Genocide Awareness and Action Week was started two years ago by a student named Lily Kruglak. She studied abroad in Rwanda and was interested in raising awareness of the recent genocide in that country. It has evolved into a week long series of events in April (movies, speakers, discussions, artistic projects and interactive activities) addressing a number of different genocidal contexts. This year, it was held the week of April 8-12, 2013.
Last year GAAW brought Ms. Eugenie Mukeshimana, a survivor of the Rwandan genocide to campus to speak and share her work with Genocide Survivors Support Network. I actually got the chance to give her a tour of campus and speak with her before her presentation to campus. This year, two different Holocaust survivors came to campus. Ms. Judy Meisel came during the actual week of GAAW and screened her documentary “Tak for Alt” and led a discussion afterwards. On Wednesday, April 17, Dr. Ruth Kluger came to campus in conjunction with GAAW. She was joined by filmmaker Renata Schmidkunz, and together they screened “Landscapes of Memory – The Life of Ruth Kluger,” a film Schmidkunz made based on Dr. Kluger’s life.
My favorite part of GAAW is when I get the chance to meet survivors. Don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoy the scholars that we bring to campus, and the activists are fantastic as well. But there is just something about hearing the testimony of someone who has gone through the events of a particular time that just resonates with me; I feel an instant connection with the person even though I have never met them personally. I imagine myself being in their position and everything becomes so much more real. Being a historian, it’s important to remember that these were real people that I am studying, not just names in a book. Meeting survivors brings it full circle for me. And so many times when I am reading about a particular event in history, I am left with nagging questions like “How did this person move on with life after such a traumatizing event?” or “How could they ever resume their previous life after something like that?” What’s great about these events during GAAW is that we get to ask these questions.
And the answers aren’t always what we want to hear, or they aren’t always the same across the board. For example, both Ms. Meisel and Dr. Kluger both had similar experiences during the Holocaust, but had very differing views on life post-war. Ms. Meisel chose to raise her children speaking her native Lithuanian and found much comfort in her Jewish faith. Dr. Kluger, on the other hand, did not raise her children speaking German, and found no solace in her faith, but instead in her poetry and literature. Last year’s survivor, Ms. Mukeshimana channeled her experience in the Rwandan genocide into becoming an activist for genocide survivors and founded the Genocide Survivors Support Network.
Each of these women has left a special imprint on my heart. I am truly grateful that GAAW was created three years ago by Lily so I could have to opportunity to meet these three incredible women and learn about their lives. I think it’s one of the really neat things about Juniata that we give students the opportunity to meet survivors of genocide and connect with them on a personal level, rather than just teaching genocide out of a book. Add that to the long list of reasons I love Juniata!
Most fall sports at JC have a 5-week Spring Season of formal practice the NCAA allows. My own team practices three times a week with one individual or position practice per week. In the winter before spring season we had 6am practice every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday just with the team. Those were open gyms, but everyone goes even though they don’t have to. I know a lot of other sports have open gyms as well, but they’re usually in the afternoon or at night so don’t worry if 6am isn’t really your thing. We have Coach Smith workouts on the days we don’t have practice as well.
Ever been in a party bus at 8am? Juniata College Volleyball has! Last weekend (April 13th) we rode in style to our Spring Tournament at Penn State to play Syracuse, Navy, Pitt, and the Nittnay Lions themselves. We went 1-3, beating Navy, but all the other matches were close. I mean, we did pretty well considering we played DI human trees. Guys, I’m 6 foot and I felt like a shrimp. You hear about these type of people existing and maybe see them occasionally, but it’s pretty overwhelming when there’s 20 of them in one gym. Some Penn State players walked by me at one point and looked up and thought I was in a forest for a second.
The weekend before our spring tournament, we had an alumni match against some pretty cool alum. They tried their hardest, but they were just a little too old and we beat them in five games. It was a really fun day and fun to finally play someone other than ourselves, even though we kind of were.
Our Spring Season ends this weekend with a blue/gold match (team scrimmage) on Saturday morning. It’s definitely bitter sweet because we’ll have more free time before school ends and finals start, but we won’t get to play volleyball every week which sucks.
There are very few people who haven’t been affected by cancer in some way. Whether we’ve experienced it first-hand or know someone who has, it’s safe to say that we know a little bit about how rough the journey is for those who have cancer and their loved ones. This is why every year during the spring semester, the students of Juniata College participate in our own Relay For Life. On April 13th from noon to midnight this year, we walked around the quad in the center of our campus as a community.
The ultimate goal of Relay For Life is to raise as many funds as possible to donate to the American Cancer Society for help with research towards potential cures. Our goal was to raise at least $28,500 to donate this year, and thanks to the help of the current student team participants, family members, friends, and Juniata community members, we reached and exceeded it!
I have always found the most beautiful part of Relay to be the support that everyone involved is willing to give. So many people happily dedicated their time and resources towards the cause. For example, a professional hairdresser came to campus in the afternoon and stayed until midnight, cutting hair for any of the girls who wanted to donate at least 8 inches towards wigs for those who have lost their hair in the process of chemo treatments. Over 400 inches were donated just in that one day. Teams came up with their own fundraising items to sell to help raise more money during the day, which involves a lot of creativity, time, and effort. Students made different kinds of mini-meals, baked goods, jewelry, decorated glasses and other crafty items. One student was selling framed butterflies from around the world that he has rehydrated and put together himself. Many of the team tables sold out of everything they had prepared, which is incredible.
Relay at JC is always especially important to me, not only because cancer has affected my own family, but also because one of my close friends on campus is a thyroid cancer survivor. She was the one to give the Survivor Speech this year, and my team and I couldn’t have been prouder of her. Immediately after her speech, she and all of the other survivors who are able to be present for Relay all do one lap around the quad together. This year, it was a group of grandparents, alum, and current students. Everyone else lined the path and clapped for them as they went by. It was a powerful statement. They survived and are still walking to kick cancer’s butt.
Relay is one of the events that makes me love the Juniata community even more. Everyone who participated in Relay did so with a huge amount of dedication and passion. Our community is one of love and support at Relay for Life, and for that, I am incredibly thankful. Cancer is a terrible disease, and it is so good to know that anyone who has suffered because of it has a huge support system right here in Huntingdon.
Juniata’s campus is always in a constant state of hustle-bustle with hosted events, visitors touring or just the students darting everywhere to get to their next class. In such crazy states of chaos, taking a step back and really realizing what all Juniata has to give back to its community is really something that makes the college so special. Relay For Life, Science In Motion and high school Model UN are just a few events that the community and even students look forward to every year. One event that is a treasure to myself is one that comes every year in the spring as a fundraiser for the cheerleaders, Juniata Cheerleading Mini Camp.
This is an event that is hosted by the cheerleaders and is offered for youth ages 5-12. Although this is offered to both sexes, little girls are always dominantly present. Flyers are sent out to local elementary schools and, depending on the year, usually around a group between thirty to fifty little aspiring cheerleaders participate. The girls are separated by age groups and are assigned a minimum of two Juniata cheerleaders that act as their coaches for two days. A dance, stunts, chants and cheers are prepared in advance that are manageable to teach each group. At the end of the second day, their routines are presented to the parents.
This year’s camp fell on the first Friday and Saturday of April. Juniata’s campus welcomed thirty-nine girls split between the 2012-2013 squad. Between drilling the routine, playing games and building their confidence level, both sets of cheerleaders bonded, despite indifferent feelings commonly made known when the girls wanted to play games instead of improving upon their cheerleading skills. To add to the atmosphere of making the girls feel a part of the Juniata squad, matching tee-shirts are ordered for everyone so the dress is uniform. Concluding the camp, certificates, pictures and gifts from the JC cheerleaders of each group are presented to each girl.
Some students might view such events as a nuisance of having little girls running and screaming all over campus but events like this are something special for every camper to look forward to. Bonding with each of the JC cheerleaders means so much for each one and is what keeps them coming back consecutively year after year. For some of the Juniata cheerleaders, they are able to watch certain girls come back, grow and improve in possibly becoming a college cheerleader like themselves.
Even though cheerleading might not be taken seriously and is often given a negative image, events such as a simple annual camp can have so much impact on our generation’s youth. Being able to see each of the girls leave at the end of the camp with a smile on their face and happy parents at their side, makes a great contribution to Juniata’s culture.
It was 6:15pm this past Tuesday night when the alarm on my phone suddenly went off, momentarily blasting a song from one of my favorite musicals, “Spring Awakening.” I know what that meant; it was time to head over to Choral Union. I stand up from the blanket that I was sitting on to eat supper and enjoying the beautiful weather with my friends. I grabbed my backpack, checked for my black folder and pencil, and rushed towards the Halbritter Performing Arts Center after waving goodbye to my roommates. After pulling open the extremely heavy doors, I joined the line that formed in front of the music stand with a sign-in sheet.
While I wait for my turn to sign in, I think back to my freshman year. At the end of the semester, I went to a chorus concert with a friend or two. At the end of the concert, I
found myself having tears in my eyes. Now, I could have easily attributed this to the stress of the end of the semester, but I knew what it was really about. I missed singing. I missed singing a lot. In high school, I was involved in choir, musicals, and church groups. When I got to Juniata, after a summer of going through a tonsillectomy and hardly singing at all, I tried out for the Concert Choir at Juniata. However, when I found out that I did not make it, I decided to keep singing to something that I did in the shower and nothing more. But, after that fated concert, I knew that there was something about singing in a group that I loved and would never compare to the notes that I was belting to my showerhead.
When it came time to schedule my next semester, I knew that I needed to make some time for a musical outlet. But, I knew that my schedule was just too crazy for the amazing, but time demanding Concert Choir. Then a friend recommended Choral Union to me which was only one night week. I decided to try it out and scheduled it for the next fall. Soon, I couldn’t wait for Tuesday nights and loved that little chunk of time that was scheduled to go and just sing the amazing songs that Dr. Shelley picked out for us.
Fast forward four semesters later, and I still can’t wait to go for that hour and fifteen minutes where I don’t have to think about my Research Methods homework or all the emails that I needed to respond to for my on-campus job. I can just think about the music, and that is it. I’m also reminded of my favorite part of Choral Union as a
psychology professor, Anne Gilman, sits down next to me, and begins to tell me all about her trip to the Dominican Republic; the members of Choral Union are not just students, but also faculty, staff, and other community members. As we all begin to stretch and warm-up our voices, I know that this is a very special and unique group that I am proud to be a part of.