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Two Brookdale clubs held a light-up-the-garden event 5 p.m. Feb. 17 honoring the memory of a murdered former Brookdale student, Stephanie Parze.
More than 70 people attended the event, which was in honor of Parze, a Brookdale alumnus who was a victim of domestic violence. The Stephanie Nicole Parze Foundation, created in her memory, shared Parze’s story to help individuals dealing with domestic violence, sexual abuse and missing loved ones.

In the autumn of 2019, Stephanie Parze of Freehold was strangled to death by her abusive ex-boyfriend, at just 25-years-old. She was reported missing for 87 days; during that time, search parties relentlessly strived to find her alive or deceased, by using many rescue methods such as drones and helicopters.

Over 1,000 people made an effort to find Parze. They searched until her body was found on Jan. 26, 2020, in Old Bridge. In the rigorous search process, it was mentioned by the victim’s father, Ed Parze, that “two other bodies were found.” His daughter’s situation, and those similar to it, occur more frequently than the average individual is aware.

The event was organized by Brookdale’s Women in Learning and Leadership (WILL) and supported by Brookdale’s The Innovation Network (TIN), which built and operates the Monarch Waystation and Butterfly Garden.

At the beginning of the event, the president of WILL, Amanda Zelevansky, introduced the victim’s father to share his daughter’s story. He revealed that his late daughter’s birthday is this Saturday, Feb. 19, which is one of the reasons for the timing of the event. Ed Parze mentioned that it was his very first time standing up and telling his daughter’s struggle with domestic violence.

The emotion-filled audience shed tears with Parze as he continued to tell the battle that Stephanie endured. Her father stressed that many people are not aware of how common these cases truly are. In fact, Parze told those assembled that “ a person in the U.S. goes missing every 11 minutes.” Furthermore, this high statistic caught the attention of many members of the crowd.

Zelevansky brought various speakers up to the microphone to help further spread awareness and guidance about domestic violence. For instance, Brookdale’s director of student services, Christopher Jeune, gave Brookdale students insight into a plethora of services available to aid them with any challenges they may face.

After the rounds of speaking concluded, all in attendance were given purple glow sticks to crack together in honor of Stephanie Nicole Parze. In addition, Brookdale’s butterfly garden was intertwined with bright fairy lights that were all lit up in her memory. The combination of these lights lit up the evening sky.

The Stephanie Nicole Parze Foundation continues to actively seek donations, sponsors and interns. The charitable donations made will all be put toward the foundation’s efforts to provide support, intervention, and education to individuals and families dealing with domestic violence, sexual abuse, and missing loved ones.

This nonprofit organization is committed to keeping Stephanie Parze’s legacy alive, while continuing to share her story, in hopes of preventing others from falling into her situation.

To reach the national domestic violence hotline, call 800-799-7233.

Original article published in The Current.

Brookdale’s Spring 22 Civility Week event commenced on Monday, Feb. 14. President Dr. David Stout kicked off the event, inviting all present to participate in a week of honest and respectful conversation.

Dr. Stout then introduced the event’s keynote speaker, Rev. Kerwin Webb, pastor of the Second Baptist Church of Asbury Park and president of the Greater Red Bank Area NAACP.

“I see Civility Week as really important because of the state that we are in in our nation, and the importance of civility going forward,” Webb said.

The theme of this year’s event is “Centering Our Collective Stories: Listening As an Act of Civility.” The goal is to enhance one’s understanding of, and learn more about, the meaning and importance of civility.

Webb described the challenges of addressing civility when someone has had a difficult encounter or a traumatic experience. At times like these, it’s natural for civility to go out the window, he said.

“So how can I, in my place of privilege, talk about being civil when there is so much unrest with our fellow human beings?” Webb asked.

As a pastor, Webb feels he has been called and commissioned to speak to the chaos and unrest and to try to be an example of how to build bridges with constructive dialog.

“When we listen to each other empathetically we can move forward together,” he said, adding that “only honest and open conversations can help us get through the turmoil we live in.”

Webb described conditions and circumstances that have contributed to the volatility and anger society is experiencing now. From homelessness to discrimination to the current situation with Russia, he feels we are at or near the breaking point.

“Getting outside of our comfort zone and trying to see the world from someone else’s point of view,” Webb said, “are ways we can help to roll back this powder keg of confrontation and conflict and work together toward a more perfect union.”

Webb described these encounters as courageous conversations. These conversations with those different from ourselves take us to a vulnerable place a place where we can do some self-reflection and be accountable for the biases we have, the prejudices we have, the indifference that we have and the hatred that we have.

But to get to a place of civility we must get rid of our fear-driven policies, practices and politics and come up with solutions, not just problems, Webb said.

As Webb ended his keynote address, he asked the audience to go through the rest of Civility Week as a lifelong learner.

“I want you to go in, not with expectations or understandings, but I want you to go in with an open mind, to say, what can I learn from this person, what can I learn from this opportunity, how can I challenge my beliefs, how can I refine them in a way to where I am better because of it.”

For more information on Civility Week:

“We recognize the stress of attending college during COVID times and are mixing it up by introducing students to complementary and alternative wellness modalities to improve students’ physical and mental health,” said Jeanette Falotico, a journalism major and president of The Innovation Network.

TIN is launching its “Blossoming at Brookdale” initiative this semester, providing resources for students to improve wellness and interpersonal skills. Students will learn how to practice self-care by incorporating simple relaxation and calming techniques into their daily lives.

Through a series of interactive demonstrations and discussions, experienced practitioners will help students discover the connection between relaxation, peace, balance and improved results in their educational and career goals.

Future events in the “Blossoming at Brookdale” initiative will include self-hypnosis, Qigong, aromatherapy, visualization healing, energy tapping, Covid grief, and more.

The series kicks off Tuesday, Feb 15 with “Brainy Brunch: You Are What You Eat.”

Guest speaker Jess Mader, M.A., a holistic wellness consultant, will share her whole-life approach to health and wellness.“College students have busy schedules and need to perform at a high level in order to succeed,” Mader said.

“That requires efficient cognitive function, alertness, concentration, and high levels of energy,” Mader continued. “This will be about learning ways to improve your diet, usually making one change at a time and doing things that fit into a student’s overall lifestyle.”

Starting at 11:30 a.m. and running to 1 p.m., this hybrid event will be held in the Student Life Center Navesink and via Zoom.

“Nutrition does not have to be difficult or scary” Mader said. “Sometimes small changes can make a world of difference. The ultimate goal is to live a happy, healthy and balanced life.”

Funding for Blossoming at Brookdale is made possible through a Community College Opportunity Grant.

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