Category Archives: Leadership and Community Engagement LLC

Lego land

By Bridget Anim

kid you not! There was a person who had no heart or soul

Bitter, heartless, despicable much like a troll

Your money, possessions this person would take and make you lack

Strip all your clothes right off your back

I’m serious, this person had no limits, that I can bet

Anyone come up with a name yet?

It’s cool, let’s see if this definition is revealing

Cause this person is quite cunning and a bit concealing

The state of being inferior in quality or insufficient  in amount

The state of being poor

That’s the topic of interest POVERTY enough has been said.

Ever had that moment, where you have a vision that no one else sees? You just Want to change the world, make it a better place?

Improve it and make it worth the living space?

Especially when this happens in the shower and makes you feel like you’re on a mission

Well, when you step out of the shower, leave behind that vision and sudden empowerment. You left all the knowledge and power in the shower.

Kind of like playing a game of bingo, you get a bingo and don’t shout it out

At the end of the game, you claim to have had a bingo. Who’s not going to look at you without doubt?

They’ll probably be like: you mean to say you had a bingo this whole entire time, sat there and let it remain in your head? Didn’t act upon it, nothing was said.

How can poverty be used to facilitate social change?

And not make a persistent person who’s compassionate about social change look deranged?

person thinking that they’re better than everyone else full of arrogance & pride

Then they act all oblivious, lies! They’re way on the negativity side

Poverty can facilitate social change, by establishing that materialistic objects, will never define you.

Each person is unique, wouldn’t you say so? I think it’s true.

still need to expand upon my answer, hang in there, I’m approaching a finish

Hopefully everything being said sticks with you and doesn’t diminish

Children, don’t see color, aren’t filled with negativity, innocent beings who are  phenomenally pure

The Kingdom of Heaven belong to them, Christ confirmed it, that I am sure

Saw a couple of children playing with legos and these two boys lacked a few legos, they didn’t have enough

Their incomplete lego building looked rough

The other kids didn’t quite notice in the beginning, but realized later on and shared their legos without a fight

It was such a wonderful sight

It wasn’t long until the two boys who lacked legos, build a lovely castle

The other kids quickly noticed the castle and wanted to play with it a bit of a hassle

All is being said is that poverty can facilitate social change if each person willingly

Acts like the other kids with the legos, ignoring financial situations fulfillingly

It only takes one person to stand against maltreatment

Then when forces are joined to produce a solution, there is little lament

Now, what the lego may mean to me may be different to you

But whatever the case may be, it is still a step to making a change too!


CPAC Reflection

By Theo Meale

The Deputy editorial page editor of the Washington Post and of my favorite journalists, Ruth Marcus, wrote a column this past Tuesday that has been on my mind over the course of the past three days. As a 59 year old self professed liberal, she briefly described her days as a young reporter who witnessed the events of the Reagan administration and was unhappy with his “undermining of the Civil Rights Division” of the Justice Department. Nonetheless, after visiting the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California, she felt what she calls “Reagan nostalgia” after being reminded of how Reagan appointed the first female Supreme Court justice, respected the media, apologized for his misdeeds in the Iran-contra affair, welcomed refugees, and spoke with a “Morning in America” tone. In spite of having an apparently more positive view of Reagan’s policies and presidency than Ruth Marcus, I generally agree with her political views and almost always empathize with her feelings of nostalgia under President Trump.

But as I sat in the front of the Conservative Political Action Conference at the Gaylord Resort in Maryland, known as CPAC with a fantastic group of students from the floor, I heard a another thought provoking comment in a speech given by Laura Ingraham, a Fox News Channel contributor and conservative radio host. Ingraham spoke about a long list of complaints that the media made about Reagan that sounded similar to the frequent comments that Trump’s critics make about him; that Trump is “evasive”, and has aides who “frequently contradict each other” and who “shield” him from news conferences. She then talked about how critics of Trump are nostalgic to the days of Reagan, and predicted that in decades ahead, Trump’s critics would be nostalgic to his administration other under Republican presidents, for reasons including Trump inviting Democrats to the White House. Although all other attendees from my LLC agreed with Laura Ingraham, I disagreed with entirely as young people by vast margins dislike Trump intensely, and I believe that for the Republican party to survive they will have to appeal to a younger generation of voters, who will not vote for Trump or anyone with a similar ideology.

After Laura Ingraham spoke, the entire room, including myself, stood up, clapped, and erupted in awe as the 45th President Of The United States walked into the room. Like members of Congress during the State Of The Union, the group of us on the floor would stand up and clap when the president said something we approved of and sit down silently and politely when he said things we disapproved of. While I didn’t find the frequency of any particular group member’s clapping surprising, the frequency with which everyone did clap certainly matched everyone’s idea of each other’s ideology and political views: Trai and David as self-described conservatives and Trump supporters clapped at most of Trump’s statements, Jacob and Andrew as self-described “liberals” seldom clapped, and I as a self described “institutionalist” (which leads to having views all over the political spectrum) clapped occasionally at Trump’s statements about supporting background checks for gun purchases, border security, and newly announced sanctions on North Korea. Having said that, in spite of the points of agreement I had with Trump’s speech, his decision to (truthfully) tell the audience he was going to go off script for “fun” and attack the news media, speak in awkward fragments, boast about the swing states he won in 2016, and read a poem called “The Snake” to compare letting immigrants and refugees into the United States to letting a poisonous snake into a house all reminded me many of the reasons why I have always disliked Trump to begin with.

After walking out of the conference room after Trump’s roughly 75 minute long speech, I chatted with the other LLC members who came to CPAC about the speech. It was agreed unanimously that we had all experienced Trump’s incoherent and aggressive nature to the fullest. Where our views of the speech varied was the extent to which we agreed with its content, which was already reflected in how much we had clapped during the speech. After David asked me if my points of agreement with Trump could change my view of him, I said no and told him why. Regardless of how much I may agree with Trump, and regardless of whether Bob Mueller vindicates him entirely in his alleged crimes, there is no circumstance in which I can overlook Trump’s behavior towards Russia in firing an FBI Director because he didn’t like “this Russia thing” as he described it, rejecting the intelligence community’s report that Russia interfered with our elections, sharing classified information about Israel with the Russians, praising Putin, and refusing to put sanctions on Russia for interfering in our elections.This was of conversation today as Trai and David politely told me that while Russia’s behavior towards the United States is bad, that the United States has also interfered with elections and supported autocracies and even does so to this day. I acknowledge that the United States has interfered with elections in Latin America and the Middle East and even forms alliances with brutal governments in those regions today, but I also would emphasize that the United States, while not perfect, has a much better human rights record than Russia or China, and unlike in developing countries, our people generally do value democracy and accept a “social contract” as Jean Jacques Rousseau put it.


But unlike other instances since November of 2016 when I have gone to political events whose speakers I didn’t agree with, including Trump’s inauguration, I didn’t leave CPAC and Trump’s speech feeling angry at all. Instead, I felt that I learned to better understand the views of 25-35% of the country. Since I have arrived at GMU and taken government and intelligence courses, I have developed an agenda towards working in national security for the good of the United States. While in a polarized country that can has different meanings to different people, for me that keeping America safe means defending all of our people and the values “against all enemies, foreign and domestic” as said in the Oath of Enlistment. That includes my friends and family, city and people who share similar values to me like Ruth Marcus, but also those who have a very different agenda for this country, whether it be on my floor in foreign policy discussions or even the people at CPAC who attack the very institutions that I support and want to be a part of. I have to work to keep all of those people happy and safe too because, as Marco Rubio said in the 2016 campaign, “an American president (or any leader or bureaucrat as I would be) has to love all of the American people. Even the ones that don’t love you back.” That is what I intend to do and going to CPAC has helped me come closer to being the leader who lives by that standard that I want to have for myself in national security.

Always Make your Bed…

“How many of you make your bed every day? I make my bed every day. I recently heard Admiral McRaven’s commencement speech for the University of Texas, that shared that you should always make your bed. That way, if you have a bad day you can at least say, I made my bed today. I did something.” Trai G., sophomore Government and International Politics major shared his advice for self-care.

Trai and several other student leaders, took time out of their busy schedules to come and sit on a panel hosted by Noah S, senior here at Mason and the Service Coordinator for the Leadership and Community Engagement Living Learning Community (LLC). With a focus on self-care, challenges and resiliency, balancing expectations from both themselves and others, and discovering their passions. The panel spoke to members of the LLC and shared their wisdom, advice and lessons learned.

It can be challenging to be a student leader, to balance a full schedule, to focus on academics, struggle with finances all while maintaining a healthy social life. These students spoke to these challenges and as they reflect back on their Mason experience, shared their truth and their stories.

Rolando F, senior Global Affairs major shared, “that you always want to say yes. That he and other student leaders feel they need to say yes when they are given opportunities or experiences.” He shared, “At the end of the day, I’m here to get an education, and I’m here for the future. We need to ask ourselves the question of what do we want to accomplish?”

When asked how someone would go about finding their passion, Mandeep K, senior Business major shared that “sometimes you just need to tune out other people’s voices and just listen to yourself.” That there are many folks who will tell you what you should do and what you should care about, but that it is important to figure out what this means for ourselves.

Jocelyn M, junior Criminology major shared that deciding what to get involved in and what is important to you is a process. “It’s a process and this is a time to test the waters.” She went on to share that its important to remember that its also ok to be a potato. That its ok to relax and just detox and take some time for yourself.

In a very honest and thoughtful moment senior Biology major Mario M, shared about overcoming challenges and learning to deal with failure or disappointment. He shared it is important to “fail forward.” To take something from the challenges that we experience and to use it to change things in our futures.

As these students listed off their many accomplishments, programs and passions, it was clear to see their tremendous drive, their depth of compassion and their incredible resiliency. They shared many words of wisdom with such care and thoughtfulness, hoping to encourage others to find their voice and strengths. As the LLC Coordinator, I’ve been able to see these students push themselves and grow with such courage and tenacity. It is such a privilege to see students through their four years and to be able to watch them grow in confidence, to own their leadership skills and to serve as an inspiration for others.

By Patty Mathison


Leadership and Community Engagement LLC Retreat

By Patty Mathison

On the weekend of September 9th, the 42 members of the Leadership and Community Engagement Living Learning Community  trekked out to Camp Horizons in Harrisonburg for their annual retreat. Many thanks to the Living Learning Community Office and GMU Housing and Residence Life for sponsoring our retreat!

Students shopped and cooked their own meals based on what was formerly given for food stamp recipients ($1 for breakfast, $2 for lunch, $3 for dinner per person). We participated in a high ropes course led by the Camp Horizons staff.

We participated in activities such as Archie Bunkers Neighborhood and Common Ground. Our mentors in our Buddy Program were revealed. And we spent quality time together away from the stresses and busy-ness of the campus, getting to know each other and practicing vulnerability. There is something magical that happens when you bring a group out into the woods and this year was no exception. From screaming our lungs out on the ropes course (ok, that was just me) to laughs and chats around the fire roasted s’mores, to birdie on a perch, we shared many laughs, tears and pushed ourselves out of our comfort zone!

It was a fantastic experience and one that I look forward to each year. I am grateful for the kindness, for the incredible energy and for the wisdom each participant brings to this retreat. We have a wonderful group of students this year and I am excited for what is in store.

The Wrong Side of Heaven

By Trai Gozzi

While there are many thankless jobs an American can undertake, one of the most thankless jobs is serving our country in the world’s finest military. We as Americans often take many things for granted, such as having the freedom to pursue our dreams because our rights and freedom have always been protected by a select few who serve our country.

For the past 15 years, the United States has been at war and we as Americans have asked the men and women to fight to keep our country safe. In recent years, America has forgotten that there has been sustained engagement in warzones such as Afghanistan and we have also forgotten the silent struggles our veterans face, as they leave the military and face the struggle of readjusting to civilian life. This music video raises awareness to the American public that veterans are struggling with Post Traumatic Stress and homelessness.

What I hope this music video does for those who watch it is to realize that men and women are still fighting in wars across the world. We as Americans have the responsibility to take care of the warfighters and their families who sacrifice years of their life for selfless service to our country to ensure our safety and make sure when veterans need help, we help them.

Color Me Purple

By: Anasia Napper

I started writing this once, but I had too many thoughts and too many words, and I did not want to be up here speaking for too long, so I’m going to tell you what I find funny.

Black women have been victims for centuries.

They have been assaulted, raped, murdered, kidnapped, verbally abused, hated, and mocked by people we now have to call enemies.

Some of these problems aren’t problems exclusive to black women,

but no one seems to wanna talk about issues if they don’t affect them.

I read The Color Purple a year ago, and if you haven’t read it, I’ll give you a little synopsis.

Celie is a 14-year-old girl who writes letter to God about her father who rapes and abuses her, but adores her sis.

Then, she writes about her older husband who does the same shit.

I still haven’t told you what’s funny.

This story took place in the 1920s, and here it is almost 100 years later,

And black girls and women are still going through this.

Did you know more than half of black women have been sexually assaulted?

Did you know that black women make up 8% of the overall population,

but 22% of domestic violence homicides in the nation?

Some people will say that “They can always leave.”

The funny thing is, black women make less money than black men and white men and women, leaving them financially dependent on their abusers.

What’s that saying? Something like “Low-income women can’t be choosers?”

“Femicide” is the killing of females by males solely due to their gender.

Husbands and boyfriends are almost always the offenders.

The funny thing is, 93% of these homicides are intra-racial,

Meaning the killers are black men.

As a girl who loves black men, admitting that black men don’t always love us is painful.

Black men get away with too much because black women have to choose between their racial groups and gender groups.

Most of the time, their racial group is chosen.

And that is devotion.

The funny thing is, I can’t entirely blame black men.

They are also victims of oppression.

What may be important in understanding this

is to understand PTSS

Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome

Black folks have been a little messed up since they took us from home.

During slavery, Willie Lynch said black men were like wild horses—they had to be broken.

So black men went through a brutal process of emasculation.

Today, some of these black men do things because of this mentality,

But let’s get back to reality,

We gotta figure out what we are going to do now

We gotta figure out when we gone do it and how

We can start by addressing our mental health and well-being.

The funny thing is, the saying about “a strong, black woman” is doing more harm than good

Black women don’t seek counseling, but if we got rid of this saying, maybe they would.

Black men don’t want to go either because they are told to man up.

Then, we act surprised when their emotions build up and they erupt.

Violence against women is an issue, but black women are victims whose stories aren’t even written.

They’re hidden.

If anyone asks what I spoke about today, you don’t have to tell them the first thing I said or even the latter.

Just tell them what needs to be said and proven on the daily, #BlackWomenMatter

Waking an Active Citizen

By: Mousa Abusaif

I spent a great deal of effort, at some point in time, trying to decide which I preferred watching: the sunrise, or sunset. I was as familiar with both as any young person in the States probably is today: A handful of sunrises to a wealth of sunsets. It takes a specific calling, or some other odd reason, to wake a young adult up, when the air is still chilled and the morning dew settles heavily on sharp and glistening blades of grass. In the event of this weekend past, that drive just happened to manifest in the form of an annual conference: in which the Leadership and Community Engagement LLC, paired with the Social Action and Integrative Learning NCC, has traditionally spearheaded Mason’s presence. Nonetheless, entirely voluntary and with no other incentive but to learn and contribute, we packed a van full of eager students, at the break of dawn I add, for the three plus hour drive to Williamsburg Virginia; and the following is what we discovered.

From across the Commonwealth hundreds of likeminded students forfeited their Saturdays to converge on a venue of education; seeking to alleviate some of that responsibility, and acquire new skill-sets to change their, and the greater world. I believe there has never been a more difficult time than in this modern era, in which we are all endowed with a certain responsibility and capability, to remedy the paradigmatic dilemmas of this great human race. From prison reform, to grassroots funding, to my lecture on the divisiveness and polarization of today’s socio-political spectrum; in these few hours there was an ostentatious deal to be revealed. We imposed our perspectives, principles, and mutual knowledge in interactive forums of learning. But more than that, we grew together: in navigating the hiking trails of that historic town, the halls of those hallowed buildings, the spirits and desires of those advantageous students. From sunrise to sunset we were together, and to expound no further: not having to decide between the two beauties, seems to be the greatest privilege of a day well spent.