Stress Less!

Last month, just before the start of the overheated midterm season, Doreen Thomas (pictured below), outreach coordinator for the CCNY Wellness and Counseling Center, dropped by my 11 AM Introduction to Journalism class. She explained the facts about stress and offered practical suggestions for battling it. 

Using Ms. Thomas’s information and advice, students then wrote articles about the problem they all know so well. Here are two of the best.

Adam Reyes wrote this piece, which includes lots of student interviews, a recent national study and a clever kicker. He loves travel and music and after graduation hopes to be a photo journalist.

City College Students Struggle with Stress by Adam Reyes

During midterms, Noushin Sultana, a City College junior, spent three days without sleeping due to stress and the overload of work her classes give her. “College can really take a toll on you,” says Sultana, 20.

She is not alone.

Every fall during the heat of midterm season, exams and academic work put an enormous amount of pressure on students.  According to a 2009 pull conducted by the Center for the Study of College Student Retention, students say that stress is the biggest life issue that affects their studies.

Students are now finding ways of dealing with stress that can work efficiently for them.  Some handle it by trying to be more organized. “I now find myself writing a checklist of the things I need to get accomplished for my classes,” says 19-year-old Steven Millan, a City College junior. “It allows me to manage my time efficiently and not worry so much.”

Others work out in order to manage anxiety.  “I exercise to relieve college stress,” says Keyonna Hayes, a 21-year-old senior. “Not only do I burn calories, but I get my mind off of school as well.”

Some students use the resources available to them at the Wellness and Counseling Center.  Doreen Thomas, who is an outreach coordinator at the Center, notes, “Anytime anything is affecting anyone negatively, take the step and talk to someone.”

When times get very rough, some students resort to medication.  Lola Daniels, a 21-year-old City College junior admits that, “hell, yeah, college stresses me out! I take pills for stress.”

Candice Green took a positive approach to covering the issue of stress. She wrote about how students battle it back. Candice, a psychology major with a passion for writing, plans to become a middle-school guidance counselor after graduation. (Teenagers need lots of stress-reduction tips!)

Some CCNY Students Are Winning the Battle Against Stress
by Candice Green
Nicole Garcia, 21, a junior at the City College of New York, is excited about taking back-to-back midterm exams for her five classes. “Two years ago I used to dread this moment and was ready to drop out of school,” she jokes. “But I learned to prepare myself ahead of time, so now my midterms are nothing for me to stress out about.” 

Garcia has gotten her stress under control, unlike many of her classmates. CCNY students are in the midst of the most overwhelming time of the year—midterm week–and filled with anxiety. So what has gotten Garcia so relaxed? She took advantage of a stress management workshop sponsored by CCNY’s Wellness and Counseling Center. Garcia uses the techniques now whenever she gets stressed. “It surprisingly works!” she says.

Doreen Thomas, outreach coordinator for the Wellness Center, offered some specific techniques for students to remain relaxed before taking midterms or whenever stress arises. “One relaxation strategy is deep breathing,” she explained recently, as she demonstrated the exercise to a class of journalism students. “An emotional technique is expressing yourself; feelings are energy.”

Students should also try to identify exactly what gets them stressed before their big exams and figure out ways to help decrease these factors. “We should ask ourselves what is affecting us and how?” said Thomas.

Jeffrey Williams, a 19-year-old sophomore, also attended a workshop provided by the center. When asked what triggered the most stress and how he plans to handle it, Williams said, “Having so many exams all at the same time is stressful, but I try not to think about that and study harder on the subjects I don’t feel that confident about.” He also mentioned listening to his iPod prior to taking his exams to help his mind to relax, a strategy also suggested by the Wellness Center as a relaxation technique.

Kevin Goldberg, 20, a junior, says he’s stressed and wished he had made the time to learn some of the Center’s techniques. “Right about now I could use any advice to keep me sane during midterms” he said. “And the stress only gets worse for finals.”


More Marvelyn

Here are the next two articles on HIV/AIDS activist Marvelyn Brown’s visit from students in my Intro to Journalism class. Krisanya Johnson wrote the first piece. She is a 22-year-old MCA major who works at Verizon Wireless and lives in the Bronx. After CCNY, she plans to continue to graduate school then get a job in some area of the media-communications field.

The other one is written by Elizabeth Tenzyk. She’s a 20-year-old transfer student from Long Island. Down the road, she’d like to be a music journalist.

Marvelyn Brown: Still Standing by Krisanya Johnson

Last month, renowned AIDS activist and author of the book “The Naked Truth: Young, Beautiful and (HIV) Positive,” Marvelyn Brown, held a press conference for a journalism class at The City College of New York. The 26-year-old entrepreneur of Marvelous Connections showed up with her favorite drink, Pepsi, in hand.

After being introduced by our professor, Linda Villarosa, Brown walked up to the front of the class with a beautiful smile on her face. “Y’all read the book? So I really don’t have to talk,” she said with a strong southern accent while the entire class laughed.

She began to share her story about the day she found out she was HIV positive, July 17, 2003. “After being sick in the hospital for two and a half weeks with the doctors not knowing what’s wrong with me, I was given multiple tests and all of them kept coming back negative,” said Brown.

By this time her mother had already start planning her funeral because she thought her daughter was about to die. Brown marks it as a day that changed the course of her entire life. When Brown was asked if the person that infected her knew his status she replied, “He swears he didn’t know, but I know for a fact I got it from him.”

She explained how the stigma that accompanies the disease leads people to assume that HIV is a disease contracted through promiscuity. “People act as if you go to this person to get the H, this person to get the I and this person to get the V,” Brown said. This kind of stigma, she said, is the most difficult aspect of living with the disease. “The stigma contributes to the silence and the ignorance that surrounds this virus,” Brown said. “Even though I take medications that I get heavy side effects from, I would say the stigma is a lot more hurtful and painful than that medication could ever be.”

Brown is currently single but made it very clear that she doesn’t have a problem finding a man. She plans to have a child and get married, but her biggest issue is trust. Brown looks at her status not a curse, but a blessing and says that God has a plan for her. Even though she has accomplished a lot of things, she believes that her work is still not done.

“HIV is no walk in the park; it is hard as I don’t know, it is harder everyday,” she says with a smile on her face, “ But I’ve been able to help and inspire so many other people that it really outweighs not having HIV. It really really does.”

Marvelyn Brown Comes to City College to Speak to Journalism Students by Elizabeth Tenzyk

It was Thursday morning September 23, when the marvelous Marvelyn Brown, 26, walked into a classroom full of journalism students at the City College of New York in Harlem. She came to speak about life with HIV and her journey to self love and acceptance.

As Brown told her story with confidence it was hard to believe she was faced with such a harsh reality at such a young age.  It began with the day she found out she had HIV.  “I wanted someone to say it’s okay, you’re gonna be okay,” Brown said.

Unfortunately, Brown had never had the proper education about sex, or the diseases that could come with it.  The only form of sex education she received from her tough loving mother was not to get pregnant.  That is why the message she tries to send is to get tested, to get educated and to be responsible.

Shortly after being diagnosed with HIV, Brown almost got into a fatal car crash.  “ I realized I almost died and it had nothing to do with HIV,” Brown explained.  That is the moment when she realized anything could happen at any time and she wanted to be the one to tell her story.  “I realized the power in my own story,” she said.

During a lecture at a college in Tennessee  a student hearing her story told Brown that she was her hero, and she admired her courage.  This was a life changing moment for both of them.  “How could she view me in a way I don’t view myself?” Brown asked herself.  She knew she needed to find a way to love and accept herself, something she never did even before being diagnosed with HIV.  Brown says she took a very mature approach on the whole situation.  She admits that she doesn’t blame the man who infected her, the guy she believed to be her “Prince Charming,” her “Knight in Shining Armor.”  That is where the part about being responsible comes in.  “The only thing stopping me from being positive is me loving myself,” said Brown.

She knew if on that night she should have loved herself first instead of craving the love of another so much she would not have HIV.  However, she turned something that could have been negative into a positive. “It really put me on the path I need to be in life,” Brown explained.

Nowadays Brown spends her time travelling and telling her story to educate others.  She also runs her own company called Marvelous Connections where she fights ignorance with education.  Sometimes people ridicule her saying that she is glamourizing HIV.  Instead of letting these opinions get to her she realizes how confused they are.  Her response is simply, “Yes I am glamorous, HIV is not.”

Covering Marvelous Marvelyn Brown

Last month, Marvelyn Brown held a press conference in Shepard Hall for students in my Intro to Journalism class.Marvelyn (that’s her in the photos), an HIV/AIDS activist and author of the book, The Naked Truth: Young, Beautiful and (HIV) Positive, discussed her life and work. After, she answered dozens of intimate questions about how she contracted HIV and how she lives with it. She also signed copies of her book. Based on her lively, no-holds barred lecture, I assigned students to write a news story about the visit.

Here is the first of several of the best articles. Simone Tharkur, who is double majoring in English and MCA and also plays on the women’s basketball team, wrote the story below. (Let’s hope she finds time to minor in journalism!)

Marvelyn Brown Educates City College on HIV/AIDS by Simone Tharkur

Marvelyn Brown, author of The Naked Truth: Young, Beautiful and (HIV) Positive, proves ignorance isn’t always bliss with the testimony of her life, before and after contracting HIV. Last Thursday, the international AIDS activist spoke at City College about becoming infected in 2003. Brown, 26, is the CEO and independent consultant for Marvelous Connections and works to raise HIV/AIDS awareness throughout the world.

At 19, Brown met “Prince Charming” and immediately knew he was the one. “We were in love,” she recalled, describing the night that changed her life forever. “He told me he didn’t have a condom, and I thought ‘what’s the worst that could happen after this night, pregnancy?’ We continued to have sex without a condom.” When she contracted HIV from her “Prince Charming,” she says it just didn’t make sense to her. “He was perfect,” she says.

The Tennessee native was just as uneducated about HIV as her community was. “Some people thought you slept with this guy and got the H, slept with this guy and got the I, slept with this guy and got the V and that’s how a person contracts HIV, but that’s not how it works,” Brown says. “I contracted the H, the I, and the V from one guy.”

She believes her life would be different if formally educated on the risks of unprotected sex. “My sex education with my mom started and stopped with ‘don’t get pregnant.’ That was my sex education, that’s all I remembered.” Brown later added “I know how ignorance can play a part of being infected with HIV,” and “the only thing that would’ve stopped me from being [HIV] positive is if I loved myself enough to protect myself.”

Brown speaks at many colleges and universities educating youth through her story. She declares, “the work that I do, I’ve dedicated my life to” and promises to continue being actively involved with HIV education.  She believes “you, the individual, have your own responsibility” and “the earlier you know the faster you can take control of your body.”