NIU Success

Posted: October 19, 2014 in NLA Posts

As I’m applying for graduate school, I’ve had to do a decent amount of self-reflection and introspection upon my success and failures during these past four years of college.

For me, one of the most defining experiences I’ve had was my trip to Give Kids the World during the spring break of my freshman year. It was a trip sponsored by the Huskie Alternative Breaks program, which at the time was referred to as Alternative Spring Break or ASB.  For the week, we flew out to Florida and worked with terminally-ill children and their families. It was an eye-opening experience in a lot of ways.

To start, many of us volunteers had to confront and face a lot of issues that we were able to escape when we were tied up in our college world. We were confronted with the truth that these children’s conditions would not alleviate. For many of us, including myself, it brought back memories of our own loved one’s struggles and journey through cancer or other chronic conditions. I went on the trip to give back in honor of my cousin who passed away from Leukemia when we were both teenagers. We had both wanted to attend NIU and I sometimes think what could have been as I walk through campus. I guess I went on the trip looking for solace. But instead the trip solidified my desire to become and occupational therapist.

At the location I worked as a lifeguard, carousel operator, side walker for hippo therapy and food runner. It may seem like less-than-glamorous jobs. But all of the families were beyond grateful for our help. One of the children had the same name as me and throughout the whole week his father would approach me and ask me how my day was. Another time, I was able to help a family in their native Spanish. It was all of these meaningful experiences and occurrences that helped soothe their suffering. The gratefulness and momentary peace were evident on the faces of the families. But being able to help people achieve their goals, many times referred to as meaningful occupations in the therapy world, was what I knew I wanted to do going forth.

We stayed in a (I’ll just say) interesting hostel during that time. I’m positive some of the people were permanent residents of the hostel. We had no functioning toilet or air conditioning for that matter. We may have also survived off of pop tarts and bagels. But, amid the murals of Buddha and Jimmy Hendrix, we developed strong friendships and unforgettable memories. In fact, two of the participants on the trip are my current roommates. More so, we had a four-legged resident named Ming Ling. She was a permanent pug resident that I would sometimes take on walks. But this pug has turned into an inside, well pervasive is a better word, joke among anyone I come in contact with.

As I stated, this experience solidified my desire to pursue occupational therapy. This was an unbelievable experience that pushed me out of my comfort zone and helped set a positive tone to my academic career. From there, I obtained leadership positions, which then propelled me onto a University Honors Fellow and a NLA. As the path continued, I’m now a committee head for NLA and the Lead University Honors Fellow. I’ve been a tutor, a volunteer translator, coordinated monthly service projects and worked as a mentor. But, all of this is due to the help of the people that surround me.

There are so many people to thank for my future success. I’ve had countless mentors and guides that have helped me: professors, administrators, staff, and fellow students. Even whole offices like the University Honors Program, OSEEL and OSAS have helped me become a better, more complete student. But no one has been more powerful to my success than my cousin, Anthony, and all those families that helped me clarify my goals.

It’s my goal to blog a couple of times a week about college success. This way, I hope whoever reads this will be able to benefit in some small way.

Thank you!


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NIU Round 4

Posted: August 29, 2014 in NLA Posts

Hi everyone!

With Welcome Week winding down, I hope that (if you are on campus) that you have settled in and enjoyed your first week back at NIU! This is my last year of my undergraduate degree and also my second time for being an NLA. I’m truly grateful for to participate in this program again and to also meet new NLA’s. 

Currently my classes are all major-specific and clinically based. So, for me, I’m excited to start creating that clinical base of knowledge before I begin graduate school. While the idea of graduate school is exciting, I’ll feel relaxed when the application process is over. I feel that not only the learning in the classroom, but the learning outside of the classroom has truly helped prepare me for life outside of an academic setting and/or at graduate school. 

This year, I’m continuing to work on my research project which is a literature review and curriculum development on mindfulness and how it reduces burnout among health care students and practitioners. In additions, I have continued my role as a University Honors Fellow and I am a part of the First-Year Comp Program as a Peer Advocate. This program pairs a more seasoned NIU student into an English 103 classroom. There, our roles are to act as mentors to the students, to help direct them to resources, and help them transition to college life. This program started just last year, so it is still in it’s early phases. But, I’m excited to be participating in this program, especially because I wish the program existed when I took those classes. 

As an NLA, I’m most looking forward to two things. I’m excited to see how NLA is growing and expanding, which it already has since I started last year. We recently had dinner at President Baker and First Lady Dr. Dana Stover’s house! It was a great experience, and something I never thought would happen during my time at NIU, especially with the large student body we have. As well, I am look forward to the work of our committee. I am the head of our Community Outreach Committee, which is a brand-new committee this year. Our committee is dedicated to service and helping the community in that capacity. I’m excited for our committee to help shape and define what we do for future NLA’s.

The NLA program provides an experience that no other student at NIU can quite really receive. We represent our colleges, and our voices are heard by prominent administrators within Northern Illinois University. In that same vein, we are able to network with alumni and help build our professional skills. NLA has truly helped me to become a more confident, and all-around better public speaker. I still have a way to go, but I feel more comfortable talking in a group of people. On top of all of that, NLA’s are the first students to initiate change within our community and what we do is used as examples/models for other students. Based on all of those things, NLA is a program that I would not to give up. So, I reapplied and thankfully I was accepted!

Thank you for reading this post and Go Huskies!



Randomly Kind

Posted: February 2, 2014 in NLA Posts

There is a quote by William Becker that states, “Your greatness is measured by your kindness; your education and intellect by your modesty; your ignorance is betrayed by your suspicions and prejudices, and your real caliber is measured by the consideration and tolerance you have for others.”

In many ways every part of the quote has to do with the college experience and what we should strive to learn and achieve while we are at college. However, during the I Heart NIU Campaign and with Valentine’s Day around the corner, it is easy to lose sight of those random acts of kindness that increase happiness.

Personally, I know that I get caught up with school, work, homework, and all the other things that take precedence in my college life. Sometimes I can get side tracked. I think that to make an impact or help someone I need to do big things. Rather, it’s simple random acts of kindness like holding a door, listening to a friend in need, a hug , that truly make an impact.

I try to do random acts of kindness like the ones mentioned above. Paying someone a compliment, a smile, or giving my friend money for the vending machine. Yet, I remember more the random acts of kindness that have been paid to me. Friends have bought me dinner, cheered me up, have given me compliments, tutored me.

One experience that I have had at NIU has made an unforgettable mark on me. My freshman year I participated on a Huskie Alternative Breaks trip to Florida. At this location we worked with terminally ill children at Give Kids the World. At this location children and their families received  free week trip, stayed in a bungalow style home, played at Give Kids the World and saw other tourist locations for free. At this location I worked as a food server, lifeguard, carousel operator. To me, not the most amazing type of volunteering activities. Yet, constantly parents would come up to me and the other volunteers and thank us for small things. For giving their child extra food, picking up a dropped toy, just small random things that I definitely overlooked. However, these parents never overlooked these acts of kindness.

It’s true that the smallest acts of kindness can have the biggest effects on another.

I heart NIU for a number of different reasons. There is no other place quite like NIU. The campus, professors and people have helped to guide and shape me. If I asked myself why I loved NIU when I was a freshman, my answers may have been cliched or banal. However, as a junior I have come to realize (and I’m positive I will not fully realize it until after I graduate) the small reasons why I heart NIU.

I heart NIU for the beauty of it’s campus. In many ways we are able to see both the past and future on campus. The past, with the old dorms and buildings that harken back to NIU’s exclusive teaching days. Then, we have modern buildings like Barsema hall that give the campus a fresh perspective. Yet, the best parts of NIU’s campus are dotted all around it: the cherry blossom tree outside of Gabel, the observatory, the bike path that wraps around the back of Anderson parking lot.

I heart NIU for the opportunities that are a singular characteristic of NIU. This is the only place (at least that I can think of) where I can interact with alumni, work on research, learn about lifespan development and then eat at Chipotle within a matter of hours. Most, if not all, of my friends at other colleges cannot participate in undergraduate research. This year I have been privileged to obtain an undergraduate research position. At NIU my voice is heard and respected by those who have high positions. At NIU I can turn my ideas into a reality.

I heart NIU for SOUPer Wednesday. One of my jobs at University Honors is to coordinated SOUPer Wednesday. Luckily for me, it combines my two favorite things: food and people.

I heart NIU for the “families” I’ve created on campus. Both NLA and honors provide me with that group on campus that many people do not receive at other colleges. I’m grateful to be a part of these great organizations and surrounded by the staff and students that make it possible.

Even more, I heart NIU for: the football games, driving golf carts, Lukulo’s, Birthday Boxes, the squirrels and all the other tiny things that no one knows about unless they attend this University.

It’s my hope that the I heart NIU campaign will be able to change perceptions and truly show people that our campus and everything contained inside of it, is wonderful.

With Huksie Pride,


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Image  —  Posted: February 2, 2014 in NLA Posts

Engaged Learning

Posted: October 22, 2013 in NLA Posts

Hi Blog Readers!

So, this year I decided to become a mentor to underclassmen. It is a program run through the University Honors Program that our very own NLA’s, Lauren Nale and Luis Lopez, coordinate!

I originally chose to do this program because I have a faculty member, Dr. Sonya Armstrong, who was and continues to be instrumental to my success at NIU. When I first started college, it was Dr. Armstrong that encouraged me and directed me to different resources to become engaged on campus. More so, I was able to obtain a job through our mentorship. Due to my positive experiences, I wanted to give back to other students who may be in the same circumstances that I faced-overwhelmed and confused about all of the different opportunities on campus. I am grateful that I decided to join this program and not only have I been able to give back to younger students, but I have developed friendships and learned new leadership skills as a result.

As well, I recently volunteered for the Social Justice Conference. Simply put, it was an amazing experience. Even more, it was encouraging to see the unity that this campus has over a common cause. I hope that more conferences on different themes continue to come up throughout the school year.

Besides that, I continue to stay involved on campus and recently became a part of the Student Advisory Council for the AHCD department in the College of Health and Human Sciences. As NLA’s it seems that we have a hard time reconciling our duties to our committees and those to our respective colleges. I feel like this is a good opportunity to reconcile those differences.

That’s about all I have going on right now. Thank you again!

With Huskie Pride,


The First Few Weeks

Posted: September 13, 2013 in NLA Posts

Hello Blog Readers!

I hope that you have had a good first few weeks of classes! Currently, I am enrolled in mostly my major courses (AHRS), so it is exciting to finally dive-in and start becoming more involved with my major. The only downside is that I have what seems like an endless amount of reading to do for my classes.

Three of the five classes require me to do interviews as a part of my grade. The interviews mostly consist of interviewing rehabilitation professionals and those with disabilities. Besides that, my classes are generally like all other classes.

During this week we had a fundraiser for the Birthday Boxes Program through the University Honors Program. We served the customers for three hours and some of the proceeds were donated to the program. As well, a lot of the NLA’s came out to the event to show their support!

So, my first few weeks of school have been good. I am excited for our first home game, which is only a little over a week away!

With Huskie Pride,

Jarrett Wolske



The NLA Life

Posted: August 27, 2013 in NLA Posts

Hello fellow blog readers!

My name is Jarrett and I am a pre-Occupational Therapy major in the College of Health and Human Sciences. I am a part of the Communications/First-Year Experiences Committee.
I’m from a suburban town in the North West suburbs in Illinois. I have a small immediate family, with a large extended family. I was lucky to have many of my family members live in the same town as me as I was growing up. My grandparents on my Mom’s side are immigrants from a small village in Southern Italy. On the other hand, my Dad was the fourth generation in his family to be born in our hometown, making me the fifth on his side. In addition, I grew up with a Cuban grandmother, although related to us through marriage and not by blood. I have been lucky to grow up with multiple traditions, cultures and languages surrounding me.
I chose NIU for a couple of reasons. First, my uncle and both of my cousins are alumni from Northern, so that is what originally peaked my interest in the university. As well, it was close to home and offered a good, affordable education. However, the most important reason for why I chose NIU was the University Honors Program. It provided me with a community on campus, a group of like-minded friends and a support system of faculty and staff.
Through the University Honors Program, I became more involved on campus and I learned about the Office of Student Engagement and Experiential Learning. From there, I applied to be an NLA. I chose to be an NLA so that I could take on a greater leadership role at NIU and to also spread more awareness and create more events for the College of Health and Human Sciences.
In all, this year I am looking forward to becoming more involved with OSEEL and, as I mentioned, to plan events for my college. I’m excited to see where this school year will take me.
With Huskie Pride,