Monday, May 26, 2008

Special Report

The Funny Side Of Rivalry
By Aimee La Fountain

I grew up in New Jersey, which is a fine state except one aspect -- it’s full of Yankees fans. As a dedicated Red Sox fan, I have always thought that the strong Yankees following in Jersey is its fatal flaw.

Now, at this point you may be wondering how someone in New Jersey is a Sox fan. It’s simple really -- family heritage. My father is from Massachusetts and wanting to be a good parent, he naturally raised me to follow the Red Sox. What’s really inconvenient is that there are very few Sox fans in New Jersey. So, I have endured the jeers and various other challenges to my loyalty that come with living in New Jersey as a Sox fan. Yes, there’s nothing quite like the experience of walking into a classroom in a Sox tee shirt and getting banished from the room because the teacher is a Yankees fan.

When I came to New York, I hoped that the Yankees-Red Sox ratio would balance out a little more. I figured that between Mets fans and people form out of state, the presence of Yankees fans may be more modest than New Jersey. Turns out, it’s hard to escape the Yankees ghost. I was horrified to find that I was still surrounded by an abundance of Yankees fans. I soon realized that Red Sox fans are like a secret society in New York.

Whenever I spot a Sox fan in the city, it’s like seeing a long lost relative. And, on the chance that two Sox fans should cross paths there is a remarkable sight in that mutual look of admiration between two baseball minorities. Surely, you’ve seen one of us out there; we’re that one person in the bar that’s happy when the Yankees lose a game or the only people smiling the day that the Yankees lose the playoffs. And, if it sounds strange that a Red Sox fan should be in New York, I can offer you an example of the opposite effect and refer you to my friend, a Yankees fan, who lives in Massachusetts.

This brings me to the complicated issue of mixed relationships. Growing up in New Jersey I was exposed to Yankees fans at a young age and understood that I should respect people who may have baseball beliefs that conflict with mine. I’m always in favor of practicing tolerance and this is why I have many friends who are Yankees fans -- I’ve learned to accept them, despite their sports misjudgments.

The most horrifying phenomenon, however, is when you’re shocked to find yourself romantically interested in someone of a different baseball affiliation. Such was the case when I met an incredibly charming man who seemed perfect until the day I spotted him wearing a Yankees cap. However, I overlooked his weakness and we ended up dating. It didn’t work out in the end and I’m certain that it was our mixed baseball beliefs that cursed the relationship.

Life is funny. The harder you try to escape certain things the more you find yourself surrounded by them.

Aimee La Fountain won Honorable Mention in the 2008 Mortimer Levitt Essay Contest for Marymount Manhattan College students.

Special Report

“Life Is Funny”
By Priya Joshi

Sometimes, on a sunny, cool winter morning, while I walk around the Angel Fountain in Central Park, I become overwhelmed with sadness. Sometimes, on a beautiful summer afternoon with the most vibrant sunrays that I’ve felt in years streaming down my back, without a care in the world and only happiness ahead, I fall to my knees and cry so hard I have to stop and breathe. It’s just that sometimes, no matter how hard I try, I can’t shake the thought that all of the beauty around me is dwarfed by all of the madness.

I throw up every time I think about it. If you take all of the sick, repugnant, horrifically unspeakable things about society and roll it into a tight, hot mess and try to swallow it, that’s how I feel every time I think about it.

I picture a man on a December day. I picture him walking his dog through a park in Queens, N.Y., the grey winter light reflecting off his eyes and illuminating his smile. I picture him softly saying, “bless you” to a complete stranger as they sneeze into their rabbit fur mittens. I picture him as a child, walking to PS 116, stopping for a moment to give his milk money to the bum on the corner.

This man, this honest, hard-working, caring and contributing member of our society, who is a constant visitor to many Queens neighborhoods, has ruined more lives than he’ll ever know, and it’s all because of me. This working-class, father-of-the-year, giving individual has been a pawn on my chessboard for a decade.

For years this man has set his alarm for 4 a.m., gone out in the cold, rain, sleet in winter, and the unbearable heat in summer to deliver to me, my friends, my cronies, my clients and their mothers our packages of goodies. Never once did this honest, hard-working, caring, working-class father-of-the-year suspect that he was feeding the mouths, veins, noses and causes for each, and every sick addiction you could imagine.

Never once did he think as he drove his delivery truck that these simple, small brown packages he delivered to the sweet, young couple on 36th street contained enough morphine to kill a horse. Never once did it cross his mind that the innocent, always friendly residents of 45th Street and 30th Avenue were truly the ghouls and goblins that he spent his life trying not to become.

The funny thing is, no matter how many times a day you shower, and no matter how many good deeds you do, or how many sneezing strangers you give a sincere “bless you” to, you can never completely wash your hands clean of the scum from the underbelly of what we call our Great American Society. No matter how many anti-war protests you attend, people still die. No matter how many drug-addled youths sober up, there is still a kid passed out on the cold tile in a halfway house with a syringe a quarter of the way into his vein.

The funny thing about life is -- ignorance is bliss after all.

Priya Joshi won Honorable Mention in the 2008 Mortimer Levitt Essay Contest for Marymount Manhattan College students.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Millennials In The New Millennium

I Want It All, And I Want It Now
By Roya Yazhari

Known as the “Echo Boomers” and “Millennials” this generation born between 1982 and 1995, myself included, is shaping the American workplace and its way of life. We want our dream job, our fabulous weekends off, and enough time to shop and take hot yoga classes as much as we please.

According to the November 11, 2007 60 Minutes news report, “The Millennials Are Coming,” this generation is “raised by doting parents who told them they are special, and played in little leagues with no winners or losers.” This generation is taught that whatever you put your mind to you can achieve. Nearly 80 million of them living in the U.S. today, this group of young people are the genetic offspring of their parents, the baby boomers.

Aired two years earlier, 60 Minutes said in its report, “The Echo Boomers,” that this generation is more diverse than ever, and is accepting of different cultures and groups.

A group of 21-23 year-old Marymount Manhattan College students, including members of student government, are not only committed to their studies, but are committed to their academic institution as well. This group of students, shown in the photo below, are able to study, balance their homework, and enjoy the New York City night life.

“I do not think the description of the Millennials in the news accurately describes our generation,” said Amy Markel, a junior studying political science and international studies, and a member of student government. “Yes, in college we work hard and play hard. However unless you take Sex And The City as your Gospel, you will realize life is going to be a bit more serious when we get out of here,” she said.

Celebrating her 21st birthday, Markel understands her responsibility as a human being in this country as well as her freedom to live a life that makes her happy. “My parents want me to be a lawyer. I however enjoy International studies. For them, they want me to be financially stable. I want the same, however I know I can reach my goals in a way I see fit to my personality and interests,” Markel said.

Amy Markel celebrating her 21st birthday with classmates
and friends at a New York City hangout.

In a poll in Business Week magazine by Universum this year, of the 37,000-plus undergraduates surveyed, the No. 1 career goal of these individuals was to “balance personal and professional life.” “Building a sound financial base” came in third. Many speculate this is because this generation of young people is waiting longer to buy homes, start families, and settle down.

This generation of young people has become one completely dependent on others. Without a cell phone or IPod in hand, many of us feel naked walking down the streets of New York City. We always must have something to do or something distracting us from the pressures of every day life.

In the past, the ability to land a job and stick with it for as long as possible was an accomplishment. Nowadays, changing jobs numerous times is not only acceptable, but also inevitable for most who are on their quest for the “dream job.” The job in which you can “roll into work with iPods and flip flops at noon, but still be CEO by Friday,” according to the report.

This image should be slogan for this generation of youth. We want what we want, and we want it now. When told this statement Amy exclaimed, “Yes, we want what we want. And in this technologically advanced day in age, we can get it!”

For the youth of today, the traditional 40-hour week is thrown out the window, and bosses must realize that a pilates workout at noon comes before a major proposal deadline, according to the Milliennial report.

Many companies are adapting to this new generation by creating work environments that will entice workers to want to stay and work hard. A party-like atmosphere is created in order for these young people to enjoy work and stay happy and cheerful.

In the Millennial report, Dorsey Healy who has written, in collaboration with his brother, how-to books on how to cope with work, said, “We’re not going to settle. Because we saw our parents settle. We definitely put lifestyle and friends above work. No question about it.”

In reality, only time will tell whether this view of life will work for our generation. Meanwhile, individuals will continue speculating and studying this fascinating generation.

Millennials In The New Millennium

Take It Easy, Life Is A Vacation
By Alejandro M. Fernandez

Baby boomers were born between 1946 and 1964 and their children, echo boomers, were born between 1982 and 1995. Since The Eagles, an American rock band, were active from 1971 to 1980 and again from 1994 to present, parents and children have probably heard many of their songs.

One Eagles song says, “Take it easy, take it easy; don't let the sound of them old wheels drive you crazy.” According to two CBS 60 Minutes segments, the echo boomers have definitely taken The Eagles’ advice.

The first segment aired on September 4, 2005. Correspondent Steve Kroft interviews a wide array of people with specific opinions on this generational issue. Doctors, professors, historians, and echo boomers themselves, all chime in.

In “The Echo Boomers” Dr. Mel Levine, a professor at the University of North Carolina, says that is not the only part of their cultural conditioning that’s going to require an adjustment in the workplace. After asking the CEO of a major corporation for a description of a typical young worker he says, “They can’t think long-range. Everything has to be immediate, like a video game. And they have a lot of trouble sort of doing things in a stepwise fashion, delaying gratification. Really reflecting as they go along.’ I think that's new.”

Historian Neil Howe makes a similar observation. “Sometimes, they don’t know what to do if they’re just left outside and you say, ‘Well, just do something by yourself for a while,’” says Howe. “They'll look around stunned. You know, ‘What are we supposed to do now?’”

Some echo boomers don’t agree with these assesments

“It’s not the majority of our generation,” says Meredith Spiegel, 21. A student at Marymount Manhattan College, Spiegel rejects the negative stereotype. “There are kids who actually work hard the old-fashioned way even though it’s a type of culture that is rare nowadays. It all depends on how people are brought up,” she says.

Meredith Spiegel
believes gene-
stereotyping is
inaccurate and

In a follow-up 60 Minutes segment called, “The Millennials Are Coming” poses similar arguments. Aired on November 11, 2007, correspondent Morley Safer interviews corporate executives, consultants, and two working millennials and reports that, “Faced with new employees who want to roll into work with their iPods and flip flops around noon, but still be CEO by Friday, companies are realizing that the era of the buttoned down exec happy to have a job is as dead as the three-Martini lunch.”

Mary Crane, who offers crash courses for millennials entering the workforce, suggests this generation has been coddled. “You now have a generation coming into the workplace that has grown up with the expectation that they will automatically win, and they’ll always be rewarded, even for just showing up,” Crane says.

Kroft states echo boomers are the most watched-over generation in history. Most have never ridden a bike without a helmet, ridden in a car without a seat belt, or eaten in a cafeteria that serves peanut butter.

Jason Dorsey, a millennial himself, who was interviewed in the segment agrees. “Our parents really took from us that opportunity to fall down on our face and learn how to stand up,” he says.

Unlike their parents who value hard work, individuality, and achievement, millennials prioritize lifestyle, friends, and instant gratification.

Wesner Jules, a 20 year-old economics major at Georgetown University, agrees with this assessment. “Everyone feels like they are supposed to be handed shit in life. Like everything is supposed to be easy. And our parents just went with that whole idea,” Jules says.

But don’t simply blame mom and dad, or Mister Rogers as Wall Street Journal columnist Jeffrey Zaslow does in “The Millennials are Coming”.

“I think it’s a part of the American culture, that notion of being superior or special,” says Jules.

So don’t go around blaming millennials for wanting to start work at noon, for being tattooed lawyers, or wanting to be CEOs effortlessly. The Eagles, our parents, and our culture have told us to do so. And that’s what we’re doing.

“Life’s a vacation,” Jules says. So take it easy.

Decision 2008

Election 2008: Know Your Role
By Alejandro M. Fernandez

The 2008 presidential election has all the ingredients of a Hollywood action-thriller. This year’s blockbuster contains three main characters. Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona plays himself, the older man who represents the status quo. Though he is not the main villain, he seems to stand in the hero’s way. The hero is none other than Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois. He is young, charismatic, and handsome.

Of course, no hero would be complete without a sidekick, no male protagonist would be complete without the female gaze, and no good cop would be complete without a bad cop. Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York defies this multifaceted role, but the casting director will not budge. The director and main villain is, as usual, the media.

So why does this election matter? Why watch a remake of previous films?

Somewhere along the line, the casting director decided to improvise. For the first time a black man and a white woman share the spotlight with the usual White male suspect. Voters understand this. Young voters especially realize that their votes can affect this country’s future in Iraq, the fate of a diminished economy, and much more.

According to both Time Magazine and the Los Angeles Times, “the youth vote already has played a key role in earlier primaries. In South Carolina, 18- to 29-year-olds accounted for 14% of voters, up from 9% in 2004. And in Iowa, young voter turnout rose 135% from the previous presidential primary.”

Rita Biggers, a 22-year-old graduate student, did not vote because of scheduling conflicts. However, she has followed the media’s election coverage diligently. Biggers believes “the media’s need to constantly broadcast breaking stories, as seen through the creation of the new breed of 24-hour news stations like CNN, has caused the media to do more report now, confirm later type of journalism.”

Rita Biggers says her
main concerns are
health care,
education costs, and
foreign affairs

Maria-Leonor Castilla, a 20-year-old Ivy Leaguer, exercised her right to vote for the first time by voting for Hillary Clinton. “I see myself in Hillary—a woman who is driven, educated and passionate with clear goals and plans to execute those goals,” she says. “Besides,” she adds, “we all know that it has been the first ladies that are the pillars, inspirations, and ultimate advisors of their husbands (many of whom have served our country well), so who better than a former first lady to lead our country?”

Pablo Guevara, a 21-year-old engineering student, voted for a fellow Hispanic. “Richardson is my boy,” he says. “He’s the only politician I’ve met that gave me good vibes. Plus, I have to represent the Hispanics,” he adds.

Like moviegoers, voters connect with candidates that make them feel comfortable and safe. William P. O’Neill, a 32-year-old U.S. Air Force Public Affairs Specialist, is no different. “I feel more secure and confident regarding the safety and future of America with Senator McCain as its Commander in Chief,” he says. Adding, “I agree with Sen. John McCain’s stances on the war on terror (especially regarding Iraq and Afghanistan), economy, and immigration.”

Some, like Marcello Pacheco, 21, an architecture student, are more critical of this year’s villain. “The media’s coverage is sickening. It is completely biased for Obama and tries to trap or demonize Hillary every chance they get,” he says.

Marcello Pacheco's biggest
concerns are education and
infrastructure spending

James Darley, a 20-year-old student at Holy Cross favors the hero. “I admire the courage that it took for Obama to not vote for the war in Iraq. He risked everything, including his political career by not jumping on the bandwagon.”

Unlike previous years, the 2008 presidential election appeals to many people, if not everyone. Men and women of all ages, races, and creeds have someone to root for.

How will the blockbuster end?

No one knows for sure. The only certainty is that everyone is playing a role.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

City Life

The Bachelor Life Without Regrets
By Jenifer Carbonara

Grow up, get married, have kids. This is the default setting programmed into almost every child from birth, and one that your average person forecasts for his or her future. For Donald Choi, and so many other New York City bachelors, however, this is simply not the reality.

Choi, 40, is the now-retired former CFO of Diane Von Furstenburg’s fashion empire. By all accounts, this man is a catch: handsome, demonstrably wealthy, and extremely successful. Choi is lacking one thing, though—a wedding ring.

“I always thought I would get married,” says Choi, “but it just never happened. And I’m not sure that is a bad thing.”

Donald Choi says he doesn’t regret
the single life.

Choi is one of many men who have become life-long bachelors. Instead of a wife, kids, and the white picket fence, he chose travel, yachts, and the ultimate bachelor pad. He traded diapers for diamonds, and one woman “till death do they part” for 20-something models for “as long as it’s fun.”

His lifestyle is not the typical example of how a 40-year old man lives, but it is certainly one that is enviable to many. Like most bachelors, Choi is protective of the life he has established as a single man. His worry that marriage would not be “fun” gets trumped by his concern he would be robbed of the things he enjoys most.

“I like to be spontaneous, and being single affords me the ability to do whatever I want whenever I want to,” Choi said. “If I want to travel, I do it. If there is something I want, I buy it. Being tied down would mean I wouldn’t just be making choices for myself; I would be making choices for my family, too, responsible ones. I worked hard—I am always responsible. In my personal life, I would rather just be.”

Choi isn’t the only one who feels this way. The latest census bureau indicates a steady drop in married couples and in American families since the 1970’s. Married couples used to make up more than 40% of the U.S. population; they now are at 25%, a statistic even with single person households.

The number of American families dropped from over 80% to just over 70% as well between 1970 and 1995. By comparison, single person households rose from 17% to nearly 25% during that same period. And, of the men in that statistic, nearly three-fourths of them are men between the ages of 25-64 who have never been married.

Chalk it up to rising divorce rates? Or perhaps the fear of a messy divorce? Whatever the reason, the American bachelor is becoming a new breed of man that is on the rise. To cope with this rising statistic, the bookshelves at Barnes & Noble are flooded with quick-fix books to “Tie Down Your Man Now!” and other such remedies for the single life.

However, the likelihood of finding a fast and easy way to tie down the Hugh Hefner wannabes seems slim. In Choi’s case, nearly impossible. According to him, it takes more than a genuine smile and a good home cooked meal to ask these staunch bachelors to trade in their nights of hot, new club openings, days of idle relaxation, and apartments equipped with the latest gadgets, leather couches, and even a stock supply of blow dryers, razors, perfume, and feminine products.

“I never say never, though. All I am saying is that I don’t regret staying single,” said Choi. “I have had a great life! There are so many people who wish they could have experienced what I experienced—it would be rude to say that I have not had a very lucky life!”

Choi, like so many other men, are beginning to see the value of a life that might be non-traditional. He believes that finding love and having children should be a choice, not a requirement. Choi is an example of the changing values and attitudes of the average American.

Though many may question the fulfillment of a life that is devoid of a marriage and family, Choi responds that he is very close with his parents and siblings, and enjoys the company of many great friends whom he cares for deeply. “I have a lot of love in my life,” he says.

Millennials In The New Millennium

Like Father, Like Son, Or Not
By Alexa Breslin

Echo boomers, millennials, Generation Y. These are three terms given to the generation born between 1982 and 1995. Some are barely out of college, others still in grade school. However, we all have one thing in common; we are the children of the baby boomers.

In September of 2005, CBS’s 60 Minutes did a program titled, “The Echo Boomers.” As correspondent Steve Kroft reported we quickly learned the term echo boomers came from the demographic echo Generation-Y became of their parents, the baby boomers. The hour then consisted of interviews with doctors, a professor, historian, and two real, live echo boomers all discussing the most talked about generation to date.

“They are multitaskers, with cell phones, music downloads, and instant messaging on the Internet,” reports Kroft. “Through sheer numbers, they’re beginning to change society. They have affected school construction, college enrollments, product development, and media content,” he later added.

One of the most important unwritten rules regarding the very serious game called our lives is that things change. Unexpectedly, unwillingly, inadvertently, they change. In a world where society and the economy are facing drastic changes, so are its people.

“It’s na├»ve to believe generation after generation will continually follow in each other’s footsteps,” says Katherine Rimola, 21, a graduating Communication Arts student of Marymount Manhattan College who will receive her diploma with only three years of college under her belt. “We’re not spoiled,” she continued, “we’re just different.”

Nick Summers, then a college senior at Columbia University and editor of its newspaper, said during the 60 minutes interview, “my generation tends to be very overachieving, over-managed, very pressured.”

“I’ve always been an over-achiever, since I was in grade school. I knew I would be able to complete my BA in communications in three years, so I did,” Rimola said.

Two years after the first program aired, CBS decided it wasn’t enough and went on to do a second episode of 60 Minutes this time titled, “The ‘Millennials’ Are Coming.” As Correspondent Morley Safer reported this time around, the episode explored virtually the same things “The Echo Boomers” had but this time with an intent focus on the workplace.

“The workplace has become a psychological battlefield and the millennials have the upper hand, because they are tech savvy, with every gadget imaginable almost becoming an extension of their bodies. They multitask, talk, walk, listen and type, and text,” reports Safer. In other words, in “millennial” terms, we can do more than two things at once. What’s so bad about that?

Why yes, Mr. CEO, I can communicate with five people at the same time via internet thanks to AOL’s instant messenger. I can also type a paper, update my iPod, e-mail a professor and talk to my mother on the phone all while watching my homegirl, Oprah. This is what we, the echo boomers, call multitasking. It will become useful to you when we place our seven different assignments on your desk all a day before they’re due.

As for being “tech savvy,” we know we are. There is no denying it; Generation Y has been technologically spoiled. We have things the baby boomer generation never could have dreamed of having. Our parents have transitioned to getting up off the couch to the television and decide which program to watch between their five channels on their tiny black and white television, to now relaxing on their Lazy Boys while flipping through the five-hundred and then some channels on their 60-plus inch flat screen TV equipped with surround sound and something called high-definition that makes a football game appear as if it’s happening in their very own living room.

So what?

These technological advances do not mean we don’t work as hard as our parents once did in the workplace. It doesn’t mean we don’t have high goals and it certainly doesn’t mean we’re not willing to do whatever it takes to reach the point in our lives we have dreamed we would once be.

Jason Dorsey, an author of two how-to books for the twenty-something millennials, told Safer, “We’re not going to settle. Because we saw our parents settle and we have options. That we can keep hopping jobs. No longer is it bad to have four jobs on your resume in a year. Whereas for our parents or even Gen X, that was terrible. But that’s the new reality for us. And we’re going to keep adapting and switching and trying new things until we figure out what it is.”

“It’s a different world now,” says Ryan Donde, 21, a fourth-year business student at Montclair State University. “My dad has been at the same job for over 25 years. I can’t say I’ll ever want to stay somewhere for that long.”

This only raises the question, how exactly are the echo boomers a demographic echo of our parents, the baby boomers? What exactly do we replicate? Concluding everything we have heard from 60 Minutes we don’t play outside like our parents once did, we have things our parents never did, and we don’t work as hard as our parents have.

Here’s the bottom line, CBS: the echo boomers aren’t replicas of the baby boomers. Maybe we’re not like our parents, where’s the harm in that? Maybe we are clueless. Maybe we’d rather stay inside to watch the E! Network than go outside and run around. Maybe we think we’re more special than everyone else just because our parents told us so. Maybe we’re even crazy enough to believe our futures are in our hands, but the ones who are crazy enough to go after what they want are usually the ones who succeed.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

College Life

A College Education Or Just College Debt?
By Alexa Breslin

I can faintly recall standing online at Mrs. Field’s cookie shop. I was much younger and it was Christmas time; the mall was packed. I stood patiently on the never-ending line with my parents anticipating which cookie I would get. When we got close to the cash register, I pressed my face to the glass to admire the sweet selection.

The young man who had been standing in front of us asked the employee how much a cookie was. “A dollar seventy-five,” she replied. The young man looked down into this wallet and quickly looked back up. “It’s a sad day when you can’t afford a cookie,” he said sadly and walked away. I remember wondering where his mother and father were to buy him a cookie and why they hadn’t given him enough money. Now, I’m well aware. He was in college.

Going to college is no easy task, nor is it reasonably affordable, especially when you attend a school in New York City. Transportation prices are constantly on the rise, books can cost somewhere around $500 a semester, and just discussing tuition is a headache in itself.

According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, the most expensive college in the country is George Washington University, totaling a whopping $37,820 per year, or about 82% of the average middle-class family’s yearly income of $46,362.

“My college debt affects everything I do and every decision I make. I don’t have leisure thinking," says Jacqueline Massary, 20, a third-year student at New York University, one of the most expensive universities in the nation. "It makes me choose a major based on potential income instead of passion. It affects the jobs and internships I take, where I live, and how much money I can spend daily.”

In fact, not only does college debt affect the student personally, but family members as well. “I spend money, but it really affects the way my parents buy things because although the loans are in my name, they’re worried that because it costs so much if something happens, I won’t be able to pay,” Massary added.

With constant anxiety hanging over your head about the thousands of dollars you or your parents will one day have to repay, things that once seemed necessary turn into luxuries. For instance, getting a cup of coffee everyday before class can add up to fifty dollars a month. Add typical college habits such as smoking and drinking and you can easily surpass $300.

“I’m bad at saving money, but I’ve had to downgrade my expenses since I’ve been in college," says Janelle Jahnke, 21, a fourth-year nursing student at Villanova University. "In high school, I used to go to Starbucks at least once a week. Now I think I’ve been there three times since I started college. I shop at less expensive stores and I use my meal card as much as possible,” she added.

Between the endless expenses and barely enough money to make ends meet, you begin to give up things. “I used to go to a lot more concerts in high school,” says Ryan Donde, 21, a third-year business student at Montclair State University. “I haven’t bought a CD in years. It’s too much money. I need the money to pay for my car each month.”

I realize I don’t go out half as much as I used to. Between cab fare and beer prices, the amount of money you can blow on a Saturday night is downright unreasonable. Sweatpants, a pint of Ben & Jerry’s, and a pile of homework begins to look enticing as opposed to dreadful.

Because of the institution I’ve devoted a sickening amount of money to, I live in an apartment whose entire square footage is probably the same as a smaller sized basement somewhere in suburbia. I share just about everything, including a room, closet, and desk. I, luckily, managed somehow to get my own bed and toothbrush.

So what are we left to do? We depend on Christmas presents and birthday checks. We get jobs. We end up waiting tables, working in retail or some nine-to-five job we begin to loathe. Between paychecks, we skip meals and instead fill up on coffee or some other caffeine-induced beverage to get us through the day.

But what do we do in the meantime? Between the point where we are now and when we hope to be financially comfortable somewhere in the near future? Plain and simple: we have to ride it out. Somewhere between all the complaining and whining we eventually have to realize it doesn’t get us any farther toward where we want to be. We’ll still whine of course, if only for some sympathy. But the blunt realization that I’m a lot more fortunate than the homeless man down the street sure gives me some perspective.

I recently walked into my local Starbucks to get the largest cup of coffee possible that would be the motor for the eight to ten page paper I had to write that night. I stood behind the register looking at the menu. A venti was $3.10. I looked into my wallet and saw two measly dollar bills. Why had I emptied out all my change the other day?

“Can I help you?” asked the barista disrupting my thoughts. I looked up at him and smiled. “It’s a sad day,” I said, “when you can’t afford a cup of coffee.” And with that, I went home, to my teeny-tiny apartment, to make my own.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Diversity Series

Welcome To America, Leave Your Voice At Home
By Alejandro Fernandez

Small adobe shacks. Unforgiving heat. Modest economy. Rampant corruption. Religious fervor. Compared to the world of HDTV, satellite radio, Starbucks coffee, Big Macs, iPods, and countless other luxuries, those descriptions appear insultingly gruesome.

Few Americans can imagine such living conditions outside of PBS documentaries airing on their plasma television screens. Even fewer Americans can dream of living under such conditions.

“When I tell people what life was like in Venezuela, many people feel sorry for me,” says Coralia Blanco, 69. “They envision a little, frail girl with dirty clothing and a sad face. They assume I am happy now in America, the land of abundance and choice,” she says, “and that I would never want to return to La Asuncion.”

Coralia Blanco enjoys a group hug

Blanco, a widow for two years, was born in La Asuncion, the capital of Margarita Island, the largest and most important island of Nueva Esparta, one of the 23 Venezuelan states. Margarita covers an area of approximately 410 squared miles. Its tropical climate, two mountain ranges, and countless exotic beaches explain its honorable nickname, The Pearl of the Caribbean.

“I left the Pearl of the Caribbean and all my people for the epicenter of concrete,” Blanco says. “It’s really difficult to get up and go outside sometimes, especially now that the heavenly father has taken my Manuel [her husband for 45 years]. It’s difficult knowing that clear blue water, salty air, and friendly smiles do not await me on the streets of Newark.”

Blanco’s gentle nature makes her an ideal
Nanny, one of her part-time jobs.

Blanco says she misses hearing the waves break, the birds sing, and the church bell announcing the time. "I miss sneaking off to the beach for a few hours after school before I had to go home and help my mother with the chores. You might think I’m crazy, but I even miss my mother punishing me for being late, or for ruining my Sunday shoes hiking. I miss it all,” she says.

Immigration statistics are often difficult to collect, and many times unreliable. In any case, it is safe to say that Coralia Blanco is not the only Venezuelan who misses her land. The U.S. Census Bureau’s 2000 census, lists the total Venezuelans in the U.S. at 126,000, while unofficial figures indicate that as many as 150,000 Venezuelans have moved to the U.S. under Hugo Chavez’s rule. According to The New York Times, the Venezuelan community in the U.S. has grown more than 94 percent this decade, from 91,507 in 2000, the year after Hugo Chavez took office, to 177,866 in 2006.

Other sources, like El Venezolano and El Nuevo Herald, two Miami-based newspapers published in Spanish, estimate as many as 180,000 Venezuelans currently live in Florida alone, whereas Census Bureau demographers believe 40,781 live in the Sunshine State.

If nothing else, these statistics reveal changing trends. During its oil boom in the 1960s and 1970s, Venezuela absorbed more than 500,000 Colombians and Caribbeans, and an estimated 1.5 million Europeans (primarily from Spain, Portugal, and Italy) between 1940 and 1970. Now, Venezuelans are the ones seeking social stability and financial opportunities elsewhere.

Coralia Blanco was born at a tumultuous time. In 1939, the Western powers prepared for what eventually became a long and costly war—in terms of both money and human resources. While Venezuela did not enter World War II, times where no less turbulent. Malaria was the biggest killer. Personal feuds and rivalries dominated political affairs. Marx, Castro, Betancourt, Medina, Chalbaud, and Contreras were household names. Foreign companies salivated over the prospect of Venezuelan oil.

“When I was six or seven years old, my brother told me stories about American and British businessmen who went to our lagoons and mountains,” Blanco explains. “They were very excited about a black gooey substance that came out of the earth. The children were awestruck by the men’s interest in it. Our mothers had reprimanded us for getting dirty, and yet here were these white men wearing expensive suits and smiling like little children.”

When narrating her country’s history and its current position in the world, Blanco diverts her round brown eyes. She is embarrassed and disappointed by the fact that the rest of the world seems to paint Venezuela in a poor light. Venezuela rarely makes it onto the pages, airwaves, or websites of The New York Times, CBS, CNN and other news outlets. When the news media does run a story on the South American country, it often revolves around Hugo Chavez’s corrupt government, border conflicts with Colombia, or crimes like kidnappings and murders.

Blanco yearns to be heard.

Blanco has tried to expand Americans’ knowledge of Venezuela since she first landed in Newark, New Jersey in 1969. Her first significant encounter was with leftist students from Rutgers University who embraced the Argentinean revolutionary Ernesto “Che” Guevara.

“Che Guevara had been killed two years earlier in Bolivia. People thought I embraced his ideology simply because I fled a country—probably the only country in South America—that did not embrace Guevara or Castro and their ideologies,” Blanco says. “You can’t begin to imagine the reactions Manuel and I received when our neighbor’s son found out our stance on a lot of issues of the time. People thought that we would be Socialists just because we came from Venezuela. They did not understand that Venezuela had a very functional democracy at the time and that our reasons for emigrating were of a more personal nature.”

Herein lies the biggest problem all immigrants face. Their voices are not heard. Sociological “experts” often cite the difficulty of leaving loved ones behind and the need to adapt to new languages, customs, schedules, people, and lifestyles as the prevalent challenges for people moving to new countries, especially after childhood. But these problems are miniscule when compared to the solitude, helplessness, and repression that result from being mute.

“I do not dislike America. America has given me a lot more than I could have imagined," Blanco says. I send a good sum of money to my family every month. I live in an apartment bigger than anything I ever read about. I have a television set. I have all these great things and yet I feel sad at times."

Some people define such sadness as nostalgia, a yearning for one’s home. “Maybe it is nostalgia,” Blanco acquiesces. “I yearn for the days I spoke and people listened.”

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Campus Reporting

Marymount ‘Goes Green’ To Help The Environment
By Alexa Breslin

Marymount Manhattan College, a small liberal arts school located on the Upper East Side, has launched a year-long project hoping to raise environmental awareness within the college community.

Monday, April 14, marked the beginning of MMC’s “Year of the Environment,” a large effort within the entire campus to raise college and community awareness regarding serious environmental issues. Throughout the week, several members of the administration provided an example for students to follow. Fluorescent light bulbs were distributed while the art department led a recycled artists’ book workshop.

Professor Kurylo calls herself a 'paper

Continuing through Earth Day, Marymount had scheduled several events to launch Year of the Environment. Included was a panel, “Greening the Curriculum,” featuring three Marymount professors speaking out about environmental issues featuring methods to reduce pollution, an exploration of several academia environmental topics, and personal insights regarding these issues.

“They’ve been doing a great job with Earth Day and the events in the Black and White galleries. I hope it continues,” says Anastascia Kurylo, a professor in the Communication Arts department.
Beginning with a new environment-based curriculum, Marymount is now offering an Environmental Studies minor, as well as guest speakers and events regarding serious environmental issues and extra curricular activities such as the GoGreen club.

The administration may have created Year of the Environment and the activities to go with it, but they aren’t the only section of Marymount trying to green the school.

Many art students had energy-conserving artwork and presentations presented throughout the Black and White Galleries during throughout the week. Student clubs and organization representatives hosted activities such as raffles, giveaways, as well as arts and crafts all based around the environmental foundation.

Although there is little time left in the Spring 2008 semester, Marymount has fashioned opportunities for students to take part in turning green. The college’s annual Strawberry Fest will now feature organic strawberries as well as a GoGreen table to invite other students. There are still several opportunities for students to attend environmental awareness hearings.

While April 14 may have marked the beginning of a week-long effort to produce serious environmental awareness, it is only the start of a year that will be filled with ways to green the college and community.

“If greening the curriculum could be done more through classes and events that aren’t necessarily about being green we could weave it into the fabric of Marymount. For example, using Blackboard as part of a class. Then students have the option to print,” says Kurylo.

Marymount isn’t the only institution hoping to generate environmental awareness, many retail designers and stores have also been trying to gain an eco-friendly atmosphere. Stores such as Victoria’s Secret have started producing organic cotton t-shirts and tote bags. Each features the recycle logo or phrases such as “Make Green, Not War” and “Peace, Love, Green.”

It may not be easy transitioning from inorganic to organic food and clothing; but doing so will invite a greener community to follow over time.

“People have to be patient to be eco-friendly,” says Kurylo, “we’re on the right track.”