Tuesday, January 31

Birthdays in Boston

Nothing quite as depressing as aging in Boston; Beantown is seriously lacking a venue for 20 somethings to celebrate their big days.

This past weekend, to honor my dear friend Camille's 24, we headed off to Howl at the Moon promptly at 9pm to beat the rush. I mean really, is there anything better than slurping green fruity (and overpriced) concotions out of giant buckets while singing along to quirky piano renditions of the Blacked Eye Peas? In all seriousness, I am mesmerized by the talent of the pianists who collaborate to churn out hit and after hit.  I have a hard enough time getting through "Blackbird" on the piano when I'm staring right at the music.  That they can even decipher the drunken scribbles from patrons' requests is talent enough, but to actually be able to sing and play ...together.. all of those songs?  And it's this remarkable talent that kept me outside in below freezing temperatures for 45 minutes until succumbing to the sweaty-sock closet, formally known as Down.

   Down is the sorriest excuse for a club I have ever seen. My car is more spacious ..and I drive a Passat. I suppose it was fun the time or two I went and sat at a table, but most nights with free flowing vodka and the luxury of judging grinders from the comfort of a table usually is.   The place is so small and crowded that you literally are being watched by the 5 tables looking onto the "dance floor".  The music calls for nothing short of bumpin' and grindin' and you're bound to spill 80-90% of your drink on you the second you turn from the ominous sunken bar.  I give this place less than zero stars, but I still end up here every single time I attempt a night at Howl with the glimmer of hope that I'll be able to sneak upstairs just in time to request "No Diggity" before last call.

  Night two I took matters into my own hands and weaseled us onto the guest-list for Bijou.  The club vibe is energizing, every house music fanatics dream. Loved the Los Angeles/Vegas set up, the euro crowd, the strobe lights, the vodka.  Embarrassingly enough, I spent the majority on the first, and much less fun, floor ..unaware that there was an entire upstairs begging to be danced on. What I don't like is the $20 REDUCED cover, and the pompous air of some slinky club goers, but this truly is a Boston gem.  The first, and hopefully not the last of its kind.  five glittery stars for Bijou.

Lessons learned:
1. Don't chose Howl for your birthday ...everyone does and they're not about to let you cut the line just because you have a crown on.

2. If you're still dumb enough to chose Howl, get there before 8, yes 8, and secure a table. Put on your crown when you get inside and let the buckets never go below half-full (you see that, there's another lesson - don't say half empty on your birthday). Request "No Diggity".

3. Bijou has an upstairs (palm to forehead).  Don't waste more than the 5 minutes it takes to coat check on the first floor.  Bring cash but still act cute in line, just in case someone with a table wants to select you as one of their plus 4 (only 5 free guests per table, absurd).

4. Don't go to Down.

5. You didn't listen and you went to down anyways.  You're even dumber than you were in number 2.  Drink enough tequila shots and grab the first guy you see who looks like he won't try to grab your ass while dancing (I know, needle in a haystack).  Dance shamelessly with your hands in the air until you collapse from exhaustion. Hopefully by then, Howl will be close to last call and you can run upstairs to request "No Diggity".

Boston Birthday Hotspots

As a non-celebrator of my own aging, I usually avoid throwing myself a Boston Birthday Bash.  BUT I absolutely get giddy over planning for someone else's big day and stress for ions over where to have the hooplah!


here are my top favorites based on the personality of the honoree.  I broke it down specifically like this because, contrary to popular practice, the birthday party should be centered around the person actually having the birthday, not what will please the masses.  Just because the birthday girl/guy was nice enough to keep lazy, jobless Eddie as a friend, doesn't mean you can't go somewhere classy for the party because your worried Eddie won't be able to afford it.  Screw Eddie!  If he's smart he'll use this as an opportunity to make some money and he'll drive everyone to the bar in his Corsica at $10 bucks a head.

Anyways, 

For the Eddies (lol); the friend who doesn't like to spend a lot of money, favorite show is STILL South Park, and who thinks buffalo chicken is a food group.  We all have, and we all love (sometimes) our Eddies. 
  • Coogans, Financial district. Dollar drafts, enough said. 
  • Stats or Playwright in Southie 
  • Sullivans Tap on Canal Street
  • Whiskeys on Boylston
  • Harvard Gardens
  • FOR DINNER: The Fours, Cheers, Sidebar, Boston Beer Works, Tommy Doyles, Fajitas and Ritas
  • WEEKEND GETAWAY: Vermont, Maine, NH 
  • ACTIVITY: bowling at Kings, karaoke bar
This person has a large group, and variety, of friends.  He/she is laid back, prefers beer to martinis, and doesn't like to miss a New England sporting game.  Works hard, plays hard. Chose someplace with a little bit of a dance floor, plenty of room and affordable drinks.
  • The Harp  
  • Clerys  
  • Northstar 
  • Market
  • Greatest Bar, across from the Garden
  • Dillons on Boylston
  • Jerry Remys, Whiskey Priest, ABG
  • ACTIVITY: Medieval Manor dinner show, Howl at the Moon, F1 racing in Braintree
  • WEEKEND AWAY: Cape Cod, Newport
  • FOR DINNER: Dicks Last Resort, Fire & Ice, Brownstone, 
For the friend who is classy but not a club goer.  He/she likes nice things and owns their own suit (fellas) or a nice designer bag or 4 (ladies).  This is the guy who brings the specialty seasonal beers when everyone else gets a bud light and the girl who makes impeccable desserts for holiday parties that look too good to eat (my women's studies professor would have puke if she read that, but you get the idea).
  • Towne
  • Liberty hotel -- Alibi or Clink
  • City Bar 
  • Drink
  • 28 Degrees
  • The W lounge 
  • ACTIVITY: A show - flower show or car show in the expo center, play or concert, hypnotism show in Back Bay
  • WEEKEND AWAY: Marthas Vineyard, Nantucket, PTown 
  • FOR DINNER: Legal Seafoods, Strega, Tias, Toro, Cafeteria, The Butcher Shop, 
This Birthday Brat is wild.  They love house music, dancing, think youtube videos are a suitable hobby and spend too much time getting ready and worrying about appearances (yes guys too)
  • Bijou
  • Bond
  • Royale
  • Estate
  • Gypsy Bar (least club-like)
  • If it's nice weather head down to Marina Bay
  • For Dinner: Red Lantern, Sonsie, Umbria, Le Petit Robert
  • ACTIVITY: Pole dancing class, Comedy show, Improv Show
  • WEEKEND AWAY: Go to Foxwoods and get a table at shrine! Or skip off to NY and get wild at Pasha!

Valuable life lessons from 21 Elm Street

1. If you're taking pictures of yourself to submit for a Yoga photo shoot, kindly direct your cat out of the shot.

Friday, January 27

Legal Seafoods

A true Boston staple.

  With their new flagship 3 story emporium in Seaport, it's no secret that Legal Seafoods has established itself as Boston's premier fish eatery.   With dozens of locations throughout the bay state -- all with differing menus -- you can't go wrong if you go legals.

  If you happen to be lucky enough to visit a restaurant featuring the thai calamari, you absolutely have to get it.  Mango chunks, peanuts, scallions, and a sweet thai chili sauce over lightly battered rings of calamari. To die for.  At any location, youre sure to enjoy the clam chowder and the creamy lobster bisque but they often feature other seafood bisque and soup variations that are worth trying.  Their chowder is good - a little less thick than some of the more traditional seafood spots in Boston, but it has a rich and bold flavor. 
ok ok, i didn't take this.  But the calamari is so good that I couldn't put down my fork long enough to snap a photo so I snagged this off line :)

Thursday, January 26

Ecco Trattoria, Weymouth MA

Well, what do you think? Lets get to crossing off s'more bucket listers! Food blog? Check!

I have been dismissing Ecco Trattoria for years.  As a rule of thumb, I generally avoid restaurants that are attached to other stores in those horrid little "shopping mart" set ups.  Breakfast places and coffee shops are exempt from this rule, but a wine bar? i don't know..

The decor is simple, inviting and warm.  With the candles lit and a soft murmer of couples enjoying a slow Tuesday wine-down (ha ha, ok that was bad), I immediately felt relaxed.  With a 10 or so person bar against the back wall separated from the dining area by a free standing 4-5ft divider and a window to see into the kitchen prep nestled in the right corner, it felt much like a restaurant you would actually find in Northern Italy.  My mother and I cozied up to a high top table, where we were warmly greeted by our server.

Decent wine list - you'd go here for bargain, not quality.  There are a lot of inexpensive bottles of wine and most wines can be poured by the caraf for as little as $11.  They also have a creative drink list with a variety of martinis ranging from espresso-tinis to lemoncello drops.   I tried the red and white sangria - both a little too fruity with too much peach shnapps and not enough fresh fruit, and a glass of the Covey Run Reisling (always delightful)

I was tempted by the mussels or medeterranean shrimp with pancetta and white beans for an app but opted for a dinner special instead.

Sunday, Tuesday and Wed Ecco offers 10 of their most popular pasta dishes for only $11.95, and they throw in a caeser or mixed greens salad as well! If you happen to be unlucky enough to stop by on a Monday instead, that same pasta meal would cost between $16 and $20 with an extra $4-5 for the salad.   While I wanted to order the seafood scampi (with Mahi Mahi, shrimp, scallops and lobster) to get the most bang for my buck, I was wooed over by the carmalized onions in the chicken cacciatore. I ordered the meal over broccoli (because I'm skinny like that!) for an additional $2 charge.



The mixed salad was fresh and light, with a handful of kalamata olives and roasted tomatos.

My entree was a very hearty portion of two large pounded chicken breasts.  They were incredibly moist and flavorful.  I asked for roasted garlic to be added to the meal, and the garlic combined with the roasted tomatos, peppers and large carmalized onions was heavenly.  Broccoli was nice and firm too.    I also sampled the pasta primavera.  The light white wine sauce was tastey and heavy on the garlic, but i'm skeptical that the vegetables were drenched in butter, making the dish a lot less appealing to me.

My only vice is the bread was served with butter packets instead of olive oil.  Of course i could have simply asked for some evoo and perhaps a little balsamic for bread dipping, but that's not the point.  How are you going to call yourself an Italian restaurant and put butter packets on the table?  deplorable.   There was also a chair in the one person women's bathroom that seemed largly out of place and made me feel as if I had walked into someones private dressing room.

Overall, Ecco would be good for dates, girls nights or a lovely dinner with your mom.  I would definitely advise going during the pasta special nights or on Thursdays, when they offer 10 lobster dishes for $17.95. If I went back on a Fri or Sat I would probably order a salad or chicken pesto pizza. As another rule of thumb, italians don't really kill-it in the dessert department, and this especially applies to American attempts at the classic cannoli, tiramasu and napoleon.  I don't think I've seen a restaurant in Italy serve a dessert to anyone besides American tourists -- Italianos finish off their hearty meals with a few nibbles of fruit or a digestivo shot of lemoncello.

On the healthy rictor, it's definitely feasible to come here and eat a healthy well-balanced meal. They offer salmon, a few salads, raw bar, and you can sub any pasta dish to put over the vegetable of the day.  I would recommend requesting no butter and DEMANDING olive oil.

I'll give Ecco 3 out of 5 stars. Bravo.

Tuesday, January 24

The Bucket List

After two days of binge eating and wine guzzling between sobs of pity and bitterness, i have decided to refocus my energy.

My new goal is to get through my ever growing bucket list. A lot has been crossed off, like Europe, spending a new years in NY, gamble in Vegas, publish a book, etc. - so I feel good.  Confident that I will get through this list, the whole thing, sooner or later.

1. Grad School and eventual phd
2. Keep painting
3. ski vail
4. Greece!
5. learn to drive stick
6. learn to change a tire
7. write a travel/food blog (does this count?)
8. write memoir/short stories
9. never lose ability to speak spanish
10. Try for Miss America/Miss USA (wah)
11. Get good at piano again
12. Meet Jenny (my penpal ive had since 4th grade, duh)
13. Run a marathon (orrr half)
14. Go skydiving
15. Go scuba diving
16. Cross Country road trip 
17. Learn to cook
18. Take acting classes
19. See South America - Machu Picchu, Amazon & Angel Falls.  okay and hike the Inca trail!
20. form a knowledgeable opinion in politics
21. See Niagra Falls
22. Go to Mercedes Benz Fashion Week
23. Learn to sail
24. Hike the Grand Canyon
25. Visit the Taj Mahal
26. Go Surfing
27. Yacht Week, go ahead youtube it
28. Learn basic photography & basic photoshop
29. Asia: Tokyo, Great Wall, Thailand
30. Hot air balloon ride
31. Land a speaking role on a tv series or full budget movie
32. Grow an herb garden
33. Buy a home
34. Publish a book (well it was a research study, but it counts!)
35. Surfing
36. Get my pilates or yoga teacher certification
37. Kentucky Derby
38. Washington DC
39. Go to EDC and/or Ultra (both!)
40. Go to Coachella
41. White water rafting down the Colorado River & Rodeo rapids, the rapid my dad named!
42. See the Northern lights
43. See the pyramids
44. Africa safari - hike Kilmanjaro
45. Great barrier reef
46. French Quarter- New Orleans
47. Write a pilot
48. And a screenplay
49. Host a show on the Travel Channel!
50. Get my real estate license
51. Be on a billboard
52. Do stand up comedy
53. Win an oscar
54. See Hawaii
55. And Alaska




Monday, January 23

disqualified.

Today started off all wrong.  Woke up on a love seat with cheese-its nestled into the scarf i still had on while foggy memories of asking Gronkrowski what his favorite ice cream flavor slink into my awareness.  Something about sports players and vodka that really puts me off balance mentally.

Reflecting. I did save time getting ready since my boots were still on.  reapplied mascara, grabbed a clif bar and teetered down the 5, yes 5, flights of stairs to stand face to face with the dreaded st. Russell hill.  it was raining. of course.  25 minutes later, i'm at the t stop being (and deserving every second) judged by every well rested monday morning commuter.   Glance at my horoscope, which basically begs me to play the lottery.  2 losing scratch tickets, a pack of gum, and a mocha swirl coffee later and I slink into my desk to begin browsing through the never ending influx of emails. 

By noon, my self loathing has taken new heights.  As I enter espresso martini into mydailyplate.com and watch my cal intake hop up 500,i steam over with anxiety.  I have a pageant in two weeks.  And not just a here I am! crown me! pageant.  This is miss freakin America.  I'm going to be interrogated in a 10 minute interview! Answer a current events curve ball on stage! dazzle the audience with piano! bathing suit! evening gown! ugh.  What was I thinking!  This isn't me! Not the Chelsea who haughtily scoffs at the donuts her boss leaves daily on her desk, not even licking off a single jimmy; someone who hasn't listened to anything besides the drone of NPR on the radio for months; who stays in on Friday nights to analyze the republican race before playing fur elise enough times to make even a deaf Beethoven cringe.  I live breath eat (or rather starve) pageant preparation.  Monday fittings, Tuesday piano, Wednesday interview coach, Sat and Sun walking practice.  Not to mention the daily 530 AM workout sessions. But even the dedicated Chelsea can't pass up an opportunity to celebrate victory with the patriots players at a private table.  So i went, and forced all my friends along too. 

Well anyways, back to loathing.  I take a milisecond break from answering parents ever pressing and important questions about whether they should trim their child's bangs before the photo shoot or not to mull over my own emails.  coupon to some restaurant i scan't afford, half off completely necessary underwater headphones, surprise  20% off coupon from kohls, coupon to some restaurant i can afford but rather not get food poisoning (or worse fat) eating at, mundane email from mom ranting about dog hair, 6 emails from rue la la (featuring all of my models nonetheless), and an email from the pageant director:

Hi Chelsea -
I have some unfortunate news regarding your eligibility to compete in the Miss Easton pageant.  While I was drafting the program book, I was reviewing each contestants information one last time and realized that due to your date of birth, you are not eligible to compete in the Miss America system any longer.  Contestants must be no older than 24 years of age by December 31, 2012, as it states in section 2.2 of the contract.  You will have already had your 25th birthday before that date.  My apologizes for not having caught this sooner.

With regards to the check you submitted last night for the fashion show, I will place a check in the mail to you to reimburse you for those tickets.  Please provide me with the best mailing address to which I should send it.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact me.  Again, I apologize for this unfortunate situation and wish you all the best in your future endeavors.


And just like that my world collapsed.  Okay, your life collapsed? aren't you being dramatic Chelsea?  i mean it's not like you got an email saying your parents died in a tragic car crash.  You can't enter a dumb beauty pageant. Well you cynical, condescending unsympathetic jerks, I have been dreaming of being Miss America since my first pageant at 5 years old.  Every recital, every good grade in school, every piano lesson has led me to this point.  My travels, accomplishments, dreams, they're all so intertwined with the pursuit of the Miss America crown. Yes, it's silly.  But this pageant could change my life; afford me the opportunity to go for my masters; heck with a 30k scholarship maybe i'll go for a doctorate program.  I could travel the country, impact the anti-bullying campaign with my peer mentor initiative, be a role model to millions.  this title would launch me into the entertainment industry.  hosting opportunities, modeling, maybe acting.  I am absolutely dying to leave a legacy, to make a far reaching impact on the lives of many and to really make something of myself.  You can scoff all you want, but there's is nothing more genuine than my burning desire to dedicate myself whole-heartedly to the pursuit of the Miss America title. 








It's one thing to give it your best shot and not win. it's a-whole-nother thing to have the opportunity to compete ripped from under your feet.  

Sunday, January 22

Diet and Exercise Plan - 2 weeks out!

Eeek, well I clearly took "gaining a few" too far!

I have exactly 2 weeks until i'm prancing around on stage in stilettos and a bathing suit. My goal is to shed this cute little layer of fluff hanging out over my abs.

This is how I plan to do it ---

Today: cycling 45 min, trx 1 hour
Mon: Kickboxing, free weights (Smith machine/focus on legs)
Tues: cardio and core class
Wed: Interval effect class
Thurs: cycling
Fri: bodypump + step (1 hr class)
Sat: Trx, some cardio + free weights
Sun: piyo class, work any muscle not targeted in the past 2 days
Repeat the week!

No gym days off!! And i'm going to keep the same foods in my diet as below with the elimination (or extreme moderation) of the following:
olive oil
peanut butter
nuts
dried fruits
artificial sweeteners + flavors
honey
cereals
starches
cheese
olives, pickles, jalepenos
crackers + chips
milk

Wednesday, January 18

Tuesday, January 10

PAGEANT PREP

So, I understand my previous post is incomplete buttttt I'll come back ...and hopefully post in a separate section.. the food blog.  But right now in my life I cant post about how much I adore the lobster mac and cheese at Mooo ..

BECAUSE I'm in full pageant swing again!!

One month until Miss Easton and here are my top two priorities!

1. master Fur Elise.  Oh easier said than done right?  play one piano piece for 90 seconds?  You sit down with Beethoven then talk to me.  I wish i just submitted that I was playing Let it be. practicing would be cut down from 40 hours a week (all non-working hours) to an hour or 2 on Sundays.   p.s. dear Elise, thanks for inspiring Beethovy to write this none-sensical piece... you must have been a reaaall gem.  I'm going right back to jingle bells with just one hand the day after the pageant. 

2. GAIN weight! That's right, despite the post two below, for Miss America Org I'd like to gain a few!  I weigh 103lbs right now ...and I eat a piece of chocolate every single day! (*bliss).  What I have learned from my extreme Miss USA dieting - too thin doesn't equate pretty (or healthy..).  Judges are wary to crown a girl with a few showing ribs (go figure), and I truthfully agree.  i'm over restrictions.  

New diet plan: 
plain oatmeal for breakfast with 1 scoop vanilla protein (I like Care-One), cinnamon, pecans, a few raisins 
black coffee
apple 
banana
lunch - grilled veggies or salad with olive oil.  try for no cheese 5/7 days. but chicken, tuna (sans mayo), salmon, shrimp, haddock welcome.  I personally love grilled tofu or blackened chicken. (well salmons my true favorite, but my wallet doesnt agree)
almonds -- im into diamond flavored almonds right now, esp habanero bbq ..these are not good for you. but they're ridiculously delicious and filling.  If you've got weight to let go of, opt for unsalted plain nuts. 
dark chocolate square (70% or more). 
peach detox tea 
baby carrots 
dinner - veggies. if you didn't have protein at lunch make sure you get a serving or two here. Best option is a 4-5 egg white omelette with veggies, garlic, hot sauce or cayenne pepper - no cheese. But I've eaten everything from pork to duck to moose in the past few weeks.  If you had a huge eating day (like at your work xmas party you had 10 cookies now you're coming down from an epic sugar high day) then just have a protein shake or a couple handful of nuts to get  your protein intake up (I lift things up i put things dowwwn)
glass of wine or chamomile tea

Feel free to sub any of these (in moderation of course): plain greek yogurt, humus, olives, any berries or fruits.. esp cherries, low sugar & high fiber cereals, tzatzki sauce, any nuts or seeds, tabouli, chick peas, any beans not too high in sodium, low sodium/low fat soups, any vegetable, Mrs Refreno salsa with flax seen whole wheat pita chips, deli turkey or chicken low or no sodium, prunes or other dried fruits, beef jerky, 6oz of steak, any seafood grilled, broiled or baked, multigrain english muffins, all natural peanut butter (check for no corn syrup/added sugar), no sugar added jelly, low sodium & low fat cottage cheese, sugar free jello, sugar free puddings, ground turkey,  sweet potatoes (no more than 2 a week), soy milk, clift bars** (no more than 2 a week), goat or feta cheese (no more than 1-2 times a week!), natural low butter & salt popcorn.. 

When you're hungry, eat.  Have a glass of h20, a cup of tea, a stick of gum and evaluate what you truly are craving.  You want dark chocolate, compensate with a dark chocolate sugar free pudding.   You want pizza, make your own (email me for exact recipe), with whole wheat crust, sundried tomatos, reduced fat mozzarella, garlic, pepper, etc etc.  don't be afraid of spices --- they're your waist sliming friend.  You really want spinach artichoke dip?  Make a healthy one with greek yogurt or cottage cheese. Cut corners where you can, but be wary.  If you're dying for buff chix, get it grilled and enjoy the sodium drenched chicken soaked in blue cheese BUT, that doesnt mean you have to eat more than one tender.  And it definitely doesn't mean you can take the next day off from the gym because you had a beer with your chicken. Take control of your life, your goals and your motivation. Need help? shoot me a message :)

**Be extremely cautious of which granola bars you chose.  Nature's valley or clift are usually reliable choices, but keep bars low in sat fat, low in sugar and sodium and high in fiber and protein. don't eat too many bars; some are just as bad as a king size snickers! eat them in a pinch, and eat them as a supplement or replacement to a meal.

I promise to post great recipes for healthy eggplant parm, thai veggie stir fry, butternut squash etc.  but there are innumerable way to get creative with vegetables! Buy brussels sprouts cut em in half and grill them with garlic, pepper, olive oil, rosemary, and onions - you're going to like it, really!

Okay, it still sounds strict -- but here's the difference, if you want to eat a cookie that your coworker brings you, eat it.  If you love cheese and crackers, indulge! It's winter in New England for Gods sake! BUT, be conscious of what you eat.  If you had a piece of cake today ...think of it tomorrow when you're trying to hop off the treadmill after 1 mile at speed 6. If I eat a truffle or 3 before bed, I won't think about it tonight -- but tomorrow when my alarm goes off at 5 to get to the gym, I'm going to go because of those truffles.  And when I have the choice between plain or apricot yogurt tomorrow morning, I will chose plain because of tonights decisions.  if i didn't have the truffles, then I'd have apricot yogurt and maybe even get crazy and add some granola!  It's important to track everything on livestrong.com if you cant calculate accurately in your head the amount of nutrients, fat, cals you should be intaking everyday.   
More to come on best sample questions and hot topics ...but i need some sleep! interval class tomorrow at 5:30 AM sharp, 5 hours from now!

paz y amore mis bellas.

chelsea

Monday, January 9

Wisdom from Papa Gilson

"Don't sit on the cold concrete, it will give you hemorhoids." After finding me sitting on a stone wall because he was 15 minutes late picking me up from the train.

Sunday, January 8

Miss America Organization Pageant Platform Sample

I gave 110% in preparing for the Miss America Boston/Easton pageant only to be told 2 weeks before the big day that the directors had mistakenly overlooked that I had aged out (I'm only 24!!!)

This platform, therefore, never had the chance to shine.  Although I am incredibly bitter, I've decided to pay it forward & post my would-be platform on my blog for any panic-stricken contestant struggling to write theirs. Enjoy.

Name: Chelsea Ray Gilson
Title: Miss Boston
Peer Mentors Program: Making Peace with Bullying

    The term “bullying” used to conjure images of a boisterous kid pushing down a weaker peer on the playground. This type of elementary school horseplay was frowned upon, but often brushed aside as harmless. Just recently, however, bullying has been recognized as a leading cause of concern nationwide. Studies reveal that being a victim of bullying is correlated with increased school dropouts, depression, social withdrawal and suicide.
   While I fortunately escaped serious bullying in my own childhood, I have encountered its wrath quite frequently through the experiences of others. Shortly after founding a tutoring program at Halifax Elementary School, I was assigned to Kyle. I was shocked to learn he had been withheld from graduating to junior high with the rest of his classmates, and even more puzzled to find that a child of his intelligence level needed a tutor. Kyle absolutely dreaded elementary school in a way that was unfathomable to me, and his grades reflected his lack of scholastic ambition. As a result of daily harassment, Kyle was left feeling isolated and depressed.
   Kyle was desperate for an empathetic friend, and I feel blessed that I was able to fill this void. He helped open my eyes to the necessity for positive role models and mentors in the lives of bullied kids. As a freshman in college, I did not hesitate to start mentoring at Saint Peter’s Church, where I helped countless “Kyles” find sanctuary in the kind ear of a friend. Although I always left the church with a sense of humbleness, I knew I could be doing more than just helping one or two children at a time.
   When I became a member of the First Year Mentor program at Assumption College, the group had a loose goal of helping freshmen adjust to the stresses of college. After four years as a member, two years on the executive board and a year as the president, I helped transform the group into a cohesive program that enabled each member to develop a relationship with the 15 freshmen they were assigned to. From the countless expressions of gratitude, it became clear that our efforts to give these students a sense of belonging had proved successful.
   Today, I am fortunate enough to provide a positive role model and kind friend to the hundreds of adolescents I represent at Model Club as the Director of the Children’s Division. I have seen first-hand the benefits of a hobby or passion in the life of a kid who is bullied so badly that attendance becomes a daily struggle. These children and teens find solace in acting, performing and modeling. They gain a sense of community, build lasting friendships with equally motivated peers, and develop a self-confidence that no degree of bullying can countermand.
   Nearly one out of every ten students drops out or changes schools because of repeated bullying. We must strive to ensure schools are safe havens where each and every student is given an equal opportunity to succeed. The dark reality is that those who are bullied are more likely to be depressed, have low self-esteem, health problems, poor grades and suicidal thoughts. Living in a state known as the mecca of higher education, I believe there is no better place to initiate a lasting and concrete difference that can serve as an example to the rest of the nation.
   Although Massachusetts is at the forefront of anti-bullying with a mandated law requiring each school district to implement a plan for bully prevention and intervention, no cohesive state wide program exists. The lack of a structured initiative makes it difficult to track how successful individual programs are and also increases the risk that some schools may be left unequipped to combat bullying.
   Throughout my service year, I will use the First Year Mentor Program as a model for creating similar student run mentoring programs throughout Massachusetts High Schools. Each mentor will be assigned a small number of freshmen to regularly check in with. The program will provide anti-bullying seminars in addition to forums and events to help incoming students adjust to the pressures of a new school. The program will help create a sense of belonging and acceptance by encouraging all students to become involved in extra-curricular activities. Recent bullying statistics admit that half of all bullying incidents go unreported. The mentor program will aim to reduce unreported incidents by providing each student access to their own trained mentor to confide in before situations escalate. A hopeful by-product is potential bullies will be identified early and discouraged from harassing others through the anti-bullying seminars delivered by their peers. If all MA schools had mentor programs as a common ground, the student presidents and advisors could converse regularly through conventions and online forums to discuss which preventive programs are most effective and which need amending.
   Bullying awareness is one of the hottest topics of media coverage today. Aligning the MAO with anti-bullying efforts will help publicize the MAO and its dedication to the community. By joining in the campaign against bullying at the beginning stages of development, I will have the opportunity to implement the peer mentors initiative to a far-reaching audience and leave a legacy that the MAO can be proud of.
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