Caden Nelms

From his wheelchair, freshman Caden Nelms is jump-starting changes in Piedmont’s campus culture through his accessibility activism.
“I had back surgery when I was 9,” said Nelms. “My scar runs all the way from my waist up to my neck.”
Nelms surgery was due to a condition called Spinal Muscular Atrophy which, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine is a genetic condition that causes the weakening of muscles that are used for movement. What it cannot weaken, however, is a solid sense of humor.
“I want to get a zipper tattooed at the top of my scar,” said Nelms. “It would be hidden, but it’s funny. It’s small and no one would ever see it, but I really want to get it.”
Spinal Muscular Atrophy is a life-long condition that can affect the strength of muscles around the center of the body, which has led to Nelms getting his first wheelchair around the time he started school and then upgrading to a power chair before starting second grade.
“People like to stare, obviously,” said Nelms. “It used to bother me. Now I have a lot of shirts making fun of it, so I could care less.”
One of his custom-made shirts depicts a wheelchair doing a flip and reads “Keep staring, I might do a trick,” and attracted a lot of attention while Nelms was vacationing with his family at Tybee Island recently. A couple who’d had a few too many mimosas at brunch saw Nelms wearing the shirt, thought it was hilarious and asked if they could take a picture with him.
“I thought it was funny as hell,” said Nelms. “I took like five pictures with them. It was the weirdest experience I’ve ever had. I was like, ‘is this what it’s like to be famous?’”
Most people would probably assume that this behavior is entirely inappropriate, and according to the National Disability Institute’s Sensitivity Guide it is. The guide states that “it is important to remember to not show pity or put an individual up on a pedestal – everyone should be treated as equals regardless of one’s abilities.” The keyword: individual.
“It didn’t bother me. I thought it was funny, and now I have a story to tell. I wish everyone was like that honestly. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Don’t be afraid to walk up to someone in a wheelchair or with a disability and just be open about it, and laugh about it with them.”
Nelms has become an advocate for accessibility around Piedmont by starting conversations about what changes need to be made to make campus life easier for students with disabilities.
“I asked Dr. Smith if students could join the ADA Taskforce,” said Nelms. “Who better to hear from than someone with a disability? It’s worth a shot.”
Dr. Sue Smith, Disability Support Coordinator at Piedmont, recently became a member of the Americans with Disabilities Act Task Force.
“Caden is certainly emerging as a leader,” said Smith. “He is passionate about improving our campus without any selfish motives, but with an attitude of benefitting our entire Piedmont Community. It has been my pleasure to accept his suggestions for improvement and share those suggestions with the faculty and staff.”
Piedmont as a whole has taken huge steps forward this year by building wheelchair ramps, installing handicap automatic door opening buttons, and purchasing a wheelchair-accessible shuttle van.
However, there’s still some room for improvement, and Nelms has organized meetings with administration to talk about how to create the best learning experience for all of the students at Piedmont, including those with disabilities.
“My disability limits very much what I can and can’t do,” said Nelms. “So I’ll Research some jobs and then see that, oh, my disability is going to hinder this part. Sometimes I’ll get discouraged and wonder if Mass Communications is the right path for me. But it’s a very wide variety and I’m very good at what I do.”

Justin White: Adventurer and Recreational Man

Being part of the sports staff on the Royal Caribbean and the Allure of the Seas before coming to Piedmont, Justin White has always known how to have fun and bring adventure into his life. White lives his life by the “send it” mentality and continues to send the vibe around campus.

“I actually got the send it mentality from Larry Enticer who performs stunts with his snowmobile and says ‘send it’ every time before a jump. I live by that motto because life is too short and sometimes you just got to go for it,” White said.

Being the coordinator of campus recreation and wellness is no easy task, but White manages to run the fitness center and provides more than 30 events in a calendar year. He doesn’t mind putting in the work to make sure all the students enjoy themselves.

“I want to make sure the students love the outdoors as much as I do, and I’m always up for a new adventure with friends to share wonderful laughs and memories,” White said.

One of those students who has shared in White’s adventures is Lucio Ruiz, a sophomore business administration major.

“Justin always makes sure everyone is having a great time, and I’ve enjoyed the bowling event he put on this past year,” Ruiz said.

White never had a hard transition into Piedmont since his job as a sports staff member made it easy to shift into his new position.

“The people I worked with on the cruise ships were very like-minded and were from all around the world. I worked with people from England, Slovakia, China, and Brazil.”

With all the adventures he had while traveling on a cruise ship, White managed to escape a lot of trouble, including a GI virus.

“I’ve dealt with a lot of broken bones with passengers, but never expected an outbreak on the first couple days on the job,” White said. “The CDC came on board, and I remember one day I walked up and down 300 flights of stairs sanitizing the rails for eight hours.”

Whenever White isn’t running the fitness center or providing events for the students, he is the adviser to the Klimbing Klub, helping it grow massively in the past year alongside President Noah Wood.

“Justin has been a mentor to me. He has taught me so much in the past three years I’ve been at Piedmont,” Wood said. “He is an amazing leader, and I am truly grateful to have him as my boss and friend.”

White continues to travel around the world and wants to inspire students to seek travel. He currently keeps track of his travels on a map he has posted in his office and circles the destinations he’s visited.

“My next travel will be with my girlfriend and grandmother. We plan on going to Italy and then after that a trip to Iceland with just my girlfriend.”

Accessibility is a Necessity

by Chelsea Harris

This year, Piedmont College installed ramps on campus grounds

for accessibility to those in wheelchairs and those with physical disabilities.

This is a great step in the right direction, but accessibility is still limited in

other areas on campus. For current and future students, we have to make all

areas on campus easily accessible.

There are currently two students who use electrical wheelchairs as a

means of getting from place to place. Yet, there are still places on campus

that do not allow easy access to these members of our school.

These places include both the entrance to the back of the Swanson Center after

crossing the bridge and the bottom floor of the library.

The bridge to Swanson is accessible in itself, but there is no way for a wheelchair to

get up the steps leading to the glass doors at the back of Swanson. The front entrance is

fine, but students in wheelchairs must either take the long way up to Swanson or have access

to a personal van that can transport wheelchairs. We could make it better for students to

take a quicker and easier route to their classes without assistance if we installed a few more

accessibility points and ramps in this area.

The library is also an issue for students in wheelchairs if they were to need access to

the bottom floor. Students are not allowed to have the code to the bottom floor entrance

from the outside. It is simple enough for students who can enter through the ground floor

and take the stairs down. However, the elevator does not travel all the way down to the bottom

floor. If a student in a wheelchair needed access to this floor, how would they get it?

It isn’t right for any one student to have difficulty getting where they need to go in

order to receive optimal education. While the college has made a step in the right direction,

we should be reaching further. Our campus should be accessible to everyone in search

of an education, and Piedmont may have many students in the future who need to be able to either travel across campus without a personal van or gain access to the bottom floor of the library. Not everyone is going to have someone who can help do these things for them.

Piedmont is always looking for ways to improve for its students. How about this one:

We make every access point for every building accessible for everyone. Every student—regardless of physical abilities—deserves access to all places on campus.

How I Became Toxic

By Chelsea Harris

I don’t think anyone wakes up in the morning and thinks,

“I’m going to hurt the people I love today.”

The mindset isn’t pre-set to encounter unexpected situations.

We just react to the climate and deal with the consequences.

The problem is that consequences live outside of the world of context.

The consequences can seem endless when they are attached

to your name. Without context of all perspectives, a name can

be ruined. It can become bile in the throats

of enemies, spewing out to greet your friends and acquaintances.

Take a person out of their context and all that is left is a description

of the person—their attitude and their mannerisms—all at the mercy of

one perspective.

What if they did do those things you heard about? What if they did

react that way and say those things? Do you know why?

I don’t know everyone’s reasons…but I will tell you mine.

The longest relationship I have been in lasted for

two years, and everything was relatively fine up until the last few months.

That was when the constant fighting started. For a long time, I couldn’t

even tell why we were fighting. It just felt like every time I turned

around there was something else to dispute.

He felt like he was walking on eggshells. I felt like I couldn’t be heard.

All at once, it felt like I wasn’t in a relationship. It felt like I was at war.

Every disgruntled face, every sentence said with attitude, every judgement passed

would start a new fight. And I couldn’t run for cover because the one person

who used to be my stronghold was now on the other side of the fortress.

“I don’t know what to do”: I’d say that more than a few times.

And every time I would try to communicate that I felt attacked

or hurt, he’d say something along the lines of: “You just assumed that I meant

that” or “That’s not what happened” or “I didn’t say that”—to the point where

I actually felt like a crazy girlfriend who had a bunch of problems for no reason.

Gas-lighting—that’s a term that I learned later.

But guess what? I don’t think he was doing it on purpose.

I think it was self-defense in a time where he felt like the

ground was crumbling beneath him.

He became toxic for me…but I also became toxic for him.

Part of our arguments came from not seeing eye to eye on certain subjects.

And there were things that I needed in a relationship that he

couldn’t emotionally or spiritually provide.

It’s not that he was a bad person or that he became a disappointment to me.

I became disappointed in myself for trying to save something that was

supposed to die. If I had noticed the things that were not going to work

between the two of us before we had started dating, I might have been able

to save something from dying at all.

Instead, I expected things from him that were never there to begin with.

He may learn those things eventually—communication, spiritual leadership,

humble love—but if he doesn’t, it’s not up to me to say whether he should

have those traits or not.

It is only up to me that I should want those things, but I don’t have

to have those things with him. And he didn’t need to change for me.

That is why, even if my name has burned like acid leaving his tongue,

I won’t do the same with his.

This is Caleb Rogers

By Chelsea Harris

A Student Emmy Award winner has come to Piedmont with the hopes of starting something new.

Caleb Rogers, 20, has led quite an interesting life, and this isn’t recent news. Yes, he has achieved a lot within the last couple of years alone; but he has always been used to feeling a little different.

When Caleb was 6 months old, his parents adopted him from Russia. From there, they moved to Richmond, Virginia where they lived for 10 years. Because of his father’s job, however, he had to move around a lot over the next decade—from Farmville, Virginia to Chapel Hill, North Carolina to Chatham, Virginia. During this last phase of moving, Caleb attended high school at Hargrave Military Academy for 4 years, which was different from any private or public school he had ever attended. Ironically, in the strictest school he attended, Caleb found his love for art and ended up helping their school develop an art program.

“But I’ve always been interested in film,” Caleb says. “I started off doing drawing and painting because I was really artistic, but film has always been different for me. I’ve always had this dream of being an actor, even though it would never happen because I don’t like being in front of the camera very much. I’d rather be behind the camera creating things.”

He worked really hard in high school to develop his portfolio and ended up getting accepted into three prestigious art schools: Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), The University of North Carolina School of the Arts, and The University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts. Caleb attended the SCAD summer program in his junior year of high school, and one of his professors actually worked for Ariana Grande. This was Caleb’s “in”— he was chosen to be one of the directors for his course. At SCAD, he ended up doing a lot of short films and a live show with students there. This is when his team won a Student Emmy Award.

“The best time I had there was being a part of the Savannah Film Festival,” Caleb says. “One of my really good friends was head of the journalism committee, and he said, ‘You have a really good presence, and you’re good at talking to people. Do you want to help interview celebrities?’ So I had the opportunity to meet and get to know Hugh Jackman, John Krasinsky, Emily Blunt, and a lot of producers and directs and other actors.”

After these first major accomplishments, Caleb was invited to work on three different music videos for Ariana Grande: “Thank You, Next,” “Seven Rings,” and “Boyfriend.” During November of 2018, he left SCAD and was solely working on these film projects in Atlanta. “Being able to be trained by Ariana’s videographers and getting to know her was really cool. When they asked me to do this, I was like ‘Oh, I’m not going to see her.’ But there were times when it was just me, her and her manager in a room.”

After “Thank You, Next,” Caleb worked on a few other music videos with artists such as J Cole, Chance the Rapper and 21 Savage. “Out of the people that I got to work with, I definitely know J Cole the best, and I got along with him well, too, because he’s actually from North Carolina. So we could relate and he knows a lot of the places I know.”

Caleb worked on music videos all the way up to this past summer (2019), and then decided to cool down on those for a little bit. He started working on a feature film in which his roommate at SCAD was acting. The feature film was The Conjuring 3, and he became a production assistant for the movie, working on it from August through October of 2019 as he was coming into Piedmont.

Between SCAD and Piedmont, Caleb had to decide whether to keep working on these film projects or to get a degree before continuing. “If I really want to get where I want to go, which is owning my own production company and directing big movies, then I’m going to need a degree in film.”

Caleb’s parents ended up moving their family to Clarkesville, Georgia in June of 2019 when his dad, Craig Rogers, became the Vice President of Institutional Advancement at Piedmont. “We’re actually trying to develop a film program here, and things are being pushed in a really good direction.”

“When I came to Piedmont,” Caleb says, “I was only going to stay here for a year and then transfer because Piedmont doesn’t have a film program. But I ended up falling in love with Piedmont, and I thought, ‘I’m going to try to help build a film program.’”

Caleb has been involved with meetings for a film program that Piedmont may consider implementing in the near future. The outlook is positive.  The film industry is thriving in Georgia, especially in Atlanta. This makes it easier to justify bringing in a film program for the school, a fact that Caleb communicated with members of Piedmont College’s administration and mass communications department chair Joe Dennis.

“He came to me during the first week of classes and told me he wanted to help build a film program at Piedmont,” Dennis says. “His determination and desire is inspiring, and I’m hoping we can help him see his vision become a reality.”

They have a long road ahead, but the way things are looking, it seems almost definite that Piedmont will be looking at a fantastic addition to its Fine Arts Programs. Caleb said he is committed to helping see this project through. “It’s been amazing to be a part of this thing and to push this program for Piedmont.”

Mount Vernon Mills closes, leaving workers unemployed and homeless

Amanda Williams started working at Mt. Vernon Mills when she was 21 years old to support her child. 29 years later, she and about 600 other workers had the rug ripped out from under them. The mills announced 60 days in advance that their Alto location would shut its doors this month, and now hundreds of workers are left jobless.

“It’s heartbreaking,” she says. “I met a lot of people through the years, I’ve gotten close with a lot of people, and a lot of them are my family. That’s how I look at it.”

Mount Vernon Mills is a textile mill company based out of South Carolina, operating 12 facilities and employing over 2,400 individuals. The Alto location has been a major employer of Habersham county citizens for many years, but is closing its doors and leaving hundreds of loyal employees behind.

Amanda Williams filed for unemployment yesterday. Depending on her health and employment, she may have to consider turning to Social Security disability, but she says she doesn’t want to do that. She wants to work as much as she can. Right now, though, she’s jobless and trying to find work. Not having her share of the household income isn’t an option for Williams, whose income is not only for herself and her family, but for her grandchildren too.

The paycheck Amanda earned from the mill was what she raised her children on, and the people she worked with helped too. “Back in 2010, […] my husband and I were both in the hospital. I had just had my youngest child, he was in the NICU, and my mill family stepped up immediately,” Williams said. “We weren’t working; I’m blessed with them, but it [the mill closing] does sadden me.”

Williams says that some of her coworkers that were couples lost their jobs at the same time, and are now both unemployed with families to care for. “A lot of them are young,” she says, “and there are a few that are close to retirement, but not quite there yet. I’m one of them.”

She recalls her last days in the mill with her coworkers that became family as emotionally raw. “A lot of them have cried, a lot of them are angry,” Williams says. “No one expected it.”

Williams said the threat of the mill closing had been on and off all 29 years she was employed there. Sometimes the employees would hear that the mill was in good standing, and other times they heard that it wasn’t. “We knew our seasons,” she said. “January, it was slow, and then it would pick back up. We were told around December that things weren’t looking all that great. We came back off Christmas break and I was told it was shutting down.”

The official word from the mill didn’t come until Jan. 9, giving employees exactly two months to find new work. Some mill workers still don’t have the entirety of their earnings, waiting on the paychecks that sustain their lives.

“Them [Mount Vernon Mills] closing has [caused] me to lose my place to live,” a former Mount Vernon Mills employee said, who asked to be kept anonymous. “Now I’m staying here and there trying to find another job.”

That’s what everyone at the mill seems to be doing, according to former employees. Amanda says that the mill couldn’t be around forever, new technology is coming in and “it’s time to learn the new stuff,” she says.

Even with her positive outlook and faith that everything is in God’s hands, losing her job isn’t easy.

“Pray for us all,” Williams asks her community. “That’s what we need more than anything– prayer. If anyone’s willing to hire us, we’ll all work hard, that’s what we believe in.”

The Bold Type (baby review)

Freeform’s drama “The Bold Type” smashes the glass ceiling of journalism through a stereotypically unlikely medium: a women’s magazine. This women-dominated cast tackles issues surrounding gender, race, sexuality, health, politics and privilege while following the lives of Kat, Jane and Sutton, best friends and employees of “Scarlet Magazine.” Though their New York City lives might look glamorous on the surface, these three women are wading through the occupational hazards of communications while also balancing friendships, family and all the personal growth that comes with being twenty-something.