Graduation

Don't Make This Mistake During Graduation Season

Graduation season is upon us, leaving many feeling overwhelmed, excited, and relieved. But, many people are making careless mistakes when preparing.

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If you're graduating within the next few weeks, you've probably got a lot on your plate. Some people are planning parties, others are getting ready to move home, and many are getting dressed up and taking pictures to announce their accomplishments.

Every year, our social media accounts are hit with a wave of graduation photos. It is not surprising that many students want to document their finals days on campus, and they take fun pictures to celebrate all that they have been able to do.

However, when it comes to those pictures, some people are making careless mistakes.

While walking through campus the past few weeks, I have noticed something new that I am not used to. That thing is confetti. Bits of plastic and paper fluttering around our beautiful grounds, sticking out like sore thumbs against the lush greens.

Every day, the piles of confetti get more and more prominent, especially near the most picturesque areas on campus. All I can think about is how many squirrels, birds, and other critters are going to mistake the plastic scraps for food.

At Missouri State University, our groundskeepers spend their days doing their best to make sure our campus looks its best.

In the hot months, they spend hours outside mowing the grass, sculpting trees, collecting bits of trash that float around campus, and much more. In the fall they rake leaves for days on end, even when they can't feel their fingers.

Hailey Gastler, a groundskeeper on the MSU campus takes note of the bits of confetti she's seen all around campus as graduation approaches.

"It's just really sad because there's no possible way to clean all of it up. And, if we don't get it, then it just goes into the grass and hurts all of the plants and creatures that come in contact with it. It's not biodegradable and the pieces blow around so much that you never know where they're going to end up."

Her suggestion? Make confetti out of fallen leaves or flower petals.

This can be done using a hole puncher or just by ripping up pieces of it. By doing this, you still have many different color choices and you know you're being kind to the environment. When that confetti blows away, it does not make a negative impact on the environment.

Another option is to purchase biodegradable glitter. It's a little more expensive than regular glitter, but it can be found on Amazon and causes much less harm to the environment. Not only is it an easy change, but it's also a smart one too.

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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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College Made Me Feel Like I Can't Have Free Time

Every second that I do have free, I feel like I need to be working on some type of homework.

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There's no doubt that college is taxing on most student's mental health. You get to the point where you feel stressed about even breathing. I have hit the point where I feel like I'm permanently affected by the stress that I've dealt with this semester.

I used to have so much free time. Even in my other semesters, I had time to hang out with my friends, work, and even be lazy when I wanted to be.

I was still a good student, I got all my assignments done on time and I worked hard on them, but I never really had an overwhelming workload.

That is, until this semester. I got to a point where work was overwhelming, I was working longer hours than I was used to, and having to spend every second that I wasn't in class or at work doing homework, whether it was just lengthy math problems or writing multiple essays or scripts.

After months of being in this habit, when my workload from both work and school died down and I actually had free time, I didn't know what to do with myself.

When my friends were busy and I just wanted a relaxing day at home, since I felt like I deserved it, I would try to just lay down and rest, either reading a good book or catching up on all the shows that my stress had caused me to miss.

But there was always a voice in the back of my head reminding me of every upcoming assignment. I would start thinking about the essay due the next week, or a test that I could be studying for ahead of time.

That voice kept telling me I was being unproductive and wasting my time if I wasn't getting ahead on school work when I finally had the time.

And so I'm still in a position, at the end of the semester, where I feel like I'm wasting my time every time I lay down and just want to take a nap because I'm exhausted from running between work and school. I'm trying to fight myself and tell myself that I am allowed to be lazy for at least a little bit, and I don't need to be constantly working.

Hopefully, that voice wins over, especially with summer coming up. With all of the free time, I'll have since I won't have to stress about school, hopefully, I'll be able to better balance my busy days with my lazy days.

I know this is probably an issue for many college students who are overwhelmed with everything that they have to do. Hopefully, summer break is a nice break for all of us and it gives us the chance to get the free time that we all deserve for surviving this semester, and the school year overall.

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