American Heart Month: Valentine’s Day May be Over, but It’s Not Too Late to Take Care of Your Heart

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If you didn’t get a chance to show support for American Heart Month by wearing red on February 3rd, you can still take action to promote a healthy heart every day. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, responsible for 1 in 4 deaths of men and women. Even more staggering is how highly preventable heart disease is through exercise and healthy diet choices. If you or someone that you know is at risk for heart disease, there are many simple steps that you can take to live a healthier life.

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One of the first steps you should take is to monitor your blood pressure. Everyone over the age of 18 should monitor their blood pressure regularly. The baselines vary from person to person and the guidelines have changed in recent years, so it is best to consult a doctor about what should be your “normal.” High blood pressure can lead to a heart attack. I’ll save you from the super science-y details, but basically high blood pressure causes a buildup of plaque in the coronary arteries, which makes them narrower and thus blood clots are more likely to form. If plaque or a blood clot blocks an artery, the flow of blood through the heart stops, which causes serious damage or death to the heart muscle.

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Regular physical activity reduces blood pressure because the heart becomes stronger and can essentially pump more blood with less effort, decreasing blood pressure. Everyone knows that it is better to park farther away from your destination, or to take the stairs instead of the elevator, but small changes like this can truly make a difference in the long run. 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity are recommended per week, but even walking around campus during a 20-minute break is better for your heart than sitting on your laptop.

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There are many amazing food options to help lower blood pressure as well. I have recently learned that healthy food doesn’t have to taste like diet food! The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute conducted three studies and found that the DASH Eating Plan prevents and treats high blood pressure, lowers blood cholesterol, and can help people lose weight when combined with physical activity. The US News and World Report even voted it the bets diet for 8 years in a row! The diet basically recommends increasing intake of foods that are good for you and limiting foods that aren’t as good for your heart. The word “diet” brings to mind a bunch of salads and expensive, tasteless snacks, but the DASH options actually sound delicious. They include margherita pizza, lemon cheesecakes, halibut with tomato-basil salsa, and white chicken chili. For more recipe ideas, visit


Lastly, everyone should take a CPR class and learn how to use an automatic external defibrillator so that you have the skills to save someone if you see them go into cardiac arrest. An in-person class takes about 1-2 hours, and it is offered on-campus during the Spring semester at a discounted price. You can also take one online at






So it’s now the third week of February and Spring Break is just two weeks away; but as great as that is, that means Midterms are upon us! The phase of all-nighters, tons of dollars spent on Starbucks, and hours spent contemplating if college is really for us. As someone who has experienced 4 exam periods at Rutgers, I can say it never truly gets easier, but you learn ways to manage it and get the most out of your studying. Below are some tips that have worked for me –

  • ATTEND THE REVIEW SESSION AND USE THE STUDY GUIDE – This seems like such an obvious thing to do, but as someone who has skipped a review session in the past and paid for it dearly – I don’t take it lightly. The study guide, as broad as it may be, is also very important. Your aim should be to at least understand 80% of the information concerning each topic or question outlined in the guide.
  • NOTES, NOTES AND MORE NOTES – Taking notes saves lives, at least to me. These notes don’t have to be from the lecture, but something that has worked for me is every weekend I read all the resources for the week’s topic (slides, textbook chapter, reading/article assigned) and make notes summarizing it. This helps especially during exam times because you might not have time to go over all the information again and the ease of having to just go through your notes to re-enforce what you were taught cannot be overemphasized.
  • STUDY GROUPS HELP A LOT – I’m not always a fan of study groups as I personally learn better studying alone with my headphones on. But study groups can be extremely beneficial especially after you have studied on your own, as you can learn more information from other students and you get bounce answers off each others backs.
  • DON’T OVER-STRESS YOURSELF – If you’re able to spread your studying over a longer period of time – do it. As an unrepentant procrastinator, I know that isn’t easy but rushing to study is not only a way to forget to study something, it is also just stressful mentally and physically.

Well that’s all I have for tips about midterms. I hope this helps you as much as it helped me and “may the curve ever be in your favor.” Don’t forget, Spring Break is right at the end of the tunnel!cusd spring break-550x0


Black Panther is a Good Movie


I feel like the title doesn’t really convey what it really means when I say that it’s a Good Movie. It requires Capital Letters and italics and bold, maybe even underlining, which really can’t be shown in the title for this post so I’m going to do it here: Black Panther is a Good Movie.  

A friend and I went to see it last Friday at the Rutgers Cinema, which is a really good movie theater, actually.  It’s not huge and it doesn’t show all of the movies that are currently out, but it always has the movies I want to see. It also doesn’t hurt that the matinees cost $5.00 instead of the $13.29 that my local movie theater charges. As I’m a broke college student, things being cheap is really the only thing I need to make me happy.


As a disclaimer, I’m not what some people would call a “movie buff”. First of all, I have no muscles so the word “buff” should never be applied to me in any way, shape, or form. Second, I’ve never taken a film class, I’m not a professional reviewer of anything (not that I wouldn’t mind having that job), and I haven’t even watched all of the Marvel movies. But you don’t need to be a professional food critic to know if something tastes like garbage or tastes amazing, so without further ado let’s get on with my completely unqualified movie “review.”

Let’s get this out of the way: the movie is gorgeous, the cast is amazing, the music is incredible. It’s action-packed and funny and heart-wrenching, and it’s incredibly poignant and resonant with the current political atmosphere.

(There has been a lot of talk lately about people like celebrities, athletes and people in the entertainment industry in general should stay out of politics. They should leave that talk to the politicians and experts. But, the thing is, a world in which only politicians and “experts” have the ability to talk about politics is not the kind of world I want to live in.)

If you somehow haven’t heard, Black Panther takes place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe following King T’Challa, who had recently ascended to the throne of the fictional African country of Wakanda after the death of his father, King T’Chaka, during the events Captain America: Civil War. T’Challa, the titular Black Panther, has returned to Wakanda and finds himself embroiled in a conflict that could be described as one between tradition and innovation. The entire movie, in fact, could be thought of as a conflict between tradition and innovation, as said by the film’s director, Ryan Coogler.

And again, I’m not an expert, but it is pretty cool to see a movie with a primarily Black cast that doesn’t involve slavery, the Civil Rights era, or gang violence. In my opinion, not that movies about those things are bad movies, but it can often be stereotyped to be the only settings where pre-dominantly Black actors are cast for.

That is not to say that the movie doesn’t touch upon these ideas. The film constantly mentions that Wakanda is a country that was never colonized and it never experienced the slave trade. It’s a thriving technological utopia on a continent the some people still think is populated by zebras and people living in huts. The movie even plays with that idea by using the image of hut-dwelling zebra (or rhino, in this case) herders to hide their true nature from the outside world.


That’s another thing about Black Panther that was really interesting. Wakanda is an incredibly isolationist country. Much of the tradition vs. innovation conflict is driven by the Wakandans’ intense desire to preserve their way of life and their fear of being exploited by foreign powers. If that doesn’t sound familiar to you, then you haven’t been paying attention to the news nor have you opened a history book in your entire life.

Wakanda may not have been touched by the slave trade, but they saw it happen and they saw its effects on African people. You can see why they’re not too eager to mix with the rest of the world. However, Wakanda is a powerful nation with advanced technology that people can only dream of at this point. Nothing short of an alien invasion could destroy Wakanda and its way of life. As seen in the movie, it’s a country that’s strong enough to welcome the outside world and maintain its traditions and way of life.


It’s passivity and isolation is another driving force in the movie’s conflict and its fear of outsiders can be seen as a reflection of U.S. politics and the ongoing debate on foreign aid and immigration. Ultimately, this movie is about compassion for other people and leaves you with this final message: If you have the power to help people, you should.

(If you want the movie’s actual final message, not including the final after-credits scene, it’s this: “The wise build bridges, while the foolish build barriers.”)

My Visit with Congressman Donald Payne Jr.

I recently started working at the Charmil Davis Foundation for Colon Cancer Support and Prevention and we recently took a trip to Newark NJ to visit Congressman Donald Payne Jr. We went to honor his father Congressman Donald M Payne, who was the first black congressman elected into Congress from NJ.

So when I was reading about the late Congressman Donald M Payne, I actually found his story incredible inspirational. Rep. Payne was elected into office in 1988 after losing twice in 1980 and 1986. He was born in Newark, NJ and grew up very poor. Despite all that, he graduated from Barringer High School and Seton Hall University. He was always so humble and always cared about the people around him. This motivated him to serve the people in public. Before his time in Congress, he served as city councilman from Newark and president of YMCA. He served as a teacher and began doing a social work in the neighborhood. After some in time, he ran for the House of Representatives in 1980 and 1986 and lost to the incumbent Democrat. He successfully ran and won in 1988. With his victory, he began the first black man to serve in Congress from NJ. Congressman Donald M Payne served in the House from 1989 until his death 2012.

Last Friday on Feb 2nd, I had an amazing opportunity to meet Congressman Payne’s son, Donald Payne Jr. As mentioned, I went with the Charmil Davis Foundation for Colon Cancer Support and Prevention. We visited Congressman Payne Jr because his late father was a mentor to Charmil Davis and supported her early career in journalism, which is why Congressman Payne Jr supported our foundation. Charmil always told us how important people are to Congressman which is what I found inspirational.

When we visited, Congressman Donald Payne Jr was talking about all of his father’s legacy. I was amazed by how humble he was. Congressman Payne Jr ran and won the special election that immediately followed his father’s passing. I just found that to be incredibly strong. After he talked about his father’s legacy, he talked about politics. What I took away was that it is very important for millennials to get interested in politics. The country is going to be ours, so it is important to always have faith in the government.

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This is Charmil Davis who is the President and Founder of the Charmil Davis Foundation. She was a former White House journalist and is currently battling colon cancer. She is so strong and passionate and she is always talking about what its like to go through therapy and how much cancer patients really suffer. She always tells us (which I took to heart) is that we need to take care of people now and give what we can to help others. I think I will always admire her courage and passion.

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One of our interns is Muslim and she mentioned that fact to Congressman Payne Jr. And as a result, he gave her a copy of the Quran. I thought that was amazing and the fact that he even had a Quran in his office is worth noting. And I thought that the edition looked beautiful.

And these are just group pictures that we took. On the left is with Congressman Payne Jr. and on the right is with a statue of the late Congressman Donald M Payne.

My First Alternative Break

This winter break I attended my very first service trip through a program called Rutgers University Alternative Breaks. I initially wanted to go on the trip because I had always been very interested in service but also I saw this as a great way for me to meet to people and break out of my comfort zone. It amazing how it ended up turning into one of the most eye opening experience of my life.

Education reform has always been an important topic to me as I believe that education is something that is often treated as a privilege when it is a right.

My trip specifically was in Baltimore and dealt and was through a nonprofit organization called Living Classrooms, which sought to help those in Baltimore with limited access to a good education. We spent most of the days with children in the B.U.G.S. (Baltimore Urban Gardening with Students) program which was an after school program for the underfunded schools in Baltimore. Our group of volunteers got to help the younger kids in activities that they participated in such as STEM class which included doing math or science experiments, gardening, art and cooking. It was a lot of fun and often times I didn’t even realize that I was doing volunteer work. However, seeing the looks on the staffs’ faces after we were able to help them organize the library and paint the new computer room warmed my heart, and made me realize the impact of the small actions that we took. It was also great doing the activities with the kids. We got to play freeze tag as well as just have amazing conversations with them. In an area where so many children struggle to graduate high school, I loved hearing that some of the children aspired to be a coders, teachers, doctors, and scientists.

On one day of our service trip we worked with Project S.E.R.V.E. (Service- Empowerment- Revitalization- Volunteerism- Employment Training) which aids ex-convicts with rehabilitation and reentry into the work force. Not only did it completely change the way that I think about convicts but it also brought attention to the systematic injustices that occur daily in these people’s lives. Hearing the amazing stories of people who got out of jail and spent every day of their lives trying to better themselves and make the most of their second chance of life was truly inspiring for me to hear.

For me, deciding to go on an alternative break was a very spontaneous decision that I am extremely happy I made. I recommend that everyone go on one, or at least try to attend some type of service trip. I was someone who always stayed in my bubble and never really realized the deep rooted issues that go on in this country, and by finally seeing the issues that I hear so often about its made me much more appreciative of the opportunities I have given in my life, and made me value the importance of service.

Read Much?

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Swamped with school work, club meetings, sports meets, social outings–the list goes on–it can be really hard to just sit down and relax. For those of you who are bookworms, do you find it sort of impossible to do what you love? Read? When’s the last time you’ve honestly opened up a glorious book that wasn’t for your courses? 

Speaking from my own experiences as a current junior, I can say that yes, it’s incredibly difficult to find time to read for relaxation, especially during the semester. However, it’s not impossible! In fact, I’m doing it right now. Even as the spring semester is kicking in hard as we enter our third week, I’m reading a couple of fiction books! (If you’re interested, I’m reading: Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson; The Name of the Star also by Maureen Johnson, and Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs.) How am I doing it? Well, do what you do best and read on to find out!

1. In Between 

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You might be surprised with how much time we can find in between classes, meetings, or particularly, when you’re just waiting. Don’t let the wait time for getting your Hidden Grounds Nutella Mocha go to waste: whip out your book and start reading! Considering you carry around a book at all times, like I do (don’t laugh at me). During these times, we may become aimless and restless, so what better way to quench our boredom than read?! The minutes add up, you know.

2. Before Sleeping

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Reading before you go to sleep can be quite a calming activity. It helps you de-stress from your hectic day. It may even help you sleep better! There are several scientific benefits of reading, actually. Find out more about them here. Don’t underestimate the reading you can get in before your eyes start to droop!

3. Keep Motivated

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You were so busy that you didn’t even have time to breathe? Well, guess what? You’re in luck. Why? Because you can attempt to read–even if it’s just a few paragraphs for just a few minutes–the next day, or the day after that! Don’t lose hope, fellow avid reader. I aim for at least fifteen minutes of reading per day, and I have to admit, that doesn’t sound like much time at all, but 1) Even that is a challenge but 2) It’s doable. Try to not set a goal to read for an amount of time that will be difficult to achieve. It’s all about setting goals that are attainable, anyway! And of course, don’t be too harsh on yourself. Rejoice in those precious moments you are able to feast your eyes on the intricate words of a story. Take pride in the fact that you read for even a minute while waiting for your coffee amidst your busy schedule. Remember, it’s not about finding time to read; it’s making it!

So, my fellow readers, carry around a book, stay calm, and READ!

How to Get Work Done, Like Actually

A new year and a new semester has begun, so you know what that means. A new you! Just kidding. As someone who doesn’t believe in temporary new year resolutions, I try my best to set long-term goals for myself.  Specifically, I like taking tangible and practical steps to improve myself, rather than creating fluffy and whimsical hopes like “I will work hard this year!” for myself.

Keeping a clear goal of getting working done efficiently and without distraction in mind, I have come up with six ways that are actually effective when it’s time to be productive.  These are things I’ve picked up after years of experimenting which conditions work best for me. Keep in mind that they may not apply to everyone.  Without further ado, I present to you ways to actually get work done.

1. Self Control

The biggest hindrance to being productive is all the distractions that are present around us. Especially if the work involves using a computer or the Internet, social media, YouTube and texts are just waiting to interrupt your work ethic. I know it’s hard, but do yourself a favor and keep your phone on Airplane Mode or your Mac on Do Not Disturb when there’s a big assignment due.  Your notifications can wait. Also, resist the urge to keep checking your email or Facebook so often.  Just attempt to not click on those websites for a certain period of time. Not working? That’s okay.

Possible solutions include:

  • Delete bookmarks of distracting website so it is not so easy to reach them
  • Do not have them open in other tabs. Just close them.
  • If you still cannot control yourself, then the most effective solution is getting a website blocker. If you have a Mac, you can download Self-Control. It is one of the best ones I’ve ever used. Once you block the websites for x amount of time, you cannot undo that action.  You have to wait it out. Instead of crying out of regret, might as well use that time to work!

2. Organization

It is so important to keep your life organized to get work done.  This includes everything. Keep your work environment clean: a clean desk, a desktop with minimal apps and a clear state of mind. Most importantly, having a schedule and to-do list is a must. I never understood the point of planning out my day and writing down what assignments I have to complete in one place. I’d think it’s too tedious and extra. But, trust me- it helps so much. Instead of trying to memorize your tasks or logging them in ten different places on your phone, have a homework or reminder app that keeps it all in one place. I recommend iStudiez, myHomework Student Planner, and The Homework App. You can upload your entire schedule and class times on it. It’s a great way to mark your due dates and set priority for your assignments.

3. Determination

No matter how distraction-free and organized you become, it’s all useless if you don’t like what you are doing. And I get it, sometimes the task is mundane and uninteresting. So, if you have a list of tasks to complete, save the one you are most excited about until the end.  This way, you have something to look forward to.  Most often, the boring assignments are the ones that are the most time-consuming and take the most effort. Get them done first when you have the most energy. Leave the fun stuff for later.

4. Rewards

If you are doing something that takes a long time to complete, break it down into sections.  For example, if you have to read 50 pages, reward yourself after every 10-15 pages with a YouTube video.  If you have been working for 2 hours at a stretch, watch an episode of Parks and Rec on Netflix.  If you have a lot of tasks to complete, take a break after finishing two.  Try to manage your time well by either giving complete focus to your work or truly relaxing during your break time. Do not attempt to do both because it just slows everything down.

5. Be Excited

Time flies when you have fun, doesn’t it? Well, guess what? Work can actually be fun when you like what you are doing. Just think about. Say you are really passionate about biology. Anytime you do biology homework, you give it your complete attention and finish quickly. So, even if you are doing work that doesn’t excite you, try to find things that are exciting about it. For example, if you have to write a research paper to complete, and you hate finding sources, but love writing, look forward to that. If you are reading a history textbook and find it boring, try to formulate it as a story in your head to connect ideas and events. If you don’t understand a concept and are more of a visual learner, find videos and graphics online to clear your doubts. Even the dullest things become exciting when you understand them well!

6. Just do it.

Nike’s slogan “Just Do It.” is pretty motivational. The best way to stop stressing about a task is to just do it and get it over with. Procrastination makes things worse. Instead of worrying about your workload and complaining about how much you are not looking forward to doing work, actually being productive is much more efficient. Once you start working, it becomes easy and you feel a burden lifted off of your shoulder.

Remember kids, it’s all about your motivation and prioritization. With just a little bit of self-control and a few rewards along the way, nothing can stop you from hustling hard.