SPRING 2014 | VOLUME 4 |ISSUE 1
POT OF GOLD
UCF grad Darrin Potter turns his biology degree into a ‘kushy’ job — growing legal marijuana in Colorado’s booming pot industry.
MILE HIGH KNIGHT INSIDE: BASEBALL PLAYER’S BIGGEST FAN — HIS 2-YEAR-OLD SON
UCF’S student-produced magazine
UCF alumnus Darrin Potter (2006/ Biology) sits amid thousands of marijuana plants he grows as cultivation manager of The Green Solution, Colorado’s largest cannabis dispensary in Denver. Cover photo by Jamie Cotten.
04 UCF K-9 OFFICER
Cpl. Chuck Reising and Max make a dynamic duo out in the field and in the yard.
06 CAMPUS VIKING
UCF has its very own resident Viking, and his name is Thor.
Some students make campus their own personal scavenger hunt. More on this hot hobby.
Creativity 10 COSPLAY QUEEN
Sarah Bloom takes getting in character to the next level.
12 GRASS IS GREENER...
In Colorado, where a UCF alum is using his degree to develop a career in the legal pot business.
Scholarship 18 SPRING TRAINING
Knights work with the New York Mets to help Dominican students hit one out of the park.
15 TAKING CARE
20 PLAYER, DAD
16 CARTOON COURTSHIP
17 UCF YOUTUBE STAR
22 DOWN TO EARTH
A UCF student turns her apartment into a home for rescued animals nobody else wants.
Devoted fans of “My Little Pony” find love and each other.
A student finds herself clicking with the YouTube community.
CENTRIC | PAGE 2
About the cover
A UCF baseball player balances life on the field and life at home as the father of a 2-year-old.
A veteran landscaper tends to UCF’s campus for 42 years.
Welcome to the spring 2014 edition of Centric, UCF’s student-produced magazine. In these pages you will find interesting, inspiring and innoAdam Rhodes Managing Editor vative stories of the members or aspects of the UCF community. You’ll read and discover the stories of bronies, cosplayers, K-9 unit officers and even a UCF alum working in the marijuana industry. The UCF community is full of unique and interesting Knights and it’s our goal to show you, the readers, a little bit of that among these pages. This magazine offers a unique opportunity to students on its staff to really immerse themselves in the UCF community in ways that many can only dream of. Staff members have stargazed with My Little Pony fans, toured the campus in search of geocache locations and even interviewed YouTube stars. As the managing editor of Centric Magazine, I couldn’t be more proud of my staff. We’ve worked so hard to bring you this phenomenal product for no other purpose than for you to learn a little bit more about the university that more than 60,000 students call home.
BEST OF WEB
Check out centric.cos.ucf.edu for more content Tower I: A year later
We have issues
Students, faculty and the culpritâ€™s roommate reflect on what could have been a horrific tragedy.
Take a look at our online archives for past issues of Centric magazine and more stories about UCF.
Professors gotoglobal Knight Works Foster Love
Back to 1972, when we were FTU. Check out pictures of UCF throughout its 50-year history on our Facebook page.
While students were raising their grades, UCF professor Kay Wolf, center, raised $85K for a Cambodian school.
CentricMagazineUCF CENTRIC | PAGE 3
TAKING A BITE O C
MAX, one of three K-9 dogs who work for the UCF Police Department, rests in Reising’s vehicle after a training exercise.
Officer, K-9 form inseparable bond on the job and at home BY| DENNIS KASTANIS PHOTOGRAPHY | MEGAN ELLIOTT
huck and Max prepare for a day of work just like any two police officers would, but this duo is not an ordinary partnership. Max has something that Chuck will never have, an extra pair of legs and a tail. Cpl. Charles “Chuck” Reising is a K-9 officer for the UCF Police Department and Max is his partner and companion. The two do virtually everything together, from searching cars for drugs to
COMMUNITY | PAGE 4
sitting in the living room watching TV on their day off. “Max is my partner and companion. He could possibly save my life one day,” Reising said. “He is my pet at home. He’s not my best friend, but close to it.” Reising is a retired Orlando Police Department officer and has been with the UCF Police Department for close to seven years. Max is a 6-year-old full-blooded German shepherd who has been with Reising and the UCF Police Department for four and a half
E OUT OF CRIME It’s interesting to me that his favorite toy is a policeman doll.
Reising and Max usually complement each other and are rarely in each other’s way, with the exception of Reising having to step over Max when Reising has the urge for a late night snack. “Max’s favorite place to sleep is right in the bedroom doorway, so I have to watch out when I want a midnight snack,” Reising said. The corporal and K-9 duo are a big part of each other’s lives as well as the lives of Departother members of the UCF Police Depart ment. “Working with Cpl. Reising and Max is fantastic. I’ve seen them both in action so many times, it’s almost like figure skating during the Olympics,” said Officer Peter Stephens in an email. “I think Max can read minds sometimes. Together they are one of the most respected and hardest working K-9 teams in Central Florida. The UCF Police Department has greatly benefited from this dynamic duo.” Aside from tracking and biting, Max also
-Cpl. Charles Reising
years. Together they make up one-third of the UCF PD’s K-9 team. In October 2012, Max got his first taste of blood when he actually had to track down and bite a man who stole a car outside of a UCF football game. With the help of deputies, Reising and Max tracked down and arrested the alleged carjacker. “When Max went in for his first bite, I didn’t know what he was going to do,” Reising said. “Then he grabbed onto the suspect’s leg and just laid down with the leg in his mouth. It was very exciting.” Max has other interests in his life besides biting “bad guys.” He also enjoys chasing and retrieving his Kong ball when he has spare time. “He is absolutely fanatical about that Kong ball,” Reising said.
See video of Max and his K-9 companions chew on some “bad guys” during a training exercise.
hunts down and sniffs for illegal drugs. When Max is searching for drugs, it’s as important to him as chasing down and retrieving his Kong ball. “Max gets a reward every time he finds planted drugs during a training exercise,” Reising said. During training exercises, Reising is patient with Max as he learns to track down and take down “bad guys.” The 94-pound shepherd is able to jump onto the roof of a car in a single leap and is powerful enough to drag and pull a full-grown adult male by sinking his teeth into him. Reising takes his police work seriously and he has done so for many years, but sometimes it’s Max who takes his work home with him. It is not unusual to see Max carrying around his stuffed policeman doll while lounging around the Reising residence during their leisure time. “It’s interesting to me that his favorite toy is a policeman doll,” Reising said.“It’s the only one he won’t tear up.”
MAX and CHUCK REISING complete their training exercises to catch “bad guys.”
COMMUNITY| PAGE 5
A VIKING AMONG
THOR TYRSMAN instructs members of Knights Blade, a HEMA club on campus, at Memory Mall.
Knights Blade president hammers knowledge of ancient lifestyle, martial arts BY|MEGAN ELLIOTT PHOTOGRAPHY | MEGAN ELLIOTT
f while strolling past Memory Mall, you spot an enormous Norseman furiously swinging a steel weapon, don’t be alarmed. You’re not bearing the wrath of the "God of Thunder.” You’ve just come across UCF’s resident Viking — Thor. Towering at 6-feet-5 and nearly 300 pounds, with flowing locks and a grisly beard, he looks like he deserves a place among the gods of the Norse pantheon. His given name is Devin McDuffie, but he prefers Thorvald Connorsson Tyrsman —Thor for short. McDuffie, a political science junior, chose the moniker when he began exploring his family’s Scandinavian heritage. However, his appearance earned him the nickname long before that. "My closest friends on campus don’t know me by my actual name. They know
COMMUNITY | PAGE 6
me by Thor,” McDuffie said. During the time McDuffie was discovering his roots, he was a freshman at St. Olaf College in Minnesota, which coincidentally, was founded by Norwegian immigrants. After his freshman year, McDuffie moved back home to New Smyrna Beach and transferred to UCF for financial reasons. "I started researching my background and I did a little bit of Scandinavian history research [at St.Olaf]," McDuffie said. "That’s when I really converted and started practicing my religion fully.” Raised a Catholic, McDuffie converted to Asatru, an ancient religion that was practiced by Vikings. As a neo-Viking, McDuffie chooses not to cut his hair because, in the context of his religion, it is viewed as disrespectful to
his ancestors. "I’m a bit of an extremist in the sense that I like to follow the ways of my ancestors,” Tyrsman said. Asatru is a branch of Paganism, but Tyrsman said that its core values are comparable to the tenets of other faiths. Among all of the Asatru teachings, there are four main tenants of the belief system he closely adheres to. "Your family comes first, your community comes second, you come third and the gods come last,” Tyrsman said. Tyrsman practices Asatru in privacy and is not affiliated with any local religious groups. "He is very true to his Viking beliefs,” said friend and aerospace engineering junior, Navando El Vizque. "Most of the people who are friends with him aren’t sensitive or politically correct. If someone
were, they’d be really offended, but he’s very respectful and tolerant of other people’s beliefs." Because of his beliefs, Tyrsman would prefer to go by a traditional Norse name that reflects both his heritage and his religion. However, Tyrsman has not completed the paperwork to get a legal name change, and is not sure if he will go through with it. Tyrsman said that everyone he knows already calls him Thor, and a legal name change could conflict with his future goal of running for public office. Tyrsman said that he would love to be involved in local government and perhaps even Congress. While Tyrsman is pursuing a political science degree, his interests lie beyond the world of politics. Tyrsman said he clocks “negative hours on school and homework" because of the time he commits to studying and practicing Historical European Martial Arts. Three nights a week, Tyrsman is on the lawn of Memory Mall training the members of Knights Blade, a HEMA club on campus. "It goes with what the school [mascot] is — knights. It makes sense for there to be a sword-fighting club on campus,” Tyrsman said. Tyrsman co-founded Knights Blade with his friend, Nathan Godamke, in the fall 2013 semester after UCF’s previous HEMA club, Knights Melee, disbanded. As president, Tyrsman said he spends about 20 hours
I’m a bit of an extremist in the sense that I like to follow the ways of my ancestors.
every week training the members of Knights Blade with a goal of competing in tournaments. The mission of Knights Blade is to train members in the "historical context of what they would be training for in the art of war," Tyrsman said. Contrary to popular belief, Tyrsman said that HEMA is a real sport, not just people “running around like knights and wizards with foam swords." Just like any other competitive sport, nothing is staged and there is a reasonable chance of injury. Tyrsman said he wants to be “touted as somebody who helps bring this very great martial art back.” "He really wants to bring back HEMA," said Knights Blade member and health sciences pre-clinical senior, Haley Seiler. "It’s one of his really great passions." To Tyrsman, practicing HEMA is more than a hobby. "If I could make a living out of this, I’d drop out of school,” Tyrsman said. “I really would. This is everything to me."
THOR TYRSMAN leads Knights Blade practice at Memory Mall.
COMMUNITY | PAGE 7
UCF CACHES IN FROM
GEOCACHING Digital treasure hunt brings community together
KRISTEN MORRIS holds her small geocache, hidden near the UCF tennis courts.
BY|EMILEE JACKSON PHOTOGRAPHY | EMILEE JACKSON
f you see people rummaging around campus, in the woods and other unusual places, they’re not playing hide and seek; they’re geocaching. Geocaching is an outdoor, digital treasure hunt that takes people to new places and is catching on in the UCF community. Kristen Morris, a recent UCF graduate, has hidden two of her own “caches”
COMMUNITY | PAGE 8
on campus. Morris has found more than 350 caches in unique areas that she would not have otherwise explored. “The other geocachers put the actual caches for you to go find in beautiful places, and it’s supposed to be that they’re hidden in places that you want to share with other people who also love exploring and nature,” Morris said. Geocachers often go beyond their comfort zones to locate a cache. Doing so pro-
vides the opportunity to see new places and the reward of another logged find. Nicholas DeCorte has been geocaching for three years and has logged about 260 finds. “I like it because it’s more like an excuse to get outdoors and go see places you never would have found before,” DeCorte said. One largely unexplored spot on campus is the 82-acre Arboretum. It
is home to eight geocaches managed by Arboretum staff. Jennifer Elliott is the coordinator of the UCF Arboretum Programs and is in charge of the caches. “I think it’s good that we have it out there,” Elliott said. “I think it certainly does what we want it to do by providing exposure about the natural lands and just getting people out there hiking on our trails.” Biology major Janine Burnett has been involved with the work study program at the Arboretum for a year and is usually tasked with maintaining the caches. Her favorite stop out of all the geocaches is the final secret cache. “It’s closer to where the wetlands area is and I just like how the breeze near the water is ... and a lot of the trees are really tall and I just love to look up,” Burnett said. Although geocaching is becoming more popular, there is a downside. Nicholas Hehr, who has found more than 100 caches, said that getting more people involved is good, but it comes with a price. “It’s kind of a double-edged sword. You want people to know about it, but you don’t want people swarming over to areas so other people can’t find them,” Hehr said. “If someone finds out about it and just kind of destroys the caches or ‘muggles’ them.” According to Geocaching.com, a muggle is a non-geocacher. The term is used when a non-geocacher accidentally discovers a cache. The website claims that “geomuggles are mostly harmless.” While muggles can move a geocache and create confusion for the next person looking for it, it’s usually geocachers themselves that change the difficulty level. “I think the players are the ones who really create the game,” Burnett said. “They’re the ones who are changing the level of it.” Other than going through the forest and wetlands of the Arboretum, geocaching around UCF is relatively straightforward. “Most of the ones on campus are pretty easy to find because it’s a high muggle area,” DeCorte said. “So you want to make them easy to find and quick to grab.” However, geocacher Kenneth McDonough spent months looking for a ‘mystery’ cache. He had to first find coordinates to then find the actual cache. “That was really fun because it was more challenging than just a quick find
and leave,” McDonough said. Geocaches range in type and in size. The smallest caches are called “nano” caches, while others can be as large as a Tupperware container. “The smallest ones I’ve ever found are about the size of those little flat batteries, they’re magnetized and stuck under a gate or something like that,” Hehr said. “Those are hard to find because you have really no idea what you’re looking for.” Morris has hidden both cache sizes. Sometimes geocachers struggle to find her smaller one, which is hidden by the tennis courts, but she receives great feedback for the larger cache. “A lot of people really like my big one that’s in the front of campus that’s called ‘Concrete Jungle,’ Morris said. “It’s literally this huge box that’s painted in Rasta colors and it’s hidden in the woods.” Trekking through the woods looking for a well-hidden cache is the perfect day for a geocacher. Burnett said being outdoors on a treasure hunt can bring out the child in anyone. “It’s like you’re inside of a video game or inside of a movie, and it just expands your imagination,” Burnett said. “You’re literally going through the woods looking for treasure.” For some, geocaching itself is rewarding even if the cache isn’t found. “It’s almost like a mystery, like an adventure,” McDonough said. “That’s why I like it.” The adventure of geocaching can take people all over the world. The UCF campus is the perfect place to get started.
It’s almost like a mystery, like an adventure, that’s why I like it.
(TOP) The first geocache along the Arboretum trail is concealed by branches and other leaves. (BOTTOM) A map of some caches on the UCF campus.
Garage H Classroom Building 1
Breezeway Engineering 1
COMMUNITY| PAGE 9
CHARACTER UCF Knight sews and stitches her way into the anime world BY l ADAM RHODES
ave you ever watched a TV show and wished you could be or look like a character? For many, that’s what they call a good time. Google defines cosplay, short for costume play as, “the practice of dressing up as a character from a movie, book or video game, esp. one from the Japanese genres of manga and anime,” and individuals who dress up are known as “cosplayers.” UCF is not in short supply of cosplayers and Sarah Bloom, a UCF sophomore studying hospitality management, is one of them. Among closets piled high with wigs, Space-Bagged costumes and fabric spread chaotically throughout her living room, Bloom
creates whimsical and stunning works of art thanks to a sewing machine, the occasional hot glue gun and good, old-fashioned effort. Bloom began her illustrious cosplay career in 2007 at Metrocon as Kairi from Kingdom Hearts 2 after attending her first convention in 2006 at Anime South in Destin, Fla. Bloom was mesmerized by the costumes and craftsmanship and found herself hooked. Since then, Bloom has been to more than 50 conventions and has traveled all over the country attending them. Her largest convention was Otakon, which, according to the convention’s website, boasted an attendance of 107,500 attendees in 2013. Bloom has
Photo l Megan Elliott
SARAH BLOOM works on a skirt for the title character of the “Legend of Korra.”
CREATIVITY | PAGE 10
also been to Dragoncon, which boasted an attendance of 52,000 in 2012. Bloom prefers medium-sized “cons,” actually. In her opinion, a perfect size is about 10,000 attendees. At that size, “it’s still like a convention and it’s about the fans,” Bloom said, talking about how large conventions like San Diego Comic-Con are too commercial. As with all beginners, her first costume was not as neatly polished as her current projects are, however. In fact, her parents made it. Her father made the belts and pouches of the costume and her mother did all the sewing. Renaissance fair veterans, her parents knew their craft and thus, Bloom’s first costume was born. Bloom makes her own costumes now and sometimes, two or three costumes are taking up the same dressform at once. Bloom’s costumes can cost anywhere between $20 to $300 to make and piece together, but she does her best to recycle any piece she can. Her cosplay career didn’t start too smoothly, however. In 2008, her mother passed away, but instead of letting the loss affect her love of her craft, it created a drive for her to continue the art. “It’s one of those things that reminded me of my mom,” Bloom said of her desire to still feel connected with her late mother. Her craft is not always a reminder of loved ones lost. On the contrary, the best experiences have been making so many new friends as a result of cosplaying, Bloom said. Bloom actually met one of her current roommates, Karen Palmer, when Bloom was 13, thanks to cosplaying. As much as she loves cosplaying, there are frustrations that come along with it, and Bloom’s biggest frustration is when costumes malfunction in ways she can’t really fix. Her best — or worst — example is of a pair of boots she spray painted yellow in conjunction with a Batgirl cosplay she commissioned. The boots’ paint ended up cracking and not looking their best. She’s had her fill of wonderful experiences too, the best being when an English voice actor for Mirim from the anime Queen’s Blade, a character Bloom had cosplayed as, personally contacted her on her cosplay fan page on Facebook and lauded her for costume and her work. Her other roommate, Lee Melvin, a UCF alumnus with a degree in biology, is also a photographer at conventions.
Photo l Christal Hayes
These are some of the dozens of costumes Sarah Bloom stores in her room and in her apartment.
As the conventions start to get more frequent, the chaos of the creations grows as well. Bloom joked that she is frequently reminded to not let the cats get into the thread or to clean up her fabric from the common area. The mess is more tolerated than accepted by Palmer and Melvin. “It does get a little uncontrollable, especially during the [convention] season,” Melvin said of the mess. As for her future in costuming, Bloom loves the idea of going into costume design but said she would rather keep it a hobby, lest she lose the drive and passion that keeps her going with every new creation.
CREATIVITY | PAGE 11
MILE HIGH UCF alum moves to Denver and uses his biology degree in Colorado’s budding marijuana industry
rowds formed before 4400 Grape St., The Green Solution, the largest marijuana dispensary in Colorado. Other business owners looked on, frustrated, and called tow trucks as their lots filled. It was Jan. 1. The new year yielded legal bud. Darrin Potter slept fewer than five hours that night. As manager of TGS’s cannabis cultivation facility, he spent the night preparing the flowering catalyst of major change; in his belief, a change in consciousness. He hopes if people smoke more than drink, they’ll
CREATIVITY | PAGE 12
think more. "When I smoke weed, I might come up with crazy shit, but I won’t be making bad decisions,” he said. “Some say smoking makes you dumb, clouds your perception, but I don’t agree. Cannabis opens your eyes. Alcohol closes [them]." The 50,000 square-foot facility grows 10,000 to 12,000 plants with multiple processes and rooms to care for all. Their level 3 license is the highest certification. With shoulder-length hair tied and hands accustomed to soil and stem, Potter manages rotating 535 plants and
producing 25 to 30 pounds daily. Cloned mother plants are attentively fed, bloomed, gingerly handled, laboriously hung, dried, trimmed and tracked by patient and strain, down to the gram. A legal dispensary has proper equipment to ensure clean, safe products. The Marijuana Enforcement Division established strict handling laws: sanitizing, wearing hairnets and face masks. Patients and patrons know what’s in their bud. THC (psychoactive) and CBD (pain-relieving) cannabinoids, flavor and aroma are labeled too. "It’s absolutely safer," Potter said.
GH KNIGHT DARRIN POTTER stands among thousands of marijuana plants he grows at The Green Solution in Denver. Potter graduated with a biology degree from UCF in 2006.
That January day, TGS cared for hundreds; Potter dealt with the tow trucks, making big “no parking” signs for neighboring businesses. "I went to every single business and apologized," Darrin said. "They were cool after we talked.” Before selecting plant genes and caring for those without happy options, Potter was home in Pahokee, Fla., watching mangos, avocados, aloe and more grow in his family’s garden. His father’s family owned The Grassy Waters Motel surrounded by sugar cane and corn fields. His mother’s “hippie
soul,” as Potter described, put “Zen” at the center of her son’s name, like a perfect balance weight on a scale. That aura was outwardly unwelcome in the past. “Kids were mean, but in college it served me great,” Potter said. He started pursuing a music degree before taking biology at UCF, which became his earned degree in 2006. Constant experimentation in a lab and his time at the Arboretum under Dr. Henry Whittier taught him a great deal. He learned about science and a craft that fascinated him, and believes his degree
gave him the foundation for his current work. “If it weren’t for UCF, I would not be growing marijuana,” Potter said. An illegal grow bust prompted Orlando Police Department to donate confiscated equipment to UCF’s biology department. Dr. Whittier looked at Darrin with his good, uncovered eye and smiled, “What are we gonna do with this?” Darrin misses game days and gigging at the old plaza. Still, music stays close by. (Continued on next page)
CREATIVITY INTEGRITY||PAGE Page13 9
YES OR NO? YES:
DARRIN POTTER smells some of the plants that he grows at The Green Solution in Colorado.
day I realized I had to stop taking If it weren’t for UCF, it.”"One Legalization would help, he said. "A pot generation would be better than an I would not be overdose generation.” Potter’s concern is the ease at getting growing marijuana.addictive pills.
(Continued from previous page) “I sing at work around the plants,” Potter said. Post-college, Potter said he realized his whole life had revolved around what he was doing with nature. In 2009, while eating dinner with a friend, a phone call gave direction. He discovered Denver growers desperately needed guidance and saw the huge shift for alternative medicine. "We’re going,” he said to his dinner friend. "We [have] to go.” In the next four years Potter would grow 16 hours daily, snowboard, escape from a corrupt company and work small jobs until he found his place at The Green Solution. “I work like a madman, but I love [it]," Potter said. Potter knows addiction’s towering persuasion well. At 24, Potter was struck by a car. The incident left a shoulder, elbow and both legs broken. Prescribed Percocet hooked him for two years. Potter’s mother would beg his friends to get him stoned and bring him back for dinner. "They’d be so happy when I was stoned,” Potter said. That alternative didn’t make him sick. Losing friends to pills rattled Potter.
CREATIVITY| PAGE 14
“[People] prescribe them based on the fact it’s all money, like they don’t care about the person’s life. People come here to get weed and are so happy they’re dancing. They can go outside and enjoy life," Potter said. Perpetually, Potter sees cannabis helping people. His close friend with MS can hold the joint and talk after two hits. "It’s like everything disappears until it wears off," he said. “It’s the saddest thing in the world, but the best to see it help for a while." Potter’s "old school Cuban” family knows what he does and is very proud of his work. "I pursued my dream: go to Colorado, grow weed legally and start a business." If Florida’s medical marijuana referendum passes, Potter will come home to expand TGS. A far cry away from his home garden roots, Potter placed third at Cannabis Cup 2013. When not growing he sticks with his best girl, Kaya, a blue-eyed rescue dog that once nauseously regretted eating a THC blueberry muffin left out. "If I die, I wanna be thrown in the ground, no casket, with a Florida live oak planted on top of me so I can grow into it. My spirit would always be in that tree."
Ben Pollara, campaign manager and treasurer for United for Care, which is affiliated with People United for Medical Marijuana. Photo provided “The benefits of medical marijuana far outweigh the risks that marijuana can cause. Marijuana is proven to provide relief to those that are suffering and those with debilitating diseases. "Marijuana used under the prescription of a doctor is far less harmful than other drugs that doctors prescribe for some of the same ailments that marijuana is used to treat. For example, if you go into a doctor’s office and tell them that you are about to take a trip and are really scared of flying, it is likely that they will prescribe you Xanax, a benzo-diazaprene that is highly addictive.”
Officer Peter Stephens, community relations officer, UCF Police Department. "The biggest issue I see to legalizing Photo provided medical marijuana is the ease with which it is prescribed in some instances. Just look at all the problems that have developed over ‘pill mills’ in dispensing drugs such as oxycodone. How long did it take the attorney general’s office and law enforcement to catch up to that crime trend. “The second concern is with any prescribed medication being accessed by unauthorized users. Kids “fish” their parent’s medicine cabinets all the time for prescription drugs. Would marijuana be any different?”
MICE, CHINCHILLAS AND RATS. OH MY! Hope Ranch Animal Rescue takes in unconventional pets
BY|DYLAN DROBET PHOTOGRAPHY | PHIL WHEEKER
MICHELLE TERUEL stands in her dining room holding a python she rescued while her roommate’s dog, Rags, sits close by. Below, her pet rat, Kit Kat.
Watch a video interview with Michelle in her dining room online
or most people, rodents and snakes could put a damper on a dinner party. But Michelle Teruel’s dining room is a full-on critter cafeteria. Teruel is a 21-year-old UCF senior psychology major who fosters dozens of animals, ranging from rats and mice to chinchillas and bearded dragons, in her two-bedroom apartment near campus. “I saw more of a need for exotics. There’s dozens of rescues that deal with cats and dogs. But when I started, there were only two rescues in the area that dealt with exotics and one of them just shut down,” Teruel said. Teruel, founder of Hope Ranch Animal Rescue, said most of the animals she gets in are rats, and she has adopted out more than 57 since March 2013. It all started with a rat named Petunia in fall 2012. Teruel came across a Craigslist ad that mentioned a rat would be released into the wild if not picked up that evening. Teruel rushed to the rescue. “It just snowballed after that. Once my friends heard about how I saved Petunia, they would ask for my help whenever there was an animal in need,” Teruel said. “At first I would just place the animals with my friends or with fellow members of UCF’s pre-veterinary society but there came a point that everyone I knew who could have pets was at their limit. By creating an official rescue, I could reach a wider audience and keep everyone posted on what was going on,” Teruel said. Teruel has also worked with Amanda Trompeta, sophomore biology major and founder of Don’t Shop, Adopt UCF, an organization that connects knights with homeless animals. “We see the amazing work that she does for so many animals and we know that she needs the financial help,” Trompeta said. Teruel gets most of her funding from selling donated animal food, toys, wheels and housing from people who surrender their pets. How many pets does Teruel have in her apartment? She thought for a moment and laughed. “I should actually count them up,” she said.
CREATIVITY | PAGE 15
MY LITTLE BRONY KEVIN KARPY and SCARLETT KELLER hold their favorite My Little Pony lunchboxes.
Fandom unites UCF students through shared interest BY AILIN LEBELLOT|PHOTOGRAPHY PHIL WHEEKER
alencia student Kevin Karpy grinned widely and looked at his girlfriend, Scarlett Keller, a former UCF student, before excitedly saying, “she’s definitely Flutter Shy: sensitive, quiet, kind.” Their My Little Pony trading cards were scattered across the dining room table as he spoke. The My Little Pony franchise launched in 1983 and focused on girls ages two to 11 until 2010 when animator Lauren Faust, who worked on The Powerpuff Girls, was selected by the Hasbro company to help develop the “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic” series. The show quickly gained an adult following online comprised of Bronies and Pegasisters. Karpy and Keller instantly found chemistry when they first noticed each other on UCF’s My Little Pony Facebook group page in 2012. That was before it grew into a registered student organization. Karpy posted a picture of a birthday cake he had made of his favorite My Little Pony char-
CREATIVITY | PAGE 16
acter, Pinkie Pie, and that grabbed Keller’s attention. Mid-April of that year, Keller decided to invite Karpy to her concert-band performance at UCF. The two went back to their homes afterward and Skyped until 4 a.m. “I just thought how shy she was. The first time we went out to a restaurant, I had to order for her. She was so cute,” Karpy looked at Keller. “She was just fun to talk to. We had all the same interest in games.” By the time the organization, Bronies and Pegasisters at UCF, formed, Karpy and Keller’s relationship started to get serious. Karpy invited Keller over to his home and said he made a two-course meal and popped in her favorite movie before asking Keller to become his girlfriend. Since then, the couple has been inseparable. UCF students Heather Curci and Tyler Pontius, another couple in the organization, dub Karpy and Keller “the collectors.” Curci, an officer for the RSO, collects the My Little Pony trading cards
and said Keller and Karpy give her extra trading cards. The couple’s interests extend further than collecting. Keller draws My Little Pony artwork, taking requests on her DeviantArt page and is known for bringing decorative cupcakes to Brony events. Both sets of parents of the couple are fully supportive, but not everyone has been of their lifestyle. “I honestly thought he was gay until he met Scarlett,” Karpy’s 24-year-old brother, Christian Karpy, said. The couple agreed judgments like this strengthen their relationship. Both Keller and Karpy also strongly reject the sexuality of the fandom, noting racy artwork gives the community a bad reputation. They are optimistic for the future of their relationship and that of the fandom. They’ll be celebrating their two-year anniversary this April. “It’s how we met,” Karpy says. “It’s not something we’re going to forget.”
STAR LIGHT, STAR BRIGHT
TeraBrite lead singer becomes YouTube sensation BY|MACEY COLAVECCHIO
oasting more than 150,000 You Tube subscribers, the 23-yearold lead singer of TeraBrite walks around looking like just another UCF student. She started the conversation by saying, “I’ve never done anything like this before.” Sabrina Abu-Obeid works alongside DJ Monopoli and produces music videos, intro songs and parodies. She experienced the first spark of fame when YouTube channel SHAYTARDS, a family dedicated to vlogging, held a contest to create an intro song for their videos. At the time, Abu-Obeid’s Terabrite had only a handful of songs online. “I had no idea what the whole world of YouTube was,” she reminisced. “I don’t even think most people did.” But after winning the contest, her small channel quickly blew up, and since then, TeraBrite has produced more than 144 high-quality videos. “We’ve got a flow now. Before it was a guessing game and very amateur,” AbuObeid said. Now they have it down to a science with their top video, a rock cover of Taylor Swift’s “Safe and Sound,” touting over 1 million views. It doesn’t hurt financially either, with Terabrite’s popularity on YouTube resulting in payments and increasing notoriety. After winning a YouTube video contest, the band was asked to appear on “Conan O’Brien” for a Valentine’s Day dinner. Fellow guest, Iron Chef Michael Symon, began their night by serving them a Taco Bell dinner as a joke. “Oh, and William Shatner serenaded us with Rihanna’s ‘Umbrella’,” Abu-Obeid said. Not bad for a digital media and web design major who spends her time working alongside her boyfriend.
“When she first sang ‘No One Knows,’ [an original song] she had never sung in front of anyone before,” Monopoli, 24, said. “Now she sings constantly and her voice gets better and better every day.” Abu-Obeid has grown TeraBrite with numerous sister sites, one called Vlerabrite. She started to vlog her life daily because of requests by fans, and since then it has emerged as a huge part of her identity. Looking forward, Abu-Obeid has a focus and plans to stay on the cutting edge of music with a handful of original songs and planned gigs. “We don’t plan on looking for a label, but anything can happen. We want to see if we can do it on our own,” Abu-Obeid said. “A lot of artists are having success on their own because of technology.” Orlando Sentinel music critic Jim Abbott agreed. “That is essentially the business model today. A large record company won’t even look at a band unless they have a certain amount subscribers. They are looking for bands that did all the work and have a driving fan base.” As TeraBrite continues to evolve, AbuObeid says YouTube will still be at the core of what she does. “My brain is almost 100 percent on TeraBrite most of the time, thinking about YouTube. It is really hard to not think of ideas for covers or music videos. It’s more than a job, I put everything into it.” See Abu-Obeid bathe herself in Yoo-hoo for a Miley Cyrus cover on Youtube
SABRINA ABU-OBEID produces music videos and parodies and has over 150,000 YouTube subscribers.
CREATIVITY | PAGE 17
METS PITCH PARTNERSHIP WITH UCF Burnett Honors College sends students to teach English to minor league players in the Dominican Republic
tudents are in the Dominican Republic teaching English and American culture to minor league baseball players looking to live the baller life in the Big Apple. The UCF Burnett Honors College formed a partnership with the New York Mets in 2013 to assist in educating young Latino ball players in the Mets Baseball Academy in Boca Chica. “Prior to our partnership, they had a consultant who would come out and do about one hour a week of English language instruction with the players, which really wasn’t sufficient,” said Kelly Astro, director of Research and Civic engagement in the Burnett Honors College. “So what was created was this idea of a cultural and language immersion program where we would have UCF students go for a semester and they would live, eat and work within the environment of the Mets players.” Assuming that players will be selected to come to the United States and join the Mets’ minor league system, the program focuses on preparing them for life in a completely different environment. Astro said that although the players have athletic ability, often times the real challenge is the mental side of coming
SCHOLARSHIP | PAGE 18
(LEFT TO RIGHT) LAURA ESTUPIÑAN, LIZ MALDAONADO and JESSIE WALKER are some of the English teachers from UCF who are working with potential Mets players.
to a new country, which often affects the players’ game. “Several will fall into that pattern of eating the exact same thing because that is the only thing they know in the restaurant or will only go to places with pictures so they can point to it,” she said. Unfortunately not all players are selected to join the minor league system, but that doesn’t mean it’s the end of the road for
them. “What is really unique about this is that the Mets have a strong belief not only in community service … but they also want to make sure they are educating the players,” Astro said. “So if some of these players are cut, we are really educating them for lives after baseball, in a sense.” Even though this program is a pilot for potential programs in the future, results
are already surpassing what the Mets administration has seen in the past, and the program is giving students a once in a lifetime opportunity. Jessie Walker, sophomore marketing major, teaches the middle skill level class. “My students were hardly capable of introducing themselves to me and lacked confidence to attempt the language when I first arrived, and can now command an audience,” Walker said. Walker is confident that by the time the players arrived for the Mets’ spring training academy in Port St. Lucie, Fla., in March, they were well equipped to be comfortable in their new settings. Laura Estupiñan, who graduated in December, decided to stay another semester to participate in the abroad program. She teaches the low-beginner class at the academy and makes sure the 33 players in her class know the basics. “I worked at a middle school for two years as a tutor,” she said. “This is similar in the sense that all I look for is for stu-
dents to succeed in whatever they do.” Liz Maldaonado, UCF alumna with a bachelor’s in Spanish and graduate student in the TESOL program, is teaching about 30 players to make their transition to the United States go smoothly. Part of the program will involve getting the players involved in a service learning project at a local orphanage in their country to teach the kids English and talk to them about baseball, especially because the Dominican Republic is a popular hub for producing baseball players. Walker said that it has been a learning process for them as well. Considering this is a pioneer program, it has been important to remain flexible when faced with unexpected challenges. “We do our best to counteract all of these efficiently and document them so that the following group of teachers is well prepared,” she said. All three students participating in the program, who did not come from education backgrounds, were trained by Kerry
Purmensky, associate professor in modern languages and literature, and Jane Keeler, graduate student in modern languages & literature. “I cannot give them enough credit to the work that they did,” Astro said. Astro also said that it’s different from other study-abroad programs because there is a close tie back to the university in terms of communication. Walker, Maldaonado and Estupiñan all agreed that this is the perfect opportunity to contribute some time in exchange for an amazing life experience. “I am very excited about our unique partnership with the Burnett Honors College of the University of Central Florida,” said Jon Miller, director of Minor League Operations of the New York Mets. “Having UCF students teaching English to our players in the Dominican Republic and helping them understand the culture and customs of the United States will be of tremendous help to them as they aspire to succeed in our organization.”
My students were hardly capable of introducing themselves to me and lacked confidence to attempt the language when I first arrived, and can now command an audience.
JESSIE WALKER plays catch with one of her English students in Boca Chica, the Dominican Republic.
SCHOLARSHIP | PAGE 19
UCF BASEBALL PLAYER HITS LIFE’S CHANGEUP Student balances school, sports, fatherhood BY|COLIN BELL
wo-year-old E.J. sprints in from the kitchen and hits his dad, 21-yearold UCF baseball player Erik Barber more like a linebacker than an outfielder. After he bounces off his dad’s legs, E.J. leaps onto the couch where both his parents sit. His mom is Katie Grant, who lives with E.J. in Lakeland, is a business administration major at Polk State College and works at Publix. As E.J. finally finds a comfortable spot on his dad’s back, Barber is reminded firsthand of how much E.J. loves to play with him — when he gets the chance that is. Barber and Grant have been dating for four years, but since Barber has come to UCF, they have lived nearly 70 miles apart. This became even more difficult after E.J. was born. “I miss a lot of him growing up,” Barber said. “Every time I see him it’s like there’s something new that he’s doing.” If Grant’s schedule allows it, she and E.J. visit on the weekends, and if the baseball team has a game, they will come to the park and enjoy watching Barber play. In fact, E.J. was born just a week before Barber’s freshman season, and at only two weeks old, was at Jay Bergman field for the first time. “He’s been at the games since he was born, but he just turned two this year so he understands Daddy’s on the field,” Grant said. “He can cheer, he claps — even though it might not be a good thing that Erik did — he still claps.” He isn’t forming long sentences yet, but when his parents get him started E.J. likes to talk. He even has school spirit early on. “U-C-F,” E.J. said, just like he was cheering at a game. Splitting his time between playing the outfield and being a father, it might be natural to wonder if it hurts Barber’s performance on the field. He thinks the opposite. “I’m more focused,” Barber said. “I
want to be successful in baseball. Everyone says little things count; in baseball they really do.” E.J. is well-known to the other players on the team. He and his mom go to games
EXCELLENCE| PAGE 20
and practices, even if they are the only ones there not on staff. “We were practicing and it was just Katie and E.J. there and he’s screaming out my name ‘daddy, daddy’ and everyone
Photo l Andrew Sagona
(TOP) ERIK BARBER catches a ball in the outfield at a UCF home game. (BOTTOM) BARBER performs his pre-game ritual of a back flip after a team huddle.
Every time I step on the field I want to do it for him, I want to be successful... I have a reason to be successful.
Photo l Andrew Sagona
was laughing, even coach [Terry] Rooney was laughing,” Barber said. Junior and fellow outfielder, JoMarcos Woods, knows E.J. especially well. He has been Barber’s roommate for three years and has even been called upon to babysit E.J. so that Barber and Grant can have a night out. Woods knows firsthand the difficulties Barber faces. “I have a lot of respect for him,” Woods said. “I can’t imagine having a kid right now.” While Barber might be in a unique situation, he still gets to do typical dad stuff; whether it’s playing with E.J. at the Family Fun Center in Lakeland or, with E.J.’s current obsession, trains. “All ’board choochoo,” E.J. said. Barber and Grant found out about the pregnancy the summer before
Barber’s freshman year, and for a while it wasn’t a sure thing that Barber would even be coming to UCF. He said after having a conversation with his parents they decided the best decision was to still go to school. Grant agreed. “If he wouldn’t have gone to college, then E.J. wouldn’t have a bright future, so I feel like it would have been selfish for him to even think of that,” Grant said. Now that Barber is at UCF, it’s tough for their relationship, but he and Grant are both putting E.J.’s future at the forefront of their decision making.
“It gets frustrating, especially since we’re not together; we’re both in school, I’m working, just juggling everything. It’s hard,” Grant said. “But at the end of the day he is the reason we keep going.” As Barber continues his third season on the team and is getting the most playing time he has ever gotten, E.J. is the motivation for Barber’s success. He writes E.J.’s name in each of his hats for motivation. “Every time I step on the field I want to do it for him, I want to be successful,” Barber said. “ ... I have a reason to be successful.” Photo l Emilee Jackson
BARBER and his girlfriend KATIE GRANT enjoy family time with their son E.J.
EXCELLENCE | PAGE 21
For 42 years, veteran UCF landscaper Robert Hall has helped the campus grow.
ay after day, UCF’s campus stands out like a picturesque beacon in the east Orlando community. But who is responsible for keeping our campus so pristine and beautiful? Robert Hall is one of many that hold that responsibility and is the longest-tenured employee at UCF’s Landscape and Natural Resources Department Hall first joined the department 42 years ago in June 1972. UCF was 9 years old and then known as Florida Technological University. Today, Hall and 34 other landscapers maintain nearly 500 acres of land at UCF’s main campus, as well as all UCF campuses in the region. Every morning at 7 a.m., the small cavalry of landscapers departs from its home base tucked behind the Public Safety
INTEGRITY | PAGE 22
Building on Libra Drive. The landscapers are divided into six teams, each responsible for certain areas of campus. Hall’s team of eight people has a different job. They mow grass, sweep streets, fix potholes and sidewalk damage and repair benches across the entire campus. That translates to 265 acres of grass (more than 200 football fields), 140 acres of streets, 55 acres of sidewalks and nearly 100 benches. Depending on the season and weather conditions, Hall’s team can mow and inspect all of it in just one week. While some days are repetitive, Hall recalls one day that sticks out in his mind especially. One evening, Hall was in his truck on North Orion Boulevard when he saw, “a eight-pointer [buck deer]… standing at the edge
Photo l Andrew Sagona
ROBERT HALL, the longest-serving landscaper at UCF, has kept campus beautiful for more than four decades.
of the woods.” Hall said that deer are a common sight at UCF, but it is uncommon to see a buck. Seizing the rare opportunity, Hall went to grab his camera and try to take a picture but was met with a more dangerous than beautiful sight. “I watched him lower his head and I’m going, ‘Oh [expletive],’” Hall said. “I put [the truck] in reverse and he did – he charged the truck,” he added. Such encounters are rare, in Hall’s admission, but odd events happen more often than not for members of the Landscape and Natural Resources Department. As a landscaper and UCF employee for more than 40 years, Hall has seen UCF in a way few have: seeing first-hand how the campus has grown.
Hall cites the John C. Hitt Library and the Mathematical Sciences Building as examples of the growth. “[The MSB] was nothing more than hay grass all around that building with a few tall pine trees,” Hall said. “And now we have all the other ones in there.” UCF has received awards for its landscape, but UCF alumna and assistant director for LNR, Alaina Bernard, is quick to place the praise on the efforts of the landscapers. She attributes a large part of the success that the campus’ landscape has received to their efforts. Her hope is that others will recognize those efforts as well. “Stop and talk to [the landscapers],” Bernard said. “They’re really cool people to get to know and they have a lot of character, and they’re here to try to make our campus look beautiful, and I think that deserves some recognition.”
INTEGRITY | PAGE 23
MEET THE STAFF EDITORIAL TEAM
Managing Editor: Adam Rhodes
Visual Editor: Christal Hayes
Colin Bell, Dylan Drobet, Lurvin Fernandez, Samantha Henry and Dennis Kastanis
Macey Colavecchio, Megan Elliott, Emilee Jackson, Andrew Sagona and Philip Wheeker
Adviser: Rick Brunson
Digital Editor: Ailin Lebellot Kathryn Tromba and Christina Astore
Nicholson School Director: Dr. Robert Chandler