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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.

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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.

Meeting Mother Nature in the Middle

As a nation under God, we wonder what it will take to stabilize the economy. While the unemployment rate has been slowly decreasing, the slight improvements have been overshadowed by inflation. In particular, the rising gas may be convincing enough for the citizens to encourage the government to depend solely on the United State’s oil reserves. However, with the documentaries, such as Gasland directed by Josh Fox, lingering in the minds of mother-nature lovers there stands the question of what may be a necessary sacrifice. Which is more important in the long-run, the ever-increasing gas prices or the preservation of America’s nature? With one simple solution, this either-or problem can be solved.
If the law that former President George Bush levied in 2005 is re-enacted, then companies that drill oil will have to take greater measures to prevent oil leaking into water sources. The method that these companies use, hydraulic fracturing, sets a machine to drill and shake the land to create a flow of oil. Without cautionary measures the oil infuses into water that thousands of citizens are dependent on for drinking, cooking and bathing. In many recorded cases, the water then becomes combustible and vulnerable to illness. If millions of Americans are heard, then a law should be enacted to ensure that these companies will take cautionary measures and concoct a safer method that will allow the same result without polluting our water.
While communities throng together to voice out their opinions and exercise their right to rally against their land being destroyed, it seems as though they are being ignored. According to an article in the San Francisco Chronicle, in Illinois people have congregated to have their unified opinion against hydraulic fracturing be heard. Instead of feeling united and strong, they sense that their legislatures are voting opposite of the public’s opinion.
What government office holders should remember is that they are meant to serve the country. The first to hold office, the Founders, clearly carved the ideology that government is meant to follow what the people want not vice versa. What the people, also, are meant to bear in mind is that with the continuation of support and rallying their exists the possibility of meeting in the middle.

Prompt: In a short story of no more than 700 words, describe what one of your secondary characters would fight for.

Take Five

It’s only lunch by the time you reach for your first Coca-Cola, second Red Bull, or third cup of coffee. Your energy is shriveling at the rate it takes your pen to fall from your desk. Rather than swallow a Whopper or toss a bag of Skittles into your mouth for a quick burst of energy, what your body yearns for is a natural way of re-energizing – a nap.
Studies from the National Sleep Foundation show that more companies are progressively separating off rooms and leaving in comfortable chairs so their employees can take a rest they desperately deserve. According to a Forbes article, Some are even taking inventory of “Sleeping Pods” that range from $700 to $13,000. These comfortable bed-like seats have extra cushion and can vibrate and wake the person up at the designated time inputted. However, sometimes not even these neat gadgets can convince a workaholic to snooze.
If you’re feeling guilty about taking some time for yourself, you are not alone. Whether it’s the fact that your job is your life’s passion or your just trying to make end’s meat, Americans in general are committed to clocking in their hours. More likely than not, if the boss insinuates that a meeting will be later than usual the plans for dinner on a Friday night fly out of the window. If an assignment is shy of finishing touches by the time midnight has come around, you’ll pull in the extra hours to get it just right. While these spur of the moments oblige you to stay up longer than usual, making these scenarios a habit isn’t good for your health. With a few extra minutes of resting, not only will your body feel better but you will also. With a good night’s rest or a nap midday, the body contains lower blood pressure and your mind is better refreshed for problem-solving.
Another point workaholics must consider is that the hours that the workplace require now-in-days has skyrocketed. Never have people in the United States collectively put in more time at work. With the threat of people losing their jobs because they want to make it to the dinner table on time rather than pull another all-nighter at the office, the least CEO’s can do is help their employees work better.
With executives from the Huffington Post and Google instilling these restful opportunities, it leads by example what companies from around the country need to do.

Prompt: Write a poem no longer than twenty lines where you describe a scenario that takes five minutes.

De-Stressing News

Let me give you a setting. You’re a few hours short of meeting a deadline. Your heart has been on a treadmill set on steep incline for the past week, you can barely swallow anything for fear of your nerves getting the better of you and despite pulling all-nighters your task at hand is barely finished. Enter: Your friends. They are a community within themselves – a family which you choose and that, depending on how close you are, can know you better than your own blood. Before hope disappears completely from your being, they help direct the traffic that has clogged your brain.
While in the moment, there is little time to analyze why friendship in and of itself minimizes a mountain-like burden to one as feasible as to the size of an ant, there does exist chemicals within the body working behind the scenes. The hormone oxytocin is released any time the body is under a lot of stress. This encourages a person to bond. According to research done by a Professor at the University of Cambridge, Terri Apter, she says that the fact that people are instinctively encouraged to bond when they are stressed equals relief. Whether or not those friends take matters into their own hands is not the point. Just the warmth, humor, and goodwill of those around helps the body relax. Those few minutes not spent on the project, allow for a refreshed feeling once the person returns to finishing up. A matter which seemed impossible an hour ago, once after a visiting the peanut gallery, that good feeling lasts and restores a positive outlook.
From an article composed by Lauren Dzubow for O magazine, shows through sickness and in health the benefits that come from de-stressing whether through catching lunch with a friend or a “quick” phone call. A bit of chatter can go a long way.

Prompt: In a poem of no more than 30 lines, describe a friendship within the terms of a garden party.