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Volunteering is More Than Just a School Requirement

by Jessica Seals

Some students only see volunteer work as a requirement for a class or a scholarship while others embrace it and enjoy helping others without being required to. My fellow virtual intern Thomas recently suggested a variety of community service and volunteer options; in that same vein, here are my personal experiences with community service and why it’s essential to your college experience even if it’s not required.

I started doing volunteer work after my freshman year in high school. I did this every summer at the local hospital until I graduated from high school as well as participated in various other volunteer projects the community through my school. I always liked doing volunteer work because it made me feel good to know that I was actually helping people instead of sitting at home with nothing to do.

Seeing other people smile and finally have something good happen to them is enough satisfaction in itself for those who volunteer but it wasn’t until I graduated from high school that I learned why this work was so important: On my first job interview after high school, the interviewer was so impressed with the number of hours that I had volunteered with no cash incentive that I was hired on the spot.

Volunteer work is not just a school requirement – it’s a way to give back to the community and show potential employers just how well you can dedicate yourself to any task at hand.

Jessica Seals is currently a senior at the University of Memphis majoring in political science and minoring in English. At the University of Memphis, she is the secretary of the Pre-Law Society, the philanthropy chair of the Phi Kappa Phi Student Council and a member of Professional Assertive United Sisters of Excellence (PAUSE), Golden Key Honor Society, Alpha Lambda Delta Honor Society, Sigma Alpha Lambda Honor Society, and Black Scholars Unlimited. She also volunteers to tutor her fellow classmates and hopes to attend law school in the near future.


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Flipped Classrooms Gain Momentum, Critics

by Alexis Mattera

Picture two Advanced Placement classes. One features a teacher giving a lengthy lecture while students take notes and the other has the instructor fielding questions and interacting with students based on the previous night’s digital assignment. Which one is producing higher AP test scores and information comprehension? According to some, it’s the latter – a method being referred to as flipped classrooms.

A growing number of teachers are recording their lectures, uploading them to iTunes and assigning homework based on their digital lessons. Instead of covering an entirely new topic during class time, students review the material at home, bounce queries off of friends and arrive in class the next day ready to work out any remaining problems they’re having with the teacher. The approach may seem strange but teachers who have tried it – including Stacey Roshan, a calculus teacher at the Bullis School in Potomac, Maryland – say flipped classrooms offer greater control over material and more face time with students.

The flipped classroom method is gaining more support – the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has taken note – but also has amassed its fair share of critics: Lisa Nielsen, author of the new book "Teaching Generation Text," worries that low-income students may fall behind because they don't have reliable Internet or computer access at home and says the approach "could lead us down the path of doing more of something that doesn't work because it gives us more time to do it."

Has anyone experienced the flipped classroom method first-hand? If so, what did you think of it? If not, would you be willing to give this learning method a try?


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Let Your Voice Be Heard for This Scholarship of the Week!

Voice of Democracy Scholarship Deadline is November 1st

October 17, 2011

Let Your Voice Be Heard for This Scholarship of the Week!

by Alexis Mattera

Students often complain that their voices are not heard by the masses but this next scholarship opportunity proves it’s possible for their words to make a difference...and a $30,000 dent in college tuition payments.

The VFW’s Voice of Democracy Scholarship is an annual nationwide audio essay competition designed to give high school students in grades 9, 10, 11 & 12 the opportunity to voice their opinions on their responsibilities to our country. Students should first draft their essays based on this year’s theme and then record their readings (no shorter than three minutes and no longer than five minutes) to CDs. Entries will be judged on originality, content and delivery, with the winner of the top audio essay receiving a $30,000 scholarship for college.

If this scholarship opportunity appeals to you, speak up today! The deadline is November 1st but you can find more information about this award and others by conducting a free scholarship search today.


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Banishing Bullying

October 21, 2011

Banishing Bullying

by Radha Jhatakia

From high schools to colleges to workplaces, bullying is a serious issue with serious consequences. There have been so many cases where students are bullied by their peers and the torment is so much that they commit suicide. When you bully someone, you not only hurt them but their family and friends as well.

I’m so glad that there is a rising awareness about bullying and laws are being passed to prevent it in school and online, an act also known as cyber-bullying. When I was in middle school, I was bullied quite often – many times based on my race – and I would come home crying but have no one to speak to about it. As bullying has become a more prominent issue, celebrities and politicians are speaking about it and counseling programs are being implemented in schools everywhere so students can have a place to hash out personal issues and raise awareness.

Remember, what may seem like a harmless joke, wall post or text message can potentially cause the people you’re bullying so much pain that they choose to end their lives rather than endure any more abuse. Also, if you are aware of bullying but do nothing to stop it, you are just as responsible as the bully if anything happens to person enduring the torment. It may seem difficult for someone to stop the bullying cycle but it’s far from impossible. All it takes is one person to stand up against bullying and lead others to do the same. Be that person and make a difference.

Radha Jhatakia is a communications major at San Jose State University. She's a transfer student who had some ups and downs in school and many obstacles to face; these challenges – plus support from family, friends and cat – have only made Radha stronger and have given her the experience to help others with the same issues. In her spare time, she enjoys writing, reading, cooking, sewing and designing. A social butterfly, Radha hopes to work in public relations and marketing upon graduation.


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Scholarship of the Week Alert: FIRE’s Freedom in Academia Essay Contest

by Alexis Mattera

There are lots of different ways to find money for college these days but none are as tried and true as the essay scholarship. Are you ready to write your way to $5,000, $2,500 or $1,000 for college? Well fire up that computer for the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education’s Freedom in Academia Essay Contest.

The Freedom in Academia Essay Contest invites high school seniors to watch two videos on FIRE’s website and write an 800- to 1,000-word essay using examples from both videos. This year's prompt is "Why is free speech important at our nation's colleges and universities?" FIRE will award one first-place winner a $5,000 scholarship, one second-place winner a $2,500 scholarship, and five runners-up $1,000 scholarships.

The deadline is coming up fast – it’s November 5th – so visit FIRE’s website today for more information. To learn more about this award and others, conduct a free scholarship search on Scholarships.com.


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SAT Cheating Scandal Prompts Security Review

by Suada Kolovic

Cheating is a serious allegation, no one would argue that. So, when seven students were suspected of cheating on the SATs – a deciding factor when it comes to college admissions – it comes to no surprise that the scandal prompted a review of security at test sites worldwide. And we’re not talking a run-of-the-mill review either: The College Board president has called in a security consulting firm founded by a former FBI director. (And you thought the test itself was serious.)

College Board President Gaston Caperton spoke at a hearing Tuesday morning held by New York State senators to discuss the cheating scandal in which several former high school students in Great Neck were arrested for allegedly hiring someone to pose as them and take the SAT for fees of up to $2,500 per person. Caperton said changes they’re considering include beefing up its checks of test takers’ ID and possibly photographing students when they arrive to take the SATs.

Though most were satisfied with this proposal, not everyone in attendance was pleased that it took a scandal like this to prompt a review. One critic of standardized testing, Bob Schaeffer of FairTest, contended that more can be done to improve test security. "As the Great Neck scandal demonstrates, the current level of security is inadequate," he said. "Savvy students can circumvent these minimal protections with relative ease, particularly by using modern technologies to forge identity cards, covertly copy exam materials, or secretly transmit correct answers."

If you’ve already gone through the SAT (or ACT) process, what did you think of the security measures taken at your test site? Is it really that easy to cheat? What steps do you think should be taken to prevent another scandal?


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Students Continue Trend of Applying to More Colleges

by Suada Kolovic

If you’re a high school senior, the daunting task of filling out college applications is just around the corner. And if you’re thinking about applying to multiple institutions – we’re talking six or seven schools – then you’re not alone: According to a recent study, more prospective college students are applying to a large number schools than ever before.

The National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) study found that a quarter of freshmen who enrolled in college in the fall of 2010 applied to seven or more schools, while 77 percent applied to at least three. There are a number of factors that contribute to this trend, including the ease of applying to several schools with the Common Application and the Universal Application, but does this approach complicate the admissions process? The study notes that the uptick in applications challenges counselors to investigate students beyond their submitted materials. "The more activities a student has leading up to the application and beyond, the more we can understand if they're a real applicant," says Deb Stieffel, vice president for enrollment at Susquehanna University. "You can't just tell by the application anymore; you have to look deeper." (For more on the story, click here.)

Do you think it’s problematic for students to apply to multiple schools just for the sake of applying?


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Why Can’t High School Be More Like College?

by Lisa Lowdermilk

Did you ever wish you had more freedom to choose what classes you could take in high school? Students in Georgia share your pain and the Board of Education is considering implementing a plan which will allow students to take only the classes which are relevant to their future careers. Students will be required to take general courses before choosing their “career cluster” at the end of their sophomore year but depending on the “career cluster” they choose, some students may be able to get their dream jobs right out of high school!

While I know I would have liked more choices regarding the classes I took in high school, I'm still not sure I'm onboard with this idea. For one thing, not everyone knows what career they want when they're in high school – some students have trouble deciding what they want to do well into their college careers! – even me: When I was in high school, I was convinced I wanted to become a pharmacist before I realized my true calling as a writer.

The fact is that college is expensive and the idea of cutting down on the rising cost of college by taking some of the necessary courses in high school is very enticing indeed. Along those same lines, if this program is implemented and a student decides they don’t really like their course of study, they can switch between clusters until they find one that better suits their goals.

So, will Georgia become the first state to implement a more individualized high school experience? We'll have to wait and see next fall.

Lisa Lowdermilk is a published poet, avid video gamer and artist. Her poems have appeared in Celebrate Young Poets: West (Fall 2006) edition and Widener University's The Blue Route. She enjoys watching thrillers, trying different restaurants and attempting to breakdance. Lisa is now majoring in professional writing at the University of Colorado Denver.


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Does the East Coast – West Coast Beef Belong in the Classroom?

Teachers Use Hip Hop References to Engage Students

November 8, 2011

Does the East Coast – West Coast Beef Belong in the Classroom?

by Suada Kolovic

If you’re a teacher, getting a classroom full of high schools students excited to learn about pretty much anything is a challenge. While some teachers have opted for open discussions and group projects in order to keep their class engaged, others have turned to hip hop.

Over the past few years, a growing number of teachers have implemented hip hop into their lesson plans. According to a report released by the Metropolitan Center for Urban Education at New York University’s School of Culture, Education and Human Development, more than 300 middle schools, high schools and after-school programs have been jazzing up typical lessons with hip hop. Curious as to how to works? Kanene Holder, a staff member at the arts-integrated education nonprofit Urban Arts Partnership, breaks it down (pun totally intended) in a U.S. News and World Report article: During one class session, Holder compared the 1990s East Coast vs. West Coast hip hop turf wars between Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls to the American Revolution. “It’s just like the Loyalists vs. the Patriots,” she says. “I would have the students do a rap battle – they’d formulate a rap in a group, formulate some main ideas, [and] then perform it in front of the class. It’s kind of like a town hall meeting, hip hop style.”

So, has implementing hip hop into the classroom been effective? According to Martha Diaz, co-author of the NYU report, they’re not sure…yet. She explains that the initial report was meant to just survey the number and types of hip hop education programs; subsequent studies to determine its effects on graduation rates and student achievement are on the way. Let us know what you think of hip hop in the classrooms. Should other teachers get on the hip hop grind?


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Stepping Up and Standing Out

How to Shine Brighter Than the Competition

November 4, 2011

Stepping Up and Standing Out

by Mariah Proctor

It puts me in a bit of an awkward position to explore what it takes to stand out from the pack: If I am unsuccessful, this blog post won’t even stand out enough for you to finish reading it (which is just cruel irony) but I’ll try my best.

By the time you finish high school, you have a pretty good idea of what sets you apart from your classmates. You’ve figured by then that because you get good grades and you excel at this or that, you are set apart and safely defined. Then you begin attending college and find out that you’re surrounded by a bunch of people who also got good grades in high school and also excelled at the exact same this or that as you. Essentially, you meet a lot of other high schools’ versions of yourself.

So how do you set yourself apart? How do you keep from getting overlooked in scholarship applications, interviews and program admissions? Stop trying so hard to find out what they want. Be excellent and work diligently but stop trying so hard to adjust to some imagined expectation of a winner and instead concentrate on figuring out what you truly have to offer. Explore yourself and take note of the winning qualities and the passions that rule your actions. Only in cultivating what you’re actually good for (and we’ve all got something, even when you’re feeling like you don’t) and making those communicable and usable can you stand out from a crowd of anonymity.

In a world where the pool of people clamoring to fill positions is getting bigger, there are already plenty of cookie cutters and checklists, but there isn’t nearly enough heart. So find yours, show it and watch the rest of the pack fade away.

Mariah Proctor is a senior at Brigham Young University studying theatre arts and German studies. She is a habitual globe-trotter and enjoys acoustic guitar, sunshine and elephant whispering. Once the undergraduate era of her life comes to an end, she plans to perhaps seek a graduate degree in film and television production or go straight to pounding the pavement as an actor and getting used to the sound of slammed doors. Writing has and always will be the constant in her whirlwind life story.


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