Sunday, May 6, 2012

A Girl with a Fight Worth Fighting

By Delilah Scrudato

           At 18 years old, Odalys Jimenez-Castano, also known as Giselle, was a senior who was living every day like it was her last, no different from any other teenager. With college a year away, prom coming up in a few months and graduation around the corner, it seemed as if nothing could stop her or the path she was leading. But what Giselle didn’t know was that her life would change forever in a matter of minutes.
          On November 11th, 2011 Giselle and her mother sat in a doctor’s office patiently waiting for all the right answers.
     "The time is now 1:06 p.m. and I smell the overpowering essence of antibacterial soap and hand sanitizer surrounding the elephant covered walls of a room where diagnosis is uncovered, tears are spilt, and answers are found. I know sooner or later the doctor will arrive with a folder as big as her torso filled with tests and extremely long medical terms," she later recalled.
     "Three minutes or so have passed; I feel her cold hands pressing all parts on my body as she is paying close attention to the abnormal textures of my lymph nodes. Her eyes glanced over at me for just a second; I could see the desolate look in her eyes; a look I feared.
     "The time is now 1:13 p.m.. My thoughts begin to race. I can feel my blood rushing throughout my body as I detain a panic attack heading in my direction. I take a deep breath and as I begin to exhale, the doctor sits, holds her breath as she releases the words a mother never wants to hear; 'I know there is no easy way to say this, but we have discovered lymphoma in your daughter's chest.' My mother looks over right into my eyes, and waits for a reaction. Tears begin to rush down her soft, olive cheeks. She gasps for air and attempts to hold in the feelings of wretchedness she does not want to reveal in front of me.  Not being able to hold her emotions any longer, she yells out 'cancer? This must be a mistake.' ” 
          With a million thoughts going through her head, fear struck Giselle as she pushed her head into her pillow. Shocked and unprepared to deal with her diagnosis, Giselle would soon discover the value of life as she saw herself in the seats of many who fight a disease with no cure.
          Giselle was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Disease Stage 2B at Hackensack University Medical Center at the Tomorrow’s Children Institute of Pediatric Oncology and Hematology. Giselle said, “We did not expect anything as severe as cancer; No family is ever prepared for cancer, especially in a child; however when strong is your only option that is the option you take.”  Giselle began receiving a sufficient amount of chemotheraphy in hopes of fighting her cancer.
          In January, however, Giselle ran into unexpected complications. Her white blood cell count was not increasing as planned and Giselle would be forced to stop chemotherapy. A possible, but not promising solution was for her to have a stem cell transplant. Giselle was faced with the dark truth that if the transplant was unsuccessful, she would only have three months to live.
          Holding on to life, Giselle said, “It was very difficult to see everyone grow, apply to colleges, shop for prom dresses, enjoy their senior years, while I laid in a hospital bed in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, waiting to hear if my chemotherapy was working. While my life hung on a string, I watched as my friends partied, enjoyed living, and made memories.”
          Although Giselle’s friends were out making memories, they never hesitated to pause their schedules, only to hit play and spend their lives with Giselle. With each day that passed, Giselle’s family and friends prayed for her; Giselle prayed too.
          “Hearing you are dying is the worst news any person could ever hear; however I was hopeful God was with me every step of the way,” she said. “I realized I was not alone and I realized God had sent me a blessing in disguise.” Three weeks later, Giselle’s white blood cell count increased and she was able to receive chemotherapy again. With a soft look of acceptance, Giselle said, “Eventually, I understood I was making memories of my own.”
          And Giselle does just that. Being treated at the Tomorrow’s Children Institute inspired Giselle to hold a fundraising event. She held a Zumba dance class called “Shakin’ it for Odalys” to raise awareness and money for the institution. Her next major event is sponsored by Relay For Life, where her and her high school classmates will raise money for the American Cancer Society. Giselle also speaks at various high schools, sharing her story while giving insight to other teenagers.  Giselle can look back on her own memories, and remember how she inspired people while changing their lives.
          When Giselle was first being treated at the hospital with chemo she was nervous and filled with uncertainty. Then she met an 8-year-old girl named Ava who gave her a new perspective.
          “I can’t feel sorry for myself because if Ava can fight, I can too," Giselle said. "My diagnosis reminded me of the importance of deciphering the meaning of life through an open perspective; not everything life places in our paths is meant to be understood, sometimes some things are left unknown because if the world were full of answers, we would not have anything worth fighting for.”

 Delilah Scrudato is a junior at St. Thomas Aquinas College majoring in Communication Arts.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Onward And Upward

By Mary Hackett

          STAC has done it again with the outstanding receptions they offer in the Romano Center.  Last Thursday, April 26, there was a reception for the student teachers who were getting ready for graduation in May.
          In the beginning of the reception they had the student teachers come up in front of the audience and recite a speech on their experiences of being introduced to what their future jobs will hold in store for them. One speaker really stuck out. Maggie Fee of Pearl River, New York was a transfer from Rockland Community College and commuted to STAC for her last two years of school. Maggie began her speech by introducing what her experience was like being an assistant teacher in a real classroom.
          Maggie gave a twist in her experience that she shared with the audience. She started explaining how many obstacles she had to overcome to make it as far as she did to pursue her dream career.
          “Most college kids I knew were out partying when they weren’t in school or in school while they weren’t out partying," she said, "I, however, had a different story. I went to all my classes and straight from school I would go to work, and when I wasn’t working I was at school.” Maggie further explained why she did not have one second to herself. She knew she needed to work as hard as she could to meet financial costs to continue going to school, to pursue the career in the passion she had with teaching children.
          Maggie continued, saying how thankful she was that she was lucky to graduate and be successful with her career.
          This event was quit the attention grabber in fulfilling dreams to become what you want in life. Refreshments and dinner followed after the speeches and the graduates were each given a little “teacher's gift.” All in all, this event was very successful and packed a lot of the Romano Center, with seats filled by families and supporters of the graduates. Now these students have great options opened to them to do what they like with their teaching experiences.

Mary Hackett is a freshman at St. Thomas Aquinas College majoring in Communication Arts.

A Faux Pas?

By Cassie Michelotti

          “What is on your feet?”
          The question they really meant to ask:
          “Why are those on your feet?”
          My shoes have toes, actual individual toe slots. They are basically a thin layer protecting the skin on my feet. From a distance, people have told me it just looks like I am wearing socks; that is how little shoe there actually is. They are called Vibram Five Fingers, I call them my toe shoes. So that answers what is on my feet,;but why they are there is a bit more complicated.
          All I did was jump. This sounds uneventful, just another day playing lacrosse, just another pass thrown a little too high. I was wearing my very expensive traditional running shoes that my mom had gotten me to try and alleviate the knee problems I had developed from years of running. They had thick soles, which were supposed to cushion my knees from the impact of running. When I jumped, I landed on the edge of the sole, so instead of my foot landing flat it went 90 degrees the other direction. It was painful to say the least, but seeing as how it was the last day of the season and my brother had rolled his ankle in a similar way and all he needed was ice and rest, I just did the same.
          One year later and I was still in pain; a trip to the doctor revealed that my injury was a bit more serious than I had thought. Upon rolling my ankle, the tendon had ripped; to reattach itself, my foot had grown an extra piece of bone, which was now being very annoying and painful. For the next two years I had to wear an ankle brace every time I ran, and then ice my ankle afterwards.
          Here is the confusing part; every summer I would play lacrosse barefoot in my backyard, no braces, no ice, just fun. The little pain I did experience faded as the summer wore on; then every year as I started training for lacrosse, the pain would return in force.
          My senior year of high school, I read an article in the paper about a runner who never wore shoes, and how once he stopped wearing shoes all of his running injuries disappeared. So I tried it myself, just a short run only 1.5 miles, and apart from the occasional pebble, it felt great. The next day, I could not walk; the muscles in my legs were so tight and sore, I could barely make it up a flight of stairs. It turns out running without shoes completely changes the way you run and the muscles you use to do it. It must have been exactly what I needed, because once my legs and feet got used to this new way of running I could go for miles completely pain free.
          My next challenge was to find a way I could run during hot summer afternoons without burning my feet on the hot asphalt. The internet revealed an odd shoe, one with toes, like being barefoot without being barefoot. I was a convert; running shoes were a thing of my past, until lacrosse started again.
          I am going to be completely honest; my toe shoes are really weird and I was embarrassed to wear them in public and especially in front of the members of the lacrosse team that I was meeting for the first time. The problem was, I was actually scarred to wear a normal pair of sneaker or cleats because of all the suffering they had caused in my past. So I scrambled and found another minimalist shoe that was a bit more conventional looking and wore it my entire freshman season.
          Running over the summer, I reverted back to my bare feet or toe shoes; my toes preferred freedom and the feel of the ground under my feet makes running much more enjoyable. So this year, my sophomore year of college, I sacrificed my pride in favor of my feet and showed up to lacrosse practice in toe shoes.
          It’s the end of the season now and my shoes are still the joke of the team; my refusal to wear cleats has resulted in my slamming into the mud on several occasions, and when another player in cleats steps on my foot with its extremely thin outer layer, it really hurts, but my ankle has not hurt in two years.
          And that is why they are on my feet.

One Man's Trash...

By Cassie Michelotti

          Do you know the story of Young Goodman Brown? The young puritan walks into the woods eventually encountering the members of his community participating in a secret evil ritual and his wife is being initiated and he is never the same again. That is basically the idea of the story, and while not quite as dramatic I too have stumbled upon a secret community in the middle of the woods.
          It all started on the old Erie Railroad line; the section I was on runs parallel to 9W in Piermont. I have gone running on this trail many times, but one day I parked by the former Piermont train station to start my run and noticed a book sitting on a bench, like it was waiting for its owner to return and continue reading it.
          I do not know why I even noticed the book, just that it seemed a bit out of place on a trail that people  hike, run, or bike on. I finished my run and the book was still there. I left only to return the next day to find it untouched. I found this a bit odd but still did not investigate any further. The next day it rained. So on the fourth day I returned and the book had disappeared; on the way back to my car I noticed the book sitting in a trash can in the middle of the trail.
          Now I do not want anyone to think I rummage through the trash on a regular basis but the book was just perched on top and my failure to pick it up would have resulted in it ending up in some dump never to be read again, and it seemed awfully wasteful, so I picked it up.
          Though a bit damp from the previous day’s rain, I turned the book over to find it was a copy of Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air, a book about a journalist who summited Mt. Everest, whose expedition fell prey to the deadliest season in the history of Everest.
          There was a sticker on the front cover that read, “Take me home with you!”. On the inside cover was another sticker which read, “A book can take us to so many places we’ve never been before and this one likes to do some traveling too!” It then gives the website again and an ID number, then continues, “You’ll discover where I’ve been and who has read me, and can let them know I’m safe here in your hands. Then….READ and RELEASE me!”
          Once back in my dorm room, I logged on to the website and entered the book’s ID number. It turns out the book was released, or left out in public, by a woman from Garnerville, NY. About the book she posted:
          “This is the compelling story of the author's climb up Mt. Everest. I'm in awe of the bravery and drive of people who undertake such incredible and dangerous trips. The story is inspirational, but not for the faint-of-heart (there are some disturbing parts). Perfect for the armchair adventurer!
          At Train Station (historical landmark) in Piermont NY. It's on a bench inside the front door. Lucky you, you found a traveling book! It's on a journey to entertain new readers, so please make a journal entry to let me know it's in safe hands. I hope you enjoy this amazing book (my gift to you), and when you're finished please pass it along for someone else to find (or keep it if you like). Happy reading and Happy Labor Day!”
           Though I found this book closer to Christmas than to Labor Day, I am still grateful to its original owner who not only allowed me to read a very good book, but to discover this secret community of book sharing that happens all across the globe. I have not yet decided which book I intend to release into the wild, but I definitely plan on becoming an active member of this community.

 Cassie Michelotti is a sophomore at St. Thomas Aquinas College majoring in Graphic Design.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

STAC Hosts Carnival Against Cancer

By Michele Piscitelli

           It was a fun, fabulous and yet serious fund-raiser. On Friday, April 20, St. Thomas Aquinas College hosted Carnival Against Cancer. The county-wide event held to raise support and awareness for children with cancer was organized by Rockland Colleges Cares--which is made up of STAC, Dominican College, Rockland Community College, and Nyack College.
          All the money raised at the carnival, which ran from 4 to 10 p.m. on the front lawn of STAC, was donated to Project Ladybug at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Paterson, NJ.. This is an organization founded by Dina Manzo in 2007 and it is dedicated to the support of children with cancer.
          Daniela, a STAC student working at the carnival, stated, “we have raised so much money for this cause, I’m surprised everyone has been very generous with their donations.”
          Anne Moore, head of STAC activities, commented enthusiastically, “though donations are still coming in (and being accepted!) we do not have an official number as of yet, but we are currently at $6000 raised for Project Ladybug. This money will go a long way to helping give children with cancer a better life as they are undergoing treatment.”
          The carnival had an amazing turnout, with crowds of people throughout the event. Families from the community joined students and college staff in enjoying the festivities and supporting the cause.
          A father from New City who brought his kids commented, “I thought this was a great event to take my kids to on a Friday night. It’s fun and different and I’m able to keep my kids entertained while helping a great cause. I made a donation because my father died of cancer and this cause if close to my heart.”
          It only cost $10 to get in and that price covered all the entertainment including snacks, games, a “Carnival Against Cancer” t-shirt, and 5 tickets. More tickets were available for purchase, which was a good idea because once people got involved in the fun they did not want to stop. Some of the activities offered were a tie-dying shirt table, carnival games, snacks like cotton candy and popcorn, and a DJ with a stage for people to dance on.
          Keeley Bateman, a student who attended, said, “I loved that they had a DJ, because I am not a huge fan of carnival games, but I still had a great time.”
          Overall, the event was a huge success. Hundreds of people from the colleges, their families and friends attended to support the fight against cancer. In addition to the money raised from the admission and tickets sold, many extra donations were made from the public. Project Ladybug will definitely be please with STAC’s contribution to their charity.  
Michele Piscitelli is a junior at St. Thomas Aquinas College majoring in Communication Arts.

MGM Nearly Loses Bond

By Joseph McCabe

          Metro Goldwyn Mayer studios, a dynamic company home to a signature franchise we’ve all grown to love, was nearly lost.
          In recent years, the studio has undergone a decline in DVD sales, movie productions, and employment opportunities. This decline has been building for some time, leaving the company a $3.7 billion debt. In 2004, with investors looking for opportunities elsewhere as a result of the $85 billion takeover by a private equity consortium, the company became crippled.
          Losing MGM would be a shame since this was the studio that made such classics as “Gone with the Wind,” “The Wizard of Oz,” and “The Pink Panther.”
          To keep the James Bond series alive, the studio made a deal with Columbia to pick up a chunk of the rights to the franchise. In doing so, the studio is still standing. The Bond series is as vibrant as ever with lead actor Daniel Craig and will probably continue to be successful, especially due to the next installment of Bond--”007 Skyfall”--coming out this November. The film wraps up in exactly six weeks since it first began shooting in November of last year.
          As to what the studio’s plans are for escaping bankruptcy, things still remain unclear. It could be years before the studio stands tall once again.

 Joe McCabe, a prominent 21-year-old young man from Queens, NY has been attending Saint Thomas Aquinas College for two years. His major is Communication Arts with a minor in Art. Joe’s main focus is to use his major as a stepping-stone toward film school. Joe’s dream is to one day become a famous writer and director in Hollywood. As of right now, Joe only wishes to enjoy himself, find a summer job, and meet new people in the process.