Sunday, December 9, 2012

Power In Numbers

Power In Numbers

There is power in numbers.  Through twitter, Facebook, blogs and word of mouth, myself as well as the entire Comm 30 class made our social networks count.  Our job was to create, inform, and smother these social networks with all things “Comm 30 Sandy” to raise $5,000 for victims. We did not stop there.

As the final hours of our project come to a close, I am proud to say we have surpassed $6,000 to donate to the American Red Cross.  In analyzing the project’s various realms, one aspect stood alone.  Our initial goal was $5,000, and how we were able to hit that mark is a true testament the power social networks hold today.

A $65 dollar grant to hit our goal of $5,0000 was donated by a patron with no affiliation to Lehigh – he was an old college friend of our professor, Jeremy Littau.  The fact that through Professor Littau’s Facebook and twitter pages this stranger to Lehigh was able to learn about our project is remarkable.  Professor Littau lured him to the cause, but we as a class helped him to decide to donate with our additional blogs and videos.

It is this overlapping of social networks that drove this campaign.  A simple retweet can double, or even triple your viewership of a particular tweet.  By working together as a cohesive unit, our class made our mark on the Internet one tweet and post at a time.  With over $6,000 dollars raised in less than 30 days, this project attests to the effect of social networking, and even more importantly, the power in numbers. 

#COMM30Sandy is an online class project for the Media & Society class at Lehigh University, taught by professor Jeremy Littau. You can donate to our campaign at this link, and for more infomation you can email Prof. Littau at jeremy.littau(at)

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Sandy Reflections from a New Yorker

Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast extremely hard, probably harder than people expected. When the storm hit, I was at Lehigh, and I had no idea how serious the damage would be to my home city of New York. Hours after I woke up the morning after the storm hit, pictures of the flood damage and such invaded my Facebook newsfeed and Twitter timeline. Photos of flooded subway stations and tunnels had me worried, and I wondered how my neighborhood in Manhattan was faring. As a New Yorker, I have always thought of New York as a place that was indestructible. Even as a child, watching movies like Godzilla gave me the idea that New York could never be brought to shambles.  I've always had this idea that no matter what happened, New York would always pick itself up because of its inhabitants. The tragedy that was 9/11 proved it, and Sandy was no different. In both situations, I was lucky enough to not lose any loved ones.
The weekend after Sandy hit, I was able to go out to Rockaway Beach, Queens to help out some extended family. My aunt's neighborhood got hit really bad, and the place looks like a wasteland. Garbage in the street, downed trees everywhere, burned homes, and sand mountains 15 feet high. Post-Sandy Rockaway was a warzone, and I've just never seen so many people who looked so down and out. A woman who's husband was in the hospital with a hip problem seemed to be telling her story to everyone that walked by. She was trying to clear out her front yard and basement, but she kept telling her story to others. Between neighbors, American Red Cross agents, and strangers, everyone heard her story and to be honest it was depressing to watch.
Many houses remain intact, (with serious water damage in the basement, mind you) but some were not so lucky. My aunts basement had a clear water flood level on the wall, almost reaching the ceiling. Everything had to be thrown away because of water damage. As a result, my aunt took pictures of everything to get her money back from FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Pray for the people of Rockaway and Breezy Point, I have no doubt in my mind that they will pick up the peaces and come back stronger, as New Yorkers always do.
To be able to be part of something like the Comm30 Sandy fundraiser, to be able to make a difference, was very important to me. Coming from an area that was hit very badly by the storm, it was something that was very personal to me. Although we've already reached our $5,000 goal, we can still help the lives of Sandy victims. Let's keep this going.

#COMM30Sandy is an online class project for the Media & Society class at Lehigh University, taught by professor Jeremy Littau. You can donate to our campaign at this link, and for more infomation you can email Prof. Littau at jeremy.littau(at)

Friday, December 7, 2012

Not Just a Final Exam

Comm30 is not just a campaign, and it is not just a final project.

When Professor Littau first proposed the idea of having a giant class project instead of a final, I was excited. The thought of studying for hours to take another difficult exam, along with the rest of my finals, was horrifying. Therefore, this group project was refreshing, and seemed like less pressure.

Although the pressure to do well on an exam was gone, now came a new kind of pressure- one that I had never experienced before. Now I was part of a team, and we had a goal.

Raising $5000 in 30 days is no easy task, and therefore I knew slacking off was not an option. Working with my classmates is  great, because knowing the people that were interested in the project helps motivate myself to do well, rather than working anonymously.

This wasn't just a project for my ambitious classmates and professor, this project is personal for me. Many of my friends from home were affected by Sandy, so completing this project successfully won’t just mean a good grade for my transcript- it will mean that I made a real difference.

The numerous different parts of the project can seem overwhelming at stressful times, yet inspiring at others. My Comm 30 class is using the topics we've learned about all year in the real world to make a difference.

I am lucky enough to be a part of this project, and you can be too.

#COMM30Sandy is an online class project for the Media & Society class at Lehigh University, taught by professor Jeremy Littau. You can donate to our campaign at this link, and for more information you can email Prof. Littau at jeremy.littau(at)

Thursday, December 6, 2012

There's still time to donate

Hurricane Sandy left my home in the Philadelphia suburbs without power for a couple of days, but damage wasn't extensive, power returned and within a few days my house was back to normal.

This is not how it is for other people along the east-coast.

As I stated in an earlier blog post, many towns are without power, and many individuals are without their homes. They need your help. 

If you scroll through this blog, you'll see a lot of different stories from different college students explaining how Hurricane Sandy directly affected them or somebody close to them.  I'm sure you yourself may know somebody who was greatly affected by the devastating storm.

This campaign is for more than just the people we know. It's about more than just donating to a good cause to say you did. It's more than just a social experiment testing the power of social media.

It's about helping out those in their greatest time of need. 

This campaign started as a challenge from a daring professor, but transformed into an outlet for individuals to help those they don't even know.

While we may have passed our goal, and we are thankful for all of the donations from those individuals, there is still time to donate.

There are still people who need your help.

#COMM30Sandy is an online class project for the Media & Society class at Lehigh University, taught by professor Jeremy Littau. You can donate to our campaign at this link, and for more infomation you can email Prof. Littau at jeremy.littau(at)

I was Lucky: Reflections on Hurricane Sandy

I was lucky.  When Lehigh cancelled classes for Hurricane Sandy, I was headed home within twenty minutes. My hometown, Elizabethtown, PA, did not get hit nearly has hard by Hurricane Sandy as we were expecting. In all honesty, it was basically a bad thunderstorm without the thunder.

Listening to the news reports Monday night about the water getting higher and higher and the wind getting stronger and stronger, I tried to put myself in the shoes of those who were on the verge of losing everything.
When I got on Facebook the next day, I was astonished at the amount of the damage to Lehigh’s campus. Even more amazingly, no one was hurt.   But the pictures of the damage to the Jersey shore and New York City were heart-wrenching. I couldn't help but think, “What if that had been my town?” “What if I had lost everything?”

Unfortunately, those thoughts passed. I was home for a full week, enjoying the relaxation of being cuddled up with my dog and pretending like I was doing homework.  Hurricane Sandy, because it did not directly affect me, was no longer in the forefront of my mind. It’s a terrible cliché, I know, but it is the truth.
Then I got back to campus, and I started talking to my friends who had been impacted by the hurricane. Many of my friends didn't have the option to go home when Lehigh lost power, because their parents were closer to the worst of the damage than Lehigh was. My friend Devin’s parents were told they might not get power back until after thanksgiving. Listening to these stories forced me to think about how incredibly blessed I was to have had a home with electricity to spend “hurrication” in.

That is why I think #Comm30Sandy is important. I lucked out, I was safe. But millions of other people lost everything. I was not directly affected by Hurricane Sandy, but that does not change that this is an excellent opportunity to help those who were affected in a real and tangible way.

Please consider donating to our cause at

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Hurricane Sandy in the North East

Coming from the northeast, I am not used to the kinds of natural disasters that are often experienced in other parts of the country. The small town of Hastings-on-Hudson, NY is located right outside of New York City in Westchester County. While I was sequestered in Pennsylvania during the storm, my family was faring worse at home. When it was announced that Lehigh was canceling classes for the week, I decided to venture home to be with my family for the remainder of the time. What I found when I went home was not the town I was used to.

For starters, half of my town was without power and heat. The thought of my 89 year old grandfather sitting in his arm chair in the darkness with nothing but candlelight still runs through my head. There were downed trees and power lines, closed roads, and flooded parks. Some of the town's most cherished gathering places and attractions were washed away when the Hudson River flooded, like Kinnally Cove and the Hastings Tennis Club. 

Kinnally Cove in Hastings-on-Hudson, destroyed by Sandy.

Down every street, there was evidence of destruction. And over the course of the week, it was apparent that small New York towns like mine were not a priority to those divvying up aid and resources. 

A giant tree fell on this car during the storm.

While there was no power at my mother's house, my father's house (also located in Hastings) was one of the few that still had power. I spent my time here, watching TV, using the computer, and other things that were now considered luxuries.

Then the gas shortages began. In the wake of Sandy's destruction and devastation, gas tankers were unable to deliver their gas supplies to many gas stations in the north east, causing a major shortage. My mother, who works in New York City and New Jersey had to leave for work at 4 am in order to cross over the bridge into New York City before they began checking people's cars. There was a temporary rule set in place requiring 3 or more people to be present on the drive into New York City; starting early in the morning and ending at 12 midnight. 

The gas shortage only got worse and by the time I wanted to return to school I was worried that I would not be able to find enough gas to get there. Every gas station in my area had long lines of cars waiting, many of them putting a limit on how much gas could be bought. I was beginning to worry even more when my stepfather called me at 6 am. The gas station in my town had just regained power and was now open. He told me there was a short line - only about 5 cars. I bolted out of bed, got on line, and eventually, got my full tank of gas that would take me back to Lehigh.

Over a month later, Sandy's destruction is still ever present in many areas in the northeast. Although our goal has been reached, there is still time to donate and make a difference!

#COMM30Sandy is an online class project for the Media & Society class at Lehigh University, taught by professor Jeremy Littau. You can donate to our campaign at this link, and for more infomation you can email Prof. Littau at jeremy.littau(at)

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Real Goal

            As I drove back from my home in central New Jersey to Lehigh after Thanksgiving break, I spotted some Red Cross relief trucks from Florida. I had no doubt why they were there, they were helping to provide relief that was still extremely necessary a month after Hurricane Sandy.
Even though everything seemed to be back to normal in my life at Lehigh, being back home reminded me how much still needed to be done. Our Thanksgiving conversation was dominated by the very sad stories everyone had to pass around about their friends who had suffered unimaginable losses. My younger sister has many friends who are still displaced into family member’s homes, my grandpa is still dealing with damage from a large tree that fell on his house and my own family just considered themselves lucky to have had no physical damage from the storm, and happy that they just dealt with a power outage, even if it was for two weeks.
While the damage is so far reaching, it is also so close to home. When I came home after the power outage at Lehigh, I was appalled by what I saw in my hometown and the surrounding areas: there were downed trees everywhere, no power anywhere and even government tanks being rolled in to help. It was without doubt in much better condition a month later around Thanksgiving, but those who were hit the hardest still needed more help. And they still do.
I do not know one person at Lehigh who was unaffected by the storm. Or anyone at all for that matter. That, to me, is what makes helping so important. We all felt some effects, which makes the drive to help even more powerful.
As the holidays approach, I can’t help but think of the people whose lives have been changed forever. Our class may have reached our goal, but the real goal is to help as many people as we can. Please donate to our campaign.

#COMM30Sandy is an online class project for the Media & Society class at Lehigh University, taught by professor Jeremy Littau. You can donate to our campaign at this link, and for more infomation you can email Prof. Littau at jeremy.littau(at)