Human interest: asking Gators what they enjoy most


Jordan Greynolds

Clockwise from top left: Anthony Baldeosingh, ’22, Katherine Leyonmark, ’22, and Michelle Miller, ’22.

Allegheny College is a small liberal arts college that takes pride in diversifying its students’ areas of study. Even so, no amount of classes can do justice to the wide array of interests that the student body has.

Hailing from different states, countries and walks of life, each student has a story unique to them and interests that may or may not be shared by many of their peers.

Interests in music and basketball are common across America, but for Anthony Baldeosingh, ’22, where he comes from shapes what kind of meaning they have for him.

“I grew up in Brooklyn and that’s kind of the lifestyle,” Baldeosingh said. “You grow up on music, specifically hip-hop, and then basketball is the sport in New York City. Everyone plays other sports but that’s the one everyone watches and talks about.”

The linkage of hip-hop and basketball has been a cultural staple in America dating back to the late-1990s and continues to be as strong today as it has ever been.

“You got rappers talking about basketball players and basketball players hooking up with rappers and it’s almost like the spirit of Brooklyn,” Baldeosingh said.

The connection between these forces is not isolated to New York City, but the talent that the city has produced in regards to hip-hop and basketball makes the connection recognizable across the country.

The city’s boroughs have produced dozens of Hall of Fame and soon-to-be Hall of Fame basketball players as well as some of the most legendary hip-hop artists to date, such as the Notorious B.I.G., Jay-Z and Nas.

The bond between these forces is largely fostered by the environment of the parks where basketball is played.

“Imagine someone hits a crossover right when a beat drops and you have the announcers from the neighborhood with the mic in their hand hyping up some kid who might just live down the block,” Baldeosingh said. “He hits them with a hesi and then he scores and they start playing Faneto by Chief Keef.”

With crowds gathered, music playing and an announcer on the loudspeaker, playing in New York is a beast of its own. New York is home to some of the country’s most notable hoop spots, such as Rucker Park where NBA legend Julius Erving played in the early 1970’s. Since then, other NBA legends like Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant have wowed crowds along with hometown heroes like Lamar Odom and Sebastian Telfair.

No matter who has next on the court, the summertime is where Baldeosingh’s favorite things culminate.

“In the summertime at cookouts, you’re hooping and playing music and they’re just two things that go together like bread and butter,” Baldeosingh said. “When you go it’s not like any other feeling because you’re not worried about schoolwork, bills or anything. You’re just there having a good time and soaking up the energy. It’s an experience. It’s not really something you can just write down and put in a book and people understand it.”

Far away from the basketball court and beyond earshot of the music is where another Allegheny student, Michelle Miller, ’22, finds her favorite thing to talk about: Squishmallows.

Squishmallows are a hybrid between stuffed animal and pillow, but Miller insists they are not a rip off of Pillow Pets.

From a collection standpoint, they certainly are not as they have taken on a life of their own, especially for Miller.

“I have 105 of them and definitely don’t want to know how much I’ve spent,” Miller said.

Her collection started small with just two that she bought the summer before coming to college. At the time they were not very popular but things have quickly changed.

“They’re really popular now but they weren’t when I started collecting,” Miller said. “Now everyone has different collections and some are really expensive, like up to $130.”

Miller describes how she used to be able to walk into Five Below and buy them, but now the store is always sold out and customers are left in the dark about when new shipments will come in. Even at Target where they are slightly more expensive, the collectibles tend to sell out.

A similar trend has been seen in recent years; as the collecting hobby has skyrocketed, there has been a sharp uptick in demand for other items such as sports trading cards and Funko Pop collectibles.

Squishmallows come in many different shapes, sizes and collections, which give collectors incentive to keep buying.

“I get excited to talk about different animals or what designs they have, and what collections I have,” Miller said.

For the owners of Squishmallows, the items have a dual purpose between taking up space on a bed or on a shelf for display.

“You can have some to sleep on or cuddle with but they’re more so meant for display,” Miller said. “I have Halloween, Christmas, Easter and fall and winter ones, so they all rotate based on the season.”

The effort that it takes to find collectibles makes owning them feel like an achievement, Miller explained. For as much as Miller likes to have a few Squishmallows in bed with her, she prefers proudly seeing them displayed in her room.

“I feel like collecting is kind of like a treasure hunt,” Miller said. “You want to collect the ones you really like but maybe you can’t find them so you keep searching and searching which can be fun. I think it can be a good and fun thing for people to do who are stressed out.”

For those who want to relieve their stress without running the risk of becoming addicted to buying stuffed animal pillows, cheerleading is another solid option.

“Cheerleading is something that’s always a high point of my day,” Katherine Leyonmark, ’22, said. “Whenever I have practice, it’s great not to have to think about things and just have a fun time if the day has otherwise been stressful.”

Leyonmark took part in county, state and out-of-state competitions throughout her high school career and now cheers in college at Allegheny.

“It’s something that I’ve done for so long and has been a big part of my life so it’s just something I have a lot to say about and that I’m passionate about it,” Leyonmark said. “The part that I’m really passionate about is the athletic side of it where there’s the tumbling, the stunting, the jumping and those kinds of things.”

Just as other students may find that their interests in music, basketball or Squishmallows might not line up with everyone else’s interests, cheerleading is no different.

“I think that cheerleading gets a bad rap,” Leyonmark said. “I feel like we have a lot of bad stereotypes against us and I’m not saying everyone’s like that, but some people don’t think it’s a sport. I feel like it’s something everyone can do and can enjoy and I feel like if it’s something someone enjoys then why bring them down about it?”