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Contents 3 T he Cover Jennifer Rosario Ms. Internation World


4 Dr. Don Stweart Following the Dream 6 Ruben Torres Over Coming Challenges 8 Chris Franz “The Good, the Bad, the Worse, and the Uglier?


Dr. Don Stweart

10 Annamarie Murillo Teen Latina Intl. United States 11 Lyss Acosta Millan Miss Puerto Rico Collegiate 12 Jesse Cookson Moving Foward featured story 15 LaQuisha Hall, Mrs Essence 2013 Shaken Soda 17 Vanessa Runs On Destiny 19 LaFonda Parham Ms. Essence International 2013 Stop Diabetes 20 Roger Hunt It’s Ok to Dream and Believe in You! 21 Gina Mooney Slow is the New Fast


Jesse Cookson Moving Foward featured


Gina Mooney Slow is the New Fast

JENNIFER ROSARIO MS. INTERNATIONAL WORLD Jennifer Rosario is an Orlando, FL based actress/model spokesperson who is also partnered with a large, national real estate firm as a Realtor. Originally from the Bronx, New York, and of Cuban and Puerto Rican descent, Jennifer, known as Jenny, began her college, acting and production career in New York, before relocating to the Sunshine State. Jenny received her Associates in Science in Film Production Technology, which led to many years of working behind the camera in various roles such as makeup artist, director and producer. She has acted as a television host, film and commercial actress and spokesperson. She held the title of Ms. Latina Florida USA and then Ms. Latina International. She then completed her Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and Master of Science in Project Management. She is a single mom to a gifted son, and continues her acting career

Pictures by Perfect Touch / Rich Ramos Sept 2013 3

Following The Dream

Dr. Don Stewart I quit. Three decades ago, only a year into my residency training, I decided to walk out of the hospital, and disappear into an art studio. I had wanted to be a doctor since I was five years old, a dream that stayed with me through high school, college, and into medical school. But by the time I began my surgical residency, the constant pressure of training, diminishing opportunities for creative expression, and my disillusionment with the realities of healthcare had taken their toll.

Two months after graduating from medical school I found myself in a competitive surgical residency program, in an environment that valued intimidation over compassion. I was struggling to manage a surgical service of up to thirty patients, many critically ill. I was barely able to keep up with the workload, let alone gain any ground academically. This was nothing like I had imagined medicine to be – and looking ahead, I didn’t see it getting any better. By the end of my intern year I no longer had any desire to be a doctor. I walked out of the hospital feeling like I had been released from prison.

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Of course the dream of doctor’s salary vanished along with my white coat and scrubs. I thought briefly about working emergency rooms to pay off my student loans, but quickly realized that I no longer had any inclination to see patients, and not nearly enough experience to do the job responsibly, even if I wanted to. I had been drawing pictures for years, mostly as a diversion from the stress of medical school and residency, and continued to do so while I halfheartedly looked for a job. Eventually the diversion became a habit, and the habit slowly grew into a business. It took fifteen years to pay for med school, almost entirely with income from selling art. Ironically, I relinquished my medical license right after making my last loan payment. Did I waste my time, working so hard to be a doctor? Not one minute of it. My academic background is evident in my artwork: the discipline, the data, the passion and the humor that were once focused on patient care, now appear in each of my drawings. After nearly thirty years, my signature style of visual humor has positively impacted more people than I ever could have reached in a medical practice, and our studio’s policy of community service has generated hundreds of thousands of dollars in support of education, community development, and outreach to wounded warriors. I may have quit the practice, but in my own way I’m still answering the call. And I’m having a wonderful time doing it, too.

About the Author

Don Stewart is an artist, writer, and creative consultant with the DS Art Studio in Birmingham, Alabama. His drawings can be seen at See details on his upcoming his autobiography, Past Medical History. Blog: Facebook: Pinterest: YouTube: My Book: Sept 2013


Ruben Torres A son of hard-working Mexican migrant parents, I learned early in life to overcome adversity, hardships, and life-or-death dilemmas to follow God’s path for me. Born and raised in a small Texas town, I grew up in a rural community among ten siblings who, with our parents, crowded into a small, two-bedroom home with a single bathroom. I was the seventh of eleven children – eight boys and three girls. There were two sets of twins, including my sister and me. We were very poor with barely enough to eat and had few necessities to provide for our family. We learned to depend on one another for survival and comfort. But our family was not without problems. My father was an alcoholic. When drinking, he would become very abusive verbally, emotionally, and physically toward my mother and siblings, as well as me. I was always afraid of my father when he came home late at night, because we never knew which mood he would be in or how badly we would get beaten. Despite his hard work each day in the cotton fields to make sure we were fed and had a roof over our heads, my father could easily become violent at the slightest provocation. His temper was probably fed by harsh working conditions and bleak prospects, and he had no one but us to take out his frustrations on. We knew that, and yet it was horrible to watch him come through the front door, weaving on his feet, smelling of alcohol, and thundering at the top of his lungs, “Where’s my supper? I want it NOW!” Everyone would scatter to do his bidding, my mother most of all, but in return all she got was ridicule and criticism, as well as occasional pushes and slaps. 6 Sept 2013

Maybe that is why I enjoyed my school studies. I loved paging through the textbooks to see interesting pictures of faraway lands and historic people. All of them held special significance for me. I, too, wanted to do something to help others, as so many of these textbook people had done. Yet, going to school was always a challenge and intimidating, because every day in the halls and on the playground I would get bullied, hit, mocked, and laughed at. Students made fun of me for wearing the same jeans and shirts to school over and over again, because my parents had no money for new clothes. We were lucky to get shoes, and when we did, they had to last a few years, even with holes in them. There were no ‘dress shoes’ and ‘play shoes,’ just one pair that we wore every day. I would hear at home and at school that I was a loser, a mistake, that I would never amount to anything, and that I should never have been born. I felt worthless in others’ eyes, and my own. But due to my love of learning, I graduated with high marks. I also was an accomplished athlete. By the end of high school I was voted Most Likely to Succeed. Looking back, I can attribute my success to three things that no one could ever take from me: 1. I had HOPE! I knew that if I believed in myself, things had to get better. They couldn’t get any worse. I began to understand even as a young man that my purpose in life was to bring hope to those who had no hope, and to be a voice for those whose voices could not be heard.

2. I had a Dream! I would escape to the woods or a pasture covered with wildflowers and dream of one day standing before audiences to help them find their purpose and passion. Offering my message of inspiration and motivation could encourage them to be all they were born to be - champions in life! I had a dream that guided me through childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood, and it has brought me to where I am today. My goal now is to help humanity DREAM again. 3. I had a Purpose! I knew deep inside that I had been created with a purpose to inspire, encourage, and motivate others through understanding and compassion. I knew I was not here to merely exist, but to pursue a life of meaning. I wasn’t put on earth to be ordinary, but to become extraordinary! “I remember going to workout in the fields to pick cotton, green beans or watermelons or whatever was in season. Everyday I would tell migrant workers that one day I would stand in front of millions and bring a message of hope to the hopeless and be a voice to the voiceless! They all thought I was crazy. They called me the “dreamer.” They would tell me that my great grandparents, grandparents, my parents were migrant workers and that I to would be a migrant worker all my life. But I would insist, no, no, no!! Un dia! Un dia! Voy a traer un mensaje de Esperanza a millones de gente! I would speak my dream daily. Then one day I began to believe my dream. Until one day, un dia, I became my dream and walked into my destiny and purpose!” No abuse or hardship could take those things away from Ruben. Through my up bringing, my education, and my faith, I learned to view obstacles as opportunities, stumbling blocks as stepping stones, and setbacks as a setup to take me where God wanted me to be so that I can bring HOPE to the hopeless, and be a voice for the voiceless. But the path was not easy. In 1991, my father suffered a massive stroke and lay in a coma.Though we anxiously prayed and remained by his bedside, he never recovered. When the doctor took him off life support, he slipped into eternity. I grieved his passing profoundly. Though he had been abusive toward us, he was still my dad, and I loved him dearly. No one could ever replace him.

But God’s plan prevailed. Though seriously injured, I did not die. Gradually I overcame this life-changing adversity with the support and help of family, prayers, and God. The simple things I had taken for granted such as walking, talking, and eating now became monumental tasks that I had to relearn. It was as though years of life experience had been swept away in that collision. Yet I persevered, and with God’s help I learned how to live a normal life once more. In 2003, my beautiful sister was killed in a motorcycle accident. Although she knew I loved her dearly, I wanted to be by her side to tell her one last time how proud I was to be her brother and that I loved her beyond words. If I can succeed, you can succeed! I came from nothing and became something, because while growing up I clung to my Hope, a Dream, and God’s Purpose! Don’t let your limitations confine you nor your mistakes define you. They only remind you of where you have been, not where you are going! Your destiny is greatness and excellence! You were born to be important - make your life meaningful so others will remember you with awe! Sept 2013


Chris Franz editor “The Good, the Bad, the Worse, and the Uglier?” I watched the story on the news today about the new Miss Teen USA Cassidy Wolf becoming a victim of what’s being called “Sextortion”. If you don’t already know about it, someone was able to hack into her home pc and her web cam to watch her without her knowing about it. Cassidy was then contacted by this person and asked for money not to show nude photos that he or she claimed to have of the newly crowned Miss Teen USA. The FBI apparently has a suspect and is ready to make an arrest. Where does this kind of behavior stop? When does society say enough is enough? Those of us who are fortunate to be in the pageant industry know of the good and bad. The shows on television depict our industry as spoiled little girls being exploited by their parents or middle aged women behaving like these same little girls. We live in a society where only the bad news or bad people are glorified. When did good things and good people become non-stories? Why isn’t prime time news showing the amazing side of people helping each other on a day to day basis? It’s just not about the women in pageantry mind you, but everyone involved in charitable efforts or volunteerism. This country was fought for and founded by volunteers looking for a better way of life. My own mother volunteered at our local hospital until she was 91 years old. The internet has given us the ability to seek out and absorb a lot of information. It is still pretty much unregulated and uncensored and quite honestly it should remain that way. In a world where we are constantly being watched and our movements monitored we need to maintain certain freedoms.

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I watched the national news the other night and was horrified to hear a woman say, “I wouldn’t mind giving up certain rights if it meant feeling safer”. I don’t know about you, but I’m not giving up anything let alone my rights as an American. The last time I checked we had a military and law enforcement whose job it is to protect and defend the U.S Constitution and took an oath to do so. You remember, the Constitution of the United States that gives us our rights? (Google it if you’ve forgotten it.) Keeping the internet as it is means we all must have a greater tolerance and also a lot of common sense. There are people out there who have the knowledge to invade our corner of cyber space so it’s up to us to be vigilant and responsible enough to watch our own backs. The people who steal our identities and hack into our webcams are people we must stop and prosecute. The story of the new Miss Teen USA is a good example of this but nowhere in that story did we hear about who Cassidy Wolf is? What are her hopes and dreams and grade point average? What winning Miss Teen USA meant to her and why she is a great role model? We will however hear about the person who did this and what a creepy and disgusting person he or she is. The scary part is he or she may get a reality show out of it. So where does this behavior stop and where does the behavior that should be rewarded begin? When will good news be popular again and be the trend? Wouldn’t you rather go to sleep at night with a smile on your face and knowing your safe without compromising your rights? I know I would. Sept. 2013


Annamarie Murillo

I am the reigning Miss Teen Latina International United States. I was born and raised in the small town of Newburgh, New York but just recently moved to Florida. I am currently in high school and involved in cheerleading. Some of my goals are to inspire, lead, and encourage Latinos all over the country. My plan is to attend my dream college of Northeastern University and study Broadcasting and Journalism. After college, I plan on attending New York Film Academy for one year in order to expand my knowledge. As for future career aspiration, I hope to become a broadcast journalist. I entered my first pageant at the age of 13, National American Miss Junior Teen New York. To my surprise, I was proudly named one of the top 20 finalist out of 184 girls. I realized this is something I love and wanted to continue doing. I entered the Miss Teen Westchester pageant and unfortunately, didn’t win but I still enjoyed the journey and found it as a great learning experience. My third pageant was the Miss New York Teen Belleza Latina 2012 pageant. I can happily say I won New York state queen. My fourth pageant was New Yorks Perfect Teen pageant where I won the title of New Yorks Perfect Junior Teen Latina and placed in the top 15 at Americas Perfect Junior Teen Nationals. After that, I entered the Teen Latina Internatonal USA pageant and successfully won the title. Being a queen has kept me very busy. I involve myself in a lot of community events, fashion shows and charity events. In my free time, I enjoy helping out around my community, cheerleading, writing and designing. Besides pageantry, I also do modeling and acting. Both have always been passions of mine. I hope to build a career out of modeling and acting. I have been featured in many magazinies such as Keel Magazine, Vocab Magazine and many more. As for acting, I have been in plays, music videos, and movies. I am also national spokes model for Operation Prom, a nonprofit organization that helps teens go to prom. Something I really want to do is be able to speak about my platform issue nationwide: Self Esteem. I am so grateful of the opportunity I have been given to represent my state with grace and pride. With the support of family, everyone who believed in me, and a lot of hard work, I have been able to do greatness and have my dreams come true. Where can you spot me next? Definitely taking part in more pageants and hopefully in a big time movie or maybe even on a Forever 21 ad. I’ve learned to never give up and that dreams can come true if you really strive and work hard for them. I hope to one day inspire other young girls to never give up and realize anything is possible. 10 Sept 2013

Lyss Acosta-Millan

is the reigning Miss Puerto Rico Collegiate America 2014. She was crowned on August 25, 2013 and will represent Puerto Rico at the national Miss Collegiate America Pageant in Orlando in July 2014. Lyss will spend her year promoting her personal platform H.O.P.E.(Helping Others be Positive Everyday) and the national pageant’s platform The Crown C.A.R.E.S.(Creating a Respectable Environment in Schools), which are both anti-bullying platforms. This issue is something that hits close to home for her as she was bullied during her senior year in high school. She will share her story throughout different schools to staff members and students in the hopes of making a difference in the Fight to End Bullying. Not only does Lyss serve in her community as a pageant titleholder, she also serves her country in the United States Marine Corps as a Public Affairs Correspondent and Administrator. She has been stationed in the Carolinas, Okinawa, the Pentagon and is currently stationed in Maryland, working with the Wounded Warriors. Her brother and cousin are also Marines. Lyss also attends the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism on-line with Arizona State University as a Mass Communications and Media Studies. Her goal is to one day become a news anchor with Good Morning America or CNN. Working as an intern with different blog and entertainment companies in Washington, D.C., she has interviewed celebrities such as Tia Mowry, Joe Mantegna, Pat Sajak, Kerry Washington, Brian McNamara and Sally Pressman. Sept 2013

11 Featured Story

Jesse Cookson

As a child living in a small town Maine, I tried every sport there was; football, baseball, soccer, but none of them really seemed to hold my interest. I think it was because there was too much coordination involved or too many rules and plays to remember. It just wasn’t my thing, but I needed something. Like most kids at that age, I was full of energy and always wanted to be outside doing something. Whether it was going down to the lake to swim in the ice cold water, or riding my bike for miles just to hang out with friends (this is Maine), it was something to do. It wasn’t until I was in middle school that I found my niche, cross-country running. No plays to remember or rules to follow, it was just running, and I was surprisingly good at it. It was the first sport that truly filled that competitive edge I needed. Running over a long distance, at such a young age, mentally trained me to go beyond my physical capabilities in order to finish the race. Although I seemed to have a natural talent for running, and enjoyed it, the sport didn’t keep me from venturing and trying other things. Eventually, I fell along my brother’s footsteps and joined the wrestling team. Now wrestling wasn’t something I was naturally good at, but just like running, it challenged my physical abilities and endurance. I eventually caught onto the sport and kept with it right up through high school while using cross-country, track and swim team to keep me in shape during the off season. Sophomore year of high school was when we moved to Lakeland, FL, and became a Lakeland Dreadnaught. I became shocked with the reality of larger schools and more competition. I found myself having to work twice as hard to make a name for myself, not just in wrestling, but in running and swimming as well. 12 Sept 2013

I went from state qualifier in wrestling and beating the 3200 meter record as a freshman at a small school in Maine, to no records or qualifications at all. Needless to say, I didn’t let it phase me. The next few years of high school, I made my name known by winning districts, regionals and state qualifier in wrestling, as well as making All-County in cross country under the guidance of Rich Wills, founder of FITniche, who was an awesome teacher and coach there at the time. Once I graduated, I decided to try the big leagues and wrestle for Norwich University in Vermont. This was an epic fail in my life because I lost concentration in my studies and my athletics. So I decided to come back to Florida to try to figure out what to do next, and the military was the answer. I joined the Army National Guard and went to basic training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. On top of reinforcing the mental toughness I had brought with me (and trust me, they challenged it), I learned valuable lessons of leadership and responsibility. I found I wasn’t one of those people that could just learn things from reading a book and listening to a lecture, no, I needed it drilled into me through pain and sweat on a regular basis, and it worked. Just before joining the military, I had the pleasure of meeting a wonderful girl who was attending Florida Southern by the name of Melanie Davey. We began dating and a couple months later, she waved me off when I was shipped out to Fort Sill. We wrote back and forth almost every day and she even flew out to see me after graduation. I should have known then that she would be the one who would support me in all of my endeavors for the rest of my life.

It was after Melanie and I got married, we decided to move out to Charlotte, NC. I was attending college, bartending, and coaching wrestling at a local high school, so life was going pretty smoothly. That was until I went to drill one weekend and received the unexpected news…we were getting shipped out to Iraq. This was a bit tough for me to swallow. I had a difficult time bearing the thought of not just being exposed to a war zone for a year, but leaving my wife by herself. Well, needless to say, we made it through it just fine. Fortunately, I did have family and friends near to keep Melanie company, the Lord kept me out of harm’s way and I was able to talk to her often enough so that we could ensure each other we were OK and doing fine. Once I returned home, I decided that I had served my time in the military and she wanted to start a family, so I made the choice not to reenlist. Moving forward….. It was while my wife and out was out one night, that I made an agreement with one of my friends that would change my life. My friend is a middle school PE teacher and trains as an MMA fighter, so you can imagine he is very energetic and is always up for next challenge. During a conversation, he tells me that the next thing he wants to do to test his endurance is to race in a triathlon. I began to laugh and for some crazy reason blurted out, “If you sign-up for one, I will do it with you.” The challenge had been accepted. So I began to prepare. I bought my first road bike (a very nice Schwinn from Wal-mart), signed-up with a master’s swim team, and started running with a little more purpose. In fact, I was shocked how much signing up for a race motivated me. It was all I could think of every day, right up until the night before the race. I was so nervous that night, I couldn’t sleep. I had done my homework, so I knew there was a lot of preparation; from making sure you had all your gear, to planning your transition strategies, it was intense. (If only I had applied this amount of concentration and research to my education!)

The day of my first race came and my stomach was in knots. I looked at the competition around me and sized everyone up trying to see who was on what bike, and if the number on the back of their leg was in my age bracket. So I set up my transition area, warmed up and stretched, and made my way to the water front. I discovered that the longest and shortest time in one’s life is from the moment you step up to the start line to the releasing sound of the horn. I ran the race of my life, and it was great. I crossed the finish line of my first sprint triathlon in 1:15:35 placing second in my age group, I was instantly hooked. Needless to say, my friend never even showed up. He still owes me one. Since then, I have been doing more races every year and driving myself to do better every time. Two kids later, we decided to move our family back to Lakeland, FL. I wanted to keep up with my training and racing, and I was told it’s always better to train with a group. So after doing some research, I was introduced to the Lakeland Landsharks, and they welcomed me in with enthusiasm. Any tri-athlete will tell you, every area may have its own triathlon club, but once you commit to being a tri-athlete, you become a part of something much bigger. It’s simply amazing that there is so much competition when racing in triathlons, but there is that much more encouragement, support and respect from fellow athletes, family and friends. Through the support of the Landsharks, I’ve had the opportunity to race a lot of great races along the side of many remarkable athletes. It wasn’t until August of 2011 that things started to get real for me. I ended up having a great race at St. Anthony’s in St. Petersburg, FL and qualified for Nationals in Vermont. I didn’t think much of it at first until I found out that a couple local Landsharks (Patty Schmaedeke and Thomas Day) were going to be competing, so I figured, why not? I trained hard and made the drive up to (ironically) my old college town feeling fully confident about the race. I ended up placing 36th in my division out of 112 athletes, and it felt great, but as always I didn’t feel it was my best. As 2012 came around, like every year, I set my goals higher and work to accomplish them. Sept 2013


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First goal was to beat my time at St. Anthony’s and qualify for Nations, and I did placing 7th in my agegroup. Second was to race my second Ironman 70.3 and come in within 5 hours, which I barely did trying to beat the heat. But my third goal was the most important; place within the top 18 at Nationals and qualify for ITU Worlds. So again, after months of training, my father and I loaded up the car with the bikes and headed out to Vermont. Waiting to start the race, I was just as nervous as my first race, but confident at the same time. I knew I would be putting it all into this race and I did. As soon as I crossed the finish in 2:06, beating my last year’s time by almost 6 minutes, I knew I had done it. My name was up on the boards as 12th place in my division, and stayed there…until the unbelievable happened and my heart dropped. My named suddenly jumped from 12th to 21st place and I knew instantly what I had happened. I was given a 2 minute penalty on the bike course, which booted me out of qualification. After I blew off some steam and was explained the penalty by the official, I finally came the realization of how far I had made it, and penalty or not, I knew what my real race time was when I crossed that finish line. About a month later, to my surprise, I received an email from USAT in regards to ITU Worlds. It read that the final list of qualifiers was still to be determined and I will be notified later of my qualification. It was a few days later that received the next email. “Congratulations on your qualification for ITU Worlds!” I couldn’t believe it, I did it. All that training had paid off, and I now have the opportunity once again to represent my country and compete with team USA at ITU Worlds in London, England. Through hard work, sacrifice, and most of all, the grace of God, I have been presented with an opportunity of a lifetime. Unfortunately, this opportunity requires much more training, support and funding. So over the course of the year, and hopefully longer, I will be working closely with local clubs and organizations (including IR4C) to raise money not just to help me achieve my next goal, but to also race for a higher purpose and contribute my time and effort to charity. Please offer your support by any contribution possible whether it’s by financial funding, self-service, sending this post to others, providing an uplifting comment or even a “like”, anything is greatly appreciated! Sept 2013 14

You are so cold.

It is not easy looking into the complex eyes of an adult man who preached the word of God only days before, who was invited as a cousin to the family dinners; who drove you to and from high school. The trusted fellow, he helps your mother with maintaining the household in the absence of your father. You want to believe that he means well because he is an adult; he knows better. He would not hurt you while your mother is at work. Besides, she trusted him to care for her 14 year-old, precious daughter. However, you will find yourself for two years silently praying for salvation from the predator the community deemed a “man of God”. Forced to give up your birthed innocence, you decide to pack your favorite book bag with your best clothes, pictures and Michael Jackson CDs. You will believe that when you step out of the front door of what should have been a safe home, your demise will end. You will carry the weighted burden of silence for an additional two years. That baggage will become increasingly heavier to hold and hide as the weeks pile on. Your mental state will decide to finally put the bags down and reveal to your father a secret that a child should not have to articulate. You are a bottle of soda that has been shaken for years. The pressure has become too strong and the bottle cap has finally blown off. You feel accomplished, armed with the support of your father. The authorities will contact your mother, the woman who was charged with your protection. She will declare you a liar, and you will be devastated all over again. The bottle of soda, violently exposed and uncontained, has continued to splash its acidity over your thoughts, your belief of family relationships, and how you will interpret social life for years to come. Even after the soda’s acid levels become flat, its aftertaste remains soaked and stained within all crevices of what you call life. You now seek refuge in a different bottle. You swallow all of the pills hoping that you never awake, pouring your soul and all of your soda down the drain. You will first survive; then you will conqueror. 15 Sept 2013

Shaken Soda By LaQuisha Hall, Mrs. Essence 2013

You transition from being flat to flat-lining. You still recall a section of time that you were once bubbly and sweet; flavorful and uncompromised, even for a shortened season. You no longer want to be stained with the stench of old acids. You must be cleansed, and eventually you purify others who resemble you. In time, you will learn to refill with freshened content; you will have to refill with a second supply. The challenge will then become how to share your recipe of self-rejuvenation with others, teaching them how to wash themselves, and preparing them for a proper refilling. Your process will require much repair. It will hurt while healing. You will shed cleansing tears while simultaneously injecting better liquids.

Mrs. Es

sence 20


g n i ak


A Di

ffe r


ce Sept 2013 16

On Destiny Vanessa Runs My name means “butterfly”. And I share a connection with these fascinating creatures. Growing up, I felt awkward and uncomfortable in my own skin. I felt lumpy and hairy and ugly, like a caterpillar. Running on trails transformed my body and my ambitions. The metamorphosis allowed me to take flight. And the more I grew into my own skin, the more I had in common with the butterfly. The monarch butterfly embarks on a pilgrimage of 2,000 miles every year, a distance I can run on an annual basis. It flies from Canada to Southern California, fluttering as far as Mexico. In ancient times, the monarch was called “the wanderer,” a nickname I can relate to as a nomad. While exhibiting both strength and resilience, the butterfly remains delicate. Its colors, while beautiful to us, are actually colors of fierce warning to their predators. I compare this with my own tendency to wear bright colors on the trail and light up the path as much as I can. At my last 100-mile trail race, I carried three handheld flashlights. Let them see me coming. My colors are their warning. Monarch butterflies leave no trace of their presence. They eat their own chrysalis and their residues after birth, so no one will know they were ever there. I compare this to my own drive to leave my natural outdoor environment as untouched as possible.

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Sadly, the beautiful monarchs that begin the journey south are not the same ones who finish it. Along the way, they die. Their descendants take up the torch and continue the journey. Someday, I too will pass. I hope that I will expire on a journey to a beautiful place, leaving a destination for others to follow. Running for me is a lifelong pursuit, and that’s not something that everyone will understand. People may accuse me of having an addiction, not finding enough balance in life, or neglecting day-to-day responsibilities. I’ve learned that instead of trying to explain myself, it’s best to leave my running unjustified. I am happy. And I don’t need to make apologies for the lifestyle I’ve chosen. You don’t have to be a runner to hear similar accusations. Whenever we make a positive change in our lives, there will always be accusers and de- motivators. Sometimes these people are very close to us. I shook them off and surrounded myself with supporters instead. I echo Murakami when he says: “I’m going to keep running... and not let it get me down. Even when I grow old and feeble, when people warn me it’s about time to throw in the towel, I won’t care. As long as my body allows, I’ll keep on putting in as much effort—perhaps even more effort—toward my goal of finishing... I don’t care what others say— that’s just my nature, the way I am. Like scorpions sting, cicadas cling to trees, salmon swim upstream to where they were born, and wild ducks mate for life.” I am a monarch. I was born to fly on the trails, and that’s where you’ll find me. The above is a shortened excerpt from The Summit Seeker, Vanessa’s book on Amazon’s list of Best Selling Running Books. Learn more at Sept 2013 18

LaFonda Parham

American Diabetes Ambassador Ms. Essence International 2013 LaFonda Dandridge Parham is a native of Richmond, Virginia. She is a wife, a mother of four beautiful and extraordinary children, a businesswoman, an ambassador, an advocate and a volunteer in her community. Prior to running Heating & Kooling, LLC with her husband she worked at the Virginia Department of Health Professions for the Virginia Board of Medicine. She and her husband run their own, thriving HVAC Company, Heating & Kooling, LLC. She is also the founder and CEO of New Blissful Cosmetics, LLC. She is a trained ambassador for the American Diabetes Association and has coordinated ambassador trainings in Richmond, Virginia for project POWER. She facilitated and started first annual Bring Your Tennis Shoes to Church Day, and facilitated and coordinated a team for Step Out Walk through the American Diabetes Association. LaFonda is a member of National Association of Women Business Owners National and Richmond Chapter. She received her Bachelor’s degree from George Mason University in Public Relations. She then went on to receive her Graduate Certificate in Business Administration from Strayer University. LaFonda always knew in her heart that she was put on this earth to make a difference in the world. She didn’t know that her mission would come from a very personal place. When her husband was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in 2011, the very next night after giving birth to their fourth child, she was determined to help her husband conquer diabetes. LaFonda’s passion is her devotion to spreading the message of diabetes prevention and awareness worldwide, in honor of her husband, In addition to promoting her platform, Making Strides to Diabetes Prevention, LaFonda is a trained ambassador with the American Diabetes Association with Project Power, where she engages in the in a variety of year round activities, that provide lessons which improve the health of those members living with diabetes, their families and the greater community as well. She is a member of her church’s Health ministry, and a member and Chaplin of her church’s Liturgical Dance Ministry. She has also ministered through dance in the play “God’s Trombones” for two years. LaFonda is a very active volunteer with HandsOn Greater Richmond with the VA Food Bank, assisting in the distribution center by sorting donations and restocking supplies, the Chimborazo Family Food Pantry in partnership with the Virginia Food Bank hosting a monthly mobile food pantry that serves over 200 families with healthy food. On April 26, 2012, LaFonda was honored by the American Diabetes Association for her contributions to the community as an ambassador for the American Diabetes Association in Richmond, Virginia. 19 Sept 2013

It’s Ok to Dream and Believe in You! Ever dreamed of being an artist- whether it’s an actor, singer, poet, model, etc., but some how you felt that you just aren’t good enough or don’t have what it takes? Many times we set goals of completing various tasks in our lives from going to school to obtaining a particular career that we feel that would make us “complete” in our lives. Nonetheless, there are things that may hold us back, the biggest I believe, is “self” or other situations that can keep us from being the best that we can. Specifically speaking, the entertainment industry, while entering into such competitive industry one must be on their grind to withstand the various ups and downs that come alone with this industry. I have come to realize as a talent that one must want it bad enough to move to the next level. That next level of just getting out of the starting blocks sometimes is the most difficult. Those starting blocks include things like; how do I get started, going to various classes or what classes do I need, workshops, forums, studying the works of others, etc. I strongly encourage and recommend some type of formal training for your craft. That next level of your career depends on how you prepare yourself to compete in the industry. While it’s true that we dream of being the best at what we chose to do, it becomes a reality when we continue to sow the seeds and lay the foundation to get us to where we need to be and actually see the results of our labour. With that in mind, it’s the long hours of studying, researching, finding the right connections, getting out of your comfort zone and doing what may be uncomfortable. However with training and time you become better as you mature in your craft. I encourage all of those entering into this industry to follow their dreams and watch the changes happen in their lives as those dreams become reality. Furthermore, be an encouragement to yourself for at times the journey will not be easy and those around you may not understand your dream or the journey you are going through. Know and believe, that not only are you good, but you do have what it takes! It all begins with “THE DREAMER IN YOU”! Roger Hunt, a native of St. Louis, MO, is an actor/model who has extensively been on his grind working on multiple projects both in St. Louis, MO and Atlanta, GA since 2011. He recently completed filming his latest project “Tree Widow” (Mike) filmed in Atlanta, GA. He completed filming, “Church of Redemption” which he played Pastor Charles Wallace (leading role) schedule for release late 2013. Roger has worked on numerous film projects and appeared in multiple commercials – such as Siemans, Lee’s Pawn & Jewelry, Anheuser Busch-InBev, RCN Cable, St. Louis River City Casio, Lumiere’ Casinos & Resorts, WWE RAW, 1,000 episode, voice over and training. Roger believes that one’s ability to express himself as an actor allows him to become multi-talented actor. Roger is represented by TNM MediaCorp and Azalea Talent Agency of St. Louis, Illuminating Talent Agency Sept 2013



I grew up as an active, healthy child in South Mississippi. Although, my parents always made sure we had wonderful food on the table, the South’s way of eating well wasn’t always the healthiest way. This really wasn’t a problem for me while I was growing up or even as a teenager. After my first child was born, my weight seemed to go back to normal after about 6 months without a lot of extra effort. Fast forward to after the birth of my son, Zach in 2005. My pregnancy had gone well until the last month or so when my blood pressure began to get too high and I had to deliver him 2 weeks early. This set this stage for a continuing problem with my blood pressure long after having him. As the months went by after delivery, I began to experience depression and weight gain. I decided to go to the doctor for help. While there, they noticed that my blood pressure was extremely high. So, I left that day not only with depression medication but also medication for high blood pressure. Not only was my blood pressure out of control, so was my weight. At 225 pounds, I stopped stepping on the scale because I couldn’t bear to see it anymore. 21

After my youngest child, Zoe, was born in 2009 (I was once again dealing with high blood pressure), I decided to start making positive changes in my life. I started making smarter choices about the food I was taking in. I eliminated sugary drinks and began drinking water. I also began taking a closer look at the food I was buying/ cooking and made changes to that as well. These changes in my diet played a significant part in my transformation into a healthier me. Exercise was the logical next step. I first began walking around my neighborhood in the evenings. As I became more fit, I started taking the baby and my oldest daughter with me to our local paved walking/ biking trail for our walks. As time went on, my daughter would push Zoe while I ran ahead a little ways and then I’d run back and then walk with them more. Looking back, I was doing my own version of the Couch to 5k Program, even though I didn’t know it existed. On February 8, 2010, it was a chilly day and my daughter was sweet enough to watch Zoe at home for me while I went to the trail by myself. As I drove over to the Trace, a crazy thought kept popping up in my head. I wanted to attempt to run without stopping. The closer I got to my destination, the more excited and nervous I got. I don’t know what it was but something inside of me knew that it was time to try. I assured myself that I could always walk if I needed to, stop if I had to, but I was going to at least try. I had no time in mind. It didn’t matter about being fast. My goal was to run without stopping to walk. As the miles ticked away, I began to feel a sense of overwhelming excitement. I felt like a butterfly breaking out of its cocoon! I was a runner! After that day, there was no turning back. I’d been reminded that I could do whatever I set my mind to. Those first steps set me in motion for things I’d never imagined. I kept training with my mind set on being able to run in a race one day. A little over a month later on March 19, 2010 I ran in my first 5k race. Then, on April 3, 2010, I ran in the Crescent City Classic, which was my first 10k race. During that first year of running I ran several 5k races and also the 10k. I had to deal with shin splints and a stress fracture for 6-8 weeks because of over training. I started back as soon as I was healed and began training again but a little more wisely. I also started slowly adding more mileage to my runs. I realized that I enjoyed going the longer distances and that this might be the type of running that I was meant for. Sept 2013

My longer runs were slower runs and I found myself forgetting that I was exercising and began enjoying the beauty and peacefulness around me. As I continued to bump up my miles, my husband and I decided we’d like to try a half marathon. So, we began to train and I ran my first half marathon on January 10, 2011. In April 2011, I had the pleasure of meeting Chris McDougall (author of Born to Run), his trainer Eric Orton and ultra runner, Scott Jurek. Hearing them speak and getting the opportunity to run with them sparked the discussion of us possibly running a marathon. We began our marathon training in the Fall of 2011 after our racing season was over in May. We ran the Jazz Half Marathon in October with our sights set on the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon New Orleans in March 2012. Unfortunately, a few days after my half marathon, a suffered a horrible fall while out on a training run and broke my arm that required surgery to put in metal plates. Two weeks later, after my stitches were removed, I began my training again with a splint on my arm. On March 4, 2012, I crossed the Rock n Roll Marathon finish line in New Orleans. Since my journey began, I’ve lost 76 pounds through running, cross training, making healthy food choices and drinking water. As I drove home that cold day in February 2010, I’d have never dreamed that by now I would have completed 2 full marathons, 6 half marathons and countless 10k and 5k races. I have also directed a 5k race for 2 years to raise money for a charity organization. More importantly, I’ve become a healthier version of me and I feel like I can be a better wife and a better example to my children. I no longer take medication for blood pressure or depression. I’ve realized that the best medicine isn’t man made but is available to us in the healthy foods we eat and the active lives we lead. Every morning we wake up is a chance to start over and make better choices and change our story. Bio: Gina is a 39 yr old stay-at-home mom that struggled with high blood pressure, being overweight and depressed until making the decision to make a change in her health after the birth of her 4 yr old daughter in 2009. By making these healthy changes, she was able to lose 76 pounds and has just recently completed her 2nd marathon in February 2013. She now has resolved to pay it forward by encouraging others to become more healthy and active. She was recently featured in a video segment by MSN/Fitbie (Everyday Champions) and was also in the January/February 2013 edition of Women’s Running Magazine (Women Who Move). She is a contributing author in a new book titled Trust Your Intuition. She is the owner of the website Slow is the New Fast ( Sept 2013


The Platform magazine is here to provide inspirational and educational stories from all over the world. Our goal is to create a new forum for exchange of information on all aspects of positivity and inspiration. The past few years I have learned from other individuals from all over the world how to motivate and encourage others to succeed. I have made this personal conscious decision to share these stories with you in this new inspiring magazine. This magazine adheres to both the positive and inspiring spirit, which is shared among other individuals. “Voice your Inspiration” The Platform magazine was launched to inspire others with stories that may never be heard. As a scholar professional , I would like to encourage you to submit Original stories and notes as well as opinions for future magazines. the platform magazine will be an inspirational resource designed to increase awareness and inspiration. On behalf of the entire editorial team, please let me start by conveying my sincere gratitude to all of our many authors and reviewers who have submitted papers for this magazine. This magazine wouldn’t happen without your inspiring stories. Thank you for reading,

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Chief Editor Judy Staveley, Ph.D.

Graphic Artist / Editor

Graphic Artist / Editor Monique Staveley Chris Franz Editor


The Platform Magazine Cover Feature Jenny Rosario For a Printed version visit:

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