A Discussion on Social Movements

By Roger Dean

In class, I was put in a fairly uncomfortable position. I feel comfortable in class and I feel fairly comfortable with my floor mates; however, after watching the scene from The Butler with Forest Whitaker, I saw my classmates that were of all different types of racial identities feel uncomfortable which made me feel uncomfortable. The reactions of my classmates seemed to be that or horror and disgust. Most of my white classmates had not seen the movie or the seen or realized how horrifically terrible their race acted towards other races that were deemed inferior. I had already seen it. I was prepared for what I saw. It is just a movie, but the tone of the scene is very emotional. The worst part about the movie is that it was based on real events. The reaction of my classmates were surprising since I know of a lot of Caucasians who distance themselves from the things that happened during the civil rights movement because they, personally, were not there.

That was a moment highlighting the horrors of the Civil Rights movement. We right now are also, currently, involved in another rights battle. The LGBT Movement focuses on getting more rights for those people who identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, etc. They are fighting for rights that include, but are not limited to, marriage equality and job equality.

I would like to compare the two movements. They have similarities and drastic differences. They both have to work through receiving social rights and well as safety insurance. They have issues that are more political in nature. They have issues that are more personal to each situation as well. They differences are pretty specific, however.

For the Civil Rights Movement, the bias and racism was based on the skin color and the long history of racism and slavery that were once apart of the nation’s history. They felt that the black race was inherently inferior to the white race. Race is an inherent thing that cannot be changed and people were discriminated against disgustingly based on this fact.

For the LGBT Movement, the issue is around is the sexualities associated with the movement are immoral and sinful. The argument against them is very religious based. It is an argument that most people don’t change their mind about it. The belief that they are born the way they are is not yet widely accepted even though there are some forms of scientific proof. They are discriminated against based on people’s beliefs.

In the next 50 years, there will probably be a female president in the near future. I believe Hilary Clinton will win the next election if she runs. I think we will see legalized use of marijuana in many more states. We will see the legalization of same sex marriages in more states as well. Out of these major issues, I would probably walk for the legalization of marijuana because it the reason that a lot of people go to prison with hardened criminals and come out worse than they went in. If we legalize marijuana, we would save many more people in the process. None of these issues are ones that I would die for nor risk everything for. I would for my right to education though. I love learning and my people have endured so much to get me where I am today. I would refuse to not take advantage of this ability and right I have that some people don’t and never will.

I think George Mason University is perfectly fine. It is precisely as it needs to be to foster good discussion. That controversy is necessary at a University to help people grow as intellectuals, students, and people. I enjoy the things I see here at George Mason University. What we get from here is the necessary information to go out into the world and then change the community like Milk mentioned. You take the multiple opinions that were mentioned in the first controversy and you use that to strengthen your argument to help foster change in the world among people who are unaware.

 

Social Justice Response to “Ghosts of Mississippi”

By Roger Dean (Congratulations Graduate and Future Law School Student!)

In the 1996 American drama film, Ghosts of Mississippi, Bobby DeLaughter (Alec Baldwin) struggles trying to revive and finally rightfully prosecute Byron De La Beckwith (James Wood) for the murder of Medgar Evers with the help and support of Evers’ wife, Myrlie Evers (Whoopie Goldberg). As most people know, Medgar Evers was a black civil rights activist in Mississippi who was murdered by an assassin on June 12, 1963.

As a future prosecutor, I appreciated that even in this time it was not above the prosecutors to prosecute a white man charged with killing a white man. The way the justice system was back then and

the way that the world responded to events was very different than now. This is the reason why when Byron De La Beckwith, the suspected murderer, was tried both of his cases ended in hung juries. The film focuses on the process that Bobby took to bring Beckwith to justice. It caused troubles in his life professionally, publicly and privately. It gave his family some issues to deal with even though it was him that was causing all of the issues. It wasn’t actually his fault however. It was because of racism.

The major social issues that surround this film and this real life story are racism, justice and patience. The assassination of Medgar Evers was not only a political thing, but it was also a race thing most of all. Medgar Evers was attempting to integrate the University of Mississippi. There were people who did not agree with integration on secondary educational level. There are people who were genuinely upset with the Brown vs. Board of Education which is the Supreme Court landmark case that stated that segregating schools was unconstitutional. It was about bringing a murderer to justice. In the film, there are moments that take your breath away and make you want to forget that his a real event. This really happened. This atrocious event of racism was an insult to justice everywhere and it couldn’t stand. The patience that is displayed in this movie is awe inspiring. Mrs. Evers waited for a very long time to get justice for her husband. The trail made people wait to see how long it would take to see justice done. It took about 30 years to see justice done finally for the murder of a man who just wanted to change the world one state at a time.

My first initial reaction was to the disclaimer on the film that this is a real story. I knew that Medgar Evers was murdered, but I did not know all of this stuff actually happened to the people involved. I found the initial racism unsettling to me as the viewer. I see a lot of movies, and I know that usually they are just movies and they aren’t real, but with this movie it is very real. I can’t get over some of the really offensive things that were said during the movie. I’m not sure if all things said in the movie were actually said, but I know that people really talked like that in the 1960’s and after. It is one part that disgust me about our nation. This is like no other movie I have ever seen.

DeLaughter was doing his job. He was told to prosecute this case and all of these bad things happened. He was threatened. His family was put in danger. I can personally relate to his character. I will be a prosecutor and it will be an amazing when I finally reach those goals. He was discouraged by people he cared about. People thought he was foolish and crazy, but it paid off. I can’t wait to be a lawyer and send bad people away. It will be my job and I will love every second of it. I doubt however that I will ever get a case like this that was politically motivated, but I will make a difference.

I have seen many movies and I have been surprised before by plot twist points, but I was surprised by some of the language that was used during this film. When Beckwith was stating that he killed a “nigger” and that it should not be a crime. I was so taken aback by that. It was 1960’s and I thought it was a known fact that black people are people and citizens too. It just shocks me that people actually thought like that.

It is the story of Bobby DeLaughter case into stardom. It is the story of, Medgar’s wife, Myrlie Evers. The story that is not told is the story of Medgar Evers nor is the story of Beckwith. Both of those stories are important. People who watch this movie without some prior research on the person and activist of Medgar Evers will not know who he is. The bad part of Beckwith’s story is the only thing that is mentioned in regards to him. Their is a lot character testimony against Beckwith.

I learned what actually happened with the case and murder of Medgar Evers, but not in that order. I learned what other struggles a prosecutor could endure. I also learned that racism was still a prominent thing in the South in the 1990’s. I learned that Alec Baldwin can play another character besides funny.

As a black male, I have always felt this danger that people will try to hurt me or people I care about because of my race. Racism is not gone and it is not going anyway any time soon. I want to be a prosecutor so the death threats are a very real worry of mine, but I hope and pray for the best beause I am going to do it no matter what anyone says.

This film is very realistic because it did happen. Things like this still do happen. Trayvon Martin was murdered and his death turned into a political thing. The case was about if he was killed because of the color of his skin. Clearly being black is dangerous. Apparently being male is upsetting. Also, if you are young, you are suspicious. It is crazy to think about. People are still racist, but it is now not as obvious as it was years ago. This happens in our society all the time. “I didn’t mean it like that.” That phrase makes people think it is there fault if they are offended.

Again, racism is not going to go anywhere. Patience is a virtue. Hopefully people continue to have it. Things can change over time. People don’t change, but the situation does. In regards to justice, I am going to do my part by being the prosector for a very nice place. I hope to be successful in that. With racism though, Morgan Freeman said the best way to get rid of racism is to stop talking about it. We could start there. It is a human made thing. God created only one race, the human race. Humans created racism.

 

9 Month Weather Report

By Zimuzo Okala

Upon coming to Mason the weather was a little groggy. A summer day that was warm but the clouds that still lingered after a harsh rain made the air humid and uncomfortable. I was happy to be at Mason but I was only happy to be at Mason because it was a college and college was very far from my hometown. The next couple of weeks were the same with little bursts of sunshine as I met new people but there was still those pesky few clouds of “transfer to UVA” thoughts that just would not go away. Closer to Halloween the skies began to clear up as I got more involved in campus and in my LLC community, and the bitter cold air of midterms forced me inside to get closer to my community. Near Christmas time it was nice fall air where everything was comfortable. When second semester started the real blizzard hit after “snowpocalypse” with everything I thought I knew about college being tried and tested. I only made it through with the helpful predictions and suggestions from our more experienced LLC members. As the year continued a familiar summer heat set in. The warm air of friendship and family allowed finals to breeze by and settle in to the best summer night, with clear skies and only a touch of humidity. I’m so happy I decided to weather the storm of freshman year on Piedmont 4th and though t was difficult at times every shift in the “weather” has made me the person I am today, and I am proud to say is a completely different person from who I was last year,and for that to Leadership and Community Engagement LLC, I am eternally grateful.

The Halfway Adventure

By Mercy Waithaka

I remember moving in during exam week my first semester. I was extremely nervous because I didn’t know who anyone was or what was going to happen. My thoughts of fitting in or being accepted patrolled in my head knowing that they did not matter but still kind of mattered. I was excited for this new adventure knowing that it called for new experiences with people and so much more. Maybe it will not work out but maybe seeing if it does will be the best adventure ever, this became known to me, as my halfway adventure. The first day, I remember meeting Mario in the elevator, he helped me push the cart out but I didn’t know he lived here. The next person I met was sweet Gary! I remember him running down the hallway and then introducing himself. I was flabbergasted. The way he made me feel welcomed was beyond what I expected. I remember him saying, if you ever need anything, don’t be afraid to knock. That was the point I felt calm. I knew that I would be okay living here and it is not a decision I will regret. This Halfway adventure is still going on. I have met some of the best people that I truly appreciate. According to George, I became a leech that grew on him. This community is a family that I am pleased I can be apart of. I have learned so much this semester not only about myself but those on the LLC. Being surrounded by people who have so much potential and are just so intelligent is the greatest recipe for motivation. Having a mentor like Patty has been a blessing, thank you for making the LLC a safe haven. As I wind up my first year, my halfway adventure is just getting started. I am excited to be back next year again with new people but also the old ones.

 

We must take adventures in order to know where we truly belong!

Adulting

By Morgan Kirby

When coming to college, most students have an idea of what they want to pursue, but little do they know that all can change. College is a new ball game. Each base is a milestone in some fashion, such as emotional breakdowns from exams, peer pressure, and you name it… This is the time in your life where you find extensive amounts of freedom, but juxtaposed with the concoction of a word called “adulting”, a verb that encapsulates having to be responsible for yourself in a way you never had to before. You may get a job and find it hard to juggle classes after a long night at work, or you could be drowning in club meetings. Either way, college is creating new scenarios for many of us, and we still cannot handle everything perfectly. With this said, we are trying to figure out our future, a future based on our degree.

I came to George Mason with the plan to get my undergraduate degree in economics and then I wanted to pursue law school. My grand plan was to focus on corporate law and take it day by day until I get there. As of today, I lost this plan. I have always had a connection to the environment. It’s not a surprise to hear fellow dorm members say “Morgan is the tree hugger of the group”. It is almost too funny to hear because everyone knows it’s true. We had just finished up our NCLC 103 class that had focused on environmental sustainability, and it’s like something had just clicked. I want to change my major. After we finished our group projects on sustainability measures, I knew I wanted to narrow in on environmental sustainability as my major. With a little research, I found that George Mason has something for everyone, and GMU’s sustainability efforts are tremendous.

I had a plan, for years I mapped out each step in my life to get to the point of career success, and now I find my plan to be an apparition. There are so many pressures in school that can change your goals. This is not always a negative thing, rather I see it as an eye opening opportunity. To the freshman to find themselves like me, and to those that soon will, it’s okay! You will have an advisor help you each step of the way, you can reach out to community members and talk to them about their plans, but most importantly, you have four years at Mason to figure it out. Four years to be who you want to be and fulfill what you want to do.

Rediscovering my Identity

By: Mitchell Westall

Is it possible for someone to go from being on the fringes of atheism to diving deep into Judaism within a year?

Let me start from the beginning. Towards the end of my senior year of high school I had begun to doubt the existence of a higher power. Normally, people do this when they are going through a tough time or they lose someone very important to them. So, out of anger, they question why G-d would ever take that person from them or put them in a bad situation.

For me, this was not the case. I have always been a person who questioned everything that was put in front of him and religion was no exception. Even though I was Jewish, I made a point to learn about other religions and at the time I had just finished my time learning a lot about Christianity.

As for my identity, I told people I was a non-denominational monotheist, but even that was in question. I still held onto my Jewish cultural identity, but that’s it. I hated organized religion (I still do to an extent).

I never officially declared myself an atheist, but the questions never stopped.

Fast forward to early December of 2016. I was coming towards the end of my first semester of college and it was the first day of Hanukah (the previous evening was the first night). I was walking back from lunch and I noticed a large Menorah behind a table with a man and a woman tending to it. They were handing out free menorahs to Jewish students and they were with the organization Chabad. The man’s name was Mendel and he is the Rabbi here at Mason for the Jewish student organizations. They were handing out free menorahs to students who needed them for Hanukah and so I gladly took one because I was slightly bummed that I could not light candles for the one Jewish holiday I knew how to celebrate.

That night was the second night of Hanukah and so I took my menorah and the candles out to the back of my dorm building to the outdoor stairwell. We could not light anything inside, even for religious purposes.

I lit the candles, said the necessary prayers and I sat outside with the menorah and waited for the candles to burn out. I waited outside in the cold for at least an hour and a half to wait for them to burn out every night for every candle to burn out. I had never done anything that Jewish in my life.

This inspired me to at least claim my Jewish cultural identity, if nothing else. So for Hanukah I asked my mom for a necklace of some sort with a Jewish symbol. There are many different kinds of Jewish symbols that are popular in jewelry, so I told her to surprise me. After all I do appreciate surprises. So, she got me a really nice 14 karat gold Mezuzah. A Mezuzah is a long box containing a scroll with the daily prayer known as the sh’ma hand written in Hebrew.

Since I received it, it has been a part of my outfit on a daily basis. Most people wear necklaces under their shirts, I choose to show it off.

The nighttime thoughts had begun to subside.

Upon returning to Mason next semester, I got a message from a woman who works with Hillel (the other Jewish student organization) named Tal. She is from Israel and she signs people up for birthright trips to Israel. Birthright trips are free trips to Israel that last ten days and are an amazing experience for any young Jewish person.

Unfortunately, I could not go this year but I fully plan on going next summer whether my mother likes it or not.

The night after I met Tal I got a message from a guy by the name of Aaron. He had asked me if I wanted to “hang out with the guys” and play some poker. Who could say no to such an enticing offer? It was a fun night of poker with a group of guys I had never met, but quickly got to know over the course of the next couple of months.

A week or so after the poker night, I accepted my bid to pledge Alpha Epsilon Pi, the Jewish social fraternity.

Through the fraternity and the Jewish student organizations, I have quickly learned what it means to be a Jewish man and brother.

For the first time in my life I have celebrated Shabbat, celebrated Purim (this one quickly became my favorite) and had a Passover Seder.

I never thought I would ever join a fraternity, let alone a Jewish one. I never even thought I would want to be all that Jewish!

It is not uncommon for people to have crazy stories after their first year of college, but this would have been downright unimaginable for me a year ago.

What a ride.

Passion

By Alliyah Fabijan

Day by day, we as college students live our lives with an end goal motivating us in one way or another. Here at Mason, there is so much to explore. From clubs to sports, Mason is sure to provide something for you to feel like you can belong to a group with others who share similar interests. However, sometimes you have to stop and think about what you are interested in, and if you are interested enough to pursue it. Here is where you begin to divide and define your passions and interests. You have to allow yourself to juxtapose what you like and love, and contemplate what you want to dedicate your time to.

Passion, to me at least, is a word to define a genuine love for something, that I continue to cherish with due diligence. This definition can sound overwhelming to some, but passion is something that is unique to you. As a freshman, it feels like there is something at Mason to join that falls in line with many of my interests; therefore, I took it upon myself to go to a plethora of club meetings and informational sessions. All of them I found interesting, but I never took the time to continue attending the meetings, nor did I seek a leadership role in the clubs, which is unlike myself. I always found myself wanting to do more on campus, but when I sought help in how I should get involved, I continued to look for things I was interested in, when I should have been looking for what I was passionate about.

From this realization, I found that I needed to define what my passions were and how I can utilize Mason resources to further my passions. To me, community service is a passion that I have, but I realized I could have dedicated more time into feeding this passion, rather than dipping into clubs based on interests and boredom. Now, I find myself more organized and able to pursue my passions this fall at Mason.

Passion is a beautiful thing, and its power is infinite. The reason behind so many successful movements, and people making their dreams come true comes from passion. Dedicate your time wisely, and make the most of what you do. Choose actions carefully, and allow yourself to explore the things you already know you care about. Turn an interest into a passion, and take pride in what you do. Here at Mason, it’s all about being the best you can possibly be.

Going Greek at Mason: The Best Decision I Ever Made

By Alexis Collins

The first few weeks of freshmen year can be summed up in one word: awkward.

I didn’t know anybody, I was living with strangers and I may not be the best at putting myself out there to meet new people. I also never thought in a million years that I would ever even consider going through Panhellenic recruitment. I always thought of sororities, as a thing that only a bunch of Regina Georges were a part of.

I had this misguided perception that sorority girls only know how to party and not have any type of academic standards at all, but that all changed when I was convinced by one person to at least go out to formal recruitment to see what Greek life is really about.

I never would have thought that there could be so much genuine love in one room until I walked into the first day of recruitment, where I would meet the first chapter of the day, Pi Beta Phi. When I thought of sororities I thought of friendships that you pay for; however people cannot fake being genuine. I could see and feel that there was a sisterhood here, and even better, I felt like I was home. Those girls, just though genuine conversation, had already changed my perception on some aspects of what “sorority girls” are.

All of the chapters on campus were lovely, but I did feel a strong connection to Pi Beta Phi. So, I was willing to go to the second day of recruitment. By the end of that day, I realized just how much that Greek life gives back to the community, through fundraisers to book drives to getting pied in the face. And the best part about figuring that out is that I realized that going Greek is not all about partying.

On the third day, I realized just how intelligent and brilliant the people in Greek life are. The Greek community is not filled with a bunch of Karen’s and Gretchen’s.

The women and men in Greek life are the leaders on campus. From being RA’s to being presidents of clubs to being on the Dean’s List, the members of Greek life never cease to impress me.

On Bid Day, I realized that I finally found the family that I have needed on campus and I chose to accept my bid to join a fantastic family: Pi Beta Phi. These women have been nothing but loyal, and I have met some of my greatest friends because of this amazing opportunity to go Greek. If I didn’t go Greek, then I would not be part of the ‘Merica Family of Pi Beta Phi and wouldn’t have an AMAZING Big and Twin that are literally the people that I can go to for anything.

SO in case you are unsure about going Greek or not, I highly recommend it because it is the best thing that has ever happened to me at Mason.

It’s Not about Forcing Happiness, It’s About Not Letting Sadness Win

By Molly Reagan

I never thought that change could have such a big impact on my life. A change that almost everyone goes through, finishing high school and for me, beginning college. Of course I knew it would be difficult, AP classes had prepared me for the large work load, but I never imagined it would be as tough as it is.

When I imagined my first year of college I imagined all the typical things, taking classes that I enjoy, finding my niche and making great new friends, going to awesome parties, and loving every minute of being away from home. Now don’t get me wrong, my freshman year has been great. I did get to experience all those things and more, and the Cornerstones classes/LLC have given me an incredible, unique experience. What I didn’t imagine were things like, avoiding new places for fear of having a panic attack, and then being depressed because I was too afraid to go anywhere. Having mental breakdowns over things ranging from picking a table at Southside to having a paper due, or some days being sore from head to toe from having so many panic attacks. Anxiety tricking me into believing that all my friends hate me, and then being depressed about it even though nothing was even wrong, oversleeping, under-sleeping, extreme procrastination (I didn’t even know these were symptoms of depression until this year), self-harming, and I could go on and on.

I wasn’t aware at home that my mental health was a problem. I didn’t even know what anxiety was or how much it ruled my life. I had great friends, I did well in school, and I was really involved. I was comfortable. Moving to college made me uncomfortable. It turned my whole world upside down. I mean, I knew it would, but I didn’t know it would affect my mental health.

The title that I chose are lyrics from one of my favorite bands, The Wonder Years, and I think it explains my mental illness pretty well. This is something I struggle with every day, and the Cornerstones LLC has given me support in a way I didn’t think was possible before. I have friends that like me even when I’m an anxious, depressed mess, and a fantastic roommate. I learned so much more about myself than I thought was ever possible. I reached out for help for the first time in my whole life (may or may not have been involuntary), and it wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be. Shit, I even went skydiving first semester. I wouldn’t want my freshman year of college any other way, even if I do wish I could wake up without my brain trying to kill me every day.

Boring is the New Black

By Heba Zaidan

The concept alone makes my blood curdle and my heart turn into coal. A 9 to 5 job? My sister?! Last I checked on her she just came back from a 2 month tour of Europe with a few sporadic purple dreads tucked in her hair. Now I hear that she has a job making powerpoints and numbing her brain and complaining about Mr. BossMan. Did she not realize what she was doing? It’s like, dude, she used to spend her days in concerts chasing experiences but now she’s in her humble apartment staring at spreadsheets. I mean, if it happened to her that means suburbification can happen to any one of us if we’re not careful, right? So when I leave this place with a diploma in my right hand and the world in the palm of the other, am I going to become instantly less interesting?

I want to think about this logically so I don’t induce a perpetual state of panic, or trigger early onset midlife crisis. Maybe there’s a whole side of Excel that’s fulfilling and is worthy of being a bar story. Maybe there is something stimulating and completely riveting about working a 9 to 5 corporate job. Or maybe adulthood is sucking it up and realizing having fun and adventure doesn’t always require a 15 hour flight and doing things you’ll regret when you’re 45. Maybe adulthood is being interesting for yourself, and doing the little things to make your life genuine and helping yourself grow. What if growing means you’re more interesting in an introspective manner rather than having your life being a conversation piece? What if adulthood is interesting because it’s geared towards the individual and not towards impressing others?

What if I’m not interesting now? Because I’m living for stories and moments rather than growth. Are random road trips so last season? Oh my god, are conference calls totally chic now? How am I so out of the loop? Oh no! Am I lame?! Is my 9 to 5 sister cooler than me now?! What’s going on here? Is the entire system of dividing people into “fun” and “not fun” arbitrary?! WHAT DOES COSMO HAVE TO SAY ABOUT THIS?!!

Wait…what if being interesting is just being shamelessly yourself? After all, my sister always was a homebody before college. She was always pretty geeky in her own way too, playing with numbers and equations instead of partying with the rest of her peers. I remember even in college, she’d use me as an excuse to not have to go out. So hold on, I think my sister was totally blasé to herself in college. I think music festivals made her yawn, and she was actually dreaming of days of practicality. Oh my god, what if this is her being interesting to herself now?

 

So when I leave this place with a diploma in my right hand and the world in the palm of the other, am I going to start living as my true authentic self?

Take Risks and Speak your Mind

By Izzy Souza

This year has blessed me with many opportunities. Coming from a small, conservative suburb of Memphis, TN, I have been met with an abundance of new ideas through the amazing people I’ve met, the fascinating classes I’ve taken, and the crazy things I’ve experienced. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned of significance this year, it’s that speaking your mind is of utmost importance.

I want to preface this post by saying that I have most definitely been guilty of bottling away my feelings and thoughts, and it was only very recently that I came to the conclusion that I need to be more forward and open with the people in my life. When I came to George Mason, I was the type of person to wait for others to talk to me first and to always live in fear that others did not like me. I know many struggle with those issues. I was losing friendships, holding myself back, and letting opportunities slip by all because I was too afraid to speak my mind.

But sometime in the past two months I came to the realization that the source of my general sadness was my hesitation to be open with others. I used to fear rejection and confrontation, but now I embrace them. I don’t want potential friendships and opportunities to pass me by all because I am afraid to initiate conversation. Since having my epiphany, I have already made meaningful friendships with several new people, and gotten involved in new hobbies and activities with people I never could have imagined myself to possess the courage to talk to. My advice to anyone reading this post is to quit the fear and the hesitation. You will have so much more satisfaction with your life if you take risks and choose to stop fearing what others might think of you.

Cornerstones LLC

By Gus Thomson

The Cornerstones LLC. Let that sink in. I am not sure why anyone thought putting headstrong people packed into two small floors would end up all liking each other. I do know that liking one another and respecting each other are two very different things. There are people I like on my floor, people I tolerate, and then there are the ones I do not like. Without descended into petty subtweeting, I learned a strong lesson that some people are just shitty and that is the way it is going to be. I try to show respect to people I do not like, even when I have been disrespected myself. Respect is a keystone to community and our community suffered when we didn’t show respect to each other

Whether or not the LLC has anything to do with this is up for debate, but I damn sure know that our LLC leaders Donovan and Patty tried. The LLC gives you much more than you realize and Cornerstones is not a happy Sunday brunch at the country club, it is slightly difficult. If I had not had my friend (shoutout to Meagan) read over my papers I probably would have gotten a significantly lower grade. I met someone who was my first real feminist friend and has educated me on things far more than just ideologies. I also have seen more memes that I ever, ever thought I would in my life. You could do all these things in a regular freshman dorm, or you could not.

Only the LLC gives you the opportunity to get close to your floor mates in a manner that is so much more than just being friends. If one decides to actually give effort to social skills, you get to know the people around you. This may come as a shock to some, but you can also get to know people in the LLC that don’t live on your floor. The LLC is entirely what you make of it, if you want it to suck, then it will f*cking suck. If you want it to be great, then get ready for the freshman year no one else gets.

Living with Type 1 Diabetes

By Noah Shoates

Looking back three years ago, I never would have imagined that I would have to stab myself every day to stay alive. It’s crazy to even think about how deathly afraid of needles I was back then, now I don’t even wince when I have to stab myself. Keep in mind this is also an addition to being allergic to a plethora of things like wheat, fish, nuts & soy; not to mention seasonal allergies as well.

I was diagnosed with diabetes in the summer before my Sophomore year in high school. High school in itself is already a struggle, with the cliques, trying to find yourself, fitting in, etc., so imagine learning that you will have to go to the nurse’s office before and after every lunch to check your blood sugar and take insulin, while also trying to explain to people how type 1 diabetes works and that it’s not just that you can’t eat sugar. Back then, I was beyond uncomfortable with the illness all together so I didn’t like people asking me questions about it and I felt embarrassed when people brought anything up to me about diabetes. I had already felt like a bubble baby because I was unable to eat a lot of food anyways, so the transition into watching what I eat and how frequently I eat wasn’t too tedious, it’s just the notion that every day I would be reminded how different I am from everyone else.

My parents really struggled with it & when I was in the hospital bed being trained on how to take care of my diabetes, my mother was really heartbroken and was constantly crying or on the verge of tears throughout the whole process. She knew I didn’t play with needles and was aware of the slew of other things I had to deal with regarding my allergies and asthma. At that point though I really had to get over my internal fear with my family and “man-up” so that she wouldn’t have to worry about me. Ever since then, I really hate the concept of people feeling bad for me. I’m aware that her heart was in the right place and just concerned for my well-being and I appreciate it. However, there are people who are always say things like, “Wow you have to stab yourself every day? I think I would die” or “You have never had any nuts or seafood? You’re really missing out!” My perspective on all of that balderdash is, had I not been born in this day and age, I would have been dead a long time ago, so I have no reason to be upset or dissatisfied about everything. Transitioning into college is really when I got my act together in handling my diabetes though.

By the time college was coming up, I had been diabetic for two and a half years so I had everything down pat. I want to elaborate and give a general picture of what type 1 diabetics have to do daily. Before anything, type 1 diabetes occurs when either your pancreas never produced any insulin to begin with or only produced a set amount so once you run out, you’re out. In order to correct that, I have to take shots of insulin before every meal and bedtime to make sure that what I eat (primarily carbs) is taken in by my body properly. So you have to check your blood sugar levels (which for a non-diabetic, a normal range is 90-150). As a result of by diabetic, my blood sugar level could be above or below that, which is why we have the insulin shots. Eating carbs increases blood sugar levels, whereas working out and stress can cause blood sugar levels to drop. The bare minimum amount of times I check my blood sugar a day is 5 times, one when I wake up, one before every meal, and one when I go to bed. Then you also have to take an insulin shot before every meal and one before you go to bed. It sounds like it’s a lot of work, but honestly you either do it or you die or get really sick. By the time I had come to George Mason, I was already fully prepared for college & had learned to count carbs very well as well as becoming a lot more informed on the technicalities of diabetes so if anyone asked me any questions about it, whether they were silly ones or serious ones, I had an answer for them.

Now being in my second year of college, my diabetes is honestly fully integrated into my life and it’s not even something I think about twice. I’ve gone on dates and been perfectly comfortable taking my insulin in front of them right there at the table. If you are relevant to people, they will accept you for who you are and nothing less, and if they don’t they really aren’t worth your time anyways. Every summer since I’ve been in college, I go and talk about managing type 1 diabetes on college campuses with incoming college students who also have it! It’s a really good opportunity because I can share my experiences to make sure others avoid the hardships I went through and we can bounce different ideas about how to manage things as well as discuss new technologies and how we like or dislike them.

I’ll end this with something rather cynical, but rather pertinent. A lot of people ask, “Why me?” The question I have learned to ask, is “Why not me?” What is it that makes anyone believe that they are above being diagnosed with something out of the blue, being played by someone you were interested in, having tragedy strike? I don’t say that to be gloomy, just to reiterate that everyone goes through things whether they be good or bad & that you really just have to play with the hand you were dealt instead of complaining about how crappy of a hand it is. My favorite quote from Teen Wolf is “Have you ever heard of regression of the mean? It means nothing can be good forever and nothing can be bad forever?” Yeah, I was diagnosed with diabetes and I will have to live with that the rest of my life, but I have a wonderful support system of friends and family, I am able to attend college debt free, and on top of everything I feel completely comfortable being myself with everyone regardless of what they think of me. Without this happening to me, I never would have had the chance to grow, reach out and connect with all the people that I have thus far.

Life Long Friends…

By George Mikell

My year on the floor of the Leadership LLC has been eventful, entertaining, stressful, and inspiring all in one. I’ve met life-long friends that push me and give me the drive to want more in life. I wouldn’t trade any college for this experience. From the first retreat when everyone heard David snoring like a bear to our end of the year celebration when we nearly risked our lives climbing enormous rocks with fast moving water beneath us. It has been a long ride my first year of college, with many challenges that came with it. Many times I have been tempted to transfer but because of this floor and the community I am a part of it has made me change my mind every time. Compared to regular freshman housing I feel I have been offered many more opportunities to get involved and many more opportunities to meet new friends. Being involved is major key on campus, not just for your social life but in the business world too. The connections you make in college can create or break your career. I was involved heavily in the Pop-up Pantry which gives food back to the food insecure on campus and thanks to the people running it; Gary, Noah, and Caroline, I have found a community service project I am proud to help out with anytime they need an extra hand. Finding something you enjoy doing, along with it benefiting the community really gives you a fuller feeling inside and I’m grateful every day that I decided to stay for another year on the floor.

Leadership and Community Engagement LLC

By Gary Hooker

Being in the leadership LLC has made my freshman year! The floor has a slew of personalities! We have those who are outspoken leaders and we have a quieter leaders, but we are all a puzzle piece that completes the floor. When I first got here, I didn’t know a soul. I came to George Mason all the way from Tennessee. I was nervous I wouldn’t fit in here. But on move in day, a guy from my floor (Mario Martinez) held the door open for me and said, “Hey Gary!” I was confused. I had no idea who he was. I guess he was able to read my face because he then said, “Don’t worry. You don’t know me, but I live on your floor! We’ll talk later!” At that moment, all my worries went away! I was no longer nervous, but I was confident! Mario showed me that it’s that easy to introduce yourself to someone new. All I have to do is say “Hi!”

The leadership LLC inspired me to get involved, to reach for the stars, to make a difference in my life and others around me! I dove head first into the Mason community! I volunteered at Mason’s Pop-Up Pantry, I became a GMU Senator, I became SAIL’s (Social Action Integrative Learning) communication coordinator, and I excelled academically! By the end of my first semester I became the co-director of Pop-Up Pantry, I made a 4.0 G.P.A., I was Dean’s Listed, and received many more awards and honors! And my second semester has the same positive outcome!

I’m so glad I was able to be part of the leadership floor my freshman year! Without a doubt, I can say the floor contributed a lot to my success this year! Next year I’m so excited to return back to the floor as the Resident Advisor! I can’t wait to positively influence the next group of students and add to the floor legacy!

On the Importance of Creation

By Gabriel Saunders

Of the countless things that I have learned throughout my past eight months as a university student I am going to choose one to write about. As I sit on my couch at home watching documentaries on the Viceland channel, the very evening that I moved out of my first college dorm, I think about what is the most important—and interesting—thing that I could talk about. Among all of my areas of growth throughout these first two semesters, I have to say that I have grown as an artist more than anything. Because of this, I need to talk about the need for creation.

What is the function of art in society? Art is a method of communication, communication that is designed to question and make objection to social norms. When we think of social action and making statements we often jump to the image of women and men lining up with their picket signs, or we envision the image of Black Panthers with gun in one hand and a fist in the air, and even the image of those same men and women being arrested and/or beaten by the police. It is not very often that the idea of social action pops up in our minds as a painting or the performance of a play. But the reality is that it is the true function of art to challenge dominant narratives—beyond, of course the pure entertainment value.

Recently we have seen in the news occurrences of artist getting in trouble for the radical and potentially offensive displays. For example, back in April a Tennessee University student was publically criticized for her display of knitted rainbow colored nooses hanging from a tree in display for a class project. She got a lot of criticism from national news sources based on the racist and homophobic connotation that could be seen with this display. It is also possible that this could be seen as a commentary on in the issue of suicide among members of the LGBTQ community. However, according to the artist, she had no ideas of political connotation. Although this artwork was not connected to any political affiliation, it is clear to see the kind of effect that art such as that can have on the media and therefore       our everyday lives.

That is why it is important for all of us to put our creations out into the world. Each and every one of us has a unique opinion and viewpoint on the world that needs to be expressed. Even if it is not necessarily great work, just having it written, or painted, or presented, is important because that is a part of you that has the potential to spark a change in someone.

One of the issues that I struggle with as an artist is actually doing the act of writing or creating because of my self-criticism and nervousness about how well it turns out. Although practice may not make perfect, it absolutely will make it better. Because of my worry, it limits the amount that I create art, and that is something that I am trying to rid myself of.

So, here’s to the painters, the actors, the writers and the tech savvy gentlemen and ladies that put their work out in to the world to fly or to fall. To those that have the courage to depend on their artistry to keep them alive, and those that make art casually and for their very own collections. Here’s to all of you, who will hopefully feel a bit better about their ability to create.

Leadership and Community Engagement LLC

My name is Emma Brodowski and I am a freshman at GMU! This is my first year at the Leadership and Community LLC, and it has truly been an experience I would not give up. It has a sense of community and social gathering where you can just hang with people if you are stressed and caring upperclassmen who care about your emotional-wellbeing. I remember in my first semester of college I heard people talking about President’s Park (where most freshmen are housed) and how no one knows everyone on the floor and no one talks to each other. Complete opposite of the Leadership and Community Engagement LLC! Everyone was doing activities with each other day one, everyone knows everyone’s name. The best bonding experience was at the LLC fall retreat where we all shared our background, hurts, and dreams to other broken people who could sympathize and help you in this journey called life. I would strongly recommend joining this LLC if you want a sense of community as well as wonderful opportunities to be a part of what is going on at Mason through volunteer service!

You can teach an old dog new tricks…

By Jeremy Legg

College is often considered the best time of one’s life; where people make lifelong friendships, experience new things, and even find their deepest passions. While the vast majority of freshmen college students begin this great journey of self-discovery at the age of 17 or 18, I began my own at 23.

Five years ago I made the decision to forgo my own adventure into college, and instead enlist in the United States Army. I would face a myriad of challenges within the organization that would make me who I am today, and make me realize my own desire to pursue an education. Today, I am proudly finishing up my first year of college that has been an extraordinary adventure due to the people I have met within the Cornerstones Living Learning Community (LLC).

Some of my friends’ biggest regrets were not investing in their chosen campus community So. I promised to invest myself within the campus to reach this “college experience.” So, for my first year, I elected to live on campus within a freshmen LLC.

The first month of this journey was weird, awkward and often met with downright suspicion when my peers and I were not quite sure what to make of each other. These initial exchanges were often marked by bumbling attempts at trying to make first contact. Thankfully, enough of these exchanges occurred when we began to realize how much more we had in common. As a group we began exploring the oddity known as the “college experience.” I began to realize that I could use my past challenges as learning point for advice for my newfound peers. Even more importantly, I learned how little I actually knew when they in turn shared the trials and tribulations they faced before and even during college. I became exposed to new concepts and ideas that would begin to shape me both inside and outside of the classroom. I quickly learned that you can teach and old dog new tricks.

The most important thing gained from this year was the group of friends I met along my journey so far. Next year, I have the fortune to be living with a few of these friends I’ve made this past year in an apartment. These friends, I’m beginning to realize, are the beginning of this o-so coveted “college experience.” I find myself excitedly awaiting the future opportunities held for them and myself in the coming sophomore year.

Cornerstones LLC

By Christina Jones

The LLC has been a very good learning experience for me personally. I was a little scared coming into it but Donovan really made me feel comfortable around my classmates. I was able to also learn a lot about myself that I never knew. For my self-growth, I wanted learn how to not always worry about other people and what they think. That was something that I never would have known was even an issue and something that could make me miserable later on in life but if I recognize the problem now and find ways to overcome it than I could actually be happy and worry about me sometimes and not others all of the time.

The different games and retreats we had were actually very fun because I had to learn how to deal with other people I didn’t want to deal with or talk to. My favorite thing we did was the scavenger hunt during the retreat because I had to work with my group to find a person and I got to see their thought process and they also got to see mine. Another thing we did that made me be able to see my classmates thought process was the boat race we did when we made boats and got to race them, that was the most fun thing I have done all year in that class because we were all able to work together and have fun at the same time. This class was able to give me a break from the first year college student problems and classes that were very stressful. I am very glad that I was able to be a part of this LLC program and I hope it continues on being such a great, inspirational, and fun class!

Snowpocalypse

By Kristin Brierly

A week into the semester, Mason was hit with a snow storm that shut down the school for a week. Campus was covered in three feet of snow, and all the students were locked in their building with absolutely nothing to do. If it wasn’t for the Leadership floor I probably would’ve died from boredom, but the entirety of the snowpocalypse was an adventure.

Being locked in the same building with a few snacks and the dining halls being shut down for the majority of the day, does not work well for hungry college students who crave pizza at 11pm. Most of Leadership community had been surviving off a mix of ramen noodles or mac and cheese, and we could feel ourselves getting hangry. For my suitemates and me, hangry is a real condition in which our meals are tied directly to our emotions. We craved a gigantic cheese pizza, but the only place on campus that had food was packed with other hungry students. Trying to cheat the long line of waiting, or at least shorten the wait, my suitemate, and I had called ahead of time hoping that our order could be prepared by the time we got there. We both had bundled up knowing that we were about to go on the biggest hike of our lives. The second we stepped outside the snow was trying to smash itself against our faces, and the cold went straight through our cloths. About five minutes into the walk, we had met up with some girls who had the same pizza craving. It was easier to walk with more people, because they made tracks for us to walk in, but all of a sudden one of the girls collapsed down in an upright position. My suitemate was able to quickly grab the girl by her arms, and saved the girl’s life from a sewage drain that she couldn’t see with all the snow. Looking back we were wimps, but at the time we all thought this girl was a goner. After pulling her legs out of the drain, all of us brushed the snow off her and kept walking. We had finally arrived at the pizza place a short time after that, and we begun waiting in line figuring we could still pick up our pre-ordered pizza. This was not true at all. I had waited in line for over an hour with my suitemate, only to learn they hadn’t put our order into the chief. We reordered and, watched as others got their meals for forty minutes, finally realizing our pizza had been sitting on the counter for 15 minutes without being called. I would’ve been slightly upset if it wasn’t for the fact that I had finally gotten my food. The two of us plopped on my suitemate’s bed, and ate our hearts away. An hour later a marker war erupted from the hallway, and I was being dragged by a blanket sleigh from another one of my floor-mates. Our shenanigans lasted the entire week. Needless to say the snow storm formed some of my most fun memories as a freshman here at Mason. But, the friendships that were built from the Leadership LLC are the best payoff from all the goofiness that we as a community experienced together, during the snowpocalypse.

Aquatic Fitness Center

By Kevin Costner

This semester I continued to volunteer at the Aquatic Fitness Center. As I did last semester, I would work with upper management to help make the pool run smoother. My task are but not limited to, controlling the robot that cleans the pool, typing in survey answers into the computer, typing confidential information into class rosters for the instructors, recording the number of people in the pool, making copies, and maintaining and updating the bulletin boards around the Aquatic Fitness Center. Even though some of these task may seem tedious, it give the supervisors more time to do other important task to make sure the pools can continue functioning at peek performance. I also love being the one that cleans the pool for the simple reason. I know it gets clean well. Since I play underwater hockey and play at the bottom for extend periods of time, I notice when the pool isn’t clean. It is no fun playing underwater hockey when you’re trying to get someone else’s gum out of your snorkel. Or the fact that once I found a hair clump so big it was the size of the puck. That is not ok and also not something I want to be playing next to. When I type up the information from the class surveys, I give the supervisor more time to work on the broken hot tube. The hot tube that has been broken for over a month now. The point is I just really want my hot tube back!!! To help the community… Ya totally not for myself. Either way the less time the supervisor spends typing up class surveys or putting in patron counts from the pool is more time she can spend on either fixing the hot tub or getting some one down from maintenance to fix it. I guess you could say that I am stopping a riot from the swimming/ pool community because I haven’t found one person that hasn’t used the hot tub right after a workout. So I am keeping the peace in the swimming community by giving the supervisor ever second she can get to fix that hot tub. The faster it gets fixed the less rioting from the Under Water Hockey team and both swim teams.

 

How I grew to love Mix Martial Arts

By Onyi Ekeanyanwu

Martial Arts can be practiced for different reason self-defense, physical fitness, mental and spiritual development. I started mix martial arts during the spring semester here at George Mason because I just wanted to do some physical activity. After taking marital arts for a couple months it became more than just physical activity. I felt stronger and more confident about myself. I decided to learn martial arts because it can help me defend myself. I enjoy learning new techniques on how to take people down because I love the feeling of not relying on other people for help when I can do it by myself. My passion to do martial arts grew after watching Karate Kid because it looked so cool watching him throw kicks and punches at his opponent.

When I was little I always wanted to take a Taekwondo class but my parents believed that I would get hurt. So when I got to college I had no intention of practicing martial arts until I decided to exercise so I thought it would be a good way to workout. When I first went to class I was excited because I finally get to do the techniques I saw on TV, when I was little.

The class had few people which was nice because I was able to see the instructor and follow what he was doing which made me adapt easily. I had some challenges because in martial arts there are a lot of human to human contact which took me by surprise but after going to the class a couple of times, I eventually got used to it. I hope that as grow older I will have time to practice martial arts and hopefully become an expert in it. My goal is to take as many different martial arts so I can know different techniques.

 

This floor is my home away from home.

By Mario Martinez

Work Work Work Work Work

This floor is my home away from home.

Let’s take it back all the way to the beginning of fall semester when everyone was just beginning to settle in. The incoming class, these students, these leaders coming to the floor had no idea what to expect from the upperclassman. But I knew that these people were no different than me with hopes and aspirations, ambition..Hunger for this thing we call success. Despite not knowing anything about them I already knew I would push and support them on whatever positive decision or dream they had. Even if the dream they told me was difficult to obtain, I said why not, there is no so such thing as limits expect for the limits you set yourself. And I loved it because with every individual I spoke with I could see the fire that rose within their eyes and it’s just amazing to see someone so passionate speak about their love.

Shout out to my mentee Gabriel. This man…this man was the first to demonstrate what passion and hard work can accomplish. Within three months of entering Mason he lost 30lb’s and had exceeded he weight loss goal by 20lb’s. Not only that but I remember Gabe mentioning to me about being more involved on campus pursuing different things from Patriot Leader to participating in Mason plays. And best believe he went above and beyond obtaining great parts within the plays and performing amazingly. Now this upcoming summer and school year he will be a Patriot Leader. Congratulations Gabriel.

I have always been there for my sister but I believe this floor and its support system completely allowed her to sore and reach new levels. From Josh our RA, to our floor mates, to our very own Patricia Mathison (love you girl!). My sister came here not knowing a single soul expect me and you all welcomed her with open hands and mentored her in manners I couldn’t and for that I am thankful! She has accomplished so much and for that I am an extremely proud brother to see my little sister create a name of her own. She is no longer “Mario’s Little Sister”, she is “Jocelyn L. Martinez”. Congratulations Jocelyn for obtaining the position of RA and taking the Women and Gender Studies Office above and beyond!

And lastly to everyone else on this floor, you all have accomplished so much. From Liz Nolan obtaining a job position in the admission office. Noah, Caroline, Gary for being in charge of the pop-up pantry. To Kevin dominating in the water, to David having an internship for the Nationals this summer. To our seniors that will be leaving us soon, Taylor and Roger for getting into grad school and taking the world by storm. Gosh and the list goes on and on. All of you have accomplished so much and it’s only the beginning. Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish my fam. (lol motivational quote at the end cause yah know your boy needed to do that)

 

Community Bonding Outside the Classroom

By Maddi Williams

The purpose of attending college is to prepare for your career and to achieve academic success, both of which I’m proud to say I’ve successfully pursued. However, college is also a place to make lasting memories and friendships. The cornerstones LLC has allowed me to not only stay focused on my academic goals, but has also allowed me to be a part of a tight knit community.

At the beginning of the fall semester most people in the LLC were reserved and unsure of what to think of their fellow LLC members. The Cornerstones LLC, my RA, Shauna Triplett, and peer mentors, (Jackie Reed, Ruthie Clay, and Tana McDonald), provided us with multiple floor events and socials so that we could form a community. These events, alongside the LLC class certainly helped all of us to get to know each other better, yet it was the actions of the community members that really helped form a true sense of community. Without the engagement of the LLC members there would be no community, we would just be a group of people who had to hang out in classes and pass each other by in the common room.

While I had hung out with a few members of the LLC early on, I really hadn’t gotten to know everyone who was a member of the LLC nor did even really know everyone who lived on my floor. I knew them by their nicknames or their room numbers but I still didn’t know them well enough to really have meaningful conversations with them. All of this changed once the floor became more engaged as a community. I’d like to think that I played some small part in this community bonding experience.

A few weeks into the fall semester I had been trying to “put myself out there” and get to know everyone on my floor. I figured the best way to do this was to hang out in the common room and talk to the people who passed by. On this particular day I was having a conversation with a few people from my floor and none of them had any plans or homework for that afternoon, there wasn’t a movie night scheduled and we were talking to pass the time. While talking with my floor members certainly helped me get to know them better, we eventually ran out of the typical starter conversation topics In an attempt to keep everyone engaged and to keep me from spending another night in my room watching Netflix, I suggested we play a card game that I had brought from home. At first everyone was skeptical but I eventually everyone in the common room decided to play “The Game of Things.”

“The Game of Things” is an interactive card game where you receive topics like “Things you shouldn’t do in elevator” and then everyone writes a response and everyone has to guess who wrote which response. The game really helped lighten the mood. More people came into the common room to join in and we all had a really fun time and were able to make jokes and be ourselves instead of having awkward conversations. By the end of the night we had come up with multiple inside jokes and a new sense of community. People who were just floor mates became close friends with me that night. I certainly didn’t expect one card game to have an impact on the LLC community, but I think that we proved ourselves capable of forming community on our own that night and began forming lasting friendships.

Reflections

By Eric Schuette

In reflecting about the LLC this last year, I am glad I signed up. It all started at the orientation meeting over the summer and visiting the LLC group. I instantly liked some of the people I talked to and they convinced me to complete an application. Then I had three random roommates and suitemates. While we all come from different areas, backgrounds and have different hobbies and interests, we all get along.

The LLC brings together people from diverse backgrounds all for a common goal, to improve the neighboring community. Service has always been important in my life. It started with having to do service projects as part of my Confirmation. At that time I got involved with a great organization, Lost Dogs & Cats. I walked dogs at our local PetSmart so that they might get adopted. As part of being in the Leadership LLC I was still able to volunteer with Lost Dogs & Cats. I also helped out at the Pop-up Pantry providing food to those in need. The volunteering that we do for our community is paying it forward.

I love doing volunteer hours for Lost Dogs because I get to meet new people while walking dogs for 3 hours. By getting my name out in the community is a good example of being a leader. For the pop-up pantry we take the remaining food from Panera when they close and keep the food stored and give it out Tuesday mornings. Both are great volunteer opportunities that I was able to be a part of.

The retreat was great for all of us to get to know each other. We did very activities and shared personal information about ourselves. One of these activities was sharing a personal item that had some importance to us. This was a great way to know each other better, especially since some of us would be working together at volunteer activities.

I am not sure if I will be at George Mason next year. I am still awaiting news from Tech, where I’ve always wanted to attend. Whatever happens, I am happy for the year I’ve had at George Mason and the friendships I have made especially through the Leadership Learning Community.

Cornerstones LLC and Me

By Colin Rafferty

When I first heard about the Living Learning Community, I thought it was a bad idea. Why would I want to live with the same people I go to class with? In my first semester at college I was trying to make as many friends as possible and living with the same people I was going to see in class seemed like a bad idea. But when I heard that all I had to do was respond with an email saying I wanted in to the LLC, I started to reconsider. Eventually I said why not, at least this way we can all help each other out with the homework. So, the first day of fall semester I meet everyone, and man did I think they were weird. But as the time went on I began seeing how individual and special each person was in the LLC. They were all from different walks of life: grew up in different states, worshipped different religions and loved different sports teams. In the end I was not at all upset about not getting more exposed to kids in my Mason Class of 2019. I had made a small, but tight knit group of friends, and that is priceless to me. And now five guys from the LLC and I are going to be living together again next year. I know at first the idea may sound silly, but I would highly recommend it, especially the Cornerstones LLC, you will meet some amazing people and maybe even learn a thing or two about yourself.

Self Growth Challenge

By Christina Jones

The LLC has been a very good learning experience for me personally. I was a little scared coming into it but Donovan really made me feel comfortable around my classmates. I was able to also learn a lot about myself that I never knew. For my self-growth, I wanted learn how to not always worry about other people and what they think. That was something that I never would have known was even an issue and something that could make me miserable later on in life but if I recognize the problem now and find ways to overcome it than I could actually be happy and worry about me sometimes and not others all of the time.

The different games and retreats we had were actually very fun because I had to learn how to deal with other people I didn’t want to deal with or talk to. My favorite thing we did was the scavenger hunt during the retreat because I had to work with my group to find a person and I got to see their thought process and they also got to see mine. Another thing we did that made me be able to see my classmates thought process was the boat race we did when we made boats and got to race them, that was the most fun thing I have done all year in that class because we were all able to work together and have fun at the same time. This class was able to give me a break from the first year college student problems and classes that were very stressful. I am very glad that I was able to be a part of this LLC program and I hope it continues on being such a great, inspirational, and fun class!

The Dilemma

By Rachel Haneline

I’ve been working with FACETS and Robinson Square for two years now. Most of the kids who come to Homework Help I have been working with for that amount of time, so I would say I know them well. A few of them in particular I share a special bond with. Two of “my” young girls screech and call out “Mommy!” every Wednesday when I walk into the tutoring room. Yes, you read that right—apparently I am their mother. They hold on to me, tug at me, read with me, play games with me, and love me. And I love them. If I even dare to miss a week (because it happens to be a school break or some other understandable reason), the next time I come for tutoring they rush up to me, wave their dainty finger in my face, and say “how could you leave us like that?!” While it was only one week, and surely they were just joking with me, the fear of being left is, I believe, very real for them. Volunteers come and go like the flip of a switch. Some of these children are extremely empathetic, and can fall in love with someone in an instant—and then that person leaves because they only needed a few hours of volunteer work for a class they’re taking. I, myself, am approaching the end of my time in the Leadership and Community Engagement LLC. Technically I have no obligation to work at Robinson Square anymore. But, how do I leave them? Every time I look into the big, sparkling, brown eyes of my precious girls, my heart clenches and I am torn. This is the dilemma that I face—that WE face. The day we walk into the lives of these children is the day we become challenged with the decision of whether or not to remain in their lives. My life is carrying on—I now have a job, will be a junior in the upcoming year, and may have numerous opportunities opened up to me. I can’t say for sure that I will have an ample amount of time available to dedicate to the center. But dangit…I love those kids. Just the thought of them makes my heart swell. I want to go to their violin recitals, their basketball games, their graduations…

My point is this: fully understand what you are committing to before you actually commit. If you are considering working with children, consider that at least one child may be drawn to you and attach themselves emotionally to you. While this is a beautiful and amazing thing, it may make it harder for you to leave, and will certainly make it harder for the child to let you go. You have to ask yourself whether or not your presence is truly going to do more good than harm. If you plan to work with them for the long haul, then all power to you! I commend you for your passion, devotion, and love. However, if you do not think that you can commit long term, I would humbly suggest doing a little soul searching. What are you truly passionate about? What kind of work could you commit yourself to that would feed that passion? Begin your research now to find the perfect fit for you, and avoid facing the dilemma.

“Freedom” Artist Book

Sarah Kladler

ON FREEDOM

By Mahmoud Al-Braikan

Translated from the Arabic by Haider al-Kabi and Rebecca Carol Johnson

You called on me to discover

another continent,

but denied me a map.

I’d rather sail in my little boat

so that if we should meet

it will be worth remembering.

 

You offered me a house

furnished and comfortable

in exchange for a song

that meets your demands.

I’d rather stay on my swift horse

and roam

from one gust of wind

to another.

 

You brought me a new face

beautiful, perfectly proportioned.

I thank you

but I’d rather not have a glass eye

or a plastic mouth.

I have no desire to rid my face of its difference,

nor do I care much for symmetry.

I thank you

but let that distinction remain.

At heart is the slave master not also a slave?

 

 

 

As a response to Al-Braikan’s poem “On Freedom” and the Al-Mutanabbi Starts Here exhibition, I created an artist book called Defining Freedom. The project began as an assignment in my Artist Book class, but transformed into a theme I carried with several of the books I made throughout the semester. “On Freedom” discusses the poet’s personal struggle with his oppressive government in Iraq, naming the broken promises and lack of personal choices in a society lacking what he considers freedom. The poem made me question my own definition of the term “freedom” and how western societies define it compared to people living in other societies, such as those in Iraq.

 

After completing the book, I came to the conclusion that freedom is to personal to be universalized. Even within individual countries and communities, freedom is perhaps a notion that can never be thoroughly understood. I was able to find six “western” definitions that matched important “Iraqi” ideas from the poem, but I was unable to come up with a final, universal definition for freedom (I was able to universally define some of the other words I worked with in other projects, such as “migration”).

 

Although I realized that I could not define freedom, the project serves a second, more important purpose: I wanted others to see it and be able to question something that as Americans, we often take for granted. I leave you with one question: we say we “let freedom ring”, but do we know its sound?

Competition

Blog PostBy Ryan Robinson

When most people hear this they think sports, challenges, excitement, and most likely a winner. When I took my StrengthsQuest several months ago I thought these exact things. I was confused, at first, about how this was a strength. I thought that it meant the enjoyment of winning and the never ending struggle of making yourself better compared to others. I read into the personalized reasons and discovered that I compare myself to others and strive to be better than them in the end. Whether it be a competition or a grade on an assignment. After reading this I discovered that I would look critically towards myself to the point that I felt insufficient in every way if I was not better than the next person at something they did best at. This has not stopped to this day, but I realize now it’s a problem.

Over the last couple of months, I have tried to further my understanding of how I could use this version of competition better. I came to the conclusion that I had to stop looking outward for comparisons. Instead I had to inward towards myself. Since changing my viewpoint my drive to succeed has increased, my self-confidence has drastically risen, and I am finally able to walk through campus and not feel that I am unworthy of being here.

Bettering myself in every aspect of life has been made less stressful. I have finally found some kind of peace knowing that I do not need to actively strive to be better than every person in every aspect of life, I only need to find ways to be better than myself.

3 Essential Effective Communication Tips for College Couples

Ian Habit

 

Being in a committed relationship at any time in your life is difficult yet rewarding. Being someone’s other half while being a student in college is a whole different animal. Classes, activities, opinions, and life itself take up so many hours of the day it sometimes feels like you never even see your significant other. But when you do, it is the best moment of your day. However, all of the the stress college students endure can definitely get in the way of how your and your partner speak and overcome obstacles within your relationship. Here are 3 Essential and Effective Tips for talking with your special someone:

 

  • Maintain an open line of communication

Nothing is worse than when you are afraid to say what you think about a problem between you and your sig-o. Air out your concerns with calm dialogue between you and your partner, with heavy emphasis on active listening from both parties. Hear out both sides of the story and remember to compromise! No open line of communication = not a happy girlfriend/boyfriend.

 

  • Don’t let your issues or arguments sit

Letting an argument fester until it eventually burst out into a full blown shouting match is something your partner or your neighbors don’t want to experience. If an issue arises, try to talk it our right then and there or very soon in the future. The sooner the conflict is resolved, the less likely it is to negatively effect your relationship. Most of the time it turns out to be an argument over something silly anyway!

 

  • Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable

Vulnerability and emotional expression is key to healthy communication for couples. This is especially true for most gentleman out there. Don’t be afraid to express your feelings and don’t keep them bottled up inside until you explode. Its okay to cry, it’s okay to be upset, it’s okay to be joyous, it’s okay to celebrate, and it’s most certainly okay to speak your mind. You are each others outlet for stress. Lean on one another!

 

Those are just some tips for talking out the big (and the small) stuff with your better half. Remember, just talk it out!

Not what I expected

By Jocelyn Martinez

Leadership and Community Engagement Living Learning Community, not what I expected. When first joining this LLC, I thought that I would purely be learning through the classroom and different class discussions. Although this was true, there is an aspect of knowledge I never thought I would have gained during my freshmen year here at George Mason. Not only did I learn from instructors and my classmates in a classroom setting but I also learned to grow as a person by living with these weird and amazing people. I am usually very much into giving back to my community but I do not think I have ever pushed myself completely out of my comfort zone until I started living in this LLC. I did not expect to join some of the organizations on campus but I am so thankful that I have the opportunity to reflect upon what I learned. I think we have the preconceived notion that a leader has to be outgoing and extroverted in order to make a difference but I actually discovered new ways of being a leader. From learning about different societal issues and advocates in class to hearing different perspectives from my floor mates; I got a good sense on how different we are but when going back to the root of it all, we all want to make some form of difference in the world. Not all of us will be loud, quiet, involved in millions of things, involved in two things, or do the same exact things but we all have a drive in life. Being a part of this community has taught be to be more accepting and to not always have to be heavily involved in several things in order to be a leader.

I didn’t like the outdoors…

By Caroline Kittle, Alternative Break Florida Participant

A year ago, I didn’t like the outdoors. I didn’t like tall grass or being hot or even the threat of a buzz going past my ear. Don’t get me wrong, I readily called myself an environmentalist, I just… didn’t like the outdoors.

Since last spring, that had slowly changed; I embraced the Environmental Science student within and had long since stopped flinching every time I heard a pollinator whip past. But beyond being an avid gardener and having camped one time in middle school, I couldn’t really peg myself as an outdoor lover.

Somehow, my heart still called me to Alternative Break and spending a Spring Break away in Martin County, Florida. Imagine: fifteen of us, camping and busting a sweat daily together with some real conservation work… not exactly what college students typically do on Spring Break in Florida. And bust a sweat we did.

We built an oyster reef on the Indian River Lagoon, the most biologically diverse estuary in North America. The lagoon has been struck, as of late, by pollution, algal blooms, and some of the worst fish kills in memorable history. So, we lugged bags of shells upon shells onto the shore and into the water for perfect placement of a constructed reef meant to help mitigate the problems the lagoon is currently suffering from and revive oyster populations.

We teamed up with Boston University’s Alternative Break for an invasive species removal. Led far off-trail with the company of two fearless dogs and various professionals, we found ourselves in a backwoods grove of Strawberry Guava, an extremely prolific species from Brazil that pushes native plants out as it spread like wildfire. Armed with industrial clippers, saws, and a whole lot of heart, our groups spent the morning clearing the hardy plants together. And when we had the option to quit after lunch or go back in? We went back in.

After a day off exploring secret beaches, our group was split between building a footbridge, which about every year had contributed to, and planting at a park site meant to be restored. When both projects were completed, our incredible community partner, Mike, had arranged a round-robin with environmental experts. We scoped gopher tortoise burrows, delineated wetlands, and learned about the benefits and processes of performing controlled burns on an area.

And on our last day, we returned to the site of our first project, able to feel a sense of coming full circle in our trip. Despite the devastation the lagoon is currently experiencing, we were able to take a few seconds to quietly witness a large pod of river dolphins just off shore. This sense of calm served as the perfect treat to kick off seven hours spent hauling and planting nearly 700 plants just a few feet away from the beautiful mangroves we had waded among days earlier.

“This changed my life” was the most repeated phrase I used during my alternative break. At one point, someone on my trip commented that I was probably using the phrase too much, but I couldn’t help it; to think that I had been afraid of the outdoors just a year earlier, but was now fearlessly climbing through razor palms or willingly holding a snake. Impossible. Life changing.

Because of Alternative Break, I feel like a new person. Case in point: I’m no longer an Environmental Science major. I have started the process of changing to Applied Global Conservation because my trip helped me learn that I take in a lot more knowledge in the field than I do trying to memorize classroom facts to spill on a testing page. I never would have learned this about myself without seven days spent cultivating a long-lost love for the outdoors. And I never would have had the courage to switch without the life changing experiences I shared with fourteen other incredible people (who deserve so much of the credit for how much my life changed).

Warning: Alternative Break will change your life, and your first most definitely will not be your last.

P4

By Savannnah Campbell

Growing up in a small town, making friends was never something I struggled with. I had gone to school with the same group of kids since either kindergarten or middle school, and I knew everyone in my graduating class by name. When you’ve been with the same people for that long, friendships just naturally form. This is why the idea of college terrified. Coming here, I was a complete stranger, as was everyone else. I had no shared memories with anyone here; these people didn’t know my sense of humor or my quirks, they only knew my name and that I have a funny Southern accent. I had almost no idea how to make friendships that would last from scratch, but I knew I had to do it. My first semester at Mason, I lived in a single in Taylor Hall. As much as I love having my own space, that room put me at a disadvantage. I didn’t have a roommate to stick with in the beginning, no one person I could stick with until we both made more friends. As nice as the people on that floor were, they all began to form their own cliques and I never felt like I really fit in with any of them. I became friends with several really awesome people on that floor, but none of those friendships felt anything like the ones I had with people back home. I did make friendships that felt similar to those, but they weren’t at Taylor Hall. Thanks to having a boyfriend who lives on Piedmont 4th, I spent a lot of time here first semester. This was my favorite place to be because I felt so comfortable here. I loved seeing how close the floor was, and I loved the moments when I was invited to a part of it. Those moments made me realize how much fun college can be. Late night runs to Pilot House, sitting in the hallway and talking for hours, trying to fit what seemed liked half the floor into one suite to take a selfie. All of these memories gave me hope that these friendships were the ones I had been wanting to make. When I got permission to move to the floor for the spring semester, I was so excited. I wasn’t just going to be occasional part of these moments anymore, I was going to get to experience all of them. Since moving to P4, I still have just as much excitement about being here. This LLC has completely changed my college experience. Because of it, I get to spend time volunteering with lots of awesome kids. I’ve made some amazing friendships that I hope to always keep. I have three suitemates who constantly keep me laughing and have really made me feel welcome to the floor, plus they’re always down to get food which is definitely a trait that I share. I’ve also finally found a place on campus that feels like home, and that’s how I know moving here was the right decision. Being closer to a Starbucks doesn’t hurt either. Joining this LLC has made my college experience so much better, and I can’t wait to continue being a part of it.

The Blessing in Disguise

By Kevin Fribley

Type 1 Diabetes is a blessing in disguise. When I was diagnosed in the spring of 2011, everything was a blur. I had no idea what the next steps were, how my life was going to change, and if I could live with this chronic disease. College is not much different from being diagnosed with Diabetes. You have to be overly prepared for every situation that comes at you and they both are life-changing events for the better or worse. Diabetes has been my life for five years now, so I understand how to live with the disease, but living with it in college is a whole new challenge. I said Type 1 Diabetes is a blessing in disguise. This is unequivocally true; it could not have been truer during my freshman year at George Mason University. Stress and Diabetes go hand in hand and the most stressful thing in college was obtaining and storing my supplies in my dorm room. I had to visit my doctor countless times. I had to take trips to the military base for my insulin and other supplies. I had to endure the slow bureaucratic system of America once again. But after the phone calls and hospital visits, the actually transportation of my supplies to the dorm was smooth and simple. My organized diabetic mind took over and those years of moving from country to country paid off. I decked my room with alcohol swabs. I had insulin readily packed in my mini fridge. Everything was in order. Then college began.

Food can be a menacing foe with the college diabetic and the buffet style of the dining halls at campus did not help. I had to understand my limitations and take measures to eat healthy. While carb counting never was an issue at home or at restaurants, it was difficult to accurately carb count at the dining hall. I would not know what kind of sauces the dishes had or how much bread was in a particular dish. A lot of it was just a guess. I had some really low days and some high days, but overall I feel like in my particular situation, a college freshman whose family is across the Atlantic Ocean, I had control of my Diabetes. I had no control on what other people reacted when I told them about my disease. They would ask me if “it was the fat one?” or “can you eat this?” I wanted to result with the sarcastic answer, but instead I tried to educate them. My living learning community (LLC) class helped me communicate about my disease with more ease. College is a tough time of various social interactions, and to make it better you have a chronic disease to think about. Even if my friends do not understand certain aspects of my disease, they do look after me. When I am sick or aggravated with Diabetes, they make my college experience more enjoyable and less stressful.

In my LLC class we had to take the Gallup Strengths Finder Test. My top five were in order “competition, command, strategic, achiever, and learner.” The one strength I am drawn to is competition. I am an extremely competitive person. In sports, in the classroom, or in any activity against my two brothers, I always strive to win. My biggest competitor is myself. When I succeed, I strive to get better. I have competed for the past five years against this disease and I have succeeded many times. I have played soccer, basketball, volleyball, and handball in college. I volunteered at a JDRF Gala in DC. I excelled in all my classes. I have put myself out there. But the competition is not over. I am not even close to the finish line. Diabetes will always be there and I look forward to waking up the next day to experience it for another 24 hours. Diabetes is a blessing in disguise because it has pushed me to believe that anything is possible. It has pushed me to my physical and emotional brink. It is a challenge, a challenge I am willing to take and win.

 

Challenging

By Molly Kluck

This school year has been… Challenging. To start with, it’s my freshmen year, I’ve moved out of my parents house (and might move back), I’ve had to get along with a whole new group of diverse people, I’ve had my ideas challenged and my starting ideologies changed. Even now as I write this, I’m grappling with attempting to balance out the line between beliefs and right action. When, regarding climate change, is it necessary for the government to step in and make changes? This is necessarily a problem for a more libertarian oriented person that doesn’t deny climate change. Thanks, NCLC 103… But that’s not what I’m here to discuss. I’m here to discuss what a benefit being in an LLC has been, especially the Cornerstones LLC. And no, I’m not saying it’s been a piece of cake. It certainly hasn’t.

Sometimes it can be really rough to live with people you get to know well in a short period of time because you always miss something essential about them that you wouldn’t in a normal “getting to know you” period. Usually that something is what prevents problems further on. However, that’s part of what I appreciated about my year here so far. A lot of the struggles of getting on with a really diverse, intelligent, and opinionated group of people, plus the regular first year student college struggles have helped me flesh out who I am.

My Growth Challenge this year was well-being, but what I think I was trying to get at was self-connectedness. And inadvertently over a slowly evolving process, I found myself. And a large part of this was due to the struggle bus that is and was my freshmen year. Learning where I could compromise and couldn’t. Learning about the type of people who empower me as opposed to drag me down. Getting familiar with different way of thinking and engaging in open thought with those who live with me. Yes, it was hard. Yes, I almost broke a couple times. But ultimately, I wouldn’t go back and change anything. I wouldn’t choose not to live in this temporary home I’ve been enveloped in. I’m eternally grateful to the the Cornerstone’s LLC, and the teachers, RAs, and friends who have put their love and support into the community. Thank you for connecting me with myself, and more importantly, being comfortable with myself.

Juvenile Diabetes Research Fund Summit

By William Jennette

My name is William Jennette, and I am the founder of College Diabetes Network (CDN) at George Mason University in Fairfax, VA. I am a Conflict Analysis and Resolution Major with a minor in Russian. Recently, the George Mason University (GMU) Chapter of CDN volunteered at the JDRF Type One Nation Research summit in Bethesda, Maryland. This is an annual event at which presenters and researchers share with the T1D (type one diabetes) community the research that they have been working on, and the technological advances that will make managing diabetes easier until a cure is found. The event also has many vendor tables; occupied by pump companies, summer camps for T1D’s, and many more resources for type 1’s and their families.
The CDN Chapter from GMU was invited to have a table at his event. Six T1D students from GMU attended the event and were able to talk to middle and high school students, and their parents, about CDN and navigating college with diabetes. My fellow classmates and myself handed out brochures to families regarding the extensive resources from CDN, including preparing to leave for college and handling teenage life with diabetes. It was such a rewarding experience to be able to speak to and empower the young T1D students who were worried about college, and to inspire their parents by being examples of college students thriving with diabetes. We answered questions all throughout the morning from parents with children ages 3-18, who had varying concerns about not only college, but also growing up with diabetes as a teenager.

One moment that really stuck out to me was a mother who came to our table with a three year old. Her child was diagnosed two months prior to the conference, and she was just getting used to the idea of type one diabetes and what that meant for their family and their future. We spoke to her, and one of the GMU students gave her their contact information for questions and as a potential babysitter. The mother had come to our table hoping to speak to people that lived nearby and could tell her everything would be okay, and that is exactly what we did. In the end, we gave her a big hug and wished her luck, and more than one of us were crying with her.

Shortly after that, we were the leaders of a panel presentation to the Teen Track for Young Adults, ages 13-18. There were approximately 40 teenagers there, and most had type one diabetes. The panel consisted of the GMU students and a few students from University of Maryland. It was a great discussion: we talked to them about what to carry with you for management, who in a college setting must know about your diabetes, how to navigate dining hall food, and many other topics that they found interesting or that they were concerned about. We also created a policy in which they could ask us any question and we would answer it—including one-on-one. We briefly touched on the effects of alcohol on blood sugar and stressed the importance of having a dialogue with your doctor about alcohol consumption prior to going to college.

The most common questions that we got in private talks with the teens were related to alcohol consumption and partying in a college setting. Most of the perspectives were nervous, as if they felt they were going to be required to party when they arrived at college and weren’t going to know what to do in that environment. We worked our hardest to encourage them to bring their concerns with them to their endocrinologist during their next appointment. We strongly emphasized that there is some pressure to drink in college, but that refusing to do so is entirely within your rights. We also discussed what degree of openness we had as individuals with disclosing our diabetes to the community around us—some of us were very open about it while some others kept it mostly to themselves. We put great emphasis on the importance of friends knowing about T1D, and how to help and recognize if there was an emergency. Friends are a super important resource and help to navigating college with or without diabetes; however, good friends can make this major transition with T1D easier.

The teenagers really learned a lot from us, and we learned a lot from them! The mutual exchange of information that a panel allowed was fantastic, and provided the teenagers with information that would be useful to them in the near future. The effect of having this information presented by their peers as opposed to parents or adults was visible—they all listened intently, fascinated by our stories of college and by our information for them.

The summit was a great experience for each of the GMU CDN chapter members in attendance—we all learned a lot about the research regarding T1D and we got to help other people learn about the transition to college while living with T1D. But most of all, we got to empower young students to take the brave step of going off to college with T1D and not allowing it to dictate their future.

 

Cornerstones LLC

By Jack Katz

Throughout this year, I have come to the conclusion that being part of the LLC was a very good choice I made when I signed up to come to George Mason. Originally, I wasn’t sure if it would work out, as I never have been much of a fan of change, and this would certainly change things. However, I decided to give it a shot and I’m happy to say I made the right choice. The community we have is tight knit and we help each other often, and I’ve made quite a few friends out of it.

I hope to try and stay in contact with them, because, if I have learned anything this year, it’s that time flies, and time at college is a rocket. I’ve enjoyed the time I’ve had with my friends, especially the trip to the Newseum, as that showed us how much we have in common when it comes to how much the media impacts us. I also enjoyed the time we went to the botanical gardens and art museum, as that made us work together to try and solve an assignment, making us realize we work better in a group than just by ourselves.

Project Peak

By Mack Heaslip

This Summer the week before school started I participated in the Project Peak program. It is a orientation extension program and was just for incoming freshman. It allowed for friendships and connections to be made for the upcoming freshman year at George Mason University.
We got there and separated into our own groups and were given a color. My group was the orange group, so I was given a matching t-shirt and was able to meet the leaders of my group. I then met more of my group members as more people arrived. The first person I met is still one of my good friends, which worked out very nicely. We then ate and headed off to our first activity.

The first activity was team building and we went to West campus for this.We participated in events of different sorts and a rope course to help us trust and feel comfortable around each other. After this, we met with every group and were told the rules of Project Peak and where we would be camping.

We got to the spots to camp and pitched our tents and then ate. Over the next few days, we hiked Old Rag Mountain, rock climbed, and white water kayaked. All of these were very enjoyable and challenging. I am a big fan of kayaking, so I enjoyed the white water kayaking the most. I have also never done that before and it took a different type of kayak that I have never used.

One time we had to go by our own food for all the meals the next day and my group was very thrifty and saved almost two hundred dollars. Every night we would grow closer as a group by playing various card games and just discussing our lives. By the time project peak was over, it was very hard to leave the group that I had gotten to know so well, but I had freshman year to look forward to and I would see them around campus sometimes also. All in all it was a great experience.

LLC Breakfast

By Elizabeth Nolan

            This semester I had been informed with great news. The LLC’s would be treating a small group of people to monthly breakfast’s. Being a food lover and hating the school dining hall I thought this would be a great chance for some quality food. Little did I know it would be so much more.

            I have been in the Leadership and Community Engagement LLC for two years now and have loved every second. It was a shoulder to lean on when I was homesick freshman year. It has introduced me to my favorite people at George Mason and has given me a second family. Although Piedmont 4th is so close knit, I’ve haven’t’ had too many interacts with other LLC’s. When the opportunity came up to mingle with these other students I jumped at the chance.

So far I have attended two breakfasts and have met so many new people. Everyone is so welcoming and friendly with one another, which is shocking since its usually 7 in the morning. We typically end up in heated debates either about politics or Mason. I’ve had the pleasure of talking to Jana and various others who make everything possible for the LLC’s. I am truly grateful for all their hard work. I don’t know how I would have made it through college without the Leadership and Community Engagement LLC. The plethora of conversions we’ve had at breakfast have really opened my eyes to other issues in the world. I look forward to more breakfasts, more discussion, and meeting all these new wonderful people.

Photo taken by Mason Living Learning Communities Office

Spread My Wings and Fly Away

By Ben Olsen

Ben Olsen

Back in October, I accomplished something that most people would say “You’re either really crazy or insanely stupid”, including myself. What I am referring to is that I went skydiving with a few friends from my LLC. I was convinced by one of my friends to do when I saw them all in the common room the dorm registering for our trip. At that point, I was hesitant, knowing how risky and dangerous skydiving can be. Yet, it took a simple “Come on Ben, you should do it” to change my mind.

On that day, as we were driving over to the site, we were all in some way very intimidated by what we were about to do. I remember when we were given the waivers to sign, I was thinking to myself “well I’m pretty sure my parents won’t be pleased if I don’t make it out alive”. Then, fast forward to when we’re in the small plane going up, I’m at the front, the first to go and I’m my stomach is climbing up to my throat as I see the world get smaller. Then, when we’re high enough, my instructor opens the door and gets me in position. I close my eyes for a brief second as I exit the plane. Once I upon them and see the beautiful world around me, all my fear disintegrates into a huge rush, which causes me to scream with joy as I am free falling back down to Earth. Once I land (with my parachute open of course) I feel a sense of accomplishment and a new sense of pride for myself.

Ben

This whole experience was such an accomplishment not just because of the fact that I survived such a dangerous feet and the fact that I now have eternal bragging rights, but this experience taught me so much about myself and the meaning of life. I learned that not only can I can be considered a daredevil and a thrill seeker, but that I am always willing to try new things. This experience has taught me that I have a hunger for adventure and that I make myself happier knowing that I am being active in the world that I was placed in. As I reflect on this experience, I’ve realized how much in my life I have already accomplished and how much I have grown as a person.

What this experience has taught me is that life is full of opportunities for great things and it is up to us to pursue those opportunities. I have learned that in order to find true happiness in life, we must break the chains that shackle us and do what we want to do while not anyone’s opinion getting in the way. This is my lesson on the meaning of life, as illustrated by this photo (photo editing and meme credit goes to Jackie Reed):

Ben2

Overall, this was such an amazing experience for me because of the experience itself and because of how this taught me about my self-growth, as well as a very valuable life lesson. I am looking forward to what else life decides to throw at me and what else life is trying to teach me about myself and the world around me. And of course, the title of this blog refers to a line in the song “I Believe I Can Fly” by R. Kelly.

A Magical Trip: El Salvador

One week isn’t enough. That’s what I thought when I heard about Alternative Break, which is offered through the SAIL office, where students go on a service trip to work with a community for a week. At first, I heard about Alternative Break, and thought, yeah, that’s great…but one week is a ridiculously short time to learn anything. Yet my friends convinced me, where I applied, and got in. And decided to go.

Not knowing what I had signed up for, our El Salvadorian group as whole, through our meetings before the trip, decided to set a rule: to have no expectations. I think our only expectation was that we would learn something. Within our gatherings before the trip, our group leaders worked effortlessly, where we learnt about the history of El Salvador, bonded with one another, and of course, chose what we wanted to focus on. As a group, it was decided that we would go to El Salvador to learn about women’s rights.

The redundant saying, ‘words can’t describe’ applies to our time in El Salvador. Hence, I’ll give you a short run down of what we did. In fact, we didn’t do anything, we listened to the community. And if anyone knows, listening is an invaluable skill.

We went to a protest for women’s rights, which included the LGBT (they don’t use the “Q”) community. We spoke with the abuelas, who taught us that their rights do matter, even though the Salvadorian government wanted the indigenous community slaughtered. We heard from sex workers, who want equal rights. We heard from youth who aren’t influenced by the gangs. Rather, they’re influenced by the hope they have for their country, where they’re creating positive outlets for their community. By meeting these changemakers, they gave me that extra ‘kick’ to follow my passions, and I’m honored to have met them.

While my words may not resonate to how amazing the experience was, we were meeting with people every minute of the day it seemed like, and at the end of the day, we had reflection with our group. In addition, we met awesome people; Rachel (partner leading us in El Salvador), Mariellos (interpreter), Katy Perry (student who will intern with Foundation Cristosal in summer), and Miguel (student who will intern with Foundation Cristosal in summer). That’s right, we met Katy Perry. She’s kinda cool.

Simply put, our ‘vibes’ with the group were magical, and having Rachel and Mariellos was the cherry on the top. Rachel said, when you do stuff like this, it just makes a better version of yourself. Not different, but you become more full.

For someone who didn’t want to go to El Salvador, I was 100% proven wrong. Like other Alternative Break trips, we come away invigorated to make social change possible—because it is. Change is the hardest thing, but when you know other people want to create it, you reach another level, which you couldn’t have before. Tabatha, one of the trip leaders, highlighted how solidarity was a cornerstone she noticed in El Salvador. I too, agree. When people come together, things happen. The Beatles were right.

Blogger: Leah Chatterji