Friday, March 26, 2010

VT Graduate Awards Banquet

Last night I was truly honored to be included in such a great group being recognized at Virginia Tech's Graduate Student Awards Banquet. As many probably know, a few weeks ago I found out I was the recipient of VT's Graduate Student Service Excellence Award, given to one graduate student who exemplifies service outside the classroom. We had a great dinner last night. My award was one of the last to be given, so I sat there through the ceremony just humbled by the other people there. These are the cream of the crop with regards to VT's graduate student population. Hundreds of published papers, book chapters, conference presentations, potential pharmaceutical developments, and years of work were talked about last night. It was an honor enough to be considered for this award but it was so special to be recognized for all the hours I put into working with young girls and domestic violence survivors. I received $1,000 and a beautiful plaque!

Needless to say, I was kind of stunned to be a part of this group! When they brought me up to receive my award, it was interesting to hear that they announced I'd begin work on my PhD in Public Administration and Policy this fall. I actually never told the committee this, despite my pending application at Tech, so I wasn't sure how they knew I'd even applied. I guess they were one step ahead of me, because I logged on later to find out I'd been accepted to the program, so I will OFFICIALLY be a PhD student in the fall! This is very exciting and has been the capstone of a wonderful week, in which my thesis was returned to me to prepare for a defense with minor edits in addition to everything!

Now, I have to get to editing that thesis and grading fifty 12-page research papers, but I also have plans this weekend to just relax and enjoy the payoff of some serious hard work! I'm also presenting my research at two conferences in April, so I've got a very busy schedule ahead of me, but I have spent two years at Tech leading up to this point and I've put in a lot of hard work! On May 15th, I will have a master's degree and will be moving on to the final part of my education, receiving a PhD! Those who knew me years ago know that attending college was a question until a few nights in April when I received generous assistance from my college, high school, and the National Elks Foundation. All those people who believed in me then inspired me to keep going and get the degrees I wanted. Don't give up!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Learning Channel... or not

When I was younger, I remember my aunt only allowing her kids to watch TLC- the learning channel- during mornings. Believe it or not, the channel had lots of cute shows appropriate for kids and a great appealer in What Not To Wear for adults.

Over the last few years, I’ve really watched TLC go down the tubes. Is it a reflection of general interest in the country? It’s not enough to have a reality channel and VH1/MTV full of ridiculous tv shows, now TLC has been taken over. I think it should be renamed “The Bizarre Factory”.

I really enjoyed Little People Big World (hey, a real family, with real problems, real kids-great!) and What Not to Wear (because style interventions and makeovers are just the American way!). Over time, my boyfriend even got into Cake Boss, although each show has some staged drama that threatens to ruin the day.

But lately, what is up with this channel? My DVR somehow recorded a show called Miss Turkey Trot and Drumsticks, where women were judged only on their legs to win the illustrious Miss Drumsticks. What am I learning here? Then came Toddlers and Tiaras. Crazy pageant mom with half-talented kids who’d rather be running around outside? Please apply!

Now it’s become home to what they make seem like a freak show. While it’s great that someone 3’11 is a doctor, why do we need a show about little chocolatiers? The Little Couple drives me up a wall, too! This little woman drags her husband on shopping trips every other episode despite his frustrated cries about how much he hates it. Don’t even get me started on her laugh, either. I haven’t tuned in to “Little Chocolatiers” because I literally have no interest. It makes these people out to be freak shows. Add into the mix “world’s tallest human” and “I didn’t know I was pregnant” and I feel like I bought a ticket to Barnum and Bailey.

Then TLC had Miss America on its broadcast. They staged a cheesy fake show where women competed in “challenges” (including sliding down a soaped up slip and slide- nothing says accomplished 24 year old like this) to win a gold sash. The girls who won gold sashes earned spots in the final pageant. I never really understood this- if the judges in a pageant didn’t like me, fine! But do I really want to reference winning an obstacle course as the clincher that sealed my fate in the top 15 at Miss America? No. Then TLC dumped Miss America (which I can’t really blame them for). I was honestly sick of them advertising Toddlers and Tiaras leading up to Miss America anyways.

And today was just the icing on the cake. I don’t mind watching reality shows as a chance to relax after a long day. Pondering at the bizarre happenings on Millionaire Matchmaker? Sure! Salivating at the cooked-up creations on Top Chef? I’ll be there. But watching Sarah Palin?

I mean, really? We’re talking about someone whose speaking skills rival Caitlin Upton of the famous “such, as the Iraq” and now we’re going to watch a show about her? I really don’t feel like this woman represents me at all, and I don’t want to know anymore about her. What better way to milk her fifteen minutes of fame, though? Has any other failed national candidate made such a name for themselves? Forget Al Gore- he only was part of a great movie about global warming. Yeah, I REALLY want to know more about “holier than thou” Sarah Palin and watch the great bastions of good behavior her children are. Someone to look up to- teen mom! Oh wait, isn’t that ALREADY a reality show?

Learning Channel, I’ll miss you. What’s even more sad is that apparently the interest is there from some people to watch this crap. I think our house is going to stick to National Geographic Channel. We might even LEARN something!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A Junior Miss Weekend

The Virginia's Junior Miss Judging Panel
This weekend I had the honor of judging the Virginia's Junior Miss Program. I cannot say enough wonderful things about the people involved in this organization. I participated in Ohio's Junior Miss in 2004 and had a great time. I have a special scrapbook just for the week I spent in Mount Vernon, Ohio, preparing for the final program. It is easily my favorite "pageant-related" experience I have ever had.

America's Junior Miss is a program for high school seniors to win scholarships for college. AJM gets $50,000 at the national level, and many state programs award between 5-40,000 dollars to young women each year. You can only compete once, and one winner is chosen to spend two weeks in Mobile, Alabama, for America's Junior Miss. The girls compete in self-expression, talent, interview, scholastics, and a fitness routine (this weekends was a six minute routine with push-ups, sit ups, high kicks, and a personal routine for each girl- sorry, that beats twenty seconds in a swimsuit any day!).

I was on the panel with a very distinguished group of former junior misses- a doctor in family practice, a chiropractor, an Exxon Mobile manager, and a young woman graduating with honors from college this spring to go work as a journalist in DC. There is something about Junior Miss- the women go on to accomplish amazing things. The average GPA of this years class of Junior Miss? 3.97. Last year's Virginia's Junior Miss is working on research at MIT.

I discovered Junior Miss during the summer of 2003 while flipping channels and seeing some program on CMT where girls were kickboxing to win money for college. I later learned it was America's Junior Miss, and I started asking my mom for permission to participate right away. What resulted was a wonderful week I will always cherish.

I have never had such a good time behind the scenes (by the way, don't call Junior Miss a "pageant"- the program corrects anyone who calls it this. There are no crowns or sashes- simply medallions and scholarships) at a program like this. The women I judged with were fascinating. I talked to the doctor about getting through the last two years of medical school (which my own boyfriend will soon embark on), the chiropractor about alternative cures for several migraine headaches, the auditor and Exxon employee about the growing phenomenon that is Twilight, and even spoke with the chiropractor/dance teacher about teaching dance for free in underprivileged communities, which is my newest venture I'll be pursuing after my move to Maryland in June. What a great weekend!

The girls were beyond impressive. I cannot remember at 18 being so articulate or talented. The winner, Brina Gabryel, was only 16 years old but already accepted to a university's dance program for the fall. She won talent, fitness, and self-expression. I believe she won close to $4,000 this weekend alone, in addition to what she had previously won as Lynchburg's Junior Miss.

If there are any junior high school girls out there interested in earning money for college and having a great time, please consider participating in this program next year!

My boyfriend and I also made the most of the weekend with a few interesting stops, which I'll blog about later!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Excitedly announcing... my new project

For the past few months, I’ve had several people ask me if I’ll miss tap dancing. The first time, it just confused me, but after it happened a few times, I really wondered if people thought I just learned to tap dance for the purpose of pageants. Quite the opposite- I’ve been dancing as long as I’ve had energy to burn (since age 3) and I plan to continue doing it throughout my life.

Tap dancing is a family tradition for me- my grandmother and great uncle were great tap dancers and teachers. I treasure my collection of my grandmothers taps and carrying on something special to me and my family. I’ve always known I would continue with lessons and now teaching others.

The past few months, I’ve been laying the groundwork for a new project to start when I live in Maryland. I’m excited to partner with Madeline’s Foundation, an organization dedicated to helping inner city youth and their families by providing positive outlets for them. I’ll be helping out next year by teaching tap! I have wanted to do this for so long and was just looking for the perfect connection to work out this project, and this foundation is the perfect fit!

Here’s where I need everyone’s help: I’m applying for a series of grants including $5,000 from Pepsi to launch this off the ground. I’m also applying for another grant from an organization I received a scholarship from as a college freshman. $5,000 would really lift this project off the ground. I’ll use it to buy 2 portable ballet bars, music, and hopefully as many pairs of tap shoes (and other dance shoes to help the entire program) and money to give to special dancers to come teach for a week and inspire the kids. The kids can then just come to dance lessons and borrow shoes from my collection every week and not have to worry about the expense! Pepsi this year is giving hundreds of thousands of dollars away in grants, and the top ten grants requesting $5,000 will get the grant! I need people to vote. You can vote everyday by simply signing up through your email. My link will be available at the beginning of April.

Even if I don't win the grants, I will still go forward with this project, so I hope anyone interested helps me out! I have my fingers crossed that with your help, my idea can be in the top ten. We can really make a cool after school program come to life- and at completely no cost to these kids!

We all know that in these difficult times often comes the cutting of many arts programs. Last year the dance studio I practiced at after school was canceling their dance program due to funding. Many people who live in bigger cities can’t afford after school activities and they definitely can’t afford dance tuition, leotards, and shoes! So this is an easy way to vote and give as many kids as I can handle the chance to learn one of my favorite things! I’ll post links when it gets closer, I’m counting on everyone I know to help make this a reality!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Home, Sweet Home

Lately I've been reminded a lot of my childhood in Ohio. There are a couple of reasons for this. It's spring break, so a lot of students are headed home or off on break. I will be finishing up my thesis here in Virginia. Also, my mom and brother recently went to a Styx, REO Speedwagon, and 38 special concert in Ohio. And finally, someone I went to high school with is on American Idol.

First things first. I'm almost done with my thesis. All my work has been completed- I just have to type the remaining half and edit. I'll be happy when I defend it and then my schedule clears up even more.

Second, I think appreciation of classic rock is something natural to where I live. We're close to Detroit, but Toledo's it's own city that loves classic rock. There are always great concerts there- I saw Eddie Money over summer and a few months ago my brother also saw Alice Cooper. Great artists are always coming through there. Maybe it's because I live more in a college area, but I grew up listening to classic rock. My favorite part of the drive home is when I'm on the Ohio turnpike about 90 minutes away and I pick up 94.5 XKR, the world's best classic rock station. So obviously I was jealous when I heard my mom was heading out to yet another concert with my brother, with rave reviews afterwards of Styx. I have to say, I miss being in that area. Classic rock is my music of choice and the artists just don't come through here. We have to go to Greensboro and keep our fingers crossed for Aerosmith. A lot of different music certainly comes through this area, but it's never anything John or I is particularly interested in.

And finally, I come from a middle of nowhere town in Ohio. You knew everyone you went to high school with by name. So it's pretty cool that Crystal Bowersox, a former Oak Harbor student herself, is not only on American Idol but an early favorite. I never tune into the show because it just doesn't capture me, but this year I have been tuning in to see how she's doing. So far, so good, but since I've never really watched the show, I'm not sure what a great measure of success is.

Okay, enough "fun writing". Back to mail-order brides.

Caressa's win

Other contestants "felt it" about Miss Virginia

Click here

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Whew, busy!

So this weekend I crowned a new Miss Hill City and Miss Lynchburg. I've started a few blog entries but just haven't had time to update lately. My "spring break" (ie work on my thesis from home all week) is coming next week so maybe I'll have some down time for updates!