Tag Archives: profile

Nico Sandi: The Storyteller

Crouched on the ground, his forearms rest on his knees while a monopod stems from the bottom of his camera. His hands fold over the body as he pulls the camera to his right eye. Wrinkles form at the corner of his left eye as it closes relinquishing his full attention to the viewfinder and the scene the lens holds before him.

His left hand cradles the lens, sliding the focus ring back and forth ever so slightly before their faces become sharp. His right hand grips the camera’s body as his finger fidgets with the shutter speed dial. When the exposure is right and the aperture is set, his index finger hovers over the shutter button.


Kids riding bikes in Bethel. (Photo: Nico Sandi)
Kids riding bikes in Bethel. (Photo: Nico Sandi)

Nico Sandi captures a moment shared between three children on their bikes in Bethel, Alaska.

Nico can be found all over the world with a camera in hand.

Prior to his trip with Creighton’s Backpack Journalism program to rural Alaska, his past two summers were spent on other backpacking trips: a trip though Europe with his sister and a solo trip to Patagonia.

“I love traveling. It’s when I’m most comfortable. I considered myself to be someone who lives a simple life. I don’t like to carry to many things, traveling with a backpack is very much me,” Nico said.

The Backpack Journalism project is just the very beginning of Nico’s summer video adventures. He is also working on a video about the 25th anniversary of the Jesuit martyrs in El Salvador for RSP classes this fall and will be traveling to his home country, Bolivia, to film a documentary about Jesuit missions with Don Doll, SJ.

Nico's Favorite photo from Alaska.
Nico’s favorite photo from Alaska. (Photo: Nico Sandi)

When forced to choose a medium, he prefers video over still photography because he can focus on the story instead of being bogged down by photography rules.

“Video is just a series of photos put together. In video, you can tell a bigger story in a more compelling way than a picture,” Nico said.

With his love of backpacking and video, it was as if Backpack Journalism project was tailored precisely to him.

“It’s basically what I want to do with my life. I want to go and do backpack journalism—travel around the world and find interesting stories and find a good way to tell them through video or photography,” Nico said.

Nico is a storyteller; instead of using a pen and paper, he uses a camera.

“I really like to tell stories about people. I want to do meet people, find what their story is, and show that to others.”

Mari Heller: The Glue of the Group

Mari Heller walked into the fish camp late on the evening of June 14. She looked around, assessing her surroundings, and locked onto her target, a young girl named Jordan.

Ten minutes later, this happened.

Photo Cred Claudia Brock
Photo Cred Claudia Brock

Classic Mari. Fighting an 8-year-old.

“Right away I just started by just pushing her around and giving her crap for stuff. Bullying her, but not really. Just making fun of her.” Mari said. “Then she just gave it right back! She basically was me in a little person’s body. Like literally.”

Several hours later, as our crew started heading back to Bethel, Jordan ran up to Mari and hugged her with great gusto.

“I miss her already,” Mari said.

Mari Heller is spunky and strong-willed, but simultaneously caring and considerate. She’s quick to poke fun, but does it in a way that’s all inclusive, bringing people into a tighter community.

She brought these traits with her on the Creighton Backpack Journalism trip to Bethel, Alaska, and quickly became the glue that keeps the ragtag crew together. She was integral to social unity.

Mari once walked throughout the camp, telling people that Carol wanted to see everyone in the social hall.

Upon the last person’s arrival, she revealed the truth.

“Okay everyone, Carol didn’t actually need to see you,” she said.

Stunned silence.

“Claudia and I have appointed ourselves the social chairs of BackpackJournalism,” she proclaimed, “and we have a fun surprise for y’all: Superlatives.”

She and Claudia proceeded to run through a list of superlatives for the entire group, including Best at Being Dressed to Scale a Mountain at All Times (Hannah), Best Smirk (TJ), and Best at Making Everything Epic (myself).

The spectacle demonstrated Mari’s astounding ability to lightly poke fun at people and subsequently bring them closer together, her most prominent and endearing quality.

Mari was brought up in San Antonio, Texas ((she’ll be quick to argue with you about the merit of her home state’s Barbecue) Okay, maybe I instigated her a little on this, as I’m from Kansas City).

After graduating from high school there, she decided to continue her education at Texas A&M University.

“I pretty much just went to Texas A&M because that’s where kids from my high school were going. I was really close to them,” Mari said.

This proximity to her high school friends did not turn out to benefit her.

“I realized how big of a mistake that was like sophomore year,” Mari said. “I decided I was going to transfer.”

After researching and visiting several schools, she decided to attend Creighton, though she initially was against it.

“(My Mom) suggested I look at Creighton and I wrote it off immediately because it was in Nebraska and because my mom suggested it,” Mari said. “I wasn’t even happy that I got in because I was like, ‘I’m not even going there anyway.'”

After visiting, Mari decided Creighton was the right fit after all, and transferred in for her Junior year, eventually deciding on a major in PR.

“I had to admit that my mom was right, which was rough. The rest is history I guess. It’s the best thing I’ve ever done probably, getting away from high school,” Mari said.

One year into her Creighton career and craving a travel-study experience, Mari decided to head to Alaska for the Backpack Journalism program.

“When I talked to Dr. Wirth about abroad possibilities, she suggested Alaska as a good way to get to know people in the department.  So, I signed up,” she said.

Before leaving, Mari had some second thoughts about the trip. She found herself unsure of the intended story and unfamiliar with the group she had become a part of.

Luckily, she found more than she expected.

“I thought we were going to just go make the film, talk to some people. It was more than that.  I learned that what’s right or normal for one person isn’t necessarily right or normal for another person. It kind of reinforced the idea that not everyone should have the same lifestyle or beliefs. That shouldn’t be forced on anyone. It was intense,” she said.

“Is there any more you’d like to add?” I asked, near the conclusion of our interview.

With a rambunctious smirk and shrug, Mari answered in classic form.

“Eh. Not really.”



Have a Carrot: A Profile of Alison Prater

(Title inspired by: The Runaway Bunny)

As a Political Science major at Creighton, 22-year-old Alison Prater came into her trip to Uganda with general knowledge of the basic political and social structures of the country. Prior to her departure, Alison also began to read books describing the sociological and political structures in Uganda as well as personal accounts of living among the people. Her knowledge deepened and her perspective changed as she met the people and experienced the culture.

The two-week program in Backpack Journalism, immersed the students within the Ugandan culture while simultaneously creating a short documentary film about the role of music within the culture. Alison had never been to the developing world nor was she familiar with camera equipment, but she welcomed a new challenge and approached the trip with an eagerness to learn.

“The amount of sincerity from the people was overwhelming.” Most places give you some sort of greeting when you arrive, but she said she had never received this kind of welcome. Even thousands of miles away from her home, she felt at ease.

During her two weeks, she learned how to separate what truly matters in her life which she believes comes with any kind of travelling.

“You can live off the people around you. It doesn’t have to be about degrees, majors, or money.”

It was not easy to balance making sense out of the injustices around her while also keeping up with her personal thoughts. She did not let this affect her ability to actively participate in her role as an interviewer for the film project.

She said she struggled to remain focused sometimes, but she remained patient and asked for help when she needed it.

“It was difficult, but it brought me closer to the subject matter.”

Her greatest challenge during the trip was dealing with emotions in a foreign place. “Every single coping mechanism you usually have is ripped out from under you.” She struggled to process the immense desperation and suffering around her.

“You can’t cry. It’s not an option because you have to look at it.”

She realized there were times when she could pretend that whatever was happening around her was not real. However, she was quickly reminded of the reality of the situation when she saw children wearing Green Bay Packers or Jonas Brother shirts.

“It was connected to my world directly and that made me sad.”

In addition to being exposed to new and often heart breaking sights, Alison faced the challenge of sharing it all through the class blogs.

“For the first time in my life, I was speechless.” Her journal became more of a list of events than a descriptive narrative. She said it was hard to find the words when her mind was still trying to make sense out of everything that had happened.

“It was jarring.”

Although it was overwhelming at times, she said it was refreshing to be able to experience such a range of emotions. Her emotions in the United States typically focus upon stress or anxiety, yet in Uganda she experienced “pure solid emotions.”

“I never knew I could experience that many feelings in one day, one hour, one minute.”

Her time spent at the top of Murchison Falls inspired what she called “pure happiness.” As she and her fellow classmates ran around the slippery rocks with their expensive cameras, warm light spread across the sky and it began to rain. She suppressed her urge to jump in the water, but the impact of the power of her surroundings remained.

She said her time in Uganda is something to keep learning from and working from..

“Africa changes people. No one comes out entirely different, but no one comes out entirely the same.”