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:
WebsiteTwitterPinterest

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.

Andrew 2

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.

Andrew 4

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

SpotlightYouth Spotlight

It’s perfectly fitting that Maurissa Walls, a senior at The George Washington University, is also the Director of Marketing and Public Relations for Smart Girls Group (SGG). She’s definitely one of the smartest people we’ve met and undoubtedly has an extremely bright future ahead of her. We found out about this inspiring woman by word of mouth – her name kept popping up in conversation around campus and it was no secret that she was a leader at GWU, making her mark one student at a time through freshman orientations and volunteerism.

As both a student and aspiring market strategist, Maurissa has never shied away from a challenge. For over two years she has strategized all of the marketing and advertising campaigns for SGG, manages a full team of Smart Girls, and even contributes to the digital magazine – The Smart Girl’s Guide. We are elated to introduce to you Maurissa Walls!

Name: Maurissa Walls
Age: 22
Education: George Washington University, Bachelor of Business Administration concentration in Marketing
Follow Personal: Twitter | Instagram | Facebook

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

Maurissa Walls: Finding the balance between preparing yourself for adulthood and all of the responsibilities and pressures that come with it and being completely spontaneous enough to try as many things out of your comfort zone as you can. I think seizing your youth in this way allows you to make a life out of prioritizing having new, fun, adventurous experiences without compromising being a responsible adult because you’ve already made a habit out of finding the balance between the two.

CJ: What made you decide to attend college in Washington, DC, and how has the experience influenced you as an individual?

MW: I honestly ended up in DC because I was too scared at the time of moving to and living New York. I thought it would be a bit too overwhelming and hard for me to adjust. There’s nothing wrong with pacing yourself, if you know what would be best for you, and I truly believe DC is what was best for me at the time. I really wanted to be in an exciting city , and going to college in DC has impacted who I am today tremendously. Going to GW and living in DC has taught me not only to have an appreciation for culture and people but to also celebrate them. Being here has been an incredibly freeing experience. As I’ve developed and changed here I’ve allowed myself to celebrate my own complexities. I’ve learned from other people here that they can be a professional, and artists, and a mentor, and an activist, and so many things at once. I’ve learned not to limit other people or myself to just one box.

CJ: You are currently the Director of Marketing & Public Relations at Smart Girls Group. What does your role entail?

MW: My role at Smart Girls Group includes overseeing the strategic marketing and public relations vision of the company. I work with a really talented group of social media managers, PR managers, graphic designers, and writers to help drive our branding online and promote all of Smart Girls’ amazing offerings, services, and products.

CJ: What has been the most rewarding aspect of your work with SGG so far?

MW: Working with my team and our wonderful staff has been my favorite part of Smart Girls Group. I love seeing people grow in their positions. Going back to see work of girls on my team from a year or two years ago looks completely different from what they are able to do now. It’s so rewarding to watch people on my team develop their skills, talents, and professionalism and gain confidence in their own capabilities.

Maurissa 3 crop HZCJ: What has been the most unexpectedly exciting part of being involved with a young and growing company?

MW: I didn’t think it would be possible to grow such strong bonds with people online through emails and video conferencing. Those of us on staff are at several different colleges around the US and had never meet in the same room before. When we met for the first time all together at our first conference last summer, it was hard for us to convince people we were physically meeting for the first time. We get along and work so well together. We’ve created such strong bonds and I didn’t expect that to happen. Seeing this come to life at our conference for so many other girls that work together was so rewarding. It definitely proved to me that big results and big impact can come out of small packages.

CJ: How do you deal with difficult days and move forward?

MW: Remembering that I’ll still be alive in the end. There’s nothing more humbling and no easier way to calm yourself down than using a birds-eye view on a tough situation situation. My tough situations don’t even seem valid, considering what is going on in the world. Nowadays I’m usually laughing at my problems. There are some tough times that are harder to laugh through and I will just let myself feel what I am feeling for a moment. Crying, yelling, or whatever I need to do to get it out. But ultimately I realize I can either let myself just exist being upset or I can take action by doing the best that I can. The next day is probably coming, difficult or not, whether I like it or not, so I can at least try to make the best adjustments that I can to make it better.

CJ: What two main pieces of advice would you give to an incoming freshman college student?

MW: I told all of my new students the same advice all summer: use your resources and just take as much stuff as you can. You don’t realize how many “free” things that you are paying for in college until you start budgeting for life after. Then you realize how much free stuff and helpful resources that you left behind. There are so many departments at offices and schools that are begging for students to use their services and as a freshman I thought that I needed to work my way up in order to take advantage. Obviously that’s not true, you can jump in and start taking advantage. That’s not limit to school resources. I encourage freshman to apply for that internships they don’t think they can have or visit that place that they don’t think they can go to. The world is very forgiving of college students – especially freshman.

CJ: You are an aspiring marketing strategist. What originally drew you to this career choice and why?

MW: I’ve wanted to be in marketing since the 6th grade. I liked a writing project that we did where we had to design an ad and create the copy for a cereal commercial. I learned through that project that I like to influence people and I’ve kept with it because I realize there are multiple ways to do it. I’ll be going into buying in the retail industry, and that still feels like marketing to me, because I am in a position to influence and shape people’s experiences when they walk into a store. I like that marketing challenges you find new ways to influence because people are changing all the time.

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

MW: My dad always told me growing up to stay connected with people. It’s becoming harder to do as you get older and busier, but I think it is extremely important. When people that I meet abroad, at school, or in programs have a real impact on me I try to stay connected to them. I think it helps to keep you aware of what you learned and how you’ve grown by be surrounded by the people that have helped to get you to that place.

CJ: What is your favorite book?

MW: Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe.

Maurissa Group HZCJ: How do you stay organized and juggle all of your responsibilities? Are there specific tools you use?

MW: I’m not a master yet, but I have system that seems to works for me. I use a combination of iCal, a plan book, and a clipboard of to-do lists. I’ve found that it helps me to have multiple touch points. If I have something on my iCal for the day with a notification before, see it in my planner, and have it on my to do list it usually will get done.

Color-coding is also really important and I make sure that I use the same color codes across my three planners. I like being able to look at my schedule at the beginning of the week and visually see that there are a lot of orange student org activities and know that it will be a fun week or to see a lot of blue academic slots to know that I have to crack down early in the week.

CJ: You will be graduating from the George Washington University in 2015. What are your next steps?

MW: I’ll be working in the Merchant (buying/planning) executive program at Macy’s HQ in New York. I am really excited about my job, I think it is well suited for my skills and it will challenge me in new ways. I think it will be a more creative and challenging way for me to use marketing to influence people.

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

MW: I would tell myself that I am exactly who I am supposed to be. I’ve mostly had the same personality, spirit, and energy my entire life and I’ve always known that. I would tell myself to keep listening to myself. I’d promise myself that I would be really grateful for being exactly who I am later down the road and that it is for a good purpose.

Maurissa Walls Qs

Photos courtesy of Hannah Ziegler, Emily Raleigh, and Veronica Graves

SpotlightYouth Spotlight

Nick Rubin is one seriously impressive 17-year-old. We met up with Nick for coffee in Seattle and discussed the many amazing projects he’s working on, including the app Greenhouse (which he built himself), a youth-run organization connector called YouthCorp, and his college applications.

As a high school student, Nick has loads of homework and the typical stress that comes with being near the end of your high school career. But Nick is approaching his time in high school differently by making the most of his time outside of class. He partakes in extracurriculars, spends time pursuing hobbies such as graphic design and photography, and makes time for himself by going on hikes and bike rides.

Nick undoubtedly seizes his youth. Read on to learn about how Nick learned to code, the inspiration behind his projects, and the top tips he would give someone who is just about to enter high school.

Name: Nicholas Rubin
Education: Lakeside School
Follow:
nicholasrub.in / @nickrubin / Greenhouse / Instagram

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define “Seizing Your Youth”?

Nicholas Rubin: I define “Seizing Your Youth” as taking advantage of the many opportunities that being young offers. For example, free time. We tend to have more free time than adults, which gives us time to focus on our passions and interests. Many people say that kids can’t make change, but I think that the opposite is true. I think it’s easier for kids to make a change – not only are we able to focus on what we’re interested in, but there’s something about youth that’s special.

CJ: You are the creator of Greenhouse, a free browser extension for Chrome Firefox, and Safari that exposes the role money plays in Congress. What inspired you to create Greenhouse?

NR: Ever since giving a presentation in a 7th grade social studies class, I’ve been really interested in the issue of money-in-politics. It’s not usually something kids care about, but even though I’m 17 and can’t vote for another year, I wanted to change that. I thought that the information about sources of funding of members of Congress wasn’t being made accessible to people, to the average citizen. It’s being buried away. The Federal Elections Commission (FEC) is the agency that’s in charge of making this information accessible to the public, but they aren’t doing a good job. It’s tucked away, and since most people don’t know where or how to find it, I wanted to put it where it’s more useful – on the web pages where people read about the actions of members of Congress every day.

CJ: How did you go about actually building Greenhouse?

NR: When I first came up with the idea, I didn’t really know how to code. I taught myself using a series of online resources, and this year I’m taking a formal computer science class in school. There are so many great instructional websites these days – Kahn Academy, Codecademy, and my favorite, Treehouse – which are all geared toward youth, so it’s easy to understand for a beginner.

I spent about 10 months and 400 hours working on Greenhouse. For the data itself, I’m collecting it from an organization called the Center for Responsive Politics, which takes the FEC data and makes it available to developers.

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

NR: I’ve been working on one other important project since this summer. In August, I went to the Yale Young Global Scholars Program, and met 200 other kids from all over the world who all shared a passion for change and global affairs. Four of us recognized this, and we started something called YouthCorp. It’s an organization that connects youth-run nonprofits, projects, initiatives, and companies and combines their resources to fight a common issue.

We’re still figuring out the details, but in the first two months we’ve had around 20 youth-run organizations join us from all over the world. It’s great, and is something that I’ll definitely continue working on.

Nick Rubin d

CJ: You are also a photographer. What sparked your interest in photography and what camera do you use?

NR: I don’t really remember exactly when I started photography, but it’s been a long time. Back in middle school I went to a camp in the San Juans that had film photography as an activity. I learned how to use a manual camera, develop film, and more. Ever since then, I’ve loved it. I got my first point-and-shoot in 6th grade, eventually graduating to a film camera, and then a DSLR. Now I’m in my third year of photography at school, where I do both film and digital photography. My favorite type would probably be travel photography and portraits. They’re both fun to take.

CJ: You have done quite a bit of design work. Where do you draw inspiration and what tools do you use for your design work?

NR: I’ve been interested in design since a 7th grade art class, when we did some linoleum printing. I wasn’t much of an art student, but I really enjoyed carving out and printing shapes. I like simple, minimalist design, and use Photography and Illustrator to do most of my work.

CJ: You were a Top-10 finalist at MHacks IV for Quink, a free browser extension for Chrome and Safari that lets you read the news faster without leaving the page you’re on. What was that experience like and what advice do you have for pitching and making it all the way to the Top 10?

NR: It was an amazing experience. A 36-hour programming competition with almost no sleep may sound miserable, but it was actually tons of fun. Hard, but a great experience. The community tends to be more about learning, rather than competition, so it creates a great environment. Some hackathons have cash prizes, but many of these events are turning away from that and discouraging people from only going with the prizes in mind. Most people go for the experience, and that’s really what makes these events special.

My advice for kids interested in these events is that you don’t have to be an amazing coder, or even know how to code at all. Many attend as designers or simply attend workshops and learn as they go on.

CJ: How do you stay organized, and what are your time management tips?

NR: Truthfully, I’m not the best with organization and time management, but there’s an app called Things that has basically saved my life. It’s a to-do list, where you simply check things off when you’re done. I could probably work to be a bit more organized, and use things like calendars, but something simple like Things is enough for me. I don’t like being too structured.

CJ: Every day in your life must be different depending on school, work, and the time of year, but what does a Monday look like for you?

NR: On a typical Monday, I wake up at 7AM, drive my sisters to school, and go to my classes. After school, I continue to dedicate a quite a bit of time to Greenhouse, even though the attention surrounding it has died down a bit. I’ll spend an hour or two every day working on updates or responding to emails. Other than that, and my homework, I like to play tennis and go on hikes and bike rides.

CJ: What three tips would you give someone entering high school?

NR:
1. Try to make free time for yourself. School may be tough with homework, but it’s possible to have free time if you manage it properly. That’s what makes youth special, having time to do what you want. Making that time is important.

2. Don’t worry too much. That’s something I struggled with for the past few years. I’ve toned it down now, but don’t spend a lot of time stressing about school and your social life.

3. Do what you’re interested in, both in school and out. Pick classes and extracurriculars that interest you. For example, computer science is an elective course that I’m taking. Use your school’s resources to further your interests.

CJ: The college application process is ahead. What are you doing now to prepare for that?

NR: The process is just starting for me – I was actually assigned my college counselor yesterday. I’m probably planning on going on a school tour during spring break. I haven’t given the process much thought, but one thing that I’ve heard from people is to definitely start early. I may procrastinate with school assignments, but with something as big as college essays and applications, I’m going to be sure to start as early as possible.

CJ: What is one of your favorite books?

NR: Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell.

CJ: What is a book you read in school that positively shaped you?

NR: Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger.

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

NR: Communication and reaching out to people. There are definitely a lot of people who could be useful to me and the projects that I’m working on, and reaching out to some of them would be really beneficial. When I need help, I tend to refrain from asking others, but I definitely want to change this.

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?

NR: Whenever I’m having a bad day, I try and find something to get my mind off of it. I like to play with my dog, or go on a hike or bike ride. Leaving things behind and not letting them get to me is important. Being in nature and spending time away from society really helps, and it puts me in a good state of mind.

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

NR: My parents and grandparents always told me before tests, “Good skills” instead of “Good luck.”

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

NR: Don’t worry as much! I worried about everything, and it would take up a lot of my time. I would spend more time worrying about an experience than actually enjoying it. This definitely could have changed earlier on.

Nick Rubin Qs

Image: Carpe Juvenis

Culture

Luxury brands once garnered association with the elite class being the ultimate pillar of success. Today the luxury market has grown to encompass a globally engaged population of younger consumers who come from more diversified backgrounds with greater spending habits. The youth consumer has dramatically shifted over the years, and to date, its influence in the eyes of several leading global luxury brands has been noted.

Through avenues such as social media, advertising, and increased travel, more and more young consumers have their eye on buying into the luxury goods market. The increase of spending habits from younger consumers is mainly prevalent in emerging markets, as certain parts of the world place high value on brand name identity.

According to Bain and Company, a Boston based global management firm, it forecasts the worldwide luxury market to grow to $290 billion USD in 2015, as the demand for high-end luxury – especially clothing and accessories – rises in emerging markets such as India, China, Brazil, and Russia.

Interestingly enough, luxury brands have not been highly affected by many of the transpiring financial events that have hit various other sectors globally. These brand names have built their reputations and financial holdings by remaining strategically branded entities to their worldwide consumers. As the market for luxury goods is poised to grow, these brands are using their overall reputations to revamp and repackage luxury to the new emerging and elite consumers who have higher purchasing powers elsewhere.

European markets are poised to see a 2% growth, which is considerably low for the region. Japan will experience a sharp 12% decline in the consumption of luxury brands. The East Asian region of Greater China will see growth at upwards of 4% splitting growth between Hong Kong, Macau, and Mainland China. Overall, the Chinese consumer has increased from roughly 25% to upwards of 30% of the market.

Sales in the Arab world also remain strong with an over five percent estimated growth in the luxury market with strong focus residing on the Emirates, while Saudi Arabia now becomes the regions second largest luxury market. Continent-wide growth for Africa rapidly showcases an emerging region for long term growth and vast potential with 11% growth and expansion expected with strongholds in Angola, Morocco, Nigeria, South Africa, and Rwanda. Southeast Asia comes in at roughly 11% becoming the highest potential earning demographic with luxury consumers demanding lucrative brands in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, and Thailand.

The bottom line remains that as growth for luxury brands rapidly slows in the Americas and Western Europe, many of the most important companies within this sector are targeting a newer demographic of young brand-conscious consumers globally.

The increasing changes and connections youth consumers and global luxury brands now share is a trend that continues to grow. Youth consumers are driving how major multinational brands shift their approach for growth and sales; and through this method, the spending habits of the youth market remains on track to grow.

The millennial generation can learn a lot from these current market trends, as they tend to foster the next phase of growth in several of the previously mentioned international markets. Your presence is important in how the market shifts to look younger and to appeal to savvy and wealthy foreign nationals abroad. Understand that these brands will continue to affect your lives and consumption habits, especially as they become more prevalent in greater avenues of young people’s lives.

Currently according to Forbes, the top ten most valued brands globally come mostly from the fashion, accessory, and spirits industry.

  1. Louis Vuitton ($19.4 Billion)
  2. Hermès ($7.86 Billion)
  3. Gucci ($7.47 Billion)
  4. Chanel ($6.22 Billion)
  5. Rolex ($5.53 Billion)
  6. Hennessy ($5.40 Billion)
  7. Cartier ($4.91 Billion)
  8. Moet & Chandon ($4.85 Billion)
  9. Fendi ($3.47 Billion)
  10. Prada ($2.7 Billion)

Image: Blake Bronstad

SpotlightYouth Spotlight

We are always so inspired by students who take the leap of faith into entrepreneurship while still taking classes and juggling a handful of other responsibilities. One of these inspiring students is Michelle Schechter, a current senior at Northwestern University who started the company For Real Dough. FRD takes a spin on a classic – chocolate chip cookies – and offers its customers an assortment of delicious edible cookie dough (that’s totally safe to eat!). In between classes and friends Michelle answers emails, dreams up new flavors, develops branding and packaging, and so much more. We are in awe of what she has accomplished so far, and can’t wait to see where she takes FRD next. Pass the cookie dough, please!

Name: Michelle Schechter
Age: 22
Education: Northwestern University
Follow: For Real Dough | Facebook | Instagram

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define “Seizing Your Youth”?

Michelle Schechter: I believe taking advantage of any point in my life is about being present. As we get older, we’re surrounded by more and more external (and largely technological) stimuli while becoming increasingly invested and obsessed with the next step, the next job, the next assignment, the next party, the next environment. I think by concentrating on being fully wherever I am and grateful for whatever that is, I have the best chance of stopping time from moving by so fast.

CJ: Why did you decide to attend Northwestern University for your undergraduate experience?

MS: At age 8, I fell madly in love with my next-door neighbor. He had his heart set on Northwestern and I decided right then and there that I did, too.

CJ: What are you studying? Do your passions for arts and cooking intersect at all?

MS: I’m pursuing a theater major, business minor, and music theatre certificate. I think I’ve realized my passions intersect more than I ever anticipated. Baking is creative and so is branding. They’re both very hands-on and experiential. And every business pitch or presentation is kind of like a mini performance.

Rafi Letzler. (Northwestern Magazine Cover)jpg

CJ: What originally drew you to cooking and experimenting in the kitchen?

MS: When I was about 6 or 7, I would present my own “Food Network Show” to anyone home who would listen. I would usually teach the viewers (my mom and dad) how to make cereal or a peanut butter sandwich. It was my absolute favorite game of make-believe. Maybe one day it won’t be make-believe.

CJ: As the CEO of For Real Dough, what do your day-to-day responsibilities entail?

MS: I oversee everything from production to branding. I’m in the kitchens once a week mixing up cookie dough. I’m also busy taking meetings, working on the website and brand design, conceptualizing flavors, and lots more. I have the help of some amazing friends and teammates who greatly contribute to the design and growth of the company.

CJ: Can you please tell us more about how FRD came to life?

MS: Yeah! I had the recipe for a few years and always loved cookie dough. But last Spring, I was enrolled in an Entrepreneurship class at Northwestern where I was able to explore the product in a more tangible way. At the end of the class, my team won a pitch competition and outside interest in the idea started growing. I decided to meet with the President of Northwestern on a whim to see if I could sell For Real Dough at the Northwestern Convenience Stores (“C-Stores”) and, after sharing samples and memories of cookie dough with everyone in the office, he agreed.

Jennifer Gamboa

CJ: How do you juggle finishing your senior year of college with friends, family, and business?

MS: It’s tough. And very busy. But I really try to spend my time and exert my energy towards things that bring me happiness and positivity. So at the end of the day, excitement and passion can overcome stress. It also helps to be surrounded by supportive and loving friends and family.

CJ: In your experience, what has been the most surprising part about entrepreneurship so far?

MS: The generosity of others. I never could have imagined that so many people would support and help turn a dream of mine into a reality. It’s been an incredibly humbling and eye-opening experience.

CJ: As a self-starter, how do you keep yourself on-track with goals and deadlines?

MS: I try to determine what success means for me and keep that goal in mind with every decision I make. From there, it’s passion for the project itself. It feels good to harness productivity and love and put it towards something that I know will make me feel artistically and intellectually fulfilled.

Michelle S Qs

CJ: What does a day in your life look like?

MS: Wake up, have a little dance party, work hard towards my dreams, hug the people I love, take a nap, eat a snack, sleep.

CJ: What has been the best piece of personal advice you’ve been given?

MS: Your will to live must be stronger than your fear of death. (JK Rowling taught me that)

CJ: What has been the best piece of professional advice you’ve been given?

MS: You must believe that what you have to say and give to the world is important.

CJ: What advice would you give your 17-year-old self?

MS: Nothing is permanent. Laugh more. Believe in yourself; don’t wait for someone else to.

Justin Barbin3

Image (top to bottom): Jennifer Gamboa, Rafi Letzler, Justin Barbin

CultureEducation

When it comes to voicing opinions these days, our generation has become paramount in articulating difficult issues facing the world. However, due to corrupt and old-fashioned politics, there has been an increase in voter apathy and decline in voter turnout. With fallacious advertisements and discouraging structures like the Electoral College, young people today do not see the importance of voting anymore – oftentimes, they underestimate the power of their votes.

With the midterm elections this week, I hope to inspire a few more people to go out and make their opinions matter. For example, say you prefer ideology that is kinder to those of lower classes but you decide not to vote. Well, for the past few decades, statistics show that those of more affluent households have dominated the voting circuit, and though some of them may vote alongside your ideals, it is most likely that a large majority will not. Go out and stand up for your principles; no one else will.

For those of you who are like my roommate in the fact that you look at a newspaper and immediately shut down: do not be afraid to learn about the tough issues. My roommate justifies her desire to not vote through the fact that politics panics her; she does not understand nor does she wish to comprehend the bureaucratic system our country exhibits. And although I respect her opinion on this matter, this troubles me because people like this live in this country too, and it is vital to care about your country’s politics. What if you do not vote purely because you did not care to look at the platforms, and an abominable law is passed that affects your life negatively? Take the time to educate yourself on the candidates’ platforms and history as politicians so that you can make the best choice for yourself. Just because you do not vote does not mean that the political decisions made post-election do not affect you.

It is astounding how younger generations today are making films, writing songs, and creating art that explore tons of the social and economic concerns dealt with today, and still feel completely apathetic toward voting. For those of you on the fence about voting this week, your voice should not be reserved only to the creative ventures you have. Each candidate specializes in issues that cater to different demographics, so please look into them and discover what you need out of the American political system. Your opinions and beliefs are preeminent in a time struggling to situate itself with rising issues, therefore, take advantage of the chance you are given to express your beliefs.

To get started, check out these useful resources: 

1. Vote Smart: Just the Facts

2. On the Issues: Every Political Leader on Every Issue

Image: Theresa Thompson

CultureEducationInspiration

If you follow us on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook, you may have seen our live updates from the Wisdom 2.0 Next Generation conference in New York City. It was a great day filled with invaluable life lessons from awesome people such as Kleaver Cruz, Jessica Kane, Elle Luna, Miki Agrawal, and Matthew Brimer. We are excited to share some of the important lessons that we took away from the conference, complete with photos to document our conference journey in the Big Apple.

Washington Square

When in New York City, walk. We strolled through Washington Square Park before the conference started at 10AM. Even though we were running on 3 hours of sleep, we were so excited for the day to begin.

Conference

Moments before the conference started! The conference focused on millennials living with greater purpose and meaning in life and business. All good things, right?

Jessica Kane

Jessica Kane, The Huffington Post Director of Millennial Outreach spoke to us about what it means to be a millennial. We are the most stressed, but optimistic, generation. Also, according to data, millennials would rather be broke than bored, meaning that we want to find passion and purpose in our work, even if that means receiving a lower paycheck. Because we’re so busy and always consumed with technology, it’s important to incorporate well-being into our lives.

Ella Luna

We were excited to hear Elle Luna speak. She’s an artist and the author of the super popular article, The Crossroads of Should and Must. Something eye-opening she said was that if we want to be free, we need to reflect and understand why we are not currently free. Instead of thinking about what you would rather be doing or where you want to go, first understand why you are feeling a certain way and what exactly you can change to make a difference.

Also, make a “What are you so afraid of?” list – write down 10 things you are afraid of, and once they are down on paper, you’ll see that they might not be so scary after all. This list is a great first step for overcoming your fears and to start doing. Elle had such an amazing energy and optimism; we were so inspired!

 FIre escapes

Lunch break! We roamed the streets and grabbed a quick bite to eat. Don’t forget to look up! There’s beauty around every corner in this city.

Miki

Miki Agrawal, co-founder of Thinx and Wild, was hilarious and so, so smart. We have been long-time fans of hers as a leader and businesswoman, so we were excited to hear her speak. She started her presentation by saying that there are no guarantees in life. A simple, yet important, reminder that we should remember every single day. Some important points she made during her talk: master a skill, purpose is your best motivation, face people and you will face your own fears, and leaders don’t talk badly about other people.

Great people talk about ideas. Average people talk about things. Small people talk about other people.

GA

Matthew Brimer is the co-founder of General Assembly, and he is seriously smart and driven. We loved his point about how your education should always be in beta; never stop learning. He also spoke extensively about the importance of failure, and that failure is necessary. Through failure we can learn and improve.

 These were just a few of the amazing speakers that shared their insight from the experiences they have had. It was an overwhelming day in the best kind of way, and we left feeling motivated and determined to include wellness into our lives. There was a speaker who led everyone through a guided meditation, which is seriously good for your brain and health. Meditation = paying attention to being alive. When you take a couple of minutes out of your day to just be, you significantly reduce stress and help calm your mind and body down.

Not only was it great to hear about including well-being into our everyday lives, but it was awesome learning more about millennials. Every now and then it’s great to learn more about our generation and better understand our place in the world. Did any of these lessons resonate with you?

SpotlightYouth Spotlight

We are thrilled to introduce you to Melissa Minton, a full-time student at the George Washington University, President of GWU’s Epsilon Sigma Alpha chapter, Her Campus Correspondent and Co-Editor-in-Chief of GWU Branch, and content intern at Birchbox and Birchbox Man. Whew. We know that’s a lot to get through, but that’s what makes Melissa so awesome – she keeps herself open to opportunities and then utilizes them when she has the chance.

It’s certainly not easy being a full-time student and juggling a handful of other pressing responsibilities, so we asked Melissa to provide us with some insight into how she does it all and still has time for herself! If you want to find out organization tips, learn more about securing incredible internships (Melissa has previously interned at the National Press Club, ELLE Magazine, and De*Nada Design, to name a few), or be inspired by this multi-tasking master, read on!

Name: Melissa Minton
Age: 20
Education: B.A. from the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences in the School of Media and Public Affairs from George Washington University
Follow: Twitter / Facebook / Instagram / Pinterest

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define “Seizing Your Youth”?

MM: I think seizing your youth means actively searching for new experiences and opportunities. Nothing is going to be handed to you unless you’re going out and searching for it. Even if you aren’t sure what you’re looking for, just be open. And if there is an opportunity that falls in your lap, say yes. Always say yes until you have to say no.

CJ: What advice would you give to your 13 year old self?

MM: Don’t downplay your passions and don’t worry about what other people think. I would probably still need to follow the latter even today, but when I was 13 I thought that reading and writing and fashion were just hobbies. It wasn’t until I realized that putting my three passions together could make for a great career that I started to really hone in on that. Also, I wish my 13 year old self knew that bangs aren’t a good look for me.

CJ: What is the benefit or downfall of having such different internship experiences?

MM: I think that in today’s work environment, you need variety. Especially in the media industry you have to be able to do everything yourself. I chose the internships that I’ve had because they all have to do with media, but I learned about different facets of the industry with each experience. You’re never going to be able to explore your interests as thoroughly as when you have different internships, so I think it’s a major benefit to have unique experiences. However, it could be seen as a downfall for the future if you don’t sell your skills in an interview, so before you start an internship you should always know what you want to get out of it.

CJ: What three traits do you think make an outstanding intern?

MM: Willingness to do anything, thinking ahead for your boss, and enthusiasm.

CJ: If you could pinpoint one common thread through all of the work you’ve done to secure your internships, what would it be?

MM: In order to secure internships, being really professional and thorough in every contact you have with your potential future employer is key, whether that be email, phone, or in person. You want to come off as friendly, but I think employers respect professionalism in a young person. If you’re able to point out what skills you’ve used in the past that will be useful to them in an eloquent way, you’ll never be rejected. I like to think that I’ve done that for all the internships I’ve secured.
melissa CJ 2

CJ: You are a student at the School of Media and Pubic Affairs at GWU. What does your major involve and how did you decide what to study?

MM: My major is Journalism and Mass Communications and I am absolutely in love with it. I didn’t discover the program until my sophomore year after trying out classes that interested me. I was taking classes focused on culture and thought I might go into American Studies, but ultimately figured out that I wanted a more real world perspective rather than analytical. As a Journalism major I learn about not only many theories behind how the media industry works, but also skills such as video editing, and lots of writing in different styles. It’s a very hands-on major but also backed up by knowledge of theories.

CJ: What have you learned from your experience as a Her Campus Co-EIC?

MM: I think one of the biggest take-aways for me is that writing is very personal, but the entire process takes a village. From coming up with ideas, weeding through the good and bad, drafting, editing, posting, promoting on social, the process is in constant motion and no one person can lay claim to all of that work.

CJ: What kind of responsibilities do you have as President of ESA?

MM: As President of ESA, I am essentially the brain that works all of the different appendages. I use what I’ve learned in my past years on the executive board of ESA to map out our future, our goals, and objectives, then trust my e-board members to do the muscle work. I’m pretty type A when it comes to organization, so I task myself with mapping out timelines and due dates and checking in on progress. There are lots of nitty gritty details, but basically I get to conceptualize what I want the organization to look and feel like, which is really satisfying.

CJ: Did you choose to study abroad in college? Why or why not?

MM: Unfortunately, with the requirements of my major, I wasn’t able to do a semester abroad, but I was happy that I found a short term study abroad option. I took a class called “Globalization in Media” in which the class met on campus during the semester, and then went to Paris for 10 days of spring break and had lots of amazing speakers and seminars. I’m so happy that at least I was able to experience that. Not going abroad for an entire semester is definitely my biggest regret!

CJ: You are a student, an organization leader, an intern with multiple groups – How do you create a strong work-life balance (socially and personally balanced with professional goals)?

MM: I think that’s a challenge for everyone and I’d be lying if I said I had achieved it. One of my role models, Ann Shoket, said in an interview with The Every Girl that “There is no balance. You have to embrace the mess.” I think that’s true. I try to do everything in moderation and on a schedule. I like to do recurring tasks on the same day at the same time weekly so that I won’t forget. But, flexibility is also key. Sometimes you’re too tired to do extra work, and sometimes you need to push and get something done instead of relax. I think the balance between regiment and flexibility is the key to balance between personal and work priorities. That’s a long way of saying that I try to embrace the mess.melissa CJ 3

CJ: What are your best organization tips?

MM: I’m always trying to find new apps or programs I can use to be more productive and organize, but it always goes back to pretty simple things for me. To do lists and iCal are my best friends. If every night you write down all of the things you have to do the next day you’ll wake up feeling more in control and ready to cross things off the list. I’m also crazy about color coding and timelines.

CJ: Would you have done anything differently during your college experience looking back with 20/20 hindsight?

MM: I do wish that I had found the School of Media and Public Affairs sooner, but I probably would not have been able to take some of the really cool classes I took freshman year. I think every upperclassmen wishes they took advantage of their freshmen year more, but that’s what it’s for – to be a buffer time between high school and real college work. I always wish that I had gone abroad for a semester as well, that is one thing I am sad about.

CJ: What motivates you?

MM: I’m motivated by the strong women that have the jobs I want. Seeing someone else doing what you want to do is the best way to motivate yourself to get there eventually.

CJ: Where do you see yourself going next?

MM: Hopefully after I graduate I’ll be in New York City.

CJ: When you aren’t busy working and studying, what do you enjoy doing?

MM: Recently I’ve gotten really into painting and drawing and I want to learn how to throw pottery. I like anything creative. Also, watching reality TV will always be my un-guilty pleasure.

CJ: What is your favorite book?

MM: If You Have to Cry, Go Outside by Kelly Cutrone

CJ: What is the best piece of college related advice you would give to your 18-year-old self?

MM: Don’t do anything just because everyone else is. And conversely, just because no one is doing something doesn’t mean you should stay away from that either. Do whatever you want to do.

Melissa Minton Qs

SpotlightYouth Spotlight

When we first heard about Anna Browne’s accomplishments, we were blown away. An 18-year-old who has already self-published a book and earned poetry awards? Amazing! Anna loves to write, spend time with friends, and educate herself and others about animal cruelty and women’s rights. Having recently graduated from high school, Anna will be leaving for college in Australia next April.  We are big fans of this global citizen and writer, and we have a feeling you will be inspired by Anna’s passion, determination, and desire to learn more and to explore the world. Read on to learn more about Anna’s book writing process, what she looks forward to most about college, and where her love of writing comes from…

Name: Anna Browne
Age: 18
Education: High School Graduate
Follow: TwitterWebsite

How do you define ‘seizing your youth’?

When I think about ‘seizing my youth,’ I contemplate how the world perceives me based on my age. Because I am six feet tall, people always think I am a lot older than just 18. I’ve been able to take advantage of this by surprising people with what I’ve accomplished, and then bewildering them when they learn I’m not even in my 20s yet. While people my age go down to the beach on the weekends and party at night, I create worlds with my writing and learn languages. I am a lifelong learner, so I take advantage of my youth by learning as much as I can about absolutely anything whenever I am able to.

You recently graduated from high school. Where will you be attending college and what do you plan on studying?

My plan for college is to attend La Trobe University in Bendigo, Australia. I will be moving in April 2015 and living there for three years to study Marketing. I hope to also minor in Political Science, but because I will be in Australia, the politics will be Australian politics. I hope in doing so I will be given a multi-national perspective in the way people govern, and therefore learn what we need to change to help better our society.

Where does your love of writing come from?

Where does my love of writing come from? Where does your love for the taste of chocolate come from? Or for potato chips? I can’t honestly tell you where my love for writing comes from because I don’t know. All I do know is that I have loved crafting stories since before I could even physically write. It’s more than a passion; it’s something that I live for.

Anna c

You have published a novel called Island XTell us about your book and what inspired you to write a novel.

Island X is set on an island that nobody in the outside world is aware of, except for a very select few. The inhabitants of the island aren’t aware of its purpose, why the society is structured to be a grouped dictatorship, or how the magic that surrounds the island like a misty veil came to be. But when one of the leaders of the society sells their adopted son to another, the mystery of the island and its sole reason for existing begins to unfold.

The inspiration to write Island X came from a lengthy English class where my teacher assigned everyone to study the works of the famous philosophers, Loa-Tzu (Thoughts from the Tao-Te Ching) and Jean-Jacques Rousseau (The Civil Society). Both men describe politics from their time periods in a very intricate way. When I began Island X, I only titled it that because I had no idea what to call it. I wanted to combine the works of those two philosophers somehow, and it ended up with me finishing 64,000 words about an island, extremely odd politics, and a gore-filled supernatural twist. I had no idea what I was writing half the time, but once I finished it, a huge sense of relief and wonder wafted over me. While Island X is certainly not my first novel, it is definitely my best.

What is your book-writing process?

My book writing process is not your average write-an-outline-and-work-off-of-the-outline; nor is it writing every single day. I am at an age that when I start writing a novel, I know I will finish it, rather than just letting it slowly wither away since I don’t have any inspiration for it after the first 10,000 words. When I have the need to write because an idea has come to my mind and it is begging me to be released, I write. When a character has been nagging at me to be placed in a different scene, I write. When I can’t stop thinking about something and it ends up invading my dreams, I write. I can’t force creativity; it has to flow naturally.

Your poem “Days Ago” was published in four different anthologies and it has won four awards, including a first place award from World Poetry Movement. Pretty amazing! What and/or who is your poetry inspired by?

My poem “Days Ago” was inspired by my grandmother Annette, my mother’s mum, and was dedicated to my father’s mum, Rosalind. They were very close before Annette passed away, and I wanted to write something about how I felt during her passing but still recognize her relationship with my other grandmother.

My general poetry is inspired by recent events in my life or a story I want to write but don’t feel the idea is fitting enough for a novel or short fiction.

You are the creator of the most popular competition group on Figment.com called Figment’s Next Top Writer. What does this competition entail and how do you manage it?

The writing competition, Figment’s Next Top Writer, entails providing bi-monthly to monthly writing prompts and extensive editing and critiquing of the submissions. Before every new prompt there’s an eliminated contestant until only one is left standing. The winner’s biggest prize is a published anthology of their challenge submissions. Since the contest has earned an excellent reputation, I have been able to recruit other writers to help me judge.

What traits make a great leader?

Traits that make a great leader: courage, ability to aid others, and the capacity to listen to what people have to say and act accordingly.

How do you balance being a student with your activities? What are your time management tips?

How do I balance being a student with my activities? I’m the kind of person that writes term papers for fun. If an essay is assigned in class, no matter what the topic is or how many words is the absolute minimum, I finish it within one hour and receive an A every time. Most of my homework just consists of writing essays, so technically my teacher is having me do my favorite hobby for school. It’s an easy balance because I enjoy it so much and I get it done quickly.

As for time management tips, I’m afraid I can’t offer much. My general process is to do everything I want to do before my homework, and the reason why is because then all that I would be distracted by isn’t there. The downfall of that is I’m putting off schoolwork in favor of Facebook or writing a new post for my blog. However, if you’re desperate to finish something and find time management difficult, I suggest offering a reward for yourself once you finish. Whether that is eating frozen yogurt or watching the next episode in your favorite TV series, the reward-after-work idea helps a lot when I am studying for an exam or have something I really need to finish in a short amount of time.

What three things are you most looking forward to in college?

The first thing I am most looking forward to in college is the fact that I will be living thirty minutes away from my amazing kid-cousins, Matilda (10), Montague (6) and Mervin (6). I hardly ever see them and they mean the world to me. I am like their big sister and they treat me as such, so it’s important to me that I am there for them and be a big part of their lives.

The second thing that I’m looking forward to is the independence. Australia is an 18-hour flight, so popping over to see my parents every weekend isn’t an option. I will be living on my own and forced to look after myself. It will be a big change, but an exciting one.

The third thing would have to be the environment of where I’m going. I have visited Australia 14 times, and each trip feels like I’m growing into a stronger person. While Washington State is always raining, Australia is in the midst of a drought. I find myself a lot more water-saving-savvy, environmentally-sound, and careful because that’s the norm in Australia.

What does a day in your life look like? How do you plan out your days?

Oh geez, I’m afraid my normal days aren’t that exciting. I wake up at noon (unless my dad wakes me up at 9AM because he thinks I’ve already slept in long enough), eat cottage cheese with agave and berries, and figure out whether or not I should spend my day hanging out with friends. If I feel more like being on my own, I swim, I write, and I watch re-runs of Nikita and The 100. Recently my father has been elected for the at-large seat for Whatcom County Council, so often at night I will be attending political events and campaign parties. My favorite political event was when my father and I attended Governor Jay Inslee’s inaugural ball. I enjoyed it the most because I got to dress up in a fancy ball gown and stroll the halls of one of the most magnificent buildings in all of Washington State.

When it comes to day-planning, I have begrudgingly learned to rely on using my phone’s calendar. I’ve never been a fan of calendars, I don’t know why, but now I use it constantly and I set up alerts for whenever I have something to do that day so I am constantly reminded.

Anna Gov Ball

What issues are you most passionate about?

The issues I am most passionate about are stopping animal cruelty and advocating for women’s rights. I could go into a very long tangent on why, but basically with animal cruelty I stand up for the voices unheard and refuse to buy anything that has been tested on animals. I actually haven’t eaten any product made by Mars Candy Company in seven years since I learned that Mars funds deadly animal tests not required by law.

As for women’s rights, I educate people and try to teach myself of how women are still treated unfairly compared to men and what we can do to change that, as well as why men have no right to dictate what we can and cannot do with our own bodies.

How do you like to spend your free time?

I spend my free time writing, editing, writing, critiquing, writing, watching my favorite TV shows, writing, and fro-yo dates with my friends. Oh, and writing.

What motivates you?

Love. The simple concept of love motivates me in my life every day.

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

Don’t let the opinions of others slow you down; be who you are, because there is only one of you and only you can be the best version of yourself.

Anna Browne Qs

CultureTravel

Summer isn’t over! Haven’t planned a vacation or gone anywhere yet? That’s good, because I’m going to share with you a place often overlooked for its true wonder: The Great Smoky Mountains of Eastern Tennessee. Leave your beach balls and umbrellas at home, my friends, and come take a gander at authentic Appalachia.

smoky 1

I recently explored the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, and I can tell you that it’s more than what you expect from a typical weekend in the mountains. I certainly had a bunch of perceptions about the vacation being boring, but I was very wrong. And I’m glad I was wrong. So here I am, describing to you an experience of a lifetime. I’m going to invite you to live vicariously through my experience. Ready?

Where can I even begin?  The scenery is breathtaking and bucolic. We all need a break from reality, especially if we’re city dwellers. That’s why this rugged region, replete with emerald trees and sapphire rivers, is the perfect getaway.  You can rent a cabin from many of the lodging companies here, including Patriot Getaways, and enjoy the cozy apple wood fragrance of the area. I strongly suggest taking a dip in the hot tubs many of the cabins already have on a cool summer’s evening. Cool and summer? How do both of those words even go together? Well, the weather in the mountains is superb. It’s just the right amount of coolness mixed in with occasional warm zephyrs and acts as a therapeutic aid, allowing your mind to be calm and stress-free from the hullabaloo of city life.

After you’re done settling into your cabin, it’s time to explore the area. To really get a good picture of the place, go to Gatlinburg Skylift, Inc. You won’t regret it. Capture an amazing view from hundreds of feet above after you situate yourself comfortably on a lift seat. Enjoy yourself. Take pictures. Most importantly, just breathe!

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You must be tired and hungry from venturing all the way to the top and back to the bottom. How about some fudge as a snack? You can find fast food chains and eat-in restaurants here, but you should try what Gatlinburg is truly famous for: fudge. The Kilwins of Gatlinburg, a confectionary for any sweet tooth or fudge maven (the dark chocolate fudge is the best, I might add).

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After you’ve filled your belly with a few sweets, try some horseback riding through the mountains to burn off those calories. There are various locations that offer equestrian activities, one of them being the small town of Pigeon Forge. Big Rock Stables is an excellent equestrian activity center. Not only do they have horses, but there’s a small petting zoo with exotic birds such as emus and peacocks (you would never expect to see these in Tennessee, may I add) as well as goats and alpacas—a toddler’s dream come true. After you’re done gazing at the beauty of these petting zoo animals, move on to the big challenge: going on a three kilometer ride over a section of the mountains. Maintain your balance and remain focused, the horse will do the rest!

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You’ve gone over the mountains, now it’s time to go under them. Get ready for some unique cave scoping at Forbidden Caverns in Sevierville, which you’ll find after a scenic drive on several twisting roads through the mountain valley. Witness the creations formed by Mother Nature herself over millions of years. The cave is the same temperature year-round, around 50 degrees Fahrenheit, so make sure you bring a light jacket! It is said that Native Americans came here during the winters to stay warm. Be careful not to touch anything in the cave, though. The limestone formations are very fragile and can atrophy just by a simple brush of the arm.

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The Appalachian Mountain region, in general, is overlooked as a vacation destination. Nestled inside the result of old plate collisions are so many gems of nature. Have you ever been somewhere that’s often overlooked? So much wonder lies all around the world, but how much of it do we really know about? There’s a lot to see in this world, and I encourage you travel anywhere you can. Save up as much as you possibly can and travel during your youth. You won’t regret it!

CultureEducationSkillsTravel

The past couple of days have been a whirlwind in our nation’s capital. As I shared last week, I was honored to receive the Congressional Award Gold Medal yesterday. From the dinner to the actual Medal Ceremony, it has been awesome getting to see more of D.C., as well as meeting the other amazing medal recipients. If you’ve been following along on Instagram, you’ve seen a behind-the-scenes look at what I experienced. I thought I’d share some more details about the pictures here in a diary format. Let’s begin!

Tuesday, June 17

Penn Station

 7:00am – Rise and shine! The train for D.C. left bright and early, and the journey officially kicks off with a delicious breakfast sandwich, apple juice, and a full itinerary for the next couple of days.

Train view

8:00am – The view from the train is perfect for zoning out and seeing America zip by. Love views like this when I want to focus on absolutely nothing.

Working on the Train

 9:00am – Enough zoning out. It’s time to get some work done! With a full to-do list and more posts to write, the train is the best time to concentrate on the task at hand. It’s like being at the airport – there are many ways to stay productive.

National Geographic Society

 2:00pm – No time to waste now that I’m here in D.C.! Made a super cool stop at National Geographic HQ for an awesome upcoming Professional Spotlight. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, June 18

Constituent Coffee Russell Senate Office Bldg

8:00am – Another early D.C. morning! I trek to the Capitol to meet for a Constituent Coffee with Washington’s Senator Patty Murray. It was a pleasure meeting her and other Washingtonians.

Gold Dinner 2014

 8:00pm – The first official Congressional Award event: the Gold Medal Dinner. I took Catherine, who has earned her Silver Medal, and we met really inspiring youth from around the country. We also heard from some pretty incredible speakers, including Kevin Liles, the Honorable Ron Kind, and Chris Jordan.

Lauren holding CA medalist book

 9:00pm – Here I am holding The Congressional Award Medalist book with other medalists’ stories and speaker information. The energy of the room was contagious!

Thursday, June 19

Carpet from Ceremony at Capitol Cannon Caucus House

 9:00am – The time has come for the Congressional Award Gold Medal Ceremony! This carpet design caught my eye, and I couldn’t not snap a quick picture before going through security. I felt so official just standing on this carpet.

Offices in Cannon House

 11:45am – Walking through the halls of the Cannon Caucus House. Everything is so…impressive.

Catherine and Lauren by reflection pool

 12:05pm – Catherine and I standing in front of the Capitol Reflecting Pool. Can you spot the Washington Monument? Can’t wait to be here again next year when she earns her Gold Medal!

Lincoln

 3:30pm – I have the afternoon off! I walk to the Lincoln Memorial, and as usual, am in awe of its impressive size and beauty.

This week has been amazing, to say the least. Thanks for coming along on the journey with me, and I hope you enjoyed the sneak peeks!

SpotlightYouth Spotlight

There aren’t a lot of twenty-one-year-olds who can say that they’ve found their life’s passion. But luckily Carpe had the opportunity to sit down over a plate of pancakes with with somebody who knows exactly what gets them up in the morning. Meet Alex Kummert, currently a Communication student at Saint Mary’s College of California, and comedian at heart and on stage. As a young and upcoming performer, Alex had a lot to share with us about mixing pursuit with practicality and never giving up on a good thing. From his first 2011 TedX talk to an ongoing Podcast he shares with his Grandma, Alex inspires us to get up off the couch and pursue our passion!

Name: Alex Kummert
Age: 21
Education: Communication student at Saint Mary’s College of California
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How would you define seizing your youth?

Seizing your youth is the understanding that while our life is a tangible thing, our youth is even more so. Seizing your youth is pursuing your passions in life with no regard for what you are expected to be doing at your age. It’s seizing the opportunity of time and passion, and furthering progress towards achieving goals while still getting to understand the world around you.

When did you begin with comedy?

The first time I did standup was when I was 14, I was at church camp, and I did it on a dare for the talent show. I wasn’t that funny but I was funny enough that I wanted to keep doing it. I only started taking it seriously around 16 or 17, and from 16 on I’ve been doing it very consistently. At this point – six years later – I’m performing almost once a week, so it has been pretty heavily engrained into my daily life.

How do you come up with material?

Material can come from anywhere. I’ve never been one to sit down and decide to write jokes for an hour. It’s something that just kind of comes to me and I think “Oh that could work, that could be a joke,” and then I sit down and I write the whole thing long form. It’s about being in a mind set than necessarily having to block out time to do it. I’m a much more free-range sort of thinker when it comes to jokes. I pull material from my life and daily occurrences, and sometimes from conversations I have with my friends.

Did you ever have stage fright and how did you over come it?

I had stage fright when I was younger but not in comedy – I did a lot of theater when I was a kid. That’s where the performance bug came from. I had stage fright then, and its kind of been “cured” now. I’m a little nervous when I go up onstage and before shows I’m kind of a wreck and I have a lot of butterflies because I just want to do it. But stage fright isn’t something I’ve had an issue with in my comedy experiences because of that past theater experience.  In terms of how to get over stage fright, I would say allow yourself to have fun. Don’t allow that experience to become stressful because the people that are in the audience are usually there to have fun.

What advice would you give to yourself right before your first day of college?

Leave the things that you thought were important home behind. Allow yourself to get involved in your new community and immediately ease in the new lifestyle rather than letting the things at home eat away at you or affect what you do. Explore and make more mistakes. Allow yourself to make mistakes. That something I didn’t let myself do early on but valued so highly when I went to college. There were so many things at home that I was worried about and they really didn’t matter.

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You have a podcast with your Grandma called “Lazy Susan” – where did that come from and can you tell me about it?

It all started from a love of Chinese food, which came from my grandmother. My grandma was born in Shanghai, spent a lot of her life there, and still very heavily identifies with that culture. The podcast idea was something I had been kicking around for a while but I didn’t know what I wanted it to be, and then it just sort of opened up [to do this with] my grandmother. To me, my grandmother is the funniest person I know and it’s going to be very hard for someone to top her in my mind. I knew that people on the Internet would think she would be funny too, so that’s where it was inspired.

You also run a radio show at St. Mary’s. How has your informal work with the podcast helped you in a more professional setting?

In college radio you need to be able to improvise and think on the fly very quickly. With Lazy Susan it was about generating a conversation for 45 minutes to an hour every week, so I never felt super uncomfortable with that [impromptu work]. It’s actually allowed me to not have to be as professional because I know how to handle the things that a radio show will throw at you.

Has humor/comedy helped you in your daily life?

Definitely. 100%. Comedy gave me more of an identity. I don’t really know what I’m going to do what my life after I graduate, but I know something that I’m good at and something that I like to do. That reassurance has given me a lot more self-confidence in everything else I approach in life.

What about following a passion?

I would say that following that passion has allowed me to stay more grounded in what I want to do and it has allowed me to develop my own understanding of who I am. And even with the uncertainties in life I have something that is a foundation for when I go out into the unknown.

What advice would you give to someone who has not figured out what his or her passion is yet?

Don’t do things for the sake of finding the passion. It will find you the more that you experience life and are open to opportunities. It will become apparent what you want to do. That’s what happened to me, I just seized an opportunity. I didn’t automatically know “this is what my passion is,” it just developed that way.

What about someone who has discovered his or her passion?

To the person who has found their passion, I would say don’t lose it. Don’t associate your passion with money. That’s something that I struggle with also – you want your passion to be seen as a profession – and that’s great if that works out, pursue that, but don’t let the fact that it doesn’t become that disvalue what you do. It should be something that’s always going to be part of your life even if it’s not how you make money. That’s still what you should live for.

Where do you see yourself taking comedy in the future?

I also addressed this question in my TedX talk. Through the learning experiences I’ve had through pursuing comedy, the lessons I’ve learned will always affect me even if I’m not doing it anymore. Now I’ve had a couple of years where I’ve realized that ill always be doing this until I physically can’t. It might no be professionally, but it’s always going to be a part of my life.  The lessons I’ve learned are more about how I learn, and who I am as a person and how I understand the world.

Could you touch on your work with social media?

I got into social media not for comedy reasons, but the more I got involved and the more I started meeting people online the more I realized it’s a very powerful tool. It’s developed into something that is a very professional tool to me. And it’s opened up an incredible amount of doors to me that I probably wouldn’t have had access to before. That’s how I got on Good Morning America last year; it really was generated from a social media interaction. It allowed me to broaden my horizons personally and personally. I’ve seen nothing but positives in my social media interactions, and I highly recommend it for anyone.

What advice would you give to 15-year-old Alex?

Don’t take things so seriously. I was very over dramatic when I was younger and everything was important to me and I didn’t allow myself to have too much fun. I was wound up. I would tell 14, 15 year old me to relax and that the things that mattered then won’t necessarily matter now.