Monthly Archives: December 2016

Hillary Dobbs: Becoming a Gamecock

Photo Cutline: Hillary Dobbs and Mango Dobbs competing at the Vermont Summer Festival Horse Show in August 2009. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Hillary Dobbs.
Photo Cutline: Hillary Dobbs and Mango Dobbs competing at the Vermont Summer Festival Horse Show in August 2009.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Hillary Dobbs.

By Lindsey A. Slack

Hillary Dobbs can most often be found sitting at her desk in the Rice Building on the University of South Carolina campus- usually surrounded by her work, endless bottles of Siracha sauce, and blasting the musical stylings of one G-Easy. Hailing from the small town of Sussex, New Jersey, the spicy-food enthusiast is in the midst of her third season as assistant coach for the NCAA Division One Women’s Equestrian team at USC; and for Dobbs, this is just adding another aspect to her jack-of-all-trades persona. Aside from being a division one coach, Dobbs holds a degree from Harvard University, has a track record of success in the horse industry, and is daughter of the CNN commentator Lou Dobbs.

Before coming to coach at USC, Dobbs rode to be one of the most decorated show jumpers of her generation. Horses have always been important to Dobbs and her family. In fact, they have owned the 300-acre Hickory Hollow Farm in New Jersey for more than 30 years. When asked what she wanted to be when she grew up, Dobbs said, “I always knew I wanted to be involved with horses in some way.”

Dobbs’ riding career involved many trips overseas for equine competitions, including the prestigious World Cup Finals and Nation’s Cup Finals where she competed for Team USA on multiple occassions. She’s competed in places like Rome, Dublin, Buenos Aires and Sweden, and is the youngest rider ever to earn $1 million dollars in prize money. Competing in her second World Cup Finals in Geneva, Dobbs placed second in the first of four speed-jumping classes by a fraction of a second. Something of an accomplishment for most riders, but for Dobbs it just fueled her drive to win. She went on to win the next three competitions. “Hearing the National Anthem three times in a row after that, and shutting out all of the male European riders was very special to me,” said Dobbs. Dobbs’ shutout was an unheard of success. The best part of the shutout? Dobbs got to do it alongside her favorite equine, Mango Dobbs.

And who is Mango Dobbs? While Dobbs plans to be mother to children of the human species someday, currently she considers herself to be mother to two furry creatures; the aforementioned equine, Mango, and Louie Dobbs the dog, both of whom came south with her when she accepted the coaching position at USC.

Mango holds a particularly special place in Dobbs’ heart as he has been a part of her greatest successes, but also a part of one of her biggest disappointments. In 2010, Dobbs suffered a career-altering knee injury. Dobbs and Mango were the front-runners in a big speed class, but unfortunately, Mango tripped and fell completely to the ground, landing on Dobbs, and rolling over her knee. Dobbs tried to dismount, but was unable to when her foot got stuck in the stirrup.

Dobbs recounted Mango’s slow reaction as the best it could have been given the situation. “It was cute, in hindsight. Any other horse would have trampled me completely,” said Dobbs. Thanks to Mango’s instincts, the accident only handed Dobbs a tear in her meniscus.

Dobbs’ reputation in the equine world played a central role in her career jump to USC. Boo Major, head coach for the USC Equestrian team was shocked upon hearing that Dobbs was interested in the assistant coaching position. “THE Hillary Dobbs?” said Major. She wasn’t certain that Dobbs would be serious about coaching at a university in the South. “Once we talked on the phone, it was divine intervention,” said Major. “Hillary was dropped into my lap through a former student’s connection, and I bulls-eyed her,” Major said. After an initial conversation, Major was sold and ready to offer her the position. Three seasons seasons later, the head coach is delighted with Dobbs’ impact on Gamecock Equestrian. “She’s an excellent coach as far as knowing what she’s doing and her ability to communicate, and she relates to the girls well,” said Major.

Major cites trustworthiness, and work ethic as two of Dobbs’ key strengths. “Hillary would be a zebra,” said Major. “Because she has to be something like a horse, but she’s also very black and white- what you see is what you get.”

Dobbs accepted the position at USC under the assumption that she’d be moving to live on the USC equestrian center farm in the small town of Blythewood, South Carolina. She felt prepared for the move as she grew up in a small town, but was surprised by one thing in particular. “There is a grocery store around the corner from the farm- this is mega for me,” said Dobbs, who was used to having to drive at least 30 minutes to the nearest store. Turns out small-town Blythewood suited Dobbs just fine, and little did she know, she’d also meet one of her dearest friends there.

Maggie Barton is the beloved barn manager for USC’s equestrian team. Known for her attention to detail with the horses, and her loving attitude towards the student-athletes, she and Dobbs clicked almost instantly. “Our friendship is great,” said Barton. “We’re always there for each other, and it was awesome that we ended up living on the same property. We got along so quickly and easily.” When asked what she had most in common with Dobbs, Barton said “Besides horses? Well, we both really like to marinate our sushi in soy sauce, which is weird, but we bonded over that.” Barton described Dobbs as being one of the most caring and thoughtful people she’s ever encountered. “She’s always putting others before herself,” said Barton.

A former rider of Dobbs, Samantha Kraus, spoke similarly about her. “Hillary is always wanting the best for us, and doing everything in her power to make sure we have everything we needed to be successful, especially on competition days,” said Kraus. Kraus rode on the team with Dobbs for two years, and has nothing but great things to say about the experience. “Hillary was easy to relate to as a coach because of her age, and being closer to the age of the members of the team made her more approachable. We really respected her for her success prior to USC and the rigorous routines that she brought to school that we were used to at home to the collegiate arena.”

Kraus praised Dobbs for pushing her and the other members of the team to ride better every single practice, and was thrilled by the higher level of instruction that Dobbs was able to bring to the table.

Madeline Valenzuela, now on the equestrian team, said she admires Dobbs’ confidence above anything else. “She’s laser focused on meet days, and always believes that our team has the ability to be successful.” Success for Dobbs came early on in her career at USC- in her inaugural season, Gamecock Equestrian went 12-5 and continued on to win the National Championship. Not too shabby for her first year.

Dobbs is always working to be successful, whether it be in the show jumping arena, or the classroom. “I always knew I wanted to go to Harvard, ever since I was little,” said Dobbs. And she did. Dobbs graduated Harvard University in 2010 with a degree in government studies, and in doing so, she achieved her life-long desire follow in the footsteps of her father, who she says is her idol. Lou Dobbs attended Harvard University and played on the football team.

Dobbs said that her dad has always inspired her to do her best. “He instilled in me the drive to succeed,” said Dobbs. “And he’s fiercely loyal, I’ve always admired that about him.”

Her father has always supported her, even prior to her riding success. “His career never stopped him from being a great horse-show-dad,” said Dobbs. Despite his busy schedule, Lou Dobbs has only missed two of his daughter’s riding competitions, and makes his way to as many Gamecock Equestrian meets as possible.

Although Dobbs was initially intimidated by the idea of coaching 40 college-aged girls, she doesn’t regret her decision to come to USC in the slightest. “I miss competing tremendously,” said Dobbs. “But coaching at the University of South Carolina fills that void in a special way.”

 

Slack is senior mass communications major, as well as a member of the NCAA Division One Women’s Equestrian Team at the University of South Carolina. 

To Fear and Be Fearless

Aidan Newcomer, 21, paddling the upper Green River. Courtesy of Aidan Newcomer
Aidan Newcomer, 21, paddling the upper Green River.
Courtesy of Aidan Newcomer

By Jordan Lugibihl

How extreme sports athletes are breaking the stereotypical “adrenaline junkie” stigma and using fear as a tool for self-improvement.

The water jumped up among the rocks in thunderous waves as the bright red playboat darted around the boulder-ridden terrain of the river. Piloting himself up and over the rapids, down and across the canal, Aidan Newcomer mastered the river like Poseidon over the seas… or at least in my eyes. He shouted back every once in a while, tantalizing me. I called him a show-off. “What!? This is not showing off!” he argued, as he drifted his kayak backwards into a hole behind a boulder. It’s called “surfing” the wave, Newcomer informed me. Although his performance and skill did nothing less than amaze me, to him, it wasn’t showing off. He even told me — and I scoffed when he said it — that our kayaking route was “boring”. Boring. We had just paddled down a waterfall and he called it boring.

Not everyone pursues such extreme thrill to satisfy their boredom, but those who do often fall into a personality category referred to as sensation-seekers. The idea developed in the 1960s by a psychologist named Marvin Zuckerman. Through a series of experiments, Zuckerman found that some people, when exposed to high-intensity stimuli, were able to channel their emotions into a state of calmness. Thus the concept of “sensation-seekers” was developed: a category of people who feed off of novel and powerful sensations.

Rachael Galipo is a seasoned rock-climber who has dedicated her career to venturing to the inaccessible. Galipo is a lead climber; she climbs without pre-placed anchors, relying on only her strength and balance for upward progress. “People have called me crazy. They don’t understand why I need to climb 2,000 feet up a rock-face to feel alive.”

According to Zuckerman, this need to seek danger and thrill can be evaluated by testing four facets of sensation-seeking traits.   The first two components are rather self-explanatory: thrill and adventure seeking, and experience seeking.   According to Zuckerman’s test, those who score high on thrill and adventure seeking enjoy the rush of dangerous experiences. Same goes for experience seekers; those who score high crave unique experiences, whereas those who score low like to stick with the norm.

However, the key parts of the test focus more so on specific personal tendencies rather than general preferences. Psychologist Dr. Kenneth Carter, in a TEDx Talk at Emory University given July 2016, said that these next two factors “often determine the way one might seek these sensations.” The two components are referred to as Disinhibition and Boredom Susceptibility. According to new studies conducted by Australian psychologist Eric Brymer, it is here where Zuckerman’s research fails to fully understand the behaviors and motivations of those considered “sensation seekers.”

To get a better grasp of how “sensation seekers” are being categorized, it’s important to comprehend how these last two factors play into the first two. Boredom susceptibility is determined by how easily a person gets bored while disinhibition is a person’s ability to be unrestrained. Carter explained, “Those with low disinhibition look before they leap, those with high disinhibition just leap.”

A problem arises when disinhibition is thrown into the equation.   A common perception of those who participate in life-risking activities is that they lack this “restraint.” It is often presumed that athletes who seek out dangerous recreation fail to consider the consequences of their actions before they begin. Brymer believes that not only is this a misconception, it is a fallacy that is perpetuated by Zuckerman’s sensation-seeking test.

When I first met Newcomer, this no-fear stigma failed to evade my judgment. “You’ve got to see this awesome video,” he suggested to me one time. He held his phone up to my face, streaming a video of a kayaker out in Norway. The footage showed the kayaker traversing the rapids before coming up to a narrowing between two boulders. As the kayaker plummets through the gap, his kayak gets partially wedged under a boulder, and slowly both he and the boat get sucked beneath by the strong current. Around the 2-minute mark on the video, the man disappears under the rock. I look up to see Newcomer watching the screen in tense anticipation, and a few seconds later the film shows the kayaker emerging from under the water, a few hundred feet down the river.   I stared in blank bewilderment as Newcomer told me that he was planning on paddling that same course. I asked how he, after watching a paddler literally come moments away from death, could be as eager as he was to do the same thing.

“It’s not like I don’t get afraid,” Newcomer said, “actually, if anyone tells you they’re not scared, then they’re either lying or an idiot. You need to have the fear, the fear is what allows you to control yourself and keep your focus—sometimes it’s even calming”

For someone who is content with safety, it can be perplexing to understand how anyone could be “calm” while perched cliff-side 1,000 feet above the ground, or accelerating to 100mph downhill on a mountain bike while navigating through a labyrinth of trees. Thanks to research being developed by Brymer, new insight is surfacing about extreme sports athletes and their approach to fear.

In a 2012 published essay on the topic, Brymer says that in extreme sports, “the general assumption is that participants must have either an unhealthy relationship to fear or they must be pathologically fearless.”

Brymer’s study evaluated interviews from multiple extreme sports athletes, examining their responses to the concept of “fear.” The interviews showed that most people do not understand how adrenaline seekers face fear. In almost every interview, the participant admitted that he or she felt fear just as anyone else would. The difference, it appeared, was found in the way the participants react to that fear.

Eric Osterhaus, brand manager for the U.S. National Whitewater Center in North Carolina, stresses this idea: “Everyone has this innate desire [for the extreme] and it manifests in themselves in unique ways. It plays into the balance of everyone; some like flatwater and others want whitewater.” Although the facility does everything in its power to ensure the safety of visitors, Osterhaus admits whitewater has its dangers. However, he also admits that most people—new kayakers and professionals alike—understand the danger involved. “Everything has its inherent risks, and we all just need to know our own threshold of the level of risk we’re comfortable with.”

One weekend while kayaking, Newcomer talked about a kayaker’s mentality while on the water: “He’s knows what’s up ahead, but that’s not what he’s thinking about right now. He’s so concentrated on the moment he doesn’t even have time to worry about the impending drop.”

“They’re prepared for this.” Newcomer said, “They come here and train for days before.” Newcomer described how kayakers scout rivers in preparation. “You either go with someone who knows the route or you stop and physically examine it yourself before you do it. Nobody goes in blind,” He said. Galipo shares Newcomers commitment to stay safe, “We like to push our boundaries, but we always make sure we understand the what we’re getting ourselves into. It’s a challenge—and the harder the challenge, the more rewarding it is to overcome.”

 

Lugibihl is a senior journalism and mass communications major at the University of South Carolina.

Former Collegiate Soccer Player Finds Success in Tech Industry

By Rachael Ryan

When Kofi Agyapong was growing up, his dreams didn’t reach beyond becoming a professional soccer player. Limited by opportunities in Ghana, a career in soccer was his only expectation for himself. Agyapong and other kids in his village would play from morning to evening, with the exception of school, with a ball made out of socks. Soccer was his life, and his talent eventually brought him to the United States at 14 years old.

Agyapong’s excitement outweighed his nerves, because he was looking forward to the change and better life that he imagined America would offer. Through a soccer program based in Everton, England, he was sponsored to attend a private high school in New Canaan, Connecticut and given a foster family. His classmates lived luxurious lifestyles and the different life he lived in Ghana fascinated them. Everyone knew him and everyone wanted him to live with them.

Agyapong gravitated to people who showed him love and a sense of family because he didn’t have much of one as a little boy. So when two teammates heard his first host family was moving, they informally adopted him into their own. The people he calls his family continued to expand.

Kelly Boag remembered meeting Agyapong through her sons and soccer. Her husband had a special affinity for Agyapong and their family developed a sporadic relationship with him. “We enjoyed watching Kofi play because he was amazing at soccer, but he also had such a bright spirit and we were drawn to how unique he was,” said Boag. Although Agyapong had another family, Boag still felt like a motherly figure to him and treated him like she treats her sons. Agyapong currently still calls Connecticut home, because he always has a place to return to family in New Canaan.

His high school lacked the excellent soccer program he wanted. Instead it preached the importance of academics. “It was hard for me because soccer in Ghana was life. Kids here weren’t good at what I was passionate about. I embraced their lifestyle and became obsessed with academic success because I didn’t think soccer would take me anywhere here,” said Agyapong. He wanted to go the best college so he took advantage of the opportunities academics could give him.

Graduation approached and Agyapong decided to attend Wake Forest University (WFU) on scholarship. WFU was No. 1 in soccer at the time and also has a top reputation for academics. It was a school where he could thrive academically and athletically. Fellow teammate Doug Ryan described his relationship with Agyapong as a brotherly one. “He was the most supportive player and made sure no one doubted their ability. He translated that off the field and into personal life as well,” Ryan said. The impact Agyapong made on his team was significant even though he spent most of season injured. His injury and differences with his coach, on top of the realization that his intended field of study was not offered at WFU, influenced his decision to transfer. He transferred to Columbia University to study architecture for undergraduate school and finished graduate school at Ohio State University. He continued to play soccer for both universities, but he stopped playing after graduate school because he was discovering other passions.

At almost 24 years old, Agyapong has accomplished more than most people his age, having already attended two universities and attempted to earn his Ph.D. at Georgetown University by the age of 21. However, Agyapong decided against completing his Ph.D. to pursue other interests. With 24 hours in each day, he wakes up every morning and decides what he can do with every hour. “He looks at each day as a gift. Kids his age are still partying, but he can’t because he has to be serious and keep moving forward,” said Boag.

Agyapong averages three to four hours of sleep each night which gives himself a lot of hours to the make the most of each day. His days now are spent working as what he calls an “idea investor.” He’ll come up with an idea, design it, write a business plan and find people who are passionate about it to help him develop it.

With each idea, he plans to build it to a point where it is strong and well established enough so that he can take a step back and only advise. Once it has a strong foundation and he’s confident that the vision of the company will stay intact, he’ll move on to something new. A current business he’s working on is a networking website. Bhounce was created exclusively for college students to connect on campus. Agyapong partnered with friend, Paolo Luciano, who he met while in school in New York. The two knew of each other through soccer.

“I liked Kofi because he was thinking about things bigger than graduation. Jobs and life after college didn’t faze him. He had ideas and he would chase them,” said Luciano. Luciano recalled times when he and Agyapong would leave Chipotle in the city and find themselves walking and talking for hours. “I’m fascinated by how people see the world and he was someone I looked up to. I wanted to emanate his behavior and the way he thinks,” said Luciano. Agyapong’s dedication to his projects is demanding and overwhelming at times, but Luciano knows that it is all for the benefit of the company. When Bhounce becomes wildly successful, he’ll know it’s because Agyapong’s passion and expectations of his team are what encouraged them to work hard for the results.

While his companies may take up all of his time, he knows that family is the most important. He is the first person to encourage Luciano to go home for the holidays. He understands what is valuable to people and is forgiving when his team needs to take family time. “If I forget it’s my anniversary and I have to ask Kofi for the night off, he’ll give it to me because he’s always looking out for other people. But, if we don’t hit our goal the next day, he’ll be sure to let us know,” said Luciano.

Agyapong credits his success to listening instead of talking when learning about things he doesn’t know. “I don’t know much, but I like to be a learner,” he said. He dedicates his time to reading and researching to get better. The first cell phone he owned as a teenager was a Blackberry. It wasn’t the freedom to communicate with friends that excited him, but rather the curiosity of how he could talk to someone who wasn’t in the same room. He didn’t have that access to technology in Ghana so it was a new concept for him to explore. At Columbia he would chat with a neighbor in his dorm about computers and coding. With the help of his background in architecture and design, it became of hobby of his to learn coding and start building computers from scratch just for the fun of it. This interest in devices led him to the industry of technology he works in today.

Technology is a way for Agyapong to generate substantial revenue so he can stop working in this industry at about 30 years old. He just recently purchased real estate in Charleston, South Carolina where he plans to move in less than a month. Out of all the places he’s travelled to in the world- Barcelona, Monaco, France and more- Charleston is the place that brings him the most peace of mind.     To add to his intelligence and athletic ability, Agyapong is also a master with a paint brush and pen. Charleston is a place he envisions himself painting and writing as a source of relaxation. “It is a beautiful place that makes me think better and gives me room for thought. I can see my greatest potential when I’m there,” said Agyapong. This potential is his life goal to give back to kids who grew up just like him. Boag claims he was born a gifted human and that his circumstances have led him to be driven. He used his gift to survive the life he was given as a child, and he has thrived in the process. Agyapong wants to travel the world in search of talented kids who live underprivileged lives. His goal is to build a school and provide instructors who can help these kids reach their full potential. He will feel success when he can give others a bigger version of what he had.

Beyond the accomplishments Agyapong has made through soccer and technology, his biggest accomplishments stem from the relationships and family he has gained along the way. He has the strength of focus and determination. And while his weakness may be his devoted investment into relationships, it is not a weakness at all, but rather a positive distraction from his work. “He’d trade all his success to keep his family happy,” said Ryan. Throughout his life he’ll have his family and loved ones to return the affection that he has given them so effortlessly.

Ryan is a public relations senior

Being a College Quarterback Brings Glory

Brandon McIlwain freshman year football photo shoot before start of fall season.  Courtesy of Payton Miller Photography.
Brandon McIlwain freshman year football photo shoot before start of fall season.
Courtesy of Payton Miller Photography.

By Kendall Clark

 

The life of being a college football quarterback may not be all it’s cracked up to be. It requires determination and perseverance both on and off the field in order to be successful. Southeastern conference quarterbacks Joshua Dobbs, from the University of Tennessee, and Brandon McIlwain from the University of South Carolina help to give a closer look at what its really like.

Dobbs and McIlwain share the same role on the field but behave very differently off of the field. They are both playmakers in the classroom and on the gridiron. Senior Joshua Dobbs is an ideal example of a leader on and off the field. As the University of Tennessee starting college quarterback, Dobbs has lead his team on the field for four years. He started in 4 out of the 5 games he played in 2013, his freshman year. Since then, he has maintained the roll as starting quarterback (TTP 5).

Dobbs is not only a star on the field, but also in the classroom. He has won several honorable awards in football over the years. Some of these awards include several Southeastern Conference player awards and ESPN awards. Dobbs chose quite a different career path than your average football player but he “likes a challenge.” In my relationships and experiences with college athletes, I typically see college athletes on an athletic scholarship, not limited to football players, major in fields such as: Business, Hotel Retail and Tourism, and Sports Management. Dobbs decided to major in Aerospace Engineering. Though he chose this rigorous time-consuming major, he has maintained a 4.0 GPA throughout college. Dobbs says, “A lot of time and commitment are put into my football career but the same goes for my major.” He’s continued to make the SEC Academic Honor Roll since his freshman year and “The key to my success is time management,” Dobbs responds.

Freshman Brandon McIlwain is not your typical student athlete. Bandon plays not only on the football team but also on the University’s baseball team. This means he is constantly managing time and finding ways to balance his hectic schedule. Though to McIlwain it’s not hectic. “You have to prioritize and stay grounded to stay on top of everything,” McIlwain says. McIlwain graduated from high school early so that he could get a head start in academia and college sports. Rated the No. 2 dual-threat quarterback in the country meant the University of South Carolina would fight to earn his commitment (Gamecocks Online 2). Even though he was rated the No. 16 best high school prospect for the 2016 Major League Baseball draft, he chose to opt out so that he could experience the college life. McIlwain believes “it was the best decision for himself and his family at the time.”

Every team looks to the quarterback to as the leader and play-caller. “The quarterback is the most important position in football, so you’re going to want your best player,” Football Graduate Assistant Spencer Plowden says. Teammates understand that all of the pressure and play making cannot happen because of a quarterback. However, most fans believe that it is the quarterbacks’ job to make the difference on the field. The quarterback is ultimately the face of the team. Some do not understand all of the components that have to happen on the offensive line in order for the quarterback to perform his role effectively and successfully. This being said, this is why quarterbacks feel pressure because nearly everyone is relying on them.

When you’re looked at as the leader of a large University’s football team, the constant stress from others can become overbearing. That is why it is important to have the support from your teammates, coaches, and those around you in order to ignore the hatred and harsh judgment from outsiders looking in. “You have to stay focused on what is really important and continue to strive to be the best you can,” McIlwain expresses. In order to be a college quarterback, you have to have the right mindset. This even portrays to NFL quarterbacks as well high school quarterbacks. It is important to have a “duck” personality. If the negativity and pressure falls on your back, you should be able to let it roll right off. “To be successful you have to have a guy that is a leader. This is what you see in all of the really successful teams across the country,” Plowden says. Many football players, not exclusively quarterbacks, say they have always possessed these characteristics in sports.

It is evident that social media has a large impact on society today. Social media can be used in both negative and positive ways. It can be used to promote products, inform, and educate. However, some people also use social media to hide behind a screen of some sort and victimize others. Twitter allows you to search keywords and phrases, and pulls up tweets from every public account with the words you are looking for. When I searched the names Joshua Dobbs and Brandon McIlwain, it was very interesting to see what people said about them.

When comparing the dates of the negative tweets versus the positive tweets, the correlation was very obvious. All of the negative tweets towards the two quarterbacks were tweeted on dates that the team was either doing poorly during a game or when a team lost a game. And of course, the positive tweets were on the dates when either of teams won the game. One of the questions I asked both Dobbs and McIlwain is how they ignore the negativity via social media. Dobbs uses an easy approach and solution. He simply blocks the account of the person who tags his name with a negative comment so that he will no longer have to see the persons’ comments. Another approach would be to use the negative feedback as a motivation to prove people wrong. “It is a lot easier said than done to not let the negativity on social media get to you at times,” McIlwain says.

These two young men express extreme passion and love for the sport of football. They both continue to show their gratitude for the opportunities that their Universities have given them not only in football but also in academia and experiences of a lifetime. It is evident that through their college experiences, their perspectives on life have changed completely. Their work ethics will strengthen and continue to grow due to the tough trials and tribulations they face as college quarterbacks. This will help shape Dobbs and McIlwain into stronger men in whatever their future endeavors may be.

 

Clark is a senior public relations major.

Drennan Exceeds the Norm

Chelsea Drennan takes shot on goal Photo by USC Athletics
Chelsea Drennan takes shot on goal
Photo by USC Athletics

By: Daija Griffin

Chelsea Drennan, a scholar athlete, record breaker and history maker. The University of South Carolina senior excels on the field and in the classroom. Her leadership qualities have caused her to become the captain of an undefeated team and achieve high academic success. Drennan has laid the foundation for continued achievement.

Drennan found her true love at the age of three, and has continued to perfect it. As a little girl, Drennan always mirrored her brother with whatever he loved to do, which happened to be soccer. She was blessed to be able to learn so much from her brother who happened to be very good at the sport they both fell in love with. “Chelsea would wake up every single morning looking for that soccer ball and her brother so they could kick around the house,” said her mother, Kimberly Drennan. Drennan started participating in traveling soccer at the age of nine. She would always be the first one at practice and the last one to leave, using up every minute to get better at the sport she admired most.

By the time Drennan reached high school she was outworking players, outperforming players and receiving much of the credit from the team she was on. Her determination to be the best possible version of herself was shown both in soccer and her schoolwork. Drennan graduated high school at the top of her class. She also received many college credits.

Drennan surpassed the University of South Carolina women soccer record for assists during the regular season. A former women’s soccer player, Kayla Grimsely, held the record of 33 assist before Drennan bypassed the record this season against Arkansas gaining 34-career assist. Drennan now carries 45 career assists as her team continues to play in the NCAA tournament. “Chelsea continues to impress me daily with her continuous work ethic and dedication throughout practices and games. She is so eager to be a top performer every time she steps out on that field. Her accolades are very well deserved,” said Drennan’s coach, Shelley Smith.

Besides breaking records, she has received Freshman All-Southeastern Conference, 2014 SEC All Tournament Team, SEC Preseason Watch List, NSCAA All-South Region Third Team and TopDrawSoccer Team of the Week during the four years of her college career. “One might think Drennan would be a selfish player receiving all these accolades, but she is the complete opposite. She happens to be the most altruistic player, which is one trait any coach would absolutely love to have in their players, “ said Smith.

Drennan hasn’t only succeeded as an individual player at USC, but also as a team captain. Unanimously being selected as team captain, she has led the team to an undefeated conference season, which has never been done at the university, or more importantly in the SEC.

Drennan presents strong leadership on and off the field, leading by example and always doing what’s right. “It’s easy to always do the right thing with Chelsea as our captain. She makes it so doing what’s right is the only option we have,” said her teammate, Vanessa Kovar. One can claim to be a leader, but to actually come forth and do what it takes to represent one is when many back out. As a team captain, Drennan takes on the responsibility to assist the coaches in coordinating and focusing the team. This coordination does not start the day of the game but it starts days prior to the game.

“Despite Chelsea’s hectic personal schedule, she finds the time to notify the team daily on exactly what we have going on that day and exactly what time it is occurring. It’s so helpful because sometimes we forget,” said Kovar. Drennan has a very strong sense of what is right and demonstrates ethical practices that set he tone for the whole team while trying to focus on her own play. During the game she instills confidence in her team members by pushing each one to meet the challenges that come her way.

It takes a special leader to be able to interact and work harmoniously with others while being prepared to take on individual responsibilities, and Drennan exceeds at both. “I’ve never met anyone like her. She is so contagious, but in a good way. She drives others to be their best version of themselves. She creates this image about herself that makes others love being around her. She makes working hard for what you want so much fun,” said her teammate, Bay Daniel. Drennan desires to help others improve, praise them when appropriate while going to bat for them if required which is why every teammate carries much respect and love for her. “My daughter has always had a sense of humor that allowed her to effectively communicate key information to others and have it received positively,” said Kimberly Drennan.

Drennan excels not only on the field, but also in the classroom. She has maintained a 3.7 GPA while juggling all her other responsibilities. Drennan was majoring in exercise science her freshman year when she realized it wasn’t for her. Asking around, trying to figure out what exactly would satisfy her, she considered attending pharmacy school. The spring of her sophomore year, she was welcomed into the pharmacy program and has loved it ever since. Her teachers appear to love her just as much as she loves their classes.

In a November 2016 article on the University of South Carolina website Drennan’s assistant professor, Cristina Cox said “Drennan is diligent with her coursework, sending midnight email reminders from the road about missing class and arranging follow-up meetings to ensure she’s understanding the content. She’s one of the top performers in class. She asks good questions, and she’s always positive.”

Drennan is very passionate about her schoolwork, wanting to do the very best she possibly could. “When I was younger, my mother didn’t accept anything under an A. I try to keep that same standard for myself today,” said Drennan.

Drennan’s future is bright with options. On the field she has positioned herself as a strong soccer player with the ability to assist any professional team and lead a team towards a winning season. Off the field she will have equipped herself with the education to become a successful pharmacist.

Griffin is a public relations senior 

 

 

God’s Storehouse: Emphasizes Serving God and Serving Others

 God's Storehouse's back room contains shelves full of canned goods and packaged snacks.  Photo by Chardonnay Ismail
God’s Storehouse’s back room contains shelves full of canned goods and packaged snacks.
Photo by Chardonnay Ismail

By Chardonnay Ismail

On a chilly, sunny Monday morning, the parking lot of God’s Storehouse is completely full. At 10:15 a.m., men and women in jackets and winter hats wait near the dark green front door. The sound of people talking and laughing and the smell of cigarette smoke consume the small waiting room. The building is old and in desperate need of renovation. However, the spirit of the room is positive.

“It’s a real good place,” said Eunice, a long-time client who requested to be identified only by her first name. “It feels good to know that there is a community here. Every time I come here, I’m uplifted because I know they’re going to help as much as they can.”

God’s Storehouse, located at 1731 Risley Road, is a faith-based outreach program that assists people in need in Columbia, South Carolina. People can receive food, clothing and household items every 30 days at no cost. God’s Storehouse offers counseling services, provided by volunteers.

When clients come to God’s Storehouse for food, they are required to fill out a form and sit down with a volunteer for a short interview.

“Clients go through an intake process every time,” said Smifeccia “Smiley” Tynes, volunteer coordinator and operations manager. “Each buggy has a bag of canned goods, bag of meat, some produce, and boxes of cereal and cookies.”

Within the past 30 years, God’s Storehouse has served thousands of Columbia residents. Tynes helped turn the organization into what it is now.

“I first came to God’s Storehouse as a teen with my mom while it was still a trailer,” said Tynes. “I took advantage of networking with my business connections to get people to start giving. High schools in the area also began donating.”

Tynes faced negativity but was able to prove people wrong.

People would tell me, ‘You’re not going to get past the holidays.’ But we did. They’d say, ‘You’ll run out of food by May.’ We still had food. Then it turned into the summer, and we still had food. We didn’t run out until the flood last year,” said Tynes.

The devastating flood in South Carolina in October 2015 severely damaged God’s Storehouse’s roof. It had to be fixed as soon as possible, or the organization would’ve been at risk of shutting down.

“You could literally see water coming down the windows. You knew when it rained because nothing worked,” said Tynes, laughing and shaking her head. “There was so much mold, it had fur. We had to throw away thousands of dollars’ worth of sheets, clothing, etc.”

God’s Storehouse’s board initiated a “Raise the Roof” campaign in January to raise $30,000 for a new roof.

“By the grace of God, we spent only $7,500 on the roof,” said Tynes. “Money we hadn’t been able to raise before was there. And Aquaseal [the roofing company] gave us a discount.”

Now that the roof is fixed, Tynes and other volunteers serve their customers without worrying about the facility.

The back room of God’s Storehouse resembles a warehouse, containing shelves full of canned goods and packaged snacks. The smell of bread fills the hallway before the room.

Ed Kelly, a retired Roman Catholic priest and board member of God’s Storehouse, is responsible for keeping track of what is there and what is needed. He recently helped manage a large shipment.

“A trucking company called us a few days ago about a pallet of about 100 frozen turkeys. Grocery stores refused them because the boxes were crushed. When the trucks came to deliver, there were actually 318 turkeys. It’s a Thanksgiving miracle,” said Kelly, chuckling.

God’s Storehouse serves approximately 25 families per day. That day, at least 30 people came to God’s Storehouse and were able to get a turkey.

“I’ve been coming here every bit of 10 years,” said Eunice. “Being so poor, I can hardly afford nothing. Grocery stores are too expensive.”

Tarsha Craft, a 53-year-old African-American woman, comes to God’s Storehouse each month for clothing.

“I’ve been coming here for two years and three months,” said Craft, smiling and sitting up tall. “I come to get clothing for church. To this day, I still come every 30 days. This is my favorite store.”

The clothing room in God’s Storehouse is lined with racks of all different types of clothing for men, women and children.

“Everything is practically brand new. I’m not going to buy clothing from the store when I can just come here and get it for free. I don’t care who wore it or who had it. Once I have it, it’s mine,” said Craft, laughing. “Before the flood, I got a brand new black leather blazer. You could still smell the leather.”

In addition to receiving clothing, Craft has received moral support from God’s Storehouse’s staff, especially Tynes.

“I went through depression and Miss Smiley helped me. I love Miss Smiley. She’s one of the most beautiful, kind-spirited people I’ve ever met. She is someone God needed to put on this Earth. She let me know everything is going to be O.K.,” said Craft, with tears in her eyes.

Tynes assists a woman sitting outside and crying. She puts her hand on the woman’s back and says, “Whatever it is you’re going through right now, it’s going to be O.K. God will get you through this.”

As of September, God’s Storehouse has 278 new clients. The growth in clients requires a higher number of consistent volunteers, which the organization unfortunately doesn’t have.

“We start the day with five people, and some days there’s three,” said Tynes. “Because I don’t have enough help, I had to change our hours of operation. Before, we came in at 8:30 a.m. and opened the pantry from 9 a.m. to noon. We’d take the last customer at noon, and everyone would be out by 12:30 p.m. Now, the pantry is open between 10 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. But we’re tired after just two hours. If I had more help, I’d extend back to regular hours.”

Tynes arrived at God’s Storehouse at 5:45 a.m. to set up the pantry for the day. She then went to Publix and Harvest Hope Food Bank to get extra food. After hours on her feet, Tynes finally gets to sit down at noon.

“People say I don’t delegate well, and that’s true,” said Tynes, sighing. “I need volunteers for food and clothing. I sound crazy, but I like it when we have a lot of volunteers. USC students and middle school students volunteered over the weekend and helped us prepare some of the meat packages for today.”

Clients recognize the lack of volunteers at God’s Storehouse but are grateful for the service they receive.

“Under the pressure and circumstances they have, they’re doing the best they can,” said Eunice. “She [Smiley] hardly has help, but she does the best she can.”

God’s Storehouse is well prepared to serve the community this holiday season. However, in addition to volunteers, monetary donations are necessary to complete long-term projects.

“We need funding because we need to do the next phase [of the roof] and then the electrical next,” said Tynes. “Of course, we always need more money for food.”

Kelly is optimistic. “We don’t get a lot of cash donations. As the holidays approach, I just trust that someone will bring what we need. We have a school that promised us 9,000 cans this year. Where I am going to put 9,000 canned goods?” said Kelly, laughing and scratching his head as he looks at the packed storage room.

After all the clients leave, Tynes and the volunteers put the shopping carts away and prepare to close the building for the day. They cheer and take deep breaths after the hustle and bustle of the morning ends.

“We’ll be ready to do it again tomorrow,” said Tynes, with a genuine smile.

Ismail is a public relations graduate. 

 

 

Surviving Crises Turned Dennis Gillan into an Advocate

Dennis Gillan giving a speech at one of his speaking engagements. Photo courtesy of: Dennis Gillan
Dennis Gillan giving a speech at one of his speaking engagements.
Photo courtesy of: Dennis Gillan

By Courtney Sterns

Dennis Gillan triumphed over two horrid personal losses by using what he learned to change the community outlook surrounding suicide.

Suicide is the 800-pound elephant in the world of mental health. Everyone knows it’s there, but only a few courageous types like Gillan will talk about it. He contends 90 percent of suicide stems from preventable mental health illnesses, with depression being the leading cause.

“I was a junior at West Virginia University and all of a sudden I had all of these tests. I knew Wednesday was going to suck because I had two tests on Thursday, I just didn’t know the extent. And then I got the phone call that rocked my world,” said Gillan. His older sister, Sheila, had called saying he needed to come home right away because their brother Mark had died in a tragic car accident. Gillan rushed home only to find out that Mark had died in a car, but it had never left the driveway. Mark had died from suicide.

Fast forward 11 years and Gillan assumed his worst days were behind him. He was now living in Carlisle, Pennsylvania with his wife Christine. One night in 1994 the phone rang and it was his sister Sheila again. This time their younger brother, Matthew, had taken his own life. “One suicide is bad enough, but it’s different when it’s your little brother, it’s just different,” said Gillan. “Maybe I should have been looking out for him. Maybe we all should have been in therapy.”

Gillan’s employer at the time had an employee assistance program that allowed him access to counseling. He assumed he wouldn’t need it because he had gotten himself through one suicide, but in reality he could not get better this time without help. Today, Gillan preaches the importance of therapy and counseling. “If you lose something in this world it’s O.K. to feel bad. But if you feel bad for a really long time and you’re as far down as you’ve ever been, you may need a professional to pull you out of it,” said Gillan.

Another considerable change that Gillan implemented in his life after Matthew died was getting sober. “I got hammered the night of Matthew’s funeral and then I stopped drinking for good,” said Gillan, who hasn’t had a drink in over two decades. Gillan has two sons in college so he knows he can’t ask young people to stop drinking all together, but he asks people who are in a bad place to try and get through it sober. Cutting out a depressant like alcohol can be the profound change that makes all the difference when battling depression, he said

Gillan remained silent about his brothers’ suicides for years because he found them too painful to talk about. One day at church, Gillan was starving and stopped by the adult education seminar to snag a donut. He had no idea what the seminar was about, he just knew he was hungry and they had food. The seminar began and the day’s topic was suicide. Gillan remained silent and shell shocked the entire meeting, but at the end of the meeting he took the speaker’s card. A few days later, Gillan called up the speaker and asked her to talk.

“Eventually I got to a point where I didn’t want to be a victim,” said Gillan. “I asked myself if there was anything I could do. If you’ve been through any crap and you want to help someone else avoid that crap, it’s called redemptive healing.” Gillan began working on the help line so he could talk to those who were struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts. He enjoyed his time with the help line because it was something he could do anonymously. He could go about his day-to-day life, and his neighbors would never know that in his spare time he was Marty on the help line. Eventually, his work with the help line led him to a job with the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention in Columbia, South Carolina.

His work with the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention presented Gillan with the opportunity to participate in the Out of the Darkness Walk, which raises money for suicide prevention. Gillan was asked to speak at the event and he was naturally reluctant at first. “I didn’t want to talk, but I felt a nudge. You’re in a comfort zone, and all of a sudden you feel uncomfortable. And that’s O.K. because we’re meant to feel uncomfortable at times,” said Gillan. He gave a speech at the 2010 Out of the Darkness Walk, and a good friend came up to him after and looked him in the eye and told him that he needed to give more of these talks.

Gillan attempted to give a similar speech at the University of South Carolina’s counseling office, but he describes it as a total failure. When being introduced to the audience, he was referred to as a survivor of suicide loss. “It was the weirdest thing,” said Gillan. “I never heard myself described that way, even though I knew I was. The minute they introduced me I just started crying.” Gillan continued to push himself to speak about his story of survival and the stigma surrounding many mental health issues.

In 2015, Gillan had a speaking event at Charleston Southern, and this time everything clicked. There were times Gillan had to take a time out, but overall he felt as if he had nailed it. Gillan made the decision to quit his day job and pursue his speaking engagements full-time. Mental health and suicide prevention may not be the sexiest of topics, but it’s something that resonates with the audience long after the talk is over. This is a topic that people want to hear more about.

Gillan explains that his past experiences have made him a more compassionate person. While he may have known people were hurting before, he didn’t care as much. Today, he cannot ignore another’s pain without feeling it himself. “He has the ability to connect with people, by either reaching out to them or being there for him,” said Christine Gillan, his wife. “He is very outgoing and upbeat which draws people towards him.”

Now that Gillan is more in tune with his emotions, he says he laughs harder, cries harder, and everything in between. Before Gillan came to terms with his loss, he tried to mask all of his shame and sadness. Gillan explains that feeling numb is no way to go through life. You can end up becoming numb to joy and that’s the last thing you want.

At the 2016 Out of the Darkness Walk, Gillan’s life long friend, Dan Sterns, stopped by. “He seems to know everybody. And if he doesn’t know someone, he’ll still go out of his way to talk to him or her and listen to what they have to say. He’s passionate about the topic and what he’s doing,” said Sterns.

Gillan is a key figure in the Columbia community when it comes to battling the stigma too often associated with mental health issues. One day while grabbing coffee at the Starbucks on Main Street, a homeless man passed by. Gillan knew exactly who the man was and his past struggle with depression and attempted suicide. Gillan now makes a conscious effort to connect with those around him and to share in their struggles. He says people need to be more real about the pluses and minuses going on in their lives. And others, he says, need to be more receptive to people in pain because they could easily be on the other side of the situation.

Sterns is a public relations senior

The Balancing Act of a Military Spouse

Mark Bennington and his wife, Sheri Bennington, Colonel United States Air Force.  Courtesy of Mark Bennington.
Mark Bennington and his wife, Sheri Bennington, Colonel United States Air Force.
Courtesy of Mark Bennington.

By Hannah Cook

The challenges of being a military spouse affect individuals differently. But each of them must stay true to who they are and what they are doing while also being there for their loved ones making the ultimate sacrifice.

Martha Hinson, a seasoned military wife knows all about the challenges, rewards and lessons of life as a military spouse. Her husband is a retired colonel in the United States Air Force.

“Military life has put strains on our 28-year marriage, especially during deployments, but thankfully Joey and I took the necessary time to focus on us,” said Hinson.

Hinson said being a military spouse has been tough. This meant making sacrifices when it came to herself like the time she usually spent with her family or building her dream house in her hometown of Moonville, South Carolina. Her family had to move often, but she started to enjoy the adventures of military life.

“I have been through things that I never thought I could go through. It has made me very strong, very open minded and very proud of serving and representing our country,” Hinson said.

Among those things were seeing her husband excel in a difficult job, seeing her children have so many experiences, travelling and learning different cultures and making friends along the way. She said she was worried in the beginning of Air Force life, but it quickly became one she enjoys.

“There are many military cultural norms that will take some getting used to, I remember my first year being married to Joey and I felt like I didn’t know anything about being in the military,” Hinson said.

Among the most difficult times for Hinson were the deployments. She remembered one to Thule Air Base in Greenland. Her husband was stationed there for 15 months. Hinson, with two young children in Germany, had to be the leader of the household while also trying to keep her marriage on the right track.

“Communication is key in any marriage, but especially when you are separated from your other half for such a long period of time,” Hinson said.

In the time of her husband’s absence, Hinson felt as if this was the time where she had to stay the truest to herself. Even though she loves her man, she has had to invest in her own goals and aspirations while supporting his. Those goals included receiving her masters and being one of the best licensed counselors in the nation. She also sets a goal for herself to exercise at least three times a week. This was and still is her outlet to cope during the hard times and spend some time alone. It was difficult for her to learn at first she said, but her goals were important too. Now, along with being a supportive wife, Hinson is head of the crisis counseling team in a school district in Colorado Springs and has her own private counseling practice.

Along with those challenges Hinson enjoyed some amazing times. One of her most unexpected pleasures of being a part of the military was moving around the world. In Germany, she enjoyed making her own friends outside of the military and travelling to different countries almost every weekend.

“Moving as a family, all of us together, was a wonderful experience. Especially moving to Germany, that was an amazing part of our lives,” Hinson said. “We experienced many culture changes and visited many countries while we were stationed there, and through our moves my family became so connected. Those times made us who we are today.”

Mark Bennington, another military spouse, agreed with Hinson that Germany was his favorite country experience with his wife who is in the United States Air Force. Bennington and his wife are each other’s second marriage, but this brought along its own special challenges. One of those challenges was having to navigate both having children from the previous marriage, but also having their own adventures.

“While living in Germany we had the opportunity to travel all over Europe, and it was the most amazing adventure with Sheri,” Bennington said.

Discovering new cultures brought joys to living the military life. But Bennington said along with the great times there are many challenges. Like Hinson, he does not enjoy the deployments, but he said he knows that is something he must expect.

“At any moment, your spouse can be selected to deploy to an overseas location. Those are hard to deal with,” Bennington said. “It’s no fun, but my wife has sworn an oath to defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic, and I have to always remember that while counting down the days until she returns home.”

While supporting his wife, Bennington said he has stayed true to himself by realizing he has his own career, family, friends and goals. “I am still me,” he said.

“I am very lucky in that Sheri encourages me to be me. She knows I have my own career and own aspirations,” he said.

Bennington advises military spouses to be flexible, open to new experiences and to love their spouse’s unconditionally.

Bennington lives in Pennsylvania as a contractor for the U.S. Navy. His wife, Colonel Sheri Bennington is stationed in Georgia. The couple manages to live apart because they love and trust each other. Mark said they look forward to living in Pennsylvania together soon.

“This life can be demanding, but as a military spouse you need to remain confident in yourself, embrace change, and support your love in their demanding job,” he said.               Self-confidence is key to being a military spouse, said Jen Harms, wife of an Air Force pilot.

“As a strong-willed woman being married to a military man is accepting that while they are a part of the military, the spouse’s career will always come second.  This makes achieving certain goals more challenging for spouse’s but not impossible,” Harms said.

As a military wife, and as an independent person, Harms said she is still trying to get used to the “second wife”. Harms has not been a military spouse as longs as Hinson and Bennington, but she said being a military wife has had a way of evolving her as a woman, a professional, a friend, and of course a partner.

“It has been a big adjustment, but you need to be able to deal with the challenges in order to become a stronger person,” she said.

Harms agrees with Hinson that a large aspect of the military life is making new friends wherever one goes whether those friends are military or civilians. The journey is so much more rewarding, and fun when you walk it with others, she said. The military family is small Harms said, it is difficult to leave good friends, but she knows she will have life-long friendships even if those friends are not in the same state or country.

“This sounds awful, but temporary duty assignments are not always a bad thing,” Harms said. “While staying true to myself can be difficult time as a military spouse, it is important to have time to do the things I want and need to do.”

She said as hard as it is to have her pilot husband gone for a week or two for training, it also refuels her and their marriage because she can do things for herself like watch her favorite T.V. shows.

Now as vice president of partner relations at the Columbia Chamber and former president of the Leavenworth-Lansing Chamber of Commerce in Kansas, Harms continues to grow alongside her husband as she supports him and his “second wife”, the Air Force.

“If I had to tell you one thing in closing, it would be bloom where you are planted,” Harms said, “if you do that, you can balance the challenges of military life with the rewards.”

Cook is a public relations senior

Julia McAleer: Life With Pigs

Julia McAleer (third from left) stands with friends at a 2015 livestock sale. Photo by Rex Reed/Amberlea Photography Photo courtesy of Julia McAleer
Julia McAleer (third from left) stands with friends at a 2015 livestock sale.
Photo by Rex Reed/Amberlea Photography
Photo courtesy of Julia McAleer

By Taylor Halle

A typical high school student may work at a restaurant or retail business in order to save money for college. Julia McAleer, however, took what some might call an unconventional approach to collecting her university funds.

The 18-year-old Poolesville, Maryland native has been raising and showing her own pigs since the age of four, successfully saving not only enough to send herself to school, but to even buy herself a car.

McAleer can thank her family for getting her into the hobby. Growing up on a pig farm owned by her father, Michael McAleer, she was able to watch her parents and older siblings who influenced her to get involved.

Raising pigs is not an easy process. McAleer explains that the pigs are typically born in February and March, which is when she starts to contact breeders. She says that if you don’t know any, you can attend meetings of farmer organizations. She’s able to look at pigs six weeks after they’re born, and once she finds the ones she wants, she can pick them up in April or May, usually bringing back at least three to her home.

Once the pigs are on the farm, McAleer raises them by feeding them porkmaker pellets, which are what gives them all the meat and fat on their bodies. She reminds that it’s important to have less fat than meat. To do this, she has to keep them exercised, so she takes them outside everyday and lets them roam and get movement.

When the pigs are fully grown, she contacts a buyer so he or she can buy her pigs. She usually contacts at least three for each pig, in order for the bidding to go up at the auction. Once fair time rolls around, it typically lasts for 10 days with about eight shows. During these, prizes and money are given out for best pig, best showman and many other categories. The last Friday of the fair is auction night, which is when people actually bid. That’s when McAleer gets a check for the pork, and takes the pigs to the meat locker.

“For a grand champion market hog at the fair, the judges always look for a pig that has a long back, because that’s more bacon, and then they look for a big butt because that means bigger hams,” McAleer says. “But you have to make sure they’re supported by strong ankles and hooves.”

They look for even more criteria than just that.

“Also how wide their shoulders are, because the wider they are means more meat. And if a pig’s head is up that’s good, because if a pig’s head is down, that means the meat is bad.”

One of McAleer’s friends, Jolee Raines, has watched her raise pigs and show them at competitions since they met in sixth grade.

“Some of the challenges she faces raising pigs that other people on the outside might not see would be all the hard work she has to do for 4-H in addition to feeding the pigs and making sure they’re healthy,” Raines says. “Not only does she have to make sure the pigs are fed and have water everyday, but I know she’s had to go to many meetings, write many papers and give speeches all for 4-H.”

4-H is a national non-profit organization headquartered in Chevy Chase, Maryland, that focuses on youth development and life skills and responsibility through different types of learning programs. McAleer was unable to join until she was eight, but has been involved ever since.

“4-H is not just animals. There are a lot of other things, you know, community, volunteering, working with others. It’s not just raising a pig,” her mother Angelina McAleer says.

Michael McAleer, who has owned the farm and land for 23 years, says he decided to get his children involved after talking to other families in the area. Most of their children had raised enough money for college, which influenced him to try the same with his.

“One guy I was talking to said his son had $28,000 in the bank when he got out of 4-H, and that was his spending money for college,” Michael McAleer says. “And I was like ‘What! I guess I need to think about raising pigs and getting my kids into 4-H.’”

McAleer explains that although she loves the practice, it comes with misconceptions and criticism from others.

“I always get criticism, especially when I’m at the fair. At least once a year there’s at least three men who come up and say that we’re murderers and we’re the worst people in the entire world,” McAleer says. “We have to explain it’s the way of life because without people like us, you wouldn’t have good, natural meat.”

Her parents agree that there can be a lot of misunderstanding with how raising pigs really works.

“Some people don’t eat pork and a lot of people get mad,” Michael McAleer says. “I was so proud of the girls when they would be in the pen at the fair and they politely say to those people, ‘Well a lot of people do eat meat, and we are providing them the highest quality meat that we can.’”

Although animal cruelty does exist in bigger corporations, smaller farms and farmers like McAleer make sure to raise pigs in the most humane way possible.

“Per pig you have to have a certain amount of space, I think it’s four by seven feet per pig, and that’s just for their living area. You also want to have a lot of open land for them to roam,” McAleer says. “Our pigs are all natural and they’re not injected with anything. Big corporations, all their pigs or animals are in a confined space and they don’t have any growing room, so that’s why they’re really fat instead of having lean muscle.”

Alex Preston Byrd, an assistant agricultural education professor at Clemson University, who also grew up on a farm, finds that one of the biggest misconceptions is the thought that farmers don’t treat the animals well.

“Most of them love the animals and do their best to keep them healthy,” Byrd says. “They focus on the safety of piglets, for example, making sure they don’t get smothered by their mothers in the pens.”

Byrd also explains that there are many important reasons why it’s good to have smaller farms like McAleer’s.

“It gets down to the roots of where food comes from, and a lot of people don’t understand the responsibility farmers have with this,” Byrd says.

Eating all-natural meat has become a growing trend during the last few years, which emphasizes Byrd’s explanation of knowing where what we consume is coming from.

“I think now more than ever people want to eat organically and eat food that’s not processed,” McAleer says. “So more people are wanting to get in contact with 4-Hers because they know the animals and the meat they get is not going to be processed in any way.”

Although raising pigs takes up a lot of time and energy, McAleer has found that over the years, she has learned some valuable life lessons throughout her journey.

“I think one of the most rewarding parts was learning responsibility and that money doesn’t come easily,” McAleer says. “You also learn to care for others besides just yourself.”

Angelina McAleer adds that it has also taught her responsibilities that she will utilize in the future.

“It teaches kids how to manage their money, because a lot of them in 4-H have to buy their own animals, purchase their own food and you have to keep a record book of everything that you do,” she says. “You have to keep a record of how much the pig eats, how much the pig weighs, how much weight it gains, how much your food costs, and it’s like a business.”

Pigs have been in her life for a long time, but McAleer says she doesn’t plan on continuing it after college. However, the values she has learned along the way will definitely come to good use.

“I hope to be doing something with finances, and business management because that’s what I want to major in,” she says. “I want to hopefully run a company or be a CEO so I can keep the company organized and on track with their finances.”

Halle is a print journalism senior.

Coach Timothy Whipple Continues His Legacy

Irmo High School varsity boys basketball head coach Tim Whipple speaks to his team before a first-round playoff game. Courtesy of The State Newspaper.
Irmo High School varsity boys basketball head coach Tim Whipple speaks to his team before a first-round playoff game.
Courtesy of The State Newspaper.

Hall of Fame Coach, Hall of Fame Mentor

By Alyvia Wright

A teacher, a coach and a mentor, Tim Whipple has influenced the lives of many students Irmo High School in Irmo, South Carolina. Whipple serves as a physical education teacher and the varsity boys basketball coach. He has led the team to five AAAA state championships and accumulated 697 wins.

With Irmo High School’s basketball court named in his honor, being inducted into the SCACA Hall of Fame, 16 regional championships, eight seasons undefeated in region play and the most state championship appearances of any AAAA coach, Whipple keeps shaping the Irmo basketball program. He is not only a hall of fame coach, but a hall of fame mentor to the students who know him.

“I started playing organized basketball when I entered the seventh grade. But, I guess I started playing basketball since I was old enough to dribble,” says Whipple. “I was actually a better baseball player than basketball player. I started three years as a second baseman at Spring Valley High School.”

“I didn’t start in basketball until my senior year. As competitive as I was, it was not easy sitting on the bench, but I learned a lot about the game of basketball in that time. It ended up being the best thing that could have happened. I didn’t know it then, but it helped me be a better coach. When I played, I always felt like I was a coach on the floor but now I was learning how to be a coach from an entirely different perspective. I had a great senior year and was able to use that experience to continue playing basketball at Erskine College. I also played baseball at Erskine.”

As athletic as he was, his size and age were always a factor in whether or not he was going to continue as a player on the next level or as a coach. “I was always very small for my age. I had an October birthday, so I was always the youngest in my class. That made me have to rely on my brain rather than my brawn. I broke my arm in the ninth grade and missed the entire basketball season. I think that is when I first started really studying the game and learning about basketball. Prior to that, I just loved playing. But, I think I was born with a passion for coaching. It has always been a part of me,” says Whipple.

With many strengths as a coach, Whipple also says that he has a few weaknesses he is still working on to this day after 38 years of coaching. “My greatest weakness is probably that I care too much. I put my heart and soul into coaching and I expect my players to share that passion. Unfortunately, there are times I allow that passion to drive my players too hard. It is something that I struggle with every day,” he says.

In addition to many accolades, he has played a major role in the lives of many players. “Coach Whipple has helped me through so many hard times in my life, especially when my mother began to get very sick,” says Detrek Browning, a basketball player on scholarship at Francis Marion University and a former player at Irmo High School. “Coach and I would sit and have lengthy one-on-one conversations about how I was doing and how my mother was doing. It was great having someone to talk to during that time.”

Browning considers Whipple something of a father. “I have a father to son relationship with Coach Whipple,” says Browning. “He has always been like a father figure to me, and if I ever needed anything, he has always been one phone call away.” Browning has just begun his senior year basketball season at Francis Marion University.

A very special player in Whipple’s life, Justin McKie, has had a somewhat different experience with him. Whipple didn’t only coach Justin, who now plays at the University of South Carolina, but also his dad, B.J. McKie, who many know as one of the University of South Carolina’s greatest men’s basketball players to ever be a part of that program. “Coach Whipple was my dad’s coach when my mom became pregnant with me in high school, so he’s literally known me since I was born. I always dreamed of playing for him like my dad did, so I was really happy when I got to transfer from Ridgeview High School to Irmo High School my sophomore year,” says Justin McKie.

But the pair did not always get along. “We went through a really rough patch my senior year on the team. Sometimes I think our close relationship got in the way of coaching, meaning it got hard to separate him just coaching and him being more like a second dad to me.” Justin McKie has just begun his senior year basketball season at USC.

More than players saw Whipple as a father figure. Last year’s team manager, Ayanna Hudgins, says Whipple made her last year of high school so much easier and enjoyable. “Any time I had any typical high school drama, I could always count on Coach Whipple to sit and listen to me talk about it for hours. Well, for any free class period he had, at least,” she says with a chuckle. “I can think of quite a few times that I would just sit in his office and cry it out. He’s the type of person you can go to and just instantly feel better. Even if all he said in response was, ‘It’ll all be OK.’ For some reason, you would always believe him. He has a way of making you feel like everything you’re saying really does matter. It sounds extreme, but he brings wisdom and reason to my life when I need it, and will always be there for me.” Hudgins has just begun her freshman year at the University of South Carolina.

Whipple plans to continue coaching, and says he’s not sure when he’ll retire.

“I have been so blessed to coach many talented players and teams. I’m not sure there is a specific proudest moment. I think it is the accumulation of my career that I am most proud of. I do know that every time I go see a former player practice or play in a college game, I’m like a proud parent. Or, when a former player visits, how much I enjoy seeing them, or how much I love hearing about their successes after graduating. They will always be in my heart and very special to me. That’s my greatest accomplishment. Of course, it is fun winning state championships, too.”

 

Wright is a visual communications senior.