Gap Years Create New Opportunities for IPFW Students

Marlie Reed traveled the Pacific United States for 10 months, and in return, she received an education award for nearly $6,000.

The IPFW alumna was a part of a program called AmeriCorps, where she volunteered to aid communities and organizations in Alaska, California and Oregon while she secretly struggled with what direction to take in life.

“I was unsure of what I should do next,” Reed said, as she combed her fingers through her hair. “I had a friend who did the program and told me he gained a new perspective on himself, so I wanted to try it.”

According to the American Gap Association, interest in gap years has increased substantially. High school and college graduates are electing to take a gap year by traveling nationally or internationally.  Graduates are also volunteering or working at home before enrolling into an institution or beginning their career.

Amanda Grace, a student from North Webster majoring in office administration at International Business College, said she decided to work before continuing her education to save money and figure out what she should major in.

Through her experience, Grace said, she learned how to be more responsible, and never lost her work ethic because she finally felt like she wanted to go to school, not that she was supposed to.

Deidre Hoffman, another IBC student majoring in office administration from Norwell, said she was unsure of her plan after high school. She joined the U.S. Army, and while serving, she gained skills similar to Grace’s, such as time-management, maturity, and life-experience.

According to the AGA website, Grace and Hoffman are among the students who have shown that taking a break between high school and college renews interest and increases motivation. Another AGA study shows 90 percent of students are enrolled in a four-year institution within one year of time off from academia.

The AGA also surveyed students and found they can gain useful, job-related skills from their personal experiences during their time off.

“Employers are looking for students who have communication skills, interpersonal skills, and leadership skills,” said Ashley Calderon, IPFWs director of career services.

According to the AGA, the University of Colorado Denver, and the AmeriCorps website each of these options — volunteering, enlisting in the military, traveling, and working — will teach students some of the skills to prepare them for their future careers.

Students could highlight their skills on their résumés and during their job interviews, Calderon said. She also believes getting involved with these organizations are exceptional ways to network.

“It made me more self-aware and more appreciative of what I have and the family I have, even the material things,” Reed said about her AmeriCorps experience. “I am just alive and well, doing something different made me more adventurous.”


Service Journalism:

AmeriCorps NCCC Program:

  • Available for 18- to 24-year-olds
  • Must complete 10 months of service to be awarded education award
  • Government pays for housing, food and stipend.
  • Volunteers can choose from five different regions in the U.S. and can apply for their fall or winter cycle.




Gabriela Romo: The Journey of a First-Generation College Student

Growing up in her household, there was no talk of going to college for Gabriela Romo.

She was told once high school was over, she would work at the factory to provide for her family.

In a family that had never gone to college, with a father who never made it past the third grade, Gaby was never allowed to think about going herself.

That was until her junior year of high school, when soccer changed everything.

“The coach came and saw me play and she told me I was going full ride,” Gaby said,  laughing at the thought. “I had absolutely no idea what that meant, but I said yes and here I am.”

Gaby said she never thought she would get to play the sport she loved at such a high level while getting an education at the same time.

When Gaby told her parents she wanted to go to college, she said they didn’t know what that was, but agreed as long as they didn’t have to pay.

“I grew up with a very family oriented perspective,” Gaby said. “I know that if I invest this time and get a good job, then however much time God gives me, I can provide for them for the rest of my life.”

A few years ago, her cousin in Mexico got a bacterial infection. Gaby said that in Mexico people have to pay before treatment, but her cousin couldn’t afford it.

Her health became worse, and she was eventually put on a ventilator.

Gaby said she saved $2000 that summer to send down to her cousin, but it couldn’t save her.

She ended up passing away because no one could afford her treatment.

“That’s what made me want to be a doctor. If you’re a doctor the money shouldn’t matter,” Gaby said. “They should have run more tests. They should have saved her.”

Due to that traumatic experience, and realizing that soccer wouldn’t last forever, she said her new plan is to go to medical school and become a family physician.

Gaby said she has always wanted to help people, which was passed down to her from her mother’s ways. She said her mother is the glue that holds her family together.

Her mother always encouraged her and her siblings to look out for one another and to achieve their dreams.

“But my father, he is the one who divides us. He belittles me and my five siblings,” Gaby said. “He would always say things like, ‘You guys are useless,’ and when I would be doing homework he’d say, ‘School’s not important get your butt up and clean.’”

Gaby said her father never approved of her pursuits of education, her desire to learn, or her love for soccer. He would tell her since she was a girl she was supposed to do the chores, and that soccer was for guys.

She said he would even hit her and her siblings, which led to her having a low self-esteem at a young age.

But soccer was her escape.

Gaby would have to wait until he left for work to go outside and practice. She started at just 6 years old.

“God gave me that man as my father,” Gaby said. “No matter what, this is how my life was supposed to be. That is why I am here today.”


Drinking Creates New Dangers for College Students

While most college students think nothing of a night out drinking with their friends, for one family, it became their worst nightmare.

According to 20/20, Lauren Spierer disappeared from Indiana University just over six years ago in early June after a night of heavy drinking.

The department of applied health at Indiana University defines binge-drinking as consuming five or more drinks in one sitting for men and four or more for women. Using this definition as a basis, this department concluded that a large number of students develop excessive-drinking habits during their college years.

“I am finding more and more college-aged people are beginning to drink earlier in the day,” said Pat Clancy, Fort Wayne family and individual therapist.

Indiana University also reports there are sociological consequences of heavy-drinking tendencies, such as an increased crime rate, increased number of unintentional injuries among students, as well as an increase in student assaults.

Clancy said that with more students engaging in early drinking activities, more alcohol is consumed over the course of the day, leaving a bigger window of opportunity for dangerous situations to occur, and added motivation.

Breeanna Fusselman, a junior in communication from Ossian, said drinking on college campuses is an expected activity.

Fusselman said she believes incoming freshman are at the highest risk for alcohol abuse and poisoning, due to the fact that they are unaware of their limits.

Chad Landez, IPFW and IU alumnus, said he thinks heavy drinking is a coping mechanism that many college students turn to automatically, due to the association society places between college and drinking.

Landez went on to say he believes many college students make it a goal to drink excessively when they go out on the weekends. In other words, they drink to forget.

Courtney Bourne, a Ball State junior in criminal justice from Markle, said college students tend to have a work hard, play harder mindset. They get all their work done during the week. Then come Thursday or Friday, it’s time to loosen up. Bourne said the problem with this mentality is people tend to get carried away, especially after encouragement from peers.

“They live for the weekends,” Bourne said. “There has to be a way that college students can relieve stress from the week, and most of them turn to alcohol because it an easy fix, and they like the way it makes them feel.”

According to an IU on student drinking patterns, Greek houses and college athletes are at the highest risk of engaging in heavy drinking. The department found that as athletic participation increases, so does alcohol consumption among athletes. In terms of fraternities and sororities, the department reports heavy drinking is the central activity at most social events between the houses.

Emma Browning, an IPFW freshman undeclared major from Fort Wayne, said she recently learned in her psychology class that alcohol was a more addictive substance than marijuana. Browning believes police departments should crack down on college drinking, in order to deter students from drinking so excessively.

As for the Lauren Spierer case, 20/20 reported no further progress has been made. Spierer remains amongst the many college students who have gone missing during a night out gone wrong.

Save the Seven – IPFW Works to Prevent Student Suicides

Esteban Coria dismissed the loud bang in the night, thinking it was just the dumpsters slamming outside.

After all, it had been a windy day.

But it was far from just wind.

Coria, a college student at IPFW at the time, found an unconscious man in a car the next morning, a gun laying on the seat beside him.

He attempted to take the man’s pulse, but found nothing.

“I just remember thinking, why couldn’t he have gotten help from someone?” Coria said. “Why does someone feel so desperate that there is no one who can help them at all?”

Mary Ross, director of Project COMPASS – Community Project Against Student Suicide – said IPFW lost seven students to suicide last year.

“That was really overwhelming last year,” Ross said. “That is a very high number for the size of our campus.”

Jeannie DiClementi, an associate professor of psychology at IPFW and the principal investigator for Project COMPASS, said suicide is the second leading cause of death among the ages of 15 to 24.

Prior to Project COMPASS’ founding in 2012, the university did not have a suicide prevention program.

DiClementi said Project COMPASS focuses on reducing the stigma surrounding mental health and educating students on suicide in order to prevent it on campus.

She said certain groups are more vulnerable to suicide. This includes LGBTQ students, ethnically diverse students, and students in the military.

The National Center for Health Statistics recently reported the overall suicide rate for Americans increased by 24 percent from 1999 to 2014.

Project Director Ross herself attended a high-pressure, private college 300 miles away from home. She said there were a number of suicides, but it was during a time when people didn’t talk about suicide.

Ross said she remembered a student who committed suicide by jumping from a dorm window.

“Blood stains don’t come up that easy,” Ross said.

Carrie Romines, a wellness specialist at the university, said the hardest part of her job is fighting the stigma against mental health.

“Not only do people not want to admit there’s something wrong,” Romines said, “but other people just don’t know how to handle it, and they don’t want to hear about it.”

MaryAnne Skora, a former communications student at IPFW, said she was affected by the stigma.

Skora first started feeling depressed her senior year of high school. During her freshman year of college in 2013, she began to have suicidal thoughts.

“I remember, actually, being at IPFW in the library, I think on the fifth floor. That’s kind of when the suicidal thoughts started at first,” Skora said. “I felt so much pressure to be perfect. I didn’t really know how to express myself, so I completely isolated.”

She hid her self-harm scars from her parents because she thought they would be ashamed. She would attempt suicide the following year.

Skora thought she could make a quick recovery and return home. Instead, she would later be readmitted for attempting suicide again in August of 2015.

Knowing something had to change, Skora began to share her experience, something she feels is important for those with depression.

“I started realizing I have to talk about this, because think of how many other people are struggling and they don’t have anyone to talk to,” Skora said. “I definitely think it’s important to at least tell someone how you are feeling and find the right person to do it, that you trust.”

On the IPFW campus, Project COMPASS also offers Gatekeeper training, a three-hour class on the signs of suicide and how to approach students who are being affected by depression.

“We’re not training mental health professionals, we’re training the average student and the average faculty member,” Principal Investigator DiClementi said. “When they’ve got a student or roommate talking about being depressed, they will know what to do.”

Ross said one of the challenges COMPASS is facing is figuring out how to get information out through different mediums.

She said COMPASS is looking to create a hybrid Gatekeeper training program, with both online and in-person sessions.

Coria, now a continuing lecturer in Spanish at IPFW, would later learn of a new suicide prevention tool, Telemental Health.

Telemental Health uses telecommunications such as videoconferencing and texting to provide behavioral health services, including access to counselors.

One of the various programs, Crisis Text Line, allows someone experiencing depression or suicidal thoughts to anonymously text a trained professional.

Two of Coria’s students committed suicide in 2016, and he said he can’t help but wonder what would happen if there more options like Telemental Health for students.

“I think it’s a feeling of guilt, shock and sadness,” Coria said. “The next step is asking how can I change this, how can I make this better, how can I prevent future suicides?”


IPFW Health and Counseling Resources:

IPFW Parkview Assistance Program:

IPFW Community Counseling Center:

Project COMPASS: 260-481-6778, Kettler Hall Room G82


Free the Nipple – Fort Wayne Fights the Double Standard

A year ago, when Fort Wayne native Liz Turkette was in Maryland with her boyfriend Chris, they saw a woman walking her dog while topless.

The woman was simply exercising her right, at least in 36 states, to expose her breasts in public. But it made Liz feel uncomfortable.

Liz said it made her think about why she was uncomfortable, and she realized it was because of how society has portrayed women and how it has sexualized female breasts.

“It’s so obvious that women are treated as pieces of meat,” Turkette said. “You see it in advertising, and men throw dollars at us because we’re taking our tops off.”

Liz said she now recognizes that people feel uncomfortable because of how female breasts are portrayed and is working to bring awareness to it.

“A male’s chest can look sexy, just like my chest,” Turkette said. “And I can be turned on by a male’s chest, just like they can be turned on by mine. But I have to control my mind and they don’t? That’s not okay.”

In Indiana and 13 other states, only men are allowed to go topless in public.

But things weren’t always this way. According to the Go Topless organization website, men were not legally allowed to be topless until 1936 in America.

Women were not allowed to sport bare breasts in any state until 1992, when a law was passed in New York, and 35 other states followed.

Fourteen other states have more ambiguous laws. In three, Indiana, Utah and Tennessee, it is completely illegal for a woman to expose their nipples in public. If she is topless, her nipples must be covered.

But local women are working to change that, by bringing the Free The Nipple movement to Fort Wayne.

Lauren Conklin, a 23-year-old Fort Wayne native, helped organize her first Free The Nipple rally on Aug. 14, along with Turkette.

They held the protests in front of the Fort Wayne Courthouse holding signs and going topless, while wearing pasties or covering their nipples as Indiana law dictates they must.

“What better way to bring on awareness and have people actually start asking you questions about why these women are doing this than doing something a little edgier?” Conklin said.

Conklin said there were only about 20 people at the first rally. But with the help of Facebook, they were able to raise more awareness for the next one.

120 people showed up to the second Free The Nipple rally on Sept. 12.

“We had this turn out of really excited and really ambitious women,” Conklin said. “And even men were showing up and saying ‘How can I support you guys?’”

The Free The Nipple Facebook page said that men were encouraged to come wearing bras or bikini tops to highlight gender inequality.

Both Conklin and Turkette said that Indiana passing the law for women to go topless legally would be a step toward gender equality.

Fort Wayne activist Vijaya Birkes-Adams said she works alongside Conklin and Turkette to fight for their right to make the same choices men do.

“In order for us to fully embody equality, we really need to be able to do be viewed in the same way as a man, and just being human in a human body,” Birkes-Adams said. “A big part of this is combatting the notion that women’s bodies are for men’s pleasure.”

Birkes-Adams said she likes to go topless sometimes, like when it’s hot and she’s working in the garden. Her fiancé takes his shirt off.

“For me to make myself uncomfortable just because someone thinks my body is inappropriate is not fair,” Birkes-Adams said. “It just needs to change.”

Birkes-Adams and Conklin said this anxiety is perpetuated by the negative comments that the women involved with this movement receive.

They said much of the criticism they receive is from comments online, mostly on their Free The Nipple Facebook page.

“When you’re not face to face, people feel more comfortable saying horrible things about us,” Birkes-Adams said. “Like calling us sluts or saying that we’re just out there for attention.”

But the rude comments aren’t stopping these women.

A third rally was held on Oct. 10, and Turkette said they are planning to have a fourth rally on April 10.

Conklin said they plan on holding these rallies until women can go topless legally in Indiana.

“You’ve got to plant the seeds,” Conklin said. “And you may not sit in the shade of that tree, but you have to plant it.”

McKayla Atkinson (front row, far left) and Lauren Sanderson (front row, second from left) participated in Fort Wayne’s Free the Nipple Rally on September 12. Photo by Liz Turkette.