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16 and license-less


In the U.S. the age of first-time drivers license receivers has risen from 16 to 19

By Marlena Chertock

He’s a junior in college, but doesn’t have his driver’s license. He’s tried to get it several times. It’s that darn parallel parking that’s tripped him up.

“I haven’t gotten my license yet for one simple reason: parallel parking,” said Josh Axelrod, who attends the University of Maryland. “I’ve taken the test an embarrassing number of times and have yet to get past the parallel parking portion. It’s pathetic.” He didn’t take the test until he was 18 because he was afraid to get behind the wheel.

Axelrod is part of a growing number of 16 to 24-year-olds across the nation who are getting their driver’s licenses at older ages. There are fewer younger drivers on the road today, and older drivers are keeping their driver’s licenses for longer, according to a study released in January 2012 from the Transportation Research Institute at the University of Michigan.

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Striving for recognition, asking not to be invisible

The story of an undocumented citizen

By Marlena Chertock

Vargas writes about being an undocumented immigrant living in America, and the countless others who are as well. Photo courtesy of TIME Magazine.

First published in The Writers’ Bloc.

Jose Antonio Vargas, a journalist, came out of the closet when he was in high school. But it’s taken him 12 years to come out of the “illegal” closet.

In 2011 Vargas wrote a story about his status as an undocumented Filipino living in America for The New York Times Magazine. Vargas is an accomplished journalist. He’s been published in the Washington Post, The New York Times and The New Yorker. He was also on the Washington Post team that produced Pulitzer-winning coverage of the Virginia tech shooting.

He talked about his path to founding Define American and the struggles of living as undocumented in America in Hoff Theater at the University of Maryland Tuesday night.

In a lot of ways, Vargas’ story is about searching for home. He left the Philippines in 1993 when his mother sent him to America in the hopes that he would have a better life.

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Local elementary school program motivates fourth, fifth grade girls to stay active

Fit Girls offers a space for pre-adolescent girls at Lucy V. Barnsley Elementary School to build relationships with peers and learn about their bodies and how to stay healthy. Photo by Marlena Chertock.

By Marlena Chertock

April, 2012

Pink pieces of paper with encouraging words lined the bus parking lot outside Lucy V. Barnsley Elementary School, where 30 students and 12 teachers ran after school for 25 minutes on a sunny Tuesday.

“I feel accomplished, I feel energetic, I feel alive,” said Samantha Christianson, one of the students involved in Fit Girls, reading off the papers her peers had taped on the running path.

Running around the bus loop has become a ritual for the group, called Fit Girls, every Tuesday and Wednesday after school.

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Reclaiming D.C.’s history: new online resource lists famous local writers

Juan Ramón Jiménez, a Spanish poet and Spanish Language and Literature professor at the University of Maryland from 1943 to 1951, lived in this home in Riverdale. Photo courtesy of the D.C. Writers’ Homes website.

By Marlena Chertock

First published in The Writers’ Bloc.

This is the first part in a series on the D.C. Writers’ Homes project.  Each Friday for the month of January, one writer who hits close to the UMD campus will be featured.

Roberts and Vera have what they call a strange hobby. They research D.C. and surrounding communities for still-standing homes of authors and record the information on D.C. Writers’ Homes, their online resource that lists about 125 D.C., Maryland and Virginia houses where local authors once lived. The website was released on December 1.

“I don’t think we’re very good at claiming our history,” said Roberts, who teaches the course in traditional verse forms for the Jiménez-Porter Writers’ House at the University of Maryland. “I think that there’s much more interest in preserving people’s private properties. I wish more of them were marked by plaques.”

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Undergrounduates MC wins at Circles13

By Marlena Chertock

Published first in The Writers’ Bloc.

A crowd of about 100 sat in bleachers, circled around three male students with microphones at James Madison University Saturday. They insulted each other through rhymes for 30-seconds each.

After two rounds of 30-seconds with a background beat, Fresco Sounds, Paperboy Prince of the Suburbs and Killer Cam battled a capella.

The crowd chanted, “Fresco Sounds, Fresco Sounds,” the judges nodded their heads and Fresco Sounds won $300 for the MC battle at Circles13, a break dance, hip hop and rap competition that brought several colleges together for a day at JMU.

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Asian Fortune family pays tribute to founder Jay Chen

Jay Chen holds his grandson. Photo courtesy of Lily Chen Ma.

By Marlena Chertock

Published first in The Public Asian

The editor and founder of Asian Fortune, the only English-language Asian Pacific American newspaper in the U.S., died from a brain aneurysm in Inova Fairfax Hospital in Virginia on Jan. 31, according to his family.

Jay Chen, 61, an immigrant from China, had a vision for a way to bring all APA ethnicities together and educate others about the APA experience, according to his daughter Lily Chen Ma. This vision became Asian Fortune, which Chen launched in 1993.

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University of Maryland Stamp Director Guenzler-Stevens wins Women of Distinction award for work mentoring young females

Marlena Chertock

June 3, 2011

First published in The Diamondback.

Marsha Guenzler-Stevens, director of the STAMP Union, gave a short speech after she received the Woman of Distinction Award in the Grand Ballroom on June 2 at 7:30 p.m. Photo by Marlena Chertock.

STAMP director Marsha Guenzler-Stevens strives to be a bug of encouragement in a young woman’s ear — reinforcing that they are beautiful and that they can succeed.

“Our friends at Duke University did a study of women on their campus and they said that their undergraduate women, and this fits us all, wanted effortless perfection. They wanted to be smart, fit, cute, bright, capable, always there for a friend and they wanted to do all of that without looking like it took any effort or sweat,” she said to a group of hundreds at the National Conference for College Women Student Leaders. “And so the seeds of doubt are sewed because we believe we should be flawless. But we all find out all too soon that we fart, we fail, we have bad hair days.”

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U.S. government not to release photos of Osama bin Laden’s death, Elon University community shares opinion

By Marlena Chertock

May 12, 2011

An NBC poll showed a majority of Americans agreeing with the United States government’s decision not to release photos of Osama bin Laden’s death. A minority disagreed with the decision. Graphic by Marlena Chertock.

The United States government has decided not to release the photos of Osama bin Laden’s death. This decision has been met with varying opinion, but overall with support from Americans.

Most Americans, 75 percent understand why the photos are not being made public while 25 percent are unhappy with the U.S. government’s decision, according to an NBC poll released Monday.

“That’s pretty robust support for the U.S. administration’s choice,” said Jason Kirk, a an assistant professor of political science at Elon.

The U.S. government must have determined that the benefits of not releasing the photos far outweigh those for releasing them, said Rudy Zarzar, a professor of political science at Elon University.

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Intellectuals gather to discuss ‘ideas worth spreading’ at first TEDx event at Elon University

By Marlena Chertock

MAY 5, 2011

Senior Tyler Reynolds wanted to plan an event on his own because he had never had that experience. On May 3 Reynolds’ planning came through in the first-ever TEDx event at Elon University where several speakers discussed various topics from 4:30 to 7 p.m. in LaRose Digital Theatre.

TED is a non-profit organization focused on “ideas worth spreading.” TED conferences occur all over the United States and world, where the best speakers are brought in front of a large audience and speak on a variety of topics in under 20 minutes, Reynolds said.

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Editor for News & Observer encourages writing with authority

By Marlena Chertock

May 4, 2011

Steve Riley is an editor at the News & Observer in Raleigh, North Carolina. He manages a team of investigative journalists. Photo by Marlena Chertock.

Steve Riley, an editor for the News & Observer in Raleigh, pushes reporters to write with authority. Riley manages a team of three investigative journalists and spoke to communications students at Elon University on May 4.

“Be very assertive, very confident in what you present,” said Riley, who has been in the newspaper business for 31 years. “A fair picture. But not necessarily a balanced picture.”

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