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Lauren Broderick thought she was helping others when she became involved with Illinithon, but she ended up helping herself as well.

Broderick came to the University of Illinois as an uncertain freshman, thinking she wanted to major in Music Education. Previously she had considered a career involving helping kids, and had planned to study Child Life.

Her interest came from interactions she had with sick kids in her own life. Her best friend during her childhood had cancer, and she has a cousin, who developed health issues at an early age.

“I just knew from a young age that I loved seeing my best friend feel comfortable and happy in the hospital, and I knew I wanted to do the same for other kids,” said Broderick.

She saw first-hand how Child Life impacted her friend and her cousin during their times in the hospital. She decided she wanted to brighten the lives of other kids going through this as much as she could. However, when she went to Illinois she ultimately decided to study music.

This all changed in 2016 after meeting an eight-year-old boy named, Levi, at Illinithon’s annual Miracle Family Tailgate fundraiser for The Children’s Miracle Network. Over the past weekend, Illinithon raised $348,824 at their big event.

Levi has mitochondrial disorder, a genetic condition resulting in poor growth, muscle weakness and developmental delays. Broderick and Levi immediately hit if off when they met. They played Spikeball together and discussed school and what they wanted to be when they grew up. Levi wanted Broderick to follow him and go wherever he went. After spending time together, it was clear a bond had formed.

Someone wanted to interview Levi at the tailgate, but he refused to sit still. Broderick offered to sit with him and help him through the interview.

She talked with the rest of his family and was able to connect with them because of her cousin who was also a miracle child. As such, she could relate to having a family member who was in and out of hospitals from an early age.

Levi’s mother, Kathie, quickly observed that the two got along together really well.

“She came down to his level, allowed for him to let his wall down,” Kathie said. “She showed him attention and showed him it was ok to be off the wall sometimes… she just went with the flow, which is what you have to do when it comes to Levi, he doesn’t fit into a box and she recognized that.”

Ever since that day, Broderick and Levi have been best friends. Levi said that he and Lauren “talk about life.”

Kathie elaborated on this, saying that includes what is currently happening in Levi’s life, as well as his interests in tumbling and gaming.

Levi described Lauren, saying, “She is nice. She is kind. She is helpful. She is careful. She also makes me laugh.”

Levi and Broderick get to see each other about three to four times a year. Levi’s family makes a big effort to attend most of the family events hosted by Illinithon so they can spend time together. They were able to play together at Illinithon’s dance marathon last weekend. Kathie said that Levi is always very excited to go and see Broderick.

Throughout the rest of the year, the two keep in contact via Facebook. Levi doesn’t have his own account, but relays messages through Kathie’s account. They communicate mainly through commenting on each other’s posts.

“He always is Facebook stalking her,” Kathie said. “He likes to keep up to date and will comment and respond with little words here or there or he will do a selfie and post it on her comment thread.”

Meeting Levi made Broderick realize the difference she could make helping children, and she has changed her major to Human Development and Family Studies. She plans to be a certified life specialist after graduation so she can work with more kids like Levi.

“Above all, Levi has taught me that we are all stronger than we believe,” she said. “Levi is truly one of the most resilient kids I’ve ever met; and he made me realize that if he can go through all that he does, and keep smiling through it all, then I can too.”

A glimpse into the rise of UIUC E-sports

 

 

The big game is about to start and a roar comes from the crowd as they cheer for their team. The event organizers hand out the last of the free merchandise just as a silence falls over the audience; the casters have begun to announce the names of the home team’s players.  Finally, the game begins, the crowd cheers one last time and the players rush out, not onto the football field, but onto the virtual world of a video game.

Scenes like this are common at UIUC, where competitive video gaming, also known as E-Sports, has not only found popularity but success in the many teams. -List some events we have hosted-

One captain of such a team is no stranger to success, Jack Moore, a graduate student studying Mechanical Engineering, has been at the helm of not one but two top collegiate E-Sports teams here and the University in the past two years.

Despite the accomplishments Moore has had with both teams, video games weren’t always his passion. In fact, until he reached college he wasn’t much of a gamer at all.

“In terms of competitive gaming, I didn’t get into anything competitive until a year and a half, two years ago?” Moore said.

Moore first introduction to E-Sports was in fall of 2016 when he tried out for the school’s first Overwatch team. He was recruited and quickly promoted to captain when the manager at the time saw him take charge, though both the team and Moore had a rocky start and finish.

Overwatch is a team-based fighting game, where players choose different characters to play each with unique skills and abilities.  Players must choose the right character to play at the right time, while also working with their team to ensure victory. —Better Explanation of Game—

The first semester for the team was uneventful, but with the complete remaking of the team the following semester, and Moore’s leadership, UIUC’s Overwatch team quickly rose through the ranks.

“I think some would even argue we were a top four team,” Moore said in reference to the teams national standing during the teams the second semester.

With success came stress on both Moore and the team. As the team got closer to the top, the pressure to perform increased. The team started to practices three to four times a week, and drama consumed the team.

“With the amount of time we were spending together, and certain personalities on the team, I think it made it really stressful, it felt like this entire team was consuming my life,” said Moore. —look into comma—

He left the team after feeling burnt out and next semester started a new team, the school’s first PUBG team, which this past fall won the Collegiate League.

PUGB, for those who may not know, is Over-The-Shoulder shooter game, where teams of four are dropped onto a large area and attempt to be the last team to survive.

“I think many people in our generation have read or watched the Hunger Games series, and it’s very similar to that,” says Moore.

Like all sports, the win came after months of work. The team practices about two or three times a week, often for hours at a time. The typical practice includes training reflexes, teamwork, and strategy. This doesn’t include the hours players spend on their own trying to improve their own abilities.

“I constantly grind on the game and am constantly trying to improve myself in any way to get an advantage on anyone,” says Ryan Baier, a freshman studying Systems Engineering and Design and teammate on Moore’s team.

Not keen on repeating mistakes, Moore has made sure the stress of practice and competition doesn’t overcome the team. Team outings to see movies, get food, or just hang out are common and help release tension and build a team bond.

This more relaxed environment also has translated into Moore’s leadership in matches where the pressure is at its peak, contributing in no small part to its success.

” Jack is a very easy-going captain, he usually will make a final decision on what we do but mostly it’s a team effort… our[team] seems to strive with a collective leadership being self-reliant on each other to show a good dependence to succeed on each other,” says Baier.

Moore’s time with Illini E-Sports ends this semester as he graduates. He passes on his role as captain onto a younger generation and hopes for best for his old team.  He leaves his teams having lived through as many victories and defeats, both on and off the field, as any student-athlete.

 

A Summer Internship to Remember

Kathryn Storey is a senior at Illinois studying Reproductive Biology. She is in a sorority, a member of Love Your Melon, the treasurer for Illini Wildlife and Conservation Club, and she does research on male infertility at Vet Med on campus. But Kat is not just another student with a list of RSOs, this summer she got the chance to do what very few students in the country get to do.

This past summer, Storey was one of 14 students nationwide selected to participate in the San Diego Zoo Institue for Conservation Research Fellowship. She was one of only two to be selected to participate in the reproductive sciences sector of the fellowship.

“All these fellowships were under the Institue,” Storey revealed. “There was a total of seven of us… but they were all in different sectors and the second girl that came to reproductive sciences came in June, but she was working under a different mentor.”

Days off in Chicago or St. Louis differ quite a bit from those in San Diego, California; especially when you work for one the most renowned zoo’s in the world. Kathryn’s on-days work featured transplanting avian reproductive organs and her off-days were spent leisurely enjoying the San Diego summer weather in the park.

When asked why she chose Illinois four short years ago, Storey answered, “Definitely the people and the connections, because U of I provides a ton of resources for its students to get out in the world and do things, which is really cool.”

And Kathryn Storey has a reason to be grateful for connections, her involvement with the SDZI wouldn’t have been possible without her hearing it talked about at one of her Wildlife and Conservation club’s meetings.

“My first plan of action was to go to Dr. Barr on campus, she’s really well known for reproductive biology within animal sciences and she honestly knows everyone,” Storey explained, “so she wrote my letter of recommendation.”

The Illini Wildlife and Conservation club gives students on campus the opportunity to travel to developing countries and experience wildlife and other economic factors in a different cultural setting. They also do multiple trips throughout the year to local zoos and conservation areas.

Storey hopes to attend graduate school after graduation in May, although she doesn’t know where.

Fraternity member fights sexual assault from the inside

Fraternities have often come under fire on college campuses nowadays. These organizations are frequently attacked and under investigation but Sam Braganca, a junior in political science, is hoping to change some of that culture from the inside out.

Braganca, 21, is an active member of Psi Upsilon fraternity, and has been since his freshman year. He loves fraternity life, social events, and spending time with his brothers. But in his spare time, he also volunteers as a FYCARE facilitator.

Braganca became a facilitator after a close friend was sexually assaulted his freshman year.

“It made me angry that no one had done anything to stop it or help. That’s when I knew it was something I wanted to be able to help other people in that situation with, and being in a fraternity I also saw it as a good way to educate others.”

Braganca said this event also inspired him to pay more attention to events at house parties or other places where drinking is prevalent. But he also thinks the program is an essential way to educate incoming freshman about potentially dangerous situations.

He says that incoming freshmen may not be fully aware of the extent of the drinking culture at U of I, especially in the Greek system. The FYCARE program allows them to learn ways to protect themselves and their friends when in situations where alcohol is prevalent.

FYCARE, or First Year Campus Acquaintance Rape Education, is an interactive workshop that educates all incoming freshman at the school about how to help survivors of sexual assault, how to spot signs of it, how to help, and many other topics related to sexual assault on campus.

Braganca sees his involvement in the program as a way to help change some of the darker parts of fraternity culture.

“By facilitating, I have been trained to spot signs of sexual assault and know how to talk to victims and perpetrators. I think I can help keep more people safe, especially out of frat houses and in bars where many assaults happen. This is a huge part of the reason I wanted to facilitate.”

Braganca says that FYCARE has taught him how to step in when the situation requires it, and also says that being a part of the program has made him much more aware of his surroundings.

“Once more students are aware of or trained in how to approach these kind of situations, bars and [fraternity] houses will be much safer because of increased awareness in sexual assault issues.”

Braganca explains that not only fraternity houses should be under fire. He says many of his female friends and people he has met through the FYCARE program have dealt with similar issues at bars. These social spots on campus are home to copious amounts of alcohol and many young people, not all of who have good intentions.

“FYCARE says that 1 in 5 women will experience sexual assault in their time on campus, but having talked to a lot of people, I think that number is closer to 1 in 3 or 1 in 4. This is a serious problem that we need to do something about,” says Braganca.

He explains that this year, there are 3 FYCARE facilitators in his fraternity alone. He also says he is seeing a lot more fraternity involvement in the program.

“I think people are taking notice of these problems, and (fraternity) houses want to do something to help, and keep people that are going to their houses safe.”

Kevin Conrad, 21, a fellow junior in Psi Upsilon and a close friend, says Braganca’s involvement has inspired others in the fraternity to take more notice of these issues.

“There is a definite distrust on campus towards fraternities, but Sam is really good about pointing out potential issues that may come up and making sure everyone feels safe at events. A lot of fellow brothers have taken notice, and we try to make sure girls are always comfortable at our events.”

To become a FYCARE facilitator, students must take Community Health 199B: CARE (Campus Acquaintance Rape Education), a 3-credit hour class that prepares students to oversee one of these important workshops.

Braganca reminds students to take FYCARE and other sexual misconduct training seriously.

“Actively thinking about spotting many issues mentioned in these workshops instead of blowing them off could help protect you or your friends.”

 

Uncovering the “behind-the-scenes” duties of a resident advisor

It is 2 o’clock in the morning when resident advisor Itamar Allali gets an urgent phone call from a fellow RA about an unconscious girl in the hallway of the third floor. Allali heads to the site of the emergency and helps the girl regain consciousness while the other RA calls medical assistance. The emergency is resolved quickly and smoothly; Allali has dealt with these situations multiple times during his years as an RA.

Allali, senior in LAS, is an RA at Snyder Hall, a substance-free dorm located in the Ikenberry Commons South area. It is his last year as an undergraduate RA. And in four years, he thinks he has become better at it.

Allali shared that he decided to become an RA after his freshman year because he wanted to help students have a positive experience in the dorms. Although he had been a part of his dorm’s hall council and helped RAs plan events, he did not connect with residents on his floor.

Aside from keeping the halls safe, Allali’s main role as an RA was to schedule dorm activities like he had in hall council. However, this has slowly been changing in the past few years.

Now, Allali meets with residents regularly several times throughout the year. Hall council is entirely in charge of planning events because RAs are focusing on having more one-on-one interactions through routinely meetings and check-ins. This is not specific to the University: many residence halls around the country are implementing this change called a residential curriculum model.

Allali shared that the residential curriculum model aims to help students feel safe on a large campus. He hopes residents will feel more at home and understand there is always somebody that they can talk to. This is a change from the duties of RAs in the past.

“Our role is to assess the needs [of the community] and implement things that need to be done as opposed to what it used to be, which was just to go in and plan fun events,” Allali said.

The residential curriculum model highlights the most important duty of an RA: maintaining safety. This includes both physical and mental well-being.

Allali has encountered very serious situations, like having to take care of residents whose lives were in danger. Although he couldn’t disclose more information due to confidentiality, he said that these situations are scary and intense. This is why one-to-one interactions are significant — it gives students a chance to talk to somebody if they need to.

“Over the years, I’ve dealt with it multiple times where it has come to the point that I feel more comfortable [with these situations] — which is wild — but it has definitely been the hardest part because you realize that anything could happen,” Allali said.

He added, “the average college student might think: ‘if I’m having a crisis, I’m not going to go to my RA.’ What some people don’t know is that plenty of students do.”

Snyder Hall is slightly different from other residence halls in terms of policies. If residents have alcohol and drug violations, they go through a different conduct system because of the contract that students sign when they move in. In addition, students 21 and over are prohibited from having or consuming alcohol in the dorms.

Among the numerous reasons for choosing to live at Snyder, one is that there are students who have family history or personal issues with drug addictions. They simply do not want to engage with substances, making Snyder a clean and safe place to live.

The residential curriculum model works to combat the rising mental health issues in college students. Allali explained that RAs are not required to have degrees or be certified counselors, but they undergo emergency response training and understand who to call in certain situations. Allali said his job is not to be a counselor but an educator who directs students in need to the appropriate resources.

Allali said that by checking up on students on a more one-to-one basis, he is able to get closer to them and know what they need. Because many students are affected by mental health, it is important for RAs to be aware.

Eunice Lee, freshman in LAS, currently lives in Snyder Hall. Allali is her RA, and she has had several check-in meetings with him throughout the school year.

“The meetings are short and casual,” Lee said, “but for some reason they make me feel like I can talk to Itamar even though I’m not super close with him or super involved in the dorm.”

Lee believes that especially as a freshman, living in a comfortable and fitting environment is important. Regardless of which residence hall students choose to live in, they should feel like they matter in the University.

Allali added that the college experience is holistic: learning is not only happening in the classroom but also in the residence halls. It is an essential part of college education. He believes the residential curriculum model is pushing dorms in the right direction.

“If I wasn’t going out and trying to make connections with every single person,” Allali said, “someone who is having a really tough time can totally slip through my radar.”

Palestinian-American Student Profile

It’s Friday night at Kam’s. The iconic Illini bar is packed with intoxicated students demanding intoxicating drinks while the smell in the air is anything but intoxicating.

Over in the corner two students, Yaser Yaseen and Omar Ndoye, take a glimpse around the bar. Both have dual citizenship and both are some of the few patrons without drinks .

“We can’t drink because of Islamic rules, but we still want to go out.” Yaser says,  “I think we might be the only brown people here.”

Yaser’s parents trace their origins to what was originally Palestine. However, land disputes with surrounding countries resulted in the area being claimed by Jordan and the couple ended up immigrating to the US in 1996.

“Even where I live right now, I’m considered an immigrant.”

Yaser is a U.S Citizen by birth; in addition to holding Jordanian Citizenship. Despite his parents origins, Yaser and his family are technically classified as immigrants in Jordan due to border changes.

“Its weird because I feel like an immigrant no matter where I go” said Yaser, a sophomore in engineering, “I get looked at differently here because my family is not from the United States, but when I go to Jordan and they realize I’m from the United States I get looked at differently there too.”

The differences, however, are not the same in both countries.

“In the United States, I think even looking foreign gives some people a negative impression, said Yaser.

“I got pulled over and it was me and Omar. The police seemed impatient and rude to us and were very aggressive with wanting to search us, even though we didn’t have anything.”

“But in Jordan, if you know English, and you seem American, oh the people will think you’re rich. Some people will try to take advantage of that.”

Omar, a dual citizen of the US and Senegal, shares similar problems trying to balance two different cultures, especially at UIUC.

“Its kind of hard to meet people because I’m too foreign for some people even though I’m from America,” said Omar, “it’s also harder to meet people at typical places like the bars because I don’t drink.”

Despite the difficulty with meeting people in some social settings, joining student organizations with people who share similar interests has helped Yaser and other students with foreign ties acclimate and meet friends.

Divest, an organization encouraging the University to cut relationships with companies involved in  conflicts across the globe, is one student organization Yaser is particularly passionate about.

Divest hits especially close to home for Yaser because the organization is involved with conflicts in the Middle East, especially the ongoing dispute between Israel and Palestine.

“Illegal settlements, basically right now, a lot of Israeli settlements in the West Bank are breaking international law,” said Yaser, “even in the  [United Nations meeting] there was a vote to officially stop the settlements and a majority of countries voted against Israel.”

Some of Yaser’s family, especially those still living in the Middle East, are directly affected by these illegal settlements.

Although Divest is only in its second year of existence, the organization is already drawing controversy.  Some companies are even accusing Divest of antisemitism.

“Divest is worldwide,” said Yaser,  “if you’re coming to us claiming we’re antisemitic for saying we don’t want the University to invest in human rights violations, I just don’t see where you’re coming from.”

Yaser says getting a larger membership base and spreading information  are the most important hurdles for Divest to clear in the near future. Both will help the organization reach its end goal of getting 2500 signatures on a petition that will be sent to the student government.

“If you want to get involved, the best thing you can do is have people sign the petition, sharing the petition is very very important,” said Yaser.

We have a divest website, and we have an email if you want to talk and get involved as well.”

 

 

Student creates All-Star abilities program

When freshman Grace Goodman came to the University of Illinois, she had to leave behind a program she created for disabled children near her hometown.

Goodman is a Special Education major who wants to make an impact and show children that no matter what their disability may be, they can do whatever they set their mind to.

She believes that from a young age, “when you are told what to and not to do, it can shape the type of person you become and the abilities you think you may or may not have.” This is a reason she hopes to teach young children.

Goodman has a younger brother who has severe ADHD, and when he began kindergarten, her family struggled with a school that was not patient with him.

Her brother, Charlie, had a special education teacher who continuously labelled him as “uncontrollable” and a “problem child.” This lead to Charlie always being sent to the principle for disruptive behaviors and constantly getting in trouble with his teacher.

Goodman’s mom worked at the school that her son attended at the time, and one day was told that her son was no longer allowed to come back and attend that school. This put a lot of stress on the family, and Goodman said it was heartbreaking to watch.

“All you want to do is help your baby brother, and when a teacher is telling you they can’t be helped, and that child at 5 years old, he feels worthless to the people that are supposed to support them.”

After her brother switched schools, she realized his previous teacher was not well equipped for her job because his new teacher was patient and caring, both good qualities of a special education teacher.

The idea for this program, All-Star Abilities, came about when Goodman partook in a fellowship that concluded in Israel, where they had to create something that would “fill a gap in the community” and make a social impact. She said that she realized there was not a program like this and that “everyone should have the ability to partake in sports, learn how to independently exercise, and take care of their body.”

Goodman said she knew that she was going to have to give up her program in order to see it through.

“I had to give my program to the Jewish Community Center in order to get the $100,000 grant from the Jewish United Fund,” Goodman said that leaving to attend U of I was hard because she worked on creating this program for so long, only to give it away.

The Jewish community center owns All-Star Abilities and all of the rights to it, so Goodman could not bring the program to Champaign like she had once hoped.

“I worked on this program for two full years. It was really hard for me to apply for the grant in the first place. I gave up being able to say I was responsible for creating this program.”

Although Goodman did give up this program, she was on the board to go through the details of the program.

She went to every session when the program started and was paired with a buddy who needed a lot of support. He was on the autistic spectrum, as described by Goodman, and completely non-verbal, he had to communicate with the iPad. He needed a volunteer to be one step ahead, to be patient, and Goodman knew she would pair well with him.

Goodman said that this boy changed her entire experience with the program. “You always get joy out of good deeds you do, but when you work one on one with someone, you develop an entirely different connection.”

Her most memorable experience was the last session when his dad picked him up and said, “I know Ben can’t tell you this, but in the beginning, he didn’t want to come. By the end, he was looking forward to it.”

For Goodman’s future as a Special Education teacher, she wants to take the effort and time to make sure her students are learning and that she is going to make sure she does whatever possible for her students to succeed.