An Open Letter to the Northeastern YMCA Leaders

An Open Letter to the Northeastern YMCA Leaders

You're still my family.
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Throughout high school, I was bullied pretty badly. I was never one who had many friends and was never one who really had a place to call my own, until my sophomore year. After a summer of being a CIT at Camp Combe YMCA I joined the YMCA Teen Leaders club that they held at the camp. Walking into this club was a big step for me to begin with, but continuing with it was one of the best things I have ever done for myself and my life. I have grown into the confident young women that I am today because of this club and the influences of the people that were in it.

Dear Northeastern YMCA Leaders,

From the moment I walked into the lodge door at Camp Combe, until the second I left Silver Bay YMCA on a Y bus the summer of 2013, you were my saving grace. Many people used to say that we were nothing short of a cult, and we may have very well been. Yes, we had our chants, songs, clothing and "rituals". We had the moments that only leaders know about and the things that everyone who was closest to us have seen plastered across facebook and other social media. Songs like "Lean on Me," "Leaving on a Jetplane" and "Come Sail Away" are still burned into my brain as leaders' songs and nothing less than that.

This club was so much more than Camp Combe. For those of you who don't know, there are regions of leaders' clubs. Within those regions there are individual clubs and once a season for 3 days and for a week in the summer we all get together and do team building and leadership exercises and build amazing friendships that turn these people into our family.

Graduating from leaders' is probably one of the hardest things that I ever had to deal with. I was already terrified of leaving my home town and my friends from high school, I was more scared of losing my family though. Going into the real world is nothing like leaders, no matter how badly you want it to be. No matter how long you have been out and what you are exposed to after leaders, you always go looking for something like it and you never quite get that feeling again. You find things that are almost as perfect, almost as amazing, and almost home, but sadly they are not. Nothing can compare to this group, or these people that I was able to grow up with and continue to have contact with.

I know there are leaders that will be at, and in, my wedding. There are ones that will be the aunts and uncles to my children and there are ones that no matter how much time passes, I will always be best friends with. This group of young adults became my family during a time where I felt so alone, and they will continue to be my family throughout life.

I guess the whole point of this letter is to say thank you. Thank you for being such a big impact on such a crucial part of my life. Thank you for being the amazing positive influence that so many teenagers need and don't take hold of.

Thank you for always being a group, and individuals, that I could lean on in my darkest hours and give me the opportunity to do the same for others. Thank you for showing me there are people out there that will love you just for being you. Thank you for showing me the true meaning of acceptance.

Thank you for teaching me that myself is the best and only person I should be. Thank you for teaching me to be confident in my decisions and for showing me that I need to be somebody. Thank you for encouraging me to be a better person than prior, to become unplugged and to always leave my baggage at the door.

Thank you for teaching me songs and cheers and chants that will forever be stuck in my head. Thank you for making my high school experience unforgettable.

Most importantly, thank you for giving me a family, and thank you for giving me a place to call home.

Forever a leader,

Me.

In Honor of Tessa Kenney

11/26/98- 07/09/16

You will always be in our hearts and our memory. You truly embraced mind, body and spirit in every sense. Lead on, beautiful. We love you.

Cover Image Credit: Michaela Macquignon

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If Taylor Swift Songs Were Types Of Alcohol

Because what's better than a drink and some T-Swift?
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With Taylor Swift's quick return to the music scene... and in a big way, might I add, I decided to associate some of the best Taylor Swift songs with alcohol.

I mean, who wouldn't want to drink to Taylor Swift's catchy melodies and perfect choruses to get over an ex or tell someone exactly how you feel about them?

Taylor Swift has been around for a decade at this point, and let's face it, pretty much all of her songs could go along with at least one type of alcohol.

1. "Welcome To New York" - Moscow Mule

It only makes sense. Visit the Big Apple and you have to indulge in the state's signature cocktail. Moscow mules are a New York classic, and if it's your first night in the city and you haven't bought yourself one, are you even in New York?

2. "Blank Space" - Everclear

Think about it... A night of drinking Everclear will leave you with a giant blank space the next day. You might also look like Taylor did in the music video.

3. "Tim McGraw" - Beer

Tim McGraw is a throwback to Taylor's high school love. What better way to reminisce than with a couple friends and a keg of your favorite cheap beer?

4. "Style" - Cristal Champagne

What's more stylish than with a glass of the most expensive bubbly you can find? Just like Taylor Swift, Cristal will never go out of style.

5. "Shake It Off" - Martini

Get it? Cause you shake a martini? I might be the only one who thinks that's funny but you might end up dancing a little bit with a martini in hand when "Shake It Off" come on the radio.

6. "Red" - Merlot


Red has to go along with a red wine. What else could go along with yet *another* T-Swift breakup song?

7. "22" - Margaritas

Let's face it, when you're 22, you really only drink margaritas. They're fun- and all the hipsters are probably drinking them too.

8. "Teardrops On My Guitar" - Southern Comfort

When your heart is broken, who are you going to turn to besides the only alcohol that gives you comfort...Southern Comfort that is.

9. "I Knew You Were Trouble" - Fireball

I can't say I've ever met anyone who spent a night with Fireball and didn't regret it the next morning.

10. "Look What You Mad Me Do" - Tequila

T-Swift's latest single is an angry one. What better to make you angry than tequila? Taylor basically just called out everyone who had ever talked about her behind her back and she did it in true Taylor fashion-by writing a song. She was probably drunk on tequila when she wrote it too.

11. ...Ready For It? - Bottomless Mimosas

Because it's just that good.

Cover Image Credit: YouTube

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Board Games Are More Important Than You Think They Are

They've become a defining part of my family.

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Remember when you were a kid and you'd have a family game night? Or your friends would come over and you'd open the game cabinet and play at least three different games together?

Maybe it's just me, but those are some of my best memories from my childhood. My family loves games, board games, and electronic games.

Of course, as I got older, gaming consoles like PlayStation and Wii became more and more popular. That meant that the game cabinet was opened less and less, collecting dust.

Thankfully, I live in New Jersey near the shore and Hurricane Sandy left my family with no power for five days. Sure, it was scary not having power and walking around my neighborhood seeing fallen trees or roof shingles, but we were inland enough to not have had any flood water damage.

No power also meant no PlayStation or Wii games. The gaming cabinet was opened again, this time with vigor. Now, four years later, and I still think about sitting in the dark with a flashlight playing Scrabble with my family.

That was also the week I learned how to play Yahtzee and dominated my dad in every game. My sister constantly was looking for someone to play her to Battleship. We exhausted Rummikub.

The game was already a family favorite, and that's including extended family. Family barbeques had been ending with late night games of Rummikub for at least a year by the time Sandy hit.

We were ready to strategize and crunch numbers, but after day three, we never wanted to a number ever again.

This semester, there's been a surge of board game love again in my family. My sister bought Jenga, which we are currently trying to exhaust ourselves with. My favorite board game also had a comeback: Life.

I loved this game so much that I had the SpongeBob version as a kid. I would play it with my best friend, just the two of us, playing game after game of Bikini Bottom themed Life. Now, I have a car full of "kids" that I've started to make pets in my head. I can handle having five pretend dogs, but not five pretend kids.

I don't know what it is about board games, but my family has always had an affinity for them. We've gone through our cycles of playing video games and card games, but we always come back to the classics. Maybe it's more a defining part of my family than I originally thought.

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