Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Chris Gentle: Swinging for Success

Chris Gentle    (photo:

By Connor Durkin

To be a great golfer, you need to have a unique set of qualities: patience, extreme concentration and complete devotion and determination, all qualities I immediately noticed on meeting Chris Gentle.

Chris was born May 18, 1994, and it wasn’t long beforel he gripped his first golf club.  "I was crawling around with a plastic club that my parents gave me," Chris said. “Some of my earliest memories were playing with a plastic club and balls.”

Noticing he was wearing a New England Patriots beanie when I first met him, it was no surprise when he told me he grew up in Lowell, Massachusetts with his parents, Ron and Pam, his sister Kelcey, and his dog Echo. “My dad was the one who got me into golf and was my biggest inspiration,” Chris told me. Chris’ early passion and creativity for the sport inspired him to build two miniature holes in his backyard.

“I spent hours practicing with my plastic club and balls.” “I couldn’t tell you how much time I actually spent practicing on those holes,” said Chris.

From finishing 3rd in the NEPGA match play championship in 2005 to having 31 top 5 finishes by 2008, Gentle came into Lowell High School and evolved into one of the state’s top players. Being ranked #1 from sophomore to senior year at Lowell High, picked three times MVP, Chris Gentle has had some astonishing achievements during his high school years.

Bay State Golf Star

Gentle was a home town star, winning multiple junior club champion titles at Mt. Pleasant golf course, his home course. From taking second at a New England Jr. PGA event at Black Swan Country Club to shooting a 74 to win the Presidents Cup Invitational in 2010, Gentle built an outstanding resume during high school years. One of his most memorable and greatest accomplishments was in 2010 when he won the Junior PGA Series 16-18 Division title at Stow Acres Country Club.

“It was the first national title I ever won,” he said. “I remember it was one of the best feelings after getting close to winning before.”

The tournament featured over 90 juniors from nine different states and 52 in Chris’ group. He pared the second extra hole to win and carded a 10-over 74-76-76-226, after the regulation 54 holes, even in treacherous weather conditions. “I remember I was nervous because of the weather, the wind was really bad, but I was able to stay focused and take it one hole at a time,” Chris said.

Chris graduated in 2012, leaving his mark on the Lowell High record book. Gentle set a new match play record, 44-17-7, was the first student to be first ranked #1 at Lowell for three years in a row, and set a record scoring average of 36.

While Chris shattered records on the course, he also took all honors classes, three AP classes and graduated with a 3.5 GPA. “I always tried my hardest in school because I knew if I didn’t pass," he said, "then I couldn’t play.”

Community Volunteer

Not only did Gentle show leadership on the golf course, he also showed it through services he did for the Lowell community. “Every summer since my freshman year of high school, I have volunteered at Mt. Pleasant Golf Club, as a golf instructor for blind students from the Perkins school,” Chris said. “I’ve made a lot of friends, and they’ve given me real perspective on how lucky I am to be able to play competitive golf, and do the everyday things I sometimes take for granted.”

Along with Gentle’s work with students from the Perkins school for the blind, he also volunteered at the Lowell Humane Society.

When it came time for Chris to decide what college he wanted to attend, he thought extensively about all of his options and what each school had to offer.  “I chose STAC because they are a Division II school with a great golf program,” Chris explained. “Offering me an academic scholarship, STAC gave me the best option financially, compared to other Division III Ivy League schools that I was considering.”

Chris fit right in with the St. Thomas team, posting a 77.1 scoring average in 9 tournaments and 19 competitive rounds in his freshman year. His best game was at the Manhattanville Spring Invite, where he finished tied for 4th with rounds of 74-74. But his most impressive finish in his freshman year was at the NCAA Super Regional when he shot a team low score of 72 on the challenging Spidel golf course.

From the time Chris started his intercollegiate career, he’s learned a great deal about team and tournament play.  “I’ve gotten a lot better at tournament play and have learned to handle my emotions and deal with pressure a lot better.” 

Gentle knows how much of a mental game golf can be. “You’re playing yourself all the time; it’s an area I’ve struggled in the most.” Chris has gone the lengths to keep his mental game sharp, even using hypnotism to help. “It actually is very helpful,” Chris said, “it only lasts so long but I found it very effective.”

Working On His Game

Chris has always gone above and beyond to keep himself fit and ready for the golf season. For the past eight years, Chris has worked with swing coach Mark Spencer to help stay on top of his game. “Mark’s worked with me for a long time now, and has helped tremendously with the developments and mechanics of my swing.”

When it comes to staying fit and healthy, Gentle knows the little things are just as important to be ready for the season. “Getting enough sleep, eating the right foods, just the basics,” Chris said. “ I work out during the off season to keep my endurance up but its just as important to keep a positive attitude going into each season, it can really go a long way.”

As for school, Chris has loved his time at St. Thomas so far and continues to work hard as a Business Administration major.  Chris’s father, Ron Gentle, is a successful lawyer and was one of the many reasons Chris chose to peruse business administration as his major.

“I have a lot of family connections that were business majors," he said, "and even worked in my father's law office, running files and organizing papers; I really enjoyed it.”

For now, Chris is focused on having a strong season this year and hopes to help his team to a very successful season, like they had last season. Under his coach, Stephen Ferrara, the team went on to break the STAC scoring record, when they recorded an incredible team score of 273 during the second round of the 2014 Super Regional.  “Even though I didn’t play in it, it was one of my most memorable STAC memories from just being there with my team and being so happy for them,” he said.

As for the future, Gentle is taking it one step at a time, not making any specific plans.

“I know I still want to be involved with the golf industry in some way,” Gentle says. “As for playing professionally, I mean, who wouldn’t take the opportunity if they got it.”

Connor Durkin is a Communication Arts student at St. Thomas Aquinas College. His work experience includes freelance journalism for FIOS 1 Sports and CBS News and technical director for the Rockland Boulders baseball team.

Justin Reyes: Hoop Dreams

Justin Reyes   (photo:

By Jeremy DeCarlo

Justin Reyes is an American-born Dominican and Puerto Rican basketball player at St. Thomas Aquinas College.  Justin grew up in a large family with 4 half-brothers and 4 half-sisters. When Justin was 11 years old his family moved from his home town of the Bronx, NY to Massachusetts. Justin has been playing basketball for 6 years and wears the number 21 for STAC.

He was inspired to play basketball when he was young and would watch his father play on the local street courts. “My dad could out jump everyone,” Justin said. “He was able to dunk on everyone and now when I play, that’s what I do.”

Justin is a Business Administration major with a minor in Economics. He hopes to use his degree to work in the hospital with his stepfather, if basketball doesn’t work out. Justin’s dream is to one day play basketball in Europe. Preferably, he would like to play in France or Italy, because “The women are beautiful there and I love spaghetti.”  If Justin were to play in Europe, the first thing he would buy with his contract would be, he said, “Anything my parents want. Anything they want, I’d get for them.”

Although Justin wants to play in Europe, basketball isn’t his biggest passion. “I’m a fan of the Miami Heat and I like playing, but I’m not crazy about basketball.” Justin, however, truly likes to sing. His suitemate said of Justin’s singing, “Justin’s voice is like a combination of Fergie and Jesus.” When asked about his singing, Justin laughed and told me that “My sister is the real singer in the family.”

Asked about his highlights from playing basketball, Justin said his greatest game came in high school when he had 41 points, 21 rebounds and 7 blocks. The highlight of Justin’s college career, he said, was playing at Gonzaga this season.

“Although we got destroyed, it was just awesome playing in there,” he said. “It was a huge crowd in a Division 1 arena with a team that’s ranked 10 in the entire nation. They’re going to go on and play in the March Madness tournament and potentially win it and we had the opportunity to play them.” STAC lost that game in a blowout 109-55. Justin shot 1-6 from the field and 4-6 from the charity stripe with 2 rebounds, 1 assist and a turnover.

Justin says that if he could’ve gone to any Division 1 school, he would’ve chosen to be a Kansas Jayhawk. He says “The Jayhawks produce a lot of NBA players. That would be cool, I rather play in the NBA than win a championship; I don’t need a ring.”

Asked how he liked going to STAC, Justin responded “I don’t really like STAC, to be honest, it’s too small for me, but it’s the only school that offered me a full scholarship to play basketball.” Asked what he likes about STAC, he responded “I do really like the people here.” His best friends on campus are his roommates and he’s thankful he was placed in the room with them, “otherwise I never would’ve ended up talking to them,” he said.

When Justin isn’t playing basketball or going to class, he loves hanging out with his roommates and suitemates. “I love just chillin’ in my room, playing [Call of Duty] Zombies and watching Netflix with my boys,” he said. “I love watching ‘It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’ with them; it’s my favorite way to unwind.”

Justin also says he likes to “hangout with the girls.” His roommates described him as the definitive “ladies man of the room.” Justin also likes spending his free time in the caff. “I always eat chicken parm before a game,” he said.

After talking to Justin, it became obvious that the most important thing to him isn’t basketball, it’s family. “I love when my aunt and cousins come from the Bronx and watch me play,” he said. “It makes me play better knowing that I’m playing for them and then she always bring some doughnuts and home cooked food.” He says he can’t wait to be back in Massachusetts chillin’ with his family.

Jeremy DeCarlo is a Communication Arts major at St. Thomas Aquinas College with an interest in sports.

Astronaut, Rock Star, Photojournalist... Choosing My Career

By Quinton Chambers

We can all recall that time when we were little and someone looked down at us, with an overbearing interest and an attentive ear, and asked the question: “What do you want to be when you get older?” Answers followed with:  firefighter, astronaut, rock star, or nurse; I usually replied saying a dentist or a race car driver. Although, depending on what life throws at you, between the time you're free to imagine and when you have to actually take action, those aspirations may change, leaving oneself to assess their skills and decide what profession fits best.    

That moment in life came to me when it was time to select a major in college. No more did I want to be a dentist, because I acquired too much of a sweet tooth; and a race car driver unfortunately did not fit in my hand of cards, though I am still a racer at heart. So I’m left looking in the mirror at a kid who is an avid creative writer, who thinks critically and has a knack for photography; naturally, I chose Communication Arts as my major. Within that major, the future profession of photojournalism became most appealing, but in today's world (full of rogue social media reporters and broadcasted ISIS vermin beheading journalists), I find myself asking: “Am I heading down the right path, is photojournalism a dying profession?”

The primary job of a photojournalist is to be a visual storyteller. Rarely in an office and most of the time freelancing, they are sent out into the fray to document everything from foreign affairs, to concerts, to protest. Photojournalists must be adequate with today's technology and up-to-date with today's standards. Working conditions vary, including unusual working conditions, unstructured hours, and being on-call 24/7 (meaning they must be ready whenever the story breaks). According to, the median annual salary is $35,369, with $63,747 being the highest annual salary they list.

With the rise of technology, social networks, and faster ways of communicating, it is no surprise that newspapers and printed media are in decline. According to The Bureau of Labor Statistics, that will cut photographers' jobs by 30 percent between 2010 and 2020. The Bureau also reports that in the realm of news analysts, there will be a 13% decline in job outlook between 2012 and 2020. Photojournalists are both a photographer and news analyst, so these statistics sound like bad news for the profession. Although these statistics only symbolizes a period of change within the profession. Currently, the majority of news is being consumed on computers, and on-the-go with smartphones and tablets, creating a new avenue for journalists to adapt to.

New journalists, on the contrary, are the ones making the profession a bit “foggy.” Don’t get me wrong, newcomers to any profession should be a benefit, but in Journalism where trust, reliability, and accuracy are a must, these new “rogue journalists” are mostly interfering. Social media has allowed anybody, anywhere, at anytime to post something (with no real limit on what can be said) that may become viral, or even become news. But is it really news? Is a random fight on a bus between two people news? Should these “rogue journalists” be credible sources? Sure, their perspectives could add a little spice to a news story, but as long as their ideas are not completely radical and/or biased.

Nothing ever stays the same. People, animals, and plants have adapted through the years; and in this time of fast technology and quick response, photojournalists will simply have to adapt. To answer my question from the beginning, “No” I do not think that photojournalism is a dying profession; it's only in a period of change, like a caterpillar in its cocoon. Sure, printed media is dying, but that now allows the professional pictures that accompany a news story to be shown on compatible HD screens. But what about those sketchy “rogue journalists?” Aren’t they slowly taking away from this profession? Yes and No. Yes, they are crowding up the news realm and sometimes influencing big stories; yet, the credibility and reliability of real news will hold up over time, showing the difference in quality between the two.

Photojournalist are the brave go-getters, who travel where the majority may not roam. They sustain long rigorous hours, in order to bring an immersive story to the audience. And with that story they provide thought- provoking and timeless pictures, that sometimes speak without a caption under them.

Photojournalism will always be present as long as people demand to know what’s going on in the world; and I’m excited to age with the profession and see it evolve for the best.       

Quinton Chambers is a  Communication Arts student at St. Thomas Aquinas College. 

Derek Jeter: Ballplayer Who Branded “RE2PECT”

Yankees Legend Retires    (photo:

By Marissa Grieco

Derek Jeter was one of the most legendary people to ever play the game of baseball.  It is so crazy to have to refer in the past tense when it comes to talking about Derek Jeter playing baseball.  He was someone that absolutely everyone admired and respected; even if you weren’t a Yankee fan.

Born on June 26, 1974 in Pequannock, New Jersey, Jeter is 6’3 and weighs 195 pounds.  He was drafted  in 1992 and played four seasons in minor league baseball, making  his major league baseball debut on May 29, 1995.  He became a legendary shortstop whom the Yankees and Yankee fans will sorely miss.

Mr. November; Captain Clutch; how could any Yankee fan forget how he acquired the nickname “Mr. November.”  In case you don’t recall, here is what happened:  After the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, Major League Baseball decided to move the games back a week with the possibility that some games would be played in November.  Shortly after midnight, November baseball happened and Jeter stepped up to the plate.  It was the 10th inning and the game was tied.  Jeter blasted a walk-off home-run in game 4 of the World Series.  The cameraman then showed a fan holding a sign that said “Mr. November” and the nickname stuck.

At the age of 40, Jeter ended his 20-year career with the New York Yankees.  He ended his last home game with something that most people would call a “picture perfect” win.

“As he has done so many times over the past two decades, Jeter jumped on a first-pitch fastball and with that instantly recognizable inside-out swing slapped the ball hard on the ground into right field to score the winning run in a dramatic 6-5 New York Yankees victory over the Baltimore Orioles,” reported ESPN.  This was an absolutely incredible way to end your last game of your career at Yankee Stadium with thousands of die hard Yankee fans cheering you on. 

In recollection of his final home game, Jeter said, "I almost started crying driving here today.  I think I've done a pretty good job of controlling my emotions throughout the course of my career. I have them, I try to hide them, I try to trick myself and convince myself that I'm not feeling those particular emotions.  It's been getting more and more difficult these last few weeks, but today I wasn't able to do it," ESPN aired to the nation.

If you watched Jeter’s last home game, you could just see the emotions that were clearly so built up inside of him which he tried so hard to hide.  On that night I think every Yankee fan who grew up watching Derek Jeter play baseball at shortstop tried to compose their emotions and failed.  Even when Mariano Rivera retired the season prior to Jeter, there was not a dry eye in the stadium because these men meant so much to their fans,  no one was able to compose themselves.

Derek Jeter ended his career with 3,465 hits ,according to  Jeter’s statistics are absolutely incredible.  He ended his career with an average of .309, 260 home runs, 1,311 RBI’s, 358 stolen bases, and an on-base percentage of .377.  Jeter was also the type of person who never did anything to create a negative image for himself and that’s why he was so loved by millions of people.

Derek Jeter is the only shortstop that many young adults have ever seen play in that position for the Yankees.  I know that it is difficult for me to picture anyone else in that position for the New York Yankees.  Being a die-hard Yankee fan, I don’t know how it wouldn’t feel strange not having any members of the core four playing for the Yankees this upcoming season.

Derek Jeter has been one of the most admired baseball players of his time by many baseball enthusiasts around America.  He is a great motivator and while being interviewed about the 2014 All-Star game he said something that really resonated with me.  He said “I firmly believe that it doesn’t take any talent to play hard.  You play for 3 hours a day, you have 4 or 5 at bats. Why can’t you play hard?”  He continued, “There’s always going to be somebody better, more talented than you but there’s no reason someone should out work you or play harder.”

It is simple to understand why Derek Jeter was so idolized by millions of people for his entire baseball career.

For more information:

Marissa Grieco is a Communication Arts student at St. Thomas Aquinas College with a goal of working as a sports broadcaster.

Justin Timberlake: Prince of Pop

Justin Timberlake in Concert   (photo:

By Karina Maldonado
Justin Timberlake has been in the entertainment industry for a little more than two decades.  It appears any business opportunity Timberlake is a part of turns into success.  As we all know, Michael Jackson is the king of pop because of his impact in the music industry.  So what exactly makes Mr. Timberlake the prince of pop?

I first noticed his talent back in 2000 when he was a part of N’SYNC.  He was always interested in other business opportunities such as acting or a clothing line.  Timberlake knew his boy band days couldn't last forever.  After his boy band days, he emerged as an international solo artist, winning countless awards.  Winning awards and being successful does not necessarily make Timberlake the prince of pop.  Sure, winning awards and being loved by millions puts you in the running for a prestigious name but there is one trait Timberlake has that many artists lack: Authenticity

Justin Timberlake is authentic.  I believe authenticity is his greatest strength.  Everyone loves him so much because he does not seem out of reach.  He is one of the few people you can visually see yourself getting a beer with and having an insightful conversation.  Money and power can definitely change someone’s personality but the fame has not gone to Timberlake’s head. 

I can say this first hand because I’ve personally met Mr. Timberlake. Justin was walking down the street in New York City with no bodyguards, just himself.  I asked to take a picture with him and, smiling, he said yes.  He took time off his day to have a conversation with me about my aspirations and how I am a huge fan of his work.  He was extremely sincere and normal.  People can easily forget that celebrities are human also. 

Justin Timberlake is one of the most successful names in the music industry.  He has won numerous awards including 9 Grammy Awards, 4 Emmy Awards, and 7 American Music Awards.  Timberlake has been nominated for a total of 177 awards and won 60 of them.  The music he puts out is art.  He puts out content that has meaning, not just a good beat. 

His last album, “The 20/20 Experience,” is an example of music that was expertly written and completely experimental.  The sound of his album was completely different from the songs everyone was listening to on the radio.  It was authentic and refreshing to hear.  I think that is what makes Justin great.  He does not follow what is in at the moment.  He trusts in his musical abilities to make influential music and I commend him for that.

Justin Timberlake is one of the greatest entertainers of my generation.  He has shown us that with hard work and a dream, the possibilities are truly endless.  This is what makes Justin the prince of pop. 

Karina Maldonado is taking Communication Arts classes at St. Thomas Aquinas College to bolster her plans to graduate with a Communications degree from the University at Albany, SUNY in the Spring. She is currently interning for the Brooklyn Nets NBA team in the sales and marketing department.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Building Homes and Making Friends in Nicaragua

Greetings from Jinotega, Nicaragua   (photo: Bridges to Community)

By Lauren Morales

To say that traveling to Nicaragua was a life-changing experience would be an understatement. It’s hard to even put into words and begin to reflect on how influential and beneficial this trip was on my life in general. It changed my overall perspective on what should be valued and not taken for granted, and really opened my eyes to reality. Before going to Nicaragua I knew that so much would be happening around us and it would be overwhelming at times, so I decided to bring a journal to record anything and everything happening around me.

I wrote my first entry as I was laying in a bunk bed, covered with a mosquito net surrounded by people who were still somewhat unfamiliar. We had arrived in Jinotega that day and I remember thinking how I could not even express in words how incredible it was. I really enjoyed the bus ride from Managua to Jinotega because it was just simply peaceful. The huge windows that slid open, allowing us to really see the beautiful mountains and coffee farms were something I’ve never seen before. I would say that at certain points throughout the drive we were probably doing less than 10 mph, but the feeling of being so content in the moment and having all the time in the world was so peaceful. The beauty of simplicity was truly amazing.

Not even being in Jinotega for 24 hours I wrote that I had already learned so much, knowing that my appreciation for the community and people within would only grow. Earlier that day we went to the community where we would be building and welcoming ceremony was held. I knew it would be moving to actually meet people from the community for the first time but it was even more than I had expected. I was nervous to meet them because even though I was assured otherwise, I thought that they may have feelings of resentment towards us because they know we have a lot more than they do and I felt that you couldn’t blame them. It only took a few seconds of being there for me to realize how wrong I was. Every single person was smiling from ear to ear and were exceptionally welcoming.

Sense of Community

One thing that I wrote about and know I could not forget was the old man that came up and individually shook each of our hands and smiled at us. Without even exchanging words I knew how genuinely thankful he was. The sense of community within was something I truly admired. It was as if they were one big family and even though they didn’t have much they still seemed to be happy. During the ceremony there was one little boy that really stood out to me as I was observing my surroundings. A few of the children that were a little bit younger than him were making a lot of noise in the background while they were playing as the adults were speaking to us and it was bothering him. He would subtly try to tell them to be quiet, and I think this portrayed how important he felt it was and the level of respect he had at such a young age. That night we had dinner with the two beneficiary families and were fortunate to be able to converse with them through translations.

The next day we finally started to build the house for the families and the site that I was placed on was actually beautiful. The house where the beneficiary family was currently living was sheltering four families with not nearly enough room for everyone. It was surrounded by high plants of tropical colors, animals they had as pets, and a lot of smiling faces. I was surprised by the amount of community members there to help us as we mixed cement and laid down the foundation of the house. The young boys did a lot of the manual labor and were exceptionally strong despite their size. The boys were all so humble and genuinely hard working, which in a sense is the opposite of the children that age in our society. Maybe not as a whole but I do believe that kids in America take a lot for granted and are handed most of the things they have. The kids in Nicaragua worked so hard for nothing in return, potentially stripping them of their childhood. The younger kids were all adorable and always smiled when we tried to interact with them.

Reflections: ‘Rose, Bud and Thorn’

After every day in Jinotega we would all sit together and reflect on the day we had, which I thought was extremely influential. To talk about the things we were doing, the people we were engaging with, and the community in general from different perspectives enhanced the experience. One night we each had to describe our “rose, bud, and thorn” of the trip so far and then share with the group. My rose was the people of Jinotega and their sense of community; I felt that even though they had much less than us, in a way they almost had more. I think our society lacks communication and I envied their sense of unity and the importance of family. Sometimes you have to step back and realize that it isn't materialistic things in life that are important but the relationships and people you have in your life. My bud was being given the chance to help these people and build relationships with them and also being able to build relationships with the people I was fortunate to have by my side throughout this experience.

Even though we all came from the same small school, we probably would have never taken the time to or gone out of our comfort zone to get to know each other. Each one of them are genuinely amazing individuals and I would not have chosen to have gone with any other group. The diversity amongst each other made it even more interesting, as we were all intrigued by each other and interested in learning from one another. One night we played a game called “Never Have I Ever” and it was a good way to break down every wall possible with nothing but laughter. My thorn for the trip was not being able to fully communicate with the people and getting to know them on the level that I would have liked to.

One of my favorite things about the site we were on was that it was right next to the school, so we were fortunate to be surrounded by the kids once they were dismissed. Also, every day there are new faces and new helpers. I thought it was really nice that even some random kids that were just passing by would stop in a pick up a shovel and help out for a few, when again were getting nothing in return. I think that goes back to their sense of community and that even though it may not have directly benefited them, it benefited a family in their community and that is enough for them. The labor we did was hard work as everything is done from scratch. At some points I thought to myself, “I wonder if they know about the advanced technology and machinery we have in the United States… hopefully not.” Could you imagine knowing that the extremely difficult work you are doing to hand mix cement could be done with the push of a button and be produced a thousand times faster than doing it by hand?

It’s really sad that these men, and even kids, work so hard every day for little or even no money while in the states workers are not doing half as much as there but earning a remarkable amount more. On the site one day we had a conversation with some of the boys working who were around the same age us. We asked them approximately how much money they made working in a week. Junior, one of the beneficiaries, said about $15 US Dollars a week.

Family Budget: Rice and Beans

Later that night while reflecting on our day, we did a budget activity. Kelly and Elizabeth gave us a sheet with actual numbers based on a Nicaraguan family of five. We were told you create a budget based on a particular situation and family lifestyle, using the numbers we were given. My group and I went through the list of costs and wrote down the things we thought were necessities. After adding what we thought were necessities together we were all shocked at how much we were going to have to eliminate as we were immensely over budget. To think that these families can only afford rice and beans for months at a time, while the average family in the states is generally spending hundreds on groceries a week creates a feeling of guilt and really made me realize how much we take for granted. Learning about poverty and third world countries is one thing but to create a relationship and have the ability to put a face to someone living in conditions like this is heart wrenching.

Being with the people of Sassle for 5 days I observed various little things that I will never forget. As I mentioned during reflections one night, I noticed that one of the little boys was wearing the same pair of underwear for all 5 days of working. Its sad to see that and realize that that they were most likely the only pair he had. It reflects that their hardships are not just what we see on the surface; theres small things that we would do not even consider and take for granted that some are dealing with every single day. Even though it was not much, being able to leave some clothing behind for these people gave us a feeling of hope. Hope that there are little things we can do to help and hope that it will make them smile.

After finishing the house, we had a goodbye ceremony with the families and people of the community while standing inside one of the houses built. To be able to look at the house and see the excitement in the faces of the beneficiary families was hands down the most rewarding thing I have ever experienced. Fatima, the mother of the beneficiary families whose house my group and I built, spoke at the ceremony, along with others. She was so appreciative of us and the work we had done and one thing she said to us stuck in my head. She said “You’ve made my dreams into reality and I thank you so much.” As we were leaving she gave each of us a key chain in the shape of Nicaragua and wrote “Love Fatima” on the back. This simple act triggered a lot of emotions as it becomes apparent how much the house we built truly meant to them, and how amazing it is to have been a part of such a great community with good hearted people for the short time we were there. The family told us that we are always welcome, their door is always open for us, and they hope we come back and truly, I hope I do go back someday.

After leaving Sassle, I think it is fair to say that we were all experiencing a whirlpool of emotions. All of us had created relationships within the community, and the most influential week of our lives was coming to end. We didn’t know it yet but we were on our way to being exposed an even more heart wrenching environment.

Coffee Plantation: Hard Work, Low Pay

Our itinerary included a tour of the largest coffee plantation which was fair trade. The plantation was secluded in the mountains due to the fact that coffee must be grown at a certain elevation. As we rode on the back of a crowded pick up truck to the top of the mountain we saw some things that were not easy to look at it. Almost every animal we saw throughout the country was malnourished as their ribs were prominently sticking out. On our way to the plantation we saw a dead calf on top of a pile of hay and it only got worse from that point. Arriving at the top we saw the housing for the workers and their families and I could not even put into words the feeling I felt at that moment. The conditions they were subject to resembled those of a concentration camp and knowing that they were working countless hours for very little amount of pay was heart breaking.

A man that seemed to have authority on the plantation took us to a spot where women, each holding machetes, were cutting down coffee plants that were no longer producing coffee beans. As a privileged American, just simply observing these women working, I could not help but feel uncomfortable, unwanted and extremely guilty. Although at that given moment I had knots in my stomach and would have done anything to escape what I was seeing, I can look back and say I’m glad I saw that. I’m not glad that these women were working in these conditions, or living so horribly, but glad that this experience gave me insight and an overall taste of reality.

I’ve always learned about things like this but I think that it is important to see for yourself what is really going on in the world we live in. This can be perceived in a greater sense when talking about third world countries in general. Not only I am a glad I saw what I did that day on the coffee plantation, but I’m glad to have seen and experienced an underdeveloped, poverty stricken country. Anybody can learn about poverty from a distance but to actually witness it for yourself and be engaged in the culture it truly learning about it. There’s one thing that Kelly said during reflections one night that will always replay in my head when it comes to recalling the community and the people of it. She said “I guess the best way to put it is that you guys won the birth lottery.” It made me realize just how fortunate we are as Americans to have the opportunities and freedoms that we do, simply because that’s what we were born into.

Traveling to Nicaragua and helping families in need was the most influential and rewarding thing I have done in my life yet and the memories and lessons I have taken from it are something I will always carry with me. The things that I have learned are applicable to everyday life and have changed my overall perspective. It may be the little things but I believe in the long run it made me strive to be a better person and want to help more than I ever had. I truly admire the Bridges to Community organization and would like to give my sincerest gratitude towards them. I think the organization in itself is an incredible development and will continue to prosper as it benefits citizens of third world countries, while also benefiting those who seek to learn and help in any way they can.

World Beyond the Classroom

I strongly believe that in order to grow as individual you must experience the world by stepping out of your comfort zone and gaining knowledge that can not necessarily be taught in the class room. It is truly amazing how much this world has to offer and how much one can learn just by simply being emerged into a foreign culture. I’ve realized how intriguing unfamiliar cultures, values, and beliefs are as I gained a new perspective on many aspects of life. In my opinion, it is not until you are actually surrounded by and engaged in different places and cultures that you can fully respect and understand others way of life and rid yourself of all ignorance.

After returning to New York City after being in Nicaragua I was experiencing a little bit of a culture shock. I was also talking a lot about my trip as everyone was genuinely curious and intrigued about how it was. It was difficult to express through words and stories the things I had to say such as how beautiful the country was, the physical work we endured, and the absolutely amazing people we met along the way. The one thing that I did stress to every person I discussed the trip with was how strongly I recommend going on a trip of this nature, being as it is life changing and one can only know the feeling after seeing the happiness, which you contributed to, of someone much less privileged.

Lauren Morales is a Communication Arts student at St. Thomas Aquinas College. She also works as a production assistant at Yonkers Raceway. 

Designing Magazines for Print and Web

By Angelica Covino

Being a Graphic Design major, I had the opportunity to create my own magazine for print and for web. I have always loved magazines since my early teens, admiring the clothing and celebrities like an average girl.

As I grew older, I started to look at the layouts more carefully, and the techniques used to create them. My interest in magazine design was put into play when the college offered a class called “Computer Studio 2.” This class was focused on magazine design.

Students in Computer Studio 2 were a mixture of Graphic Design majors and Computer Science majors. Professor Bellisio assigned groups of three for the class of twelve. I was with two male students, a fellow Graphic Design major and a Computer Science major. We decided on making a fashion magazine for both genders.

We came up with the name “Glam & Class” and the season we focused on was winter. We divided up the many spreads a magazine has. Some include articles about winter clothing, Valentine’s Day, Horoscope, Letter from the Editor and, of course, Advertisements. Once those were finished, we compiled each other’s parts and made three issues, January, February and March. I enjoyed this project greatly because I was able to create my own magazine, be a designer, and feel as if I were living out my dream. My interest grew immensely due to this project.

This year, the class “Web Design” was a major requirement to take. This class is focused on re-designing an existing website that is not appealing to viewers. Since I am interested in fashion, I chose a store close to home that sells women’s jewelry and handbags. I created a new home page for the store and the secondary pages for the drop down listings on the main navigation bar. This project has not concluded yet. Professor Bellisio instructed us to slice our page, in order to create links for the navigation bar by using Adobe programs. I enjoy this project because it combines both of my interests, design and fashion.

Last year, I declared a minor in my college career. Communication Arts intertwines with Graphic Design in many aspects that I did not know until I took my first Communications class. Introduction to Mass Media, taught by Dr. Klein, was a very influential course for me. This class focused on the different forms of media in the news. Radio, Television, the Internet and the on-going popularity of Social Media applications are touched upon in Dr. Klein’s class. Towards the end of the semester, she proposed a project with two parts: a written paper and an in-class presentation. The question we had to answer was “What is the most valuable source of media in your life?”

I chose magazines because of how far back my interest in them goes and how I refer to them currently in design. I spoke about the history of print magazines, and the differences and similarities to today’s print magazines. Lastly, I brought up the on-going shift to online publications and how this generation would rather go to the magazine’s website for a particular article than go to the store and buy the copy. I liked this assignment because it enabled me to do more research on magazines and how they evolved over time.

Magazines merge my fields of study, Graphic Design and Communications. I am very passionate about my work and I am very excited to continue it in the work world!

Angelica Covino is a senior at St. Thomas Aquinas College, majoring in Graphic Design with a minor in Communication Arts. She loves designing magazine layouts and wants to land a job at a magazine company after she graduates.

NYPD to Start Wearing Body Cameras

By Tim Herasimtschuk

Police departments across the country are doing what they can in order to improve relations with the community, following incidents involving several departments. The New York Police Department is currently involved in an investigation after an incident in August, where a bystander videotaped an officer using excessive force on Eric Gardner, who later died, reportedly as a result of the officer’s choke hold; the incident is still under investigation.

In an attempt to change relations between police officers and community members, as well as avoid other incidents like this, where there are numerous questions as to what happened, police in New York City will start to wear body cameras on their uniforms, according to a report on WNYW Fox 5. The program is still in its very early stages and will begin to be tested among officers in areas with the highest crime and stop and frisk incidents. Among the NYPD stations testing this program are the 23rd Precinct in East Harlem and the station in St. George, Staten Island, where the Eric Gardener incident took place.

This program introduces two types of cameras, one that can be worn on the uniform and another that can be worn above the ear. All the officer has to do is press a button to activate the camera; they will hear a beep, signaling the camera is now recording whatever is taking place.

Police unions across the country are arguing against these cameras, citing privacy concerns for the officers; however, at least one union official has come forward, stating that this will be a good thing for the departments and may clear officers of any wrong doing when they are accused of excessive force or unnecessary stops. If these cameras prove they work through the tests, they may be rolled out through more departments across the country, including the rest of the NYPD.

Tim Herasimtschuk is a Communication Arts student at St. Thomas Aquinas College with an interest in working in news broadcasting.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Generation Z: Texting More than Talking

By Lina Diakite

We live in a generation with our heads down and our pointer fingertips out. We rely on Google or Siri to answer our questions.  Our sources consist of something we "read on Facebook” or “saw on Instagram,” rather than primary facts. We are Generation Z. But this is not all we know. We grew up when the iPhone did not exist and the internet was still evolving and we passed notes in class instead of texted. Generation Z understands a childhood of playing outside, climbing trees, and getting some dirt on our clothes. The question is, are we the last generation to know how to survive manually? With all the technology thinking for us and only becoming more advanced, what is to come for the next generation?

There are many pros and cons to the use of technology. Technology is fast paced, informative, and convenient.  Not only are we informed with the events that go on around us and throughout the world but we are informed quickly or as soon as it occurs. We are able to reach one another with a text, email or call. We can even see each other if we are not in the same room with skype or FaceTime. Our ideas are shared through social media along with our creativity. In a way, it has made us more advanced, but not more knowledgeable.

Technology takes away our human intellect, it makes us lazy and it distracts us. Not only are we always looking at our phones, texting or on social media, but we are ignoring the people we are with. We go to events to enjoy them through the screen of our phones rather than actually being there. Our minds become drowned with information we are not sure is true or not.

Generation Z is the most advanced and adept with all of the new technology because we grew up with it. We are aware of how easy it makes our lives, yet still complain about the “good old days.” If we are so confused about where our relationship stands with our iPods, iPhones, droids, tablets, etc., then what do we do to limit it, to go on a “break” with our technology every now and then? Or is this the way our future will be lead? It is up to Generation Z to identify the gap between technology and humanity.

Lina Diakite is a Senior at St. Thomas Aquinas College majoring in Marketing.