One of the service projects that I did during the second half of my semester was Atlantic City Beach Sweep. It was organized by the club called Water Watch. Me and my friend, who is also a honors student, Haleigh Sockwell wanted to do one service project together. While I wanted to do a road cleanup, she proposed to do the beach sweep, and eventually we set our minds on the beach sweep. The beach sweep was organized on Saturday, October 19th. Everyone volunteering for the beach sweep gathered at the Arts and Science building at 8:15 am. We were signed in by club president, handed out our gloves, and then we carpooled to Atlantic City.
All the volunteers, people from other volunteer organizations were also present, had to gather in front of the Rainforest Cafe on Atlantic City boardwalk. I was not expecting this to be a big event, but surprisingly it was. Before the beach sweep the mayor of Atlantic City along with an associate from The Atlantic City Electric were present to encourage the volunteers on the chilly Saturday morning (The Atlantic City Electric was one of the main sponsors). At the end of the clean up as a compliment to the volunteers, the members of The Barenaked Ladies were going to perform. After reaching there we also found out that we were going to help the organizers in carrying out a survey of the trash we find on the beach during the clean up to keep a record of the trash found. Everything was nice and organized. Teams were formed, me and Haleigh were partners, and each team was given a record sheet, pencil, a regular trash bag and a bag to throw trash that could be recycled.
During the clean up the data that we collected was horrifying. First of all me and Haleigh found about 246 cigarette butts from a small section of beach itself. Also the number of beer bottles and soda cans collected were not any less terrifying. I personally felt bad about how people were using a public beach. Also, some highly inappropriate and embarrassing things were found. Another group also found a dead seagull, which the organizers took care off. It was so much fun doing the clean up with Haleigh that we wandered off too far on the beach and a Stockton student had to call me to inform us that it was time to leave. Overall, it was a well organized event and a nice day spent with Haleigh.
One of the service projects I did during the first half of the semester was an annual Atlantic City Beach Sweep for a club called Water Watch. I found out about this service project from walking through lower D Wing. There was a little sign that was made by hand and a table that was advertising the event. I love doing beach cleanups, so I went to my next class and asked fellow honor student Dhvani Shah to go with me. She had wanted to do a road cleanup that weekend, but I thought we could get more done at a beach sweep. So on Saturday October 19th everyone going for the sweep met at the Arts and Sciences Building at 8:15 in the morning. We all signed in, got our gloves, and found who out who was carpooling with who and we were off to Atlantic City.
The volunteer group arrived in Atlantic City near the Rainforest Café where other organizations were there to help with the beach sweep. The mayor of Atlantic City was there to talk to us along with a representative from Atlantic City Electric since they were one of the sponsors for the annual event. We were instructed on how the people in charge wanted us to clean up the beach because we weren’t just supposed to pick up trash. We were to record every piece of trash on a piece of paper and separate recyclables from trash. We also found out that towards the end of our service, a band called The Barenaked Ladies would be there to perform for us and help pick up some trash. The Barenaked Ladies is the band that sings “The Big Bang Theory” theme song, so I was pretty excited to see and hear them play.
The volunteers were then dismissed to go pick up trash where they pleased. Dhvani and I started for the beach and immediately found trash. We recorded and counted each piece we picked up while walking up and down the beach. Later in the day we were finally called to come back to the boardwalk where we found out that everyone else was already done and that The Barenaked Ladies had already played and left, which was disappointing. We got a little too into cleaning up the trash and missed some exciting things, but we had no regrets about the cleanup.
There were a few reasons why I enjoyed the beach sweep. Everyone had a partner for cleaning up, and mine was a good friend, so I didn’t feel alone or left out while cleaning. I also enjoy doing labor while volunteering; moving around is a lot better than just sitting down at a table to talk to people. Also there was actual volunteer work that was possible to do. I heard that at the animal shelter there were too many volunteers and not enough jobs. At a beach cleanup there is no set job, and of course there is plenty of beach to walk and clean. Another reason I liked the beach sweep is how the people in charge were organizing it. We all had a paper with items we could just mark down to keep track of what trash we picked up. I was impressed with how well the organizations were prepared to clean up the beach. My only problem with the project was the lack of communication. There was a lack in communication in getting information about this event out, there was lack of communication for when we should be done volunteering, and there was almost no interaction between the volunteers almost the whole time.
I was able to learn through this beach cleanup as well. A person can learn a lot about the population from what trash they discard on the beach. Cigarette butts were one of the most picked up items on the beach. Dhvani and I had gathered a total of 246 cigarette butts. We learned that this number fluctuates every year, and researchers learn about smoking and whether or not it has gone up. This is the same for any item. Any item can tell that more people are drinking more water from the bottle caps they leave behind, or that styrofoam cups are becoming a problem from the amount of styrofoam pieces that are being gathered. We were able to learn about how the importance of what people leave behind can say about the population and how people are changing or consuming more products. Overall, it was a pretty good community service event.
Eastern State Penitentiary is a huge tourist attraction with a lot of history to it and the Honors Program had the privilege of going on a day trip to Eastern State. The group arrived in front of the arts and science building in the morning and once roll was taken, the bus departed and we were on our way.
The charter bus pulled up in front of the enormous stone building and I was overwhelmed by the size and architecture of the prison. Single file we exited the bus and stood in front of the giant castle-like structure. Finally we were told to split into two groups. My group was the second to enter the Penitentiary, and our tour guide opened the monstrous gate and led us to a small garden in the front courtyard of the prison. Here she explained how the prison ran on a separate system in which all the inmates were kept in their own cells and how they did not interact with other inmates. She elaborated on the difference between a prison and a penitentiary. She informed us that a penitentiary was based on the religious idea of repenting for ones sins. Thus, the separate system in which they could reflect on their sins. As we continued our tour we stopped at a corner. This corner was where the tour guide explained the radial design of the prison and how from this point there was no blind spot. This penitentiary was very extravagant for its time; it had heat and running water, which drew people into the prison just for meals and ammenities. As we continued our tour we entered different cells and saw how tiny they were. We entered the surveillance hub and saw how effective the radial design was for security. We went outside and saw the exercise yard and heard about how the inmates would hit baseballs over the wall and the baseballs came back over the wall altered and filled with drugs. We also saw the guard towers on the corners of the wall because the radial system became obsolete as the prison expanded and got larger within its walls. We were then showed death row and then set free to go explore the prison and get lunch somewhere in the town.
A few of my friends and I traveled the prison saw the second floor cells, and even went into the hole. We saw the creepy set up for “Terror Behind the Walls” and then decided we had seen enough. We left the prison turned right and walked down the street until we stumbled upon a small pizza place. This pizza place was called Luigi’s, and it was such a great cheesesteak. I ate a chicken cheesesteak that was amazing and Italian soda. After lunch we wandered around and found a used bookstore that we entered. We then got ice cream and returned to Eastern State. We took a group picture in front of Eastern State Penitentiary and then the bus arrived. We boarded the bus and we departed and everyone took a nice nap after the long day trip we had just finished.
I spent parts of my summer reading Spook trying to get a feel for Mary Roach’s writing style, how her voice would carry through the words on the page. This week at Stockton we all had a chance to sit and listen to Mary Roach to discuss her experiences and her books. Roach was a refreshing change from the duller speakers I have had the chance to listen to in the past, she quickly captured the attention of her audience by discussing how hyenas gave birth in the most peculiar way.
Roach also spoke about how curiosity is a key to her writing style and her life. She stressed that asking questions is one of the most important things one can do for one’s self. Our college career is a time for us all to dig deep and discover new things. It’s a time for us to not accept things at face value to admit we don’t know, but we will look into it more. She told us the more that we know, the more we will come to realize we don’t actually know that much, but you we always learn more.
What I enjoyed most was Roach’s clarification on the closing of Spook. When reading the book and going on this long journey with her from India to the end, I was invested in her story, and I wanted to know her final conclusion and thoughts on the afterlife. However she just ended the book abruptly with just a “What the hell. I believe in ghosts.” At her presentation she explained why she believed in ghosts. She claimed that ghost stories are fun and she didn’t want to be in a world where there are no possibilities of ghosts. I was glad to have that closure and the knowledge that if she could go back and change it she would. She also closed her speech with her belief of what may happen to the soul after death. She thought that, “When you die you go back to where you were before you were born, wherever that is.” There still is no proof of that but, according to her there is a difference between what you know and what you believe.
Mary Roaches book wasn’t a “page turner” but I enjoyed the chance to hear her tell us her stories more than I did reading them from the page. I really did enjoy her speaking and maybe from this experience I will go find another book by her and give it a chance. Or maybe not…
In early November the Freshman Honors Program went to Philadelphia to do some historical sightseeing. We ventured to the city of brotherly love to visit Eastern State Penitentiary. It was eerie to say the least to set foot into an old penitentiary. I looked around at the crumbling walls and buildings I could not help but think of what must have happened behind these walls what kind of people set foot in the very spot I stood those thought only increased when we went into the buildings to see the jail cells that were inside. What it must have been like to be in this jail in its early days. Alone in a cell, by yourself for days on end. During our tour we learned about the penitentiary’s history. How it was revolutionary and influenced the architecture of countless penitentiary’s and jails. We also learned how the penitentiary had to grow and adapt to changes within it and outside, weather it was having to expand within its walls to accommodate for the increased number of prisoners, or change its entire system of solitary confinement for all of the prisoners. We heard stories of escapees and others who lived with in the walls. By the time we left we had a condensed knowledge of the penitentiary from its opening to when it was shut down. It was an interesting experience seeing a historical prison first hand, but eerie none the less.
Let’s talk about Stockton. This was an event created to give the students an easy way for their voices to be head. Various tables for different departments at our school were set up around the Campus Center to give students a chance to voice their complaints, questions, opinions, or ideas. The department representatives were open minded and took the students’ ideas into consideration. They were quick to help think of a solution to problems, or promise to seek change.
I personally went to the Chartwell’s table with a few other students to speak with the representative. Our main concerns were the high price of healthy alternatives in the campus center, the lack of, and difficulty of obtaining gluten free products for students with health problems, and the idea of getting a Chipotle, or other fresh-mex food stand. The representative listened, and calmed our concerns. He assured us that he would look into whether they could lower the prices of the healthier meals. He also promised a gluten friendly food area was already in the process of coming together in the N wing dining hall, and the idea of a Chipotle style dining area was being considered and sounded like a good idea for an addition to the food service at Stockton. After the representative told us he was a new employee of Stockton, and previously worked with a college that was ranked with the 5th best dining on campus, he assured us that change was coming to Stockton’s Dining halls and he was going to work to make them much better.
This event gave individuals a chance to voice their concerns and to be herd by someone who can do something about them. If one was to have any concerns about Stockton and the services they provide, he doesn’t have to wait for the next “Let’s Talk about Stockton” event, he can go to the department and voice his concerns. Complaining to friends, or to social media is not going to get anything done, go out there find someone who can help and tell them some ideas. That is how change will happen.
Accomplishing a lifelong dream is a feeling unlike any other. There are a myriad of dreams I have seen accomplished having just graduated from high school and entered college, but there is a particularly dear one that I accomplish a little more and more each Monday and Wednesday evening. That is my childhood dream of becoming a member of an a cappella group.
This dream came to fruition when I was in the third grade, the year I saw my cousin Colin perform with the Deltones at the University of Delaware. At that point in my life, I was struggling to cope with a chronic illness that held me back from playing sports or playing instruments. Two years prior I had been diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, a disease that has come to affect each of my joints on a daily basis. My disease was a real hindrance, holding me back from the activities of my friends and leaving me struggling to cope with the boundaries of my condition. I was on the hunt therefore for an activity that would be fun, that wouldn’t hurt, that I could love. I found that activity at my cousin’s concert.
Driving to Delaware was a big deal for my family. We had always supported my cousin’s musical pursuits throughout high school but this was our first opportunity to do so during his college career. Little did I know that our journey to his college would result in the birth of my first attainable lifelong dream. Up until that point my goals were to open the first library on the moon and to meet Junie B. Jones. Figuring out that I wanted to join an a cappella group was a dream that my joints couldn’t destroy and one that felt possible.
The moment I heard the Deltones sing their first song, Somebody to Love by Queen, I knew that a cappella was my future so I set about my life singing from the moment I woke up in the morning until sleep took me at night. Singing became a lifestyle choice rather than a hobby and it was something that I was fiercely passionate about. I became successful in my town in different choirs and ensembles, especially in musical theater programs.
When senior year rolled around and I was starting to apply to colleges, my singular criterion for a school was that it had an a cappella group that I could audition for. I didn’t find out about Stockton’s groups until after I was accepted and applying to the Honors Program here. Then, when I investigated the school’s extra curricular events and I found it, I knew that Stockton was a place that I could accomplish my dream. So I auditioned in the fall and was so thankful to be accepted into the male/female ensemble called the Stocktones.
I found my home at Stockton when I found the Stocktones, the community that has been borne from our music is one that I wouldn’t trade for the world. As individuals we are goofs who love to sing songs. As a whole we become an ensemble that makes music. Together we accomplish something amazing that we couldn’t do independently of one another. Every time we rehearse, the little girl inside of me that yearned for the opportunity to sing with an a cappella group feels great success. Tomorrow is the Stockappella concert for this Fall 2013 semester, it’s a sold out show. I know that the concert tomorrow will once again yield an overwhelming feeling of success, both personally and for my group. I write this blog post as I sit waiting to take the stage during the dress rehearsal. Today more than ever I feel as though I have become the person that I wanted to be as a child. There is no appropriate way to describe that success, its still too surreal to me. All I can say is that I am thrilled to be in the position that I’m in and to have the opportunity to perform with the Stocktones is something that I wouldn’t trade for the world.
We are living in a time like no other. Through the hardships and efforts of our previous generations, we have come so far in the areas of civil rights and equality. However, there is still more to do globally and nationally. We as a world community have not yet achieved true equality between men and women in the areas of civil liberties and acceptance. By attending the “Girl Rising” film showing and panel discussion, I was able to get different perspective on the position of women on a global level. The film took the viewers through the lives of real girls growing up in a global community that does not yet fully accept them. The story of a girl struggling to free herself from the kumlari life as a slave, the story of two girls. each fighting for her education in their respective countries of Ethiopia and Peru, and the story of a girl fighting off the advances of an older man in a Middle Eastern country all tell of girls fighting for their chance of equality and acceptance in their lives. Each girl in the film is going through the plight of fighting for her education, for her own rights, for her own future. In watching this, I came to understand that an education is a means to equality for these girls, and it only takes one of them to start a revolution.
In the panel discussion, we discussed the struggle of all of these girls and the girls like them all around the world. In many countries, it is not a priority to educate the girls in each family, but a priority to marry them off sometimes at the age of 2. The discussion then turned to the struggle for equality and acceptance for women in America. Women do not earn as much as men in the professional work world, women face discrimination in typically male dominated field such as math and science from the time of elementary school, and women are still fighting everyday to eliminate those facts. I learned, however, that it must be a fight for every woman and support from every man for us to make a difference in our world. It will not change right away, the change will be slow. We must all fight for equality all around the world.
I recently attended a showing of the film Girl Rising on campus. It was a documentary about different girls around the world and the hardships they faced and overcame throughout their lives. One girl got herself a job cleaning public toilets at a very young age to help her family financially. These were not the kind of luxurious public bathrooms we enjoy everyday here at Stockton, but instead disgusting hole in the floor bathrooms where nobody seemed to have good aim. She did this every single day throughout her childhood and teenage years. It was better than her other option, which was to sell her body to the neighborhood miners like the other girl’s in her community did to get by.
The movie opened up my eyes to the vast majority of struggles women face throughout the world. Most of the women in this movie had somebody there to support them. A male figure like a brother or a father who wanted better for them than society had to offer. That, however, is not the usual way things are. Most girls do not have that figure in their life. With nobody there for them, they do as society tells them to.
It brought up the issue of education. Public education is not available to the entire world, and without it thinks like this are possible for not only girls but all children. Even in certain countries where public education is available it is so poor that most students do not make it through the elementary grades without dropping out. I immediately felt grateful for the education I was able to obtain as an American. Sure, improvements can be made on our education system, but without it I would not be here. All those days I complained about having to go to school seemed like a blessing after the things I witnessed in this film.
Yesterday, as part of an RHA meeting we went to a new program on campus called “Let’s Talk About Stockton.” As with most programs, there was free food, and it was very yummy. The pita chips and hummus were my favorite. However, the campus food services (Chartwells) is the only thing I really wanted to talk about. After working at Lakeside at the beginning of the year I became disgusted and infuriated with this company. I worked in a cramped little Mondos stand area, with food dating back to my grandparent’s birth. At times, the tomatoes were so soggy I could not even pick them up with my hands. The tiny quarters always seemed to be home to at least 4 flies that not only enjoyed landing on the food, but biting at my arms and ankles as well. Stockton can do better. We can do better.
With a few friends I ventured over to the table hosting representatives from Chartwells. I sigh of relief came over me when I realized that none of them were my previous employers. There was a new guy. He had only been here a couple of weeks, and was previously employed at Cornell University. He had some great ideas to improve the food on campus, and was eager to hear all of our concerns. But who isn’t at these sorts of things? I told him about what I experienced at Lakeside, what my friend with a gluten allergy experiences every day, and what bothers the student body as a whole about the campus food. I made it clear that if things do not change next year when I am no longer required to I will not be purchasing a meal plan, and that I feel many other students will be doing the same.
The man listened patiently to all of our concerns and addressed each one of them individually. He said he would personally look into what is going on at Lakeside and make sure things are taken care of and the food is rotated properly. He said that he is currently working on a project called “My Place” for people with gluten free diets. Everything that is gluten free will be put out on a completely separate table and all gluten free utensils will be marked with green handles so that there will be no reason to ever worry about what is available, what is marked, or what has been cross contaminated with gluten products. He said we should see it within the next few weeks. He also said quite directly that there is nothing he can do about Dunkin Donuts not accepting gift cards or any game promotions won on cups. In order to change that I would have to speak to another man who lives somewhere in the area. Lastly he said that the food court’s twenty cent charge for water is the charge for the expense of a cup. I’ve worked in a restaurant before, those cups do not cost anywhere near twenty cents each. But if that’s there policy there is almost nothing that can be done about it. However, if you feel it is wrong to be charged for water like I do, you can bring a water bottle or your own reusable cup and fill it up at the food court and you will not be charged. If somebody tries to charge you for it, ask to speak to a manager.
The conversation seemed to go on for a long time. We spoke of maybe starting a fresh Mexican food place on campus, something similar to a Chipotle. He also said he wanted to see more Asian cuisine mixed into the menu. I do not know how productive this meeting really was, and I don’t know if any changes are actually going to be made, but at least now the company has been made aware of the concerns of many students here on campus. I hope to see improvements in the future.