Black History Month filled with events

By Gloria Cortes

February is Black History Month, where we celebrate the importance of Black history in our culture.

Monday, Feb. 4, from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in the Mary Cole Nichols Dining Hall B is The Art of Omari Booker. Omari Booker is a talented local artist who paints incorporating themes and current social trends. He is particularly skilled in creating images that depict the struggle for social justice in an unjust world.

Tuesday, Feb. 5, from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Mary Cole Nichols Dining Hall B is Documentary Screening: Brother Outsider.  This documentary, which has won over 25 awards, illuminates the public and private life of Bayard Rustin. Rustin, a visionary strategist during the Civil Rights movement was called the “unknown hero” of the movement as he was central to the organization of the 1963 March on Washington. Because Rustin was openly gay, he was largely erased from history even by those among the top leaders of the movement.   Continue reading

TN Reconnect spotlight

By: Riley Holcraft

The Tennessee Reconnect Program gives eligible, nontraditional students the chance to attend community colleges free of tuition, and Volunteer State Community College is home to several participants.

Lindsay Williams is a reconnect student enrolled in the Vol State Dental Assistant Program; she is also president of the Dental Assistants Club.

Williams is passionate about leading a club dedicated to real-life, hands-on experience that encourages students to get an authentic taste for a career in dental assisting.

“I have come to Vol State twice before and just never really found the degree I was truly passionate about,” said Williams.

After she job-shadowed a dental assistant at a local office in Hendersonville, she discovered her love for the career.

In August, Williams was admitted into the program as a Tennessee reconnect student. She revealed that finding her interest and becoming president of the Dental Assistants Club, “has completely changed my life!”

Enrollment at Vol State is not her only recent milestone. The former Miss Kelley became Mrs. Williams in August of last year.

Her husband, Phillip, is a preacher at a local church. Williams upholds certain responsibilities as the preacher’s wife that includes teaching Sunday school, getting involved in church activities, and showcasing positive energy.

She is recognized as “a Tennessee girl at heart” that is proud of the Christian faith, and she enjoys spending quality time with her husband, church family, and friends.

Williams hopes to become a mother in the near future and raise her child within the church culture.

In her free time, she operates a craft business making and selling wreaths and home decor. She remains busy by juggling school, church, and other hobbies, but her main goal in life is to use her compassion and humility to help and inspire others.

Since serving her community is vital to her, Williams always tries to find a way to intertwine her daily routine with the helping of others.

Her value of service blends well with The Dental Assistants Club since it is involved in multiple service-learning projects throughout the year.

Williams admires “the daily opportunity we have to improve someone’s self-confidence, the excitement of preparing treatments for patients, and our positive influence on people.”

Being a part of both the program and the club encourages students to not only perform the job correctly but also become ethical people dedicated to quality care for patients.

TN Reconnect spotlight

By: Yvonne Nachtigal

Volunteer State Community College Spanish major Ch’Mar Butler loves language.

“I love to speak and read, also write. It helps stimulate me,” said Butler.

Butler was eight credits from his degree and took advantage of the TN Reconnect program to return to college.

“I know the benefits of a degree. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for Reconnect,” said Butler.

Butler is a classically trained tenor who sang for President Clinton.

Originally from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Butler went directly to Tougaloo College in Mississippi after high school. He received a scholarship for singing in his school’s concert choir.

Butler says his college experience now is much different from when he was younger.

“People were more involved on campus then. Clubs, organizations. I mean, they’re still here, but not with the fervor they had,” said Butler.

He is vice president of the Black Student Union formerly AASU, which will be meeting Wednesdays at 11 a.m., in the Woods Campus Center building, beginning the week after fall break.

Butler has been married for 14 years to his wife, Keesha, and the couple has four children.

“Being married and working full-time. It’s a challenge to find time for school,” said Butler.

Having formerly worked as an entrepreneur, he is now a bilingual insurance analyst. His goal is to be a translator for the court system, go abroad and teach English in Spanish speaking countries.

He encourages students to step out and be more involved at college.

“Go out for that club, say hi to that person you think is cool. It’s ok to be afraid use that fear. Because once it’s over, it’s over. Regrets can be haunting and unforgiving,” said Butler.

TN Reconnect spotlight

By: Gloria Cortes

Tari Pearson is a mother, a nurse assistant, and a Vol State TN Reconnect sophomore.

She said she came back to school to become a registered nurse now that she does not have to raise her children.

“Basically, to better my life. I started out later in life after taking care of my kids, and now my kids are grown. So, I needed to do something more than just be a housekeeper or things like that, so I decided that I wanted to become a registered nurse, which kind of ties into what I do now,” said Pearson.

Pearson said she is a nurse assistant for a private company.

“You could say I’m a caregiver, so to speak,” said Pearson.

She said she was surprised she was able to get the TN Reconnect grant.

“I was in school in the past and had to put it on hold. I couldn’t get a pell grant so it kind of helps me more and it helps me save more money. School is not cheap, and it’s expensive to go back and start over. It has helped me financially,” said Pearson.

She said she chose Vol State for a few reasons.

“It’s out of Nashville. I wanted to get out of Nashville because I’m from Nashville. And Vol State has an excellent program. I did a little background research on Vol State and they have excellent programs. And it has good connections with other universities in case I want to continue with my career path that way,” said Pearson.

Pearson said she has received different reactions from her family about her going back to school.

“My children are supportive, but other family members, you know how critical some people can be. But a lot of them are supportive, and they want to see me do better and strive in life,” said Pearson.

She said some of her classes have been challenging for her, and it is hard for her to make time for her online classes.

“Anatomy, microbiology, and chemistry. Those are my biggest challenges, but I managed to pass microbiology and anatomy and physiology. Trying to learn formulas and trying to redo math in your head after you haven’t taken it in years is a bit of a challenge,” said Pearson.

She said that Vol State has helped her become stronger.

“I’m a lot stronger than a lot of people think I am. And I can take criticism, whether it’s destructive or constructive,” said Pearson.

Break the silence

By: Riley Holcraft 

Suicide is no new phenomenon and the public has become virtually desensitized to its effects with a surge of TV shows, celebrity attempts and news reports.

Stories like this come and go but rarely do people stop to think about those affected. Volunteer State Community College partnered with The Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network by hosting its first annual Break the Silence event dedicated to lives touched by suicide.

On Sept. 20, at the Humanities Plaza, a small group gathered to discuss suicide within the community. The ceremony opened with a song performed by Vol State Students, Kendahl Oakley, and Cole Harper.

Quilts with pictures of suicide victims in Tennessee and pinwheels with names of suicide victims connected to Vol State students were on display. Many of the pinwheels had repeating names.

Oliver Graves, Vol State Student and Spectrum club leader explained the meaning behind the repetition, “When someone commits suicide, not just one person is affected,” said Graves.

Graves had personal experience with a suicide attempt six months after coming out as gay.

“forty percent of LGBT youth have either attempted or contemplated suicide. It is not a joke,” said Graves.

Oftentimes, suicide is overlooked as “selfish” or “overrated.”

However, TSPN Volunteer, Teresa Culbreath explained, “No one is immune.”

The effects of suicide spread to a wide community of individuals, and suicide attempters often have no refuge.

Culbreath lost a brother and husband to suicide, so her personal experience has inspired her to bring awareness to others.

“Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network has three main goals when it comes to dealing with suicide: intervention, prevention, and postvention,” said Culbreath.

The best way to implement these goals is by making others aware of available assistance and educating the public of warning signs.

“I have had personal, lasting effects from suicide after my sister attempted. If I could let the student body know one think about suicide, it would be: learn the signs,” said Vol State student, Crystal Hutchins.

Warning signs include: talking about death, withdrawal from social activities, behavior changes, giving away prized possessions, and drug abuse.

The most important thing to do when encountering these warning signs is to approach the affected person with compassion and notify someone of greater authority. It is important to never belittle the feelings of someone who feels hopeless.

Samantha Nadler, a devoted wife, and mother, also shared her personal experience with suicide. She had made several attempts throughout her lifetime and is now an advocate dedicated to helping those that struggle with suicide.

Nadler explained that along with knowing warning signs the most important aspect of suicide prevention is a community. “Community matters. Connections with other people matter,” she said.

Most suicide attempts are related to ending a lifelong pain, emotional or physical. A community typically serves as a buffer between the pain and the thoughts of death. Nadler explained how her community of suicide preventionists “ended up saving my life.”

The event closed with a reflection time. All attendees were offered a small container of bubbles that read “Break the Silence.” Each person thought of a person who is currently affected by or struggling with suicide and blew the bubbles in their honor.

September is Suicide Awareness Month. Students, you are urged to take notice of what is happening around you. Be aware, be compassionate.

In 2016, Tennessee lost 1,110 people to suicide and the number continues to rise. It is happening in your state. It is happening in your community. It is happening in your school.

Help is offered on the school website; students can also be connected with an experienced counselor on campus. If you are in immediate need of help, call the suicide prevention hotline: 1-800-273-8255.