The Price We Pay For Being Gay

Artwork by Samantha Ellis

By Samantha Ellis

Growing up, you are taught to love many different individuals. You love your parents, your family, supposedly your siblings (but you are not always sure). You love your friends, your mentors, your pets. If you are a girl, you are supposed to find a nice young boy to bring home to the family. If you are a boy, you are supposed to find a kind girl to start a family with. Traditionally, this is taught to us as love. But what happens when your love deviates from the traditional? What do you do when you find yourself in love with your best friend? She was loud and brash with a brain that far excelled my own. Her hands were always cold but warmer than any other I held, and her eyes, they were beautiful. They told far more stories than I had ever remembered spilling from a boy’s mouth. In this situation, what do you do?

I buried these feelings, far down where I did not have to see or feel them. “This isn’t normal.” I said. “This isn’t how the world teaches you to love your friends.” I would argue. But somewhere along the line I forced myself to accept it. But what was it exactly that I was accepting?

That I was gay.

I have known that I liked girls since I was 13, came out to friends years later, and when I turned 18 I gained the confidence to be able to call myself gay. I told my parents soon after, and luckily, they love and support me regardless. But they stay worried. “Are you sure?” They ask. “It is a dangerous world out there.” They remind me. Being gay comes with a risk, a stigma, a long line of other queer individuals that have died fighting for the rights I have and are still denied. This love has come with a price.

I, as well as many others pay for it daily when it comes to holding our partners’ hands, ignoring slurs and those who believe our rights have not been deserved, mourning those who we have lost to years of homophobia and racism. None of it is deserved, and it takes its toll on all who experience it. My love is not traditional, but is more authentic than any other I have experienced in my life.

This love has created me, fueled my passions, and wakes me every day and reminds me of who I am. This love has given me friends, crushes, and worlds I would have never explored otherwise. But the taboo around it has taken as well. It has taken connections, opportunities, loved ones, and potential friends. When a close friend’s parents would not accept who she was, they had to learn to accept her death. The price of this love is steep. I miss her every day.

But when given the option, I would pick my love every time. My love will change our world, and it is changing our world, one day at a time. One day, these prices will not have to be paid.

I am gay, and I am full of love.

Everything You Need to Know About Your Core 1 Representatives

By Jade Jacobs

Last week, Carder Dilger, Brett Farran and Sierra Hobbs were elected the three Honors Core 1 Representatives for Fall 2016.

This semester, they will serve as the liaisons connecting the Honors leaders and advisers to the freshman student body. Their duties include attending Council and presenting information from the committees to the Core 1 students along with aiding PR Chair Leonie Dupuis with promoting events and updates within the Honors program.

The three representatives are eager to share a little about themselves and encourage their classmates to become familiar with who they are, as they are excited to fill this leadership role.

Carder Dilger

Carder D.

Carder is a computer and electrical engineering major from Burbank, California, though he has lived in the Pensacola area for the last few years. He has a wide range of interests, with music being near the top of the list. Carder considers music a large part of his life and enjoys listening to, playing, and learning more about various genres. He plays both the bass and guitar, but most enjoys immersing himself in different types of music to learn more about them. Another of Carder’s hobbies is to learn as many new things as possible to improve his life skills and himself as a person. He fully embraces the mantra that you truly do learn something new every day.

In Honors, Carder is looking forward to getting involved in leadership roles because he wants to improve his public speaking. He sees his new position in Core 1 as good practice for building that skill. He believes it will help him secure more leadership positions in the future.

One goal Carder has as Core 1 Representative is to help create a feeling of unity among the Honors freshmen. He feels that the class is all going through the same experience together and would like to promote the dynamic that everyone is here for each other.

Outside of Honors, Carder plans to be involved in Cybersecurity organizations and Active Minds, along with potentially starting a new club focusing on playing and/or appreciating music.

On his bucket list is traveling to outer space.

Brett Farran

Brett F.

Brett is an environmental science major from Tallahassee, Florida. Brett was a rower in high school, and he continues to stay involved in activities that keep him moving.

His hobbies include running and binge watching Amazon Prime movies and series because exercising is much more manageable when you know you can relax and watch four seasons of your favorite show back-to-back.

In Honors, Brett hopes to attend an Honors conference to network and meet Honors students from other schools. He says experiencing a conference firsthand will help him be confident and prepared when it’s his turn to present. Following in the footsteps of last year’s Core 1 Representatives, Brett is considering presenting on his experience in the leadership role as a freshman at the Florida Collegiate Honors Conference. His goal as a Core 1 Representative is to motivate his fellow freshmen to be more involved in the Honors Program and in student organizations on campus.

In his spare time, Brett plans on being active in handball, Baptist Collegiate Ministries, SCUBA club and Marine Ecology Research Society.

His bucket list includes going glacial kayaking in Greenland.

Sierra Hobbs

Sierra H.

Sierra is a biology/environmental science major from the Pensacola area. Her passions include acting and theatre, baking delicious culinary delights and binge watching Netflix, especially Broadway musicals. If you need someone to duet Hamilton or Moulin Rouge to, she’s your girl. Who knows, there might even be cookies involved!

As a student in the Honors Program, Sierra is looking forward to presenting at conferences. She has presented at science-based symposiums and conferences in the past, and is excited to get involved with the honors version. Sierra is excited to attend Honors Retreat, a two-day leadership and team building trip that will take place in early October. Her goal as Core 1 Representative is to give everyone the opportunity to have someone to relate to in order to unite the class as a whole.

When she isn’t working with Honors, Sierra will be involved with handball, SCUBA club, Student Environmental Action Society and garden club. She aims to be a very active, involved and well-rounded student and wants to encourage others to do the same.

One thing she wants to cross off her bucket list is climbing Mount Half Dome in Yosemite National Park.

Honors Freshman and “Supreme Ruler” for 5 Minutes

Austin pic.jpgAustin on a mission trip to Haiti the summer of 2016, celebrating the 10th birthday of a new friend, Bigenson. 

By Abbie Kellett

I sat down with Austin Van Norman to discuss his experiences so far as a new addition to the Kugelman Honors Program.

Austin is from Pace, Florida, with enough credits to qualify as a sophomore despite this being his first year in college. He is majoring in global marketing, and strives to one day “make lots of money from rich people.”

When asked why he chose the University of West Florida and the Kugelman Honors Program, he responded, “The location is literally ideal. I love Pensacola and this general area. Being an honors student would give me a better experience here (UWF) than being a normal student and having to pay a lot more for it somewhere else.”

Those of us who were present during Honors orientation would recognize Austin from his role as Tomso’s replacement as “supreme ruler” of the egg challenge. To those unfamiliar, this challenge required groups to create a protective casing for an egg using such simple materials as a paper bag, Play-Dough and tape.  Austin explained his adopted role as well as his initial response to being called out by one of the Honor’s faculty.

I was given the supreme control over deciding whether or not the egg was cracked or worthy of progressing to next round. I’m definitely very extroverted, so I don’t have a problem speaking in front of people. When he first pointed me out, I was like ‘oh crap I’m in trouble, I shouldn’t have said anything’ .”

While he has had little interaction with Tomso outside of the impromptu orientation meeting, Austin had only positive words for DL, his Core I professor for the semester.

“I definitely think that I’m gonna enjoy the class with DL. That’s the kind of teacher I want to have.”

As confident as Austin is, he too had some fears about coming to college for the first time. He revealed an unexpected, but definitely substantiated, concern: not living on campus. He feared his lack of proximity to the campus would hinder his connection to the school and threaten the “college experience” he expected. However, he assured me that his desire to join Greek life has garnered him a great deal of support and lessened his fears substantially.

Of those men he has met, Austin stated, “They have been very accepting. Helping me find my classes and introducing me to their brothers. They don’t even know if I’m gonna rush, but they’re treating me like a person. I’ve really been impressed.”

As honors students, we all take great pride in our leadership abilities, which, for some of us, span through numerous channels. Austin is looking forward to becoming a leader in his local Sunday school class at church, and perhaps eventually, a leader of a church mission trip. With a passion for cars, Austin expressed his desire to become involved with and eventually plan events for a car club.

Interviewing Austin was so enjoyable, each of us going off topic and having a great conversation. I would encourage honors students to introduce themselves to Austin and others in the program. You can find Austin either on campus or working at his favorite place, Chik-Fil-A.




From the screen to reality: Disaster Management

For the online course Medical Disaster Management, I wanted to complete a creative project for my spring 2016 Honors by Contract in order to apply everything I learned on a computer in the real world. For my project, I registered as a volunteer with the American Red Cross in order to practice the skills and information taught through the course. Through this project I wanted to apply the course modules in real-life situations in order to further my understanding of the concepts and put my weekly essay responses into action. In order to apply each of the concepts, I planned on deploying regionally to provide assistance after a large-scale disaster, but after the tornadoes hit locally in February, I had the opportunity to respond in my own community.

Meg helping to stock the shelter in Century in preparation for a day of disaster relief.

After the series of tornadoes struck Escambia County, I spent two weeks volunteering with the American Red Cross in Century and the Pensacola area. After a natural disaster hits, the Red Cross is involved in the immediate response by surveying the areas affected and opening cases to assist those affected by the disaster. I serve on the Disaster Action Team (DAT) for the Red Cross, these responders usually respond to fires in Escambia County, as this is our main disaster, but are called to action after any type of disaster. After the tornado, DAT members were contacted to help during the tornado relief. My first disaster response in Century moved me and confirmed that I want to be disaster relief nurse. I worked cases with the Red Cross in order to provide support to families affected and leant my shoulder to those who needed to cry. Working in Century provided me with my first hands-on experience in this field and began to prepare me for the emotional ride that comes with nursing.

After the tornado in Pensacola, I continued to work cases and support those affected. I had the opportunity to volunteer in the shelter by setting up cots, checking in people, assisting in the clothing drive at the nearby church, and entertaining the young children staying in the shelter. Those weeks of volunteering were physically and emotionally draining, but also brought me great happiness. With ambitions of becoming a disaster relief nurse, this volunteer experience prepared me with necessary coping and people skills that will be necessary to be a successful nurse. I volunteered over 50 hours in a span of 5 days and this intense schedule challenged me in many areas of my life. By the end of my volunteering, I mastered the skill of not crying in front of clients, could fill out forms without a single mistake, and knew what words to say to each person in one of the most difficult times in their lives.

The American Red Cross Northwest Florida Chapter is always looking for more volunteers. While responding to these disasters, we have been searching for volunteers to assist us in casework and other necessary actions. Joining the Red Cross as a volunteer is extremely easy and there are many opportunities available for those who volunteer. To apply to become a volunteer, visit and submit an application to the Northwest Chapter. You will be able to choose from volunteer options that require daily, weekly, or monthly dedication. Becoming a volunteer

Destruction caused by the EF-3 tornado, which hit Century, FL in early February.

allows you to be trained in order to respond to local and national level disasters at any time. During the immediate stage, the first weeks after a disaster, only first responders and Red Cross volunteers are capable of assisting those in need. The long-term relief takes place later and involves cleanup and other aspects of disaster relief. In order to provide immediate relief after a disaster, becoming a Red Cross volunteer allows you to get out into the community and start helping people who need it most. Not only will you be changing the lives of those affected, but your life will be completely transformed through compassion.


Written by: Meg Hossler, second-year student, pre-nursing major & Social Committee Chair

How One Student is Making This Campus “Her Campus”

Her Campus, a globig logobal collegiate group with over 300+ chapters worldwide, is coming to UWF. Freshman Abigail Megginson is starting a Her Campus chapter here and is working on building support. Abigail is a dual journalism and political science major and previously served as an Honors Core 1 representative. To get more information on what Her Campus is and Abigail’s goal for it, I asked her the following questions:


  1. What is Her Campus and why are you are passionate about it?

“Her Campus (HC) is an online magazine for and by college women. It has been named by Forbes, in 2013, to be one of the top 10 websites for Millennial women. The UWF chapter of Her Campus will provide opportunities for students to be published and gain experience in social media, publicity, marketing, and event coordinating. My passion really stems from how much I was on the Her Campus website. I was reading it everyday and saw all this content from women across the nation giving advice, offering up their experiences, and even [providing] comic relief. I loved the idea of building up women and giving them this outlet to succeed, so I naturally became very invested.”


  1. When did you find out you could start a chapter here?

“I was browsing through the national website one night last semester (probably procrastinating) and I noticed that universities had their own chapters that gave students an opportunity to publish localized content that was relatable to the students on that campus specifically. I checked to see if UWF had a chapter so I could write for it, but it didn’t exist. I think my first thought was that I could start the chapter. After a lot of research and even getting connected to a campus correspondent at the University of Alabama, I finally submitted the application and began the process in January. I’m thrilled my goal is now turning into something that can help other students.”


  1. How has your experience in Honors prepared you to not only be a president of a club, but founder of a chapter?

“Being an Honors Core 1 representative during the fall helped with my presentation skills that I have already used in the process of promoting HC around campus. I also benefited from seeing how leadership and committees function, so as I begin to structure the staff, I have an understanding of how that process works. Honors is also a competitive environment, but I don’t mean that in a negative way at all. That simply means I’m surrounded by my peers who are all accomplishing big things and it actually inspired me to do more than I initially thought I could.”


  1. What impact are you hoping Her Campus makes at UWF?

    UWF Her Campus members leave their mark in the Commons banner room as they prepare for launch.

“I see it being a very big presence on campus. It’s very in line with our generation and relatable to everyone. I hope women across UWF will choose to take part in HC through events, writing, and even just reading our content. It’s going to help unite the women on campus, empower them, give them opportunity to express themselves, network, and get experience.”


  1. What are your next steps for Her Campus?

“I am currently in the process of becoming a student organization and my goal is to do that before this semester ends and be at ArgoPalooza in the Fall for incoming freshmen. Our big day to watch out for is March 22, because it’s our launch date when our site goes up. We are planning a promotional event on the Cannon Green.”


  1. How do you see your involvement with Her Campus impacting your future as a Journalism and Political Science major?

“My title is campus correspondent. I have the responsibility of being the editor-in-chief of the paper and the president. It’ll be my responsibility to edit all content, publish it, as well as manage the teams of the chapter. I think it will enhance my academic career and give me applicable experience working with students on the publication. Besides giving me an opportunity to connect with UWF students, Her Campus is a national company, and I’ll get to network with other students nationwide. I’m very very excited about that. Her Campus correspondents have gotten jobs at CNN, Glamour, Buzzfeed, and so many more reputable companies. I’m not saying that’s where I’ll end up specifically, though I wouldn’t mind a job at Buzzfeed, but I do aspire to that level for my career.”

“As far as political science, Her Campus is all about empowering women and I am extremely passionate about that as well. I think there should be more women in politics and in leadership in general. HC really promotes that and spreads awareness about issues and finds solutions to problems, which is the purpose of politics.”


After talking to Abigail, Her Campus seems like an amazing opportunity for women and writers to take a stand on issues and be part of a large network of peers.

Below is a link to the Her Campus official site if you want to see for yourself what this is all about:


Interview conducted by: Matthew Watkins, second-year student, social work major & Public Relations Chair

Honors Rally in Tally

During the first week of February, members of the UWF Student Government Association (SGA) attended Rally in Tally. First-year Honors students Wadey Abdelqader and Alex Brock were among this group of students who were advocating for the rights of college students across the state of Florida. According to Abdelqader, Rally in Tally is an event where members of SGAs from Florida universities and state colleges work together to lobby state Senators and Representatives on bills that are soon to be, or already are, on the floor that directly affect the students they represent.

UWF SGA represented and lobbied for the disbursement of Bright Futures for the summer term, decreasing the cost of excess credit hours surcharge, raising staff ratios for Mental Health Counseling Services, and increasing the size of law enforcement on the Florida State University campus. Selected because of his initiative to represent his school to the best of his ability on these topics, Abdelqader attended Rally in Tally with hopes of making a change across the state, within UWF, and in the Kugelman Honors Program.

Rally in tally 3
SGA and Honors members Wadey Abdelqader and Alex Brock lead their fellow members through the streets of Tallahassee.

“While we were there we [were able to speak] to our assigned representative and senator,” Abdelqader said. “We [also] stood behind the President of FAMU when she gave her speech to show our support, and after all our business was done, we toured Florida State’s School of Law.”

These Honors students learned valuable lessons during this rally that they brought back to both the university and the Honors program. They obtained the skills necessary to be able to contact government workers in the future in order for UWF’s voice to be heard and for this campus to make a real change on a state level. In relation to Honors, these students learned the importance of networking with other students and getting their ideas out to the public. As Honors works to have more of an impact campus-wide, these students will be equipped with the necessary skills to help successfully accomplish those ambitions.

“Though at this time I can’t say what position I will be running for next year, I definitely know that I will be highly involved within Student Government,” Abdelqader said. “I want to help be that voice that makes a difference.”

Rally in tally 4
Wadey Abdelqader poses for a picture at the doors of the state senate office with hopes of becoming a senator for UWF SGA.

Other Honors students also hold positions within SGA and are constantly working to better our campus and statewide education and policies. These representatives represent over 12,000 students and their voices are being heard in order to make an impact.
With Honors students represented in UWF SGA, they are helping our university to “think smarter, not harder.”

Update: As of March 3, 2016, Wadey Abdelqader is running for seat in the UWF SGA Senate as a Senator of the College of Science and Engineering along with other Honors students Alex Brock and Leonie Dupuis.


Written by: Meg Hossler, second-year student, nursing major & Honors Social Chair

Honors Takes on the Nursing Program

Melissa Coombs is a second-year Honors student and is part of the UWF Nursing Program. She is taking part in a newly established spring cohort of Nursing students. Sixty students were invited to join this new spring semester of nursing school and will graduate a semester earlier in this accelerated program. I asked her a few questions about the program and how she is balancing it with Honors academia.

Melissa Coombs shows her excitement of being a nursing student; even though it requires many long nights and tests, she feels it is all worth it.

Were you excited when you learned the news that you were invited to be a part of the new, early acceptance Nursing Program?

Of course I was. That was the program I wanted to do. Basically the entirety of my freshman year I was freaking out like, “I’ve got to apply! They only accept 60 people a year!”


And you were a part of that 60?

When I first came to the University, they only accepted 50 people in the fall. The year I was gonna apply, they increased to 60 people a year, but then they opened an entirely new cohort [in the spring], which makes it 120.


What is your favorite thing about the Nursing Program so far?

Every step of the way reminds [you] what you’re in this for. You’re not in this to be the richest person in America, you’re not in this to get all A’s, you’re not in this to graduate with the perfect record, you are in this to save human lives. You are in this because it is an honor to be a nurse, and you are in this because you have that drive to help humanity.


What made you want to become a nurse?

A lot of people in my family are in the medical field. My mom is a doctor, my dad was a doctor, my cousin is a surgeon, and my uncle is in the health care administration for Jamaica. I grew up in this medical culture almost. Then as I grew up, [I found that] I’m a very sensitive person to suffering. I’m very empathetic toward people, I don’t like seeing people hurt. So nursing is a very natural direction for me because, as a nurse, you are there to help people through those [difficult] times. That’s really what drew me to [nursing].


How are you balancing Honors academia with the Nursing Program?

Part of a nurse’s job is community health, and that is what my thesis is going to very much tie into. [My research] on male subjects of abuse is a growing health issue. My project will be framing that for the attention of the public. As for the rest of the Honors’ requirements, Honors is allowing me to travel in my spare time. I plan on going to Greece, a very different place, where I can expose myself to [a] new culture and gain a new view of diversity. I’m not saying it is easy [balancing Honors and the Nursing Program]. It is doable if you have the drive to do it, but you do have to commit to it.


How do you think being invited into this new program will benefit you as an Honors mentor?

As a mentor, it lets me see where some of my students are going, as a majority of my mentees are medically-oriented. So the fact that I was invited early to this program lets me guide them in the direction that they will soon be taking.


What advice do you have for those applying to UWF’s Nursing Program?

Expose yourself to the healthcare system early. Go out and volunteer in a hospital or a medical system of some fashion, so you can get a feel for the day-to-day life. I would also recommend focusing on organizational and time management fields, but that goes for any other major as well, I guess.

Closing Remarks:

“Nursing programs everywhere are notorious for being one of the most challenging things you could ever do. I will admit, I’m feeling it, I’m feeling that strain. But at the end of the day you remember that a nurse holds a human life in their hands, and I want to be the best nurse I could be. I could hold someone’s life that I care about in my hand one day. There is someone out there right now, and they might not know it yet, but they will need my help. It is my responsibility now to be the best nursing student I can be.”


Interview conducted by: Adam Morris, first-year student, public relations major