April 23, 2014

Avonte Oquendo

Naomi Delgado

AVONTE’S FLIER

By: Naomi Delgado

The search expanded on Oct 4. Avonte Oquendo went missing when he ran out of his school in Long Island City, Queens. Avonte is 14-years-old, 5’3” and weighs 125 lbs. He is black and has brown eyes. He was last seen wearing a grey striped shirt, black jeans, and black shoes. 

Avonte is an autistic child in need of help, and is unable to communicate verbally.

“Autism is a developmental disorder that appears in the first three years of life, and affects the brain’s normal development of social and communication skills.” Said in the National library of Medicine online.

The AMBER alert was dispatched immediately. The media played a big part on letting everyone know Avonte’s description. The media announced his disappearance.  The family and the NYPD provided fliers. “Fliers with the NYPD logo are provided by the police,”an NYPD official said.

The MTA and the NYPD have united to find Avonte. Avonte’s parents say he is fascinated with trains, so the MTA has been announcing a description of Avonte.

“I have seen fliers on train’s stations and in streets and heard about it on the news and on the trains,” said Jinnette Grullon, a junior at John Jay. “I have heard the announcements on the trains, been hearing them for more than two weeks.”

“The MTA was contacted by NYPD,  due to the nature of the missing child not being able to speak. This is the first time from my knowledge that the MTA has assisted in this manner in an effort to find anyone,” NYPD officials said.

“The MTA officials took the unprecedented step of halting overnight track maintenance and ordered at least 200 workers to instead scour the tunnels for Avonte Oquendo, a missing, 14 year old, autistic boy,” Daily News online said.

This has been one of the first times the MTA has taken a big part of a search for a missing child. Avonte’s fascination for the trains has made the police believe that there is a possibility he can be found there.

The search expanded from Queens to Manhattan to other boroughs hoping to find Avonte safe. Since he is autistic, certain measures need to be taken when approaching him. Are people being informed of how to come close to an autistic child?

“I would hold him and get someone else to call the police. I know it might scare him but desperate needs call for desperate measures,” Grullon said.

“I work with autistic kids so I know that they are very sensitive so I would approach him very calmly and be as friendly as I could be and once I know he cant leave my sight, I’d call 911 as soon as possible,” said John Jay senior Roxana Teran. Teran is also an assistant teacher at the Bronx Organization for the Learning Disabled, or B.O.L.D. 

More information should be given in school to inform students and other people how to interact with an autistic child. NBC News segment, informed viewers to,“Call the tip line to let them know. Follow or keep an eye on Avonte but don’t necessarily approach or touch him. Keep him in your sight and communicate with law enforcement.”

Information regarding what autism is and how to help a person with this condition should be directed. “I think that every school should inform the students of how to approach an autistic child in case they see him,” said Teran.

“I know what autism is. It’s a disorder in the brain, which interferes with social interactions. Autistic children can’t function socially like other children can and usually are fascinated on one certain thing like trains, cars, toys, etc., I think,” said Grullon.

The search for the autistic teen is still in action and there is hope that more volunteers join the search. A red tent has been put outside Avonte’s school. Volunteers can meet at the tent that is located in Long Island City, Queens near Riverdale School.

“I would volunteer for Avonte’s search,” said Terran. “I can’t even imagine how his parents are feeling. They must be devastated.”

Avonte’s parents do not lose hope that their son is alive. Avonte’s mom asks for the search to continue in hope that one day they find him.

A study done by a psychologist Christopher Chabris of Union College in Schenectady, N.Y. has shown that people tend to pay attention to one thing at a time. People are so caught up in their everyday life that they don’t stop to see what may be happening around them.

The Minn Post online said that “inattentional blindness” is the failure to see visible and otherwise salient events when one is paying attention to something else.” It also uses the term “illusion of attention” which is “the common but mistaken belief that people pay attention to, and notice, more of their visual world than they actually do.”

The way a person distributes his attention to their everyday tasks determines how much each task is completed and to what perfection. A person can try to focus their attention to more than one thing but their attention to each task wont be equally distributed.  Multitasking is possible but to a certain extent.

Charles Stone, a Cognitive Psychology professor at John Jay said, “In the ‘inattentional blindness’ research, what tends to happen is they would have people focus all their attention on one task. So if I’m focusing on you and something else is going around, I might not notice it. However if I have a diffuse attention span, I will notice what is going on.”

“If people are in the subway and they are too focused on their own thought or on their own music they won’t notice anything around them possibly, and I think that on the subway there is a lot of pressure to be like that.” Professor Stone said. “You just want to get into your own zone and you don’t make eye contact with other people, you just focus on your day, what you’ve done, so if they are focus so strong on that they are using all their attention resources they won’t notice [Avonte].”

Train riders in particular tend to focus on their own life and feel the constant need to avoid looking at others to avoid any altercations. They are either using their gadgets or reading the newspaper.

“I don’t really pay attention to anyone in the train. I’m either listening to music or playing candy crush on my phone,”  Karla Flores, a senior at John Jay, said. “It helps me avoid problems with some crazy people in the train.

Avoiding conflict by making eye contact or having too many things in mind might prevent some people from being able to use diffused attention allowing them to be able to see more than what they see, giving Avonte a chance to be found.

“We just want to request that everybody take five minutes just to look. If we pay a little more attention to each other, we may be able to see things,” Avonte’s dad said in an online article called The Stir.

If you or anyone you know, knows some information on Avonte Oquendo please contact NYPD’s Crime Stoppers Hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS. You can also contact Det. Michael Donleavy at 718-520-9252.

 

African-Americans Evolving in Comic Books

By Alex Guzman

Can you think of a comic book or graphic novel whose central character is black?  Have you ever read of a black superhero that is not merely a sidekick, or an irrelevant character? Last month “Heroes in Black: Race, Image, Ideology and the Evolution of Comics Scholarship” was an event held at the CUNY Graduate Center on 34th Street and 5th Avenue in Manhattan. Professor Jonathan W. Gray, an assistant professor of English at John Jay College lead this talk.

White characters, like Superman and Batman, are more prevalent in comics than black protagonists. There were differences in their upbringings and how they became superheroes, but almost all of them were white. Black superheroes, like Luke Cage, were not always painted in the best light. Even though Cage was the main character in his comic, he was born of the exploitation of black people in the film industry. He portrayed the archetype of the big buck.

“Early black characters faced moral quandaries [and were] placed under the gaze of white superheroes [and] popular culture,” Professor Gray said. Compared to the 1970’s, black characters now embody fewer stereotypes.

The African riots and the Black Panther movement heavily influenced Cage’s character when Luke Cage comics first came out. But after his disappearance for some time, he reappeared with the rise of Barack Obama as a state senator.

The new Luke Cage looked different from how he used to look in the 70’s, which gave off a less extremist image, according to Gray. His new costume helped him to better fit in as a member of society rather than being associated with a specific ethnic group. He was now integrated with the black working class, rather than the black power movement.

Gray quoted Scott Buktaman, who said that young scholars say that comics pay special attention to non-traditional superheroes. Gray also quotes Scott McCloud, who claims “universality of the cartoon image” as a “white, heteronormative, masculine subject.”

Gray spoke of neo-liberalism and the introduction of the first black comic book characters to appear on their own.

“In 1975, Marvel creates four iconic black characters,” Gray said. He speaks of the Black Panther, Storm, The Falcon and the aforementioned Luke Cage.

Gray remembered how, in one comic, The Falcon is fighting an enemy while Captain America watches. He claimed that this “endorses militant black masculinity, [which] mirrors and mimics that of the reader.”

Gray mentioned that many considered The Falcon who was the true hero of that comic. He explained how “this displacement of course is incomplete [because] The Falcon has never had his own comic book.”

Gray looked at his audience to read their reaction, and continued, “I began to see Superman as a punk, that Superman didn’t relate to replenishing the earth, like Huey Newton and other people did,” Gray said. “In essence, Superman is a phony and a fake. He never saved any black people in this country in any comic book stories.”

The last of Gray’s PowerPoint slides was of Luke Cage. In this interpretation, Cage was a more humanized multicultural member of society, and not so much a member of one ethnic group specifically, as he walked with his white wife, pushing his multiracial infant son in his stroller.

Professor Gray is teaching The African-American Experience: Comparative Racial Perspectives in the Spring 2014 semester.

New Vice President Elected to Student Council

By Melissa Kong

Staff Writer

Student Council-Chris Ferreiras

 

There’s a new vice president in town. On Oct. 2, John Jay’s Student Council elected Julio Torres as vice president to replace Salahdine Baroudi, who resigned early September.

Torres, 26 and a Global History Major, is a former active duty service member in the U.S  Army. He was the president of the John Jay Veterans Association, as well as a Senior class representative. To take up this new role, Torres had to resign from those positions mentioned above.

Though Torres already assumed the responsibilities as Student Council’s new vice president, the shift of the change has not yet been updated on the college Jay Stop website.

Torres joined Student Council because he felt he was the right man for the job saying there was a lot of work to do once there was a vacancy.

“I offered my experience and promised to do my best,” Torres said. “With my experience in the military I thought I could fill this role.”

In an email sent to the Sentinel, Baroudi explained the reasons for his resignation.

“Ultimately, what led to my resignation as the Vice President of Student Government was other responsibilities that, I felt, fell in more closer relation to my career interests.”

Baroudi later went on to reflect about his time serving as Student Council Vice President.

“I carefully considered my 2 years of working within Student Government, and the four to five month term as Vice President, and realized that I had completed a significant portion of my duties and objectives within the position,” said Baroudi.

As for Torres, he told the Sentinel of his broad agenda.

“My plans are to fill all committees available for student representation on campus, make changes to the Student Government Charter which will increase the efficiency of Student Governance within John Jay, assist the Student Council Representatives with their tasks and event planning, revise various reference material used by Student Government, formalize a John Jay homelessness initiative and have an ROTC information session,” said Torres.

One of the tasks that Baroudi had that still needs to be fulfilled is filling committee seats. The task is essential because it gives careful consideration to issues pertaining to college policies and other student related concerns on campus.

For Student Council’s President Clinton Dyer Jr. he stated, “I trusted in his ability,” he expressed that because of Baroudi 2 year Student Government experience, he had very high expectations.  One major expectation that Dyer had for the former Student Council Vice President was the fulfillment of committee seats which according to Dyer, Baroudi failed to do.

Though it isn’t ideal to have a student council member resign mid-semester,  Torres is optimistic about his new position.

“I hope to embody the Student Council motto of “Catalyst for Change,” said Torres.

“I hope to accomplish all of my plans while maintaining my GPA. I hope to assist homeless students of John Jay and replicate this effort throughout CUNY.”

Female Basketball Player Breaks Records

 

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By Keyunna Singleton

Staff Writer

Jamecia Forsythe, of John Jay’s Women’s Basketball team, is set to have record-breaking season.

Forsythe, a senior and second year captain, is projected to surpass a 1000 points and 1000 rebounds for her career.She is 31 points and 78 rebounds away from the milestone.

The 21 year-old would be the first John Jay student, and the third female athlete in the NCAA CUNY conference to do this.Forsythe has played for the team since her freshman year and became team captain as a Junior.

“It hasn’t hit me yet that I’m going to be the first ever John Jay student to do this,” said Forsythe. “I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but I can’t wait for it to happen.”

Nonetheless, her ultimate goal is to win a championship. Something she has targeted since becoming a Bloodhound.

“I want a chip first and foremost,” Forsythe said.

To reinforce the idea of winning into her team, she draws from Ian Terry for inspiration. Terry was the winner from season 14 of “Big Brother”, her favorite reality show.

According to Forsythe, Terry says, “If you can plan it and you can see it then you can have it.”

She refers to this quote to focus her game, especially when preparing to play against Baruch College. Baruch’s basketball team is the six-time CUNY conference champion.

“Someone has to stop them, why not us?” said Forsythe.

It’s been 21 years since John Jay’s women’s basketball team has won a championship and Forsythe believes that the opportunity is waiting for her.

Her mother, Joan Forsythe, is “delighted” by her daughter’s passion, though there was a time when it affected their relationship.

Joan Forsythe, a mother of four, refers to her only daughter as “Mecia”. “I did not always want Mecia to play basketball,” she said. “I wanted her to be regular.”

After seeing how much her daughter loved basketball, she wants to see her “go all the away.”

Forsythe’s mother used to worry about her daughter’s distant traveling and staying late at practices and games.

“She used to go alone,” she said of her daughter, while other parents would drop their daughters off and pick them up.

Because she had to work, often two jobs, Forsythe did a lot of traveling on the buses and trains by her self. Ms. Forsythe admits to asking her daughter not to go to practice at times.

Forsythe always declined. “She never, never, never missed a day even if it was cold or she was sick,” Ms. Forsythe said.

“Sometimes she would be so sore that she would have to eat in bed. But she always keep up with her school work,” she said.

Forsythe has been an excellent student since grade school. Graduating second in her class in junior high and high school, her mother finds her drive and determination admirable.

Back at John Jay, her coach Diane Ramirez says “I love her like she is my own daughter.”

Ramirez refers to Forsythe as “the hardest working student athlete I’ve ever had.”

Forsythe plans to continue her education at medical school after she graduates in May. She encourages anyone that has a goal in life to pursue it, no matter the obstacles. “If you have a love for something, don’t let anything stop it.”

John Jay Observes Domestic Violence for the Month of October

domestic violence pic 1

By Jeffrey Nunziato

Purple floods the halls of John Jay as Domestic Violence Awareness events take place throughout the month of October.

October is known for Breast Cancer Awareness Month—where you’ll often see people wearing the color pink. John Jay held awareness for another issue, domestic violence of which, the color for Domestic Violence Awareness is purple. On Oct. 17, John Jay held a “Purple Day” where students and faculty got together to wear the color purple in some form or fashion.

Katherine Outlaw, the Program Coordinator of Leadership and Diversity, who works in the Office of Student Life, is part of the faculty heading the events. “I’m excited about it,” said Outlaw. “We wanted to honor the victims of domestic violence, raise awareness, and let people know that we are paying attention.”

This is not the first year that John Jay is holding events for domestic violence, but it is the first as a collaborative effort. There are three offices heading the events—the Office of Student Life, the Women’s Center, and the Office of External Affairs. Each office contributed a part to the cause.

Outlaw felt that working with other offices made things easier. “Collaborations are important. I think that when you work on a college campus students get into silos, but we want to open it up and make you aware of what others experience,” said Outlaw. “We want students to be involved.”

“Purple Day” was an event done to make people think. “I want students to see others wearing purple and think ‘why are you wearing purple?’ and to challenge people to think about how they interact with others,” Outlaw said. The color purple, representing Domestic Violence Awareness, is a way for students and faculty to get involved in the effort.

Done as a collaborative effort, the offices had the mezzanine lit purple in honor of Domestic Violence Awareness. The Office of External Affairs handled negotiations to have the lighting approved. “I think it brings it to another level,” Outlaw said. “The opportunity to do this and let people know that this is what’s going on.”

The Women’s Center paid for t-shirts that students could customize with domestic violence statistics. They were also handing out paper fliers with statistics of domestic violence along with purple ribbons that students could pin to their clothing.

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Elizabeth Yukins, who is Director of the Women’s Center, was also looking forward to the awareness events for domestic violence. “Those t-shirts, 50 of them, were gone in a few hours from people coming in,” said Yukins. “We’ve had over 100 people come in to either get a t-shirt or get a purple ribbon to wear.”

Among “Purple Day”, custom t-shirts and ribbons, the Women’s Center also held a bake-sale in the lobby of New Building on Oct. 17. At the beginning of November, the Women’s Center will be hanging t-shirts in the lobby of New Building. “Each shirt will have different colors, representing different issues of death or survival in relationship to violence,” Yukins said.

Both Outlaw and Yukins made it clear that the administration at John Jay was supportive of their efforts to plan the awareness events. Despite the numerous events going on at John Jay, including the movie filming that took up entire floors at a time, it was important to get space for the awareness events. “We started off a little late in regards to the events due to the other things going on in October, but we wanted to still show respect to the victims of domestic violence,” said Outlaw.

What drives these women to get involved with these kinds of events? Outlaw, who previously worked at the University of Arizona, was the coordinator of the “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” event that had to do with sexual assault. “For me, I’m also a Women’s Studies Minor, and so I always think about what my daily life is, how I can affect people, and how I can teach people in the process,” said Outlaw. “As a Diversity Coordinator that’s my job, but that’s also how I live my life.”

Being that Yukins is the Director of the Women’s Center, Yukins job is focused on being the supportive backbone for people who need help. “There’s a sense of doing what we can to assist students who struggle with personal issues in their lives,” said Yukins. “Whether that’s counseling, or advocacy, or raising the awareness of issues, it’s our job.”

 

 

National Science Foundation Winner

Nikoleta Despodova

By Navita Nauth

Staff Writer

When she opened the email, she couldn’t believe it. Screaming from excitement, she had to double check. Nikoleta Despodova stared at the congratulatory email that stated she had received $126,000 from the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship.

Despodova is currently a John Jay graduate student continuing her research on whether or not a defendant’s sexual orientation influences a juror’s judgment of his/her state of mind.

An immigrant from Bulgaria, Despodova moved to the United States in 2009 without any family or friend for support. As a child, Despodova was always interested in diversity and studying other cultures.

“In Bulgaria, you cannot learn anything about other cultures. Everyone’s basically the same,” she said.

Despodova’s family suspected that she would not remain in the States for an extended period of time and would eventually return.

America was also not what she expected. “That’s one of the stereotypes that immigrants expect: streets to be paved with gold, but that’s not the case. Things are much harder than we expect,” Despodova said.

To make ends meet, Despodova worked as a waitress in hotels. After her first year in the country, she wanted to pursue her bachelor’s degree. “Education is important and in this competitive world you need education,” Despodova said.

After research and searching, she attended an open house meeting at John Jay College and decided she would study here.

During her studies, she met Mark Fondacaro, Professor of Psychology. It was from Fondacaro’s research that Despodova derived her own research study.

Despodova worked for more than a year on her research with little supervision from Fondacaro. She collected data, recruited subjects and wrote a comprehensive literature review. Although she comes off as very serious, Despodova likes to watch Asian horror movies in her free time.

She proposed an independent response project to extend Fondacaro’s research that questioned if a defendant’s sexual orientation affects a juror’s judgment.

“Nikoleta was involved in multiple research projects with multiple mentors, which gave her a breath of experience and research related skills. She was very responsive to the guidance and feedback that I gave her. She would read all the articles she was asked to and looked for more,” Fondacaro said.

As a result of her hard work, Despodova applied for the fellowship and is now here at John Jay to advance her studies and to work towards her goal of studying psychology.

“She was very poised, motivated and focused in her research interest. Overall, Nikoleta is a highly motivated, intelligent young woman who is determined to succeed,” Fondacaro said.

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Challenging Petraeus: Students Protest His New Role at CUNY

Patreaus1-Nessa

By Qendresa Efendija

Staff Writer

Students protested in front of Macaulay Honors College to prevent military control of the City University of New York this past Monday, Sept. 16

The protesters were barricaded by fences and monitored by policemen as they waited for David Petraeus’s arrival, the four star general and former director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

Among those protesters were members from the CUNY internationalists club, students without borders from Queens College and anti-war activists, along 35W 67 St., with signs that read “David Death Squad Petraeus.”

The police took extra security and safety precautions by not allowing anyone near the entrance due to last Monday’s occurrence when students harassed Petraeous walking down the street. Petraeus, scheduled to teach his class at 3 p.m., arrived 40 minutes earlier in a black car that dropped him off exactly at the entrance.

Petraeus teaches his seminar style class entitled, “Are We on the Threshold of the North American Decade?” every Monday. His online course description reads “students will examine in depth and then synthesize the history and trends in diverse public policy,” but the protesters outside the walls of Macaulay Honors College read Petraeus as a war criminal inside CUNY to increase military influence.

A request to attend one of the seminars to gain a better understanding on Petraeus’s teaching and influence as an educator was denied by Grace Rapkin, Director of Marketing and Communications at Macaulay college, who marked down which media stations were covering the protest.

Students and professors expressed their first amendment rights chanting, “1,2,3,4, Defeat U.S. imperialist War, 5,6,7,8, Patraeus out we can’t wait!” The hate streaming from the demonstrators was targeted toward the military and its interference with the city schools’ education system.

Sandor John, professor and activist, from Hunter College said, “CUNY is not a hunting ground for military officers. It is a place to learn and express students’ ideas.”

John, with a family history in the military, opposes all military programs such as the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) that was also ousted in 1971 through protest. The military however still targets CUNY schools as recruit centers. John believes that appointing Petraeus to teach was a political decision and not an academic one.

In the midst of the protest was CUNY student, Farhaan Fhoss, chair of the Revolutionary Student Coordinating Committee at Queens College (RCC). He missed class that day to be a part of the protest. Fhoss’s job as the chair member is too build ties with other CUNY committees. While Fhoss explained how similar the committee gathers students together to protest against Petraeus, the crowd broke out into a chant of “What is revolution for? Class, struggle, people’s war.”

Different speakers such as William Crain from City College of New York, with a peace sign button attached to his blazer,  and John Arena from College of Staten Island took turns saluting everyone that came out to support the students and faculty of CUNY. They then continued reciting with the crowd, “General Petraeus you can’t hide, we charge you with genocide!”

This lighter campaign accompanied by a mixture of students and professors encouraged everyone to spread the word for Tues. Sept. 17th’s fundraiser called for by the Ad Hoc committee against the institutionalization of CUNY. The protesters handed out flyers for this event to by-standers, who would stop and stare at the commotion. The flyer read and called out to, “CUNY students, faculty and staff; city workers, teachers and other unionists; immigrant rights activists and opponents of racist repression and imperialist war should all come out together to protest the billionaire/war criminal gala.”

These students felt that this demonstration was necessary in order to protect freethinking in CUNY schools without the government’s involvement, learning in a city school where there is already heavy government involvement.

 

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Sanstha Uses Spirituality to Guide Teens

By Yugma Patel

Driving fast and breaking curfews. Arguing with parents and shoplifting. Smoking, drinking and rebelling. Those are just some things today’s teenagers are tempted with.

Nevertheless, how can we guide our youths of today into being the leaders of tomorrow and point them towards a righteous life? A young man or woman can change the very shape of the world with the right path and mentor. Without assistance to point out the proper route, they can go astray. Many youths find the right supervision and instruction by being a part of an organization called BAPS Sanstha.

BAPS, which stands for Bochasanwasi Shri Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha is a non-profit, socio-spiritual Hindu organization. The organization provides guidance and inspiration to people to lead more enriched lives. The organization helps individuals appreciate their cultural and helps them address moral challenges they may face. All individual learn to overcome these challenges and issues through culturally and spiritually. They hold youth activities and educational opportunities for young adults. They also have a charity called BAPS Charities. This charity supports many different causes every year. They find the greater importance in the relationships of family and friend

Many adults think the youth of today are rebels. Indeed, young people of today have a strong attraction to rebel against anything and everything. Being insubordinate is not a crime, however, it becomes a crime when the disorderly action has a negative outcome. Teens are attracted to openly resist authority, but why? Raging hormones and desperate desire to find their identities, teens can be more easily swayed to acting out negatively. To prevent young people from going wander onto a dangerous path, an adult needs to show them the right direction and give the guidance on how to live a meaningful life and not waste it.

To steer kids towards a more positive road, young people ages thirteen to twenty-two have the opportunity to become involved in different activities and services in a BAPS temple. They receive guidance to become the leaders of tomorrow and guide our community towards a brighter future from their leader and/or guru known as Pramukh Swami Maharaj.

Pramukh Swami Maharaj is not just a role model to adolescents and teens, but he is also a role model to every individual who is apart of this organization.

Ilesh Patel, who is 22 years old, started participating in BAPS when he was an infant. “I’ve stayed away from negative influence and all other aspects that can lead to the downfall for my life. He (Pramukh Swami Maharaj) at the age of 92 has never been more proactive than he is now. He follows all his rules ever since childhood, so why can’t we? He is my perfect role model. He helps me become successful so that is why I stay away from negative influence[s].”

The organization began in 1907 in a small village in India, and has since then spread worldwide, generating more than 3,300 centers. The first North American BAPS facility was established in 1974 in a New York basement, and today there are approximately 70 locations within Canada and the United States.

The Youth Wing was established in 1952 in Mumbai, India. This wing has flourished through the enthusiastic guidance and care of Pramukh Swami Maharaj. In 2012, this youth wing marked its 60th year. BAPS Youth wing continues to inspire teens and young adults throughout the world to a noble life of service, devotion, and discipline.  There are many subdivisions of BAPS along with Youth Wing. Just as the young groups can find the right guidance, adults find the same guidance needed to a right path.

Ilesh Patel said, “BAPS helped me cultivate my perspectives and augmented my mentality both positively and spiritually. I enjoy helping others, I love donating, and I love volunteering, all due to the aspect of BAPS charities. BAPS helped me strengthen my bond with god and helped me gain more confidence.”

Why do Youths today go astray? For some, there isn’t any spiritual training available. They have an overflowing mixture of adrenaline and confidence to change the world. A young person’s spiritual and physiological energy should not be bottled up; in fact, that energy should be channeled in a proper channel for something good.

Every weekend, many young people gather at different locations of BAPS temple to learn how to live a pure life and to avoid veering in the wrong direction. There are many activities that take place in BAPS temple. In addition, BAPS temples hold classes teaching about religion and culture. These temples also focus on youth development.

Zalpa Mandalaywala said, “BAPS tries to convey their message through different activities and events in which youths of different ages get to learn at their own pace and make BAPS apart of their daily life. They teach life lessons through the different parts of the Hindu religion itself in which helps youths to be able to grasp what they’re being taught.” Zalpa does not participate in the organization, but has been closely associated with many individual who are.

Many centers organize college preparatory classes along with leadership training, preparing individual for job interviews by practicing with an expert, SAT prep classes, and develop skills in workshops as well. They initiate healthy living among children and young adults. Kids are taught to abstain from addictions by being informed of the negative impact these bad addictions can have, how to avoid bad influences, and how to detach themselves from worldly pleasures that will only bring them harm.

Aakash Patel said, “Being part of BAPS Sanstha opened my eyes to see the world around me and helped me to understand that the values I have, I should keep. BAPS sanstha also helped me cultivate my energy into positive things and helps me to stay away from bad influence[s].”

Pramukh Swami Maharaj leads by example. He was presented with certificated marking his entry into the world famous record book. He received a certificate for inspiring and building the largest traditional Hindu temple outside of India. The second one for marking 355 temple consecration ceremonies performed between April 1971 and May 2000.

Pramukh Swami Maharaj lives by the motto of, “In the joy of others, lies our own.”

Homeless and Starstruck

By Stephanie Rivas

New York City, the big apple, shelters more than 50,000 homeless individuals per day, according to the Coalition for the Homeless. One of them is Kanyeresa West, a 29 year old who is chasing her dream as a singer.

Just three weeks ago, Ms. West went through the in-take process by the Department of Homeless Services where she reregistered a second time for a shelter in NY. The Department of Homeless Services is one of the largest organizations designed to address and prevent homelessness in New York City. DHS is partnered with various agencies where they shelter hundreds of individuals. Some of the shelters are limited to single women adults, single men adults, or families. Ms. West currently stays at a women’s shelter in Brooklyn.

Ms. West spends her days singing. She said “Singing, that’s how I get money.”

Kanyeresa West has been striving to get musically recognized. She was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois. She started singing at the age of 5. Ms. West continued on singing and would share it with the world by performing on the streets. In 2004 she had a baby boy. One day in the mist of performing, she met Kanye West and claims to have fallen in love with him. In 2006, her love and admiration steered her to travel to New York City to attend the Kayne West concert. He further fueled her desired dream career as a singer.

In pursuit of getting a better career opportunity, Ms. West came back to New York City in 2010 leaving her son under the care of her mother. With investments into her singing career she was left financially unstable so she stayed for the first time in a New York City shelter.

Ms. West said “I was basically at home and I knew that I had to come to New York to do something so my money was put to a situation where I either had to go home or stay in a shelter. I made a sacrifice, some people said they would never make that sacrifice but I did it to chase my dream.”

According to the NYC Department of Homeless Services, New York shelters provide many transitional services and resources on how to search and obtain employment, attain public benefits, search for housing and prepare for independent living. These services are provided in attempts to get people back to being self-sufficient members of society.

Ms. West does not currently work but dedicates her time to performing in train stations, mainly at The Times Square train station. She said “I’m chasing my dream so I’m not trying to go in the direction that they want me to go but they have a great system to help people get on their feet. They have a computer lab downstairs to help you look for work, they give you bus passes if you have an interview, they feed you really good. They have chefs, heat, air conditioning, the staffs are really cool, and the clients are really cool.” She said this while smiling as she flipped over some of her hair that had fallen over and covered the left side of her hair, the left side of her hair was Caesar shaved down and coated with sparkling gold glitter.

She continued after taking a short pause and said “It might be a shelter, but sometimes you might forget because it’s so amazing.”

Ms. Wests’ love for Kanye West continued to grow deeper which led her to change her name from her birth name Linda Resa to Kanyeresa West in 2011. She also got various tattoos with Kanyes’ name on her body, the biggest one that says “Kanye” is located on her butt.

This is Kanyeresas’ second time in one of NY’s shelters. New York shelters disfavor when individuals come and leave the system frequently. Ms. West understands their reasoning. She said “They don’t want you to come in and out. They want to be able to progress you. So if they feel like you are abusing the DHS system, they don’t play that.”

Furthermore, Ms. West expresses a good review of New York shelters, a student at John Jay College of Criminal Justice Kaitlin Moody, partnered with another student in The Office of Community Outreach to create a program called Think Outside the Box to create awareness and acceptance of homelessness in the U.S and on a global scale. Ms. Moody said “We constantly see homeless people on the street and often look the other way.” She is attempting to create recognition of the issue and raise donations for homeless individuals in New York City.

One way New York is distinctive is because “New York City has a right to shelter and we let people stay as long as they have to, up until they are able to get back on their feet.” said a staff member of the Department of Homeless Services. In regards to New York City shelters Ms. West said “Some people have been here for a year or so. So they do not just put you out if you don’t get your shit together right away. They really try to work with and help you.”

Ms. West will continue to sing music until she achieves her dream to be a signed artist and known singer. As of now, she will remain singing at times square train station. She plans on returning to Chicago, Illinois very soon where she will continue to strive for her dream.

Life after Prison

 By Shawan Coles

Life after prison can be hard.  With the recidivism rate in the United States being 67.5% within three years of being released from prison and little improvement in the job market according to the United States Department of Labor, prisoners face a harsh reality integrating successfully within society.  Reintegrating into society after prison can be a problematic undertaking for some, however, for one man it has proven to be an easy task.  One man tells how he has worked vigorously to get his life back on track after a second release from prison and how he continues to work hard to keep it on track.  While another second time offender tells of the hard time he had finding work after his first release from prison.

In a world that feels the guilty should be punished, What happens to the incarcerated when their time has been served and it is time to reintegrate into society?  According to an article written by Tina Rosenberg for The New York Times dated January 17, 2011 “The usual package granted to someone released from prison in NYC is $40 and a bus ticket”, but how far can $40 take you in NYC when it costs $2.50 for a one way subway fare and $3.50 for a person without a MetroCard?  When a person is released from prison they are released with terms, terms that are set by various governing agencies.  These terms vary depending on the newly released prisoner, they can range from the ex-convict needing to find a job, to a mandated drug treatment program.  Are the goals set for former inmates a set up for recidivism, or are some just not trying hard enough? These two men discuss their lives as formerly incarcerated men and the struggles faced as individuals.

Angelo Coles a fifty four year old male who was formerly incarcerated in Delaware Correctional Center tells his story of how he persevered after being released from prison in 2009.  Coles shares his experience from when he first knew he was going to be released until the present and the road that he took in securing employment while finding a place to live. Before Coles went to prison he was in the food industry, he was a chef at a country club in Wilmington, De. In prison he worked in the kitchen as a chef and gained recognition from The News Journal a Delaware newspaper in an article titled “Prisons chief makes case for bigger budget” written by Mike Billington on Feb 11, 2005.  In 2009 after six years in prison he was notified by his counselor that he was being released in thirty days. Upon release he would need to inform his counselor of his housing plans, only problem was Coles had nowhere to go.  At this point he told his counselor that he would be staying in a local Delaware shelter called the Mission.  He was discharged and notified that he had seventy two hours to report to his parole officer or he would be placed back in prison. Once Coles met with his parole officer he was informed that he would have to find a job in order to continue to stay out of prison, at this point the pressure was on, Coles would need to find a job and fast because going back was not an option. Coles decided to seek employment with a temp agency.

The temp service sent him to different job sites every day.  On these job sites he was able to use the skills he perfected in prison.  After six months of floating from site to site being on time and working hard Coles said he had earned a name for himself and was in high demand within the food industry.  Coles is currently off parole, employed at the Water Falls Banquet and Conference Center with a staff of 10 plus under him.   “Not bad for a guy who has only been out for three years” said Coles.  Coles recent work can be seen in VIP Magazine Weddings the July 2012 Edition.  If these are the results of what an ex-felon can expect upon release why is the recidivism rate in the United States so high, are these results typical or are they distinctive, can everyone released from prison expect this outcome, or is this one man’s journey?

              Dondre Farmer a twenty three year old male is formerly incarcerated in Monterey Shock Incarceration Correctional Facility a prison in Upstate New York.  This is his second time incarcerated.  “It was so hard to find a job out there, I looked everywhere, No one wants to hire a newly released man who only has a GED” said Farmer.    Farmer is up for parole and will be released later this month.  “Shock was hard, it’s hard having people yell in your face all day, even harder when they tell you that you can only make calls once a week.  This bid made me think and I can’t go through this again,” said Farmer.  “I am going to move upstate when I am released I hope to find a job and an apartment of my own.  I have a son to think about and I am getting too old for the life I was living.” Once released from prison Farmer will be staying with La-Toya Farmer a cousin, who fully supports any effort that Farmer is willing to make in his attempt to stay out of prison.  “It’s too hard on the family when he isn’t around and his son needs him, so I will help him in whatever way possible for him to stay out of prison this time” said La-Toya Farmer.

Farmer’s story is different from Coles story.  Is it because the inmates were released in two different states or is it because of their age difference?  No one really knows why some people are released from prison can have a harder time staying out than others.