Grown In Monmouth County Restaurant Week

I’m continually enjoying my job as a staff reporter for my monthly local town magazine, the Journals NJ. This past month’s assignment on my county’s first-ever Grown in Monmouth Restaurant Week event was my all-time favorite especially since I’m such a foodie! I was excited to interview restaurant owners and local growers and learn about the many featured delicious dishes containing local farmed ingredients grown in the county.

September 2019 Holmdel issue, p 64


Society’s Latest Trend: Self-Deprecation

I just got back from a 1-week summer writing program at Columbia University. Not only did I get to meet other students from around the world, I also got to experience New York City and everything it has to offer. One of the assignments of my class, Creative Journalism, was to write an op-ed piece about something we feel strongly about. I had recently listened to a podcast discussing the impact of technology on our self confidence which led me to a sad but true realization - self-deprecation has become a trend.

We are frequently told to help others and make sacrifices for the greater good. But how often are we told to love ourselves? 

With the consuming responsibilities and demands of the day, we easily forget the significance of self-love on our mental health. The little voice inside our heads begins to dominate our thoughts and dictate our lives, allowing constant belittlement and negativity to seep into our subconscious.  

I am the first to admit that I possess such self-deprecating thoughts as I often find my mind immediately reacting with internal criticism whenever something goes wrong. It’s very easy to find faults with one’s self, and I tend to dwell on these natural imperfections. But while I am responsible for such thoughts, society’s emphasis on perfection is partially to blame. 

Social media plays a significant role in the hateful thoughts that consume our brains. We all know that the internet is deceiving. But with our screens filled with immaculate profiles displaying the remarkable lives of others, viewers are fooled and consequently compare themselves to what they see online. And in a world dominated by pictures and technology, the pressure to be perfect is higher today than ever before. 

Learning to pull ourselves away from these unrealistic standards is already a difficult feat, so the addition of self-imposed negativity makes it even harder. Unfortunately, self-deprecation has become a trend among millenials, especially in the form of humor and sarcasm. An abundance of self-deprecating memes continue to circulate the internet, connecting users through negative humor. We bash our appearances, our intellectual capacities, our level of success, our relationship status, and so on. Phrases such as “I hate life” and “forever alone” often escape our mouths in casual conversation as such comments have become so commonly used. While we tend to laugh these words off in context, we fail to recognize the genuine issue of low self-esteem that is concealed beneath the mask of humor. Often times people find solace in sharing their pain with others, turning to song lyrics and written works that embody a similar struggle or lack of confidence. From memes to music to media, self-deprecation has become socially acceptable, even welcomed, which has allowed it to gain traction and immerse itself in American culture. 

Many may see self-deprecation as a form of humility to make others feel better about themselves or even as a selfish opportunity to fish for compliments. While this may be true in some cases, more often than not people turn to personal shame to express their true feelings. As humans, we will never be free of insecurities and will always have the innate tendency to criticize ourselves. In fact, it’s perfectly healthy to laugh at our faults every once in a while. But consistent devaluation of one’s self creates deeper psychological issues that can emerge in the form of depression and feelings of unworthiness. 

The way we speak to ourselves and about ourselves, joking or not, has an impact on our mental health and well-being. “Self-deprecating jokes can cause vulnerability, a sense of guilt, worthlessness, and it can affect their responsibility instinct,” says therapist Christopher Marks. By filling our brains with hurtful thoughts, it won’t be long before we actually believe them to be true. This also inhibits our ability to succeed as we become convinced that we are not capable of certain feats, thanks to our tainted thoughts. 

The Golden Rule tells us to treat others the way we want to be treated. So if we want others to treat us with kindness and care, why is it so difficult to deliver that to ourselves? Learning to speak to ourselves the way we would speak to loved ones is crucial to our mental health and confidence level. As Willie Nelson stated, “once you replace negative thoughts with positive thoughts, you’ll start having positive results.” 

It's Never Too Late To Skate


Leslie and Charles are my new friends who skate at the Codey Arena rink in West Orange, NJ where I also train. I was so impressed with their earnest desire and unequivocal commitment to figure skating and wanted others to learn about their story. I approached them late spring and asked to interview them for an article about their skating interests and pursuits. I was so honored to write about them and couldn’t wait to get started learning more about their interesting lives. Leslie and Charles are an two inspiring individuals who we all can admire - they follow their passions and show us that age isn’t a limit.

Don’t be afraid to try new things as it’s never too late to start living a more healthy & active lifestyle.


Exploring the Past in Pasture

I was so surprised and excited to see my article and photograph featured on the July cover of my community news magazine. I recently pursued an internship with The Journal NJ to learn more about journalism by shadowing the staff, sitting in on weekly sales meetings, and working with the Managing Editor on layout and design. For one of my assignments, I chose to visit and research my town’s Longstreet Farm, a 19th century living historical farm, to increase community awareness and promote appreciation for the past. As this was one of my first assignments as an intern, I was shocked that the editors chose my work for the cover. (page 20)

23 Local Girl Scouts Receive Gold Award

I had the honor of attending the 2019 Girl Scouts of the Jersey Shore Gold Award Ceremony. Not only did I get to witness the many talented Girl Scouts receive their awards, I also had the opportunity to serve as the Mistress of Ceremonies for the event. I loved being able to share my experiences as a Girl Scout with the audience to inspire the future generation of leaders. As an intern for The Journal NJ, I was also asked to cover this event. I explained the purpose and function of the Gold Award, interviewed the hosts and guest speakers, and focused on the four Girl Scouts from Monmouth County. My article appears in the July issue of The Journal and highlights the girls’ outstanding achievements.

Sanctuary Yet Sacrifice

This poem discusses the paradox of skating. While physically and mentally challenging, the sport will forever be a vital part of my life.

Feet frigid and fingers frail

head and heart hammering  

eyes watering in the wind

bruised body on the brink of blowout.  

As my blades slice through the slippery surface

my coach’s disappointed face fills my vision

and the taste of defeat fills my mouth.

Everyday I ask why I do this

why I put myself through the struggle

why I devote my life to the sport.

Yet everyday I’m back

doing it all over again.

Painful to the body yet vital to the soul

the lure of the ice never leaves.  

Because the reward of success is like no other;

years of pain are nothing compared

to one day of victory.

Fragile Souls

A found poem is created by flipping through a book and selecting random lines to create a cohesive poem. Here is my found poem based on the book, The River Reader by Joseph F. Trimmer.

Beneath the fat lies

deeper still

a series of moral puzzles

endless worrying about the rules

high anxiety of the competition

manipulation and control.

No matter how much we twist and turn

no system will protect us.

Do you believe you must always lie?

There is no easy answer to this question.

But we are such fragile souls

so we must be very careful.

Oh, there is risk everywhere

each decision, large or small

may be crucial to

this style of living.

Silver Skates


Leslie and Charles are my newfound friends who skate at the Codey Arena rink in West Orange, NJ where I also train. I am so incredibly impressed with their earnest desire and unequivocal commitment to learn to skate, and wanted others to learn about their story. So one day, I approached them and asked if I could interview and write an article about their skating interests and pursuits. I was so honored to have them agree and I couldn’t wait to get started to learning more about their interesting lives. Leslie and Charles is an inspiring couple who we all can admire - they follow their passions and show us that age isn’t a limit.

Don’t be afraid to try new things and it’s never too late to start living a more healthy & active lifestyle.

Screen Shot 2019-04-29 at 3.21.16 PM.png
Screen Shot 2019-04-29 at 3.21.26 PM.png
Screen Shot 2019-04-29 at 3.21.38 PM.png

Lost and Alone

Careful to only move one muscle at a time and make as little sound as possible, I began to inch my way out of the dark confines of the cave. I placed a shaky paw onto the grass and pushed my body into the sunlight, exposing myself to a vast expanse of unfamiliar territory.

On high alert, I followed my nose to the distinct aroma of fresh water. I made sure to stay hidden beneath the foliage, bristling in fear at every unknown sound and smell. But once I caught sight of a small stretch of water, thirst overcame me and I bounded full speed to the sparkling surface.

I dove into the lake, purring in satisfaction from the delicious taste after suffering from days of thirst. But despite the revitalization I received, I could not shake the loneliness that remained. I racked my brain, desperate to recall anything of my life before I was abandoned in the cave, but I felt nothing but emptiness.

My thoughts were suddenly interrupted by the snap of a twig and I found myself face to face with a small hairless creature. I bared my teeth and hissed in intimidation, but before I could pounce, a larger creature appeared and released a horrid blood curdling scream. I darted off in time to see the large creature whisk the smaller one away, retreating as fast as its two legs could carry it.

I realized in surprise that they were running from me. Power surged through my veins as I realized my ability to inflict fear on these strange creatures. I scoffed at their stupidity. Arrogance replaced my loneliness and I set forth to find the creatures to terrorize them.

I followed their trail and reached a clearing filled with rows of cave-like dwellings. I watched in confusion as dozens of creatures came in and out of the dwellings, communicating with odd gestures and unusual sounds. This must be where they live, I concluded.

Teen Angst

While listening to the song “In My Blood” by Shawn Mendes, I was inspired to express my low spirits in a poem, incorporating the lyrics (in italics).

All the feelings built up inside
Hard to express, yet hard to hide.
Laying on the bathroom floor, feeling nothing
Overwhelmed and insecure
, the tears start gushing.
As waves of sadness come crashing down
You get lost in a sea of emotions and drown.
No medicine, no cure
Nothing to relieve the pain you endure.
No one can see the angst consuming your heart
Alone is where you fall apart.

Are Humans Primarily Driven by Self-Interest?

I will be competing in a new debate forum at my first speech and debate tournament of the new year. ‘Big Questions Debate’ is a new format which presents students with a complex worldwide question and each student is required to debate both sides of the resolution. Big Questions Debate will not only help advance my knowledge and promote interest in learning more about a subject matter but it will also enhance my debate experience by encouraging and challenging me to engage in life discussions that may not align with my previously held beliefs and values.

The Big Question Debate for this weekend’s tournament is Resolved: Humans are primarily driven by self-interest, and here are my arguments for both sides…which side do you agree with?

Psychological egoism, the idea that humans are motivated by self-interest and selfishness, is highly prevalent in society. Despite having good morals or values, at the end of the day, the most important person to you is yourself.

Skating Promotes Fitness and Good Health

The Journal Publications, January Issue

The editor of my local paper asked me if I was interested in writing another article for its publication. The theme of the first issue for the new year is ‘Health and Fitness’. I immediately embraced the opportunity as it is THE perfect time to introduce skating as a new and fun exercise for everyone to learn. Also, January is National Skating Month and it’s a great time to promote interest in skating and support US Figure Skating’s annual celebration of the sport.

Screen Shot 2019-01-03 at 11.46.52 AM.png

'Reader in a Lost World" Review

My tenth grade English teacher and advisor, Dr. Holden, recently published an article, “Reader in a Lost World”, ( for The Marginalia Review of Books which is an online international review of academic literature on history, religion, and culture. As I was only exposed to his writing in the classroom, I was curious to read what he had to say and discover his purpose and technique as an author.


As a student in modern society, I often find myself trapped in the monotonous cycle of completing assignments simply because I have to. I, like many others, have become accustomed to blindly following the template that the education system has laid out, unaware of the negative impact on students’ capacity for true learning. 

Holden’s essay, “Readers in a Lost World,” exposes today’s modern generation that currently suffers from a lack of literary comprehension. He focuses on the classic five paragraph essay structure that is rooted in students’ minds which has created an illusion that any deviation from this norm is not acceptable. But in reality, literature has no formula. Strict adherence to this standard format does little to enhance students’ writing abilities; rather, it creates a model they feel they must conform to which consequently prevents the exploration of creative thought. As students focus on writing within this specific format, they lose sight of the true purpose of an essay. 

Written with colloquial yet sophisticated diction, Holden draws on his experience as both a teacher and a writer to express his perspective on the purpose and significance of an essay. He uses direct literary allusions to connect his argument with familiar characters and storylines, including Greek mythology and references from other credible writers. He emphasizes the importance of reading as the foundation for all literature as it connects human minds and provides insight to one’s subjectivity. He explains how the five-paragraph essay prevents this subjectivity from developing and therefore prevents students from developing intellectually. Not only will readers understand the misconception of the five-paragraph essay, they will also learn how to properly compose an essay through valuable strategies that can be employed in their own writing. 

Crazy Rich Asians: We are Asian, Hear Us Roar!

I can’t remember the last time I went out to see a movie with my whole family…was it when I was 10 yrs old?…12 yrs ? My brother and I got dragged out on a Saturday night, the one night I usually block off to hang out with my friends, to see “Crazy Rich Asians.” My father had been excessively talking about this new movie, explaining the importance of supporting the first all-Asian film in 25 years. So on one of the rare nights he was off from work, my family took a trip to the movie theater. I admit I did not know what to expect at first, but I was immediately captivated by the Chinese music once the movie began. As I laughed and cried, I was pleasantly surprised at how touched I was by this film. I was especially impacted by the strong feminism portrayed in the movie with powerful female characters dominating the storyline. As each woman acted as a direct inspiration to me, I was compelled to further analyze the characters and their characteristics.


Girl Scouts- It's a Whole Lot More than Cookies

The Holmdel Journal Publication, December Issue

I am so honored to be selected by the CEO of Girl Scouts of the Jersey Shore to write an article for the community paper about Girl Scouting and its mission and values. Given the country’s current challenging and hostile environment, it is essential to discuss programs that encourage love, compassion, and giving to promote peace and unity among our fellow citizens.


'Human Flow' Documentary Screening



A hush fell over the crowd as the lights dimmed. Every audience member’s eyes were glued to the front of the room, as if locked in a trance. As images of innocent families enduring immense suffering filled the screen, raw emotion was present on every viewer’s captivated face.

On Oct. 25 from 6 to 9 p.m. in MAN 105 of Brookdale Community College, students and residents of Monmouth County gathered to watch “Human Flow,” an emotional and informative film depicting the greatest human displacement since World War II. In the documentary, filmmaker Ai Weiwei travels for one year through 23 countries to capture diverse yet urgent stories of innocent people forced to leave their homes.

Viewers received insight into refugees’ physical and mental struggles as they witnessed them desperately trying to escape famine, poverty, climate change and war. Scenes depicting police brutality, sick and injured individuals, dying children and blood curdling screams deeply affected the audience. Almost in tears, one viewer claimed the film was “two hours of full misery,” due to the vivid imagery of human mistreatment.

“[The film] was very impactful because I went through that,” a young man in the front row courageously spoke up, reflecting on his own experience as a refugee. He was especially affected by a scene where a young boy was promising his brother that he would never leave him, no matter how bad things got. The spectator explained how touching it was to see love and family prevail in the midst of disaster.

Professor Ashley Zampogna-Krug, who led the film discussion, was “stunned by the sheer resilience of human nature.” Watching the film was incredibly enlightening to her, she said, opening her eyes to humans’ unbelievable ability to persevere despite such detrimental and seemingly hopeless scenarios. In the film, one refugee explained that “if there is will, nothing is impossible.” Seeing positivity in such a treacherous environment was extremely inspiring and encouraging, audience members said.

However, the film proved that humanity did not necessarily favor people. Debbie Mura, a journalism professor from Toms River, recalled a scene where refugees chose to feed stray dogs and horses rather than give the food to the starving people. “[This] shows how much we care about animals and not human beings,” she said.

Despite the film’s success in stimulating intense emotions among viewers, the audience found fault in certain production qualities.  “From a cinema point of view,” one said, “it was very difficult to follow, which made it lose some of its impact.” She criticized the subtitles for being too small and fast, preventing her from being able to understand certain scenes, especially ones spoken in foreign languages. Nodding her head along in agreement, another viewer added that the film was “a little long on a production note.”

While response of the film consisted of mixed opinions, one belief remained the same. Every audience member was incredibly touched, as the film triggered emotions of sadness and sympathy for the suffering refugees. Voicing the thoughts of every person in the room, one man said, “watching this was an eye opener to appreciate all you that have.”

A Memory's Accuracy

Carey, Benedict, and Hoffman, Jan. “They Say Sexual Assault, Kavanaugh Says It Never Happened: Sifting Truth From Memory.” The New York Times, 25 Sept. 2018

After hearing about the charges against Supreme Court Nominee Brett Kavanaugh, I decided to do further research to gain a better understanding. I came across an article that analyzed scientific elements of memory to explain the case which I found incredibly enlightening and changed my perspective on the situation.

In light of the serious sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court nominee Judge Kavanaugh, experts have taken a closer look into the science and accuracy of one’s memory. Although multiple women have come forward claiming Kavanaugh attempted rape, Kavanaugh continues to deny allegations that he was responsible for such actions. This makes people wonder what the real story is and who to truly believe. Studies have proven that memory is selective, and its details lose accuracy over time. The brain “encodes” emotions and sensations that the person endures in the moment, affecting individuals in the same situation in different ways. Timing of memory retrieval is also a crucial factor because this can affect the accuracy of memory. Random senses, situations, and words may trigger a certain memory and allow a person to suddenly recall things they did not think about before. In this situation, alcohol plays a role as both sides were intoxicated. Alcohol affects one’s memory and often leaves a person unstable and delusional. This brings into question the credibility of both Kavanaugh and one of the accusers, Dr. Ford, since they both consumed alcohol and therefore their stories are not necessarily accurate. Both Kavanaugh and Ford strongly stand by their case and believe they are telling the truth, however their side of the truth may be distorted by their memory/interpretation of the situation.

Memory and the accuracy of one’s memory plays a pivotal part in both Kavanaugh's and Ford’s credibility. There is no true evidence to prove either side, so recollection of events is all that the court has to go by. I think it is really important for Americans to understand the science behind memory before jumping to conclusions. In any situation, people should be fully informed on both scenarios before forming an opinion and choosing a side. After reading this, I personally support Ford in her case. She was able to remember this event after 36 years because it was so traumatic to her, whereas Kavanaugh may not remember it because he was drunk and unhurt. “Experts suggest, there are scenarios in which someone could have committed an assault and yet also have almost no memory of it.” Kavanaugh may be telling the truth, but his version of the truth may lack certain memories.

Despite writing about such a controversial topic, I was struck by how the authors, Carey and Hoffman, maintained an unbiased tone throughout their article. They focused on the facts that were provided without ever once letting their opinions or emotions get in the way. They used credible research and statistics from scientists and experts to provide readers with as much information as possible. By providing the facts, readers had the opportunity to formulate their own opinions on the situation.

Guinness Oyster Festival

The warm September air was filled with nothing but laughter, singing and cheers. The usual traffic was replaced with happy families, enjoying delicious food and unique shopping. As summer officially came to a close, the streets of Red Bank came to life.  

The ninth annual Guinness Oyster Festival took place on Sept. 30, 2018 from 12-7 p.m. in the White Street Municipal Parking Lot. Modeled after the Galway Oyster Festival to celebrate the beginning of oyster season, this popular street festival in Red Bank was once again a huge success.

The event served as a “culinary feast,” showcasing Red Bank’s restaurant dishes, as well as food from vendors. From lobster rolls to oysters to fried oreos to chocolate bacon, there was an option for everyone. Food vendors were so popular that their lines took up almost the entire width of the street.

One food vendor sold various flavors of gourmet pastry dips. This family business explained how fortunate they were to discover the event through the Internet because it rewarded them with enormous publicity.

“[It was] a very great experience. We’ve had a lot of business and the people were really nice,” said 19-year-old Alyssa Cassisi from East Brunswick, one of the workers running the stand. “We would love to come back next year.”

The festival was also kid-friendly. The roads were closed and guarded with police officers to ensure a safe environment. Freshly painted faces and twisted balloons made frequent appearances as kids excitedly scampered through the streets. They were drawn to carnival rides, a bounce house and for the first time, a petting zoo.

Two stages provided space for live music, seating and dancing. The music consisted of a mix of Irish, blues, funk, pop, rock and roll and more. Vendors also played a major role as people purchased unique items, such as jewelry, clothes, hats and other nick-nacks.

Some stands were designated for good causes. Many charity stands that worked to raise money and raise awareness.

Orphan Outreach solicited donations in order to fund international travel and medical mission trips.

However, not everyone received the desired results. “The people are quite stingy, for whatever reason,” said Dianne Berg, 52, of Toms River, a volunteer for Orphan Outreach.

This festival was so popular that people even crossed state lines to be there. Barry Allen, a 59-year-old from Philadelphia, travelled two hours to attend with his wife. This was his first time and he was incredibly pleased with the experience. “This was a great event,” he said, “with great food and great music.”