Active Minds Engages in National Day without Stigma



Photo Provided Courtesy of the Active Minds Website

One in four students has a mental disorder, but it is not always visible. According to Active Minds, a nonprofit that educates students on mental health, most college level students across the nation are not aware of this fact.

Active Minds was created in 2003. Maggie Bertram, Active Minds manager for Student Lead Initiatives, says the organization has a distinct mission: “To help college students use their voice and change the conversation about mental health into something positive.”

This year, October 9 recognized the National Day without Stigma. This is a special day that promotes tolerance and addresses various stigmas associated with mental illness during Mental Health Awareness Week. The week is usually observed during the first full week of October, and Day without Stigma held on a Monday or Tuesday of that week.

The national movement dates back to 2007 and has been a staple in the Active Minds Organization ever since. They have been expanding and offer many ways for everyone interested to get involved.

“There are currently 369 Active Minds chapters on college campuses across the country,” said Bertram.

On Hofstra’s campus students such as Tracy Smith participate within the countrywide initiative. “It’s good to look at mental illnesses from a personal point of view,” said Smith. As president of the Active Minds Hofstra chapter, Smith has personal ties of her own to this issue.

“I got involved because I have a lot of close friends and family members who suffer from mental illnesses,” she said.

These close connections are not uncommon among activists; there is a popular event held by the various Active Minds chapters across America known as Stomp Out Stigma. During this event, those who understand the detrimental effects of stigmatizing those with a mental disorder unify to stomp on bubble wrap illustrated with “hurtful” descriptions such as “wacko” or “crazy.”

The Active Minds Hofstra chapter is taking a different approach this year with Mindfulness Meditation, an event held to remind those in attendance that everyone has mental health, as one of the blockades to that among college students is stress.

This news was exciting to the parent chapter of Active Minds, especially for Bertram.

“It speaks very clearly to our mission,” she said. “It is also the first day of the year we can unite all of our chapters across the country. Now, with our Facebook page, we create many relationships surrounding Mental Health Awareness Week. It’s really special.”

My Experiences as a 2012 Presidential Debate Volunteer

 Published on the Mineola Patch Webs
As a 2012 Presidential Debate Volunteer at Hofstra University, the only thing I really should say is that “I’m really happy that the debate is coming to Hofstra and I’m grateful to have the opportunity to work for the event.”
This is how we (as volunteers) had been told to respond to any possible questions asked of us by media.
During the very first training session, we were given a rather motivating speech. Things such as the selectiveness of the volunteer choosing process and the various celebrities and media personnel that would be on campus were discussed.
A hush fell over the room; I’m pretty sure I can speak for all of the volunteers in that room in saying the level of excitement we had was unfathomable.
The feeling turned into awe when we were told how discreet we would all have to be until the debate was over. We were told not to say anything about our duties, give hints about where we are, or post pictures of our credentials (for fear they could be copied) and locations until the end of the debate. We were even told not to express any partisan beliefs because the school must remain “unbiased to a particular candidate.”
As a student to be present on campus during the same time as the President of America, I will say this: Hofstra has in one day completely transformed from a school, to a media magnet. From the perspective of someone able to see into the arena where the debate has taken place as well as have complete as access to media outlets; it was hectic to say the least.


Every news source from MSNBC to ABC to CBS has trucks and stages stationed around campus, even though they also have nice accommodations in a portion of the university known as the “Media Filing Center.”

The media were not the only people on campus in the days leading up to the debate; members of President Obama’s secret service could also be seen lurking in the shadows. The same day they came around, I was told to pick up both my volunteer and secret service credentials. This was a must; anyone without both of these would not have access to spots on campus as Hofstra went into lockdown on October 15 at 3 p.m.

This made it particularly hard for students – myself included – participatingDemocracy in Performance. My mom was planning to come to see me perform, but nonresidents were not allowed in residents’ halls between 3 p.m. on October 14, until after the debate takes place.

However, it is not a bad thing. These may seem like negatives, but there is a certain sense of adrenaline that comes with the commotion on campus. There are many positive things that go along with my duties, like being featured on ABC and CBS (courtesy of the volunteer committee) and being able to shadow members of the media the night of the debate.

Most people think volunteers get into the debate hall, but that is not the case. Only 200 lucky students get to attend, and they are selected completely by random. However, the volunteers get to do work behind-the-scenes and experience things students otherwise would not. I am ecstatic to be a part of this once in a lifetime chance.

Thank you Hofstra University, and all of the people that made the exciting events this month possible!

Mineola Fire Department Ex-Captain Receives 2012 Firematic Award



Published on The Mineola Patch Website

The Town of Hempstead honored 25 firefighters from several of its villages, including Rockville Centre, Wantagh, Levittown and Mineola at its annual firematic award ceremony on October 18 at the town hall.

While some of the firefighters received the award for rescues and deeds while on the job, Mineola ex-Captain Joseph Tartaglia Jr. received the 2012 award as a salute to his many years of service to the department – 43 years to be exact.

Nearly every member of the Mineola Fire Department was present at the evening’s award ceremony, honoring the achievement of the former captain.

Tartaglia said that winning the award had been the “third greatest night” of his life, coming only after his marriage to wife Annie Tartaglia and the day he joined the fire department of Mineola.

“It went by in the blink of an eye,” Tartaglia said recounting his 43 years with his fellow firefighters.

Known as the “Mineola Fire Department’s Go-to Guy,” Tartaglia is regarded as a shaper of young talent, including the current Chief, Joseph Pratt.

“Joe has always been someone I looked up to when I first joined the department,” Pratt said, focusing on the comradely of the Tartaglias and the department as a whole. “I could always count on him to be there. I’ve been very lucky to have both Joe and Annie as a part of our family.”

From the very beginning of his career, Tartaglia served as an example for future emergency responders by as the warden, trustee, and line officer for the Mineola Fire Department. His willingness to go above and beyond his responsibilities in each position allowed for his promotion to captain.

“I had great mentors when I was a ‘proby’ – new to the field,” Tartaglia said. “Now it is my turn to be a mentor to the guys that come after me.”

A Past Encounter: Q&A with Dr. Cornel West



Two weeks prior to hosting Presidential Debate 2012, Hofstra has had the honor of welcoming Dr. Cornel West to the campus. One of the more popular pre-debate keynote speaker events (along with Chris Matthews, Van Jones, and the Rove-Gibbs debate), West was gracious and forthcoming in his address to the public. Even more memorable was his snap decision to remain on campus for the Denver presidential debate and view it with Hofstra students.

A lot of powerful things were said that evening, and I had the humbling experience of speaking with him briefly. Here is what he had to say:

JMR: Hi Dr. West, first I would like to thank you for speaking at Hofstra and for your truly inspirational words. Earlier, you mentioned white supremacy, its existence in human beings and how it results in low self-esteem in blacks and other minorities. What advice do you have for those people and what do you think the steps are to realizing one’s self worth?

CW: First, the most important step is to realize that white supremacy is a vicious lie. Once you’ve done that, it’s about extracting it from the soul; it’s been beaten into us so long. It is something we all have to struggle with daily, myself included. This is worth mentioning because racism is not gone by any means- people are just less racist than their ancestors. But overall, just keep track of the love. You have love for yourself enough and white supremacy will have no place.


“Golden Age” Artists Foster Creativity in Mineola

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Members of Mineola’s “Golden Age” club have taken over the Mineola Memorial Library art exhibition during the month October, showcasing their artwork after laboring every Thursday night since 2009.

Under the caring instruction of instructor Eleni Day Pitzel, the senior students have in different ways “learned deeper concentration, more relaxation, and tremendous gratification,” recounted program participant Michael Vezzi.

Within the Mineola community, the Golden Age Club exists for members who have reached the age of 60. The group offers many opportunities and activities for its participants to engage with one another and inspire the surrounding neighborhoods. The art classes offered at the library are open to all members within the local organization.

Golden Age gallery artists Marie Benante, Ann and Herb Sehmelke, Michael Vezzi, Mary Guarino and Frank Maltese, Lillian Barnola, Anna Claus, Virginia Leonard, Marianne Zahn, Barbara Kolsen, Arline Cavanaugh and Anna Catalano all began their journeys as artists at very separate times. However, coming together every week to create a piece is an event to “look forward to,” as Ann Sehmelke said.

Creativity is key to achieving the relaxing aspect the artists claim the program possesses. Many of the art students are first time artists, lacking basic experience upon attending their first class session. After working strictly “paint by numbers,” Frank Maltese learned that “you can’t be too critical of yourself. You really surprise yourself with what you can do.”

"Golden Age" Artists Foster Creativity in Mineola-0

The main consensus among the group was their appreciation for Pitzel, singing her praises and a few going so far as to say they refrained from quitting art instruction because of her abilities.

Mary Guarino, who is heavily involved in the program, is one of them. She was originally “did not want to get involved with art” and was going to quit but when Pitzel “encouraged her to continue,” she stayed.

"Golden Age" Artists Foster Creativity in Mineola-6

Self-taught since beginning in her early twenties, Pitzel had no teaching experience prior to teaching the members of the club. She had experienced personal success with solo art exhibits at the Downtown Association and being commissioned to do projects by “word of mouth,” which led her to teach at the Mineola Library.

Working completely free of charge on most projects, Pitzel has busied herself with many nonprofit organizations. She is currently selling personally decorated t-shirts to donate money for the Winthrop Organization in addition to helping her Golden Age students/peers.

“I have a gift, nobody taught me,” she said. “I have a beautiful gift, and so teaching people is better than money. I don’t let people give up. Art is in their soul, it’s in all of us.”


Blood Drive Inspires Mineola Community to Give More



Published on the Mineola Patch Website

Over 21 pints of blood were donated at the Mineola Memorial Library Wednesday afternoon as part of the New York Blood Center’s seasonal blood drive with all of the donations coming off of only 17 needles that had entered the arms of community members.

Several of the donors were inclined to give two pints; a couple of them belonging to a group known as the “Gallon Club,” which denotes status upon donating a gallon of blood over a period of time.

“Gallon Club” member and universal donor David Lopez had made his 12th contribution Wednesday. His O-positive blood type makes him prone to “regular calls from the blood center prior to each drive,” he said.

Steven O’Neil was a different story: as a more seasoned member of the “Gallon Club,” he takes pride in giving blood eight times a year, though it had been his first donation in Mineola.

After the trial of her husband suffering from brain cancer, Annette Carbone (recently retired) was determined to give back to the local blood center’s cause.

“Unfortunately, I’m not 110 pounds like I need to be in order to donate,” she said. “I’m only 108 pounds… But I still wanted to help out.”

Carbone found her own way to give back to the cause, serving as a nourishment volunteer for those who have recently just given blood themselves.

“Professional volunteers are very important,” Lead Donor Specialist Bruce Doncaster said. “It’s nice dealing with a healthy public instead of in a hospital where most are sick. The donors are nice, altruistic and are giving for a good cause.”

The demand for blood increases by 9 percent each year due to developing technology and surgeries, one of the driving reasons the New York Blood Center goes to great lengths to publicize their drives.

“We always try to collect more blood, but it’s never enough,” Doncaster said, warning that “you might not be dying to give blood, but someday you might be dying to get it.”

Storytelling is a way to capture the fleeting moments on this ever-changing creature we call Earth.