Top 10 ValpoLife Voices Stories of 2014

ValpoVoices2014 brought a lot of thought-provoking, heart-warming, and inspirational pieces to us. It's important to us that not only do we get to share good news, but also that our community members share their good news with us. Our Voices Section was created to be an outlet for the positive stories, ideas, and thoughts of our readers. People from all over Northwest Indiana had something to say this year and we at were happy to accommodate.

Here are the Top 10 Voices Articles of 2014. Please read on and enjoy!

Valparaiso High School Freshman Academy LINCS Ring Ceremony 2014 

Undeniably, the research is clear, it is imperative that students have a successful experience during their freshman year of high school. Studies have shown that when a student falls behind during the first year of high school, it often is too big of a hole to get out of. As a result, the student will struggle to get back on track to graduate and will be ill-prepared for either postsecondary schooling or to enter the workforce directly. Therefore, providing freshmen students the opportunity to be successful and to meet their individual needs is a focal point of many high schools. One of the most successful strategies to meet such needs at Valparaiso High School started about a decade ago with the formation of the Freshman Academy.

Duneland Community Church Makes a Global Change through Free the Girls 

International nonprofit organization called Free The Girls stands by these words. Free the Girls works to provide jobs to women rescued from human trafficking in developing countries by helping them set up micro enterprises selling bras. Bras are collected and packaged and then shipped to developing countries for struggling women to sell. Through the distribution of bras, Free the Girls strives to educate people and organizations about the scourge of human trafficking worldwide. Believe it or not, Duneland Community Church in Chesterton serves as the home of Free the Girls’ inventory operations.

I Wanted to be in Shape and Healthy Not Only for Myself, But for My Kids 

I love seeing the world change so fast. I loving seeing how people are getting what they ask for on Facebook without even knowing it. But it truly made me think about what has happened to me. I found myself looking at Facebook 100lbs overweight and wanting more out of life. I wanted to be in shape and healthy not only for myself, but for my kids.

Overcoming My "Cool" Around the Table 

The year was 2012, I was a sophomore in high school, and I decided that since I had turned 16, I was far too cool for family dinner. Looking back, this was a highly detrimental decision considering my mom always managed to concoct a tasty meal including all the major food groups every night, without fail. Attempting to tackle my new sophomore sense of "cool", I began not skipping meals with my family (as that would mean cooking for myself, which is not a particular skill of mine), but rather trying to force my food down as fast as I could in order to get the "family time" out of the way. This way, I could get back to my room and, more importantly, my awaiting social life on my phone.

Neighbors Place: Making an Impact For Low Income Single Women in Valpo

I have known Paul Schreiner since the early days of and have never ceased to be inspired by the amount of labor - whether it be mental or physical - that he puts into all the projects he is working on and by the impact they have on his community of Valparaiso and the communities around us. Through his work, along with countless others at Project Neighbors, they have started or helped along an incredible array of positive community organizations and facilities, including Hilltop Neighborhood House, HealthLinc, New Vistas High School, Dayspring Women's Center, The Tech project, and WVLP Radio. So when Paul reached out to me early on to help tell the story of Neighbors Place, I knew I had some good news on my hands.

Blackbird Diaries: When a Punch to the Head is a Good Thing 

Sometimes life grabs you, for better or worse and in small and significant ways, and slaps you upside the head. Sometimes it is a gentle reminder like this sign on Lincolnway at the Family & Youth Services Bureau to always keep your eyes open for good so that the evil or tumult of the world around us does not bring down the optimistic spirit inside. It is far too easy to get overwhelmed by the headlines of rebels and countries at war, gangs hurting innocent children, or politicians spending more time fighting each other than for the people they represent, and lose sight of the fact that most people in the end are good most of the time.


A Journey Down A New Path, A Path Called Divorce 

Yes, it is a little bit unorthodox to write about yourself and call yourself strong, but recently I have found my strength, and my voice. I have started a new journey down a path and that path is called Divorce. I have been going through a life changing event; after 25 years of marriage, my marriage is ending in divorce. I am not the first person to get divorced, nor will I be the last, but unless you go through it, you don’t know the pain, emotions and feelings you will have.

Riding Shotgun on a Porter County Snowplow 

I went to bed at 7:45 last night, and staying awake until then was a struggle. I couldn't believe I was so tired from nothing more than a day in the car heading home from vacation. I was just sitting there after all, right? I shouldn't have been tired at all. So, I was intrigued today when Porter County's Highway Superintendent, Al Hoagland, asked if I wanted to see what it was like behind the wheel of a snowplow during today's storm. Well, not exactly me behind the wheel, he's a little smarter than that, but I did get to ride in the passenger seat. I've always appreciated the guys who plow our roads, but after today I'm pretty much in awe of them. Wow. I'd be in bed before dinner if I was doing that job.

Natural Helpers Retreat Offers Great Experience 

The Natural Helpers retreat has been at Valparaiso High School since 1988. At the beginning of every school year, high school juniors and seniors are asked to write down the names of three people that they would go to with a problem. Approximately 70 students are invited to attend a fall retreat, and another 70 to attend a spring retreat. Not only has the program affected and changed my life, but I am positive that Natural Helpers holds meaning in hundreds if not thousands of lives across the country. This past weekend, March 6-8, I was lucky enough to return to Camp Tecumseh in Brookston, Indiana as a Rainbow Staff member, having attended the retreat in the fall of 2013, Rainbow Staff is a group of student leaders that help to organize and lead the retreat.

Nonprofits Share Their Story at February 2014 NWITweetup 

2014’s 1st NWITweetup event was special for a lot of reasons. It was the first one organized by the Ideas in Motion Media team (aka mostly all by Jenny Craig-Brown). We coordinated with Jae Chang Berman’s Infinti of Merrillville to give away $250 to a non-profit. That turned into $500 because Jae is awesome and decided $500 would be a better way to kick off 2014’s tweetups. Then that $500 turned into $1,000 being split between Worthy Women Recovery and Meals on Wheels of Northwest Indiana because Meals on Wheels helped out Rick Gosser, who matched the donation because Meals on Wheels’ cause had recently affected his family.