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CBL Spring 2023 Newsletter: Community and Well-Being Edition (Issue #15)




Diana Arya reading with her dog, Teddy. Teddy is four years old and earned her Emotional Support Animal (ESA) certificate from UCSB. She punches to bring comfort to everyone she meets and loves to be read to, especially when it comes to tummy rubs.

As we come to the end of this school year, I welcome all of us to reflect on what we learned, what we made, and what we have given to our community. For me, I have learned that I am not alone in my journey in recovering from all that we have experienced since the beginning of the pandemic. I also learned how much it matters to make things. While only some of us identify as artists, we are all creators. Every creative act can shape the ways we view the world and ourselves, thus having a potential healing impact on all of us.




This newsletter features an array of creative efforts, including the 2023 Youth Summit in-person and virtual events that took place in early May. We also have an article on mindfulness and how to practice being in the moment. Readers will also learn about UCSB's Wellness Center and the programs and services they provide with a spotlight on Dog Therapy and Stigma Free Days. There is also a piece on students of color and mental health as well as a description about UCSB Care and how to access their resources.



One of my favorite ways to create is to construct collages from artwork created by youth. I crafted the collage below from a mix-media effort led by one of our young co-learners, Memi (6th grade). This work is titled, Rainbow River, which is a stop animation film. Memi explained that “bullying is a problem” and that it’s important “to have fun” with others.


On this creative note, I wish you all a restorative, healing, and creative summer.


Best,

Dr. D


CBL Youth Summit

By Melanie Reyes Santos


The long awaited, third annual UCSB Youth Summit was held on campus at the Girvetz Graduate School of Education on May 5th, 2023. The Youth Summit is an event held by youth for youth. It is a safe and collaborative space where youth come together to share and learn from each other. This year over 40 students from local elementary and middle schools attended including Harding Elementary School and the Goleta Boys and Girls Club.




The event kicked off with a welcoming circle led by MC Karla Trujillo. She introduced the children to the space and did a land acknowledgement. The land acknowledgement was read both in English and Spanish. The children danced and sang to feel connected with the land, which amped up the environment for the event. Once Karla played her drum, the event was ready to begin.


The children were able to go into any room they preferred. The rooms consisted of arts and crafts, presentations by 4th graders on recycling, a VR room, and an outdoor area. The arts and crafts rooms had coloring pages, eye mask making and drawing. The presentations by the 4th graders from Harding were about ways to help the environment. They were able to present these during the virtual youth summit where children from all across the country attended! The VR room was led by UCSB graduate students like Dogukan Ozgen, it included a VR headset game and a drawing VR game.



The students seemed most thrilled by this awesome opportunity as one student told me, “This was so cool, I felt like I was in the game!”


Outside, students were able to eat their dinner and play games, before packing up their gift bags that consisted of a Youth Summit Bingo Card, bookmarks, colorful eye masks the youth decorated themselves, stickers, pens, a Youth Summit brochure and program.


Overall, the third iteration of the Youth Summit was a success and allowed a space for children to play and learn. This was the first time I ever attended an event like this, and I met so many new friends!


CBL Virtual Youth Summit

By Roselina Luera


On May 4th, 2023, the Virtual Youth Summit took place via Zoom. The theme of the 3rd Annual Virtual Youth Summit was “Actions for a Better Planet.” Community Based Literacies prepared this event at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Young learners and educators gathered online between 9 am and 10:45 am Pacific Standard Time to exchange ideas and propose solutions to environmental problems affecting our communities and the world. Throughout the conference, there were anywhere from 25 to 85 participants. Although held online, the conference went smoothly according to the schedule.


A unique factor about the virtual conference is that international community partners were able to participate in these conversations and presentations about environmentalism. There were various presentations from different groups: ideas by 4th graders to address environmental and/or social issues local to Santa Barbara, exploration of urban green spaces in downtown Goleta conducted by students from the Boys and Girls Club, presentations of productions done by the International School of Augsburg Film Club located in Germany, discussions of places in nature that we love and want to protect, and how to build pathways to succeed through the journey from fourth grade to university.


By participating in these discussions, activities, and presentations, students contributed to a more sustainable and fair world by showcasing their activism, engaging with local government leaders and institutions, educating their parents and friends, creating local action campaigns, expressing their ideas through art, adopting new simple but meaningful behaviors, envisioning better futures where they can be active agents of change, and connecting and appreciating the small and big natural environments within their communities and state.


The most important takeaway from this conference is that no matter someone’s age, whether they are in fourth grade or a graduate student or researcher, we all have the common desire to act and become agents of positive change. The urgency of crisis must be a common understanding among those enacting change. There are many opportunities to help, connect, and make a difference for the major threats our world faces such as climate change, biodiversity loss, and social injustices. Engaging young students in such conversations paves the way for a positive future.


Mindfulness: What it Is and How to Practice It

By Roselina Luera


What is mindfulness?


As pulled from a quick Google search, mindfulness is the practice of purposely bringing attention to the present-moment experience without evaluation, a skill one develops through meditation or other training. It can also be described as a quality or state of being conscious or aware of something. In practice, mindfulness is a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations. In mindfulness we are fully present, aware of where we are and what we are doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us (mindful org) Mindfulness can be used as a therapeutic technique or as a meditative strategy. Mindfulness is something everyone can do in their daily lives. Let’s discuss what practicing mindfulness may look like.


How to practice mindfulness?


To practice mindfulness, it is helpful to let go of past and future thoughts. These are things beyond our control. Allowing our minds to focus too much on the past can cause us to waste energy on regrets or thoughts such as, “I wish I would’ve…” or “What if ____ happened differently?” In addition, thinking too much about the future can cause us anxiety or worries about what’s to come, which is something we simply cannot predict. Shorter times of focus on the past or future can be helpful and offer opportunities for reflection, but our power is in the present as we have more control of what is current.


In directing our thoughts to the present moment, we can uphold an attitude or state of acceptance. We can accept where we are without judgment and take ourselves as we are. Mindfulness is freeing, as it allows us to take a breath, take a moment, and experience clarity before we react.


A great way to cultivate mindfulness is to meditate. Mindfulness meditations are a great strategy to reconnect with our senses and become grounded again. We can better connect to reality when our senses are connected to the present moment. Engaging in deep belly breathing is a great way to do so. We can follow our breath in and out, noticing our belly rise and fall in rhythm with our inhales and exhales. Our minds may wander, and that is okay. Simply redirect your attention to your breath.


To connect to the senses, a great way to start is by closing your eyes. Listen to the sounds around you, the feeling of your skin, the scents. Open your eyes and observe what is around you.


Why should I practice mindfulness?


Practicing mindfulness during daily life can be as simple as taking a moment to notice the smaller details. Mindfulness has been proven to have a positive impact on health and well-being as it can reduce anxiety and depression, lower blood pressure, and improve sleep. Other benefits include self-control, improved concentration and mental clarity, and a better ability to relate to others and oneself with kindness, acceptance, and compassion.


Mindfulness at UCSB


UCSB offers a variety of opportunities on campus for students to expand their knowledge and experience with mindfulness. The Health and Wellness Center offers many mindful meditation events and workshops weekly throughout each quarter. During the 2023 Spring Quarter, Meditation 101 was offered weeks 2-10 on Tuesday evenings. This weekly event was led by a certified meditation facilitator and taught participants the basics of mindful meditation. In addition to this basic mindful meditation overview, Health and Wellness offered more specific mindfulness opportunities, such as Heartfulness Meditation and Mindful Meditation for the Asian Resource Center for the majority of the quarter. On the Health and Wellness website, there is a page dedicated to Mindfulness and Meditation. There are videos on how to start one’s journey to mindfulness, lessons on mindfulness and meditation, a body scan for bedtime, mindfulness series, and free any-time meditations. It is an absolute pot of gold for mindfulness.


Although one can be mindful just about anywhere they like, UCSB offers the Self-Guided Labyrinth Tour that is accessible 24/7 year round. Situated on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean, the Labyrinth is an ideal location for a moment of mindfulness and peace. Because it is outdoors, it offers a unique experience to appreciate nature while exercising our brains and rejuvenating our souls. The Health and Wellness website offers optional instructions, although the Labyrinth may be experienced however is best fit for each individual.


Mindfulness with Maka and Mark


Mark Shishim is an alumnus of UCSB and Associate Dean of Student Academic Support Services, the Director of Academic Initiatives, and Lecturer for the Girvetz Graduate School of Education. For the last 18 years, Shishim has served UCSB as a researcher, collaborator, educator, and student affairs professional. He has played a pivotal role at UCSB Health and Wellness, as he received the Getman Award in 2008 for the creation of the Wellness Program. For Dr. Shishim, or Mark as many know him as, mindfulness is “getting out of your head.” Mark actively integrates mindfulness into his daily life by going on walks and taking one minute breaks where he focuses on “slowing down his breathing and lets thoughts pass instead of reacting to them.” For someone just starting out their journey with mindfulness, Mark suggests that time be devoted to focusing on the Five Senses everyday. For Mark, the most impactful approach to mindfulness has been what he calls, “Nature Bathing.” This entails scheduling time to recharge his “batteries” by disconnecting from his phone and other devices. He is better able to be present and ground himself.


Michael Kenji Takahara, or Maka, is also an alumni of UCSB and now serves as the Health Education Specialist at UCSB Health and Wellness. To Maka, mindfulness “is the practice of noticing what’s happening in my body and mind without judgment. It is an opportunity to trust yourself, to look at the world around you as a child seeing things for the first time. It is a chance to let things go if you are trying to cling onto them. Mindfulness is not striving, but allowing it to happen and being patient. Mindfulness is a way to be present with all my relationships.” Maka’s job requires him to lead meditations. He has attended silent retreats, used apps, and had teachers to help him practice meditation. This allows him a meditative mindset throughout the day. Sometimes, he practices sitting intentionally for five, 10, 30, 60 minutes, but more often than not, he finds when he becomes aware of his mind wandering, he can stop and focus on his body.


For someone just starting their mindfulness journey, Maka says that there is no wrong way to meditate, if that is the way you choose to be mindful. He says, “Even if you just take one breath and you try to be mindful of what it feels like to breathe in, and then be mindful of what it feels like to breathe out, that one breath is a successful meditation.” The most impactful approach to mindfulness for Maka has been silent retreats. In fact, he had just returned from a five-day silent retreat when I had reached out to him for this article. Recalling his experience with silent retreats, Maka says, “There is something so special about going to a retreat, turning in your phone, and being with a community with a common goal of supporting each other as we try to deepen our practice. That level of love, kindness, and compassion is very motivating. To feel that I am loved and supported by people I just met from all over the world and who want me to reach my full potential so that I can make this world a better place, that is what changes me.” But, Maka realizes that retreats are expensive, they take time, and it is a sacrifice that not everyone is able or willing to do. So one of the things Maka suggests as an alternative is the idea that meditation doesn’t have to be a 45 minute sit. It can just be a moment. It can be one breath. In that practice, we become better people than if we had not taken that moment. Perhaps we can become a little more patient, perhaps a little more wise, and a whole lot more compassionate.


All in all, regardless of one’s experience with mindfulness or personal definition of such, the main idea is that it does not take much to practice it. This practice looks different for everyone. Even in Maka’s and Mark’s reflections of their journeys with mindfulness, we see two different approaches of ‘nature bathing’ or ‘nature walks’ and meditation, both of which are beautiful ways to approach mindfulness. As Maka says, “We are all just practicing in order to make ourselves, and as a result everyone in this world, a better community.”


More sources available to you:


Promoting Students’ of Color Mental Health

By Alizé Sanchez


Discussing Mental Health


Within our university system and throughout the nation, annual trends reveal an increasing amount of students exhibiting signs of emotional and psychological strain. Students experience significant levels of stress sourced by a multitude of factors: deadlines, academic expectations, financial stress, family issues, etc. These stressors have a major impact on our mental health and wellness. Additional factors that potentially intensify distress in students are race, class, gender, sexual orientation, and disabilities. In this piece, we’ll discuss the mental health treatment disparity among students by race, exploring the unique wellness navigation for students of color and sharing mental health and community resources.


The “Treatment Gap”


Findings from the National Healthy Minds Study, reported data from 350,000 students from 2013-2021 regarding mental health among college students. Evidence indicates mental health is worsening among all students but symptoms of depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation, and one or more mental health problems, have most significantly increased among racial/ethnic minority students (Lipson et al. 2022). The study also uncovers significant disparities regarding help-seeking and use of mental health services in college populations. While the frequency of one or more mental health problems increased 45 percent among multiracial students, the past-year treatment among said students increased only 9 percent between 2013 and 2021 (Lipson et al. 2022).


Overcoming the Gap


The treatment gap is reflective of services that fail to provide spaces for shared experiences and identities for students of color. By first providing and promoting diverse wellness and community resources, we can work towards minimizing this disparity. Mental health stigma and general knowledge about mental health also contribute towards this treatment gap. In our own community at UCSB, we’ve strived towards achieving stigma free discussions and culture surrounding mental health and wellness. To better serve our diverse communities, we need to collectively prioritize efforts towards minimizing this treatment gap and advocating for the wellness of students of color.


Mental Health and Community Resources


References:

Lipson, Sarah Ketchen et al. 2022. “Trends in College Student Mental Health and Help-Seeking by Race/Ethnicity: Findings from the National Healthy Minds Study, 2013–2021.” Journal of Affective Disorders 306:138–47.


UCSB Health & Wellness Center Spotlight and Dog Therapy x Stigma Free Day

By Alizé Sanchez


The UCSB Wellness Center strives to create an environment of connectedness and community to help students thrive. Committed to supporting our diverse campus, the Health & Wellness Center provides a safe space inviting all students to engage in their services.


The center provides students with an abundance of services that promote healthy habits and routines towards achieving well-being. These help students adopt wellness skills during their time at UCSB and post-grad. Some of these services include weekly/quarterly events, programs, challenges, books, blogs, minigames and podcasts. Some of the center’s student favorites include:


Meditation Program:

  • Offers beginner friendly weekly drop-in meditation sessions, campus collaboration events, and multi week workshops honoring the traditional roots of meditation practices.

Dog Therapy Day:

  • Every quarter, local, certified therapy dogs provide students a break from studying and finals during Dog Therapy Day!

UCSB Cooks:

  • This is a 6-week hands-on cooking series where students learn foundational skills like budgeting, cooking and nutrition skills that students can utilize even after graduation!

UCSB Sleep Challenge:

  • Online weekly challenge shedding light on the science and benefits of sleep.

UCSB Happiness Challenge:

  • Series of mini challenges to enhance student well-being at UCSB with weekly wellness topics.

H&W Podcast:

  • I am a big fan of podcasts so when I discovered UCSB’s Health & Wellness Center had one, I knew I had to take a listen. The H&W Podcast discussions center around wellness and promoting a stigma free culture. The episodes range from discussing meditation, sleep, student life and experiences to talks by a CAPS psychologist in mandarin. The most recent episode titled, “New Student Experience w/ Dominic & Emily” addresses the experiences of being a new student on campus. UCSB students Dominic and Emily share their own personal experiences as transfer students in their first year on campus. As a transfer student graduating this spring, I resonated deeply with this episode! Navigating our college experiences can be difficult but it’s important to know that we have our community and resources to help ease in this transition.



Dog Therapy x Stigma Free Day:

Organized by UCSB’s Health & Wellness Center, CAPS, COSWB, and Active Minds, Dog Therapy x Stigma Free Day was a major success for UCSB’s community! I was able to attend this quarter’s event and experience some of the fun and resources first hand. The event lasted from 11am - 2pm providing students with access to therapy dogs, massages, food and resources from a variety of organizations and groups. Students (and pups) were all smiles throughout the event :)! During my visit, I was able to get some goodies and learn more about health and wellness. There were also a variety of tables set up by different organizations providing useful information and resources for our diverse UCSB community. After this event, my friend and I felt refreshed and inspired to attend future events organized by our peers.



UCSB Health & Wellness Center Map and Resources:

The Health & Wellness Department Center is located in the Student Resources Building on the first floor. It shares space with the Women's Center, right across from the information desk and next to the stairs. Find the Wellness Center by clicking into Wellness Spaces.




UCSB CARE and Thrive: A Conversation

By Melanie Reyes Santos


UCSB CARE

UCSB CARE is a free on-campus resource offered by UCSB and it stands for Campus Advocacy, Resources & Education. Its goal is to provide confidential advocacy and support to students. CARE works with students, staff, alumni and community members affected by interpersonal violence (sexual assault, relationship violence, & stalking) whether that be directly affected or second-hand experiences. They believe in a survivor-centered approach, which means it is always the survivor’s decision to pursue any of the available resources or to report an incident to the police of the University.



@ucsbcare Twitter


I got the opportunity to interview a fellow peer Alyssa Velasco who works for CARE to help get more insight on what the resource offers:

Q: What resources do you provide?

Velasco: We provide free confidential advocacy services where you can talk about different resources and ways to support you. We often walk students from one resource to another to make sure that they get connected to the appropriate service so they don’t have to navigate university processes alone!

Some resources we offer include:

  • Academic (asking for assignment extensions, changing class schedules, rescheduling exams)

  • Housing (Changing resident housing, creating safety planning)

  • Financial (Court costs, therapy bills, and medical support)

  • Reporting (Deciding to report or not, report to Title IX and law enforcement, anonymous reporting)


Q: Is this resource limited to UCSB students?

Velasco: While most of our education and advocacy resources are focused on UCSB students, it’s not limited to solely UCSB students. It’s also available to staff, faculty, alumni, and community members as well!


Q: Do you think CARE is accessible to all students?

Velasco: I’d say yes! It’s free to use and does not require any sort of insurance to use these resources, as long as you are a student or staff member at UCSB. Our advocates can also provide appointments through phone call or Zoom in case the survivor is not currently residing in Santa Barbara/Goleta.

  • Moreover, for community members residing in Isla Vista (such as SBCC students), CARE advocates provide warm handoffs to proper resources available within the Santa Barbara community.


Q: What have you learned about UCSB while working with CARE?

Velasco: I’ve learned that there are so many resources available at UCSB, but it can feel so overwhelming to even know where to look for different resources, especially for first generation students who are unfamiliar with navigating higher education. Even with my own experience, I’m a 4th year student and there are still so many resources that I’ve just learned about this year! So that’s why it’s always important to continue to educate and promote all the resources that are available to students and staff, given how many resources don’t get used simply because people aren’t aware they’re even there!


Q: What do you believe is the most important thing about your role?

Velasco: I would say my most important thing about my role is helping to better normalize and destigmatize asking for help and support from others, and knowing that everyone needs different types of support and help when they’re struggling. It’s always important to be open and vulnerable to better help people know that it's perfectly okay to be nervous or need help or support. It’s so often that people feel shameful or judged if they’re struggling with academics, work, finances, and so on, that’s why it’s always important to remind others that we’re all human beings and all struggle with things.


UCSB CARE is a valuable resource that aids the UCSB community and Isla Vista community when it comes to interpersonal violence, mental health, and emotional well being. As a UCSB student, I learned how to access this resource and the many services they provide.



UCSB Thrive

@ucsbthrive Facebook



Q: What is UCSB Thrive?

Thrive advocate: A program aimed to connect students (and community members) to any basic needs resources available to them. Our main goal is to help students who are experiencing food and housing insecurity and alleviate some burden from them while they’re attending college. We advocate for student’s well-being through guiding them towards the resource that works best for them.


Q: What resources do you provide?

Thrive advocate: In our advising center, we help students through the CalFresh application in order to make sure they have the best chances at qualifying. We also point students to the food pantries, emergency grants they might not be aware of, the rapid rehousing program, and technology access programs. We run some of our own programs (such as rehousing and technology access), but we also work heavily in conjunction with other campus resources to ensure students receive all the necessary help they might need.


Q: Is this limited to UCSB students?

Thrive advocate: Nope! A lot of the programs are geared towards students, but we can still point community members towards the resources they would need. We have Isla Vista outreach events sometimes and provide resource guides for different types of students and community members.


Q: Do you think Thrive is accessible to all students?

Thrive advocate: Most definitely! Since it was created by students looking for more accessible food access on campus, the main priority of the program is to focus on student-driven needs. Even if students think they might not qualify or need certain services, the main thing would be for students to know those resources are there for when they might need them. My job as an outreach and communications coordinator is to ensure that students feel comfortable asking for help and that they know where to go for it.


Q: What have you learned about UCSB while working with Thrive?

Thrive advocate: I learned that looking for and asking for help is often the hardest part, but receiving help comes relatively easy. As students, I feel like coming into our first-year they really prioritize the academics, the social aspect, and how to succeed in a very literal sense. However, I think this diminishes a strong aspect of student life, which would be taking care of our bodies in a way that makes it sustainable for us to be good students. For students who have to worry about housing, food, and money, the college experience can be challenging in different ways often not talked about. Programs like Thrive normalize receiving help (and encourage it!) and validates student experiences that might be difficult to go through alone.


Q: What do you believe is the most important thing about your role?

Thrive advocate:

  • Promoting all resources offered to students in a manner that isn’t too overwhelming, and to provide a friendly face so they feel comfortable asking questions when the need for help does arise.

  • Reaching out to and holding different events to reach a wide body of students that may benefit from knowing about our resources. I would say this is the most rewarding part of my job too, is to interact with different people and help them in ways that can be more situationally specific. Some outreach I’ve done is with the Asian Resource Center, graduate students, and student athletes, all of whom can benefit from the same resources but may need different aspects of our help.


“Self-Care Won’t Solve All Stressors: Collective Efforts Toward Employee Well-Being”

By Sarah Hirsch


In a talk presented by the Administrative & Staff Services Program, hosts Dr. Melissa Codero, Dr. Pati Montojo, and Practicum Clinicians Isabel López and Kathryn Roberts, discussed how programs and departments could lead the way in incorporating well-being into the academic workplace. Essentially, it presented ways to change the focus of and move away from grind culture. The presentation started by listing 4 ways to boost employee well-being and mental health:

  1. Give yourself permission to pause

  2. Prioritize physical movement

  3. Dedicate a space for practicing mindfulness, perhaps ending meetings this way

  4. Regular post-work team get togethers or retreats.

Option four connects to finding a way to integrate a work/life balance. Dr. Codero introduced the Work/Life Integration Framework and The Greater Good. She noted 10 ways towards establishing this framework:

  1. It starts with self-awareness

  2. Articulate priorities: plan a schedule and create boundaries

  3. Hone time-management skills: try to be flexible and fluid

  4. Delegate

  5. Maximize your attention by taking breaks and working in “bursts”

  6. Working fluidly but mindfully: being mindful of your boundaries

  7. Be your authentic self as you connect with others

  8. Communicate

  9. Draw strength from your sense of purpose

  10. Go easy on yourself

The hosts introduced the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Worker Well-Being Questionnaire to identify ways to encourage working well-being into the workplace to reduce stressors.One way to do this to develop avenues towards love, joy, and awe to improve mental health and well-being as these are essential human emotions. Keys to this are:

  1. Pay attention

  2. Focus of the “moral beauty” of others and witnessing the goodness of others

  3. Practice mindfulness and lesson distraction, slow down and breath deeply

  4. Choose the unfamiliar path

Incorporating this into our everyday work experience is to transform work culture collectively. Dr. Codero pointed out that the pressure to overwork and overcommit is interwoven into American culture. She says that we have to shift this expectation by embracing that we are doing enough; remembering that we are human; to rest. To rest is to resist grind culture. She noted 10 Steps Towards Rest:


  1. Detox from social media weekly, monthly or more

  2. Begin to heal the individual trauma that makes it difficult to say no

  3. Start a daily practice of daydreaming

  4. Accept that there is no instant change

  5. Slowly accept the way we are socialized to keeping us from believing that rest is possible

  6. Slow down

  7. Understanding that you are enough now

  8. Understanding that exhaustion is not productive

  9. Listen more

  10. Create systems of community care


Coda

By Sarah Hirsch


It seems fitting to end our newsletter here with number 10 from the list above. Creating systems of community care is what this edition of the CBL Newsletter is all about. It’s about recognizing that we all have been through a lot, and that we can lean on each other. It’s about communities being there for one another, from the amazing work of the UCSB Wellness Center that teaches mindfulness practices and hosts dog therapy days to community celebrations like the Youth Summit, bringing educators and student voices together to learn and create with each other. What the pandemic taught us is how important and essential human connection is to our well-being. Let’s celebrate this and embrace it. Enjoy the summer. Even in the midst of June Gloom, we can still stop, and breath, and listen.



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