Jamilah Felix

About Jamilah Felix

I am a Communications major at Nyack College's Manhattan campus. I love reading, eating, watching movies, and then eating some more. I'm excited to be a light to those around me using the gifts God has given me.

Nyack Unfiltered: Joseph Vasquez

Nyack College has a plethora of personalities. Nyackers come from all different backgrounds and bring their stories with them. Each one has a passion, a gift, and a desire to see God’s plan for their life be fulfilled. Nyack Unfiltered is a series of interviews I am conducting featuring students on the Manhattan campus who not only I, but others, believe will do (and currently are doing) great things for God.

The first interview in our series is Joseph Vasquez. Even though Joseph doesn’t know me too well, he granted me the honor of interviewing him. He’s an interesting guy who will bring much honor to God’s name with the things he’s planning to do.
What’s your major?

Joseph: Psychology.

Why?

Joseph: I’m a Psych major because I believe it’s a good foundation for what I want to do. I want to be a psychotherapist. I want to be able to help people find the root of why they’re going through what they’re going through, and [help them know] that they are normal. Usually when you go to see a psychotherapist or psychologist you kind of feel freaked out and I want to create an atmosphere – like a safe haven – which I know builds up over time, but I just want to create that environment. And I want to help people understand that when they go into that office, they’re not the only ones going through what they’re going through. Even though it may seem like it, they’re not. I also believe that I am called for ministry, and I want to be able to understand the people that I’m being called to minister to – [their] mind, [their] emotions, and just integrate that with what I’ve learned on my journey with God and what the Bible teaches me. So for instance, the Bible says that the heart of a man is like a deep well and the person who understands it draws it out. So you see Psychology there, and I just like that integration.

Are you minoring in anything?

Joseph: I’m not.

If you could go back and if you had more time, would you want to?

Joseph: If I had more time, I would have done an interdisc. [editor’s note: interdisciplinary major] I would’ve done Psychology and Pastoral [Ministries]. I think even though I’m graduating – you know those kind of regrets – it’s not evident, but it’s there. So if I could go back in time I would have done Pastoral, just for the fact that I think that those classes are kind of easier than what I take. Usually when I take a Bible or Pastoral class, I get a decent grade…

Then that’s probably because that’s what you’re good at…

Yeah, and it comes easy for me so I would integrate Pastoral and Psychology because [in these classes] they teach you methods that you can use when you preach, they teach you how to read the Bible from a different perspective….and the Spiritual gifts. So these are things that make me wish I could have sat down in these classes.

So, what you want to do with psychotherapy is kind of unique. It kind of sounds like a brand. Do you want it to be your brand or do you just want it to be a job and then you do something else for your career?

Joseph: I think psychotherapy is just my second passion. I think it’s something to bring to the table, but my first passion is preaching the Gospel. So until then, psychotherapy is something that I want to do. I believe that I can’t just grab a mic and start preaching. I believe in God’s timing.

Right now, are you doing anything related to what you want to do in the future? Or are you just focusing on graduating?

Joseph: I actually started a YouTube channel over the Summer. I paused it… [Just then, a student comes through the doors of the library, gives Joseph a high-five, and wishes him good luck on his test. Joseph thanks him and smiling, continues…] but I want to eventually have a TV show, so I’m starting with a YouTube channel.

What is something you learned this month? [editor’s note: It was November.]

Joseph: I think November has taught me the power of decision and the power of your voice. I think sometimes being isolated from different voices helps you find your own voice. It’s like if there’s a fight in front of you and you’re alone, you’re more prone to break up the fight. But if you’re surrounded by people, there’s a hesitation because everyone’s looking at one another like, “Who’s gonna break up the fight?” I’m not saying to walk alone, but… even Jesus when He went into the wilderness, He was alone and He was confronted by the enemy. So, I feel like there are times or seasons when we’re alone and God isolates us from certain voices so we can find our own [voice]. So I learned the power of my voice and having my own conviction. Especially when it comes to the elections. There are a lot of voices – a lot of opinions – but in the end you’re the one voting. So you have to have a conviction and make a decision. You’re the one making a decision and that might exclude other options and you might not like the consequences of your decision, but…. that’s what I’ve learned this month.

What advice do you have for anyone – not just Nyack students and not just incoming Seniors – what advice would you have for a random person on the street who just came up to you and said “hey”? Or not even advice. What would you say – besides “hey” back?

Joseph: I would say that even though it’s comfortable to sometimes stay on the floor when you feel like life has knocked you down, when you have probably knocked yourself down, when people knocked you down – you were created to fly and just don’t give up. Even when giving up is the only thing that’s echoing in your mind. It’s something that will resonate with each and every one of us. We all get to that point where we feel like giving up – it’s literally just comfortable to give up. It’s comfortable to just stay on the floor. It’s comfortable to just settle. But even though it’s harder to not give up and just keep fighting, even though you’ve been knocked down 50,000 times, when you stand up and start flying again you realize that this is what you’ve been called to do – fly. Just keep running the race. At the end of the day, it will all make sense – at the end of the tunnel. But right now, I feel like nobody should give up. You should keep pushing, you should keep fighting. I felt like giving up a lot of times, at least in the past two years. But I literally keep pushing…there’s something inside of me that says I was born to fly. I was born to keep pushing. And even though I don’t feel like it, even though it’s hard, even though I have to repeat it, even though I have to apologize… if I mess up or I fall, I stand back up and keep fighting. Hopefully that gives hope and encouragement to other people. But not only for those people, but I think the most important thing you can do is encourage yourself. Even David said, “My soul, why are you afflicted – worship God, you know?” That’s powerful that you can encourage yourself. When nobody encourages you, you can depend on God and encourage yourself. I think that’s advice I would give to the general public.

 
Joseph’s ending words reminded me of my favorite childhood verse (and low key my favorite verse today): Isaiah 40:31 “But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”

Thank you for letting me talk with you, Joseph!

Just Hang On the Semester is Almost Over

I would Iike to begin this blog by giving my fellow blogger Kassie a shout out for her post on defying disappointment with beauty. I connected with it and I loved it. I was in a similar spot this past week – errr…month. Disappointment knocked on my bedroom door more times than I would like to list. There were highs and there were lows, and I learned to dance through it all. (This is usually when “I Hope You Dance” by Lee Ann Womack would start playing and I would make my grand exit, but I’m not done.)

I feel like I should reintroduce myself to the blog because I’ve been gone for a while now. I guess I took a bit of a hiatus, but that’s not entirely accurate because I was still trying to write. In the month I was gone I wrote the equivalent of one post. It took me about 3 weeks to write one post. It wasn’t writer’s block, and it wasn’t lack of motivation. I’m going to be honest – I don’t know what it was. A slew of things hit me at once and I was unable to do anything productive for a while. I guess it’s called life.
Honestly, things still aren’t exactly how I would like them to be, but when are things ever how we want them to be? When are things ever perfect? Never. So why are we mad when things go wrong? Because they’re not what we want? That’s awfully selfish of us. The best thing we can do in these situations is to smile, find our joy, and eat some chocolate. These situations don’t catch God off guard. He’s not sitting up in Heaven looking down and worrying because He didn’t expect this to happen. He knew. And He’s got this. So trust Him.

I, like every other college student, have some big decisions to make. I also have finals, work issues, and family issues. We’re all dealing with these things, and that’s what I keep telling myself. I know I’m not the first and certainly won’t be the last to have 300 things going on at once. Almost every other Nyack student has 300 things going on. My psychology professor said it best, “Nyack students are some of the busiest people I’ve ever met.”

So while writing this blog has been a form of catharsis, I also want you to know that problems don’t run your life. Stress doesn’t run your life. Pressure doesn’t run your life. You run your life. And you run it with the wisdom of the Holy Spirit as your guide. You’ve got this! (And the semester is almost over so just hang on, buddy. You’re almost there.)

5 Ways to Fight Holiday Depression

christmas-hope

The end of the year is here, and with it comes the holidays. Honestly, I don’t care what you have to say about it, I’m ready for Christmas music, I’m ready for ice skating, I’m ready for Thanksgiving food. But you can’t judge me for being so ready for the holidays because Forever 21 sent me an email about their ugly Christmas sweaters at 10pm on October 31. They didn’t even wait until midnight so it would officially be November. I also saw 3 different kinds of Christmas commercials on television in the span of 2 hours, and Whoopi Goldberg was on the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon to talk about her line of ugly Christmas sweaters. (It seems like ugly Christmas sweaters are going to be a theme this year). So I’m not alone.

However, with the influx of holiday cheer blanketing our television sets and flowing through the streets in the form of Christmas lights and Salvation Army bell ringers, there also comes the less cheery side of the holidays. Pressure and depression go hand in hand this time of year and affects more people than we would like to believe. The Nyack NYC campus has experienced these feelings on a deep level during recent weeks, and it has the potential to grow stronger this Holiday season if we allow it to. So, here are 5 ways to not allow the Holiday cheer to get you down.

  1. Don’t Have High Expectations

I know everyone is always saying to set your expectations high and shoot for the sky because even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars. In fact, that last one is one of my favorite quotes. However, it’s been proven that people who set high expectations are more likely to be disappointed. If your expectations are lower, there is less room for disappointment because you weren’t expecting much in the first place. Granted, this approach does sound a little depressing in its own right, but if the Holidays are a source of stress for you then the last thing you need to be doing is building it up to be something it is never going to be. Plan for a low-key Holiday season. Have a Friendsgiving and go out to eat with friends on Thanksgiving Day, or plan to volunteer somewhere on Christmas Day instead of staying home and unwrapping presents. Planning a chill day takes away unwanted and unnecessary stress.

  1. Volunteer

This goes hand in hand with my suggestions from #1. Volunteering at soup kitchens on Thanksgiving is one of the most rewarding experiences. You wholly forget about yourself for hours and focus solely on the people in front of you. Handing out food or pouring juice are small tasks, but they are anything but mundane when your heart is in the right place. Ever since I moved to New York 2 years ago, it has been my new tradition to volunteer at some kind of shelter, soup kitchen, or food drive during the holidays. I highly recommend it!

  1. Have a Good Support System

Now is the time of year that family members who somehow seem to remember us since our diaper days come from near and far to celebrate the Holidays with us. Family is great, they truly are; however, they can be a handful as well. It’s common to dread the influx of out-of-towners that are heading your way when you know they have a history of asking too many questions and pointing out too many of your flaws. Granted, they probably do so because they care so much (too much?) but there is often a line that doesn’t need to be crossed. So before things get crazy, take the time to contact the people in your life who don’t drive you crazy: your best friends, other family members, maybe even a professor who always hears you out – and stay in contact with these people through January. They will keep you calm and remind you that you’re not going through this season alone. A good, strong support system is crucial.

  1. Remember Loved Ones

It is also the time of year where memories of loved ones who have passed start to flood our memories. Maybe it’s the cheeriness of the season, maybe it’s the lost loved one’s love for the season – whatever it may be, it causes a cloud to cover our holiday spirit and that cloud tends to stay with us all the way through January – which is going to be unacceptable this year. God did not give us a spirit of grief.

  1. Remember Why We Celebrate

I’m not going to sit here and type out: Jesus is the reason for the season (even though I just did) because it’s corny and you’ve heard it before. But it’s true, alright. He is also our rock. He never abandons us, and He is as reliable as ever.  Putting any kind of trust in Him is a smart move because He cannot disappoint. If we celebrate Him instead of the hype of the season itself, there is never disappointment. I love the hype as much as the next person, but I also realize that it is short-lived and ultimately, not worth a thing.

This holiday does not have to be like the last. We are overcomers, and we have the power of pure Joy on our side. Let’s tap into that Joy we have on the inside and fight against holiday depression this year.

In Memory of Utopia Campbell and Tryphena Ramcharitar

It was recently made known that Nyack students Utopia Campbell and Tryphena Ramcharitar have passed away. A memorial was held in their honor on the 13th of October on Nyack College’s Manhattan campus. It was attended by students, faculty, friends, and family who knew the girls both personally and through association. The memorial consisted of person after person relaying their fond memories of the girls. It was both moving and sobering.

Those who knew Utopia have nothing but good things to say about her, and those who might have only seen her in the hallways, like myself, do the same. Last semester, I remember seeing Utopia on the 19th floor constantly. She would smile at me and tell me hi every time. She had a warm spirit.

Tryphena was known by most and seen by all. Because of her and her work in the admissions department, many students have found their way to Nyack this year. Tryphena was also the former Nyack blogger for the NYC campus. When she left the position, the spot was vacant for some time until I received the blogger baton in March of this year.

Events like this sedate us. They cause us to forget about our own stress and worries and instead mourn the loss of a wonderful life, in this case two lives. We mourn not because they are suffering but because we miss them, which as was pointed out at the memorial, is a somewhat nice thought.
What I do know is that Utopia and Tryphena’s souls are happier now than ever before, and I do believe that is something to celebrate. Their passion for people is something to celebrate. And the impact they made while on this earth is something to celebrate. They were the true embodiment of Nyack and I know the school is proud.

It’s also important to bring awareness to issues, like depression, that surround this event. Depression is not always a heavily noticeable state. In fact, a lot of times it’s not noticeable to anyone other than the person being afflicted. It’s easy to stay in our little bubbles and mind our business, but at times our bubbles need to be popped. There is no problem with reaching out when we feel led and cheering someone up or letting someone confide in you – or even confiding in someone yourself. We can’t reach out to those who need help, or reach out ourselves, when we’re in our bubbles. We can’t smile at others to make their day like Utopia would do for me or go out of our ways to help someone like Tryphena  often did if we don’t allow ourselves to.

During times like these, it’s important to celebrate life and be thankful. I’m thankful for having the pleasure of interacting with Utopia and Tryphena. Both women of God left an imprint on this school that will not be forgotten.

I pray peace for the family and friends of Utopia Campbell and Tryphena Ramcharitar.

5 Fun Nyack NYC Events to Attend

In early October, on the Nyack College Manhattan campus we had our first social mixer! It was exactly what it sounds like – a time when students on the campus could come together and meet other students and hang out. There was food, too. We also just ended Spirit Day, so a lot of students were spotted wearing their brand new Nyack gear! I appreciate that Rockland students take the time to come down to the Manhattan campus to sell the school’s apparel to us since we don’t have our own store on campus yet. (Considering, the school just bought the entire building that we are currently in and eventually we will have taken over all the floors, I have my fingers crossed for a Nyack Bookstore on this campus as well.) Our Student Government Association comprised of Anthony Sandoval (President), Sherilyn Blake (Vice President), Bianca Printemps (Public Relations), and Patricia Figueroa (Secretary) has worked hard all summer in order to get these events planned and ready to go! I’m excited for everything coming up, so I wanted to highlight some of the things the NYC campus has planned for this semester.

Weekly Chapel
The guest speakers for chapel this semester are lined up and ready to go. Every year there’s an awesome lineup for chapel and this semester is no different. Speakers come in from other churches, schools, and even countries and do us the honor of delivering a message to the student body. While of course, we also get the privilege of hearing from some of our own professors and fellow students.

Dance Ministry
Led by Jessica Leclere, the Living Waters Dance Ministry is working hard on their upcoming performances this semester, and I hope all Nyack NYC students make it a point to try and see at least one of their performances. Last year, I adored watching the dancers pour their hearts out through movement, and I look forward to it once again.

Bowling Night
Bowling nights are guaranteed fun. The food, the people, and the bumpers that keep the bowling ball from rolling into the gutters all work together to create a fun night. SGA has arranged a bowling night that is quickly approaching, and I believe it will be worth the time out of studying you will have to take to attend.

Global Service Learning Trips
The next Global Service Learning trips take place in 2017 with destinations including Costa Rica, Cuba, England, Greece, India, Israel, Ireland, Mexico, Venice, and the Philippines. The fact that Nyack is able to make these trips so accessible for its students while also offering
class credits is mind-boggling and appreciated. I encourage everyone to at least look into attending a GSL trip and praying about it. It may seem like something totally out of the realm of expectation, but anything is possible.

Surprise Events
Everyone loves surprises, right? So what fun would it be if they told us everything that was happening right up front? Throughout the year, pop-up events that capture Nyack’s spirit and enhance the sense of community among the school are common. Last semester, during the month of February, chapel held a special service honoring Black History Month. There are also random bake sales that happen in the Lower Level of the school and I will admit that those are definitely always a nice surprise.

So, check the information boards on every floor, the school’s Instagram and facebook accounts, and keep your ears to the hallways because there are plenty of events happening on the New York City campus that you don’t want to miss out on! See y’all there!

Let God Figure it Out

It’s no secret that Nyack NYC students are some of the busiest people in New York. I believe I have previously quoted of one my professors saying that Nyack students are some of the busiest people he knows. They’re involved in 25 different ministries, taking 25 credits, and have 2 jobs. I say this again because my professor said it again in class this week and it’s still just as relevant.

It’s easy to believe that every easy-access open door is a gift sent straight from God. That we are supposed to jump on every opportunity that looks promising that comes our way because – hey, we serve a God that only gives us good things, right? He is a God of good and not evil, right? He didn’t come to steal, kill, and destroy. He came so we could have life, and have it abundantly, right? This is true. However, we must be able to differentiate God’s opportunities from good-looking misfortunes. We’re not Raven Baxter. We’re not psychic and we can’t tell what’s going to happen in the future. However, we can read our Bibles and pray and learn what God’s voice sounds like – learn what kind of words He speaks and how He speaks them. Then we can pick the right opportunity every time.

For those who might need to make a decision right this very second and feel like you don’t have time to get to learn God’s voice better, suck it up. You do have time. Honestly, nothing else should be taking up your time – especially nothing concerning that opportunity that is weighing so heavily on you. Whether it be a major decision concerning school, work, church, or life in general – there is no difference. One must be wary of opportunities and chances not of God. And how do we protect ourselves? Everybody say it with me: reading our Bibles and praying!

I for instance, had (technically, still have) a big decision to make at work. I knew it was coming up and I prayed and fasted about it the week leading up to the day. The day came and I still have no real direction. Every single aspect had gone smoothly and everything has fallen into place just like a dream. I figured, this MUST mean this is what God wants for me! Look how well it’s all going to turn out! However, I know I can’t just look at the glossiness of the situation and make my decision. I have to hear God’s voice and take all the factors into account. I still haven’t made a permanent decision on the matter and will continue to not do so until I am clear on what God wants me to do. Not what I, my mom, my friends, or even my bosses have to say on the matter. I have to let God be my boss, as should you in your everyday life. Don’t bury yourself in the calculations, just let God figure it out for you.

5 Ways To Know the Semester is in Full-Swing

It’s been over a month since classes have officially begun.  I, for one, believe that I have not yet fully accepted the beginning of the semester. I have most of my books and have been going to my classes and seeing my friends, but still I am in denial. This is especially true for Nyack students who attend the Manhattan campus because we are not only in school, but we have full lives outside of our classes. So if you’re a Nyack student and haven’t fully grasped the beginning of the school year yet either, here are a few things to look out for that might signal your brain that you’re back in the swing of things.

1. Prayer is everpresent

Hopefully, prayer is already a major fixture in your life. In the best scenario, you are able to maintain a healthy prayer life for yourself while also surrounding yourself with prayer and pray-ers (people who pray), and all the prayer that you will happen upon on the NYC campus will just be adding on to that. But in other cases, seeing students grasping hands and praying during breaks might be a revelation. It might be a strange sight, and you might not be used to it – but you should get used to it. You’re going to be seeing it a lot. You’ll even be seeing the professors pray before or after each class. I didn’t even realize that I missed seeing (and doing) that, but now that I have, I can say that that is a definite sign that the semester at Nyack has officially started.
2. Your bag is heavier

If you couldn’t care less about getting a new bag specifically for school purposes, you probably use your regular bag for your textbooks, folders, syllabi, homework and etc. and I’m sure you will notice the difference in weight in your bag once the semester starts. Even if you opt to start your new semester with a new bag to match – it will still be heavy.
3. School emails

Your email is now suddenly full from emails from your new friends: the dean of students, student financial services, student career services, and the like.
4. Hectic schedule
“Nyack students are some of the busiest people I know. You’re in 25 different ministries and getting a Master’s while holding down 2 jobs.” My professor said this the other night (to rapturous head-nodding from us students) and he was totally right. Nyack NYC students don’t live on campus. Most of us have jobs, a lot of them full-time, and a lot of people have regular bills to pay. We’re involved in every ministry that touches us and have become skilled in balancing them with school and work.
5. All your selfies have Nyack backgrounds

Most selfies taken are on campus, since that is now where you spend a lot of your time. If you are on the Manhattan campus – orange, red, blue, and green walls are all too common in the background of your selfies. It doesn’t matter what floor you’re on – the location of the selfie will be easily noticed.

First Day of School – 2016 Edition

9/8/16 Today was my first official day of classes on Nyack College’s Manhattan campus for the 2016-2017 school year. My first two classes were Communications classes so I was extremely excited. It’s not that I don’t love all my other classes; it’s just that I love those classes more.

A new semester is a new beginning for everyone. GPA’s aren’t completely in the toilet, mental states are intact, and you still have some time to binge watch your favorite television shows before the homework piles on.. and on… and on…. You’re optimistic about the semester and have great hopes that this will be your best semester yet! One of my friends was all smiles and butterflies on the first day of school. She had a little trouble keeping up with assignments the last two semesters, and was determined that this one would be different. She was, she still is, so excited for this semester that it was hard not to be excited with her! Joy is contagious!

“Look, they even have Biblical Application for Business Management!”

That was my friend yesterday when she was showing me her syllabi for her business courses. She’s a business major and loves God, so a nice combination of the two is enough  to make her excited for days. As she said that, I thought, ‘This is why so many people love Nyack. This is why so many people come to Nyack – because we get to learn about the field we are interested in while learning how that field can also be used for the glory of God. That’s rare to find in a school. I pray that every single new student this semester gets to experience that feeling. That rush of knowing that this is where God wants you to be and knowing that you are learning how to advance His kingdom while using the earthly skills He’s given you.

While I know that starting a new semester can be a headache, especially if this is not your first one, try to find the good in it. Try to find the happiness. Try to find the joy. I promise you, it’s there to be found. The Nyack staff and faculty are welcoming the new students with open arms and a big hug this 2016 Fall semester, and I pray you feel that nice warm hug and it brightens your new beginning.

Have a great semester, Nyackers!

Be a Light!

Shine bright, shine far! Be a star! Where you live, where you are… be a star! Shine bright, shine far! Be a star! Where you live, where you are, be a staaaar!

That song is sung by Tyra Banks in the movie Lifesize, but it is still inspirational and applicable to this blog.

Being a light in a dark world is a recurring theme in the Bible (Matthew 5:13-16, Romans 13:11-14, Ephesians 5:8, John 9:5, Acts 13:47, should I go on?), as well as a theme at Nyack College. Nyack prides itself on preparing its students on how to not only live and survive in this world, but how to thrive and be a light. Contrary to belief, you can still be a light in this world with a non-theology related degree because everyone is called for a different purpose. Receiving your Psychology, English, Communications, Social Work, Business, or Nursing degree under the helpful tutelage of professors who strive to put God’s agenda ahead of their own and aim for students to do the same teaches students how to be a light while working in otherwise “worldly” fields.

Throughout this summer, I watched both my friends and myself be lights in dark places. One of my friends spent her summer working at a children’s camp upstate. She said she was growing immensely spiritually and loved contributing to the kid’s lives in a positive way. Another one of my friends also worked at a camp, but in Guatemala. While I didn’t get the chance to leave the city much this summer, I was challenged to be a light as well.

A couple months ago, I was invited to the beach by a couple of my coworkers. (Honestly, I only said I would go because they were my friends at work. I love the beach, but I don’t like sand a lot. It gets everywhere.) We had a great time and talked and laughed, but when the conversation turned to how and where to buy alcohol and find some marijuana, I had to quickly find my footing in the situation. I had to put my foot down and keep it glued down. I had to stand up for what I personally did not feel comfortable doing and be the light in that moment. I thought, ‘What if I’m the only example of a Christian that they have or will encounter? Are they going to say that Christians act just like everyone else? What’s the point in being one?’ No. I want them to be able to say that they knew something was different by the way I acted, the way I spoke, and the peaceful presence surrounding me. This is how we are impactful as lights in this world – by our actions. I’m grateful that the past year at Nyack has helped me get a grip on my status as a light for Him and that the upcoming year will do the same, not just for me, but for you, too.

What does it take to have Olympic Spirit?

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Photo Credit: Simone Biles’ Instagram

Simone Biles Won Gold and Pulled Aly Raisman up with her to celebrate

Unless you’ve been living under a rock with no electricity, wifi, or any contact with the outside world, there’s a fairly good chance you’ve heard those names before. Simone Biles (19) and Aly Raisman (22) are 2 of the 5 members of the USA Women’s Gymnastics Team at the Rio 2016 Olympics, along with Gabby Douglas (20), Laurie Hernandez (16), and Madison Kocian (19). This was the headline of an article that was part of USA Today’s continuing coverage of the Olympics and outlined Team USA’s domination of the all-around competition with a one-two placement – Simone receiving 1st and Aly being awarded 2nd. Similar to the 2012 London Olympics, the USA Women’s Gymnastics team has been the talk of the town – and the globe. Team leader Aly Raisman and media-dubbed “greatest gymnast ever,” Simone Biles, had particularly standout performances.

imageFor me, part of the appeal of the Olympics is not just the nations coming together to compete with the hopes of bringing home both good and great honor for their country, but the camaraderie that comes along with that competition. The recent photo of the North Korean and South Korean gymnasts sharing a selfie together went viral, while the front page of an issue of the New York Times broadcasted the amity between two 5,000 meter runners, one from the United States and the other from New Zealand who helped each other get up and finish the race after an entanglement sent both runners crashing to the track. These moments are what make the Olympics special, not the medal counts, the endorsement deals, or the publicity.

Simone and Aly’s 1st and 2nd places from the all-around competition mentioned above were then echoed during the finals for floor exercise, which is Aly’s favorite and arguably best event. She was ready to defend her title as queen of the floor routine having received gold in that event in London, but ultimately, the gold was slipped out of her hands and into fellow teammate, Simone’s. Disappointment might have been an emotion momentarily felt by Aly, but if it was, I didn’t notice it. All I observed was love and support between the two gymnasts. No animosity, no side eyes. No snide comments were made and no eyes were rolled.

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The “Olympic Spirit” is strong in these two athletes, as well as all throughout these games. However, this “Olympic Spirit” shouldn’t be a regular occurrence once every 4 years. It should be a common every day occurrence amongst us regular non-super athletic, non-medal wearing folks. We should heed Proverbs 24:17 and Romans 12:15 and be quick to help our neighbor up when they fall and rejoice with them when they win! We’re all running the same race, and a win for someone else doesn’t necessarily have to be a loss for us. This is not only what it takes to have Olympic spirit, but a Christian spirit as well. This attitude is what sets us apart and what will make us acquirers of gold medals as opposed to going home empty handed.

What we can learn from the Olympics as the Semester Begins

Even though the Olympics have ended, the athletes are still the talk of the town. The Final Five gymnasts are still making appearances and doing talk shows, while Michael Phelps is reveling in his title as “The World’s Greatest Olympian.” However, there were a couple of sour notes from Rio 2016 – among them, Ryan Lochte’s “exaggeration of the truth.” You’ve probably heard about it by now, and if not you’ve at least seen a meme about it. Ryan Lochte, the American Olympic swimmer, told a story about how he and two of his teammates were robbed at gunpoint by police in Rio. However, the Brazilian authorities have a different story and proof to back it up. Lochte and his friends were caught on tape after having destroyed a public restroom after a night of drinking and partying. The public’s former dismay and sympathy towards the beloved Olympic star soon turned vile with insults and jokes to go along.

Ryan Lochte is currently in career-resuscitation mode. He has been cast in the upcoming season of Dancing with the Stars (a show known to revive the careers of multiple celebrities), done various interviews condemning the media and their role in building up the situation, and even dyed his formerly silver hair back to its original brunette.

My point with the blog this week is simple. It’s a new (school) year. New beginnings are what we all want especially after we’ve screwed something up. Lochte is trying to jumpstart his new beginning, but we don’t have to be in that pit of a situation if we do the right thing in the first place. We all know how distressing it is to dig yourself out of a hole halfway through the semester after you’re weeks behind on homework and haven’t touched your textbook in a month. And we’ve all experienced blatant procrastination – when we know we mounds of work to do, but instead go to the mall, or finally teach ourselves how to knit. I’d like to encourage you all, new students and returning, to not fall for that trap this year. Don’t get caught switching over to semester-resuscitation mode because you didn’t do the right thing in the first place.

Doing damage control is also not how we want to reflect Jesus. Did Jesus “exaggerate the truth” and then try to backtrack and repair His image? Nah. Jesus’ image never needed to be repaired and neither should ours. Keep your company and thoughts positive, discipline yourself, and you’ll have a smoother ride.

Back to School, Back to the Manhattan Campus

Are you excited to be back on campus soon?

The immediate answer for many students is a swift, “no,” complete with a look of indignation. But what if I said I was excited? What if I said I’m actually looking forward to the new school year? Am I crazy? Let me explain.

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One day, late last month, I was in downtown Manhattan running a couple errands. After they were complete, I found myself in Battery Park City. Watching the water down by the ferry has become a favorite pastime of mine. I walked along the boardwalk and took pictures like it was my first time there. I even stopped by the grass and watched a squirrel along with some tourists. (This is a big deal for me because I tend to pass judgement on squirrel-watchers since I moved to New York from Texas and was used to seeing squirrels in my yard everyday. So, in New York, when I see people taking pictures of squirrels and ooh-ing and ahh-ing like they’re such rare creatures, I chuckle a little.)

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I walked along the boardwalk until I reached a familiar part of the Robert F. Wagner park. This was the same Wagner park that Nyack NYC’s Student Development team chose to host a picnic for new students. I was one of those new students. I met up with my friend, also a new student and the one who inspired me to apply in the first place, beforehand and we walked into the picnic together. We were greeted with smiles, handshakes, and Nyack t-shirts – the table filled with sandwiches and chips was also a nice surprise. We sat down and ate, then joined the others to play games. We were introduced to the Dean of Students, Dr. Hammond, and to the student body president who both made us feel at ease and at home. I later found out through the following picture found on Nyack College’s Instagram that many students who I would soon come to befriend and share many good memories with were also at that picnic. If they were not new, they were volunteering their time to make sure the event ran smoothly.

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I remember the picnic having a warm, family-like atmosphere. I can only personally recall having heard of Nyack being called a family a few times, but based on what I’ve experienced I’m sure it’s associated with familial feelings very often. As I stood on the boardwalk and remembered the picnic in the park, it began to hit me how long ago that was and how far I have come since then. I have successfully finished my first year of college and I am gearing up to start my second. There will be no new student picnic for me this year, but for many others there will be. This past year went by faster than any year for me thus far. I can only imagine how the next 3 years will go. I’m not entirely sure I want them to whiz past me. I want to stretch out some of these moments a little longer (the good moments, not finals week or anything). However, even though I’m not so new to Nyack anymore, there are still plenty of good times to be had and lots to look forward to, and I’m ready to get started.

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