Friday, March 11, 2011

Beyond the Trouble, Embrace the Strength

By TeCora Estes   

When Stephanie J. Tucker, a 24-year-old female freshman at Saint Augustine’s College, decided to return to school after five challenging years away from college, she had no idea how she was going make it through school.

Although she was happy to be returning to college in the fall of 2010, it wasn’t always easy for her to keep the mind frame of school being a benefit to her life. She was going from a lack of purpose, getting into serious trouble and putting off major grief to that of a typical college student.

Stephanie spent most of her early high school time in Richmond, Va. doing extracurricular activities such as band, choir and basketball, but she was not academically successful. Instead, she stressed the other things because “I always had to stay in the spotlight so that I can feel accepted,” she said.

Unfortunately during her high adolescence, Stephanie faced two emotional tragedies: the death of her mother from cancer when she was just 13 and the murder of her sister during her senior year of high school.

Stephanie says that she never actually dealt with the death of her mother.  And when her sister was killed, she had a hard time grasping the fact that both of them were in fact deceased.  She says, “I was in denial for a long time.”

Before the death of her sister, Stephanie says that her plans when she graduated were to attend a four-year HBCU and graduate with a degree in Music Education.

Her high school band directors Thurman D. and Clytha W. Hollins were her inspiration to attend college and even to step out of her comfort zone by joining a band playing the clarinet. He even introduced her to his alma mater, Norfolk State University (NSU).  

Stephanie did in fact attend school, but the outcome was nowhere near her plans. She attended NSU for only one semester, then a community college and dropped out three weeks later. She went to nursing school and quit after a year and then to a technical school, quitting after three days.

 “My body was there but my mind wasn’t,” she said.  She said she had the attitude that since she was grown she didn’t have to conform to rules and what other people wanted.

For awhile she decided not to go back to school at all.   And that resulted in her doing drugs, getting arrested, getting fired from over 20 jobs, being broke and homeless, and not having any support at all.

After five long years of struggles, Stephanie decided to return to school in the fall of 2010.

“It took me five years to realize that I was fed up,” she said.

While in the process of returning to school, she began dealing with her losses and eventually found other things that would challenge but also complement her growth.

It didn’t happen immediately though. When she first came back to college she thought it would just be a vacation away from home, and that she wouldn’t have to do any work.  Eventually challenging herself, she is now involved in the Marching, Jazz, and Pep band, Choir, and she is planning to start an organization on campus in the near future.  Her high school band director Mr. Hollins is now on the music faculty at Saint Augustine’s, and she’s back as a part of his bands

She says that if she had not come back to school, she would probably still be living the same destructive cycle she did before--living broke, moving from house to house, or depending on friends and family.  Instead she now plans to graduate in 2014.

When asked what advice would she give to someone who maybe be thinking about giving up she says; “Everyone’s situation is different. In serious cases like mine, the best thing to do would be to leave school and get your mind together, but in minor cases, just do what’s best for you.”

From ‘Girly Girl’ to Army ROTC Woman

By Taylor Gatling

Fantasia Parker, who always thought of herself as a “girly girl,” never thought she would join Army ROTC.  But in the first semester of her junior year at Saint Augustine’s College she became an Army woman.
Growing up in Plainfield, New Jersey and going to a public high school, she always had an idea of what ROTC was but never was really interested.  She did more typical high school girl things like being on the cheerleading squad for both the football and basketball seasons.  She was a very popular student with a lot of school pride.
When she came to Saint Augustine’s College in the spring of 2008, she had no intention of doing anything out of the ordinary; she just wanted to be a full-time college student.  But soon she realized that just going to class wasn’t enough.  She wanted to get more involved.
So Fantasia decided to join the Army ROTC and hasn’t looked back since. She was interested in the lifestyle of the cadets and heard that the benefits were awesome.
ROTC has affected her life in a very positive way. For instance, she is a much more motivated person and is now even a morning person.  That’s thanks to physical training (PT), which requires her to get up at 5 in the morning four times a week.
Even her physical fitness has changed. She often worked out a lot before ROTC, but she’s now found out she was exercising incorrectly. Once she was taught the correct way it became very challenging for her.
Much about ROTC is tough for Fantasia, but her fellow cadets give her the positive motivation she needs to keep going.
 “If I wasn’t in ROTC I think I’d be living an unsupervised college life freely and irresponsible like before,” she said.
Fantasia plans on going into the Army once she graduates. She would like to work in the medical fields as a ranked officer.  She says going to the Army with a college degree gives people a higher rank than someone without a degree.  And she plans to complete a summer program that will make her eligible for a scholarship.
When she puts on her uniform, she is treated with more respect. A lot of people she knows are surprised about her Army choices but they show her the upmost respect. People on the streets randomly start conversations and she loves that.
She said she believes that since she has joined ROTC, she has learned so much more and has a whole new respect for the men and women who serve our country.
Fantasia went to ROTC not having a clue what to expect and she took a huge chance. But at the end of the day she thinks it was the right choice and she has no regrets.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Same Sport -- Two Different Worlds

By Olivia Huckaby
Tare Joshua (TJ) Cordero, a Saint Augustine’s College senior with a heart for baseball, has lived in two cultures and so he can draw a picture about his journey from one country to another. Since the age of four, baseball has been a part of that picture in both of his worlds.
“Every since I hit the ball, it grabbed a part of my heart,” he said.
TJ was born in Santo Domingo a small city in the Dominican Republican. Although the U.S and the D.R share the same sport, the cultures that are behind the game are very different. TJ has lived in both worlds with baseball tying them together. TJ’s family later relocated to Virginia when he was 14 years of age so that he could pursue his career in baseball. TJ was the nickname given to Tare by his high school coach.
When TJ first arrived in the United States he struggled with the very different and new language. It was very difficult for him to pronounce certain words; he also confused words like “across with crossed”. With the help of his teammates and coaches TJ was able to understand English and speak English more fluently. TJ’s native language is Spanish, so learning to speak English is what he called a real task.
“English was so hard for me; it was like a whole other world,” said TJ. It took him a lot of time and practice to get it down pat; he has come a long way from when he first came over.
He traveled back and forth between the Dominican Republic and Virginia and then decided to stay in the United States permanently when he was 20 years old because he was considering playing professional baseball. He later injured his shoulder, which probably ruined his chances of becoming a professional baseball player.
What made him keep going; why didn’t he give up? “I love this sport that I knew I had a place in it somewhere.”
He was prepared to take any steps necessary to accomplish his goals. One step was to go to college. He had a friend at Saint Augustine’s College so he came to St. Aug in the fall of 2007. He was able to play baseball at Saint Augustine’s until the first semester of his junior year.
As disappointing as his injury was, he didn’t let that obstacle get in the way of his overall success. TJ is currently in therapy for his arm in hopes that it heal so that one day he will be able to play again.
TJ said he would trade anything for American fields and that if he hadn’t come to America he doesn’t know what he would have done. He said that in the Dominican Republic it’s so much harder to get somewhere and his parents knew that he had a better chance of going to the professional league if he came to America.
When TJ thinks about the differences between the two cultures he has experienced, he thinks first about scenery and weather.
“The whole atmosphere of the Dominican Republican is a lot different; the scenery is like no other,” he said. He said it is nothing but pure beauty; it looks like something out of a magazine. The weather is always warm. It rains often but other than that the sun is always out.
“America has the weirdest weather ever,” he said. The first time he bought a coat was he was 15.
The other differences he talks about come from his love of baseball. He said that the equipment in the U.S. is much better. For example, the bases in his country were made of some cheap sponge looking material. He said the stands were also poorly put together. The fields in the U.S. are so much better that his love of the game grew even more once he started to play on them.
Even though TJ’s shoulder injury keeps him from playing, he still shows love to the team by coming to practices and attending the games. “Whatever life may bring baseball will always be part of me,” TJ said.
TJ says the voyage from one country to another has made him a better person and that he has learned so much since he has been here. He says he wouldn’t trade his experience for anything.
“I have truly tasted the best of both worlds,” TJ said.

The Impact of a Sergeant Major E9 and Father

By: Shadrian Hamrick

Dreams that were fulfilled, scared of failure, but left a never-forgotten accomplishment to the Army

   Adrian B. Hamrick is a military man in every sense of the term. The military helped him fulfill his dreams, deal with his fear of failure and give him a never-forgotten sense of accomplishment. The Army made him into what he is today.
   Adrian was influenced by his father to join the Army. “My father was a Soldier during the Korean War; I enjoyed hearing some of his War time stories that influenced my decision to join the Army,” he said. His father didn’t convince to join; he just went by his example.
Adrian joined the Army on Feb. 17, 1983 as an infantryman, just as his father had done before him. He served a full 25 years before retiring.
   People often ask him the same question: “Why did you stay so long?”
  “It takes a special person first to serve his/her country, then to recognize how serving changes your perspective on life,” he says. “Prior to my enlistment my priorities were God, family, friends, and money and at some point country would have been important to me. After joining the Army, my priorities changed to God, country, and family in that order.”
   Growing up Adrian had no other ambitions for his future than joining the Army.
   “I always knew exactly what I wanted to become and that was a soldier. I did not believe or think that I would accomplish all the things that I did while serving,” he said.
   He grew up in the inner city of North Charlotte, NC, the fifth child of seven.
   “We were one another’s keeper,” he says. Our parents instilled in us the value of learning a trade or going to college after completion of high school. In our household graduating from high school was an implied responsibility and not something you gave a thought of not accomplishing,” he explained.
   But he also saw some difficult things in his neighborhood: gang activity and people being murdered every other day. The police were afraid to come into certain areas after hours. He learned early how important life is. And he was ready for a more positive atmosphere.
   “The Army allowed me to grow and become a man of honor; my kids can be proud of that. The Army allowed me to take those negative influences in my life and make a positive change,” he said.
   But as much as he wanted the military life, he found it hard to leave his family behind. He has one daughter and three sons. He realizes there were many special moments he missed out on that he cannot get back.
   He was involved in four war zones over his 25 years yet his biggest fear was how to make his family understand how important his job was and the reason why he could not be at home as often as they wanted him too.
   “I coped with not being around my family by knowing that I am a part of an organization whose main goal is to protect its country and all it citizens,” he said.
   The most devastating situation he faced with his family was when he heard the news of the unexpected death of his brother.
   “I received a late night phone call from my family telling me that my baby brother, whom I was very close to, had died in a car accident. The Army was becoming a part of my life, but my family was my life even though I was not able to be around them like I wanted to,” he said. It hurt but he says he became even stronger and more centered on the military.
   Adrian not only had to cope with the death of his younger brother, but also with the loss of numerous friends and family members in a different sense.
   “I lost many colleagues due to war, and I lost the connection with family members because I was a part of the Army. I cannot label the number of lives that were lost due to war, but it was many of them,” he said. He realizes how lucky he was that he wasn’t ever gunned down.
   The Army left a positive impact on his life in many ways. For example it gave him the opportunity to experience different countries. The Army taught him to be self reliant and how to handle the hardest circumstances one can ever be faced with in life.
   “The greatest feeling and most modest accomplishment in my career is being selected 367th person to earn the Guard Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Identification badge, a national monument located in Arlington national cemetery. This is not only part of military history, but in my opinion it is black history.”
   He earned the rank of Sergeant Major (E-9), which is the highest rank for an enlisted soldier to achieve. He explained that the enlisted rank starts at E-1 and ends at E-9.
   “Being a Sergeant Major is an amazing feeling,” he said.
   “I do not regret joining the Army. As a matter of fact it turned out to be the best decision I ever made. It changed my life in many positive ways; I became a man of honor, by protecting my country and its citizens. I became the man my parents were proud of. I am now a positive image to young males who think that the street is a way of life for them.”

Not Everyone Is Born the Perfect Saint

By Princess Goodridge

   Pastor Lillian Johnson has lived two totally different lives—one full of struggles and sin and another after a dramatic turnaround when she gave her life to God.
   She’s now the pastor of the Church of Jesus Christ on Morgan Street in Raleigh, NC, but few people could have predicted from her early days that she would have been a woman of God.
   She grew up in a single-parent home with a mom who had only an eleventh grade education and was a disciplinarian and righteous woman raising eight children. Poverty was a huge aspect in Johnson’s life. She worked very hard on a farm near Nashville, NC.
   In elementary through high school she was very quiet and lacked self-esteem. She remembers starting high school and not having a boyfriend like all the other young females in school, so she made one up calling the invisible man” JCOL”. At the time she didn’t know why she chose those letters, but she soon realized it was  “Jesus Christ Our Lord”. At this stage in life she didn’t attend church; she would occasionally go to Sunday school.
   When she entered college she found a whole other world. She had lost her virginity at the end of her senior year, but she said she felt like a baby compared to her roommate and two other friends she linked up with her freshman year at North Carolina Central University. Her roommate influenced her to smoke, drink, steal, and whore around. Throughout Johnson’s four years of college she lusted after married men. She said she actually wanted to kill the wives of the married men she was dating. Yet deep down inside she knew there was something greater.
   In 1972, her senior year in college, her brother called her to come to California because she was sinning. Johnson said she didn’t see how it was affecting God or how displeased God was. She hung up on him because he was rejoicing that he had found God. Johnson graduated with a double major in Sociology and Education and a minor in Biology. After many telephone calls she moved to California to live with her little brother and his wife. It was there when she was 21 that she received the Holy Ghost.
   It took an unfortunate event, her mom’s passing, to solidify her search for becoming one with the Lord. Her mom was her role model and being a righteous woman she never talked ill about anyone. Pastor Johnson said she felt like she let her mom down and wanted to be better.
   And then she began a literal journey to another part of the world when her little brother moved Johnson abroad to Switzerland with him and his family to help babysit his kids while he studied there. After traveling to Switzerland for a year and a half, she went to Indiana to study ministry at Ordain Union College. Upon graduation she went back to California and then her church sent her back to North Carolina.
   Even though at first she didn’t want to be a pastor, she knew it would be her calling with confirmation from her church leaders. When Johnson became a pastor, for a long time her family and friends rejected her. They misunderstood the saved Lillian Johnson because they weren’t drawn to God themselves. Only her baby brother understood and accepted her, and she gives him credit for starting her down her path to a holy life.
At first she didn’t want to be married, because she thought a single person could serve the Lord much better than a married person. But eventually she asked God to send her love, someone who was in yoke with the Lord as she was. Because the Holy Spirit gave her the desire to hate all the sinful things in her past, she rejected her old life so strongly that she kept sex from her life. She had stayed sex-free for seven years. Even after she met her husband, they never kissed or did anything physical until they got married.
   Connecting with her husband didn’t come in a straight-forward way. In 1976 she was driving to work in downtown Raleigh when she saw a ‘96 grey and black Corvette. For three days straight a voice whispered “that’s your car” into her ear. She wrote down the vehicle’s color, year, and model in her diary.
   Then about four months later a policeman came in to a place she was to get donuts and coffee. The officer tried making passes at her, but she ignored him because she knew he wasn’t called by God. Putting the officer to the test, Johnson invited him to church. Arriving late to church she happened to see the exact grey and black 96 Corvette in the church parking lot. She was so unsettled she peed on herself with no time to change so she entered the church wearing a soaked dress.
   The church had a small congregation so she couldn’t hide. The police officer turned around and winked at her. And at that service he gave his life to Christ. And now she says that her husband has helped her to be more patient, kind, sensitive, and meek.
   Johnson has been saved for forty years. Looking back on her life she wouldn’t change anything because she says her mistakes actually made her wiser. She believes there are certain things people have to go through to encourage others they can pull through the struggle. The advice she gives to others is “you have to get with the right people, people who will lead you to a higher plane whether naturally or spiritually.”
   And after many years of manifesting the life that she has, her family now also wants the light of God that shines in her with love, peace, joy, kindness, long suffering, temperance and meekness.
   She can now compare the sweetness of her life now to those early days of struggle and sin.
   “My life is an open book; I am not ashamed!”

A Simple search turns into a lifetime book of family history

By Miyoshi Polk

   Paoli Polk never imagined that her simple task of creating a family reunion book would turn into a three-year journey delving into the lives of slaves and other ancestors.
   So how did all of this come about? Paoli joined a committee solely to organize one of the biggest family reunions for the Polk and Morgan family in years. A great success meant finding the right food, location, and games. But they also wanted their family members to walk away with a token of appreciation and some history to enlighten them in some depth about why they all were gather there that day.
  Their solution for a lasting history reminder? A book with facts and photos about the family history. They asked everyone to send family names and a picture of their immediate family so that everyone could identify who was who. And then Paoli went out interviewing, calling, and even meeting people she never met before to get more facts and history about her family. She lives in Charlotte, NC and went searching around that area and beyond.
   “I had the chance to meet cousins on my father’s side of the family while attending a funeral of a great uncle and aunt. They gave me many names and facts that helped me connect some dots to my puzzle,” she said.
   She even went as far as signing up for to get Census records as well. The family book was a success. Everyone loved the fact that they had all this history in one simple book.
   “I was surprised how everyone was so interested in the book. It kind of took me for a minute, but then I saw --why wouldn’t they be? It’s family history,” she said.
   After that success Paoli still wanted to know more about her family and their history. So she started her own, more detailed family book. She started small by just using her immediate family.
  “I was so full of excitement of my new-found project that I rushed to Hobby Lobby, a local arts and craft store, to get supplies for my new book, spending hours at a time in the store looking for different things to make my book,” she explained.
   When she finished with her immediate family, she took on all four sides of her family--her mother’s mother and father, and her father’s mother and father. She knew that this would be a long process but she was so intrigued with it that she didn’t care.
   As the research went on, the search seemed to become bigger than life itself. Paoli didn’t care; she was enjoying every minute of it. She started using other research tools and visiting cemeteries, museums, and a geology library.
   One of her unsettling discoveries came from her visit to Reeds Gold Mine, a historical museum in Albemarle, NC. There she found she had many ancestors who were slaves. Because they took on their master’s last name it made it hard to find information because sometimes there was no trace of the original name. She even saw houses that long-lost family members slept in and cleaned in. She walked through fields of cotton where her ancestors picked cotton all day.
   “Reeds Gold Mine kind of sent chills through my body a little knowing that I had family members living this type of life style,” she said she was thinking to herself while walking through the field.
   She’s become so full of information now that sometimes the tables are turned and she’s become a source herself. Recently Paoli visited a geology library in Monroe NC. , one that also contains information about people who lived in that city. She was helpful to the library by giving them a picture of some of her relatives for their documents to show others when they come to visit.
   “I have enjoyed doing this new-found hobby, but when I do the research some things are too painful to look at and even read knowing that these things really happened-- and even at that to my own family,” she said, adding “but what I can say that I’ve taken from all of this information, whether it’s bad or good, is strength! Strength--to give to my brothers, sister, and daughter so that they can pass it on and grow from the experiences that our ancestors went through for us.”

Athlete Turns to Golf To Control His Anger

By Dante Lipscomb
   Cory Landrum-Smith, a senior sociology major, is a star golfer and team captain at Saint Augustine's College. He started playing golf because of anger issues and has taken his skills to the next level where he’s a standout among his teammates and opponents.
   Cory has been playing golf for amount ten years, but he started playing football where his anger got him in trouble.
   "I was a hot head" Cory said. And that got him suspended from games.
   His stepdad thought it would be good for him to try golf, a relaxing sport, plus he knew a person who was giving lessons. He attended these golf classes for six weeks every Saturday. Cory got these lessons free because the instructor saw he had a natural talent for the game. After developing a better understanding of the sport, Cory started playing in local tournaments.
   Over the years, Cory had become really good. His handicap now is a 3 and he averages a 75 on the golf course. He constantly worked on his game and became so interested in golf that he transferred his last two years of high school from Fort Hayes High School for the Arts in Columbus, Ohio so he could play. He transferred to Gahanna Lincoln, a D1-A school in Gahanna, Ohio with about 3,500 students. That school was well known for its sports programs, and he saw this as a way to get some exposure for future endeavors.
   In this large mass of students, Cory Landrum-Smith still managed to be a standout among his fellow students, placing third in a local collegiate tournament. He received scholarship offers from Cleveland State, Youngstown State and front page recognition in the sports section of the newspaper for placing third again in another local tournament. Cory chose to come to Saint Augustine's College because they offered him the most financial aid.
   Cory practices three to five times a week. He goes out to the driving range and hits from one hundred to two hundred golf balls. He works on his putting for about 40 minutes then plays nine holes. He says he likes to practice playing on actual courses rather than the driving range because it gets him more in a rhythm to work on the mental aspect of the game.
   As a Falcon golfer, Cory has had success too. He’s the team’s top golfer. Although he’s had success as a Falcon golfer, it’s hard being a part of team that gets less attention than football, track and basketball.
 "I just wish the school paid more attention to the golf team", said Cory.Is Saint Augustine's neglecting the golf team? "I wouldn't say neglecting, just not paying much attention". Cory, now a senior, just wants the school to recognize golfer's talents and give more to the program
  The home course that the team uses is in Clayton, NC is the Pine Hollow Golf Club, but it’s about 13 miles from campus.
  "The only way we can get to practice is if someone drives and then we have to pay for the gas. "Other teams get a bus or some kind of shuttle,” he said. Cory says he would just like to be reimbursed for the gas he uses.
   When Cory graduates in May, he hopes to take his talents to the PGA tour. He has already taken steps to make this happen. A few of those steps are entering PGA tournaments, placing in those tournaments, find a sponsor, and a home golf course, and just networking with other people to try and get his foot in the door. If this doesn't work out, he would like to work with children helping them with family problems they may have in a big brother kind of system.
  Cory said he would like for Saint Aug students to come out and support the team. Some of the tournaments are far away, but Cory feels it’s worth it to get to see another kind of athlete trying hard to make it to the pros and live out a dream.