Spotlight on Alumna: Cara Nelson

Running one marathon—26.2 miles—is a feat most people can’t see themselves completing even just once in their lives. 

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SPOTLIGHT ON: Jenna Lawson Student tackles strifes facing marginalized groups in comedy show

Senior Jenna Lawson doesn’t know how she became an activist; she just feels that she has always been one. 

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Spotlight on: Peter Scilla

Geography and economics double major senior Peter Scilla is a guitarist, singer and songwriter for the band Salary Jones. Scilla tries to keep his music appealing while also staying unorthodox, as Scilla ensures to create avant-garde music and to avoid sounding mainstream. 

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Student author publishes first novel

American studies major senior Olivia Vetrano published her first novel, Neverland, in 2015 at the age of 20. The fiction novel was selected to be published by the Kindle Scout Campaign, which called upon readers to vote for their favorite book. (Courtesy of Olivia Vetrano)

Getting a book published is no easy feat, but American studies major and history and anthropology double minor senior Olivia Vetrano has done just that. 

It all started in her senior year of high school when she was 17 years old. 

“[Neverland] is primarily about this 18-year-old with an eating disorder,” Vetrano said. “She’s kind of battling her own demons, trying to figure out life post-graduation.” 

When Vetrano was 19 years old, she finished the novel, and it got published immediately after she turned 20 years old.

Vetrano obtained a book deal in March of 2015—the spring semester of her sophomore year—with Kindle Press, where the book was electronically published. The paperback edition was self-published about a year later.

“I really didn’t think anyone would want to read it because it was a book written about a teenage girl by a teenage girl,” she said. “[It’s] not exactly award winning, but I got a really good response to it.” 

The Amazon website writes, “Neverland follows a thin line of magic that strings together Hayley Winter’s last shreds of hope. At 18 years old, the thoughts of glimmering kingdom lights and enchanted tea parties were the only way to dull the flashbacks, insecurities, burying of loved ones, etc.”

In addition, the prompt warns, “This is not a happy tale. And despite the green-eyed man who inspires magic with every touch, it’s not a love story either. It’s a reminder to always cherish the things that give us strength, real or make-believe.”

Hayley Winters, however, is not so different from the writer herself.

“The book has been a really big comfort to me because I wrote it about a lot of personal stuff, so it’s kind of like my diary in a weird way,” she said. “[Writing Neverland] was sort of a way for me to write a script of my own struggles, sit down and say, ‘This is how she’s going to respond to this,’ because I didn’t have that much control of myself.”

Vetrano submitted an excerpt of her novel to the Kindle Scout Campaign—a 30-day campaign that involves advertising your book and getting people to vote for it. When she received an acceptance for her submission, she was taken aback.

“I was raised by a librarian so everyone always knew, ‘Oh she loves to read, she loves to write,’” she said. “So the idea that I was writing a book wasn’t really a big shock to anyone, but the fact that I wrote this 300-page book as a teenager, and it was a published, everyone was like, ‘Oh, that’s cool.’”

Even though she’s not an English major, Vetrano said she is looking forward to pursuing a career related to writing after graduation. 

“Yes, ideally, I would love a career as a novelist, but … it’s not the most realistic thing. So I’d like to go toward the publishing world,” she said.

Right now, she’s planning to take a year off before going to graduate school to pursue a master’s degree in young adult and children’s literature. Another dream of hers is to write children’s books.

This is just the start of Vetrano’s career, as she has big and bright plans for her future. Seeing what she’s already done this early in life, it seems like there’s no limit to what she’ll be able to accomplish.

Spotlight On: Kevin Pierce

Junior Kevin Pierce is the president and resident beatboxer of a capella group Between the Lines. As a mathematics and secondary education major, Pierce hopes to incorporate his love of music into his future teaching endeavors. (Ash Dean/Photo Editor)

For mathematics and secondary education major junior Kevin Pierce, beatboxing serves as an outlet for his musical energy.

As the president and beatboxer of Geneseo’s coed a cappella group Between the Lines, BTL has been just that for Pierce: a channel to pursue his hobbies. 

“As a math major, I don’t really get a lot of opportunities for music, and like any other Geneseo student, I’m not just my major—not just a math person,” Pierce said. “But BTL has become just like my family; they make me the happiest.”

Pierce has been involved in BTL for three and a half semesters after auditioning as a beatboxer during the second half of his spring semester freshman year. Pierce has been leisurely beatboxing, however, since seventh grade. 

“I auditioned for BTL because I really wanted to be in a cappella and I missed having music in my life,” Pierce said. “When I got in, that was probably one of the best moments of my life.”

Music has always been a part of Pierce’s life; before beatboxing he was a percussionist and has been since fourth grade. In addition to beatboxing and percussion, Pierce is a drummer and even taught himself the ukulele “just for fun.”

“I can do impressions, and so what beatboxing was for me was doing an impression of the drums, and I started doing that in seventh grade when I was going through my seventh grade phase of being really into hip hop,” Pierce said. “Since then, I’ve realized what a cappella was and realized that this thing that I just did as a joke could be used as a part of actual music.” 

Since then, Pierce has been “making beatboxing up” as he goes. Even without any formal training in beatboxing, Pierce wouldn’t say that he practices beatboxing by setting aside time to rehearse.

“What I do is anytime I’m listening to a song or I hear something that kind of interests me, I try to replicate it by beatboxing,” Pierce said. “Music is constantly playing in my head, so I’m always singing something or beatboxing.” 

Pierce’s tastes are eclectic in that his musical preferences change daily. BTL’s music choices, however, do coincide with his own personal music playlists. For Pierce, picking and arranging “Beware the Dog” by The Griswolds—for a vocal solo in spring 2016—is a highlight of his music career.  

“Last year I got the solo, and that’s probably the coolest thing for me because I don’t consider myself a singer: I am the beatboxer,” Pierce said, “So knowing that not only did BTL support me in my singing, but also that I had progressed enough that they thought I was worthy enough to get a solo, meant a lot to me.”

Over the summer, Pierce will have the opportunity to be a part of the EXPLO Summer Program on the Wellesley College campus, which is a project-based educational summer camp. There he will teach logic, puzzles and math, along with an a cappella workshop for children—combining both of his interests.

Looking further into the future, Pierce aspires to continue to fuse teaching and music, as he will this summer. He would like to take a gap year after graduating to either participate in City Year or to teach abroad before beginning his career in teaching math.  

“I really want to either help with choir in a school that I’m placed in or find some way to support the arts while I’m doing math, because I think music is basically applied math, so it’s really easy to tie it into the math curriculum,” Pierce said. “I’d also love to be in a band with my friends or just join some community choir to keep that musical outlet going for me.” 

Until and after then, Pierce will keep beatboxing—which he can summarize in one word:

Spitting.