Humans of Rutgers

"I've been wearing my scarf since 5th grade. I didn't start fully appreciating it and understanding the purpose of it until I started attending Muslim youth groups at my mosque in high school. That's a really long time. I'd been wearing a scarf for 5 years and it took me a super long time to respect it and understand it. Now I love it more than anything. I love my religion more than anything. And I feel like a have a purpose in life. But while I have so much love, the media portrays us as a people who have so much hatred built inside of us. And I feel bad when I kill a fly. It's nothing but hurtful, hearing what people have to say.
To those who don't understand, one thing I would do is invite you to my local mosque. I can't even explain how open it is. We're inviting. Meet the people, get to know us. Another thing people should understand is hijab. Hijab is not just the scarf, it's part of your modesty. People fail to notice that I also cover my arms, I cover the shape of my body, and I cover my legs. But the biggest thing people fail to notice is my personality or my mannerisms that come with hijab. I don't like back-biting, a huge sin. I prefer to not get into arguments or to be rude, and I prefer to treat people like equals. People only ask about my scarf. But it doesn't matter what I look like, focus on who I am. Yea, it gives me an identity, and yea it's a bit scary that people can easily target me when I wear my scarf, but I don't have to answer for that. That's their hatred that's inside of them. I sincerely pray that if you hate me because of my religion that you find your way to it, and that you fall in love with it. Because people need to know the truth."

To learn more about Farheen's story and how she plans to raise awareness through leaving her MARK on campus, visit:
https://www.facebook.com/MarkConference?fref=ts
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"This is the best place in the world to be. I'm a Rutgers grad, I've been here every year since 1975 except for six of them, and I think my wife swears they're going to take my ashes and throw them in the Raritan. After all this time, almost everything has changed. From the fact that the drinking age was 18 when I was here and we had a pub in the student center, to the fact that I lived in Frelinghuysen for 4 years and we were able to use the balconies and the fire escapes on the side of the building, to the fact that just this year, we changed the curriculum in our journalism department. But those who don't change are doomed. And Rutgers has been changing a lot over time. I've lived through 3 iterations of the university. But one thing that hasn't changed is the quality of education. We are known. We are known as one of the top institutions in the world. And I absolutely love it here. I wish that college could be forever, for everybody. I'm just one of the fortunate ones who gets to stay here."

To learn more about Steve Miller and how he believes Rutgers has left its MARK on him, visit:
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"I forgot my running shorts so I'm the Grinch for today. And I'm here to ruin The Big Chill. Bah Humbug."

(1/2) "We all have dreams and aspirations inside of us. Even when we're kids, we have these dreams. A young kid, he'll say before he goes to school, 'Well I want to be like daddy,' or 'I want to grow up to be a cop.' We have all of these dreams in us that we want to achieve. And that's what faith is. Faith is what drives you to say, 'I know I can do that. I know that's in me. I know I want to go that route.' That's what faith is. You can 'see' it before you actually see it. You can't achieve it unless you conceive it. You just have to continue to believe and continue to abide in that belief. Believing is faith. And that's what I used to tell the students here at Rutgers."

(2/2) "Being here every day, I learned that life is so precious. And with your time here, you have to make the most of it. You can't be lax at having those 24 hours in a day. Everybody gets 24 hours in a day, and your job is to maximize that time; with love, with positivity, with upbeat attitude, personality and just loving people. You know, being a human being and loving other human beings. I can't stress that enough, that we need each other as human beings. More than we need technology, more than we need Facebook and all that. People out here, they're hurting and they need hugs, and they need a smile. They need somebody to encourage them, to walk them through the situations that they're going through. That's really what we need. I used to preach on the bus and say, 'Impossible is nothing! Impossible is nothing! Believe!' and the students would believe. You see, the human part of us has such a fight and a rhythm. We have all these great capabilities within us, but it has to be encouraged. And it has to be channeled the right way. And once you channel it the right way, there's no stopping you."

To read (Part 3) and to learn more about how Stan continues to leave his MARK on the students here at Rutgers and on those around him moving forward, visit:
https://www.facebook.com/MarkConference?fref=ts
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"I'm thankful for my mom and my grandma. My family's very matriarchal and devoted. We're a family of all women. And they're just the best, and the strongest women who have really helped shape me into who I am today. I'm absolutely crazy about them. Simple women, hardworking single mothers. When my parents got divorced, my grandma would take care of us during the day so my mom could go to work. And it's kind of magical that they can take care of me and my sister. They made me strong and made me care about things that were more than just being pretty. I remember in high school, we did this exercise where we decided whether we'd be a verb or a noun. And a lot of people chose nouns, saying they'd want to be a 'mom' or a good 'sister.' But I feel like my family, they're verbs. They get things done. And sometimes it's not even a verb, but an adverb. How you do something really says a lot about you, and I feel like my mom and my grandma do things passionately, and kindly, and out of the goodness of their hearts. And they motivate me every day."

"Growing up, my pop-pop had this whole library in our house where there were books about Buddhism, Islam, Christianity, and then books about racism. He had all these books on Malcolm X, Martin Luther King and Stokely Carmichael. So with the help of my parents too, I was definitely made very aware of these things. But I think because I was young, they didn't want me to worry. When you're very aware of what racism is and how it works, it can be very, very upsetting. So one thing I think they did very well was keep me aware, but not to the point where I would freak out. The more I grew up though, and the more I would read and talk to my grandpa, the more I started to understand that racism is really a systematic problem and it's something that we have to address.

When I got to Rutgers, my freshman year, my grandpa passed. I realized that without him, I really had to read and I really had to be aware of what it means to be black and what it means to be a woman in America. I just became even more immersed, and the more immersed I became, the more I began losing a lot of my friends that didn't look like me. And I think that's what really shaped my activism. I have too many friends now that tell me, 'I don't know what to do if I'm in an emergency situation because I really don't want to call the police and end up as a hashtag.' And that's awful. No one should ever have to think like that. But if people do think like that, we have to work to change it."

To learn more about how Nadirah plans to work toward equality and positive change through leaving her MARK on campus, visit:
https://www.facebook.com/MarkConference?fref=ts
#MARKmonday

"Throughout the years, I've learned how impactful music is. Some of my earliest memories are as a kid going on long drives with my dad just blasting music, leaving it engrained in my subconscious. But even without a word, just a chord can make you feel a certain way. And that's powerful. I want people to listen to my music and feel. Just feel. And when I play, for myself, I feel free. Any insecurities I have, they're forgotten. When I play, when I perform, I honestly feel like there's this sense of oneness between me and the audience. I feel like we're doing this together. I definitely feel this energy and electricity, which feels so natural. And I feel like this is where I belong."

(2/2) "My involvement with social work really started when I was paired with this amazing kid named Danny who has nonverbal Autism. The first time I realized that Danny would be teaching me more than I could ever give him was during our first meeting. His mom showed us to his room and Danny started jumping on his trampoline. She explained that people with Autism can find objects with different textures to be soothing because it helps with their sensory input. He stopped jumping and then took a sock off to continue jumping. After that, Danny stepped off the trampoline and traced both feet on the carpet. He was feeling the difference of the ground with and without a sock on. It was such a small thing to do, but the pleasure he got out of it was huge. And after watching the little things he would do, I really started to gain an appreciation for the smaller things in life. I learned a lot about how people can express love in different forms. I learned through Danny the amount of love you can put into a hug, or through different facial expressions. This kid has a vocabulary of about 10 words, but he completely changed by mindset, changed my life and inspired my future career. And if that's not the definition of a hero, then I don't know what is."

To read (Part 3) and to learn about Liz's future plans in the field of social work as she continues to leave her MARK, visit:
https://www.facebook.com/MarkConference?fref=ts
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(1/2) "I'm currently doing Autism research here at Rutgers through the Center for Advanced Infrastructure & Transportation, and we are investigating ways in which transportation can become more accessible to those with Autism; to help them with their independence. It's very important for them to be able to get around, to have jobs, and to not impact the way their families have to live their lives by giving them rides day in and day out. In addition to that, I work at the Rutgers School of Social Work Institute for Families as a research assistant helping to prepare materials for social workers across New Jersey. Through it all, I definitely see the amount of perseverance that other people have in this field. And seeing how hard people work has definitely helped me to see how much potential I have myself; potential to continue helping other people, and potential to keep growing on my own. In working with people who have Autism, in order to respect other people's differences and to learn from them instead of trying to make them more like me, I've really learned that it's important to embrace them for who they are and for all of their differences."

"My mom, who's from the Philippines, has had a hard time finding work here. She spent a large amount of time just raising the family, and she did work in my aunt's office for some time, but she never really got around to getting an education. But I understand because it's hard when you're one of seven siblings in a family that's struggling and doesn't have much money. And even though my mom hasn't made her way up to the tippy top, she's worked so hard and I know that all of the work that she has put into raising us and into helping my dad has paid off. And it's something I really admire.

I see that same work ethic in the women that make these bracelets. My mom has always taught me that no matter how much you're struggling, you always have to push through and work with what you've got. And that's what these women are doing in these less fortunate countries. In places like Thailand, Honduras, Peru and India, where the women make these bracelets, a lot of the time, they don't necessarily receive the quality of education that we are lucky enough to get here in America. But with the resources they have available, they can make these bracelets and build themselves up so that their children have a better chance at receiving an education."

"It started around my junior year of high school. I used to be a pretty active kid. I played soccer, karate and all of that. And then all of a sudden, there was this one day when I woke up one morning and my whole body was tingling. I had been previously diagnosed with this disease called CMT, but it never really hit me before until this one day where over the course of the month, I felt everything in my body just get heavier and heavier. So by the time this disease started to level out, I could barely walk anymore. And I guess one of the biggest struggles that I face now is learning how to deal with this disease and adapt to it while the nerves continue to eat away at my muscles every year.

One of the biggest things that people with disabilities face is that when people look at you, they think you can't do what everyone else does. I constantly have to deal with people undermining my ability to be independent, yet I'm here. I'm about to graduate college. I love my parents, but I remember them saying, 'When this disease first hit you, I didn't even think you'd be able to graduate high school.' And I guess that's how I battle adversity day to day. Looking back at my life, there have been a lot of things that I've accomplished while dealing with this disability, and I definitely use that to keep going."

To learn more about Ronnie's story and how he plans to help others through leaving his MARK, visit:
https://www.facebook.com/MarkConference?fref=ts
#MARKmonday

"As a dancer, it's kind of easy to fall into the pattern of just doing what other people tell you to do. And I've been struggling to find myself in dance, and to put a part of me on stage and to be vulnerable. It's a very personal art form and it's very important to leave a piece of yourself out there, but it's so hard to actually let yourself do that because sometimes it's a very scary thing when you're on a stage in front of hundreds of people. And I think it's something that I've been trying to overcome this year because I'm getting ready to graduate and I want to be someone who's memorable. I feel like sometimes I just sink into the crowd and don't get noticed because of it."
"How can you overcome this fear?"
"Being present in the moment. Not leaving real life at the door. You know, sometimes people think, you walk into a dance studio and you don't bring the outside world in with you. But it's kind of the opposite. You have to bring the outside world in with you, so if you're dealing with something that's upsetting you, or if you're really mad at someone; letting that come in and manifest itself through the movement is really important because there's your outlet. And then you develop an identity and an individuality within the group."

"Performing is amazing. There's nothing like it. It's a rush as everyone would say, but now that I'm on this side of things, on the e-board of the Livingston Theater Company, I feel like there's a responsibility for me to bring purposeful theater to Rutgers. This show that we're doing, "Anything Goes," is set in the 30's and it's very much a farce, slapstick comedy kind of show, but I still felt it was important to bring here. This show is over 70 years old now, so to bring that to Rutgers, and to bring in all different types of theater to Rutgers is really important to me. And theater as a form of expression is really important to me too. It's helped me in many ways. I know there have been roles that have helped me kind of escape it all. But I think the best thing about LTC and this theater group specifically, is that we all have that appreciation for it. And that it's completely non-major based too. So, for me, I'm doing classical music all day. And I love it, but it gets tiring sometimes. So when I get here, I'm really doing what I love. And I know that's the same for bio majors, chem majors, math majors, who are just done with their major. It's not that they don't love it, but it's just a release to come here at the end of the day."

To learn more about Julia's future plans and how her and The Livingston Theater Company aim to leave their MARK, visit:
https://www.facebook.com/MarkConference?fref=ts

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"We all grew up looking for him, and you finally found him."

"The Army is a really male-dominated profession, so it's always been my goal to show other females, and males too, that it's not all about one gender. I want to prove the naysayers wrong and I want other females to feel like they can do the same. I'd like to pave the way for female leaders in that regard. When I started here at the ROTC program though, I didn't understand what leadership was all about. As I got older, it really clicked. Last year, my junior year, is when I started being in charge of people, and that's when I really started getting to know the cadets under me. I began to help them out and help them learn from my mistakes. Especially now, that's all I want to do; really get to know these cadets and help them grow. I've made some of my best friends here, all the annoying little brothers I never wanted. But it's a great environment and everyone looks out for each other. And through it all, I've learned that I really care about people, and how to act on that."

To learn more about Lauren's future and how she plans to leave her MARK, visit:
https://www.facebook.com/MarkConference?fref=ts
#MARKmonday

"I came to America two and half years ago, so most of my life has been spent living in Taiwan. The life there is very different from here. We have a huge population but very limited space. So here, where we have our own houses, our own yard; that's not the case in Taiwan. We mostly live in apartments, especially in Taipei, the capital city. It's very busy and crowded like New York. But one thing I'm very proud of is that in Taiwan, we are very caring about environmental issues and about each other. And I hope for the future that more people can be as caring for each other, and that we can all do whatever it takes to make even a little bit of a difference. Because if we don't do anything, then nothing will change. But if we do a little bit, one by one, step by step, then eventually we will see a difference."

"I've always been an avid pianist, and piano has always been my thing, but I wanted to venture into new things. Years ago, I saw that movie Step Up and there was this B-boy Luigi who inspired me and made me want to try dancing for myself. My parents were a little hesitant of the idea, because I could really hurt myself if I tried some of the harder moves. So I thought of trying a different approach. I thought, how can I do this with my one God-given talent also being piano? I wanted to bring them together in one performance. So I decided my senior year of high school to put on this performance where I would play one of my compositions on piano, have some ballet dancers to accompany me, and then I would be dragged out from the piano and I would get into my own dance. And people said it was something they had never seen before, and that really got me going. It inspired me to keep on doing what I love doing, and it was a really nice moment in my life. That's when I really started getting serious about dance. And I think the musical part of breakdance, specifically, is something that's commonly overlooked. I could try all these moves that wouldn't particularly put me in danger, and I could focus on more of the musical and artistic aspects of breakdance. And that's what's been defining me as a dancer."

To learn more about how Jeremy plans to leave his MARK through music and dance, visit:
https://www.facebook.com/MarkConference?fref=ts
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"Who's someone that means a lot to you?"
"That would be the set of my ancestral selves. That would be my former selves or, as we say it in the colloquial sense, me throughout the past. Because without these ancestral selves, I would not exist. My present brain states and beliefs are contingent, or they are the consequences of, my former beliefs; many decisions which I radically do not agree with now. But now, I have freed myself from the former set of beliefs I had which were due to a systematic indoctrination due to parents of the religious variety. And here I am living my life. Without all of that though, I would not exist. So I cannot regret, because without my past, I would not be myself."

"A few years ago I lost a lot of weight. Before that, I had no confidence and no drive. And I remember after graduation, I made a promise to myself that I wouldn't start off the rest of my life unhappy. So that summer, I was trying to work out and eat healthy, but I was stressed and trying to get into college. And a lot of my dream schools ended up falling through or were too expensive. So that summer is when it really hit me, and everything became real. I finally realized my family's financial situation. But after sitting through meetings and seeing how much we were struggling, my ambition to change really didn't work out until October when I went to community college. I was shopping for school that Fall and I noticed this backpack. And I've always been an introverted person, but at the same time, I've always had that extroverted side to me. So fashion-wise, I thought it was a nice bag, but in the back of my mind, I didn't think people would accept me wearing the backpack. But that purchase was really a stepping stone for me. I wanted to test myself and step out of my comfort zone. Each day that I went to school with this backpack, I felt more comfortable in my own body and actually more excited about going to class. It made me want to challenge myself even further. So to see what I was made of, in 2013, I tried out for X Factor. Having that audacity to go ahead and audition and to pursue my dreams is something that I want to inspire in others. Because life really starts after you leave your comfort zone."

To learn more about Aaron's journey and how he plans to leave his MARK, visit:
https://www.facebook.com/MarkConference?fref=ts

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