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Samah Ahmed Ik Putting Mental Health Center Stage By TYLER CREWS Opinion Editor


ow are you feeling?” is a question that most therapists ask their patients, but Steinhardt graduate student Samah Ikram did not ask me that. Instead, she asked my sister. More specifically, she asked me while I played the role of my sister. Ikram’s soothing voice and kind eyes eased my

doubts about the process as she invited me to immerse myself in the role. Assuming different characters is not unusual in Ikram’s occupation, which is why she used this tool to introduce me to what she does on a day-to-day basis: drama therapy. A drama therapist uses theatrical techniques to achieve therapeutic change. Drama therapy techniques can be used during one-on-one sessions, which is what I participated in, or in groups, both on and off the stage. Like other creative arts therapies, drama therapy provides individuals of all ages with a more interactive approach to addressing specific developmental, behavioral, cognitive and emotional challenges. However, Ikram goes beyond just practicing drama therapy. She advocates for its use on a larger scale. She has presented the practice at the United Nations and is now bringing it to help female South Asian survivors of trauma. When she was an undergraduate psychology student at Mills College in Oakland, California, Ikram discovered the drama therapy graduate program at NYU through a simple Google search. Although she may not have realized it at the time, drama therapy had already been a part of her life for years. “I feel like I didn’t really know I was doing drama therapy, kind of earlier on in high school,” Ikram said. “I was working in this hospital in Pakistan which focuses mostly on cancer research, and at the same time, I was also working on a play. It didn’t occur to me until later, once I found out about drama therapy, the connections that were being made with how I was performing in both spaces.” Ikram’s prior experience allowed her to dive straight in during her first year at the NYU Drama Therapy Program in 2016. During her first semester, Ikram jumped at the opportunity to participate as a student actor in the program’s therapeutic theater study, “Behind the Doors: Terror in the Home and the World.” Ikram held a personal connection to the piece and used it to process her own encounters with terror and terrorism in Pakistan. “Growing up in Lahore, I found myself frustrated and saddened by the growing threat of terrorism in the country,” Ikram said. “In high school … schools began to close for safety. When school opened, gates were blocked with barrels of rice, barbed wire fences and armed security guards.” This theater study presented her with the opportunity to digest some of what she’d seen and experienced during her childhood. “This play was a chance to sit and unpack terror in the world, in homes and how it impacts people around the world, how it impacted me and my life and breaking the stereotypes around Muslim identities and brown bodies that are often racialized,” Ikram said. “I was also aware that I was bringing my story on stage as a hyphenated identity.” One of the NYU Drama Therapy Program professors, Maria Hodermarska, commented on

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Ikram’s performance. “That is how she really started in the program –– with the willingness to go on the stage and take a risk and say ‘I’m putting my body here, with all of its complexity,’” Hodermarska said.

“I really do believe that if people have a platform, if they have the privilege, it’s a responsibility to step up and to talk about things, and to raise awarenessa and to create spaces.” ­— Samah Ikram

“She is this connection maker, which is also something that we don’t see in every student.” Over the summer of 2017, Ikram put the knowledge she gained during her first year to practice at her internship at the Bronx-Lebanon Hospital Center. “She was there for a short period of time, but she made a big impression,” Zeneida Disla, Ikram’s internship supervisor, said. “I hold on to people’s stories, and I think that to be with people when they’re going through something –– the fact that I can hold that space with them –– to me is just a piece of it.,” Ikram said when asked about working with the clients at Bronx-Lebanon. “They’re doing the work. I’m just sitting with them. But I think it’s rewarding.” STAFF PHOTO BY JULIA SALIBA

Ikram admitted that her job can take an emotional toll.

“I do get sad really fast,” she said. “I think I have always been very sensitive … I realized that this is more of my strength, and I need to make it my strength in order to care for people and be able to feel that deeply.” Now, as a second-year graduate student, Ikram is the program assistant for the NYU Drama Therapy program. In this role, Ikram meets many of the prospective students coming into drama therapy. She was recently tasked with organizing the program’s audition day, which is part of the student application process. Nisha Sajnani, the director of the NYU Drama Therapy program, said the event went without a hitch. “She walked straight into that event with such grace and precision, and incredibly calm throughout.,” Sajnani said. “I don’t know what we’re going to do without her, frankly.” Sajnani also recognized Ikram’s composure when they both advocated for drama therapy at the UN on World Mental Health Day, saying that she was poised under pressure. Ikram co-facilitated a presentation at the UN, using sociodrama, a technique that dramatizes social situations to encourage dialogue, to stir discourse and coax solutions from the audience. Ikram continues to push drama therapy forward into new territory as an associate therapist at New York Creative Arts Therapists. She is using her relationship with this clinic to create a drama therapy group for women who identify as coming from a South Asian background in collaboration with Womankind –– an organization that serves women and children who are survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking. “I wanted to work [with] this population and really be able to create more of a space,” Ikram said. “I have seen and experienced drama therapy, so I was curious of how this could be of service to them.” Ikram is hoping to provide drama therapy services to new communities in the future. She recognizes that her role as an advocate for drama therapy demands that she continues to do the work and facilitate conversation around mental health. After graduating, Ikram wants to get her license and work in a local hospital. However, further in the future, Ikram sees herself returning to Pakistan to serve communities there. “I really do believe that if people have a platform, if they have the privilege, it’s a responsibility to step up and to talk about things and to raise awareness and to create spaces –– especially when they don’t exist,” Ikram said. Email Tyler Crews at


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Josh Charow Not Afraid of Heights By VERONICA LIOW Assistant Managing Editor

dle of the show.” When Charow isn’t out capturing moments in the music industry, he is photographing beautiful views of New York

sociated, and that was the only one that would work, so it’s sort of like, there’s not one way to do it, but it can happen if you try hard enough and be respectful about it.”


City on rooftops as seen on his Instagram.

Arts, currently making strides in the film and photo in-

Freelance photographer Jordan Tempro rooftopped

dustries. His short experimental film, “A Strange Winter

with Charow during his early years. Like Charow, Tempro

in New York City,” on Vimeo was a Staff Pick. New York

sees rooftopping as an unparalleled experience because it

“My friends and I would skate around New Jersey —

saw a commercial he filmed and edited for New York City

gives him a different vantage point of New York that most

that’s where I grew up — and then we would start to go

Restaurant Week playing in the back of 80 percent of taxi-

people rarely see.

into the city,” Charow said. “They were way better than I

According to Tempro, Charow’s perseverance, driven by his passion for his work, is remarkable.

n the rooftop of the Flatiron

“It was this adrenaline inducing thing that allowed me to

Building, with a camera in one

get photos that I didn’t really see often at that time,” Charow

“He’s the guy that will lock himself in the room and edit

hand and the city’s horizon within

said. “It became this sort of list for me, so I had a list of the

the video for a week straight until it’s done and done right,”

reach of the other, Josh Charow

most iconic buildings that I really wanted to hit. Whenever

Tempro said. “He’s dedicated as f-ck and super passionate

is on top of the world.

I walk around the city now, I look up at different buildings,

about what he does, and it shows in his work because ev-

and I have different stories associated with [them].”

erything comes out pristine.”

Charow is a sophomore in the Tisch School of the

However, Charow’s artistic endeavors did not begin with music or rooftopping, but rather with skateboarding.

was, so I became the filmer. I started filming everyone else

cabs last summer. Recently, he has shifted his focus to the

“Shooting on top of one of the top 10 tallest buildings in

music industry; he’s covered the shows of artists such as

New York with Josh is amazing because that kid is incred-

Marshmello, photographed for the past three Governors

ibly patient when it comes to getting that shot,” Tempro

When Charow saw his friend post a photo from a rooftop

Ball Music Festivals and The Meadows Music and Arts Fes-

said, reminiscing on his rooftop venture with Charow. “He

on Instagram, he convinced this friend to bring him up on

tivals and most recently, edited a music video he directed

has this go-getter mentality when it comes to hitting these

a rooftop to take photos.

for rising artist Mia Gladstone. Despite his age, Charow has

spots that I think transcends his hobby of rooftopping, and

had plenty of experience filiming musicians.

it goes to his professional video and photo work.”

and started editing the videos.”

“From there, the passion for taking photos started,” Charow said. “And that reinvigorated my passion for

“The Flatbush Zombies were incredible to shoot, just

Charow has been on top of the Flatiron Building, the

filmmaking, which initially was just skateboarding vid-

cause their energy was incredible,” Charow said when

World Trade Center and even the New Year’s Eve Ball

eos, but translated into other things like short films

asked what his favorite show to shoot was. “They were

in Times Square, but these all-access passes definitely

and music videos.”

jumping into the crowd and totally cool with all of us on

don’t come easily.

The catalyst for entering the photo and film industry, friends continue to be a major inspiration for Charow.

stage shooting photos. Kanye West is also a special one

“[It] took me three years to get access to [the New Year’s

because I’m obsessed with Kanye West and I’ve loved his

Eve Ball],” Charow said. “I had to go through a construction

“It sounds cliche, but if you surround yourself by people

music since forever. I got to shoot the first half of his show

course; I had to get insurance, and then I ended up going

who are doing very creative, inspiring work, it helps every-

at Meadow’s last year before Kim [Kardashian] got held at

with the company that changes light bulbs on the ball. I

one,” Charow said. “I love all the stuff my friends create —

gunpoint in her hotel room, so he literally left in the mid-

tried [around] 10 different groups of people who were as-

photography and film.


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Though Charow is currently focusing his work in the music industry, he keeps an open mind. He’s fascinated by documentaries and said he would be interested in incorporating music into that medium by making a documentary on musicians. He also said he’d consider acting as the director of photography for short films and working on narrative work. “I’m not 100 percent on where I want to be at when I graduate,” Charow said. “You go wherever life takes you.” This open attitude is what makes Charow an exceptional content creator. Brett Conti, founder of Fortune NY, a clothing and skateboarding company, supervised Charow when he was an intern creating content from photos to commercials. Conti has seen Charow progress in his work since he was a senior in high school. “He’s always doing something new and pushing himself, and that’s what I feel motivates him,” Conti said. “It’s just him wanting to be him at his best at all times, and I really admire him for that.” Charow attributes his success to his addictive personality. “Whatever I get into, whether it‘s going to be skateboarding, filming or photography, I’m going to do it all the time whenever I can,” Charow said. Charow’s perseverance, creative open-mindedness and hustler attitude have landed him amazing opportunities, including becoming Nasdaq’s Artist in Residence, meaning that his work will be displayed in Times Square. “I say ‘kid’ just to be funny, but he’s beyond his age,” Tempro said. “What he doesn’t have in age, or in a number as far as how old he is, he makes up in genuine go-getter wisdom when it comes to going for what you love and only that. Email Veronica Liow at


Washington Square News | Up and Comers 2018

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Getting Off on Feminism By PAMELA JEW Deputy Managing Editor


or the past few months, CAS junior Nina Haines has been conducting a social experiment: when

“I got my mom a vibrator for Christmas. It’s opened up so much communication between me, my friends, my parents [and] my boyfriend. It’s been able to open a dialogue that’s super healthy and rewarding.” ­— Nina Haines

she walks down the streets of Manhattan, she won’t step aside for anyone — not because she’s rude or

inconsiderate. She’s just tired of catering her actions to men. Haines is not one to listen to your judgments, but she’s open to hearing everyone’s perspectives — especially those of members of the Women of Sex Tech community. According to the company’s Instagram, which Haines runs, it is “an inclusive community of sex positive women and femme-identifying individuals changing the sex tech industry.” Haines, who studies gender and sexuality studies, currently shapes the ethos of the Women of Sex Tech by developing its website and accompanying social media pages. Haines made her transition to working for the Women of Sex Tech after an internship last summer at Unbound, a sex toy company based in New York City, since both companies were created by her boss, Polly Rodriguez. Haines didn’t find this job at Wasserman or any other job board — and not just because most of these sites don’t allow sex-related companies to advertise jobs.

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Nina Haines “I never thought in my life that I’d be working for a sex toy company; it kind of just fell into my lap — pun intended,” Haines said. “At the start of sophomore year, I won a contest through Polyvore and got sent to Fashion Week. Polyvore had a dinner, and I recognized this girl Gab from the Polyvore community. I asked her what else she does, and she said, ‘I do [public relations] for a sex toy company.’ I said, ‘Tell me more; I want to know everything.’ We clicked and hit it off, and at the end of dinner, she said, ‘I’m emailing Polly right now. She needs to meet such a young, sexually empowered woman like yourself.’” Later that same week, Haines and Rodriguez met for coffee, and the two instantly clicked. “When our PR person told me about her, I reached out to grab coffee with Nina and was equally blown away,” Rodriguez said. “I asked her to intern with Unbound on the spot.” When sophomore year came to a close, Haines immediately started her social media internship at Unbound, working full time to further curate the brand’s image. Haines claimed to have her “fingers in lots of different pies” that summer, doing everything from content creation to Instagram stories with Barbies to product development — yes, that means testing out vibrators. But even when Unbound was booming, Haines didn’t tell any family members about her role there. “Toward the end of the summer, Women of Sex Tech was featured on the front page of the Metro section of The New York Times,” Haines said. “My dad showed my grandma and she said, ‘Well, I hope it’s not for anything scandalous.’ I said to her, ‘Nah, it’s just sex toys gram.’ And she just started laughing and saying ‘I love it.’” As Haines opened up more about her work in the sex tech industry, she grew closer to her family members, especially her mother. “When my mom found out that I was working for a sex toys company, she went on the website and she was scrolling through and said, ‘I could have gotten your Christmas stocking stuffers from here,’” Haines said. “I immediately hung up the FaceTime, but then later, I got my mom a vibrator for Christmas. It’s opened up so much communication between me, my friends, my parents [and] my boyfriend. It’s been able to open a dialogue that’s super healthy and rewarding.” Even before working at a sex toy company, Haines immersed herself in the world of female and femme-identifying empowerment. Her mother, Estella Haines, said that Nina has always been outspoken about what she believes


in, ever since she was young. “When she was little and signed up to do softball, Nina

refill me and refortify me to continue doing what I do, learning to set boundaries along the way.”

hated it,” Estella said. “And we told her, ‘You made this

Outside of her work in the sex tech industry, Haines

commitment, and now you need to stick this commitment

spends as much time as she can with her friends and

out.’ She read this article in American Girl magazine, and

family — even if they’re hundreds of miles away. Haines

she brought the magazine to me with something along

carves out a part of her week to FaceTime her mother

those same lines. She said to me, ‘Mom, this is how I truly

during which the two watch the latest episode of “The

feel, and this article says it is OK to quit something if it’s

Bachelor” and share a glass of red wine, which Asaf re-

something that you’re not happy doing. I’m not a quitter.

fers to as “Nina Time.”

This is just how I truly feel.’”

“One day, I got a text from Nina around 12 [p.m.] ask-

Fellow activist and CAS junior Rose Asaf, who is Haines’

ing if we could watch ‘The Bachelor,’” Estella said. “But

best friend and roommate, admires Haines for her devo-

I tell her I can’t just sit down for a glass of wine right now

tion to female and femme rights and how she carries that

— it’s the middle of the day.”

into every sector of her life.

If Haines isn’t working on her schoolwork, spending

“Gregarious, uncensored and endlessly caring, Nina

time with friends and family or tinkering with the Women

embodies empowerment,” Asaf said. “She takes sh-t

of Sex Tech website, she’s marching and speaking out for

from no one, and she forges her own path without ex-

female and femme rights on a daily basis, as she proudly

pecting any help. Through her work with the Women of

wears her “Make a Woman Cum for Once” T-shirt and

Sex Tech and Unbound, Nina unequivocally devotes her

gold-lettered “CUNT” necklace. This summer, she will

entire self to uplifting women and promoting better sex.”

continue working full time again at Unbound while con-

As one of the youngest members of the primarily

tinuing to hold the reins on the Women of Sex Tech.

female team, her co-workers at Unbound have said

“She’s a full embodiment of everything she believes

that Haines is wise beyond her years considering she’s

in and is so vocal about it,” said Haines’ boyfriend and

only 20 years old.

Stern junior Navsher Singh. “She loves everything she

“She’s really taught me to embrace my sexuality and

does for the Women of Sex Tech and seeing how ex-

sensuality,” said Arielle Egozi, a writer and producer in

cited she gets about it is amazing. You really just have to

the feminist and sex space, who met Haines last summer.

see her in action.”

“I was so burnt out from my work when I met her, and she’s really shown me through a universe that has helped

Email Pamela Jew at

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Malcolm A Lewis

Energetic, Magical and Queer By SAYER DEVLIN Managing Editor

small class of children stares at their last generation MacBook Pros on the eighth floor of the Tandon School of Engineering. Today’s task: repurpose Google’s logo with images of letters they find on

the web using Adobe Photoshop. Fifth-year Tandon student Malcolm Lewis circles the stu-

dents like a mother watching over her brood. Keeping kids interested in Photoshop and away from YouTube, anime and other treasures the internet has to offer is a Herculean task, but with Lewis, the students show focus and gumption. Lewis is a counselor for Tech Kids Unlimited, a non-profit educational organization that teaches kids with special needs computer and other tech skills. When a boy raises his hand, Lewis swoops in, kneeling down so their eyes are level. The boy is having trouble cropping an image. Photoshop can be finicky, but after a few minutes, Lewis has fixed the issue. “We’re amazing!” Lewis exclaims. Even though Lewis towers over the children at 6 feet 3 inches, the kids are clearly comfortable around them because in a lot of ways, Lewis is equally youthful. Lewis explodes with energy and charm. They scream when they’re excited, even if they’re in the middle of the street. They get bored easily (Lewis was diagnosed with ADHD as a child). Their facial expressions are almost over the top. People have no trouble knowing exactly what Lewis is thinking and feeling.


“In high discovered robotics, the ho racism, physic centers all ove — including in m borough — homo algebra, ge trigonometry, pre and my sense in — Malco

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Lewis wanted me to use they/them/their pronouns

on them — but high school is when Lewis gained their

for this profile, they said they didn’t really mind

full freedom when their cautious, protective mother loos-

Lewis is a modern day renaissance man. Lewis is a com-

what gender pronouns people use for them. Their

ened the reins to let them discover the world.

puter science major. They’ve trained with Olympic fencers

friends will use he/him or call them ‘sister’ (Lewis

“In high school, I discovered fencing, robotics, the

and competed at a Division I level for three years. They

does this when referencing themself in third per-

honor roll, racism, physics, LGBT centers all over the city

perform drag and have done LGBTQ advocacy work

son). The gender bending doesn’t end with Lewis.

— including in my home borough — homophobia, alge-

“Sometimes he’ll call guys ‘girl,’ opening doors for peo-

bra, geometry, trigonometry, precalculus and my sense in

“Malcolm is unapologetically Malcolm,” Lewis’ makeup artist and best friend David Flores said.

since their teenage years. “My eyes have always been way bigger than my stomach,” Lewis said.

ple that wouldn’t normally come in contact with those conversations,” Flores said.

fashion,” Lewis said. High school was also where Lewis bloomed into the eccentric, emotive, outspoken person they are today.

Lewis and their team won HackNYU, NYU’s annual

Lewis’ seemingly endless schedule eventually caught

global hackathon, in 2017. This year, Lewis is helping to

up to them at the beginning of junior year when they saw

“Most of my teachers and classmates knew who I was,

plan and organize it.

their lupus seriously flare up. Lewis was losing hair, seeing

either from screaming in the halls, coming to the library

At Tandon, Lewis has been intimately intertwined

lesions all over their skin and constantly feeling cold. Their

where I worked community service hours or from speaking

with the campus community throughout their five

mother dragged them to the doctor where they were

on the loudspeaker every morning for the pledge of alle-

years. They’ve been involved with orientation ev-

treated. Against the wishes of their mom, Lewis did not

giance and daily announcements,” Lewis said. “Students

ery year, they were on Tandon Student Council

take medical leave that semester and instead struggled

knew who I was because of how active I was on campus.”

their first year and perhaps most importantly, they

on with their studies. That semester, Lewis got a ‘D’ in

The same seems to be true at Tandon, where walk-

have been an active member of Out in Science,

every class except for calculus, which they failed.

ing down the hall with Lewis can make one’s own social life feel empty.

Technology, Engineering and Math — which advo-

After getting back into good academic standing, Lewis

cates for LGBTQ students in STEM. Lewis served

learned how to better take care of themself and said that

Lewis made 10 people smile and gave two people hugs

as the club’s president for nearly two years.

the oSTEM community was a huge help in their recovery

before we even sat down for our interview. The first time I

— Lewis, despite all they do, is incredibly modest and is

talked to them, for a different story, they were 90 minutes

hesitant to take credit for things.

late — Lewis tells people they were two hours late be-

“He’s sort of like a gay icon at Tandon because he just has such a big and inviting personality,

cause they like to exaggerate.

and that’s what made me join the club in the first

When Lewis got their first taste of freedom in middle

place,” Tandon senior and current oSTEM Presi-

school — and their first set of keys — they would set up

Lewis is so full of ideas, verve and talent that

dent Eric Kwok said. “His passion and enthusiasm

camp in the local library reading books about physics and

picking what to do next is always difficult. Of the

for not only creating more LGBTQ visibility on

outer space. That sparked their love of science and math.

things Lewis sees themself doing in the future —

campus but also making sure us queer and trans

As a kid, Lewis saw themself becoming a physicist or dis-

modeling, going to graduate school, teaching, di-

folks have equitable professional opportunities is

covering a cure for AIDS or even becoming an astronaut

versifying tech companies or perhaps something

both inspiring and encouraging. It has been an ab-

to explore space.

else entirely — Lewis is likely to move forward

solute thrill to work with someone with so much grit, intentional, respect and passion.” Lewis is a masterful gender bender; though

h school, I d fencing, honor roll, ics, LGBT er the city my home mophobia, geometry, ecalculus n fashion” olm Lewis

Lewis grew up in Staten Island and went to Catholic

with the pep they’ve infused into everything else.

school for three years for middle school where they had to wear a uniform every day — the irony of this is not lost

Email Sayer Devlin at


Washington Square News | Up and Comers 2018

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KP Mendoza

The Nurse Next Door By SAKSHI VENKATRAMAN News Editor


P Mendoza starts his Thursdays at 6 a.m. with a shower and a quick breakfast. By 6:30 a.m., the Rory Meyers senior is out of his apartment in Gram-

ercy Green Residence Hall, where he’s a resident assistant, and on

his way to Mimodenies Hospital in Brooklyn where he spends eight hours monitoring patients. Around 4 p.m., he heads back to Gramercy where he gets a little downtime before STAFF PHOTO BY SAM CHENG

working at the Resource Center from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. After that, he makes it in the nick of time for hall snacks with the residents of the 21st floor, which last until 11 p.m. “On those days, I don’t sit down to do my homework until [11:30 p.m.] or midnight,” Mendoza said. “I honestly think I get four and a half hours of sleep per night.”

“He’s always doing something and he’s always biking around the city to get there. But he always makes the time for people.” ­— Elena Dimaan

Each day, Mendoza balances an intense nursing curriculum — a combination of undergraduate and graduate level courses — with his duties as an RA, his admissions ambassador position, a job at New York Presbyterian Hospital and management of the Nursing Anesthetists Practitioners Student Interest Group. He is also the Presidential Intern for The Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing. He has more passions than he can fit into 24 hours. But connecting everything he does and sustaining his incredible work ethic is his desire to help people. “I knew that I loved health and I loved science,” Mendoza said. “I didn’t want to to be behind a desk. I was like ‘What’s a job that can give me satisfaction and a good salary and will benefit other people?’” With minors in Child Adolescent Mental Health Studies and Spanish, Mendoza seeks to bridge the gap between patients and medical professionals who he said are often perceived as cold and insensitive. On Fridays, he works at Presbyterian Hospital with patients at risk of falling or leaving the hospital, as well as patients with suicidal tendencies — a task Mendoza doesn’t take lightly. “I had a patient who was a teenager in the pediatric emergency department,” Mendoza said. “It was definitely my hardest patient. I learned that she was there

Washington Square News | Up and Comers 2018

because she was depressive and had threatened to kill herself. Psych patients are always hard because you can’t see a physical ailment. Even as a minor in a psych field, it was hard for me to recognize that this was also a person who’s sick, and that was really hard. There was a lot of screaming involved and she tried to run away.” Mendoza said the doctor tending to this patient used harsh and inappropriate words with the young girl and her parents — it brought him to tears. “He came in and he belittled her. I remember thinking ‘She’s not dumb, she’s not deaf,’” Mendoza said. “I remember him saying to the parents, and I will never forget this, ‘Your daughter is acting below the first percentile of her age group’ and all these horrible things. She heard the doctor say that and she got angry and started screaming again; she threw her Cheerios at him.” When the doctor left the room, Mendoza expressed his regret to the family and told them to file a complaint. “I remember just being in tears afterwards,” he said. “I remember a clerk asking me what was wrong and I was like ‘This is the reason I’m a nurse.’ Because I want to prove that people care and I want to dispel the stereotype that men are heartless.” Dr. Larry Slater, Mendoza’s academic adviser and the Rory Meyers undergraduate program director, recalls seeing Mendoza’s passion from his first few weeks at NYU. “For our traditional students, they don’t have much relationship with the College of Nursing until their junior and senior years,” Slater said. “KP, as soon as he got through the door, was very eager. He is really a take-charge kind of person; sometimes I felt like I was just along for the ride.” In the last two years, Mendoza has also worked to increase opportunities for Rory Meyers students through the Nursing Anesthetists Practitioners Student Interest Group, a student interest group he founded. The group is dedicated to providing resources for undergraduates hoping to pursue careers in anesthesiology or nurse practitioning, as NYU does not offer students much information on how to enter these fields. “He basically saw a gap and he filled it,” NAPSIG Vice President and Rory Meyers junior Elena Dimaan said. “There are so many different requirements that people don’t realize that they need. It’s such a small, specific profession to navigate.” Dimaan met Mendoza when he supported her proposal during a nursing town hall and has worked with him on the NAPSIG executive board and as an RA herself. “I knew about KP because I saw his face on the RA application,” Dimaan said. “I also heard about him through nursing. I think I was nervous at first because he’s such a big face across campus. He’s on ambassadors and you see posters of him everywhere. I heard so many things about him.” Before Dimaan got to know Mendoza and work beside him as NAPSIG’s vice president, she said that he seemed just like the average, overachieving NYU student. “He’s just kind of a go-getter,” Dimaan said. “He’s always doing something and he’s always biking around the city to get there. But he always makes the time for people. I wouldn’t know he was so busy unless I were an RA and in nursing and on the E-Board. You just don’t realize until you see him on his bike or you look at his [Google Calendar].” Mendoza has several ideas about where his future could take him after graduating this spring. A semifinalist for the Fulbright Scholarship, he may return to Madrid, where he studied abroad during the spring of his sophomore year and the summer before his junior year, to teach English. As far as nursing, Mendoza aims to eventually work in the intensive care unit at Weill Cornell Hospital or NYU Langone Medical Center. At the end of the day, however, he just hopes his line of work impacts the lives of others in a positive way. “It’s not like you’re sitting there watching someone do something,” Dimaan said, speaking about the nursing field. “You’re there and maybe your patient is about to pass out or they start coding and dying. He does that. He’s calm and collected, comes back and is still able to help out other students — not just his residents and the members of NAPSIG and the E-Board, but also just random people he doesn’t know.” Emai Sakshi Venkatraman at

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Washington Square News | Up and Comers 2018

Page 12

Alexandra Pezzo Putting the Style in Lifestyle By MADDIE HOWARD Sports Editor


lex Pezzotti exudes eloquence. Her voice is soft like velvet and her language is always precise. Each word she quietly utters packs both a deliberate and all-power-

ful significance — she never says ‘like’ or ’um.’ When Pezzotti speaks, people want to listen. Her essence is expressed through her carefully curated Instagram page, StrongBloom. It is the brainchild of Pezzotti’s


passion for fitness and health and provides women with food,

worse. I missed like two weeks of school that semester, and I

exercise and body-acceptance inspiration.

just did my work from the hospital in Italy.”

The account has garnered nearly 10,000 followers since its

She said that, for her, the trauma catalyzed a lifestyle overhaul.

launch last summer, and she has plans to soon expand be-

“Obviously it isn’t fun to get injured,” Pezzotti said. “There

yond the digital sphere. However, for Pezzotti, the Instagram

were just a lot of problems in general with my body. When it

page already embodies a deeper meaning.

happened, it was very eye opening for me that I needed to

After surviving a life-threatening motorcycle accident her first year of college while at home in Milan, Italy, she suffered a serious foot injury that required multiple surgeries and months of healing. “It was rainy and snowy and not a good time to be driving a motorcycle,” Pezzotti said. “It could have gone way, way

start taking care of myself. I started working out, and I started using [StrongBloom] to empower people to do the same.” Long-time friend and Tisch junior Ricky Reynoso helped Pezzotti adjust to a new way of experiencing city life once returning to NYU. “Having to be immobilized for a long time was really hard


Washington Square News | Up and Comers 2018

Page 13

for her,” Reynoso said. “She could really only go to and from class.

pressure and I had blood clotting issues because of my injury. I went

She never turned it into a negative for her. She always turned it into

vegan and I managed in three weeks to get off all my meds.”

a positive and into room for change.” After recovering from the physical limitations, Pezzotti immersed herself in a healthier lifestyle. Her new lifestyle included never missing an early morning workout and broadening the reach of StrongBloom — and adopting veganism.

Her experimentation with vegan practices was only supposed to last three weeks. However, after noticing unrivaled results, she made the change permanent. “I take very drastic steps to make sure that I can do the best that I can do given my situation,” Pezzotti said.

“I had watched a documentary that said if you went vegan it

Her newfound love for health, fitness and her prominent social

would cure everything,” Pezzotti said. “I always had very low blood

media following landed Pezzotti an internship at Peloton, a spinning company that brings the experience of cycling classes to one’s home via high-end stationary bikes. Her one-year anniversary with the company will be in May. “The environment is just amazing,” Pezzotti said. “I really love being surrounded by people who have my same interests and who like to workout. I do social media marketing, so I work Instagram, the blog, Facebook [and] Pinterest.” Pezzotti finds comfort among the sweaty bodies shuffling in and out of the Peloton New York City flagship studio. She navigates the bustling locker room and later the darkened gym full of bikes with ease. During the ride, she dons a face of determination, and it is clear that the pedals give her an outlet to release her daily stressors. She has already exerted a full day’s worth of energy either at NYU classes or working at Peloton’s business offices. “Working out relaxes me,” Pezzotti said. “I work five days a week every single break. I can’t go home almost ever. I work during the


“I take very drastic steps to make sure that I can do the best that I can do given my situation” ­— Alexandra Pezzotti

school year as well, nine to five, two days a week.” Pezzotti’s meticulous schedule has rubbed off on those closest to her. Her boyfriend of a year and a half and CAS junior Moses Freih said that Pezzotti has a way of unlocking the untapped potential of others. “She kind of turned me 180 [degrees],” Freih said. “When I first met her, I was kind of lost. She started teaching me a regimen and getting me on a work schedule. She constantly told me I can do better and better.” Before meeting Pezzotti, Freih’s aspirations to attend medical school were unpointed. He is now a research assistant at NYU Shrout Laboratory and credits much of this achievement to the foundation that his girlfriend gave him. Freih also attests to Pezzotti’s quiet but unwavering work ethic. “She works so hard, but she keeps her moves lowkey,” he said. “She is always trying to help people but she doesn’t really flaunt what she does. She is probably one of the best people I know.” What comes next for Pezzotti has yet to be determined. She channels roughly 96 percent of her earnings into calculated investments and aims to utilize the profits in order to finance the expansion of entrepreneurial endeavours. While the specifics of these expansions are unclear, Pezzotti has experimented with blogging, box subscriptions and activewear. For now, she will continue to work at Peloton and further develop her plethora ideas surrounding the relationship between the health, fitness and technological industries. “My future is kind of unclear,” Pezzotti said. “I just like the idea that everyday I am doing something that could better myself and someone else’s life.” Email Maddie Howard at


Washington Square News | Up and Comers 2018

Page 14


Keeping NYU Local By MACK DEGEURIN News Editor


n the last day of February, a group of about 20 members of the New York City press corps huddled together around cameras and local politicians on

the steps of city hall. The New York City Council was preparing to host a hearing on best practices to address sexual harassment, the first hearing of its kind. Standing erect amid the crowd in a grey peacoat and brown slacks is CAS senior Gotham Gazette intern and NYU Local Co-Editor-in-Chief Sam Raskin. While many of the professional reporters around him scurry, frantically snapping photos and fumbling pen and paper, Raskin remains markedly calm — occasionally typing up quick notes with one hand on his iPhone. Ben Brachfeld, a fellow Gotham Gazette intern, taps Raskin’s shoulder and whispers in his ear: “would you like to interview Carlina Rivera?” A moment later, Raskin has the full attention of the New York City Council member. To a random observer, Raskin may seem like a veteran reporter. In reality, the 22-year-old began reporting just two years prior. Raskin appears aware of his perceived expertise. In the past two years, he has written and reported extensively and

has developed a reputation as a respected, business-first

with NYU Polytechnic. With it came the resurrection of NYU

student reporter. He’s the type of goal-driven journalist who

baseball after a 14-year hiatus. The stage was set. Raskin

records every interview. Even this one.

was headed to NYU.

Raskin and I have crossed paths with some frequency while reporting on campus news. Despite initial trepida-

CAS senior Matt Millus was one of the first friends Raskin made on the baseball team.

tion, Raskin agreed to meet with me for our first interview

“He’s a pretty big kid,” Millus said, recalling his first time

on a Saturday afternoon over lunch at a lively Union Square

meeting Raskin. “I got to know him more, and after talking

diner. I remember ordering a chilled Brooklyn Lager to

to him on a personal basis, I realized that he was very down

break the ice. The bartender placed the glass in front of me

to earth and a straight shooter. He is transparent with what

while Raskin ordered. A whiff of white frost floated from the

he believes and what he sees as correct.”

glass, diverting my attention. To my left, Raskin motioned the waiter over, his gaze set

Around that same time, the current NYU Local editor-in-chief was first exposed to campus media — at Washington Square News.

straight ahead.

On Sept. 17, 2014 Raskin wrote an editorial, “Pitchers be-

“I’ll have a water,” he said. ***

ing pushed towards injury,” which was published in WSN.

From an early age, Raskin’s parents did not shy away from

During our interview, Raskin explained how he felt that

dinner table politics and weighty debates over current af-

the final published version of the article deviated from his

fairs. In his household, newspapers also weren’t in short

original point. That, in addition to a rejected pitch, steered

supply — his family subscribed to The New York Times and

Raskin away from WSN. In hindsight, Raskin told me he

the New York Post, the thick papers populating his home.

would have considered writing for a different desk at the

Early on, however, sports — especially baseball, were Raskin’s true passion.

newspaper if he could do it over. “I always play through alternate universes in my head

By the beginning of his sophomore year of high school,

about what would [have happened],” Raskin said. “If I had

Raskin knew he wanted to play college baseball. But it wasn’t

to go back and do it again who knows, maybe I would have

until he attended a baseball showcase in August 2013 that

switched sections [to news] and I would be at WSN right

NYU appeared on Raskin’s radar as a potential option.

now. I don’t know.”

By the end of 2013, NYU was finalizing its partnership

Though he made clear that those disagreements were

Washington Square News | Up and Comers 2018

“Andy Hamilton should wake up afraid every morning that there is going to be some investigation into their business or into the university that is going to show that it is bad.” ­— Sam Raskin not personal, Raskin pointed out where he thinks WSN has

co-editor-in-chief of NYU Local alongside GLS senior Opheli Garcia Lawler. Raskin is a natural reporter — his strong character feeds into the way he approaches stories. “If I had to put a word on Sam, it would be principled,” said Harry Braha, an NYU alumnus who has known Raskin

Page 15

was a mistake. Those close to Raskin told me his commitment to journalism as a check on power and a force for good are genuine. “He is transparent with what he believes and what he sees as correct,” Millus said.

since the sixth grade when they would take a bus across

This spring, Raskin also made his New York Times debut

town to the Abraham Joshua Heschel Jewish Day School.

— but not how he expected. Just weeks before New York

“[Raskin] tends to come up with plans that are very reason-

City’s mayoral election, NYU alumnus Mayor Bill de Blasio

able, and he has the willpower to see them to their comple-

visited his old dorm room in Weinstein Residence Hall. As

tion … For the better, I think that he comes up with more

an aspiring political reporter, Raskin felt he must at least try

realistic plans and tends to follow through on those plans

to get in a question.

more than other people our age.”

De Balso brushed him off saying, “We’re not doing that

While writing for NYU Local, Raskin became a commu-

right now.” By the end of that evening, New York Times re-

nity expert on campus politics. This proficiency landed him

porter David Goodman had released an article with Raskin’s

a freelance story with BuzzFeed News where he examined

name at the bottom.

changes in College Republicans on a national stage.

In addition to being a full-time student and co-editor-in-

Raskin also helped lead a national conversation on al-

chief at NYU Local, Raskin started interning at the Gotham

leged academic freedom violations and religious discrim-

Gazette this semester. Raskin has covered a number of dif-

ination at NYU Abu Dhabi’s campus. Following a Sept.

ferent beats for Gotham Gazette including transportation,

26. op-ed released by tenured NYU journalism professor

housing, city agencies and campaign finance legislation.

Mohamad Bazzi, WSN and NYU Local produced multiple

Raskin admitted that navigating life as a full-time student,

investigative articles that resulted in an official admission of

an intern and an editor while pursuing a career in a volatile

fault by President Andrew Hamilton in February.

industry has its ups and downs.

“The NYU Abu Dhabi example was a perfect way that

“Well certainly you wouldn’t go into it if you wanted the

“Some editorials are very much giving credit to the univer-

showed some of what I do actually matters,” Raskin said

money. And you certainly wouldn’t go into it if you wanted

sity,” he said. “That is not to say that I disagree with them.

over an 11 p.m. coffee. “And it’s not just so I can be happy

the fame. And you certainly wouldn’t go into it if you wanted

It’s to say I would never have a ‘to be fair NYU did good’ in

with myself or so people can say ‘hey Sam is doing good

to be around people that dress well,” Raskin said. “So you

this sort of parenthetical, because I think that the purpose of

work.’ No, it’s so that things can actually change and

just kinda have to love it, and you kinda have to embrace it.”

journalism is to challenge power and be adversarial.”

that things are exposed that otherwise would not have

Looking back on his four years, Raskin said that despite

fallen short as a publication.

Not long after that, the baseball season picked up in full

been out there.”

chaotic schedules and a modest Twitter affliction, he would

swing, and Raskin had moved on from WSN. Two years

Raskin does not shy away from what he sees as an

not have it any other way. And though he no longer plays

would pass before he would re-enter the campus pub-

obligation of campus media to hold the administra-

baseball competitively, he explained how the same spark

lication scene.

tion accountable.

that led him to strap on cleats every day has followed him into the newsroom.

In the years before joining NYU Local, Raskin continued to

“Andy Hamilton should wake up afraid every morning

build up a burly portfolio beaming with political exposure

that there is going to be some investigation into their busi-

Before he left our interview, Raskin told me he had met

and journalistic inspiration.

ness or into the university that is going to show that it is

his best friends and made some of his greatest memories

bad,” Raskin said. “They should fear that every day.”

playing baseball. After a quick pause, he smiled and added,

The fall semester of his sophomore year, Raskin studied away in Washington D.C. He interned on Capitol Hill for

A respected expert on the topic, Raskin also participated

former New York third congressional district representa-

in a debate hosted by The Review and Debates at NYU

tive Steve Israel.

which questioned whether or not the creation of NYUAD

“None of which I can say on the record.” Email Mack DeGeurin at

During that same semester, Raskin met CNN reporter and former NYU Local writer Maegan Vazquez. Raskin’s experience with Vazquez as his D.C. mentor would prove formative. Throughout all these developments, a lingering burden brewed. Raskin had struggled with an injured shoulder. While he tried to play through the pain, his baseball performance dipped. By the end of his sophomore year, Raskin began seriously considering those words issued by a coach at the baseball showcase two years prior: “Go someplace where if you got injured, you wouldn’t have to transfer.” Fate had thrown Raskin a curveball. *** Rather than let this hurdle consume him, Raskin allowed himself to be willingly consumed by reporting. He wrote over 30 articles during his first semester at NYU Local. Over the course of the next year, Raskin broke a number high-profile university stories, made his name known among the campus mediascape and worked his way up to


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Washington Square News | Up and Comers 2018

Alexia Sali Directing Change One Movie at a Time By RYAN MIKEL Arts Editor

hancing the colors of a film to perfectly match the mood of a scene. It has become a signature fixture in her work, landing her opportunities with editorials like


Vogue and Dazed.

she said. “I decided to bring my Lego action figures to

School of the Arts.

or Tisch sophomore Alexia Salingaros, the

But long before Vogue and festival prizes came her

magic of filmmaking began with summer

way, a pre-teen Salingaros fell in love with short films in

lethargy and the absence of cable television

her Digital Cinema class at Saint Mary’s Hall. She cred-

in her San Antonio home.

its the course instructor Will Underwood for inspiring

“The summer after seventh grade, I was super bored,”

life, and that eventually turned into little movies.”

“Alexia is a storyteller and film is her medium.” ­— Will Underwood

Color correcting is the process of altering and en-

her to apply to the Film and TV program at the Tisch “Alexia is a storyteller and film is her medium,” Under-

There was never a watershed moment for the 19-year-

wood said. “She belongs at NYU. New York is a crucible

old filmmaker. She simply fell in love with movies and re-

that fires one strong and exposes the things that need

alized she could make a career out of it.

to be improved. It was the perfect fit for a tenacious film-

By the age of 16, her films had competed in and won at

maker like her.”

the most prestigious film festivals in the country, includ-

As a college student and freelance filmmaker, her

ing the 2016 South by Southwest Grand Jury Prize for her

packed daily schedule would overwhelm most of her

film “Lady of Paint Creek.” Today, Salingaros continues

peers, but not Salingaros. The virtuoso is always thinking

to break conventions and makes strides in filmmaking

about film and finds inspiration in everyday life. In fact,

and color correcting.

she lifts weights at the gym daily just to be able to operate film equipment. “My brain is always on film, which is a hindrance but also very helpful,” Salingaros said. “I’ll just do work bit by bit … you keep a journal and go on with your daily routine. It’s really just about pulling from everywhere.” In both high school and college, she has worked predominantly on short films. According to Salingaros, they allow for greater attention to detail and for young filmmakers — the shorter the film the better for entering festivals. To this day, “Lady of Paint Creek” stands out as Salingaros’ most prolific work probably due to its unconventional path to fruition. Most of her films are narrative-based and intricately crafted on the pages of her screenplays, but with “Lady of Paint Creek,” she reached for a place of great emotion and feeling to concoct an experimental film that absolutely terrified her. Despite this fear of the unknown, the nonlinear, non-narrative driven project proved to be an unprecedented success. “People started watching it and would say, ‘I have no idea what just happened, but it hit me and it hit me in a spot that I can’t identify,’” Salingaros said. “I thought that was the best thing ever. Everyone was pulling something out of it that was different, that I didn’t intend.” As far as the film industry as a whole, Salingaros believes film is on the brink of something big in terms of


ingaros gender and LGBTQ equality. Most notably, her hero, Tisch alumna Rachel Morrison, became the first woman to be nominated for best cinematography at the 90th Academy Awards. To do her part, Salingaros takes it upon herself to exclusively hire women on her commercial projects outside of class, like Tisch senior Heidi Choi. She brought Choi on for a Crown Royale commercial, where the two assisted in the grip and electric departments. “A paid gig recommended by someone I knew and trusted? That’s all I could ever hope for,” Choi told WSN. “It’s already led to another gig, and I am forever grateful to Alexia for bringing me on. It’s people like her that inspire me to work in this industry.” What is next for Alexia Salingaros? Right now, she wants to tell more women-led and queer-centric stories and build a network of future collaborators and likeminded creatives. “For me, what is important is shining a light on [underrepresented] voices in normal stories,” she said. “Two women on screen doesn’t always have to end in tragedy.” Last summer, Salingaros created “Junction” to circumvent such problems, where the plot revolved around a central romance that just happened to be between two women. “This is just a story, it could happen to anybody,” she said. She claims she has no set path because new opportunities present themselves to her every day. “Be open to everything and you’ll see,” she said. “It’s just about following people’s work and staying in the business and doing what I love every day.” Email Ryan Mikel at


Washington Square News | Up and Comers 2018

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Washington Square News | Up and Comers 2018

The Ambidextrous Academic By NATASHA ROY Managing Editor-at-Large


lex Smith can’t tie himself down to just one passion. Instead, he plays the field, trying his hand at whatever piques his interest at the time, immersesing himself in all he does. The CAS senior has gusto. He isn’t afraid to take risks in what industry

he’ll break into next, and it pays off — Smith has interned at the Obama White House, PBS and, most recently, Facebook, where he’ll start a full-time job this summer. He has also contributed to USA Today and currently writes for the Huffington Post. Smith isn’t studying politics, or journalism, or even anything in science, technology, engineering or math fields. He’s a history major — and a self-proclaimed history nerd. “I think I just never decided, when I was in college, what one of my interests would be,” Smith said But Smith wasn’t always set on spending his four years at NYU with his nose in a history book. “I would say when I first got to NYU, I definitely was more interested in the international relations track,” Smith said. “I knew I wanted to do something that was going to help a community or to help an entire population. I was really interested in politics, and then I took an international relations class, and it was different than what I expected.” Though Smith decided to focus his studies on history, he continued to take classes outside the major to deepen and explore his interests. “I did a lot of things in journalism and politics, interning at the White House, and I kind of realized that just being able to be a good writer and being able to think critically was really important, so that was where history came from,” Smith said. “A lot of the opportunities — or Facebook, for example — [don’t] relate exactly to history, but I think having that foundation of being able to be a strong presenter, strong writer, really helped forward those opportunities [while] still really matching my passions for being able to understand history as how we look at the past and how we’re able to move forward with progress.” While exploring his interest in journalism, he interned at NBC’s “Rachel Maddow Show” during the 2016 Presidential election. He also took courses in journalism and media, culture and communications. Smith


said that while enrolling in classes outside his major was useful, it was more important for him to gain real-world experience in various industries. “I really enjoyed working with producers and different teams of people,” Smith said. “So just having that real world experience was really important, and I think that election coverage at NBC was probably the best example of that.” Before interning at the White House during President Barack Obama’s term, Smith interned at the mayor’s office in his hometown of Kansas City, where he was able to gain hands-on experience — and share his love of bow ties with the mayor. “That was incredibly cool because I think having just first-hand experience and literally working within 10 or 15 feet of local govern-


Washington Square News | Up and Comers 2018

Page 19

ment — from the mayor [to] the chief of staff — was really cool,” Smith said. “I think

“Being in a group every week where we talked about social justice issues, politi-

that was one of the reasons I probably helped get the White House internship, just

cal activism issues, that was really pivotal to me continuing that interest — getting

because I was able to work so closely with the staff, being able to work on writing

to meet people ... and just seeing all the different things that they’re working on is

speeches, being able to work with the [communications] team and help with press

incredibly inspiring,” Smith said. “Just being able to keep in touch with that network

engagement, things like that.”

and help them as much as possible too has been really cool.”

There was never a normal day during Smith’s time in Washington D.C.. He worked on service initiatives and projects within the management administration, gave

It’s his love for helping others and exploring all facets of life that has served as a catalyst for his multifaceted college experience.

White House tours, helped with chief of staff reports and did special events with

“At the end of four years, I’m still not sure what’s most interesting to me, and so

former First Lady Michelle Obama, former Vice President Joe Biden and former

I think [I’m] just trying to do as much as possible and really finding things I’m pas-

President Obama.

sionate about too,” Smith said. “I think that going in [my first year], I thought if I

“I was 19 when I was at the White House, and everyone around me was so much

wanted to work at Facebook or wanted to work at the White House, there was a

older, but it was just an amazing experience,” Smith said. “I think I tried to soak up

certain path that I had to kind of follow, and I really quickly learned that just do-

as much as possible and take as many pictures as possible, when I was allowed to,

ing things I was passionate about was most important and the opportunities would

so it was really cool.”

come subsequently.”

However, his semester in D.C. did not come without hardships as he worked a full-time job and kept up with a heavy course load. Family has been key to Smith’s

Email Natasha Roy at

Alex Smith success as his mother, Amy Winterscheidt, and twin sister, Corrinne, have offered continuous support with every new endeavor he undertakes. “Candidly, the White House internship was really hard,” Smith said. “I was a sophomore, you know, going to work full time, and so I think [my mom] was just supporting me every single step of the way and really encouraging me and helping me find opportunities and helping me really believe in myself.” Winterscheidt inspired Smith to pursue philanthropy, social good and corporate social responsibility, as she runs Hallmark Cards’ philanthropy and volunteer programs, which Smith often involves himself with. She said Smith cares deeply for others and is always determined to be his personal best. “He’s a tremendous caring spirit,” Winterscheidt said. “I think most importantly he really has this strong drive to be the best person he can be.” Smith believes that his support system is what drove him to be as motivated as he is. “These accomplishments really are not [simply] a reflection of me,” Smith said. “They’re a reflection of every single person who has helped me along the way and read an essay or edited a paper or totally been like, ‘No, you should apply to that — you’ll be fine,’ because there are definitely times where I doubted myself or wasn’t confident in myself, and I think just having that support system to give me the confidence to take a lot of risks and sometimes you’ll fail and sometimes you’ll get the opportunity.” Smith has also pursued opportunities within the university. He studied abroad twice — once at NYUDC and once at NYU Madrid — is part of the NYU Leadership Initiative and is the president of NYU’s History Society, which he said he has enjoyed planning events for and leading since his junior year. Previously, he was CAS class president during his first year, and he served on CAS Student Government both his first and sophomore years. Smith credits the Martin Luther King Jr. Scholars Program as what instilled a passion of service within him. His cohort through the scholars program emphasized community service, and they went to New Orleans to clean up damage that was left after Hurricane Katrina. STAFF PHOTO BY ECHO CHEN

Washington Square News | Up and Comers 2018

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Rachel Stern It’s in Her Nature


By YASMIN GULEC Features Editor

econd Avenue is home to Block Drug Store, a pharmacy that has survived for over 100 years while surrounding businesses have shuttered. Restaurants turned into chic coffee shops and bookstores turned into electronics stores, but

Block Drug Store has stuck around. This is what Gallatin junior Rachel Stern explained to me as we paused underneath its red neon sign — her attention divided between the oral history of the neighborhood playing in one earbud and the notebook in her hand sprawled with observations of our surroundings. As a member of the Urban Democracy Lab, Stern works out ways to tell stories of resilience by recording the oral histories of East Village residents to better understand people’s relationships to land. As part of this project, the Urban Democracy Lab lcollects stones and istens to what long-term residents have to say. While taking notes, Stern walks around the areas the residents mention to get a better sense of the environment that shaped them. Associate Director of the Urban Democracy Lab Rebecca Amato praised Stern’s contributions to the project. “As a member of our research team working with the Cooper Square Community Land Trust, [Stern] has been a stalwart contributor to our efforts to protect a deconsecrated Catholic church in the East Village from luxury development,” Amato said. “In my experiences with her, [Stern’s] most outstanding qualities are her humility, empathy, curiosity and commitment to following through on whatever small or large task she undertakes.” Stern was born and raised in New York, but her passion for human rights and the environment bloomed outside the city during visits to her uncle’s house near Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa. Exploring the outdoors surrounding Table Mountain shaped how Stern saw nature; it was also one of the first times she was exposed to the injustices that stem from the need for land. “As we drove through areas such as the cape flats, which are on the outskirts [of Table Mountain], I started to understand how apartheid zoning and apartheid planning forced removals in areas that have actually distanced people from these environmental spaces,” Stern


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said. “Basically what you see in the city is a geography of

humans more environmentally conscious. In her opinion,

training on Californian labor history, labor rights and

displacement from the mountain.”

reading scientific papers about climate change is ideal,

unionizing to understand the connection between labor-

and she believes they should be accessible to all. With

ers and the success of an organization. She also worked

her interest in education, Stern hopes to potentially go

with two environmental justice organizations in Oakland,

into academia in the future.

California and researched climate resilience projects

Witnessing this firsthand introduced Stern to the connection between human rights and the environment. As a first-year student, Stern accomplished something many only dream of: she received a grant from the Horn

As Gallatin Associate Professor Peder Anker’s research

Fund Family Grant and traveled to Berlin to study urban

assistant, Stern already has one foot in the door.. In this

ecology. At the time, she had only studied German for

position, she is asked to visit archives, mostly on the West

three weeks. The empty, bombed out areas of the coun-

Coast, to find material.

try from World War II have become overgrown with plants

“She has plowed through hundreds of boxes of corre-

which intrigued Stern. The post-war overgrowth made

spondence and documents and she found amazing stuff

her think about how green spaces and natural growth can

— she has an eye for it,” Anker said. “I have never had

undo the effect of rubble in the aftermath of conflict. Hu-

such a devoted assistant before.”

man impact can be undone.

Stern doesn’t think she can save the world, but she

Stern firmly believes that politics and environmental is-

is certainly going to try. Her goals are realistic. Stern

sues are linked, and that the environment can be used to

believes that, although tempting, ignoring reality is

promote peace. For her, climate change is more than just


an environmental issue, it is an existential one. “There is a lot of [people who say] ‘Save the Earth,’” Stern said. “The earth is going to be fine. The Earth will bounce back, but humans don’t necessarily.” Stern believes that education is a vital tool for making

through the lens of environmental justice to better understand the political aspects of environmentalism. Her academic advisor Rosalind Fredericks believes that Stern’s eagerness to learn and tenacious nature are what will shape her success in the future. “Rachel is one of those rising stars that you know is going to do exciting things,” Fredericks said. When it comes to the question of what we can expect from Stern in the future, the answer is pretty straightforward. “If I am able to make some part of the world, like a small part of the world greener and better, if I can work on a

“I think a lot of people think that they are going to

restoration project or help to restore a species, I think

change the world,” Stern said. “I don’t think that, so I am

that would fulfill the purpose of being a human is for

not idealistic in that way.”

me,” Stern said.

She participated in the Labor Summer Program at University of California Berkeley last summer and received

Email Yasmin Gulec at


Washington Square News | Up and Comers 2018

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“ I grew up

and my family didn’t have a lot of money — I couldn’t afford to buy expensive things so I would just make them. ­– Jennifer Zhang


Washington Square News | Up and Comers 2018

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Doing It Herself


By JEMIMA MCEVOY Editor-in-Chief

top her standard dorm room wooden dresser, Jennifer Zhang’s golden YouTube play button commemorates her channel reaching one million subscribers. Although she reached this figure long before moving into her sophomore year residence hall, YouTube delivered the plaque only recently and, it is too heavy to ship home. So, there it sits, a blinking reminder against the monochrome backdrop of her dorm that Steinhardt sophomore Jennifer Zhang has a lot of people watching her. “It’s probably my biggest achievement in life,” she said, referring to the success of her YouTube channel, JENerationDIY. “Otherwise, I’m pretty average.” She’s a quiet person — smiley and peppy on camera, but introverted in person. You’d never know that scrolling through the videos on her channel. Music videos, DIY tutorials, vlogs and other clips about food and fashion populate the colorful homepage of her YouTube channel. But what remains at the core of her brand and what predominantly attracted the now 1.5 million subscribers are the creative, do it yourself projects she films. Motivated by a love for film and a recognition of the lack of diversity in television, Zhang picked up a camera and spent a week straight teaching herself how to record and edit videos during the summer of 2013. Her first video, “DIY: Galaxy Shoes,” filmed in her home in Montreal, Canada, may have been made before she mastered lighting and production, but it embodies the unique quality that makes JENerationDIY standout: Zhang’s fervent creativity and earnest intention to cultivate those skills in others. “I grew up and my family didn’t have a lot of money — I couldn’t afford to buy expensive things so I would just make them,” Zhang said. “I strive to make the DIY videos very accessible to people. Not making them go out to buy certain materials; whatever they have at home, they can use.” Seeing Zhang make one of her videos — carefully drawing out letters onto a plain, blue sweatshirt for a “Riverdale” DIY, searching frantically around her room for something simple to use as a template, skillfully adjusting the light fixtures and camera angle, opened my eyes to the true grit behind the effortless, pastel exterior of her YouTube videos. It’s hard, it’s time consuming and the effort behind maintaining her content bleeds into most aspects of her life. “Because I’m in school, I usually film on the weekends, so my entire weekends are usually dedicated to YouTube,” Zhang said. “I kind of have to sacrifice my social life. I film for one to two days and then editing takes a full day.” Luckily, there are perks to the business. After gaining a certain de-

gree of internet traction, Zhang’s channel was monetized, and she now makes an income off of her videos. YouTube has become a tangible career path for her. She has even had the opportunity to work with a number of brands she loves, such as bareMinerals and Hubert’s Lemonade, and often attends events like New York Fashion Week and Beautycon. With parents who aren’t in creative fields, Zhang said it was initially challenging to gain their approval. They questioned why so much of her time was being consumed by making these videos, but the resistance eventually subsided when she started making money and they realized YouTube could be a career. Even without the unconditional support of her parents, Zhang wanted to break into media because from a young age, the industry told her she couldn’t. “I grew up watching a lot of TV — I watched a lot of Disney Channel, and I feel like a lot of kids wanted to be on Disney Channel but I didn’t see a lot of people who looked like me,” Zhang said, alluding to the lack of Asian actors in children’s tv. “When I was a kid, I didn’t know why I felt I could never be on TV shows; now I know it’s because representation isn’t very accurate on screen, but YouTube is a place where it is. Anyone can make a channel no matter what you look like or what you do.” YouTube gives her a platform to be herself and promote the positive changes she wants to see in media. Though she has had the opportunity to learn more about the technical and theoretical side of the entertainment industry through her studies in Media, Culture and Communication at NYU, Zhang said she doesn’t dwell too much on the analytics of her page or allow outside sources to dictate the core of her content. She makes what she wants and seeks to be authentic both on and off the camera. That’s why so many people keep clicking every week — watching her evolve and grow and gradually display more of her sarcastic, witty self. At times it can be overwhelming, especially for someone who is more comfortable with a camera than an in a face-to-face conversation. Whenever she does get invited to large events, Zhang said she brings along her sister, Jane, for support. “You would think that a personality as public as [her] would be more outgoing,” Jane said. “[YouTube] does get her out there. As a shy and introverted person, she gets invited to these things that push her out of her comfort zone.” Seeing Jennifer interact with fans at these events is a fairly surreal experience for Jane. “For her, she has a whole universe of people that she talks to online,” Jane said. “The sheer number is kind of hard to comprehend — 1.5 million. When it’s just a number, you don’t get what that actually means. In person when we go to events or even on the streets when we get stopped, I’m like ‘woah she’s kind of a celebrity.’” Email Jemima McEvoy at

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news Mack DeGeurin

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About WSN: Washington Square News (ISSN 15499389) is the student newspaper of New York University. WSN is published in print on Mondays and throughout the week online during NYU’s academic year, except for university holidays, vacations and exam periods.




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Washington Square News Up and Comers 2018  
Washington Square News Up and Comers 2018