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.”

Student explores hijabi stories through art

From the outside, Sara Filali looks like a normal college student – but once she breaks out her pad and pencil, everything changes.

At 20 years old, Filali is already a self-taught artist and successful businesswoman. Her self-owned business, Filali Studios, gives her a platform to sell her art in various forms such as prints, stickers and phone cases. She also accepts requests for commissioned art, which has included being a live painter at a friend’s wedding.

Filali makes art because she enjoys it. Selling it is only a perk, she says.

“I like doing it,” says Filali. “This is something that me, a broke college kid, can do in my spare time. Which combines what I really like doing and also what I really need – which is money.”

At the beginning of her business journey, Filali was afraid.

“I had to put a value on the art that I was originally just making for myself,” said Filali. “I was afraid that the person I was offering my price to would reject it, and therefore reject the value that I was putting in my own art.”

Hailing from Morocco, Filali feels a deep connection to her ethnicity, which she shows in her art. Various symbols that are prevalent throughout Morocco’s history show up in her pieces. Although she didn’t grow up there, her drawings take on the aspects of a culture she was raised in, inspired by the stories told to her by her parents and grandmother.

“Growing up, my culture has always been a big part of my identity – it’s a part of who I am, my language, my roots.”

Some of her pieces are illustrations of stories she grew up hearing. Others embody the strong features of Moroccan women.

“I value my roots being seen – especially living in the USA, where Moroccan culture is not very prominent,” said Filali. “You don’t see a lot of art that reflects the other side without using orientalism.”

Beyond showcasing her culture, Filali is very passionate about representation in her works. A lot of her pieces depict women like herself who wear a hijab, which is a religious headscarf. She says this is not only to represent hijabis in her art, but also because she wants to explore different mediums with hijabis as the subject.

Sara Filali with one of her paintings featuring a woman wearing a hijab. Photo by Rayan Alnajar.

“I thought, ‘What if I were to mix pop art with hijab?’ Or, ‘What if I were to mix expressionism with hijab, or collage art?’” said Filali. “The hijabi woman is not a huge subject of art or analysis, it’s always something that’s feared or othered and not very celebrated within the world of art.”

In an effort to change that, Filali has created art featuring hijabis. She has helped solidify her place in cultural art by portraying underrepresented women.

“It’s not so much doing art that I think other people would find cool, it’s more so me, as the individual, what kind of art do I want to see?” Filali says.

To view her pieces, follow her Instagram @sara_filali . To buy her pieces, visit her website www.filalistudios.com.

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”

Florida Focus News Brief Nov. 8, 2017

In this news brief: Sarasota police arrest 15 people in a major undercover drug investigation; in a new phone scam, callers are claiming to be law enforcement; a Tampa man convicted of murder is scheduled to die by lethal injection; Hillsborough County students protest teachers’ wages at several Hillsborough County schools.

Business major hits the ground running

 

David Zhou, Photo by Emily Munger

Arriving to his photoshoot with camera in hand, playing a catchy pop song on his phone and slicking back his hair, David Zhou is ready to make a new portfolio for his website.

Zhou, 20, helped co-found a premium fitness apparel company named Alpha Pack Fitness and does photography and videography for paying clients. He is also senior majoring in business at the University of South Florida.

Zhou’s eyes beamed when he remembered the reason why he wanted to help start Alpha Pack Fitness.

“We wanted to create a brand that had real meaning behind it,” Zhou said. “Something a community could come together for but also create clothing that was technologically superior but affordable.”

The Alpha Pack Fitness community is one Zhou said he has never seen before in other businesses.  Alpha Pack Fitness sells clothing, but they are also a social media tool for motivating people, according to the website.

“The Alpha Pack Fitness community is a group of friends turned family who encourage me to stay healthy and positive,” Annette Rumas, an Alpha Pack Fitness customer said.

Co-founding a business at 18 years old was not the only task Zhou was completing. He said he also had an interest in YouTube, and would watch video bloggers share their lives with communities they had never met. So, Zhou began to bring his camera on every car ride, family gathering and even his prom.

“I will never forget shooting my first video for a client,” Zhou said. “Seeing how their lips just curled all the way up into a huge smile from my video was priceless.”

Zhou learned his craft by watching tutorials on YouTube. He began to make his own photography business after realizing it was a service people needed. He decided it would be a way to gain experience while bringing people quality products.

“I ended up compensating myself,” Zhou said. “I invested most of the profits back into better equipment, so I can keep producing higher quality photos.”

Today, Zhou is a contact for many USF organizations. He said that he records events such as sorority bid day, formal and recruitment videos. With a large student body looking for his services, Zhou said he is kept busy.

At the end of the academic year, Zhou said he was shooting graduation photos for more than 10 clients a day.

Zhou said that he is helping the world become slightly better, one business deal at a time.  He is also thankful to his parents, who have put faith in him.

“I believe that I have made any sacrifice my parents had to make worth it,” said Zhou. “Everything I have done is in thanks to them.”

USF student lends hand to community

USF business student Daniel Iskander is taking a new spin on New Year’s resolutions and his version is not for his personal benefit.

Every day Iskander plans to help as many people as he can. Whether it is a monetary gift or a simple gesture of kindness, Iskander hopes to impact the lives of many this year.

“From now on, any time someone is in need I go out of my way and maybe get them some food or $10, $15, and then their reactions would make my day,” Iskander said.

Living near campus, Iskander has no trouble finding people around the area who could use some kindness and a helping hand.

Iskander said his inspiration comes from watching his father’s kind gestures as he was growing up. 

“My dad used to always give donations to everybody there and they all used to line up in huge crowds because they all loved him,” Iskander said.

Just like his father, Iskander sees himself taking his kind gestures to a larger scale and helping people out in third world countries later on down the road.