African American poetry spotlight a success

By Jessica Peña, Staff Writer



(Pictured: Dr. Kenny Yarbrough reciting a poem for the event.  Picture taken by Jessica Peña.)


(Pictured: Dr. Melva Black giving a lecture about African American poets.  Picture taken byJessica Peña.)

To honor Black History Month, faculty members organized a lecture event for students to become more familiar with the African American culture.

It is also an hour for students to learn about the poems and poets that influence their own professors and peers.

“I taught at a high school years ago and we did something like this. So I asked if people wanted to volunteer to read and they chose their own poems to share with students,” said Cindy Chanin, Associate Professor of English.

Chanin also recited a few passages during the Soul Food Luncheon two weeks ago. She said she has a passion for the culture and loves to participate in these events.

“It’s good to hear the perspective of others. Gwendolyn Brooks is my favorite poet. Not just among African American poets, but all poets in general. The poems speak to me even though I am not African American,” said Chanin.

Chanin also said that the poems are good because they are easy to identify as humans and they share a universal appeal.

“My favorite poem would have to be ‘Mother to Son’. I love the imagery, the symbolism and the encouragement,” added Chanin.

A total of 24 students of all diversities attended the lecture.

“I really enjoyed the lecture today. Langston Hughes has been one of my favorite poets for quite some time now, and I think his ideas and the feeling he put into his poems really resonates with people even to this day,” said Victoria Smith, a nursing major at Vol State.

Smith said she describes herself as someone who loves to learn history of all cultures and that the classes and diversity-themed events on campus have helped open her mind to so much more.

“Cindy Chanin recited ‘Mother to Son’ which is a poem about a mother comforting her son and not losing faith as an African American in the 20th century. Powerful subject, for sure,” said Smith.

Gaynell Payne, an English major at Vol State, works for the school’s public relations and volunteered to organize the PowerPoint slides for the event.

“I loved volunteering for this. Being involved with media is what I do and sometimes it feels like there’s never enough time to do it all!” said Payne.

“It’s like a skill set for me and I’m always busy with it,” added Payne.

Cindy Chanin coordinated all the poem readings in collaboration with other faculty members of the English and Communications departments.

Chanin said she hopes to have these events every year as it has helps open young minds to culture.


Vol State Soul Food Luncheon a success

By Jessica Pena


The Office of Student Life and Diversity hosted the annual Soul Food Luncheon Wednesday Feb.10, in the Mary Cole Nichols Carpeted Dining Room at Volunteer State Community College.

The Soul Food Luncheon is an hour of reflecting on history, the meaning of the soul food tradition and the culture that surrounds it.

The luncheon was decorated with balloons, wristbands, lollipops and history flashcards

and bookmarks at each table, commemorating those in African American culture in honor of Black History Month.

Attendance at the event was approximately 35-40 people, students and faculty both, filled the room.

Blake Coker, Student GovernmentAssociation Activities Chairman, welcomed the event as SGA Secretary of State Sandra Hunt introduced the main speaker.

Elizabeth Sanders, a senior at the University of Tennessee at Martin, was the keynote speaker of the event.

Sanders is a part of the Student Government Association at UT Martin as the Executive Assistant to the Vice President and was present at the luncheon to speak on role models and the chance for students to strive for more in their lives.

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service to others.

“I don’t want to be a statistic. I want to be so much more and I know that I have the potential,” said Sanders on her accomplishments as an African American student.

Sanders challenged the audience to be that positive role model to influence someone’s life.

“Be that role model. You never know who is watching, even just around children.

We may not be in history books, but maybe someone you’ve influenced will be,” said Sanders.

Before lunch was served, Betty Williams spoke on the history of the Soul Food Luncheon and how these events of recognition have impacted the culture from what it used to be in the 60’s.

“The term ‘soul food’ became common in the 60’s, with the rise of the civil rights movement.

“We had so much less in the 60’s. Foods like green beans, white beans, collard greens and cornbread all became a sort of tradition to us then,” said WIlliams.

The menu for the event included soul food traditions such as corn bread, baked beans, macaroni and cheese, collard greens, baked chicken, salad and cupcakes for dessert.

For the faculty readings portion, Edmon Thomas recited passages from the play “The River Niger”, written by African American playwright, Joseph A. Walker.

Accompanied by Vol State student Jacob Young on the piano, the audience rose to sing along to the poem-written song “Lift Every Voice And Sing”, an African American classic written by James Weldon Johnson.

Dr. Kenny E. Yarbrough, Director of Student Life and Diversity Initiatives, said the closing remarks for the event and the audience applauded as the event came to a close.


Black Lives Matter vs. All Lives Matter

By Gayla Collier, Staff Writer


The debate between “Black Lives Matter” and “All Lives Matter” has made headlines in the media.

Black Lives Matters is a movement that originated in the African American community where activists campaign against violence toward African American people.

There has always been a race issue in America since before slavery in the 1800’s.

However, the “Black Lives Matters” movement did not begin until 2013 when the verdict of the Trayvon Martin trial was revealed.

People on social media started using the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter, when George Zimmerman was acquitted for the shooting and death of Trayvon Martin during that trial.

As time has progressed from the Trayvon Martin trial, the media has put a focus on several other cases where inequality and injustice has occurred in the African American community.

Some people think that the “Black Lives Matters” movement is unfair and creates more racism because it is singling out one group of people and that it should be called “All Lives Matters.”

“All Lives Matters” is a phrase that was created in response to the “Black Lives Matters” campaign.

Activists that support the “All Lives Matters” campaign believe that you should not focus on one group of people to solve problems of inequality and injustice in America.

 By doing so, it makes those problems bigger issues.

 On the Volunteer State Community College Campus, a couple of students were asked what they felt about “Black Lives Matter” versus “All Lives Matter.”

 “I feel like ‘All Lives Matter’ is just a way to justify the inequality. ‘Black Lives Matter’ is not to make those lives seem more important, but to find that equality,” said Caleb Jones, a student at Vol State.

“What ‘Black Lives Matter’ means to me is people are trying to overcome what they have dealt with through the years,” said Leandrew Hayes, a student at Volstate.
After speaking with several different students, there were several different viewpoints on the issues concerning “Black Lives Matter” and “All Lives Matter.”

What it means to be a role model

By: Sara Keen, Editor-in-Chief


The term “role model” is frequently used in the media lately.  Between the superhero movies, sport players, rock stars, and astounding doctors on television, the options are far from few for children.

That being said, you do not have to be a superhero, rock star or anything huge to be a good role model.  You only need to be a positive influence for others.

Someone can look up to you for small things that you do not even realize you do.  For example, someone who is responsible could be a role model for someone who has trouble maintaining his or her own responsibilities.  

A role model, to a large degree, is acting like the change you want to see in the world.  It is making a difference, big or small, to push the world into a better place.

If you wish the world were a kinder place, spread kindness through the small acts mentioned above.  This could be as simple as a smile or asking how someone is.  It does not take too much to brighten another person’s day.

If you wish people talked about issues that our relevant to our time, broach the subjects with others.  This can help you understand other viewpoints for the topic and broaden your own views on the subject.

Being a role model means embracing what makes you human, including your faults. Let these things strengthen you, let friends know you are dealing with these weaknesses, but they are not to your detriment.   Show others that you are able to accept your own mistakes.  A role model should be able to take all problems in stride, as a lesson rather than a failure.

Being a role model is not about being perfect. It is about not letting your perceived shortcomings get the better of your attitude and the image you put forth to people.

It is important to remember that someone you perceive to be your role model is human, too, that they have probably cried themselves to sleep some nights the same way you have.

No human being is perfect. No human being can be all that you need him or her to be – it’s not a fair burden to put on someone else.

However, a human being can be kind, compassionate and brave in his or her own ways.  That is enough to make someone a role model to many.  


Interest Piece: The wrestler among us

By: Barbara Harmon, Assistant Editor




Brian Ferrell, a student at Volunteer State Community College, is also referred to by another name.

While Brian Ferrell is what his fellow classmates hear in class, “Brian Valor” is his name in the ring.

Ferrell is 26-years-old and pursuing his dream as a professional wrestler.

“I’ve been a wrestling fan since I was 5-years-old,” said Ferrell.

“The earliest match that I can remember watching was Macho Man Randy Savage vs The Ultimate Warrior at WrestleMania 7.

“Ever since then, I’ve been hooked,” he said.

Ferrell said he grew up with three brothers and they spent a lot of time wrestling around the house.

As a child, he said he collected wrestling video tapes, wrestling action figures, and wrestling magazines.

“From an early age, I always knew I wanted to be a wrestler and had an aspiration to become one,” said Ferrell.

“There were times I tried to shy away from it, because I knew about the risk and injuries.

“Seeing all the old timers who are old and broken down and can barely walk, plus the traveling and never being at home,” he said.

Ferrell said he used those reasons as excuses to pursue other things, but remained a loyal wrestling fan.

“But after a pep talk with my dad, about growing up with no regrets, it got me to thinking again about pursuing this career,” said Ferrell.

“That’s when I started looking for schools to go train at, and the rest is history,” he said.

Ferrell started training early last year in Lewisburg, Tennessee with Mikey Dunn.

After about five months with him, he went on the road with Shaun Hoodrich.

Ferrell continued to train with Hoodrich and became his tag team partner.

“I wrestle for USA Championship Wrestling, and they run shows in Gladeville, Tennessee; Lebanon, Tennessee; Dickson, Tennessee; Covington, Tennessee; and Jackson, Tennessee,” said Ferrell.

He wrestles for the Southern Wrestling Federation (SWF) in Tullahoma, Tennessee and Next Generation Wrestling (NGW) in Newport, Tennessee, as well.

“I am also one half of the NGW Tag Team Champion for Next Generation Wrestling down in Newport, Tennessee,” said Ferrell.

Ferrell has met or been in the ring with famous wrestlers like Ricky Morton, Bill Dundee and Jerry “The King” Lawler.

Ferrell explained that depending on which promotion he is with, determined if he was a heel (bad guy) or a baby-face (good guy).

He said wrestling is a typical superhero story—the heel gets heat from the crowd, and the baby-face gets cheered.

“I prefer being a bad guy—I like being a heel,” said Ferrell.

“I’m better at smack talking and feel like I’m a natural heel at heart, too,” he said.

Ferrell said it does not really bother him when people call wrestling fake, because they do not fully understand what wrestlers have to put their bodies through.

Ferrell explained that you do get hurt when you hit the mat, which is metal bars covered by wood and a mat.

“So it hurts when you get slammed on the ring,” said Ferrell. “You feel it every time.”

“Literally you are getting hurt out there, and at times I’m hurting myself more than my opponent,” said Ferrell.

“You have to brace yourself when you are doing moves off the top rope, because you are receiving the brunt of the impact,” he said.

“It’s the best decision I have ever made, and I feel that when pro wrestling is done right, it’s the greatest thing on earth,” said Ferrell.

“My only regret is that I wish I had started earlier, when I was 18 or 19,” he said.

“But now my goal is to make it to the WWE,” said Ferrell.

He will have a tryout with WWE in Nashville, Tennessee at the Bridgestone Arena, Feb. 29.

“I will be an extra talent and will possibly be on TV,” said Ferrell.

“Then, Tuesday, March 1, I will be traveling to Atlanta to have a tryout in front of talent agents and some of the superstars for evaluation.

“And I will also be on the TV taping of SmackDown, as an extra talent,” he said.

Ferrell encourages everyone to check out Monday Night Raw on the USA Network and SmackDown on Thursday nights at 7 p.m.

According to, “SmackDown delivers a shot of adrenaline to viewers and bring fans over-the-top action, feats of athleticism beyond the reach of mortal men, and WWE’s special brand of drama.”

Tickets can be purchased at, if any fellow students would like to cheer for Ferrell on Feb. 29.

“See all your favorite WWE Superstars LIVE including Roman Reigns, “The Lunatic Fringe” Dean Ambrose, Dolph Ziggler, Triple H and the Authority, the WWE Divas and many more,” according to


Honor students to host book drive

By Blake Bouza. Assistant Editor

Microsoft Word - book drive flyer 2 (2).docx

Volunteer State Community College will be hosting a book drive Wednesday, Feb. 17 – Friday, Feb. 26.

As a project done for their Honors Leadership Development class, the book drive was started by students Shannon Feaganes, Victoria Anderson, Kyle Homer, and Jenny Hernandez.

“Personally, I believe that it is important for students at Vol State to become involved in donating to the book drive because it’s a great way to join this cause to promote education,” said Hernandez.

Hernandez said that at the end of the book drive the books will be donated to Safe Haven, the only shelter-to-housing program of its kind in Middle Tennessee that accepts entire homeless families.

Hernandez said that Vol State students in addition to the families of Safe Haven will be impacted by the donations.

“Students who donate will be able to be a part of something beneficiary for the community. By donating one book, you are making an impact on someone,” Hernandez said.

She went on to say that there will be designated cardboard boxes all around campus, and that they are aiming for at least one in each building.

“There will definitely be one in the Wood Campus building,” said Hernandez.

Anderson, who is a reader herself, said that she was very fortunate to grow up always having something new to read.

“I am hoping that these donated books will give children, as well as adults, the opportunity to become a fellow book lover,” Anderson said.

Anderson expressed her excitement at seeing how many books the donation would receive.

According to the Safe Haven website, the organization keeps homeless families together and provides services to help them achieve lasting self-sufficiency.

The program helps families experiencing homelessness by providing for their immediate needs of shelter and stability.

“We operate through effective and results-driven programs, integrating services that are evidence-based,” according to the website.

The organization’s mission is to reduce and eventually eliminate family homelessness in Middle Tennessee.

“The best way for students to get involved is by simply spreading the news and donating their gently used books to our book drive,” said Hernandez.


Vol State removes sports scholarships

By: Barbara Harmon, Assistant Editor


Volunteer State Community College will no longer be awarding athletic scholarships, beginning in the fall of 2016. With the increasing cost and academic needs throughout campus, Vol State has decided to cut this expense.

“We have been spending approximately $900,000 a year on the athletics program,” said Eric Melcher, Coordinator of Communications and Public Relations at Vol State.

“Of that money, approximately $200,000 has been spent each year on athletic scholarships.

“With the advent of Tennessee Promise Last Dollar Scholarship Program, student athletes who qualify for TN Promise have full tuition paid anyway—just like any other qualifying student,” said Melcher.

Because of this and the availability of academic scholarships and federal grants, athletic scholarships were decided to be cut.

No staff or faculty will be affected by this decision.

“The athletic program will continue as a Division One Program,” said Melcher.

“We will still have men’s and women’s basketball, softball and baseball teams and they will continue to play games statewide,” included Melcher.

Vol State is not the only community college in Tennessee that will be making similar adjustments.

“It’s been a discussion of the college presidents for some time,” said Melcher.

This change in the budget will be effective starting this fall, 2016.

“Any student athlete who has already signed to Vol State will have the full length of their scholarship fulfilled,” added Melcher.

“We have 15 athletic scholarships this year in men’s basketball, 12 in women’s basketball, 16 in softball, and 22 in baseball.

“This will only impact new players,” he said.

The existing athletes, along with any future athletes will continue to have their meals covered for them through Vol State.

“We certainly think it will have an impact on the out-of-state students that might come here for athletics, because they won’t get in-state tuition labors any longer,” said Melcher.

“Previously we had offered them the same tuition rate as in-state students, and that won’t be possible anymore.

“I think it will have an impact on recruiting students from out-of-state, and we will just have to see how the rest goes,” added Melcher.

No other departmental scholarships are being considered to be cut from the budget.

“A big part of what we do here is making sure the students succeed in college,” said Melcher.

“And we want to make sure we have the funds to do that.

“Academics are our first priority here, and sometimes you have to make some hard decisions when it comes to supporting academics,” said Melcher.

Not everyone feels this is a fair decision.

“I think it’s wrong,” said Savannah Pollard, a student at Vol State.

“If a student works hard for their athletic abilities, they should be rewarded for it—just like at every other school.

“It’s going to make out-of-state athletes not want to be a part of this school, if they won’t be compensated for all the hours they spend playing sports for our school. Bad move,” said Pollard.

Five out of sic students agree that this is not favorable for any future athletes.

“As a student who graduated high school prior to TN Promise, and who has depended on scholarships from the school, I do not feel this is acceptable,” said Kat Lambert, a student at Vol State.

“Many Vol State students do not qualify for TN Promise and depend on other scholarships to help them afford school,” said Lambert.