Monthly Archives: November 2014

Holiday Volunteer Guide

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A man loses his apartment in a snowstorm, a women is homeless after 15 years of domestic abuse, a family is hungry, homeless, and cold… These are all terrible situations to be in, especially on a holiday such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, or Hanukkah. You can only really enjoy the holidays, or anything, if you have your feet on the ground. Volunteering your time, money, or resources at one of the many shelter in this area can change one of those stories into one of hopelessness into one of change for the better. Instead of hearing about a man who is laid off and homeless, you can of a man who thanks to the kind smiles of strangers gains the confidence to go back on the job market and land himself a job.

That’s the thing about paying it forward, a little goes a long way.

“I’m happy here. It’s given me a lot of independence and the time to take care of my health. My room is new and clean. I even have a few good friends. Lately I’ve been going into Boston a lot to visit the Museum of Natural History. I’m also studying psychology and different languages. I still have a lot of challenges, but being stable is what will help me get through them.”  – A Happy LifeBridge in Salem Client

With packed shelters and kitchens around the holidays, they need your help more than ever. Strong leaders are selfless, humble, and giving. As Salem State prepares you for a career academically, it also prepares you to be a leader. Volunteering can enrich your education, values, and overall college experience. This holiday, take a step back, give thanks, and give back.

Here’s a list of places and ways to give back this holiday:

Not So Home For The Holidays

Coming home after a long day to a home-cooked meal and some snuggles by the fire has to be one of the best luxuries available to us. However, some students don’t get to take advantage of that luxury, they don’t even have a roof over their head at night. Homelessness is an actual concern on Salem State’s campus. As the days and nights get colder, one can’t help but to think about where do those that don’t have that luxury go to get warm at night?

Have you ever thought if anyone in your 8 AM class didn’t have anywhere to sleep the night before? (Now THAT would make it hard to get to your 8 AM). FAFSA estimated in 2013 that there are 58,000 homeless college students worldwide.

1382382780000-photoThe face of homelessness isn’t just an old man with a beer can anymore; the face of homelessness is now a mix of teens, orphans, college students, battered women, children, single parents, and those laid off form their jobs. The tired face of homelessness is made up of people in the wrong situations at the wrong time. A Salem State University student, TinaMarie Giarla, was featured on USA Today about her story of being an “unaccompanied youth” after her father died and her mother was in and out of jail. She lived on campus until she couldn’t afford it anymore. When it was time for break, she wasn’t thinking about going back home or christmas presents, she was thinking about where she would live for the next month.

Giarla is now a senior, however at the time she could have used the help of a new office at Salem State University: Student Advocacy. Student Advocacy is ran by Chris Sullivan. The office offers,

“…information, support and advocacy to empower students to resolve concerns that may act as a barrier to retention, progression and graduation.”

Resources available at the office include food stamps, food pantry, off-campus housing, section 8, commuter resources, conflict resolution, Title IX, and more.

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I asked Chris some questions about her office and homeless on campus:

Nikki: How do you think being homeless and hungry affects a student’s life, in all aspects?
 Chris: If your basic needs aren’t met, you have no idea where you are going to sleep that night, if you feel unsafe or if you are hungry, it is hard to concentrate on what is happening in the classroom. It becomes difficult to complete assignments and pass papers/projects in on time. Access to computers, the internet and books becomes challenging. Students have shared that they feel like they have this huge weight on their shoulders that just doesn’t ever let up. Food pantries can be a help but, students who are truly homeless may have nowhere to cook. Nutrition suffers, which also impacts energy, and when our health suffers so does our ability to navigate school. Your first focus is on surviving.
Nikki: How do you think having homeless students affects the SSU community?
Chris: Many people in the Salem State Community are surprised that students may be homeless.  Often students
/staff don’t think that people in our community are struggling because we think this in an issue for the outside world. When they do learn, they are very concerned. Often the solution is not as easy as one would hope so , and that surprises folks.
Nikki: Do you think that shelters and food pantry do a good job providing food for the homeless around the holidays?
Chris: During the holiday season there is more awareness and certainly more dinners are offered by the general community. However, this isn’t just a holiday issue, many pantries struggle to keep up with the ongoing demand.  Shelters are often filled to the brim and there are not enough low cost housing options to meet the need.
 
Nikki: What services do you provide students, and how can they contact you?
Chris: My role is to help students who are experiencing challenges which are impacting their education. Often this includes referring students to the appropriate resources, sharing information about school policies and generally providing support. My goal is to empower students to resolve issues which may act as a barrier to their success. In addition, I act as a liaison between students and university personnel in a fair and impartial manner regarding student’s rights and university policies/regulations. The Food Pantry is a fairly new initiative born out of a clear student need which has grown on campus in recent years. The pantry is open to all current students and runs on donations from the Salem State community.

Four Years? More Like Five Or Six

The lingo to describe what “grade” you are in college used to be the same as high school, and the grades were just as clear to determine – freshmen, sophomore, junior, and senior. Now, those terms are becoming harder to determine, as well as what “grades” even mean. If you attend a college or university, you most likely know more than one “super senior” or someone who simple can’t answer the question as to what grade they’re in. Now, the lingo is switching to what year they’re in.

I’m a second-year sophomore, however there could be some second-year freshmen or juniors depending on many factors such as class load, classes passed and failed, and so on.

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This grey area is creating an identity crisis for some. Do those that can’t answer the grade question lose some sense of self-identity? What happened to the days where transferring didn’t set you back years and you could look at someone and know what grade they’re in?

Thankfully, Salem State University is helping solve this identity crisis by using big and small steps. A big step taken for the university is the new core. The transitional General Education model offers less classes to take with more flexibility that will complement a student’s understanding of their major and the world around them. The second small is step are these helpful tips listed below:

  • Enroll in 15 credits each semester
  • Get to know your faculty advisor and ask for help as needed
  • Study
  • Take the MAP-Works Survey to reflect on how you’re doing and to learn about resources available
  • Meet with your faculty advisor regularly to review your progress
  • Take advantage of academic support services: writing center, free tutoring, math center, and more!
  • Check your degree tracker often
  • Eat a balanced diet, sleep, and exercise
  • Get to know career services to see how your interests and major relate to possible future careers
  • Monitor SSU Navigator status to deal with issues or holds prior to registration
  • Fill out your FAFSA on time
  • Join a student organization and develop leadership skills
  • Participate in campus events – build your network
  • Visit career services to prep for an internship
  • Start your own My Activities Portfolio
  • Network with faculty, friends, and professionals

If you didn’t just mentally check at least eight of those things off of your list, starting following this helpful list. See your in four years to walk across the stage and earn that diploma!

Salem State University’s Big Fat Greek Recruitment

imagesIt’s no secret that Greek Life is growing here at Salem State University. Currently, there are two fraternities: Alpha Sigma Phi and Sigma Alpha Epsilon and one sorority: Phi Sigma Sigma. On Wednesday, November 5th the sorority “Theta Phi Alpha” presented their case to make a colony, and eventually a chapter here at Salem State University.

With the recent addition of greek life housing at Bates this year, and the increase visibility of greek life overall on campus, an addition of a new sorority would further the expansion of greek life here. Being a part of greek life can help students gain leadership, networking, and many more skills that are very viable in the workforce. Lifelong friendships and bonds are one of the most valuable resources you can gain. Build your resume, build your character, build your life.

Theta Phi Alpha has been an official sorority since 1912. With their beginnings being a group for Catholic Women at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Theta Phi Alpha is dedicated to building the leadership, social, networking, philanthropical, educational, and spiritual skills of their members. Though they haven’t had any religious ties since 1968, the sorority holds their members to strong moral values.

Here are the patron symbols of Theta Phi Alpha:

Theta Phi Alpha

If SSU accepts Theta Phi Alpha, they will start pushing PR and recruitment here on campus until the holidays. After break, leadership will arrive on campus to provide information sessions and recruiting. In February, as recruitment continues, the official colonization ceremony will take place. There will also be a meal with a big sister chapter, for example the chapter at Suffolk University.  In March, they will hold one philanthropic event and one fundraiser.

What do you think? Do you think SSU should have a “Big Fat Greek Recruitment” and accept Theta Phi Alpha?

The Importance of Student Involvement in the “Real World”: A Student’s Take

Even in high school orientation, one of the things the speakers always stressed was to get involved. Getting involved in a group or as a leader can help you become a leader in the workforce some day. If you’re on an E-Board of a student organization, have an on-campus job, or even just a member of an organization, you may have seen the similarities between the group culture and the culture of an office. You and your peers have all been working, problem solving, planning, and learning together. Through working and problem solving with your peers to plan an event, you’ve been strengthening the skills that employers look for without even knowing! According to an article in Campus Activities Programming, here are the top qualities that employers look for:

  1. Ability to work in a team structure
  2. Ability to make decisions and solve problems
  3. Ability to plan, organize, and prioritize work
  4. Ability to verbally communicate with persons inside and outside the organization
  5. Ability to obtain and process information
  6. Ability to analyze quantitative data
  7. Proficiency with software systems
  8. Ability to create and/or edit written reports
  9. Ability to sell or influence others

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If any of those characteristics sound like things you’re strong in, you’re probably involved in student activities. If you’ve ever had to find a new DJ for a dance last minute, you’ve acquired the ability to make decisions and solve problems. If you came up with  a budget for the school year, you’ve acquired the ability to organize, plan, and prioritize work. If you’ve ever sat through a meeting, you’ve acquired the ability to obtain and process information.

As a student currently involved in student activities and looking for a job in a very competitive field after graduation, I’ve come to take all of these tips to heart. There’s a bold connection between the characteristics needed in the job force today, and the characteristics gained through student involvement. It’s not hard to miss the similarities! Every time you show up to an event three hours early to set up, and leave two hours late to break down, those are hours spent building skills you’ll use in your future job. I know how competitive the market is, and I feel relieved knowing that my involvement in PRSSA, Cross Country, The Office Of Student Involvement And Activities, and WMWM Salem will help me check off those characteristics above and call them my own. Your resume can’t show your character. However, through being involved on campus you not only gain experience but you also gain character. Employers look for results – you can show them posters you’ve designed, turnout of events, tickets sold, and new organization members numbers. Those numbers are cold, hard proof that you’ve gained awesome skills through student involvement.

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  1. Here are some tips to get ahead in the job search I’ve learned:
  2. Get Involved! It’s self explanatory, take a chance!
  3. Be Organized Keep all of your posters, numbers of attendees of events, articles published of the events, and how many members you recruited.
  4. Share Your Results Post it everywhere – LinkedIn, eportfolios, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, your website, Pinterest, and your resume!

THE WHITE-WASHED MORNING

Twas a sleepy Sunday morning, and all through Salem State

As students awoke, they yelled, “This is great!”

What they were referring to was the sky

Flurried with snow

All the campuses were covered

There was nowhere to go

What every would the students do?

With the road conditions so bad

Do they binge on Netflix?

That Sunday was the best they’ve ever had

Maybe you didn’t have quite the snowy Sunday explained in the poem, however SSU did have its first “snowfall” here on Sunday. It didn’t stick, however snow flurries mixed with rain did make for quite a treacherous15280_full morning. Some brave souls (me) left their rooms solely for Bagel World. However, what can you do when it’s even too snowy to leave your dorm? Here’s some fun things to do when the New England weather acts up, thanks to an article form HerCampus.

1. Card and Board Games – Get your whole floor or pod involved! A game of Cards Against Humanity can change any bad day around.

2. Rearrange your furniture. – Instead of getting stir crazy, get organized! Is there something you’ve always wanted to do with your room but haven’t had the time? You have it now!

3.  Play around with makeup looks.

4. Start a new show on Netflix. – This one is the go-to. You could burn through a whole season in a day!

5. Play around with recipes.  – If you’re in a dorm and not a suite, try mug cakes, they come in hundreds of sizes, shapes, colors, and flavors.

6.  Clean up your social networks. – Something that you need to do but don’t always have to time for it. Take down any pictures with alcohol, drugs, or anything offensive. Make all of your profile pictures the same for every website, clean up and perfect your bios, and maybe even schedule some good content for your twitter!

7. Call someone your love. – It could be your grandmother, parents, significant other, or anyone you miss and want to catch up with!