Chillin’ and Grillin’ with the Health Club

Chillin’ and Grillin’ with the Health Club

The UMF Health Club and health classes aimed to show students that managing stress and health is important for success (Photo by Gina Schultz)

By Allison Jarvis, Contributing Writer

  The Health Club recently put together an event in the student center called “Chillin’ and Grillin’,” aiming to educate the students and promote ways to make healthy choices in four areas: Physical health, nutritional health, sexual health, and mental health. Each section had tables with different games, activities, quizzes, displays, and pamphlets for students to take.

   The Health Club teamed up with students in two health classes to make this event possible. “The long term goal is to change the behavior of students by informing them how to better manage their stress, have a positive sexual health behavior, better nutritional diet, and become more physically active,” said Jamie Dillion, the vice president of the Health Club, via email interview. “It is to promote overall health.”

   The games and events acted as an effective stress reliever for finals week. “It was not intended to be this late in the semester but it has worked out nicely as this is when students’ stress levels heighten,” said Colby Stevens, a senior who helped with the mental health portion of the event. “Through this program, we hope to teach students how to effectively manage their stress.”

Justin Davis wearing a “Captain Condom” costume (Photo by Gina Schultz)

   Free hot dogs and hamburgers were served outside the Student Center and more healthy food was offered in the Landing. There were two games set up for students to show how much sugar is in popular snacks and compare prices between healthy and unhealthy choices.

   “There are not a lot of healthy options in college for food and students tend to struggle with eating healthy,” said Norma Williams, a senior and community health education major.

   The mental health portion of the event was also hosted in the Landing, including activities like yoga, coloring, and making stress balls. The students of the Health Club find it vitally important for everyone, college students especially, to manage their stress and maintain their mental health, which is often overlooked socially.

   Katie Callahan, the health professor and Health Club faculty sponsor who helped oversee this event, believes very firmly in the importance of stress management. “College students have a lot to balance, and that is incredibly difficult,” said Callahan. “Many times, self-care is the first thing that can be pushed aside because it doesn’t come with a ‘deadline.’”

   All of the activities offered were chosen so students could feel like they can afford it and have time for it. Pamphlets were handed out with stress management strategies that students can practice at home.

   The students running the physical health section had a number of games to play including Twister and Just Dance. One table ran a “Diabetes: Fact vs Myth” Kahoot! trivia game for students to try. If a question was answered incorrectly, the student had to spin the wheel of exercise and do a quick session of jumping jacks, squats, or pushups. The health students always did the exercising with them so no one felt embarrassed.

   The students running the sexual health section arranged a small display with a colorful banner hung above the table that read “Let’s talk about sex, baby!” The table was decked with presentation boards providing facts about how to have healthy sex and prevent unwanted pregnancies and diseases. On the table were several products such as birth control, condoms, and even a few sex toys. Students were tested to see if they knew how to put a diaper on a baby doll, or how to properly put on a condom by using a squirt gun made to look like a penis.

   To make the subject of sex ed more lighthearted, health student Justin Davis volunteered to come dressed as a condom-themed superhero. He stood at the display, answered students’ questions, and walked around the room tossing packaged condoms at other students.

   Dillion spoke about the reasoning behind the outfit. “[It was] definitely an excuse to put our peer in a condom costume,” said Dillion. “Maybe that was not the main reason, but it was definitely a deciding factor. The idea of the condom costume is to draw people in and show how sexual health can be safe and fun!”

   Callahan and her students hope that their community not only had a good time but that they felt better prepared for finals week and can take some knowledge with them in the future. “It is in hopes that the students are able to better manage their stress so that they have a higher chance of success and end the year strong!” said Dillion. “Whatever follows them afterward, it would be beneficial for them to have these skills in times of need.” The Health Club hopes to host this event again next year with the same amount of success.

Teen Voices Program Creating Courage in Girls

By Allison Jarvis Contributing Writer

   The Mt. Blue Teen Voices program, founded by Kristen Swan in 2005, thrives today as it continues to make an impact on young girls and mentors alike. Mt. Blue Teen Voices is a literature-based program for girls in grades five to eight that creates mentoring relationships between UMF students and the programs participants. The program seeks to raise aspirations, enhance self-esteem, emphasize personal responsibility and decision making, foster inquiry, and create a strong commitment to the community for the young girls. Swan said in an email interview that the motivation behind creating a mentor program came from wanting “to address the rural isolation facing girls in the communities.” Swan adds that “these programs were created to instill a love for reading, engaging with others, being involved in the local communities, and enabling girls/teens to develop their own vision of the future.”

   The Teen Voices program provides UMF students with an opportunity to help young girls while also gaining personal insights. Heidi Chutter, a long-serving mentor for the program, has had many great experiences working with the teens. “It’s really great how excited the girls are to see us at each meeting,” said Chutter. “They always have stories they are waiting to tell us and have so much they want to share with us.”

   Mentors attend a required annual training session and are then paired with girls from Mt. Blue Middle School based on their interests. Mentors and mentees will read one book a month and attend monthly meetings to discuss what they read, and to participate in activities themed around that book. Program directors try to seek out Young Adult novels with strong female roles, often times with characters who overcome some sort of adversity. The activities vary from month to month depending on the book that is selected. Some activities include creating a personal mission statement exercise that was connected to a book character who struggled with self-esteem issues. Another activity involved teaching the girls how to code and create an app for their personal phone or school laptop after reading a book in which the main character struggled with number sequencing.

   Grace Hansen, a junior and a mentor, said that she applied to the program as an excuse to read more young adult literature. “I have a real soft spot for it and lack any other outlet,” Hansen said. She also joined the group because of her love for working with middle schoolers. “A lot of people find middle schoolers intimidating or awkward because they are in that in-between age, and though that may be true, I find them to be the most fun and inspiring group to work with.”

   The Teen Voices program also takes the girls on field trips to see a musical performance or a ballet. “Many of the girls do not have an opportunity to see live theater whether it’s a musical performance or ballet performance,” said Swan. “They are simply in awe. It’s wonderful to see their reactions.”

   The group also has had multiple guest speakers come to their monthly meetings. Previous guest speakers include several Maine authors, a Holocaust survivor, and Pam Flowers – who traveled solo on a dog sled across the arctic coast of North America. “The reason is to expose these girls as much as possible to the plethora of careers they have before them,” said Swan. “We intentionally seek strong female role models as speakers and guests.”

   The Mt. Blue Teen Voices program has made an impact on many people’s lives in the community – whether they be the mentees, the mentors, the teachers, or the participant’s parents. “My fulfilling experiences stem from parents who seek me out and tell me how much more confident their daughter has become,” said Swan. “Or from a girl who began as a mentee in fifth grade, attends UMF, and then becomes a mentor for the program.”

   “I didn’t really know what to expect,” said Chutter, referring to when she first applied for the program, “but I do know I’ve had a great time doing it.”

   “I feel as though every conversation I have with my mentee is a fulfilling moment,” said Hansen. “She is just so honest and thoughtful that, frankly, I feel as though I learn as much from her as I am hoping she learns from me.”

   Training for the program typically starts in mid-October and the program begins that same month, meeting monthly and then ending in late April. Swan encourages anyone who has a love of reading and a can-do attitude to apply. If a student wished to apply, they can contact Kirsten Swan at, or pick up an application at the club fair.

Otaku Club Embarks on Anime Adventures

By Allison Jarvis Contributing Writer

    The Otaku Club was founded five years ago to explore Japanese culture and for students to watch anime together. Rowan Burns, the current president of the Otaku club, and fourth year Early Childhood Education and Psychology major, describes some of the events that are arranged for the club’s members.

   “We go to two conventions every year,” said Burns. “We host a lot of events. We do a tea party now, ‘Host Club’ style. We’re planning that right now.”

  Every semester, the club arranges to take twelve members, including E-board, to a different convention. They travel to Another Anime Convention (AAC) in the fall and Anime Boston in the spring. At conventions, you will see people dressed in cosplay of their favorite anime, as well as games and panels where guest speakers like creators or voice actors are invited to speak and answer questions.

   “I enjoy walking around and meeting new people and seeing the cosplays,” said Burns. “A lot of people, if you’re in cosplay, will ask for your picture. A lot of professional photographers will go to these events to do sessions.” Members of the club are encouraged to go dressed in cosplays if they choose to, and the officers always make sure everyone has time to get into their cosplays before going into the convention.

   Besides going on trips to conventions, Otaku club now has a new event where they host a tea party in the landing themed around the popular anime “Ouran High School Host Club.” The officers of the club dress in uniforms and the landing is decorated with table cloths and tea lights. Tea and coffee and snacks are served and the “Host Club” anime is screened on the projector. “We tested it last year and it was a big hit,” said Burns. “People just came in and they watched anime and had snacks and talked and hung out and it was so much fun.” The tea party is now being hosted once a year every spring semester, to try and line up with the Japanese cherry blossom season.

    When the club isn’t going to conventions or hosting tea parties, they spend time together and watch anime. Once a month they have a “voting day” when members will shout out their favorite animes, and then the club will collectively vote on the lineup of showings for the month. “It’s very much club member participation based in that sense,” said Burns. “We don’t just have officers picking stuff, we’re really asking people what they want to watch.”

  Attendees are always exposed to something new and different. The shows range from light-hearted to  heartbreaking. “We’ve had [shows] where people cried in club ‘cause they’re so sad!” said Burns. Content warnings are always given before a screening, should there be any heavy themes that might be hard to handle, so that the Otaku club can be a safe and inclusive place.

    While attending Otaku club meetings is a fun way to pass the time and of being exposed to and learning more about Japanese culture, the club is also a place to spend time with  like-minded friends. “I like being in the room with so many people with shared interests, but in a more relaxed way,” said Benjamin Hayes, sophomore Special Education major and club member. “I’ve definitely gotten a lot closer with other members…  who I otherwise probably wouldn’t have connected with.”

   “Anime’s such a weird niche interest, where you either like it or you hate it,” said Burns. “And there are so many people who just adamantly hate it. And it’s hard to find those spaces where people aren’t thinking you’re weird for enjoying it.”

   The Otaku club meets in Thomas Auditorium every Friday from 4-6PM. If a student should have any questions, they can contact Rowan Burns at

Vagina Monologues Brings Women Empowerment to the Stage

By Allison Jarvis Contributing Writer

    The Vagina Monologues are back and the cast has worked hard to deliver this year’s performance with strength, power and hope for their fellow classmates.

   This performance includes a series of monologues about sexual events and body acceptance delivered from the viewpoints of women of varying ages, backgrounds, and races. It has received criticism in the past for being offensive, but others find the show to be empowering and inspiring.

   “The ultimate goal we have with the Vagina Monologues is to spread knowledge on women’s health, sexuality, and difficult topics like rape and assault,” said McCulloch. “We want to end the stigma surrounding the woman’s body, and we want others to be more comfortable talking about their struggles. We want people to talk about this stuff regularly.”

   Because of the casts passion to fulfill their goal, the emotion needed to significantly illustrate the monologues is already present. Mary Ellms, one of the directors, said, “This year, we haven’t had to do much to help the actors access the emotions behind the pieces with the #metoo movement and other recent events around sexual assault, sexuality, gender identity, and feminism, the actors are already understanding these monologues in ways that I didn’t as a UMF student a little more than a decade ago.”

   With only a month to rehearse, the cast did not waste a minute: “We have such a short time to prepare for the show, like three or four weeks,” said cast member Pearl Wilson, during an email interview. “A lot of the work we do is in memorization and being able to tell the story of our monologue.”

   The cast begins memorizing their monologues early on, since “each rehearsal involves at least one run-through of the show or a run-through of each person’s monologue,” said cast member Eila McCulloch, “There’s a lot of work and effort that goes into each one.”

   “I spend a lot of time with the script,” said Ellms, one of the directors. “I read and reread each monologue dozens of times and build an image in my head of what I’d like the overall picture to be for that monologue.” Ellms admitted, though, that sometimes this image will change during the rehearsal process due to the ideas presented by her co-director, Pickering, or by the other performers.

   Ellms is not the only person who presents a goal for each monologue. “For me, it’s about opening conversation,” said cast member Bethany Wicks. “It’s about not being afraid to talk about vaginas or even just saying the word.” Wicks sentimentiments reveal the casts overall goal for the production.

   The monologues cover some sensitive topics that might be triggering to some people. A few describe harrowing tales of sexual assault in strong detail. “Some of these monologues are really hard to process,” said McCulloch, “luckily for me, I have a more humorous monologue this year. But even listening to some of the others is difficult. One of Jurnee’s [Vagina Monologues cast member] lines makes me tear up every single time she says it.”

   According to Ellms, though the monologues “can be triggering,” they are also necessary. Ellms recalled a conversation that the cast had during a rehearsal about how audience members will most likely be able to connect at least one line of the performance, maybe even an entire monologue, to their own lives: “If that’s really true,” said Ellms, “then we have to tell these stories for the people who are living similar experiences but who can’t tell their own stories yet. These monologues allow a lot of people to feel ‘seen,’ even if they’re not ready to share their personal experiences.”

   But despite the heavy-handed emotions, the directors and cast members were determined to deliver a message of empowerment and are hopeful that the audience will still be thinking about it after they leave. “I think the Vagina Monologues can make people uncomfortable just because people usually don’t talk or think about vaginas like that,” said Wilson. “I hope that people confront their discomfort or even become empowered to love their own vagina.”

   One cast member recalls how the Vagina Monologues empowered her. “The first time I saw the Vagina Monologues, I was in the eighth grade and I had giant googly eyes the entire performance!” said Wilson. “It blew my little brain! The Vagina Monologues empowered me as a young woman so I am happy I get to be part of them now.”

   If anyone wishes to participate in the Vagina Monologues, the show is performed once every year on campus. Contact Mary Ellms or Gavin Pickering for details.