SpotlightYouth Spotlight

When we met Andrew O’Neill at the Congressional Award Gold Ceremony in 2014, we were impressed by what he had accomplished to earn his Gold Medal and were interested in learning more about him. Inspired by combining technology and outdoor leadership, Andrew attended Green Mountain College and majored in Adventure Education and Youth Development and Camp Management.

Andrew has put to good use the skills he’s learned in various endeavors, whether he’s building websites and creating a food program, working as a camp manager, editing videos, or learning a new language. Andrew’s curiosity is limitless, and he explores his interests and follows his heart. Read on to learn more about the different projects Andrew is involved in, his top three tips for learning a new language, and the advice he’d give his younger self.

Name: Andrew O’Neill
Education:
Double Major in Adventure Education and Youth Development and Camp Management (YDCM) at Green Mountain College
Follow:
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Carpe Juvenis: How do you define “Seizing Your Youth”?

Andrew O’Neill: Young adults have a tendency to be afraid to dream big. Seizing your youth means taking chances toward your current dreams at any age.

CJ: You double majored in Adventure Education and Youth Development and Camp Management (YDCM) at Green Mountain College. How did you decide what to study?

AO: I took a two week-long canoe trip in the Canadian wilderness, and I thought it would be cool to follow a career path similar to the guides on that trip. At the time, I knew I was highly interested in the realm of technology and computers as a potential career, but I did not like the thought of being stuck inside all the time at a computer. I was inspired by the life that the guides on the canoe trip enjoyed that I looked into schools that specialized in outdoor leadership.

CJ: What cause or issue do you care greatly about and why?

AO: I have strong feelings towards the practice of factory farming. As a lifelong vegetarian, I have continued to learn and become more passionate about the abuse of farm animals at these farms and the negative health and environmental issues that this practice is causing on the planet. The way we are treating the animals that we are eating, which we should not be at all in my opinion, has a direct influence on how we are treating each other as humans. I believe that the brutality of factory farm operations correlates to why there are so many horrible acts of war currently happening in our society. I am extremely passionate about this subject and have created a website, ameatfreemonth.org, which aims to provide anyone with a free healthy 30 day vegan eating program to help steer them away from the addictions of eating animal products.

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CJ: You earned the Congressional Award Gold Medal in 2014. How did you get involved with the Congressional Award and what was your biggest takeaway from the experience?

AO: My mother, who has been a long-time Girl Scout troop leader and an all around incredible person, found out about this program through a student she worked with at Hawthorne Valley Waldorf School. Within less than a year, I had signed up and was already working toward the Bronze Certificate. Earning this medal has made me realize that I will always be interested in learning new skills and to never stop challenging myself. Participating in all four program areas has helped me to become a well-rounded person excited to guide future youth through the program.

CJ: That’s awesome! We completely agree and support the learning of new skills. You have been a camp counselor and camp manager at Hawthorne Valley Farm Camp – what did you learn from those experiences?

AO: As a camp counselor, I learned about the psychological and social challenges that can arise while working with youth. Often, I was around campers all day and even when exhausted, had to be careful with my words and actions so that I could set a good example for the campers to look up to. The following year, as a camp manager, I was pushed into new challenging roles that helped me to understand the different aspects of running a camp. The camp director was new the year I managed, so I was placed in a more challenging role being a support to the director. In this higher role, I wrote and submitted our entire camp safety manual, created a new scheduling system for the camp that I used to create the actual camp schedules each week. Additionally, I started and maintained a camp newsletter, served as a primary contact for parents during camp, and compiled a camp recipe book that has been in high demand for many years. Essentially, I now feel I have gained the skills necessary to open a camp of my own.

CJ: You are passionate about video editing and have produced promotional videos for a 3D printing shop in Vermont. What sparked this passion and how did you learn video editing skills?

AO: My passion for video editing goes back to when I was a kid. It all started when I was able to buy my first video camera and connect it to my father’s laptop. Around my senior year in high school, my parents gave me a Cannon HD camcorder, and my uncle bought me a laptop for college. This enabled me to begin working on small projects that explored new ways to edit videos. Ever since this experience, I have taken on more challenging projects that have pushed me to expand my editing skills. All of my video editing skills have been self-taught and all from the small and large projects I have completed over the years.

CJ: You taught yourself how to speak Spanish. What are your top three tips for learning a new language? Is there another language you plan on learning?

AO:

  1. Immerse yourself in a country where they only speak the language you are trying to learn.
  2. Read news articles or listen to songs of interest in the language.
  3. Most importantly, be consistent!

I do plan on learning Japanese and already have a computer program called Human Japanese that I plan on using.

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CJ: What is an area, either personal or professional, that you are working to improve in and how?

AO: I am working on improving my health by transitioning to a totally raw mostly fruit diet and practicing regular yoga. Additionally, I am reading books about the fruitarian diet, and journaling everyday to help myself reflect on my day-to-day life.

CJ: Having a loaded schedule can sometimes be overwhelming. What do you do when you’re having a bad day and need to unwind or reset?

AO: My trick is simple, I rely heavily on my ability to be optimistic and always be able to find the positive in any situation. Almost always I am able to pause and just do a simple reflection and feel better. Additionally, I will find myself eating something special that I don’t always eat, but that is still in line with my diet.

CJ: What advice would you give your 15-year-old self?

AO: There is no time like now to do whatever your heart desires. Answers and opportunities can often be found simply by networking. Every person is a human so don’t be afraid to interact, reach out, and make new connections.

Andrew Oneill Qs

Image: Andrew O’Neill

HealthSpotlightYouth Spotlight

We’ll admit that like almost everyone else with a smart phone, we are completely dependent on and obsessed with Instagram. That includes scrolling through the ‘Explore’ option for endless inspiration. One Instagrammer we always find ourselves gravitating toward is Steph Yu of @happyandhealthy96. Not only does Steph share gorgeous photos of the yummy meals she creates, but she encourages all people to find their own happiness and health in their own way.

On top of that, Steph has written an e-book and runs the website A Happy and Healthy Life where she shares recipes, thoughts, health tips, and even more stunning photographs. Oh, and did we mention that she’s only 19?

If you find yourself scrolling rapidly through this week’s Youth Spotlight to see all the beautiful images, don’t forget that there are words of wisdom snuck in between! But if you look first and read after, we won’t hold it against you.

Name: Stephanie Yu
Education: Studying business at the University of British Columbia
Follow: @happyandhealthy96 | A Happy and Healthy Life

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define ‘Seizing Your Youth’?

Steph Yu: To me, seizing my youth is defined by not waiting to live my life, but rather living for the now and not for my future. So often you hear “Oh I’ll do that one day, when I’m older.” But I believe that age isn’t a limitation but rather an opportunity. It’s an arbitrary definition that society tends to use as a barometer for maturity, success, and expectations, but I just like to do my own thing, and live according to my rules and my authentic passions.

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CJ: What school do you attend and what did you decide to study?

SY: I go to University of British Columbia, and I’m studying business at the Sauder School of Business.

CJ: What sort of living space do you live in and how do you maintain a vegan lifestyle there?

SY: I live in a single dorm room on campus. It’s actually extremely simple staying vegan and healthy. I have a minifridge and blender in my room that I use daily! I make smoothies, banana ice cream, bring fruit monomeals for lunch, etc. And for dinner I always go to the cafeteria and get a LARGE salad, with rice, or some more fruit!

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CJ: You’ve written an e-book called “Living A Healthy and Happy Life.” What was the process of writing that book like for you?

SY: The process of writing my e-book was both inspiring and difficult. I had to face all my fears, vulnerabilities, and mistakes, and open myself up to possible criticism. But when I started writing it, I promised that I would be genuine and authentically tell my story. I share a lot more than I expected I would, but I’m glad I did, I’ve gotten a lot of emails from people who can relate and that makes everything worthwhile!

CJ: What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

SY: Follow your bliss.

CJ: To our readers out there wondering how they can take one tiny step towards becoming happier and healthier right now, what one piece of advice would you offer to them?

SY: I would say start with breakfast! That’s really the easiest meal to eat healthy. Have a large fruit smoothie or a fruit meal! Also WATER: drink enough water so that you’re peeing clear. And SLEEP! It’s so important to get enough sleep!

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CJ: You’ve experienced your own incredible health transformation. What were some of the difficulties you faced while beginning that process and how did you keep yourself motivated?

SY: It was really difficult for me to deal with social situations when I fist started. I would get a lot of questions that I wasn’t able to answer, and I really felt attacked. I realize now that most people were just curious, so I’d say don’t take things personally and do your research! Become informed about plant-based nutrition, and cover all the basic questions (where do you get your protein, calcium, iron etc).

CJ: As a self-starter you have to keep yourself on track with goals and deadlines. What tools and organizing methods do you use to keep everything running smoothly?

SY: I have a mac, and I use “Stickies” obsessively! I have daily to-do lists, and weekly agendas.

CJ: You have a huge Instagram following! What kinds of things do you do to engage with your community and how has that virtual growth impacted your real life?

SY: I love reaching out to local companies that support the message I do, and introducing them to my followers. I’ve also hosted fruit lucks, and gone to some vegan potlucks! It’s been incredible to find a community here in Vancouver of plant munching people! As for online, I love following and supporting other health foodies, and I’m constantly inspired by others on Instagram!

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CJ: What has been the most unexpected part of college so far?

SY: University has been just incredible. The inspiring atmosphere, incredible friends, and total freedom has made this year my favorite year yet.

CJ: You’re also great about making fitness a priority. How do you keep yourself energized throughout the day and especially throughout a workout?

SY: I workout in the mornings before breakfast. I love waking up, drinking a liter of water, and then getting my sweat sesh on! One of my favorite things to listen to during a workout is the Rich Roll podcast.

CJ: What is your go-to recipe for when you just don’t know what you feel like eating?

SY: DATE COCONUT ROLLS!

CJ: What advice would you give to your 14-year-old self?

SY: Your imperfections guide and shape your narrative, love them, embrace them, and accept them.

Steph Yu Qs

Images Courtesy of: Steph Yu

Travel

Sure, running out of milk for your cereal, hangnails, and single-spaced papers are terrible, but is there anything truly worse than a poorly planned trip? The one you envisioned flawlessly in your mind, but everything that could have gone wrong seemed to? I have been there. Organizing an enjoyable trip or vacation takes serious inspiration and, more importantly, useful planning resources. In attempts to avoid fake tours, dirty hotels, and wasted days, I want to share a few of my favorite travel-related websites that aid in creating the adventure you crave and deserve.

1. Student Universe 

For those looking to save some money, Student Universe is your site. This travel company caters to students and provides discounted rates on flights, trains, hotels, and tours. While most people use the website for their flights, make sure to check out their “Tours” and “Activities” tabs to help in creating a fun itinerary. To get access to these perks from Student Universe, all you have to do is create an account and verify you are a student.

It’s easy! Now that you’ve grabbed cheaply priced tickets, it’s time for the nitty gritty details.

2. Airbnb

When I traveled to Panama I stayed in the heart of Panama City in a beautiful apartment in the artsy and historic Casco Viejo neighborhood. The home was stunning with 2-stories, ceramic tile, a balcony with a view, and impeccable decorating. Staying in an apartment was much more economical and enjoyable than staying in a hotel. Using Airbnb prospective travelers can search through various styles and sizes of houses, apartments, and bedrooms to rent from locals during their trip. The spaces belong to owners who have been thoroughly screened and reviews are posted on the site for each owner.

I highly recommend browsing Airbnb’s housing options before looking for hotels because they are cheaper and provide you with an authentic feel during your vacation. If you want to save some money and cook food, you can do that. If you want to stay in for a night and listen to the sounds of the street, you can do that, too!

3. National Geographic Travel 

When planning my next journey, I also check by National Geographic’s online travel section. Aside from the awe-inspiring photography covering every inch of the website, the travel section has a huge database of itineraries, destinations, restaurant recommendations, and so much more. You can search by trip type, country, city, and even theme.

If you are choosing between destinations, I would recommend using the photographs and articles written on this website to narrow your options. It’s National Geographic, so you’ll inevitably feel your wanderlust increase ten-fold.

4. Jet Lag Rooster 

Finally, a messed up sleep schedule can surely disrupt a vacation, so try using this website to learn how to avoid it! Just type in your departures and arrival cities, and the Rooster will give you suggestion times of when to sleep during your flight and the few days after. No longer will you be wide awake at 4:30 am and ready to pass out at 3pm, thanks to this neat site!

Image: Flickr

EducationSkills

Creating your own website is now easier than ever. It has become more economical in terms of money and work. But while starting a website is worth only a few clicks of effort, maintaining it and receiving constant traffic takes quite some skill. The essentials, tips, and tactics listed below are ones that I have learnt through experience by starting my very own website.

1. Finding your website’s niche

This is arguably the most important element to your website. You have to identify ‘why’ you are creating your website or ‘what’ purpose it serves. This will be your site’s trademark; people will remember your site for this very reason. To give an example, my website, www.maverickyouth.com, focuses on giving individuals the liberty to write and publish opinionated pieces. Linkedin’s niche is to serve as a platform that connects potential employers with seeking employees. The niche you pick will help your website set it apart from the crowd and it will make it more lucrative (If you’re planning on starting it for commercial reasons of course). Your title may also be linked with your niche for more impact. This task sets you going in the right direction.

2.  Who You Are Targeting

This is the next big step. While having a large consumer base might seem, quite intuitively, stronger, it is not necessarily so. True, having a large audience is a definite ‘plus-one’, but it’s better to have a narrow set of ‘active’ users than a large set of passive ones. My website looks to target young opinionated teenagers who wish to portray themselves through writing. Once you know who you are targeting, everything else will fall into place quite easily. Your website’s look for example can be modified to appeal to your user base’s interests.

3. Teamwork and Diversity Are Key

Having a team of committed individuals will make the whole process faster and more fruitful. Your choice of hiring (for pay or not for pay) is up to your discretion; the bottom line is you have to hire individuals ready to put in their best efforts. Diversity is key in this aspect. Make sure you have a team with diversified skill sets. You have to define their jobs clearly to avoid any ambiguity. Divide the website’s workload and hand over the work to the suitable team members. For example, you may provide the web designing work to someone with a strong background in computers. Since keeping up with each member’s progress is a must, make sure your team isn’t too large, as personal attention is required for more per-capita output.

4. Market Research

After your website is ready, you may share it with a select few to get their opinions and feedback. This sample audience may be close friends, family members etc. They should be people giving credible feedback. Otherwise, you may use websites like www.criticue.com to get feedback from online users around the world. This is an important measure to take before taking your website out into the open. The opinions you receive will be good sources for final touches. They may make you think of things you had not thought of before; you might see potential problems that you once overlooked. If your initial vision was strong, then the positive feedback you get from people will serve as a confident booster. Negative feedback will definitely make you rethink some of your website’s components. This is all for the improvement of your website.

5. Social Media

After your website goes live it becomes time to turn towards social media. Social media is a blessing to all website’s wishing to make it big. There are several widgets your website may employ to connect with websites like Facebook, Tumblr, etc. For example, your website may have a widget that allows users to register to your website by logging into their Facebook accounts. On the same note, creating a Facebook page for your website will be highly beneficial as you will be closer to your consumers. You may choose to use some credit to advertise through social media and attract a larger fan base. But before you involve money into the picture, it’s best you view some of the tutorials on Youtube that show you how to best handle your credit. Make sure you have a constant flow of posts on these social media pages. They are great for advertising new services or products. Since this job can be quite taxing, it would be pragmatic to have at least one individual on your team overseeing this.

Good luck with your own website endeavor!

Image: Picography