A thank you to the YMCA

A thank you to the YMCA

Going through High School I participated in a multitude of youth programs by the YMCA and their effect on me has been life changing

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High school is the time for you to start the excruciating long process of finding out who you are, what kind of things interest you, what things that you can see yourself doing for the rest of your life. Some people figure this out by taking certain classes, others figure them out by being a part of extracurriculars. I found out what I wanted to do by joining extracurriculars. When I started high school, I thought I would eventually end up doing chemical engineering in college and in life. Now that I graduated, I have it set into my head that I will be doing public service for the greater portion of my life. This idea took several years, several conferences, several failures, to reach total fruition, but now I wouldn't have it any other way.

It all started with Youth In Government my sophomore year. I was just starting at a new high school, didn't know what to expect from my schedule, from my teachers, and I certainly didn't know what to expect for the next three years. My first day, my last class of the day, I had a class called Youth In Government. I walk into a sea of faces equally confused and lost as I was, which at the very least was slightly comforting. I took my seat with a good friend of mine, and unbeknownst to me, his girlfriend. That became our de-facto permanent seat for the semester. The teacher began talking of a trip to our State's capital in November, about the money we would have to pay, about writing a mock bill, about debating kids from across the state just like us. It was all a bit overwhelming at first and I didn't really know if it sounded like something I'd like. I was timid at that point, I did not like public speaking and I knew that if I did this I would have to do a lot of public speaking.

But I stuck with it, I wrote a bill about reducing sentences for first time non violent drug offenders, which at the time I thought was reasonable and that no one could poke any holes in it whatsoever. I practiced public speaking almost everyday in the class, and I grew a lot more comfortable with it. When it came time for the conference, I felt I was ready for whatever was to come.

The first night, a Wednesday we pull up to the convention center in Columbia, South Carolina after an almost three hour drive. We walk into a room with almost 1,400 kids chanting for their candidates, handing out stickers and buttons as if it were their sole purpose in life, or just aimlessly walking around like small puppies. I started to second guess my decision to come. We had a seemingly never ending opening ceremony that covered everything we needed to know about procedure, about scheduling and about the candidates running for office. Our school had to candidates running for office, one for Lt. Governor and another person running for Speaker of the House. When they went up to give their speeches, our school cheered at the top of our lungs. After they were all done with their speeches, we got back on our bus and head to the hotel we were staying at. I stayed up late with my roommates talking about what it would be like, what bills we were going to speak on, researching different issues that were in our committee and so on.

We got to committee the next day, and I saw our bill was 8th on the docket. For some reason it did not occur to me that in order for my bill to pass, I have to be nice to other people and their bills. So when the chair asked for a con speaker on the first bill, I raised my placard and I did my best to demolish the proposal as well as I could. Then I did this for the second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, and then seventh bill. I spoke as many times as I possibly could because I wanted to make the most out of the experience, I wanted to be an outstanding statesmen. My fear of public speaking had gone away because I was speaking entirely from the heart and my mind and I was just kind of channeling my thoughts into words. My fear just evaporated. However, when I presented my bill, I did well, presented lots of facts, presented the reasons why my proposal would be helpful, etc. But because I had spoken so many times that day already and I was already notorious for speaking con, people were not a fan of me. Everyone wanted to speak con, no one wanted to speak pro. They had to randomly select someone to speak pro. Everyone thought that my bill would somehow manage to legalize drugs. It was painful to listen too. In my closing, in the two minutes granted to me, I ripped into their arguments as viciously as I possibly could. The anger on my face was clearly visible to everyone in the room. My bill failed with a vote 4-37. The four people who voted were my partner, myself, and two people who went to my school. I learned two critical things that day, people don't like a whole lot of facts, and that you always have to be political if you want something.

I went on to do Youth in Government the rest of my time in high school, I was leadership my second year and ran for a position, Comptroller General. I won and became South Carolina's first ever Youth Comptroller General just by using the slogan "Let's get Schmidt done!" and because of the fact I ran unopposed. I was able to attend the Conference on National Affairs with the South Carolina Delegation for a couple years, I was able to be a youth leader in the Y-Corps program, and I was able to be an appeals attorney in the National Judicial Competition, as well as participate in other leadership and values conferences. I did all of that in three years. Just by going to a program I was so afraid of for the longest time, I climbed the ranks to become a leader in that group in three years, and it takes most people four or more. In doing so, It taught my countless lessons and it showed me an unmatched dedication of our youth today to try and take this world we are given and to make it something better. No matter varying political opinions, time after time these kids keep coming together to argue the law, argue the issues that not only face our great state of South Carolina, but the issues that challenge our great country. It is eye opening to me, that while we are doing this, people are looking down on our generation, saying we don't do anything, that we don't have the drive to change this world. And all I have to say to people that say those things, is just you wait. Once these kids go off to college, join the workforce, almost everyday you'll see news stories of kids you once looked down upon doing amazing things. Inventing new technologies, green and life saving, passing new sensible legislation to save social security and to help people on welfare, negotiating deals, become lawyers and justices the likes of which no one has ever seen.

But on top of all of that, these programs mean so much more to me than that. In doing all these programs, in doing all of these things in high school, I learned countless things about myself, and I learned how to be the best me that I could possibly be. In doing these programs I was given a large nexus of friends all across the state and all across the country. In doing these programs I developed a sense of self-confidence and self worth that I could never seem to find before. In doing these programs I learned that my voice does matter. I advocate for these programs with the full extent of my heart because I know the good they can do first hand. When I first joined the Youth In Government program, I was shy, I didn't have many friends, I had a severe lack of self confidence, I was even kind of mean. Now, I radiate confidence, I have countless friends that I can turn to whenever I need something and I always have a smile on my face. It taught me about life, and that in order to go far you must always be political, people don't like to feel less than, people don't like to feel attacked, people like to feel like people, and these programs foster the communication skills necessary to actually communicate about the pressing issues of our day. I owe these programs my world today, and I couldn't imagine what high school would have been like if I had never found this niche. Without the people at the YMCA in our state, but across the nation, these types of programs could never happen, and so many kids would never find their niche, and for that, I would like to say thank you, for all you've done for me, for my friends and for countless others, it means the world.

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R. Kelly Faces New Accusations And Hopefully This Means The End Of His Reign Of Terror

"Surviving R. Kelly" helped to shed light on what was in the shadows for too long and now consequences have been dealt.

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R. Kelly is one of the most prominent R&B; artists of the '80s and '90s. However, his business as an artist is not the main reason his name is now resurfacing. Due to the attention brought on by a documentary, "Surviving R. Kelly", many started realizing what others tried to mention years ago.

In the documentary, the stories of numerous women who all have had contact with him talked in great detail about the terrors they encountered and horrors they still face. Included in those who took part in the documentary are Sparkle, Wendy Williams, Tarana Burke, and 50 others. Many talked about his obsession with pedophilia while mentioning his and predatory behavior toward women and abuse (physically, verbally, and sexually).

As of February 22, 2019, Robert Sylvester Kelly was charged with 10 counts of aggravated sexual abuse.

These charges are criminal, felonies, and were filled through Cook County in Illinois. "Surviving R. Kelly" shed light to what was in the shadows for too long and now consequences have just been dealt.

In the past, R. Kelly and his team have been able to slip through the grasps of justice. He was acquitted in 2008 for child pornography charges and numerous other incidents throughout the years. This time around, the R&B; artist is being investigated by three different federal law enforcement agencies surrounding evidence, testimonies, and statements made by those involved in the filming of Surviving R. Kelly.

A 45-minute tape including an underage 14-year-old girl and R. Kelly has been presented to prosecutors leading to the filing of charges. To note, this video is separate from the videos in which previously were used in cases on different charges. Along with this new video, two additional accusers have stepped forward to detail their encounters with the artist. These two women are a former protege and mother of a daughter who is presently involved with him.

Former protege, Lizzette Martinez went on to say when she was 17-years-old and forced into sexual acts numerous times with Kelly. Eventually becoming pregnant with R. Kelly`s child, Lizzette Martinez felt pressured by him to have an abortion; she ultimately miscarried later on. The other accuser, Michelle, explained her daughter`s ("N's") relationship with him. Michelle said that communication between her daughter and her is limited because R. Kelly`s enforced restrictions. R. Kelly and his team have denied all allegations multiple times as he is a "God-fearing man". While some still question the authenticity of these charges, others question if R. Kelly will actually face the consequences of his actions.

With these new charges and "Surviving R. Kelly" documentary, there is an important factor society must understand before his case continues and similar ones are filled. Between lust, fame, money, power, and more, there are hundreds of reasons why R. Kelly did not face convictions others would have easily. Yes, he is profitable, rich, and all of those hundred reasons but they are not suitable reasons that can come close in justifying these allegations.

AND EVEN MORE IMPORTANT there is NO reason for ANYONE to commit such crimes.

There is also no justifiable reason for anyone to commit such crimes and be able to get away with their actions time and time again. Over the course of his career, there have always been allegations and until the documentary, no one listened. It is time to give survivors the time and our ears for their story to be told and listened to.

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The Power of Love

How love can inspire strength and creativity even in the most bleak of situations.

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"I had a very formative moment when I was working at a children's hospital in Nashville. I guess I shouldn't say Nashville, that's very telling. At a very esteemed private university, commonly referred to as the ivy of the south, they have a children's hospital that is very famous for getting clientele from all across the state. I usually worked in a unit known as the myelosuppression unit, which is a unit that has special air filtering that's supposed to filter out as many microbes as possible from the rooms and hallways. So obviously the most vulnerable patients were put in there, mostly oncology patients and kids born with genetic disorders that would literally kill them if a dust mite fell on them and stuff like that.

But one day, I was volunteering there as part of the music therapy team and I met a little girl. She was really in a bad mood, I think it was her first day of chemo because she was hooked up to the IV. And people think chemo is just a one time thing for some reason a lot of the times, but chemo is a very slow process; you're hooked up to a machine throughout the course of the day and are very aware of the fact that you are being pumped with poison meant to just kill every cell in your body.

And child, or not, it's going to put you in a downer mood so obviously, we were tasked to help her feel better and try to cope with the stress that she had obviously accumulated from the IV being there and just distract her from everything that was going on. I talked to her and she really wasn't that talkative and didn't want to do much, so the strategy with that is usually you provide them options. She wanted to play battleship, and I'm telling you, that girl must have been psychic because she beat me in battleship five times in a row. Almost conclusively each time, I only sunk a total of three of her ships in all five of those games.

After we had finished battlefield, she had started getting a little tied till she saw this keyboard in the corner that I had brought as part of the music therapy team, and she says, like, 'Can I play that a little' and I said 'yeah, of course, it's for patients to play although you aren't scheduled, you can definitely play'. She started playing this little tune and she said, like, 'I used to know how to play Chopsticks on the piano but I forgot' and then she started talking about how her family at home were great piano players, but unfortunately ever since she got to the hospital she didn't have time to practice so she didn't get to relearn these pieces that had been very near and dear to her. So, I thought, I know Chopsticks, so I retaught her Chopsticks.

Over the course of the next few weeks when I saw her when I saw her again, I'd call her parents and ask them for the pieces and then I'd reteach her all those pieces. Until one day she says 'I want to make a new song on my own' and by then she is completely done with chemo, by the end of it, you're basically bedridden, you can't move at all and some people don't even have the strength to lift their arm.

But, she really wanted to play the piano, so I lugged it over there and brought into her room and she started playing this absolutely beautiful piece. I didn't know where it came from, because I thought 'where did she have the time to make this piece' because I just saw her yesterday. I asked her 'How did you come up with that? There's no way you could've made that in the course of the last day' and she was like 'Well, I just sort of thought of it in my head and it kind came out'.

I had asked her 'What did you think about to make you think of something that great?' and she said 'Well, I thought of my family and how much they mean to me, so I just kind of thought of that and I played whatever came to mind'. I think that was the moment in my life that I realized that love is a very powerful emotion, even if I can be kind of jaded about how people express their emotions to other people and how people can be fake about it; it helps to be sincere. Sincerity can come across in very beautiful ways and have a big impact on people, even if you never seen them in a month or so, in the case of this little girl." (Oxford, GA)

I recently had a heart to heart discussion with a friend about the power of love, and the above story touched me in my very core. I asked if I could share it anonymously and he said yes; I was just so inspired by this story that I just had to write about it.

Love is complex, it means many things to many people, yet we all know it when we see it. Love, to me, is the purest form of passion, it is a full surrender to what means the most to you, and in doing so, motivates you to do things that you never thought was possible. Love as a motivator forces you to change your perspective of the world, a perspective that is overwhelming more positive and jolly. This outlook then begins to change behavior and allows you to channel the emotions you feel into everything you do, creating a more beautiful product. In the case of the girl, it was a beautiful song. It was a channeling of her emotions of deep love for her family. Having a loved one brings great things, it brings caring, it breeds creativity, it brings out the best in us.

We can apply this to leadership, to the issues of our world today. If we truly love something, or someone, or a group of people, we want to preserve that, we want to foster their greatness. The issues we are experiencing today stem from the absence of love stem from an apathy that is rooted deep in our societal institutions and societal norms. We must rebuild the love for one another through contact, through interacting with people, but the interactions between people are becoming increasingly technical, only relating to school or work, or finances, not because we actually chase human connection. That is the first step in creating a better, more peaceful world.

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