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Bennies and Johnnies fuel passions, build communities online

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January 29, 2016

By Taylor DeMets '16

Elizabeth Rojas '17
Image: Glimpse of My Life and College Years

Connor Beck '15 and Chris Heitzig '15
Image: "CSB/SJU Reflections"

Kayla Schmelz '16

Image: "The College Dish"

"My Uke & I-Making Friends Through Music"

"Pina Colada Overnight Oats"

"How to Navigate College for First-Gen"

The interests and passions of bloggers and social media conveners in the CSB/SJU community are diverse. From budget-friendly nutrition to personal reflections on the challenges of life as a first-generation college student to in-depth looks at the ways an education at CSB and SJU is applied in the real world, a group of Bennies and Johnnies are taking a community-first approach to the digital realm. 

First Generation Ambassador

Elizabeth Rojas '17 started blogging when she came to the College of Saint Benedict to share photos  and stories from her life in Minnesota with friends and family back home in Los Angeles.

Along the way Rojas, a communication and Hispanic studies major, discovered there's not a lot of information online for first-generation college students like herself about what to expect when beginning school. "I want to help other students, too," she said. 

She has made it her mission to do just that.

On her blog "Glimpse of My Life and College Years" Rojas shares lessons she's learned while adjusting to life on campus. From observations about dealing with culture shock — her advice is to stay true to who you are and be proud of where you came from — to tips about preparing your whole family for your new life in college —set a routine to stay in touch with folks back home — Rojas reflects on the challenges she's faced adjusting to life at CSB and SJU.

Reflections from the other side

While Rojas hopes her blog will reach current and prospective students, Connor Beck and Chris Heitzig, members of SJU's class of 2015, use their blog "CSB/SJU Reflections" to reflect on their four years at Saint John's University.

"Our teachers, mentors, and classmates at CSB and SJU instilled in Chris and I the importance of discussion in promoting and maintaining communal ties," Beck said. "Our blog broadens the CSB and SJU community by sharing that community with everyone who happens to read our blog."

These classmates wanted to share the lessons they learned in school in hopes of helping others understand and apprecaite Saint Ben's and Saint John's. In one post Beck writes about the way a gender course changed his world. In another, Heitzig shares with readers that a desire to cultivate a spiritual life was a key reason for choosing to attend SJU. 

The pair says the constant reminder of the life-changing experience they had at CSB and SJU is an added benefit to the project. "Chris and I both received a wonderful and transformative education from Saint John's through both our experiences inside and outside of the classroom," Beck said. 

A visual story

Blogs have allowed some Bennies and Johnnies to share their stories at length. But, as the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. That is just what Kayla Schmelz '16 is doing with her project, "The College Dish."

"I love taking pictures. I also took photo journalism in London and that taught me how to work a camera," Schmelz said. These newly acquired photography skills have allowed her to better capture her passion for cooking and share it on social media. 

The biology major from Shakopee, Minnesota, uses multiple forms of social media, including Facebook and Instagram, to share her passion for cooking healthy and inexpensive food. She said she likes to alter existing recipes to make them more affordable and simple for college students to create. 

Schmelz considers herself a nerd when it comes to cooking. From a young age she would ask for gifts to feed her culinary love. "I wanted aprons and cookbooks for my birthday," Schmelz said.

Whether snapping shots of breakfast, reflecting on the convening properties of ukulele music or extolling the virtues of weekly family phone dates, Bennies and Johnnies like Rojas, Beck, Heitzig and Schmelz are using social media and blogging tools to strengthen and expand the CSB/SJU community.