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The Multicultural Storyfest

Each year, Juniata holds a Liberal Arts Symposium—a day when all classes are cancelled and students have the opportunity to present their research to the campus community. Oftentimes, international students are not able to contribute to the symposium because many of them study at Juniata for only one semester. For this reason, Grace Fala, special assistant to the President for diversity and inclusion and professor of communication, developed the “Multicultural Storyfest.” This event takes place during the Liberal Arts Symposium and invites international students as well as other interested students to share parts of their heritage with the community.

This year, I am receiving two credits to serve as the intern for the Multicultural Storyfest. I have been working very closely with Grace and a few other students to help coordinate the largest one yet. We will have a total of 19 performances representing the following cultures and co-cultures: African, American Indian, Amish, Burmese, Buddhism, Chinese, Indian, Irish, Italian, Filipino, German, Japanese, Korean, LGBTQ, Maori, Middle Eastern, Pakistani, Salvadoran, Thai, and Vietnamese.

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Thida Win ’17 from Myanmar talks at the 2015 Multicultural Storyfest.

Personally, I will serve as the emcee for the event and also be a part of the performance representing Maori culture in New Zealand. One of my best friends studied abroad in New Zealand, so we are going to incorporate what she learned into our performance. We will be teaching about common greeting words and customs used by the Maori people. Other students will be dancing, singing, playing instruments, modeling, and reading poems.

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Andrea Morillo ’15 from Honduras performs at the 2014 Multicultural Storyfest.

All in all, I have gained so much valuable experience and many budding friendships from organizing this event. I have been able to meet and talk to people from all over the world!

If you’re interested in attending the Multicultural Storyfest, it’ll take place on Detwiler Plaza on Thursday, April 21st from 1:30-3:00 pm. I hope to see you there!

Spring Break in New Orleans

Spring break is a time when many students travel to tropical islands for a week-long adventure, while several others venture back home for a relaxing time with family and friends. In the past, I’ve had both types of experiences, so for my final spring break, I decided to try something a little different. I had heard about an interfaith service trip to New Orleans, and while I’m not actively involved with a religious group at Juniata, campus ministry welcomed me with open arms.

Although I had always heard about the destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina, I thought that after 11 years the city would be restored. Although most areas of New Orleans have recovered nicely, the Lower Ninth Ward has not fully recuperated.

While in New Orleans, I, along with 17 other Juniata students, worked with an organization called Capstone, which aims to provide the citizens of the Lower Ninth Ward with free community gardens. To help out, we weeded, planted, and watered the gardens; constructed and painted boxes for honey bees; cleaned and fed goats and chickens; and helped with other jobs as needed.

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Juniata students weeding one of Capstone’s community gardens located in the Lower Ninth Ward.

Since this was also an interfaith trip, we explored and discussed different religions, such as Judaism, Christianity, and Unitarian Universalism. Additionally, we were able to learn about the culture of New Orleans by talking with local citizens, eating beignets at the famous Café du Monde, visiting a Mardi Gras museum, and touring the renowned Saint Louis Cemetery.

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The future tomb of actor Nicholas Cage, located in the Saint Louis Cemetery.

Lithuanian-American writer Ruta Sepetys once said, “New Orleans is unlike any city in America. Its cultural diversity is woven into the food, the music, the architecture—even the local superstitions. It’s a sensory experience on all levels, and there’s a story lurking around every corner.” After experiencing New Orleans first-hand, I could not agree more.

Staying FIT in College

You’ve probably all been warned of the infamous “Freshman 15”—the inevitable 15 pounds that you gain during your freshman year of college. Although this might be true for some people, I’m here to tell you that this does not have to be your fate! If you make proper meal choices and exercise regularly, you’ll have nothing to worry about!

For my first two years at Juniata, I was a member of the track and field team, so I didn’t have to worry much about creating my own workout schedule. My daily exercise routines were mapped out by my coaches. Due to a change in my priorities, I decided that being on the track team was no longer for me. This meant that I had to come up with my own workout schedule, if I wanted to stay fit.

Inevitably, I gained a few pounds from not having as rigorous of a workout routine as before, but I also started to get bored of my same uncreative workouts. Ultimately, I needed some more motivation.

Thankfully, I found out about FITLAB, which is a workout program offered every weekday morning at 8:00 am by Neal Utterback, assistant professor of theater. The program was originally offered to only a small group of students who were training for an endurance obstacle race, but due to the high interest from other students, the program is now open to everyone.  The workouts vary daily and include endurance exercises, circuit training, stairs, and yoga. Before beginning each workout, we have five minutes of silence followed by five minutes of mindful meditation.

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My friend, Tyler Ayres, and I after our Wednesday morning yoga workout.

For me, these workouts are truly a blessing. Since this is my last semester of college, I had been getting a little distracted and not focusing on my health as much as I could have been. Now, I am motivated by working out with a great group of supportive people.

Though I don’t have my first class until later in the morning, I wake up every day at 7:20 am to get ready for FITLAB. I don’t regret waking up early because after a good workout, I feel awake and alert throughout the rest of my day!

The Beginning of the End

As I walked upstairs to my room in Pink, I noticed that my resident assistant had changed the bulletin board. It read, “Celebrate the beginning of the end.” This certainly made me stop and think. My life had been so busy lately that I almost forgot this would be my last semester at Juniata College. I always thought that I’d be ready to graduate, plunge ahead into the “real world,” and then never look back. Well, I’m pretty certain this will not be the case. Although I’m excited for what the future will hold, I’m also more nostalgic about leaving this place than I ever thought possible.

The semester certainly started off differently than all of my previous semesters. During the first two weeks of January, I traveled to the Dominican Republic again on my third Cultural Learning Tour with Juniata College. Although this has been quite the pattern for starting out my spring semester, this particular trip was different in that my father came along, too! A few months before the trip, he asked me if he could go so that he could experience the beautiful country and meet the community members who had become my second family.  During the course of two weeks, we had a wonderful time and made sure not to complain too much about the extreme heat because we knew it was better than the alternative cold weather back home.

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My dad (right) saying farewell to his new friend, Santiago.

We braced ourselves for the cold, but we did not prepare ourselves for the insane amount of snow that would soon surround us. After our first week of classes, Winter Storm Jonas arrived. As the snow came down by the foot, I was at Dr. Will Dickey’s house babysitting his two little girls. By the time he and his wife, Katie, had returned home, the snow was almost a foot high, so they allowed me to stay overnight and wait to drive back in the morning. By the time I woke up, however, we had two feet of snow on the ground, so I wasn’t going anywhere for a while. Surprisingly, though, this was one of the best days I’ve had in a long time. We all made breakfast together and then ventured outside to play in the snow.

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Attempting to uncover my car after the snow storm.

All in all, the “beginning of the end” is going quite well for me, except for the fact I can’t tell if my face is still tan or if it’s wind burnt from the cold. Either way, I’m looking forward to what the rest of my last semester has in store!

Building Leaders Who Make a Better World

In September 2013, then senior Chelsea Naglic created Juniata’s chapter of the National Society of Leadership and Success (NSLS), the nation’s largest leadership honor society. The mission of NSLS is to “build leaders who make a better world.” Since I was a sophomore in good academic standing at the time, I received an invitation to join the society. I’ll admit, I was a little skeptical at first, especially since NSLS requires an $85 membership fee. After doing some of my own research and talking with other students on campus, I decided that the membership fee would be money well-spent.

To become inducted into the society, students must first attend orientation, which provides a schedule of events for the semester. In addition to orientation, nominated students must also attend Leadership Training Day, which helps students to identify their true passions and leadership styles. Additionally, students must attend three speaker broadcasts throughout the semester and participate in Success Networking Teams, in which students gather to discuss their future goals. Finally, Juniata College holds an induction ceremony each spring for everyone who completes the necessary steps.

We’ve all heard the saying, “It is what you make of it.” Sure, you could easily go through the motions and become inducted into the society, or you could go one step further to make the experience truly worthwhile.

I chose the latter option. After becoming inducted, I decided to apply for the Better World Grant—one of the many grants and scholarships that are offered to inducted members. I spent most of my spring semester developing a proposal to build a raised garden in a rural community in the Dominican Republic. Thankfully, my hard work paid off, and I was awarded $4,000 to begin my project.

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The finished garden at Centro Cultural Guanin in the Dominican Republic.

In January 2015, I traveled to the Dominican Republic with 16 other students on Juniata’s Cultural Learning Tour. We built the garden alongside community members and have been able to watch it thrive over the past year. Instead of relying on government funding for food, the community members can now produce their own fruits and vegetables.

Of course, none of this would have been possible without funding from NSLS. I am so grateful to have had this opportunity, and I highly encourage all nominated students to apply for membership. Currently, NSLS has 537,370 members at 490 colleges nationwide. In just two short years, Juniata has inducted 263 of its own members. As a member of NSLS, you will be joining a large network of alumni and peers across the nation, and who knows, you might even be able to make the world a better place.

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Kirstin McKenzie (right) and I (left) at the 2015 NSLS Induction Ceremony

To learn more about NSLS, please contact the chapter’s president, Kirstin McKenzie, at mckenkx09@juniata.edu. Also, be on the lookout for Juniata’s third annual Glow Run, which is set to take place in the spring!