Writing Portfolio

Samples of my past writing work:

 

Give Thanks, Give Back

The smell of a juicy roast turkey and green bean casserole fills the air; Thanksgiving is around the corner.

Thanksgiving is a time of reflection on what you’re most thankful for and a day to spend with family and friends. However, instead of showing your gratitude by gorging yourself on cornbread, stuffing and creamy mashed potatoes, why not spend your Thanksgiving by lending a hand to someone less fortunate? Whether you are on your own or have your family with you, there are plenty of local opportunities to give back to the community this fall.

Participate in a food drive

This is one of the simplest things you can do to help others. All you really have to do is gather as many canned goods and non-perishable foods you can carry and drop them off at a designated pick-up area. Countless organizations are holding food drives this time of year. Food banks by Feeding America are located all over Broward and Miami counties and are always accepting donations. Visit www.feedingamerica.org to learn more.

Deliver meals

Many families want to have a traditional meal this holiday but simply can’t afford to purchase everything they need. Help them out by delivering a fresh turkey with all the trimmings to their door. Meals on Wheels is a nationwide program that focuses on delivering meals to needy families, including those in South Florida. When you participate in this program, you’ll join with others in your area who want to volunteer and deliver meals that have been put together with the non-perishable food items and turkeys donated in food drives. For more information about Meals and Wheels, visit bmow.org.

Feed the homeless

Feeding the homeless is perhaps one of the most well-known ways to give back on Thanksgiving. Not only does it allow you to provide a Thanksgiving meal to those who need it most, but it also gives you a new perspective on being grateful for what you have. Volunteering at a local food pantry or shelter will also help out those who work and regularly volunteer at these organizations, as they would be shorthanded with the crowds on Thanksgiving Day.

One food-serving opportunity that is close to NSU is the Broward Outreach Center/Miami Rescue Mission. For information on how you can sign up to volunteer, contact the Hollywood center at 954-620-4017, or visit their website miamirescuemission.com/boc.htm.

Local Salvation Army stores also have events each year to feed those in need. To serve at the Salvation Army, sign up on their website satruck.org.

Invite someone into your home

Do you know someone who’s having a hard time financially and won’t be able to celebrate Thanksgiving this year? Is there a friend who lives thousands of miles from their family and will be spending the holiday alone? Whatever the situation, inviting someone to share in your festivities is a great way to show your appreciation of your relationship with them. Feel free to open your home to anyone you might know who would like to have a Thanksgiving meal.

Visit those without a family

Those who live in hospitals and retirement homes don’t have any family to be with this time of year. You might not know them personally, but visiting those who are alone during the holidays will make them feel loved and appreciated. Just a little bit of time can go a long way with these visits. Retirement homes and local children’s hospitals are great options to spend time with people who’d like the company. Each hospital and nursing home has different policies when it comes to volunteering, so make sure you contact them before showing up.

Don’t drop everything after the holidays

Just because Thanksgiving has come to an end doesn’t mean your service has to. There are always people in need and always opportunities to help the community. Continue doing good well after the holidays are over, and you’ll feel a greater sense of gratitude that is not even close to being rivaled with feasting on ridiculous amounts of food.

 

SAT is to College, as Monopoly Money is to Life

Ticket? Check. Alarm clock? Set. ID card? Packed.

No, this isn’t the day before a vacation; it’s the day before the SATs.

As college students, most of us have been through the dreaded experience of waking up early on a Saturday morning to drudge ourselves to school and take the test we’d probably been hearing about since the day we set foot in high school. We are conditioned to believe that this test is life-altering, as the school board encourages us to prepare for it years in advance. But what does this test even evaluate? Does it test our ability to read and comprehend an excerpted passage? Does it challenge our knowledge of mathematics up to high school level Algebra II? Or is it simply an examination into how much we’ve prepared for said test?

The fact that the SAT prep classes students are recommended to take are offered separate from their high school curriculum is a testament that the exam doesn’t test for mastery of relevant course material but, rather, a student’s ability to understand the exam. The more familiar a student is with the exam’s style, the better they’ll do on the test. SAT prep books don’t aim to improve a student’s skills in mathematics or reading; they improve to improve a student’s test taking skills. The SAT exists solely to assess how good a student is at taking the SAT.

Fully aware of these objections to their test, CollegeBoard, the company that creates and distributes the SAT, has come up with what it believes is a solution to these criticisms. Beginning in the spring of 2016, CollegeBoard will release a new version of its famous college entrance exam to combat the competition of rival test ACT.

This SAT will leave behind the current 2400 maximum score, reverting to the original 1600 point system. Rather than giving students the tedious task of memorizing obscure vocabulary words like “circuitous” and “grandiloquence,” there will be a greater focus on the contextual definition of terms and evidence-based reading. The mathematics section will emphasize the use of concepts relevant to science and social science careers such as ratios, percentages and proportional reasoning.

Perhaps the most relieving news about the new SAT is the elimination of the wrong-answer penalty. Test-takers will no longer have points deducted from their overall score for filling in an incorrect response; instead, only their correct answers will be counted toward their score.

While these changes seem to be a step in the right direction, CollegeBoard still appears unaware of the true problem with its test: it has very little to do with college preparation. I can’t think of a single instance in my university career when I thought, “That SAT prep course really came in handy,” or “I remember this problem was a question on the SATs. How did I solve it again?”

It might help you become a better test-taker in some instances, but it’s not going to help you retain any of that information when you become a college student. Actual college courses don’t even utilize the study tactics that SAT prep classes advocate for.

Rather than emphasizing the importance of the SAT and similar standardized tests, universities should instead focus on a student’s proficiency in material relevant to their course of study. GPA, Advanced Placement courses, volunteer service hours and instructor recommendations are already required for entrance into most universities and are a more accurate gauge of a student’s college-readiness.

The SAT has very little to do with any of this.

CollegeBoard doesn’t need to change the SAT; they need to axe it altogether.

 

The Reality Rampage

It’s impossible to flip through TV channels without catching a glimpse of a reality show.

With the creation of “Candid Camera” in the 1940s, reality television is nothing new. However, the genre has expanded in recent years to cover a wide variety of subjects. Whether it’s “The Real Housewives,” “The Bachelor,” “Hoarders” or “Kitchen Nightmares,” it’s as though there is a show for every quirky interest in the world. Aside from not having much reality at all, one thing that almost all reality shows have in common is drama, backstabbing, and, possibly, even violence among cast members. Hair-pulling, name-calling, uppercuts and table-flipping — nothing is spared in these on-air altercations.

With all of the fighting that goes on, these shows communicate to their viewers the idea that all it takes to get famous is to throw a few punches. It also tells TV producers that an audience will be satisfied with the show so long as they can incorporate some amount of needless violence. This takes away from the amount of innovative TV programming being aired, such as shows that rely on creative storytelling or shows that actually aim to educate the audience.

In the season one finale of “The Real Housewives of New Jersey,” a series about the lives of wealthy housewives, Teresa Giudice famously flipped a dinner table when enraged by a fellow cast member. Following the table-flipping, Giudice went on a profanity-filled tirade, letting all her cast mates know exactly how she felt about them. In the fourth episode of “Married to Medicine,” a show focusing on women who are married to doctors, castmates Mariah Huq and Toya Bush-Harris confront each other at a black-tie event. The two brawled while wearing their ball gowns and sky-high heels. The show “Bad Girls Club” is centered on the feuds among its female housemates, so violence is staple material for each episode.

So why do producers feel the need to incorporate these confrontations into their shows? One explanation is that people are drawn to violence, so the reality shows feed the audience’s cravings in exchange for higher ratings. In a 2008 research study published in the psychology journal Psychopharmacology, researchers found that humans watch and/or take part in aggressive activities because they feel a “rewarding sensation” from it. The study was used as an explanation for why people enjoy watching harshly aggressive sports and violent movies.

The same conclusion can be said for violent reality shows. The more punches that are thrown, the more people will tune in. People want to experience the thrill and suspense of not knowing who will swing first, who will win the fight, and how the fight leads to even more drama. Nearly 3.5 million people watched the season one finale of “The Real Housewives of New Jersey.” “Bad Girls Club” was the first show on the Oxygen network to capture more than 1 million viewers per episode. The finale of “Bad Girls Club: ATL” boasted a record-breaking total of 2 million viewers for Oxygen, according to Nielsen ratings. The fourth episode of “Married to Medicine” hooked 2.6 million viewers.

This is negative because as more people watch the fighting that goes on, the more that TV shows will resort to showing this type of entertainment, pushing the possibly more creative shows off the air. Moreover, some who watch these shows may start to feel that it’s OK to behave that way when they find themselves in similar situations.

Whatever the reasons, the producers of reality TV shows continue to use their programs’ competitive nature and violence as a means to drive plot lines and snatch its viewers’ attention. It’s a rather uninventive form of entertainment, feeding solely on the public’s appetite for drama and not much else. For some, watching reality TV is like driving past a car accident: no matter how bad it may be, it’s hard to look away. The problem is that as reality TV shows remain prevalent, they make it more difficult for newer and more creative types of television to gain public recognition, thus creating the image that all TV consists of is cat fights and castmate confrontations.

 

Dancing for the Kids

Kappa Psi Pharmaceutical Fraternity, Inc. and the Office of Student Activities will host NSU’s annual Dance Marathon in support of pediatric cancer patients, starting April 4 at 7 p.m. in the indoor basketball courts of the Recreational Complex in the Don Taft University Center

A nation-wide event, Dance Marathon aims to raise money and awareness for Children’s Miracle Network, a children’s hospital group.

Though the Dance Marathon is traditionally a 24- to 48-hour event, NSU’s version of the marathon will last 12 hours. The groups’ goal is to raise $5,000 for Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital patients.

Sean Ryan, graduate assistant for the Office of Student Leadership and Civic Engagement and adviser for the Dance Marathon committee, said the money raised will make a great impact on the patients and their families.

“The money is going toward the patients’ treatments,” Ryan said. “If there’s a treatment that they need that their insurance doesn’t cover, this money will be able to help them with the cost. The motto is always FTK, which means ‘For the Kids.’”

The event will also feature raffle prizes, free food, video and board games and presentations by hospital representatives. Attendees will also have the opportunity to meet with some of the patient’s families.

Kaitlyn Bamrick, senior biology major and co-president of the Dance Marathon committee, said she finds the event personally significant.

“My cousin had cancer when he was younger and he did beat it,” said Bamrick. “Being a part of the Dance Marathon is something that hit home for me and I find it really important.”

Rachel Comito, Kappa Psi director of philanthropy and co-president of the Dance Marathon committee, said that in past years, the Dance Marathon was held by the Health Professions Division. This is the first time the event has been produced with a focus toward undergraduates.

“We don’t want the event to belong to one club or one organization; we want it to belong to the whole school,” Comito said. “Bringing it to NSU’s undergraduates was just the right thing for us to do. We want to make this a tradition that NSU can have every year.”

Ryan believes that this event is a great opportunity for students to connect with one another under a positive objective.

“Dance Marathon really builds a sense of community behind a great cause, working with children who have cancer and terminal illnesses.

This event brings people of different backgrounds together. Everyone is working towards one unified goal,” said Ryan.

Dance Marathon is open to the NSU community and the public. Attendees can register for $10 at support.pedaids.org/novadm, either as individuals or as teams. Registration will be open through April 4. Walk-in registration will be available the day of the event. All registration money will go toward the marathon’s donation goal.

For more information about Dance Marathon, contact Ryan at sr1616@nova.edu.

 

Celebrate CommunityFest

NSU’s 11th annual CommunityFest — a free event aimed at bringing the NSU community closer together, while also connecting participants with businesses and residents of the local area — will be held on Feb. 8 from noon to 4 p.m. at Gold Circle Lake.

Approximately 75 student organizations and 25 academic departments and colleges will set up booths around the lake and host interactive activities to engage participants. Attractions will include an inflatable shark slide, a bounce house, a dunk tank and a petting zoo.

The Athletics Department will also host activities to promote their upcoming basketball games and approximately 20 food vendors will offer free food throughout the day. This year’s entertainment will include performances by the Sharkettes, NSU’s official dance team, and the Riff Tides, a student a capella group.

Christina Rajkumar, assistant director of special events and projects in the Office of Student Activities, is overseeing this year’s CommunityFest. She said that the event is unique because it’s one of the only events that connect the NSU community with the public.

“The highlight of the event is the partnership between campuses that NSU gains through bringing both the internal [NSU] and external [non-NSU] community together,” Rajkumar said.

Ileana Sanchez, senior psychology major and a member of the food vendor committee for CommunityFest, said that students should attend because they will get to see the variety of clubs and organizations on campus.

“The best part of CommunityFest is the chance our NSU Community gets to connect with the surrounding community,” she said. “It is a great way for [students] to see what our NSU student organizations do, as well as what the surrounding community has to offer.”

Jaylin Webster, sophomore biology major, is eager to see what changes CommunityFest will bring this year.

“Every year is so different. I never know what to expect. I know for a fact though, it will be such a great time,” Webster said.

The event was started in 2003 by Director of Student Media Michelle Manley, who was a student at the time, to connect NSU with the community. With an average of 4,500 participants each year, it has become one of the most popular campus traditions.

Many students, faculty and staff also bring their families, including children, which Aarabhi Rajagopal, sophomore biology major, said is her favorite aspect of the event.

“Being able to see all the little kids run around and witness the fun they are having is absolutely wonderful,” she said.

Francesca Verret, freshman secondary education major, is especially looking forward to trying different foods.

“I can’t wait to taste all the delicious free food. I know I will not be eating breakfast that morning,” said Verret.

There’s no need to RSVP for CommunityFest but for more information, email communityfest@nova.edu or visit nova.edu/communityfest.

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