Tee Time

Allow me to introduce you to Tee Salinas. He’s a senior at North Oldham High School in Goshen, Kentucky and has been the basketball team’s manager since the 6th grade. Tee is not only a manager and a water boy, but an astounding encouragement and blessing to the entire school. Heck, he was voted ‘Most Likely to Brighten Your Day’! Amidst this greatness, Tee has been dealt a unique hand of cards - he has Down Syndrome. image

This past week, the team coach announced that after several years of Tee’s faithful commitment to the basketball team and all NOHS functions, Tee would be playing in his first game - scoring the first two points against De Sales High School. With that announcement came a burst of excitement from the student body, exploding #GetTeeOnSportsCenter into the Twittersphere. The entire school was on board, overflowing to the signs in front of local businesses. 

It was then that WHAS caught on to our growing movement. Wednesday night, a segment explaining Tee’s story and his hopes for Friday night was broadcasted. A serious call out to Sports Center at ESPN was made - Tee’s biggest dream was for his shot to be shown on the show. The media exploded: new anchors using our hashtag, more news crews committing to film the game. Then, it was time.

The gym was packed to the roof and back with passion-filled spectators, sporting “Tee-shirts” with our beloved player’s face on them, a White Out having been requested by Tee himself. By the time 7:30 rolled around, WHAS, WLKY, CN2, UofL, WAVE3, and several other camera crews were prepared for the emotion-filled basket to be made. Chants for Tee, cheering at every basket made during warm-ups.

The tip off went as planned: De Sales made their first two-pointer, turning the ball over to the Mustangs, allowing Tee to perform his practiced lay-up. As soon as the ball cascaded through the net, the entire court was swarmed by the entire Black Hole (student section) of North Oldham. Tears of joy were cried, voices were lost, hope was risen.

The basket was made and the filming was finished. All that was next was to blast social media in the hopes of getting noticed by Tee’s dream: Sports Center. The 11pm broadcasts of Tee’s shot came and went, with no word from ESPN. Then the impossible happened. Tee Salinas made it on Sports Center. 

As a community and a school, we should be incredibly proud of ourselves. As teenagers, we did what we do best - tweet - to make one shot crazy special for someone that deserved it ten times over. Last night’s aura was full of passion and love for Tee and for each other. This is why we’re the Mustang Nation, this is what a real North Fam looks like. 

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The Selfie Challenge

Selfie:The taking of a picture of yourself and posting it on Facebook because you have extremely low self-esteem and you need people to comment to tell you how hot or pretty you look. Usually conducted because the subject cannot locate a suitable photographer to take the photo, like a friend.

2013 was most definitely the year of the ‘selfie’. Everyone does it.Flip open your iPhone’s front camera, and snap a quick photo. (or at least that’s what we pretend it’s like.)

In reality, we open the camera, cringe in conceited disgust at the sight of our own face, raise the phone up and the side at a 45 degree angle (according to fashionspot.com), turn to more flattering light, jut out our chin to disguise any double-chin, pout the lips ever so slightly, turn head almost to bone-breaking angle, take approximately 47 pictures before deleting all but two that you’ll undoubtedly cry over later.

There’s something so wrong with our societal mold of beauty today. It’s sad how true the reality of the selfie game is. I mean really, have you heard of #SelfieOlympics?, it’s insane.

I propose something new. Something few will agree upon. The Selfie Challenge of 2014 goes as follows. Open camera, take picture of whatever’s there, post away. No filters, no edits, no head tilts, no olympic games. Just you and your beauty. Hey, I’m pretty ordinary, nothing special… but I know my true beauty. I know that anything I compose was and is beautiful. The same goes for everyone on this gorgeous Earth. Show the world. Don’t hold back.

http://unlooker.com/selfie/

#whatcomfortzone

Do Not Lie Dormant

In 2013, Invisible Children launched their newest campaign, #ZeroLRA. The focus  was to “Stand for nothing, Celebrate everything”. This meaning that we would not allow any more children to be abducted, no more families and villages left to face the atrocities of the LRA. In addition, we committed to celebrating everything - every child defected and reunited with a family, every successful rehabilitation, every step forward was celebrated. 

Three million dollars was the fundraising goal - a large number indeed, but for Invisible Children, aiming for the impossible is a passion. After about 100 days, $1million was raised… another large number, but not quite enough to continue funding all of the life-saving programs Invisible Children has launched over the past decade. Unfortunately, that eludes to inevitable drastic cuts both in the US and within central Africa. 

2014 is a new year. Every single day is one closer to ending Joseph Kony’s reign of terror. My heart is so full of passionate rage at this one man whom is a stranger to me.. we must continue onward with the commitment and perseverance displayed within the Kony 2012 era. It is still in us all, lying dormant. Wake it up, my friends - there’s no time for rest. Game time. 

http://blog.invisiblechildren.com/2014/01/22/results-of-zerolra-fundraising-campaign/

Twenty Four(teen) Hours.

Each day, 24 hours long. Each year, 365 days long. How did I define the last 8,760 hours of my life? I wish I had a solid answer.  

In the early weeks of January 2013 I decided to adopt #blessedbeyondbelief as my personal slogan and encouragement for the year. You see, it felt as though 2013 ripped me out of one place and into something completely new, something I entirely hated to begin with. 2,325 miles away from everything I knew for 17 years, to Kentucky. Not wanting to wallow in self pity and continuous sulking, I figured that if I repeatedly reminded myself of how blessed I truly am, that nothing could stop me. I look back on my 2013 proud of myself - meeting completely foreign people, assimilating to a new culture (yes, Kentucky has its own culture), and opening up to blooming possibilities. Through it all, I know I am blessed. 

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I’ve realized that I wasn’t thrown into a new life just for kicks and giggles. I needed to be able to turn around and see how much I relied on everything within my comfort zone to appreciate it and continue to expand. Here my beliefs, values, and ideals are constantly critiqued and cast out as too different and odd. Part of me loves it while the other sees the judgment and negativity it produces. I will stride on.

2014 is #whatcomfortzone. Nothing I do should feel natural - no easy, breezy, beautiful Covergirl stuff. Trust me, I’m sticking to what I believe and what I find important. I’m just out for more adventures, more strangers turned to friends, and less missed opportunities. I graduate in several months, along with the pending college decision - it won’t be easy. I have vowed to completely evaluated the environment I will both thrive and succeed in as well as continue to be challenged in daily. College makes one, choosing the Dominican Republic over Mexico is two, and the rest lie dormant until I awaken them.

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My adrenaline is going, my blood is pumping - I’m ready to make 2014 work for its title. All 8,760 hours of it. 24/7/365. 

#whatcomfortzone

I’m Here

One year ago, I would’ve considered my life to be perfect. I had a well paying job, had an extremely firm grasp on my faith journey, attended a wonderful community of a high school, and was constantly surrounded by some of the most loving friends possible. Though, as we all know, within 90 short days that was all taken out from under me as I flew off to Kentucky. I’m a stranger here: my activism confuses citizens, my vulnerability is seen as a threat to emotions, and my worldly thinking cannot seem to connect with the apathetic conversations I often find myself a part of. Please don’t misinterpret my words: Kentucky is a wonderful place filled to the brim with people that strive to be the best they can. I've spent more than several nights in tears leading up to and following my first move ever. Thoughts of all of the things I'd expected to participate in that I now know have no chance of ever happening. The unknowns of who, what, when, where, or how I will ever see some of my favorite people again. The cycles continue viciously. 

You see, I think I found the overall purpose a midst this chaos. I can now look back and see how disgustingly comfortable I was in my cushy big city lifestyle. I rarely struggled. I rarely had a reason to be upset. I rarely stopped to think about how blessed I was. The Kentucky move was brought about to challenge me, to the deepest core of my being. With that knowledge, I must pursue the unknown. Explore. Wander. And so on.

For the past four years, I have embarked on an awe-inspiring mission trip down to the breath-taking countryside of Tijuana, Mexico for my spring break. My youth group spends a week with more than deserving families, building them sustainable homes, which in turn construct a concrete sense of hope within each of us. Beginning this school year, I expected to once again fly back to the west coast and repeat my tradition. That was, until I heard about the Dominican Republic. GO Ministry sponsors group trips to Santiago, D.R. several times throughout the course of the year - one of these including a group taking off from the church across the street from my neighborhood. It absolutely breaks my heart to not return to Mexico this Spring in search of the pieces of my heart which were left there… but if I am going to ever proclaim myself an open-minded activist, I mustn’t segregate the countries of which I send aid. 

Therefore, Spring break 2014 I am blasting off on a week long mission trip to the Dominican Republic: a country which I know nothing about, have never directly aided, and never thought much of. It hurts not to be within my comfort zone, yet thrilling to surpass what I believed were my limits. I have no expectations, no images running through my head, nothing: just anticipation and eagerness to see what awaits me.

I am here and I am blessed. 

Jump first, fear later; I suppose. 

Dear OG 4E,

The Fourth Estate is a recognition of human identity in the face of global connectivity and the responsibility that flows from it. It is a blueprint FOR the future founded on humanity’s bold endeavor to seek a more perfect peace, a more perfect unity, and a more honest expression of success. The Fourth Estate is an identity that recognizes  change, and also recognizes the aging framework of a world that does not. It is a coalition of minds that believe there are no national boundaries, no laws, no man made rules that trump the law of common humanity written on the heart. This is not new, it is the proper expansion of something old, truths that are self evident, God-breathed, and manifest in the history of discontent: We believe all men are created equal, and that justice for some is not justice for all. We believe that human evil is the responsibility of all men. When we turn our faces from horror, we bless it to continue. We are not the intellectual elite or the bored idealists in the lounge chairs of comfortable debate. We are the young people on the sidewalk. We will sleep where we fall and work until our hands are raw. we accept the responsibility to protect those that are victimized by extreme cases of injustice. It is not ‘their’ problem. It is a humanity problem. We are The Fourth Estate.

Remember this? I sure do. 

A little over three years ago all 650+ of us were absolutely head over heels for anything remotely related to stopping Joseph Kony and the LRA. My OG’s, (original gangsters, yes) where did all of that uncontrollable passion run off to? I remember coming home from anywhere to check our beloved Facebook page, only to have dozens of e-mails and notifications to sift through. The thing is - I loved that. I loved knowing that there was always someone I was connected to that was continuing to press on in the face of criticism and adversity. Remember?

Who were you before Fourth Estate? Why did you have to spend four quick days in San Diego to transform yourself? Why can’t we cling to the beautiful confidence that flashed across each of our faces as we left Shiley Theatre on August 7th? The answer is simple: we climbed down the face of the mountain.

Often times, monumental experiences are considered “mountain top” moments. Feelings of being ‘on top of the world’, some even call it a high of sorts. So once our presence has left this mountain top, this high, we have two choices: continue climbing on to the next summit, or descend back to base camp where life is comfortable and breathing is easy. Today, my friends, allow me to encourage you with this. Keep climbing. Our dear inspiration MLK Jr. even said it… “If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.” Keep. Moving. Forward. Do whatever it takes to continue propelling yourself onward and upward. I cannot guarantee that you will never fall, never get hurt, never feel like giving up… but when you do, remember to turn around at look at the view; look at your accomplishments and how much your small time here on Earth has impacted your surroundings. 

Just as one wouldn’t want to tackle the summit of Mt. Everest alone, none of us should attempt the like. Look around, there’s hundreds of us; 650. There has to be one that can check your oxygen and make you soup when times aren’t so delightful. Talk it out: All of the frustrations, triumphs, losses, and gains.

You are significant. Without your revolutionary passion and desire for change - the face of the world would be completely altered. Keep climbing, my dear family. 

A message from Anonymous
Stephanie, you are amazing. You in your journey to discovering and acting on your passion to help this world is inspiring and beautiful in so many ways. Keep doing your thing. I know you can, and will, continue to change this broken world for the better. God has an amazing plan for you, and so far, I think you've done everything just right. Keep it up.

Why thank you, Anonymous. 1. I’d love to know who this is. 2. It’s things like this that get me motivated to reach further and further. So thank you so so much! Zephaniah 3:17

My Apologies

Hear me out, please. Allow me to explain myself for a moment’s time. 

I just wanted to apologize to everyone for wanting to change the world for good, I know it’s distracting from us all from making money and playing Candy Crush. I didn’t mean to make us all uncomfortable… Once again my sincerest apologies! 

I’ll try my best to avoid saving hundreds, maybe even thousands, of lives from atrocities I cannot even begin to wrap my mind around. I wouldn’t dream of clogging up your news feed - those vines and cat videos are super important. 

No more of this:

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Or this: 

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Or this: this really clogged up your feed - so sorry for sharing the world’s most viral video (Kony 2012) man, what was I thinking?

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My dear friends: Sorry, but I am not sorry in the least bit. I did not choose my passion, for it came to me. My life is a tool for everyone else: I am devoted to helping whenever, wherever, and however I am capable. Some of my peers disagree and frown upon the choices I make. Somehow, I make “too much of a spectacle” of myself, I “try too hard”, and I “set goals that I can never reach”. I’m flattered, my friends. Thank you. I’m so happy to see that you’ve noticed the movement. You may not understand my “hippie” madness now - but one day when my name makes it into a history book rather than an ordinary obituary, you’ll feel differently. 

I sent this tweet out earlier today to my followers, and it applies the same to anyone viewing from any media source: “If you don’t like my posts about ‘trying to change the world’ I suggest you unfollow me - I’m not changing.” 

Fight me all you want, slam my beliefs if you will, and tell the world to discredit me - I dare you. Afterwards, I will kindly thank you for the publicity. 

With that, I’m fundraising for Invisible Children again, check it out: http://give.invisiblechildren.com/fundraise?is_new=1&fcid=255437

Sine cera, me.