Vol State songwriters perform at local eatery

By: Barbara Harmon, Assistant Editor

The Advanced Songwriting Class and Commercial Music Ensemble from Volunteer State Community College performed at Swaney Swifts in the Gallatin, Tennessee square on March 23.

Liz Hengber, Instructor for Advanced Songwriting, opened for her class. She introduced herself and said that six of her students would be performing.

She said the first student that would be performing was Jackson Steele and said his biggest inspiration was his dad. He started the show off with an original song.

After he finished his song and everyone had applauded, Hengber said Justin Walters, another student from her class, would be joining Steele for them to sing a song they had cowritten.

Hengber said when she walked into the cafeteria at Vol State one day, they were sitting around with their guitars.

“I thought, this is like the 60s—I love Vol State,” said Hengber.

Walters joined Steele and they performed their song, “Instead I’ll be Gone.”

Hengber then introduced the next student, Cecily Wingsong, who was born in Chicago and had been singing since she was 4-years-old.

Hengber and Wingsong had been waitresses together, after Wingsong had moved to Nashville.

“I’ve loved her for a long time,” said Hengber.

Wingsong’s first song was “For You,” a song she had co-written with Barbara Harmon, another student in the songwriting class.

Her next song was a song she wrote about her father. He had been a cowboy singer on the National Barn Dance.

When she would be staying at her grandmother’s house, they would gather around the radio so they could her him sing.

The song was about him singing “Sing of Great River Valley,” and her wanting to hear him sing to her.

The audience complimented her on her performance as she walked back to her seat.

“A petite beauty with a huge voice,” said Hengber into the microphone.

Hengber then reintroduced Walters and said he found his love for music at 13-years-old. He performed his song “While You’re at It” with his fiance Kelly.

As he sang his next song, “Wake Up My Yesterdays,” the floor vibrated while his and several other people’s feet were tapping to the beat of his song.

Caleb Baker, another student from Hengber’s class, then joined Walters for them to perform “Talking in Emoji,” a song they had cowritten together.

Walters played the guitar while Baker sang lead. They both smiled as they performed their song that everyone in the songwriting class had said was catchy.

Hengber then introduced Rickie Pickering, an advanced songwriting student, who had lived in Gallatin for 30 years.

“He is one of my favorite hippies in the world,” said Hengber.

Pickering then sang a song he had co-written with Braden Baugh, a former songwriting class student. The song was titled “Poison,” and Pickering said that Baugh had it available on iTunes.

Next he sang, “Luckiest Man Alive,” a song he co-wrote with Bobby West, who was also in the audience that night.

After Pickering, Baker came back up to perform two of his original songs.

The first song he sang he said was about staying together, and the next “Story of a Broken Man,” he said was the story of a homeless man.

Hengber then introduced Victoria Lee Watson, another songwriting student, and said she had singing since before she could talk and writing songs since she was 3-years-old.

“I heard her song on iTunes, and I went crazy for her,” said Hengber.

Watson’s first song was “Just a Little More,” a song she said she wrote when she was 17-years-old.

She said it was about her grandmother and about her own personal experiences.

Her next song, “Hands to the Sky,” was a song she wrote for songwriting class. “It’s about guys cheating on girls at bars,” said Watson.

Watson shrugged her shoulders as she sang the words “and quite frankly neither did I.”

“You nailed it,” said Hengber to Watson, as she ended the songwriting class’s part of the show.

“Thanks, so much, for coming tonight to see the advanced songwriting class.

“I’ve never been so proud of eight students in my life…in many ways, they are teaching me,” said Hengber.

Lynn Peterson, Instructor of the Commercial Music Ensemble, then introduced the ensemble.

Watson was also a member in this group. They opened with “Dust in the Wind.”

After the song had ended, Hengber said “they’re good.”

They performed several songs including “Jolene,” “The House of the Rising Sun” and “Wish You Were Here.”

For the last two songs the Commercial Music Ensemble performed, Kyle Cothron, a Commercial Music Ensemble student who had also been the sound person through all the performances for both classes, joined them.

One of the songs he sang was “Seven Bridges Road.” Steve Young, the original singer/songwriter of this song, had recently died on March 18.

Peterson ended the show with a few words.

“The reason why they’re smiling is because they work hard at this and are enjoying there time,” said Peterson.

He said there will be a big show with these students at the end of April.


One Book, One Community event celebrates activist

By: Sam Walker, Staff Writer

On Wednesday, March 23, Volunteer State Community College held a panel in the Rochelle Center to commemorate Malala Yousafzai.

The Struggle for Education panel was held as a discussion amongst six panelists all with a variety of different struggles in order to become educated. The inspiration for this event was the book titled “I Am Malala.”

This book follows the amazing story of a young girl named Malala who survived when a group of Taliban boarded her bus, asked for her by name, and shot her in the head for being an advocate for female education in Pakistan since she was eleven years old.

She was flown to a military hospital for medical care.

After undergoing surgery and a lengthy rehabilitation Malala regained her ability to walk and talk. After her recovery she continued to be an activist and uses her story as an inspiration to girls everywhere.

She went on to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014 for her work.

There were seven panelists gathered for the discussion consisting of: Rebecca Loftis, Patty Powell, Rozhan Sadik, Rahim Buford, Melinda Peery, Margarita Perez, Ndume Olatushani, and the moderator Sarah Passino.

Before the panelist began there was a short video shown of stories of Vol State students who have struggled with their own obstacles to achieve going to college. The students featured in this production were William Spratt, Margarita Perez-Torres, Carolina Davila-Torres, Gaynell Buffinet Payne, John Lam, Mary Choul, and Seth Walker. After the video presentation the panelist introduced their stories of their struggles while achieving education that ranged from poverty, segregation, crime, and disability.

A Q&A was held after the panel for students to ask their own questions. One student, Chris Torres stated to the panelist, “Thank you all for being here, all of your stories are truly amazing.”

With over 50 students and faculty in attendance the panel was conducted and organized by executive assistant to the President, Lauren Collier and Director of Library Services and Learning Resources, Sarah Smith.

When asked about the panel Sarah Smith stated, “I hope that there is greater realization that education is truly a privilege not to be taken for granted.”   

Stop by Thigpen Library to pick up a copy of “I am Malala” as there are many copies available for checkout.


Vol State’s Lost Boys of Sudan

By: Preston Neal, Staff Writer

With thousands attending Vol State, many students are not aware of “The Lost” boys and their history. “I’ve never heard of the ‘Lost Boys’ of Sudan,” said Sarah Leyhew, Vol State student. They can be identified by the linear scars on their foreheads, caused by a cultural practice of scarification.

Most of the Lost boys no longer attend Vol State, having departed to pursue employment and other opportunities.

Sudan is the third largest country in Africa, and is home to various peoples and culture. The northern part of Sudan is dominated by Islam, and the southern region by Christianity.

As addressed in English International Development Committee member Peter Verney’s “Sudan: Conflict and Minorities,” differences between North Sudan and South Sudan, such as culture and religion, became prevalent after Sudan’s independence from Great Britain was gained in the 1950s.

This animosity culminated in a civil war that lasted from 1983 to 2005. According to a documentary from the “Next Door Neighbors” series, presented by Nashville Public Television (NPT), this war claimed over two million lives and resulted in the displacement of over four million Sudanese.

This conflict made wandering orphans of thousands of Sudanese children, many of whom would perish while fleeing to refugee camps in neighboring countries.

Some of these children were also recruited by Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), a guerilla movement that was a central catalyst of the Second Sudanese Civil War. These scattered children came to be known as the “Lost Boys.”

According to the International Rescue Committee, the “Lost Boys” are the most war-traumatized children ever documented. In 2001, as part of a program established by the United States Government and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), approximately 3800 Lost Boys were allowed to resettle in the United States.  

This effort was halted after the tragedies that took place on Sept. 11, 2001, but was resumed in 2004. The Sudanese were settled in various states, with the largest concentration of Sudanese residing in Omaha, Nebraska.

Many Sudanese settled in the Nashville area, attempting to assimilate to the American way of life and pursue education.

The Lost Boys Foundation was founded in 2004 to help refugees find jobs, attend school and to spread word of their story.  

According to the NPT, the Sudanese were permitted to attend class at Gallatin High School. With little to no prior education, this was a valuable resource for the Sudanese.

Word spread between communities, and Sudanese from other states traveled to Gallatin in order to attend school.

Over recent years, several of the “Lost Boys” attended Volunteer State Community College. Those interested in learning more about the “Lost Boys” of Sudan in Nashville should visit their webpage, thelostboysfoundation.org, for more information.

Vol State hosts Women’s History Tea

By: Jessica Peña, Staff Writer

Volunteer State Community College hosted the annual Women’s History Tea Wednesday, March 23, in the Mary Nichols Carpeted Dining Room.

The Women’s History Tea is an annual event that welcomes guest speakers to come to Vol State to speak on the importance of women’s roles in society and how to better include the diversity appreciation as a whole.

The event was coordinated and created by Dr. Kenny Yarbrough, Director of Student Life and Diversity Initiatives.

This year, the event was decorated as a Parisian-themed ambiance with Eiffel Tower figures with black, white and red table decor.

An assortment of teas decorated each table and volunteers from Virginia Rockwood’s French class waited to serve everyone.

The keynote speaker at the tea was Dr. Heidi Leming, Assistant Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs at the Tennessee Board of Regents.

Leming’s speech was titled “What Do You Believe?” and she engaged the audience to join with others in similar action to help revolutionize the push for equality.

“Beliefs are so important in shaping not only our individual actions, but how to foster a healthy democracy,” said Leming.

Leming spoke about the issues and milestones in women’s history, including the literacy gap between men and women in the 1700’s and later coeducation.

“Women have struggled with living up to the promise of their education and at the same time fulfilling a female role,” said Leming.

Leming urged the audience to pay attention to the critical role women play in the world of higher education.

“I can say that one area we need to do more work in is supporting women from minority populations to achieve their goals in getting a degree or higher education,” said Leming.

Leming closed her speech with a challenge for her audience to become activists like the women before to help pave the way for the opportunities women have in this day and age.

“Join with others in the continued pursuit of joy and happiness.

“We aspire to have these democratic ideals as Americans. To be an ordinary American, but with extraordinary dreams,” said Leming, in her closing statement.

Dianna Johnson, a non-traditional student at Vol State, said she enjoyed the message from Leming’s speech.

“I thought she said some very interesting and inspirational things.

“As women, the odds have usually been stacked against us and I think she [Leming] touched on subjects that we all feel pretty strongly about,” said Johnson.

Johnson is not only a student at Vol State, but she works for the city of Gallatin, Tennessee.

Johnson is a recipient of the Vol State Foundation Scholarship and will be speaking at the annual Educate a Woman Luncheon at Long Hollow Baptist Church in Hendersonville, Tennessee on April 22.

Approximately 30 people attended the Women’s History Tea event and only a couple of them were men.

“That is something we have to think about in terms of how we can attract more men to this particular type of event,” said Yarbrough.

The lunch menu for the event included deli spirals, popcorn chicken, salad, vegetable platters, and Cheesecake cubes.

As attendees enjoyed the food, Rockwood’s volunteers served guests hot tea and spoke simple French phrases for guests to respond to with the help of the event pamphlet.

After lunch servings, Vicki Dretchen, Diversity and Cultural Awareness Committee Chair, announced the award recipients for the event.

The recipients were Kay Dayton, Dr. Kimberly Caldwell and Dr. Carol Bussey.

Yarbrough awarded Leming for being a guest speaker at the Women’s History Tea, and Dretchen for her all of her efforts as a Committee Chair.


Blake’s Book Bag: The Parthenon panic

By: Blake Bouza, Assistant Editor

Nashville has been coined as the Athens of the South. This is because in the early days, there were not too many educational opportunities in the South. Nashville began building colleges and universities to make up for the lack of education, also instituting the South’s first public school system.

Just as the Athens of ancient Greece, Nashville became the metropolitan center for education and culture in the South, a pinnacle of knowledge and wealth for the area.

While other cities have since made up for the lack of educational opportunity and Nashville does not quite go by this name anymore, opting for a more modern “Music Capital of the World,” there are still testaments to Nashville’s Athenian roots.

This includes the dozen of prestigious colleges all around the city, from Vanderbuilt and Belmont to Trevecca and Fisk.

It is because of this nickname that they built the Parthenon replica in Centennial Park during the 1897 Tennessee Centennial Exposition to celebrate Nashville’s 100th year in the Union.

The Parthenon is a scale replica, the columns and pillars the same length/height/width as the actual Parthenon in Greece. The Athena Parthenos replica stands golden in the center of the second floor while the first floor is devoted to art pieces and a museum about the construction of the replica in the late 1890s.

You may have seen the Parthenon and the Athena replica in the Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief movie based on the best-selling Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. While the Parthenon does not appear in the book that the movie is based on, it does showcase an action sequence where the main characters face off against a Hydra in the main room in front of the Athena Parthenos.

So hey, what better place to spotlight a series about Greek demigods than the Parthenon?

Rick Riordan does something special with the Percy Jackson series: he makes the Greek myths relevant, modern, interesting, and hilarious. The series follows the (mis)adventures of demigod UN-extraordinaire, Perseus Jackson – son of the sea god, Poseidon.

The first series chronicles the efforts of Camp Half-Blood, a haven in Long Island for demigods, to stop the ancient titan Kronos from rising again and taking vengeance on the Greek gods.

Percy grows up through the book series, going from twelve to sixteen over the course of the novels. He deals with many aspects of the Greek mythos, from finding the Golden Fleece to battling the Minotaur, traversing the dangerous Labyrinth and visiting the River Styx.

Riordan writes with a sense of wryness and the dry wit is a signature of the series, as the characters comment on the inconsistencies of the ancient legends and on the many, many transgressions committed by the Greek gods in their “sovereign rule” of humanity.

Mount Olympus presides over the Empire State Building, Medusa owns a statue garden, the witch Circe runs an amusement park in the Sea of Monsters, Daedalus is an out-of-work engineer, Poseidon wears swimming trunks and Hawaiian shirts.

Percy and his romance with fellow Half-Blood Annabeth, daughter of Athena, has sparked an Internet phenomenon known as a fandom. The celebrity nickname for the two of them is Percabeth.

In the sequel series, The Heroes of Olympus, we get to see from Annabeth’s point-of-view in the POV shift from first-person of the first series to third-person of the second.

Just read it, you won’t be sorry. You’ll gain knowledge of the Greek mythos that you can impress your friends with. It’ll also expand your awareness about just how much our current society draws from Greek culture and mythology, from names to customs.

While the books are labeled as “Middle Grade” reading level, it’s worth the read. Just don’t expect anything too serious.

Riordan hasn’t limited himself to writing about Greek mythology in modern day. He’s expanded to Roman and Egyptian mythos with the Kane Chronicles, and this year he will be releasing a fourth series dealing with Norse myths.