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Relay for life.jpgOn Friday, April 8, more than 2,400 people gathered at the University of Minnesota's Bierman Athletic Field for the eighth-annual Relay for Life. Relay For Life is a 12-hour, overnight event designed to raise money for research and programs for the American Cancer Society. Its purpose is to celebrate the lives of people who have battled cancer, remember loved ones lost, and fight back against the disease.

Over 5,000 communities all over the United States host a Relay For Life. Every relay begins with a survivor's lap--people that have survived cancer are invited to the track for a lap to celebrate the victories that have been made against cancer. After dark, the Luminaria Ceremony takes place. Luminarias, each with the name of a person that has had cancer, line the track and the candles inside are lit. Amanda Hegeman, Colleges Against Cancer (CAC) president, said, "My favorite part of the Relay is the Luminaria Ceremony. It is a powerful time when everyone gets to take time and remember why they are relaying." The last ceremony that happens is the Fight Back Ceremony in which people make a personal commitment to save lives such as talking to government officials about health policies, joining the Colleges Against Cancer student group, or pledge to quit smoking.

This was the first year that the U of M Relay was able to be held outside in the eight years of its existence. There were a number of fun events going on throughout the night. There was a Spam eating contest, Buffalo Wild Wings Blazin' Challenge, a breakdancing show, a performance by the local band Cadence, and much more. CAC President Amanda Hegeman said, "Being outside this year there was definitely a different feel. It seemed as though there was a greater sense of community at the event. I'm not exactly sure why, but the entire of the event was amazing this year!" 

Colleges Against Cancer reached its seven-year goal to raise a million dollars for the American Cancer Society earlier this year and kept the momentum leading up to the Relay. The University of Minnesota raised over $219,000 before and during the event this year. The House that Bob Built was the winning team that ended up raising at total of $18,174!

To learn more about this great tradition, visit the U of M Relay For Life website.

Every year, the College of Biological Sciences (CBS) Student Board hosts a week of events dedicated to bringing the CBS students, faculty and staff together for fun activities and events. BioDays started this week with the 5k Run for Multiple Sclerosis Research on Sunday, April 17th. This 5k run is mapped out throughout the East Bank of the Minneapolis Campus and is a annual event hosted by the CBS Student Board to raise money for Multiple Sclerosis research. 



In addition to the 5k Run for MS Research, the CBS Student Board has arranged great social events for CBS community throughout the week, including discounted games and bowling at Goldy's Gameroom in Coffman Memorial Union. Every year, Biodays week concludes with the annual College of Biological Sciences Picnic where CBS students, staff and faculty come together for some BBQ under the warm spring sun.


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CBS Picnic on St. Paul Campus


BioDays is just one example of how the College of Biological Sciences community comes together throughout the year!

I am a huge fan of the Food Network and one of my favorite shows is Iron Chef America, in which two world-class chefs battle in the kitchen to make the best dishes using a secret ingredient. This Friday, April 15, Gophers After Dark is hosting its own Iron Chef competition. 
 
The goal is to make one appetizer, one main dish, and one dessert, each incorporating the secret ingredient, in 45 minutes. Students are allowed to make teams of one to four people. Each team will receive a grocery bag full of a variety of foods that they can use to make their dishes. There will be three rounds--the two winning teams from each round will compete in the final round. The secret ingredient will be announced five minutes before the rounds begin.
 
Judging will be based on five criteria:

  • Taste (15 points)
  • Visual presentation (15 points)
  • Use of secret ingredient (9 points) 
  • Creativity (6 points)
  • Within the time limit (5 points)

 
The winning team gets a $100 gift card to Buffalo Wild Wings! Learn more about the Iron Chef Competition and other fun events happening at Gopher After Dark on the Student Unions and Activities website: http://sua.umn.edu/events/afterdark/.

One of my favorite things to do is enjoy a great meal with friends and family. I'm so lucky to live near Dinkytown (a neighborhood adjacent to campus), where there are so many options for places to enjoy a delicious meal. Here are a few of my favorite places to eat in Dinkytown:

Loring Pasta Bar

The Loring Pasta Bar has always been my favorite place to eat near the U of M. This Italian restaurant's design and decor is beautiful, and unlike any other in Dinkytown. When it's warm, you can  eat outside, too! There is almost always great music in the evenings and a chance to go salsa dancing on certain nights and weekends. Then there's the food--which is always fantastic. I love pasta, and Loring's pasta is some of the best I've had! Also, during certain times, students can recieve a 30 percent discount with their U Card!

Al's Breakfast

Al's Breakfast is sometimes overlooked--it's a tiny restaurant built in the space between two larger buildings, which was once an alley. However, this restaurant serves, in my opinion, the best breakfast in Dinkytown. I strongly encourage you to try their amazing food. Be careful though, you may get hooked and want to go to Al's every morning! Be prepared to wait in line due to the small size of the restaurant and the number of people there who know they are in for a great breakfast. It's worth the wait!

Mesa Pizza

With it's unique and flavorful pizza options, including Southwest Taco, Philly Cheesesteak,and Macaroni and Cheese (my favorite!), it's impossible not to like Mesa Pizza. It's also very convenient to grab a delicious slice while heading to or from class. It's definitely a U of M student favorite!

Shuang Chang

If you're in the mood for Chinese food and you don't want to travel far, I suggest Shuang Chang. It's my favorite Asian restaurant in the area. Since it's nearby, my friends are always going to Shuang Chang for dinner, and I don't blame them! It's affordable and the portions are huge -- perfect for budget-conscious students who want to take leftovers home. 

The Purple Onion Cafe

If you need to do homework and eat, get a table at The Purple Onion Cafe. I study here all the time, because the atmosphere and great coffee is perfect for getting a lot of work accomplished. The menu is delicious, and includes breakfast, lunch, and dinner items. This popular spot is perfect for group projects, because you are able to meet with and talk to your classmates in a relaxed, stress-free environment.

Students Today, Leaders Forever (STLF), is a student group founded at the University of Minnesota that is devoted to leadership through "service, relationship, and action." STLF provides the opportunity to serve the community and travel across the nation through its Pay-It-Forward (PIF) Tours, which are held every year and are available on many University and high school campuses throughout the United States. The most popular college tours take place during spring break. I participated in a Pay-it-Forward Tour in high school, and I had so much fun that I decided to participate in another tour over spring break this year.

The tour is a road trip that takes you to a different city every day, where you participate in a variety of community service projects. Everyone I traveled with was extremely energetic, fun, and helpful. In just a week's time, I made many friends I know I'll have for the rest of my college career and maybe longer! Together, we made a difference in many communities as we traveled to our final destination: Memphis, Tennesee.

Every Pay-It-Forward Tour is a different experience. Buses travel to a variety of locations. This year, there were two U of M buses that had a destination (or 'celebration city') of Memphis, where we met with even more people on tours from other college campuses across Minnesota. We completed one final service project together in Memphis, celebrated, and shared the experiences of our nine days together on the tour. 

The tour brought my bus of 43 people to Indianola, IA; Kansas City, MO; Tulsa, OK; Dallas, TX; Little Rock, AR, and Memphis, TN. I chose to go on the Mystery Tour, where the cities we visit before Memphis are unknown until we arrive. Each day was a surprise. The typical day consists of 4 hours of service followed by tourism in whichever city we are in, as well as plenty of travel time to bond with others on the bus. At night, we slept in community centers and gymnasiams that were offered to us.

The service projects vary from person to person, but the ones I took part in included cleaning and talking to residents at a nursing home in Iowa and helping at the Gillis House in Missouri, a home for young boys under special circumstances who need a place to stay. I also worked outside in Tulsa, hauling mulch, loading rocks, and creating a trail for a campground that needed work. In Dallas, we contributed to a day of games and activities for special needs children and adults at their community center, and in Little Rock, we removed brush and vines that was harmful to the forestry of an area. It was heartwarming to see how much everyone appreciated us being there. 

Finally, in Memphis, our combined group of about 300 students volunteered to clean the streets of the city. The feeling of truly making a difference to so many people in each of these cities is amazing, and I encourage you to experience it for yourself!

The picture below shows my busmates and I at one of our project sites. We had so much fun together! For more information on Students Today, Leaders Forever, or to sign up for a tour yourself, click here.

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