By Joe Shearer, Photo Editor
Gaggles of students, their friends and some family members flocked to the campus recreation Mecca for HPER After Dark, an event hosted by Midnight Mojo on Jan. 20. The multi-million dollar facility was put to good use, as almost the entire sprawling complex was alive and bustling with a variety of activities for attendees to peruse.
The action was happening as soon as I walked in the door. Folks enjoying conversation and free pizza occupied the tables in the wide and open lobby area. I didn’t want to talk to people with food in their mouths, and I wanted to get a feel for the place before I started reporting. So as the latest LMFAO epic was blaring in the background, I pondered which direction I should start in.
Left felt right, so left I went, casually strolling down the lengthy hall. A pair of ping-pong tables were seeing some good action. My coordination skills are poor, so I walked on. More tables were strewn about and they were all hosting talkative event goers. The racquetball court had been converted into an impromptu dodge ball arena, where dozens of frenzied students ran aimlessly, evading a pummeling from rubber balls. I wandered into the rock climbing room a few feet down the hall, which was booming with activity. I caught up with fellow Mavericks Amy Nowaczyk and Lauren Mitchell, who were strapping on their harnesses and preparing to make use of the skills they picked up in a UNO rock climbing class. They had an obvious statement to share.
“As you can see, this is a great way to get out and meet new people and have fun,” Nowaczyk said as she pointed to the masses making their way about HPER.
“I concur,” Mitchell agreed.
They seemed more eager to get elevated, so I continued on my search for that elusive juicy quote. Going deeper into HPER I noticed that several of the classrooms were hosting different class-style activities. Martial arts and Zumba were going in full force. Both activities were fast paced and synchronized, so I dared not interrupt for an interview. I will note, though, that those interested in taking care of cardiovascular health issues may want to take up Zumba.
Around the east side of the building even more physical activity was happening. The National Guard had their own section at HPER After Dark, where members on duty were partaking in push up contests with random challengers. I don’t know why they weren’t offering cash prizes for that because those guys were good! Funnily enough, the National Guard was also sponsoring the second to least physical activity behind sitting and eating pizza: playing video games. A “Call of Duty” tournament was in the works as I was watching behind the huddle of gamers geeking out behind the screens. Other recent Xbox 360 releases were also available on the multitude of screens. SSG David Strohbehn, Recruiting and Retention NCO for the National Guard, offered his thoughts on events like Midnight Mojo.
“It’s nice to be able to get people together for some good, clean fun,” Strohbehn said. “And obviously we’re going for the soft sell into the National Guard. It’s a great way to interact with these kids while having a little fun.”
After declining a push up challenge from Strohbehn’s comrades, I bid the National Guard a farewell and kept on. I liked what he had to say, but it still wasn’t the groundbreaking content that every aspiring reporter hopes to capture. I thought about brainstorming in the after-hours hot tub, but I didn’t remember my swimsuit and didn’t want to get my voice recorder wet.
“Come on, just think,” I told myself as I passed back down the hall I initially entered through. The dodge ball game was still going in full effect. It was then that I finally mustered up a then-genius idea to get the story I was looking for. The best journalists get down and dirty in the frontlines of everything they cover to get the most entitled, accurate quote. So, summoning the spirit of Geraldo Rivera, I braced myself, fired up my voice recorder and jumped in the game.
My laughs and smiles were a façade as rubber balls of assorted hues of red and green whirred by at alarming speeds. There were people from many walks of life in the game, and a few of them were athletes with strong arms. Fortunately for me, though, I was able to use some of my newly acquired teammates as human shields. It was then that I met eyes with senior Adam Liston. I’m sure he was merely expecting a dodge ball induced grunt and looked at me like I was a raving lunatic when I jammed my voice recorder in his face in the heat of battle. While keeping an eye out for errant balls, he explained his intentions.
“I just wanted to get free food, mostly,” the aviation major noted. “And, you know, it’s something to do on a Friday night.”
After my brief exchange with Liston, I successfully scrambled to make an unscathed exit. Shuffling toward the exit I thought about this story and the people I talked to. They were just telling me what I wanted to hear. things we should already know. I didn’t find my Pulitzer Prize winning quote. Shortly after that thought, though, I had a small revelation. I realized that I was trying to dig much deeper than needed because the idea behind Maverick Mojo is quite simple: Provide a mass of college students a fun, safe and engaging environment to socialize in – for free! And that is exactly what they’ve been doing for the last few years. There is no mystery to be uncovered. There is no deeper meaning to this story.
Started in 2009, the Midnight Mojo project was founded to provide free and safe late night activities to UNO students. Funding for Midnight Mojo events are made possible by U kNOw CHOICES in connection with LiveWise. The LiveWise Regional Coalition is an area nonprofit organization whose focus is to prevent the use and abuse of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs. Past events have included more HPER After Dark and trips to bowling alleys, The Amazing Pizza Machine, the Durham Western Heritage Museum and more.
Events like HPER After Dark brush any negative impressions of the college experience under the door. In an age where innocence (sometimes) seems to be lost, Midnight Mojo is there to offer a refreshingly fun and safe experience for college students.
For more information about Midnight Mojo and future events, contact Bill Pickett at firstname.lastname@example.org or (402) 554-4001. More information is also available on the Midnight Mojo Facebook fan page, or by sending an email to email@example.com.