This I Believe : Ester Allen

I believe that God gave us passions so that we could love others.Growing up I felt very self conscious I felt like the one kid without natural talents, I danced like the whitest girl around. Singing would result in confused and pained faces from family and friends Art was not my thing and even drawing a stick figure posed a challenge. Sometimes finding those things is not so easy and our passions are not so clear, but when I finally looked for my passions by looking at my priorities. I found that while I can’t share love by singing a song, writing a rap or amazing you with my ballroom dancing skills, I can share my unique love by doing things that I love most. And lucky for you I love to cook, I love to do yoga and best of all I love to be here, I love the challenge of trying  to be someone for my brothers and sisters, i love pushing myself to try to say something somewhat meaningful, I love giggling with the girls and beating up the boys. This is my passion and I believe God gave it to me so I could share my love with you. Continue Reading

This I Believe : Raphael Fish

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year I believe in Santa Claus – the joy he brings to people throughout the world during that most wonderful time of the year; his bright-red suit and glowing frost-nipped cheeks exuding a jolly cheer. He is a man of universal appeal, spreading holiday spirit to people beyond boundaries of nationality, age, social class, and even religion. More than any of that, however, I believe in the benevolence behind Santa’s approach to giving. Growing up, I had everything I could ever need as a child – loving parents, a roof over my head, food on the table. My family was never well-off financially, but we managed. As a family of seven we lived in a cramped two bedroom apartment, all five kids sharing one of those two rooms. Every year, Christmas would present a challenge to my parents. With five kids and meager paychecks, their gift budget had limitations. For us kids, Christmas would come in eager anticipation then would often pass with disappointment upon our realization that Santa had given our friends bigger, better, more extravagant gifts that he had given to us. One Christmas early in my childhood stands out in particular.  Throughout the year, I had begun to develop basic writing skills. As the day approached I felt ready, for the first time in my life, to write my own letter to Santa instead of having to dictate one to my parents. Feeling the power of freedom, unabated by the usual considerations suggested by my parents – ‘be nice to Santa, he has millions of other kids to bring gifts to. Don’t ask him for too much’ – I loaded my wish list with all the things they had never let me include: the latest video game console, a dog, my own computer, a lifetime supply of chocolate chip cookies… This Christmas was going to be the best ever. Bright and early on Christmas morning I raced to the tree eager to see what had been left behind the night before. With high expectations, I found just a single small gift in my name. Upon opening the present, my dreams were crushed. Inside was a simple sweater and nothing more. For the next few months I refused to wear the sweater out of my childish disappointment. Despite my lack of gratitude, Santa returned the next year with presents under the tree, and the next year, and the next… And eventually it hit – I do nothing towards Santa to deserve the gifts he brings, yet he returns every year in the spirit of giving, simply to spread joy. This I believe – the true magic behind Santa is not the joy he brings just one day each year, but instead is something that I myself can strive to embody each and every day. I believe in giving without expecting anything in return and in acknowledging the gifts I do receive, the big and the small, showing gratitude for the love and care others are willing to share. Continue Reading

In Honor of MLK Day: A Little How To

How to: Coordinate an event to raise awareness about an issue on your campus!

1. Chose your cause. 2. Find a couple more people who believe in your cause and want to support it (3 is always a good starting number). At this point, it is not too early to go around to other leaders around campus to get buy-in/ co-sponsorships from clubs. All you need is a vision/ idea. 3. Brainstorm the type of event you want to host, for example:

a. Panel Discussion. Several people sit on a panel. Each person on the panel can have a few minutes to talk and then a moderator facilitates a discussion with prepared questions and/or questions from the audience. Panelists can include survivors, ‘experts’ in the field of whatever that cause is, professors, etc.

b. Invite a keynote speaker. Event has one main speaker, and someone to introduce the topic and that speaker. It is always nice to include some form of media in these programs, such as an introductory video to the issue, musical performance, etc. This could be in the style of a rally.

c. Documentary viewing. Watch a documentary which would enlighten students on the issue and facilitate a discussion afterwards.

d. Variety Show/ Music show. Invite different acts to perform material that is relevant to raising awareness about the cause, include a master of ceremonies who in between acts, shares more details about what is going on.

e. Do something challenging, for example, a bike-a-thon, walk-a-thon, dance-a-thon, eat-a-thon, or “day of silence,” boycott, everyone wear the same color clothing for a week, a fast (many of the persons kidnapped and confined fasted to send a message to their “deprogrammers”).

4. Chose a date and reserve a space on campus. 5. Request funding from the school. If you are sponsoring this event as a club, you should be able to request money directly from student activities/ student union. If you are hosting as an individual, look into relevant grants that may be available through different departments in your school. 6. Publicize the heck out of it. Also, make a press release for your school newspaper and invite them to the event. 7. Provide free food, or anything else for FREE (paid for by  funding from the school). 8. Have your awesome event and include immediate action points so that those who are excited about the cause can make a difference right away! Continue Reading

I Got the Beat: What I Learned from Dance Class

By Elissa Allen
When your family starts turning your name into a verb (Elissa v. 1. To be klutzy, 2. To embarrass yourself in public, 3. To take a long bath. ex. I just fell down a flight of stairs and broke a vase, I totally pulled an Elissa) it can lead you to the conclusion that you are perhaps not graceful. In my case, that would be rather correct.  Because of it, I try to avoid public displays of movement whenever possible.
By the time I had transferred to Binghamton University in the fall of 2007, I was pretty sure I knew who I was, and who I wasn’t. I was good at singing and bad at sports, I liked the opera and not rap, and I would rather spend time in my dorm with a couple of friends than ever attend a party which could be considered a “ragger.” I was also a person who was really, really comfortable in their comfort zone and not willing to budge from it.
So to put it mildly, I was a little under enthused when I realized I would have to take a physical education class in order to graduate. I pulled up the online course catalog and called my best friend, and she was per usual, encouraging and supportive.
“It could be fun,” she said.
“Do you think I could take one where I didn’t move?” I asked.
“No. So what about swimming?”
“I am not wearing a bathing suit in public.”
“Right, okay, then bowling.”
“No hand-eye coordination.”
“That would involve sweating, right?”
 “Yes, most movement does. Okay how about this, Introduction to Broadway Dance.”
“Broadway dance, you like Broadway.”
“What time is it at?”
“8:30 in the morning.”
“Are you crazy?”
“No, but you have to take something.  Are you willing to do anything else?”
I signed up for the class. There was a wide range of students; girls who looked like me in terms of size and skill, theater girls who were trying to round at their resume and considered themselves about it all, girls who fell somewhere in the middle.
I struggled through the warm-ups, stumbled thorough the steps, and grimaced every time I caught sight of myself in the mirror. There were times when I felt like one of the hippos in Fantasia, but I knew I had to do this to graduate. I wasn’t good, but I kept showing up, and I kept trying. By the end of the class I had a B, and a slightly different perspective. While I still wasn’t a dancer, I had tried something new and the world hadn’t ended.  After that, little by little, I started allowing myself to try new things. I auditioned for an improve troupe (yes, I know, I’m not funny). I tried other dance classes (including a tango class). I let myself do something I’d always wanted to and took a singing class. I even horrors took a math class (well technically it was a logic class in the philosophy department and was also required for graduation, but you get the idea). I started realizing that the person who defines me is me, and while it’s true I’ll never dance in Swan Lake, I can bust a move (it’s just one, but still, it’s impressive).
That’s the value of liberal arts education, and in particular the General Education classes that are required. Even though I might have grumbled, I learned something from all the General Education courses I had to take. I learned a little bit of self-discipline, I learned I had skills I didn’t know I possessed, and I learned that every once in a while it was worthwhile to step out of my comfort zone.  And yes, I learned the choreography to “Beat it.”
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