Thursday, July 26, 2012

Starfish and Signs of Hope

Starfish from a water dive with PBA student Ryan Winston. 
One of the many wonders South Florida has to offer is it's abundance of marine life. In particular, starfish have always been one of my favorite parts of aquatic life, besides dolphins. Recently I went to Phil Foster Park next to Peanut Island, just north of downtown West Palm Beach.  It was just an ordinary day of diving, snorkeling and boating, but the sight of a particular starfish caught my attention and triggered a memory of an old story.  

Back in high school, a close friend of mine also had a strong fascination with starfish; she would make doodles of them on paper, buy starfish earrings, and basically made starfish her trademark.  At our high school graduation, she spoke to our class about why she admired these marine echinoderms.

She shared a portion of "The Star Thrower" by Loren Eiseley:
An old man had a habit of early morning walks on the beach. One day, after a storm, he saw a human figure in the distance moving like a dancer. As he came closer he saw that it was a young woman and she was not dancing, but was reaching down to the sand, picking up a starfish and very gently throwing them into the ocean. "Young lady," he asked, "Why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?"  "The sun is up, and the tide is going out, and if I do not throw them in they will die," she said.  "But young lady, do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach and starfish all along it? You cannot possibly make a difference.  The young woman listened politely, paused and then bent down, picked up another starfish and threw it into the sea, past the breaking waves, saying, "It made a difference for that one." The old man looked at the young woman inquisitively and thought about what she had done. Inspired, he joined her in throwing starfish back into the sea. Soon others joined, and all the starfish were saved.
This simple children's story is comforting for me to think about after seeing so much tragedy through news coverage of the shootings in Aurora, Colo. during a showing of the film, "The Dark Knight Rises." When hearing of the shootings, as with all tragedies, it was difficult not to be pessimistic about wrongdoings in the world. During times of crisis and pain, it can be difficult to see how good can survive, similar to how in the "The Star Thrower" it was difficult to see how throwing one starfish back in the water would make a difference.

However, with the story, I am reminded that one person's good morals can outweigh any amount of bad attitudes in the world. The one person throwing the starfish back in to the water is the one that makes a difference.

Finding that orange starfish during a day of diving was a symbol to me of the goodness in the story shared by my high school friend. I know I will make an effort to look out for "starfish" to save this summer.  

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

My Summer Job at Chick-fil-A

Famous Chick-fil-A logo
When you come to Florida, what's the one restaurant you usually become well acquainted with? With more than 150 Chick-fil-A quick-service stores in Florida – third most in the country – it's not difficult to understand why there are four locations within driving distance of where I live.  There's even an express Chick-fil-A right on campus at PBA!

This summer, I had the opportunity to get a closer look at the phenomenon Chick-fil-A has created. Last spring at PBA's Career Fair hosted by the Office of Career Development, I was hired by a Chick-fil-A store for the summer. Throughout my years at PBA, I have known many people who worked with the company and loved the environment.

This made me extremely encouraged when I was about to move from my office job in the Development Office at PBA to the fast-paced environment at Chick-fil-A. Not to mention, PBA students are extremely appreciative for the competitive hourly rate set for PBA students, graciously given at to those working at the Palm Beach Lakes and Okeechobee-Turnpike locations.

PBA Students Chris Collier and Alyssa Osbron at Cow Appreciation Day
Chick-fil-A is almost like a culture, especially for students at PBA. For example, on “Cow Appreciation Day” customers who dress from “head to hoof” as a cow, which is the restaurant's mascot, receive a free meal. My friends from PBA made sure to visit me at work on that day!

The best thing about working at Chick-fil-A isn't that I receive a free meal on the days that I work (although that is amazing), it's being able to work with other students and creating a bond. Whether it's during a slow moment filling up the freshly squeezed lemonade or during an absolutely packed lunch rush on the register, Chick-fil-A has created a team for me to work with and rely on.

Chick-fil-A has also provided me with an outstanding work ethic and job training. There is a lot more behind the “It's my pleasure” phrase used; it shows the respect and happiness that we give each customer during their experience at Chick-fil-A. Also, as employees we better understand the value of a dollar, especially when used for prepping and serving food.

Overall, it has been a blessing working at Chick-fil-A this summer!   What kind of fun jobs have you had for the summer?

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Life Can Be Like Fireworks on the Fourth of July

Fireworks from "Fourth on Flagler" over the Intracoastal.
The Fourth of July is always an important time of remembrance for our country. For this year's Fourth of July holiday, I saw a spectacular  fireworks show at the "Fourth on Flagler" event in downtown West Palm Beach. The show was above the Intracoastal along Flagler Drive, right in front of the PBA campus.  

According to the website of The Massachusetts Historical Society, on July 3, 1776, John Adams wrote the following in a letter to his wife Abigail regarding the celebration of Independence Day:  
"It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forevermore."

Seeing the illuminations or fireworks is my favorite part of the holiday. As I watched the show with a group of friends, I thought about how my life has been like a bunch of fireworks in the sky -- each role I have in my life is like each individual firework.  

Lately, I have been thinking about how to juggle life as a student, daughter and sister, friend, an employee, a young woman, and life as a Christian.  And in the juggling, some of my friendships started to diminish, it was frustrating to see them fall apart.  Luckily, I was able to get together with those friends for the fireworks show, and we regained momentum. 

All of these roles that "light up my life" are each like the different fireworks, which lit up the sky on the Fourth of July in colors of blue, white, green and red.  Ultimately, it takes a lot of planning for a fireworks show to look good, and it takes just as much time, if not more, to organize my life for it to turn out good, as well.  Additionally, even though each individual firework looks good in the sky on its own, together, they create an amazing show. As much as I would like to focus on being perfect in one role of my life, I remind myself the different roles I have keep me well rounded.

I know that a lot of planning for the fireworks in downtown allowed the thousands of people in attendance to enjoy a spectacular event. Although everything in my life does not seem to add up all the time, just like how it's possible for the fireworks go off at the wrong time, I know with a little practice God will help my life come together like a beautiful illumination. 

Monday, June 25, 2012

Straying Away from Summer's Stormy Showers

Rainy day at the beach.
 At times in the summer it seems like, Florida, "The Sunshine State" becomes "The Shower State."  Last week I was wondering what was up with all of the extensive rain, and then the TV news introduced me to Tropical Storm Debby, moving towards the Florida's Gulf Coast, causing rain across the state.  As much as some people find the storms to be dark and dreary, I've actually become acquainted to their calming and soothing aspects.  

With the threat of tropical storms, hurricanes, or even 15-minute afternoon showers this time of year, it's inevitable my trusty tote umbrella will be in my purse.  However, when the thunder is loud enough to keep me cooped up indoors, sometimes it seems like the only thing to do is clean out my closet!
With two year's worth of college memories at PBA bundled up in boxes, I began to sort through my favorite cards, letters and photos and place them into scrapbooks, albums and frames.  And, it's a bonus that my closet shelves are getting cleaned out!  But, I happened to create more of a mess than I already had in my room with paper, gel pens and glitter for writing letters to friends from out-of-state. Oh well. 

Nutella cookies for a rainy day.
The best thing about staying indoors is getting stuck in the kitchen.  I'm not an avid cook, but I do enjoy baking, especially when I get the recipes correct.  This past weekend I successfully made a pan of sweet cornbread for my family and rich Nutella cookies for my boyfriend.  Then, with some sweets and a cup of tea in hand, I snuggled up to my pillow with books, my latest fix, "The Hunger Games" series. Though, the rainy weather eventually lured me to sleep, a good excuse to take a nap, which is every working college student's dream!

What fun ideas or activities do you have for spending time without the sun and staying dry inside?

Monday, June 18, 2012

A Sunset Put My Summer Trip into Perspective

A sunset in the sky on my plane ride home.
How many different ways are there to view a sunset? On the plane ride home from my family vacation up north to visit extended family, I was immersed by a spectacular view. While watching the sunset just before 8 p.m., I found it thrilling to think about how high I was flying. I praised God for the sunset blessing, with the promise of another day. It was just me who headed back home on the plane because I had work the next day, so I took some time to reminisce about the trip.

It's sometimes difficult living in Florida while all of my dad's side of the family lives in upstate New York, especially when plane tickets are too expensive to travel there more than once a year. Since we live so far away, I always forget how large the family is. My dad has four siblings, which gives me 14 cousins. The last time I went to visit was a year ago for my grandmother's funeral, and before that, my grandpa's funeral and my cousin's wedding. Finally going back up there, just to spend time with my extended family, helped with the healing process.

My cousins from dad's side of family in New York.
It was nice to celebrate all the graduations in the family, and my cousin's baptism. It's always crazy seeing how my younger cousins have grown taller, and seeing the babies of my older cousins. We were especially happy for the beautiful weather -- 70 to 80 degrees each day. I even learned how to waterski on my uncle's boat in a lake (no alligators up there!). My favorite part of the trip was bonding with family. As I learned to waterski by continuously falling down, my family was extremely encouraging until I stayed up and faced my fears.

As with most families, even though we all get along and love each other, it's sometimes difficult to get everyone together with work, school and other scheduling issues. I have so much gratitude for my family, including my immediate family. My mom and dad have done a great job raising my two brothers and I. Hopefully, we will have more chances to spend time with our New York family.

Have you made any plans to visit or spend time with your family this summer?

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Exercising, Healthy Thoughts During the Summer

Sometimes it's difficult to find the motivation to exercise, which when done properly is beneficial for a healthy lifestyle. During the school year, it was difficult for me to find time to hit the gym, go for a run or swim. Since summertime allows more time for myself, I decided to make exercising a part of my weekly routine.

I recently began going to the workout classes PBA offers during the summer, including Core Crunch, Zumba, and Pilates, held in the Greene Athletic Complex studio. Being in the studio the other day reminded me of my ballet classes when I was younger. I would go to the dance studio every night for ballet class, watching my movement in the mirror and drawing circles in the hardwood floor.

I am also an avid fan of outdoor exercise, like biking, which I've enjoyed since I was a kid. I have vivid memories of living up north, biking with brisk wind hitting my knuckles as I gripped the handles. Those times have inspired me to keep my body in shape, even when it's easier to sit on the couch.

PBA's Greene Athletic Complex
Though, I'd have to say the absolute best way for me to workout has been swimming. I swam consistently from age 9 until my senior year when I was captain of my high school team. Being an athlete and exercising in general, not only pushed me physically, but mentally.

The amount of physical agility it takes to perform at your best does not compare to the amount of mental exertion it takes to have a positive attitude about your performance. For example, my senior year in high school during finals I performed poorly in my races. It was hard to not have a negative attitude. I eventually realized that if I let my competitive spirit get the best of me, swimming would lose it's meaning in my life.

I'm not going to lie, sometimes I workout when I'm upset or stressed. Usually if I can push through the workout, I can push through the stress. Unfortunately, I have seen how it's easy for exercise to turn into harmful habits hurting your body. I know people, and my friends know people, who abuse exercising to the point that it interferes with the perception his or her body image.  Without exercising properly, many are not only at risk to a strained muscle, but a strained life.

Overall, exercise is a good method to find time to pray, meditate, or just to get your spirits up. What inspires you to exercise?

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Missing My Roommate 'Across the Pond'

PBA student Chloe Westrich studied abroad in London, England.
What would you do if your roommate got accepted to a study abroad program halfway through the school year, which also meant he/she had to leave you? One of my PBA roommates for the fall 2011 semester was Chloe Westrich, from St. Louis, Mo. She had the awesome opportunity to participate in PBA's London Semester Program during the spring semester. According to, The London Semester Program was the result of a partnership between PBA’s Center for Experiential Learning and Roehampton University, located in southwest London.
Chloe's PBA suitemates bake her a cake. 

Although it was easy congratulating my amazing roommate last fall for this incredible opportunity, it was disappointing to know our time as roommates was coming to an end. Chloe was definitely the glue that held all us suitemates together in the Flagler Towers dorm at PBA. She brought a special something to our suite with her bright smile and genuine personality. In celebration of her acceptance to the program, we baked a going away cake. It was difficult letting her leave, but throughout the semester we viewed her Facebook page, updated with happy photos and messages. Also, our entire suite contacted her through Skype on her birthday, which she spent in London, as well.

Chloe recently arrived safely back to the U.S. with lots of stories and experiences! Last weekend, I caught up with her after she settled down, back home, and she filled me in on her time in London. She explained:
Chloe in a London phone booth.

“Studying abroad in London was unlike any other experience I’ve had before. There were some real struggles in the beginning, but by the end of the semester I had fallen head-over-heels in love with the culture, the people, and all the exciting events happening around the city every day.

I was stretched in absolutely every way possible including: physically, emotionally, spiritually, and intellectually. I became familiar with another culture, but was also able to understand my own culture even better. I feel like I am walking away from this experience as a changed person: my mind has been opened to even more possibilities around the world and a brand new sense of adventure has been cultivated within me.

I have also been able to escape the typical American lifestyle of constantly rushing from one event to another, and really embrace a more slowed down lifestyle where I can really appreciate the people and events I encounter each day.

Some days I wake up and think to myself, 'Did that semester really just happen, or was all of this just a dream?' I am beyond thankful for the opportunities that I had, the people that I met, the breath-taking places I was able to see, and the once-in-a-lifetime experiences I had over the past four and a half months. I would highly recommend studying abroad to everyone.”

Although I had to share my roommate with London, I'm happy she had such a great life experience.

Have you ever thought about spending a semester abroad?

Friday, May 11, 2012

Knowing President Fleming Through 'Development'

President Fleming signs the hat of a new PBA student during Welcome Week '11 fesitvities.
Mr. William M.B. Fleming, Jr., Palm Beach Atlantic University's newly selected president, is the epitome of “development” here at PBA. As many of you know, President Fleming was interim president for more than a year before being selected this week as eighth president by PBA's Board of Trustees at the recommendation of the presidential search committee. However, I came to know President Fleming through his other service position at PBA.

I met him my freshman year when I got accepted as a work-study student in PBA's Development Office in Sachs Hall. In addition to taking on the role of interim president during the past year, he was also vice president of development, for many years. Working in the department, I not only had the wonderful opportunity to introduce myself to President Fleming, but he got to know me personally, as he does with many PBA students. Working with him for two years, and experiencing how smoothly the office ran with him as vice president, gives me great confidence in his tenure as president.

Additionally, as interim president, I have seen President Fleming's interest in the school skyrocket. Outside of being a student taking classes and working at PBA, I am involved with several student organizations as well. It has definitely been a great college experience seeing President Fleming meet and engage with my fellow peers throughout the year.

For instance, this semester he came to several “end of the year” student meetings.   At my weekly Impact Leadership Team (ILT) meeting, President Fleming observed our entire meeting and then was introduced, individually, to the 12 assistants and six interns for ILT.  I also heard that he did the same for this year's Welcome Week Steering Committee, which is in charge of introducing this fall's freshmen to PBA through Welcome Week. Also, as I am involved with the PBA Ambassador’s program, I saw President Fleming at this end of the year meeting, as well.   He not only already knew the majority of the 14 ambassadors by name, but also unique facts about their lives, providing many laughs and surprises.

Overall, throughout this year President Fleming has already demonstrated to me and other students his care and concern for bettering the purpose of the school – its students' education, environment, and overall development.  Congratulations to President Fleming, and congratulations to Palm Beach Atlantic University.

What has been your experience when interacting with President Fleming?

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Fun During Finals Week at PBA

School’s out, so it’s time to pack up! Those familiar red “smart box” storage units appeared once again all over campus sidewalks and parking lots, signaling campus students to start gathering everything together for checkout.   Many of them were lined up with students' names, especially on the Pembroke green for Baxter residents!

Checking out of campus is probably the most dreaded job students have to do, but there is always the summer to look forward to. However, the fun, cool RAs we came to know and love are required to transform into "The Cleaning Police." Most students were up until the late hours of the night during finals week finding creative ways to clean their rooms and dorm halls, and we did a good job!

 You can also definitely tell that it was exam week because of the papers being proofread, the exams being crammed, and the two main food groups being Red bull and Ramen. The best thing that college prepares us for is learning how to balance working, cleaning, and having fun...not much time to eat though.  "Cram Jam's" breakfast for dinner this week served by PBA staff and faculty was probably our most nutritious meal!

 Despite all of the work from finals week, or just the end of the year in general, PBA students definitely like to have fun, as you all can see from the photos of everyone's version of coping with finals week.  As you can tell with these pictures, the "Instagram" photo app on students' phones was definitely a hit for taking cool pictures with to capture the best moments of final's week.

 As much as I enjoy living in dorms, sitting in classrooms and being in PBA buildings every day, it is a relief to be able to settle back home. The amount of relief that it feels to have a whole second semester, and an entire year as a sophomore completed is almost indescribable.  Now it's time to move on to summer and have some well deserved fun...maybe more than we had finals week! ;)

Tell me about your experience finals week and how you were able to incorporate fun into working!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

PBA Students and the World LEADERS Conference

Last week, students had a once in a lifetime opportunity to meet, hear or even just catch a glimpse of some of the most influential leaders around the world.  The World LEADERS Conference took place the morning and afternoon of April 18 and 19 in the DeSantis Family Chapel at Palm Beach Atlantic University.  Through PBA's event coordinator, students were invited to volunteer for the conference.
Early morning volunteer group of PBA students
PBA Students Volunteer and Attend

I decided to volunteer April 18 helping out in the front of the chapel by checking attendees’ name badges, as well as working with the backstage production crew.  Throughout the day, I was able to catch a glimpse of many of the speakers. While volunteering, I had a blast with the other volunteers.   Plus, it was great to see that the attendees and staff were grateful for our presence and assistance with the conference. 

 Besides students who were volunteering for the conference, there were several other students who attended the conference with seating.  Through hearing a variety of speakers, PBA students gained a deeper understanding of the meaning of a "leader."  I know that students who attended the conference will apply these skills to their lives at school, as a majority of them are already currently student leaders on campus.

Blair speaks at the World LEADERS Conference
Former Prime Minister of Britain Tony Blair

Luckily, as a student volunteer, I was selected along with one other student to work during the afternoon when Former Prime Minister of Britain Tony Blair gave his speech.  I worked with the production crew, and then attended a reception in the Rotunda of the Warren Library for a photo opportunity with Former Prime Minister Blair.  Although it was a rare experience to introduce myself to him, it was his words of advice during the conference that was a gift beyond compare.

There were three aspects of Former Prime Minister Blair's outlined seven steps for leaders that stuck out to me as goals for improving my own leadership. For example, he encouraged the audience to use problems for motivation, instead of frustration.  He also suggested using a balance of humility and self-belief in leadership. Finally, he asked us to remember to always thank God for the blessings in our life.   

These three small examples of leadership advice have deeply pierced my heart, and will help me with my leadership journey at PBA. Overall, it is encouraging to see how an experienced world leader, such as Former Prime Minister Blair, is willing and able to express leadership advice in a way that is relatable to those who have yet to gain his experience.