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Humans of Rutgers

(2/2) "I get a lot of my inspiration and motivation from my parents and from special women in history. My mom and dad, they're really hard workers. My dad's worked in the post office for more than 30 years, so I get a lot of my work ethic and determination from him. My mom, she emigrated from the Dominican Republic when she was 17 and raised me, my brother and my sister, so she's a really hard working and special person in my life. I think I get my appreciation for women from her too. I've always looked up to women like Sonia Sotomayor, Frida Kahlo, Dolores Huerta, and Rigoberta Menchœ. I have pictures of all these women and my inspirations on my agenda; pictures of Selena, both my grandmothers, Yoko Ono, all the people that inspire me. I have a different way of thinking than most people. I'm not the best at articulation, but visually, collages are just a way for me to put my scattered thoughts into something beautiful. And all of these beautiful, hard working women have really set up precedents for me as a young women who's aspiring to create world change."

To read (Part 3) and to find out more about Monica and how she plans to continue leaving her MARK on campus and on the world around her, visit:

"For a while I thought my parents might get divorced. It's so common these days and a bunch of my closest friends have had their parents split too. And it's not even because of problems at home, it just seems like love can really change over time. I'm grateful that I have two loving parents still there for me, supporting me, but I think it's important to support each other throughout a marriage. And not let life get in the way of how you once felt for one another, even though that may be easier said than done."
- Secrets from the Sole

"I started watching YouTube videos a long time ago. At that point YouTube was kind of new and not many people made videos for money, but after falling in love with painting and switching my canvas to the face, I decided to get in front of the camera and try it out for myself. Eventually I kept posting content and in my senior year of high school, it just blew up. Everyone who was watching my videos was around my age, so the ones about prom makeup and getting ready to dorm really became popular. It's just mind-blowing sometimes to think that all of these people look to me as a friend. And I think it's incredible when these friends ask for my advice. I feel like whenever you're faced with a challenge, it's always comforting to know that someone's there for you. Even if their not literally right next to you, knowing that someone really cares is what's important. I can't tell you how many times I receive a message and I'm bawling my eyes out because I'm heartbroken that this person has to deal with whatever it is they're dealing with. I've learned to not let things bring me down and I feel like there's always a better tomorrow if you decide to push for what you want. But often times, people don't see that. When I started watching YouTube, I was looking for that community and for those who made me feel like I belong somewhere, and now the tables have turned. And that's really special to me."

To learn more about Olena and the MARK she leaves online and on those around her, visit:

"From a very young age, I've always been interested in flashy and colorful, or sometimes traditionally more effeminate or androgynous things. When I saw pictures of men not necessarily distinctly crossdressing but mixing elements, and women wearing elements of men's fashion, that never came off to me as rebellious. It just looked like the truth. When I looked at it, I had this very defined, unquestionable sense that what was atypical was somehow more logical. And that arose in unison with a color and shape sensibility that was kind of my own. It wasn't really a response to fashion, or to other people, or to trends, or to anything. I can't lie and say I'm not heavily inspired by early surrealism as well as dandyism of the late 1800's. But there are a lot of people who think that style and art has to be more of a combination of things and that there's no getting better at anything without critique from as many people as possible. For me, I honestly feel devalued if I receive too much critique from other people. And a lot of people say, 'I get better at everything when I'm critiqued. I need somebody to tell me what I'm doing right, and what I'm doing wrong.' But in that case, you forget that you're capable of doing anything yourself when your style and technique is chalked up to what a bunch of other people told you to do. I feel like that's kind of the antithesis of self-love; getting everything you love about yourself from somebody else. So I try to make my clothing as little of a response and as much of a singularity as possible. And I like to try to keep it that way."

(3/3) "What's important is how you compare yourself to yourself; not comparing yourself to someone else. You never know what other people may be going through. And that's been my hardest battle. But I'm very happy to say that I'm back this semester. And now I'm restarting what I've left behind. And I'm just really excited to still be at Rutgers pursuing my dream no matter how long it'll take. To me, whatever legacy you leave; it's about how you value your impact. So to me, I don't need a statue, I don't care about a plaque. It's the students that I see walking around happy and thriving that I care about. When you're really down in the rut, you start internalizing bitterness and you're so stressed and so anxious, but it's really been a transformative experience because I'm realizing it's all for a purpose. You never lose, you always learn. And not enough people understand that."

To read (Part 4) and to learn more about Luis' story and how he's continuing to leave his MARK here at Rutgers, visit:

(1/3) "I came into Rutgers in 2011. And I should've graduated last May, but right after I pledged my fraternity, stuff started happening at home. It's hard because I'm balancing a lot of my life here at Rutgers, where I'm super involved, with my mom struggling at home too. I began to get very anxious my sophomore year. Fall of my junior year, when I was president of the Residence Hall Association, I was doing all of these big things on campus and my body just shut down. I couldn't keep up, and I had to leave school. That was the first time I had to leave, my medical leave. All the things that I built up for those three years, I lost."

(2/3) "Coming back in the Spring, after taking time off and going into treatment, I thought I was prepared. I was doing well, but for some reason I was still having this really anxious feeling. And this feeling grows. At that moment, I didn't realize it was turning into more of a panic disorder. I was coming back and feeling great, I was an RA, I was with Big 10, I was doing all of these things and then last Fall, I almost had to drop out of school. That's when I took a break. I actually got to go to Middlesex because one of my mentors provided me with a scholarship. But it was hard because Rutgers was my home. So not only did I feel like a failure because I couldn't graduate on time, I just didn't feel like I was doing anything right. I had lost everything. But when I took the time off in the Fall, I realized how grateful I am to still be here. I still have a chance at an education, and not everyone has that. And to me, what I've realized is, this word of regret; there's no such thing. Because at the end of the day, you learn. So even though I may take longer because I was actually diagnosed with a disability, it's okay because I'm still taking my time. I'd rather finish and still be the first person in my family to actually graduate from college, which is huge for my identity, than to actually give up."

"I went to 'Nerd Camp' for many summers; an educational summer camp. Before I had gone, I had this very awful, Hollywood idea of what it meant to be a 'smart person.' My friends and I, in middle school, would wear jeans and hoodies everyday and were very focused on our schoolwork, keeping to ourselves. But at nerd camp, I was introduced to all of these different kinds of very creative, smart people; which is something I had never encountered before. I remember there was this one girl dancing by herself on the quad, dancing with her entire heart to this song that was very important to our camp; and it made me realize that I could be different. I wanted to care less and live more. After that I became much more experimental with how I dress and with the poetry I create. I've always thought of myself as a poet. But now I continue to challenge myself in creative outlets like that. It's so easy to reach a point where you feel comfortable, but I think it's important not to limit yourself when it comes to your creative potential."

"Around the age of two, my mom realized that something was 'off' about me. I wouldn't look her in the eye, I wouldn't really engage with anyone, and I'd be off by myself playing with boxes or stacking soup cans; but I wouldn't talk to anyone. In 1995, my mom took to me to the doctor's office and they told her that I was most likely autistic. Autism research at that time was pretty limited, so my initial diagnosis when they told my mom was, 'Look. This is going to be a major factor in your son's life, for the rest of his life. He's not going to go to college, he's going to need special programs in school, he'll never be normal, and if he's toilet-trained then that's going to be his big accomplishment.'

Growing up, my mom really didn't want to believe in that. And so, as a single mom, she did everything she could to raise me well. My mom didn't tell me my diagnosis, and I didn't find out for myself until I was around 12 or 13. When I finally found out, I said to myself, 'This is who I am. It's not everything I am, it's a part of me.' Moving forward, I wanted to make something of myself and be a better person. So I threw myself into all of these activities to make me uncomfortable and to push my boundaries. I tried out for the basketball team, ran for student council in high school, and now I'm an orientation leader and RA here on campus. But I still remember those nights when I would come home from school crying to my mom, saying that no one liked me, and that my grades didn't matter. Because at the end of the day, I was being bullied for them, and I wasn't going to do anything about it. But I think I'm a lot stronger than I originally gave myself credit for. Going through all of those struggles; until you're there, you don't know what you're capable of. Strength can come from other people supporting you, but there is a lot within you. And there's a lot that you can draw on. And as long as you know who you are, and you know your story better than anyone else, that's really all you need."

To learn more about Ryan and how he's leaving his MARK on those here at Rutgers, visit:

"I just got accepted into the Graduate School of Education so now I'm kind of in that awkward place where I have to be a teacher, so I have to look a certain way. But it's not really working for me. I'm still walking around in my leather jacket and then going to school and putting on a cardigan. I guess I'm just holding onto hope that this next generation of kids is going to be super accepting, and that I can just be myself. But I think that kids are really accepting in general too. Generational or not, I think kids want to like people for whoever they are and for whatever they have. So without having to go by that prescribed 'teacher look,' I just want to get in there and say, 'This is me. Now let me learn about you.'"

"My next door neighbor is my dad's brother, my uncle. And he has three children. My parents; they have me and another one. I technically consider all those kids my siblings though. They've been next door my entire life, all living with neurological disorders. My brother, he has Autism. Another has a dopa-responsive disorder. One has an undisclosed disorder, which means the doctors can't figure out what's wrong with him. And the other one has a very severe case of Autism. I'm the only one in the family in college and there's a lot of pressure on my shoulders. After another 30 to 50 years passes, there's not gonna be anyone who can take care of these siblings of mine. I'm gonna be the only one that can provide for them. So I'm here at Rutgers to try and go pre-med, become a doctor and care for them for the rest of my life. Because, honestly, that's all I really care about. I love them to death. And I always love seeing them happy. They're my siblings, man. All my life they've been right next door."

(1/2) "I grew up in Newark in the iron-bound section and moved to Brazil when I was nine, where my parents divorced and had a long, lengthy custody battle. After finally returning to Newark when I was 13, I moved to Point Pleasant soon after, down the shore. There I was abandoned by my dad. When he left, I was 16. I took care of my younger brother for a few years. We had the house to ourselves, but my dad; he'd come once a week, drop some money off and with that, I'd have to cook and clean and take care of my brother. Then finally the relief came when I came to college. It's cliché, I know, but I'd say Rutgers kind of made me into the person I am because it allowed me to not be a stay-at-home-mom or stay-at-home dad, which I was. In order to make it here, when I was a freshman, I took out a bunch of loans, and my dad paid for some of it. By my sophomore year, he paid less and I took out more loans. By my junior year, he pretty much stopped helping and I took out even more. Senior year, even less so, but I moved off campus and that was much cheaper so I was able to save some money."

(2/2) "I recently just graduated. Through all that's come beforehand, I've learned not to feel shame. I had a lot of problems coming out of the closet too, but once I came out, I realized there's no shame to feel. And, you know, there's a lot of inherent shame in essentially being an orphan too, because my mom stayed in Brazil and my dad was elsewhere. But coming from a dysfunctional house, a more nonexistent family, I've learned that I don't really need family to be happy. Family, it's just DNA, and I never really liked the term 'friends and family.' To me, I'll always prefer a family of friends. I've never really been able to depend on family, but I can always depend on my friends for moral support. And that's special. It's the cheapest thing to give, but it's the most valuable thing a friend can offer."

"Next semester here at Rutgers, I'm going to be doing a psychology research experiment where I'll be testing the ideas of political ideology and the related fears of dying. One of the things I've found out already is that following September 11th, the approval rating for George W. Bush went up to about 98% as compared to a few weeks before, where he was in the 50's and 40's. And it shows that while people said they were democrat and voted for Al Gore and had liberal ideas, with the perceived threat that we all face as a nation, we go toward being less rational and more emotional in that sense. Even with career democrat politicians like Hilary Clinton, they vote to go to war with Iraq because of our perceived threat. So what I'm studying now is the effects of this in relation to Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. And that will cover specific, conservative ideas like social issues, how devoutly religious they are, how far along they are in terms of authoritarian levels, and where they lie on the political spectrum in regards to the overall anxiety of death. When people are reminded of death, liberals become more liberal, and conservatives become more conservative. But the shift is much, much stronger for those who are conservative."

"My family's currently in Brazil, we're all Brazilian. We've lived together forever now, but I'm here doing my graduate studies; getting my PhD in engineering. Being here is pretty cool, but sometimes being away from my family gets pretty lonely. I miss coming back home and sitting around, having a chat or a meal together. If I could tell my family one thing, it'd be that I miss them. Exams were fine, but being away from them is something I struggle with, being so family-oriented. Sometimes they think that I don't miss them because I never call, but I do call sometimes. Other times I'm sitting there, missing them, wanting to call, but the time constraints and time differences don't let me."

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays Rutgers!!

(1/3) "Growing up, my parents put me into all kinds of sports, but soccer was the sport that stuck. I started when I was five and throughout the years of practices and encouraging coaches, I've learned a lot. I've learned to really enjoy the time spent with people over the years and how they help you grow as a person. You can take so much more out of soccer than just the game and I think that's really important. Hard work is probably the biggest thing. If you want something, you have to give it all you can and no matter what, keep working at it. And through soccer, I've really learned to take it off the field and apply that hard work to school, getting a job, paying for myself, and growing as an individual."

(2/3) "Through college soccer, one thing that I've learned is to not let people tell you that you 'can't.' When I was starting the whole recruiting process, I would have been satisfied playing club soccer at a D3 school. But I came to this school four years ago and every year that I've been here, my expectations have been exceeded. At the start, Rutgers was a team in The Big East, and I thought that was as good as it was going to get. But we changed conferences and to be in The Big Ten, I never would've thought I'd be at this level playing soccer. When you get to play at the D1 soccer level, it's not easy. And you can't fake it if you're not working hard. Putting in all the hours and defying those that said I can't has gotten me, and has gotten us, to this point where our program has made history."

(3/3) "We helped to create a program that made it to the Final Four and it wasn't just a one season thing; it was four years of hard work for us. Throughout the years, working with different kinds of people helps you to become a better leader and a better player too. Because while it's not always easiest to work with people, to be able to adjust yourself to that and to learn how to effectively work with others is really important. So the strength of our team itself has made us all excel as individuals.
We are 30 Strong. Regardless of whether you're sitting on the bench, or injured, or you're playing every minute of the game; no matter what, we all had a part in this team's success. Minus one and we're not as strong as we are with all 30. This season, playing in the national semi-final game in North Carolina was really special for us. And to be a part of a team for our program that made history, making it to number four in the country has been nothing short of amazing."

To read (Part 4) and to learn more about how Hayley and Brianne have left their MARK here at Rutgers, as well as what they have in store for future plans on the field, visit:

In this time of stress, flashcards, cramming and coffee, I think we could all use some puppy love.