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    Random Act of Kindness: A Small Gesture can lead to Friendship

    Victoria Bankowski

    Life on a university campus in the heart of a city can be challenging for students who commute.

    I know this all too well.  Often, I have a difficult time locating affordable parking and I am forced to park within a parking structure and that can get expensive.  I attend The University of Michigan, which is a large school and sometimes it can be difficult to find parking before class. Juniors and seniors can purchase yearly parking passes at one of the many locations across campus, but it can still be a long walk to class. In one of my classes, another student mentioned she was concerned because she inadvertently left her wallet on the seat of her vehicle, which was a few miles away.  I offered to drive her to her car.  I did not know this student well, but I figured I would drop her off on the way home.

    As we walked to the parking structure we became better acquainted with one another and began to develop a friendship.   It was nice to meet and talk with someone that had similar interests to me. As we pulled up to her car said she would walk back and see me another day.  I offered to drive her back to class so that she would make it back to class on time. She was shocked at the fact that a person who she didn’t know would volunteer to help her out. 

    We have since become friends and communicate often.  We spend time together in between classes and have plans to stay in touch over the summer.   I am happy I could be of assistance to this student. Additionally, because of this random act of kindness, a friendship has developed.   I have spent five months at the University and I have not interacted with anyone, other than my professors, until then.  I really feel good about our interaction and will do it again should the need arise.  Random acts of kindness should happen more often, at school, and within our communities.  A random act is a non-premeditated, action designed to offer kindness towards another.  This one action changed a lot of things about the way I felt and the way in which I see life at my school.

    Every day should be a Random Act of Kindness Day.  If more people throughout the world would volunteer their services to help others, our world would be a much more efficient place. Let’s stop being angry and let’s start communicating with one another, the world will be a better place. Who knows, even a friendship could develop from it!


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    My Mentor, My Friend: Dr. Bonita Leavell

    Victoria Bankowski

    I sat in my first chemistry class and listened to my instructor talk about a former student she had given a letter of recommendation to. That student was accepted into all three of the Ivy League universities she applied to. From that point forward, I found myself dreaming of ways that I might land myself a spot in a classroom at one of the Ivy League schools. Whether it was a summer research program offered, or a transfer scholarship to complete my bachelor’s degree, I passed the time away trying to imagine ways I could turn this dream into reality. Dr. Leavell made me feel in my heart that I, too, could go to one of the top universities in the United States. I was inspired and set my sights on attending Johns Hopkins University (JHU).  It was because of the way Dr. Leavell spoke to me that I felt that I could transfer from my community college to an Ivy League school if I worked really hard.

    Dr. Leavell inspired and motivated me to reach for my dreams and apply to transfer to a top school. She helped me realize my capabilities. Dr. Leavell taught me the importance of learning in a way that is smart and effective. When Dr. Leavell talked about her previous students, she was so proud and it was so great to hear about other students who were successful. I feel that it’s important to have a professor and mentor who shares examples and inspires students to go for their dreams. Dr. Leavell is a gem and she is one of the finest professors who taught at my community college.

    Dr. Leavell is an inspiration. She encouraged me to succeed. She changed my mindset. I went from believing that I would never go to a top notch school to believing that I was as capable of attending an Ivy League. Especially when my professors gave examples of other students who were in my seat from years before. It was Dr. Leavell who turned my thinking around and inspired me.  She inspired me to apply for the Jack Kent Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship to help me pay for an education that I knew that I could not afford.  I began applying to lots of different schools to transfer to.  In March, I received a letter stating I was selected as a semifinalist for the top ranked Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship.  I realized that even if I don’t get selected for this prestigious honor, I am still a winner. I did not get into Johns Hopkins University. However, I was so excited to get into the University of Michigan Ann Arbor on a full tuition scholarship and doing very well.

    I spent my life filled with self-doubt. It was Dr. Leavell’s belief in me that allowed me to understand and focus on the prize, along with helping me transform my insecurity into confidence and determination.

    It is very important that students recognize their mentors.  Especially educators who go to work every day for the students benefit. There is not a day that passes that I don’t think twice about the impact she made on me. It is equally important that I tell her how important she was in getting me to believe in myself. Dr. Leavell, I want to say thank you so very much for the lesson you have taught me.  I will never forget you.   I will cherish the thought of you, in my heart for the rest of my life. I hope not to disappoint you, for you are such a very important determining factor in my success. Thank you!


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    A Major in Sustainability Will Save Our Planet

    Victoria Bankowski

    I am currently seeking a degree in General Studies, which allows me to focus on more than one area.  I am pursuing a career in Environmental Sustainability.

    When asked “What is Sustainability”, a lot of people will attempt to provide an answer, but when giving their definition they get lost in their explanation.  The problem is because there is not an universally agreed definition on what sustainability means.  I would define sustainability as, the ability to be maintained at a certain rate or level. Sustainability is the avoidance of the depletion of natural resources to maintain an ecological balance. 

    I am currently working on a project that explains how I feel about sustainability.  I found that because I was not formerly educated in sustainability, I live a very unsustainable life.   I am enrolled in a “Sustainability on Campus” course at the University of Michigan and I am learning what I must change to live in a sustainable world.  Due to the major implications of the human population using up the Earth’s natural resources, I am determined to change my lifestyle and act as a steward of sustainability, teaching the behavioral changes needed to save our planet.

    Not all communities are as serious about sustainability as the University of Michigan. It is a known fact that a failure to incorporate sustainable practices in education, and in business, happen frequently across the United States because sustainability is deemed a complicated process.

    It is for this reason that a change must take place.  It will require a lifelong lifestyle commitment of learning, research, and commitment to increase the best sustainable practices, to ensure our grandchildren’s children will have a planet that can sustain the punishment that so many people have inflicted.

    As a transfer student coming to the University of Michigan, I am hopeful, that I have found a suitable career path in which to pursue.   I have chosen to pursue a career as a steward of Sustainability.  I have strategized, over what it would take for me gain the necessary skills and background required to pursue a career in sustainability, and have discovered that I would like to work with young children as a steward of sustainability.  My attention was brought to the University and I have determined that every year the University of Michigan, brings in a fresh group of students.  However, not all of these students have been formerly educated in sustainability.   I discovered this problem because of the lack of knowledge I had when asked “what is sustainability”. I was left with my mouth open unable to answer. This is a problem that must be addressed to save our planet.

    All children in the United States deserve equal educational opportunities, and to save the planet, sustainability must be incorporated at all levels of education.

    My philosophy is, to maximize growth and understanding of sustainability.  To do this we must start with our roots, our children.  By teaching our children about sustainability, in elementary school, those children will go home, and act as sustainable stewards with their parents.  As our children mature, they will grow with the ever-changing protocol, that surrounds sustainability.  When ready for their next phases in middle school and high school, they will have developed a foundation on which to grow further in educational sustainability issues.

    To educate all our children in sustainability, we must focus on our state and federal legislatures.  All children in the United States must have an equal representation in education, and by failing to provide our children with the basic tools to become sustainable, we are preventing our country from becoming sustainable.  Encouraging a statewide initiative to provide the children of all communities, education in sustainability is a must. I believe all students should be required to learn about Sustainability, just like English, History, and Mathematics at all levels of education.  Educating our children in sustainability is the necessary tool, I feel that will save our planet.