The Memory Initiative

This semester, I am taking a class called Leadership Jumpstart, which aims to instill strong leadership skills in first-year Schreyer scholars. A large component of the coursework involves the creation and execution of a service project. To complete the service project assignment, the class of 24 students divides itself into 4 groups of 6. My group, composed of 6 fantastic girls, came together back in August, and although we didn’t know it at the time, we were going to establish something truly remarkable.

Most groups settled on a project in August and followed it through to completion. My group, however, created three failed projects before finally landing on our final one, The Memory Initiative. While the process of switching projects so many times was definitely frustrating and nerve wracking, it definitely brought me and my teammates closer together, and our final project is something that we are all truly passionate and excited about.

The Memory Initiative’s mission is to empower older women and remind them that they play a crucial role in society. This broad mission encompasses three more concentrated goals: companionship, recognition, and empowerment. We have partnered with State College’s Elmcroft assisted living center, and we have matched ourselves up with mentors (various women in the home).

Oftentimes, these women lack communication with their families and are not outgoing enough to participate in the group activities that are primarily utilized in group living homes. Thus, they can find themselves feeling rather lonely. To create this companionship and foster long-term relationships, we use the mentor program so that each partnership can focus on one-on-one engagement.

Far too frequently, women of the older generation fail to realize their own worth. The problem is not that these women haven’t accomplished anything in their lives, but they fail to see the value of their accomplishments. In order to propel these women to recognize the value and worth in their successes, we will create scrapbooks with them that outline their life’s achievements.

Many women of this generation grew up in a time period when women were especially overshadowed by men. The Memory Initiative strives to help them realize the strides that women have made in society. The goal is that they will be able to channel these modern feminism examples into their own lives and realize that their lives matter just as much as anyone else’s, regardless of their age and gender.

Since we have begun to embark on weekly trips to Elmcroft, we have received real-life affirmation that the problems that The Memory Initiative aims to mend are very pertinent. In fact, when we first met the women and introduced the mentorship concept, a woman named Darlene asked “What could I possibly teach you?” Her question demonstrates the lack of recognition that she has for her own value and makes The Memory Initiative even more important to my group members and I.

In order to expand the influence of The Memory Initiative and optimize the mission’s efficiency, my service project group has decided to turn our project into an official Penn State organization. By expanding into a club, not only will many more students be able to get involved, but many more women of the older generation will receive companionship, recognition, and empowerment.


Over the past two weeks, I have had opportunities to hear multiple unbelievably inspiring women speak, thanks to Penn State. As a public university, Penn State does an outstanding job at gathering accomplished public figures to present their stories to PSU students. Constantly, there are chances for students to attend presentations or lectures that will help us make progress in fulfilling our life’s aspirations.

Last Tuesday, I attended Jill Biden’s presentation in Eisenhower Auditorium. Prior to the talk, I was unfamiliar with Jill’s work. During her speech, she discussed her experiences as a professor at a community college. She described how many of her immigrant students are some of the most motivated and hardworking individuals she has ever met, even though some of them are homeless and live in cars. Jill emphasized the courage that can be found within women who have children to raise and positions of employment to maintain but who also dream of going to school. On rainy Wednesday, I had a long morning and felt compelled to skip my math lecture. However, I was struck with an overwhelming amount of self-reflection regarding Jill’s speech. It reminded me of my aunt’s journey for higher education, in which she needed to work a full-time job in order to put herself through college and still finished her undergrad in three years. It also reminded me of my parents, who were not afforded the opportunity to attend college at all. Now, after 12 years of banking employment, my mom is unemployed and yearns to go to school. While reflecting on Jill’s words and relating them to my own family, I realized that nowadays, we see the price tag that is attached to an education, but we fail to recognize its innate value. As you can probably guess from where this story is going, I decided to attend my math class.

On Thursday, a campus organization that I am involved with, Schreyer for Women, allowed me the opportunity to hear from the executive director of the Hekima Place, Jenny Roach. The Hekima Place is a home for girls in Kenya that provides life necessities, love, and proper educations. Jenny grew up in Wales, where she was severely bullied and told that she would never amount to anything. Overcoming the hardships of depression, suicidal attempts, and self-doubt, Jenny’s life changed when she visited Kenya and felt at home. She persistently traveled to the country, and eventually was offered a position as one of the executive directors of the Hekima Place. Jenny’s story, along with the heartening tales from my TA, Maddie, has instilled a desire in me to travel to Hekima this May to work with some of the girls there.

This Monday evening, I had the pleasure of listening to the author of It’s What I Do, Lynsey Addario speak in Schwab Auditorium. As you all already know, Penn State Reads is a program that strives to spark intellectual engagement in students, and Lynsey’s book has done just that for me. As demonstrated in my It’s What I DO RCL blog posts, I have a strong admiration of Lynsey and the irreplaceable work that she has completed in such a relatively short lifetime. During her lecture on Monday, Lynsey mentioned how she forgives the men who captured her in Libya and feels cowardly a majority of the time while in these foreign countries. Her prominent sense of humility and respect for others is enlivening and propels me to be an innovator like her.

Jill Biden, Jenny Roach, and Lynsey Addario are all powerful women who have displayed their abilities to change the world. I walked away from each of their talks feeling a stirring going on within me. I have been more excited to tackle my school assignments, journal about my inner insights, and submerge myself in the world around me. Penn State brings inspirational speakers onto campus very frequently, and I implore you all to take advantage of these opportunities when they present themselves.

United Through Stress (and Sweatpants?)

As I was walking home from class Tuesday morning, I spotted a sight that was much too entertaining to spot at such an early hour. Seriously, you’d never guess what it was…but don’t worry, because I’m going to tell you. It was a pair of boys! Wearing pajamas! The footie kind! Onesies, I tell you. Assuredly, it was a “made you look!” kind of moment.

Today I write to bring you a different kind of post. In my past two blog posts, I’ve analyzed apparent and relatively tangible happy things. But today’s happy thing is a little bit more of an idea, and it’s much more perspective-based. So without further ado, let me bring to your attention my interpretation of the interesting clothing combinations that I’ve seen across campus.

Undeniably, there exists a prototype for the stereotypical college student. Messy hair, bags under the eyes, countless coffee cups, and equal amounts of homework and stress. But what would you describe to be the standard outfit of this disastrous college student? Back in August and early September, I observed my peers putting effort into their outfits for class each day- sundresses, polo shirts, nice pants, cute skirts…but in recent weeks, however, I’ve noticed a shift in the attire of these same Penn Staters. The semester is becoming more and more involved as we near the midway point, and things like our appearances are being pushed down on the list of our priorities. Flannel pajama pants, the baggiest of baggy sweatshirts, Ugg boots, and fuzzy neon socks are being pulled out from storage and hitting the campus sidewalks. Oh, and let’s not forget the iconic socks and sandals combo. Such a classic.

The best part about this wardrobe change is that it’s okay! It would be very easy for people to look down on others for looking disheveled when the times get tough, but I don’t see that happening on our campus. Sure, we may chuckle at the especially quirky outfits (I don’t know what kind of person wouldn’t be amused by the onesie boys), but we don’t laugh at our peers…we laugh with them! After all, we have all been there before, and surely, we can all relate. Penn State students are all united by one driving force- the pursuit of a higher education and of course, maintaining that ever important GPA. And as we all know, these things don’t come without hard work and the inevitable long nights of grueling studying. Unfortunately, the grind is not always pretty! These lazy staple pieces of clothing have become a symbol of hard work. We, as students, recognize the necessity of placing our educations above how cute or trendy our everyday outfits look. 

In fact, the way I perceive it, it’s an admirable thing that students here at Penn State feel comfortable enough to step out of our dorms in clothes that we may have only ever worn around our homes with our families. Or maybe, we just feel like our peers are our family, and our campus is our home. And at home, pajamas and slippers are always welcomed and highly encouraged.

Raise the Song

Doo doo doo lalalala! Music has been known to be a universal element of connection since what seems to be the conception of the earth. Songs allow us to recall special ideas, memories, and emotions from past experiences and formulate hopes for the future. It sounds almost silly to say, but music seems to have some sort of magical powers that enable it to make us feel.

This being said, alma maters are the trademarks of schools across the nation. I bring you this blog today to address the pleasant sensations that are evoked by Penn State’s very own alma mater. Whenever the sound of the alma mater resonates through the air, strangers standing next to one another join arms and link up to form these ridiculously long chains of people. It’s possible that they have never exchanged a single line of dialogue, but when they hear this particular tune, they are suddenly compelled to engage in this apparent act of fellowship. While chanting the familiar melody, Penn Staters sway to and fro together, which is not only hella cute, but it also represents the identity that this campus has established for itself. Students and staff alike at Penn State don’t pride themselves on being magnificent individuals…we pride ourselves on the magnificence of the community that we create when we come together to celebrate our time and experiences here. The alma mater unites us in a remarkable way, and it justifies our ability to proclaim that WE ARE.

I distinctly remember the first time I sang the Penn State alma mater. At the conclusion of my Schreyer Honors orientation, everyone involved in the program linked up and began to do the whole sway and sing routine. I’m not gonna lie, my initial thought process was screaming “Yikes, this is pretty awkward!” But as the melody played on and I further deluged myself in the situation, I noticed that all of the remarkable upperclassmen surrounding me were so distinctly engaged in the song and the words that they were singing. It made me wonder “What’s going through their minds right now?” I conjured up some ideas, and all of them correlated in the fact that they were positive. I could not imagine that any of the smiling and exuberant individuals around me were singing along out of angst. I could tell that they all associated “the good times” with the alma mater, and that was an idea that filled me with immense excitement and urgency to fill my four years here with as many unforgettable memories as possible.

When I decided that I was going to write a blog post about Penn State’s alma mater, I asked some of my peers what sensations are evoked in them when they hear the alma mater. One individual declared that the song “makes [them] feel at home.” Others threw out the words “passion,” “pride,” and “energy.” Someone else told me that she particularly likes to watch Penn State alumni sing the song. Personally, when I sing the alma mater, I feel like there is no place on earth that I’d rather be. I sincerely hope that you have a special song that moves you in the way that this alma mater has proved to move me and countless amounts of others.

The Power of Birthdays

Hello, and welcome to my blog, Happy in the Valley! As the creator of this blog, it is my goal to entice you with tales that I witness on the University Park campus or out in the State College community. Ultimately, I’d like to glitz a little sunshine on your gloomier days and potentially set a smile across that beautiful face of yours!

To further introduce myself and my blog, let me take a moment to tell you about a rather influential moment in my life. It is true that ever since I was a small child, I found it extremely important to be a happy individual. I was never one to cry, and it was for no simpler reason than I didn’t like feeling sad. Smiley face stickers and irritatingly peppy songs were my best friends…not going to lie, they still are. I even went through a short cheerleading stage, and what says happiness more than jouncing pom-poms, pigtails that are way too high on one’s head, exuberant clapping, and those remarkably spirited chants? Happiness is great and all, but this is all surface stuff. I never delved deep into the complex question of why this is a passion of mine.

Well, one moderately chilly day in November during my junior year, I was sitting in my psychology class, and my teacher hit me with a piece of advice that I’m sure I’ll never forget. She said, “Dwelling on the low points will only pull you down, but thriving off of highlights will make you soar.” Her insight not only applies in regards to yourself, but it also connects dominantly to when you interact with others. It’s easy for us to become engulfed in competition, but there’s no need to paint your friends as enemies. Embrace the successes of others, and allow them to embrace your success in return! Take interest in the lives of others, and be vulnerable enough to share your life with them.

I woke up on Monday morning to a fit of hullabaloo going on in my hallway. Shouts of excitement filtered through the vents on my dorm room door, and I couldn’t help but see what all the commotion was about. As I surged through the door, I saw a handful of my hallmates lined in the corridor and a brightly colored banner hanging from the dorm doorway that lies diagonally across from me. One individual in particular, Liv, appeared to be overcome by cheerfulness, and the elated expression on her face was enough to inform me that it was Liv’s birthday! Her roommate, Holly, woke up at 5am to decorate the room in celebration of Liv’s special day. Isn’t that so sweet?! College kids never wake up at 5am.

When I was departing for class on Wednesday afternoon, I saw another banner hanging on the door of a different dorm room, and I learned that it was Adrianna’s birthday! I reflected that birthdays are a uniting force, because well, we all have them. Seeing individuals who go above and beyond to rejoice in the special days of others is surprisingly fulfilling, so when the date arrives of your roommate’s birthday, try to wish them a joyful day in a meaningful way. After all, it only happens once a year!

The sign itself