Friday, April 22, 2016

Happy Earth Day

I'm busy, there's no doubt about that. But sometimes I like to pause. In those moments, I best notice the world around me. The sun on my face, the breeze in my hair, the hard ground beneath my feet. In those moments, I appreciate the beauty around me, yet fear for its' fate. Take care of the Earth, so that she may live on well past our years.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Busy Bee

It has been a busy month. In fact, it has been the highlight of my Holy Cross experience thus far.

Instead of going home for Spring Break, I went on the Spring Break Immersion for the second year in a row. This time, I went to Whitley City, Kentucky--which is on the list of top ten most impoverished areas in the United States. Though some of the contact with the people there and the sights in the area were disheartening, there was something different about Kentucky. All the people we met were more than welcoming, and so incredibly overjoyed that we would take our Spring Break to come work with them. I helped build a foundation for a house, and a ramp for another house. I volunteered at the food pantry for Senior Day, where hundreds of senior citizens came to get their share of food for the month. The state of the community may have been sad, but most of the people there were not. They were so pleased to see us, so grateful for everything we did.

I hiked a bunch of trails in the Daniel Boone National Forest, and saw several waterfalls. This was all done with ten other Holy Cross students, ten strangers that I got to spend the week getting to know. All the time we were not helping out the community, we were playing games, coming up with interesting questions to ask each other, and reflecting on the day we spent in the community. I went to Kentucky with ten strangers, but left with ten friends. All the people in my group are incredible and I'm so glad I got to know them. It was thanks to them that my week was so phenomenal.

While I was in Kentucky, the Men's Basketball team at Holy Cross miraculously won the Patriot League Championship. Just two days after I got back from Kentucky, Sunday Selection notified us that the team would be playing against Southern to get a spot in the official NCAA bracket. The next afternoon, I was on a chartered flight to Dayton, Ohio with the team, the cheerleaders, and the coaches.

Read my Odyssey article for the full story about that:

The trip was fantastic. We hung around in Dayton and went to the game Wednesday night. After screaming, cheering, and playing my saxophone throughout the game, we won. I've never seen so much excitement from the band and the school. I watched clips online the next day of game highlights and cheering students at Holy Cross who watched the game in Crossroads. It was fantastic. There was more school spirit that night than I'd ever felt previously from Holy Cross students.

We got on the plane to Spokane, Washington right after our victory. We were greeted with warm welcomes, and the staff at the hotels was incredibly kind the whole time. The accommodations the NCAA provided us with were great. I didn't have to spend any of my own money to eat or anything the whole trip. Although we didn't beat Oregon (16 seed versus 1 seed wasn't a very good match up), it was still a lot of fun. We returned to school proud of having gone where we went. Spokane was beautiful and my Waterfall count for the two weeks was up to 5.

It has been a busy month. I can say it has definitely been the highlight of my Holy Cross career. It is scary to think that I'm almost halfway through here, but I am sure proud of what I've done so far.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

An Update on My Goals

Hello blog-readers and friends alike. I'm not really sure how many people actually read this thing anymore, but I'm keeping it up for myself, at least. Now, it's time to reflect on how my writing goal has gone this year.

Writing for Odyssey has been an interesting experience. Since I have to have one article a week, some weeks are really busy for school work so I've written some throw-away articles (in my opinion) yet those are the ones that got the most shares for that week, at 80-100 shares. (Most shares = $20). The articles that I took more time to write, about the State of the Union address and the bigotry against Beyonce's new music video, only ended up with around 30 shares a piece. I felt like those were more important. So I find myself at a loss; do I keep writing articles I care about, or do I appeal to the popular culture and make some poor-quality lists?

Anyways, the experience has been a lot of fun. It holds me accountable for one article a week on weeks that I would otherwise skip out on writing. It forces me to write when my blog doesn't exactly hold me accountable when I don't keep up with it.

On that note, I've done far better than I expected to, with my blog. I was afraid I would keep it up for two weeks then quit on it again. Instead, I've found ways to write that are more relevant to what I'm doing in school. If you noticed, there were a few posts pertaining to books like No Safe Place and The Polluters. I read these for Sociology, but we only discussed them in class-I won't have to write any essays like that. Those posts force me to compile everything I read about, and I like that. Hopefully I can keep this blog up.

On another note, I've been applying for internships like crazy. It's so much work... It's tedious too. It won't be the end of the world if I have to stay at subway for another summer (A paycheck is a paycheck), but I would rather start moving towards the fields I am interested in. Since I'm applying to so many different things, it makes me nervous that a company won't offer me the internship because they don't think that I'm dedicated to them exactly. Oh well. Here goes... Happy March!

Monday, February 29, 2016

No Safe Place: A Review

A discussion of No Safe Place by Phil Brown and Edwin Mikkelsen 

In the mid-1970's in a Woburn, Massachusetts neighborhood, children were contracting leukemia at high rates. They discovered that carcinogens in drinking water may be to blame. This sprouted research for disposal of toxic waste and a search for how these chemicals were getting into water supplies.

In the case of Woburn, citizens publicized the contamination, and pressured city, state, and federal governments to investigate and clean up the mess. Residents of Woburn pushed for something to happen: data was collected again and again to try to determine that cancer rates were in fact higher because of water pollution. Study after study found that childhood leukemia was highly associated with drinking water from two of the city's wells, Even worse was the fact that a point source for the pollution and chemicals in the wells was difficult to determine. The entire water table was affected and it seemed that only the citizens wanted to do something about it. Bringing the case to court turned into a disaster of concealed evidence, arguments about scientific proof, and loss of trust in the government.

The reason the case got as far as it did was largely due to community activism. A community of people have to be willing to challenge authority, change their views on the function of government, and spend time and energy fighting. For a Cleaner Environment (FACE) activists had to become heavily involved in order to fight the government and industries about dumping laws, in order to prevent future health issues and resolve current ones. A huge force for the Woburn community was publicity. These citizens reached out to news sources and got national attention. This pressure really helped Woburn get the attention it needed. Because the exact time and place of chemical pollution is impossible to find, industry really used this to their advantage, drawing out studies and court dates, finding any excuse to move the blame away from themselves to continue making money. The fact was, Woburn water was contaminated, and it was causing cancer rates to soar.

Corporate contamination and government inaction; that's what made the Woburn case so bad. The whole case was surrounded by a rhetoric of fear. Residents were afraid to stay in Woburn, afraid that other places would be just as bad if not worse, and afraid that standing up to industry would have costly effects. Not only did the chemicals in the water cause serious health effects beyond childhood leukemia, but it also caused an onset of mental health problems. More people had depression because of having to deal with the disaster. The whole problem was man-made and totally avoidable. Children had to grow up in this atmosphere of fear. The loss to families and the community was terrible, and it seemed that nothing was done to help.

The result of all of this? Distrust of corporations. Anger. The government failed to act, leaving the community feeling vulnerable and unprotected. No safe place to live.

Despite the long, tedious struggle, something needs to be pointed out; if Woburn residents hadn't figured out a relationship between the water supply and the leukemia cases, This is popular epidemiology: mobilization of citizens around the goal of identifying and ameliorating environmental stressors and local illness patterns. Basically, the efforts of the people of Woburn are a direct cause to any action whatsoever that occurred. There wouldn't be a case if citizens hadn't gotten involved. Despite the fact that individual citizens are not scientists, some recognition is to be made. It may not be quite the same as having official studies done, however, ordinary people don't need a grant or permission from their place of work to conduct a particular study. People have the means to collect data and investigate in their own communities.

No Safe Place is about community action when otherwise no action would take place. The book revealed just how daunting a task like taking on an industry is, and offered a glimpse into the lives of citizens in a toxic situation. I thought it was really interesting and despite the longevity of the case, inspiring. Citizens have the ability to get the attention of news sources. They can make a story known nation-wide, thus forcing the government to acknowledge a problem. Woburn may have been a really good example about how to go about solving a pollution problem. It may also show how hard that can be. The actions of Woburn residents was admirable, to say the least. Individual communities need national support. More people need to realize that pollution is detrimental to human health, and we, as average citizens, can do something about it, one baby step at a time.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

An Open Letter to My High School English Teachers

Freshman year.
I hated Romeo and Juliet.
They were whiny and over-dramatic,
in the span of 24 hours they decided
they couldn't live without the other.
Reading it was just as tedious;
Shakespeare made up words!
Why do you think I’d understand what’s going on?
Despite the fact that I hated the play,
you challenged me to think about it.
I spent so many hours
in front of my home computer that week,
typing and re-typing sentences,
trying like hell to make sure you
wouldn’t write “awkward” above a phrase I wrote.
My other papers that year were fine and all,
but handing in my Romeo and Juliet essay
was like crossing a finish line in a cross-country race.
Getting it back
was like a siren call.
The next year, you used my essay as the example for
the next freshman class to read.
You can’t imagine how thrilled I was when you
were my teacher again junior year.
I read satire and Andy Borowitz,
learned that being the early bird
really is about getting all the worms;
I loved the class,
but continuously handed in multiple-choice tests
that sent me back with a feeling of impending doom.
The AP test didn't go as well as I hoped,
But we read the crucible after the test,
and my group made a video about Arthur Miller
that made no sense whatsoever but provided
some comic relief to his life of play-writing.
Senior year.
I’ll never forget that time we read Invisible Man;
discussing the human condition according to the book
made me feel like such a nerd (in a good way)
I won't forget the daunting timed-essays
that always left me absolutely crushed
Or that time my prom date knew English was my favorite class,
and had you interrupt our class discussion
with a new question: will Rebecca go to the prom with...?
You certainly had a sense of humor.
That class challenged me--but yes--I loved it.
It wasn’t until the end of the year,
when most teachers gave up teaching,
that you really inspired me.
We listened to Storycorps narrations,
I cried, I laughed, I fell in love with stories again.
You had us make our own.
The project captured individual conversations
I could listen to over, and over again.
Storytelling was never more important to me
than during those few weeks.
To my high school English teachers: both of you.
I don’t think I would have worked so hard
in my English classes, if it weren’t for you.
Because you pushed me to be better,
to get rid of my awkward sentences,
to choose my words more wisely.
I want you to know,
you are appreciated.
Today, I’m taking a Shakespeare class.
We started with Romeo and Juliet.
My only love sprung from my only hate!
You both inspired me to love stories,
inspired me to appreciate books.
And hey, why else would I choose to study English?

Sunday, February 21, 2016


I'm usually pretty good at managing myself, and my time. I don't stress out too often, I make a plan, and make myself stick to it. I don't always accomplish everything in my plan, but I make it work. But then, there are internships.

I want to work somewhere this summer that will get me to start thinking about a full-time career. Something in nonprofits, something in journalism, something in publishing, or something in public relations. Something where I can write, edit, or the like. In terms of interning, I really don't have a preference to what I do as long as I have a place to learn and see what professionals in the field are doing.

Then there's the issue of money. I can't afford to take a train to work without getting a stipend for it at least. And then there's the issue of books and tuition bills. I've done alright the past two years, paying my tuition bill and paying for books (the portions not covered by my school loans) by myself. I can't afford a summer with a decreasing bank account if i'm going to keep that up. Therefore, unpaid internships so far have been ruled out.

Then there's the case of qualifications. I'm trying to get this experience so that I can have experience to put on my resume. My part-time jobs and activities aren't that interesting to employers. I'm not majoring in communications or journalism--just English. I have to try to make myself sound appealing to potential employers, without sounding desperate.

The whole process stresses me out. I want a summer of learning and pursuing a potential job. I have so much to do before I get there...