Celebrating Students ’13: Caitlin Palmer

The AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps is not what the website says it is. It’s not what alumni say it is. It’s not even what they tell you it is in member orientation. This government-run community service program is so widespread and so diverse that no two teams in the program will ever have the same experience. For ten months, I IMG_1606traveled from Sacramento to New Orleans, from the Grand Canyon to Lake Tahoe, from El Dorado National Forest to Reno. I drove cross-country twice. One AmeriCorps team went to Hawaii to work on an organic farm. Other teams worked at a children’s camp in Seattle, assisted at the Special Olympics, and were even on MTV’s Inaugural Ball. My team and I finished fixing up over twenty houses damaged by Hurricane Katrina in Port Sulphur and Lake Charles, Louisiana. We served over two thousand meals to volunteers in New Orleans. We cleared brush from five football fields of high fire-risk land, and fought a two-acre forest fire. I’m now certified by the Forest Service as a Type-B chainsaw faller and have my Red Card, a license to fight forest fires. I can use miter saws, pack pumps, and a deep-fat fryer. At the end of all this, I graduated with over 2,000 hours of community service and more life experiences than I thought possible. My time in AmeriCorps had high highs and low lows, and I’m still trying to make sense of it. So when I try to tell people what AmeriCorps NCCC will be like for them, I can’t, because I don’t know. It can literally be anything.

If you want to look into the program, a good place to start is http://www.americorps.gov/

Celebrating Students ’13: Stephanie Huezo

IMG_1620Some people say that family does not always have to be blood-related. I found this out this summer when I visited my family in El Salvador. I hadn’t visited my family there for more than nine years, so it basically felt like I was meeting them for the first time. Everybody was really nice and I had a great time and didn’t expect anything out of the ordinary to happen. Yet a friend of my grandmother’s came to visit her family at the same time that we were there. I didn’t know much about her and didn’t even notice she was there until she decided to stop by and talk. It was then I found out that she believed I was her granddaughter. I didn’t know whether to believe her or not, since I didn’t know much about my biological father. She kept on insisting that I was her granddaughter and everyone kept on saying, “Yes, she looks like fulana de tal’s sister or cousin.”  I fell in love with the idea of knowing my father’s family, but in the end, we all accepted that I was not related to them by blood.  However, that did not stop me from seeing her as part of my family or from her seeing me as part of hers. My time in El Salvador was irreplaceable. It not only gave me the opportunity to spend some time with my family, but also allowed me to add another member to my family.

Celebrating Students ’13: Te’Rhon O’Neal

This summer I was able to work on the set of the new hit TV show on CBS, “NCIS: Los Angeles,” which is the spin-off to the IMG_1613original NCIS. This new show is starring Chris O’Donnell and LL Cool J. It was a great experience to hang out on the set and see all the behind-the-scenes work that goes into an action TV show. I’ve been on other entertainment productions, but never an action TV show, so it was an interesting change up. Also because my mom is a part of production, I was able to meet all the actors and actresses.  It happened that one of the actors went to Wesleyan, and it was really cool to chat with him about his experience before I took off to Wes myself.

Celebrating Students ’13: Avery Trufelman

Over this summer, I interned at Air America. Yes, that is an airline, and yes, that’s also a movie starring Mel Gibson, but the Air America I worked at was a liberal talk radio station, with a line of hosts meant to counter the likes of Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh. My internship was unpaid, but it wasn’t a hey-intern-go-get-some-coffee type of job. I actually got to contribute to the station’s blog by summarizing and commenting on current events. 

IMG_1610Naturally, it kept me really up to date on the news, since I had to read the paper every morning and constantly monitor news sites during the day. It was also pretty great to work in New York City all summer, since another component of my job was going to Union Square and interviewing people about their thoughts on the news for a series of videos Air America put on YouTube. I also got an opportunity to meet Lewis Black, who was interviewed on one of the shows, Montel Williams, who hosts his own show daily, and Wesleyan sophomore Adam Schlesinger, who just so happened to be interning with me.

I’ve learned that blogging isn’t just some snarky medium, and, over all, my internship inspired a lot of what I do here at Wesleyan. I’d like to continue with radio on WESU, to keep blogging on the beautiful Method Magazine website (www.methodmagazine.com), and, hopefully, to get back into the habit of reading the newspaper. Hopefully.

Celebrating Students ’13: Michael Conrad

You can’t get anywhere if you don’t know where you came from. In my case I hadn’t met my entire family. My mother IMG_1608was an immigrant; she came to America from a poor Central American Country. At age 16 she entered high school not being able to speak a word of English. She graduated and went on to college. Coming from Honduras she was raised in a strict home that provided her with a “family over everything” attitude, as well as a mentality to work as hard as you can for everything and to appreciate all the opportunities given to you. Before embarking on my college journey, I felt it was necessary for me to find my roots and return to the place my mother and grandmother and aunts and uncles came from so I could proceed to make my family proud and return to Honduras a successful man. Seeing the family I had only seen in pictures and heard over the phone was almost as fulfilling as going on a missionary trip, or working at a soup kitchen. When I got there I had no idea what to expect, but when I left I realized what was expected of me and how much family I had to make proud. I left Honduras with so much motivation, so much drive to succeed in all aspects of my life. My twenty-one day trip was more of a realization than it was a vacation, and I will remember it for the rest of my life.

Celebrating Students ’13: Liza Messinger

I love corn, whether eaten grilled at my house or dipped in butter and salted at the Minnesota State Fair, but this summer is the first time I ever truly appreciated it because I dug, sweat, watered, and begged corn into existence on IMG_1609my family’s new plot at a Minneapolis community garden. As a sustainable garden, I couldn’t use power tools or synthetic fertilizers, so in the fashion of Little House on the Prairie, I used only a shovel and pitchfork to remove the sod, turn over the soil to add air, shape the beds, and plant corn, lettuce, beets, and peas. When sprouts started to appear, I was surprised to find how invested I was in the success of each plant. I knew where each new carrot shoot was, observed the bees pollinating the corn, and mourned the bug- eaten lettuce. So now whenever I bite into a corn cob, I taste the sweet kernels, but also the hard work of my summer, and the often forgotten work that someone did somewhere to grow the food on my plate.

Celebrating Students ’13: Hilary Hobel

No, I do not wear silver face paint nor am I one of the intense Raiders’ fans so brilliantly depicted on television. thumbnailCAZC0L98Instead, I am just a local to the Bay Area, and someone who got to participate in an organization I never would have imagined. This past summer, I had an internship with the Oakland Raiders, but no, I was not a Gatorade go-getter. Instead I took part in the business side of the organization. It was by no means glamorous, although, granted, I did get to go to an event in Los Angeles and guard the Super Bowl Trophies.  And, yes the Raiders do have Super Bowl wins! And yes, putting me in charge of the trophies may have been a silly idea, as most of the fans were twice my size and looked like they played football. But just so the Raiders’ fans know, the trophies are back under lock and key, so I guess I did my job. This internship was a great opportunity for me to see the interworking of not only a sports team, but also a business, and although I am not much of a football fan, I now greatly appreciate the Oakland Raiders and even the amount of work put into each luxury box ticket.

Celebrating Students ’13: Alex Speiser

Even though I’m a city boy, I have always loved the outdoors. I’m a sucker for the beauty of New York City- the raccoons of Central Park, the Cloisters, and the occasional clean, white pigeon- but have been fortunate enough over the last few years to leave the lower forty-eight and see some other countries. I spent a good chunk of this summer A. Speiserworking in the southern area of Costa Rica, the Golf of Dulce region, at a Wildlife Sanctuary, looking after orphaned, injured, and displaced animals. I built cages, led tours, and learned what goes into rehabilitating and subsequently releasing animals affected by the illegal wildlife trade. The preservation of Nature and curbing the effects of Global Warming have always been passions of mine and were further enhanced by this experience.

Celebrating Students ’13: Julian Applebaum

Web development has become a great passion of mine over this past year.  

IMG_1595Building westfieldtrack.com was an amazing opportunity to hone this passion while giving back to the Blue Devils, a team that gave so much to me. Westfieldtrack.com is a comprehensive solution for many of the needs of Westfield’s track and cross country programs. Among many other things, it provides an easily updated news bulletin board, a custom team calendar, a meet result sheet manager, a live seasonal bests page, individual athlete histories, and customizable mailing lists. All of these features were created to help build a strong, well informed community around Westfield’s track and cross country teams. I look forward to applying everything I learned to revamp WesXC’s team website, wesxc.com.

Celebrating Students ’13: Nellie Triedman

I spent seven weeks of this summer in Israel with my life-long friend Ariel from Boston. Although we did do some of the usual touristy activities–spending a weekend in Tel Aviv, going to Jerusalem, going to Masada and floating in the IMG_1591Dead Sea–we spent most of our time right outside Haifa at a youth village called Yemin Orde. The kids at this boarding school and orphanage were mostly from Ethiopia, but the school also had kids from Brazil, Russia and Eastern Europe, and even China. I loved interacting with the kids as an English tutor, which gave me the opportunity to hear their amazing stories. I also helped run a week-long summer camp for the children of illegal immigrants in Israel, which was really fun and exhausting. Overall, this summer was amazing, and I hope to go back to Israel someday.