Sunday, December 30, 2012

Making Philanthropy...Fun-lanthropy

Anyone who knows me, and, well, probably people who don’t even know me that well, know I love helping: helping kids, adults, animals, the less fortunate…the list goes on an on.  It’s the reason I docked hundreds of hours in high school at the Humane Society and hosted blood drives, and the reason that I continue my love of helping others even today. 

One of my favorite parts of being both a Levine Scholar as well as being Greek is the ample opportunities I have to help out locally and in the greater Charlotte community as well.  The Levine Scholars Program not only gets involved with James Martin Middle School and Ronald McDonald House, but groups of scholars also organize events on weekends together to help out in various different ways.  As for my Greek organization, Alpha Delta Pi (ADPi), our nationally philanthropy has been Ronald McDonald House since 1979.  To raise money we annually hold barbeques, pie-a-pi (just as it sounds, it’s very messy!), pop tab wars, and other fun events. However, one of the most exciting things is to get involved in other Greek organization’s philanthropies.  It makes raising money and supporting organizations more than just visits and donations, but a big event where you can meet people, a competition (by the way, I’m SUPER competitive…Koehler’s don’t lose), and a fun way to learn about other philanthropies while being involved for a great cause.

Getting pied in the face to raise money for Ronald McDonald House!
One of my talented sisters singing at our annual Boot Scootin' BBQ!
My big sister and I putting on our scary masks and makeup for our Haunted House with Chi Phi Fraternity.
A pageant I competed in last year through Sigma Alpha Epsilon to raise money for their cause, Relay for Life. 
Outside of one of my favorite places in the world, the Ronald McDonald House!

I was fortunate enough to be involved with multiple different events this year, and had a blast with all of them.  The first that Alpha Delta Pi competed in was Watermelon Bust, hosted by Lambda Chi Alpha to raise money and cans for the North American Food Drive.  Normally, as the name suggests, all of the events throughout the day involve watermelon: a watermelon eating contest, a wheelbarrow drive while pushing watermelons, a Miss Watermelon pageant, a watermelon toss…you get the point.  However, due to the competition being held late this year and frosts going rampant through South Carolina…dun dun dun…we had to use PUMPKINS.  Needless to say, it was a lot of fun, and Alpha Delta Pi won first! Whoo!

Alpha Delta Pi winning first at Lambda Chi Alpha's Watermelon Bust whoo hoo!
The winning painted melon (that we called a mini watermelon) I painted! 

Another event I got to participate in was Sigma Phi Epsilon’s “Costume Carve”.  It was right before Halloween, and each team was given a pumpkin that they were able to carve and/or paint. Donations and cans brought to the event were brought to Second Harvest Food Bank.  I loved this event for a few reasons: I love to paint and carve, and not only did ADPi win best pumpkin overall, but a group with some of the other Levine Scholars won a side award as well!  It’s always great to see Greeks mesh with other organizations.

ADPi starting on our winning pumpkin!
Bethany, Chloe, and Anna and their prize winning pumpkin too!

Finally, the most recent event I was involved with was with another Alpha Delta Pi chapter at Chapel Hill.  My big sorority sister's blood sister is the philanthropy chair for ADPi at UNC (so she's like my sorority 'twin'!) and was hosting a huge 5K to benefit the Ronald McDonald House called the Ron-A-Thon.  The run went through campus and had a great turnout, lots of goodies and snacks for the runners, and was a lot of fun.  I'm so happy I got to see how events at other schools are ran and got to help raise money for a place very near and dear to my heart! 
My whole big and little sister and me with the banner advertising the Ron-A-Thon!

From haunted houses, pageants, auctions, competitions and other fundraisers, being at Charlotte, being a Levine Scholar, and being Greek provides ample opportunities for me to continue being involved in my community and with my UNC Charlotte peers!

Elizabeth (and Spike)

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Hi Ya'll!

Hi everyone!

Since this is my first post, I’ll give you a little information about myself! My name is Caroline Brewer and I am from High Point, North Carolina. I am a junior in the Levine Scholars Program and I am 3 semesters (and a few weeks) away from becoming a nurse!  I am a southern girl at heart and I love both my little white poodle and my dalmation mix mutt! I love the fall, not just because it’s my birthday month, but also because of football season, halloween, and the fair. People who know me know I LOVE the fair!!
Yes, I'm barefoot

Nikki, my poodle, and me on Easter Sunday

Since I’m not too far from my home, I wasn’t sure how I was going to like UNC Charlotte, but it is AMAZING! I totally fell in love with the city when I came here as a freshman and my love has only grown since! I love restaurant week because I love food and you can go to some of the best restaurants in Charlotte for cheap! Also, nothing quite beats the Lazy 5 Ranch. It's not exactly in Charlotte but it's close enough and so much fun! There’s nothing like Panthers Sunday in Charlotte, regardless of how they’re playing this season…

So much has happened since my freshman year, but I’ll try to keep things brief. I have made some amazing friends and worked my tail off getting into nursing school. One of the major activities I am involved with in Charlotte is the Ronald McDonald House of Charlotte. Once a month, the Levine program cooks a meal for the families staying in the house. I am responsible for coming up with the menu and many of the other Levine Scholars join me to cook for the families. I absolutely love working in the kitchen (fully stocked by Cuisinart and KitchenAid) and spending time serving the brave families. 


I want to be a nurse and like I said I am so close! I have spent my last few summer experiences working with pregnant women and midwives because that is my passion. This summer, I am planning to spend four weeks in Mongolia working with women there and I cannot wait! It’s so far away and is kinda scary but I’m still every excited for the chance to go all the way around the world!

Life is kind of crazy right now, but I wanted to take time to share my life with ya'll. I hope you have an amazing week!

My momma and me before the Chancellor Dinner

Gotta love Restaurant Week!

                                        Caitlin Vaverek feeding zebras at Lazy 5 Ranch!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Greetings from England!

It's very strange finally being in a place that I have planned towards for so long. But nevertheless, I am finally in England, and I send my greetings to all you good people back home. I hope you all are well. I don't want to make this a long post as I have some things to do, but I do have some pictures to show you that you might be interested in seeing. Things have been going well so far, and I'm getting more situated and comfortable with each passing minute. Everyone I've met has a similar air of culture shock about them as I surely do, but I've been very lucky I think to have met some very mature, kind, intelligent people. So, without further adieu, here are the pictures!

On Monday the sky was blue for a brief moment. I decided to document it as proof that England isn't ALWAYS rainy. I do really enjoy the weather here though, despite the rain.

 This is the main avenue of shopping in the center of town. Those three characters are a few of the International Students that I've met, they are from Austria, Canada, and Ecuador, left to right.

 I just wanted to get a picture of this guy, so I took three.
 Aren't they creepy?

 As it would happen, passing this road on the bus back to campus from town, I snapped a picture. Later yesterday evening I met a student from Germany named Tim, who apparently lives right off this road. Its very strange sometimes the way that things are connected. Watch the movie Jeff, Who Lives at Home if that sort of thing interests you.

There is Tim, who lives in a home off of a street that I took a picture of 4 hours before I met him. And a few other International Students whom I spent the evening with yesterday.

Well, cheers folks!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Reflecting on Life as a Levine Scholar

               My journey began with a love for reading and discovery. As a student having spent most of my life within rural bounds, moving to Charlotte was quite an awakening. It has provided me with innumerable eye-opening experiences to learn about the world in new ways. While I no longer have much time for recreational reading, college has allowed me to learn through reality, offering endless motivation and inspiration. The past few months have been most effective in teaching me what it means to be a Levine Scholar and to learn through experience. The chance to grow through experience is why I chose this scholarship, but I could never have predicted the depth and breadth of the chances I would be given.

Early this summer, I embarked on my first professional experience at Carolinas HealthCare Foundation, sponsored by the Levine Scholars Program. Surrounded by an innovative management staff and daily opportunities to increase my involvement, I was continually blown away by the quality of the internship. The foundation gave me confidence to succeed professionally at a time when it was much needed. I was able to save the foundation money by teaching staff to utilize project management software, weigh in on strategic decisions, design marketing material, and assess multiple initiatives. I was humbled by the talent of my coworkers, but fueled by their support of my ideas and outputs. For anyone living in the Charlotte area, I suggest you look up some of the initiatives that Carolinas HealthCare Foundation champions and get involved. The impact of the organization is far-reaching and very beneficial to the health and wellness of our citizens.
3 days after my time with Carolinas HealthCare was complete, I began working as an intern with Rotary District 7680. My main task was to propose social media strategies to help diversify membership for over 60 clubs in western-central NC. While writing a social media manual for 3,000 Rotarians, I was also able to plan a leadership seminar for high school students. To me, this was invigorating. The beauty of being in college is that no matter what your talents are, there will be countless opportunities to enhance and refine them, usually while forming valuable community relationships simultaneously.
 My most recent adventure was a two week program at the Democratic National Convention. Through a seminar with The Washington Center, I was able to serve as a volunteer with The National Journal and StartUp RockOn. The highlight of my week was helping to coordinate a concert featuring The Roots. My main responsibility was to help ensure that the companies’ parties and events ran smoothly, which was certainly an easy task to enjoy. Perhaps the best thing that came out of being at the convention, though, was seeing my city in its prime. Charlotte came out of its shell and impressed the nation, and it was exhilarating to be right there in the middle of it. While speaking to people from across the country throughout this experience, the pride that I felt when calling myself a Charlottean is indescribable. The seminar that I took part in was another one of the many opportunities that I was referred to by the Levine Scholars Program.

None of these experiences cost me a dime. Through the benevolence of Leon and Sandra Levine and through the open arms of my community, I have been able to see, do, and experience a world of innovation and energy. There is no place that I would rather be, and I am reassured daily about my decision to come here. As a Levine Scholar in Charlotte, you have the opportunity to create whatever future you want, and the resources to make it happen. 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

00101100 (robots will understand this)

What is the student without the classroom? And vice versa, what is the classroom without the student? More importantly, which came first; the student, or the classroom? Or was it the chicken? THE EGG!? If you drop your roommate's favorite coffee mug, shattering it into a million viciously sharp porcelain shards and nobody's around to hear it, did you really break it? These are the heavy hitters, the real tough questions that nobody wants to tackle. The one's nobody wants to even hear asked. The one's nobody has an answer to.

Until literally this very moment.

Yes folks, I am here to banish your fears. I am here to bring the great power of Knowledge down from Mount Olympus and bestow it upon your eager brain muscles. Call me a modern day Prometheus if you like! ("But instead of fire you brought... Knowledge?" You ask "Whatever, just go with it!" I retort). I make no claims to be a god, or a demigod, or even a recent Ridley Scott 2012 box office thriller. No, no claims at all.... However, I do make proclaims! And so I proclaim to you my friends! I proclaim that the student and the classroom cannot exist separately! They must go together, like peanut butter and jelly! Like Sonny & Cher! Like beards and my face! And yes! Yes if you dropped your roommate's favorite coffee mug, the one that his mother got him to fuel his rampant caffeine addiction, the drug which drove him to that frenzied state only achievable by Architecture students, that allowed him to stalk the dark halls of Storr's deep into the night, preying upon any innocent shreds of a social life that might be lurking in secret places, yes you did break it! Even if Mackswell was watching Dr. Who full blast with his ear buds in, and Jordan was eating cottage cheese from a measuring cup in his room and, ruing loudly the day mankind discovered Accounting.... You still broke it!

..... But what if I'm wrong? Now this may be hard to come to terms with, (sorry Evan, I promise I'll replace the mug) but what if my solutions to these mysteries of life, and no doubt the many others that propel mankind along our marathon of existence, may still elude the grasp of even I, the great Ridley Scott 2012 box office thriller! Perhaps I have fooled myself in my quest for All Powerful Knowledge, and I am still suspended in the pool of nothingness, and its liquid continues to permeate my pores, to seep into my being, into my very soul indeed! Perhaps I... I am... nothing.

HAH! You fool! I. AM. EVERYTHING! *thunder!* *explosions!* *maniacal laughter and a general cacophony of apocalypse sounds!*

.... Naah that's not true either. But I'll tell you what: I've been out of school now longer than ever before in my 20 years on this planet. Yep, with all my amigos and amigas going back to the past week, I've just kinda been at home. The reason behind this is I am preparing to journey across the sea in September to begin my year abroad in England and Germany. So since my term doesn't start until October, as I will be placed on a trimester system over there, I won't be going to school for the Fall semester at UNCC. This is something that truly saddens me. I'm leaving a lot of great people, things, opportunities, and one heck of a city behind here. I just keep in mind that the experiences that I'll have abroad will prove to be immensely beneficial to me in my journey through life, and in my quest for All Powerful Knowledge. But for now, I'm just a dude. Just a good dude trying to live his life the way a good dude should. Without school to occupy my mind this next month and a half before I leave, or a proper job either. Having already spent a month in this situation, I've found that it can become a bit of a drag. But I'm not the type that just wants to be dragged along. So I took it upon myself to focus my energy even more than I already have been. And since I figured the "back to school" blogs will be rolling in soon, I just wanted to throw my hat in the ring with this "not back to school" blog.

So in my attempt to continue being productive, here are a few of the things that occupy my time:

The Garden! As you can see, there are three rows of peas doing extremely well. They're pulling my lattice down, so I'll have to go and fix that probably tomorrow. But they're growing so well. My family is going to drown in peas when the harvest comes. In the foreground I tilled up the soil a couple days ago, but the hardware store where we get our seeds was closed the past few days, so I just got them today. Tomorrow I'll probably also plant in three and a half rows of a mix of turnips, kale, and mustard. The poles with strings tied around them are for deer deterrent. We have a pretty rambunctious deer population in the neighborhood, and with no natural predators, they have no qualms about hopping the fence and snackin' on some veggies. I'll probably string up some tin plates over the garden, and get those rags soaked with deer repellent once the plants start leafing up a little bit more. As I type this they're probably gnawing the peas, laughing at me... Those jerks....

Ahhh yes, a well trimmed lawn, and a homemade bench to sit upon. What more could a guy ask for on such a glorious, late summer evening?
 And here is my cat Pounce. Pounce has lived far too long. She's been long overdue for a crushing. That's why I've crushed her in this photograph.... Naaaah! You guys are so easy! I'm just giving her a cat massage (please now leave this site, go to Youtube and paste the following words into the search bar "So Your Cat Wants A Massage?" You will not regret this decision).
 And of course some potted plants to water! For another interactive internet scavenger hunt, and this one is optional, whereas the last one was mandatory. If you still haven't done it, go do it. I won't write anymore until you have....

.... Did you do it?


.... Yeah!? I know it's hilarious right?!

Anyway. Go to this link: and listen to a track by my favorite musician Dave Davison of Maps & Atlases/Cast Spells. Wonderful music hailing from the Windy City. Just press the play button and enjoy!
 And here is a little sample of my most recent hobby, which is carving and woodworking and whatnot. That walkin' stick right there is smooth as silk, it's awesome. And you can't really see the detail, but it looks very nice. I put a golden oak stain on it after I sanded it like crazy. So it has all these really nice, dark wood rings. If you'd like one, let me know! I'm not gonna charge you or anything like that. I'm just happy to have something to do. is my email.
 Ahh yes, and two more cats to hang out with. That's Pounce, Sticky and Domino from front to back. As you can see, these animals go pretty hard. They turn haters into lovers on a daily basis, just like their family taught them. So come on by and give them a cat massage. Except Sticky, he likes to bite. But they're just bites full of love and compassion, I promise. And he'll only do it if you stop scratching his ears.
 And here is one of those random projects that I've just been picking up. Just a bench my grandpa built that I've sanded down, primed, and almost finished painting. Although I think it would look AWESOME with the feet just painted like that and the legs white, am I right or am I right?
 And a favorite pair of pants to sew up, although mom doesn't quite know about this project. Or the rest of the family. They'll probably argue vehemently with me to throw them away. But I am one stubborn individual, and I will bow to nobody!
 And finally, I have my instruments to make beautiful noises with. I'll sit hunched over in that chair playing around with a loop through my guitar, or a tap my feet along with a Celtic jig on my mandolin, or just sing a little song with my banjo, Humphrey Clippings, in accompaniment. I very much enjoy this part of the world.

And not pictured are the many other things that I do to stay busy. I returned to the Habitat ReStore on Wendover today to start a regular routine of morning volunteer hours, which I am very much looking forward to. I try to keep in touch with friends who are living near me, some old, and some new. Since the family all work, I make a point to have dinner ready or close to ready before they come home. With today being an exception, as I was writing this blog for you lovely folks. And I hop on the old bicycle about every other day for a trip around the neighborhood, mixed in with some stretching and core exercises to keep my bones all in line. And sometimes I sleep. But I figure you know what sleeping is.

I am happy for my friends who are starting back at school, and I'm happy for my friends who are starting new jobs and just taking some time off from education. And it's fantastic that I've finally found a way to keep from going stir crazy in my parent's nest. After you stretch out those wings, it's hard to tuck them back in. In general, I'm just glad that the sun is still shining, the world is still turning, and I'm back at it again.

I hope ya'll enjoyed this blog. I look forward to the next time I get to type at you.

P.S. PLEASE don't tell Zeus about the Knowledge.

P.P.S I didn't actually break Evan's coffee mug.

-Jacob "Two Piece" Huffman

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Wait, did I just see Joe Biden in the breakroom?

Well, hello there! It's been a while since I have posted something; I do apologize. Things have been crazy, to say the least, and I've hardly had any time to sit down and pen a nice, solid memoir. What with the conclusion of the semester and that inevitable period of chaos afterwards (you know, the one in which you the hundreds of people in Witherspoon all try to move out during the same three day span), there wasn't particularly anything in my life that I deemed all that remarkable or "blog-worthy."

That period of unremarkable events, though, quickly passed, as now it seems that everything has been happening! And by everything I mean two things: a.) the start of my second summer internship; and b.) Joe. (I'll get to that a little later.)

Now, as you may or may not know, the Levine Scholar's Program expects that its students participate in four unique summer experiences. The first summer (before Freshman year) is, of course, a 25 day course with the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS.) The second summer (before Sophomore year), though, is a bit different.

NOLS Alaska: wonderful, yet not the same as a professional internship. (Unless you consider this to be business casual.)

During a student's second summer in the program, they will intern in a Charlotte-area nonprofit for at least five weeks. The expectation is that, during their respective internships, members of each class of scholars will exercise (and actively experience) community engagement in the nonprofit sector. This summer experience is, in large, modeled after the philanthropy of Mr. and Mrs. Levine, whose donations appear all over Charlotte, NC. Ideally, students will walk away from this experience with a greater sense of belonging in the Charlottean community, as well as greater preparation for a life of civic engagement and service.

With all these expectations in mind, I'll admit that I was a bit nervous when I began researching nonprofits to intern with many, many months ago. I looked in to many different places, and was very excited when I found out that I was accepted as an intern with the education department at the Museum of the New South. This museum is located directly off of seventh street in downtown Charlotte, and is completely immersed in the hustle and bustle of downtown life! And, so far, it's been great!

This is the  Museum of the New South. This is where I work. It's gorgeous. 

Since I started two weeks ago, I've learned a lot and have been given a large (and unexpected) number of responsibilities. I'm working with two other interns—Brittany and Cidney—and we've literally hit the ground running. We've been working on implementing a virtual program series to chronicle the history of the twelve images that adorn the exterior walls of the museum, and we've only hit the metaphorical "tip of the iceberg" of our list of summer assignments. Now if that isn't exciting, then I don't know what is.

Even more exciting is that I am actively participating in an attempt to engender historical dialogue in the Charlottean community. In other words, I'm getting to share my passion for the past (my love of history) with the greater community, extending an invitation for them to discover the intricate history of this region. I get to work every day with people who care about these things as much as I do and who, in their jobs, actually attempt to make Charlotte a better place. But that's not even the best part.

No, no, no, the most memorable (and exciting) experience of my internship thus far involves my "encounter" with Joe.

And by "Joe" I mean Vice President Joe Biden.

That's right. I did say "Joe Biden."

On Thursday, May the 24th at precisely 2:45 pm the Vice President of the United States walked out onto a stage in the atrium of the Museum of the New South (that's where I work, that's where I work, that's where I work!) The Vice President was hosting a private political rally for a  grassroots organization of volunteers that have been actively working to register voters and share the Democratic Party's platform. And he came to my museum! Did I mention that this was a private event, closed to the press and the public? And did I mention I was there?

Being allowed to attend this private rally made me as excited as the free tupperware to-go containers at one of my favorite restaurants, Vapiano, located in downtown Charlotte. Nothing gets better than that. 

But, yes! Joe Biden came to my building. My building! He held a rally, led a speech and thanked volunteers that belonged to the grassroots political organization. In his speech, the Vice President thanked these volunteers and then talked about how essential they are to both his campaign and the American political process, in general. He closed the speech talking about the reasons why he believes his campaign is best and, throughout the forty five or so minutes he spoke, continually thanked his supporters. It was a humbling experience to be in the room, especially as I wasn't affiliated with the volunteer groups which he was addressing. I hadn't volunteered with any political campaign and hadn't gone door to door registering voters. As such, I was honored to have been allowed to attend and thrilled to be there!

Here are the other interns and I. From left to right, we have Brittany, yours truly and Cidney.

While being twenty feet away from the Vice President speaking is obviously an exciting occasion, I would hesitate to say that that was the most memorable aspect of this typically once-in-a-lifetime event. In fact, I found the week leading up to the Vice President's arrival to be by far the most interesting aspect of this experience. To explain, I'll need to offer a brief overview of my week.

That's me. And that's Biden in the background. You know, just another day at work. Just the typical 9 to 5...

To understand the scale of this event, let me first restate that this was my first week on the job. On Monday, May the 21st I started my internship at the Museum of the New South. As expected, the first day didn't involve much actual work—I went through orientation with the other two interns and was driving away from downtown by 1:30 in the afternoon. On Tuesday, I was informed by Janeen, my supervisor (and the Vice President of Education) that the Vice President would be coming that Thursday to deliver a speech at a political event. Well, I was surprised. Pleasantly surprised.

It turns out that earlier the Secret Service had swept the building, deeming it appropriate for the Vice President. They arranged to use the space but originally, none of the museum staff—myself included—had expected to attend. We had been informed by the Secret Service that, by noon on the day of Biden's arrival, we were to have "evacuated the building." (That is most intimidating way possible to state "please take off work early.") All of the staff was a bit taken aback, but that was mostly due to the very intimidating nature of Secret Service agents. (Yes, many of them were as scary as you would imagine.) Many of us were a little disappointed, but the fact that the Vice President was displacing us from our workplace was still something to celebrate. And, honestly, how often can a fellow say that on the fourth day of his new job he was sent home early due to the second most powerful man in the nation?

Here's Biden and some of the guests at the private... ahem, private political rally.

The next day, though, I received an email that gave cause for celebration! The Secret Service had granted the entire staff permission to attend the rally (I assume after an extensive background check,) provided that we promptly inform the powers that be. (In other words, we just had to RSVP.)
... And a close up!

So of course I RSVP'ed, allowing me to have the privilege of placing my arm around the Vice President of the United States of America. (See above image.) He was a very nice person and, much to my surprise, took photos with the crowd for at least half an hour after the rally. He seemed very down to earth, despite his entourage of half a dozen aides, Secret Service agents and other assorted personnel. I'll be honest: there were times when I was waiting to see the Vice President that everything just seemed so surreal. There I was, standing shoulder to shoulder with over 200 people, less than ten feet from the Vice President of the United States. It was hard to believe that everything was actually happening; I kept thinking: "pinch me, I must be dreaming."

The whole experience was just remarkable and I have never felt more politically empowered. (I've also never felt more secure—between the police helicopters buzzing over the museum, the bomb squad dogs and the many armed federal officials, I've never felt more secure in my entire life.) While I won't specify my political beliefs, I will say that the chance to attend this rally was a wonderful glimpse into the American political system. It was exhilarating. I

And if that was only on the fourth day of my internship, imagine what I'll be doing seven weeks later. Or even eight. The prospects are amazing and I am very, very excited.