Tree planting commemorates VSCC student killed by domestic violence

By Luis Quintanilla

On Oct. 24th, Home Safe and Volunteer State Community College collaborated on a tree planting ceremony to honor Lexus Williams, a Vol State student who was killed from domestic violence.

The ceremony took place at the Gallatin campus on the Wallace South Courtyard from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. The ceremony had tables with refreshments and information about Home Safe.

Home Safe is a local program in the Gallatin area and works in the counties of Sumner, Robertson, and Wilson. The program is intended to help victims of domestic violence and abusive relationships. According to a pamphlet by Home Safe their services include, “24/7 helplines, safe house/shelter, individual and group counseling, advocacy, emergency transportation, and financial assistance.”

The event began with Shannon Lynch, an advocate for Home Safe, welcoming those in attendance. A short prayer by Glenda Barnett- Streicher, a member of the Board of Directors at Home Safe, was given to bless the ceremony. Streicher was the first of several speakers that would talk throughout the ceremony, many of which suffered the damaging effects of domestic violence in one form or the other. Streicher began by talking about her personal story and connection to domestic violence, her daughter Rebecca. Streicher told how she lost her daughter to domestic violence and how the resources of help were not available at the time. She explained that the gathering of everyone at the ceremony was meant to bring awareness to the resources now available to the victims of abuse.

Other speakers included Commander Rogan from the Hendersonville PD, who explained the collaboration the Hendersonville PD had with organizations such as Home Safe to help victims of domestic abuse.

Afterwards Laura Givens, a domestic violence survivor, told her story of abuse and ultimate escape to a more stable life. Givens not only told her story about her abusive and dangerous relationship, but of the struggles her and her daughters faced even after leaving the relationship tying to find a place to live and obtain the basic necessities when she moved to Nashville. Throughout her story she detailed the threatning nature of her boyfriend and how it was difficult for her to leave. Audience members could be seen shaking their heads in disbelief and disgust of the abuse she faced at the hands of her boyfriend. In the end, Givens was able to leave the relationship and said she has since found stable ground and said, “Don’t be too scared. This shelter is here for you. I am here for you.”

Andrea Boddie, director of the TRIO program at Vol State, then spoke about her own personal story with witnessing her mother be a victim to domestic abuse. She then spoke about Lexus Williams and the positivity and smiles she always carried despite her abusive relationship. “She would always come to our offices with sunshine,” said Boddie. She spoke of how Williams had returned to school to pursue a career where she could help others.

Afterwards Diane Berry and Rebecca Mae from Long Hollow Church joined each other to sing an original song “Take my Hand.” Berry herself said she had lost a daughter to domestic violence several years back.

Mark Hammock, a cousin of the father of Williams, spoke on behalf of Williams family. He began by talking about the various things his parents taught him growing up. Tying shoes, driving stick, and most importantly, how to treat others. Hammock said he finds it urgent we educate boys to never lash out in violence and never lay hands on a woman and to teach girls to be strong and not fall victims to those who resort to violence and abuse. Hammock warned the

audience he would try not to get emotional while speaking, but when he began talking about Williams, his voice began to crack and quiver under the tears.

The tree was then planted by the mother of Williams, Shannon Willaims, and a few others while Berry and Mae sung “Amazing Grace.”

In speaking with Shannon Williams she spoke of the meaning she found in the planted tree. “It means a lot to me. Lexus loved Vol State. She just had it in her mind she was going to do something with her life for her and her kids. I miss her, but this is beautiful. Someone might be passing by and read that and find out her story. Maybe they’re going a situation themselves. Bring some awareness so they can get help,” said Shannon Williams.

Stella Pierce, Assistant Professor of History and a member of the Board of Directors for Home Safe, helped plan and organize the event. “The tree planting is really a collaboration between Vol State and Home Safe, which there have been actually multiple collaborations between the two in the past. This might be the biggest depending on who you talk to. This might be the first in a series. It might be something that we do every year,” said Pierce.

Pierce explained the collaboration between Home Safe and Vol State is influential since Vol State is an integral part of the community and is involved in education, especially with younger students who she finds important to educate on this subject. “It’s really about education. I think that’s why Vol State is so pivotal in something like that, because it’s really about educating people and helping them to understand what to look out for how to avoid situations like that themselves and to understand why people might behave the way they do in those circumstances. Educate yourself and keep an open mind,” said Pierce.

Lexus Williams was a student of hers said Pierce. She said one of the most important things people can do is educate themselves to dispel misconceptions about abuse and to better

understand the deep rooted fear held in the victims of abuse and the cyclic nature abuse and its trauma tend to birth. “For example, the very common trope, ‘I don’t understand. Why don’t you just leave.’ What happened to Lexie is a perfect example of that, because she was trying to leave when she was shot and killed. That’s part of the reason why people don’t leave. They are terrified for themselves, for their children. She had two children,” explained Pierce.

The struggles of abuse stem beyond the aggressive grip that fear has on its victims said Pierce. The very nature of abuse changes the victims brain chemistry she explained. “That’s another part about the education is that it actually affects your brain, your brain chemistry, and your behavior in the long-term. So it takes a lot of time and a lot of therapy to get beyond the trauma, especially if it’s repeated trauma from childhood through adulthood,” she said. “It tends to be very cyclical, so somebody who experienced or saw violence as a child is more likely to find themselves in that situation as an adult either as a participant of abuse or as a victim of abuse or both potentially,” said Pierce. She said for the advocates of Home Safe it is sometimes a struggle to help since these victims often fall into to this cycle of abuse.

Pierced said the best thing someone can do who may find themselves in abusive relationship is to immediately contact an organization like Home Safe or a national hotline for abuse. “As soon as you find yourself in that situation the best thing that you can do is to contact somebody, because you are going to be speaking with people who are professionals, who are sympathetic, who have dealt with situations like that before, and the sooner you can deal with it and address it the more likely you are to be able to recover from it,” said Pierce.

Pierce then explained the symbolism and significance of planting the tree in honor of Lexus Williams. Pierce said, “I think planting a tree is definitely something that’s going to last. It’s something that’s going to be there, and it’s a symbol of life. It itself is life. It’s sort of a hopeful

message about continuation, about about processing, about healing and certainly a message of hope to anyone who is stuck in that situation because you can move forward and there is possibility beyond that. You can break the cycle and continue life beyond abuse.”

If you or anyone you know may be suffering from domestic abuse you may contact Home Safe’s hotlines

Domestic Abuse: (615) 452- 4315

Sexual Assault: (615) 454- 0373

Spanish helpline: (615) 969-3260

For those who wish to help and learn more information or more resources visit

Vanderbilt’s Mercado set to speak on Latinx experience

By Randall Barnes

Vanderbilt University Dr, Elsa Mercado presented “Latinx Experience through Storytelling” at 11:30 a.m., Thursday in Wood Campus Center, Mary Nichole Dining Room B.

According to a digital flyer by the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, “Dr. Elsa Mercado utilizes stories and family accounts to spotlight the legacy of immigrant families and New Americans.”

According to the same flyer above, “These shared stories serve to help strengthen our Latinx communities and promote the shared experiences of our Vol State students.”

In the last LES event, which was Jan 31 of this year, the event was split into two parts: the first half was focused on interview preparation with Dr. Mercado speaking of the qualities of a successful professional interview, what to expect, and what not to do. The second half of the event was officially Latinx Experience through Storytelling, participants sharing their stories in partner and group activities in order to connect with the Latinx community at Vol State.

According to Vanderbilt University at, Dr. Mercado, for her research,” focuses on Spanish-speaking Latin Americans, and why their voices have been excluded for so long and what they have to offer.” Dr. Mercado said, “We look at so many places where their voices are missing or invented and they just don’t capture [reality].”

According to the same site, “This strong connection to her heritage also influences much of what Mercado Sanchez does the campus. The drive to make connections and understand others is the hallmark of what she seeks to accomplish.”

The question first asked about Latinx Experience is: “What is ‘latinx’ mean?” Latinx, pronounced “lah-teen-ex”, is the word that many scholars — such as those of the University of California (other universities adopted the term before this one, one should mention) — are using in place of “latina” and “latino” so that all aspects, that’s the hope, may be included.

The word “latinx” has received pushback from more conservative — that refers to the aversion to the change of tradition, not the political affiliation — Hispanics who find the word to be elitist, despite the intentions of the word’s creation to be the opposite.

Breast cancer is still a killer… Get tested

By Jim Hayes

I never believed that six letters could change my life.

That was, until my wife’s doctor uttered the word cancer.

We were sitting in her doctor’s office around February of 2010. Her November 2009, mammogram had come back looking “odd” according to the doctor who ordered another test.

At the meeting after that test, the doctor tried his best to soft-pedal the diagnosis.

“There are some small nodules,” he said. “We can’t tell if they are cancerous or not, so we recommend just going in and removing them.”

I’m a Marine, and I thought nothing short of a smoky-hatted drill instructor could scare me. But that word sent chills down my spine.

They set us up with an appointment with an oncologist who recommended a mastectomy at our earliest convenience.

That convenience turned out to be the day after my 50th birthday, April 15, 2010.

Thus. began the two of us living a double life. She has never acknowledged it, but both of us were scared of what the outcome would be. Outwardly, we tried to keep each other’s courage up.

My party line was that the tech was so far advanced now that they had certainly caught it earlier than they would have even four or five years ago.

Given what was happening the next day, my birthday was subdued.

The next day, I kissed her before she went into the operating room and then waited the eternity until the doctor came out and told me she had been moved to recovery. From there, it was three days recovery in the hospital.

I’ll never forget the day she first saw herself in the mirror.

She winced, slumped and began crying. She felt that somehow, she was no longer a woman. Her self-view warped and still affects her today, nearly 10 years later.

We then spent about a month at home, with her basically confined to bed. Our daughter, who had slept with us most of her first two years, had to be moved and couldn’t understand why she couldn’t sleep with momma.

As it turned out, we were extremely lucky. The carcinoma in her right breast were extremely aggressive, had exploded out of their encapsulations and began invading the breast. Luckily, they took enough of the tissue that the infection was completely extracted and stopped in its tracks.

That was 10 years and the cancer has been declared in remisson, but our year is punctuated by visits to the oncologist every six months.

Why would I tell this story in a student newspaper and why would I byline this editorial, which I usually leave without a byline?

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and although my wife has apparently beat it, too many people still don’t.

And, as in my wife’s case, the science has advanced to the point that nearly the only reason to lose the battle with breast cancer is through simple laziness.

Yes, according to my wife, mammograms are a pain, but they are a pain worth enduring.

According to, it is estimated that breast cancer will account for 42,260 deaths this year (41,760 women and 500 men).

So, do the self-tests and if there’s something that feels odd, get to your doctor and let the professionals do their job.

The Mayo Clinic recommends that women consult with their physicians to determine when to begin mammograms but begins giving them at age 40.

Given that lots of ladies on the Vol State campus are at or near that age, it is a message I feel needs to be broadcast here.

A few years before my experience with my wife, I knew someone else with breast cancer. She wasn’t as lucky as my wife and died a painful death, leaving a husband and two daughters.

I would never wish that on anyone… especially any of my fellow inhabitants of the Vol State Campus.

Origins of Body Farm disclosed

By Luis Quintanilla

Dr. William M. Bass, founder of the Body Farm, a research facility dedicated to studying decaying bodies for forensic anthropology at the University of Tennessee (UT), gave a presentation to students and community members on Thursday at the Gallatin campus of Volunteer State Community College.

The presentation began around 11:15 a.m. in the Caudill Hall Auditorium at Vol State. The first 100 students to arrive received free T-Shirts designed for the event. The auditorium was filled, and it was live-streamed to Vol State’s other locations in Livingston, Highland Crest, and Cookeville.

In his presentation, which lasted about an hour, Bass chronicled the beginnings of the Anthropology Research Facility or, the Body Farm, at the UT and also walked the audience through the forensic and investigative processes of his work with bodies.

The presentation opened with brief information about The Feed and how to donate. Afterwards, Dr. Jerry Faulkner, President of Vol State, welcomed the audience, which consisted of community members, Vol State students, and visiting students from Hendersonville High School and White House Heritage High School, before introducing Bass.

Bass began by engaging with the audience and pointing to a plastic skeleton sitting on the stage and asked the medical students in the audience, something he would do periodically throughout his presentation, what bones were missing from it. Bass’s presentation would have the audience laughing throughout as he did not hold back his humorous side while speaking, no pun intended.

He then chronicled the origins of the Body Farm. He stated that for 11 years he taught at the University of Kansas in the late 60’s.

When asked by law agencies to aid in cases involving the murder of cattle by cattle rustlers, Bass could not help since at the time there was no literature to help identify how long the cattle had been dead. Bass laid out this lack of knowledge in the field of forensic anthropology as the origin story of the Body Farm.

Once at UT in 1971, Bass spoke of how law agencies came to him for help with analyzing a dead body. Once the investigation was concluded, Bass said he attempted to give the body back to law enforcement but was told to keep it for research purposes at the University.

Having nowhere to store it at the university and after searching for a place to do so, Bass said he was given a plot of land to conduct research behind the UT Medical Center.

Bass then showed several pictures of the clearing of the forested and subsequent area that would become the Body Farm.

Bass explained the origins of the name “Body Farm” coming from Patricia Cornwell and her book “The Body Farm.” Bass said he believed this term was born when Cornwell heard it in an FBI meeting where agents had visited the plot of land in Knoxville coining the now famous name.

The presentation moved onward with Bass showing pictures of the transportation methods used to deliver bodies to the facility and talking about the team effort that went into the process of the analyzing of bodies.

“You and I can go from what we are now, to a skeleton in 12 days,” said Bass.

To showcase this, Bass went through the gradual decomposition process the human body goes through by showcasing graphic photos taken of a corpse at the Body Farm over the span of 12 days. The photos left audience members visibly struck as they gasped, wrenched, and looked away.

More pictures of different cases were shown such as the case of Michelle Anderson, a 15-year-old girl who went missing in Knoxville in 1987.

Bass spoke of his work on analyzing her skeletal remains found 2 years after her disappearance. He impromptu quizzed the medical students in the audience once again in identifying the bones displayed on the screen.

Most of the students passed this quiz as they shouted out their answers, and Bass congratulated Faulkner on doing well with educating the students at his school.

The rest of the time was allotted for questions and answers. Seven people from the audience went to the microphones to ask questions. Some of the questions were concerning the amount of bodies at the facility, the reasons Bass decided to go into anthropology, and what impact Bass felt the facility and its research has had since its inception. Bass responded to the questions of the amount of bodies at the facility, by going in depth of the process of receiving bodies, sometimes through donors, and responded to the question of his interest in anthropology with a metaphor he felt during his military service. Bass said in junior year of college, he took several anthropology courses and felt intrigued by its content. Bass was originally majoring in psychology, but Bass said where as the field of psychology was always changing and new concepts had to be learned, anthropology remained constant and easier to grasp.

“This right here is the humerus. It’s a humerus anywhere you go. It was that ‘Ah moment,’” said Bass regarding his switchover from the constantly changing dynamics of psychology to the more detailed structure of anthropology.

He said while serving in the Korean War, he thought of birds flying south for the winter. He likened this to his situation and said he questioned where he was at and where was going. He briefly spoke of his first wife, Mary Ann Owen, and how they both met during his time in the

military. Bass said he consulted with her first and with the green light from her decided to make the move to anthropology.

“It’s the best move I ever made,” said Bass.

Regarding a question on the impact of the facility and its research and whether he was proud of how far it had come since the days of not having a place to store a single body, Bass responded that when he was analyzing cattle remains in Kansas in the 60’s, he had no idea it would take him from there to the establishment of a research facility now known as the Body Farm. He mentioned it led to new literature and knowledge on information that was not previously available, and mentioned it was not just him but many others contributed to its growth and research as well.

A final questioned was posed by Faulkner to close the presentation, “What grosses you out?”

To which Bass responded, “Stupidity.”

Dr. William H. Bass is a forensic anthropologist whose career in anthropology stems back to the mid 50’s. According to a definition given by Smithsonian, forensic anthropology is “a special sub-field of physical anthropology (the study of human remains) that involves applying skeletal analysis and techniques in archaeology to solving criminal cases.” These remains are then analyzed to determine the identity of the person who died, how they died, and when they died. This kind of information is instrumental to criminal cases as can be seen with Bass’s decade long interaction with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, and as a consultant to the Tennessee’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. According to his CV, Bass received his bachelor’s degree in psychology. However, as mention earlier in his junior year of college Bass became interested in anthropology. After serving in the military from 1951 to 1953, Bass returned to college to earn his master’s degree in anthropology and then later his PhD in

anthropology. His field work during various summers for the Smithsonian excavating cites and analyzing skeletal remains of Plains Indians in the American Midwest led to his dissertation: “Variation in the Physical Types of the Prehistoric Plains Indians.” Bass would go on to teach at various universities before landing at the University of Tennessee in 1971. There he would be a professor and head of the Department of Anthropology and later the director of Forensic Anthropology Center, the now famous “Body Farm.” Bass is now Professor Emeritus, a title for retired but still recognized successful and respected professors.

According to the University of Tennessee’s website, the Forensic Anthropology Center was established by Bass in 1987. The approximate 2 acre plot of land known as the Body Farm is the Anthropology Research Facility. Aside from research, it serves as a training ground for forensic anthropology. “Additionally, we serve the community via our body donation program, consultations to the medico-legal community, and outreach to promote science and disseminate our research results” says the Forensic Anthropology Center’s page. The facility studies the decomposition of bodies and analyzes skeletal remains for research regarding “skeletal variations, pathology, and trauma,” says the FAC’s page. It also gives training in forensics to agencies such as the FBI and TBI.

The Feed implements new process to distribute food to those in need

By Velma Crochet

Student Support Services took over the daily operation of The Feed in July. Tiffany Zwart, Coordinator of Student Service Support said procedures have changed starting with how students can make contact to receive assistance.

All registered students at Volunteer State Community College can log into their portal, then click on the tab labeled The Well.

Next the student will need to scroll down to the white and green box

labeled The Feed with the triangle on it.

This link will lead the student to information about the services offered and will direct the student to the Wood building room 215.

Another way to access information about The Feed is at

The web page will also direct the student to Student Services in the Wood building room 215.

Zwart said she hopes to dig deep and get to the root of the problem and find out why the is student hungry?

If a student is hungry, struggling to buy books or having trouble putting gas in their car to get to school being successful can be difficult.

The staff in student services will help with the immediate need for food, hygiene, diapers or toilet paper to name a handful of items available in

The Feed.

It is also a chance for the staff to make the first contact with the student, to find out what else they could possibly need and help them fill out any applications for future services.

The student also will be told the Sumner County Food Bank if the student needs more assistance.

The goal of The Feed is to help students, but also to make sure everyone understands they can come by the Wood building room 215 and ask for help. If it is something not offered at VSCC the staff will help connect the student to the correct resource.

After a student visits The Feed, Zwart or another staff member will send a follow-up email with links to any services that are needed.

If the student needs food again, an appointment will be set up.

The Feed is working on setting up a text system that will make contacting students for future visits simpler.