Humans of BRAVE: Claire Cassidt

Hello BRAVE humans!

Today's Humans of BRAVE feature showcases an individual who doesn't let tough times keep her down, finding the good in all situations. Has a tough time in your life caused you to change for the better?

Stay awesome friends, 

Brooke 

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Can you tell me about when you've had a tough time in your life? How has this changed you? 

"Going into my junior year of college I got increasingly sick from my autoimmune diseases, especially Hashimoto's, which is an autoimmune disease in your thyroid. I had plans to study abroad and live in an apartment and everything was going well except for the fact that I felt so sick. I had to make a decision on whether to quit school and lose my opportunity to go abroad or stay in school but feel horrible. I decided to quit school and that was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Not only because I am not the type of person to give up on school, but the town where I grew up in, there is a huge focus on academics. I kept thinking that what if I lost the greatest opportunity of my life. I felt that my life had been taken away from me.

After a year off of school I got better and transferred somewhere new. I learned that I need to take care of myself and put myself first. School and opportunities to travel will always be there. It is not a race. I learned a lot more about myself and what I wanted out of life after focusing on getting better and losing everything. I think I am a stronger person today because of it."

 

 

The Power of Bravery

Hi BRAVE humans!

For our first Learn 4 Change post, I wanted to bring you all something (or rather someone) that was empowering. Someone that you could look at, and even if you couldn't relate, they could still have an impact on your life. Someone that could inspire you to be a better person, and look at your life differently. 

As I was scrolling through CNN, I found a section titled "CNN's Heroes". I thought this was a great way to highlight people who have done amazing things for their community and to showcase people who otherwise might not get any recognition. Low and behold, I found this amazing lady named Rosie Mashale, affectionately known as "Mama Rosie".

Mama Rosie pictured in the middle, posing with children who have grown up in her orphanage. 

Mama Rosie pictured in the middle, posing with children who have grown up in her orphanage. 

Mama Rosie is a former schoolteacher, known for starting a free daycare center, after noticing children in her community scavenging for food in a dumpster. After a decade of running this center, she considered retiring. However, the universe had something even bigger planned for her.

I know that normally we feature people for Humans of BRAVE, but I felt like Mama Rosie was also someone we could learn from. I feel like she's teaching us all lessons on what it means to be BRAVE and what it means to care and love for everyone, no matter who they are to you. 

Check out the source article by scrolling to the bottom of this post, and watch the videos accompanied. I have a good feeling that after watching, you'll be asking yourself, "What can I do, to make this world a better place? What can I do to be BRAVE?"

Stay awesome,

Brooke  

Meaghan's Message - August 2017

Hi there, BRAVE Friends! 

It's Jamiah bringing you Meaghan's Message for August! I'm so excited to post this message because I can't wait for the world to see a video where Meaghan's collar is up throughout the entire video (I didn't tell her while we were recording)!

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(Side Note: I have a task for you. Next time you see her, ask her if she knows her collar was up in Meaghan's Message for August. Do it. I promise it'll be funny.)

I mean I guess I'm also excited to post because the message is pretty awesome and gets ya thinking (as Meaghan's Messages tend to do). In this video, she sheds light on something that many of us probably do which is wait for change. 

Click on the video below to see Meaghan lip-sync to Christina Aguilera and hear her thoughts on a beautiful song called "Change." :)   

After hearing this message, I'm no longer waiting to see a change in the world. Instead, I'm going to start making change today. Are you ready to take that step?

Stay Awesome,

Jamiah

Humans of BRAVE: Molly Kozlowski

Hi BRAVE humans, 

Our first HOB feature for the semester is UConn sophomore and one of BRAVE's newest mentoring interns, Molly Kozlowski! Molly's courage and determination to be great, shows just how brave she is. Can you think of a time where you showed courage in a tough situation?

Stay Awesome friends,

Brooke  

Molly Kozlowski, the brave human on the right, pictured with her mom. 

Molly Kozlowski, the brave human on the right, pictured with her mom. 

Describe a time where you were BRAVE.

"My junior year of high school, I received a letter from the Naval Academy to apply to a 10-day bootcamp. I applied thinking I wouldn't get in because my family had no military experience.  I found out I had been accepted and then had to decide whether to go or not and I ultimately decided to go to the bootcamp.  It was a new experience, and I felt out of place being one of the few females at the bootcamp, and because of that, I received lots of unnecessary comments and questions as to why I was there in the first place. In the end, it was an empowering experience, proving everybody wrong while simultaneously becoming stronger and experiencing something new."

 

 

9/11 Day of Service and Remembrance

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 As an AmeriCorps VISTA member, I was tasked with participating in direct service on Monday, the sixteen-year anniversary of 9/11.  VISTAs specialize in indirect service and capacity building, so I knew this was going to be different from the rest of my year of service.  After an unsuccessful search for options through UConn and the surrounding area, I asked Meaghan if she knew of any, thinking it would go nowhere.  That’s where I was wrong.  She had ideas, and lots of them.  It all started with an hour-long conversation the Thursday evening before 9/11 and a late-night email to the BRAVE team.  It turned into an amazing four-day whirlwind of nonstop planning, frequent phone calls, almost a hundred emails, many important conversations, and a good amount of driving all over the place.

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We decided this effort was going to support a program called Forgotten Heroes - Homes for the Brave, which is a community-based transitional home in Bridgeport for female veterans and their families.  It is the only one of its kind in Connecticut.  On Monday, we set up a table on UConn’s Fairfield Way to hand out ribbons and start a conversation about 9/11.  Humans who stopped by signed a card that would later go to the veterans and talked with us about what the day means to them.  That night, BRAVE reflected on the experience and had a friendly competition to see which team could make the most PB&J sandwiches in thirty minutes.  I don’t know if there was a clear winner, but I can tell you that 135 sandwiches were made, and along with the extra PB&J supplies, the card, two bags of feminine hygiene products, a donation jar, and a Keurig, were dropped off to the veterans on Tuesday morning.

 

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I traveled down to Bridgeport with Molly, one of our mentoring interns, and it was an amazing experience.  The staff at Homes for the Brave were very thankful for our contributions and the veterans Molly and I happened to meet on the way in were so friendly.  Forgotten Heroes will be sending me a thank you email, which I will be sure to share with all of you.  They even invited BRAVE to visit the female veterans, so stay tuned for more info because I will certainly be staying in touch with them!  

 

Thank you to those who donated supplies and time.  BRAVE interns, BRAVE team leaders, and UConn BRAVE chapter members, I could not have done this without you.  Also, thank you Meaghan for your ideas, passion, and dedication to this spontaneous event that I doubt many other VISTAs could have pulled off so smoothly.  I could not ask for a better family of humans.  I am truly honored to be your AmeriCorps VISTA this year.  Stay awesome!

-Sarah

 

Welcome Back!

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Hello BRAVE humans and happy Monday!!

If you are an old friend, welcome back! If you are a new friend, Hello and welcome to the official BRAVE blog. My name is Brooke and I am the new Blog Intern for BRAVE this semester. I am from Little Rock, Arkansas and I am a sophomore at UConn studying Poli Sci with a minor in Public Policy (for now). I am extremely excited to be taking over this blog for many reasons:

1.     I feel that as BRAVE humans, we have a lot of valuable things to say and this is a platform in which we all can share ideas, and be open with one another.

2.     I can share the amazing things we are doing in the community with all of you, and let you in on just how BRAVE works and how we affect others.

3.     I LOVE BRAVE! I love how BRAVE encourages everyone to be themselves and encourages everyone to be “self-empowered contributors to a better world” and with this blog, I can show you the many different people who make this world the way it is.

Okay, enough about me! Let’s have a recap of what kind of content you can expect from this blog!

1.     Student Speak Out: Once a month, a student’s submission will be featured on a specific topic chosen that month (i.e. art, essays, videos, etc.)

2.     Meaghan’s Message: A monthly video from BRAVE’s founder and CEO, Meaghan!

3.     Learn 4 Change: Reliable articles/videos talking about something going on in the world that provides information while at the same time calling people to action

4.     Rewind: A monthly review filled with pictures and videos from BRAVE spaces

5.     Humans of Brave: Every Friday, we’ll feature a human from and outside of the BRAVE community that we think are BRAVE and have BRAVE stories

6.     Editor’s Choice: A post chosen by me!

And something new this semester will be:

7.     School Features: Twice a month, we will feature one of our partner schools where we mentor and show you pictures and videos of what they did that month, just to show everyone what BRAVE looks like in its true form.

8.     YouTube videos: About once a month we will feature videos from our YouTube channel, so be on the lookout for those

So welcome to the new semester! I’m very excited to have you all here to go on this journey with BRAVE. Look for more posts later this week and share with other humans if you enjoyed it.

Don’t forget to challenge yourself and make this world a better and BRAVE place!

Brooke 

Introducing: Sarah Dottor

Greetings BRAVE humans!

 

My name is Sarah and I am taking over for Andrea as the AmeriCorps VISTA resource for the 2017-18 year.  Andrea spent a good amount of time preparing me and making this transition as smooth as possible, which I appreciate immensely.  I hope to continue the success of this partnership position with UConn that she has worked so hard to cultivate and establish.

 

I graduated from UConn in May 2017 with a B.S. in Pathobiology.  I was planning on attending veterinary school, but changed my mind half way through college because I craved a more direct way to make a difference.  One of the places this path brought me was to an internship in student affairs at USJ last semester.  This is where I met Shelby, who happily invited me to lunch after just one meeting.  She introduced me to BRAVE and connected me with Andrea and Meaghan.  The rest is herstory.  I hope to make a future in the social sciences with the help of BRAVE.  I am considering going to graduate school, perhaps through UConn, to earn a masters in social work because of the positive experiences I have had with mental health therapists.  In fact, I will be co-facilitating a support group for queer youth in the coming months and I am so excited to see what I can learn.

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Outside of my emerging career, I am an instructor at Valentin Karate.  I have been a proud student for 7 years, and I have earned a black belt in the martial art of Tang Soo Do.  This is the main experience that helped me discover my path in life.  I get to teach humans of all ages and identities.  My youngest student is 3 years old and my oldest is 70.  I learn from them, too, and I am extremely thankful to the martial arts family that has supported me during the transitional period of life that is high school, college, and emerging adulthood.

 

I am honestly an open book, so ask me anything.  I value visibility, diversity, and advocacy for what one understands to be right.  I bet you’re awesome and I want to get to know you too.  I can think of nothing more inspiring or empowering than learning about the journey behind the name and face.

 

Unapologetically,

Sarah Dottor

she/her or they/them

 

P.S. Remember, that reflection in the mirror may be distorted by socially constructed ideals.

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Interview with Brienna Carter, Computer Science Intern 2014-2017

Dear BRAVE Humans,

It’s me, Meaghan! I’m back with more good vibes. And, today I am happy to provide you with the words and wisdom of Brienna Carter!! From the very first time I met Brienna, she has proven again and again to be a truly impressive and delightful human who engages with learning, leading, lending and loving - not just sometimes, but everyday. Her positive energy and unwavering love for life and for learning are palpable and persistent. This is what makes her presence so awesome and so impactful.  I believe anyone who has the privilege to know her, knows exactly what I mean.

First, I will take this opportunity to brag a bit about Brienna and how truly AWESOME she is. Let’s start by breaking down ALL that she did during her time as an intern and student member. First, Brienna has served on our organization’s Communications Committee, collaborated with Board Directors, other interns and other students. Brienna also played an integral role in building our organization’s website, along with many of our digital spaces, including our newsletter, blog and other platforms. Brienna was involved with all aspects of the BRAVE organization and I admire her commitment to our mission and to her role in bringing our mission to life. She has been a valuable member of the ITHS BRAVE team and has made tremendous contributions, unmatched by anyone, to the entire BRAVE organization. It seems every time we needed her help and expertise she came through with impressive results and unfailing kindness. Brienna is an amazing young woman. It has been a pleasure and a privilege to work with her and to get to know her. I will be forever grateful to have had the wonderful opportunity to work with and learn from her.  She is a true BRAVE leader and I am certain her future, at Yale University next year, and beyond, will be filled with success and happiness. Basically, she is a total ROCKSTAR!!

In celebration of all she is and all that she has contributed to the BRAVE mission during her three years of service on our team, I would like to share some of her reflections, memories and lessons she shared with me in a recent interview. My questions and her responses are below!

Read on and live BRAVE, friends! Who is ready to change the world?!

Peace & love,

Meaghan

What was your favorite BRAVE project that you worked? Please explain.

Most of my projects have been more so updates to existing work (i.e. the website, newsletters, etc) with the exception of one: the student resources site (which has fallen to the wayside recently but was active and accurate in the 2015-16 school year). Being given the opportunity to create something of my own from nothing was daunting but exciting. Amidst the frustration of Google Site's coding restrictions rose a great pride for my final piece that I could proudly say I made myself.

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What did you learn during your experience with BRAVE?

Aside from the expected learning experience from being a Computer Science Intern (developed coding skills, became more familiar with more website design programs, etc), I've learned time management. Time management has always been a bit of a problem for me as procrastination always looms, but with BRAVE I tried to complete tasks as fast as possible. An email from Meaghan would come in, and I would get on completion immediately when I got my hands on a computer sending a signature "Done!" upon finishing. In contrast, my school work senior year would be "Done!" the morning of being due. The habit I got myself into with BRAVE and stood by most of the time eliminated much stress from my life and for sure benefited all parties in question. In my coming college years, I hope to continue this BRAVE mindset and stay in control over my work.

What is your ultimate BRAVE moment of glory (MOG)?

My first project for BRAVE was to put a calendar on the site. With my new-intern excitement, I told Meaghan this would be no difficult task and surely inserting the calendar wasn't. It was individually putting in all the events that was―every meeting, fundraiser, school function, holiday. But nevertheless, I persisted. For about a year I'd get calendar updates quarterly from Meaghan and embark on the tedious task of creating singular events encapsulating each piece of information from times to location. Meaghan knew this was ineffective, so the calendar project was rebooted once more. Creating a calendar capable of automatically transferring events from BRAVE's Google account to the website was life-changing to say the least (despite the fact that this was all on the now usurped WordPress site BRAVE used to use). My life became easier, I saved plenty of time and frustration, Meaghan was happy, it looked prettier than the old calendar: all was well.

What will you miss most about being the BRAVE Computer Science Intern?

Though this doesn't necessarily cease with the end of my internship, I think I'll generally miss being a part of the BRAVE family. The always joyous emails from Meaghan and interns kindly requesting updates to the site or help with tech were never a burden but a pleasure. The tasks were usually not too difficult and it was more than worthwhile upon receiving consistent gratitude for my work. Not only this, but I loved the work and it felt good to be contributing to something impactful. In more recent times, a communications committee was created to improve BRAVE's communication within the organization and with the community. Being a part of the quarterly video chats with Meaghan, the college interns, and Adam was not only a great learning experience but once again allowed me to contribute to something greater and advance BRAVE's goals. In summary, interning for BRAVE has helped me do good and feel good about doing it, and those are the things I'll miss.

What will you take away from your experience and bring with you wherever you go beyond BRAVE?

The only reason I can even type these blog responses as an outgoing intern is because one day I took a risk of sorts, because I was brave. Meaghan came to my high school one day in my sophomore year to introduce BRAVE in hopes of beginning a chapter. I attended the preliminary meetings without intention of intense involvement in the club, let alone the organization. At one of these introductory meetings, Meaghan mentioned in an aside that she was looking for someone to become a Computer Science Intern. Being ambitious and over-confident in my computer skills, I took a step out of my comfort zone to email Meaghan inquiring about the position, and here I am only leaving three years later. The amount of things I have learned about website development and the world of nonprofits and myself is amazing; opportunities have opened up for me and I have met incredible people. So what I'm trying to say here is that everyone should take risks and go for every opportunity offered, even if you think you are under-qualified or not old enough or just generally not good enough. Because most of the time, you are good enough. And if you aren't, the worst thing you'll get is a "no." Go be BRAVE.

Interview with Andrea McDermott, BRAVE AmeriCorp VISTA Member 2016-2017

Hello BRAVE friends! Guess?! You right, it is me again, Meaghan! And, in this post, I am SO happy to be presenting y’all with another interview capturing the beautiful soul of a truly compassionate and BRAVE human. Today’s post is meant to celebrate and recognize our very own Andrea McDermott and her incredibly successful and impactful year of service as our Americorp VISTA member. Andrea is one of my MOST FAVORITE HUMANS!! The entire BRAVE family has benefitted from her from contributions and her relentless kindness and compassion. Which is why we are so ELATED that she has agreed to stay on our team, as a very recently elected, Board Director!! Team BRAVE is better with her on it!!

Again, I have to use this space and opportunity to shine some serious light on all that is truly awesome about Andrea McDermott. All of her contributions embodied hard work, creativity, and true bravery! She is such a natural at building meaningful relationships. And, the relationships she creates are powerful and have the potential to bring more love, positivity and growth to our world. In just one year, Andrea developed amazing and powerful relationships with all of those lucky enough to spend time with her, including myself. Andrea sincerely cares about ALL those who are a part of her life. At every meeting and at every event -- with every email and with every interaction, she gives 110% in order to best support humans. That is always what is most important to her in the work we do at BRAVE -- supporting the humans who are part of it. There are not many people that live their lives like this. Andrea has a unique and beautiful energy that allow her to do this so well, with such grace and with great consistency. Andrea supports humans in their journey to discovering their own bravery and their own self-empowerment. She is a true BRAVE mentor and a fierce, life-long friend.

Sending so much peace and love and good vibes her way, today and always. Please congratulate her on her new job with Big Brothers and Big Sisters in Hartford, Connecticut! So proud of her! Below, I have recorded some of the reflections, memories and lessons that she shared with me this summer. My questions and her responses are below!

Read on and live BRAVE, friends! Who is ready to change the world?!

Peace & love,

Meaghan

 

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What was your favorite BRAVE project that you worked on this past year? Please explain.

My favorite project would have to be working on the conference. I remember when I first started last summer, we talked about the conference as a project that is something we were trying to do, but I wasn't sure what it would be like. After spending hours working with various interns, Board Members, and Meaghan, it was so amazing to see this idea brought to life in the realest and biggest way possible. We had such a successful first conference - we had over 90 participants, multiple student and professional presenters, and an overall fun day, I can't wait to see what next year's conference is like! Seeing everything from the conference itself to the tiny details like making sure that appropriate signage was hung up around the conference venue showed me how any idea - no matter how big or small - can be brought to life if you have the determination and support to do it.

What did you learn during your experience with BRAVE?

I learned so many wonderful things during my experience with BRAVE. First, and most importantly, I learned that I can do anything that I set my mind to. I learned how to redefine my idea of what success looks like. I learned that bravery doesn't exist solely in bold, big actions, but also in our everyday lives. For example, I don't have to be rescuing a kitten from a tree to be considered a brave person. I can be brave by being myself as often as I can, by speaking up for the things I believe in, and even by being silly! I learned how to communicate better. I learned that self-love is imperfect, difficult, and completely worthwhile. I learned that being vulnerable and uncomfortable can be good for you, and often times, it's one of the best ways to learn and grow. I learned that there is beauty in the many different ways people get things done. I learned that there are people who will support you and have your back always. I learned that I am never going to have to face anything alone, because I will always have my BRAVE family. I am so excited to take all of these things I have learned with me in the future! They are life lessons I will carry with me forever.

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What is your ultimate BRAVE moment of glory (MOG)?

My ultimate BRAVE MOG was when I was given the Mentor of the Year Award at the BRAVE Awards Ceremony. I was not expecting to receive an award that night, and to hear that my efforts to support everyone in BRAVE were appreciated and recognized was so special and incredibly humbling. It helped solidify the idea that being yourself is a BRAVE endeavor!

Do you think your ideas of bravery (or leadership or empowerment) has changed or grown since you first started with BRAVE last summer? Please explain.

My idea of empowerment has definitely changed since I first started with BRAVE. I always thought that you needed other people to make you feel empowered and good about yourself, but that simply isn't the case. To me, self-empowerment means being able to find the power within yourself (that is there, has been there, and will always be there) to be your best self. Sometimes, it takes another person showing you how to do it in order for you to self-empower. It is a never-ending, imperfect, and challenging process, but it also teaches you how to love yourself better.