USF senior passionate about performing arts shoots for the stars

Many have fantasized, at one point or another, about being a famous entertainer. Most, however, do not pursue those dreams.  Naomy Ambroise, a young Tampa performer,  is determined to turn those dreams into reality.

Ambroise is a senior enrolled in the School of Theatre and Dance at the University of South Florida.   She has only been involved in theater since high school, but if you ask the students at the college, Ambroise’s name stands out.

“Naomy is very multi-talented, very dedicated and truly inspiring,” said Danielle James, fellow dance and theater arts student.

Being a performing arts career is not easy.  Besides theater performance, students take ballet classes on body disciplines and memorize pieces for performance in class regularly. The two weeks while a show is being put on require 14-hour days.

“I chose to be a performing arts major because there was just like a satisfaction you get from being able to reach people,” said Ambroise.

Ambroise has been involved in four productions while at USF.  She recently auditioned in New York for acceptance into theater graduate schools; 11 more are interested.  She plans to attend after graduation or become an apprentice for a theater company.

Revealing a Veiled Perspective: A Hijab’s Effect on One Student’s Life

Catalina Garzon subconsciously touched the pink hijab on her head as she walked to her class at the University of South Florida. She watched as person after person either avoided her gaze or quickly looked away. She smiled, but they ignored her. Were they really acting like this because she covered her hair? Until she tried wearing one for a day, Garzon never understood the effect a hijab had on day-to-day living.

Garzon, a sociology major at USF, realized there seemed to be more hate brewing than love on campus, especially with the infamously hateful speakers outside of Cooper Hall yelling at the passers-by. So on Jan. 28, she held an event to peacefully hold signs saying, “Love thy neighbor.” There, she met Nouf Fetais, a hijab-wearing Muslim woman and engineering major.

“When I saw her, I was kind of scared because I didn’t want her to think I was trying to convert her,” said Fetais. “But when I showed another friend of mine how to wear a hijab, Catalina seemed interested, so I invited her to World Hijab Day’s Facebook page.”

After wearing one on World Hijab Day on Feb. 1, Garzon posted on her own Facebook page that she wanted to continue wearing her pink hijab that Fetais gave to her, but wondered if that would be too disrespectful. While a couple people criticized her, she mostly received encouragement.

During World Hijab Day, and at least a handful of times afterward, Garzon discovered what Fetais and other female Muslim students experience on campus.

“I noticed less eye contact,” said Garzon, looking over to Fetais, who was nodding. “Usually when I’m on campus, I get lots of human interaction — hello, compliments, short conversation, usually from people I don’t know, and they’re the ones who initiate it. But when I was wearing a hijab, I didn’t get that. If people did make eye contact with me, they looked away really quickly, and it was kind of surprising.”

Muslim women are expected to start wearing a hijab when they reach puberty, although it’s the woman’s right to decide when and if they do so. Some common reasons for wearing a hijab are believing it is mandated by Islam, valuing the modesty it encourages, or simply liking that it identifies them as Muslim.

While the Muslim friends that Garzon made were supportive, other people were not. She noticed the people who had a problem with it were atheists, Christians, Catholics and non-Muslims.

“I had some people look at me twice like, ‘Is that a white girl wearing a hijab?’ basically,” she said. This was in addition to social media hate she received, she said.

Garzon learned that veiling oneself — such as wearing a hijab — dates back further than Islamic uses. Christians, Jews and Catholics wore head coverings for different reasons, but mainly for modesty.

“Muslim culture…they adapted the hijab; they did not invent the hijab,” Garzon said. That was when Garzon decided it was OK to wear it and that she would wear it for her own reasons.

Today people may wear a hijab or headscarf for other reasons, like fashion, or as a cancer survivor. Women like Garzon may do it to have control, feel confident, or for other personal reasons.

“When does a hijab or headscarf become religious and symbolic?” asked Garzon.

Garzon views the hijab as representing modesty and giving women the opportunity to be in control of how men view them. More importantly, she finds that it unveils a whole new perspective.

“What I find most beautiful of the hijab … when you cover, you see the face clearly and the eyes. I believe everyone is beautiful and unique,” Garzon said as she touched her face and demonstrated with her jacket’s hood. “When you’re able to see the face, you can see movements, the bone structure, the creases when you smile, when you’re excited or contemplating … When you eliminate one part of the picture [the hair], the other part becomes more significant.”

Garzon and Fetais hope other people realize the different ways women are treated when they wear a hijab and the stigma surrounding it. Garzon also hopes to start a support group for non-Muslim women who choose to wear a hijab.

USF Students and Faculty Promote Recycling Movement at RecycleMania

Nearly 100 students listened to local bands, made environmentally friendly crafts and answered trivia questions in the Marshall Student Center Amphitheater Feb. 23.

Loud music and opportunities to win free items such as water bottles and Frisbees greeted students at USF’s RecycleFest. The mission behind the activities encouraged students to save the world through recycling.

“I think a lot of important movements start with students and start with the younger generation, so I think it’s our time to take on this project,” said Melissa Wolfe, communications and marketing coordinator of the Patel College of Global Sustainability.

Wolfe said young people have spurred change in the  past decades, whether the issue was women’s rights, equality or protesting the Vietnam War.  She believes today’s most important issue is the environment.

“The problem is that society is so separated and isolated that it’s hard to get a movement of people together, while at a university, we are used to bringing together students and collaborating on big ideas,” Wolfe said. “So, I think it’s our turn.”

RecycleFest was the kick-off of the month-long event RecycleMania 2015. The Student Environmental Association organized the event to educate students about recycling and to promote awareness. Next month, the SEA will host seminars, provide an electronic-waste drive, teach composting and show a documentary on plastic waste.

College students should be concerned about waste management for many reasons, activists say. Ninety-five percent of the forests in the U.S. have already been cut down, according to Princeton University’s “Top 10 Reasons to Recycle.” Wildlife can be protected by reducing demand for wood and other resources such as petroleum and mineral ores.

Furthermore, reusing materials helps manufacturers avoid using toxic chemicals that are used to treat virgin materials, environmental advocates say. Protecting our water and soil from toxins and reducing the amount of trash in landfills is vital to providing clean water and healthy food for people, they say.

Recycling is responsible for 1.1 million jobs, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Even with such benefits, only 32.5 percent of waste in the U.S. is recycled, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council website.

RecycleMania will measure how much USF contributes to these numbers, said Kirsti Martinez, president of the Student Environmental Association and a junior majoring in environmental biology, and environmental science and policy.

The amount of waste produced by USF and the weight of recycled products will be recorded and published on the Patel College of Global Sustainability website.

Some students at RecycleFest shared their tips on how students can avoid contributing to the trash.

“I think the biggest thing is to reduce, because a lot of plastics can only be recycled so many times into new things,” Martinez said. “Glass and aluminum can be recycled a lot easier, but even then it’s just better to reduce the amount of waste that you’re producing.”

Calyn Lee, a junior majoring in environmental science and policy, said students could pick up trash when they see it and put recycling in the appropriate bins.

Lee and her roommates shop with reusable bags at the grocery store, turn off the lights in their apartment and unplug unused appliances.

Lee said recycling has saved her money in addition to protecting the environment. She buys less, and her bills are lower. Lee believes college is a perfect time to learn how to recycle.

“This is when people make changes,” she said.  “Usually, when people go to college, they’re more open-minded.”

“Ride the Yak” app tour by popular social network Yik Yak reaches USF

An eager crowd buzzed around the distinctively teal Yik Yak tent outside the Marshall Student Center. Students from all around campus flocked to the tent to claim prizes and take pictures with the Yak mascot.

Yik Yak, a popular social app, lets users post anonymous “yaks” that are meant to be visible only to nearby users. It’s popular on college campuses where there are high volumes of social-media-savvy young adults.

The app’s growing popularity has led to a nationwide tour to promote it on college campuses. There are two tours, one on the East Coast and one in the Midwest. The company plans to visit 59 colleges in 34 states, according to the Yik Yak website.

“Our goal is to spread the word about growing the herd,” said Colin Brennan, a 2012 Colorado State University graduate touring with other Yik Yak employees.

The promotional tour rewards active app users with prizes such as Ping-Pong balls, stickers, hats and socks. Brennan said there has been a sharp increase in the amount of posts on the campuses they’ve visited.

“I used to be active [on Yik Yak]. Not so much anymore. This will definitely make me go on again,” senior psychology student Grace McGirr said.

The prizes were in high demand on the USF campus when the Yik Yak tent made camp. Brennan said by noon on the first day they were out of 75 percent of the prizes. By the following afternoon, they only had a few Ping-Pong balls and pens left.

The most active campus on the East Coast tour so far has been the University of Central Florida in Orlando.

“We saw the average user having 20,000 to 60,000 points. We also saw the two highest scores there – 526,000 and 568,000,” Brennan said.

Yik Yak is popular for both entertainment and information.

“If something happens on campus, everybody goes to Yik Yak,” said Sydney Thinnes, a junior chemistry student at USF.

“Yik Yak is basically our main news source,” Thinnes’ friend Anna Zeljazkow said.

In order to appear on campus, Yik Yak partners with student organizations to raise money for a cause. At USF, they partnered with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute. Yik Yak donated $1 to the organization for every post following a certain theme. They hope to reach out to even more organizations in the future.

“The goal is for Yik Yak to be a tight-knit community, avoid negativity, and be a strong herd while creating informative, relevant, and funny yaks,” Brennan said.

Venezuelan student at USF escapes from violent protests to quiet classrooms

At age 13, Clarissa H. Arriaga went to her first political protest in the streets of Venezuela. She and her classmates placed their desks to stop traffic in an attempt to protest against the government. She did not know why she was protesting, but her life would change drastically.

This was the beginning of Arriaga’s mission to bring justice to her home country.

Arriaga is a 21-year-old USF sophomore. She grew up in a middle-income family with two younger sisters in Venezuela. Arriaga was the only one in her family who protested and continued to do so while she was attending Universidad Metropolitana in Caracas, Venezuela.

In 1999, Hugo Chávez became president being a crucial point of change for the country. Chávez spent his time as president transitioning Venezuela into a communist country. With Chávez’s death in 2013, Vice President Nicolás Maduro assumed the powers and responsibilities as president.

Arriaga was involved in her second protest while she was a student in Venezuela. She was 20 years old when she took the streets in a peaceful protest with her friends and classmates. Arriaga explained that people the government paid and gave guns to, named colectivos, arrived at the protest shooting and killing a student. From that day on, Arriaga saw it as her duty to go out and protest every day.

“I felt like I needed to do something for my country,” Arriaga said. “I needed to feel justice because we didn’t deserve this.”

Arriaga and her friends had to wear gas masks during protests to breathe and protect themselves from gas bombs that were being thrown. She would not tell her mother about all the protests she attended because her mom would cry begging her to stay home.

While Arriaga was protesting, many students were being arrested or killed. However, Arriaga did not realize how severe it was until the day she took a phone call from her mother. She never used to answer her phone during protests because it would be stolen from her, but something made her answer her mother’s call this time. She ran behind a building to hide and told her mother she was fine. When she hid her phone and returned to the protest, her friends were gone. They had been arrested, and they had to spend the night in jail.

“If I did not take that call I could have went to jail as well,” Arriaga said. “This is when the danger of the protests really hit me.”

Even though Arriaga was scared, she still went out every day to fight for peace and hope for her country. This took a toll on her parents. Her mother cried all the time out of fear of losing her child. Both her parents begged her to apply to a school abroad to escape the terror that Venezuela had become. Arriaga decided to leave to end her mother’s misery.

Before Arriaga left to attend school at USF, she was driving home when four motorcycles pulled up around her car. The young boys driving ordered her to give up her phone. Arriaga refused to give it to them. She was lucky that they did not kill her, she explained. When she arrived home, her father was so happy that she would be leaving the country because he was sure that Arriaga’s bravery would get her killed.

“She is so brave and amazing,” said Alejandra Gotera, Arriaga’s Venezuelan friend. “I don’t know if I could have done what she did.”

Arriaga has been in USF for two semesters. She says that even though she is happy to be out of danger, she is constantly worried about her parents and sisters. Arriaga keeps herself busy while she is away from her family with a full load of six engineering courses. She is also involved in sports at USF by participating and playing club soccer.

“If Venezuela does not change by the time I graduate, I will have to look for a job here in America,” Arriaga said. “I can’t go back to that.”

USF Communication and Marketing Department stays in touch with students using Snapchat



Millions of people log in to social media every day. At the university level, this can be a complex task to oversee.

University Communications and Marketing, located in the Patel Center, must stay involved in campus activities despite its distance from the central hub of events.

The department employs about 20 people, including student interns, who help run social media applications such as Snapchat.

“It’s a balance between academic initiatives as well as scavenger hunts and promoting fun campus events that are equally as important,” said Ashley Rodrigues, a graduate assistant in the department.

During holidays such as St. Patrick’s Day, the department encourages followers to snap pictures of their “bull pride.” The marketing team hid around campus and snapped pictures of their locations. Whoever found them won a Rocky the Bull hat.

The USF Snapchat was launched in August and has nearly 2,000 followers. The marketing students must save all posted snaps  for record-keeping. On certain days, different departments such as Athletics or Student Government will take over the Snapchat for the day to promote an event or share news. This requires communication so that the content is consistent, appropriate and pre-approved. The marketing team also follows organizations with successful social media campaigns — like Taco Bell — to learn better ways to produce unique content.

“At this point, we’re focused on reducing the redundancies, since there are hundreds of USF-related social media accounts that have gone inactive or dormant,” said Steve Dapcic, director of digital media.

The goal is to interact with current students and alumni while welcoming and inviting  future students.


From Immokalee to USF: One Student’s Story of Academic Success

TAMPA – From the fields of Immokalee to the State Capitol building in Tallahassee, Marcos Gonzalez has had quite the journey. Gonzalez had the chance to share his life story in front of the Florida House Education Appropriations Subcommittee.

Gonzalez grew up in a poor migrant worker family but excelled in school and earned a scholarship to the University of South Florida.

Gonzalez, a third-year student double majoring in accounting and economics, is set to graduate a year early with two bachelor’s degrees as part of USF’s Provost’s Scholars Program.

“You really kind of step back and evaluate your whole  situation and say, ‘Maybe I’m doing something right,’” Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez has a keen interest in global affairs. He studied abroad three times, traveled the world in 80 days and founded the International Student Association at USF.

“The concept behind it was to create an umbrella organization to kind of bring together all of the cultures represented at USF and to give international students a voice,” Gonzalez said.

Passion for music drives USF Drumline member

Freshman business major Tom Kelly attends the University of South Florida, but outside of the classroom, it’s all about the music.

“My favorite part about music is that there is a certain part of it that can express feelings better than any kind of words can, and something about that interests me,” Kelly said.

Kelly plays tenor drums for the USF Herd of Thunder Marching Band. Over the past year, Kelly has learned to multitask and adapt to the challenge of learning a new show each week of the season.

“Tom picks up music really well,” Kelly’s section leader, Marlon Rosenow, said. “We tell him to get something, and he gets it in the next rep or the next day. That’s pretty incredible, I think.”

Outside of school and the marching band, Kelly writes music and has a part-time job at a local hospital. His involvement in the marching band has made dealing with all of these things much easier.

“I’ve seen my grades do well,” Kelly said. “I can multitask well, and it’s given me a creative outlet.”

After he graduates, Kelly will continue to be involved in music.

“Music until I die,” he said.

USF Student Shares love for Juggling in Objects in Motion Club

Joseph Lawlor, the president of the Objects in Motion student organization, brought his hobby of juggling to the University of South Florida three years ago, and he plans to keep it alive on campus for years to come.

Lawlor, a USF senior and electrical engineering major, began juggling during his sophomore year of high school. He was assigned a project in his English class that required him to learn a new hobby and write in a journal about his experiences. He considered picking up break dancing at first, but when he saw one of his friends juggling at a party, he decided to give it a shot.

“I picked it up weirdly fast and thought the whole idea of object manipulation was so cool and different,” said Lawlor. “I just started to really love everything about it.”

When Lawlor came to USF in 2011, he and Jesse Lutz, a fellow student and juggler, sought to form a student organization where other jugglers and students interested in learning could meet, practice and grow as a group. This resulted in the formation of the Juggling Awareness Society at USF.

With the growth of student interest in other types of object manipulation, Lawlor renamed the Juggling Awareness Society to the Objects in Motions club to cater to a wider range of interests. Today, Objects in Motion is a community of jugglers, hula hoopers, poi spinners, unicyclists and slack liners who collaborate to teach and learn from each other on campus during weekly meetings.

“Joseph and the other members have taught me that hooping is a way to harmonize your mind, body and spirit,” said Brianna Privateer, USF psychology major and member of Objects in Motion. “It’s like a peaceful meditation, and the possibilities are endless.”

Lawlor welcomes students of any age, experience and interest to join the club. Objects in Motion hosts weekly meetings every Thursday from 8-10 p.m., Monday from 2-4 p.m. and Tuesday from 5-7 p.m. outside of the USF library.

Lawlor says that the most interesting place that juggling has ever taken him was to a juggling camp in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania last summer. He worked as a driver at the camp and taught a juggling class for one period a day, but spent all his free time with the camp’s trapeze group. Here he met and shared stories with a group of international jugglers from France, Spain, England and Australia.

Lawlor wants to continue juggling as a sport and a passion. But above all, he wants to keep the sport of juggling alive in the USF community by continuing the Objects in Motion club for years to come.

“I really love Objects in Motion just as much as I love juggling, and I want to keep that going forever,” said Lawlor. “Giving the art of juggling its own organization has been the best decision I’ve made since I’ve been at USF and has proven to be the easiest way to meet the most interesting people out there.”

USF student hopes to start henna tattoo business at Bull Market

Taylor Henna 2 edit

A University of South Florida psychology major is hoping to launch a professional henna tattooing business that will allow her to provide her fellow students a way to express themselves through body art every Wednesday at Bull Market.

Taylor Hlavacek, 20, became interested in henna tattoos through her friend in high school. She thought they looked cool and figured her cake-decorating skills would come in handy, since the techniques and tools are similar to those that are typically used in henna.

“I like henna tattoos because I can do my own designs,” Hlavacek said. “It’s painless, it’s quick, but it lasts for a while so I can easily get a good variety.”

Henna refers to the powdered leaves of a tropical shrub that are used as a dye to color the hair and decorate the body. It is also known as a form of temporary tattooing.

Hlavacek’s peers quickly began to notice her ever-changing body art and wondered if she was in business to do some for them. Samantha Kelleher, USF student and a friend of Hlavacek’s, has been continuously trying to persuade her to do one for her.

“I thought they looked awesome and wanted her to do one for me,” Kelleher said. “I would gladly pay her if they looked just as good as the ones she has.”

At the time, Hlavacek wasn’t interested in starting her own business, but with the amount of attention she was getting, the idea began to grow on her. She soon found herself researching how to make it happen.

“I plan on opening a side business pretty soon,” Hlavacek said. “Though I wasn’t going to at first, a lot of USF students were coming up to me and asking me if I could do henna tattoos for them and how much I charged. So I decided it would be a good idea to open up a little side business, and if it were to ever grow into something legitimate then that would be amazing.”

Creating a successful business while studying for classes is easier said than done. No matter how difficult it may seem, Hlavacek has figured out a way to create the exposure needed in order to bring her henna business to the next level.

“First, I want to make a Facebook page and an Instagram account specifically for my henna tattoos,” Hlavacek said. “I have already received a lot of positive feedback on social media. I also want to become affiliated with USF and (hopefully) work at the Bull Market doing henna tattoos for people. With any luck, this will help me with marketing and my clientele base as well.”

Bull Market provides a great deal of exposure with its location at the Marshall Student Center Plaza.

“Exposure would be my top goal,” Hlavacek said. “I think being able to do these tattoos, especially without using any stencils or designs that are pre-made, is a pretty unique skill to have. I think I can get this exposure through Bull Market because there are always students by MSC. I think I could have a lot of success here.”

Though Bull Market would help raise the level of exposure, it may not help raise the level of success. Henna may be a growing form of temporary tattooing but, according to Hlavacek, some people may think that henna tattoos aren’t for them, which may cause a lack of customers.

“Some people don’t like henna tattoos because they believe they’re not real tattoos, that you don’t have to go through the pain and time in order to earn the right to wear the art on your body,” Hlavacek said. “But the nice thing about henna is that it’s not permanent, so if you mess up it’s not a big deal. There’s going to be people that think its dumb, but for some people it’s a better option and it’s a nice way to make a short commitment to a piece of art you have on your body.”

Hlavacek hopes to have her own henna tattoo booth in Bull Market within the upcoming weeks. Her prices will range from $5 to $20 depending on the complexity and size of the design. She will also offer a special $25 deal that promises customers a new, one-of-a-kind design, which she assures will be their own unique work of art.

Muslim Students at USF Face Additional Scrutiny and Hardship

For third-year student Majid Almasri, being international has never been easy. Being Muslim has made his journey even harder, especially considering the recent rise in terrorist events.

“I came here three years ago to study, and being an Arab made it hard,” said Majid Almasri. “How you’re treated here depends on the community and your level of education.”

Being raised in the small country of Oman, not far from Dubai, Almasri was often warned about what to expect from Americans and their limited knowledge about his country. Although he took heed, he remained optimistic and hopeful about his journey.

“My family and friends warned me every day before I left that things were going to change, but of course you can’t be sure until you experience it for yourself,” said Almasri.

If being stereotyped for being Muslim wasn’t hard enough, Almasri and others like him now have to deal with possibly being looked at as a target and not just as a threat. Even though the Muslim community as a whole is not responsible for terrorist acts, some feel the results of unjust scrutiny and judgment.

“I think if it was role reversed, no one would be saying it was over a parking spot; it would be a hate crime,” said Jessica Brightman, adviser for international students.

The lack of coverage may raise some concerns, leaving some wondering whether college campuses are safe for Muslim students anymore.

“Campus was the one place I was comfortable. Now I see hate can happen anywhere,” said Almasri. “I’m not afraid, but I am aware.”

With so much going on and so little knowledge as to how or why, all there is left to do is seek justice and from there hope to gain equality.


Future of Tampa Bay’s estuaries will be decided in the USF area

Just a few miles from the USF campus, a careful balancing act between the upper and lower portions of the dam in the Hillsborough Reservoir could decide the future of Tampa Bay’s ecosystem.

Nearly 80 percent of Hillsborough county water bodies are polluted beyond a threshold of acceptable contamination and have been classified as “impaired,” meaning local agencies have a legal obligation to keep an eye on pollution and the environment pursuant to the standards in the Clean Water Act.

But with water management agencies stretched thin, crucial reports on projects, like the efficacy of a hotly debated minimum flow requirement for the lower Hillsborough River, are behind schedule trying to keep up with enforcement and also reporting on urbanity’s impacts on the ecosystem.

Continue reading “Future of Tampa Bay’s estuaries will be decided in the USF area”

Photo gallery: USF student government hosts Pastries with the President

On March 12, USF Student Government Association held “Pastries with the President,” where students  not only enjoyed baked desserts but got to meet with  USF President Judy Genshaft and talk with future and current SGA leaders.



USF dance major pushes past back injury, other obstacles

At 3 years old, Tatiana Quintero couldn’t resist the temptation to move to the beat. According to her mother, Janet Cano, her little girl would wiggle and dance to music anywhere she went. Cano enrolled her in a traditional Colombian dance class where Quintero would begin the study of her life’s calling: dance.

At the University of South Florida, 21-year-old Quintero is pursuing her dream of being a dancer. As an adult, she is learning how difficult it can be to reach her full potential.

Dance is not about just dancing anymore. Every movement is perfectly orchestrated. The world of dancing is all about technicality, an obstacle that Quintero feels holds her back. She didn’t start to learn technical dancing until she was 12 or 13.

“Even that was only hip-hop, not ballet,” Quintero said. “Being here, I see everyone with their legs high and stuff; obviously it takes time to get there.”

Since high school, her biggest dream has been to go out to California and join the Diavolo dance company. She says that at Diavolo they move with big props and aren’t afraid to push the limit. The company is about risk-taking, which is what attracted her to it. Only the most technical dancers belong to Diavolo, and Quintero still has a lot of work to accomplish.

At the university, she puts in an average of six to eight hours of rehearsal a day. It can be a strain on her body, but it is more important to Quintero to be prepared for anything.

In August 2011, Quintero was involved in a car accident in Miami-Dade County that hurt her back. The injury still prevents her from dancing to her full ability. Quintero refuses to let this injury hold her back, though some days the pain often keeps her from even reaching her toes.

“It’s still hard, because I come back to dance and you know you can’t do stuff,” she said. “So, you have to hold yourself back, but I didn’t care. I just danced.”

There are times when Quintero feels like giving up. The pressures of time management and dealing with her injuries sometimes make her doubt whether she can continue a career in dance. She worries whether this career will give her the ability to provide for herself and possibly a family in the future. It is important to Quintero to have a backup plan.

She is pursuing a minor in nutrition as part of her plan to open and own a dance studio. By day, she wants to teach the technical art of dance. By night, she hopes to teach her students about the importance of what you eat, and also teach aerobic dance classes like Zumba.

Her inspirations come from feeling she has God by her side and from the support of her parents. Quintero’s father has kept her grounded, and her mother has always pushed her to keep doing what she loves.

“I know that she is accomplishing everything she set her mind to,” Cano said. “She knows that she can do anything.”

USF senior with passion for China wins Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellowship

Hiram Rios is a senior at the University of South Florida majoring in economics and international studies with a minor in Chinese. In his time at USF, Rios has received some of the most prestigious national scholarships, including his most recent, the Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellowship.

Rios was the first finalist for this scholarship in USF history, and he will begin the fellowship this summer.

“I’ll start work in the China office at the State Department this summer,” Rios said. “I’ll be working to coordinate a strategic and economic dialogue between China and the U.S.”

His interest in the Chinese culture began in 2008 when he traveled to the Beijing Olympics to play violin in an orchestra.

“As a 14-year-old at the time who had never left the country, to try and process all of this, it was a lot, and what it turned into was this obsession,” Rios said.

Rios has been able to merge his love of the Chinese culture with all of his scholarships. These scholarships gave him the opportunity to study abroad in China, fluently learn Mandarin, and teach English to Chinese students.

His passion and great work ethic are also seen while working in the Office of National Scholarships as a student assistant and peer leader.

“He takes initiative; he’s extremely hard working,” said Lauren Chambers, Interim Director of the office.

With the Pickering Fellowship, Rios will receive $80,000 to study international affairs in a graduate degree program of his choice. He will also receive one domestic internship and one internship abroad before starting his five-year post as a diplomat in the Chinese Embassy.

“It’s been an amazing feat for me,” Rios said. “I’m just so proud to be able to have this space to represent Puerto Rico, the Hispanic population, the Latino-American population in the State Department.”


President of USF’s Society of Automotive Engineers relishes showing what a girl can do

Amid the sawdust and graphite pieces, USF’s Society of Automotive Engineers is building an engineering masterpiece with an unsuspecting success leading the pack.

Jackie LeBrun is a 22-year-old Canadian native, a USF senior and an engineering major. LeBrun is the current president of the society and has been a member for four years. She was the first female to join USF Racing.

“She was definitely the most qualified for the position. She has all the passion to do the job,” says Christopher Smith, former president of SAE.

LeBrun will be graduating this May with an engineering degree in record time. To accomplish this feat, she aimed for 15 credits per semester, and some semesters she even took 19 credits with the help of waivers.

Smith was worried about how the current members would receive the freshman. Her membership was kept secret until the second half of the semester in which LeBrun was gradually introduced into the program. Other females have since joined SAE and currently, one of the lead engineers is a student named Nicole Santana.

The guys in the shop, however, have grown accustomed to the president’s presence and reminders to keep the shop in order. LeBrun has a meticulous touch with bookkeeping and organizing as well.

“I’m trying to leave a very detailed paper trail so that next year and years in the future, they can run it on their own,” LeBrun said.

LeBrun works at a bike shop and finds that customers are taken aback when she can do repairs on the spot in a few minutes.

“’Oh, you can do that?’ I hear that a lot. I love the challenge when people underestimate me,” LeBrun said.


Florida mulls new texting and driving legislation

Staying connected is always crucial on campus, but it comes at a cost. A texting and driving law exists in Florida, but the House and Senate are trying to make that law easier to enforce.

Chris Daniel, assistant chief  of the USF Police Department, has experienced the difficulty of enforcing the law.

“I’ve pulled up to students at red lights and have had roll-down window conversations because I saw them texting and driving,” Daniel said. “Although I can see they were blatantly texting, I can’t stop them because they aren’t doing anything else for me to stop them.”

Daniel is talking about the current Florida statute that allows texting drivers to receive a ticket only as a secondary offense, not a primary offense. This means drivers can be ticketed for texting and driving only if they are stopped for another offense and the officer then sees they were using the phone.

USF has over 40,000 students generating both foot traffic and car traffic on campus. Texting and driving here is a bad combination.

“We have a small community with a lot of people in it. A pedestrian can walk out in front of you, a bicyclist can ride out in front of you in seconds,” Daniel said.

The law may need to be updated to include other social media platforms. People are now using applications like SnapChat while they drive.

“I definitely see a lot of SnapChatting while driving on campus,” said Carlos Garcia, a USF senior. “I think texting and driving becoming a primary stop would be ideal. It’s about safety.”

States like Delaware and New York have made it illegal to use a phone while driving. Florida may be next.

Local business owner brings Nepal to Bull Market

Bull Market takes place every Wednesday on the campus of USF from October through May during the fall and spring semesters.  Student organizations, USF departments and even local business owners can have a booth outside the Marshall Student Center.

Like many other local business owners, Alex Gopali of Gopali Himalayan Imports tries as much as he can to come to Bull Market and sell his products to the USF community.

“I came to USF in early 2014 — it’s been little over a year now — and I come here every Wednesday as long as Bull Market is here,” Gopali said.

However, what separates Gopali from his competition is that he sells unique products — 95 percent of which are directly from Nepal, Gopali said.

“I have direct connection with the people who make these handmade, hand-crafted products: jewelry to singing bowls, to any kind of meditation, to rituals, to traditional cultural products,” he said.

Gopali doesn’t sell his products just to the USF community, but also goes to other markets around Tampa Bay, such as Dunedin, Shops at Wiregrass, Carrollwood, Hyde Park, Ybor City and St. Petersburg.

But the reason he said he comes to Bull Market is the younger generation.

“They’re always looking for some different ways to do meditation, how to find peace in their lives, which is going to help them to focus on their studies,” Gopali said. “The more we are peaceful, the more we can accomplish.”

If you want to bring your business to USF’s Bull Market like Gopali did, visit the Marshall Student Center website.

USF celebration kicks off Black Heritage Month


With Black Heritage Month underway at the University of South Florida, the Department of Multicultural Affairs kicked off the month of celebration in style. They threw a ceremony that featured music, speeches, dancing and food.

To many, February is just another month. But for others, it has great importance in their lives.

“Black history month means a lot to me, especially this event,” said Dr. Tomar Ghansah, an assistant professor in USF’s Department of Molecular Medicine. She voiced her enthusiasm for what the Department of Multicultural Affairs is doing. “It gives me the opportunity to congregate with other diverse minorities.”

The keynote speaker for the evening was Delatorro McNeal. He is a Tampa area resident who attended Florida State University. His goal was to inspire the attendees of the event, and many said he did just that.

“I believe there is a few principles that we can learn from our foremothers and forefathers that, if we reach back and get them things and apply them to our lives, we can have a powerful today and an explosive tomorrow,” McNeal said.

The speaker’s enthusiasm spurred the audience to interact with him. He even gave out books and DVDs at the end of his presentation.

Many say the most important thing to remember about Black Heritage Month is honoring all of the prominent figures that made an impact in people’s lives. Sujit Chemburkar is the director of the Marshall Student Center at USF and spoke about the figure he looks up to the most.

“Arthur Ashe has always been a figure, for me, that has been motivational and inspirational — the barriers that he broke down and the way he did it with class,” Chemburkar said. “He demonstrated a lot of athletic prowess, but more than that, he was just a person of good moral character.”

USF presidential candidates share campaign platforms at debate

Recently announced University of South Florida presidential candidates took to the stage the evening of Feb. 4 to share their campaign platforms at the Student Body Presidential Debate.

Candidates Sammy Hamed, former Student Government chief justice, and Andy Rodriguez, current Senate president, answered a range of questions submitted by students.

“For me, the most important job of student government is shaping students for their future,” said Hamed. “ Students are here so they can get jobs after college.”

A Tampa native, Hamed is focusing his campaign mainly on outreach for students in the community after graduation and students’ professional growth during their time at USF.

Opposing candidate Rodriguez highlighted campus and student safety in his campaign, focusing on Safe Team and his plans to revamp the program.

“We have a few ideas to completely redo Safe Team, because Safe Team needs some work,” said Rodriquez. “People are waiting 30 to 45 minutes to get picked up, which is ridiculous.”

Other items that appeared on both candidates’ agendas included cultivating school spirit, including homecoming; and making Student Government more accessible to students.

“I don’t want students to be afraid to come up to the fourth floor,” Hamed said.

Voting will begin Feb. 16. Students are able to cast their vote online at or on campus at designated poll tents.