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Archive for the ‘Personal Interest’ Category

Bridget Depew
The Montgazette Incoming Editor-In-Chief

“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” Trite as it may be, it also could not be truer in Sara Wilkerson’s case.
Born on the north side of Chicago, Sara grew up raised by only her mother. Her father left Sara and her mom shortly after Sara was born. “We were inseparable,” Sara says, recalling her time with her mother. “She literally was my everything.”
Tragically, her mom was diagnosed with stage four ovarian cancer in February of 2012. Sara was just 14 years old. It was a fast-moving cancer, and Sara’s mom lost her battle with the disease on June 21, 2012, right after Sara’s middle school graduation.
Two days after her mom passed, she moved to the Philadelphia area with her grandparents. She spent the large part of her freshman year in a fog, grappling with her mother’s death and trying to find her place in the world. It led her to a dark place of depression to the point where Sara wondered if she wanted to go on. In desperation, she reached out in prayer to God for a sign that all the pain in this life was worth it – she needed something to hold on to. In that moment, her prayer had been answered. She felt her mom’s spirit close to her. “My mom saved my life that night,” Sara says. It was from that moment on that Sara knew she could not only survive, but thrive, with her mom always right by her side.
After graduating from Upper Merion High School, Sara started at Montgomery County Community College in the fall of 2016. Majoring in Mass Media: Media Studies, Sara decided to continue the path of journalism she had started when she ran The Viking Call, her high school newspaper. It was, in a sense, a lifesaver. “Journalism is what helped me come out of the shell I was in. Journalism is how I’ve connected with other people.”
Sara became Editor-in-Chief of The Montgazette in May of 2017. During her tenure as Editor-in-Chief, she started a new edition called, “Poetic Voices,” giving students with a penchant for poetry the opportunity to make their poetic voices heard.
There’s no slowing Sara Wilkerson down. In addition to being The Montgazette’s Editor-in-Chief, Sara is the president of the Writer’s Club, a member of the Honors Club, the Literature editor of the Art and Literature Magazine, and a member and the Public Relations officer of Phi Theta Kappa. She also assists with CAPG and Montco Radio.
“You can learn from experiences of tragedy and loss,” Sara says. “We all have a motivator in life – for me, it’s my mom.”
That’s the Sara I know. Had I not had this interview with her, I would have never known she’d experienced such pain and loss. I only see a high-energy, incredibly friendly and wildly talented writer who takes time to tell me that my voice is worth hearing. She has motivated me to become a better writer.
To say she’ll be missed at Montco and The Montgazette is an understatement. But we can’t be selfish; we have to share this amazing person with the people whose lives she’ll affect in the future. If I could meet Sara’s mom, I would thank her for sharing Sara with us.

 

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Sara Wilkerson ~Photo by Justin Patrick Oakes

 

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Rahul Thevar
The Montgazette Staff

Loretta Henry attended Senton Hall University for a Bachelor of Science in Education degree in English and Secondary Education with a minor in history. For her master’s degree in English, Henry started out at Montclair State University and then transferred to the College of New Jersey in Ewing, New Jersey.
Having a deep love for grammar and literature, Professor Henry knew she wanted to be an English teacher by the time she was a sophomore in high school. She taught eighth grade language arts in New Jersey public schools for eleven years. After the birth of her first son, she started teaching part time at Bucks County Community College. This allowed her to continue to teach while being able to spend time at home with her children.
After a few years, Loretta started teaching and tutoring at Montgomery and Bucks County Community Colleges. She loves engaging with students about writing concepts and literature and finds it very gratifying to see students grow as writers and get excited about their work. Loretta particularly loves interacting with students in Tutorial Services, where she often gets a fuller picture of students as individuals: their challenges, their strengths, as well as their concerns.
Her position as a tutor allows her to see the benefits the tutoring services provide students as a part of their learning process and education. Loretta especially enjoys facilitating writing workshops (Monday and Fridays from 12:30 till 1:30), enabling her to focus on the writing concepts that most often challenge writers.
Amisha Sanwal, a student at Montgomery County Community College who has benefitted from Professor Henry’s expertise said, “Loretta Henry is good and very helpful.”
Professor Henry’s advice to graduating Montco students is to keep up the smart decision-making. “I can see from the variety of students I have taught here and at Bucks that the decision to start at a community college is such a wise and prudent choice for students in so many different situations.”
Loretta Henry continued by saying, “the community college often allows students more wiggle room to realize where their passion lies. Students can explore more options rather than anchoring themselves down to a very heavy and constricting career choice straight out of high school. On the other hand, students can also get a very strong start in specific fields. They can get the foundation they need and the access to quality programs, like our nursing program which exposes prospective nurses to some of the top hospitals in the country.”
So, hopefully our graduates take advantage of the firm foundation they’ve built for themselves here at Montco and know they can go anywhere from here.

 

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Professor Loretta Henry working with a student at the Tutoring Service Center in College Hall on Central Campus. ~Photo by Rahul Thevar

 

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by Nadia Ellis
The Montgazette Staff

Many people view their college experience as challenging, rewarding, and gratifying. From my perspective, college was about transitioning back into school from a nine-year hiatus. After working at Walmart for ten years, it was time for change due to lack of advancement within the company. I wanted a better life for my children and me, so I decided to pursue a career in nursing.
In August 2016, I decided to go back to school at Montgomery County Community College (MCCC). In essence, I learned that college requires a lot of hard work and dedication.
I would describe my first semester at MCCC as a turbulent roller coaster that took many twists and turns. I registered for four classes in spring 2017: English 101, Psychology 101, Sociology 101, and Math 010. I did not realize what I was getting myself into becoming a full-time student while working full time. Some expected this to be easy for me, but that was not the case.
I struggled with keeping up with my assignments and studying for my quizzes and exams. My class attendance dropped, and consequently, my grades suffered because I did not prepare for my tests. I realized juggling work, school, and my children was more than I could handle.
I immediately made some necessary and beneficial changes. I dropped my most challenging course, my English class; I was not able to comprehend the material and write an essay. Though stressful, I gained the courage to write my first paper. After I submitted my essay, I received a sixty-eight percent on my paper, a grade that killed my soul as a student and writer. I decided that I needed to be refreshed on the basics of English, so I registered to take a fundamental English writing class next semester to improve my writing and better prepare me for college-level English.
I knew that to be successful in my courses, my actions needed to change. Therefore, I scheduled study time – during my breaks at work and setting aside time at home. As a result, I was better prepared for exams. I made sure to start my projects early, so I could pour great detail and creativity into them.
My hard work paid off, wrapping up my first semester with a B+ in Math 010, a B in sociology, and a C in psychology. Overall, my GPA was 2.5. Even though my first semester was filled with many ups and downs, I was still able to prevail with resilience, motivation, self-discipline, and success.
My first semester in college was a turbulent ride for me. I had to reevaluate my study habits, focus, and self-discipline. In addition, I had to gain resilience. It is important for one to realize that going to school can be a struggle, yet it can also be a life-changing experience.
Furthermore, college offers great resources that can help every student to become successful. No matter how hard college may become, students should keep striving and believing in themselves, never losing sight of their goals. In the wise words of Ingrid Fisher, the Keys Director at the College, “Being successful in college is not about being the smartest student. However, it is about having the smarter, more consistent plan to achieve success.”

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Nadia Ellis

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I Define Me

by Natalie Capili
The Montgazette Staff

Every day I deal with different challenges, but the two that affect me the most are depression and anxiety. Depression is a medical illness that affects emotions, behaviors and the ability to function. Anxiety is an excessive amount of apprehension or worry triggered by one’s surroundings.
Depression and anxiety run in my family, and there is no doubt that the gene was passed down to me. Every day I struggle to find the motivation to get out of bed. At school, I have a panic attack when I have to read or present to the class. I take medication every morning to help with my symptoms; however, medication is not always helpful. When I am depressed, I find myself having trouble making decisions or finding the motivation to do an activity. In addition, I have chest pains when I get anxiety, and I am constantly picking at my nails because I need something to do with my hands. I just cannot sit still, and fidget toys don’t always help.
Depression and anxiety go hand in hand, and they are serious mental illnesses. No matter what day of the week it is, I always have some important responsibility to take care of. Whether it is my job, my school work, or my house work, anxiety and depression are always following me around. Every day is a new day, a fresh beginning or a do over. No matter what, I wake up and do what I need to do; I don’t let myself sit around. If I were to let depression consume me, I would never leave my bed. Every day I fight my depression and anxiety and choose not to let them run my life. I have mental illnesses, and I am not afraid to talk about it. I am in charge of my life, and anxiety and depression are just parts of me.
As I become older, I find more ways to deal with the anxiety and depression. Lately, I have learned that doing something I love, like photography, helps with my illnesses. Whether I am taking photos or developing photos, I am free of my illnesses. I am happy and relaxed. I think that taking photos help because I am just so focused on what I want that there is no room for the depression and anxiety. I have nothing to worry about. There is no one to impress, no grade to earn; I am just taking and developing my own photos.
Also, I have a great support system full of family and friends who are always there when I need them. If I need to talk to or just need someone to pull me out of bed, I know I can count on my mom. It might sound corny, but my mom is my biggest supporter. She has known me for all 18 years of my life, and she can tell instantly how I am feeling. She suffers from depression and anxiety too, so she understands how I feel and what I am going through. My mom is always there for me and helps me when I need her.
I know that I will always have these mental illnesses, but I will always find a way to deal with them. I can and I will overcome my anxiety and depression.

 

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Natalie Capili

 

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by Sara Wilkerson
The Montgazette Editor-In-Chief

“Science can not grow, science can not proceed, science can not pursue, science can’t answer the questions… [it] seeks to answer without the diversity of thought. That’s what makes it [science] work. We need diversity of thought from everywhere to contribute so we can solve the questions we have about the Universe.” – Derrick Pitts, Astronomer

This November Montgomery County Community College (MCCC) hosted its Ninth Annual Presidential Symposium featuring keynote speaker Derrick Pitts. Pitts currently serves as the Chief Astronomer and Director of the Fels Planetarium at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia.

Pitts’ career began at the Franklin Institute after he graduated from St. Lawrence University. Over the span of his prolific career, Pitts has held many positions, including the United States spokesperson for the International Year of Astronomy in 2009, and in 2011 was named a Solar System Ambassador for NASA. Pitts has won numerous awards including a Distinguished Alumni award from St. Lawrence University and an honorary Doctorate of Science from La Salle University.

At the start of the Presidential Symposium, a performance from the MCCC Choir featured a rendition of David Bowe’s “Space Odyssey.” Following the performance, Pitts started his speech with introductory remarks on how he became interested in science.

Pitts explained that his interest in science stemmed from seeing acclaimed astronomers like John Glenn and Carl Sagan on TV as a child. Their TV appearances, combined with his innate scientific curiosity growing up, are what led him to pursue astronomy as an area of study in college.

Thanks to Pitts’ current position at the Franklin Institute, Pitts said that he makes it his mission to inspire other future scientists by speaking at academic institutions and making media appearances on TV. By inspiring others, he explained that the scientific community can benefit from having more scientists explore the ways of the Universe.

Additionally Pitts emphasized that the diversity of scientists is what truly matters for future discoveries in the Universe. He said that while the scientific field has made progress in making the field more diverse, there still needs to be even more representation of scientists in the field who are women, and who are representative of various races and ethnicities.

After Pitts finished his ending remarks on life in the Universe, he took questions from audience members. When asked about what advice he’d give to college students looking to find their passion, Pitts advises students to, “Free [themselves] of [a] schedule… number one. Don’t impose that on yourself and make that a restriction that keeps you… [and] that forces you to do something you don’t want to do, and take some time to explore what it is that you like to do…. It’s not about just having the education just to have the education, it’s about doing something you love to do.”

To find out more about Derrick Pitts, his career and his latest achievements, visit the Franklin Institute’s website via http://www.fi.edu.

 

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MCCC’s Choir performs David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” led by Music Associate Professor, Andrew Kosciesza, at the start of this Fall’s Presidential Symposium. ~Photo by Erin Ilisco

 

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Derrick Pitts discusses the diversity and complexities of the universe as keynote speaker. ~Photo by Erin Ilisco

 

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MCCC President, Dr. Kevin Pollock, chats with the audience at the 2017 Presidential Symposium. ~Photo by Erin Ilisco

 

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Rose Makofske, MCCC Director of Equity/Diversity Initiatives, presents opening remarks at the MCCC 2017 Presidential Symposium. ~Photo by Erin Ilisco

 

 

 

 

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by David Aston
The Montgazette Staff

How many times do we stop and count the blessings we have? Chances are, as hyper-active college students, not much. Between battles with professors and sweating over grades, the valuable people in our lives often take a back seat. Montgomery County Community College English professor, Don Yost, the speaker at this year’s Writers Club Coffeehouse, knows what real battles are. He taught those who were there the value of finding blessings in the harshest times of life.

As was common practice among young men during the hard years of the Vietnam War, Professor Yost enrolled in college to avoid being drafted into the armed forces. Yost went to Seton Hall University and earned a degree in English Literature. Nonetheless, he was unable to escape the draft because the war had not ended upon his graduation. He decided to sign up after he was told how good he would have it as an Army officer.

After many grueling months of fighting on the horrific battlefields of Vietnam, Yost was reassigned and became a combat reporter for the Army in 1969. Yost’s reassignment turned out to be a blessing in disguise since he avoided battling on the frontlines of the war. However, as a reporter, Yost witnessed many fellow soldiers die or succumb to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Coming home was no better as many people called Vietnam Veterans, like Yost, “baby killers” and “men who just wanted handouts from the system.” Yost proved these misconceptions wrong as he obtained a Master’s degree and then began teaching at Montco about a decade ago.

Yost said his experiences in Vietnam have many parallels to today’s events. His most poignant parallel is that no matter how different our life experiences are, we can all understand and help one another through any crisis. He encouraged all of us to cherish the people around us, and this message hit me hard that night.

Earlier that night, I received word that my mother was diagnosed with a brain tumor. With all the other events going on in my life, I was struck hard by Yost’s story, and after hearing heartfelt poems during the open mic session, I poured my heart out. I recited the poem that you’ll read later in this issue (See “Poetic Voices”). With it, I realized how much more I must count the blessings in my life, cherishing the greatest people during the harshest moments of life.

My thanks to Professor Yost for sharing his story with the Montco community. You can buy his book Blessings: Transforming My Vietnam Experience on Amazon.

 

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MCCC English Professor Don Yost ~Photo by Amanda Powers

 

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Rahul Thevar
The Montgazette Staff

A one-on-one interview with Montgomery County Community College English Professor, Monica D’Antonio

Q. What colleges did you go to to get to where you are now?

A. I attended Rutgers University for my undergraduate and graduate degrees in English. I am currently working on my PhD in Educational Psychology at Temple University.

Q. What do you like about being a professor?

A. I LOVE being a professor. There is no job in the world I would rather have. It’s almost impossible for me to describe what it’s like to watch someone learn something new or overcome a fear they had or develop confidence in themselves. It’s truly an honor to be a part of that experience. I also like the connections that develop through teaching. I really like the way my students bond with each other and with me throughout the course of the semester. Many stay in touch after the semester is over, and it’s awesome to watch my students to continue to be successful and develop their lives beyond my class. I’m not a religious person, but I consider teaching to be a calling for me.

Q. My next question to you is since you are poll worker, how do you improve political involvement with college aged (18-25) people?

A. It’s CRUCIAL for young people (18-30) to vote, to get interested and involved in politics, to be informed about domestic and international issues, and to run for office themselves. The tough part about this is that politics seems so stodgy and exclusive. When you look at the members of Congress… they are all fairly old, most of them are white, and most of them are men. Platforms and messaging are two other issues that politicians need to address. Politicians don’t know how to convey the importance of certain issues, like health care and taxes, to younger audiences. When pols do try to reach out, they do not communicate their platforms effectively… Obama was incredibly successful with young voters. He was reasonable, knowledgeable, but also just downright cool… He also had a community organizing background, which meant he knew how to talk and relate to people of all walks of life. Rarely do our politicians have that “ground level” knowledge. Most don’t know how the average person lives. Bottom line: we need cooler, younger, and smarter people – like Obama – get involved in government.

However, the issue isn’t just with politicians. Young voters need to
actually step up and take responsibility for the country they live in and the future they want to see. They can’t just wait for the “adult in the room” to solve their problems. If you’re in America, you need to protect it and transform it to make sure it’s the place that you want to live in. Take the outrage you display on Facebook and Twitter and go out and get involved.

Q. What do you want to say to current Montco students figuring out what they want to do?

A. To MCCC students trying to figure it all out, I say: Take risks and don’t be afraid to fall down. You will fail sometimes. Get over it. Failure is where the learning happens.

 

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MCCC English Professor Monica D’Antonio — Photo by Andrea Betancourt

 

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