October: The month for tricks, treats, goblins, and ghouls. Of course, Juniata students thoroughly celebrated Halloween, but most importantly, we also bonded together for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Colleges Against Cancer, under the direction of their president and my roommate, Kirstin McKenzie, planned a month filled with activities!
The month kicked off with Boobie Bingo. “Boobies, tatas, jugs, and melons,” yelled the winners. Since I’m a bingo fanatic and quite the competitor, this event has always been one of my favorites. This year was no exception. So many people were in attendance that we had to find more chairs!
The next night, Colleges Against Cancer hosted a Remembrance Ceremony to honor survivors and those who have lost their fight. This was a very emotional event, but it was a powerful reminder that we are not alone in this battle. Breast cancer affects everyone in some capacity.
Finally, Breast Cancer Awareness Month culminated with the Boys in Bras Fashion Show combined with Concert for a Cure. Some of Juniata’s most outgoing men took the stage and flaunted off their fancily decorated bras. Although it wasn’t a competition, the guys took it very seriously and tried to outdo the person before them. Plenty of laughter ensued!
After the men strutted their stuff, the concert began. As always, I was completely impressed with the amount of talent that we have at Juniata. Sophomore Joshua Katz stole the show with his unique style of guitar playing. With a donation from the women’s soccer team and the money raised from all of the events, Colleges Against Cancer raised a total of $399.16 for breast cancer awareness.
In addition, Colleges Against Cancer kick-started their fundraisers for Relay for Life with a canning event throughout the town of Huntingdon. Within only a few short hours, we were able to raise $353.51. After including Relay for Life funds, Colleges Against Cancer was able to raise a grand total of $752.67 during the month of October!
Cancer is certainly a force to reckon with, but there is no doubt in my mind that Juniata students will continue to be resilient and fight back.
On October 13th, my two worlds collided. My alma mater, Altoona Area High School, and Juniata College joined forces to commemorate the life of Erin Dodson. Erin graduated as a two-time all-state volleyball player in 2004 from Altoona Area High School and then began her freshman year at Juniata College, where she was to continue her volleyball career. Sadly, Erin was diagnosed with brain cancer at the start of her freshman year and lost her battle seven years later at the age of 25.
Unfortunately, I never had the opportunity to personally meet Erin, but I played volleyball with her younger sister during my time at Altoona, so I was able to learn a lot about her. In an effort to honor Erin’s courage and perseverance, the girls’ volleyball team at Altoona organized a benefit volleyball game. Although I have attended several volleyball games at Altoona in the past six years, I have never been to a game quite like this one.
As soon as I walked into the fieldhouse, I was overwhelmed by a line of thirty baskets that team parents and community members had donated for the event. The entire lobby was just full of people. So many people were in attendance that they had to open up the other half of the gym, which is usually closed off by a movable wall. While Erin’s mom, Michelle, was expressing her gratitude between games, the wall started moving, and it soon revealed the entire Altoona Area High School pep band. When does a pep band ever play for a volleyball game?! Never.
At the end of Michelle’s talk, she asked the audience to hug the person sitting next to them because Erin loved giving everyone big hugs. The whole night was completely overwhelming and truly amazing. Erin’s family and friends from both Altoona and Juniata joined together to celebrate her life. I couldn’t be more honored to have walked the same halls and to have played on the same court as Erin Dodson.
Over the summer, I had the opportunity to intern at Capital BlueCross, a leading health insurance company located in Harrisburg, Pa. Although my POEs are Health Communication and Psychology, I have worked in Juniata’s marketing department for the last two years, so I decided to intern with Capital BlueCross’ market research team. Little did I know, market research is much different than marketing, so I had a lot to learn! In addition to learning the skills required for market research, I also learned a great deal about myself.
On the first day of the internship, I walked somewhat hesitantly through the big glass doors because, I’ll admit, this was my first time actually seeing the building. My interview was over the phone, so I didn’t see the building until my first day on the job. I was also surprised to find 25 other students waiting in the lobby to begin their internships as well. This was when I discovered that Capital BlueCross has a huge corporate internship program with students employed in almost every department. And here I thought that I would be their only intern, which leads to Lesson #1: Research the company’s internship program a little more so that you are adequately prepared for your first day.
Speaking of research, I would be doing plenty of that over the summer! I learned so many new skills related to Microsoft Office and several other new databases. I also worked on a project with four other interns from different departments on how Capital BlueCross could better engage millennial employees and customers. We were planning on presenting our findings to our managers at the end of the summer, so we knew that we had plenty of time to work on the project. We planned out our weekly goals and paced ourselves accordingly, until one mid-summer day, we were asked to present our research to the CEO, Gary St. Hilaire, within three days of receiving the request. And now, we were scrambling, which brings me to Lesson #2: Be prepared for curveballs. Although we were rushing to compile all of our information, the presentation was definitely a success, thanks to increased effort from everyone involved.
Reflecting on my internship, I am very grateful to have had such a wonderful manager and co-workers. They were very approachable and always willing to help me when I had questions. From this experience, however, I did learn some more about my own workplace preferences. Market research requires long hours at a desk without much interaction with the outside world. Since I am more of a people-person, I asked my manager if I could shadow some other departments. Thankfully, she was very flexible and willing to let me shadow a health educator for two days. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with her out in the community, and I even decided that I might want to pursue this field further in graduate school. Lesson #3: Be proactive and get the most out of your internship experience.
All in all, I am so thankful that I had the opportunity to intern at Capital BlueCross. Not only did I learn more technical skills, I also learned a lot about myself and my work preferences. My internship was a wonderful experience, and I would definitely recommend it to other students!
Last Thursday at Juniata, I had the opportunity to hear the courageous story of Kristin Beck, a retired U.S. Navy SEAL who came out as a transgender woman at the age of 45.
Since the time Kristin was in the 3rd grade, she knew that she identified as a woman. She got caught wearing her sister’s dress a few times and received punishment from her parents for not fitting gender norms. She joined the Navy SEALs so that she could “protect herself, build armor, and hide her true identity from others.” Due to social stigma in the previous generations, Kristin did not come out publicly until 2013. She said, “This is who I am. This is what I got to do. I’m going to start living my life how I want.”
Many people were shocked by her dramatic physical changes since she had gone from a macho-looking Navy SEAL to looking like a “Barbie doll.” Kristin explained that change doesn’t always have to be this drastic and that even changing your major could help you become closer to the person that you want to be. “Live your dreams. We get one life. Go for your dream, and work hard,” said Beck.
Since retiring from the Navy SEALS, Kristin has become a civil rights activist and is running for Congress. If elected, she will be the first transgender person in Congress; however, Kristin expressed that she doesn’t want to be looked at as the “first transgender,” but rather as an “American.” She said that her mission is the same now as it was when she was a Navy SEAL: To build bridges. As a Navy SEAL, Kristin physically built bridges in countries around the world, but as a civil rights activist, Kristin hopes to build bridges between people of all different backgrounds. “I want to fight for peace at any cost,” said Beck.
Kristin Beck’s story is not only inspiring for other people who are struggling with gender identity but is also inspiring for the population as a whole. Oftentimes, we face discouragement from others when wanting to express ourselves in a way that might not fit societal norms; however, Kristin serves as a model of hope for those of us just waiting to take that next step in discovering our true selves.
On Saturday, January 31st at 4 pm, the Juniata College men’s basketball team played Drew University; however, this was a basketball game unlike any other. Throughout my three years at Juniata, I have gone to several basketball games, but I have never before seen such an enormous crowd of fans at a regular season game. The bleachers and surrounding areas were full of students, faculty, and community members who were all wearing white t-shirts with hashtags saying, “#WeGotShaqsBack” and “#ShaqTheHouse.” Without some more context, you might be thinking that Shaquille O’Neil came to visit Juniata. Unfortunately, that will probably never happen at small-town Huntingdon, but we do have our own “Shaq.”
In October 2014, Shaquille “Shaq” Smith, a Juniata College freshman basketball player, was diagnosed with bacterial meningitis. Within just three short months, Shaq was put on life support while in a coma and had suffered three strokes. Amazingly, Shaq is now on his way to recovery but still requires 24-hour care. With rising medical bills, the Juniata College men’s basketball team held a game in order to raise money for Shaq’s family. Typically, games are free to students, but for this game, students and all other fans could purchase a five-dollar t-shirt or bracelet for admission into the game. The money that was raised from the concession stand, 50/50, and halftime contests was also donated to Shaq’s family.
Before the beginning of the game, Shaq was wheeled out to the middle of the court where he expressed his gratitude for everything that had been done in his honor. His teammates and coaches hugged him and shook his hand, but even more powerful, the Drew team members, all wearing #ShaqTheHouse t-shirts, also shook his hand. This was when the waterworks began for me. There is something just absolutely beautiful when two opposing teams can come together to unite for a cause. The game is put aside, and reality prevails.
English author Charles Buxton once wrote, “Experience shows that success is due less to ability than to zeal. The winner is he who gives himself to his work, body and soul.” Not only did the Juniata College men’s basketball team demonstrate this zeal by defeating Drew 68-58, but Shaq, unable to walk and still suffering from multiple complications, said to the crowd, “Don’t worry about me. I’m a fighter, so I’m going to keep on fighting.” And with that high level of perseverance and the tremendous amount of support from the community, Shaq will be right back out on that basketball court in no time.
To learn more about Shaq’s illness and/or to donate to the cause, please visit the following website: http://www.gofundme.com/kwlq58.