Kindergarten to College

Blacksburg, Va. Mar. 31- ALL EYES ON ME: Student athlete and senior Brandon Fiala speaks to students from Carver and East Salem Elementary School during a Kindergarten to College tour.

by Blayne Fink–

Given the success and campus-wide involvement of Virginia Tech’s Kindergarten to College program, otherwise known as K2C, it might come as a surprise to some that it actually began as a simple favor to a friend.

Susan Magliaro, the director of the program and professor emerita at Virginia Tech, received a call from a principal in Prince William County asking if she could bring her fifth-graders to campus for the day. Eight years later, K2C welcomes roughly 1,000 fifth graders from over ten different Title I schools to campus each spring semester.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, a Title I school is a school that receives particular financial assistance due to the school’s high percentage of children from low-income families. For Magliaro, being a Title I school is a key prerequisite for engaging in the program.

“We only work with Title I schools because we are trying to target kids who may not actually envision themselves being able to get to college,” said Magliaro. “So we wanted to give them that opportunity.”

Although the name might suggest otherwise, the program provides a day in the life experience of a college student to fifth graders from across the Commonwealth. As the program has expanded over the years, Magliaro has worked to incorporate nearly every aspect of Virginia Tech into the students few hours spent on campus.

The day begins with a short seminar about Virginia Tech, career opportunities that come with a college degree, and the questions that many students have about college life, including where they sleep and who does their laundry.

Following the introduction, the students, who are placed into specific color groups of roughly 10 to 15 kids prior to arrival, bounce around between buildings such as, Derring, the New Classroom Building, the WARE lab, and Goodwin Hall, engaging in a number of activities during the morning hours. For the most part, these STEM based activities are put on by undergraduate or graduate students.

Once their time in various classrooms across campus comes to an end, the students then enjoy an a la carte style lunch from the D-2 dining hall. Here, every single color group has an opportunity to engage with members of the Corps of Cadets, who eat lunch with the students. The day then concludes with a tour of Cassell Coliseum and Lane Stadium, as well as a short question and answer session with student athletes prior to departure.

Because the program is currently in its eighth year of operation, the impact of Kindergarten to College can now be quantified through data, something Magliaro is excited to explore in the coming years.

“We are just starting to see if those kids [from the first year] are going to college and where they go, if they do go anywhere,” said Magliaro. “So we are starting to collect that data.”

While it would be much easier in regards to gathering such statistics if all of the K2C participants ended up at Virginia Tech, Magliaro explains that the goal of the program is ultimately to spark the planning stages of a future that includes going to college.

“While we would love to have them come to Tech, the major message is to stay in and finish high school and go to college.”

Click the infographic for more information.

Conquering the outdoors…safely

Blacksburg, Va, April 2-Huckleberry Trail: Taking on the great outdoors can create lasting memories. Follow these tips to ensure those memories are good ones! Photo: Becky Shumar


by Becky Shumar–

Warm weather is rolling in! Many outdoorsy people are strapping on their hiking boots and running shoes to take on the trails. But staying safe while exploring nature is just as important as finding the perfect shoes that will not give blisters.

“We always recommend anything that you do in the cold months you do in the warmers months,” said Daniel Guilliams, Community Services Officer at Virginia Tech. “Of course it’s lighter outside, everyone is going to be out more, but pay attention to your surroundings, always pay attention to your surroundings, things change in a heartbeat.”

The New River Valley is full of opportunities to safely take in the great outdoors. Making it back home in one piece is as easy as taking a few simple precautions.

If at all possible, always walk in groups, especially at night. Carrying emergency items like pepper spray and a small first aid kit may be a nuisance, but they could save a life.

“If you have to have medicine, take your medicine,” said Guilliams. “Because you don’t know, you may get stuck, something may cause you to need that medicine right away and you can’t get back to it.”

It is important to have a fully charged cell phone when starting out on an adventure so help can be reached quickly in emergency situations. But don’t get too engrossed in music or social media. This can lead to losing track of the trail or a twisted ankle.

But for an adventurer who prefers to walk alone, there is a free app that can be used on a smartphone that will let a friend or family member virtually walk with you. The LiveSafe app allows someone to track a person’s location.

“We always recommend people get this app when they come to Virginia Tech,” said Guilliams. “It’s a great way for roommates to check in with each other when they go out downtown or on the trails.”

Officer Guilliams says most injuries he has encountered from hikers and bikers are as a result of people going where they should not. Avoid trespassing, leaving the trail and construction sites.

But if worst comes to worst, Virginia’ Tech’s campus and surrounding areas, such as the Huckleberry Trail, have blue light phones. If assistance is needed, simply press the button on the front of the phone and the call will be directly connected to a 911 operator. The phones are strategically placed so if a victim feels unsafe staying in one place, they can run from phone to phone while an operator is watching.

Exploring the great outdoors can be a great way to blow off steam after a long week. Use common sense, be aware of your surroundings and follow these safety tips so you can soak in the sun day after day.

An Uncommon Field: Women in Agriculture

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Blacksburg, Va., March 31- Women in Ag Panel: Six Virginia Tech alumni spoke about their experiences as a women in the agriculture industry. Photo: Katie Lukens

by Katie Lukens–

In an industry that is dominated by men over the age of 50, women are a minority in the agriculture industry. The image of farmers are men working the fields, not women plowing the land. Women control seven percent of farmland in American according to the 2012 Census of Agriculture.

“It’s a vermale-dominateded industry and a very older industry as well,” Julie McIntire Divis from PRE Brands said. “People have been there generations after generations. Their dad and grandfather worked on the same farm or in the same role.”

Divis was among the six women alumni from Virginia Tech gathered on March 31 to share their experiences, trials and triumphs in the agriculture industry. These women came from all over the industry including food science, dairy, equine and extension. They expressed their passion for their work and the importance of communicating with consumers.

Bridgett McIntosh, involved with equine at Virginia Tech, expressed her desire for women involved in agriculture to always be finding opportunities to work together. Everyone involved in agriculture has the same goal of feeding and clothing our world, so it makes sense to be working as a unified team. She also shared that feeling good about the work you’re doing matters.

“Compared with men, women don’t consider themselves as ready for promotions, they predict they’ll do worse on tests, and they generally underestimate their abilities,” The Atlantic states. This proved to be true as these women in agriculture shared their favorite accomplishments. These women had jobs to be proud of and resumes that were pages in length, but the room was quiet as they tried to answer this question.

“Being a young female coming into the agriculture industry, how do you put a stamp on the fact that I can do a good job too? Divis said. “I know what I’m talking about, I want to learn from you, but I also have a lot to provide and give. That may be new ideas and ways to do things that might be resisted in a very established well know industry that is male dominated.”

Although women are a minority in the agriculture industry, these Virginia Tech alumni were an example of the future that agriculture holds for young women perusing a degree in the field.

Divis left all women involved and hoping to get involved in the agriculture industry with an important question, “What are you going to do to highlight that women can succeed in the agriculture field, because we can.”

Passion for prayer

Blacksburg, Va., March 16- Power of Prayer: A student at Virginia Tech takes time out of his busy schedule to pray in the new prayer room located in Squires Student Center. Photo: Becca Tedesco

by Becca Tedesco–

With over 60 religious organizations at Virginia Tech, it is evident that the school cares about its student’s beliefs and backgrounds. One action that Virginia Tech has just taken is the addition of a prayer/meditation section located on the second floor of Squires Student Center.

This section of Squires is utilized by many students of many different religious backgrounds, but one group seems to find it very resourceful. The Muslim Student Association is a group of students that are given the opportunity to  “come together in a supportive Muslim environment and seek to educate the local communities about Islam.”

Muslims are required to pray at very specific times each day.  According to Islamic Relief USA, there are five times throughout the day that a Muslim is supposed to pray: Dawn, Sunrise, Noon, Afternoon, Sunset and Night. Since Muslims are required to pray so often, this resource is extremely beneficial. Students have a place that they can go during a crazy school day that they feel comfortable praying in. The space provides a clean area with mats; something that a Muslim must have in order to pray.

In addition to a clean area, a Muslim must also have a clean body, which is why they wash their arms, face and hair before going to pray. The area located in Squires has no door, so it is open for use as long as the building is open. Although many Muslim students use it, people of other religious backgrounds that also want to pray also use it. Other people go just to sit in silence or meditate. Who knows, maybe it won’t always be for prayer. Maybe it will become a place where people can open up about their faith to others?

Blacksburg, Va., March 16-Brothers Coordinator: Ahmad Edrees is a junior Electrical Engineer. He is the Brothers Coordinator for Virginia Tech’s Muslim Student Association. Photo: Becca Tedesco

Say Y.E.S. to making healthy choices on campus

Blacksburg, Va., Feb. 25 – Owens Hall: Owens dining hall is home to 12 specialty shops serving both American and international cuisine.


by Whitney Turner–

When it comes to fending off the “freshman 15,” students at Virginia Tech have to fight some serious temptations. While the nationally ranked dining halls do their best to advertise their healthy options, it is easy to fall victim to their gourmet desserts and garlic whipped mashed potatoes.

Virginia Tech senior Sarah Pierce believes the reason that students struggle to opt for healthy food choices is not because the university doesn’t provide them, but because students are usually pressed for time.

“I think the less healthy options have shorter lines,” said Pierce. “Since they go quicker, people stand in lines for those so they don’t have to wait as long. Whereas the salad line always takes longer.”

As a college student constantly on the move, fast meals or grab-and-go options can be more appealing.

“If you are super vigilant about eating right and going to the gym then you’re probably more likely to eat a salad,” said Pierce. “But if you’re just like ‘Oh, I need to go eat dinner, I’m not sure what I want,’ then it’s more likely you’re not going to eat as healthy.”

The university’s You’re Eating Smarter (Y.E.S.) program works to design menus that offer fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy options, whole grains and proteins. According to Virginia Tech’s website, the Y.E.S. program responded to student requests for healthier grab-and-go items with the creation of the Y.E.S. to Go.

In addition to creating and providing a variety of wholesome meals, the Y.E.S. program seeks to educate students about how to make smart choices. While Y.E.S provides nutritional facts and information online and on table cards throughout the dining centers, their efforts to reach students may not be enough.

“They should list the calories on the signs beside each menu item,” said Pierce. “Because you can look it up online but when you’re there ordering something you kind of have to guess which option is best.”

To help guide students even further, the Y.E.S. program has blog outlining how to be a “healthier Hokie.” A cheat sheet that outlines the best options for a balanced diet at each shop in every dining hall on campus is listed on the site.

For additional assistance on staying healthy, Y.E.S. hosts nutrition education events at dining halls and encourages students to reach out directly to dining service’s dietitians.

Although the cheesecakes and cannoli may look tempting, for Virginia Tech students saying Y.E.S. is the key to looking and feeling your best.

Blacksburg leaps into environmental awareness

Blacksburg, Va., Feb. 24-Oscar: This frog, nicknamed Oscar, is placed right outside of the Lyric Theater in downtown Blacksburg. A child set a rock with a note next to him, showing that he is a local favorite. Photo: Stephen Dixon

About a year ago, Leslie Hager-Smith turned her dream of increasing environmental awareness in downtown Blacksburg into a reality when she started the 16 Frogs project. An avid history lover and the vice-mayor of Blacksburg, Hager-Smith has seen the decline of the health of local water firsthand and knew something needed to be done.

“The year of our bicentennial was 1998, and that was the year that Stroubles Creek was put on the state’s most impaired waterways list, and it has remained there ever since,”Hager-Smith said.

According to the Virginia Water Resources Research Center, Stroubles Creek originates from three springs in Blacksburg, flows through the town, and combines together to run into the Duck Pond. Hager-Smith noted that despite the necessity of clean water in the environment, many people in the Blacksburg area are unaware of the current state of Stroubles Creek.

For this reason, Hager-Smith and the rest of the town council feel like the 16 Frogs project is a simple solution to this problem. She believes that it is vital to “bring attention to this environment, what makes it special, exactly why we got here and how town history revolves around waterways.”

In order to achieve this goal, 16 bronze statues of frogs will be strategically placed around the town of Blacksburg. Locals, college students and tourists will all be able to enjoy these unique pieces of artwork, while learning more about how they can make a difference in the health of Stroubles Creek. Several frogs are already installed and can be found next to the Blacksburg Municipal Building, in front of the Lyric Theater and next to the Main Street Inn.

Yoga: 5,000-year-old trend

Blacksburg, Va., Feb. 14 – High Lunge Pose: Nicole Boyle, owner of InBalance Yoga, practices a high lunge pose in a hot yoga class. Boyle says she practices yoga because it makes her happy.

by Haven Lewis–

It’s 4 p.m. on a Tuesday. Clients come in, one by one, with yoga mats, towels, and water bottles in hand, ready to enter the sauna that has consumed the studio at InBalance Yoga.

“My favorite is the hot yoga vinyasa classes,” says Keala Mason, manager and instructor at the studio.

Mason first became an instructor during her undergraduate years at James Madison University. She was later appointed as Coordinator of Sport Clubs and Youth Programs at the university’s recreation center. As the coordinator, Mason noticed a steady increase in the availability and popularity of yoga classes.

“I think one reason is because we’ve got celebrity endorsements and it’s become something that’s trendy to try, but then people stay with it because they see that it’s not just a trend,” Mason speculates. “It’s been around thousands of years so there’s gotta be something to it.”

According to David Gordon White’s “Yoga, Brief History of an Idea”, the earliest account of yoga is found in the Hindu Kathaka Upanisad, a scripture dating from about the third century B.C.

Yoga Alliance reports that the number of American practitioners has grown 50 percent in the past four years. Why are Americans now turning to this age-old practice as a form of exercise?

Nicole Boyle, owner of InBalance, has been practicing yoga for 11 years.

“I’m 38 now and it feels like I’m aging in reverse. I can do things now that I couldn’t do in my 20s,” Boyle says assuredly.

She believes that yoga has given her the confidence, and strength, to do triathlons, marathons, go on extended hiking and camping trips, and even try Crossfit.

“I think people are attracted to it because of some of the physical benefits, but then they see how well they feel mentally, emotionally, spiritually,” says Boyle. “Yoga can do more than just be a physical exercise.”

Boyle may be right. Yoga Alliance reveals that practitioners have a stronger sense of mental clarity, are more likely to give back to their communities, and have more agile bodies than non-practitioners and the public at large.

Boyle says that her clients typically range from ages 18 to 80. Her business offers chair yoga and community pool yoga for those who have trouble with mobility.

“There’s so many different types and so many different paces. As long as you can breathe, you can do yoga.”


Running in the winter… on purpose

by Becky Shumar–

Blacksburg, Va., Feb. 5- Running despite the cold: Erin Newman runs in her neighborhood on chilly afternoon. It is about 45 degrees so she opted for running tights and a jacket.
Blacksburg, Va., Feb. 5- Running despite the cold: Erin Newman runs in her neighborhood on a chilly afternoon. She is wearing running tights and a jacket in the windy 45 degree weather. Photo: Becky Shumar

January and February seem to be the coldest months in the New River Valley, and for many people this means it is time to hunker down until the warmth returns. But experts say the change in temperature is no excuse to put on winter weight.

Triathlon runner Sam Forsyth claims the cold weather improves his race performance.

“You don’t sweat as easy and you feel more energized,” said Forsyth. “I always have my fastest times in the 50s and the slight rain.”

For many runners the first sign of frost means it is time to start running inside. But Forsyth says he will do all he can to avoid running on the treadmill. Not only does it hurt his knees, but he says it takes away from the experience.

“Part of the enjoyment of running is exploring, finding new places and seeing what’s around the corner,” said Forsyth. “There’s no scenery inside.”

The graphic above gives runners a guide on what to wear based off the temperature outside.
The graphic above gives runners a guide on what to wear based off the temperature outside.

But running in the cold is not the same as running in warmer temperatures. Runners have to dress properly to avoid frostbite, hypothermia and joint injuries. Athletes also should not anticipate the same run times as they have had during the fall season.

“Expect to go slow the first mile or so,” said Forsyth.

How athletes dress could significantly improve or worsen their running experience. A decent pair of wind resistant gloves improves comfort tremendously.

“My hands are the first things to get cold. Hands are a part of your extremities hard for them to heat up.”

Forsyth says dry-fit gloves are not necessary because if his hands get sweaty, he will want to take them off anyways. As for feet, it is important to have a warm pair of socks that can wick away sweat. Running shoes should have decent traction to prevent falling on slippery ice.

The graphic above shows the benefits of running.
The graphic above shows the benefits of running.

Forsyth says layers are the best way to stay comfortable throughout the whole workout. It gives runners the ability to manage their temperature while warming up during the run. According to, you should dress as though it is 10 to 20 degrees warmer outside. Wearing too much clothing can cause overheating and discomfort.

But it is not just about how you dress. Experts say those who run in the winter are at a greater risk for dehydration. According to, runners do not sweat as much and feel less thirsty when they are cold. This leads to a decrease in water consumption during the winter months. It is imperative that athletes drink half their body weight in fluid ounces to avoid dehydration.

Running outside during the winter months may seem very unappealing, but it has proven to significantly improve both physical and mental health. This is especially important during the winter months, a time when season depression is at its peak. Properly dressed, athletes can comfortably run all year round.

Pretty in Pink

by Jess Ku–

Blacksburg, Va., Oct. 26 – Pink Ribbons: Downtown Blacksburg held its 8th annual Pretty in Pink event to help fundraise for the Virginia Breast Cancer Foundation. Photo by Jess Ku.

Recently local restaurants and stores in the Downtown Blacksburg community participated in the 8th annual Pretty In Pink Event. This event was to help fundraise for the Virginia Breast Cancer Foundation (VCBF). Pretty in Pink was presented by Kent Jewelers and Downtown Blacksburg, Inc.

There were many opportunities for the community to help donate. Participating downtown merchants such as Social House, Gillie’s, Bollo’s, Mellow Mushroom, and many more local restaurants gave a percentage of their sales to VCBF. During the hours of the event, the stores put signs on their front door to encourage local residents to buy and donate to the event.

“It was great to see Blacksburg as a community come together to help with a great cause,” said Abigail Wright, senior at Virginia Tech. “I know that a lot of people know at least one person that is or has dealt with breast cancer, so I think it’s great to make others aware that it is for a big cause.”


According to, “the Virginia Breast Cancer Foundation is a non-profit organization committed to the eradication of breast cancer through education and advocacy.” It also states on their Priorities page that “advocacy saves lives by empowering people to express their views and concerns, access information and services, and defend and promote their rights and responsibilities.”

Owners of local restaurants, such as Jeremy Counts of Main Street Pharmacy and Roya Gharavi of Gourmet Pantry, participated in the Pretty in Pink event, as well as going a little above throughout the month of October.

Exploring Sinkland Farms

Sinkland Farms
Christiansburg, Va., Oct. 31–Mailbox: Sinkland Farms is located on Riner Road in Christiansburg. Photo: Rachel Thompson

Sinkland Farms is a popular place to visit during autumn in the New River Valley. Every weekend in October, the farm was open to people of all ages for pumpkin picking, face painting, hay rides and more.

Susan Sink, the owner of Sinkland Farms, has spent 24 years carefully crafting the Pumpkin Festival experience into what it is today. Cursive script on the website describes it as “exquisite Southern style,” and the “Premier Event Venue in Southwest Virginia.”

Though the Pumpkin Festival is over, Sinkland Farms continues to cater for special events. In the past, weddings have been held there, as it presents a beautiful mountainous background. It has also been a venue for sorority and fraternity formals.

Testimonials on the Sinkland Farms’ website detail how much fun families had during their trip. “This venue is nothing short of amazing,” wrote a reviewer named Wendy. “The place and the people are great to work with,” wrote a reviewer named Benjamin.

Sinkland Farms has over 9,000 likes on its Facebook page. It has a 4.5 out of 5 stars rating from nearly 600 reviewers. Visitors post daily to the wall, constantly commending Sink and her team for their fabulous work.

According to the official tourism website of the Commonwealth of Virginia, Sinkland Farms was “named a ‘Best Farm to visit by Blue Ridge Country Magazine, which highlights ‘best places’ across seven southern states.”

Sink discusses how she and her husband first came up with the idea of a Pumpkin Festival in the audio slideshow below.