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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Why High School Musicals Should Be As Respected As Sports Programs Are

The arts are important, too.
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When I was in middle school and high school, I felt like I lived for the musicals that my school orchestrated.

For those of you who don't know, a musical is an onstage performance wherein actors take on roles that involve singing, and often dancing, to progress the plot of the story. While it may sound a little bit nerdy to get up in front of an audience to perform in this manner, this is something you cannot knock until you try it.

For some reason, though, many public schools have de-funded arts programs that would allow these musicals to occur, while increasing the funding for sports teams. There are a few things that are being forgotten when sports are valued more than musical programs in high schools.

Much like athletic hobbies, an actor must try-out, or audition, to participate in a musical. Those best suited for each role will be cast, and those who would not fit well are not given a part. While this may sound similar to trying out for say, basketball, it is an apples to oranges comparison.

At a basketball try-out, those who have the most experience doing a lay-up or shooting a foul shot will be more likely to succeed, no questions asked. However, for an audition, it is common to have to learn a piece of choreography upon walking in, and a potential cast member will be required to sing a selected piece with only a few days of preparation.

There are many more variables involved with an audition that makes it that much more nerve-racking.

The cast of a school musical will often rehearse for several months to perfect their roles, with only several nights of performance at the end. Many sports practice for three or four days between each of their respective competitions. While this may seem to make sports more grueling, this is not always the case.

Musicals have very little pay-off for a large amount of effort, while athletic activities have more frequent displays of their efforts.

Athletes are not encouraged to but are allowed to make mistakes. This is simply not allowed for someone in a musical, because certain lines or entrances may be integral to the plot.

Sometimes, because of all the quick changes and the sweat from big dance numbers, the stage makeup just starts to smear. Despite this, an actor must smile through it all. This is the part of musicals that no sport has: introspection.

An actor must think about how he or she would respond in a given situation, be it saddening, maddening, frightening, or delightful. There is no sport that requires the knowledge of human emotion, and there is especially no sport that requires an athlete to mimic such emotion. This type of emotional exercise helps with communications and relationships.

Sports are great, don't get me wrong. I loved playing volleyball, basketball, track, and swimming, but there were no experiences quite like those from a musical. Sports challenge the body with slight amounts of tactic, while musicals require much physical and mental endurance.

The next time you hear someone say that it's “just a musical," just remember that musicals deserve as much respect as sports, since they are just as, if not more demanding.

Cover Image Credit: Cincinnati Arts

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10 Shows To Watch If You're Sick Of 'The Office'

You can only watch it so many times...

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"The Office" is a great show, and is super easy to binge watch over and over again! But if you're like me and you're looking for something new to binge, why not give some of these a try? These comedies (or unintentional comedies) are a great way to branch out and watch something new.

1. "New Girl"

A show about a group of friends living in an apartment in a big city? Sound familiar? But seriously, this show is original and fresh, and Nick Miller is an icon.

2. "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend"

Ya'll have been sleeping on this show. It's a musical comedy about a girl that follows her ex boyfriend across the country. I thought it sounded horrible so I put it off for WAY too long, but then I realized how incredible the cast, music, writing, and just EVERYTHING. It really brings important issues to light, and I can't say too much without spoiling it. Rachel Bloom (the creator of the show) is a woman ahead of her time.

3. "Jane the Virgin"

I know... another CW show. But both are so incredible! Jane The Virgin is a tongue-in-cheek comedy and parody of telenovelas. It has so many twists and turns, but somehow you find yourself laughing with the family.

4. "Brooklyn Nine-Nine"

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Brooklyn Nine-Nine has been in popular news lately since its cancellation by Fox and sequential pickup by NBC. It's an amazing show about cops in, you guessed it, Brooklyn. Created by the amazing Michael Schur, it's a safe bet that if you loved "The Office" you'll also love his series "Brooklyn Nine-Nine".

5. "The Good Place"

Another series created by the talented Micael Schur, it's safe to say you've probably already heard about this fantasy-comedy series. With a wonderful cast and writing that will keep you on your toes, the show is another safe bet.

6. "Fresh Off The Boat"

Seriously, I don't know why more people don't watch this show. "Fresh Off The Boat" focuses on an Asian family living in Orlando in the mid 90s. Randall Parks plays a character who is the polar opposite of his character in "The Interview" (Yeah, remember that horrifying movie?) and Constance Wu is wonderful as always.

7. "Full House"

Why not go back to the basics? If you're looking for a nostalgic comedy, go back all the way to the early days of Full House. If you're a '98-'00 baby like me, you probably grew up watching the Tanner family on Nick at Night. The entire series is available on Hulu, so if all else fails just watch Uncle Jesse and Rebecca fall in love again or Michelle fall off a horse and somehow lose her memory.

8. "Secret Life of the American Teenager"

Okay, this show is not a comedy, but I have never laughed so hard in my life. It's off Netflix but it's still on Hulu, so you can watch this masterpiece there. Watch the terrible acting and nonsense plot twists drive this show into the ground. Somehow everyone in this school dates each other? And also has a baby? You just have to watch. It might be my favorite show of all time.

9. "Scrubs"

Another old show that is worth watching. If you ignore the last season, Scrubs is a worthwhile medical comedy about doctors in both their personal and medical life. JD and Turk's relationship is one to be jealous of, and one hilarious to watch. Emotional at times, this medical drama is superior to any medical drama that's out now.

10. "Superstore"

I was resistant to watch this one at first, because it looked cheesy. But once I started watching I loved it! The show is a workplace comedy, one you're sure to love if you can relate to working in retail. If you liked the Office, you'll like Superstore!

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