Habitat for Humanity Plans Alternative Spring Break Service Trip to Greenville, Georgia

Members of Habitat for Humanity pose from left to right: (top row) Catherine Koch, Dana Mead, Jon Kallevang, Chris Rodkey, Katie Cain, Jen Slomski, Marc Hume, Katie Studholme, (front row): Adel Chergui, Sarah Hanley, Sara Childerston, Gina Nearing, Elizabeth Benge, and Monica Powell (Photo Submitted by Katie Cain_
Members of Habitat for Humanity pose from left to right: (top row) Catherine Koch, Dana Mead, Jon Kallevang, Chris Rodkey, Katie Cain, Jen Slomski, Marc Hume, Katie Studholme, (front row): Adel Chergui, Sarah Hanley, Sara Childerston, Gina Nearing, Elizabeth Benge, and Monica Powell (Photo Submitted by Katie Cain_

This spring break, the Habitat for Humanity club will be heading to Greenville, Georgia.

The club has gone on these trips for the last six years. Two years ago the club went to Alabama and last year they went to Greenville.

The purpose of the trip is to build a house for a family who qualifies due to the qualifications of Habitat.

“The main objective is to help Habitat for Humanity whose mission is to build houses for people in the mid-range who can’t afford houses,” said senior, Katie Cain, President of the Habitat chapter here on campus.

The spring break trip is a week long and sees the fifteen students and faculty advisor build one house.

“We start with the concrete foundation. We work everyday eight to four on the house by the end of the week we’re up to the roof and shingles,” said Cain.

The trip is planned mostly by the affiliate the group stays with, but the St. Mary’s chapter focuses on getting the students together here.

“We get registration packets from Habitat for Humanity as well as St. Mary’s forms. We put them together in a packet, and we send out all students e-mails,” said Cain.

Students who participate in the trip have all different levels of experience and have become involved in different ways. “My sister did the trip when she went here. She talked about how awesome it was and I got involved through her contacts with [then President] Megan Hickman,” said senior Jen Slomiski.

Another member, senior Monica Powell, stumbled into Habitat when she went on the trip last year.

“I went last year to Greenville. Prior to that I wasn’t really involved, but after that it inspired me to apply to be on the exec board, and I’m actually going to be co-President next year,” said Powell.

The members last year stayed in a grain silo and bonded with the community through community provided dinners.

“We choose to go back to Greenville this year because of the overwhelming southern hospitality,” said Cain. The group not only bonds through the meals, but also through the road trip down to Georgia and the time spent in the silo.

The members of the group want to stress that the trip is open to everyone and that experience levels should not stop anyone from applying.

“I wouldn’t let inexperience stop you; that’s what Habitat’s all about,” said Powell.

Let’s Talk About Sex

Sex is often a taboo subject to ask questions about. It’s the butt of lots of jokes, but honest inquiries into topics about sexuality are a little more difficult. That’s why Candace Daniels has put together the panel “Love Lines” for students to anonymously ask questions about sex to knowledgeable faculty members.

St. Mary’s Professors Jennifer Cognard-Black and Andrew Cognard-Black, and possibly one more faculty member, will answer questions that students wrote and put in a box at the Campus Center.

The event is scheduled to take place during Sexual Responsibility week, Feb 10th-13th.

Daniels said that she personally felt that knowing the answer to “weird questions about sex” would make one a better person.

Autumn Capers, a junior , said she hopes the panel goes “beyond the black and white picture of sex.” However, Daniels insists that there is no taboo subject the panel will shy away from. “No matter what the question, the panel will answer.”

So come on by for a frank discussion centered around a favorite campus-wide subject: sex.

Steny Hoyer Makes Surprise Appearance at St. Mary’s Political Event in D.C.

House Majority Leader and St. Mary’s Trustee Steny Hoyer made a surprise appearance at a recent St. Mary’s event where alumni, students, and professors from the Political Science department joined to discuss the presidential election.

“Steny Hoyer’s appearance was definitely special,” said junior Matt Schafle. “It’s not everyday that you get to talk with the House Majority Leader.”

Hoyer’s speech discussed the hope and change embodied by Obama’s election and urged young people to become involved in politics. “What an extraordinary time to be a young person in America,” said Hoyer.

“Barack Obama is unlike any politician I’ve ever seen,” he said, calling his election “affirmation in the greatness of our country.”

Outlining the path of the Democratic Party back to power, and the work ahead for the President-elect, Hoyer stated “the good news is we won, the bad news is – we won.” Hoyer discussed the difficulties facing the Democrats in pursuing goals such as national health care, restoring rights, improving education, and rebuilding international opinion of the US while maintaining a majority, but said he believes that “we are investing in our society.”

Although invited by the Alumni Office, Hoyer was unable to confirm his attendance at the event. “We did not hear from him that he was attending,” said Director of Alumni Relations and Planned Giving (and alumnus) David Sushinsky. “My guess is he couldn’t announce it before because of security reasons, but I don’t know that to be a fact. It was a great surprise.”

Professors Michael Cain, Todd Eberly, and Sahar Shafqat discussed the election, perceptions of the election abroad, and of the new administration and political realignment’s possibilities.

“The election touched all of us,” said Cain, the Chair of the Political Science department. “It went on a long time, but on election night a lot of feeling poured out across the nation.”

Eberly focused on putting the election in perspective; while “polls suggested an Obama victory, many were not confident enough to predict the outcome.” Eberly suggested that the reason for hesitation was related to history; “of 10,000 members of the House of Representatives, only 115 have been African-American. Out of thousands of senators, there have only been five and there are currently zero.”

Eberly emphasized Obama’s slim margins in seven swing-states that totaled nearly one hundred electoral votes, which were won by less than a million votes across the seven states.

Shafqat discussed the “massive joy”, and “the tremendous sense of catharsis” the election stimulated worldwide.

“The overseas reaction should not be underestimated,” she said. “The world is predisposed positively toward this 180 degree reversal from under Bush.”  However, she stressed that President Obama would face many foreign policy challenges, such as Pakistan. “Over the last eight years the US has squandered a lot of goodwill and soft power.”

Professors Shafqat and Cain also highlighted the current economic crisis and many situations seen as mishandled by Republicans that aided the Democrat victory and substantial gains in the House and Senate.

“The Sarah Palin pick, Hurricane Katrina, and [the continued occupation in] Iraq have turned public perception from unpopular to simply incompetent,” said Shafqat.

However, all three professors were reluctant to call the election a true realignment. “We won’t know if this was a realignment for several more election cycles,” said Eberly. Additionally, after gaining 10 Senate seats and 40 House seats in the last two election cycles, “it’s extremely likely the Democrats will lose some House seats in two years,” said Cain.

“I think the election of 2012 has already begun,” said Shafqat.

“Obama must be a consensus president,” added Eberly. “Obama’s victory shows how far we’ve come as a nation, but it also shows how far we still need to go.”

Five students and about 130 Alumni attended the discussion at the RFD Building on November 20. “Most of the attendees were recent graduates, namely within the past one to three years,” said College Republicans President Sara Metz.

“I think that the happy hour alumni event was more successful than your typical reunion,” said Schafle. “I feel that the attendance rate is better at something like a happy hour because people know what they are getting into when they decide to come, they’re looking forward to a good time.”

Intervarsity Christian Fellowship Assmbles Iraqi Relief Kits

With the political administration of the United States changing before the eyes of the nation, many are still wondering what is to become of the War in Iraq.

2.8 million Iraqis have left their homes for safer locations within the country and have been displaced for as many as five years because of the terror of this war. These people have been living without adequate food, water, and bathing supplies.

To assist these Iraqis in need, the Intervarsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF) has been working with the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC), a Christian services organization, to assemble and collect relief kits for the displaced Iraqis.

Zachary Cooke, a sophomore, was the leader of the project which took place from Oct. 31 to Nov. 21. He and many other members of IVCF have been collecting items through tabling at the Campus Center and dormstorming.

Cooke learned about the Project while working with a Jubilee Partners, a Christian service community, over the summer.

The group was aimed toward peacemaking and social justice, and notified Cooke about the Project. He suggested the project to IVCF, who opened up the project to the St. Mary’s College campus.

As a result, IVCF collected a wide range of supplies from students. Items in the kits included shampoo, hairbrushes, bandages, toothpaste, powdered laundry detergent, soap and towels. IVCF has delivered the packages to the closest MCC drop-off location so that the items can be sent to the displaced people.

Monica Frantz, a senior who assisted with the Project, said, “I was impressed by how generous students were in giving items to the project…the Iraq Relief Project gives students the chance to begin to take action in an easy way.”

Jill Clemmer, also a senior who worked with the Project, added that “the Iraq Relief Project was one practical way to keep reminding myself that [students] can contribute in a positive way to people to who don’t currently have the basic material necessities to live.”

What the IVCF members appreciate most about this project is that it involves collecting practical supplies as opposed to money.

Frantz said, “Giving our extra things is a great way to start changing things…systems of injustice create situations which are easy to throw charity at… no amount of money will allow these refugees to return home.”

While the War is a touchy political issue for many students, IVCF hopes that students look past conservative and liberal beliefs to recognize the humanitarian issue at stake in Iraq.

Cooke said, “…what seems to be ignored is the fact that over a million Iraqis have died because of the war. There is a humanitarian crisis in Iraq… Yes, the war is a political issue but I believe we have a responsibility to help Iraqis because of our country’s involvement.”

If students are interested in further helping to fight this crisis in Iraq, they can still assemble kits independently and send them MCC.  For more information, go to http://www.mcc.org/iraqrelief/.

Beyond giving supplies, there is still more work to do in aiding Iraq.

Frantz said, “Becoming aware of the issues is the first step, giving money and things is a great second step, but we cannot stop there, we must consider why there are people living in refugee camps to begin with.”

Invisible Children Service Club Throws a Benefit Bash

The St. Mary’s band Half the Battle performs first at the Invisible Children Benefit Concert (Photos Submitted by Lexi Lygoumenos).
The St. Mary’s band Half the Battle performs first at the Invisible Children Benefit Concert (Photos Submitted by Lexi Lygoumenos).

With the recent benefit concert, collection bins across campus, a bake sale and a planned 5K run, the Invisible Children Service Club at St. Mary’s has had a busy year.

“Basically we seek to raise funds and awareness for the crisis in Uganda,” said Lexi Lygoumenos, club president and founder of the St. Mary’s chapter.  “This is like the largest humanitarian crisis to have happened for our generation, but most people don’t even know it’s going on.”

The benefit concert, held on a Friday, Nov. 7, was one way to raise awareness.

“We had actually begun planning for the benefit last semester,” said Alyssa Miller, the historian for the club.  “Initially, we had wanted to have a Battle of the Bands to raise money, but the event was changed to just a benefit concert.”

Since Lygoumenos, “used to plan shows in high school and book with a local booking agent,” she decided to bring her skills to the club.  “I’m a huge concert person,” she said.  The nationwide Invisible Children organization also uses music to raise funds.  “They have traveling tours…all across the country,” she said.

The concert was cosponsored by the Programs Board and the Invisible Children Service Committee.  Nicolleta Babera, the Special Events co-chair for the Programs Board, was the primary member involved.

[Nicolleta] and I basically made this our little pet project,” said Lygoumenos.

For the benefit, “We decided to get all on-campus groups,” said Lygoumenos.  The Nightingale A Capella, Half the Battle, Factorial, and Lady in the Street all performed.  In addition to the music, there were free t-shirts with a logo designed by one of the club member’s friends.  Between performances, clips of the latest videos were shown.

The concert went hand in hand with the screening of the latest Invisible Children movie, which was shown the night before.

Invisible Children members pose with their custom made t-shirts.
Invisible Children members pose with their custom made t-shirts.

“It was kind of an Invisible Children weekend,” said Lygoumenos.

Overall, the event was successful.  “With the merchandise sold by representatives from the national organization at both the concert and the movie screening the day before, we raised almost four hundred dollars that went directly to IC. In addition, from donations alone at the concert we raised over one hundred dollars,” said Miller.

Next up is the annual SMCM Service Run, a 5K that will be cosponsored by the Invisible Children service club with the Rotoract Club on campus.  Lygoumenos encourages all who are interested to contact her if they want to get involved with the organization.  “It is this unknown war,” she said.  “It has legitimately been going on for over thirty years.  Most of the children have no idea what it’s like to live outside of war.”

Underwire ‘Zine Gives Gender Issues a Lift

Junior Sarah Eargle is passionate about women’s issues.  The head of Feminists for United Sexual Equality (FUSE), Eargle has directed her passion into single-handedly bringing back a project that had long been discarded: Underwire.

Underwire is a zine that was started to bring issues of women, gender, and sexuality to light.  Seen as a creative outlet, it encourages students to be imaginative with gender issues and submit anything they create.  Submissions include, but aren’t limited to, poetry, essays, editorials, prose, photography, painting, drawing, mixed media, and sculptures.

“Underwire was born out of FUSE a couple of years ago, and then sort of disappeared for a while.  I really liked the concept and I wanted to “resurrect” it,” said Eargle.  She is currently editing and assembling the submissions for the next issue, due out in early December.

“I received about 50-70 submissions, and they were all really good,” said Eargle, “I just wish more men would have submitted.  It’s just as much a men’s issue as a women’s issue.”

Freshman Jessica O’Rear also picked up on the possibility of Underwire having a skewed audience when she said, “Unfortunately, I think it only reaches out to the demographic who are already aware of the issues at stake, and that is exactly why they’re drawn to the publication. Others don’t think there’s a problem and, therefore, ignore the zine. This is sad, but I find it to be true.”

Other students believe that Underwire can reach out to those who may not be interested in women, gender, and sexuality issues.  Freshman Johanna Galat, a member of FUSE, said, “People pick up magazines about things they aren’t interested in all the time just because they are something to read. I always pick up fundamentalist Christian pamphlets to look through even though I am not at all interested in being saved. So maybe it could change the minds of people who aren’t into feminism in the first place.”

Junior Stephanie Espinoza is a member of another program on campus designed to help women: the First Responder Network, a subcomponent of Sexual Assault Response and Prevention Program (SARP).  She agreed with Galat about Underwire: “With the fact that sexual issues like harassment are such touchy topics, it’s good to know that someone has the guts to tackle them. People don’t think gender is an issue anymore but it really is, so Underwire sounds like a good way to get that point across.”

Unfortunately, while most students think Underwire is a good idea, barely anyone knows about it.  When one student was asked what she thought of the zine, she responded, “What do I think about bras?”  This was not an uncommon reaction.

Another member of FUSE, junior Jessica Earlbeck said, “I just found out about Underwire this year through FUSE and honestly, it’s pathetic how unknown it is.  I’ve read it once, but briefly, and it seemed interesting. It did address some very deep and emotional topics, but it’s just not a good way to get the word out about women’s issues since it’s not read.”

So along with putting in the long hours of bringing the collection together, Eargle is also brainstorming publicity ideas for getting the word out about the project.  “I was thinking of maybe having an informal party when it comes out and everyone who had a submission published can bring their friends.”  Whatever she decides, it will undoubtedly be the beginning of a new success streak for Underwire.

Chesapeake Shores Nursing Home Gets a Visit from St. Mary’s Students

Caitlin Evans and Kat Painter of For Goodness Sake pose with James Holt, one of the residents of the Chesapeake Shores nursing home (Photo By Michelle Ladas).
Caitlin Evans and Kat Painter of For Goodness Sake pose with James Holt, one of the residents of the Chesapeake Shores nursing home (Photo By Michelle Ladas).

Once a week, Senior Caitlin Evans picks up a group of students from DPC at 5:50. The students hop into her blue jeep and head down Route 5 to the Chesapeake Shores Nursing Home and Rehabilitation Center.  Caitlin, a member of For Goodness Sake, the umbrella club that sponsors the trip, is the project leader of the trips and has been since she was a sophomore. Last week, Jeff Meisgeier, Kat Painter, and I joined  Caitlin as she drove to Chesapeake Shores.

Every Thursday residents are brought into the game room where they often play Keno Bingo with St. Mary’s students. Last week, several residents were dispersed throughout the room, participating in different activities. Jeff noticed a woman sitting by herself with a Scrabble board and went to join her.  Caitlin and Kat were asked to decorate a cart by Agnes Price, the woman who directs the night’s activities. Agnes Price has been working at Chesapeake Shores for twenty-two years.

I went to join Jeff at the Scrabble table, where I met Elaine. “She tells great stories,” called  Caitlin from across the room. Unfortunately, the soft spoken woman was not in the mood to tell stories that night. She was too preoccupied with easily winning Scrabble.

Elaine did reveal the fact that she was born in Kenya, where she lived for seventeen years before moving to England.  Caitlin later told me that Elaine had previously been in an abusive relationship. She still wears the scars on her forehead.

At one point in the night,  Caitlin and Kat are joined by James Holt. James is the only one  Caitlin has continuously seen since she began volunteering at Chesapeake Shores three years ago. “He’s a flirt,”  Caitlin warns me as I approach.

Sixty-five year old James Holt enjoys having the college students visit him. “We need more girls like y’all to come here,” he tells me. Holt is a big fan of Maryland sports teams, having lived in Maryland his whole life. In fact, he lived right around the college. After being introduced to James, he points at Kat and informs me: “that’s my doll baby.”

“Everyone is his doll baby,” calls Vickie Ryce from another table.

Vickie Ryce is a “resident and volunteer” at Chesapeake Shores. She was sitting at a table with two other residents, calling cards for a game called Poker-Keno. “I try to be a leader, to help everyone as I can,” she says. Apparently, she does this very well. The woman sitting on her right won Poker-Keno three games in a row. “I’m helping Rose win,” Vickie tells me.

Vickie enjoys seeing the St. Mary’s students every week as much the rest of the residents seem to. “It gives the residents something to look forward for on Thursday nights,” she says.

An hour passes quickly and the residents begin to head back to their rooms.  Caitlin, Kat and I escort James back to him room. “Brooom Brooom” says  Caitlin, echoed by James, as she weaves his wheelchair through the hallway. When we get to James’ room he shows us some of his pictures. First is one of himself at twenty-seven. The next is his wife, Florence, who comes to visit him every week.

“I wish I could walk you home” says James as we leave.

Caitlin and her volunteers will not be back to Chesapeake Shores until December. Cait hopes to have The Nightingale A Cappella perform for the residents on December 7th. She encourages anyone who has a free hour Thursday night to join her next trip. “It keeps things fun and interesting (for the residents),” she says. Any student who would like go to Chesapeake Shores can meet at DPC at 5:50. Just look for a blue Jeep.