Category Archives: All Stories

Making “It’s On Us” a Household Name

Photo courtesy of It’s On Us at the University of South Carolina
Mary Copeland Cain, Michael Parks and Lindsay Bratun at an “Its On Us Week of Action” event

By Alana Bremner

When Michael Parks began campaigning for student body president in the spring of 2016, one of his goals was to make “It’s On Us” a household name at the University of South Carolina. One year later, student government hosted the “It’s On Us Hero Gala,” raising over $12,000 in a single night.

“It’s On Us” was founded, in 2014, as a White House initiative, encouraging men and women across America to be active supporters in ending campus sexual assault. Consent education, increasing bystander intervention and creating an environment that supports survivors are the three core pillars of “It’s On Us.”

“Sexual violence is an issue here and every other college campus in the country,” Parks says of his decision to initially take on the national campaign. “I thought, how can we as students really do something tangible?”

Parks is right about the issue of sexual violence on college campuses in the United States. According to the “It’s On Us Two Year Report,” one in five women and one in 16 men are sexually assaulted in college. The report also states that in 75-80 percent of cases the victim knows the attacker in some way, and 91 percent of rapes are committed by serial offenders.

“The impact of sexual violence on a college campus is tremendous,” says Mary Dell Hayes, executive director of Sexual Trauma Services of the Midlands. “For our whole nation this is an epidemic, but when you hone in on the statistics related to college students, the rate at which people are impacted by sexual assault is even higher.”

When Parks was elected student body president, he had the power to add positions to his executive cabinet. He created a committee specifically for “It’s On Us.” Parks enlisted Mary Copeland Cane, a marketing major with her own story, and Lindsay Bratun, a public relations major with student government experience, as the committee’s co-directors.

Although Bratun and Cain share a title, their roles are very different. “I had a big learning curve about the message,” Bratun said. “And MC had a big learning curve about how to implement something.”

In the spring of 2016, when Bratun was appointed co-director of “It’s On Us,” she already had an impressive background in student government. She had previously served on freshman council and as secretary of alumni relations.

As a result of these positions, Bratun had an understanding of the logistics of student government, experience in event planning and extensive contacts within the university. She played a key role in creating a website, coordinating meetings and organizing sign-ups for events for “It’s On Us.”

Cain’s contribution as co-director is different. Cain, a sexual assault survivor, has spent the past year sharing her story with student groups at USC. “It’s the most valuable aspect of this whole thing,” Bratun says of Cain’s story.

When I interview Cain, she offers to give me her “spiel.” The “spiel” that she estimates she has shared with 5,300 people since becoming co-director of “It’s On Us” in spring 2016.

Cain is well educated, wealthy and comes from a supportive family. And the spring of her sophomore year of college, she was beaten and raped in her parent’s home.

She didn’t tell her parents until six months later, when she requested they come to Columbia. She asked them to sign a document agreeing they would not act on what she was about to tell them. Her parents stayed in Columbia for a week after she opened up to them about her assault. They helped her find a new therapist, and they attended therapy as well.

What followed was a downward spiral of drugs, alcohol and boys. After a night of partying, she called her mom extremely upset, and her mom insisted she call her dad. Knowing his daughter hadn’t hit rock bottom yet, Cain’s dad had secretly stayed in Columbia.

Her parents moved to Columbia for two and a half months. Anything she needed, they were there for her. They were determined to keep Cain in school, and together, the three of them made the tough decision not to press charges against her attacker for reasons Cain preferred not to discuss.

“I tell my story for three reasons,” Cain says. “Because I am so blessed, because it’s awkward and because there were people who didn’t and still don’t believe me.”

In addition to sharing her story, Cain works closely with Bratun to plan events for the campaign. In the fall, the duo worked with Parks to coordinate the “It’s On Us Week of Action” with a modest $200 budget. Students were encouraged to sign a pledge at welcoming events and activities throughout the week.

The pledge, which is a slightly modified version of the one shown on itsonus.org, reads: “As a Gamecock, I will RECOGNIZE and IDENTIFY when sexual assault is present. I will EDUCATE our peers about the risks and presence of sexual assault at USC. I will SUPPORT affected Gamecocks in this mission to change the culture at our university.”

The “It’s On Us Week of Action” kicked off on a Monday with a kickball tournament. Over 150 students, including athletes, students involved in Greek life and students from student government, signed the pledge that night. On Tuesday, students were invited to discuss sexual assault in the media with the on campus group IRIS, Individuals Respecting Identities and Sexualities.

On Wednesday night, the “Supporting Survivors Candlelight Vigil” was hosted at Rutledge Chapel. Both Parks and Bratun regard this night as the most powerful moment of the “It’s On Us” campaign yet at USC. A variety of speakers read the letter Joe Biden wrote to the “Stanford Survivor.” These speakers included survivors, parents of survivors and powerful leaders in the USC community.

On Thursday, SASS Self-Defense leaders Whitney Pike and Shannon Henry led an empowering afternoon. The week ended on Friday with a University of South Carolina public service announcement.

On March 30, the committee hosted the “It’s On Us Here Gala” at Spirit Communications Stadium. The purpose of the event was to raise awareness about campus sexual assault. Keri Potts, a sexual assault survivor and senior sports PR executive, and Mark Ellis, a leader in scripted sports action for Hollywood productions, were guest speakers.

Tickets to the cocktail attire event included food, a cash bar, live music, a silent auction, a photo booth and an opportunity to interact with the guest speakers. Companies and organizations could choose to sponsor “It’s On Us.” Cantina 76, a local restaurant, and Delta Delta Delta, a sorority on campus, were among the sponsors. The event raised over $12,000 which will allow the campaign to continue at USC.

As Parks and Cain prepare to graduate in May and Bratun takes on a new role in student government, they have high hopes for the future of “It’s On Us.”

Parks is hoping the new student body president, Ross Losordo, will codify the position of “It’s On Us” co-director. Codifying the position will officially add it to the Constitution of Student Government. This would ensure that “It’s On Us” remained a part of student government every term, no matter who the student body president is.

Bratun and Cain hope “It’s On Us” will continue to use its unorthodox tactics, pairing fun events with raw education, to reach every corner of USC. “We’re gonna come together, we’re gonna talk about this, we’re gonna reach a common consensus and we’re gonna move forward,” Bratun says. “Action oriented change.”

Bremner is a public relations seniior

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mom Opens Doors for People with Autism

Photo by Kelli Caldwell
The Autism Academy of South Carolina will hold the meetings for the No Couch Campaign for the next year

By Kelli Caldwell

Thinking about your child’s future usually means thinking about a career, but what if your child is autistic? What plans are in place for his or her job search? With no other programs in the area the Autism Academy of South Carolina hopes to fix that problem.

In 2010, the Autism Academy was founded in Columbia, S.C., by a group of concerned parents who wanted a better environment for their children with autism to grow up in. Although they had limited knowledge as to what kind of programs children with autism should receive, the parents were determined to bring a more fitting environment to the community for these children. In result, the academy opened its doors and invited new families to join in the Midlands.

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is key at the Autism Academy and founders Lorri and Dan Unumb believe it’s the best practice for people with autism. ABA is a one-on-one approach that rewards the patients with positive reinforcement. ABA has proven to be one of the better forms of therapy when dealing with people on the autism spectrum, so when the academy opened it helped fill a void for many families in the community.

As the vice president of state government affairs for Autism Speaks, Lorri Unumb got her start trying to pass a health care bill to require insurance companies to cover treatments for autism. In 2008, the law was passed and named it after Unumb’s son, Ryan, who has autism.  Called Ryan’s Law, the law is now in 45 states. Unumb is constantly working and traveling to try to improve it. Unumb wants people to remember that just because something has never been done doesn’t mean it can’t be done. She was just a mom trying to get justice for her son. Now she has a nationwide law.

The Autism Academy is seven years old, so Unumb decided it was time to think about the future for clients after they transition into adulthood. The academy serves youth and adults ages 2-21. As Unumb’s own son is about to turn 16 she created this idea that the current Midlands community is lacking. More than 80 percent of people with autism don’t end up getting jobs and Unumb wants to change that.

“I just feel this pressure to create this campaign and create a program to help transition young adults into meaningful adulthood,” Unumb said. “What happens now is so many of them graduate from high school or don’t graduate and then they just go back home and sit on their parents’ couches, for years or a lifetime. That’s just a waste of a lifetime.”

Many businesses don’t realize people with autism have these skills, so if there was a place to give them that information, more would be hired. This is where the Couch-to-Career center comes into play. It will partner with different businesses in the area to set up internship opportunities for people with autism at the ages of 14-24.

It will start with a year long campaign called the No Couch Campaign that will develop the Couch-to-Career center. It will give the businesses the knowledge about people with autism and how to handle it in the work force.

“It might take them two years to learn what is being asked of them and to be proficient, so it does,” Unumb said. “We should spend the two years because then the rest of their life they can do something meaningful, he can be a taxpayer and contribute to society rather than someone that sits on the couch and just draws from society.”

The career program for people with autism will have a chance now, thanks to the University of South Carolina.

The Innovative Intervention Incubator Program is through USC and its College of Social Work. This program will be lead by Dr. Robert Hock and a team of graduate students to partner with leaders in the Autism Academy. The Autism Academy was accepted into their program because it reached the criteria of impact, innovation, viability, and sustainability with their idea. Hock specializes in studying treatment and relationships with autism so he was eager to see what the Autism Academy could bring to the table.

“With this project we recognized there was a real need in the Midlands in our community,” Hock said. “The Autism Academy has a strong reputation in the community to make things happen rather than just talking the talk.”

The incubator program will work the full No Couch Campaign year to help get things in order for the Autism Academy to have the right plans in place. They will help them have the right materials for future funding and help get their ideas in motion for the center to be successful. The ideas would include certain materials to supply to business so they would know how to handle people with autism.

Executive Director of the Autism Academy Mike McCauley, is eager to work with the incubator program because of its focus will bring intensity to project development. As a sibling to a sister with special needs he attests to the success people with disabilities have in the workforce and what this program could mean to businesses in the community.

“They are wicked smart,” McCauley said. “Their disability often means they have trouble with social situations rather than with communication but with proper supports they can contribute in ways that you and I can’t. We want to help pave that road.”

“Autism impacts each individual in a different way,” McCauley said. “It’s not like you can do a one size fits all kind of program.”

There have been recent studies that show that intensive job training for youth on the autism spectrum helps their employment rate go up by 20 percent, according to Virginia Commonwealth University. This program can pull ideas from other programs that are already up and running to make the Couch-to-Career center just as successful. Once this program is put in place, McCauley knows how much it will benefit not just the community but the parents of the people on the autism spectrum.

“It’s a win-win, for our community and for the society,” McCauley said. “There are parents in tears talking about the prospect of their child being able to have a job and be a taxpayer.”

Even though the Couch-to-Career center is in preliminary stages, the Columbia Fireflies have already offered to be their first business community partner. They have offered to promote the No Couch Campaign at their games and even place young adults at different workstations as early as this summer. Placing the young adults in these stations can be an image other businesses in the community can see and potentially be inspired to team up with the program as well.

In the need for funding and logistics the Autism Academy hopes to have the Couch-To-Career center running in 2018 with businesses in the Midlands area.

“There are just so many different opportunities for the skills that our young people have,” Unumb said. “So we can urge the business community to open their minds to reach out to us and to work with us.”

Caldwell is a public relations senior

Jeweler cuts rare path to stay in business

Photo Courtesy Schiffmans’s Inc.
The original location of Schiffman’s Jewelers in downtown Greensboro, North Carolina.

By Margo Schiffman

“There used to only be a couple of us on this balcony and now we really don’t have room for any more people,” said Happy Davis, lead merchandiser of all the Schiffman stores on the East Coast. “The more we expand, it seems like the more people get added to our team. I swear the next person won’t even have a desk.” Davis is sitting at her desk that she has had for about 20 years now. It was covered with different pamphlets and papers for all the jewelry lines that were carried in the stores along with lines trying to make their way into the stores.

Currently, Schiffman’s has 11 stores across the United States. The first store is the one where Davis’ desk resides, a big open store in the heart of downtown Greensboro, North Carolina. Along with being an operating store with estate jewelry, giftware, and some jewelry lines, it is the headquarters for everything including accounting, merchandising and quality control. Arnold and Vance Schiffman, two of the company’s vice presidents, have their offices there while the third vice president’s office is just a short 10-minute drive to the Friendly Shopping Center in Greensboro.

What makes Schiffman’s Inc. different from other jewelry stores is its rich history. Simon Schiffman came to America in the 1890s to be a watch keeper for the train system in North Carolina, but one day decided to randomly buy a jewelry store. He cleaned out the entire store and thus Schiffman’s was born. Looking at the history of Schiffman’s, you really are not sure who to credit with this expansion. Arnold Schiffman or “Mr. A.” as most people knew him as, took over the business from Simon Schiffman once Simon Schiffman became ill. Mr. A was a rare character who traveled throughout the world to find some of the best stones and diamonds.

At one point, he even purchased a diamond mine in South America. He ran the company through the roaring 20s and even through a fire in the 30s that almost burned down the entire downtown store. He really brought new attention to the stores. Mr. A had a segment on the local news where he taught people about different stones and rocks passing on his knowledge as a certified gemologist. This brought even more awareness to the local store.

Later on, one of his sons, Arnold Schiffman Jr., or as everyone called him “Tony”, came into the business. He had just finished up his award-winning swimming career at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. If you talk to any of the employees, a lot of them give the credit of expanding the business to him.

“Tony really came in at a time where they were not even sure how long the business would last,” said Ben Dunlap, quality control manager. “He really took control and figured out to make this business last for even more years to come.” He did this by buying a store at the new shopping center that even now is the best shopping area in Greensboro. Along with the expansion in Greensboro, he bought another store in North Carolina, one in Columbia, South Carolina and two in San Francisco, California. “He was just so business savvy and really understood that just being in Greensboro was not enough for this business,” said Dunlap.  This is why his understanding of the business led him to being placed in the National Jeweler Retailer Hall of Fame in 2012.

Soon Tony Schiffman passed on the business to the next generation of his sons Arnold, Vance and Lane Schiffman. They have continued his mission of keeping the stores going and constantly looking for ways to expand. They agreed with this philosophy and recently bought stores in Virginia and Oregon.

In the past 120 years of business, the business has gone from one store in North Carolina to 11 stores all across the country including the West Coast. Schiffman’s has grown a lot in the last 30 years. Expanding has grown the business so much that the original owner, Simon Schiffman, could not even imagine. “Communication has been one of the most challenging parts,” said Davis. “You have to be constantly making sure everyone is on the same page and has an understanding of everything”

Along with expanding the stores themselves, Schiffman’s had to expand their employees. Clearly all the stores needed a manager along with sales people but in the headquarters, they had to more accountants, merchandisers, and marketing managers to keep up the demand. On the West Coast, Schiffman’s had to add an estate jewelry director and merchandiser since those are more hands on and need day-to-day people. “One of the hardest things for me was adding 5 new markets,” said Tracy Gardner, marketing director for all stores. “I had to do a lot of research to understand the cities where our newer stores are located.”

So what is unique about this expansion done by Schiffman’s? One thing is that the stores are not all called Schiffman’s. One thing that Tony Schiffman and his sons wanted to do was preserve history. When they buy stores, they keep the names so the history and namesake is continued. All of the stores they have bought have gone out of business and usually contain a rich history. That means they have a deep and loyal customer base.

“It was a smart move,” said Gardner. “It allowed the old customers to feel comfortable coming back and then we can create a path for new customers to join them.” According to the employees, you hear a lot of stories about how not only Schiffman’s is a family business but it has a created a family place to shop. Lots of customers at their stores have been shopping there for years and that has continued on to the current generation.

The jewelry store business as a whole has started to struggle as the years have gone on. With internet shopping growing, store owners fear people would rather sit at a computer than come into a store for their jewelry needs.

Brands also fear that as well, which is why a lot of them have opened their own online stores. So sometimes it is difficult to get those customers through the door. “There is one thing that the Schiffman family has done that is different from everyone else,” said Howard Hauben, president of Centurion Jewelry Show. The Centurion Show is a premier jewelry show which vendors and store owners attend to buy and sell their merchandise. “They have expanded in a time where a lot of companies have been scared to.”

Schiffman is a public relations senior

Fishing is a Way of Life

Photo provided by Adam Acker.
Adam Acker holding a largemouth bass.

By John Kendall

As a young child, Adam Acker remembers countless days at his grandad’s lake house in Texas. Something about fishing just mesmerized him. Acker spent many summers out under the hot Texas sun in pursuit of a bigger bass than the last one. It seemed everything was not bigger in Texas during his early fishing career.

However, Acker’s ability to catch big bass will one day locate perfection. It was here that he fell in love with a sport unlike any other. It was out on that big Texas lake that he found his true passion for bass fishing.

Throughout his childhood, Acker continued to fish and go to ponds often. He remembers, “Wanting nothing more than a fishing pole and a soda” after a long day at school. His father was “blown away at how he could spend hours upon hours fishing every day.” Acker normally starts his fishing days at five in the morning, and will not return from the water until the sun goes down.

While other kids enjoyed sports, Acker spent his time mastering the art of fishing. In high school, Acker would fish his local pond, Grace Lake, immediately after soccer practice. Every day after soccer practice, Acker and Christi Rollins, his future fiancée, would meet at Grace Lake to fish until the sun went down over the beautiful Georgia sky.

It would take Acker numerous attempts of inviting her to fish with him before she finally agreed. Opportunely, Rollins also fell in love with this sport Acker had grown so fond of. For the next two years of high school, Acker and Rollins would bond over bass fishing and inevitably fall in love with each other.

Upon graduating high school, both Acker and Rollins decided to pursue a degree in higher education at Georgia State University. It’s at Georgia State that the pair would ultimately contribute to enhancing the sport amongst the college generation. When Acker was a freshman, he was determined to start a bass fishing club at the college. Acker envisioned a bass fishing club that would allow him and his classmates to compete in national competitions.

At the time, the college atmosphere of bass fishing was small. He recalls that most fishing competitions only had about 20 boats and very few colleges. By the end of his college career, the competitions saw upwards of 200 boats with as many as 50 colleges participating.

During the inception of the Georgia State bass fishing club, Acker recollects just how difficult it was to get the club functioning. Most colleges with these associations set aside little money for the bass fishing clubs to operate. As a result, the clubs were almost entirely member financed. Acker’s first team had only four boats to split between about 20 members.

By Acker’s final year as an undergraduate at Georgia State in 2015, college bass fishing clubs were all over the nation. The Georgia State team was a top contender at many of the national competitions. The consistently performed in the top tournaments and won a good deal of entry-level tournaments under the leadership of Acker.

During his last year, Acker and Rollins were the president and vice president of the bass fishing club, respectively. Acker took his team to win the Lake Sinclair fishing tournament before he graduated. The current team at Georgia State also just qualified for the national championship, an achievement that was made possible by Acker’s accomplishments.

Near the end of college, Acker spent many weekends on various lakes being a referee for Bassmaster tournaments. This chain of tournaments is the most elite fishing platform. Acker would ride inboard and judge some of the best bass fishermen in the world. As one could imagine, this is a massive achievement in the bass fishing world for a college sportsmen.

When asked about his favorite college fishing experience, Acker can only think of one day in particular. One weekend over summer he and Rollins took a trip out to Lake Fork in Texas. The conditions were horrible. It was cloudy, and the wind was howling.

After about three hours of trying, the pair decided it was time to give up. Out of nowhere, Christi hooked into a whopping 9-pound bass. Not even two minutes later, Acker hooked into a bass that weighed just under 9-pounds. Two hours later, the pair had caught a multitude of enormous fish and considered it to be their best day of fishing ever.

Another favorite experience of Acker’s was the process of getting Rollins so involved in the sport. Historically, bass fishing has been a sport practiced by men. However, many girls are now starting to enter the bass sporting world. Acker said, “Fish do not care if you are a guy or a girl, they will bite it if you move it the right way.”

The gender gap in fishing is one that is quickly becoming filled. Young women around the country are beginning to take up the sport. The Savannah College of Art and Design just created their first all-girls fishing team. The all-girls team has been a top contender in many of the recent bass fishing tournaments across the nation.

In regards to women fishing, Acker always attempted to get his little sister Annie out on the boat with him. Annie says, “Some of [her] favorite memories with [her] brother is when he would take [her] out on the boat with the dog.” Oftentimes Annie did not even fish, she just enjoyed watching Acker do something he loved.

Annie Acker attributes her brother’s success in life to his passion for bass fishing. The sport taught him how to be patient and deal with frustration. She watched him grow over several years and become the awe-inspiring man he is today. She says, “Now, my brother possesses the ability to be patient and understanding in situations most people would not be O.K. in.”

Over the numerous hours and days spent fishing, Acker has learned a lot about himself and the sport of bass fishing. A life lesson from his fishing experience comes from a simple concept. During his time fishing in college, he learned to pick one type of bait and to perfect it.

He says, “Many people switch baits often and try to be decent with all of them.” Unlike most others, Acker decided he was going to teach himself to be “perfect” with just one bait. According to Rollins, “He can now throw sinkers like it’s nobody’s business.” Much of his success comes from this singular ability he mastered.

In life, Acker believes great success comes from determination and perfection of one thing. If you truly love something, be the absolute best you can be at it. Acker has tried to be the absolute best at bass fishing, and he will continue to do so.

Acker’s skill and ability in bass fishing is seen on a daily basis by himself and his peers. When Acker was in high school, catching three to four fish a day on his pond would be considered a great day. Now, Acker is not satisfied unless he catches at least 20. One day last summer, Acker and Rollins caught 63 fish in one day. An unbelievable amount for even the most elite bass fishers in the world.

Fishing is a lifetime sport. Men and women of all ages can participate in one of the best outdoor activities in American history. Whether you fish or not, one thing is definitely for certain. Adam Acker will be out on the lake fishing this weekend and appreciating life to the highest degree. What will you be doing?

Kendall is a public relations senior.

British Soccer Player ‘Makes Good’ in United States

Photo courtesy of Newberry College Athletics
Brad Dixon playing in a soccer game for Newberry College

By Katherine Stucky

The sun beats down on a hot Saturday afternoon in Greensboro, North Carolina, as the Newberry Men’s Soccer Team, a Division II team, plays in its last tournament of the year.  Goalkeeper Brad Dixon gets into his usual stance, feet spread apart and hands at the ready, as the opposing Division I team makes its way down the field towards him. He wipes the small beads of sweat that had formed on his forehead off with the back of his glove.

Dixon started playing soccer at a young age in his hometown of Wakefield, West Yorkshire, England. When he was 11 years old he signed a contract for a team the next town over in Leeds becoming a part of Leeds United Football Club on their 11-under team. Although a professional league soccer team, Leeds United is also a soccer club with many teams for above average players at younger ages. Kids who played for these semi-professional club teams would compete against other clubs on professional fields in the team stadiums. Signing contracts and playing for the league teams are a way of prepping athletes to play at a professional, paid level.

Before he was old enough to make the decision to drop out, Dixon went to school most days of the week but would have his work sent to him on Tuesdays and Thursdays when he would focus on training. At 16, Dixon left school to work on his training in hopes of turning soccer into a career. “I represented my country at 16 and was on scholarships,” Dixon said. He spent his days practicing and teaching the younger kids’ teams up until he was 19. After a few years, he took a couple of college level courses on sport sciences and nutrition before deciding to further his education in the United States where he accepted an offer to play for Newberry College in South Carolina.

The Newberry soccer program got a reboot back in 2016 after Bryce Cooper became the new head coach. He brought about many changes to the team and program after seeing their potential. Although only winning six of their 11 games in their first season after the new transition, the players didn’t stop working toward changing for the better. The head coach wants his team to know that sacrificing their time and effort towards changing and betterment may not be fun but it is required to do well in the game.

Not only did Cooper want to change the way they played the game, but he also wanted to build strong principles in each of the players to make them better men as well as athletes. Dixon was elected team captain by the staff for representing the type of student they wanted, one that exemplifies those principles of respect and leadership both on and off the field. Cooper describes Dixon as a good player and better goalkeeper who always has a smile on his face. He said, “He [Dixon] is engaging and respectful to everyone, doesn’t matter their age or where they’re from.”

As captain, Dixon works to build and maintain relationships with his teammates. They spend hours as a team training, 20 hours a week on season and eight hours a week off season. Their coach tells them they are “planting their flag.” Building change is their motivator. He wants them to keep constant communication and to give purpose to everything they do. To keep academic focus, the team has mandatory study hours for anyone below a 3.0 grade point average.

One of Dixon’s closest friends and roommates, Juan Villa-Bailey said, “He always works hard no matter the situation. He always tries to find the positives in everything and inspires others to work hard.”

Dixon studies sports management at Newberry College, one of the largest growing degrees in the United States. He spends hours learning the business side of the sports industry in his classes earning himself a spot on the school’s Honor Roll. He prefers the small quintessential atmosphere of Newberry, South Carolina, because it gives him the opportunity to focus on academics and further his studies. He laughs when he complains about the handwritten tables he has to fill out for one of his accounting classes. Despite not caring for the workload, he enjoys building connections with his professors and performing well in school. The Department of Sport Professions provides students with the education needed to be successful in various sport and entertainment industries.

Academics were the biggest reason Dixon decided he wanted to come to the United States. He got a late start to his college career since he was so focused on training for soccer. He motivates himself in the classroom by his drive to be better than the next person. He wants to expand his job opportunities and the possibility of working at a good professional club.

A degree in sports management opens the door to possibilities of working as sport or stadium managers, coaches, physical therapists and recreational directors. Dixon said that his ultimate goal would be to play for a professional soccer team and if not, to coach a professional club team while playing semi-professionally. He jokes when talking about playing on a professional level again when he comments on how he would prefer to get paid to play next time even though he loves it so much he would still do it for nothing.

Cooper said that goalkeeping is such a difficult position and goalkeeper coaches were in high demand so Dixon would easily be able to get a job doing that anywhere in the world after school if he wanted. As his head coach, Cooper wants to help Dixon because he knows that he has the right kind of mindset and the skills needed to make it to the next level. Getting there, to that next level, is what pushes Dixon through the long hours of training and studying to be the best he can be.

Dixon would love to travel or go somewhere new to play or coach soccer saying he would, “even go to Iceland” if it meant he could do what he loved. He works towards meeting new people and building connections with them to help him establish his career. “[I] know all these people from different countries who have the same degree as me so if we wanted to start our own business we could have all these people to help,” said Dixon when talking about the possibility of starting up his own club someday.

The opponent gets closer. All sounds fade away as Dixon takes a breath and watches him. He feels the ground vibrating with each step the players take as they run down the field towards him.  He sees the ball take air and jumps up to stop it from entering the net. His hands make contact with the ball and he holds on to it tightly, bringing it in to his chest as confirmation to himself that the other team didn’t score. He throws the ball back into play and releases the breath he had been holding in. Even though they lost the game in the end, Dixon was all smiles as he joked with his teammates about the funny tan lines they now all had from their uniforms before getting on the bus to head back to Newberry.

Stucky is a visual communications junior

Accomplishing Dreams and More…

Photo courtesy of Ricky Mollohan
Ricky Mollohan works in the kitchen of Cellar on Greene, while his wife Erica Green and their son Max look on
Photo courtesy of Ricky Mollohan
Ricky Mollohan puts the final touches on a dish at a catering event

By Morgan Dixon

Imagine running three very successful restaurant, and having a family life with your wife and two young children under the age of 5. Very few people could handle the pressure of what Ricky Mollohan deals with every day. You will not hear Mollohan complaining (too much) though, because he says he is content with the balance between his restaurant and family life.

Spending time with his children is really the one thing he will take time from work for. It is all about the balance of his passions.

Carl Richard Mollohan III, or Ricky as he is known to most people, was born in March 1977 in San Diego, California. Eleven years later, his family moved to South Carolina, where Mollohan would end up attending the University of South Carolina. He graduated from USC with a double major in history and political science in 1999.

Growing up in South Carolina, Mollohan has always been a South Carolina Gamecocks fan. Mollohan first started working at Mr. Friendly’s New Southern Café serving tables and doing Saturday kitchen prep shifts, to earn money during college. But his interest in food and the food service industry started at a much younger age. He credits his parents.

With a mom who Mollohan says is a great cook and a dad who was in the grocery store business, Mollohan says he was always around food growing up. He started working in service industry at Cobb Glen Country Club in Anderson, S.C., at age 14; doing the dishes, some minor kitchen prep, making some sandwiches and cleaning. This first entrance into food service led to Mollohan to look for a service industry job in college to make money, which eventually led him to Mr. Friendly’s and his future career.

Starting at Mr. Friendly’s in 1996 as a server and kitchen prep guy, Mollohan was excited to learn more from the passionate restaurant owners. Mollohan started at Mr. Friendly’s while still in college, so he was balancing work with school. This led Mollohan to ultimately become the general manager.

About a year later, in 2000, he became a part owner of Mr. Friendly’s. Since then, Mollohan has been owner and head chef for Caffe Ventures, which includes two more restaurants other than Mr. Friendly’s. Those are Cellar on Greene and Solstice Kitchen. Cellar on Greene is a wine shop and wine bar in Five Points, right next to Mr. Friendly’s. The other sister restaurant, Solstice Kitchen, is located in northeast Columbia.

Today, Mollohan oversees the menus and schedules for all three restaurants, while balancing it all with family life. Mollohan and his wife, Erica, have two children, four-year-old Max and one-year-old Zoey, who Max likes to call “baby Zoey.” Spending time with his children is the one thing for which he will leave work.

Mollohan says his focus is “knowing in my heart that I want the best for everyone who works for me and who comes to restaurants.” He tries to be honest and critical with himself without “taking any one thing too serious.” Running the restaurants, cooking, and having time with his family are too much fun for him to call it all “hard to balance, “but he does say he gets tired from time to time. Being inspired as a chef has really been what has kept Mollohan’s passion in the restaurants alive.

He says the biggest way fatherhood changed him is that he finally loves somethings more than he loves his three restaurants. He finds more time to be with his kids, whether it be them coming up to the restaurant or him going home to tuck them at bedtime before coming back to the restaurant for closing time.

Discussing fatherhood’s impact on Mollohan, Laurel Jeffries, longtime employee, said, “He has always been very generous, but he’s even much more so now. He has a broader understanding of the world and is more empathetic.” Mollohan’s wife Erica agrees, saying Mollohan is a great father who is usually nicer and happier overall since they had children.

Given that Mollohan spends so much time at the restaurants, his children also spend time there. Mollohan’s son Max’s favorites foods at his dad’s restaurants are the smoked gouda and bacon mac n’ cheese and ice cream at the Solstice Kitchen and the chicken fingers and tater tots at Mr. Friendly’s. Max’s other favorite part about his dad owning and running restaurants is that he likes to “work” at his dad’s restaurants when he can give the people his masterpieces (sticker art).

For Mollohan, having the children around the restaurant is not only a way for him to see his kids, but it also helps lend a family feel to the restaurants.

Mollohan considers his employees part of his work family. As Jeffries said, many employees say he is generous. This is why Mollohan has a good employee retention rate, especially for a restaurant. Jeffries has been working for Mollohan for eight years now. Two other employees interviewed, Justin Matthews of Mr. Friendly’s, and Blythe Kelly of Cellar on Greene, have both been working for Mollohan’s restaurants for about 12 years.

Watching over so many employees, as well as family, is a balancing act Mollohan gladly tackles every day. While he acknowledges that it is tiresome occasionally, he adds that this is what he loves to do. Being able to follow his passion for food, and being able to share it with his young family, is what keeps Mollohan motivated. He says that he is most inspired as a chef by the amazing meals he has had at restaurants around the country.

At the end of the day, Mollohan is happiest when he is at one of his restaurants enjoying a meal with his family. Sharing his passions with his wife and his children are important to him, as well as sharing his passion for cooking and wine with his employees as well.

Dixon is a public relations senior

Young Clergywoman Breaks Stereotypes

By Hannah Treece

Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Murray
Elizabeth Murray, center in white robe, waves at her seminary graduation

As we sit down to lunch, Elizabeth Murray reaches into her purse to pull out a pouch containing a wooden reusable fork, explaining she’s doing what she can to reduce her carbon footprint. She then comments how she wishes she had brought her reusable straw too, and this is the tone for who Murray is as a person.

She began college as a business major at the University of South Carolina, wanting to go into some sort of international business. She didn’t make the transition to wanting to be a minister until her junior year. As her mom, Marianne Murray, says, “It wasn’t anything that I thought she would do, because initially I thought she wanted to be a high powered business woman.”

The transition wasn’t totally out of the blue for Murray, who never really felt that she fit into the business school. She explained that it was when she went on a mission trip to Brazil, had her luggage lost on the way there, and had to spend five days sharing the gospel with nothing but the clothes on her back, that she finally found her calling.

“So from that experience of having literally nothing for five days, I had sneakers, and jeans on that were literally disintegrating off of me by the time I got my luggage,” Murray says. “And we were on the Amazon River having to brush our teeth over the side of a boat, and I ended up wearing these Brazilian short shorts and everything, and I was just like, ‘This is awesome.’”

From there, Murray knew her immediate next step was to go to divinity school and get a master’s degree to become a minister. But she knew this step would be hard for her family to accept, since they had a very traditional path envisioned for her.

“My mom cried. Not in a good way. Not in the ‘Oh this is beautiful way,’” said Murray. “She said that she wanted a daughter that was going to be more normal, you know like typical get a normal job and get married and have kids and all that.”

Her mother echoed these sentiments, though remembering the moment slightly differently. “She would tell you that I cried, and it was not tears of joy, it was tears of, ‘Oh, is that really what you wanted to do?’ And I’m a real woman of faith, so it wasn’t anything to do with that, but I had a much more traditional path for her in my mind.”

Her father’s real concern, Murray explained, was that he wasn’t sure if there was a place for women in the United Methodist Church. He had this impression from a female clergy member at their home church who received very little support, and didn’t last long at the church. Murray said that at first she dismissed those ideas, but throughout the years has certainly seen many of the challenges female clergy face in the church.

“A lot of comments on dress, a lot of, ‘you look nice today.’ Which isn’t always a bad thing, but not, ‘your sermon was good,’” said Murray. “Some people make comments on things being low-cut, or tight, which makes you feel self-conscious or reconsidering what you’re wearing. Things that aren’t inappropriate, but they start to make you feel self-conscious.

She also talked about struggles many of her female clergy friends have faced. It’s a conversation they have on a regular basis. While Murray is tall, many of her shorter friends receive comments that they’re just “little girl preachers.” Murray also has a deeper voice, but her friends have often been told their high voices are too distracting and take away from the sermons. While these may not individually seem like horrible comments, they’re micro-aggressions that add up over time.

According to Murray, there are even some churches who ask their district superintendents not to send them women or who get upset when they find out they are getting a female pastor. Or else, they treat them like the most important thing in their life is for them to find a spouse and become a mother, frequently asking when they’ll get married, or trying to set them up with their “eligible” son or grandson.

However, not all parts of being a woman in the church are negative. Women often have an advantage in being able to relate to parts of the congregation that a man may not be able to, and a better understanding of the struggles that some parts of their congregation may be facing. Mariah Bowler is a youth who has gone on multiple international mission trips with Murray, and she believes that is one of Murray’s greatest strengths as a minister.

“She always told me that just because she was a female and she kind of felt like she was a minority, because she was so different from everybody,” says Bowler. “So I guess that just led her to be a pastor, so she could reach out to people who had problems like she did.”

Murray is currently serving as a youth minister at a Methodist church in Lexington, S.C., and she agrees that there are certainly advantages to being a female in her position. She is the first woman to hold this position at her church, and the previous youth pastors have all been athletic, macho men.

“I think being a woman in that position is an advantage, because I can play a little bit of basketball, to be fun not really seriously cuz [sic] I’m not very good at it,” says Murray. “But I can relate to more of a broad audience than being the really athletic guy who doesn’t know much about girls.”

Cody Dawkins is another youth who met Murray on an international mission trip, and she says that Murray is someone she’s always looked up to. She thinks Murray is a great youth minister. She talked about how cool she thought Murray was the moment she met her, she could tell she was someone who didn’t put much stock in other’s opinions.

“She’s very good at communicating with people and especially with younger people, but at the same time keeping a respectful and authoritative approach, said Dawkins. “And she’s someone that I feel like I could talk to at any age, but that is definitely a strength for her in her field.”

Murray certainly seems to have known what she was doing when she made the decision to change her career path back in college. She has truly helped shaped whom Bowler is growing up to be, and many other youth as well, such as Dawkins. In large part because of her relationship with Murray, Bowler is now considering becoming a pastor when she gets older.

“After I get my bachelor’s degree, I’m probably gonna [sic] go to divinity school. She went to Duke, I don’t know where I’m gonna [sic] go yet but she’s trying to get me to go to Duke if I do go to divinity school.”

Murray may not seem to be your typical pastor, with her piercings and flowing skirts and passion for politics and saving the planet. And through past years, and even till today, she may not seem to be a typical pastor simply because she is a woman. But she has made an impact on many through her passion for Christ and her youth, and seems determined to not stop any time soon.

As Bowler puts it, “I guess females can do anything men can do, so they preach.”

Treece is a broadcast journalism senior

 

 

Jake’s Bar and Grill is Not Your Average College Bar

Photo by Jon Sears
Jon Sears poses for the camera with his brother and Marcus Lattimore

By John Buoyer

When you walk into almost every bar inside Five Points in Columbia, South Carolina, it’s like you are entering through a portal into a dim-lit, damp dungeon that happens to serve cheap alcohol and play loud music through some scratchy speakers.

The experience when you walk into Jake’s on Devine is nothing like every other bar in Five Points.

Jon Sears owns four bars in Five Points: Pavlov’s, Bird Dog, The Cotton Gin, and Jakes.

“I don’t even like mentioning Jake’s in the same sentence as the other three places I own,” said Sears.

The scene when you walk into Jake’s is warm and welcoming. The lights are always on, the food is delicious, and music is not limited to a DJ playing bad music. Jon’s brother, Jeff, manages Jake’s, and he too cannot compare it to the other bars he has been around.

“I’ve worked at many bars throughout the years, and none of them have come close to what Jake’s has become,” said Sears.

Inside, Jake’s features normal entities that any bar should have: two pool tables, a shuffleboard table, some seating, and a bar. There are also six televisions and a projector screen. Outside, Jake’s is different. It has a very open back porch. There are three televisions and another projector screen. Also, there is a lot of seating outside; Jake’s has picnic tables, round iron tables, and high tables with stools. Another bar sits on the back porch as well, which is located right beside the stage, which can accommodate bands to play live music.

The kitchen, which possibly sets Jake’s apart from other establishments the most, is open from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. each day, and Sunday brunch is served from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Patrons can enjoy appetizers ranging from spinach and cheese dips to wings and quesadillas. The grill serves entrees such as barbeque sandwiches and chicken fingerplates. However, it is the specials that patrons like the most.

“Our chef, Will Lacey, does a tremendous job of providing new and limited options for our menu. I get something new here almost every week,” said Sears. Specials include a fried PB&J, a smoked duck and bacon quesadilla, and fried mac & cheese.

The Sunday brunch menu at Jake’s is unique as well. Options include a brisket benedict, chicken and waffle bites, a barbeque biscuit, and the hangover hash.

“I can say with extreme confidence that the hangover hash is our most popular item on the brunch menu, aside from our bloody mary of course,” Sears said.

Although the kitchen is popular, Jake’s is best well known for what it offers into the evening and throughout the night. The bar stays open basically as late as management wants on every night except Saturday, when it closes at 2 a.m. due to a city ordinance, and Sunday.

“We like to stay open late and have a good time whenever we can,” said Brian Howell, one of the bartenders.

The bar at Jake’s offers so much more than a typical dive bar does. Customers can choose from over a dozen beers on tap on a given night, and the bar offers seasonal beers as well. Jake’s also offers traditional domestic beers and classic cocktails. However, it is the environment, not the food nor the drinks that makes Jake’s so special.

On Tuesday’s, Thursday’s, and Sunday’s during happy hour, patrons are encouraged to bring their dogs. Thus, happy hour becomes yappy hour. There is even a dog whisperer on staff for yappy hour to keep the animals under control. Once yappy hour ends, the night begins, and patrons fill the bar to enjoy its luxuries.

Chris Hourihan, a second year student at the University of South Carolina School of Law, said “On any given night at Jake’s, I can play shuffleboard, pool, or corn hole. I can listen to live music or I can watch a ball game on TV. I can be indoors or outdoors. The place has it all.” Hourihan, who got his undergraduate degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, had high praise for his favorite spot in his new home of Columbia.

“I love the bars and restaurants in Chapel Hill, and they will always have a place in my heart, but Jake’s offers more than any of them can. Wednesday nights are the best because they have half-price pints,” said Hourihan.

Hourihan is actually in the minority in terms of the average age of people who frequent at Jake’s. Sears estimates that the majority of people who come to the bar for its nightlife are seniors at USC.

“Obviously, we’re very strict on ID’s here. That might be a reason Jake’s is different from a lot of the other places around here. There aren’t a bunch of drunk freshmen running around who can’t handle their alcohol yet,” said Sears.

The mature age group that comes to Jake’s directly correlates with the bar’s laid back atmosphere. The back porch can be as tranquil at 9 p.m. as it is at 1 a.m.

One of the bouncers, Butch Sumter, said, “I work at a couple of the other bars in Five Points. I definitely treasure the nights when I get to work Jake’s because it makes my life a whole lot easier. I rarely have to throw anyone out, which is a nice change of pace from what I normally have to do around this town.”

College kids who go to the bar on a regular basis share the same sentiment as Sears and Sumter. Senior finance major Conner McCoy said, “it’s nice because there are barely ever any fights at Jake’s. I can go there and have pints all night and not be bothered by anything. I also love the back porch.”

The back porch at Jake’s is a luxury that Sears takes advantage of on a nightly basis, largely due to the fact that the bar can double as a concert venue. A local band plays there at least once a week.

“We have a few bands that play regularly, and then from time to time there will be a band coming through town that wants to play here to get their name out there, so they will play too. Sometimes it’s just one guy with a guitar, but sometimes that’s all you need,” said Sears.

Mark Beacham is the drummer for one of their regular bands, Whiskey Mikes. Beacham said “Jake’s is always a great place to play. The crowd is always good, I guess they like what we play because we keep getting asked back.”

When someone goes to a bar in Five Points, they expect to enter the dim-lit dungeon. Jake’s offers something completely different. Patrons can drink beer there all night on Saturday night, and they can feel welcome to come in the next day for Sunday brunch. People can come back after they graduate and not feel weird going back and spending time at their old college bar. Some days, the place is essentially a dog park where people can eat unique food and drink craft beer. It truly has something for every occasion, which makes it the most unique bar in Columbia. When asked what the best part about owning Jake’s Bar and Grill was, Sears said, “Everything is great about owning this place. Let’s get another beer.”

Buoyer is a public relations senior

She Navigates Through Social Media’s Beauty Community

Photo by Jasmin Moses
Jasmin Moses applies makeup

 

By Sterling Hopkins

It was a Monday afternoon in Columbiana Centre, “Columbia’s only decent mall left standing,” said Jasmin Moses as she gracefully browsed every glittering aisle of Sephora before pausing in front of the Urban Decay display. She gasped, knelt to the lowest shelf and swatched a golden highlighter across the back of her hand. After taking a moment to admire the reflective specs of glitter in the creamy highlighter, she looked up at her sister and I with both brows raised and nodded in approval. This would be one of the many products she purchased during our trip to review on her YouTube channel.

Moses, whose username is Slim Reshae on YouTube, is a native of Sumter, South Carolina and fourth-year student at the University of South Carolina. She has been an avid YouTube beauty vlogger over the last year. Her channel is dedicated to covering the latest trends in hair, makeup and fashion. She also films blog-like videos, known as vlogs, that depict her acting out pranks, her experiences traveling and spending time with her friends.

In a community of more than 45,000 self-proclaimed beauty gurus, that is often driven by popularity and deception, she has focused on creating a strong subscriber base by simply being herself and producing vlogs that are of genuine interest to her but relatable to her viewers. She takes pride keeping the best interest of her subscribers and viewers in mind.

Moses’s first introduction to YouTube’s “beauty community” was nearly two years ago when she discovered Teaira Walker’s channel. Walker, a successful YouTube beauty vlogger, produced how-to videos that gave her hundreds of thousands of subscribers and viewers tips on makeup application, hairstyling techniques and where to shop for the trendiest clothes without breaking the bank. After keeping up with her for some time, Moses was inspired by Walker’s ability to share information on the Internet about the things she loved and had true talent for while also yielding positive responses from millions of viewers. “If she could do it, I could do it,” said Moses.

In addition to being inspired by Walker, Moses sought to create a YouTube channel because her friends, classmates and even strangers at the university she attended bombarded her with questions about where she found certain wardrobe pieces, how she got her makeup flawless or  what it took to style hair so beautifully.

“I know Jasmin got tired of us all asking how she did this and that or even for her to just come and do it for us,” said Kyerra Lindsey, Moses’s best friend and subscriber. “Her YouTube vlog saves her the trouble and I think that it is great because so many other people, people she may not even know, are able to learn from her. I could not think of a better platform for her to use.”

Moses posts videos to her YouTube channel at least once a week. Her schedule includes posting how-to videos and product reviews regarding makeup usually around the first week of the month. Then, during the following week, she produces a video on her recent clothing purchases or how to style an outfit for a certain occasion.

During the third week, her subscribers and viewers can expect a hair tutorial and during the fourth week, she likes to upload vlogs that aren’t necessarily related to her beauty efforts. These particular vlogs often include getting to know Moses, information on how to start a YouTube channel, prank videos and more.

Although Moses has not always had the necessary filming equipment and editing software to produce her vlogs, she relied on her creativity to get the job done. In the earlier stages of producing vlogs, she used her iPhone 6 to film, tableside lamps and natural light to produce good lighting and the standard moviemaker software on her PC to edit footage.

Eventually, Moses had access to better cameras and professional lighting. With the help of her father, she was also able to purchase a MacBook that provided her with the best editing software for her needs. Her gradual change in tools led to vlogs that were of better quality. The improvement in quality eventually led to an instantaneous increase in her subscriber and viewer count.

Managing a YouTube channel while also being a full-time college student in your final year can be tough to handle. However, Moses welcomes the challenge and is confident that she can handle it.

“Some days I don’t know how I do it,” said Moses. “I’ll wake up, go to all of my classes, put in countless hours at my internship and still come home excited to film a new vlog to post to my channel.” The senior fashion merchandising major at USC will be graduating summa cum laude and has already been offered a job in New York City. However, she still finds the time to put effort into growing her YouTube channel. “I kind of treat it like a job and what’s cool about that is if I work hard enough, continue to attract subscribers and viewers, I could actually earn money from it,” said Moses. “That’s my dream. To make a living doing something I love.”

Moses’s dream of pursuing a career inspired by sharing her tips and tricks regarding beauty is well within reach. “Working in this industry requires a lot of skill,” said professional MAC Cosmetics makeup artist, Jada Snell. “But what it really comes down to is helping other women to look and feel their best. It is important for women to encourage, support, and empower each other. As a makeup artist, that’s something I get to do everyday.”

Although Moses does not have any professional experience in the cosmetic industry, she still stands a chance at having a beauty career flourish from her YouTube channel. “Currently the richest user on the platform, Michelle Phan first started her channel in 2006, with various makeup tutorial videos,” said Brooke Carter of the Gazette Review, a media company located in Minneapolis. “Additionally, her success on YouTube has also led her to embark on various business endeavors- for instance her monthly beauty product subscription service and her own line of cosmetics.”

Beauty vloggers like Walker and Phan have paved the way for fairly new vloggers like Moses. She studies the content they produce, as well as content from other vloggers, and uses it as a loose blueprint to build her channel. She is always eager to learn more while also ensuring that her subscribers and viewers always have the opportunity to know the real her.

Moses’s YouTube vlog is only the beginning of her beauty driven existence. After earning her degree, she hopes to be able to dedicate more time to her YouTube channel by partnering with other beauty vloggers, securing sponsorships from companies and building a brand out of it.

“Jasmin has always been able to achieve anything she really put her mind to,” said Chanel Moses, Moses’s older sister. “This beauty stuff is a piece of cake for her; she’s been really into it since she was little. I am proud to see that she is finally acting on her passion now and I can’t wait to see where it takes her.”

Hopkins is a public relations senior

Passion for the Peace Corps

Photo By Teckla Persons
Jane Wallis poses with young women from her G.L.O.W camp at Victoria Falls.

By Maggie Persons

Packing up your whole life and moving to Africa for two years isn’t something that many people are prepared or willing to do. Jane Wallis, a current Peace Corps volunteer, felt differently. She joined the Peace Corps in summer 2015 and is finishing her second year serving in the Southern Province of Zambia as an education volunteer.

A typical day for Wallis starts at 6 a.m. when the roosters her host family owns start crowing on the compound. Wallis lives in a small two-room hut with no electricity or running water. When making coffee in the morning she must heat up coals on a small burner, which takes about 20 minutes and then she’s able to boil water and make her coffee and breakfast. Wallis then gets on her bike and travels on dirt roads to get to the school where she teaches. She teaches English to the 6th grade boys and girls, whose ages range from 12-18 years old. After school, Wallis usually returns back to her compound or stays at school to run boys’ and girls’ clubs. She’ll then grade some work, help her host family with whatever they may need and then goes to bed. It’s a simple and different life, but one she’s so glad she’s a part of.

While this was a drastic change from her life in the United States, Wallis has always been dedicated to giving back to the community. Her family has always been invested in service and she felt that joining the Peace Corps would allow her to continue this service in a larger way. “When I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do after graduating college I went back to what I knew best, and that was volunteering,” Wallis said. “Joining the Peace Corps was probably the best and most rewarding decision I’ve ever made. The impact it’s had on my life is unreal.”

Wallis is one of about 235 volunteers currently serving in the Peace Corps throughout eight of the nine Zambian provinces. According to the Peace Corps official website, Peace Corps Zambia was founded in 1994 with only water and sanitation/hygiene education volunteers serving the country. Peace Corps Zambia has now expanded to include rural aquaculture promotion, rural education development, linking income food and environment and the community health improvement project. The program is one of the largest in Africa.

Wallis is determined to leave a positive lasting impact before she finishes her service this fall. When school is out of session, Wallis leads boys’ and girls’ clubs, which are groups that aim to educate boys and girls about many health-related issues, such as HIV/AIDS prevention, menstrual cycle information, and more. These clubs also go on camping trips, play sports and do other activities to keep the students involved.

“Seeing these young boys and girls get so invested in the clubs is really special,” said Wallis. “One of my favorite memories from this past year was just seeing how much these kids loved and actually wanted to learn and educate themselves so that they could continue improving their lives.”

Former President John F. Kennedy founded the Peace Corps in 1961, as a way for Americans to serve, educate and help those in need in developing countries.  Since the beginning over 220,000 Americans have served overseas in the Peace Corps. The Peace Corps application process is long and requires medical and legal clearance before being allowed to serve. From start to finish, the application process and being accepted and placed in Zambia, took Wallis about 7 months.

Timothy Persons served in the Peace Corps in Chad in 1975 and then again as the director of the Peace Corps Jamaica office. He recalled the application process being much more slow and tedious than it is today. It was all done through paperwork and mailing information into the national office and today a lot of the process is online. As director of Peace Corps Jamaica, Persons was responsible for coordinating the volunteers and resolving any conflicts that arose. “Having served in the Peace Corps before taking the job as director helped me to better understand the struggles and things that these volunteers go through,” said Persons.

Sam Maglinao, a former student at the University of South Carolina, will be joining the Peace Corps this summer as a community health specialist in HIV/AIDS prevention in Malawi. As a community health specialist, Maglinao will help teach and equip doctors and health officials with the tools to prevent the spread of illnesses, mostly HIV/AIDS, within their communities. Her decision to join the Peace Corps was similar to Wallis. “Giving back to the community and service had always been a core value in my family,” said Maglinao. “From the aspect of service and giving back, the Peace Corps sparked my interest.” Maglinao, like Wallis, was unsure what she wanted to do after graduation and she believes that the Peace Corps will allow her to discover what she’s truly passionate about.

Wallis lives with a host family on their compound in a village 30 minutes from the nearest town with electricity and running water. Her host mother, or Ba’Ma is a community leader who helps to educate other people about health issues. Ba’Ma is also very influential in the town and people come to her for advice on a wide variety of issues. Last December Wallis, 13 other Peace Corps volunteers, 15 community teachers and counterparts and 26 middle school aged girls travelled to Livingstone, Zambia, for a Girls Leading Our World (GLOW) Camp. Her Ba’Ma was among those attending this camp as a community leader and translator.

GLOW Camp is a weeklong program that aims to educate these girls and women about gender equality and life skills while having fun and doing other activities/playing sports. Wallis remembers how this camp impacted her Ba’Ma. “Watching my host mother become more confident in herself and being proud to be a women was so inspiring,” said Wallis. “My school asked for her to teach a lesson on women’s power on international women’s day and I think that might be one of my favorite memories from my time in Zambia.”

Wallis is extremely proud of all the work she’s accomplished the past two years. Teaching children and watching them progress and learn was something she will never forget. She wants those who are thinking about joining the Peace Corps to read her story and know that you should put aside any reservations you may have are because this experience is so incredible and worth it.

With her service in the Peace Corps coming to an end, Wallis will be returning to the states with a whole new outlook on life. “You can’t take anything for granted. I never thought that the people I’ve met and the things I’ve done during the last two years could make such a big impact on my life,” said Wallis. “I think returning to the states will be a weird transition and I will definitely miss my host family and everyone I’ve met but I am looking forward to the next chapter in my life.”

Persons is a senior studying public relations.