Happy Humans help students stay positive

Blacksburg, Va., May 3 – VT Happy Humans at the Finals Extravaganza: Students stop at the booth for free pizza, candy, and to write what their happy place is on a white board for the VT Happy Humans to share on social media. Photo: Ashley Cimino

by Ashley Cimino, David Jones —

The Happy Humans at Virginia Tech are known for hosting a variety of events around campus to put smiles on the faces of students and faculty on campus. Co-leaders Jayne Ross, Jojo Kidane, and Lauren Ritchie participated in the Finals Extravaganza on the Drillfield to ease the stress of students passing by.

According to the New York Times, there is a “record-level of stress” found in college students, but specifically in college freshman, many of who face stress, anxiety, and depression before even coming into college. In light of this fact, the Happy Humans aim to bring just a bit of positivity to the Virginia Tech campus with small actions that can turn around a student’s day. 

This year, the Happy Humans asked Hokies to share where they were most happy. Common responses included “in my bed” or “with a dog,” and students hinted that this would be where they retreated to as soon as the summer officially begins. While the Happy Humans mostly cater towards students, some of their best events have targeted the dining hall workers on campus.

Last semester, the Happy Humans gathered in front of the Pylons to write “thank you” notes to dining hall employees and they later met to personally distribute them.

“That was a really important event for them because the first time they tried it, I think the semester before last, they got an overwhelmingly positive response,” said Jacob Long, Vice President of Service for a service fraternity that Happy Humans operates under.  

Though small, the group has garnered a lot of positive attention. During an event last semester, the VTPD Chief of Police, Kevin Faust, stopped by their booth in front of Squires Student Center to take a photo with the group and to commend them for their efforts in keeping Virginia Tech and Blacksburg a happy place to work and live.

Happy Humans Audio Slideshow from Ashley Cimino on Vimeo.

RLRO Radio: Community policing one Monday at a time

Blacksburg, Va., April 24 – Officer Arkeif Robinson cues up his next track during the Monday broadcast of the RLRO Nation radio show. Photo: Ashley Cimino

by Ashley Cimino —

RLRO (pronounced rolo) Nation is the group of three Virginia Tech Police Department officers that are designated as Residence Life Resource Officers. Officers Arkeif Robinson, John Tarter, and Kenny Ball come together every Monday from 2 to 3:30 p.m. to host a radio show on WUVT FM, Virginia Tech’s student-run radio station.

The purpose of this weekly radio show is to connect with the community that they serve. On the show, the officers highlight special programs that the RLROs host or attend. Popular events from the semester include Relay for Life, Friday wallyball games in War Memorial Gym, and the RLRO Fried Bologna and Cheese Night.

Each Monday, several guests, often times people who work in residence life at Virginia Tech or other VTPD officers, fill the small WUVT studio. The RLROs host small interviews with the guests and include them in the typical layout of their show, like having them read sections of a prepared script.

“I catch the show every Monday while I’m working. I’m glad that it’s on WUVT because I would never have found it normally, or even thought I’d be interested in it really,” said Katie Pierce, a junior at Virginia Tech.

The officers started the show back in 2013 and haven’t missed a semester since, and they’ve built a following. While it’s a common joke on the show that only 20 people are listening in, the RLRO Nation Facebook page has over 1,000 likes.

“I never would’ve imagined that a show by cops exists on WUVT, but it does. It just goes to show how much WUVT sticks to their ‘radio for everyone’ motto and I know the RLROs are a good part of the WUVT community,” said a current DJ at the station.

Some listeners and community members wonder why the Virginia Tech Police Department would dedicate officers specifically to the on-campus residents as resource officers, and the answer is simple. According to Bureau of Justice Assistance, community policing is a way for the community and law enforcement to engage in a trusting, mutually beneficial relationship that can be used to solve problems within the community. For the RLROs, WUVT is just one way that they can reach the people they are aiming to help.

You can listen to RLRO Radio every Monday from 2 to 3 p.m.  from anywhere at www.wuvt.vt.edu/listenlive or locally at 90.7 on your radio dial.

RLRO Radio from Ashley Cimino on Vimeo.

Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza and Coachella alternatives in Virginia

Photo credit: Music News Australia via Foter.com / CC BY-SA

by Ashley Cimino –

Music festival season is upon! The Lollapalooza 2017 lineup was announced at the end of March, and with Coachella gearing to open its gates on April 14th, many are looking for where to get their summer music fix.

However, tickets for many of these festivals have already sold out and are available only through online ticket exchanges like StubHub and VividSeats. These second-hand sites allow the original buyers to sell their tickets for over face value and can include hefty convenience fees. Cheaper alternatives to the “name brand” festivals are to find smaller scale festivals near you to cut travel and lodging costs. In Virginia, there are a couple exciting options for indie music followers and Americana enthusiasts:

Located on a farm, LOCKN’ is a quiant Americana and folk festival in Nelson County. The lineup includes must-see acts like The Avett Brothers, Margo Price, Jim James, and Brandi Carlile.

PRO: Big names, close to home

CON: Tier 1 tickets are priced at $279, which is more than Bonnaroo’s prices for 2017.

FloydFest is a staple to the Southwest Virginia music scene. Each year it pulls bigger artists and audiences. This year is no exception as the top headliners are Thievery Corporation, Michael Franti & Spearhead, and St. Paul & the Broken Bones.

PRO: This year’s workshop lineup for the festival is almost as impressive as the music lineup. Check out Miss Kitty’s Cosmonaut’s workshop to learn to walk on stilts!

CON: The Blueridge Parkway is the main road to reach the festival grounds. This can mean big backups on narrow roads. Always try your best to plan ahead for stops!

Local educators react to DeVos confirmation

by Ashley Cimino–

Blacksburg, Va., Feb. 15 – LOCAL IMPACT: Blacksburg High School is just one of four high schools in the Montgomery County Public Schools district that could be affected by new policies. According to U.S. News, Blacksburg High has a math proficiency rating of 84 percent, which is higher than the district and state average. Photo: Ashley Cimino

Betsy DeVos was confirmed as the eleventh United States Secretary of Education after an unprecedented tie-breaking vote cast by Vice President Mike Pence. Much controversy surrounding DeVos’ devotion to private school education has caused widespread public concern both leading up to and following her confirmation.

Concerns were initially revealed during her senate confirmation hearing. Professor Nicholas Goedert of the Department of Political Science of Virginia Tech explained that the controversy surrounding her nomination was partly due to the ideological conflicts that are common with cabinet nominees.

“There were [questions], largely revealed in her confirmation hearings, related to her competence to do the job, as she had almost no work experience in education and seemed unaware of broad principles and terms commonly used in the state administration of education.” said Goedert.

Clips of Virginia Senator and former Vice President Candidate Tim Kaine’s questioning of DeVos’ during her senate hearing was shared on social media and many became concerned about DeVos’ inability to agree that public and private schools should be held equally accountable if receiving federal funds.

WASHINGTON, Jan. 17 – HEATED HEARING – Betsy DeVos with Sen. Joe Lieberman and Sen. Tim Scott at her confirmation hearing before testifying for Senate committees. Photo: AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

No Child Left Behind, now replaced by the Every Students Succeeds Act (ESSA)Every Students Succeeds Act (ESSA), introduced higher accountability for schools and school districts receiving funding. ESSA, signed in 2015 by President Obama, shifts for power over education to the states and moves away from the “one size fits all” approach to education in schools. Still, DeVos would be reviewing each state’s ESSA plans outlining their education goals and plans to reach them.

Montgomery County Public School teachers and administrators are very concerned that DeVos doesn’t have the expertise to handle the one trillion dollar budget of the United States Department of Education or fix the current state of the public education system. In a survey of 99 MCPS faculty, nearly all respondents agreed that Ms. DeVos seems unfit for the job.

The image above is a link to the public infographic published via Piktochart.

In regards to accountability, one teacher said, “[I don’t] see her lack of experience bringing any of the accountability issues to the forefront.”

However, most of their concerns were regarding money and where it was going to go. When asked to describe a way that DeVos’ policies could impact their work and their students, one respondent said, “Her policies and desires to take money from public schools and put it towards private schools (which are not held to the same standards) will greatly impact the already hurting public school system.”

Amongst the many negative responses to the survey lay tiny glimmers of hope within the MCPS community.

One faculty member said, “I work for a fantastic public school. We offer a huge amount of programs for our students and the administration works hard to not leave any student behind. Public schools are not disasters.”