Associated Press Writing

Work that features my skills in Associated Press Style writing. Stories include: Happy Hippies Instill Hope, The Red Wolf Needs More To Join Pack, Movie Review: Cinderella, Kelly Renz Takes On The Big Apple and Is a Figurative Wall Already Being Built Between the US and Mexico?


Happy Hippies Instill Hope


John Lennon said it best: “A dream you dream alone is only a dream, a dream you dream together is a reality.”

This quote shaped the manifesto of the Happy Hippies, a non-profit founded by Miley Cyrus whose mission is to “fight injustice facing homeless youth, LGBTQ youth and other vulnerable populations.” Since its start in 2014 it has worked with organizations like My Friend’s Place and others to help fight injustice.

In an interview with Lifetime, Cyrus said her motivation to launch the foundation was the death of Leelah Alcorn, an individual struggling with gender identity.

“I’ve never felt it was right that someone would lose their life over not being able to be free,” Cyrus said. Happy Hippie is a place for people like Leelah to reach out to, while educating others about LGBTQ youth, and other vulnerable populations.

Since the launch she has had people reach out to her, especially parents. “Parents would tell me, they never understood their child until they saw me being open about it,” Cyrus said.

“I believe as a society we have come to recognize and celebrate differences in sexual orientation and identity,” Kathleen Jones said, a Gender Studies professor at East Carolina University. “But it is so important for parents to be supportive of their child and help them,” Jones said.

According to True Colors Fund, 40 percent of youth experiencing homelessness identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. With these percentages in mind Cyrus began building the foundation.

“It all really started with Jesse,” Cyrus said in an interview with Good Morning America. Jesse was a homeless youth living in California who Cyrus had accept her 2014 Video Music Award on behalf of him and the 1.6 million runaways and homeless youth.

“I think it’s really great that there is a foundation like this out there now, there needs to be more awareness on this topic,” Chris Fisne said, a current student at East Carolina University who identifies as part of the LGBTQ community. “I worked for the Human Rights Campaign this past summer in Washington, we focused on LGBTQ individuals, but never ones that were homeless,” Fisne said.


                                                                                Chris Fisne, East Carolina University Student

The foundation began working mainly with groups in Los Angeles, then forming support groups in San Francisco and now starting to spread across the country. In 2015, they partnered with My Friend’s Place, a homeless shelter in the LA region.

Also in 2015, it launched backyard sessions. Cyrus holds duets with other singers like Joan Jett and Ariana Grande. When new music is released and uploaded to social media sites it includes a way to donate and get informed.

Watch Video

Happy Hippie Presents: Don’t Dream It’s Over (Performed by Miley Cyrus & Ariana Grande)
User: n/a – Added: 5/15/15
  “For me the first time I heard about Happy Hippies was through the Backyard Session videos,” Fisne said. Fans of Cyrus and other featured singers flocked to the new music. The foundation site gained momentum. People began to know the name Happy Hippies.

The foundation is constantly striving to inspire, inform, and help the population. Last year, in the wake of terrorist attacks in Brussels the foundation partnered with Seeds of Peace to support peace-building programs with youth from conflict zones and diverse communities.

Following the Pulse shooting, Happy Hippie teamed up with the Zebra Coalition in Orlando to provide support services for LGBTQ youth affected by the shooting.

It also launched Happy Hippie x Phantogram, aimed at raising awareness about suicide prevention and to encourage people to reach out for help.

Happy Hippies fight for anyone or anything facing injustice. It has worked to protect wildlife in British Columbia, along with helping organizations like Planned Parenthood. Most recently, Cyrus and other members visited the Rady Children’s Hospital and were seen in the Women’s March in LA.

When first entering the Happy Hippie website you are showcased direct links to volunteer for the things you are passionate about. The links include: Education, Women’s Rights, LGBTQ Rights, Social Justice, Homeless Youth, Mental Health, Environment, and Animal Welfare.

The site also includes ways to donate, crisis hotlines, and even purchasing of Happy Hippie merchandise for you and your animals that help fund the foundation.

Happy_Hippie_Fundation_-_Logo.jpg Official Happy Hippie Logo



The Red Wolf Needs More To Join Pack


  Christian Hunt from The Defenders of Wildlife

A critically endangered animal native to the East Coast is in search of more to join its pack. The red wolf population nears the top of the endangered species list. It is estimated that about 40 red wolves remain in the wild, and the number is decreasing.

The East Carolina Thomas Harriot College of Arts & Sciences’ Biology department knew the urgency of this. On March 3, they held an event to inform their local community on the dire issue. The event consisted of an information session, documentary viewing, and discussion.

Christian Hunt led the program. Hunt works for The Defenders of Wildlife and is based at their Charlotte office. He has spent most of his career promoting red wolf awareness, specifically their risk of extinction.

The red wolf issue has not gained momentum in media as easily as other animals on the brink of extinction. According to Hunt, the media has their own “media darlings.” “Polar bears are on media constantly, when red wolves face a higher risk of extinction,” Hunt said.

Hunt believes the red wolf issue’s lack of representation in the media is due to the historical distrust between humans and the wolf kind. “Fear based stories like Red Riding Hood have carried weight in setting a certain stigma on wolves,” Hunt said. “When in fact, red wolves are so afraid of humans that they usually pee themselves.”

The linkage of fear and red wolves has been only one of the challenges faced by red wolves. Other threats include severe weather, deaths by motor vehicles, habitat loss due to human development, and illegal killings. As the red wolf population dwindles another threat is interbreeding between coyotes and red wolves.

According to Hunt, another main threat is the way in which the U.S. Fish & Wildlife service is managing the issue. In recent years they have changed management of the Red Wolf Recovery program, stopped the release of red wolves into the wild, and plan to remove all remaining red wolves from the population into zoos to prevent extinction.

“The removal of the top predator means the ecosystem will bottom out. It’s been seen when other top predators become extinct,” Hunt said. With the lack of the top predator, smaller animals like raccoons, possums and squirrels will overtake the area. “We will be making monsters of Disney like creatures,” Hunt said. Not only are red wolves important for the food chain, they are also key for the health of the environment. Without a top predator, the environment will not flourish.

The Defenders of Wildlife and Hunt plea for locals to get involved in the fight to protect red wolves. You can visit their website The Defenders of Wildlife, or visit their Facebook page. They advise you to write to your government officials and become a voice for the red wolves.

Is a Figurative Wall Already Being Built Between the US and Mexico?


On Jan. 25, President Trump signed two executive orders — the first to begin the deportation of “illegal immigrants” from Mexico and the second to begin building a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.

Trump has said Mexico will pay for the wall. “I’m telling you there will be a payment. It will be in a form, perhaps a complicated form,” Trump told Homeland Security Department employees, CNN reported. Following the signing of the executive orders Trump tweeted:


The U.S. has a 60 billion dollar trade deficit with Mexico. It has been a one-sided deal from the beginning of

NAFTA with massive numbers…

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 26, 2017

of jobs and companies lost. If Mexico is unwilling to pay for the badly needed wall, then it would be better to cancel the upcoming meeting.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 26, 2017


According to the Washington Post, President Enrique Peña Nieto called off his trip to Washington on Jan. 26, during which he intended to discuss foreign policy goals outlined by Mexican officials. The morning of the executive order he informed the White House of his decision and emphasized that Mexico will not finance the wall.

Peña Nieto has been criticized for being “too polite” with Trump regarding foreign policy. Jonathan Morris, a political science professor at East Carolina University, believes that Peña Nieto may have critics, but he knows what he is doing. “Mexico has far more to worry about, like drugs and poverty, than insult war with the United States President,” Morris said.

Hours later, Sean Spicer, Trump’s press secretary, said that a 20 percent tax would be placed on Mexican imports into the U.S. After public uproar, Spicer said the tax was one possibility. Critics claim implementation of the tax would directly affect the U.S. consumer.

There has been speculation that this is a move by Trump to get Mexico to pay for the wall. But, Erin Parrish, an international trade professor at East Carolina University, said this is not a direct tax on Mexico. “The WTO [World Trade Organization] would not allow such a thing,” Parrish said. “The WTO states that a country is not allowed to discriminate between its trading partners.”

The Mexican officials may not see it that way. The Washington Post reported that one of the goals outlined was to maintain the North American Free Trade Agreement [NAFTA]. According to the Post and Vox, there has been uncertainty if Trump wants to re-negotiate or pull out of NAFTA.

Both East Carolina professors believe the U.S. pulling out or re-negotiating NAFTA is unlikely. “Obama has said he would re-negotiate NAFTA, but he never did,” Morris said. “U.S. producers have become dependent on NAFTA,” Parrish said. “Pulling out of NAFTA now would not be in the best interest for anyone.”

President Nieto and Press Secretary Sean Spicer have said that the two countries plan to maintain good relations in the future. However, both East Carolina professors were unsure of the future relationship between the U.S. and Mexico. “We will just have to wait and see, that’s all there is to it,” Morris said.


“Cinderelly, Cinderelly”
In 1950 the big screen was lit up with one of Walt Disney’s finest love stories, Cinderella. Cinderella grossed over five million with the first screening. It was Walt’s second Disney princess, following Snow White. With two added sequels, Cinderella II: Dreams Come True (2002) and Cinderella III: A Twist in Time (2007). Along with over twenty remakes such as; A Cinderella Story (2004), Ever After (1998) and Ella Enchanted (2004). The story of Cinderella has lived on through generations.

Could Disney ever remake one of their most beloved stories? Of course! Disney has done it again with Kenneth Branaghs live action Cinderella. The movie was released in 2015 and grossed over $100 million in the global box office its opening weekend. The movie has the same charismatic charm as ever, proving that Disney has not lost their magical touch in today’s modern world.

Most people know the story of Cinderella. However, I’ll provide you with a short summary. Cinderella (Lily James) lived with her mother (Hayley Atwell) and merchant father (Ben Chaplin), they lived the perfect life. One day the mother became very ill and passed away. Cinderella’s father felt she needed a mother and married the evil step-mother (Cate Blanchett) with her two evil step-daughters Drisella (Sophie McShera) and Anastasia (Holliday Grainger). They lacked beauty inside and out. The father goes on a trip, but never returns. Cinderella is forced to live in her beloved house, with her unbeloved new family.

Her mother’s saying “have courage and be kind” becomes her life motto. Cinderella is forced to become the maid of the household. When a ball rolls around Cinderella is left mistreated by her family. Her animal friends and fairy god-mother (Helena Bonham Carter) save the day with a little “Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo” and she is off to the ball where she meets Prince Charming (Richard Madden). Runs away at the stroke of midnight leaving her glass slipper and thus begins the search for the madam who fits the glass slipper, aka Cinderella. They eventually find one another and live happily ever after.

The choice of actors/actresses were very fitting for the intended characters. Lily James brought the kind and courageous Ella back to life. Cate Blanchett brought every aspect of the step-mother to life, incorporating a new found look at the evil step-mother. The question of if she was always this way or the loss of her true love made her cruel? Sophie McShera and Holliday Grainger brought to life the idiotic and obnoxious step-sisters. And Richard Madden brought Prince Charming to life with his orthodontically perfect smile.

The story line follows the basic mood and story that Walt had once exclaimed in the 1950 Cinderella, but with more depth. Ella lives by the motto of her mother’s saying, “have courage and be kind” the motto envelopes every aspect of the movie leading up to the very end when Ella tells her step-mother, “I forgive you” after the cruel mistreat Ella has dealt with over the years. Another fine example of this added depth in the movie is when Ella meets the prince hunting. Her being unaware that he was indeed the prince. The conversation between her and the prince leave her remark on hunting, “Just because it is done doesn’t mean it should be done.” This line gets extrapolated later, to the subject of forced marriages for the sake of financial and political enrichment.

Archetypes, aka symbols in literature were quite common throughout the movie. Ella constantly was portrayed in blue outfits. Blue represents devotion, innocence and truth. The step-mother was constantly portrayed in wearing the color green. Green equals envy. The step-mother was quite envious of Ella’s beauty and pure heart. Another major archetype that has served as a symbol for the story of Cinderella is the glass slipper. The glass slipper pertained to feet. Feet equals freedom and stability, which Ella gains.

If Walt Disney was still around today I believe he would be proud of the success of this movie. Cinderella was able to keep the same story that Walt had originally shared. This movie proves that Disney still has not lost its magical touch even in these changing times. I highly recommend the movie to all the Disney lovers out there. It was quite breathe taking and would make Walt Disney proud! With the impending releases of Disney’s live action Beauty and the Beast, the world is waiting with breathe that is bated.



Kelly Renz Takes on the Big Apple


Kelly Renz starts her day by taking the Q train from her home in Brooklyn to downtown New York. She drops by a Starbucks and grabs her go-to, a nitro cold brew and maybe some egg bites. After braving the bustling streets of Manhattan she makes her way to the J Public Relations office in Times Square. All the while playing what she calls “chill music” in her ears.

“I like to take that time to prioritize my day and when I get to work I create a to do list so I can stay on track,” Renz said.

Surely she’s not the only New Yorker lining out her day while walking to work, but it’s crucial for a senior publicist at one of New York City’s fastest growing public relations firms. At 26, Renz appears to be well on her way to conquering the PR world while inspiring budding public relations practitioners along the way.


Senior publicist Kelly Renz (photo provided by Kelly Renz)

J Public Relations is a public relations and social media agency that focuses on hospitality, travel and luxury lifestyle. The firm opened in 2005 under Sarah Evans and Jamie Sigler, two East Carolina University alumnae. It has won awards such as O’Dwyer’s Top 100 PR Firms, PR News Top Places to Work and PR Couture Agency of the Year.

JPR has become an international powerhouse with offices in New York City, Los Angeles, San Diego and London. Its global roster includes more than 100 hotels across different countries. It also represents hotels in Asia and Europe.

“Currently I work on eight accounts, which together have over 31 hotels around the world,” Renz said. “Last February I secured a client, The Shore Club in Turks and Caicos, on the front cover of Travel + Leisure magazine. I was extremely excited to see my hard work come to fruition.”

“Overall being a publicist is extremely stressful, we work long hours and are always available so learning the importance of time management early in my career was very crucial to making me successful today,” Renz said. Regardless of the time constraints she said the job is rewarding because she gets to work with hotels around the world that choose JPR to represent them.


Senior publicist Kelly Renz showcasing her client on the cover of Travel + Leisure magazine (photo provided by Kelly Renz)

Renz was first hired as a junior publicist at JPR in 2014. She then went on to become a publicist in 2016 and then in 2017 earned the role of senior publicist. “Before being promoted to each position I had to master the role I was in before I could take on the next list of responsibilities,” she said. “It’s important that you own the position in front of you and do it to the best of your ability before looking to move into the next role.” Today she handles all media interaction and account management where she keeps day-to-day contact with her clients.

While Renz has worked with JPR for about four years, her relationship with the firm began earlier. She originally started as an intern after graduating from the East Carolina University School of Communication in 2013. “East Carolina gave me a great understanding of the public relations field and the classes I took throughout my studies in the school helped me grow in a lot of ways from public speaking, strategic thinking to time management. I also learned the importance of networking and how to connect with likeminded people,” Renz said.

When nearing the end of her studies she reached out to Todd Fraley, then a professor in the School of Communication who was also in charge of the internship program. “I told Fraley that I had been following the company and was very interested in applying for the internship program and he was committed to helping me achieve my goal,” Renz said. “We still keep in touch to this day.”

“Kelly is a great example of what an East Carolina School of Communication student can accomplish,” Fraley, Associate Dean of the East Carolina University Honors College said. “She was willing to gain professional experience outside of the classroom and willing to take feedback and grow from it.” Fraley said his favorite memory of Renz is when she told him she received the job with JPR. “She was extremely excited,” he said. “It’s great when others see the potential in them that we saw in them every day.”

Renz said she had mixed feelings when she first applied for the job, but said Fraley was a great mentor and helped guide her through the application process. “I was excited and nervous at the same time. It had always been a dream of mine to move to New York and begin my career. The more I researched JPR I became amazed by the agency,” she said. “I pinch myself everyday because I can’t believe how fortunate I am to be working for such an incredibly, strong and powerful agency – while doing something that I absolutely love in an environment that is the most rewarding and encouraging workplace out there.”


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