Friday, May 3, 2013

The Peace Corps: A Post-Collegiate Option to Consider

By Faye Forman 

President John F. Kennedy founded the Peace Corps in 1961 with the intention of “promoting world peace and friendship.” With three simple, yet sustainable goals the Peace Corps has grown into the largest federally funded volunteer program for citizens in the United States. 

Its mission aims to provide service to developing countries, help promote a better understanding of Americans, and to encourage a better understanding of citizens in developing countries. With over 8,000 volunteers and trainees serving in 76 countries around the world (since 1961, 200,000 volunteers have served in 139 countries), the Peace Corps is an especially popular option for college graduates.

After obtaining a bachelor’s degree, it is a common practice to continue on to graduate school or go job hunting. Although these are the more popular options, it’s also important to consider alternative opportunities that can enhance your resume as well as give back to others. The Peace Corps has a variety of options for recent grads, returned volunteers and professionals. They’ve even recently implemented “short-term” placements (as opposed to a traditional 2 year term) for returning Peace Corps volunteers, consisting of 3-12 month jobs.

Placement locations can vary depending on where service is requested. A volunteer can be placed anywhere from North Africa to Asia to Europe. The actual service that the foreign country requests can be under six categories: Education, Youth and Community Development, Health Issues (HIV/AIDS Awareness), Business and Information & Communication Technology, Agriculture, and Environmental Impact Awareness. 

There is a three-month long cultural integration period where the volunteer is trained in the country’s language, educated in its culture, and prepared to spend 27 months in the foreign country. Student volunteers also reap great benefits such as student loan assistance (even deferment or cancelation), language and technical training, full medical and dental coverage, paid vacation days, a monthly living and housing allowance, and much more.

To get a glimpse of what the life of a volunteer is like, here is a recollection by Donna E. Shalala, who was placed in Iran as a Peace Corps volunteer and later was appointed by President Clinton to be the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services in 1993:

“The day that I remember most vividly in the Peace Corps was the day after President Kennedy was assassinated. Depressed, some friends and I were not in the mood to deal with the local beggar when he approached us. But then with a sad smile, he said, ’No money. I want to tell you how sad we all are that your young president was assassinated.’ There, in a remote town halfway around the world, a distraught young Peace Corps Volunteer and a beggar embraced and cried together over the death of President Kennedy. Years later, looking back at my Peace Corps service, I realized that a wise ’mullah,’ an insensitive Dean, and students struggling to preserve a traditional society in a modern age had changed me forever. I had become a citizen of the world. Because of the Peace Corps, I was sensitive to cultural differences, comfortable sitting on mud floors and talking to tribal leaders, respectful of the role of religion, and in awe of the struggles of desperately poor people who manage to maintain their dignity and care for their children.”
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Faye Forman is a sophomore at St. Thomas Aquinas College. She plays tennis on the Women’s Tennis Team at STAC and is a member of APO, a co-ed community service fraternity. Faye plans to transfer to Bard College to major in Human Rights & International Relations, and eventually become a Peace Corp Volunteer herself.

Spartan Strong: 2013 STAC Baseball Year in Review

2013 STAC Baseball Team

By Ken Kirshner

The St. Thomas Aquinas baseball team is on the verge of its best season in its long and storied history. Under the tutelage of Coach Scott Muscat and assistant John Garvey, the Spartans have already broken the record for most conference wins in a series, 18, set by the 2012 St. Thomas Aquinas baseball squad. Another record is also set up to be broken by the 2013 group by season’s end; most wins in a season in program history, 34, also set by the 2012 team. The team sits at 32-11 with three non-conference games remaining on the slate vs. Dominican College and a doubleheader against Concordia College this upcoming weekend.

The 2013 campaign started off hot for the Spartans with two impressive and signature Eastern Regional victories against Wilmington University (Del.) in a three game set. It took a game tying double by Ken Kirshner in the 8th inning and a Frank Salerno walk off a single in the 11th inning to seal the victory on opening day. The Spartans were aided by a huge opening day performance from junior lefty Eric Cooper, who worked into the 7th inning, allowing 5 hits and only 1 run before handing the ball to closer CJ Ferrigi, who shut the door.

After a tough 3-2 defeat in game two, the Spartans came back to take the series in the finale, behind junior Robert Franke, who gave the Spartans six solid innings of work, scattering 3 hits and 5 runs. The Spartans got a big performance from senior catcher Mike Russo, who slugged 3 hits while driving in 3 runs. Why were these victories so significant? If the Spartans fail to win the East Coast Conference Tournament on May 11th, they could still receive an at-large bid into the NCAA tournament because of those two wins. Wilmington currently sits at 9th in the NCAA D2 baseball rankings, 1st in the Eastern Regional, while the Spartans sit in 5th in the regional rankings.
The 2013 team is led by junior standout ace pitcher, Robert Franke, senior catcher Mike Russo, junior transfer Ken Kirshner, and freshman pitcher Robert Naughton.

Franke is having a breakout campaign for the Spartans. On April 24th, Robert Franke was named NCBWA East Region Pitcher of the Week along with ECC pitcher of the week for his performance against LIU Post in which he threw a complete game shutout, allowing just 4 hits and no walks. Franke currently sits with a record of 4-4 with a 3.04 ERA, allowing only 25 hits in over 50 innings of work. In his past four conference outings, Franke is 3-1 with an astounding ERA of 0.62. Franke received one of D2 baseball’s most prominent weekly awards, National Pitcher of the Week, something STAC has never seen in its existence.

Senior catcher Mike Russo is coming off arguably the best season a STAC hitter has ever had. Russo’s 2012 campaign consisted of winning the ECC Triple Crown Award and receiving a spot on the All-American team. Russo led the ECC in batting average, runs batted in, and home runs. He hit an incredible .381 with 44 RBI’s and 6 long balls. In 2013, Russo has already surpassed his last year’s mark of 44 RBI’s and 6 homers. Currently he is hitting .342 with 8 home runs and 49 runs batted in.
Freshman right handed pitcher Robert Naughton is on track to capture St. Thomas Aquinas’ second consecutive ECC Rookie of the Year award (won by Stanley Susana in 2012). Naughton is a perfect 5-0 on the year, posting a 1.63 earned run average in over 49 innings of work, with one complete game to his name. Just this past week, Naughton was named ECC Rookie of the Week, the second time he has captured this award in his rookie year.

Junior first baseman Ken Kirshner is also having a breakout year for the club. Kirshner got off to a nice start, hitting a game tying double down the left field line to tie the game vs. #9 Wilmington on opening night. He hasn’t looked back since. Kirshner currently leads the Spartans in hits and batting average. He is hitting .360 with 30 RBI and 16 stolen bases. He currently leads the East Coast Conference in hits with 59. In over 400 chances at first base, Ken has only committed 6 errors on the year, posting a .985 fielding percentage.

The STAC baseball team looks to close out the season on a strong note, trying to capture the ECC title for the first time in school history. They came into the 2012 tournament as the heavy favorite to take the conference, only to be upset by Dowling College on their own field. The record for wins in a single season is in their thoughts, but seizing an ECC title is what’s first on their minds.

Ken Kirshner is a Junior baseball player at St. Thomas Aquinas College. He is a transfer student from Siena College in Loudonville, NY.  Ken is expected to graduate in the Spring of 2014 with a degree in History with a minor in Communication Arts. He hopes to pursue a career in Sports Journalism or Sports Broadcasting.

R.I.P to the Traditional Paper Resume

By Alyssa Ramirez

Times have drastically changed and technology is evolving every second. The use of the Internet has dramatically escalated in both our personal and professional lives; we practically live on the web. Due to this radical change in technology, the job market is evolving as well and the traditional rituals when applying for a job are closer than ever to becoming obsolete.

So what does the old-fashioned, black and white, paper resume make of all this? Not much. The possibilities that the Internet has created for us are endless and the capabilities of social media, program software, and online design tools can show you off far more than can a plain piece of paper that looks identical to everyone else’s. And that’s exactly where the future of the resume is going: on the web.

Gone is the day when we are forced to cram all of our experience into one page on Microsoft Word. So long to all of the strict verb usage and different synonyms to describe your experience in such a dull and uninspiring manner.  But it seems as if not everyone has gotten the memo that visual resumes are the way to go.

See, what people haven’t caught on to yet is that when employers list a hot job position that is available on the web, they receive millions of resumes via email every day. Now this employer has to work through all of the resumes – which all happen to roughly look the same – to search for a select few that stands out to them to respond to. Sadly, having an excessive amount of awesome experience isn’t going to cut it anymore – if they don’t take the time to see past your name on top of the page – especially in a time when employment is hard to get for a new college graduate or anyone, period.

You have to make your resume stand out from the crowd. You have to capture the attention of the person hiring, and there are many great ways and tools to do so. But only a few of the brave have stepped out of the box and turned their boring resumes into something that is more creative and compelling. Most job seekers haven’t caught on to this new trend that is little by little making great changes. They continue to send in the traditional resume and then wonder why they never got a call for an interview. Now this is not saying that everyone shouldn’t keep one of these on hand, but we should all consider “selling ourselves” in a more captivating and exciting manner.

It’s called “personal branding.” Yes, this means that it is in now in our best interest to find ways to advertise ourselves to people looking to hire us. Be creative; what do you represent? Display your interests, hobbies, and online character for the world to see and you’re guaranteed to get at least one employer interested in what you have to offer.

There are many ways to fire up your personal brand or resume. You can get the most out of social media resumes, video resumes, or visual resumes. Websites such as LinkedIn, an online network for professionals, are made to highlight your professional attributes and experiences. Employers are jumping on to LinkedIn each day to search for potential hires and much of their judgment on you comes from that one profile, so it’s in your best interest to polish it as much as you can. You are also encouraged to clean up and polish your personal social media pages such as Facebook and Twitter, because they’ll be on the hunt for those too.

Job seekers should also consider creating a website that displays their skills, interests, and background in a unique way. But it doesn’t stop there; the possibilities are endless. You can make a creative video about yourself and what you have to offer and launch it on YouTube or the new video app, Vine. You can create a PowerPoint or Prezi presentation and share it on SlideShare. You can find unique ways to brand yourself on Instagram or Twitter. Everything is fair game and employers are actually interested in seeing how innovative you can get.

Alyssa Ramirez is a senior at St. Thomas Aquinas College and is graduating this May with a Bachelor's degree in Social Science and a minor in Public Relations. After graduating she is interested in pursuing a career in public relations, marketing, and event planning.


The Great Gatsby Sound Track Blends 1920s and Modern Styles

By Alyssa Hamilton

The room is filled with music and laughter coming from the most affluent and social figures imaginable. Illicit champagne is in the glass of each party-goer; all are gathered in a mansion across from the green lights on the far side of the bay. Nearby, the eyes of Dr. TJ Eckleburg watch the dancers and flappers spin the night away in the arms of strangers, speaking easy in the moonlight. A man, impeccably dressed, watches the party rumbling around him, hoping that a specific young woman is an attendant that night. But as his eyes search the room, he realizes that she has failed to see the wealth of happiness he's raised across the bay.

Many will recognize this roaring scene as a party held by Jay Gatsby from the book The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. But soon, this will be reimagined in a new film adaptation directed and produced by Baz Luhrmann, to be released on May 10. The film stars Leonardo DiCaprio as Jay Gatsby, Tobey Maguire as Nick Carraway, and Carey Mulligan as Daisy Bachanan. The film is expected to do very well in the box office upon its release, with its ensemble cast and the well-known nature of the book upon which it is based.

But something almost as interesting and anticipated as the film is the accompanying soundtrack.

To be released on May 7, the soundtrack was produced by American rapper Jay Z and features a variety of artists such as Lana del Rey, Florence + the Machine, The xx,, and Gotye, among others. The track listing includes both covers of songs and original pieces, such as the lead single “Young and Beautiful” by Lana del Rey.

The song was co-written by Lana del Rey and Baz Luhrmann to ensure that the song fit both the mood of the movie and the style of the artist. The song is typically Lana del Rey, with muted strings and percussions and the crooning vocal style favored by the singer. In the chorus, del Rey asks in her sultry style, “Will you still love me/when I’m no longer/young and beautiful?” The song is a reflection of the romantic relationship between Daisy Buchanan and Jay Gatsby, who were torn apart by war and materialism. The lyrics also paint familiar images of del Rey’s aesthetic, creating lush scenes with hints of depravity lurking in her words, in addition to pleas to divine beings. The song most definitely fits the atmosphere of a doomed love shared by the two characters.

Another original song featured on the soundtrack is “Over the Love” by Florence + the Machine. The song, written by lead singer of the group Florence Welch, is told from the point of view of Daisy. Many of the symbols of the novel are featured in the song, such as the yellow dress worn by Daisy, the green light, and the Long Island Sound between East and West Egg, where she and Gatsby live respectively. The music, like that of the Lana del Rey song, features piano, strings, and percussion, but in this piece has a grander, more epic feeling that is typical of the style of Florence + the Machine. The vocals unleash the sheer power of Welch’s voice in the chorus, creating this sense of tremendous, swelling emotion felt by the novel’s character.

Another song on the soundtrack is a cover of the Amy Winehouse song “Back to Black” performed by Beyonce and Andre 3000. The original song was very jazzy in nature, and while it somewhat retains that feel, it has been modernized by a synthesizer playing the bassline. The music features minimal synthesizers, percussion, and electric guitar, with much of the focus on the vocals provided first by Andre 3000 and then Beyonce. The melody line is played with by the singers, however is still recognizable. The overall feeling of the track is darker, suiting the brooding undertones of the plot and relationship between Gatsby and Daisy.

All fourteen tracks, which add up to almost an hour of music, were selected to blend modern musical styles, Roaring Twenties ideas, and facets of the novel to enhance the film, featuring both popular artists and some that aren’t so wide-known. The soundtrack has something to offer everyone, whether they are lovers of the book,  appreciators of music, or even just looking for something new to listen to. It’s safe to say that it will make just as big a splash as the movie will upon its release.

Alyssa Hamilton is a freshman at Saint Thomas Aquinas College. She is majoring in English and would like to minor in Communication Arts and Writing. Upon graduation, she hopes to earn her living as a writer or be involved in the publishing industry.

A Beneficial Course

By Roxie Farina

Have you ever wished there was a course in college that helped you prepare for your very first interview? Well, now there is! The St. Thomas Aquinas College Communications Department offers a course called Business Communication (CA 312). This class helps prepare you for the real world and much more.

Before registering for this class, I was hesitant because I heard how hard it was, but now after almost completing it, I am so grateful that I took the course. I was lucky enough to have Professor Elaine Winship as my instructor. She is full of knowledge and has a lot of experience in the communications field.

Throughout the semester we have learned many useful things, such as creating a professional resume that portrays my skills and talents in the most beneficial way. We have also learned how to properly write a cover letter, reference sheet, and also learned email etiquette. When searching for a job or internship, it is critical that you know how to do all of these things. Before this class, I created a basic resume with all my information on it, but after several weeks of tweaking and editing, I am now leaving this class with a perfect resume. I now feel confident when presenting my resume to future clients on job interviews.

Another great thing that I loved about this course is the mock interview. In the beginning of the semester, Professor Winship notified us about our mock interview with five HR representatives. As weeks went by, we started to prepare answers to certain situational and behavioral questions that they might ask during the interview. When the day came for our mock interview, we all dressed in professional business attire and participated in a round robin interview. Each recruiter gave different types of feedback ranging from advice on what to wear/not to wear to an interview to how we should answer certain questions.

After interviewing for three hours, I left feeling confident about my mock interview. Before participating in the interview I was very nervous and didn’t know what to expect, but after it was all over, I was thankful that I was given the opportunity to practice a real, live interview.

Aside from the mock interview, we also take part in an interview with Professor Winship in front of the whole class. We choose the company we would like to work at and she poses as the interviewer. Before the interview we had to do a lot of research and make sure we knew the company we were interviewing with. By doing this, you are prepared to answer certain questions, and you can impress the interviewer by showing them what you know about their company.

One of the main points the HR representatives made during the mock interview was making sure you know information about the company that you are interviewing with. As you interview with Professor Winship, the whole class is evaluating your performance and how well you were prepared. After the process is over, you are given your evaluation packet from the class.

I felt the feedback we were given was very beneficial and helped make me aware of certain gestures that you self consciously do when you’re nervous. By having this opportunity to interview in front of an audience, not only gives you more experience which will help prepare you for your real interview, but it also helps boost your confidence.

Another way we build our confidence throughout this course is public speaking. Professor Winship also teaches public speaking 101 at STAC, so throughout the semester she would assign small speeches for the class to give. Although some of the information that she shared with us was repetitive, because many of us have already taken public speaking, it was nice to have it fresh in our mind.

Doing these speeches definitely helped me improve my public speaking skills. In many of our classes we are expected to give a presentation at least one time throughout the semester, but this class demanded a little more out of you, which in the end helped boost my confidence. Each time I stood up in front of the class, I felt more and more comfortable with speaking because I was getting positive feedback from Professor Winship about the previous speech, which helped me improve my presentation skills.

All in all, I feel this course should be mandatory for all undergraduate students. This class has taught me so many important life skills that I will need for the future, and it has also helped to improve my confidence level. After a short fourteen week semester, I am walking away from this class with an exceptional resume, a cover letter, reference sheet, experience from two different mock interviews, email etiquette, public speaking skills and so much more. I wouldn’t think twice about recommending a friend to take this course because I truly learned so much useful information during these fourteen weeks.

Roxie Farina is a junior at St. Thomas Aquinas College. She is majoring in Communication Arts and plans to graduate in May 2014. After graduation,  Roxie would like to pursue a career in PR/HR.

Jason Collins: The Jackie Robinson of the NBA

By Colleen Pagnani

For the past 12 seasons, Jason Collins has played in the NBA. And for the past 12 seasons, Collins has been holding in a secret so large it could change the game he plays, and the sports world, forever. This past week, the 34-year old Washington Wizard’s center made a huge announcement: He is gay.

As the first openly gay male athlete in a major American pro sport, “Collins has forever changed the face of sports,” said the Human Rights Campaign. This revelation is so big that some are even comparing it to how Jackie Robinson changed the face of Major League Baseball by becoming the first African-American player to play in the modern era.

Why is his announcement so newsworthy, one might ask? The topic of sexuality in male professional sports is not usually brought up. People always seem to assume that every one of these athletes is straight, when in reality, that is not always the case. Little kids look up to these men. They are tall, muscular, and very skilled at what they do. Sadly, that’s just it. These men tend to be judged by their physical appearance and not their personality and feelings. With this admission, there is a good chance that all male athletes will look at each other, and be looked at, very differently.

During a time in America when equal rights are still a huge political issue, and trying to legalize gay marriage is an everyday conversation, this type of announcement is not completely surprising. What is surprising about it, though, is the fact that Collins plays in a sport full of strong-willed men, in an organization that has been around since 1946, and he is the first of those men to come out publicly while still active in the league. The WNBA has already had women come out publicly in the past, so it isn’t that unheard of in the sports world.

In a personal essay that will be published in Sports Illustrated Magazine, Collins admits to the world, “I’m a 34-year-old NBA center. I’m black. And I’m gay.” He has said that he never planned to be the first active player to come out, but he is okay with it ending up like this. Since no other male athlete has come out, he decided to step up and raise his hand to say, ‘I’m different’. Of course, this whole process has been an internal struggle for him, as it would be for anyone.

Collins has received a lot of support throughout the league, as well as from former political leaders and ordinary people who are proud of his actions. David Stern, the commissioner of the NBA, said in a statement, “We are proud he has assumed the leadership mantle on this very important issue.” Even former President Bill Clinton gave his two cents on the subject, saying this announcement is “an important moment for professional sports and in the history of the LGBT community.”

No one knows how Collins teammates and opposing players will react to him in the future on the court after learning of his admission, but he stands by his decision, and no one should base their opinion on him based off of his sexuality. Everyone’s different. Even though there are people who may not be okay with his decision to come out, does not mean Collins should be judged for being the person he is. Everyone has feelings, and people need to remember that.

No one is saying that because Collins has come out, other players who are also gay will now willingly come out. Although there may be more gay professional athletes in the NBA, NFL, NHL, or MLB who have yet to come out, does not mean they ever will. Some may decide to keep the truth to themselves, their families, and closest friends, choosing to never come out publicly. However, as Collins said, “The most you can do is stand up for what you believe in.” The sooner they admit it, the happier they will be in the long run.

Colleen Pagnani is a sophomore at St. Thomas Aquinas College pursuing a degree in Business Administration. She is a member of the college’s softball team and plans to graduate in the spring of 2015.

The New York Mess: A Fan Base In Pain

By Dan Longarino

New York is home to perhaps the most passionate fan bases in all of sports. All season long, fans cheer on their favorite sports teams, hoping they make the city proud. Often times, their dedication is rewarded.

The New York Giants brought home the Lombardi Trophy two seasons ago and the New York Yankees have won a slew of World Series championships. After such big wins, fans and players alike gather in the city to rejoice and celebrate all their hard work with a huge parade.

Unfortunately, many New York sports fans are out of luck. With Yankees bringing home their most recent World Series trophy in 2009,  the New York Mets haven’t gave fans anything to cheer about in forty-four years. The Yankees have won the World Series twenty-seven times, the Mets have won twice. Playing little brother to one of the most successful franchise in baseball history is not easy for Met fans. Tensions are running high in New York as the team continues to disappoint year after year.

After many grueling, heat-aching seasons, Met fans are beginning to turn on their favorite team. After a promising season in 2006, the Mets failed to make the playoffs since. With their number of losses increasing, the number of fans attending the games has been on a steady decline since 2008. The owners of the Mets, the Wilpon family, have been under scrutiny as a result of their connection with Bernie Madoff. Their roster has been plagued by injuries and many fan favorites, such as Jose Reyes, are leaving the Mets to join other ball clubs.

How do prideful Mets fans cope with constant hits to their morale? Unfortunately, many don’t.
As a result of such failure, Met fans have been subject to ridicule by other fan bases and are finding themselves divided on how the team should be run. General Manager Sandy Alderson appears to have the team pointed in the right direction for the future, but not without controversy. By trading away All-Star caliber players such as R.A Dickey and Carlos Beltran for younger, unproven players, he seems to be running the Mets like a small-market, money saving team, in one of the biggest sports markets in the world.

Some fans believe this is the only way to build a strong foundation for future success, while others are understandably impatient with this strategy while they watch the Yankees spend lavishly while making the playoffs every year.

The future should look bright for the Mets. Young prospects such as Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler and Travis D’Arnaud seem to be the cornerstones for a consistent team in the coming years. Problem is, the 2013 roster is far from impressive, and if things keep going the way they have been, attendance numbers, unity and fan loyalty will all keep decreasing until things change. 

The start of the 2013 has not been promising for Mets fans. Per usual, the Mets had a strong start to the season, just to have a significant decrease in production towards the end of April. Fresh off a heart-breaking sweep by division rivals the Philadelphia Phillies, the Mets now sit at fourth place in the National League East division with a 10-13 record. Holding up to fans’ expectations, the Mets poor performance has been due to a lack of offense and bullpen production.

The Mets offense relies greatly upon young first baseman Ike Davis. Last season, Davis led the Mets in offensive production by hitting 32 home runs and driving in 90 runs. After a strong 2012 season and being one of the Mets few promising power hitters, Davis has not lived up to expectations a month into the 2013 season. So far, Davis has only produced a miserable batting average of .169, hitting only 4 home runs and driving in eight runs. As a result, fans have been calling to have Davis sent back down to the minor leagues until he gets his act together.

Meanwhile, the Mets bullpen has been disgraceful. After their last series, the Mets bullpen has pitched to a 5.38 earned run average, which is worst in the majors. Aside from young up and comer Bobby Parnell, the bullpen consists of old, washed up pitchers who couldn’t find a job on other teams. Scott Rice, LaTroy Hawkins and Robert Carson have all underperformed, losing many games that should have been won.

The starting pitching staff isn’t too helpful either. The one bright side on the Mets starting pitching staff is young star Matt Harvey. The Mets have won all games that Harvey started this year, and have gone 5-13 in games he has not appeared in. Jon Neise, Jeremy Hefner and Shaun Marcum have all underperformed, giving up many runs and not pitching deep into games. As a result, they get pulled out of the game early, causing our already untalented bullpen to pitch more and more innings.

Things are not looking good; it appears that most fans will have to wait until at least 2014 for any signs of hope. 

Dan Longarino is a junior at St. Thomas Aquinas College pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Communication Arts.

A Silent Epidemic: Dying While Waiting for an Organ Donation

By Elizabeth Flores

Organ donation in America has become an epidemic and for those waiting on a transplant, one donation can save their life. In this country 117,847 people are currently waiting for an organ and although some cases are severe enough to make it to the top of the list, sometimes the organs do not come in time. 

Organ donation is one of those things that most Americans pass by without giving it much thought, some have even said that they can’t be bothered with checking one small box at the DMV. Donating an organ is something we don’t always think of because it brings up questions about our mortality. People are added to the wait list for an organ every ten minutes but that doesn’t compare when on average 79 people actually receive a transplant daily. Due to the shortage of donated organs, eighteen people die each day because they do not get the required organs they need to stay alive. There are some who prefer to not get an organ transplant for different reasons, religion being the most important one, but in fact organ transplantation has become an accepted medical treatment for end–stage organ failure.

Sometimes people do not respond to statistical facts in correlation to a controversial topic such as organ donation but the key thing to remember is that each number is a living, breathing person just like you except in a great need for your help. Organ donation represents a form of a legacy; those that leave this world fatally early are probably the best candidates for organ donations. A life lost is tragic but something great can come out of every death and I truly believe that organ donation should be a topic that more and more of us should be educated on. If more of us were educated on organ donation and how it works, we would be less likely to be having a shortage in organ donation.

Some ways in which you can help this cause if by making a commitment to become an organ and tissue donor. This is one step that can make a huge difference. You can also become more involved by signing up on your state’s donor registry.

Becoming more informed on organ donation is the single most important thing when deciding to become an organ donor. We all need to be knowledgeable enough where we can inform and educate others. Something that has been making a big buzz in the social media outlets is Facebook’s ingenious idea of adding organ donation as a tab on your Facebook page. It is a great new idea that allows you to advertise your donor status just as you would your birth dates and school information.

It is being said that by Facebook adding this as part of their new layout it might actually inspire others to sign up at their local DMV offices as well as make organ donation a more casual process with less legal fees leading to more organ donations. Most people do not know the legal process that takes place when an organ is donated but in fact there is much legal paperwork. If you are an organ donor and your family decided that they do not want to donate your organs, in fact they can because they have the final say which is why this is a tricky situation. 

There are many things to consider when deciding to be an organ donor, but one thing that should always be in your mind is that this is an amazing thing and this should be less about thinking of your mortality and more about the thought of saving a life. One simple action can change someone’s life and it all starts with you Take that step and make a difference.

Elizabeth Flores is a sophomore at Saint Thomas Aquinas College and will be graduating with her Bachelor’s in communications in 2015. After graduation she plans to pursue a Masters in Journalism as well as hopefully be working in her field of choice, loving what she does everyday.

Whitney Houston Died Too Soon, Her Music Lives On

By Jeremy. St. Clair                           
Singer Whitney Houston was found dead in a bathtub at the Beverly Hilton hotel as she prepared to attend the Grammy Awards. Houston, 48, was born in New Jersey on August 9, 1963 and died February 11, 2012 in Beverly Hills, California.

In Whitney Houston’s family her mother, Cissy Houston, was a famous gospel singer and one of her brothers, Gary Garland, also was a singer. Dionne Warrick was her cousin, a popular singer doing soul music, her godmother was singer Darlene Love, and a family friend was soul singer Aretha Franklin. This is probably part of the reason she decided to become a singer, since members of her family are singers. When she was eleven she got into music when she sang in a choir at her church. It was also there she started to play the piano.

Whitney Houston was taught music and how to sing by her mother. She started her singing career when she was a teenager singing at nightclubs.  This began her interest in music and becoming a professional singer. She is survived by her daughter, Bobbi Kristina Brown. When she was only 15, Whitney sang backup for Chaka Kahn’s solo “I’m Every Woman.” Before she became a singer she was a fashion model during the early 80’s. She was the first woman of color to be on the cover of the teen magazine, Seventeen

In the beginning, she was approached by two record companies but her mother wanted to wait till she finished high school. Whitney Houston’s first album was Whitney Houston in 1985. After coming out with several songs in just a year she topped the Billboard 200 albums chart and stay there for 14 nonconsecutive weeks. It was throughout the late 80’s she came out with several good songs and in 1991 she sang at the Super Bowl. 

Also, in the late 80’s she met men such as Randall Cunningham and Eddie Murphy and in 1989 at the Soul Train Music Awards she met singer Bobby Brown. They got married in 1992 and had a daughter. She had a good career throughout the 80’s but that changed starting in the 2000s. She began missing concerts and there were rumors of her using drugs. Whitney and her husband were caught possessing drugs. The charges were dropped but  rumors of her drug use continued. In 2006, Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown filed for divorce and Houston got custody of her daughter. Bobby Brown sued for custody but didn’t get it.

In 2009 she was a guest mentor on the UK show X factor and sang Million Dollar Bill. Critics did not like the performance, referring to it as weird, ungracious and a flop. In February 2012, Whitney Houston was found dead in a bathtub in a hotel in Beverly Hills. The cause was due to an accidental drowning and later Houston was revealed to have taken drugs such as Benadryl, Xanax and Marijuana. The funeral arrangements were open only to Whitney’s friends and family. The funeral was held in Newark, New Jersey. Whitney Houston’s mother was in charge of the service. Whitney Houston was buried in Fairview Cemetery.

Whitney Houston had unique traits and characteristics. She was described as a person filled with passion and life. She enjoyed being in situations with energy, excitement and action. She also had an urge to express herself creatively in her own way.  She really enjoyed life and it can be shown through her singing.

Houston said of her life. “Nobody makes me do anything I don’t want to do, it’s my decision.” However, while her professional life was good she had personal issues. At first everyone thought of her as a good girl during the 80’s and 90’s. In the end, she was a good singer who encountered problems in her life and had trouble combating them. She lived in a middle income area in New Jersey  with her parents. 

She will be missed a lot. She died too early, yet we still have her music to listen to.

Jeremy St. Clair is a junior at St. Thomas Aquinas College majoring in Communication Arts. He hopes to pursue a career in television production. 

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Evolution of Social Media

By Cinterra Lucas

In this day and age, the internet as well as cell phones is one of the top priorities in almost everyone’s life. Some older people may not understand why they often see young adults and even children so into the phones. What people fail to realize it is not so much the phones that they are into but the social media websites that they are members of that have them fascinated.

Social media websites started as something so little but have evolved over the past years. In the early 2000’s there were social networks sites such as Bebo, Sconex, and MySpace. Out of those three websites, MySpace took off, having over one billion users. 

MySpace is the type of social network that allowed you to interact with friends. You were also able to create a profile that included images, videos, and music based on your own preferences. There was also a feature that allowed you to create “Top Friends”-- a section on your page for a list of those you keep in contact with the most. With one click on your page you were able to view their profile without going to the search engine to find them. MySpace was a forefather of the various social media websites we have today.
Facebook is another social media site, which was founded in February 2004 by Mark Zuckerberg. Facebook was created around the same time as MySpace, but was not used as much except by college students. This website was created for college students so that they could be able to network with others in the hopes of getting a job after they graduated. More and more people began to use Facebook. In 2009 the purpose of Facebook changed, it was now used as a way for anyone to reconnect with long lost friends and even relatives. The way people found those that they were looking for was through the search engine; all you have to do is enter the individual’s first and last name.
The creators of Facebook recently changed the site’s look and added a couple new features. This was done in order to keep their members on the site. Facebook currently uses a timeline format; this gives you the ability to look at how you have changed socially based on the statuses you posted over the years. If you have Facebook as an application on your phone, you have the ability to synch your contact onto your Facebook page, which allows you to stay connected with them via Facebook. You are also able to upload the pictures that are in your phone onto Facebook without manually uploading them one by one. Facebook has now allowed their users to put a filter on their images, which give the pictures a slight edit and change in color.
Twitter is yet another popular social networking site, founded in March 2006 by Jack Dorsey. Twitter is a website that allows you to “tweet” whatever is on your mind as long as it is no longer than 140 characters.  From congressmen to celebrities to everyday people, everyone used twitter. The way twitter works is you have to follow other individuals via the internet, not in person. You also have the ability to follow celebrities but most likely they will not follow you back.

In order to send a tweet to someone you have to mention them in your tweet by using the @ symbol, followed by their twitter name. If an individual likes something that you tweeted they have the ability to retweet it so the rest of their followers can see. Twitter mainly consists of conversations that are started by a trending topic of the day. You know when a topic is trending when there is a hash tag next to it; i.e. #FinalsWeek, based off of that a lot of users’ tweet’s include #FinalsWeek.
Instagram is one of the most recent social networks, founded in October 2010. Instagram consists of posting nothing but pictures. Just like Twitter, you have to follow people and have them follow you back. Every time you upload a picture, someone will “double tap” the picture, which allows them to like it and they may even comment on the picture. Instagram is not only popular for the images that are posted but for the captions as well.

The proper way to post a caption on Instagram is to involve plenty of hash tags. This is indeed similar to Twitter but Instagram uses more than one hash tag. Let’s take a look at how a caption would look. If someone posts a picture of final grades the caption would be: #Spring2013#FinalGrades#IDidIt#FinallyAJunior.

Based on the many hash tags, Instagram is not for the older generation. 

Social media has changed drastically and will continue to change, especially because of the generation that is coming up. Social media has both advantages and disadvantages; when there is an incident occurring in the world, this is where most people hear it first before turning to the television news or reading a local paper. The downside of seeing information on social media sites is the fact that there are no regulations and what you may see online cannot be considered as a reliable source of evidence.

Cinterra Lucas is a sophomore at Saint Thomas Aquinas College and is going to graduate in May 2015 with a Bachelors of Arts Degree in Communication Arts. After graduating she plans to work in the television production field with hopes of becoming a production manager or director.

Fantasyland: Double the Fun at Disney World

By Toni Ann Buchalski                               

“It all started with a mouse” is what comes to mind when the vastness of what is Walt Disney World is discussed. On December 6th, 2012 Disney World in Orlando, Florida officially opened the expanded and highly anticipated Fantasyland. 

This new addition to the Magic Kingdom was under construction for well over a year. A large piece of Disney property was sectioned off to complete the new addition. The New Fantasyland is said to be the largest addition to the Disney World theme park over the course of its forty-one year history. After several months of planning, preparation, and construction, the newest addition to Fantasyland was welcomed by a very large and anxious crowd. The Fantasyland that was originally ten acres has now been expanded to twenty-one acres. It just so happens that the opening day of Fantasyland was Walt Disney’s 111th birthday. 

The additions to this area of the Magic Kingdom are focused mainly upon the stories of the original and most favored princesses, along with a few character favorites such as Dumbo the flying elephant. Now let’s get into the attractions.

After entering the Magic Kingdom and making your way past Cinderella’s castle, Disney guests will find themselves in a recreation of the Enchanted Forest. This is where guests will find themselves invited into the magical world of “Beauty & the Beast.” Park-goers are encouraged to participate in Belle’s experience by visiting Maurice’s cottage, spending some time in Gaston’s Tavern or even shopping around at Bonjour! Village Gifts. Beyond Belle’s French hometown is Prince Eric’s castle. As most of you may know, Prince Eric is one of the main characters from an all time favorite – “The Little Mermaid.” Prince Eric’s castle just so happens to be a sort of portal to “Under the Sea- The Journey of the Little Mermaid.” Throughout this attraction, guests, especially young girls, will be greatly entertained with the movie’s catchy soundtrack playing in the background.

In the center of the Enchanted Forest is the Beast’s castle. This castle overlooks the Enchanted Forest while standing over the Be Our Guest restaurant. This restaurant is the first of its kind for Disney theme parks. It not only serves quick lunches and formal dinners, but also happens to be the first and only restaurant in the Magic Kingdom to serve alcohol.

With the princess additions to Fantasyland, there also came additions of other characters as well. Opening in the Fall of 2014 will be the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train coaster. This will be another first in Disney’s history. The coaster will be constructed to allow the mine cars to swing from side to side while still maintaining the train’s position on the tracks. Another character who will be returning to the Disney scene is the infamous Pete. His attraction is titled “Pete’s Silly Slideshow.” Goofy will also have his own ride. “The Barnstormer Featuring the Great Goofini” is a brand new coaster right in Fantasyland. 

A new improvement to a classic ride in Disney World is the Dumbo the flying elephant ride. To the excitement and satisfaction of many, Dumbo the flying elephant has added an extra two spinners to its technical features. This will allow for more anxious guests to enjoy the ride while at the same time allowing the wait line to move at a more efficient pace. In 2013, the Princes Fairytale Hall will be opening. This will serve as a meet and greet for the princesses and their long-awaited guests.

Overall, Disney is an exciting place. Whether you’re with family or friends, you are sure to have an amazing experience. Even if you’ve visited Disney countless times, be sure to check out the new and improved Fantasyland! The new attractions are sure to be a thrill. The hard work of the Imagineers seems to have definitely paid off. These new additions have made Disney World’s Magic Kingdom more exciting than ever before. Fantasyland is a new experience just waiting to be unraveled. Also, there is more to expect in the future, so keep your eyes opened! 

Toni Ann Buchalski is a freshman at St. Thomas Aquinas College in Sparkill, New York. She is pursuing a dual degree in Communications Arts and Business Administration. She is a member of the school’s cheerleading team and the campus activities board club. Toni Ann works at two restaurants as a waitress, hostess and bus girl. She enjoys reading, going to the beach and spending time with her friends and family.

American Idol Finalists Get An Extra Round

By Stephanie Costantino
Since its Season 12 aired on January 16, the supremely talented contestants have enchanted viewers of American Idol. As the twelfth season comes to a close, Idol sees its final four contestants working hard to persevere and progress towards the semifinals. Potential American Idol Season 12 winners are finalists Angie Miller, Candace Glover, Amber Holcomb, and Kree Harrison, who were granted an extra week on the show thanks to an Idol twist.
In years past, Idol viewers were able to vote to save their favorite acts by calling or texting a certain phone number, and whichever contestant had the least amount of votes was sent back home. However, in its eighth season, Idol introduced a new concept called ‘the judges’ save,’ in which the judges were allowed to save only one contestant per season from being sent home, so long as they came to a unanimous decision. Last week, Idol shocked its viewers by putting a twist on the show that producers claimed would “turn the competition upside down.”
With three weeks left in the season, Idol judges Randy Jackson, Mariah Carey, Keith Urban, and Nicki Minaj had not yet used their ‘save’ on any contestant.  Had they kept up their streak of sending home the act with the least amount of votes, the season would have ended a week early. To prevent that from happening, and to grant finalists another chance, judges decided to save both Candice and Amber, who found themselves in the Bottom 2 as the acts with the least amount of votes.    

Viewers and various forms of media alike have been speculating over this “shocking twist,” wondering if the intentions of the judges were genuinely to give the ladies a second chance, or if producers’ main motives were to buy more airtime.  Some people were not very shocked by the “twist” at all, and some viewers even say that Idol is becoming too predictable. Others are simply happy that they get a chance to see their favorite acts competing in the competition for another week.
As the competition comes to a close, it is almost unpredictable as to which contestants will be in the bottom two, and who will be eliminated. Every single contestant exudes talent, and at this point in the competition, it is safe to say that all four remaining contestants will have successful careers in the music industry. That being said, contestants must fight for their spot in the Idol finals, and perform to the best of their ability in order to win over the hearts of viewers and avoid the bottom 2. Last week, unfortunately, for Candice Glover and Amber Holcomb, that was not the case. Glover took to her Twitter account to share her feelings about being in the bottom 2, stating that it “didn't feel too good, but once again no excuses. I have to leave it all on that stage next week.” She also assured fans that were voting for her that “Next week WILL be better.” Holcomb, however, did not post her feelings about almost being eliminated onto her Twitter account.
This week, the four finalists will compete again for America’s votes by singing live on Wednesday night. This week’s theme, according to online spoilers, is “Then and Now.” Contestants will each sing two songs: one song that was popular back in the day, and another song popular on the current charts. With Angie, Candice, Amber, and Kree all being women, Season 12 will produce the first female winner since Jordin Sparks of Season 6. It will also be the first season to have two female finalists since Fantasia Barrino and Diana DeGarmo in Season 3.

Viewers at home can vote for their favorite contestants by calling or texting their designated number, voting online at the American Idol website, or utilizing the T-Mobile American Idol App for iPhone users. Since nobody was eliminated the previous week, Idol will combine the number of votes from last week with the number of votes from this week to determine which finalist will be going home, and which three will be continuing on in the competition to be the next American Idol.

Stephanie Costantino is a freshman at Saint Thomas Aquinas College majoring in Communication Arts. She enjoys writing and would love to incorporate it into her future career someday.