USF student to walk across stage with father’s memory

Vanessa Rushing, 22, is going to add letters to her name when she graduates from USF’s nursing program this spring.

Ever since she was a little girl, Rushing knew that she was going to become a nurse. Growing up with two older sisters who were also nurses, she never envisioned herself as anything else.

When Rushing was 8-years-old, doctors diagnosed her with familial hypophosphatemic rickets.. Her health caused her to be in and out of Shriners Hospital until she was 18-years-old. Being surrounded by nurses made Rushing’s career path even clearer.

Photo by Kiersten Smay.

Originally from St. Petersburg, Florida, she didn’t want to stray too far from home when choosing which college to attend. She put USF high on her list since it is home to one of the best nursing programs in the state.

Rushing joined a sorority on campus during her second semester at USF. Being a member of Gamma Phi Beta helped to create her best memories of college.

“My favorite part about coming to college and coming to USF was definitely joining my sorority, Gamma Phi,” Rushing said. “I met so many amazing women through it. I live with two of my sisters now and great memories are made every day.”

Rushing’s best advice for new students is to get involved as soon as possible.

“You meet a ton of people through getting involved, whether it be from a sorority, a fraternity or any other organization,” Rushing said. “You make connections and form really awesome bonds that way. Your whole college experience from that point on is just 10 times better.”

The friends she had made in her sorority and classes helped Rushing through the hardest time of her life.

“My worst experience at USF was my sophomore year, after my dad passed away,” Rushing said. “It was a really tough semester. I was just applying to the nursing program, so I had all that stress on me at that end. Losing a parent is really hard and really difficult to go through, especially when you’re at such a young age.”

A college student’s nightmare became a reality for Rushing.

“It became harder to keep up my grades,” Rushing said. “He was my biggest support system.”

She didn’t let her dark days keep her from reaching her goals. She became more motivated to make her dad proud of her.

“I feel like I would subconsciously make myself work harder,” Rushing said. “Just to make sure I was doing him justice and make him feel proud.”

Rushing is going to make her dad proud as she walks across the stage in May. She will be taking her exam to become an official registered nurse soon after. Her goal is to work on either the pediatric floor, the emergency room or the pediatric ER.

Her friends who have known her all throughout college are cheering her on. They know Rushing is following the correct career path. Nicole Keesee has been friends with Rushing since their freshman year at USF.

“Vanessa will make an absolutely amazing nurse because of how much she truly cares for other people and how selfless she is,” Keesee said. “She is always putting others before herself and I think that is such an important quality to have when entering the medical field.”

USF student organizes International Holocaust Remembrance Day concert

International Holocaust Remembrance Day is held annually on Jan. 27. The day marks the anniversary of the liberation of millions of Jews from Auschwitz. It is a day to remember those who died unjustly by Nazi forces and celebrate those who survived.

This year, the University of South Florida commemorated this day by holding a concert in honor of International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Zachary Konick is a second-year music composition graduate student at USF. He is also the organizer of the concert. His Jewish heritage remains a catalyst in his wish to give back to the Jewish community.

“I haven’t always been too involved in my Jewish background, unfortunately. I go to temple for service, here and there, but I haven’t been as involved as I might have wanted to be,” said Konick. “Doing this was kind of a way to get back into my Jewish heritage a little bit more. To reconnect with this a little bit more.”

Konick, as a composer, wanted to bring a piece of his art to the stage. His piece “Kaddish” is derived from “The Mourner’s Kaddish,” a Jewish prayer that talks about death.

Throughout the composition, a juxtaposition of the Israeli national anthem and his grandmother Rosette’s voice can be heard. These elements enhance the musical value of the piece and solidify Konick’s desire to honor his grandma.

“I wanted to give something to my nana, who is a Holocaust survivor. I wanted to give something to her before she leaves from this planet,” said Konick. “My piece is dedicated to her for that reason.”

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USF graduate student Zachary Konick composed the piece “Kaddish” which was derived from the Jewish prayer, “The Mourner’s Kaddish.” Photo by Maria Laura Lugo.

Francis Schwartz is the featured composer for the concert. He is a Sarasota resident who graces the world with his “music theater” compositions, as he likes to describe his music.

Invited artists are performing four of his original compositions during the concert. These include “On the State of Children,” “Auschwitz,” “Caligula” and “The Grey Road.” Schwartz considers his music a way to combat injustice around the world.

“I’m very much aware of injustice being practiced all over the world. Discrimination, hatred. This is something that I have combatted ever since I was a little boy. Ever since I was old enough to be conscious of the fact that people hate each other and discriminate against each other for reasons of race, ethnic origin, color or sexual orientation,” said Schwartz. “It’s a very complex thing. We are masters of hate. I try through my music to unravel that very tightly knit ball of hate.”

The compositions are brought to life with the dynamism of the dancers. Carolina Garcia Zerpa and Itarah Godbolt are two of the dancers invited to grace the stage of the concert. Despite not having direct Jewish connections, they consider it important to use their art to bring awareness to events like these.

“Anyway that I can use my instrument, my body, my art form of dance to add expression or bring awareness, add another dimension or dynamic to another artist’s work and what they’re doing. That is my connection. I’m always willing and wanting to do that,” said Godbolt. “We’re also not just artists. We are people and we are activists and we have experiences. There are many ways to express that through art. When you bring all of that together is just magnifies and brings back to life another way to share those experiences”

In light of the recent events around the world, Konick considers that this concert signifies a way to unify cultures and ethnicities.

“This concert isn’t just about Jewish heritage. It’s really important to me that this concert is about unity as well, given all the tensions politically and socially in the US lately and throughout the world,” said Konick. “We really want to strike home that this concert is about coming together and fighting about persecution of any kind”

USF alumnus shares journey to citizenship

USF alumnus Carlos Estrada will be starting work at an advertising agency in New York City after a long journey to become a U.S. citizen. Photo by Yara Zayas

Imagine being wrapped up in a wool blanket, thrust into a hidden compartment inside of a car, seeing nothing but darkness and having no idea what is going on.

That is the scenario that USF alumnus Carlos Estrada, 25, found himself in when he and his mother traveled north across the Mexico–United States border in 1996.

It was this first trip across the border that began Estrada’s long path to obtaining his U.S. citizenship.

Estrada was only 4 years old when his mother decided to get in touch with members of the family who lived in the United States legally and asked for their assistance.

He explained that during this time frame, applying for citizenship started to get more difficult. President Bill Clinton signed the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, which put restrictions on immigrants who came to the U.S. illegally.

“It was a stressful environment. I remember my mom and our driver trying to make sure that we didn’t get caught,” Estrada said. “It was really scary.”

To make sure that he was calm and not scared, his mother told him the escape was a game. She told him to be as quiet as possible. At some point during the ride, Estrada fell asleep and when he woke up they were already in Texas and on their way to Tampa.

Estrada and his mother stayed with distant relatives. The relatives let Estrada, his mother and sister, who was born in the U.S. after Estrada and his mother crossed the border, stay in a spare room at their house.

“My mom worked three jobs to help us survive,” Estrada said. “One of them was cleaning toilets, so she started from the very bottom.”

Eventually, Estrada said, he and his family began to make ends meet. They got their own apartment. Estrada said that his mother began making good money by working as a hair stylist. Estrada was also finally able to attend school.

Life took a turn when Estrada graduated high school. He had to return to Mexico since he was still living in the United States without legal permission. His mother, who had become legalized through marriage, stayed behind.

“After I graduated, I was at the end of the line on what I could legally do,” Estrada said. “I had no papers and no Social Security. I was stuck and I didn’t have a choice. I needed to do things the right way.”

Estrada said that it took him about a year to get everything ready and thousands of dollars in attorney fees to be able to appeal to the legal system and apply for citizenship. Estrada also had help from his mother’s husband, who was a legal Mexican immigrant.

“My grades also helped during the appeal process,” said Estrada. “All throughout high school, I was a straight-A student. I always tried super hard and never got in trouble.”

Estrada immediately returned to Tampa once the court granted him entry to the United States as a legal citizen. He received his full citizenship in 2016.

He applied to college and began his new life as a U.S. citizen. Estrada attended Hillsborough Community College and then transferred to the University of South Florida where he majored in mass communications with a concentration in advertising.

“I admire the fact that he was able to turn his life around, even though it seemed like the world was against him,” said Jamie Norman, a friend of Estrada’s. “No matter what happened, he didn’t give up.”

To keep himself financially afloat, Estrada worked many odd jobs that ranged from acting to plumbing and even to some real estate. He interned at various businesses and participated in school programs such as the Most Promising Multicultural Student, a program that helps multicultural college seniors connect with the advertising industry. The program even allowed him to travel to California for a company visit.

“I got the opportunity to go to Google,” Estrada said. “I never thought I would get to go there. That was so cool.”

After graduating from USF in spring of 2017, Estrada got a job offer from Green Team Global, an advertising agency in New York City. He is set to move to Brooklyn and take the position at the firm within the next month.

“Hopefully everything actually works out,” Estrada said. “I’m so excited.”

Legendary journalist visits students at USF

Ralph Lowenstein during his two-part lecture at USF. Photo by Tyrah Walker.

It was 1976 when journalist Ralph Lowenstein became the third dean of the University of Florida’s College of Journalism and Communications. It was during his time there that he foretold the future of print.

“Print on paper is dead,” said Lowenstein. He predicted that classified advertising would evaporate completely from the printed pages. Not only did he correctly predict classified advertising, but he also predicted that electronic communication would become the new wave.

This prediction earned him the nickname “Prophet Professor.

Now, 41 years later, Lowenstein is sharing his wisdom with future journalists and editors at the University of South Florida (USF).

In an intimate setting inside the Zimmerman School of Advertising and Mass Communications, Lowenstein stood in front of students and faculty, and spoke on his past experiences in journalism. Lowenstein spoke numerous times on the history of newspapers during his lecture.

Several issues were discussed during his two-part lecture. Part one focused on Lowenstein’s early adult years, education and co-writing the book, “Viva Journalism: The Triumph of Print in the Media Revolution.” He also shared valuable lessons he learned as a young journalist in an era when newspapers dominated how people obtained their news.

Even though he predicted the future of electronic newspapers, Lowenstein also spoke on how they can become better.

“One problem with the electronic newspaper is it’s not really readable,” Lowenstein said. “When you go into it, you want to know what the latest news is. You don’t want to know what happened 12 hours ago or 15 hours ago and that’s what you’re getting.”

Lowenstein explained to guests how classifieds were the “bread and butter” of the newspaper. Advertisements brought in most of the newspapers daily income. Once news became more popular electronically, advertisements began to slowly decline. Lowenstein believes electronic newspapers have failed to include ads successfully.

“Advertising is news in certain circumstances,” he said. “I think people really do want advertising.”

Another problem with most electronic newspapers, according to Lowenstein, is the death of the gatekeeper.

Lowenstein explained that gatekeepers determine what does or does not go into the newspaper. In his youth, gatekeepers made the newspapers readable and factual. There were fewer reporting errors back when newspapers used them. Today there are too many errors that could be avoided if media outlets had the much needed gatekeeper.

In Lowenstein’s opinion, there is a lack of professionalism in the world of journalism. How do we become more professional with journalism as a whole? According to Lowenstein, it goes back to having a gatekeeper.

“Many newspapers have locked off a lot of the editors [out] of the way so the information goes from the reporter into the newspaper,” said Lowenstein. “It’s a horrible thing to see.”

Part two of Lowenstein’s lecture opened up with the latest trending topic in the media: Richard Spencer.

Recently the University of Florida allowed Spencer to hold a speech despite the belief to many of him being a white supremacist. UF students and Gainesville citizens showed up to his speech and protested against him and his followers.

This part of Lowenstein’s lecture allowed students to be more engaged. He opened up the discussion by informing students about the First Amendment and its exceptions. He then asked students whether it should protect everyone – including white supremacists and “hardcore racists.”

Lowenstein even shared his opinion about the event and how UF could have handled the situation differently.

“The university really acted improperly,” he said. “My feelings are pretty strong about that.”

The Richard Spencer topic left many in the room wondering how they would have reported the story if they were in attendance of the event. Journalist have a job to do, but how much coverage should media outlets give a figure like Spencer?

Both students and professors gave their opinions on the subject matter. There seemed to be a mutual agreement that it’s important to cover all angles of the story no matter the position of the reporter.

“It was never really in the paper properly,” said Lowenstein. “I think there were who defended his right to speak…those were the people who were quoted. There were no people like me who would not defend his right to speak.”

The lecture wrapped up by lunch with Lowenstein taking photos and sharing advice with students.