Jessi Reed, Advocacy and “Spectrum, the Musical”

Theatre Education major Jessi Reed tackles advocacy for all on the autism spectrum through her very own show “Spectrum, the Musical.”

“This show is ultimately an advocacy piece to help shine a light on autism Spectrum Disorder and those many, amazing people who are on the spectrum,” said Jessi Reed, a senior theatre education major at Piedmont University. “People should not be labeled as their disability. That is only a part of them; it is not who they are. We all have strengths and challenges in life.”

On April 14, Reed presented her musical at the Piedmont Symposium. Inspired by her son, who has autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Reed gave a very passionate and knowledgeable presentation to her peers. As defined by the Center for Disease Control, “ASD is a developmental disability that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges.” Reed explained her teaching process centered around her musical and how she incorporated the process of explaining autism to students into her curriculum.

“I think that my students have learned more about ASD through this experience,” said Reed. “They have had to think about the many different kinds of people who are on the spectrum. The spectrum is so wide, and people with autism can grow, change, and move to where they are on the scale.”

Reed explained how many of her students have close connections to someone who has ASD, whether it be siblings, cousins, or the student themselves. “Most of them already knew what autism Spectrum Disorder was, so that was helpful to them learning more about the disorder and the characteristics and symptoms of ASD,” said Reed. Reed taught this lesson to her advanced drama class as part of her current educational internship with White County High School. Her work has impressed her adviser.

“I really liked for the students, for the high school students, how she packaged it in terms of advocacy,” said Dr. Kathy Blandin, associate professor of theatre. “And how theatre is to educate and entertain and that education can take the form of advocacy.” 

While working with her students, Reed kept open communication between herself and the class to ensure everyone understood their work. Through discussions and class projects, Reed worked with the students on the idea of advocacy. Advocacy not only within the world of theatre but in everyday life as well. “We spent a couple days learning more about autism in-depth, watching videos about autism, and experience autism video simulations,” said Reed. “I based some of the main characters and their characteristics on real people with autism, so we watched videos about these people. One of the characters are based on my son and our story, so I told them about our personal experiences. I was surprised when these students embraced the story and the content.”

“It was a very powerful message,” said Jordan Hicks, a fellow theatre major and an attendee at Reed’s presentation. “I think advocacy is one of the most important elements of theatre as you are giving a voice to those who are being silenced. And after Jessi’s presentation, I feel as though there needs to be even more of it happening.” 

Reed plans on continuing with her process of putting on her show with her current class. However, even after Reed leaves once the semester ends, her students will continue workshopping her work and are currently considering it to be their one-act play competition piece for next year. “I’d like to do a review session with the students once this unit is over to hear what they have learned through this experience,” said Reed. “I’d also like to invite a few of my friends who are mothers of children with autism to get their feedback, as well. Any advice that people affected by autism can give will be helpful to the future development of the show.”

As Reed finished out her presentation, she left the audience with a famous saying to remember as they went about their day saying, 

 “If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism.”

2021 Piedmont Symposium: Injuries Correlation with Strength and Conditioning

DEMOREST, GA – “Adding insult to injury” is a common cliche in the English language. But it’s also the difference between proper exercise programs and unfit training for athletes worldwide. Killian McClain, a master’s student at Piedmont University and future strength and conditioning coach, presented his research regarding the relationship between conditioning and injuries at the 2021 Piedmont University Symposium.

“It’s really important to see that our profession is evidence-based, so doing this research helped reassure me that I’m doing the correct thing,” said McClain. “It was interesting to see that there wasn’t necescarily as many significant correlations that I found, which could be do to the improper programming and limited amount of programs I was able to have.”

Strength training prevents injuries and increases sports performance were the anchors that McClain based his presentation and research around. As athletes and competitors put stress on their bones and tendons, they adapt and change the anatomy of those vital systems. The transformation of these muscles can lead to imbalances within the body, directly resulting in a greater likelihood of getting injured. To prevent this unevenness, proper strength and conditioning schedules and programs are crucial. Furthermore, McClain said, Strength programming should apply to the sport, weight should rise appropriately, and muscle groups should be trained evenly.

“I was surprised that more programs didn’t have formal training plans, and those that did have plans didn’t quantify the training volume,” said Abbey Dondanville, professor of athletic training and McClain’s faculty advisor. “It’s important to track how much physical work is done to know the athletes’ acute and chronic workloads.”

Dondanville said Mclain’s research is valuable for athletes and coaches. She described that exceeding the chronic load of a workout by 15% increases the risk of injury significantly. McClain recognized this finding and performed studies on the different sports programs at Piedmont University. Tracking training helps coaches know if their programs are effective or which muscle groups need more attention.

“It is vital for sports programs to obtain a strength and conditioning program so individuals can develop as athletes and not just players at their respective sport,” says Padraig Prendergast, a Biology Major who attended McClain’s session.

Piedmont University is an increasingly growing institution; however, many of the athletic programs offered do not have strength and conditioning coaches or programs, McClain said. When schools have a program that focuses on muscle training, repetition volume can be observed to maximize the gains possessed from working out. Stronger athletes will result in better performances from the players involved, resulting in more favorable results within the games, McClain said.

McClain’s research provided valuable insight into the world of strength and condition, and he hopes the findings will catapult him into “A Division 1 institution and eventually as a head strength and conditioning coach.”

kmcclain0401@piedmont.lions.edu

adondanville@piedmont.edu

pprendergast@lions.piedmont.edu

Symposium: dementia

Across the world, there are approximately 50 million people who have dementia. It is a disease with no cure, and a life where you would maybe never remember.

Freshman Marion Sloyan, Jillian Addy, and Autumn Redd presented their research, ” Dementia: a disease investigated” at the 2021 Piedmont Symposium. They went over treatments, signs and other symptoms. It started by talking about the origin of the world; the word dementia comes from Latin, meaning “without sense.” Memory loss is significantly one of the symptoms of dementia, so therefore, being without sense. Dementia is caused by the loss of nerve cells and other processes in the brain. It affects you in the hippocampus.

“Presenting about dementia was really impactful for me because it informed me about the struggles people go through with this disease,” Marion said.

Dementia can have both mental and physical effects. People can experience cognitive symptoms, so it involves your brain and other mental parts of yourself. It involves things like memory loss and slow brain functions. the other symptoms are physical changes, such as headaches, slow communication and feeling slow overall. There is mild cognitive impairment, mild dementia, moderate dementia and severe dementia.

“I could not imagine having to go through these things with people who have dementia,” Marion said.

There are many risk factors that can increase a person’s chances of suffering from dementia. The first risk factor is being 60 and up. At this age, people’s immune systems are not as strong, which increases the risk of getting any disease; you aren’t as likely to live as long with the disease. The second risk factor is if you live in a low to the middle-income area. People living in these areas can’t afford health care, and there is not as much attention given to them. The final risk factor is being a smoker. Smoking leads to atherosclerosis; a heart disease that also deals with the delivery of blood to the brain. Smoking is a major factor in dementia.

Although there is no cure for dementia; medications and therapies are provided to slow the process down. Medications include cholinesterase inhibitors, antidepressants, anxiolytics, and memantine. There are two types of therapies: reminiscence therapies, reality orientation training. There are lifestyle changes that involve staying active, good sleep, watching what you eat, and staying involved.

“These lifestyle changes are very important in my opinion because those are things we need now, especially as a student-athlete. Imagine having to change all of this, but also have a disease that could effect you so impactfully,” Marion said.

For some Piedmont students, dementia impacts them personally. “I have a family member that suffers from the disease, and I never really understood what it was or what it did to your body until now,” student Rachel Marsh said.

Dr. Julia Schmitz, associate professor of biology, said she enjoyed the presentation from Marion and the group. “I was proud to watch them develop and present on a well-researched disease.”

Neuroscience Takes on the Symposium

More than 100 research studies were presented at the 2021 Piedmont Symposium, but senior psychology major Kaden Carter was the only one that actually focused on the process of research, specifically human subjects research.

In her presentation, “The Hidden History of Neuroscience,” Carter discussed how research is more ethical now than compared to how it was gathered in the past. 

“(The researchers) main goal is to protect the rights and welfare of human subjects during research,” she said. 

Carter works for Dr. Cynthia Vance with research applications on human subjects under neuroscience. Dr. Vance is the coordinator of Human Subjects Research and a professor of Psychology at Piedmont University. Together, Carter and Vance go through applications approving or disapproving the applications based on what the proposed research methods.  

In the presentation, Carter also talked about the importance of organizing pertinent documents together, especially consent forms when in the initial stages of creating a research proposal. Carter explained that the process was long, but in order to be able to conduct responsible research at Piedmont University, it is well worth it to keep students and faculty in an ethical environment.  

History Professor Ryan Franklin found the historical context in Carter’s presentation intriguing.

“I thought the presentation was overall quite interesting. I especially found the presentation’s segue from the Nazi experiments to the Milgram experiment to be intriguing given that the latter was conducted simultaneously with the Eichmann Trial in Jerusalem,” said Franklin, “The students did a solid job elucidating this more “hidden history of neuroscience.’”  

Franklin also agreed that the experiments discussed in Carter’s presentation were unethical, and he believes that it is great that Piedmont University has created a very extensive process in order to conduct research at the institution.

Carter finds pride in her role as an integral part of this process, and like many other students, senior business major Leslie Lopez was unaware of the amount of research that goes on at Piedmont University.

“They presented some really interesting facts. I thought it was really informative and something that, as a business major, I don’t really hear a lot about.” said Lopez, “It was really interesting to hear what they had to say.”  

Carter explains that most of the research applications are a mix of independent research projects and doctoral students who are getting their dissertation, but despite this Carter embellishes the opportunity to work with these studies.  

“I enjoy working in research because it provides me with opportunities to learn about the importance of ethics in experimentation and the knowledge of how research works. In the future, I can refer back to what I have learned and experienced while on the job,” said Carter. 

-Kaden Carter 

Email: kacarter1122@lions.piedmont.edu

-Leslie Lopez 

email:llopez1129@lions.piedmont.edu

-Ryan Franklin 

Email: rfranklin@piedmont.edu

Are Our Judges Really Fair? Piedmont Symposium Edition

            Is the one branch of government that is supposed to be independent of partisan viewpoints becoming politicized? That’s the question political science major Michael Mack sought to answer in his research, “Political Influence in the Judicial Branch of the United States.”

            Mack presented his research on April 14 at the university’s annual Piedmont Symposium. This is a chance for students to show what they have learned in class and apply it to real-world scenarios.

“We must live forward in the future as well as be able to know how our judiciary works because it has a great influence on not only our government and its actions and also the ability to alter our nation, but it also revolves around us as American people because it deals with our civil liberties and civil rights,” Mack said.

Mack was one of more than 200 students who presented their research at the Symposium. During this presentation, Mack touched on how the judicial branch ties in with the Federal Papers.

“Federalist papers number 78 was an article that Alexander Hamilton had written to describe or to establish a judiciary institution in our constitution,” Mack said. “More importantly it was centered on judiciary independence — to separate itself from political affairs and … be an independent body to focus on our Constitution, as well as protected from those entities to be able to protect the American rights and civil liberties within our Constitution.”

Freshman political science major Austin Vaughn noted that Federalist paper 78 essentially served as the foundation of the judicial branch. “Basically, the federalist papers just defend the Constitution and help give it power and give it life, and I think Federalist Papers 78 was kind of setting up the judiciary branch.”

Mack also touched on the ideological influence of the federal court decisions. A large idea in this point was on Presidents who did not completely identify as conservative or liberal, despite their party affiliation. For instance, a president can be Republican and also a liberal. These officials have chosen judiciary court members who maybe do not align with the president the same way ideologically.

Mack’s Symposium project was sponsored by Dr. Tony Frye, associate professor of political sciences. “If you go back to the Eisenhower Administration, Eisenhower didn’t necessarily support politically or ideologically [court appointees] but he appointed them. That’s much less so today if you’re Donald Trump or if you’re Joe Biden and you’re appointing a member of the court. You’re going to have a really good idea what the person thinks on all these issues before you even allow them into the door.”

Frye noted that recent Presidents — on both sides — have essentially politicized the courts. “This gets into what they call ‘litmus tests,’” he said. “This term was never used before the late eighties until the late Reagan administration. So, the nomination is always the president’s prerogative at all times, and the Senate just gets to say yes or no, but they don’t actually get to tell the president who to nominate.”

Mack takes this point a step further. “I was looking into the fact that they became politically polarized, that it has a different tone into who actually appoints certain nominees. For example, when it was in low polarization you would see nominees that were appointed by a President to be confirmed easily because the Senate was ideologically centered, giving them the elite way of having a moderate judge. In high polarization we can see that with the President nominating someone which could be off-centered or even within this ideology. We can see that a unified Senate majority within that same party may confirm that justice, so really it kind of brings an extreme aim or measure.”

Mack said it’s important for all citizens to understand the judicial branch of government. “We must live forward in the future as well as be able to know how our judiciary works because it has a great influence on not only our government and its actions and also the ability to alter our nation, but it also revolves around us as American people because it deals with our civil liberties and civil rights.”

Feeding Lions Film

As most students presented research at the 2021 Piedmont Symposium, a group of mass communications students presented something different: outlining a horror story in the Swanson Center Newsroom. The session, “Piedmont Film Productions,” featured a panel discussion with five students working on a short horror film, “Overtime.”  

“We wanted to make something good and we put a lot of hours into this project,” said junior Tyler Goins. “We spent over 20 hours on the project so far and an additional 12 hours editing the trailer. The full movie should be released in about two weeks and we hope Piedmont University will offer more opportunities to delve deeper into film.”

A synopsis of the film was given with no spoilers. In Overtime, a journalist reluctantly takes the night shift. Only one other person has ever worked in the newsroom at night, where something sinister happened and now something strange is going on. The trailer, which is available on YouTube and the Piedmont App, is just over a minute long and it stars theatre major Johnny Goodwyn, known as Seven around campus. Connor Creedon, sophomore sports communications major, served as talent scout and casting director.

“My role was to find an actor who had the time to film at [night]. This was challenging because this is a large portion of time to devote at the end of the day and we needed an actor who could do it for 4 days straight,” said Creedon. “We were lucky to get Seven, I had seen him in some theatre productions and knew he was good, but he was so good.”

The crew filmed at night which also posed problems, as they needed an empty building to shoot in. There were times that students would be in the Swanson Center studying and the team would have to wait. Emma Marti, sophomore mass communications major recalls how she stumbled upon the filming.

“I was in the Swanson Center to prepare for my next radio show, and I went to the bathroom,” said Marti. “I saw this guy just standing in the shadows, who I now know was Aaron Palmer. I was so freaked out because I had just gone ghost hunting with friends in Swanson a few weeks ago. It was great to see, once I knew they were filming a movie. They were so excited and passionate about it.”

The film was produced by Palmer, Creedon, Goins, Caleb Rogers and Christopher Barker as part of their Entertainment TV class, taught by Melissa Jackson, associate professor of mass communications.

“The student short “Overtime” was developed in class, but the five students spent many hours outside class time filming at night,” said Jackson. “I’m knocked out by the trailer!” I can’t wait to see their final cut.”

Jackson, and Mass Communications Department Chair Dr. Joe Dennis, are spearheading an effort to develop a film major at Piedmont University, to develop the skills of future directors, videographers, editors and screenwriters with a possible film production major, positioning students for jobs in Georgia’s multi-billion-dollar industry.

“Georgia is known as the Hollywood of the South,” Jackson said. “We’d like to establish our own ‘Hollywood at Piedmont University’.”

Lizzy Carver Presents How to Build a Website

Lizzy Carver, a senior theatre arts and theatre education double major, presented “How to construct and launch a professional theatre website” at the Piedmont University Symposium on April 14.

“My main goal of creating my website was to create an online portfolio for potential employers to have,” said Lizzy Carver. “By having an online display of all the work, I have done within the theatre world, I feel as though it opens a lot more doors for employment.”

In her presentation, Carver informed the audience of how to build a professional online portfolio. She explains that there are many platforms online that can help you create your very own website. Carver used the editing software “Wix” to bring her website to life.

“For me, the hardest part of creating this website was working within the elements that were available within Wix as a whole,” said Carver. “I spent probably 12 + hours in total trying to get everything exactly how I wanted it.”

On her website, you can find Carver’s acting resume, contact information, past employment, education background and more. Carver wanted to make sure that her website was filled with information while also being easy to navigate and pretty to look at. Carvers website is bright, bold and informative.

“I think the thing that stood out to me the most was how personal she made it,” said Jo Collinson, a junior theatre arts major at Piedmont. “It felt like you were meeting Lizzy in person despite it being online.”

Bill Gablelhausen, the department chair for Piedmont University’s theatre program, was the adviser for Carver’s presentation. After looking over Carver’s website, Gabelhausen was impressed with her work and believes that every student on campus should look at this website as a model for how they should construct their own.

“I was very impressed, not only with Lizzy’s presentation of it but the amount of detail that went into it,” said Professor Gablelhausen. “The fact that she equally targeted each of her strengths, I thought that was a really smart move.”

From this experience, Carver has learned a lot about the digital world and now understands how frustrating the internet can be at times.

“I have a new appreciation for graphic designers,” said Carver. “Although Wix and other platforms make it easy to create a simple website, it is clear to see how much time and effort goes into some of the more elaborate sites.”

Carver’s website is ready for all potential employees to see and she feels confident and proud of all her hard work that she has put in creating this jaw-dropping online atmosphere. Carver hopes that her work will inspire others to look into building their own online website. If you are interested at looking though Carver’s website, you can find it at www.lizzycarver242.wixsite.com.

“As I have stated before, it’s not as scary as you think, and you might surprise yourself with how creative you can be.”

When will things change?

For over 120 years, women have been fighting for gender equality in the sport industry. 

            “I hope in my profession when I graduate, I can help with a change and educate more people in what they can do to help,” said Miranda McNalley, a senior sports and fitness administration major at Piedmont University. 

            McNalley presented her research on “The Difference in Salary, Media Coverage, and Amenities Between Genders in Professional Sports” at Piedmont’s annual Symposium, held on April 14, 2021. McNalley is a huge sports fan and as a woman athlete herself, she understands the problem women face when it comes to gender equality in the sports industry. McNalley gathered information and statistics on the unfairness between professional sport teams, including their salaries. 

            “Equal play and equal pay has been talked about for years. The Women’s National soccer team is better than the Men’s National [soccer] team, yet the women get paid way less,” McNalley said. 

            In McNalley’s presentation, she stated that the USWNT (United States Women’s National soccer team) was paid $2 million for winning the world championship, while the USMNT (United States Men’s National soccer team) received $9 million for only making it to the sweet 16 round of the tournament. The women’s team also has to play on turf, “which is artificial grass that is made out of tires,” McNalley added. The men’s team, however, has the luxury of playing on real grass. 

            Not only did McNalley discuss the pay difference and the teams’ playing conditions, but also the difference in media coverage. Forty percent of all sport participants are female; however, women’s sports only get 4% of media coverage. Women are also more likely to be portrayed in sexually provocative ways when they are covered by the media. They are more recognized for their impressive bodies, rather than their impressive skills on the field. 

            “I think especially being a female and going into the workforce next year, I would definitely like to have more fair opportunities,” said senior Cassie Kirk, a student-athlete who attended McNalley’s presentation. 

            McNalley also brought attention to the difference in amenities between genders. She gave the example of the NCAA mistreating the women basketball teams at a tournament this year. The women were given a few dumbbells for their workouts, while the men received an entire gym with full equipment to use and train with. 

            “As has been seen with the recent NCAA basketball and volleyball tournaments, our society has a long way to go in terms of gender monetary equity,” said Abbey Dondanville, associate dean for health sciences and McNalley’s faculty advisor. 

            “Colleges and professional teams fall back on ‘market share’ as explanation for the lower salaries and fewer amenities,” Dondanville said. “But it’s a problem they created and perpetuate. Many in our society see men as ‘athletes’ and then ‘girls playing games.’” 

            McNalley said she has a passion for sports and equality for all. This helped her research her topic and gather the information she did. McNalley wants to see a change in this industry and wants there to be equal opportunities for all athletes no matter who you are, what you look like, or how you play. Athletes should come together as one to end the divide between the salary differences, media coverage amount, and unfair amenities. 

            “I love sports and I hope to see a change in the future, and I hope to be a part of that change,” said McNalley 

From the Grass to the Court

“Left Foot, Right Foot, Breath, Repeat.” — a six-worded phrase that has so much meaning and potential, but yet is so small. Those six words are tattooed on Nakiyah Washington’s shoulder blade. A sophomore forward for the women’s Piedmont Lions basketball team, Washington lives her life a step and breath at a time, because she knows the importance of keeping a narrow focus on the road that’s ahead of her. 

“The quote is from legendary basketball coach Pat Summitt, and ever since my grandpa told me that as a little kid it was my motivation throughout life to play college basketball,” Washington said. 

Washington grew up in the small town of Adairsville, Georgia, which is just outside of Atlanta. She has a younger sister in middle school, and is supported by her two parents. 

“Where we live is all woods and grass, we don’t have a concrete pad,” she said. “My sister and I grew up shooting basketball in a grassy area that eventually turned into dirt from all the damage we had done shooting hoops. My dad had put a light on the back of the goal so we could see around us at night.”

With Washington wanting to make a name for herself after high school, she turned to her number one supporter, her grandpa. 

“Sophomore year of high school is when I became serious about college ball. I remember my grandpa and I being outside until midnight working on ball handling, free throws, layups and post moves. Really anything to boost my game — and he even made me run in the dark to condition my body whether it was freezing outside or really humid and hot.”

Washington’s freshmen year as a Lady Lion was a standout rookie season. She appeared in all 28 games and started 20. She led the team with 373 points (13.3 ppg) and 176 rebounds (6.3rpg) in the season. She was third on the Lady Lions team with a combined total of 613 minutes played. She also was 3rd in the USA South Conference in steals per game, averaging 2.8. Her career high for her 2019-20 season was 25 points. Not surprisingly, the accolades came in for the 5-10 forward. She was named to the All-USA South West Division Second team, a USA South Rookie of the week twice, and the USA South All-Academic Team. 

“I was really impressed with Nakiyah’s numbers for her first year,” said head coach Jaime Purdy. “She has the potential to be one of the best athletes that has stepped into this program.” 

Purdy has been the women’s basketball coach at Piedmont for 16 seasons.

“After my freshmen season, I knew I was doing something right,” Washington said. “Each practice I gave it my all, and luckily for me it transitioned to when the three black and white striped guys stepped on the court with their whistles.” 

Washington also succeeds in the classroom. She has made Dean’s list for three consecutive semesters as a Lion. She is the determined, strong-willed individual behind the meaning of a student athlete. 

“I have always taken my studies seriously. In high school I was a ‘B’ student. Every now and then I would make a ‘C,’ but I would try my best to make efficient grades. However, when coming to college I knew I had to do better because it’s now or never. It’s my future I’m working for.” 

Her determination is evident to others — both on and off the court.

“Nakiyah is a determined young lady, and you can see that determination in her eyes when just having a conversation with her,” said assistant coach Brad Cochran. 

Achieving excellence in the classroom and on the court has been a consistent goal for Washington, but her seemingly smooth path to success hit a huge roadblock when her grandpa passed away last year.

“It was a feeling of disbelief, I refused to believe it,” she said. “I had just gone home the prior weekend and saw him and we shot basketball in our favorite dirt spot that we had made with our long hard hours of work.” 

When the 2020-2021 basketball season rolled around Washington was a determined individual on a mission. 

“She was the first one in the gym and the last to leave,” Cochran said. “She wouldn’t leave practice until she made 15 free throws in a row and it showed in this past season.”

Washington led the USA South Conference and the Lady Lions team shooting 87% from the free throw line during her sophomore season. She credits the memory of her grandpa for her continued success.

“I knew I was going to dedicate the season to him,” she said. “Everything I did was for him. When I felt like giving up, I would hear his voice in my head saying, “Nakiyah Left Foot, Right Foot, Breath, Repeat.”

Traveling is just the Beginning

 If you were to go to Moldova to a small village named Malcoci, chances are the kids and supervisors know the name Sarah Hustey. 

“I’ve been traveling to Moldova since 2015, to help the young children. It is a humbling experience to see how much different life is overseas versus the United States.”

Sarah is a senior anthropology and sociology major at Piedmont College, but has different hobbies outside of college. If you spend any time with Sarah you would see that she has a loving heart with welcoming arms for everyone that’s around her and for the people she meets. 

But more than that, Sarah gets to know the kids she works with on a different personal level. One particular kid, Colea, says Sarah is the best caregiver he has ever had. She has worked with him since he was 3.

Sarah travels to the impoverished Eastern European country each year through her church.

“We teach them the grammar and vocabulary of the English language,” she said. “We also try to incorporate Bible lessons that fit into the vocabulary they are learning. We also do arts and crafts and they have an hour of recreational time so we can teach them new sports and games.” 

Every summer Sarah and the small group of three that she travels with looks forward to seeing how much knowledge the kids they work with have progressed since the previous year. 

Chris Hudson, who organizes the annual trip, said the goal is to help children gain skills they may not otherwise attain. “We go to get one job done and that’s teaching kids valuable skills they can use in their daily life. We basically watch the kids grow up from a young age until they are in their teenage lives,” he said.

In the profession Sarah is studying she sees all the gruesome and bad parts of the world. However, her outgoing personality and optimistic outlook on life is what allows her to keep pushing forward when times get hard. Within herself, she has found a way to be able to make other people smile around her and allows them to learn not only the way of life in the United States, but also in Eastern Europe.  What sparked the rest of the road for Sarah is when she was given the opportunity to teach Sunday school classes at her local church. 

“Sarah is always going out of her way to make those around her feel welcome and secure,” said Ms. Kary, Sunday School Superintendent at First Baptist Church in Gwinnett. “The first day of Sunday classes, the immediate interaction with the children and seeing their faces light up made me want to cry. Sarah definitely has a pure heart and for her to be able to connect with children on a different level is a blessing in disguise and I hope she realizes the impact she has on younger kids.”

She never thought that she could find a way to correlate with college and kids in the field she is studying. However, whenever summer rolls around Sarah looks forward to meeting the new kids, but her mind always goes back to the children she mentors in Moldova.

“I think the most rewarding part of going to Moldova is that the kids always remember who I am from the previous year,” she said. “All types of emotions come to me when I walk out of the van and the kids run toward me and yell, ‘Sarie.’ It lets me know that I play a significant role in their lives, when no one else will.”