More To Her Story

Former Order of Pegasus recipient Kaitlyn Chana ’13 is using her personal experience with eating disorders to create preventative care resources for mental health education.

By Jenna Marina Lee

ORLANDO, Fla. (Feb. 23, 2018) – On the surface, Kaitlyn Chana ’13 had it all together. In fact, she basically owned life.

The former straight-A student at Lake Brantley High School started her own non-profit as a teenager that sent cards of kindness to hospitalized children. She was a member of UCF’s President’s Leadership Council, LEAD Scholars and received UCF’s most prestigious student award, Order of Pegasus.

The radio-TV alumna was even selected as one of 20 people to carry the Olympic torch in 2010 for the Vancouver Winter Games through Calgary, Canada, because of her charity work.

Yet, underneath the surface, Chana battled through three different eating disorders over 10 years until the day she came to a very hard-hitting realization.

“With eating disorders, it’s life or death. If you don’t pick one, unfortunately one is going to overcome and dominate. I didn’t want to die,” she said. “I wanted to be a journalist. I wanted to be a reporter that’s telling meaningful stories.”

Today, she’s doing just that and recently returned to campus as part of LEAD Scholars’ Leadership Week to share her personal story and her mission to change the stigma around eating disorders and mental health.

According to the National Eating Disorders Association, eating disorders are serious but treatable mental illnesses that can affect people of every age, sex, gender, race, ethnicity and socioeconomic group. No one knows exactly what causes them, but national surveys estimate that 20 million women and 10 million men in America will have an eating disorder at some point in their lives.

Chana said several factors contributed to her first eating disorder, anorexia nervosa, when she was in middle school. A perfectionist, Chana said society’s perception of beauty combined with desire to please someone in her life whose love and acceptance she craved warped her reality. To her, thinness equated to beauty, acceptance and success.

She began deteriorating until she weighed closed to 60 pounds. She aimed to trim to a 12-inch waist. She carried weights in her backpack and wore weights around her ankles to shed more calories all the while maintaining her perfect GPA and anchoring the school’s morning announcements.

“My bones were protruding. When I looked in the mirror, I thought I was morbidly obese,” she said. “I cut everything off. I couldn’t cry. I didn’t even know what happy was if you defined it to me. I couldn’t understand those feelings. When I had doctors, psychologist, a nutritionist trying to help me get healthier, I transferred eating disorders. I was feeling more, but I still wanted control, so I picked up another set of bad habits.”

She shifted to bulimia nervosa, a disorder marked by binging and purging to avoid weight gain. In college, she stopped purging but instead transitioned into a binge eating disorder. She would claim control by limiting her food intake for days and then gorge on 10,000 calories in one secret sitting.

As a student at the Nicholson School of Communication, she began to see the stamina journalists needed daily to be successful in the industry.

“I knew I couldn’t keep this pain and suffering all bottled up inside of me and be able to complete the task for just my basic classes, let alone an actual full time job as a reporter,” she said.

So she visited UCF’s Student Health Services and for the first time, truly wanted the help she was asking for. They helped her find Winter Park’s White Picket Fence, a counseling center specialized in eating disorders.

It took baby steps every day, but now after a decade-long journey, she says she is fully recovered. She doesn’t wake up in the morning and go to bed at night thinking about food and weight. When she is hungry, she eats, and when she feels full, she stops.

And if she is ever in a stressful point in her life, she thinks about the past and reminds herself that those methods didn’t work for years, and they certainly won’t solve problems now.

She also credits her family, specifically her mother, for helping her through her recovery.

“Together, we figured it out. My mom would read books about it, and she would help me through the process. It truly was an exhausting journey, and I can only imagine from her standpoint. There were days where doctors said, ‘Kailtyn, you’re not going to survive. You’re going to die.’ My mom would say, ‘You can’t die on me. We’re going to do this together. We’re going to figure it out together. Just hold on.”

Chana (left center) with her Reel Stories. Real People. team

So now Chana wants to help others through the best way she knows how – storytelling.

She achieved her professional goal and became a reporter for Action News Jax in 2015 after a brief stint at a news station in Bangor, Maine. On the side, she started another organization, Reel Stories. Real People., which tells stories that inspire, advocate, and educate the public on topics through digital media not typically showcased in traditional news media.

Through the organization, she also wants to shape curriculum about eating disorders and mental health for free distribution to public schools nationwide. She intends to produce a 30-40 minute film that high school teachers can use, along with a thought-out, written plan featuring common questions, a class activity, assessments and a list of resources.

“I went to a school the other day that had the same text book that I had over a decade ago, and it’s disheartening because there’s only two paragraphs on eating disorders. But if we were able to have that preventative care and talk about it when I was in the class, maybe I didn’t have to go through all this pain and suffering,” she said. “Our goal is to help teachers redirect the conversation on mental health by providing informative preventative care resources. Now, they will be able to instruct their class with a one-day lesson that’s engaging and dynamic, but also resourceful.”

Olympic Knights: Bronze or Bust

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UCF alumna Aline Reis (center, black jersey) has a chance at the bronze medal on Aug. 19.

By Jenna Marina

ORLANDO, Fla. (Aug. 18, 2016) – A chance at a bronze medal is on the line for one Knight at the Summer Olympics.

UCF alumna Aline Reis ’11 and her native Brazil will face Canada in Friday’s bronze-medal soccer match at noon. WATCH

If Brazil wins, Reis will join an elite group of UCF alumni who have stood on the podium at the Summer Olympics. Michelle Akers ’89 won gold with Team USA’s 1996 soccer team, and Phil Dalhausser ’02 brought home gold from the 2008 Beijing Games in beach volleyball.

Dalhausser, a three-time Olympian, was also competing at this year in Rio but unfortunately exited the games early with a loss to top-seeded Brazil on Monday’s quarterfinals. He thanked his fans, sponsors, family and friends via Instagram for the support he received. Dalhausser thanks

Reis, who earned her degree in interdisciplinary studies, was called up to Brazil’s National Team Camp in February with no guarantees of a spot on the Olympic roster. She secured a role as the reserve goalkeeper on the 18-member roster.

Her shining moment occurred on Aug. 9 when she received a starting nod, played all 90 minutes in goal and came up with two great saves to earn a shutout in a 0-0 tie against South Africa.

She was featured in an Aug. 16 article by Sports Illustrated  after Brazil lost a heartbreaking match in penalty kicks to Sweden that — had they won — would have advanced them to Friday’s gold medal game.

“The coolest thing is it’s not only the typical soccer fan that’s supporting us,” Aline said in the story by Grant Wahl. “We have senior citizens, women of all ages watching us and sending us messages, wanting to take pictures with us. So I think that’s the biggest accomplishment we can have, even more important than a gold medal. We want to change the face of women’s soccer in Brazil. And if we can continue to do that through the media and the soccer that we’re playing on the field, that’s our biggest accomplishment.”

During her career at UCF, Reis earned All-American, all-region and all-conference honors and helped UCF win two conference championships. She was also recognized as a scholar All-American.

Olympic Knights: Alumni Shine in Rio

All-3

 

By Jenna Marina

ORLANDO, Fla. (Aug. 12, 2016) – For UCF’s three alumni participating at this year’s Olympics, life has been busy in Rio.

Aline Reis ’11 (Brazil, soccer) along with Ricardo Gouveia ’14 (Portugal, golf) are making their first Olympic Games appearances while three-time Olympian Phil Dalhausser ’02 is on the road to recreating magic from the 2008 Beijing Games when he won gold for Team USA in beach volleyball.

With week one of the Olympics in the books, here’s a look at what has happened already, and what is coming up for each Olympian.

Phil Dalhausser
Dalhausser, a 2002 business graduate, and his partner Nick Lucena dominated their first two matches of pool play, sweeping Tunisia and Mexico.

On Thursday afternoon at Copacabana Beach, they outlasted Italy in a thrilling and intense back-and-forth record-breaking third set (24-22). The third set in a beach volleyball match is supposed to be up to 15 — but the team has to win by 2. Dalhausser/Lucena’s third set was the longest final set in the 20-year history of Olympic beach volleyball. Click here to see highlights of the match

According to USA Today, both teams received a standing ovation.

The victory was extra sweet for UCF’s alumnus, as Italy’s Nicolai and Lupo were the pair that knocked him out of the 2012 Olympics in London. 

Dalhausser and Lucena advance to Saturday’s Round of 16 matchup against Austria’s Alexander Huber/R. Seidel scheduled for 11 p.m. ET. Watch link

Dalhausser has previously said these Olympic Games – his third – are likely his last. He told USA Today that before his opening match against Tunisia, he woke up with butterflies.

“It’s the first time since, man, I can’t tell you how long,” Dalhausser said. “I can’t remember being nervous in London, maybe Beijing was the last time I was nervous before a match.”

Aline Reis
Reis’ first appearance for Brazil’s National Team couldn’t have been more memorable. UCF’s former All-American goalkeeper started in Aug. 9’s match against South Africa – the team’s third match of the Olympics – and played all 90 minutes in goal, recording two saves to secure a shutout in the 0-0 tie.

Reis, an interdisciplinary studies alumna, was called up to Brazil’s National Team Camp in February with no guarantees of a spot on the Olympic roster. She had never competed in a match for Brazil’s National Team before Tuesday night.

As Brazil’s reserve goalkeeper, Reis said she takes great pride in her role on the team and has always approached each day with a “starter’s mentality.”

“If I’m the reserve, I believe the starting goalkeeper deserves nothing less from me. I want to push her so she can also perform her best, I know this way I’m helping the team, as well,” she wrote in a message to UCF Alumni. “But I have never lost faith, and I knew that if I had the opportunity to play in a game, I would be ready for it. Thankfully, the opportunity did come! It was magical! The best part of it was listening to the whole stadium sing our national anthem. Words cannot describe that moment.”

Brazil is known for its love of soccer, but the country traditionally throws all of its support behind the men’s team. This Olympics, however, things are changing, especially with the men’s team’s early struggles of failing to win their first two matches.

Fans are making their own women’s jerseys. Dozens of supporters are showing up at airports as the team travels around Brazil for their games to either send them off or welcome them with cheers, well wishes and posters. Roughly 40,000 people attended the Brazil-South Africa matchup in Manaus.

Reis said it has been incredible to see the outpouring of love and fandom.

“All this attention we are receiving is a blessing and gives us the opportunity to change the face of women’s soccer in this country. My dream is that one day women’s soccer can be everything it is in the USA,” she wrote. “I’m just thankful and proud to be part of this whole experience and this special moment. I seriously hope that our contributions will serve our country and our sport in ways beyond the soccer field. We want more than just a gold medal!”

Brazil advanced to Aug. 12’s quarterfinal round and will face Australia at 9 p.m. Watch link

Ricardo Gouveia
Ricardo-APGouveia, an interdisciplinary studies alumnus, was part of golf’s historic return to the Olympics in Thursday’s first round. It marked the first time the sport has been featured in the Summer Games since 1904.

Gouveia is one of 60 players from 34 nations competing over the weekend looking to capture glory in Sunday’s medal round.

At the conclusion of Thursday’s 18-hole competition, Gouveia was tied for 42nd with a score of 73. The leader after Day 1, Marcus Fraser of Australia, turned in a score of an 8-under-par 63.

The Golf Channel is airing live coverage on Friday and Saturday from 6:30 a.m. – 3 p.m. Golf channel will begin Sunday’s medal round coverage at 6:30 a.m. and air it until the broadcast switches to NBC from 1-3 p.m.

Olympic Knights: Dalhausser Dreams of Recapturing Gold

6-11-16 Phil Dalhausser celebrates vs Gibb Patterson quarterfinals
Photo courtesy of FIVB

 

By Jenna Marina

ORLANDO, Fla. — UCF alumnus Phil Dalhausser is back at it again for Team USA. The 2002 business graduate and beach volleyballer is set to compete in his third Summer Olympics this month as the Rio Games kick off Friday.

Dalhausser is one of three UCF alumni who will participate in the Olympics this year. He is striving for another gold medal (he was crowned champion at the 2008 Beijing Games) and is joined by Aline Reis ’11 (Brazil, soccer) and Ricardo Gouveia ’14 (Portugal, golf), who are making their first Olympic Games appearances.

Dalhausser was introduced to beach volleyball at Daytona Beach’s Mainland High School where his coach liked to have his team practice on the sand to give the squad an advantage in the indoor game. His fondness for the game grew at UCF where he played club indoor volleyball and found ways to get extra practice on sand.

“They had sand courts on campus and Orlando had a nice little volleyball community and almost every night those courts were packed. So I would be at the courts probably more often than when I was in class,” he told the Orlando Sentinel. “Any time I could get a game in, I’d be down there playing. I guess you could say I was obsessed with it.”

In his first Olympics appearance in 2008, he not only won gold but was also named Most Outstanding Player for beach competition. He was honored as USA Volleyball’s Beach Team of the Year in 2015 with his partner Nick Lucena. The teammates promoted the Road to Rio on NBC’s The Today Show in April.

In addition to his many career highlights, he is a Michelle Akers Award winner (2009), which is the university’s highest honor given to alumni who have brought international, positive attention to UCF through their accomplishments.

Dalhausser, 36, and a father of two, has publicly said he expects these Games to be his last, so he has his heart set on making them unforgettable.

“There’s never been a male player who’s won two gold medals on the beach side, so I’d like to be the first to do that. That’d be pretty sweet,” he told the Daytona Beach News Journal.

Beach volleyball is set to compete at Copacabana Beach from Aug. 6 until Aug. 18. Dalhausser’s first match is scheduled for Aug. 7 against Tunisia at 3:30 p.m. and will stream live on www.nbcolympics.com.

Olympic Knights: UCF Soccer Alumna Gooooooes to Rio

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By Jenna Marina

ORLANDO, Fla. — UCF women’s soccer alumna Aline Reis ’11 dared to believe she could participate in this August’s Summer Olympics, even though she hadn’t played in years. When she proudly parades through Rio de Janeiro’s Maracanã Stadium during the opening ceremony Friday, she’ll do so in front of her home country.

Reis is one of three UCF alumni who will participate in the Olympics this year. She along with Ricardo Gouveia ’14 (Portugal, golf) are making their first Olympic Games appearances while three-time Olympian Phil Dalhausser ’02 will look to recreate some magic from the 2008 Beijing Games when he won gold for Team USA in beach volleyball.

Reis was an All-American goalkeeper for the UCF women’s soccer team from 2007-11 before graduating with a degree in interdisciplinary studies (minors in coaching and health sciences).

After a brief stint playing overseas, Reis got into coaching and spent the past two years on UCLA’s women’s soccer staff as a volunteer goalkeeper coach, but she said she felt a desire to play again after watching the FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2015.

She was called up to Brazil’s National Team Camp in February with no guarantees of a spot on the Olympic roster. She had never competed in a match for Brazil’s National Team before, so she was overjoyed when she claimed one of the two coveted goalkeeper slots on the 18-member roster.

Reis posted this on her personal Facebook account on July 12, the day she learned she made the cut:

Aline rings
Aline Reis (black ring) will compete for her home country of Brazil in the Rio 2016 Games

“Last Fall I decided to put my gloves back on again, fight for a shot at the National Team and earn a spot on the Olympic roster.

So I trained my butt off, packed my bags and left a fine life behind to go back home to pursue the dream.
Today I’m so thrilled to announce that I made the Brazilian Olympic Roster for Rio 2016. While I’m thankful for my faith and courage to go after my passion, I’m far more grateful for the tremendous amount of support and encouragement I received along the way from all those who surround me. I’m blessed!

But the dream is far from over… and I won’t rest until my teammates and I have a gold medal on our chest!”

Olympic soccer matches will be played throughout Brazil from Aug. 3-19. Brazil’s first match is scheduled for today against China at 3 p.m. and will stream live on www.nbcolympics.com.

Reis knows she has the support of her home country and her fellow Knights.

“So many people have reached out to me and made sure I knew they are sending me good vibes and cheering for me. It is absolutely awesome to have my fellow Knights supporting me!” she told UCFKnights.com. “My years at UCF were crucial at shaping the person and the player I am today.”

Olympic Knights: Ricardo’s Road to Rio

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By Jenna Marina

Orlando, Fla. — If anyone knows the true meaning of “timing is everything,” it is UCF alumnus Ricardo Gouveia ’14. By qualifying for the Summer Olympics in Rio, the former men’s golf standout will be part of history as the sport returns to the Games after a 112-year hiatus.

Golf was first played at the Olympic Games in Paris in 1900, only to be removed after 1904. It was voted back in seven years ago by the International Olympic Committee, setting in motion Gouveia’s road to Rio where he will represent his home country of Portugal.

“It feels great,” Gouveia told UCFKnights.com. “It’s one of those sporting events that you dream to be a part of at least once in your life. It’s going to be special being in Rio where the native language is Portuguese.”

Gouveia is one of threRicardo-tweete UCF alumni who will participate in the Olympics this year. He along with Aline Reis ’11 (Brazil, soccer) are making their first Olympic Games appearances while 2008 gold medalist Phil Dalhausser ’02 (USA, beach volleyball) is set for his third and potentially final appearance.

Gouveia was a two-time all-region and All-America honorable-mention honoree as a Knight from 2011-14. He turned pro after graduating with a degree in interdisciplinary studies with a business administration minor.

“The whole experience that I had at UCF was crucial to reach the level of play and the stability that I have right now,” he told UCFKnights.com. “I learned so much from a lot of people while attending school. I can’t thank them enough.”

Gouveia competed in his first PGA event in 2016 when he was invited to join the field at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in Orlando, Fla.

He is ranked 34th of the 60-man field. Gouveia will tee off Aug. 11-14 on the Olympic Golf Course. The opening ceremony is slated for Friday, Aug. 5, and the Games last until Aug. 21.

Five Things Alumni Need to Know — Dec. 21, 2015

Former Olympian and UCF alumna Michelle Akers (left) hosted the latest delivery of a Limbitless Solutions arm in Powder Springs, Ga., to Lila Brooks Pearson (right front) of South Carolina.
Former Olympian and UCF alumna Michelle Akers (left) hosted the latest delivery of a Limbitless Solutions arm in Powder Springs, Ga., to Lila Brooks Pearson (right front) of South Carolina.

Here are five things you should know this week:

  1. More than 5,000 students joined the UCF alumni family this past weekend during three fall commencement ceremonies. Congratulations, Class of 2015! Here are some things all new grads should know.
  2. A team of UCF students delivering bionic arms to make 12 children’s Christmas wishes come true was featured Dec. 13 on NBC’s “TODAY Show.” Limbitless Solutions, the UCF-based nonprofit organization that provides 3D-printed bionic arms and hands to children at no cost to their families, started its 12 Arms for Christmas campaign with a special delivery to a 5-year-old South Carolina girl, which included the help of UCF alumna and Olympic gold-medalist Michelle Akers, ’89.
  3. UCF is working hard to secure funding for its planned downtown campus, which would create 2,000 new jobs and have an annual economic impact of $205 million, including $90 million in wages.
  4. A UCF College of Medicine resident was honored with the nation’s top residency research award for his study of a unique heart attack victim he met in the emergency room.
  5. Need a break from all the holiday stress this week? Come out to the CFE Arena on Tuesday and support the UCF Women’s and Men’s Basketball teams! The ladies take on Oklahoma State at 1 p.m., and the guys take on Bethune Cookman at 7 p.m. Go Knights! Charge On! Also, now through Jan. 3, you can catch a performance of “Peter and the Starcatchers” at the Orlando Shakespeare Theater.

This is our last “Five Things” list for 2015. See you in again in 2016! Happy Holidays, Knights!