Jennie McKeon

For Christina, the military was not a career option until she heard about the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps(ROTC) scholarship.“My plan was to go to college, get a degree in Hospitality Management and start a career in event planning or hotel management,” Christina said. “During my senior year of high school a recruiter told me to apply for the ROTC scholarship, which would pay for my full tuition fees [including books] in college as well as give me a monthly stipend to live off of.”

Of course there was a catch.

“The only catch was that I had to be in the Air Force ROTC program in college. The recruiter said I could apply for the scholarship, join ROTC for the first year of college, then quit the scholarship and ROTC altogether and I would have gotten the money for college for the entire first year, no strings attached!”

But Christina never left. After her first year of ROTC, as Christina was getting ready to quit, her instructor talked her out of it. The instructor told her that the military could be a great career choice, or at least a great start. Christina couldn’t disagree. She graduated from the University of Central Florida with aChristina joined the military degree in hospitality management as a Second Lieutenant. The best part is that she is fulfilling the job she had always wanted.

Putting Her Degree to Work
“I now work as a Force Support Officer in the Air Force, which is closely related to hospitality-type stuff in the civilian world,” she said. “For example, this year I am in charge of planning a banquet for 300+ guests. We are also in charge of the dining facilities on base, fitness centers, events, lodging, etc … So in other words, my degree ended up fitting right in to what I’m doing now in the Air Force.”

Although the military sort of fell in her lap, Christina was well aware of the military lifestyle before she joined ROTC;  her father and brother have both served in the Air Force.

“The Air Force paid for a good portion of my college education, so now I owe them at least four years on active duty,” she said. “Whether I stay in or get out of the military, I think I made a wise choice. If I get out, I expect to be hired very quickly in the civilian world because companies love to hire prior-military folks, especially officers, because of our training and experience.”

There were some things she was not prepared for. “I’ve been away from my family since I graduated high school at age 17,” she said. “I lived in Orlando for four years for college, and then I graduated, became an officer and got stationed in North Dakota. I’m a pretty independent person, but I do miss my family and talk to them often.”

Christina said the move was a change that took time to get over. “I was pretty devastated when I moved to North Dakota because I felt that my whole world was stripped away and I had to start another life in a foreign place. I coped by praying to God. I also made friends quickly and started learning my job and soon enough I got used to it here.”

‘It is very important to have friends’
Friends have been an important asset to Christina’s work and social life.

“I have made many great friends in the military,” she said. “It is very important to have friends in your career field because of networking purposes! I e-mail friends from other bases all of the time asking for their help or just saying ‘Hi’ and seeing how they’re doing. They have been lifesavers to me several times and vice-versa.”

Although Christina isn’t seeing anyone special right now (“I feel that there isn’t a great selection of men in my town, but maybe I’m just too picky!”) she stays busy with church, volleyball, working out and traveling. Of course, she is used to staying busy.
Christina was obviously not afraid to go above and beyond, which is why she applied for several scholarships for college, not just ROTC.

“I applied for and received several scholarships coming out of high school,” she said. “I literally got paid to go to school!  I did not have to take out a single student loan or pay for anything out of pocket. Joining the military out of school isn’t a bad thing for those who cannot afford college or qualify for enough scholarships. Bottom-line: Get your degree if you are capable of doing so! It is never too early to plan for your future and education opens all doors. Apply for scholarships and keep applying even if you think you have enough money!”

Loving Her Job
All of the hard work Christina put in to applying for scholarships and joining the ROTC on top of her studies has paid off. Christina is doing what she loves in a fast-paced and exciting environment.

“I love that my job is a constant challenge,” she said. “I love the fact that every day is different and I am able to make an impact on the lives of those I lead. I love the camaraderie in the Air Force. We’re like one, big family and we look out for each other both in and out of the uniform. The culture of the military is one-of-a-kind!”

Not only is the Air Force an exciting career, but it serves our country, which Christina takes pride in.

“I also like the unpredictability of the Air Force. I can be stationed or deployed anywhere in the world. That kind of adventure is awesome to me! I feel like my career is necessary to protect the freedoms that we as Americans share. It is truly an honor to be a part of that.”

The single-most important thing she has learned in the military is leadership: “As an officer they pump leadership into us like it’s nobody’s business,” she said. “I have learned so much on how to be an effective leader and I am able to translate that into other areas of my life as well.”

While Christina finishes grad school, she is still uncertain what the future holds, but whatever she chooses to do, Christina said she will always answer to a higher power.
“God comes first in my life, then family, then friends then work and everything else. The most important thing that I have learned recently (and will continue to learn) is how to keep those priorities straight!”

Do you want to join the military?
Here are some tips from Christina on how to start a successful military career as an officer.

  1. Get your degree.
  2. Be active and stay in shape. You have to be able to meet Physical Training Standards. Look them up and work towards exceeding the minimum requirements.
  3. Learn to be a leader! As an officer you will be expected to take on huge amounts of responsibility from the onset of your career.
  4. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes and take chances others are afraid to take.
  5. Don’t expect special treatment because you are female, it’s not going to happen.
  6. Even though you want to stand out, always remember that you are nothing without your peers: Teamwork is everything in the Air Force!

-Jennie McKeon


MyMentor: Courtney Shelton of #DefinePerfect

They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder. With the #defineperfect campaign, beauty takes on many shapes and forms when the definition of perfect is up to everyone.

17-year-old Courtney Shelton spent more than decade in the Girl Scouts—from joining as a Daisy to her current ranking as an Ambassador. When she was eligible to earn a Gold Award, one of the highest awards you can achieve in Girl Scouts, Courtney created a social media campaign that helped people realize there is no single answer when it comes to defining what is perfect.

“The problem that I want to tackle in the world? People who feel the need to fit molds created for them by society, the people they associate with, or themselves,” Courtney said on the Define Perfect Facebook Page. “I want to redefine the word ‘perfect’ so that instead of being some unattainable label, it is something that people can use to describe things that may not be flawless but are exactly the way they should be.”


Courtney chose to take her message to social media as a way to create a sustainable project that she could stay involved with beyond high school, college and Girl Scouts.

  

“With social media, I can keep up with it on a daily basis,” she said.

Earning the prestigious Gold Award is no easy feat. The seven-step community project has to have longevity to make a difference for years to come. Shelton’s confidence boosting project is not only relevant, but fits within the Girl Scout guidelines.

You can #defineperfect, by sharing your photos and thoughts about what perfect means to you on the Define Perfect blog, Facebook page, Twitter or Instagram. The plethora of outlets gives everyone the chance to get involved and be part of the discussion.

Maybe perfection means getting good grades or being a loyal friend. Maybe it’s about being an avid volunteer or environmentally conscious. The more diverse the answers are, the better.

“In the process, maybe we will define confident, bold, and optimistic as words that anyone can be with a change in mindset, not just the ‘lucky few’ that were born with those traits,” Shelton said. ” Every single person has some positive quality worth mentioning.”

It wasn’t an easy start to get people involved. Shelton sent numerous emails before she started to see interaction online. Seeing #defineperfect being put to good use was a gratifying experience for her.

“I was searching #defineperfect and one day there was magically about 100 pictures,” she said, “I posted a picture on Facebook and when I came back it had a ton of likes. It was so excited the first time someone shared a photo.”

Growing up as Girl Scout has given Courtney confidence over the years she said. With all of the negativity girls face in the current media, Shelton hopes she can take what she has learned and teach others to be more accepting.


“The Girl Scouts has given me the confidence in whatever I want to set my mind to,” she said. “Everyone has perfection within them,” Shelton said. “But a lot cannot identify it.”  

—Jennie McKeon

ChickRX

 

ChickRx founders and long-time friends Meghan Muntean and Stacey Borden were working for Wall Street and Apple respectively before they decided to build a health and wellness website for young women that is fun, informative and fast growing. They even won the 2010 New Media Women Entrepreneur award before the ChickRx came to be.
 
“We just had the idea for the site at the time,” explained Megan. “We were really debating if this was something we should pursue.”
 
With that encouragement, Muntean and Borden figured now was the best time to take a chance on their future.
 
“You owe it to yourself to try,” Muntean said about following dreams. “It’s a better feeling to know that you tried instead of going to bed thinking ‘What if?'”
 
In case you haven’t logged on yet, ChickRx is an online community for women to connect with health and wellness experts and peers for personalized advice. Since its launch in July 2012, the website has seen hundreds of thousands of monthly users and continues to grow.
 
“We would talk to each other and girlfriends about how to eat healthier and beauty regimes when we should’ve been talking to experts,” Borden said.
 
After extensive research via Google and women’s magazines, Stacey and Meghan saw that something was missing in the way of health information for women.
 
“We saw there were not really any beautiful health sites,” Muntean said. “The site’s design reinforces our brand. Information doesn’t have to be sterile or boring. ChickRx is refreshing, fun and engaging — it’s edutainment.”
 
The end result came to be a well-designed website complete with 500 experts, and counting, eager to answer your medical, beauty and fitness questions.
 
“We found our experts through word of mouth, or we’d see them quoted in magazines,” Muntean said. “They’re excited to promote their wisdom.”
 
ChickRx is not your typical WebMD. Instead, it’s highly interactive with members receiving answers to their questions in real-time from a panel of experts. And it’s not just members that are paying attention. The website features interviews with celebrities such as Kendra Wilkinson and Brooke Burke and partnerships with Everyday Health, FabFitFun and “Seventeen” magazine.
 
As young, women CEOs, Borden and Muntean didn’t so much have to prove themselves worthy, but prove that their product was.
 
“There are far fewer women in the tech/start-up world than there are men,” Muntean said. “And while that can sometimes make things challenging, know that as a woman you stand out a bit and that can certainly work to your advantage.”

“If you want to prove yourself as woman, or a man, prove it through results,” Borden added. “Go after an idea that makes a difference and show you can get the job done.”

 The staff consists of primarily Muntean and Borden with a handful of freelance writers and interns. Members’ constant flow of questions keeps fresh content on the site.
 
“It supports itself,” Muntean said. “It doesn’t need a huge editorial staff.”
 
When it comes to taking your own career risks, Muntean and Borden suggest embracing your fear and just going for it.
 
“You just have to have confidence,” Borden said. “Attempting to do something is a success in itself. There’s a lot to be said of overcoming that fear of failing.”

For anyone interested in starting their own business, Muntean has two suggestions: read “The Lean Startup,” by Eric Ries and test your product in cost-effective manners.

“You don’t have to have to put in a lot of money or effort to test your idea,” she said. “Before your build the website, do in-person tests.”
 
And if you’re still in school, take advantage now of finding your niche.
 
“Do what you love, something you’re passionate about,” advises Muntean. “Be excited and develop your interests through extracurricular activities.”

Join ChickRx today and become connected to hundreds of experts ready to help you. You can also follow the ChickRx team on Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter.
—Jennie McKeon

Cheap Dates, love

You don’t have to worry about the money (or lack thereof) you spend on an outing, but the memories you create. Whether you want to spend time with your boyfriend or best friend, there’s an activity that’s fun and frugal.
 
Scrapbooking 
Get your friends together for some scrapbooking and reminiscing. Make everyone bring their favorite copies of BFF photos and get scrapping. Put in a chick flick, make some popcorn and go to town. It’s not how many pages you get done, but how many fun memories you re-live.
 
Get Cultured 

Many art museums have a free admission day or offer discounts to students. After you’re done exercising the right side of your brain, discuss the works you saw over a packed picnic lunch.
 
Learn to Cook 
Once you get to college, you’ll need to learn to feed yourself. You’ll get sick of PB&J sandwiches quickly, so it’s best to learn how to cook. The Food Network Web site has plenty of quick and easy recipes. This recipe for sesame chicken looks delicious and the cook time is only 15 minutes. 
 
Hang Out at Barnes and Noble
Grab your girlfriends and raid the magazines at your nearest bookstore. Treat yourself to a coffee and peruse through your selections. This is a great opportunity to compare Prom looks or a new hairstyle. Just remember to put back any magazines you don’t purchase.

Exercise

Sweating doesn’t always sound like quality time, but getting your friends together to workout is a great way to exercise your mind and body. Put in a workout DVD and work it out. Plus, it’s less intimidating to do those silly squats with your friends. A fun, physical date could include a romantic bike ride or a brisk walk to the nearest playground.

Paint a Portrait

This would be a cute thing to do with a date. Grab two large sheets of paper and whatever art utensils you have handy whether it be crayons, Sharpies or an eyeliner pencil. Face your date and draw each other’s portrait as best you can. If you’re not an art major, do a cartoon or stick person. Unveil your creations at the same time and hold on to the keepsake forever.

Strike a Pose
Need a new look? Let your friends give you a head-to-toe makeover! Sit back and let them create the look they’ve always envisioned for you. Let your inner diva loose in a photo shoot featuring the new you! Return the favor and makeover your friends.

Board Games
While the Wii is a lot of fun, it’s time to brush the dust off Monopoly and let the games begin. This is the only time you can charge your friends for trespassing.

Spa Night
You don’t have to sacrifice major bucks to look beautiful. Some of the best skin-care products are already in your house. Think back to those episodes of “Ellen” and “Oprah” featuring beauty expert Kym Douglas. Even if her sweet potato facial seems messy, one look at Douglas’ gorgeous skin and you’ll start slathering on the carbs. You can check out more of her recipes here. Have a beauty night featuring homemade masks, conditioners and body scrubs. My Homemade Beauty is a great Web site that gives tips on natural skin care and All Natural Beauty lets you search for recipes by foods so you can make products based on what’s readily available in your kitchen. Don’t be afraid to get sticky. Let your guard down and get a little crazy!
—Jennie McKeon
Photo credit: Ms. Phoenix


Have you ever wondered what the Jonas Brothers do when they’re not on tour? Or what the plot of a “Glee” movie might be? Quinton and Ian Williams, the two brothers behind Pixies Production Inc.,
are constantly pondering these ideas when they think of the next celebrity or TV show to parody. With more than 5 million upload views, these videos are more than silly jokes, but hard work. Especially since Quinton and Ian do all of the characters, writing, props, costumes, editing and camera work themselves.

As kids, Quinton and Ian spent their spare time making “Star Wars” remakes and filming pranks they pulled on friends. Since 2006, they started taking their hobby more seriously and uploaded their student work and extracurricular videos on YouTube. Before they knew it, views sky-rocketed and fans came pouring in from around the world. Now that they have found their niche in parodies and started making revenue on advertisements, they are ready to look for representation and turn their comedy over to television and movies.

Pixies Productions Inc. has covered the basics, Jonas Brothers, “Drake and Josh” and even the X-Men character, Wolverine. Right now you can check out their new skit, “Glee: The Movie.”

ME: What made you two want to make videos?
Ian:
It started out of boredom really. At first, we just filmed to document things.
Quinton: Yeah, like me throwing a pumpkin off the roof. We were so into movies we thought it would be fun to create our own.

ME: What don’t you like about the filming process?
Ian:
The time it takes.
Quinton: Arguing [both laugh].

ME: What’s your favorite part of the filming process?
Quinton:
Creating the character and changing into a different person.
Ian: Building the scene then altering it when it doesn’t work.

ME: What was a discouraging moment for Pixies Production Inc?
Quinton:
We were asked by an MTVU marketing manager to enter a contest in which you submit a pitch for a TV show. After weeks of editing and re-editing and pouring our hearts out we never got a call back.

ME: What has that moment taught you?
Quinton:
To pick yourself back up. Give up or keep going.
Ian: It taught us to stick to our guns.
Quinton: Making videos and trying to work in entertainment means having faith. Videos cost a lot of money. I spent $3000 dollars on my camera and another $1000 on my computer in 2005. Our latest skit has cost us $550 so far. We’re constantly taking chances.

ME: Quinton, you graduated from the University of West Florida Magna Cum Laude and Ian, you will graduate later in April, but you’ve managed to maintain an above average GPA. How did you make time for school and videos?
Quinton:
We tried to incorporate school work with our YouTube videos. We were both taking film classes so we made projects with the intent of putting them online.

ME: What is your advice to students entering college wanting to major in film?
Ian:
Know what it is you want out of college and find a school that offers that.
Quinton: Don’t be afraid to be yourself. Be a leader, not a follower. Focus on schoolwork it should be the number one priority. I studied for my Java class hours on end. And because of that, I was able to build my own Web site.

ME: Back to your videos, how has YouTube launched your talent?
Ian:
We not only gained popularity, but an international audience. We would never be able to do that anywhere else but YouTube.
Quinton: We now have an online resume and revenue to fund our videos.

ME: You do parodies of existing characters, but they’re still different thanks to the Pixies Production Inc. touch. Where do the ideas for these characters come from?
Ian:
My beautiful brain. [Laughs] We imagine ourselves in the character.
Quinton: We have gut feelings and inside jokes about the people we parody.

ME: Which characters have you had the most fun with?
Quinton:
Joe Jonas and Count Chocula.
Ian: Any character that is annoying and screams really loud.

ME: Who are some celebrities you would never want to parody?
Ian:
Snickers…I mean Snooki. Any woman really, I never do them justice.
Quinton: Bob Villa and the Target dog.

ME: How do you create the plots for your skit?
Quinton:
We have two different methods. One, we build a script off of a few one-liners and work backwards. Two, we have an idea and build one-liners off that. Multiple times we don’t even follow the script.

ME: What is your advice to fellow YouTubers who would like to make their own videos?
Quinton: Put videos into a story, have a point. Find your narrative voice.

ME: What or who have been your biggest influences?
Ian: The vibe of the 1990s, “Star Wars,” Ramen Noodles. (Turns to Quinton) I saw you make videos and it made me want to make them too.
Quinton: “Star Wars” always was and always will be an influence. Charlie Chaplin and Jim Carrey are others. I always wanted to be like Jim Carrey.

ME: What do you hope your audience learns from your videos? What do you want to say to them?
Ian:
You can create something with a limited budget. Find something you’re good at.
Quinton: We want to inspire them to make their own videos. It’s fun to see the things our fans make.
-Jennie McKeon



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