You Know You've Been to Hilton Head Island If ...

You Know You've Been to Hilton Head Island If ...

From Gregg Russell songs, to Salty Dog Cafe T-shirts and everything in between.
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Hilton Head Island is one of a kind. From Sea Pines and Harbour Town, to South Beach and Coligny Plaza, the island has resided in the hearts of many families and individuals for decades. Are you one of the individuals who has been touched by this wonderful island? You know you've been to this one-of-a-kind island if ...

1. You grew up dancing and singing along to the songs of Gregg Russell under the Harbour Town Oak Tree.

You also probably went on his Bubble Gum or Pirate Cruise too. Ultimately, the hits of "Booger in the Sugar," "Loveliest of All is the Unicorn" and "Flying Purple People Eater" will never get old ... and neither will you.

2. You've owned at least one Salty Dog Cafe T-shirt.

And have eaten more than your fair share of shrimp and hushpuppies on that famous South Beach Boardwalk.

3. You know it's hard to find your way around the island ... because everything is a subtle shade of taupe, tan or beige.

Sometimes a really faded green makes an appearance, and isn't that special?

4. You know the beach isn't the same kind of beach that inhabits areas like Florida because it can be really freaking cold.

But you also know that baking in the sun isn't what Hilton Head is all about anyway.

5. You've tried every single putt-putt course on the island (Legendary Golf, Adventure Cove, Pirate Island).

And you know that Pirate Island is by far the best.

6. You know that the island really belongs to the dolphins.

They're seriously everywhere.

7. You realize that Ohio is almost synonymous with Hilton Head. Everyone goes there.

So much so that they have Buckeye gear for sale on the island, and parking lots overflow with really original Ohio license plates.

8. A part of your soul dies when you accidentally take the toll route again, instead of William Hilton Parkway.

It used to be $0.50, now it is $1.50 ... and as a college student, that's pretty damn steep.

9. You also get slightly nauseous and a cheap thrill simultaneously from all of the traffic circles (roundabouts).

Weeeeeeeeeeeee!

10. You know that the lighthouse means Harbour Town.

They go together like oyster crackers and the Crazy Crab's She-Crab Soup.

11. You come to expect your favorite waiter year after year to serve your bucket of mussels, clams, crab legs and oysters.

Hey, it's vacation. Calories don't count.

12. You've rented or rode bikes from one end of the island to the other at least once.

And the leg pain the following day was soon soothed by the Jacuzzi in your hotel master bathroom.

13. You get torn between territorial and sentimental when someone else tells you they are a fellow Hilton Head Island visitor.

That's my island. Mine ... but wait, aren't Gregg Russell and the Salty Dog just the best?

I don't know about you, but I'm slide on my Ray Bans, find the best red rocking-chair in Harbour Town, and watch the sun set over the island right this very second.

Cover Image Credit: Squarespace

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A Senior's Last Week Of High School

The bittersweet end.
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Well, this is it. This is what we've worked so hard the last four years - who am I kidding - basically what seems like our whole lives for. This is the very last week we will set foot as a student in our high school's hallways. As most schools are getting ready to set their seniors free at last, it all begins to set in - the excitement, the anxiousness, and also the sentiment and nostalgia.

For seniors, the years since our first day as a freshman at the bottom of the high school totem pole have seemed endless, but as we look back on these last few weeks, we realize that this year in particular has gone by extraordinarily fast. It was just yesterday that we were sitting in our classrooms for the very first time, going to our 'last first' practice, and getting our first taste of the (very real) "senioritis". With all that's going on in our lives right now, from sports and clubs, finals, and the sought after graduation ceremony, it's hard to really sit down and think about how our lives are all about to become drastically different. For some it's moving out, and for some it's just the thought of not seeing your best friend on the way to fourth period English; either way, the feels are real. We are all in a tug of war with the emotions going on inside of us; everything is changing - we're ready, but we're not.

THE GOOD. Our lives are about to begin! There is a constant whirlwind of excitement. Senior awards, getting out of school early, parties, and of course Graduation. We are about to be thrust into a world of all new things and new people. Calling our own shots and having the freedom we have so desperately desired since the teenage years began is right around the corner. Maybe the best part is being able to use these new things surrounding you to grow and open your mind and even your heart to ideas you never could before. We get the chance to sink or swim, become our own person, and really begin to find ourselves.

Things we don't even know yet are in the works with new people we haven't even met yet. These friendships we find will be the ones to last us a lifetime. The adventures we experience will transform into the advice we tell our own children and will become the old tales we pass down to our grandkids when they come to visit on the weekends. We will probably hate the all night study sessions, the intensity of finals week, and the overpowering stress and panic of school in general, just like we did in high school... But it will all be worth it for the memories we make that will outlive the stress of that paper due in that class you absolutely hate. As we leave high school, remember what all the parents, teachers, coaches, and mentors are telling you - this are the best times of our lives!

THE BAD. The sentimental emotions are setting in. We're crying, siblings are tearing up, and parents are full-out bawling. On that first day, we never expected the school year to speed by the way it did. Suddenly everything is coming to an end. Our favorite teachers aren't going to be down the hall anymore, our best friends probably won't share a class with us, we won't be coming home to eat dinner with our families...

We all said we wanted to get out of this place, we couldn't wait, we were ready to be on our own; we all said we wouldn't be "so emotional" when the time came, but yet here we are, wishing we could play one more football game with our team or taking the time to make sure we remember the class we liked the most or the person that has made us laugh even when we were so stressed we could cry these past few years. Take the time to hug your parents these last few months. Memorize the facial expressions of your little sister or brother. Remember the sound of your dad coming home from work. These little things we take for granted every day will soon just be the things we tell our college roommate when they ask about where we're from. As much as we've wanted to get out of our house and our school, we never thought it would break our heart as much as it did. We are all beginning to realize that everything we have is about to be gone.

Growing up is scary, but it can also be fun. As we take the last few steps in the hallways of our school, take it all in. Remember, it's okay to be happy; it's okay to be totally excited. But also remember it's okay to be sad. It's okay to be sentimental. It's okay to be scared, too. It's okay to feel all these confusing emotions that we are feeling. The best thing about the bittersweet end to our high school years is that we are finally slowing down our busy lives enough to remember the happy memories.

Try not to get annoyed when your mom starts showing your baby pictures to everyone she sees, or when your dad starts getting aggravated when you talk about moving out and into your new dorm. They're coping with the same emotions we are. Walk through the halls remembering the classes you loved and the classes you hated. Think of the all great times that have happened in our high school years and the friends that have been made that will never be forgotten. We all say we hated school, but we really didn't. Everything is about to change; that's a happy thing, and a sad thing. We all just have to embrace it! We're ready, but we're not...

Cover Image Credit: Facebook

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Beyond Mardi Gras: The Untold Story Of New Orleans And Hurricane Katrina

Almost 14 years after Hurricane Katrina, this city is still recovering.

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This past week, I had the amazing opportunity to go down to New Orleans with a wonderful group of students from my college. This city is undeniably bursting with life, culture, and fun.

But there is so much more.

My first encounter with the Big Easy was last summer on a similar service-oriented alternative break run through JMU. Before this break, I thought Hurricane Katrina was just a really bad storm, but I was so wrong. Katrina highlighted the mistreatment of the lower-income areas and minorities of New Orleans. Homes were destroyed. Families were forced out with nowhere to go, and still no home to come back to even 14 years later.

When I went to New Orleans for a second time this past week, I learned even more about this not-so-natural disaster. It was so frustrating for me to learn that Katrina was made exponentially worse due to the blatant disregard of the people.

There was a hurricane simulation done months before Katrina struck, named Hurricane Pam. The purpose of this simulation was to warn people about the potential hurricane crisis and its outcomes. The Hurricane Pam simulation predicted that over 60,000 people would be killed with several thousand more becoming injured or ill. Even with these alarmingly high numbers, there was a shocking lack of response.

Another man-made issue that drastically increased the devastating effects of Katrina was the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet, otherwise known as MR-GO. MR-GO was constructed in order to provide a shorter route between the Gulf of Mexico and the Industrial Canal, New Orleans' inner harbor; however, when Katrina hit, MR-GO channeled the storm surge into New Orleans and significantly contributed to the breaching of the levees. The levees were not properly designed, constructed, nor maintained and when they failed, several billion gallons of water flooded into New Orleans.

When I told people that I was going to New Orleans to volunteer, the most frequent response I got was "Oh, did they have another hurricane?"

No. Almost 14 years after Hurricane Katrina, 35,000 abandoned lots still remain where people's homes used to be.

I still have a lot to learn, but that is exactly why I am writing this article: to invite you all to learn with me. It is so incredibly important that we are educated on this topic because a lot of people fail to realize that New Orleans is still recovering. Many people who I have spoken to thought that everything was fixed immediately after Katrina, but that is not the case.

Driving around the Lower Ninth Ward and seeing all the empty lots that are now overgrown with tall grass and trees, it is hard to imagine that someone's home used to be there. A home that was passed down through the generations. A home where memories were made.

And then it hits you. And it is heartbreaking.

So, what now? The first step that everyone can take is doing their research. Learn about New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina so that you can be better oriented and prepared to give what is needed, not what you think is needed. A lot of the rebuilding that has happened since Katrina has gentrified the lower-income areas of New Orleans. So now, the people who once lived there can no longer afford it.

The next step is to get involved. Whether it's sacrificing a Starbucks run or two each month to donate a few bucks to non-profit organizations that help in rebuilding efforts or physically going down to New Orleans to give some hands-on help. Any little thing you can do to help is so impactful even if you don't realize it.

SBP is a wonderful non-profit organization that I had the pleasure of working with this past week. Their mission is to shrink the time between disaster and recovery through five interventions: Rebuilding, Sharing, Preparing, Advising, and Advocating. To learn more about SBP and to get involved, check out their website here.

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