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Mountain Day of the Mind

One of my favorite events Juniata has every year is the Liberal Arts Symposium, or LAS for short. Each year, classes are cancelled for the whole day, and students and faculty are encouraged to travel across campus and attend student presentations about work/research they have done during the year. There are a lot of different types of presentations, and most common presentations are often in the sciences. This year however, I was able to present my own work at LAS, with focus on the Theatre Department.
This semester, I decided I wanted to do an independent study with one of my professors, Leigh Hendrix, and I wanted to attempt to write a full-length play. I have written several short plays (10 minutes or less) throughout my time at Juniata, but I have never tried to write something as complicated and in-depth as a full-length play. I came up with the idea to write a murder mystery, because that is my favorite genre to read/watch. I’ve always loved crime shows and mystery novels, but I never realized just how difficult it is to write a mystery yourself! There is so much background work that needs to occur before one even starts writing in order to create a successful, fluid piece. Once a week, Professor Hendrix and I would meet to look at my writing progress, and map out the entire storyline of the play. I honestly didn’t think I would finish this semester. I know that it sometimes takes years for people to complete a play, and shoving this project onto my already packed work load was definitely difficult for me. However, a few weeks ago I managed to finish a first draft! As soon as I finished the draft, it felt like I had given birth! I had worked hard toward this goal that I didn’t think I would reach, and I did! Over the following few weeks, I printed out the entire script and edited it over and over again. I then recruited a bunch of my friends to aid in my presentation for the Liberal Arts Symposium.

 

The cast of the staged reading of "Airborne", an original murder mystery play at Liberal Arts Symposium.
The cast of the staged reading of “Airborne”, an original murder mystery play at Liberal Arts Symposium.

Since I was just doing a public reading of half of the play, it was a less strenuous rehearsal process, since the cast only had to meet once the read through the piece before presenting it at LAS. My play has eight different characters, so I had to ask a lot of different people to be involved, but everyone did such a great job reading their character at the presentation! After the reading, my mentor facilitated a talk-back session, where I could ask questions of the audience and receive feedback about the process. My first question to the audience was: Who do you think did it? To my surprise, although the audience guessed five different characters, none of them had correctly guessed the killer! That was definitely a confidence-booster for me, and it showed me that I wrote a really great play. I received such amazing feedback from the students and staff and outside audience members who came to listen to the reading. It truly was an amazing moment of pride, excitement and joy to hear my words being read out loud, and receiving positive feedback from so many peers.
Although the semester is coming to a close, that does not mean my work on this play is done. For most, a play is never done. There are always changes that can be made. I hope to keep editing this play and make it longer and stronger, and hopefully be able to stage the show at some point next year! Overall, the Liberal Arts Symposium was such a great experience for me to present a project I had put so much effort into, and see how others reacted to it. I can’t wait to keep working on my play!

SPRINGFEST: A Tale of Many Sunburns (and some other fun stuff too)

Hands down, today was the best day I have ever had at Juniata.  To start, the weather was beautiful, especially compared to the nasty conglomeration of precipitation the meteorologists like to call “winter mix.”  The sky was clear and the wind that had plagued us all week had diminished to a light, almost refreshing breeze.  All of this provided a lovely backdrop to the amazing event of Springfest.  Every spring, our Juniata Activity Board, more commonly referred to as JAB, puts on a day-long event to celebrate the coming of spring and the sun and the warm weather that comes along with it.

Figure 1: Not the most majestic of pictures, but hey, Ferris Wheel.
Figure 1: Not the most majestic of pictures, but hey, Ferris Wheel.

This year Springfest was Coachella  themed, as the JAB member who  planned the event told me.  They  brought in four performers from  across the northeast, including Lee  Dewyze the winner of season nine of  American Idol, and an amazing  acapella group out of Canada call  Eh440 (check them out they were  AMAZING).  The event ran from noon  to seven in the evening and every hour  of the event was packed with bouncy  castles, food trucks, three encore  performances from the Downbeat  Percussion group, and a Ferris Wheel.

For me, it wasn’t the terrifying awesomeness of a Ferris Wheel (what?  I’m afraid of heights) or the red chili chicken burrito served from a food truck that mad the day so memorable.  I think I can take the liberty to say that for most, Springfest is the first day in a long time that they can leave their rooms and homework, and bask in the warmth of a sun that is too often hidden during the winter months.  It’s a time to let loose a little before the final projects and tests start flooding in, robbing us of any time that we might otherwise have spent on the quad, lazily hammocking.

Even though I still have several homework assignments ahead of me tonight that I should have worked on today, I don’t regret spending my entire day outside.  Sure, I’ll be a little more tired this week, but it’s also only three days long for me (thank god for Easter weekend and not having classes on Thursdays).  My skin will also be red as a beet and burning up due to sunburn, but being uncomfortable for a few days will be well worth the day of music and food and fun that I just had.

Bailey Oratorical

You’ve all heard it before… Juniata is a special place. We all have heard it, we all know it, and we all sell it. For some reason, however, whenever I’m asked the question “why?”, my mind goes blank.

How can I tell you why Juniata is special any more than I can tell you why gravity happens or why bananas are the best when they’re mostly yellow with just a touch of brown? The words escape me, and it just seems like a fact of life. However, one thing recently gave me a true reason, a true piece of evidence to prove that Juniata is a special place – The Bailey Oratorical.

Winner of the 2017 Bailey Oratorical
Winner of the 2017 Bailey Oratorical, Anh Ha.

The Bailey Oratorical is the longest standing academic tradition at Juniata College, this being it’s 107th year. It is a speech competition that happens every spring and has 7 contestants who each give a 6-8 minute speech answering a prompt. I could go on, but these statistics of the Bailey, the history, the prizes, the try outs – they all pale in comparison to actually being in that room. None of those things are what amazed, captivated, and touched the audience this past Tuesday night. What we felt that night was pure heart and pure love.

36…7..3…and beyond. From 36 tryouts, to 7 finalists, to our top 3, and to hundreds of people who received the gift of hearing these speeches last night, the Bailey is a treasure. The speeches ranged from Claire Delaval’s questioning of the assumptions of the prompt: “At the heart of the liberal arts is civic engagement: How can we use the values of our liberal arts education to heal divides in our nation and world?”, Nitya Chagti decidedly stating that we are all her family, and Maeve Gannon welcoming us into the world of social change. It was heart wrenching to hear their personal stories, to feel their presence reverberating throughout the room. In the end, they were accepted and appreciated by each and everyone one of us in that theatre.

The second place winner of the Bailey, Nitya Chagti and myself.
The second place winner of the Bailey, Nitya Chagti and myself.

The first prize for the Bailey is undoubtedly impressive – $1,000. However, I do not think a single one of those seven finalists that night was thinking about money. I know a few of them personally, and their actions were not driven by a desire to win, make a quick buck, or get a resume booster. Each of them had an idea that they thought could make the world better if they shared it, and I think that they were right.

The love, friendship, and support I felt in that room was endless. And that feeling, that one of fullness, pride, tears welling in my eyes, warmth exuding from my heart…. That is what makes Juniata special. For as little as I can put it into words, I hope you all know what I am talking about, I hope you have all felt it before. There is no feeling like it.

If you ever get the chance, I suggest you tune into the Baileys. In person is preferable, online is second best. You will be surprised, happy, sad, angry, hopeful, loved. The people here will love you, and that is beautiful.

 

It’s Mountain Day!

Four years ago, when I was a senior in high school I browsed around different college websites hoping that something would catch my eye and nothing did for the longest time. It wasn’t until I found the traditions on the Juniata College youtube page that really peaked my interest. One of the main reasons why I decided to come to Juniata was not because of the academics; it was because of the traditions that occur throughout the year.

Mountain Day

Each fall semester of every year holds a random day when students get the entire day off of classes to go to Raystown lake and play games with peers and professors. The catch is, that no one knows when this day is going to be. Not even the professors know when this day is. This past Thursday was this glorious day known as mountain day and everyone woke to the sound of wonderful air horns and pots and pans at 5am to hear the incredible news. (When you are a student here, you will understand the feeling of excitement when those beautiful air horns sound in the morning.) As I am a senior with a car I didn’t have to wake up in time to get the buses that leave for the lake in the morning, so I slept in and made it to the lake just in time for lunch. Each year there are a variety of different bouncy houses and activities for students to enjoy. This year, there was a zip line, inflatables ranging from the original racecourse to trying to knock people off a pedestal with a wrecking ball, a caricaturist, a create your own spin art frisbee section, an air brush tattoo artist, and a photo booth, along with the many types of games and general activities that go on at the lake. It was a beautiful day to spend with my friends and just relax. It is not just a day off from classes but a time to connect with both of your peers and professors to create a stronger bond. Also, it was nice not having to worry about the test that I was supposed to have that day.

This year was my last mountain day and I have to tell you, I think this is the tradition that I will miss the most. I love the secretiveness about it and the thrill it gives you when you hear an air horn outside of your window. When I graduate, dependent on what profession I go into, I may not be able to call off for a random day of the year. I will just have to sit back at work and hope everyone else enjoys his or her mountain day. I have always proposed that we should have a mountain week. Maybe one day I will make that happen. A random week off in the beginning of the year is what everyone needs when life gets stressful. Don’tcha think?

Relay for Life

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The hula-hoop lap

A couple of weeks ago I was fortunate enough to participate in Relay for Life here at Juniata College. I was a team captain for the club Amigos de Guanin. This year, we decided to sell lemonade. Last year, we sold ice cream on the quad. Although we didn’t collect the highest amount of money, it was still really great to be a part of this event. It’s refreshing to be a part of something so fun around the time of year when things start to get really stressful. It’s even more fun to experience such a rewarding activity and spend the day in the sun!

Raising money for cancer research is one of my favorite things to be involved with on campus. I really enjoyed planning what we’d be doing for this event and I even more so enjoyed walking and participating. Some of my favorite parts of Relay this year were the cartwheel laps, the Zumba lap, and the clown lap. I really enjoy the survivor lap, too; it’s really empowering and inspiring to watch the survivors and their caregivers take on the track.

At the end of Relay, there is a luminary lap in which participants honor someone they’ve lost to cancer. The lap is done in silence as participants walk around the track. The track is outlined with glowing paper bags with names on them of people who have lost the battle to cancer.

Following this lap, there is a ceremony. Poems, personal stories, and songs were shared. It was a beautiful and empowering day from 10am-10pm. I am so honored to have been a part of Juniata College’s Relay for Life, 2016.