“Will the World Ever Learn?” Elon student commencement address 2019

Back in late February of 2019, I co-hosted Elon’s first Elon English Language Teaching Symposium on campus. At the event, I delivered a short presentation to our 100 attendees and felt nervous beforehand. 100 people is a large crowd! After the Symposium ended, a professor asked if he could nominate me to speak at graduation for the College of Arts and Sciences and School of Education Ceremony. I was shocked, humbled, and honored. I had just spoken to 100 people, and now I’d be preparing for thousands?! I slept on it, and told him “yes!” shortly after. A few weeks later, I received the news that I had been chosen.

I would like to share the text of my speech with all of you. Thank you to Dr. Jeff Carpenter and Dr. Kim Pyne for being my wonderful speech coaches. Thank you to Dean Ann Bullock, the Dean of the School of Education for supporting me throughout this process!

“Will the World Ever Learn?” Elon student commencement address 2019

Hey y’all! Welcome all to graduation and a big welcome to my fellow graduates. Thank you to the families who have traveled from near and far, and to the professors, friends, and supporters who have encouraged us and cheered us on every step of the way. My name is Courtney Kobos and I am a Texas native, an Elon English and education major, and a future teacher. Like many of you, some pinnacle moments of my Elon experience include traveling, researching, and teaching. And as a teacher, and in classic Elon style, I’m going to ask us to reflect together on our Elon experiences one more time.

Last semester, I began an internship teaching 10th graders at a nearby school. As a class, we read texts about injustice from the Holocaust to Sandy Hook. One was Elie Wiesel’s speech to the United Nations commemorating the Holocaust. The speech concludes with the famous lines: “We must be engaged, we must reject indifference as an option. Indifference always helps the aggressor, never his victims. But will the world ever learn?” During the class activity that followed, a student pulled me aside. Pointing at that final line, she looked at me, concern etched across her face, and whispered the same question Wiesel asks us. “Ms. Kobos, do you think the world will ever learn?” As a teacher, I get asked dozens of questions a day and I can’t say that I’m able to remember them all. However, this unexpected heartfelt question and the student’s worried tone continue to echo in my mind.

In pondering this, I was reminded of a memory from the summer before. I have titled this story, “That time I accidentally signed myself up to run an Ecuadorian 5K.” Let me tell you about my host mom, Maria Jose. Maria Jose is a force to be reckoned with. She selflessly gives her time and love to many in her community, including her kids, her school, and the volunteers who work at the summer camp she founded. Maria Jose also bravely battles two types of cancer and trains for races in the midst of chemo. So, when a colleague asked me if I’d like to go cheer her on during an evening 5k, I gladly agreed. I showed up at her door at 8pm dressed in street clothes, ready to be the loudest “gringa” there. She took one look at me and asked, “What are you wearing? Mihija, you can’t run in that. We’re late, so go get changed into your race clothes!” I panicked. I could not say no to Maria Jose, but running is not my thing–just ask my family here in the crowd. But, I had no choice. I had apparently agreed to run in the race, not just be part of the cheering section. 20 minutes later, we arrived at the trail and approached a group of serious runners decked out in running tights and headlamps. And then, there was me: an outsider wearing skinny jeans, using the flashlight on my phone, and dragging myself up that hill wondering how in the world I ended up there, and trying to swallow my pride when I was the last one to make it to the top. In reflecting on moments like this one, that have pushed me outside of my comfort zone and have forced me to learn and grow — I started to formulate an answer to my student’s question. In order to fully support Maria Jose, I had to run the race alongside her. Standing by and cheering from the sidelines was not enough.

When I returned to Elon, I immediately dove in to another one of the most enriching and uncomfortable periods in my undergraduate career — conducting research. I was awarded the Elon Leadership Prize, which funds students trying to tackle large scale national problems in their communities. My project focused on improving the schooling experience locally for English language learners and building capacity in the education system to better support underserved children. Who was I to take on this broad and nearly unsolvable issue? For a while, I had moments daily where I doubted myself and wondered why I was chosen for this award. But, if I could survive that crazy 5K run up the side of an Ecuadorian mountain, maybe I would accomplish this project the same way — by embracing discomfort and placing myself in the action. Through showing up and doing the work alongside many others, I had the opportunity to see the difference between having knowledge for the sake of knowledge and using knowledge collaboratively to influence local change. Oftentimes, we are told that if we just work together we can change the world. But, I believe that in addition to working together, we also must individually commit, take responsibility, and be daring.

I stand here confidently today, looking out at you, my fellow 2019 graduates. We have now completed our time at Elon. We have taken dozens of classes, met students from across the United States and the world, and have gained knowledge about our future careers and about our passions. I realize now, from my experiences teaching, traveling, and researching, that support from the sidelines is not what the world needs. We must be in the thick of the action and outside of our comfort zones. Just like on that dusty trail in Ecuador, we must put ourselves in the race, even if we are the very last ones to make it to the top, and sometimes even if we didn’t intend on signing up for the race to begin with. We must each choose to fight the tendency to stay on the sidelines, because we have the power to reject indifference.

So, class of 2019, I bring my student’s question back to all of us. “Will the world ever learn?” Can we take the knowledge that we have acquired during our time at Elon and use it to get off the sidelines? Can we push against our natural inclination to be indifferent? Can we get to the top of that hill, not alone, but together? Can we? The answers to these questions are ever evolving. With every step and every choice, no matter our majors, our career paths, or our life journeys, we can demonstrate that the world can learn.

Thank you Mom and Dad, family, friends, and Elon for all of your love and support!

Uncategorized

Things to do in Burlington & Beyond

Elon students, and Burlington residents, this one is for you! In a small town like Burlington, it can feel like you’ve already done everything that there is to do. While at Elon I’ve scoured Trip Advisor and pages of date suggestions, but good comprehensive lists are few and far between.

So, I decided to compile my own — you’re welcome in advance. Save this post so that when you’re looking for a fun new place to try with your friends or a significant other, you don’t have to repeat the same old typical Saturday night plans. Get your bucket list ready!

I’ve split my suggestions into two main categories “Burlington” (under 25-minute minutes from campus) and “Beyond” (Greensboro, Chapel Hill, Durham, Raleigh, etc). Within those categories, my favorites are split into: Outdoors, Fun activities, Culture, & 21+


Burlington

Outdoors

Haw River Trail (Shallow Ford) 

IMG_0651.jpgThe Haw River Trail is Elon's closest
real trail to campus. If you're in
need of a perfect start to your
weekend, head over with a friend.
There's also a great wooden platform
for yoga!
Saxapahaw Island Park & trails 
57505535689__5A79DF84-E236-4B93-870E-5362E10F3983-1.jpg 
Saxapahaw is an adorable town 25 min.
from campus. Eat lunch at the general
store and then do some exploring.
Cedarock Park
196D912F-87E7-4CF4-ADC7-99A71884752D.jpgCedarock Park is a 414-acre nature 
preserve and historic farm. You'll
find lots of families exploring
and can say hi to some adorable
farm animals.
Guilford Mackintosh Park 
 IMG_2844.jpgJust a couple of exits past Target,
Macintosh is a hidden gem. There are
several short trails, a lake, and
great picnic tables. I love to pack
a lunch and eat near the water.

Food

  • Colombian Cravings
    Located near Harris Teeter, this latin restaruant is a recent
    favorite of mine. Order a juice and prepare for savory
    meat and huge portions.
  • Da Vinci’s Table 
    IMG_7296.jpgA classic Italian birthday spot.
    Da Vinci's is a great place
    to take your visiting family 
    or get away for a date night.
  • Red Bowl 
    Red Bowl is a personal favorite of mine and has a great patio.
    
    Pro tip: go for the lunch specials for a much cheaper total 
    bill.
  • The Park 
    The Park always hits the spot on weekend mornings. It offers
    southern breakfast and diner-style food.
  • Catrinas Tequila and Taco Bar 
    Catrinas is located in Mebane and should not be judged by
    its outer appearance. It may be in a strip mall, but 
    prepare to be wowed by the tacos and wait staff.
  • The Verdict on the Square 
    Located in downtown Graham, The Verdict is the perfect place
    to grab a burger and a beer before you explore the town.
  • Saxpahaw General Store 
    IMG_2461.jpg
    As mentioned above, Saxpahaw is a 
    town you shouldn't miss. Eat at the
    general store where ingredients are
    locally sourced. Beer and drinks
    are available in the store and can
    be consumed on the porch. Check out
    more to do in Saxpahaw here.
    
    
  • Harrison's 
    Harrison's is a sandwich spot next to Harris Teeter that I 
    never noticed until recently. It's cheap, it's good, and the
    inside is cute and comfortable.

Fun activities

Fifth Street Books 
IMG_7567.jpgFifth Street Books is a warehouse in Mebane
with stacks and stacks of books for all ages
(and a live-in cat!) The organization is 
crazy, so spend an afternoon exploring
and picking out some new titles. 

Pro tip: Books are 
extremely cheap and they offer .50 book sales,
so keep up to date with their Facebook page.
Filament Coffee and Tea, Mebane 
If you have to do homework on a Saturday, Filament is the perfect
place to do it at. The atmosphere quietly buzzes in the 
background and the coffee is fabulous.

21+

  • Burlington Beer Works
    IMG_2689.jpgIt's finally open! Go visit Burlington's 
    new brewery in downtown Burlington right 
    next to The Blend coffeeshop. They offer 
    dinner, snacks, flights, and lots on tap
    for $5.
  • Cork and Cow
    IMG_9691.jpgI rarely suggest this place to people 
    sincepart of it's charm is that few 
    students go, but since I'm graduating,
    I guess it's okay! Cork and Cow is my 
    favorite spot to curl up with a book
    or do some evening work. They have 
    cheese plates, a large variety of wine
    and beer, and a perfect porch for a 
    casual afternoon.
  • Red Oak Brewery
    3F36AAE0-870F-458B-A685-2A34FC0FCDC7.jpgRed Oak's new lagerhaus is large and 
    impressive. They have stacks of games
    available to play and do weekly music
    trivia. On the weekends, there are 
    typically food trucks outside.
    
    Pro tip: You can also order pizza or food
    to the venue.
  • Piedmont Ale House 
    Piedmont is only 5 minutes from campus and has a great variety
    of pub food and drinks.
    
    Pro-tip: Go on a Thursday evening for half-price appetizers. 
    Every Thursday Piedmont features a local beer for $3-5. You
    also get to keep the glass!
  • Smokehouse at Steve's
    I didn't know that I needed Smokehouse at Steve's in my life, 
    but I absolutely did. Recently opened, Smokehouse at Steve's 
    offers huge portions of meats and your traditional BBQ sides
    and has a bar station with a large variety of sauces. Whether
    you're from Texas, Tennessee, or North Carolina, you're going
    to be impressed with Steve's.
    
    Pro tip: Steve's is also connected to its counterpart butchershop
    and local market, so if you're looking to stock up on things,
    you can kill two birds with one stone.

Beyond Burlington

Outdoors

  • Eno Quarry, Durham 
    A classic spot! Visit in the spring or fall and bring your
    swimsuit.
  • N.C. Botanical Garden, Chapel Hill
    IMG_0739.jpgI was amazed by the size of this 
    botanical garden all available for
    free to the public. Spend an 
    afternoon exploring the garden. There
    are also additional walking/biking
    trails attached to the property.
    
    Pro tip: There are free tours on the
    weekends, so look at their site in 
    advance if you're interested.
  • Duke Gardens
    Duke's campus itself is worth seeing, and their gardens are 
    impressive and free to visit. When you're in Durham, spend 
    an hour or two wandering campus and taking photos in the 
    gardens.
  • Umstead State Park, Durham 
    Umstead offers a ton of activities from fishing to boating,
    rock climbing, and paddling, so check out their site to plan
    a visit.
  • Conservators Center
                            
    IMG_5439.jpg
    The Conservators center is approx.
    30 minutes from campus and definitely
    worth a visit. The center homes many
    animals who needed a better home for
    various reasons. Tours must be booked
    in advance and are relatively 
    inexpensive.

Food

  • Dashi, Durham 
    IMG_3147.jpgGreat ramen, wonderful aesthetic,
    delicious food and drinks.
  • The Pit, Durham 
    If you haven't tried North Carolina BBQ yet, this is the perfect
    place to do it! The Pit is a bit dressier, so it's great for
    a special night out or a date night. Boxcar Arcade and several
    other bars are just down the street.
  • Gonza Tacos y Tequila, Durham 
    IMG_2558.jpgGonza is another great choice for a 
    celebratory dinner or special night 
    out. The tequila list is extensive
    and can be personalized in dozens
    of ways. Make a reservation if you
    plan to visit on a weekend.
  • Hops Burger Bar, Greensboro 
    Hops doesn't accept reservations, so prepare to wait. That being 
    said, your wait will be worth it. Their burgers are huge and 
    the atmosphere is fun. They also serve Cheesecakes by Alex if 
    you're still hungry afterwards.
  • Crafted The Art of the Taco, Greensboro 
    Crafted is a fun place to go for lunch or dinner in Greensboro.
    It's located right downtown so plan for a day of exploring and
    try a bunch of unique tacos when you're feeling hungry.
  • I Love Pho, Greensboro
    While I wish that there were more pho and ramen options near 
    campus, I Love Pho makes the drive worth it. It is also 
    located in a strip mall, so don't let that deter you. The bowls
    are huge and so delicious you'll want to go back.
  • Don Ishiyaki & Ramen, Greensboro 
    In my opinion, the best thing on Don Ishiyaki's menu is the 
    bibimbap. It comes piping hot in a stone bowl and is delicious.
    After the meal, Don Ishiyaki serves complementary ice cream.
  • Yogurt Pump, Chapel Hill 
    If you're exploring Chapel Hill on a hot day, you must stop at 
    the Yogurt Pump. It is tucked away on a back alley, so look 
    closely!
  • Morgan Street Food Hall, Raleigh 
    Morgan Street Food Hall recently opened and is the perfect place
    to reminisce on your days exploring European food markets abroad.
    It gets crowded on the weekend, but is full of a large variety 
    of cuisines and has seating indoors and outdoors.
  • Bella Monica, Raleigh 
    Bella Monica is a well-known Italian restaruant in Raleigh 
    perfect for a romantic date night. Make a reservation in advance!

Fun activities

  • International Civil Rights Center & Museum, Greensboro
    Learn more local North Carolina history by visiting the 
    International Civil Rights Center & Museum. The galleries
    are thought-provoking and engaging for learners of all ages.
  • Scuppernong Books, Greensboro 
    Support your local bookstores! Scuppernong is adorable and 
    located downtown. Check it out as you do your shopping and 
    pick up a new book or two :) they also have a small cafe with
    beer and wine, as well as regular events.
  • Explore downtown Chapel Hill 
    Need I say more? The town is beautiful and you really just 
    can't go wrong.
  • See a show at the PNC arena in Raleigh
    IMG_1697.jpgPNC arena offers a variety of regular
    shows and concerts. I recently saw
    Trevor Noah's comedy and show and
    would love an opportunity to visit
    Raleigh again!
  • North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, Raleigh 
    IMG_1681.jpgLooking for a free thing to do on an 
    afternoon? Visit the NC Museum of 
    Natural Sciences. Plan for at least an
    hour or two to visit, as the site is 
    huge. There are interactive centers
    on every floor and plenty to do for
    all ages.
  • NC Museum of Art, Raleigh
    IMG_1731.jpgThe NC Museum of Art has several 
    permanent free exhibitions ranging
    from modern art to classic European
    exhibits.
    
    They also have rotating ticketed 
    exhibits so check their site for 
    upcoming events and exhibitions.
  • Book a cheap Airbnb for one night 
    If you liked several of the things on the list and want to 
    make a weekend staycation trip out of my suggestions, I 
    reccomend using Airbnb! Airbnb has many rooms in Durham and 
    Raleigh for less than $40 a night. Share a room with a 
    friend and spend a weekend away from campus. Many hikes and 
    museums are free, so using Airbnb provides an economical way
    to see a new city.
  • Eden Movie Drive-In (Eden, NC)
    IMG_8777.jpgEden Movie Drive-In is the furthest 
    activity on this list, but makes for a
    fun friends-night-out. Located on the 
    Virginia/NC border, Eden Movie Drive
    often shows double-headers and is 
    inexpensive.

21+

  • NC World of Beer, Raleigh
    802889A2-4425-472E-8E5C-2DEF7EBBE57C.jpgThe World of Beer site describes
    themselves as a "Hangout featuring 500+ 
    global beers, lots of craft drafts & 
    tavern food in pub digs with TVs." Explore
    3 floors of beer including a rooftop or 
    choose to sit outdoors. You'll want to 
    look online at their beer list or use the 
    Untappd app to make your drink selections,
    as their offerings change daily.
  • Boxcar Bar + Arcade, Greensboro/Durham
    IMG_0858.jpg
    Boxcar Bar and Arcade is a fun spot for 
    a double date or group outing. 
    Reminisce on your childhood while you
    play Pacman or play Dance Dance 
    Revolution.
  • Unscripted Hotel Pool & Bar, Durham 
    E872F24B-B62E-40E6-B4DC-B9A5A2220376.jpg
    The Unscripted Hotel is a small boutique 
    hotel located in the heart of Downtown,
    Durham. The rooftop pool and bar are 
    public access and boast a great view of 
    the city. The pool is small, but the 
    weekend DJ and fun vibe makes it worth a
    trip. The food is pricey, so consider 
                           stopping by before or after dinner for 
                           a drink and swim.
  • Pour Taproom, Durham
    Pour is the only place on this list that I haven't personally 
    been, but I felt as though I must include it since it's 
    attached to the Unscripted Hotel and I've heard great things 
    from friends. At Pour, you pour your own beer and pay by the
    ounce by tapping a wristband at the tap.

Have anything to add to this list? Where are your favorite places in Burlington and beyond? Leave a comment and let me know! Happy adventuring 🙂 

United States

My First Taste of England

Let’s be honest – there isn’t a single thing that could replace queso, fajitas, or kolaches, or my family’s Sunday night dinners…but England is trying its best. In addition to eating my way around Oxford, I am taking advantage of my dorm room kitchen that I share with four other girls by finally learning to cook! Luckily, my roommate Tatjana only makes fun of me a little bit when I ask her basic cooking questions.

While I haven’t found the “food of all foods” here yet, I am still on the hunt. Here’s what has stood out so far!

IMy first meal across the pond obviously had to be fish and chips. The green sauce was questionable, but the fish and chips were divine. As of now, my best effort at ordering a drink requires asking what the waiter recommends, but I’ll get there one day.

The food at our Welcome Dinner, hosted by Trinity College, was unreal. Unfortunately, I failed to get a picture of the delicious duck confit. This room (pictured right) is where students who attend Trinity College eat their daily meals. It sure beats Lakeside at Elon!

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British coffee isn’t quite the same as American coffee, but their cafes sure are cuter. Finding little spots around town to study and have a snack has quickly become my favorite afternoon activity. Oxford is the perfect size: small enough to know well, yet big enough to explore.

img_0036

Last night, Elon professor Kevin Boyle took all of us Elon students out to a nice dinner at Portabello! Definitely my best dinner out in Oxford so far with great company.

img_0040Best of all, however, has been nights spent in Logan House and meals cooked with Tatjana. This is the salmon and rice we cooked together tonight! We have been meal planning and making shopping lists together which has been so motivating. Having the opportunity to eat together and share stories about our individual experiences, culture, political systems, family, and friends has been incredibly eye-opening. Through learning about others, you really learn more about yourself. Food has an amazing way of bringing people together and making memories!

This week wrapped up with another St. Clare’s day trip; this time we went to Stonehenge! Stonehenge, thought to be built around 2,000 B.C., is a mystery to this day. No one quite knows its true purpose! Located in the middle of nowhere amidst rolling green open fields (full of cute sheep!), the monument is clearly out of place.

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We braved the cold for some photos!

england taste Trips Uncategorized

5 Things I Learned This Semester

1. Say “yes” more often

This semester was, by far, my toughest academically. Towards the beginning of the year, I found myself getting too caught up with the piles of homework I had constantly waiting at home. That’s right: I was actually too concerned with homework. Several weeks went by, then another, and I realized that I was using homework as an excuse not to get out and do things.

Halfway through the semester, my Teaching Fellows cohort went on a Beach Retreat. I was legitimately stressed about this in general because we were told not to bring homework. What?! No homework?! While that might sound like heaven for some, I was freaking out internally.

Over the course of the weekend, these fears began to dissipate. I spent time sitting on the beach, talking with friends, and reflecting on this semester. As I reflected, I realized that I had been missing out on so many things that I had enjoyed freshman year because I was using a busy schedule as my excuse. I decided right then and there that the last half of my semester would be different – and it was.

Two days later, my friend Amanda texted me and asked if there was any way I could drive her home to Asheville, NC the next week so she could vote in her county. Normally, there is no way that I would say yes to something last minute like that! However, this was the sign I needed to bounce back from my boring first half. I said yes, emailed the professor whose class I’d be missing and asked to submit a paper early, got a cover for work, and started packing. The next night, we headed to Asheville. In 12 hours, we managed to fit in an incredible dinner, dessert, and sunrise on the parkway.

Days like this are the ones that won’t be forgotten. Don’t forget to break the rules and say yes sometimes.

 

2. Take time for the things that bring you joy

To continue alongside my previous thought, say yes in particular to things that bring you joy! Sometimes, this means saying no to others and saying yes to yourself. Yes, I deserve to have a night to myself tonight. Yes, I want to go on a hike today! Yes, I deserve that cookie! Yes, I want to read a book for fun tonight! Yes, I have time to go workout!

Sometimes, we get so caught up in the things that we “have” to do: meetings, class, homework, more meetings, that we forget to take some time for ourselves! Whether this means spending time on hobbies you enjoy, reading a book, or just relaxing, we all need to things that we like!

I notice that when I neglect myself, my relationships and academic life suffer. If I’m doing things that make me happy, then I’m happier!

So, treat yoself, grab that cookie, and take that bubble bath and then get back to your seemingly endless to do list.

 

3. When you’re in the right major you’ll know

Last year, because I brought in AP credits, I actually was not enrolled in a single English course! I thought that I was in the right major…but how would I know without a single college English course under my belt?!

This original uncertainty ended up being a good thing. I got to explore different fields, gain interesting perspectives, and by the time sophomore year came around, I knew that English was the field for me. While I enjoyed some of my core courses, English and Sociology classes just feel right. Exploration is a super important part of the college process! If you don’t have anything to compare your “major” courses too, how will you know you’re in the right place?!

This year, I am happily enrolled in all English, Sociology, and Education courses. I feel so lucky to take amazing classes alongside many people that I now call my best friends. In Teaching Literature, we focused on asking big philosophy questions: what is literature? why should we teach it? how should we teach it? Through TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages), I spent my days volunteering at an Immigrant and Refugee Outreach Center in Greensboro and learning how to manage a multilingual classroom. Class became less of a chore and something I looked forward too.

Ultimately, I have learned how valuable a liberal arts education is. University is much less about getting a degree and much more about the education process. Living on campus at a University like Elon allows me to have educational experiences both in and out of the classroom each and every day.

 

4. Career choice is a lifelong process

Even if you know that you’re in the right major, it is perfectly okay to not know exactly what your life will look like in 5 years or 20 years. In fact, it is probably impossible for you to know. Instead, I try to focus on each experience I have and reflect on the things I learned and how I could use them in the future.

When I came to Elon, I wasn’t even sure that I wanted to be a Teaching Fellow. What if I changed my mind and didn’t want to teach anymore?! While I know now that English and education are “right” for me, I am still not sure exactly where I’ll end up.

Last semester, after taking a course called Sociology of Education, I added a Sociology minor to my 4-year plan. I do not know exactly how this fits in yet, but I absolutely love combining my fields of interest. Talking about things like the achievement gap, socioeconomic disparities, and tracking students is what I love. Additionally, after taking TESOL, I have developed an interest in working with speakers of other languages. Next year, I will be starting a research project and studying how ELL students are treated and regarded by my local school district. I am hoping to somehow combine all of my loves and experiences into a career path one day.

I have accepted that the only thing that I can do right now is fully immerse myself into each opportunity that I have. By doing this, I know that I will end up exactly where I am meant to be.

 

5. It goes by fast

I knew going into this (now past) semester that time was going to fly by. And like clockwork, it has now come to an end. It seems unreal that I am already packing up and preparing to go abroad to Oxford, England. Soon, my college undergraduate career will be halfway done.

Even though leaving Elon was bittersweet, I am trying to focus on living in the moment and loving each semester for what it has to offer. Yes, things will be different next time I’m back, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing!

Oxford, I’m ready for you!

 

Happy Holidays, everyone!

Courtney

Reflections Uncategorized