A Letter to the Graduates of 2017

A Letter to the Graduates of 2017

From a Graduate of 2016
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Dear 2017 Graduate,

You are about to embark on what I consider one of the most eye opening experiences of your life - so far. Your senior year of high school has finally come, but before you know it, it will be done in a flash. This ultimately is one of the most importants years of your life, so take advantage and embrace every second of it.

Senior year has by far been my favorite year of high school, the first day especially. You get to come in early for the senior breakfast, scope out the new freshman class, see all your friends who you haven’t seen all summer and basically run the school. You’ll go to your last-first football game of the year, your last-first tryout for your sport and your last-first homecoming pep rally. I promise you, it will all fly by.

There’s a bunch of things that will all make sense senior year. Like yes, Senioritis IS a thing and it does affect every single senior. And teachers actually DO care about you. I have grown so close to many of my teachers throughout high school, but especially my senior year. They’ve watched you grow throughout the past four years and they have helped shape you into the student you are. They only have good intentions for you and they want you to succeed after you graduate. Another thing that I’ve learned is that every friend you make along the way is not always permanent. The girl you thought would be your best friend for life might end up being just an acquaintance and the girl who used to just be your lab partner could end up being your future maid of honor. And that’s okay, people change.

Another piece of advice I can offer you, is make time for your family. This is something I wish that I had done more. As a student, you should be going out with friends having fun, but you should also be with your family. I know that just because you’re a senior, you’re considered an “adult,” but you never know what could happen. If I had one regret during my senior year, it’s that I wasn’t as close with my family as I wanted to be. Never act like you’re too cool for them. Hug your mom, tell your dad you love him, let your sister borrow your clothes and don’t yell at your brother when he leaves the toilet seat up - you’re going to miss it all when you leave for college.

As I now enter my freshman year in college, I regret being too discouraged to live my senior year to the fullest, so my advice to you, get involved. Dress up for spirit week, participate in the powderpuff game, join clubs and committees and step out of your comfort zone. You only have one senior year, so do it right.

In the end, the tassel is worth the hassel, I promise!

My best wishes,

A 2016 Graduate

Cover Image Credit: Google.com

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4 reasons how Drake's New Album May Help Us Fight Mental Illness

Increasing Evidence Points to Music as a Potential Solution to the Mental Health Problem.

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Okay, You caught me!

I am NOT just talking about everybody's favorite actor-turned-rapper— or second, if you've seen Childish Gambino's "This is America" music video. Unfortunately, current research hasn't explored specific genres and artists. However, studies HAVE provided significant evidence in possibilities for music to treat mental health disorders. Now, before you say something that your parents would not be proud of, ask yourself if you can really blame me for wanting to get your attention. This is an urgent matter concerning each one of us. If we all face the truth, we could very well reach one step closer to solving one of society's biggest problems: Mental Health.

The Problem:

As our nation continues to bleed from tragedies like the horrific shooting that shattered the lives of 70 families whose loved ones just wanted to watch the "Dark Knight Rises" during its first hours of release, as well as the traumatic loss of seventeen misfortunate innocents to the complications of mental health disorders in the dear city of Parkland— a city mere hours from our very own community— it's impossible to deny the existence of mental illness. As many of us can already vouch, mental illness is much more common than what most would think: over 19 million adults in America suffer from a mental health disorder. Picture that: a population slightly less than that of Florida is plagued by hopelessness, isolation, and utter despair.

Disease in the form of depression holds millions of people prisoner, as anxieties instill crippling desperation and too many struggles with finding peace. This can be you. It could be your brother, your sister, your mother, your father, your cousin, your aunt, your uncle, your friend, your roommate, your fraternity brother, your sorority sister, your lab partner, or just your classmate that sits in the corner of the lecture hall with a head buried into a notebook that camouflages all emotion.

I hope we— the UCF community— understand the gravity of the problem, but it's clear that some still see mental illness as a disease that affects only a handful of "misfits" who "terrorize" our streets, while the numbers reveal more to the issue. In fact, 1 in 5 Americans suffers from a mental health disorder. The problem is so serious that suicide has risen to become the second-leading cause of death among 20 to 24-year-olds. While many continue to ask for more antidepressants and even the occasional "proper spanking," recent studies indicate increases in occurrence, such as one in depression from 5.9% in 2012 to 8.2% in 2015. So, clearly, none of that is working.

The Evidence:

If we really want to create a world where our children are free from the chains of mental illness, we need to think outside the box. Doctors and scientists won't really talk about this since it's still a growing field of research, but music has strong potential. We don't have any options at the moment, which means we need to change our mindset about music and to continue to explore its medicinal benefits. If you're still skeptical because of the title, then please consider these 4 pieces of solid evidence backed by scientific research:

1. Music has been proven to improve disorders like Parkinson's Disease.

Researchers sponsored by the National Institute of Health— the country's largest research agency— saw an improvement in the daily function of patients with Parkinson's Disease. This makes patients shake uncontrollably, which often prevents them from complete functionality. The disease is caused by a shortage of dopamine— a chemical your neurons, or brain cells, release; since music treats this shortage, there's an obvious ability to increase dopamine levels. As numerous studies connect dopamine shortages to mental illnesses like depression, addiction, and ADHD, someone could possibly use music's proven ability to increase dopamine levels to treat said problems.

2. Listening to the music has the potential to activate your brain's "reward center."

In 2013, Valorie Salimpoor and fellow researchers conducted a study that connected subjects' pleasure towards music to a specific part of the brain. This key structure, the nucleus accumbens, is the body's "reward center," which means all of you have experienced its magical powers. In fact, any time the brain detects a rewarding sensation— drinking ice-cold water after a five-mile run in sunny, humid Florida, eating that Taco Bell chalupa after a long happy hour at Knight's Library, and even consuming recreational drugs— this structure releases more of that fantastic dopamine. So, with further research into specifics, doctors may soon be prescribing your daily dose of tunes for your own health.

3. Listening to Music may be more effective than prescription anti-anxiety medication.

In 2013, Mona Lisa Chanda and Daniel J. Levitin— two accomplished doctors in psychology— reviewed a study wherein patients waiting to undergo surgery were given either anti-anxiety medications or music to listen to. The study took into account cortisol levels, which are used daily by healthcare professionals to gauge patient levels. This "stress hormone" was actually found to be lower in patients who listened to classical music rather those who took the recommended dose of prescription drugs. Sit there and think about that for a second: these patients actually felt more relaxed with something as simple as MUSIC than with chemicals that are made specifically to force patients into relaxation before surgery. Why pop a Xanax when you can just listen to Beethoven?

4. Music may release the chemicals that help you naturally relax and feel love.

Further studies continue to justify music's place in the medical world as results demonstrate increases in substances such as prolactin— a hormone that produces a relaxing sensation— as well as oxytocin— the substance that promotes warmth and happiness during a hug between mother and child. So this study basically showed us that music has the potential to actually make you feel the way you did when Mom or Dad would embrace you with the warmest hug you've ever felt.

The Future:

The evidence I present you with today is ultimately just a collection of individual situations where specific people found specific results. There are a lot of variables when it comes to any research study; therefore, data is never truly certain. We should take these findings as strong suggestions to a possible solution, but we must remember the possibility of failure in our search.

The neurochemistry behind the music and its medicinal properties is just beginning to unfold before the scientific community. In fact, extremely qualified scientists from the National Institute of Health— the organization that basically runs any important medical study in the United States— continue to remind us of the subject's youth with the constant use of "potential" behind any and all of their findings. Therefore, it's our responsibility as a community to look into this— not just that of the scientists at the National Institute of Health.

We're all surrounded by music. It's at the bars. It's in our ears during all-night sessions at the UCF library. It's keeping us awake through East Colonial traffic at 7:00 AM while hordes of students focus on their cell phone screens instead of the paved roads ahead. It's in the shoes we wear, the actions we take, and the words we say. IF YOU'RE READING THIS: it's accessible to you. So, don't be shy, and try to play with your Spotify account, or even just on YouTube, and gauge the power of music. As more and more of us see the light, we can promote the movement and carry on as more research comes out to support us.

Drop the bars, drop those addictive pills that destroy your body slowly, and pick up your headphones and press PLAY.

Just relax, close your eyes, smile, and live.

Cover Image Credit:

@champagnepapi

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11 Encounters You Only Experience When You're 10 Years Older Than Your Siblings

No I'm not their mother, but I sure do I act like it.

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I'm a 19 year old college student who has 3 younger siblings, all 3 being at least 10 years or more in difference to me. I have an (almost) 10 year old full sister named Gabby, a (newly) 4 year old half brother named Dylan, and lastly a 1.5 year old half sister named Marvell (yes, like the comics but with an extra "l").

My parents were married rather young, around my current age, but my dad remarried, and for the longest time I thought I'd be an only child. All this seems normal & reasonable with my situation in life; but God would only know what kind of things I, and many other like this, have to deal with and have learned. It's not as more offensive, as there's plenty worse in life than being accused of being too young.

With collective community talk and experience, here are 11 encounters siblings like me may have experienced in their lifetime with those little ones.

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