Writing Samples – Features

Sample 1-Enterprise Article Part 1-The Rotunda

Suicide Prevention and the Hope Rally

Michelle Moodhe

It’s a topic that is difficult to discuss, one so sensitive it is often avoided.  Suicide is unlike any other loss.  The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is an organization working to help prevent and understand suicide.  This foundation works across the country to help and provide resources for those seeking or in need of help regarding depression and/or suicide.  At Longwood University, students have rallied together to provide these resources at the college and community level.

The Hope Rally is an event hosted and sponsored by Crissy Filed, Peer Health Educators, the Unity Alliance, Hampden Sydney, Campus Ministries and Alpha Phi Omega (APO) on March 25.  Crissy Field one of the main coordinators of the event described the cause in one word: “inspiration.”  The main “vibe”, as Field described, is hope and inspiration.  The goal of the event is to get people talking, because this does not only affect students at universities, but affects a whole community.   President of Peer Health Educators, Zachary Highland said “Last semester Crissy approached us, so she came and asked.  Since we do education like substance abuse and help promote better lifestyles and we thought it would be perfect for us.”  Sasha Gregory, Wellness Coordinator explained “Suicide is definitely a public health issue, it’s one we care a lot about, and we care about a lot of the issues.”

The event opened up a with a speech by Sarah Mallan, explaining The Hope Rally and honoring Filed for her efforts in the organization of the event.  Students were free to walk around the many tables set up, sponsored by the various organizations.  Each table had information regarding suicide prevention, substance abuse, emotional abuse and more.  Representatives from the organizations were onsight, talking to those interested in prevention.  Many resource numbers and informational pamphlets were given out as well.  Blue Heat performed throughout the night, and the a cappella group Pitch Perfect sang “Girls just Wanna Have Fun” and “Walking on Sunshine.”   Soon after, Ashley Russell performed a fire hoop routine that had the crowd stand in amazement.

Hampden Sydney, one of the other sponsors initially planned for their own event raising awareness about substance abuse with a candle light vigil; Longwood learned of this event and both schools teamed up together to create a campaign that would reach out to a whole community.  Assistant Dean of Students for Substance at Hampden Sydney, Shawn White made a speech on her personal experience with friends and family, followed by stories from three Hampden Sydney students.  Afterwards, the candle light vigil was held. At the event there necklaces were available where each color on the necklaces will represent a different type of loss.

The Hope Rally is one of many suicide prevention and awareness events that are held all over the country.  There is an Out of the Darkness Walk, as well as To Write Love on Her Arms event. “At the very least I want someone to get a hug,” said Field.  APO, one the fellow sponsors of the event, actually dedicated their philanthropy work to suicide prevention, so it seemed only natural for them to participate in this event.  Last year Filed raised nearly $250 in donations to AFSP.  According to Field the event isn’t about the fundraising, it’s not about the money but they are taking donation.  All proceeds go to research programs, to find new techniques, and policies to get passed for other suicide prevention methods.  The Peer Health Educators have already included the rally into their budget through the Student Government Association.  Campus ministries and Unity Alliance has contact information for those in need of information regarding prevention and other sources of help.  If you are interested in becoming a part of any of the previously stated organizations please visit the Longwood Homepage, and click on Student Life to learn more.  The suicide hotline provided at the event is 1-800-273-8255.

Sample 2-Enterprise Article Part 2-The Rotunda

The Affect of Suicide on School Campuses and in the Community

The personal stories from local survivors

Michelle Moodhe

Suicide stems from various factors, sometimes depression, harassment based on ethnicity, race, gender or sexuality. For some, suicide is the only option left but there are many resources out there to prevent this extreme solution.   Hotlines, empowerment groups and churches are just a few places that offer those who are having thoughts of suicide, for example, a place to talk about their problems.  According to American College Health Association (ACHA), in a 2002 study, experts estimated 1,888 suicides occur at colleges every year.  This number has tripled from a study taken place in 1950.  Depression and suicide are both illnesses that can be treated with the correct resources, and the Longwood and Farmville community offers these resources.

Raymond Chase, a 19 year-old college student at Johnson & Wales in Providence, RI, committed suicide in September of 2010.  Chase was the fifth, gay college student in three weeks to commit suicide.  According to Q Research Institute for Higher Education, Campus Pride, nearly   23% of the Lesbian Gay Bi-sexual Transgender (LGBT) staff, faculty, and students reported experiencing harassment.  Unity Alliance (UA) is an organization at Longwood University that promotes acceptance among all types of students.  UA President Chase Hughes said “It’s really important that people in the LGBTQIA spectrum understand that it’s okay to be yourself. It’s tragic to me that they are so afraid that they take their own lives.”  UA was one of the several sponsors of the Hope Rally, offering an ample amount of different resources, including hotline numbers and club information for those who need someone to listen.

Some might see suicide as a tragedy not visible on Longwood’s campus, but for many students here, they have lost either a friend to suicide or a family member.  The Hope Rally for Crissy Field, co-sponsor of the event, was a way to heal wounds as well as provide the much needed resources for those in need.  Field had lost her best friend to suicide during high school, so the Hope Rally has become a personal mission of hers.  Hughes also opened up on the subject, “It’s a personal thing for me, when I was young I lost two of my friends to suicide. And I struggled with it myself, so it’s important to me and I believe it should be important to anybody who thinks that a 13 year-old boy killing themselves is tragic.”

Along with UA, Campus Ministries provided information for those struggling with depression and suicide.  Minister Bob Zupanek was on sight to talk to anyone in search of spiritual guidance.  Campus Ministries had several lists of contact information to various churches and campus ministries of different denominations that students can turn to instead of turning to suicide.  Zupanek said “I was personally was involved with a program in Richmond, Just Say No, and it dealt with suicide prevention, getting young people to talk and get them to tell us what’s going on in their lives Because depression is a real big issue that affects a lot of students, they don’t even realize that they have it.”

Aside from depression and sexual discrimination, alcoholism is a third contributor in the realm of suicide and one of the causes.  An anonymous recovering alcoholic and member of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) came to share his story and personal fight against suicide and substance abuse.  This anonymous source asked to be referenced as John Jones, to protect his identity.  Jones described what this rally meant to him.  “Hope is always important, it’s just part of what we do, and it’s to give back what’s been freely given to us and that’s hope and that’s the freedom to life without alcohol and drugs. I think that’s a great thing and it helps me to stay sober,” said Jones. Before the candle light vigil that night, Jones told his story of rising above the influence of alcoholism and how he found strength through God. Jones provided inspiring words of hope through his experiences and stories. He explained how those addicted to alcohol and drugs are not only hurting themselves but they’re hurting those who they love most.  “Today I live in the spirit of God and so with knowing that and living that way, I am comfortable with myself, and I accept myself for who I am today. And who I am is a simple human being, no better than, no less than. We all make mistakes,” said Jones.

The personal stories of these individuals all provided a different perspective of suicide.  Whether its causes be fear of acceptance among a heterosexual community, depression or addiction. The idea of hope gives one something to believe in and this was the rally’s main goal.  The candle light vigil, lead by Assistant Dean of Students for Substance Education at Hampden-Sydney, Shawn White, allowed for students to reflect on their own life and the lives of friends and family.  Much of the crowd was in tears at the end of the night but as students stood side by side they had someone next to them to lean on.  The compassion for one another was obvious as, strangers comforted strangers and words weren’t necessary, a friendly hug would suffice.  When asked for words of advice, Hughes said ““I think that you need to find something beautiful and hold onto it. Find people that you love and care about, I can guarantee this because I’ve lived it, it does get better.”

 

Sample 3-The Rotunda

Why We Should Care About our Teacher’s Feelings

By Michelle Moodhe

Longwood University, known for its education program, hosted a lecture presented by International Research Scholar Claire Lyons. Lyons is from Mary Immaculate College in Limerick, Ireland, which is a partner school of Longwood University.

On Monday, Lyons gave her lecture entitled “Why we should Care about how Teachers Feel” to students and faculty in Hull Auditorium. Her research explained the importance of teacher’s self-care because it can affect the classroom. Lyons also explained the many differences as well as similarities between the United States’ educational system and Ireland’s.

Lyons provided several “ingredients,” as she described, to be a teacher. Some of the main points included in her research, among others, were self-awareness, the building of “I-thou” relationships, and knowing one’s own emotions. “If you’re feeling envious or jealous at some level, I think that it finds its way out. I suppose the argument would be that if you’re aware of it then you can channel it, if you’re not aware of it I don’t think it goes away,” said Lyons.

Along with students, fellow professors attended the lecture with questions that were just as curious as theirs may be.  One topic on the mind of the office of International Affairs Graduate Assistant Beth Feagan was the ratio of men teachers to women.  “The gender breakdown, I know in America a lot of our primary collegiates are women,” said Feagan.  According to Lyons nearly 80 percent of the teachers in Ireland are female.

Lyons went on later to discuss the emotional affects the class breakdown and/location of a school can have on the emotional well-being of a teacher.  “Teachers who work in schools that are predominantly a dispatched population who have difficulties with achievement tend to have more issues tend to have more issues with anger, said Lyons.

She also continued to present the argument that the consequences of emotions are not always the same. Lyons believes that as a teacher, you must be able to read these various expressions of emotions. In Ireland the role of a supervisor or superintendent is much more limited and informal.  For example, it would be very rare for a principal to come into a teacher’s classroom to observe them go about their daily lesson.  But before one is able to be certified as a teacher, after one year, inspectors of the Department of Education and Skills will evaluate you and until then you are on probation. But a problem that Lyons discussed was the difficulties that come along with lack of observation that is it is harder to be fired once certified as a teacher in Ireland.

In regards to students with special needs and learning disabilities, in Ireland, they feel inclusion is very important.  Students with these needs will attend regular class, but they have the option to have a “tutor” sit in on class with them, assisting while in class.  Bu because of budget cuts, and the current state of the economy those tutors have been on of the first programs to be cut.

The lecture wrapped up with several comparisons between Ireland and the U.S. in regards to teaching. In Ireland, being a teacher is one of the top three practices in the country, it is considered high status. In Ireland they teach a broad curriculum where as the U.S. follows a narrow curriculum with many standards required to be met. Unlike the United States the location of the school does not reflect an Irish teacher’s salary.  It is a national base salary no matter where you are all teachers will make the same amount.  Teachers of the primary school level are expected to teach every subject, including physical education, music and art.

Education major Karah Morgan said, “I thought it was interesting the comparison between the Irish curriculum and here in the States. I think that was the most interesting part of the program, seeing the differences, I know lately comparing America to those schools abroad saying that our students aren’t up to par. So I thought it was very interesting information that she had.”

This was just one of the many programs that the Office of International Affairs offers to students at Longwood. For more information about international affairs and/or the Study Abroad Program, visit http://www.longwood.edu/internationalaffairs.

Sample 4-The Rotunda

Walk in someone’s shoes: Hungry, Homeless and Poor

By Michelle Moodhe

You’re sitting there, in your car, trying to find something to look for, to find someone to call on your phone, to find a piece of gum, you just shuffle around. But, what you’re really trying to do is to find an excuse not to look in the eyes of that person standing on the street with sign in hand.   Situations like these happen daily to many people, whether it’s on their way to work or off to the mall, poverty, hunger and homelessness is found on our streets.   With the United States being the wealthiest country in the world yet 35.9 million people live below the poverty line.  Longwood University had conducted a Homeless Awareness Week, that not only addressed homelessness but issues like hunger and low income lifestyles.

There was a large group of people, all of which sat cross legged on the floor, a strange site to see in a world where most people use chairs.  A few sat at an empty table nothing special to it, except for the fact that they had chairs. Finally there were two, only two who sat at a table that had elegant place ware set, wine glasses, and more silverware than one would know what to do with.

The event, The Hunger Banquet, people drew pieces of paper that tell them what income class they are in which determined where and what they eat. Low income people were those on the floor, middle income sat at the empty table and the high income sat at the table with the nice plates and silverware.  Sophomore Sara Bendrick, one the low income citizens, said “It was hard to see people sit at a five star table, knowing that no matter how hard I work I could never get up to that.  It was awful to eat rice with your hands and it make you think, we as first class citizens, take for granted our seven forks and knives, it just makes you think”.

As the night proceeded, people of the different income groups were put into economic scenarios.  Some from the low income group were able to become a middle class citizen, and in exchange a middle class person would fall to the low income class.  Not much changed with the high income group.  “More than 1 billion people live in poverty” said Assistant Director Volunteer & Service-Learning Jen Rentschler started.  She provided staggering statistics of how a child dies somewhere in the world every six seconds because of poverty.  There were several other presenters, one for each income group and the event proceeded with more facts and a time for reflection.

The events of the week included, Stop Hunger Now, were students were able to help package meals for those who live in poverty overseas and they ended up packing 10,400 meals.  Stop Hunger now is a hunger relief agency that in 2008 packaged 5.9 million meals.   One of the volunteers during Homeless Awareness Week, Amanda George spoke of her experience at the Stop Hunger Now event “It was so high energy, high paced we all worked really hard together to get to our goal of 10,400. Different organizations came in and helped out, but also volunteers trickled in”.

The Night without a Home event took students outside in the cold to experience what it would be like to be homeless.  They took card board boxes and made signs and shelter out of them, trying to gain some sort sense of how a real homeless person lives.  It was a harsh reality for some people commented Rentschler,  “People had no idea what it would be like to be homeless, I’m not saying that, but they did have a better sense of what it might be like to not have a place to go at night”.

The personal experiences of student at these events can leave a lasting impression for some. For George, initially this experience was for a class project, but soon realized that it was a lot of fun and what a great cause it was.  Events like these remind people of the problem but it shouldn’t only be a seasonal event, according to Rentschler.  People can help out in their communities year round, with many organizations, like Habitat for Humanity or Farmville Area Community Emergency Services (FACES), there are even ways you can donate rice online with just the click of a button.  Homelessness, hunger and poverty are real issues not only in the United States; events like these show communities what they can do to help.

Sample 5-The Rotunda

Mountain Lake Conference 2009:Rough start leads to a Good Turnout

By Michelle Moodhe

One of Longwood University‘s main goals is to create citizen leaders who will be able to make a difference in their communities. The Student Educators for Active Leadership (S.E.A.L.) program is one of many leadership opportunities offered at the university. S.E.A.L. is hosting its annual Mountain Lake Conference from November 13-15.  This conference offers leadership workshops for Longwood students and faculty to learn skills to make them better leaders.  Rumors flew around campus that the conference had an all-time low number of students signed up for the trip.  With two weeks until the conference S.E.A.L. began putting out more flyers on campus, asking professors to tell their classes about Mountain Lake to raise awareness about the trip.  These efforts proved to be the reminder that students needed.

There was an initial concern as to where registration forms were on Wednesday, Nov.  4, just a week before the trip, but by Friday, Nov. 6 they had many more forms turned in. The Advisor of S.E.A.L. Jennifer Rentschler, said that “ People wait till the last minute to turn in their registration forms and at this point we have just as many as we were taking last year”. Rentschler also said that with more organizations trying to do more things now, there are fewer weekends that they can all share.    There are currently about 90 people signed up to go to Mountain Lake, a typical number for the trip.  S.E.A.L. Chair Alexis Girard spoke about the cuts in funding, “Because it’s a conference that students have to pay a portion for, it’s not that much of a problem”.  Usually there is a food cost that is paid for but this year that was one of the funds that were cut.  As for a spring conference, there will not be one due to the lack of money provided by the Student Government Association (SGA).  Instead S.E.A.L. plans on taking part in service projects around the community as they did last spring.  This event lasted several days, and allowed student to practice “civic engagement” which according to Rentschler is “engaging with your community while using leadership skills”.

The Mountain Lake conference is located in Pembroke, VA, at the Mountain Lake Resort, the location where the movie “Dirty Dancing” was filmed.  The conference was originally held at Virginia Beach, years ago, but with the busy atmosphere of the beach scene, it was moved to Mountain Lake.  This conference gives students the opportunity to get away from school in this isolated area where they can truly focus on the workshops and meeting new people.  S.E.A.L. member Charles Hoover said that “I met a lot of good people out there, and learned a lot through the workshops.”  Every year there is a different theme that is focused on at the conference and this year it is “The Evolution of Leadership”.  The main speaker at the conference is Tracy Knofla, who is from a company called High Impact Training, and is known for her high energetic approach.   Each year S.E.A.L. selects from a group of potential speakers and votes on who they think would be the best for the conference. “The Evolution of Leadership”   theme is meant to show students that leadership is a process, and focus on how to grow one’s skills.  There are different styles of leadership and the evolution process allows students to continue to develop them.

For the Treasurer of S.E.A.L Maggie Hummel, it will be her first Mountain Lake trip; she said “I am most looking forward to listening to all the speakers, because I’m sure they will be fantastic.  I have heard that the workshops really help in teaching how to incorporate leadership into everyday life”.  This of course is the main purpose of S.E.A.L. to spread leadership.  The unique thing about this conference is that it is open to all Longwood students and faculty.  Anyone interested in learning new skills is welcome.   As for the organization itself, there are about 20 members with the cap at 25.  Some students take a semester off because of classes or a strenuous schedule.  But membership has stayed about the same, this year. S.E.A.L. also is very much involved in helping or being involved in other organizations, for example, Relay for Life, which will be coming up in the spring.

Longwood University has taken some major budget cuts across the board in all types of organizations, but the students still choose to be involved.   The Mountain Lake conference is a tradition at Longwood and despite the rumors of a bad turnout it will continue this year, with enthused students and faculty attending.  S.E.A.L hopes to eventually get enough funds for future conferences in the spring, but for now they will help out locally in the community.  Longwood’s citizen leaders have made this trip possible, creating awareness and encouraging fellow students to learn new leadership skills.  The trip is expected to be another success, regardless of the rocky start.

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