made more than $17 million in philanthropic contributions in Indianapolis and employs more than 1,600 employees across the city. The strength of our company allows us to leverage our resources, expertise and data insights to help bolster communities and create a more inclusive economy for all.

Work with your local branch team ― virtually or in-person.

From opening a bank account or line of credit, to exploring mortgage financing options and small business loans, the Community Manager at your local Chase branch on 3501 Lafayette Rd. is tuned in to your community’s financial wellness needs and ready to help you achieve your next milestone. Carletta Clark – one of 150 Community Managers JPMorgan Chase hired across the country – joined the team specifically to work with you and your community to increase awareness of and access to resources, financial health tools and services.

Community Managers are often from local neighborhoods who understand the challenges your community faces and are committed to helping you forge a strong financial future at any stage of your financial journey. With the help of local nonprofit partners who are invested in driving change in communities across Indianapolis, we are bringing more allies to your local bank branch who share Chase’s goal of empowering you to improve and achieve financial health.

How does your job differ from other Chase Bank Branch Managers?

Carletta Clark: My role was designed specifically to meet the unique financial wellness needs of our community. We want to evolve from community banking to community building and to do this, we’re actively working to reverse systemic inequalities across the financial system, break down economic barriers and support the success of our customers and our community. We provide access to financial health resources, tools and allies to help you achieve your financial goals.

Think of a community manager as a neighbor who understands intentional relationship building, the financial needs of leaders, organizations and people in your community – and who introduces you to the right person in the bank who can help. Meanwhile, a branch manager is a more traditional role created to help you with everyday banking needs – like opening a bank account or offering advice on homeownership and small business growth.

How do you hope to financially empower the underserved community?

Carletta Clark: We’re here to empower people and businesses in the underserved community with tools to build generational wealth and a long-lasting legacy. Awareness and accessibility are key, and we see the local branch as an ideal place to begin fostering vital community connections and touchpoints to help our customers reach their financial goals.

My job as a Community Manager is to connect with the individuals, families and business owners in Indianapolis and increase awareness and utilization of available resources. My team and I will help you and others in your neighborhood take advantage of financial health tools, products and services, while aiming to boost general financial knowledge via unique and free interactive programs, such as:

• Resources to support financial health
• Home buying tips
• Educational and enrichment workshops
• Growth support for entrepreneurs starting or expanding their small businesses

What financial opportunities will you make available to communities here?

Carletta Clark: One of our priorities is to help individuals in our community open a checking account for the first time, as this is the key to financial stability and critical to closing gaps in access to banking. To do this, we’ll walk through our low-cost, no-overdraft checking accounts like Chase Secure Banking, which can offer security to those who might be new to banking or who have had trouble getting or keeping a bank account in the past. My team is also responsible for promoting growth among small businesses – which means we’ll help local entrepreneurs secure loans. We’ve also brought on board home lending advisors who are focused on helping more of the community secure the funds needed for affordable, sustainable homeownership.

You mentioned another goal of the Community Impact Branch is “community building.” What does this mean and how are you doing this in Indianapolis?

Carletta Clark: A big priority for us is working with local nonprofits and organizations who understand and are invested in driving change. Currently, we work with organizations like Easterseals Crossroads, Ivy Tech Entrepreneurship Program, INHP (Indianapolis Homeownership Partnership), Community Action of Greater Indianapolis, Be Nimble, InnoPower, Center for Leadership and Development and Indianapolis Urban League. They each underscore our fundamental principles by working to provide resources and education to our local community and have the data to back up the positive impact they’re making in the community.

Our staff plays a big part in this as well – not just for Indianapolis but from, and a reflection of, the local communities we call home. I’ve lived in Indianapolis for more than 20 years and am passionate about helping people succeed! Serving this community is not just a profession, it’s a passion. Stop by to learn more about the resources available. My team and I look forward to getting to know you.

2024-01-05T15:09:43-05:00January 5, 2024|Our Blog|

All in for Ability with Brain Injury Services

In 2016 Andrew suffered a traumatic brain injury after a fall from a chair. His life instantly changed from that point forward and he struggled to adapt to this change in ability.

Andrew credits his mother for giving him some tough love in telling him to move on with his life. After some thought, Andrew returned to a job in technical support and began to concentrate on other ways to move ahead with his life.

“A person with a brain injury doesn’t need to realize what they can’t do – they see that every day of their life. What they need to know is what they can do,” said Andrew.

Andrew connected with Easterseals Crossroads for resources and worked with a resource facilitator specializing in brain injuries to learn more about coping mechanisms. He gained advice from our assistive technology specialists and found that simple changes like a standing desk made a huge difference in managing his chronic fatigue, another effect of brain injury. Andrew has learned to embrace adaptations to help him succeed and move forward.

Looking ahead, Andrew has 20 hours completed toward his private pilot’s license and he is working with the FAA to continue. He has come to realize that even if he cannot continue independently, he will still keep flying with a certified flight instructor.

“Sometimes with a brain injury you ask yourself, ‘Can I really do this?’ I reasoned in my head that I cannot be the first pilot to ever be afraid. I flew for a good week — almost every single day — and I got over the fear,” said Andrew.

”I realized that by trusting myself, I could end up being me, which is what I was always trying to achieve in the first place,“ said Andrew. “But this time,
I didn’t fight myself for it; I worked with myself.”

For more information about brain injury services, contact us.

2023-12-27T08:33:01-05:00December 27, 2023|Our Blog|

All in for Ability with Autism Services

Odin is a big brother to his sister Freyja. At age 1, his mom Tiffany noticed some regression with language and was very concerned when he stopped speaking. After evaluations, Odin was diagnosed with autism. When Freyja came along a year later and started developing, she also showed signs of autism.

Odin is now 6 years old, and Tiffany has seen much improvement in how he communicates his feelings. Five- year-old Freyja now expresses herself clearly and has made great progress with her behaviors. “Freyja would become very emotional when she couldn’t communicate. Using her words has helped her control her behavior,” said Tiffany.

Therapists at Easterseals Crossroads focus on building strengths to help young people succeed. Odin loves technology and has learned to use tablets, cell phones and computers. Tiffany is so impressed that he has come so far and so fast with his ability. Freyja has advanced from simple drawings to complex images to express her thoughts.

“At one point, I thought Odin would never be able to talk to me and now he is never quiet, which is a huge milestone,” said Tiffany.

“Easterseals Crossroads has taught me so much about parenting kids with autism. We would not be in as good a place as we are now without autism services,” said Tiffany.

For more information about autism & behavior services, contact us.

2023-12-21T09:54:23-05:00December 21, 2023|Our Blog|

All in for Ability with Employment Options

Since 2011, Easterseals Crossroads has partnered with Community Health Network, Lawrence Township Schools and Indiana Vocational Rehabilitation to offer Project SEARCH at Community Hospital North. The program is a work immersion program that provides employment and educational opportunities for final year high school students with developmental disabilities.

Stacy, Boubacar and Sarah are all Community Hospital North employees who started as Project SEARCH interns over ten years ago. During the nine-month program, they learned through classroom instruction and rotations within specific areas of the hospital. They also learned the softer skills that often account for longevity within a career. Each of the three deeply wanted employment right where they started.

Stacy was so excited when he found out that he had been hired after completing his internship. He felt his position would bring new opportunities and new friendships. He likes the independence that working gives him. “I knew my work and my life were going to change forever,” said Stacy.

“When I completed Project SEARCH, I knew that there were many things I could do with my life,” said Boubacar. “My goal is for my mom to come to the US; I save my PTO each year to visit her in Niger.”

According to Sarah, living on her own was high on her list of priorities after high school. “Without Project SEARCH, I wouldn’t have been able to reach my goals. I wanted to live in my own apartment where I could buy things and cook in my kitchen. My job has helped me do the things I want to do,” said Sarah.

“There are roles for people of all abilities in our community. It’s not only creating an opportunity, but then educating a person about how to fit in a role. I think Easterseals Crossroads has a fabulous reputation for doing that in a number of ways.” said Bryan Mills, President/CEO, Community Health Network.

Contact us for more information about employment programs at Easterseals Crossroads.

2023-12-19T15:15:28-05:00December 19, 2023|Our Blog|

Preparing for Holiday Surprises

words Preparing for Holiday Surprises and tips for families with autism photo of Santa


submitted by Karrie Veteto, Director of Autism & Behavior Services

As parents/caregivers, the holiday season can be a particularly crazy time of the year. With all of the planning and preparing for holiday events; keeping up with schedule changes; shopping; the ever-growing to-do list; and particularly the mental to-do list – it seems never-ending. Additional challenges are presented when you have a child on the autism spectrum. Individuals with autism often have difficulty with changes in routine. Transitioning between activities can be a challenge; new environments can be overwhelming; social events and interactions can be stressful. This sounds like the holidays in a nutshell!

Here are a few tips on how to help your child – and family – have a calm and relaxed holiday season when faced with these experiences.

Changes in Routines and Schedules

  • Try to give advance notice about changes in routine/ schedule. You could use a visual on the calendar or maybe just verbal reminders. You might even highlight an aspect of the event your child is likely to be most interested in, such as “On Friday we are going to Grandma’s and she’s making your favorite dessert!”
  • Don’t plan for too many things. You know what your child can handle well. If suggested plans are likely to be too much, then plan accordingly. It’s OK to say no.

Visiting New or less Familiar Locations

  • Consider bringing familiar items with your child and potentially preferred foods if you are concerned that he/she won’t like the options provided.
  • Identify a “calm” space for your child where he/she may be able to escape from the chaos of the event.
  • Provide your child with a visual to indicate how long you plan to be there. This may be a timer, a visual schedule or perhaps an estimated departure time. Be certain to stick to what you say. We all can often tolerate stressful or less desired activities a little more easily when we know that eventually we get to leave and go home.

Interacting Socially, Managing Gifts and Visiting Santa

  • Respect your child’s limits. If your child doesn’t like physical touch, don’t encourage giving hugs. Maybe a fist-bump or high-five works instead of sitting on Santa’s lap.
  • Don’t talk about your children in front of them. If you want to explain your child’s behavior in a situation, try to talk with them. “It’s really loud in here, isn’t it Johnny?” “Timmy doesn’t like too many hugs, right buddy?” None of us like to be talked about. Even it appears that a child isn’t listening, there is a good chance that he/she is listening.
  • Kids notoriously say it like it is. If a kid receives a gift that they don’t like or already have, they may say so. This can be super embarrassing as a parent, but it shouldn’t be. It might help to talk through this with your child ahead of time. Many times, our kids on the spectrum need a little extra time to process information. You can always say something like “I bet she will like it when we open it up at home.”

You know your child best. Make a plan that best suits your child’s needs. This may mean shortening visits or reducing the number of places that you go in a day. Be sure to give them time and encourage others to do so too. They may need that extra time to settle-in, get comfortable, respond to others – all of this is okay. Following these simple tips may help your family manage the joys and the bumps of the season!

For toy/activity ideas this holiday, watch Karrie’s recent media appearance for suggestions.

2023-12-15T13:23:38-05:00December 15, 2023|Our Blog|

Assistive Technology – All in for Ability

The Indianapolis Public Library partnered with assistive technology services at Easterseals Crossroads to install accessible workstations at all of its locations to ensure that patrons have access to library resources and information.

Each of the accessible workstations offer a height-adjustable desk, large-key keyboard, large-print keyboard, trackball mouse with programmable buttons and arm supports. Available software includes a text reading app, live transcription app, math app, magnification app and a screen reading app for people who are blind or visually impaired.

The combination of software and adaptive equipment provides patrons of all abilities equal access to information. Individuals with learning disabilities and mobility limitations can complete tasks such as creating documents or accessing the internet.

“At Easterseals Crossroads, we know the importance of inclusion – not just within our facilities, but out in the community as well. To see the way The Indianapolis Public Library has taken that all in for ability approach to address the needs and challenges of their patrons is fantastic,” said Brian Norton, vice president of adult services at Easterseals Crossroads.

Our assistive technology clinical team provided 7,664 hours of service for people with disabilities to assess, recommend, install and instruct them on assistive technology tools and supports.

Learn more about assistive technology options at Easterseals Crossroads.

2023-12-11T12:17:49-05:00December 11, 2023|Our Blog|
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