Follow-Up Interview with MyLifeAsJordan

Jordan Heustis is a small YouTube daily vlogger at Towson University. She and her channel have been steadily gaining popularity within the Towson community, especially with potential attendees. Every day, Heustis compiles video clips of her and her friends simply living their lives at university, succinctly summarizing and advertising the college experience. Last year, I interviewed Heustis as her channel was hitting its 100-video milestone. Now it’s time to catch up with her and see what she has been doing in the last few month, and get an idea of what is still in store for her.

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Why Go Vegetarian? A Podcast by Roshan Davis

Podcast Link

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While many people in the United States and across the world maintain an omnivorous diet, there exists a small segment of the population that gas decided to omit meat from their diets, ranging from those who will still eat fish (which is often seen as less-feeling than other animals) to those who don’t consume any animal products whatsoever. In this podcast, ovo-lacto vegetarian and son-to-be vegan Jordan Heustis explains more about her meat-free lifestyle and what drove her to choose it.

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Dealing with the Destruction: Towson U’s Caribbean Student Association’s Efforts to Aid in Hurricane Relief

By Roshan Davis

The news of Hurricane Irma has been dominating the news as of late, with every major news station covering the disaster that followed so closely behind the catastrophic Hurricane Harvey. Hurricane Irma, a Category 5 hurricane, has terrorized the Caribbean and the state of Florida, resulting in dozens of fatalities and hundreds of injuries, as well as billions of dollars worth of damage. For many of the students at Towson University in Baltimore, Maryland, the news is unfortunate, maybe even upsetting, but ultimately does not affect them—everything they own and everyone they know are safe. For one group of students, however, the news coverage serves as a constant reminder of everything that is at stake: Their homes, their families, and their lives as they know them. With heads bowed and hands clasped together, a group of forty-some Towson students stood together in their university’s student union, praying for the safety of their family members hundreds of miles away.

The Caribbean Student Association is a cultural group on Towson’s campus.  “[The CSA aims] to enrich the lives of students of both Caribbean and non-­Caribbean descent in order to celebrate the diversity of their cultures,” explained Abigail Braithwaite, the Chief of Staff of the CSA and a junior at Towson University. “We seek to expose our community to the same love, unity, and happiness that is experienced in our home countries.”

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“I first went to CSA a few weeks into the school year,” said Tyler Simonds, a non-Caribbean member of CSA and a junior at Towson University. “I liked how it was a learning experience for me, and that it was fun to attend.”

Many of the CSA’s members were born in Caribbean countries, and almost all of the CSA’s members have family still living on the islands. “Hurricane Irma affected families all over the Caribbean,” said Braithwaite, “and for people who have family there—it hit home while we were either at our homes or away, on campus. My uncle’s house and business were blown away due to Irma. He lost basically everything he owned … I was constantly thinking about all that he had worked for and where he would be living, and all the memories that had just gotten ripped away from him.”

This familial and cultural connection has led the members of the CSA to take matters into their own hands, and the students began planning several fundraising events for hurricane relief. The proceeds will all go towards repairing the damaged areas of the islands and assisting the families who lost so much of their lives to the destruction. “All of CSA knew it was going to be a good idea to fundraise, [to show] support and [to take action] for our loved ones and our countries,” said Braithwaite. “We started small with bake sales and raffles, and had a food sale of HIP HOP Chicken, but also did bigger fundraisers like Go Fund Me and an Applebee’s dinner night.”

Many people, both members and non-members, made appearances at the events, as the CSA’s unique style of operating fundraisers caught the student body’s attention. “I attended the fundraiser at Applebee’s,” said Simonds. “It was a lot of fun and different than any fundraiser I’ve attended before. Most fundraisers that I go to are very boring, but this one had music, food, and a lot of fun people. ”

“Our end goal was obviously to raise as much money as possible, but from what we have done in the past this was our most successful run of fundraisers! It was for a great cause too which made it [even] better,” said Braithwaite. “We are currently still keeping the Go Fund Me alive, but for now because the hurricanes have calmed down we have stopped heavily fundraising.”

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The effort put into fundraising by the club’s members is just one example of how the CSA brings people from shared backgrounds together to create a family right on Towson’s campus. “[The CSA] makes me feel relaxed and comforted,” gushed Braithwaite. “If it was just my friends it would have still worked out, but because I am surrounded by people who have lived their lives like I have lived mine and who know the world beyond Towson University it makes it really easy for me to share exactly how I am feeling and to make this experience and process better.”

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The Caribbean Student Association meets every Thursday at 6:30 p.m. on the third floor of Towson University’s student union. People of all backgrounds and ethnicities are encouraged to come and partake in the meetings and discussions. You can also find and donate to the CSA’s Go Fund Me at this address: https://www.gofundme.com/3khfj-hurricane-irma-victims.

The Retrial of Aaron Holly

By Roshan Davis

On Sept. 20, the retrial of Aaron Holly, 32, for his involvement in the murder of Tanya Jones-Spence in 2002 took place at the Baltimore County Circuit Court.

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Holly, who was 19 at the time of his first sentencing, has spent the last 13 years in prison after receiving a sentence of life without parole. However, due to the Supreme Court’s recent mandate that the use of life without parole should be reserved only for juveniles who have committed crimes that reveal “irreparable corruption”, Holly’s case has been brought back into the light. Judge Vicki Ballou-Watts, who oversaw Holly’s first trial, was also tasked with determining if Holly’s sentence would be reduced or remain the same.

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“It was much more intense than anything else I’ve worked on,” said David Reiss, a film professor at Towson University, who was approached by the Baltimore County Public Defender’s office to create a video testimonial for Holly’s case. “Because it was so immediate, you know …  the stakes are so high.”

After creating the video, Reiss turned to his film class for feedback, and invited his students to the trial to show support for Holly. “It’s something that you could only really know by going there. Something that film definitely tries to recreate, but actually being there is completely different,” recalled Alec Bacon, one of Reiss’s students who attended the trial. “Someone’s life was on the line.”

After hearing several expert witnesses and viewing the testimonial video made by Reiss, Judge Ballou-Watts decreased Holly’s sentence from life without parole to four more years in prison and a chance for resentencing. The Baltimore County Public Defender’s office isn’t dropping the trial, though, as the victim’s family revealed after the sentencing that they have forgiven Holly and see no reason for him to remain incarcerated. The Public Defender’s office hopes to continue to work with Reiss to convince the judge to further decrease Holly’s sentence.

“So right now we have this window, right? And because this is new information that the victim’s family has forgiven Aaron and doesn’t want him incarcerated for another four years,” said Reiss. “Everything this young man has done has been positive in a really negative environment … and, like I said, there are other Aarons. There are jails that are just filled with these poor kids who had, like, terrible childhoods and just unspeakable things, violence. I did it because I saw an opportunity to do something that had never been done before … I’m all in on this.”

The defense hopes to schedule another hearing with Judge Ballou-Watts within the next month.

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Six by Six: An Inside Look at Towson University’s Marching Band

By Roshan Davis

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I was really interested in majorettes but I am left-handed so I couldn’t do things with my right hand like you were supposed to and my teacher said ‘why don’t you try flags?’ and that’s how I got interested in colorguard,” said Amy Brown, colorguard instructor.

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I picked up an instrument in the fourth grade and dropped it immediately, and then it wasn’t until my sophomore year of high school where I did a theater program and friends convinced me to just pick up the instrument again and do marching band. I figured I would be with friends again, [so] I did it, and here I am,” said Harry Pham, drum major.

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“My older sister, who’s three years older than me, did it when she started high school, so I thought it would be cool … something fun to do and get a little exercise, and here I am 10 years later,” said Nicole Ball, colorguard SMAC.

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Just seeing other bands and how well they work together … I also like music, so I figured why not combine the two and march and play music at the same time,” said Aaron Grauel, auxiliary member and trumpet player.

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I had been doing concert band all through middle school and the next step wasmarching band, so I did it and I love[d] … it’s like my favorite thing—my favorite activity ever,” said Jordan Heustis, colorguard member.

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“Music has always been a really important part of my life, so I figured why not do marching band in high school, and when I came here I was a little reluctant but my friends eventually convinced me to be a part of it and it’s honestly amazing,” said Nick Reveille, alto saxophone player.

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The Rise of MyLifeAsJordan

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By Roshan Davis

Jordan Heustis, 18, owner of the eponymous YouTube Channel MyLifeAsJordan, first began posting videos to the website in April of 2016.

After almost a year of uploading videos on no discernable schedule, she began posting a video every day (a practice known as “daily vlogging”). Succinctly describing her channel as “College vlogs”, Heustis films her day-to-day life as a student at Towson University in Towson, Maryland.Screen Shot 2017-05-02 at 9.41.28 AM.png

Many YouTubers have admitted to creating an online personality in order to distance their professional lives from their personal lives. Heustis, however, has chosen to take a different path. “[I’m more public] than my mom would like me to be. I like to—I know it’s online but—I like to create a relationship with my viewers. I think it’s important to not only show the good, positive, happy aspects with my life, but to also share the downfalls I’ve had because I’m a vlogger,” Heustis said.

“My friends from high school all thought it was pretty cool and they all supported it … One of my friends even wanted to start vlogging herself,” Heustis said of her friends and family’s reaction to her starting her own YouTube channel. However, not everyone in her life was entirely supportive of her decision. “Some people I knew from high school, I found out, have been watching a few of my vlogs and making fun of them. But at the end of the day, they’re just giving me more views.”

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With 78 subscribers and 96 videos uploaded at the time of this article, Heustis is on track to reaching her goal of 100 subscribers by the end of her first year in college. “[In the next year I see myself] daily vlogging and meeting some viewers who used to be prospective Towson students. Hopefully [in the next five years I will have] more followers and a larger channel. Still vlogging, but not every day,” Heustis said.

Though she is far from being what is classified as a “famous YouTuber”, Heustis has become something of a well-known face around her campus. “[I love] getting recognized by viewers because it shows that people are watching my channel and enjoying what I’m putting out there, and that they’re excited to meet me like I’m excited to meet other YouTubers,” Heustis said.

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Heustis has noted that she still has a long way to go, but she does have a few words for anyone who wants to start their own channel: “Post consistently and have a niche. You need to post consistently so your viewers can count on you and you need to have a niche to set yourself apart from other YouTubers. [And] don’t give up after the first month. Don’t stop just because you’re not as successful as you thought you’d be yet. It takes time.”

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Tyler James Simonds: Hockey Player

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By Roshan Davis

Tyler James Simonds, 18, of Elkton, MD started playing ice hockey when he was 5 years old, and has continued playing for the past 13 years.

“I’ve played other sports — lacrosse, cross county, baseball, track & field, tennis — but ice hockey has always been my favorite,” Simonds said. Although Simonds plays hockey much less frequently than he did before, he continues to have a passion for the sport. “I haven’t played it as much since I got to college, since I’m so busy, but I’m planning on picking it back up in the summer and playing on a men’s league team,” Simonds said.

“Hockey was a little hard for me when I first started, because most of the guys are like 6 feet tall and I’m not,” said Simonds, who stands at 5 feet 7 inches. “So I spent a lot of time gaining weight and getting faster and stronger.”

In addition to improving his physique to keep up with the other boys on his team, Simonds had to dedicate a lot of his practice to learning new skills and refining old ones. “My defining moment in ice hockey was when I was seven and I learned to skate backwards. I was required to learn so I could play defense, and when I learned it made me a much better player than I would’ve been otherwise.”

On the topic of his training strategies, Simonds said, “To train, I do two things: One is watching professional hockey to see how they strategize the game. The other is working out regularly and eating relatively healthy—a lot of protein, and try and stay away from sugar.”

Simonds has made a lot of progress and accomplished many things during his time on the ice, but a few specific achievements stick out in his mind. “I think that my biggest accomplishment in ice hockey is between making it onto three different all-star teams, and leading my league in penalties for three years straight.”

“My life motto is ‘you miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take’ by Wayne Gretzky. But the best advice I’ve ever been given is ‘keep your head up, because if you don’t you’ll get a concussion,’” Simonds said about what motivates him to play his best.

On the topic of what really drives him, however, Simonds had this to say: “I love hockey, but my stepdad is my biggest inspiration to keep playing. He taught me to play when I was 5. He’s no longer able to play because of his medical condition, so I play to remember and celebrate what he was once able to do.”

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Graphic Design

In a sea of posters urging me to go out and vote, many managed to get the message across. However, a few posters managed to catch my eye more than the others, and truly resonated with me in a way that made me feel much less ridiculous for taking orders from a sheet of paper.

My Third Favorite:

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My Second Favorite:

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One poster spoke to me more than the rest. This one:

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It is not only extremely informative, as there are plenty of statistics available for analysis, but it is also aesthetically pleasing. None of the statistics are overbearing due to the subtlety of their placements, so one doesn’t feel overwhelmed when looking at the poster. And, more than anything else, the poster is symbolic. The unfinished red stripes that represent voter turnout make the flag feel un-whole, as if stating that, without the votes of those who decided to withhold, America isn’t whole. It is an incredibly powerful message, and I believe that the poster conveyed it extremely well.

The Decline of the Black Hair Salon

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By Roshan Davis

For many black women, their local hair salon is a place with which they have been familiar for most of their lives. However, according to the women who work at and keep the salons running, the business is slowly dying out.

“The [hair salon industry] isn’t dead, but it is struggling,” said Ada Ulaoku, 28, a stylist at the salon for the last two years.

“I do [every hairstyle]. Fingerwaves, weaves, I do roller-set, cut-and-curl,” said Esther Goodwin, owner of the hair salon, has been doing hair for 30 years and has worked at multiple salons over the years. “For just a wash and set, that’s $50, and that will last two weeks. If you want a weave it’ll cost about $150, but it stays for four to six weeks. People are really into weaves these days.”

When asked to expand upon what they meant by “business is struggling”, Goodwin and Ulaoku had this to say:

“Less people come in now,” said Goodwin. “Before, I would do 20 to 25 heads on Friday. Twenty on Saturday. Ten to 12 on a Thursday. That doesn’t happen anymore. Less people want to wear their natural hair.”

“Lots of people do their own hair nowadays,” said Ulaoku. “They buy a pack of hair and put it in themselves. Then they can wear that for weeks. I get maybe five, best 10 people on a Saturday now.”

“I come to the salon about every two weeks,” said Chanelle Graham, 19, a customer at the hair salon. “But I spend like $100 every time, so it’s expensive to keep up with. That’s probably why less people come in. I like supporting the business but it’s hard to keep up with.”

In recent years, many black hair salons have either gradually reduced in size or have been shut down completely.

“People are looking to get out of the business now, scared that it’s going to go out of business and they won’t be able to work anymore,” said Ulaoku. “I think the business will continue, but it’s a lot smaller now. I can tell why they’re scared.”

With business going as badly as it is now, Goodwin and Ulaoku (as well as many other stylists in the industry) are left to wonder what their next steps will be.

“I can’t leave the business, I’ve been in it too long,” said Goodwin. “But I don’t know what’s gonna happen in the future. I hope it gets better, but who can say?”

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