My Work

Michigan State Horticulture Gardens prepare for the summer months

EAST LANSING – The Michigan State Horticulture Gardens are in full bloom.

Located off Bogue Street, the garden expands across 14-acres.    The gardens are separated into smaller plots including the Michigan 4-H Children’s Gardens, landscape arboretum, and perennial and annual gardens.

Jessica Wright is the education coordinator for the Michigan 4-H Children’s Gardens. Wright studied horticulture at Michigan State University. She has been working in the gardens since 2004.  She says the upcoming months are full of exciting events.

“We have a digger day on June 29. This is the first year we have this event. The university is going to bring out their big equipment and kids can touch the truck. We’ll have a big dirt pile they can dig in,” said Wright. “We have a water day. We’ll do a Slip ‘N Slide and water balloons.”

Her favorite part of the job is that it’s seasonal. Right now she is working with the butterflies but in two weeks she’ll be helping with the outdoor programming.

“It changes and I love that. I love that it’s different. In the summer I get to do things like bubble day and have tea parties,” said Wright. “It’s not the same thing every day.”

Wright says another exciting part of her job is seeing the way the garden has grown over the years.

The garden will celebrate its 25th anniversary next year. Festive events to honor the garden are already being prepared.

“Everything is going to be bigger and better than what it usually would be for our 25th anniversary,” said Wright.

Pat Merry, a volunteer at the gardens, has been helping out nine of those 25 years. She says the best part is working with the kids.

“I really like seeing lightbulbs go on when you talk to them. They really enjoy being in the outside gardens and the inside gardens.”

Merry says the gardens are a great environment to work in not only for the beautiful landscape but also for the amazing staff.

“Gardeners are all a little crazy but we’re all a lot of fun,” said Merry.

The butterflies will only be around until the end of April but the outdoor gardens are open all summer. With the warm season ahead, it’s the perfect time to explore the MSU Horticulture Gardens.

My Work

Message over money

EAST LANSING – Justin Mensinger always had a vision. Both his love for clothing and passion for purpose influenced him to find out what he could create if he combined the two.

Mensinger had an interest in streetwear, a type of clothing inspired by hip-hop and skateboarding culture. Streetwear often includes graphic T-shirts and sweatshirts.

The idea to start a streetwear clothing company began when Mensinger was in high school. Mensinger started his journey unsure how to silkscreen, the process of transferring ink onto a T-shirt. He didn’t know how to use Photoshop and had never ran a business before. Mensinger did not let these hurdles stop him from making his vision come to life.

It wasn’t until Mensinger’s freshman year at Michigan State University he started taking serious action to get his business running. His lack of experience pushed him to experiment. He found himself at Hobby Lobby after class picking out iron-on letters and bleaching clothing in his dorm room sink.

After much reflection, he created a title that represents the message he wants to spread, Always Dream Never Sleep, often shortened to ADNS. Mensinger wants to separate his company from other streetwear brands by bringing meaning to his clothing.

“They (other clothing brands) just don’t have any true meaning. It’s like a catchy song with a good beat but the words don’t amount to anything,” said Mensinger.

After he came up with the name ADNS, things started to move fast. Mensinger’s grandmother taught him to sew tags into his clothing. He learned to silkscreen, advanced his photography skills, and began networking.

“I’m trying to beat everyone. I’m running at 1,000 miles per hour, that’s why I don’t ever sleep,” said Mensinger.

He uses social media to connect with his customers. He personally ships out all the orders and runs the website.

Carlos Villarreal, one of his two brand promoters out of Chicago said although they have competition, ADNS comes out on top because of the brands consistency and professionalism.

“There are multiple brands around us but I feel like people would rather mess with us, honestly,” said Villarreal, “even though they are friends with the person that makes those clothes, they still know our stuff is top notch. Justin puts hard work into that.”

Mensinger said the company has come a long way in the past year because he is passionate about what he is doing.

“It’s not really like work because every time I put out something or am making something, I’m not necessarily doing it just to say I made it or for the money,” said Menninger. “It’s not about that. I want to provide the end user with something so when someone wears it they know what it stands for.”

Mensinger will be transferring to the University of Illinois at Chicago in the fall. The city originally inspired his interest in streetwear. With the move, he sees the quality and content of the clothing advancing.

“I want to get to the level where I’m a household name, but more so than that, I want it to have meaning. I want it to motivate people, inspire people, show them that their dreams are possible because my dream is clothing,” said Menninger. “I want to get to the point where a lot of people know what it stands for and know the meaning behind it and they see why I created it.”

A mentor to Mensinger, Branden Longuemire, has supported ADNS from the moment he met Mensinger at a concert a year and a half ago. Longuemire is a music performer who likes to support young entrepreneurs in the Lansing area.

“Justin is probably one of the rare people I met in Lansing who has a brand and who actually has a vision of creating something,” said Longuemire. “It’s rare.”

Longuemire said he promotes the brand by wearing ADNS during performances and photoshoots. He says he helps support ADNS because it spreads a message that encourages people to go after their dreams, despite the opinions of others.

“Justin is very bold in his message and it’s a positive message we need to hear in a place where mediocre has become a new norm,” said Longuemire.

Mensinger has come a long way but doesn’t plan to stop anytime soon. He said as long as he’s positively influencing others, it’s enough for him, regardless of the amount of money he’ll earn.

His mindset has brought him much success already and he believes if he keeps up the work, he can make it to the top of the streetwear industry.

You can check out Mensinger’s work at


My Work

Not Your Average Breakup

It all started with this lump in the back of my throat. I didn’t know at the time how toxic you would become. I didn’t know all the pain you would put me through, all the fun events in my life I would miss. The saddest part of all is I genuinely thought that if I kept my distance from other people, you would stay calm. This whole time I was wrong.

The worst part of all is I never knew when you were going to blow up on me. I had to hold on to you because I thought, “No, later, when the time is right I’ll let you go.” There never is good timing with things like this. I will always find an excuse to hold it off, that’s why I have to do it now.

You would wake me up in the middle of the night. I wouldn’t be able to talk or eat or sleep. Sometimes I found myself struggling to breath. My friends constantly had to hear me complain about you. One time my mom had to pick me up from school and take me to the hospital because you upset me so much.

It was the hospital visit that I thought we would get through our differences. I thought you would come to your senses and finally settle down. For a little you did calm down. But then you slowly became angry with me again. The toxic cycle started over.

Do you even know what you put me through? I was on so many drugs because of you. I thought they would help me deal with the pain. And they did. But it was only temporary help.

You would just hang out, waiting for the worst time to attack. I missed the Lumineers concert because of you. I almost missed spring break. I missed most of Saint Patrick’s Day weekend … all because of you.

People are warning me, “A breakup like this, it’s no walk in the park.” I’m willing to take the pain though. It can’t be any worse than what you have already caused me.

Or maybe it can be? I have been with you my whole life. You have been there for everything, literally everything. I don’t know how it will play out but I know it has to be done to save me from more suffering in the future.

There’s no easy remedy to heal the wounds from any breakup but I guess I’ll start with a tub of ice cream.

Goodbye Tonsils


My Work

The Jewish community looks for answers in time of despair

EAST LANSING – Holding back tears, Cindy Hughey explains the heartbreak she feels towards the wave of anti-Semitism happening in America.

Hughey is the executive director of the Lester and Jewell Morris Hillel Jewish Community Center in East Lansing. Hughey says she’s never seen anything like what has been happening the past few months. Jewish cemeteries have been vandalized and Jewish centers across the country have received bomb threats.

“It’s really kind of frightening. I am 60 years old. I have never seen anything like this before. Ever,” said Hughey.

Two years ago, Hughey took a group of students to Poland where they did community service in Jewish cemeteries. The cemeteries were completely neglected with stones knocked down and desecrated.

“They are left in this horrible state of disrepair and having that happen here was just shocking,” said Hughey.

What’s even more surprising to Hughey is how long this has gone without attention.

“This wave of anti-Semitism has only recently gotten attention nationally but this has been going on. Hundreds of calls of bomb threats have been going on for well over a year and nobody has publicized it,” said Hughey. “It’s just that nobody pays attention to it which is really that much more shocking.”

Michigan State freshman, Elizabeth Marks agrees with Hughey.

“Threats like this have been a thing for a while and now that there is such a large amount of hate crimes, they are finally putting it in the news but it happens all the time,” said Marks.

Marks is a member of the Jewish Hillel Community Center and the Jewish sorority, Sigma Delta Tau. She explains how the recent events have made it difficult for her to wear her SDT clothing comfortably, knowing that others may be making preconceived judgements before meeting her.

Hughey explains how Hillel has been working with the university to bring awareness to the campus so students do not feel discriminated against.

“We have done surveys and forums where we brought students together with university people. We really try to get a pulse of where students are in terms of anti- Semitism,” says Hughey.

Paulette Granberry Russel, the senior advisor to the president for diversity at Michigan State University, explains the goal for the Inclusion and Intercultural Initiatives office.

“We want to inform students about the values of this institution and provide them opportunities to engage with those that are different. The goal is to reduce the likelihood of prejudice incidents happening,” said Russel.

Marks finds comfort knowing she has her sorority and Hillel to go to during this time. However, the only way she’ll completely be at ease is knowing national leaders are doing something to put an end to these targets.

Marks believes that many people behind these crimes are Trump supporters but she doesn’t think President Trump himself is anti- Semitic. Marks says President Trump is not doing enough to protect the Jewish community because he does not want to lose his supporters.

“They (your supporters) are not going to impeach you for standing up for a minority group,” said Marks. “Do this for your Jewish son-in-law and do this for your future nieces and nephews and stand up for the Jewish community and make us feel like this isn’t going to be another Holocaust because as of right now that’s what it is feeling like.”

Political science major, Jesse Yaker, agrees that President Trump is not doing enough to defend the Jewish community. Yaker believes that President Trump only appeals to a certain group of people and his support from them may be lost if he openly defends Jews.

Yaker says that although it has slowly been receiving attention, it has not been enough in stopping these hate crimes.

“Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, was the first big name to say something but since him there has been congressmen and foreign affairs people who have commented on it,” said Yaker. “It’s making strides. All you want is it to stop and until that happens what action are they doing if nothing is happening.”

When asked about a letter signed to President Trump by 167 US state representatives for a special envoy to be put in place, Hughey thinks more needs to be done.

“The only thing that’s going to stop it is figuring out who’s doing this. Whatever group of people or person who is doing this is disrupting our community,” said Hughey. “I think that the only real solution is putting some resources into catching these people. What is this envoy? I mean I really have not understood it.”

Hughey’s advice in these hostile times is to expose yourself to different cultures, especially the Jewish culture, because it is very hard to hate someone you know.


My Work

Unusually warm weather this winter

EAST LANSING – Leave the parka and winter boots at home. They have not been necessary the past few weeks in mid-Michigan.

Although it is mid-February, the weather feels like spring. The typical Michigan winter of snow and ice is nowhere to be found as people enjoy the unusually warm weather.

Colin Motherway, Michigan State freshman, remembers his college visit in April of 2016. He thinks the climate change from last year to this year is drastic.

Motherway said, “It (the weather) was pretty terrible. It was cold, probably 30 degrees and snowing both days I was here. I expected it to be pretty cold throughout the entire winter this year.”

Another Michigan State freshmen, Tristan Tongue, recalls his February 2016 college visit being extremely cold. This year he has no complaints about the forecast.

Tongue has been taking advantage of the warm weather by biking and hanging out with friends on the lawn of Brody neighborhood.

Bryn Nagel, another MSU student, enjoys the weather by walking to class instead of using the bus and lounging in the sun doing homework with her friends.

Nagel said, “When it is sunny out, it puts me in a better mood.” Nagel said the warm weather makes it easier for her to get her work done. She is not the only one who delights in the recent forecast.

One student, Kody Birtles, dressed in shorts and a bright, mint green shirt describes the weather as, “happiness.”

Birtles is on his way to class but plans to take advantage of the warm weather later in the day, “I plan to get some boys together and play some pick-up basketball around the courts. Maybe toss the old pigskin around.”

All over campus, people are doing just the same as these students. The bike paths are filling up and sunny spots near the Red Cedar are consumed with people basking in the warmth in case the temperature drops again.

Michigan weather has a reputation of quickly changing from one extreme to the other. Maybe it is best not to put the parka and winter boots too far away. Snow may be in the forecast for tomorrow.

My Work

Young adults eager to stay politically active in the years to come

EAST LANSING – A number of political events kicked off the new year, from the Inauguration to the Women’s March and many young adults were eager to get involved.

The Inauguration took place on January 20, 2017 with the Women’s March occurring the following day.

Those who could not make it to the nation’s capital still found ways to express themselves through rallies and protests held in Michigan.

Many of those who attended the events in D.C. plan to continue their political activism here in Michigan.

Lindsay Hall, a senior at Hope College said, “When I had the option to go all the way out there (Washington D.C.), I knew that was what I wanted to do. Especially because I knew that this was going be pretty historic. So I was like I want to be there for it. I want to be able to tell people what it was like to be in D.C. that day.”

Now that Hall is back in Michigan, with a surge of political energy running through her, she plans to reach out to her senators and local lawmakers through letter writing campaigns.

Hannah Smith was another young adult who made their voice heard at the Washington D.C. Women’s March.

Smith is the communications director and Chair of the Women’s Caucus for the College Democrats group at Michigan State University.

Smith feels what is happening in politics is a movement. She said it is something the College Democrats plans to “capitalize on.”

The group influences political activism here in Michigan by helping others call their legislators and using social media to promote events and causes.

The group has also brought in speakers such as representative, Darrin Cammalleri. They hope to bring in more local politicians and prospective candidates.

“Find an issue that you care about,” Smith said, “get involved.”

For college freshmen, Sophie Drieson, that is exactly what she has been doing since she was a young girl.

Drieson has always been open about her political views and says her father is a big influencer. He has attended eight Trump rallies and volunteered going door-to-door for the campaign.

Drieson says she is not sure if she will ever go door-to-door but she does express her opinions by responding to congressional representatives about issues using social media as an outlet.

She was in D.C. for the Inauguration of President Trump. Both Drieson and her brother are very politically active. Drieson said, “My brother wrote an essay about how we are first time voters and are really into this election. He wrote it to the congressional representative (Gary Peters). He said we are first time voters and strong Trump fans. That’s how we won the tickets actually.”

For those who could not make their way to Washington D.C., many still found ways to express their political views.

College freshman, Alex Isaac went home to watch the Inauguration with her family. In November she attended a Donald Trump Jr. Rally held in the MSU Union.

She said being a student in the James Madison College influences her to attend political events held around campus. She also works as an intern in the House of Representatives at the Capitol of Michigan.

Isaac does her best to stay up to date with political events and believes that the governmental issues happening impact everyone.

Hinnah Rajput, an intercultural aide on campus, was another student who found an alternative way to express her views because she could not make it to Washington D.C.

Rajput attended the Women’s March in Lansing and most recently was in attendance to the protest at Detroit Metro Airport against Trump’s Muslim ban.

She said her and several other intercultural aides have been raising money for immigrant families that are directly impacted by the new legislation.

Rajput believes being politically active is extremely important. “During this election cycle for sure, so many American civil liberties have been questioned. The country as we know it definitely changed and if people are upset about that, the only way they can make a difference is to make their opinions known,” said Rajput.