A Penny in the College Bank

During a family reunion, a guest mentioned that he was glad that he was starting the Florida college preplan. When I pointed out the possibility of one of his daughters wanting to go out of state, he scuffed at the idea. It made me wonder whether or not the idea of paying for college early by the use of state-program, perhaps to avoid rise in costs, was worth the potential yearning for that same child to follow their own path and choose a school which does not meet the plan’s criteria.
After reading an article by a contributor from USA Today, the pre-paid college mold is not one that fits all. It is beneficial in some circumstances. While the cost to attend may rise every year, the money put forth today can at least cover the price of future credits. Also, despite Florida’s preplan only covering public universities and community colleges, it can also be applied to cover the average in-state public tuition cost towards a private school or one that is located out of the state. No matter what, the money that you put in you will get back in full. Florida, Massachusetts, and Washington are among only a handful of states that guarantee a pay in difference incase the universities that the plan does cover raise their prices. For the people investing in these plans, it is a stress-free scenario. There is no worry based on the fluctuations of stock markets effecting the funds that are being saved.
For those doubters who, while they still like a sense of security, want more options, programs such as the 529 Plans, make the process more flexible on a 360 degree angle. For the most part, there are various payment plans and a more varied selection of top-ranking colleges. Rather than the student being forced to stay in-state, the 529 Plans works to include private colleges and universities across the nation. Among the most part, these colleges are diversified enough to include a range of schools from some of the Ivy Leagues to consortiums. Other than more options to choose from, there exists no age limit as to when a child must be signed up for the program. Also, if when college season comes around, the money is used towards all of the school’s expenses then there is a levy on taxes. Cons to this program exist in that the worth of the savings may fluctuate. As opposed to the Florida preplan or other state-exclusive programs, the 529 Plans is based on the current state of that market. The money is invested into stocks and bonds.
As Joe Hurley, the founder of SavingforCollege.com has said in the Seattle Times, it is impossible to buy future tuition at today’s prices through state-saving funds such as Florida preplan, instead it is purchasing the tuition at its premium. While the 529 Plans may not be a concrete path, it does allow room for more options and possibilities. However, just as it was insinuated that a child’s caretakers should know best for their children, it is important that every family makes a decision as to what is right for them.

Prompt: In a poem describe a child inserting their opinion in an adult’s conversation.


Summer Love

As the school year in Florida is coming to an end, the inevitable conversation of the standstill argument entered the classrooms. Should the academic year be longer? While the thought of projects and math problems daunted some, others preferred a cool classroom as opposed to the humid, apathetic days that summer presented.
One student commented, “I rather get more classes done. Get closer to college.”
In other places in the United States, such as in San Diego, California this debate has ended in a conclusion. Some schools actually perform during a full-year, while others work at the traditional pace. According to an article in the Huffington Post a sociologist from Ohio State University finds that the performance between the students from one school compared to the other, doesn’t differ. Then why should the academic year be extended?
The main focus would be on students living in run-down communities or due to poor financial circumstance can’t afford any educational enrichment project that would further their knowledge. This would help maintain students across the board at the same level. Finally, students who are not as wealthy as their classmates can still retain as much information and become as academically appealing. With the extension, it would also be a relief on single-parent families. Rather than hunt for any random activity for a child to do or dump them at home, they could be in the classroom further expanding their studies.
On a global level, the year-round calendar may sound more appealing. According to a CNN article featuring Jennifer Davis, the president of the National Center on Time and Learning, she says that with higher test scores students can claim a position beside other competing foreign students. Countries such as Asia and Europe have students who are achieving higher in science and math. This brings up the question whether if time is the only matter playing a crucial role in the equation.
Perhaps as far as Florida is concerned, the first important step is to take care of teachers and the quality of their teaching before expanding the academic year. If a low standard of education is presented in the classroom from August to May, the idea of expanding that into the summer would be a waste of time on both parts. First, schools in Florida should take care of middle-ground benefits and wages, that not only compete with other states but also motivate teachers to perform better. Secondly, new methods of teaching and critical thinking should be brought into humdrum atmospheres to shed light on what a learning experience is meant to be. Then, as most students would agree, the treasured summers may be up for discussion.

Prompt: Write a prose piece of a character shedding light on a debatable subject.

Letter of Apology

After the scandal regarding Jay-Z and Beyonce visiting Cuba for their fifth wedding anniversary, it was impressive the letter that Phil Lord, Hollywood director of movies such as 21 Jump Street, published in the Huffington Post. It brought up an awareness of the current situation in the tropical island while reprimanding the two celebrities’ actions. While Jay-Z and Beyonce hide under the protection of the Treasury Department and their excuse that they did have permission, it still does not answer why they would want to visit a Communist country which has unresolved issues with the United States. No matter their reason, it makes audiences all around the world perplexed as to why other musicians such as Pitbull are pardoning the visit.
No matter the social status, people should be aware of the current situation. They should understand that, as Lord mentioned in his letter, any money which is regulated into the country goes back out as a way to control its’ citizens. Those that do visit should strictly go for personal matters, such as visitations with family. Other wise, money and time which is spent on the island is used by the government as propaganda to enforce their regime.
Other than visiting the country for humanitarian work or visits with family on the island, those who have spent time on the tropical island to relax and explore should own up to an apology. In Cuba thousands of “criminals” are thrown into already crowded prisons, prisons which are filled with those fighting for their freedom and for their country which they can barely recognize. While celebrities such as Jay-Z, Beyonce and Pitbull condone a few hours spent on Playa Giron or Varadero they should stand by their lyrics of strength and standing up for what’s right instead of bluff. With an apology, they can recognize their own faults and move on. They can show that even multi-million dollar rappers make mistakes. They can teach the world a lesson in humility.
After more than 20 million Cubans left behind their home in the eras of the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, it would be a shame for humanity to disregard the struggles of a country still shattered under an unjust government.

Academic Balance Beam

A few years ago, I had written an article questioning the worth of a liberal arts education. I had wondered where students’ job prospects lied after graduating with a degree in French or History. However, after growing as a person and encountering that the most well rounded people came from a liberal arts background, my breadth of understanding what a true education is all about expanded.
The statistics four years ago could have scared any scholar into jumping to a vocational school. Let’s be realistic, job opportunities were scarce and the only stable market consisted of those in the medical field. Now, with work opportunities stabilizing all across the board, technology no longer runs a company down the drain. People have learned how to use it as a tool rather than cower beneath it. Now, with this adaption society can return to the sustenance of what manifests life. As James O. Freedman was quoted in saying in The New York Times, “Liberal education opens our eyes…it’s about understanding yourself and having some resources to deal with everything life throws at you.” The former Dartmouth president speaks to the equal sentiment shared in articles written in the Huffington Post and Newsday.
While there is neither specific determinant nor formula as to what would be the perfect choice of college or university for a high school graduate, it is important that other than following their instincts and cost vs. benefit, there should never be a ruling out of a certain area of schools such as those in the liberal arts league. Various alumnae ranging from Hilary Clinton, Martha Stewart, Bob Woodruff and Bradley Whitford amongst others have shown that in various fields how their Political Science or English degree proved to useful.
Not only does a liberal arts education supplement the critical thinking skills required in any field, but it also helps stimulate interest and participate in learning about the world one lives in.

Facing the Facts

David Smiley took the initiative to answer my question. He is a reporter from the Miami Herald who joined the ranks of other respectable reporters and co-anchors from Univision, Channel 10 News and Telemundo. There was a pause before he answered, “With the increasing competition [that is in the field of journalism], do you agree that some journalists exaggerate the news to appeal to a wider audience? And have any of you taken part in it?”
Smiley said that it was at times difficult to separate your own personal views on a topic you feel passionate about. At the moment, he could not pinpoint a certain story he wrote to prove his point, he did admit that at times even he has been accused of exaggerating the details of a story. While he candidly looked me in the eye, he said it was never to get more attention for the newspaper. At that point Helen Aguirre Ferre took to the microphone and added that with certain stories that a journalist feels passionate about it is almost impossible to pick out lines that are of personal opinion, because it is so infused into the story. While reporters like her rarely get to cover those stories, she explained to the audience that there was a market for that. However, she continued, it was difficult to be in that specialty and not get criticized or judged for what you say.
After the forum something that was pointed out, stuck in my mind. Other than networks such as CNN that feature Piers Morgan, there are rarely local networks that pay a journalist to give their opinion. If anything, they host a debate amongst two differing parties and at times, when it gets to matters of the heart such as Smiley said, they might interject a bit of their opinion.
It is evident as to why probably 90% of journalists are not paid to give their personal take on the matter. Many could be corrupted and paid under the table by monopolies that want their ideals sold to the public. Others could have the freedom of barely scratching the subject and being as bias as possible. However, at times it is vital to hear another’s point of view. Just as Piers Morgan educates himself on a matter and presents it to the public and hosting debates – he still manages to be respectful while still showing as to which side he leans more towards. While in the wrong hands this can corrupt a nation, at certain times – especially with local news – it is necessary to not just host a debate but to play devil’s advocate and ask the hard questions.
One inquiry that all the journalists were asking the audience was how the networks should reinvent the news to rake in more ratings. Many suggested finding a way to reach the youth through Twitter and Facebook, but perhaps with reporters that feel as passionate about all matters and ask as much of a piercing question towards changing regulations to a school’s dismissal hour as to a presidential Q and A the local news can possibly finally share as much limelight as the large networks.

Prompt: In a short story of no more than 650 words, tell of a character who approaches a story with minimal importance nationally with as much weight as one that did.

Religious Renovations

With Pope Francis newly elected, one wonders about his plans for leading the Roman Catholic Church. His predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, caused controversy in 2010 when he admitted that in certain cases condoms were acceptable. If Pope Francis furthers “certain” to “all” it will revolutionize the Church and possibly lead to more successful relationships.
While most Catholics would believe that their faith insinuates to wait until marriage to have sex, they will be surprised to know that during ancient Roman times the teachings varied. For starters, there existed no marriage. For the Jews, they believed that marriage was vital to later go on and produce offspring. This was in large part due to them wanting to pass on their faith and lineage. However, according to experts of the Bible they have determined that initially certain apostles rejected the idea of marriage. They condemned the human urge to reproduce. In fact, the Apostle Paul said that there was no need to get married and procreate, because there existed enough people as it was to convert to Catholicism. Even during his time, the most faithful of followers rejected his claim.
With marital unions being a custom of most – if not all – cultures, a tradition that varies depending on the society, some people have come to wonder how they can advance their relationship before officially sealing the “deal”. According to a research reviewed by Elizabeth Gilbert in her novel Committed, psychologists claim that before entering into matrimony one of the main components that needs to be discussed is sex. Without tending to the matter before marriage, the lack of satisfaction and not knowing how to deal with the situation later on can lead to straying partners and eventually to the courts to sign a divorce. With this in mind, the idea that sex should be reserved for after marriage should be reconsidered. This is not to say that a marathon of sexual experiences should be advised, but to be conducted with a potential lifetime partner.
While it is unlikely that Pope Francis will completely renovate the face of the Catholic Church during his reign, what he does on matters of romance can potentially further the modernization of the faith. Every small step, as Pope Benedict XVI showed, will be welcomed by this generations’ followers.

Prompt: In a monologue of no more than 300 words, allow a character to describe what his or her religion is.

Technological Evolution

After years of technology going beyond our imagination, it has come to the time of either adapting or being left behind. About a year ago, I visited a library near my community. After checking out a pile of novels, I settled down beside the computer to do some work. The man beside me called for assistance.
“Ma’am, how do you sign into the Internet and create an email?”
Everyone around him peered over his or her screens. He looked as though he was in his late forties with grey strands hidden in his thinning, dark hair.
Her question was the same one that filled my mind. “Have you ever used a computer before?”
He swayed his head from side-to-side. “I try not to. I believe that technology will be the end of us.”
And there you have it. A prime example of when humanity allows for a rejection of advancement to be the end of their existence – a way in which they cease to exist to the rest of the world. While it may seem that technology tears society apart, through intensive research done by BBC News it opposes the idea and emphasizes the importance of being technology savvy. In Hi-Tech Brings Families Together it turns out that families that use technology to their advantage, such as phones or Skype, are closer than those who don’t use it at all.
While infatuations with pixels can go off the beaten path, like any other matter in this world – food, exercise and traditions – moderation is key. However, with any change we must embrace what it brings with a positive outlook or be remembered only as fossils from a distant age.

Prompt: In a poem of no more than 20 lines, describe an organism that learned to camouflage and adapt.