Steve Decker: Custodian of Stone Hall, Every Student’s Friend

Steve Decker: Custodian of Stone Hall, Every Student’s Friend

By Elina Shapiro – Contributing Writer

   As I turn the corner to approach my room in Stone hall, I hear a cheery voice, saying “Howdy! How are you doing?” and suddenly it doesn’t matter that I was soaked in the rain, freezing from the snow, or just did poorly on an assignment. I am excited because that means I am about to talk to Steve Decker, Stone Hall’s custodian.

Steve Decker, beloved Stone custodian
Photo Courtesy of Elina Shapiro

   Decker, always smiling, is great at giving life advice. “He helped me through a tough time last year when I lived in Stone,” said Kelsey Dunn, a senior Early Childhood Education major at UMF. “He told me a personal story that shaped my decision making and made my life more positive.”

   Decker has only worked in Stone, but he spreads enthusiasm around campus. “Last year when I walked up to Stone, he was waving to everyone saying, ‘How are you doing?’ and ‘Have a great day!” said Dunn.

   Students are Decker’s favorite part of his job. “You don’t know what they’re going through. You might say, ‘hey, how are you doing?’ and that’s all they need,” said Decker with compassion in his eyes. “Life’s too short to worry about things, you help where you can.”

   When I transferred to UMF, I was nervous because I didn’t know anyone. Steve made the transition easier because he was a consistent figure in my life who cared about how my tests went, when I was going to see my family next, and how I was doing overall.

   Dunn, also a transfer student, felt similarly. “Having Steve be that friend my first year after transferring was like having someone that I could go to for laughs, someone to get advice and guidance, and someone I could go to if I ever needed,” said Dunn. “To this day, I’m still grateful for all he’s done for me–whether it is stopping me in the hall just to say ‘hi’ or catch up to helping me get my car out of the snow last winter.”

   In addition to making a difference by talking with students, Decker also made the Stone lounge much cozier. He and his wife added blankets, stuffed animals, and photos to make the area look more like inviting and help people who were homesick.

   “He’s very committed,” said Alyssa Higbie, a junior Elementary Education major at UMF. “He’s made this a home, not a dorm.”

   Decker won the “Phil Watts” award twice, once when he first started seven years ago, and again last year. The Phil Watts award is given to UMF custodians based on student votes. Members of the CRC (Campus Residence Council) then tally up the votes. Higbie highlighted that not only Stone Hall residents voted for him, but students all around campus.

   Decker goes above and beyond to help students. Last winter, Higbie’s car was stuck in an ice dam, and within the hour, Decker reported to her that he had shoveled her out.

   “He does everything–snow blows, sands, cleans the stairs, bathrooms, floors, as well as vacuums, takes the trash out–he goes all over the place,” said Dunn with sparkling eyes. “He’ll do any big thing to little thing. He does it because he wants to make the community great.”

   Decker cares about every single person and makes them feel loved. Coming to college is hard, Decker is one of the first reasons I found Farmington and UMF to be another home. Decker not only does his custodian jobs, he is also a wonderful mentor and friend to all students.

   “Steve is a memory that will last forever. His personality, care, hard work, honesty, is something that I aspire to be as a teacher and a person in general,” said Dunn. “Steve is invited to my graduation if he’s not already attending.”

UMF Residence Halls Open Their Doors to Trick or Treaters

UMF Residence Halls Open Their Doors to Trick or Treaters

By Bryan Eldridge – Contributing Writer

   Every residence hall at the UMF campus is preparing to open their doors for yet another Halloween, letting kids from the community come in and get candy from the students during the “Trick or Treat Through the Halls” event.

   “Trick or Treat Through the Halls” is an event sponsored by the Alpha Phi Omega (APO) club on campus where kids and families from the community walk to each residence hall on campus, collecting candy from the festive Halloween spirited students in their halls. The event has been a UMF tradition for over 10 years, and always seems to keep the busy residence halls full of laughing children and happy students.

Mallett residents, Katie Franke and Becky Paradis decorate their dorm room in preparation for trick or treats through the halls.
(Photo courtesy of Bryan Eldridge)

   Emily Hartford, a junior at UMF and current President of APO, finds the event to be a great connecting point for many students in the same school.

   “They get to see kids they might not be able to hang out with outside of school.” said Hartford.

   The event aims to provide a safe experience for the families in the surrounding community. “It’s a safer alternative because you’re not wandering through the streets.” Hartford said. “You know who’s passing out the candy [and] you know why they’re handing [it] out,” said Hartford with confidence.

   Information regarding the event is sure to reach students and their parents. “We have flyers going out that have all the contact information on it that will be distributed to every school in the district,” Hartford said.

       Stephen Riitano, second CA in Mallett Hall and a senior, finds the event engaging for the residents. “It gets people in the hall out of their room and engaged in a similar activity with other people in the Mallett community.” said Riitano. “They all have a similar goal.”

   The event in recent years has been a hit, with many eager and busy feet flooding the halls. “The past two years have been a pretty good turn out,” Rittano said. “There’s a large number of kids that come through.”

   Kierra Carmichael, a senior at UMF who has been a resident on campus for all four years, enjoys the variety of costumes and anxious kids that visit each year. “[The kids] seem so eager and excited and their costumes are adorable.”  Carmichael said.

   Carmichael feels the event is very important for connecting with others and brings UMF closer with its surrounding towns. “It connects us with the community so we’re not just a campus.” said Carmichael. “It made me feel like I was part of the community as a whole.”

   There are other ways for the residents to be a part of the event besides handing out candy. “Just come down to the lounge and help people give out candy and interact with parents and kids.” said Carmichael. “I think it’s still important to try and be involved.”

   The event is scheduled for Sunday, October 29th and will begin around 5:00 p.m.

Tattoos of UMF

Tattoos of UMF

By Cheyenne Judkins – Contributing Writer

   As tattoos are on the rise on the UMF campus, many students are getting them for very special reasons. These art pieces come in many shapes and sizes, but they’re all significant, some even have a story. Some people get tattoos for family members, lost loved ones, or more personal reasons, but each one is unique. Here are some around UMF…

Rachael Chavarie, junior Elementary Education Major.
(Photo courtesy of Rachael Chavarie)

  Rachael Chavarie, a junior and Elementary Education major at UMF has a faith over fear tattoo that is near and dear to her heart. “I got this tattoo based off my favorite bible verse, ‘When times I am afraid, I will trust in thee’ Psalms 56:3” Chavarie said. She described herself as someone who often worries and overthinks things she has no control over, but her faith has always been there for her to lean on. “Throughout my life I’ve also come to realize that God has never let me down once and that he always has my best interest at heart,” Chavarie said,  “I decided to get this tattoo as a permanent reminder to always keep my faith above any fear I have no matter how little it may be.”

  

 

Mikayla Wyman’s symbol of her grandparent’s love story.
(Photo courtesy of Makayla Wyman)

 

 

 Mikayla Wyman, a junior Early Childhood Education major has a dove tattoo with French words on the back of her neck to represent her grandparents love story, “Je t’aime means ‘I love you’ in French, and it’s written in my grandmother’s handwriting” Wyman said. This tiny token is a constant reminder for her of how her grandparents fell in love.

 

 

 

  

Amanda Swart’s tribute to her grandfather.
(Photo Courtesy of Amanda Swart)

 

 

 Amanda Swart, a junior Outdoor Recreation, and Business Administration major also has a tattoo for one of her grandparents. “I got this tattoo in memory of my grandpa,” Swart said,  “the rose stands for ‘Rosie’ which he always used to call me, and the writing is his own from postcards he’d send me once a month for my entire childhood,” Swart says he was the greatest man in her life, and she continues to fall more in love with her tattoo every day.

 

 

 

 

Areyanna Yslava’s matching Mario tattoo with her fiance.
(Photo courtesy of Areyanna Yslava)

 

 

  Areyanna Yslava is a junior Elementary Education major, she decided to get a mushroom tattoo from the game Marion with her fiance, “Most people look at my tattoo and see something from a video game,” Yslava said, “but to me its not just a silly cartoon, the mushroom is an extra life, a second chance at being happy and having a fulfilling life, which is what he [her fiance] gave me.”

 

 

 

 

 

Christina Taylor’s compilation of all her artistic interests.
(Photo courtesy of Christina Taylor)

 Christina Taylor, a junior Business Psychology major designed her own custom tattoo with her artist, “It encompasses all of my artistic interests,” Taylor said, “costuming, sewing, theater, and music are all incorporated.” She shared the treble clef is backwards so she can see it clearly in a mirror, and she chose the color pink because it’s her favorite color.

 

 

 

 

Tattoos may seem small and meaningless to someone glancing at it from across the room, but they often have an underlying meaning for the person they belong to. The ink under these peoples skin are not just drawings or art pieces, they’re stories.

Perfecting the Balancing Act: Kayla Tremblay

Perfecting the Balancing Act: Kayla Tremblay

By Leah Boucher -Staff Reporter

 

    The sun shone on a Friday morning through the basement windows of Dakin into the dance studio, where red and dark blue costumes reflected their sparkles onto the walls. Three mirrors placed together on the front wall captured a choreographer in leggings and a comfy green sweatshirt mouthing the count of the music while the floor vibrated with the bass of hip-hop music.

    Kayla Tremblay, the dancer in front of these mirrors, can be found here for at least a half an hour each Sunday through Friday dancing in eight different routines for Bust-A-Move Beavers (BAM), the dance club on campus she has been a member of since the first semester of her freshman year.

Kayla Trembley, senior Elementary Education Major at UMF
(Photo courtesy of Kayla Trembley)

    Tremblay, a senior Elementary Education major, smiled and leaned back on the wall filled with old dance showcase posters from the 90’s as she thought back to her previous years of dance. “This will be my 19th year of dance, and I started dancing at Steppin’ Out Dance Centre in Saco, Maine, at the age of three,” said Tremblay. “It has always been a way for me to let my stress from work and school out.”

    Her motivation to continue dance past high school even led her to participate in a clogging competition with Danica Lamontagne, another BAM member, this past spring, where they placed first. “This was the first competition that I signed up to do without being part of a competition team,” said Tremblay, “and being able to make the choice by myself was a big step of independence and confidence for me.”

    This stress relief activity is helpful now more than ever, as Tremblay has been a member of BAM, Rotaract, the Rugby Team, French Club and chair of the Spring Fling committee, as well as Alpha Lambda Delta, in which she holds the position of President. She also just finished mailing out cards for “Brocktober” at UMF, where people write and decorate Halloween cards for a terminally ill boy named Brock in Biddeford. Her natural leadership abilities led her to organize this event all on her own while encouraging the clubs she is a part of to contribute, as well.

   “When I first heard about Brock, I knew I wanted to get involved,” said Tremblay. “I knew if I reached out to other UMF clubs and organizations, they could help to make this event bigger than just myself writing several cards to him.”

    Tremblay wiped off her forehead as if to get rid of the sweat from just thinking about her hectic daily schedule. “I work about 15 hours a week in the Partnership for Civic Advancement office, and with a full load of classes, plus all my clubs, sometimes I am forced to eat dinner on the run or do my homework in 15-minute increments,” said Tremblay.

    Reflecting back on her four years in BAM, Tremblay’s face became solemn, but she then quickly switched back to her usual radiant grin. “It’s bittersweet knowing that I’m leaving such a supportive group when I graduate this May,” she said. “Everyone is willing to block out everything else that they may have going on to be an active part of rehearsal, but if someone does need support, there’s 41 other people to listen and help–it’s the perfect family network to be a part of.”

 

Student-Athletes Strive to Strike Balance Between Sports and Academics

Student-Athletes Strive to Strike Balance Between Sports and Academics

By Devin Lachapelle – Contributing Writer

As the fall semester nears its midpoint, student-athletes at UMF say that they’re able to balance demanding coursework with busy sports schedules thanks to hard work, effective time management and the help of friends and coaches.

Gwen Baker, a junior and member of the women’s cross country team, said that strong time management skills are extremely important for student-athletes given their often-crowded schedules.

“I like to joke that I don’t exist on Tuesdays; I’m busy from 5:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., with only a small break in the afternoon,” she said with a laugh. Baker then said, “It’s been a process to learn how to be organized as an athlete. I’ve been very organized because I’ve had to be.”

Michael Pingree, also a junior and a goalkeeper for the men’s soccer team, said that student-athletes often have to make difficult decisions in an effort to not get behind on schoolwork.

“You have to make tough choices and say no,” he said, “whether it be going out of town or going out one night, just because you have a game the next morning.”

Pingree stressed the importance of having a supportive group of friends to help stay motivated. “During the season, you have to have a friend group to keep everything balanced,” Pingree said. “You can really burn yourself out. To have a peer group that you can talk to about it or hang out with really helps.”

Junior and field hockey player Chelsea Ballard mentioned that her game schedule occasionally interferes with her classes. “Sometimes if I have a game on a Tuesday or Thursday night I’ll miss my Social Studies Methods class. We often leave early [for games], so I would miss my Public Writing class as well,” she said.

Ballard went on to describe the steps student-athletes have to take before any planned absences can take place. “Our coach has to sign off on a letter that tells the professor why we’re missing,” Ballard said. “Still, some professors don’t like it when we miss class.”

Ballard, like Baker, credits organization as the key to academic success for students with limited free time. “[Field hockey] takes away from my homework time,” she said. “Being both a student and an athlete, I have learned extremely good time management skills. I’m often going from one thing to another so I have to make sure I have everything organized and set up so I can make the smooth transition.”

Baker, whose athletic schedule also conflicts with her school schedule, stated that while her coaches try to maintain consistent practice times that work for most students, the coaches are flexible and do not penalize players when they do have to miss practice because of classes.

Gwen Baker (Left) competes against an opponent from Saint Josephs College (Right) during the UMF Invitational at Mt Blue High School in early September. (Photo Courtesy of C.J. Jenkins)

“Practice is at 3:45, which is usually a happy medium for everyone. I can’t run until after practice because I have Journalism then,” Baker said. “Coach knows I’ll still do the workout on my own.”

Moninda Marube, an assistant cross country coach at UMF since fall of 2016, agreed that coaches try to adapt to the needs of individual students.

“We work with their professors to ensure that classes do not fall on our training schedule or if they do, we always figure out how a student would best get their workout without missing a class.”

Marube emphasized that the key to academic and sports success was having players trust and support one another. “We have not had cases of students burning out yet,” he said. “We have caring team members who always seek to help each other to stand strong in their weak points.” Marube continued, “We have a great team chemistry and we address each member of our team at a personal level.”

Pingree and Baker both cited physical fatigue as a consistent challenge for student-athletes. Pingree said, “The biggest thing is how tired you are every day. You get home from practice, make dinner, shower, and by that time it’s already 7:00. The physical amount of preparation that goes into [sports] is the hardest thing for people to realize.” Baker said, “I’m usually exhausted coming home from weekend meets.”

Chris Strople, an Assistant Professor of Education at UMF, is the academic advisor to several varsity athletes. Professor Strople noted that student-athletes can be at risk of getting overwhelmed.

“Getting burned out by the high workload is certainly a concern,” he said. “I emphasize the importance of maintaining a balance . . . That balance is not universally achieved and so it often will be different depending on the person.”

Professor Strople, a former Division I water polo player at Loyola Marymount University, noted how important it is for student-athletes to have a support system in place. “I do have first-hand experience with the challenge of balancing the responsibilities of both athletics and academics . . . It’s not easy for anyone with the challenge of finding a balance between the two, so I would encourage them to communicate with their teammates, coaches, classmates, and professors for support when needed,” he said.

Baker, Pingree, Ballard, and Professor Strople all agreed that, despite the challenges faced by student-athletes, the connections made are well worth the effort.

“It’s not always about winning or losing,” said Professor Strople, “but often about the friendships built while working toward a collective goal.”

The women’s cross country team heads to Colby College for a meet on Friday, Oct. 6th at 4:00. A day later, the field hockey team will face off against New England College at 2:00 and the men’s soccer team will battle Green Mountain College at 3:30, both at home.

For more detailed information about the fall sports schedules, including schedules of sports not listed here, visit http://athletics.umf.maine.edu/landing/index.

UMF Prepares Upperclassmen for Post-Graduation

By Samuel Carignan – Contributing Writer

UMF Career Services is organizing “Graduate School and Other Post-College Opportunities Month”, a month long event to help upperclassmen transition to post-graduation life. This October, students can visit several speakers whose talks will focus either on graduate school or employment opportunities.

The program is designed to help guide students towards a career path, whether that be graduate school, employment, or a service oriented program. UMF students will have the opportunity to speak with graduate school representatives from UMaine, Colby, Bates, Simmons and Husson. Employment and service opportunity presentations will be given about the Peace Corps, Fulbright and Teach In Alaska.

Cyndi McShane, who works in the Center for Student Development as a Career

Counselor and one of the key people involved in creating Graduate School Month, is hopeful that students will learn more about themselves and their next steps.

“The great thing about a liberal arts degree is that it prepares you for a variety of outcomes,” said McShane.

Ashley Hinkley, a UMF senior majoring in Elementary Education with a minor in Special Education, is one of hundreds of students who will need to be looking at what to do post-UMF. Her current goals are “[to find] a job teaching somewhere in the state of Maine, possibly getting my masters, and moving out of my mom’s house.”

Students have real concerns about what will happen after their undergrad journey at UMF. “The (education) field is so tight that it is going to be difficult, and I might get discouraged,” said Hinkley.

As an Education major, Hinkley wishes that the events could be more helpful for future educators. “They already provide job fairs and internship opportunities, so it would be nice for UMF to bring in teachers to come in and chat,” said Hinkley. “I would want to know what the first year of teaching is like, and the best ways I can go about getting a job.”

Career Services believes that the Graduate School and Other Post-College Opportunities Month will be helpful for many UMF students.

“It is [our] goal for students to leave our events with a desire to explore their options,” said McShane.

McShane also recommends setting up a one-on-one meeting with a career counselor to help with post-graduate plans.

“We want them to know they can be supported through this process,” says McShane.

For a full list of events, you can find posters and bulletin boards on campus, or contact a Career Services employee.

To reach out, or find out more information in general, visit their webpage at http://www2.umf.maine.edu/careers/.

 

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