Durango visits Morton College

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Last week Morton College had a visit from a group of students from Durango, Mexico. Several members of Phi Theta Kappa were very enthusiastic about advising and informing the students about what the American education system is like, what our school/campus is like and much more. It was very uplifting to see how well our PTK members not only served the group by answering any questions they had, but also made them feel welcomed by being genuinely friendly, what our campus is all about!

The event started out by having Jaime Lopez introduce himself and some opening remarks about Morton College. Afterwards, one by one, all PTK volunteers introduced themselves, their academic/career goals and something interesting about themselves, to break the ice.

There was an instant personal connection, seeing that many of our student’s come from Mexican heritage. Even some of our volunteers came from the same pueblo or rancho as some of the Durango students!

After telling a little about ourselves, as volunteers, we spread out to sit with the Durango students in separate groups and had some interpersonal communication. In our groups, we were to talk about different topics regarding education, our school, our experience and more. We then shared to the entire room our questions and important ideas from the discussion.

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Considering that a lot of what we talked about could be of help to many of our new students, I’d like to share some Q and A’s;

Q: How is college completion measured?

A: Here, we measure the number of accumulated credit hours.

This explains why two people can be taking the same class on different schedules, even though one person can go on MWF for 50 minutes, and another person goes TTH for 1 hour and 15 minutes, at the end, it accumulates the same time, thus the same credit hours. The number of credit hours needed to graduate depends what degree you are focusing on.

Q: What different academic programs does Morton College offer?

A: We offer certificate programs that can get you an entry-level job, such as nurse assisting, automotive service and more.

Furthermore, we offer different Associates degrees for those that wish to pursue a Bachelor’s degree once they transfer to a 4-year university. The associate’s degree will generally cover the general education classes and electives necessary for undergraduate students.

Q: What’s the difference between a 4-year and a 2-year school?

A: The difference between both is that in a 2-year school, usually, one would have to transfer out to receive a bachelor’s degree, and the options in the school programs are limited.

Although, there is benefits to a 2-year college; lower tuition, usually smaller class size (Morton College has a Student/Faculty ratio of about 22:1), which makes it easier to get 1-on-1 help.

Q: How can I pay for college?

A: Financial aid is available to those who are U.S citizens, and the amount varies, depending on your (or your family’s) income. Morton College does offer payment plans and school scholarships as well.

Q: Why is it important to apply for scholarships?

A: Scholarships are money that you won’t have to pay back, unlike loans. Except for certain scholarships, there is usually not a limit on how many you can apply for and some scholarships are even renewable. Applying or being accepted for a scholarship won’t exclude you or limit your chances for other scholarships. Remember to do your research and look for scholarships that you meet the requirements/criteria for.

After sharing some ideas and answering questions, each one of our PTK members mentioned some words of wisdom for our visitors to keep in mind, some ideas mentioned were;

“It’s okay to not know what you want to study, of course it can be challenging and even intimidating to feel the pressure of having to choose a career, but remember that the first classes you take are general education courses and electives, so that gives you more time to explore various subjects.” –Karen Ferrel

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“Never feel embarrassed or ashamed to ask for help! Use the school’s resources, like the Individual Learning Center, Student Success Center and Peer-Tutoring. After all, the school offers these to help you become a better student.”

-Iris Rodriguez

cropped-morton-student-center1.jpg“Remember to never let anyone deviate you from what you are passionate about, follow what makes you happy” –Jacquelin Padilla

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“Work hard and remember to have fun along the way.” –Gerardo Arias

 

After the words of wisdom from each PTK volunteer, there was a lunch held in the Student Union where both our students and Durango students shared ideas about college and their life experiences. Seeing the success and magnitude of this event, I  hope it continues to be something Morton College can keep doing next year and after that, hopefully in the future with various groups of international students!

Special thanks to the Dean of Arts and Sciences, Derek Shouba., Mrs. Avalos., Mr. McLaughlin., Mr. Fields., Mr. Drury., Jaime Lopez for being our host/speaker., and all of our PTK volunteers that did an amazing job at portraying Morton College as the friendly and caring environment that we are; Cintya Ruiz, Giselle Castaneda, Yaritza Sosa, Jacquelin Padilla, Karen Ferrel, Gerardo Arias, Karina Pina, Fanny Xelhua, Clarissa Marmolejo, Ana Ibarra.

 

 

 

 

 

Mental Health And The Latino Culture

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The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) describes mental health as not just how an individual emotionally reacts to specific situations but in addition, it’s a medical condition that causes changes in how we think and in our mood. These changes can go undiagnosed and untreated, often leading to a disruption in our daily life, in which many feel like it’s hard to relate to others.

            “Common mental health disorders among Latinos are generalized anxiety disorder , major depression, posttraummatic stress disorder (PTSD) and alcoholism. About one in five Latinos currently suffers from a mental health condition” -NAMI.

Stigma is a complex phenomenon related to loss of status and disrupted identity. It is associated with labeling, negative stereotypes in the media and community, and lack of knowledge and awareness of mental illness.

MISPERCEPTIONS

The Hispanic/ Latino culture, like many other groups, believe in the stigma that deeply roots the troubles of mental health. Latinos fear being labeled as Loco (crazy) because it’s seen as a shame and/or disappointment, therefore many won’t seek treatment. Specially, since Latino families tend to be private and keep their family troubles in the home and out of public knowledge for sakes of family name.

            A journal of Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice, applied the “dominance behavioral system” as well as other research data concludes that “a deflated sense of power or disappointment in social standing was associated with a higher risk of depression and anxiety.”

The Latino beliefs suggests as causes, from suerte (luck), susto (soul or spirit loss resulting from a traumatic event), mal de ojo (the evil eye), or caida de la mollera (fallen fontanel). According to Ethnomed.org these are all misperceptions of poor mental health.

In addition, many will refer to their symptoms as nervios, although they see it as “transitory” as a result from traumatic experiences or trouble adjusting to life changes. This can be related to having symptoms of restlessness, constant worrying, panic, loss of sleep and appetite. Although, “nervios” which derives from the word “worry” has been a term that has been used to describe a variety of symptoms that would otherwise point to a different diagnosis. Therefore, there’s possibility of misdiagnosing as anxiety when it’s not. This demonstrates the language barrier and the need for more culturally relevant mental health care.

It’s also possible that mental health is misdiagnosed as being tired, lazy or physical illness. Not to mention the possibility of confusing spiritual experiences as psychosis.

There’s plenty of different factors that could be causes for poor mental health in a migrant’s experience (as they acculturate or even after years of being in a new country) such as; language, social, professional, family dynamic, economic and immigration status. Not to mention any other stressors from everyday life that come with responsibility such as work or school.

            “Only 20 percent of Latinos with symptoms of a psychological disorder will talk to their doctor, and only 10 percent contact a mental health specialist” – NAMI

Labeling or diagnosing has its disadvantages although it’s outweighed by the possible advantages. With a diagnosis from a medical professional it’s easier for one to be understood from a scientific mindset and be prescribed/suggested the appropriate medication and therapy treatment plans.

Although, Latinos don’t turn to talk therapy or medication, often seeing it as ineffective and shameful. Many will try the culture’s more private methods of healing instead such as; help from curanderos or clergy prior to seeking medical care.

RESOURCES

Different therapies are effective for different illnesses but Cognitive-Behaviorism seems to be widely used and proves effective for treating many disorders and dealing with day to day life. Albert Ellis argued that a person’s belief system will influence their behavior. Cognitive-Behaviorism searches ways to recognize the irrational beliefs, make them less intense or eliminated, to alter feelings and behavior.

In conclusion, if you or someone you know may be dealing with symptoms of poor mental health, I suggest everyone to talk to a trustworthy friend that will listen. Talking to someone isn’t always easy, remember to be sympathetic and most importantly a good listener. Check up on your loved ones, simply ask how are you feeling? Do you want to talk about anything that’s bothering you?

            I also recommend you look at, “Twenty-Five Ways to Untwist Your Thinking” from the work of Dr. Davis Burns in his book “When Panic Attacks” as a way to help you, or others have a more rational, healthy way of thinking. There’s plenty of other self-help books or even podcasts that can help you or others deal with symptoms of poor mental health. For the Latino family, National Mental Health Alliance also features Compartiendo Esperanza is a bilingual 90-minute presentation that can help increase mental health awareness in Latino communities.

Photo from Unsplash.com

LETS STAND UP TOGETHER

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Responses from Morton College students to a survey question concerning gun control.

The American public has become desensitized at these occurrences because we’ve seen this cycle before. The cycle is, there’s a shooting, we grief and pray for the families of those injured and passed, we call for action from politicians for gun control, nothing gets heard, nothing gets done and eventually, it happens again. The cycle repeats.

I wasn’t surprised about the news until I saw the videos from some of the students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. What I  saw, was a phone recording by a student that was huddled with other classmates for protection. There were loud gunshots, but what made me realize that this was something horrific, were the frightened screams from the trapped victims. Piercing screams far worse than those in scary movies. These demonstrated helplessness, and a desperate plead for mercy. That video wasn’t a minute long, yet it made me feel uneasy. I cringed at the thought of being there.

In an interview by ABC News, Jonathan Blank, who was seen in that video, laying on the floor, cowering, said, “I saw them on the ground after they were shot, there was blood everywhere, it was horrible.”

After seeing that, I began to imagine how terrifying it would be to witness a day in celebration of love and affection, turn into a nightmare. To watch, as it turned into a day where they prayed and pleaded to not die. To make it out alive. A day that these victims  began saying their goodbyes via text or call, almost accepting that they might die there. Ultimately, a day that would change their lives forever.

“No child, teacher or anyone else should ever feel unsafe in an American school.” -President Donald J. Trump

 WHAT WE KNOW

“Blood is being spilled on the floors of American classrooms”         

 -David Hogg (victim).

As reported on TIME magazine, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel stated that gunman Nikolas Cruz (19), after taking an Uber car ride to the high school, began to “fire into five classrooms across three floors of the building at 2:21pm.”

According to CNN, “On the third floor, he dropped his rifle and ammo. Ran out of the building, blending in with students and staff who were pouring out of the school, many with their hands in the air.”

Officer Michael Leonard, said Cruz “looked like a typical high school student,” and was walking on a nearby neighborhood. From there, he was brought into custody without resisting. Cruz is now being charged with 17 accounts of premeditated murder. Currently held without bond.

THERE WERE SIGNS OF TROUBLE

Cruz has been reported by The Star to have been a member of The JROTC marksmanship program used air rifles special-made for target shooting, typically on indoor ranges at targets the size of a coin. The program had received $10,827 in non-cash assistance from the NRA’s fundraising and charitable arm in 2016. This was only one out of 18 schools total in just the state of Florida, more than any other state.

Another member of the JROTC program who gave Cruz rides to shooting competitions said, “He was a very good shot, and he would tell us about how fun it was to shoot a riffle, shooting pistols and owning an AR-15 at home.” Not knowing he would shoot up their school one day with that same gun he spoke so profoundly about, “as if it was therapeutic to him.”

“Why does a teenager legally have an AR15? Somewhere along the line, these guys (politicians) forgot they work for us not the NRA.”

-Jimmy Kimmel.

Cruz, a former student of the school had been expelled for disciplinary problems. Math teacher Jim Gard reported to TIME magazine that at one point Cruz wasn’t allowed to school with a backpack after making threats. Ultimately, shattering his plans of joining the Army after graduation. His peers described him as a loner, troubled kid, outcast and with violent tendencies.

It was also reported by various sources that he used to kill animals for entertainment.

HIS SUPPORT SYSTEM WAS GONE

Also, reported by TIME magazine, his mother passed away in November 2017. He and his younger sibling were legally living with a couple, family friends, who referred to his as a “monster” in an interview and mentioned they felt betrayed. They also stated there weren’t signs, other than “he seemed depressed.”

The Miami Herald stated that Florida’s Department of Children and Families had previously investigated Cruz after he posted Snapchat videos of cutting his arms. They reported that he was victim of medical neglect and inadequate supervision but was identified as “stable”.

BLAMING MENTAL ILLNESS

Cruz’s attorney argued that he had brain development issues, as well as mental illness. TIME revealed the response from The President of the American Psychological Association, Jessica Henderson;

“Framing the conversation about gun violence in the context of mental illness does a disservice both to the victims of violence and unfairly stigmatizes the many others with mental illness. Most important, it does not direct us to appropriate solutions to this public health crisis.”

I interviewed Morton’s psychology professor, Mr. Wood on his opinion, he responded;

“I agree, because mental illness has a broad range of different illnesses… if we could just pinpoint those who are pre-dispositioned to be violent…”

On February 15th at 6:12 AM, President Donald J. Trump tweeted:

“So many signs that the Florida shooter was mentally disturbed, even expelled for bad and erratic behavior, neighbors and classmates knew he was a big problem. Must always report such instances to authorities, again and again!”

Once again, President Trump reiterates what we already know and blames. He always blames mental health to deviate from the real problem, guns. Even if he thinks mental illness is the cause, he’s a hypocrite for de-funding mental health care.

We’ve heard this from President Trump before, after the Texas Mass shooting in a church that left 26 killed and many injured, he said;

“Mental health is your problem here” called the shooter a “very deranged individual.” As a response to that, Peter Ambler, the executive director of Giffords, the gun control group started by former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords said to NBC News.

“Blaming mental health is a tactic straight out of the gun lobby’s playbook that’s meant to paralyze Congress. Donald Trump’s goal is to make people think our leaders don’t have the power to prevent gun violence.”

Yet as reported by NPR’s Scott Horsely nearly a year ago, The Trump administration signed a bill that “rolled back an Obama-era rule that would have required the Social Security Administration to send records of some beneficiaries with severe mental disabilities to the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System.”

This is what NRA’s spokesperson Dana Loesch blamed at CNN Townhall when meeting with shooting survivors,

 “He passed the background check because the system is flawed… it is not federally mandated to report those that have convictions and have been adjudicated mentally unfit…that’s how this madman passed the background check.”  

Not to mention, President Trump’s 2019 budget is expected to cut spending for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration by $665 million. Additionally, Bloomberg reported the National Institute of Mental Health would see a 30 percent reduction in funding — a half a billion dollar decrease — in 2019.

THIS IS DIFFERENT

In the article, “The Righteous Anger of the Parkland’s shooting’s Teen Survivors” author Robinson Meyer, editor for The Atlantic, focuses on the importance of this shooting not only because it is the deadliest school shooting since Sandy Hook Elementary (2012) but because it’s the largest high-school shooting in the social media age. The survivors not only grief and tell their stories but are also calling for political action because they “understand the tragedy as adults but are as blameless for it as children.” Meyer writes that many of the victims were talking about the happenings as something that “just happens, not as an unforeseeable tragedy” because they have “visualized something like this before” and now we all visualize something like this happening to us. This cycle seems almost normal now. “Preventable, therefore political.”

I agree with Meyer, this shooting brings back the importance of stricter gun control. Myself, being a young adult and a student, I felt connected to these victims as they spoke of their lost peers and faculty. Watching the interviews of the survivors, reading their social media posts made me realize that we never think about this happening to us, until it does to us or someone we know.

Teens all over the country went back to school and felt scared or worried. Colleen Lance (16), told The Washington Post,

“It’s very anxious to go to school after a school shooting. It makes you more aware that you’re not safe.”

STUDENT OPINIONS

From personal experience at Morton College, I always feel safe in campus. That’s only because we have our very own campus Police Department, located in Building C, which we can dial (708) 656-8000 Ext. 2200 for any in-campus emergencies, and able to use one of over 30 emergency phones around campus. Although, reality is that we may never know when something like this could happen to our schools.

I began to question how other Morton College students felt about the subject. I asked the question; After hearing about the Florida high school shooting, do you think there should be stricter gun control? Which would include thorough universal background checks, more paperwork, various monthly and yearly examinations to obtain and keep a weapon(s).

I received a total of 68 anonymous votes.

57 voted yes, while only 11 voted no.

I originally asked for only a “yes or no” answer, although I received some comments on their opinions.

One student answered NO, but believes “the government, or schools themselves, should put more safety regulations.”

Another student, answered YES, and believes that “there should be fees added with the application process.”

A student that answered YES offered that, “besides stricter gun control, the government should provide more Americans with mental health awareness/help programs.”

STUDENTS STAND UP

Students of Stoneman Douglas demand action. Even when being interviewed by local news, shooting survivors like David Hogg and Emma Gonzalez were quick to call for action, and have been in various interviews. So far, they forced a CNN town hall and got new commitments from Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. There have been millions of dollars raised for protests such as The March for Our Lives and there’s a National School Walkout and many more to come according to Vox. Whether you think guns or mental health is the primary factor of mass shootings, whether you think the police and FBI failed for missing tips and taking action from that; it’s worth speaking out on. Let’s share our opinion, not simply ignore it. Bringing awareness to these issues is of extreme importance because these tragedies will keep resurfacing over and over if congress doesn’t act. Laws need improvement and that starts with raising our voices and concerns.

3 Simple Ways To Be Environmentally Friendly

 

By Mark A Morales

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There are several options that can be undertaken that will help control our environmental impact. I will present three helpful tips most people could easily do:

(1) Replace your current light bulbs with LED lighting,

(2) Make sure that your tires are inflated properly and,

(3) Take shorter showers.

According to a study done by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, LED bulbs are more environmentally friendly than both compact fluorescent bulbs and traditional bulbs. The main problem is that traditional bulbs consume far more electricity than LED bulbs.

“Switching to LED will reduce the environmental harm (from electricity use alone) by 3 to 10 times” (Learn).

LED bulbs will only improve over time, so energy use should reduce (Learn). Additionally, LED bulbs are safer than traditional or compact fluorescent bulbs. They emit no mercury emissions, can’t electrocute people, and don’t have any glass used in their construction, so there’s no chance of stepping on a glass shard (Gustina).

The only significant downside to LED lights are the high cost of LED bulbs relative to traditional bulbs, although the long life of LED lighting (around 100,000 hours) more than makes up for the high initial cost of replacing traditional bulbs with LED bulbs (“The Advantages of LED Lights”). Overall, while the initial investment is considerable, using LED bulbs will save people more money in the long run”

Secondly, making sure your tires are properly inflated is also one of the little things we can do to make sure they help the environment.

A study from the United States Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that:

“33% of trucks and 25% of cars have at least one under inflated tire while 3-8% had all 4 tires under inflated.”

This decreases fuel economy (by creating “drag” between the tire and the road), reduces the lifetime of your tires, and makes handling more difficult (“Eco-Facts and Tips on Inflating Tires”).

According to fueleconomy.gov, inflating tires to their proper pressure can improve mileage by about 3.3% whereas leaving them under inflated could lower mileage by .4% for every PSI (pounds per square inch) drop in pressure. That doesn’t sound significant, but for the average person who drives 12,000 miles yearly, under-inflated tires can cost an extra 144 gallons of gas, which will cost roughly $300-$500 a year.

For each gallon of gas burnt, an extra 20 pounds of carbon dioxide is added to the environment (West).

Considering that the United States already contributes to global warming significantly through our use of vehicles, it would be a good idea to do our best to minimize any damage done to the environment.

Air pressure in tires drops once the weather gets colder, so this problem will persist here in the windy city of Chicago and throughout the world, but we can manage it to ensure gas isn’t wasted. Keeping your tires properly inflated also gives better handling, which helps ensure the safety of yourself and the people around you.

Thirdly, to help the environment, people should try to take shorter showers (and consider taking a cold shower every now and then); which will help conserve water, your money and reduce energy consumption.

If you use an older showerhead, an 8-minute shower will consume 48 to 64 gallons of water while a 15-minute shower consumes 90 to 120 gallons (Skipton). Newer shower heads have limits on how much they can use, but regardless of what kind of showerhead people have, taking shorter showers saves both water and energy.

Did you know that hot showers in particular are especially wasteful when you consider that, 5.21 gallons of water will typically be used while people are waiting for the water to warm up (Rastogi).

It can become even worse if you keep in mind that most water heaters tend not to have very high energy factors, meaning that they don’t convert energy to hot water very well (Rastogi).

Having looked through methods ordinary people can take to help the environment, I determined that taking by switching to LED lighting, checking your tire pressure and taking shorter showers were the easy options that most people could take. Additionally, the side benefits of saving money in the long run by, switching to LED lightbulbs and taking shorter showers, would incentivize you to take action to help the environment. Not to mention the easy one of checking your tire pressure; be responsible -by being safe- for yourself and the ones you love. It’s a good year to help the planet and be more money savvy!

Photo from Jniittymma0, Pixibay.com

 

Tips to Stay Motivated this Semester

By Iris Rodriguez

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Last year flew by, do you agree?

Make THIS year YOUR year. I will give you tips that will help you stay motivated this semester.

From personal experience, I realized that straight A’s in college are not unattainable. What we hear is true; the work you turn in reflects the grade you’ll receive. So, what is the secret to getting good grades in college? It’s not a secret at all. It’s just about effort and good time management, DISCIPLINE.

To start off, set a class goal. Make your goal(s) attainable. For example, my goal isn’t to earn straight A’s, because, well, sometimes things don’t turn out the way we want them to. Instead, my goal is “to earn B’s or higher.” By setting attainable goals you won’t feel so disappointed if it goes otherwise, and you’ll feel even more accomplished if you do better.

It’s simple, set realistic goals that will challenge you, only you know what you can accomplish.

Make it Happen!

Secondly, plan ahead. Making use of a planner will help you keep track of your assignment due dates and important test dates. Even if you’re bad at keeping a planner (like I am) you can set reminders and notes on your phone’s calendar.

Also, planning will show you what assignments you need to finish first. This is known as prioritizing and it’s a good life skill. You will need to rank your assignments from most important to least, and from what’s due first than others. You know you don’t want to miss those assignments due at 11:59 pm.

Planning will help you balance your social roles.

I know that were busy individuals and specially for us that work and attend school, it can be frustrating. But, you MUST take time out your day to study, even if it’s for a bit, it’s worth it. You are going into debt anyways, right? Get something out of it.

Studying doesn’t mean doing a whole T-Note taking procedure, just whatever works best for you. It can mean getting to class early and just going over your notes/study. Try waking up earlier (about 20 minutes or more) or before you’re going to sleep at night.

What I do is take pictures of my notes and whenever I have a little extra time I can just pull it up on my phone (or put it as your wallpaper). If that doesn’t work then try a voice record. Repeat it to memorize; even if you’re not paying attention, it stays on your subconscious, making it familiar to you.

Positively reinforce your accomplishments with a reward. Treat yourself to something you enjoy for every time you get a good grade. Whether it’s going to the movies, having a certain favorite food or buying something for yourself are all ways to motivate you!

Another thing is to be resourceful. Making use of the second floor library private/quiet studying.

Finally, find a friend you can be competitive with over grades!

Last Semester was the first time I had straight A’s while being at Morton College. I had 3 classes with a friend, Angela Martinez, whom I would always compare grades with.  So it became a challenge to get an A. It was a way for me to stay motivated and it seemed to work.

Now, I hope to get straight A’s this Spring semester as well. Especially since I will graduate with an Associates in Arts degree; to transfer to The University of Illinois in Chicago’s upcoming Fall 2018. If all goes well, I will apply to their Honors College.

So those are some short-term goals I have for 2018, what are yours?

Also, as Editor-in-Chief of the Morton Collegian I look forward to reviewing entries for this site, contact me at RodriguezIrisneida@gmail.com.

Photo from WokandaPix, Pixibay.com

Time to Cut Down on Wrapping Paper

By Alyssa Van Kuiken

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As Christmas time approaches and we begin to check off the items on our list of things that we need to buy for our family and friends, we also find on our shopping list things that we need to buy just to make the gifts presentable such as wrapping paper. Almost everyone finds themselves in need of this commodity for kids and adult gifts alike.

At Christmas we all expect to find wrapped presents under the tree, but why not simply place them in a gift bag or another more practical gift covering instead of wrapping paper?

There are several alternatives to using wrapping paper that can be reused when it comes to Christmas time, birthdays and other events where gifts are given. Some options include things like using cloth, repurposing newspaper, or using gift bags and all of these options could potentially cut back on the waste generated by wrapping paper. While some of the alternatives listed are slightly out of the norm, such as cloth wrappings, something as simple as using a gift bag can make a difference.

Yet, according to an infographic found on  Visual.ly ,

only nineteen percent of adults put items in gift bags instead of wrapping the items. 

Why is it that this number is so small despite the fact that using any of those items will help the environment by cutting down on the nearly 4 million tons of waste that are generated by gift wrapping and shopping bags per year (Garner).

Most people believe that they can recycle wrapping paper after they have torn it off of their gifts, but the information provided by several websites seems to say otherwise. WRAP, a UK based program, says that wrapping paper cannot often be recycled because of the way that it is made. Most papers contain dyes and lamination and tape is usually stuck to it, all of which make it difficult to recycle (WRAP). So despite the fact that many think that wrapping paper isn’t so bad because it can just be recycled and reused, it seems that it will eventually make its way to a landfill, not into new paper which will just add to our growing environmental problems.

It is generally true that you can wrap more presents with a roll of wrapping paper than you can if you took the same amount of money and bought gift bags in a single year. However, if you take into consideration how many times you can reuse bags in comparison to the one (or maybe two times) that you can use wrapping paper, it becomes easier to see that it is not that big of a financial difference.

American’s spend an estimated $2.6 billion on wrapping paper every year at an average of $4.99 per roll (Visual.ly).

If you take that number and look at how much wrapping paper you use in a year in comparison with how many years you can go without buying new bags simply by reusing them, you can see that it makes sense to make the switch for at least some of your gift giving.

Also, according to Statista.com, the average American is expected to spend roughly $906 on Christmas gifts in 2017, so even if there is a slightly elevated cost of packaging the gifts that you are giving by using bags, if you lump all of the Christmas costs together it will likely be a very minimal difference.

One argument that some have made is that wrapping paper is part of the fun of Christmas and that kids have been tearing through the paper to get to their toys on Christmas morning for years. This is a point that is hard to ignore. The thrill of tearing open that layer of paper and seeing that new doll or truck is one that many kids look forward to all year long, but why can’t they pull their toy out of a bag instead? Will the effect really be that big of a difference and will the kids even notice a difference if you did switch to bags?

If the tradition of a child opening a wrapped gift is really important to you, then perhaps you do continue to wrap their gifts, but you can still swap out the adult’s paper wrappings for bags. Any amount of change can have an impact. It is estimated that “45,000 football fields worth of paper would be saved if every American family wrapped three presents in re-used material” (Visual.ly). According to an infographic found on Creditdonkey.com, the average American wraps fifteen presents per year so three gifts would not be a big change for just one family, however, when that is added all together across the whole population, it is a massive difference.

Another statistic shows that,

Americans spend about 3 hours wrapping gifts each year, with 25% of people expecting to spend more than 4 hours (visual.ly).

Time around the holidays is meant to be spent with family, not with a roll of wrapping paper and some tape. Those three hours could be spent playing in the snow with your kids or just relaxing. If we were willing to put our gifts into gift bags instead, we would likely be able to cut down on the amount of time spent getting gifts ready.

In a scotch tape survey that can be found on Myria.com, you can find statistics that say that “nearly 70 % of Americans say they enjoy wrapping gifts” and that “28% say that it gets them in the holiday spirit”, but aren’t there other ways of getting into the spirit that are less wasteful and even more enjoyable than gift wrapping?

If you are stumped on what these other holiday spirit kick-starters might be, a quick google search can give you a lot of ideas. You can have a holiday movie marathon, and in the four hours that you would normally spend wrapping, you can probably get through two movies. You could spend four hours ice skating although you might be tired after that activity. You could spend four hours baking cookies for you and your friends and family to share and enjoy. While wrapping might be the thing that some people need to get in the spirit, most people can find another activity that is just as enjoyable, if not more so, to get them in the holiday spirit.

Wrapping paper has its obvious perks from kid’s enjoyment to boosting holiday spirit, but your time spent wrapping could be used in other ways, and the financial difference would be minor. A simple switch to another form of gift wrapping can mean a huge decrease in waste if it happens over a portion of the population. It is not a difficult switch, so as you wrap your Christmas gifts this year, consider helping to do your part and start using alternative forms of gift wrapping instead of using wrapping paper.

Photo by Iris Rodriguez

Perks of Being a Bookworm

By Mara Galeno

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“I don’t like reading” is probably a common thing we hear from others when bringing up the topic of reading. Why do people not read? Why don’t they like reading?

It all goes back to our education. In school, we are always taught to analyze and read between the lines of every single book. Some of us are told to keep a reading log and read a certain number of books in a certain amount of time to keep up with our grade.

I, for one, loathed reading back in 6th grade when I had to keep a reading log and write a page summary of every single book I read–a total of about 40 books for the whole school year.

Wanting to get over the irksome assignments, I decided to scan through the books instead of taking my time to read; ultimately, killing the joy of reading.

Unlike myself, two of my best friends loved reading. They would often read a book and discuss it in my class with each other. Feeling left out, I asked what book they were reading. They immediately handed me a copy of “The Hunger Games” followed by an enthusiastic look on their faces saying, “You have to read it!” and so I did.

I’ve never felt so much thrill while reading a book. It was exhilarating. I continued reading the trilogy and became intrigued. I wanted to pursue my new-found love for reading.

I became a frequent reader and was known as a “bookworm” in high school. My peers would often catch me walking in the hallways reading a new book or two every week (and witnessed my knack for walking without tripping as I would read).

By reading, I noticed a change in how quickly I would read, gained an extensive vocabulary, developed remarkable spelling and grammar skills, and most importantly:   a tremendous method of entertainment and stress-relief.

So why read? Reading can help for a vast amount of reasons such as improving in your academics, your work environment, health, and entertainment.

A great way to improve academically is by reading. When you read, you are reading a book the author wrote–a professional with an extensive knowledge on language arts and proficiency in writing. You tend to see words you aren’t familiar with and you create a definition from the context given. You develop the author’s use of vocabulary, and you witness how sentences are formed and how they use punctuation.

A vital skill you pick up from reading a book is comprehension. As you read, you discover what it is the author wants you to know, how certain topics and ideals made you feel, and summarize the book in your own words with your own opinion on it.

Being able to gain all those skills can really help when you’re put to the test. According to the American Library Association, “Fourth grade students who read for fun every day score the highest on reading assessment tests.”

Reading can be very beneficial when it comes to working. Before you even apply for a job, you must write a résumé. With your acquired knowledge of reading and absorbing the author’s writing skills, you can be able to write your résumé to seem more appealing in comparison to those of other job applicants.

Reading can also improve your speech and communication skills–which is essential in the workplace, while in an interview or speaking with your boss, co-workers, or customers.

Reading can help you sleep. When you create a habit of reading every night, you condition yourself to sleep–especially if you struggle sleeping. Once you pick up a book at night, your brain will automatically relax and subconsciously get ready for slumber.

Picking up a book and reading can benefit your health. Stress reduction is one of many. Figuratively, reading has the ability to mentally transfer you to another place and escape from your surroundings.

Reading may even help prevent Alzheimer’s Disease.

According to the Alzheimer’s Research Foundation website, “Reading books and magazines, writing and participating in other mentally stimulating activities, no matter your age, can help to keep memory and thinking skills intact. The findings of a new study add to growing evidence that mental challenges like reading and doing crossword puzzles may help to preserve brain health and stave off symptoms of Alzheimer’s in old age.”

Lastly, my all-time favorite reason to read is for entertainment reasons! There’s no better feeling than getting sucked into a book. After reading for hours and hours as I use my imagination based off the words displayed on a book. Reading is one of the best methods for entertainment, especially when one starts binge reading and can’t put the book down (like Netflix when you can’t stop watching a show, but better, I promise!)

There’s so much detail and so much imagery in a book that you can’t quite catch when you’re watching TV.

“If you don’t like reading, you haven’t found the right book.”

(J.K. Rowling).

I guarantee that there is a book out there for you yet to love and enjoy.

Now that you know the benefits of reading, you may be wondering how you can start developing it as a hobby.

Visiting a library regularly or a bookstore can help increase your chances to read. You are offered a wide selection of books as well as a quiet space to concentrate while reading.

Keeping your book in hand, on your phone, or tablet and taking it to places with you helps promote reading; especially when you’re waiting in a long line, in a bus, train, or Uber, at a waiting room, or even when eating lunch.

Having a friend or even a blog to express your thoughts and ideas can also keep you motivated to keep reading and even gain more book suggestions from people who enjoyed the book you did.

You can also reward yourself by reading. If reading has been a struggle of a hobby you’ve been wanting to pick up, you can always treat yourself to something you want to propel reading.

Remember, don’t force yourself to read a book if you don’t like it. Read the first 30 to 50 pages of a book, and if it doesn’t catch your interest, simply put it down and search for another book.

If you really need motivation to read, check out 4-year- old Daliyah Arana’s story about reading over 1,000 books before entering preschool and hopes to read another 500 more before she starts kindergarten.

Reading is a habit worth picking up and the benefits that come with it are countless. Creating it a habit can be easier than you think, and it is a good investment of your time. Improve your test scores, gain communication skills, relax and unwind, and simply entertain yourself with a good book of your choice; you won’t regret it.