How Joe Maddon Changed My Life

How Joe Maddon Changed My Life

He's more than just a good baseball coach.
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There's one name that's been filling my Facebook feed recently: Joe Maddon. Being that he is from my hometown of Hazleton, Pennsylvania, everyone seems to have a story of how they know Joe. Although I can't say I know him personally, I can say that the work he has done within my community has greatly impacted me. This is the story of how Joe Maddon changed my life.

People often fear what they don't understand. I live in an area where this is particularly prevalent. During the recession, the price of living greatly dropped in Hazleton, Pennsylvania. This lead to an influx of people from New York and New Jersey, locations where it was very expensive to live, looking for jobs and cheaper housing. Many of these people were Latino. This change in the population demographic led to a ripple effect that I still witness every day.

It is extremely difficult to see a sense of community when the people of said community are divided by misunderstanding and racism. I grew up seeing a divide in school, and have also come to see a divide in the workforce. Joe Maddon had also witnessed this divide within the community that he grew up in. His goal was to "transform Hazleton through integration." And so, along with his cousin Elaine, Joe started the Hazleton Integration Project within the Hazleton One Community Center.

The only idea of community I ever really knew was the basic description defined by my social studies textbook; I'd never fully seen it for myself. That was until the summer before my junior year of high school. I began volunteering at the Hazleton One Community Center, which is a summer and after-school program for children of all ages. The program is open to all children; however, it is primarily attended by Latinos. Prior to this, I had always considered myself to be opened minded, especially compared to those around me. It wasn't until I realized the good that was occurring in my community did I truly open my eyes to my surroundings. The community center offers services to people of all ages and races. There is tutoring and Rosetta Stone and meals - all at little to no cost. It was not only the services that astounded me. I met the most wonderful, genuine people. How was it possible that the people that I'd grown up hearing people complain about would end up being some of the best people I've ever come to know? People that had been categorized as lazy and unintelligent were some of the most hardworking people I had ever met and had overcome more hardships in their lives than anyone I'd ever met.

I entered the community center on the first day excited to make an impact on the lives of others. What I never expected was how strong of an impact others would have on my life. The lessons I've learned from my time at the Hazleton One Community Center, and the lessons I'll continue to learn as I continue my work there, are lessons that I will take with me throughout my life.

So to Joe (and Elaine), I say thank you. Thank you for giving the children of Hazleton a safe, fun place to attend. Thank you for providing important services to those in need. Thank you for seeing the best in our community, and for never giving up on it when so many others had. Most importantly, thank you for making me a better person. No matter what the result of the 2016 World Series is, Joe will always be our hometown hero.

If you would like to learn more about the Hazleton Integration Project, please visit http://hazletonintegrationproject.com/. This is an amazing organization run by amazing people and I am so unbelievably lucky to have been involved with it.

Cover Image Credit: Kyra Schell

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20 Signs You Were A High School Cheerleader

You got really tired of hearing, "Point your toes."
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Cheerleading is something you'll never forget. It takes hard work, dedication, and comes with its ups and downs. Here are some statements that every cheerleader, past and present, know to be true.

1. You always had bobby pins with you.

2. Fear shot through you if you couldn't find your spankees right away and thought you left them at home.

3. You accumulated about 90 new pairs of tennis shoes...

4. ...and about 90 new bows, bags, socks, and warm ups.

5. When you hear certain songs from old cheer dance mixes it either ruins your day or brings back happy memories.

6. And chances are, you still remember every move to those dances.

7. Sometimes you catch yourself standing with your hands on your hips.

8. You know the phrase, "One more time, ladies" all too well.

9. The hospitality rooms were always one of the biggest perks of going to tournaments (at least for me).

10. You got really tired of hearing, "Point your toes."

SEE ALSO: How The Term 'Cheerlebrity' Destroyed Our Sport

11. If you left the gym at half-time to go get something, you better be back by the time the boys run back out.

12. You knew how awkward it could be on the bus rides home after the boys lost.

13. But you also knew how fun it could be if they won.

14. Figuring out line-up was extremely important – especially if one of your members was gone.

15. New uniforms were so exciting; minus the fact that they cost a fortune.

16. You know there was nothing worse than when you called out an offense cheer but halfway through, you had to switch to the defense version because someone turned over the ball.

17. You still know the school fight song by heart and every move that goes with it.

SEE ALSO: Signs You Suffer From Post-Cheerleading Depression

18. UCA Cheer Camp cheers and chants still haunt you to this day.

19. You know the difference between a clasp and a clap. Yes, they're different.

20. There's always a part of you that will miss cheering and it will always have a place in your heart.

Cover Image Credit: Doug Pool / Facebook

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​​There's A ​Bionic​ Princess​ Pitching At MLB Games, And She's Changing The Way America Views Disabilities

The story of an eight-year old girl inspiring others to overcome physical disabilities.

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It is said that two is better than one. That more is less. That it takes two to tango. How about those who don't agree with this logic? That one is better than two. That less is more. That it takes one to tango. Well, put yourself in this situation. Picture yourself tying your shoelace, imagine that you are buttoning your jeans. What is one thing these two tasks have in common: two hands. Although simple, these tasks remain difficult for those who only have one.

Since she was just four years old, a girl from Henderson, Nevada has been seeking to change the perception of physical disabilities.

Hailey Dawson has faced her own adversity with physical disabilities since the moment she was born. A rare birth disease called Poland syndrome resulted in the loss of Hailey's right pectoral muscle this caused her to lose three middle fingers. For the first five years of her life Poland Syndrome dictated the types of activities she could participate in. Seeing kids around her participate in sports and physical activities without any restrictions confused her. Hailey just wanted to be like the kids without disabilities: playing sports, getting dirty, and living carefree.

Although Hailey struggled to understand her condition, she has never let her physical disabilities get in her way and has emerged as a public figure of hope for other individuals who face similar struggles.

In 2015, saddened by her daughter's condition, Hailey's mom, Yong, sought to reach out for help. Where would she reach out to? Doctors, physicians, orthopedics? The problem was that a traditional prosthetic hand would cost her family thousands of dollars. Hailey's mom turned to a different avenue hoping to find the right connection. How about a college engineering department? Living in the Las Vegas area, Hailey's mother was able to reach out to the University of Las Vegas Nevada (UNLV) engineering department to help change Hailey's way of life.

A team of UNLV engineers and researchers used a 3D printer to construct a special prosthetic hand for Hailey. After various trials and prototypes, the UNLV team was able to find the right fit for Hailey. With this new 3-D prosthetic hand Hailey had the opportunity to live as a child who could participate in sports and physical activities without any restrictions. The astounding achievement of creating a hand allowed for Hailey to have, for the first time in her life, ten fingers. Hailey's robotic hand enables her to use five plastic fingers held together and controlled mechanically through a system of fishing lines. The fingers open and close as she flicks her wrist up and down, enabling her to hold objects and lob balls. To commemorate Hailey's new physical abilities, the UNLV baseball team invited her to throw out the first pitch at one of their home games. Grasping her hands around the ball, filled with joy and excitement, Hailey stepped out onto the field. Aided by her father, Hailey then tossed the ball to a UNLV baseball player. This significant accomplishment in Hailey's life was not only meaningful for her own life, but for other individuals like her who struggle with the same condition.

To continue her message, she made a courageous goal to throw the ceremonial first pitch at every single MLB stadium.

Her first opportunity came on Aug. 17, 2015: Hailey threw the first pitch for the Baltimore Orioles to her favorite player, Manny Machado. After her performance at Baltimore, her message continued to be heard and teams across the MLB began to reach out to her via Twitter.

As of today, she has completed her goal of pitching for all 30 MLB teams. However, Hailey's journey is one that will live on forever. Now at the age of eight, Hailey's story has sparked hope for many who face similar struggles. Through her ceremonial pitches she has set out to prove that children with physical disabilities and handicaps are not limited in what they can do, they too have the ability to live an extraordinary life. Her message: that a robotic hand is not out of reach. Hailey has the power to show people that, just because she has a limb difference, it doesn't mean she's limited in what she can do.

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