Alternative Break in Jamaica

March 19, 2014

By James Green

ATTENTION STUDENTS! If you aren’t familiar with Alternative Break offered by the Center for Leadership and Community Engagement, I hope I can persuade you to become acquainted with it! My name is James Green and I am a freshman student at George Mason University. Throughout the beginning of the year I noticed a plethora of pamphlets around campus regarding study abroad trips to many exciting places, but never looked too deeply into them. I’ve always wanted to travel the world, but I brushed the idea of traveling abroad off because I feared the expenses.

Alternative Break trips offer the opportunity for international and domestic service at relatively low costs (compared to traditional study abroad trips), less duration of time from home (average of a week), as well as scholarship availability to help offset the costs! I researched more into the programs offered and found that they span from cultural emersion trips in Israel, to sustainability awareness trips in Florida. The trip I found fitting to my service interests was a trip to Jamaica focusing on elementary education.

After arriving in Jamaica, our group of twelve Mason students dove right into our educational mission. When we went to the school for the first time, I immediately took notice to how tarnished the buildings were. The school contained two small structures, totaling four classrooms, and around sixty students –only staffed by two teachers. We decided to find some ways to help around the school other than solely assisting with teaching. JimmyOur group decided that half of us could aid the teachers with their curriculum in the classroom, and the other half could stay outside to repaint the faded pink walls of the school. We also agreed that it’d be nice to switch the jobs of the groups halfway through the day, allowing everyone the opportunity to impact the students in the classroom. I enjoyed both painting and teaching because I knew that we were having a large impact on the school physically as well as with the students. Inside the classroom we read books, played games, and talked about our lives. The kids loved us, and we loved them!

Leaving them on the final day was the most difficult part. In a week’s time I had grown close to many of the students, and I didn’t want to go so soon. They all walked out of the class and into their vans to go home, hugging each of us at the door. It was a sad moment, but a moment that allowed me to feel as if I did truly have a positive impact on their lives –it felt great!

Our last two days were our “fun” days (even though the entire trip was a blast), where we were able to explore the area surrounding Treasure Beach. We went on a boat tour in the serene blue ocean where we were greeted by dolphins, we traveled through Black River –greeted by sunbathing crocodiles, and visited the most amazing set of waterfalls I’ve ever seen! The Jamaican people were kind and accepting, and taught us a lot about their culture! Last but not least, the food was spectacular! Jamaican food seems to be simple, but it tastes like you’re eating food from the finest of restaurants!

These priceless memories and experiences are not available to anyone and everyone, but as a George Mason student, they are accessible to you! I encourage everyone to look into the programs, as you will find life changing experiences in each and every alternative break trip offered! Your life is an adventure, you just have to choose how interesting you want that adventure to be!

Healthy Competition?

May 16, 2013

Anyone who know me, knows that I really love to watch TV 🙂  I really enjoy reality television shows that focus around competitive sports.  I was a competitive gymnast and absolutely loved it.  I think that this is one of the main reasons that I enjoy these competition shows so much.  Two shows that I particularly like to watch are Dance Moms and a new show featured on CMT called Cheer.  These shows present polar opposite coaching strategies.  Although both coaches can be tough on their athletes there is a distinct differences in their teaching methods.  The coach on Cheer uses the “tough love” method to motivate her athletes, but the dance teacher on Dance Moms relies solely on being tough.  The dance instructor constantly yells at her students and only provides positive feedback to her favorite kids.  These two methods of coaching are vastly different.  What are your opinions on this?  Where is the line drawn in regards to how much a coach should be allowed to push their athletes for positive results in competition.  Coaches are important leaders and are often their athlete’s inspirations.  What is the best way to lead a group of athletes to success?

Pancreatic Cancer Awareness

May 16, 2013

For this post, I would like to talk about a cause that is particularly near and dear to my heart: The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network.  My father died of pancreatic cancer when I was four years old.  Back when my father was diagnosed, there was little awareness for this disease and really no available treatments.  Today, however, there is a glimmer of hope.  More light has been shed on this horrible disease and great strides in research have led to a few new possible treatments.  Although there has been significant advancements, pancreatic cancer is still one of the most fatal forms of cancer.  The pancreas is a vital organ that one is not able to survive without.  It sits behind many organs including the intestines and the stomach.  Due to its location, it is very difficult to spot the cancer before it has already spread either throughout the whole pancreas or to other organs.  Doctors and researchers are working together to ensure that pancreatic cancer be spotted before it has spread, because once this cancer spreads, certain treatments that are known improve the life of patients,  like the Whipple surgery can no longer be performed.  The physicians and researchers need help from people like us!  Any donation will go a long way in the fight to end pancreatic cancer!  As the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network’s slogan goes: “know it, fight it, end it.”  You can make a difference!


Diabetes Awareness

May 16, 2013

Diabetes is a disease that affects almost every part of one’s body.  This condition is caused by excess glucose in one’s blood.  As discussed in my group’s presentation, there is currently no cure for diabetes.  The disease can only be managed and for some who have severe diabetes it is nearly impossible to manage.  Our group chose to focus specifically on Type 1 diabetes and chose the JDRF’s Walk to Cure Diabetes as our service project.  I was unfortunately ill and unable to attend, but I heard it was a great success!  The organization’s goal is to raise 1.5 million dollars by June 30th, 2013.  We can all help them by donating to a walker on their website  (  Now is the time to help those suffering from diabetes!

Leadership throughout College

May 7, 2013

This past semester has been a good one, andI have taken a lot away from the leadership class. It has made me realize that I can become a leader in whatever I do. Also, leadership can be portayed in many different styles. There are the leaders that take control of the group and are the first to do everything, then there is the leader that will help everyone do their part and do the behind the scenes work. This class has taught me that there are many characteristics and theories to being a leader. A lot of people think that each leader is the same way, but in reality each leader is different.


May 6, 2013

Everyone dreads finals. It is finals week now and the stress has been hitting everyone. I know that I need to do well on these upcoming finals. With that in mind, I looked online to find some tips about surviving finals. I found this article, Exam Preparation Tips, which has some key points in it.

The first tip says that you should make a study plan. This can come in handy during this week. I know for me time management is a huge factor in getting work done. The next big tip is to not over stress yourself. Finals take up a huge portion of the grade, but if you stress about it you will do bad. So think positive and that positivity will pay off.

Stepping Stone to Further Greatness

May 5, 2013

Second semester is over! Woo Hoo. Congratulations everyone on making it through this year. 🙂 It’s been fun, an experience, and such a blessing getting to know everyone. Looking back on the year I can honestly say that I’m glad to be apart of the Leadership LLC.

Besides learning what a leader is and how to better my leadership this course has taught me that leadership isn’t just a position you hold – it’s more than that; it’s something that you grow into. It doesn’t stop. A leader emerges in any type of situation, whether you hold a small role, or a big one. It can even interchange between both types of roles. It all depends on you.

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A Matter of the HART

April 28, 2013

The local, no-kill HART Shelter has adoption events at the Chantilly Petco every Saturday, and last Saturday afternoon, I absolutely fell in love with this big guy. Meet Boudreaux (pronounced BOO-Droh) : Total sweetheart, Husky mix, upwards of 75 pounds, & a stone-cold professional Lady Killer.


Well, today the gears in my head were turning fast, and before I knew it I had landed on HART’s website  and was applying to be a foster mommy for him. Alas, I was struck down mid-application by my own parents when I called and told them my fantastic plan. First, I cried because they wouldn’t let me give all my love to him… But then I got inspired! If there was any way to help him, that’s what I was planning to do.

Like I said earlier, HART has these events every Saturday of the year (sans the 2 weeks for a Holiday party and their fundraiser) . I’m planning on going to more of these Adoption Days and seeing where else I can help out in the organization. The planning on this emotional venture is still hot out of the oven, so who knows what else I’ll be doing, but I hope that at the very least I’ll be able to see Boudreaux off to a good family.

Sometimes, by wanting the best for someone or something, they can’t be with you. It’s a tough and recurring lesson of life, but I’m trying to learn. I guess I’m a little shocked that this time around my teacher was a lean, mean, furry machine.

Putting it in the rearview mirror

April 27, 2013

As we all, I am sure know, our freshmen year is coming to a close. To some it is exciting and they are ready to move on but for me (and some others) we are very sad and don’t want to see it go. I literally feel like I just moved in and now they are already telling me “Congrats you’re a sophomore now!” What? Where did my entire year go? I am so upset to be leaving only the best room in piedmont second, my roommate, my hall, my everything. I feel, as freshmen, when we come to college we create a whole new life for ourselves because we have so much freedom and responsibility dumped onto us that we almost have to just to survive. And now we have to leave all of it behind and try to settle back into they old swing of things. As I was packing a few of my things away, I was thinking how hard it is going to be to move out but then I suddenly thought why am I letting myself be so upset when nothing bad is really happening?! I had an amazing freshmen year, and yes there were many bumps and hard times but that is all apart of the experience. I have tried and done so many new thing and I was sad because I thought that leaving where all these experiences took place, I might somehow forget. But in reality the decisions that I made, the fun that I enjoyed , and even the hard times that I pushed through (like procrastination to study for three exams till midnight the night before) I can never forgot that! It’s impossible !!! These memories will always stick with me, and help shape my entire future here at Mason. Even though it will be hard to say goodbye, it always is, I know that putting these good memories in my rearview mirror is going to be okay. So keep calm and know that putting good memories in the past is only a great step towards the future !

Keep Calm & Lead/Volunteer On!

April 27, 2013

As the year is coming to a close and finals are approaching, the clubs and organizations the Leadership and Community Engagement residents are involved with on campus are also nearing to an end. In addition, this LLC only has one class left next week (insert Cleanex wipes). Although this year has been a transitional and self-starting year for everyone, there is much work left to be done. As Piedmont 2nd will all move out, travel back to our homes, start our summer journeys, and let the academia drain from our brains… Let us not forget just how far we have come, but our far we are going to go!


I have full confidence in saying how proud I am of each participant in the Leadership and Community Engagement/Sustainability LLC. This was the first year the LCE LLC was ever executed on GMU’s campus, and I feel we have all been vital in shaping the true Mason IDEA. We are a unique group of dynamic, enthusiastic, and passionate individuals that are all working hard to become leaders on this campus and for our future communities. The skills we have gained this year through the LLC and through our engagement a part of on-campus clubs and organizations or the off-campus opportunities we should not forget to take into our next steps! It has been a pleasure getting to know each one of you on Piedmont 2nd this year, and I will always call every one of you my family.

“I have been changed FOR GOOD.”