An Open Letter to the Sport I Wasn’t Born to Play

By: Richard Partheymuller II




After I finished my last year as a wrestler at Rowan University last February, I was caught off guard, honestly. My team went to Philly for a tournament, but I didn’t quite realize until a few hours in, that it would be the last wrestling match I would ever be at for Rowan. It would also mark the end of my career wrestling (I’ll explain what kind of “career” I mean eventually) and it left me wondering what to think. After two years on the team, one year on the E-board, and all of the crazy, inspirational, and strangely-heartwarming events in-between, I felt like I owed something a little bigger than a Facebook post.

A close friend of mine, Dougie, had his own road with the sport, and it was full of highs and lows. Right after a few seasons with The College of New Jersey and earning All-American status one year, Dougie wrote a little post on Facebook that caught my attention. He wrote a “Dear Wrestling” piece that inevitably inspired me to do it myself. His idea was one also used by Olympic Gold Medalist Jordan Burroughs, who posted his letter onto his personal blog. So, I decided to give justice to my time wrestling, as well as the relationship I developed with the sport before I even put on a pair of wrestling shoes.


Dear Wrestling,

Who would’ve expected that this would be happening right now? I think if I told myself five years ago about everything that went on between you and I, my 18-year-old self would probably cringe with fear. Who knows, maybe he would look past the painful struggle and be excited because he knew it was what he really wanted. You were the kind of thing in my life that I wanted, but was too afraid to pursue. I was a wimp, that’s all I can say. I was a fearful teenager who didn’t want to get hurt. It didn’t matter how much I really wanted to do it, you were something for somebody else. What did I have that I could possibly use for you? What athletic ability did I have? The same athletic ability that couldn’t stand lacrosse practice sometimes. You weren’t made for me, and my mind wasn’t suited for you.

It wasn’t like my name carried any weight if I tried to anyways. I wasn’t a Hamann, or a Royle, or a Young, or a Winston, and I certainly wasn’t someone that people associated with athleticism in the first place. I felt like I didn’t have the clout or ability, so I passive-aggressively ignored my desire to wrestle. When I watched my best friends, Randy, Dylan, and a Dougie wrestle, I was their biggest fan. I made it to just about every match and made the effort to get to know the team. I guess this was a good substitute for me in place of actually trying out. Like I said, I was pretty wimpy at the time. Watching Dougie and all of them become so mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausted helped me develop more respect for you and those who were brave enough to take you on. My friendships with these guys grew because of my time hovering around the team. Even after all this time, they are still some of my best friends. Watching them like that made me want to get off my butt and be in the action instead of just watching.


I actually did step out onto a wrestling mat at Open Mats the year before though. I remember being a little nervous and skeptical about it when Dylan asked me if I wanted to come along that night. I went though, and it was such an experience for me. It was weird, because I had finally gotten a real taste of something I really wanted to do. So, I tried it out like two or three times after that, because I felt myself really getting into the groove of going there every Monday and Wednesday after school or lacrosse practice. That wrestling room began to become a place where I was safe. I’ll never forget what I was told that one day when I was given ammo to pursue you someday.

I was just rolling around with a guy for practice, when one parent of a kid in the room decided to watch. He saw as I got my butt handed to me and didn’t hesitate to give me his two cents. He pointed at my sparring partner and said,

“You see, this is a wrestler and this is a spectator,”

Of course, the “spectator” he was talking about was me.

I was just a spectator. To him at least. To be honest, that was kind of how I felt too. I knew that I wanted to do more than just watch, but I was too scared and too fragile to take the leap. I thought that if I became a manager for the team, I would be close enough to the action to say that I was in it. I didn’t want to face the fact it wasn’t enough for me. Even Randy once told me “you can’t understand wrestling until you actually do it.” It wouldn’t be for another four years that I would actually grow the backbone to be who I wanted to be.

No more watching for me, that’s for certain. I refused to let myself believe that doing this was a matter of fate. No matter what I did in life, I always felt like I was only a supporting role for the things I did. I wasn’t an EMT, but I acted like knowing a paramedic was close enough. I cleaned a gym and helped behind a counter, thinking that was enough to call myself a front desk employee. There were so many situations in my life where I just wasn’t bold enough to be on the fighting side. To step into action and be brave. It felt like I was fated to be that way. Yet, I decided one spring while I was at community college that I would defy my “fate” and actually figure out some way to wrestle. I went out and bought my first pair of wrestling shoes, because I wanted to have them as a mark, saying that this decision was what I wanted. It wouldn’t be until six months later that I would finally get to look you in the eyes and make you my close, personal friend, once and for all!


When I came to Rowan, you were a possibility for me, not necessarily a certain truth. I wasn’t absolutely sure of what would happen to me when I told my roommate that I would be going to wrestling practice that night. I remember it being a Tuesday and I remember being quite green. I would never imagine though that my time spent with you there at Rowan’s Rec Center gymnasium would introduce me to some of the most important people in my life. Especially the guy who taught me how to walk like a duck.

His name is Oscar, and because of you, I grew a brother-bond with him. Yet, in the beginning, we were still working out some things in our lives. We weren’t really thinking about the growth that would occur later on down the road. I can’t remember much of that first day anymore. My memory is not what it used to be, but I just remember the initial thoughts I had of everyone. I thought about how everyone seemed to be in such great shape and how I…was not. Even with that, I still thought I would have some sort of edge, beings that I spent so much time with the team at Jackson. I kind of used that to puff myself up a little bit.


Experience is the best teacher and Randy was absolutely right. The only way I would ever understand you was by actually getting myself into you and seeing what you’re made of. You certainly didn’t hold back with seeing what I was made of. You were the lightning I needed to strike me, for without it, I would not have been able to tell this story. It was easy sometimes, but for the most part, you really taught me how stand on my own feet and be tough. You’re kind of like life. A lot of the time, life doesn’t hold back, and we have to be able to fight back sometimes. When you wrestle, you learn that you can’t just go down easily if you wind up on bottom or if you get tossed. I learned through you that if there is at least a little bit of nerve in you to keep fighting you should use it. Even if somewhere inside of you knows you’re going to lose, you know better than to call it quits right then and there.

It wasn’t easy to get the hang of you. Even if I did seem to have grasped some stuff from Dougie and Randy, like the ankle pick and snaps I would use. Yet, beyond that I was humbled as I realized how much I needed to learn. That wasn’t terrible in the long-run, because you taught me how to learn patiently. Even if I couldn’t grasp a move or technique, I learned how to be more gracious with myself. You were something that took diligence, and lots of repetition. Lots and lots of repetition. I would get frustrated of course, but it was all a matter of time before I got the hang of it and was able to put up a much better fight.

I was confident too. You helped me to see a side of me that was capable of putting action to my own words. I would almost always lose, but I learned that the losing part isn’t quite as important as what happens in-between when you start and when you lose. I loved using my stamina to make whoever I was rolling around with work. Especially if they just wanted to take it easy after a long day of classes. If nothing else, I at least wanted to give them the practice they needed. Some of the team actually competed. So, they needed the training.


As time went on, I began liking the sound of calling myself “a wrestler” for once. It was something I treasured then and something I still treasure now. You made me proud because I was finally walking down a path I wanted to. I don’t think I could ever repay you for that. I never quite got to see myself in an actual match though. You see, I found it a pity at times that I called myself a wrestler, because I never seemed ready for a match with real competition instead of my teammates. You made me question myself a few times, because after I lost my wrestle-off, I guess that was it for me wrestling competitively at the time. I knew what a demand it would be to try and compete my first year wrestling. That didn’t stop me from throwing my hat in the ring. I lost of course, but looking back, I’m glad I had the guts to try.

Sure, I never competed that year, and even my last year when I decided to just practice; that didn’t stop me from considering myself a part of the team. To this day, I still call those guys my former teammates, because no matter what the labels, I felt like I belonged with them. Rolling around with them and getting stronger together was an experience I can only describe as teamwork. I still wanted to put my energy into the team and became risk manager for the team. I suddenly had responsibilities on the team and I loved it. I was in charge of making sure everybody was safe and I’m glad it wound up being me, because I really enjoyed spending time with them.

We went to Philly a few times, Maryland a couple times, and one stint in Delaware. When I was playing lacrosse and all, my favorite part was always the traveling. Just getting to enjoy a car or bus ride with good people and watching the scenery. Wrestling was no different. For me, it didn’t matter if I was on the mat or not, because I knew my job was different at that point. Being there for them when they wrestled was something bigger. I just knew that the best thing I could do was support my team. It didn’t matter what people thought or what the semantics were. I was a wrestler now and I didn’t need to prove myself to anybody.


Even if it was only with my teammates, I knew that I wasn’t the same person who would run from the demands of the trial. No, when I watched my teammates wrestle, I canned the thought that I was right back where I started. The irony is that I actually began filming their matches. Part of me was iffy about that, but at the same time….I knew what I had to do. I had to stop feeling sorry for myself and stop feeling ashamed of the things I couldn’t do. You taught me how to have pride when my mind wants to focus on everything I should feel ashamed of. No matter what lies were in my head, I was part of a team that saw me for what I really was, and that was their teammate! That meant a lot to me.

You taught me how to carry myself humbly. You taught me what it meant to be tough. You taught me how to forgive myself and you taught me what comradery feels like on a whole new level. The interesting thing about you is that you require 100 percent concentration. It didn’t matter if my leg was hurting or if I had a headache, you forced me to keep my mind on my opponent and my own movements. Although there isn’t much talking, picking up on your opponent’s emotions can become relatively easy. I especially felt this with Oscar among other teammates. When I wrestled them, I could almost tell what was going on in their heads by the way they wrestled. It’s crazy, how a sport like you can allow us to speak without saying a single word. All credit given, you are probably the closest thing a person can get to telepathy.

There are certainly some psychic aspects to you.

It’s weird to think of it now, but when you’re body feels almost completely worn out, but you seem to just be moving by just your mind, it’s kind of like telekinesis. Although I had the feeling of quitting and stopping right when things were getting too difficult, my nerve wanted to stay. I loved the bruises on my arms, I loved the aching in my thighs and the incredible tiredness I would feel afterward. I always wanted to come back. It didn’t matter if I had a concussion, a cold, a pair of dry, cracking, hands, or if I was just in a depressed mood…I always wanted to come back to you. I was darn stubborn in that way.

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While there is that aspect to you, what you neglected to provide for me was an extrasensory ability to predict the future. There was no way I would imagine beforehand, that so much would come about because you were in my life. Not even just the friendships I forged with my teammates, but the friendships I forged because of the people I met through those teammates. I met some of my closest friends because of the guys I met on the team. Looking back, I can’t imagine the past two years without them. They are some of the truest friends I’ve ever had.

Not only that, because I met Oscar, I wound up being introduced to a group that eventually helped me find my place with God. Honestly, if it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t have met Oscar. If I never met Oscar, I wouldn’t have joined Chi Alpha when I did. If I didn’t join Chi Alpha when I did, I wouldn’t have had made friends with so many amazing people, eventually become a staff member and ultimately develop an awesome relationship with Jesus Christ. I firmly believe that God knew that all along. From the beginning when I felt the call to find you, He was there, preparing me. He knew that one day, all that obsession over something I felt I couldn’t do, became my driving force to get involved and eventually, find that path that lead to Him. It was Him who designed it and it was Him who was pushing me.


I have graduated and so, now, I kind of have to leave you. It kind of hurt my heart when it all sank in at that Philly match. It’s bittersweet because I know what a huge part you played in my life. Yet, I know that I’ve gotten everything I needed out of you. Every lesson and every signpost I was given have helped me grow into what I am now. My chapter is closing now, but I hope you don’t forget me…

Also, I just hope that you open up for somebody else now.

Thank you, for everything.



Richard Robert Partheymuller II


A Tale of Guts, the Ray Philip Story

Richard Partheymuller II

Philip in long-snapping position; permission of use granted.


The world is full of seemingly “lucky” people who seem to have things handed to them. Though these people seem to give the illusion of what being fortunate really is, Ray Philip is a man who doesn’t expect the world to hand him anything.

It’s not like he was conditioned to think otherwise. Nonetheless, Philip, 20, of Collingswood, New Jersey, has seen and felt the persistent odds that were against him, only to defy their grip with persistence of his own.

This defiance begins the moment when Philip grips the laces of a football. The wide, open, space within Rowan University’s Richard Wacker Stadium in Glassboro, NJ, isn’t just where Philip joins his brothers on Rowan’s football team. This is where Philip suits up to rise up against any doubts he may have. Over the course of the past blank years, football has been a refuge for Philip, even when life tried to separate him from that refuge.

As a long-snapper for Rowan’s team, Philip is often in a position of considerable pressure. Before Philip, the starting position was already filled by Paul Rucci, a Rowan graduate who spent time with the Arizona Cardinals for the NFL team’s rookie league camp. Philip understands fairly well that he “has a lot to live up to.”

Those big shoes to fill don’t discount Philip’s ability as a long-snapper though. According to Philip, he was recruited by Rowan out of Collingswood High School. During his high school football season, Philip took the encouragement and advice given to him by his coach to serve as a long-snapper for the team.

“When I was in high school, my sophomore year, when we had our summer practices, we didn’t even have a long-snapper. It was like open tryouts and one day I was just messing around after practice and my coach said “that was pretty good” and just to keep working on it,” Philip said. “By the start of the season, I was the starting long-snapper and it just kind of carried on from there. When I started getting pretty good in high school, my coach was like “you can go to college for this.”

Philip said he received training as a long-snapper from Coach Jim Cooper of 5 Star Kicking in Cedarbrook, N.J., and cited Coach Cooper as a person who aimed him toward Rowan. Philip said that although he was recruited, Rowan is a Division III program and thus, does not award scholarships for sports. Like many college athletes, Philip plays for the love of the sport that has been in his life for so long. For him, the football field is where another part of him “comes alive.”

Permission of use granted


A love for the sport doesn’t necessarily guarantee any given person a pass from adversity. On the contrary, loving something that much can make being away from it so much more painful. When Philip tore his ACL last year in a summer scrimmage, he would come to learn that lesson the hard way. Philip recalled the incident that which would put him out for nearly a year.

“I was playing linebacker as well and I went to make a tackle and the receiver put on a really nice move and kind of juked me out a little bit. I just planted, my foot got stuck and my knee just popped,” Philip said.

When the athletic director present called for volunteers to escort Philip off the field, Philip said about 10 of his teammates ran to his side. Soon after, Philip would receive an MRI, which revealed that his ACL was completely torn.

“From then on I waited about a week to get my surgery date going. Then, basically two days after I tore my ACL until like two days before I had surgery, I started rehabbing my knee already for like pre-surgery stuff, to strengthen up all my other ligament and muscles and everything so when I got out of surgery, I wasn’t losing too much of those,” Philip said.

When Philip saw the outpouring of support from Instagram and Facebook, he said it was great to see that everyone had his back. That support would be vital from that point on, as Philip pained through the trial of recovery. For about __ months, this would mean Philip would be walking around on crutches.

“It was tough. It was really tough. Going from being an athlete to not having any control of your quad muscle, because when you have ACL surgery, you can’t even flex your quad anymore. Not being able to bend your leg fully and not being able to walk normal for, God, like months. Not being able to run until like four months after, it was tough. I mean, it was worth it though.”

Philip said that he is not the kind of guy to complain, even with those eight months away from playing football. For Philip, tearing his ACL wouldn’t be the first time he would have to deal with the cards he had been dealt. When Philip was going into sixth grade, his mother, Joanne, was diagnosed with breast cancer. Only two weeks after that, Philip lost his father, Ray, to a stroke. Philip’s mother would unfortunately lose her fight with cancer in April of the following year.

Philip (right) with friends, Will Pope and Mike Taulane; Permission of use granted


Though not a childhood that anyone should have to face, Philip knows that he’s “gotta keep truckin’ along.”

“I guess it’s made me stronger, I couldn’t just sit there and like be upset about it, my parents wouldn’t want that for me. They’d probably want for me to move on and work hard, make them proud. So, that’s what my sister and me try to do on a daily basis,” Philip said.

Philip and his sister, Jessica were placed into a position where support was a vital component to coping. One method of coping would come in the form of Camp Oasis, a day camp sponsored by Virtua Foundation, designed for children who have been diagnosed with or were lost to cancer. The camp is only for a single day out of the year in the summer, but Philip looked forward to that one day every year. It was a place where Philip said he could “be a kid again.”

The two eventually matured past coming to Oasis as campers though. The next step for them was to give back.

“We aged out and decided to go back and volunteer. So, we’ve been doing that for a couple of years for volunteering. It’s rewarding, going full-circle from being a camper to helping out kids,” Philip said. “So, to help the kids out and being able to do that for them is just awesome.”

Philip’s initiative to keep moving and his support system both give him some hope. Philip doesn’t want for his past to be seen as something so awful that he couldn’t get through it.

“I mean, it’s not an easy situation from what I’ve been through in my life so far, I’m only 20 years old. I could always be worse, I could always be in a worse of situation but just know that there’s always people out there to support you because I’ve always had a lot of support through the years. So, there’s always someone there to listen,” Philip said.

While at Rowan, Philip also became a volunteer for Rowan’s Relay for Life event. This event is put together every year by Rowan’s Colleges Against Cancer organization.

“I got involved with it last year and I loved every second of it. It’s from 6pm to 6am and that’s a struggle to stay awake and bring great energy but we look at it as staying one night. My mom fought cancer for two years, so I can stay one night,” Philip said.

Philip’s team has played a part in giving back as well. For as long as Philip has been a part of the team, it has been active in Rowan’s chapter of Be the Match, an organization dedicated to matching cancer patients with potential bone marrow donors. Philip and his team help run a registry drive every year within Rowan’s student center.

“The goal of that is trying to get people to come out, and all they have to do is just swab their mouth and it goes into a national registry. From there on, if they get matched, they can choose to be a bone marrow donor and save a life,” Philip said.

Fortunately for Philip, he was cleared to play in May of this past year. Since then, Philip said he “was working out a lot, hitting the field and snapping a lot.” Philip even got some expert training in. Two months prior to being cleared, Philip got a chance to meet and train with Eagles long-snapper, Rick Lovato. Philip said that Lovato gave him a lot of advice to help improve his own snaps. According to Philip, he was all set and ready when the first day of practice came around, and participated in the team’s conditioning test as per normal.

According to Philip, his drive to recover from surgery and get through the rehabilitation process were fueled simply by “just not giving up.”

“I mean, I could’ve given up right there, given up right there on my football dreams. I just could’ve given up and been like a normal person. Even though I put my body through so much just to get back to normal, it was worth it just being able to be back on the field again,” Philip said.

Philip (#52) with teammates and 5 Star Kicking Head Coach, Jim Cooper; Permission of use granted


It’s been several weeks since the team’s season started, with five games played total so far. With the heart of the season underway, Philip is extra diligent and at times extra apprehensive. Yet, Philip knows how to discipline himself.

“[I] could always be better, but the first couple of snaps of the first game I was a little shaky. I was nervous but I settled in. Last game I had all good snaps. Practice-wise, I mean, every now and then I’ll have a bad practice or something, everyone has their bad practices,” Philip said. “As long as I’m good to go for getting time and all of my coaches and my teammates and everything want to have trust in me, and I have trust in myself, I’ll make great snaps.”

On the other hand, Philip is simply determined to be as dependable as a long-snapper should be. The nerves he may feel are only part of the package.

“There’s a lot of pressure being a snapper, the balls in your hand, so if you mess up, the whole play could be messed up. It just teaches you a lot about just yourself, trusting yourself. So, if you go out there and you don’t trust yourself, you’re not confident, you’re going to mess up,” Philip said.

Along with keeping himself together, Philip sees this season as an opportunity to prove himself again. Although he states that he is not at “100 percent yet” and that “it [his ACL] doesn’t feel the same as it did before,” Philip sees the potential in his return season.

“I just want to have a comeback season to where people understand like I’m back, and I’m here to stay, and I’m ready to go, and I’m ready to play and everything. So, I just want to able to have a good enough season to where everybody trusts in me fully again,” Philip said.

Philip just wants to look back on a good season. For now, being back on the field is something Philip is treasuring. Outside of Rowan’s football field, Philip has found a means to give back to the game that has been such a staple in his life. Philip has brought back his experience to 5 Star Kicking, to coach the younger long-snappers. Under the oversight of his former coach, Coach Cooper, Philip has grown fond of the kids he coaches.

“It’s great, I love doing it. I love using what I know to help out the young guys,” Philip said. “I love staying contact with them, you know, and getting to know them and watching them grow, and getting better at their craft as well.”

To Philip, this is only one way that he plans on making a difference. Philip is in his third year at Rowan and is majoring in law and justice, with a minor in sociology. With this combination, Philip plans on helping children one day as a social worker.

“I just want to be the type of person who makes a difference in a kid’s life. I’d love to work in like a school or school district, and at the same time I would like to coach football as well,” Philip said.

For now, Philip is just happy to be back on the field with his team and a chance to make a good season to look back on. One he where he can show that he is finally back and ready to go.

How exactly is he going to do this?

Well, that’s easy to answer…

…by not giving up.


For information on Virtua Foundation and Camp Oasis, click here

For information on Relay for Life, click here

For Information on Be the Match, click here

A Summer Story Told in Songs Thanks to Shazam

Rich Partheymuller II

“You know, I’ve got this theory; there are two kinds of people in the world. There are lyric people and music people. You know, the lyrics people tend to be more analytical. You know, all about the meaning of the song. They’re the ones you see with the CD insert out like five minutes after buying it, pouring over the lyrics, interpreting the lyrics, interpreting the hell out of everything. Then there’s the music people…who could care less for the lyrics as long as it’s just got, like, a good beat and you could dance to it. I don’t know, sometimes it might be easier to be a music girl and not a lyric girl. But since I’m not, let me just say this: sometimes things find you when you need them to find you. I believe that. And for me, it’s usually song lyrics,” Peyton Sawyer, from One Tree Hill.

Even if you’re not a One Tree Hill fan, perhaps you can relate to Peyton Sawyer. Whether you’re in a band or just a passionate music-enthusiast, the best language you know is your music. When you’re in love the music you live by, it makes all the more a difference to find ways to share it. Some lyrics are better kept to yourself, for some songs have meanings that only you can understand, while other songs serve as your communication to other people. They say the words that we can’t find on our own. They serve the masters known as our minds and our imagination. Our minds get trapped in the time machine that hurls us back to when we needed the song the most. Maybe we need it even more now. Who knows? You see the world through new eyes when you live by the rhythm of our favorite melodies.

Well, for me, music should tell a story. It usually does too. Even I the most bizarre manners, a song can remind you of who you are. Over the summer, I found that I could find a story in the songs that I played, as well as the ones that came on randomly. By using the technology of  Shazam, which analyzes and lets a user find the name of a song instantly, I was able to make my passion for music into a story of a summer gone by way too fast. Once I Shazamed a song on Snapchat, the feature instantly pulled up lyrics to whatever song I was listening to. As a singer, it greatly helped in learning new songs, but another beautiful aspect is how I can use what Shazam pulled up for each song as a way to share this passion.

Below is a chronological timeline of songs I Shazamed over the summer. Each time a song is Shazamed, the technology displays an image with the name of the song, the artist, and a colorful image behind it. We’ll start with June…




August/Early September

I Was Homeless For A Night: The Bitter Reality of Boston’s Homeless Population

By: Isaiah Owens

With $8 in my pocket, I was instructed to buy dinner for myself, three high school students, and a homeless person. This was the most memorable moment from my mission’s trip in Boston, Massachusetts last week.


I am one of the leaders of my church’s youth group, and I was excited to embark on this journey throughout the city. After ten hours in a car, holding one of our student’s hair as she threw up, and fighting a splitting headache, we finally arrived at our destination, a welcoming looking church in Boston. The sleeping arrangements were decent, and we shared a space with two other church groups. The men’s bathroom had one shower, two toilets, and a sink, and as a two-shower-a-day type person this was trying, but I survived. Regardless of the living arrangements, the main reason for our stay was to help those within the city that needed it most. Throughout the week we helped teach children at a summer camp, prayed and talked with homeless people, and even made food for the terminally ill, but nothing impacted me more than the night I was forced to go homeless.


It was a cool Tuesday evening in Boston as our group guide for the week, named Angel, described to us the nature of our challenge. Angel said that every night tons of people would sleep in and around the Boston Common Park, and that tonight we were going to join them. I could see the look of surprise on our students faces as they heard those words. Even worse, Angel followed up by saying we would have only $2 each for dinner, and that we MUST eat with a homeless person as well. See, as a leader I was aware that we were going to be simulating homelessness that night, but not to the degree she proposed. What made things worse is that we had no cellphones, no wallet, not even a book! All we had were the clothes on our backs and the shoes on our feet, which unfortunately was more than some of the people that we encountered had that night.


The rules were simple, the time was 4 pm when we started, and all we had to do to complete the mission was make it until 8 pm. Not bad, right? Wrong. We broke off into groups and were sent free to go wherever we wanted in Boston. As the leader of three high school students in my group, two boys and one girl, I was instructed to let them run the show. Wherever they wanted to go and whatever they wanted to do I had to oblige to. All I could do was to be a voice of reason and encouragement when needed. After we were situated, we were thrust out into the urban jungle, without any idea of what to do next.


It was only the second day of our mission’s trip, and the three students weren’t quite sure what to do. Not entirely sure what to do myself, I advised them to start walking, because an opportunity was bound to come up as long as we kept moving forward. Ten minutes into our journey, that opportunity present itself through a man named Barry. We encountered Barry as we were walking through the Boston Commons, and we weren’t entirely sure whether he was homeless or not. After some hesitation, we greeted this strange man and began our conversation. To our surprise, Barry was both employed and homeless. Yes, he had a job, but with city rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Boston starting at around $2,500 a month, it was easy to understand why he was on the streets. Even more surprisingly, Barry had traveled the country before deciding to settle in Boston. He had been to San Francisco, Dallas, Philadelphia, Orlando and a variety of other cities. Figuring he would be hungry from his travels, we offered to buy him food with our $8 of combined living expenses for the night, which he declined, claiming he had already ate. Instead, he offered us a bundle of brochures highlighting everything someone could possibly do in Boston, which we took with gratitude, not because we needed them, but because it made him feel important.


Barry was a lucky find, because for about an hour after that we struggled to find anyone to have a meaningful conversation with. Almost at the point of giving up, my students and I stopped at a Starbucks to collect our thoughts. Beginning to get frustrated, the only girl in my group, Maddie, expressed how incredibly boring the entire experience was. Then it hit me. Maybe this experience wasn’t solely about helping the homeless, but rather being able to build empathy for them. In my moment of clarity, I explained to my three students that this was likely how homeless people felt every day. They have nowhere to go, nothing to do, and nobody to see in particular. All they have at their disposal is to go to sleep, lay there amongst the crowd, or to beg, none of which is extremely exciting. And minus the begging part, we were pretty much living the life of homeless young adults.


As we discussed, it was hard not to notice the various people bustling past our Starbucks window seats. The most noticeable of all was a despondent looking young man sitting across the narrow street from where we sat. Figuring that we didn’t have much luck besides Barry, we figured we would try talking to this young man. We quickly arose and walked out the door, leaving the sweet aroma of Starbucks behind, only to be greeted by the musty smell of the city. We pushed through the crowd until we reached the young man, and we greeted him with warm smiles. Up close, he looked even more depressed than he had from afar. When we asked him his name, he replied, “My name is Gage,” without even looking up from the ground, the same posture he had as we observed him from the window. We talked with him for some time, trying to understand what it was like to be homeless in Boston. He was reluctant to tell much, but I could discern enough to tell he was not much older than myself (I am 21) and he seemed to have given up on life. We offered to pray with him, but he refused, and all we could do was pick up and carry on.


Our luck finally changed as we wandered the city and stumbled upon a homeless veteran. I was heartbroken to see someone who gave so much for our country end up homeless. Without even consulting the group, I abruptly stopped and asked to pray for this man, named Rob, and he was happy to have someone pray for him. In fact, the stop was so abrupt that only one of my students, Ryan, even noticed enough to stop with me. The other two continued walking on, but being that I was in the moment I knew two things. One, I could still see them over my shoulder, and two, they couldn’t go too far before they realized we weren’t behind them. As I began to pray for Rob, I felt a flood of emotion sweep over me. I prayed for his safety, I prayed he would have the strength to keep fighting, I prayed that God would give him wisdom, I prayed that others would be as thankful as I was for this man’s sacrifice, and most importantly, I prayed that the overwhelming problem this nation has of failing to provide for our veterans would be remediated. The words seemed to pour out so poetically, I even surprised myself. As me and Ryan closed in prayer and looked up, a random woman was there who had heard our prayers and stopped to pray with us. I don’t know her name, but I remember her saying that she had heard our prayers and felt compelled to stop and join in. Rob was thankful, I could see the gratitude in his eyes. Sure, I didn’t talk to droves of people in such a heartfelt way as I did Rob, but that prayer was the most powerful moment in my four hours of being homeless, because it was so evident the difference it made.


At this point, the four of us were hungry. Enrique, my third and final student, believed that the 7-Eleven we saw earlier would be our best food option on an $8 budget. Not having any other ideas, we headed back towards the 7-Eleven that faced the Boston Commons where we began our journey. For some reason I can’t explain, our eyes became transfixed on this homeless couple sitting by the T, Boston’s subway system, moments before we entered 7-Eleven. In that moment, the four of us knew that these two people would be the ones we would eat with, but with only $8 that was easier said than done. Everything in the 7-Eleven was either too expensive, or not enough to feed six people. In my mind, I thought how inconvenient this was and resented the fact I didn’t have my wallet. But in my heart, I couldn’t shake the feeling that this was likely someone’s reality every single day. No fancy debit or credit cards, no bank accounts, no checking on the performance of stock portfolios, just a few crumpled up dollar bills to our names. We decided on buying a pizza that cost us about $6, and with about $2 left to our names, we walked over to have dinner with the homeless couple we had scouted out before-hand. With not much time left in our homeless experience, Ryan decided we should just give them the pizza and then meet up with our group, which is exactly what we did. The homeless couple was thankful for their dinner, and we briefly chatted with them before we knew it was time to go.


We took the subway back to the church, and I was starving after having not eaten anything in over nine hours. That night I cheated and went out to a local dive and bought pizza, and it made me feel sick to my stomach. It was as if God was punishing me for revolting against the whole, “don’t eat anything else tonight” experience. As I lay in bed with an upset stomach at the end of the night amongst obnoxious teenage boys from another church laughing about Lord knows what, I can say one thing for sure. As I mentioned earlier, the experience was just as much about empathy than it was actually being homeless, and I definitely felt empathetic. As I lay there, I couldn’t stop thinking about what had happened. What if I really did have to sleep outside tonight? What if I only had $2 left for my next meal? What would I do all day to keep myself occupied as people walked by me in blissful ignorance all day long? I would love to say I answered my questions, but I didn’t, and I pray to God I never will have to.


Culture Shock of Moving Away from a Small Town

By: Rich Partheymuller II


“They say life is so much sweeter, through the telephoto lens of fame, around here you get just as much attention, cheering at the high school football game.”

Miranda Lambert was spot-on in her 2007 heart-strummer, “Famous in a Small Town.” For those who know me, it could probably be assumed that I relate to the lyrics of this song on a spiritual level. When I hear the initial sound of Lambert’s strings, I immediately know that somebody understands me. As I get older, I realize that there are a lot more people than just country singers who get that rural communities are like their own little worlds. Most of the time, the big happenings in big towns and cities rarely get through the bubbles that surround the nation’s nonurban communities. Similarly, it can be very difficult for a person living inside the bubble, to avoid getting lost once they have left it.

Some might try to stretch the framework of the bubble around ourselves, and bring the comfortable world we left behind with us. Ultimately, we become immersed within the next dimension over. It’s kind of like String Theory, only not as dramatic or as scientific. Once you’ve escaped the confines of your hometown, this goes for city folk too, you tend to take a little while before you adjust.

I might be a piece of the New Jersey ecosystem now, but I am wholeheartedly a product of a small town called Carthage, in Upstate New York. Ever since I moved to New Jersey 10 years ago, I’ve grown apart from my roots, but with them at the same time. The two states are separated by a relatively small border and a lot of forest, and some major differences have grown on the two sides of the fence.

I can’t promise I’ll be doing justice for either state, but let’s take look at whose side is really greener! Here are some of the crazy, freakish, and sometimes even interesting things I’ve noticed about New Jersey folks.

So Many Smokers!

Okay, so in Carthage, we had our problems just like any other town. We had our alcoholics, our gamblers, and we had some teens that got into trouble every now and then. Pretty normal, I would suppose. In retrospect though, I was never really exposed to smokers in high dosages. I used to have a friend across the apartment complex I used to live in who had a mother who smoked every day. My aunt smoked as well, but between the two of them, I hardly ever saw people with cigarettes. Flash forward to New Jersey, and suddenly I’d be walking into a gathering at my stepfather’s parents’ house, and the whole living room would be filled with his family smoking up a storm. It seemed like everybody who worked at Six Flags Great Adventure with me had to smoke once we went on break, even a kid who said he ran cross country for his high school. It really does seem like a part of the culture, where smoking becomes either a sign of class, or a sign of personal therapy. I’ve learned that some people only smoke when they drink, and some people will smoke cigars just for fun. I always disliked the smell anyways, but I grew used to it after a while. Now, only if I could do that with vaping.

I Have to Pay How Much for a T-Shirt?

Clothes are typically a big deal to a young person. We always want to look like we have our act together and make our clothing do the talking for us. I noticed after spending some time visiting my home state, that just about everybody dresses the same. The typical look for a male is work boots or sneakers, an old, messed up t-shirt or tank top, and a backwards baseball cap. Typically, you wore your job. That’s why it would be normal to see people wearing clothes with dirt, mud, dust, grease, or cleaning solutions on them. For this reason, I learned to not really care about where I bought my clothes. Then, I experienced the joy of going through a New Jersey mall, and gasping from the shock of seeing t-shirts for $25 at some stores. Generally, if I wanted to get a sweatshirt or anything, I’d be shelling out close to $50. To some people, that’s not a lot, but to a kid who can find the same product for much less at Walmart, it would make me wonder what value a name on a shirt really has, that kids would pay that kind of money.

What in Tarnation is a “WaWa?”

Okay, flashback. So, the first night I spent at my stepfather’s house in New Jersey, I remember laying down on his couch after taking a nap. He woke me up and told me that he and my mother were going to “WaWa” for dinner, and he wanted to know what I wanted. I just looked at him with confusion and said “Walmart?” He then said, “no, WaWa.” I think I replied with “did you say “Walmart?”” I then realized that WaWa is some convenience store that has a deli and a lot of other bells and whistles that New Jersey folks are obsessed with. Rest assured, when I was younger and chunkier, I was in love too. In New York, we had a similar thing called “Stewart’s” where you’d get everything you would want at a WaWa, but with a side of dairy to go along with it. There actually is a dairy store in Southern Jersey called “Heritage’s” but I can never look at it without seeing Stewart’s, honestly.

I Think Pork Roll is Just Glorified Bologna

Photo used via Creative Commons


To piggyback off of that (pun intended), New Jersey folks sometimes get bent out of shape over this deli meat called “pork roll.” There is some sort of weird dystopian dispute over whether the correct term is “pork roll” or “Taylor Ham.” Honestly, it’s like the British fighting over whether you should pour the hot water in before or after you put the tea bag in. You would think somebody committed arson or something. It is typical of the culture to regularly feast on breakfast sandwiches of the pork roll, egg, and cheese variety. I personally think the stuff tastes like rubber, but that’s only because I was exposed to Croghan bologna for so long. You see, Croghan is one of the towns around Carthage, and it was the best place to get great deli meat. Particularly, Croghan bologna, which is like a big, bundled up sausage that looks like a red balloon animal. In reality, it was the all-star meat product of the area, great with white bread and mayonnaise. So, I guess I understand what it’s like to be proud of a deli meat.

Canadians Can’t Rap



The subheading may upset some people, beings that Drake is Canadian. Nonetheless, it was the sounds of a steel guitar and a fiddle that made me the country boy I am. I was raised off of George Strait, Reba McEntire, Alan Jackson, and Martina McBride. It was no surprise that when I was learning how to sing, I tried my best to get the most twang into my voice. That’s the kind of country that makes the most sense to me. Anything else just sounds like pop in my opinion. In New Jersey, it might be the proximity to New York City and Philadelphia, but it turns out that rap is pretty huge around the state. People are all into the scene of saggy pants and “snapback” hats. It’s the style inspired by the music. The music itself is fast, bold, and can be very crude. I’ve never liked the messages that circulate in rap music either. Beings that I’m more used to the slow twang of country music, I’ve never been able to really rap (pun intended) my head around performing rap music. I also can’t stand it when I’m sitting in a car and the music just blasts until I feel my heart rattles.

Devil’s Chicken

It may come as a surprise, but for a person who lived 137 miles away from Canada, I rarely ever saw a Canadian goose. When I saw a couple in Alexandria Bay in New York one day when I was young, I was fascinated. I get to New Jersey, and I was fascinated again. That wore off pretty quickly. The Canadian geese in New Jersey don’t ever seem to leave. One of my friends from New Jersey told me that a group of geese is called a “guy.” Well, rest assured, there were plenty of guy waddling around my college campuses, leaving behind plenty of presents on the lawns and walkways. I got into a few situations where a goose hissed at me too, because they thought I was after its babies. They have a purpose just like we do, I know that. In retrospect, I guess Guinea hens are even worse.

“So, Does It Get Cold Up There?”

Short answer, yes. I’ve learned that the word “cold” has a different meaning based off of the person who is talking. We all have our thresholds of tolerance, of course, but living in the land of snowfall in October gave me a strong respect for nature. We had days where the snow would be tall enough that my older brother could build tunnels in it, and go all around our apartment complex. We would sit down in front of our furnace and put our hands in front of us to get warm. We would lay our jeans on the furnace as well, and wear pajama-bottoms underneath them when the snow was really bad. The early-morning bus stop for middle school was a nightmare. I think I even heard somewhere that the snow accumulation got to about 7ft once. This is a rumor, of course, but I wouldn’t doubt it. Still, no matter how cold the place you live gets, your body naturally gets used to it. You either adapt or get out. Thus, my skin is more capable of getting badly sunburned than people in warmer climates around the country. I learned that the hard way last year after a beach day. That was tough, so I’m glad I got out for that reason, but the weather is much warmer down in New Jersey. As such, my tolerance for cold seems to have diminished some, unfortunately. You know what they say, you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone. It’s just funny how people complain and freak out over four inches of snow in the forecast. After all, if you own a good toque, you should be set.


I guess you could say I’ve been in-between two different worlds. Yet, as I’ve grown older, I’ve been able to recognize just how similar they are. They’re both full of good parents, good friends, and good cooks! I can’t change what and who I am, that’s for sure. To be completely honest, I still feel like an alien every now and then.


Then again, that’s why it’s so easy to tell people about my heritage and my past.


So, whether it’s in North, Central, or South Jersey, being an alien is cool by me.

Your Week In Review

Your guide to the weeks top stories, enjoy!

This Cat Is A Total Stud


Manny Pacquiao Weighs In On Mayweather vs McGregor

The Man Who Got Hit By A Bus And Lived!


Lavar Ball Makes An Appearance On WWE To Promote Big Baller Brand

Recognizing How Much Hong Kong Has Changed Under Chinese Rule

Nike Signs Exclusive Deal With Amazon



Four-Legged Fun with Kyle Scripko

By: Richard Partheymuller

It’s a little bit more than just easy-dealing, but when Kyle Scripko packs up his “suitcase” with assorted toys, leashes, and dog food, he knows today will be strictly business as usual.

Tools of the trade for sure, but for Scripko, none of that would matter without Leia, his fastest, and furriest business partner. As such, the 2-year-old Border collie has been trained alongside her master in the Scripko-family pastime of agility training.

Typically, Scripko focuses on being a history major at Rowan University. When his face isn’t sunk into a textbook though, the 19-year-old from Jackson, New Jersey, puts his bond with Leia to the test. A test that she inevitably passed with flying colors; placing 2nd in the Biathlon, and 3rd in the steeplechase at last weekend’s USDAA Mid-Atlantic Regional Championships in Barto, Pennsylvania. This is no easy task, of course. The amount of big names at the event, and the nerves that were felt, reinforced the idea that it was a significant event for Scripko and Leia’s portfolios.

“There was a lot of pressure, because there were a lot of people that I knew that were kind of like big time. Getting to compete against them was pretty awesome,” Scripko said. “It just makes you want to beat them more, makes you feel good when you place above them.”

Like other sports, dog agility competitions become a lifestyle for their athletes. Scripko himself found his way into the sport through his family. Both of Scripko’s parents, as well as his sister, are all veterans in the sport. Scripko said he has stayed with his mother’s group, Clever Canine, as he’s gone on to compete. From there, Scripko has ran a Belgian Malinois, a Boston terrier, a flat-coated retriever, an Alaskan malamute, and a number of border collies (including Leia).

For Leia, and for any dog specifically-bred for this sport, training begins when the dogs are puppies. From then, the dogs are trained to recognize eye contact, hand movements, foot positioning, and of course, how to take on the intricate courses they are brought to.

As trainer, Scripko had to undergo some training himself, and learned how to mentally and physically prepare himself. It hasn’t been a straight-shot up to where he is now though. Scripko learned early on that dogs are like people, in that they all have their own separate personality. Scripko told a story of how his father’s flat-coated retriever stopped during a competition, and “just kind of wanted a belly rub.” Scripko was about 10-years-old at the time, but since then, he has learned how to work with different dogs.

“This weekend, I was running both my dog, Leia, and my sister’s dog, Flip, and I had to completely change who I was running, like stylistically, in order to accommodate how the dogs’ knew how to run the course. So, it’s very specific to the dog,” Scripko said. “Sometimes, you can mold them to do it the way the handler is, but a good 80 percent of the time is you trying to adjust yourself to how the dog understands it.”

Scripko and Leia Photos/Video used as per Scripko’s permission

Scripko said that these shows have brought him all around the East coast. He and his family have traveled to venues in places such as Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, New York, Florida, as well New Jersey at Logan Township’s Dream Park and Pitman’s Total Turf Experience.

Aside from traveling the country for shows, Scripko and Leia take note to always come prepared. They take them on like any other business meetings, with a method to the madness that keeps the days under control.

Typical Day for a Show Includes

  1. Getting up really early, as some shows are quite far, such as those in Pennsylvania
  2. Making sure you have food, water, toys, and leashes packed for the dog
  3. Once you get to the show, you set up your crate inside of the building
  4. Stay all day for a variable number of courses running at about 30-40 seconds each
  5. Winners announced
  6. Family dinner/Barbeque!!

Scripko joked, saying it’s funny how he spends so much time preparing for a couple of runs that combine for only about a minute total. He and Leia compete in the 22in division for the standard and jumper classes. In these classes, there is zero margin for error. A dog is expected to be perfect throughout the intricate courses. A dog can lose out on qualifying through refusal to run a course, running the wrong course, or from failure to complete the course; knocking bars or failing to make contact with an obstacle. For these reasons, Scripko has to work his hardest to make sure that he and Leia are in-sync with each other for the entire course.

It takes a dedication to the lifestyle, but for Scripko, his partnership with Leia has paid off because of it. Among Scripko’s accomplishments in the sport include winning the 24in class division with Dash, a Belgian Malinois, at a youth invitational, and placing with Leia in the starter division of the USDAA Title Mania in Geneva, Ohio. Of course the past weekend is one for the books as well, as getting into the top three of any championship is not a small task, much less placing in a regional championship.

Scripko is not a professional, but his schedule is already cram-packed with shows for the rest of the year and beyond. Scripko plans on traveling to Latrobe, PA, for the European Open Agility Team USA Tryouts in December. If he is selected for this team, Scripko would be able to travel to Europe to compete for Team USA. Along with that, Scripko is hoping to qualify for the AKC Nationals in Reno, Nevada, next March. As of now though, Scripko is qualified for the Cynosport World Games in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, this coming October. So, it would be safe to assume that Scripko just might satisfy his wanderlust in the coming months.

“You never think that like, your dog could take you to a country in Europe or around the US to the states,” Scripko said.

Through all of the traveling and competitions he’s been through, Scripko said that he’s definitely grown with the sport. Due to a lack of kids at these shows, Scripko had to learn how to properly conduct himself around adults. Scripko said that the lifestyle made him “grow up a little quicker.” At the same time, he said that he is grateful for how much he has benefitted from the sport, both as a competitor and as a person. Beings that he was brought up into the sport, Scripko was dependent on his parents while growing up. Now, Scripko pays for his own entrance fees and drives himself and Leia to shows.

“Although they did a very good job of raising me, I think this sport of agility really helped raise me as well,” Scripko said.

As he matures with the sport from here, Scripko said that competing with Team USA in Europe is the next step for him. So, his eyes are looking to December to see what could happen.

Of course, that’s nothing too new for Scripko and Leia though.

After all, it’s just business as usual.

For some awesome photos of Scripko and Leia at their run in regionals, check out these by Kelly Bove Photography

Everything you need to know about Drake’s New Single

Drake drops a new song tomorrow (6/22/17) called “Signs.” Drake’s newest single was first announced today via twitter, and has many fans wondering what to expect. Lucky for you, we have all the information you need to know about his newest single. Here is everything you need to know about Drake’s new single



#1: Drake made the song in collaboration with Louis Vuitton

The obvious connection between Drake and Louis Vuitton is that the single boasts a creative cover with the Louis Vuitton logo. The less obvious connection is that Drake’s single coincides with the Louis Vuitton Fashion week that starts tomorrow.


#2: The single was produced by Noah “40” Shebib

Shebib is a Toronto based music producer and is a frequent collaborator with Drake. Some of their recent collaborations include “One Dance,” “Headlines,” “Take Care,” “Started from the Bottom,” “All Me,” and many more hit songs by Drake. With a proven track record, we’re sure to see something great out of this duo in “Signs.”


#3: The song is most likely to be down-tempo and ambient

Most of Drake’s music that is produced by Shebib has a down-tempo and ambient style. One of the biggest examples of this is Drake’s song “Hold On, We’re Going Home.” Don’t believe me? There has been a supposed leak of the beat that can be found here


4: The song will be released in Paris first

Great News! The song will most likely be out by the time you wake up! Drake’s newest single will debut on Louis Vuitton’s website at 2:30 pm Paris Time. That means the song should be released around 8:30 am Eastern Time. That’s a nice way to start your day!



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The 5 Lessons I’ve Learned Working with Children

If you have a child in your life, you will benefit from these life lessons. I want you to recognize the impact you have on the children in your life, and not to forget how much they cherish your relationship. Here are the 5 lessons I’ve learned working with kids.


#1: You Can’t Buy Love

One of my favorite kids I’ve ever counseled at the YMCA was devastated because her parents bought her tons of toys, but never payed attention to her.  Too many times during my years working with kids, I’ve noticed parents buying their children stuff to compensate for their lack of attention. Even worse, many of the separated parents would compete for their child’s love by buying them expensive items. It broke my heart because these children just wanted to be loved. All they truly wanted was an adult to spend time with them and show interest in who they were.


#2: “Bad Kids” Are Bad for A Reason

Children are often products of their environment. For example, one mother dropped her son off at the before school program and drove off without even making sure he made it safely inside. She hadn’t made payment for the program that month, but hurried him out the car and sped off knowing we couldn’t leave him outside alone in the cold. Parents who have this attitude towards their children set their kids up for failure. These children soon realize that their own parents don’t care for them, so why should they care about anyone or anything else?


#3: They Don’t Want Your Attention, They Need It

Young children need a role model to show interest in their lives, and they will go to great lengths to obtain one. Sometimes, children are ignored by their parents, leaving them desperate to get attention from another source. At my job, some kids craved attention so much that they would do anything to get it. Even if it was for disciplinary attention, kids would purposefully misbehave just so I would turn my attention towards them.


#4: Discipline is Necessary, Not Optional

I could easily tell which kids were disciplined at home and which ones were not. The ones who were disciplined would follow directions, the others would not. One mother was completely against seeing her child upset and refused to discipline him. That same kid almost cost his mother her job, all because he refused to give her phone back when he was dropped off in the morning. The mother pleaded with him, telling him that if she didn’t leave soon that she may lose her job, her son didn’t care. Not only does a lack of discipline set children up for failure in the adult world, but it also teaches them to be selfish and disregard others. Both of which are unfortunate.


#5: It Does Take a Village

Raising kids is NOT an easy task. Having the idea that a child can be taught all of life’s lessons by one person is ludicrous. The more positive influences that a child has in their life, the better! Kids at my program that had a strong support system were much more accomplished, happy, and healthy than those who didn’t. To clarify, the child’s support system does not need to have a lot of money or privilege to be successful, just their collective willingness to give unconditional love.

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