Student Spotlight: Mackenzie Green urges students to never give up and never back down

Aleah Cady, Staff Writer

Mackenzie Green is a first-year student at Wingate University, from Asheville, North Carolina, a member of Alpha Omicron Pi, and is majoring in human services. She loves her sorority, spending time with friends, and helping others.

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Photo by Mackenzie Green

She also was born with a genetic disorder called Osteogenesis imperfecta, an extremely rare condition which causes the bones to be brittle and break easily. Osteogenesis imperfecta has caused Mackenzie to have to use a wheelchair for most of her life.

As a baby, Mackenzie’s mother suspected that something was wrong. When Mackenzie’s legs were curled up or bended, it caused her great pain. Her mother took her to the doctor, originally believing that Mackenzie may have a form of dwarfism.

However, after testing, it was found that Mackenzie had a genetic disorder. As a result of Osteogenesis imperfecta, Mackenzie had broken ribs and legs when she was born, and has broken over 100 bones in her life. She has also had twenty-one surgeries, and has another one coming up in December.

“Middle and high school were really hard, I had a hard time making friends and I often felt judged.” Mackenzie said. “People look at you differently.” However, she said that college has been different, and an eye-opening experience for her.“I joined Alpha Omicron Pi and I really love the relationship I have with my sisters. I’ve made a lot of great friends.”

Although she was not able to play most sports in high school, Mackenzie was a cheerleader and this was something that impacted her outlook on life. “I love to make people smile, and inspire them to do anything they put their mind to.”

Mackenzie wanted to give special thanks to her best friend in college, Madison Oak. “She’s been through so much with me and I’ve never had a friend like her before. She’s always there to help and I know I can always depend on her.”

“Mackenzie is one of the most hardworking and persistent people I know.” Madison said. “She has an absolute heart of gold and always goes above and beyond for everyone else, which truly says a lot about her character.”

Madison Laney, who serves as Mackenzie’s ‘big sister’ in their sorority, also spoke to me about her friendship with Mackenzie. “From the moment she joined Alpha Omicron Pi, I knew that I wanted her as my little. She has the brightest personality and outlook on life.”

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Photo by Mackenzie Green

Another experience that really impacted Mackenzie since the start of college was a generous action from the members of Kappa Alpha Order, a fraternity whose philanthropy is the Muscular Dystrophy Association. In October, the boys from K.A. built Mackenzie a ramp to give her easier access to the on-campus apartments. “It was so eye opening and it really helped to accommodate me. It touched me and my family’s hearts that someone would do something so nice for me.”

One night at a Halloween mixer held at a haunted trail, Mackenzie was faced with being somewhere that was not handicap accessible. “I went through two ticket booths and paid money to go through the trail. I was in the trail with my sisters, and the owner came up and shined a flashlight in my face, asking to escort me out. I was told I would receive a refund, but it was still disappointing.”

A member of K.A, Gage Sumrall, approached Mackenzie and the owner to ask what was going on; he quickly defended Mackenzie and tried to find a solution. “Gage took up for me and it really meant a lot.” Mackenzie also would like to thank Domenico Napolitano for helping with her ramp. “They have been so kind to me.” she said.

“She’s so caring, friendly, and joyful. She’s always fun to be around and she’ll do whatever she can to make someone happy.” Gage Sumrall said about Mackenzie.

When she’s not participating in sorority events or spending time with friends, Mackenzie is working hard for her major, human services. Her career goal is to become a D.S.S. social worker. “I just want to give back to children. I love kids.”

She also participates in Delight Ministries, and is very strong in her faith. “Religion has helped me a lot with what I go through. I’m very faithful, even though I had a hard childhood, breaking bone after bone, God always kept me going.”

“I do have an I.E.P, which is an Individualized Education Program.” Mackenzie said, speaking about her experience at college. “My teachers know I have a chronic disability. The I.E.P. gives me extra time to do my work and get to class, but I normally don’t depend on it. I use a schedule to plan my day and I always leave 15 minutes early for class. My wheelchair is electric, and I always want to be prepared just in case. I have a pretty easy time getting around campus. The only building I struggle to get to is Burris. The doors are big and heavy, so I have to go in the back way. But I’ve learned to work around things, everywhere else I can access easily.”

“People think that just because I’m in a wheelchair, I can’t do things.” Mackenzie said. “I drive, I get myself to class, I am completely independent and do things on my own. The only thing I can’t do is walk. People are often mistaken and think that I’m paralyzed. They don’t understand my disorder and that it can happen to anyone. I am capable of anything.”

One problem Mackenzie mentioned is that she worries about finding a job. “I don’t think people understand how capable I am and how much my wheelchair allows me to move. I definitely worry about finding a job in the future, and I wish more people understood that.”

I asked Mackenzie what changes she wanted to see in the world. She said she wants to live in a world where there is no more hurt, and where people with her condition don’t have to experience so much pain. She also wants to be able to not feel judged, and for people to have a better understanding of wheelchair users, and their capabilities.

Mackenzie wants people to know that no matter what struggles they go through, they should keep their head up, and never give up. “There’s some days I don’t want to get up out of bed, but I get past it. I live by the saying ‘Never give up, never back down’. You’re going to have struggles in a wheelchair. You have to keep faith in confidence to get you through it.”

Edited by: Brea Childs

Photo or Photos submitted by Mackenzie Green

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Candlelight Vigil held for the passing of Wingate student Geoffrey Dawkins

Gabriela Cabrera, Staff Writer

Wingate University students were silent as they gathered together on Thursday to hold a candlelight vigil for a sophomore who passed away earlier this week.

Geoffrey Dawkins, a sophomore criminal justice major, passed away at CMC Main in Charlotte, North Carolina. Students honored his memory by gathering together to share the joy he had brought to each of them. Geoffrey was a member of the Wingate Pep band and Marching band and also the Kappa Alpha fraternity.

Students gather for a candlelight vigil for the passing of Geoffrey Dawkins

Noah Couick, student manager of Wingate University’s Writing Center, said that Geoffrey was not only a fighter through his sickness, but also through his academics.

“He frequently visited the Writing Center for help with papers and had a zeal to succeed,” said Couick. “I look back and am honored to know that I read the papers of this student.”

Students assembled on the Stegall lawn, hugging and sharing support as Shannon Powell, the director of the Campus Fellowship for Christian Athletes, opened with prayer.

Shelby Dworek, a junior, said she felt comforted being surrounded by friends who also knew Geoffrey.

“You could hear people crying as Mr. Powell started praying. We were all there to support each other in this loss,” said Dworek.

Gage Sumrall, a sophomore who shared the same Kappa Alpha Order fraternity as Dawkins, said that Dawkins was not only a friend and fellow band member, but a brother to him as well.

“Geoffrey Dawkins will be missed by many, but I am so happy to know that his health will never be an issue again,” said Sumrall.

Geoffrey suffered from a skin disease that affected his skin, nails and hair growth. By sophomore year in high school he was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy, a heart disease that makes it hard for the heart to deliver blood throughout the body.

Cardell Rawlings, a senior, said that once someone got to know Dawkins, he was easily the most genuine and happiest person to walk this Earth.

Rawlings, along with Sumrall and others on the football team, surprised Dawkins, before he passed, by visiting him at CMC Main.

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Photo from Wingate Bulldogs Site

Rawlings said Dawkins kept mentioning how much he wished he could have been at the Wingate homecoming game.

“He stayed so positive and kept telling me, ‘Keep going, keep grinding, it’s all going to pay off’,” said Rawlings. “That hit me then and has hit me even deeper now.”

The vigil ended with the students reciting the Lord’s prayer.

The fraternity brothers of Kappa Alpha Order set up a Go Fund Me page for Dawkins’ family, to help pay his medical bills.

https://www.gofundme.com/geoffrey-dawkins-hospital-bills

Edited by: Brea Childs

Photo cover by: Gabriela Cabrera

BIGG talks E-Waste

Celestia Randolph, Staff Writer

Southern Environmental Solutions of the Carolinas (SESC) is a family owned business dedicated to servicing local landfills established on government contracts. The objective of SESC is to collect recyclable electronic waste, or,  e-waste, promote organizational interactivity.

By setting high standards and collaborating and partnerships, site visits, SESC teaches individuals as well as corporations, schools, churches, and other social organizations the “four r’s”.

The four r’s are re-use, refurbish, recycle and respect which are central to recycling effectively.

Mrs. Lynda Kuehni, Director of Sales and Marketing of the SESC spoke to members of Bulldogs Into Going Green (BIGG) last Monday. She spoke on her organization’s mission to educate Carolinians on the responsible disposal of digital waste.

Kuehni also worked with BIGG to ponder ways for Wingate students to promote the safe distribution electronic devices.

Before diving directly into electronic waste management, Mrs. Kuehni broke the ice by discussing ways they already take initiative to educate others to treat their environment with greater respect and develop new habits of recycling, cutting down on energy usage, and other low-effort, green practices which eventually add up to a significant difference. Everyone managed to speak, and before long there were eco-warrior stories of inspiration ranging from sea turtle sympathies to influencing roommates or teammates.

What makes the SESC so important is that it spares the environment from the devastating effects of chemicals still trapped in damaged or aged electronics.  What the term “e-waste” refers to is anything containing wire, anything which plugs into an outlet, or battery supported items such as TVs, VCR, DVD players, stereos, appliances, copiers, etc.

The metals in these electronics such as aluminum, steel, iron and lead, which harm the environment, can easily be reused. Precious metals, such as copper and gold, can also be drawn from the inside of laptops, cell phones, and even automobile parts.

Currently, the number of cell phones coming into existence exceeds the human population by two million. When those are disposed of, the metals in the chips and intricate wirings inside them will either be collected and reused by facilities such as SESC or will end up releasing chemicals into a dump somewhere corroding precious, expensive metals.

Another factor of digital responsibility is erasing the data stored on these devices. Computers and communication technology have personal data stored on them, which, without proper removal, can be released or obtained by less than savory operations.

The SESC instructs universities, schools and other businesses requiring personal information from students and employees how to protect data stored on sim cards, and offers a way to safely destroy the data before disposing of the device. The hard drive shredding method used by the organization wipes data electronically and is Department of Defence certified.

If items cannot be either salvaged or repaired, it’s still important to recycle it because along with the aforementioned metals, lead and harmful chemicals can seep into the Earth.

The steps students realized they were making may have been impactful, but the students were still eager to learn more bringing them together in a conference with a representative of a local eco-system solutions institution. Now eager to learn more about this opportunity to once again spread green awareness, students were ready to learn more about the organization the speaker who caused them to reflect on their successes represented.

Edited By Andrew Elliott and Rachael Robinson

Veteran Shares Difficult Training Regimen For 31 Marathons

Photo by Gabriela Cabrera

Joanna King, Staff Writer

Rob Jones, an amputee veteran, ran his 29th marathon on Thursday, November 9, in his mission to complete 31 marathons in 31 days.  Residents of Charlotte showed up at 6 a.m. to show their support and run alongside him.

Jones plans to set an example for other veterans who have gone through similar trials.  Also, Jones hopes to have an impact on those who have not experienced such a life-altering event.

“Instead of seeing tragedy or hardship as something that is blocking your path or getting in your way, seeing it as an opportunity to get stronger…seeing it as something that can make you better,” said Jones.

Jones consistently ran and trained his body for 18 months prior to beginning the marathons, said Pam Jones, the wife of Rob Jones. During training, Jones ran two hours every Monday, Wednesday and Saturday.  On Friday he ran one and each Thursday, he ran a full marathon. Sunday was his only day off.

Jones’ wife said the physical fitness came quickly for him. She said he had always been a natural athlete.  The biggest concern was conditioning his joints in preparation for a month of marathons.

Rob Jones was completely self-coached.  Pam Jones commented on how determined he was and how his childhood led him to be a disciplined individual.  

Growing up, Rob Jones was an athlete and had coaches who pushed him to be the best he could be.  The military also forced Jones to be disciplined and ready for anything.  As a result, Jones knew what his body needed in order to complete this challenge.  

Jones took it upon himself to research and learn as much as he could about nutritional benefits. Pam Jones said he is always looking for a way to improve himself physically and mentally.  

“He is just one of those people that wants to be a better person every day, and that could be by making himself physically better or making himself mentally better,” said Pam Jones.  “He has been researching and reading books.  He is constantly trying to expand his knowledge about something.”

Jones’ diet was also a crucial part to excelling in his performance.  Jones’ wife pre-made all food before the trip to freeze while they were traveling.  This limited the cooking time and supplies they would have to carry with them.

“Rob eats the same food every single day so that he has the right breakdown of calories.  He has the exact same meal prepared the exact same way every single day.  Which for you and me, would seem very monotonous, but that is what he needs to do in order to get the right calories from the right place,” said Pam Jones.

Jones was held to a strict high-fat diet, which helped with reducing inflammation in his joints and abrasions on his legs.  

During the process of running every day, Rob Jones kept his heart rate below 150 beats per minute in order to reduce the tissue breakdown.  Jones set a personal record while running his 10th marathon in Chicago, Illinois.

Pam Jones said the recovery process is just as important as the preparation process. She made sure that all Jones had to do was focus on running, sleeping, eating and talking to any media who came through.  She focused on driving the RV, cooking the food, and keeping him up to date on who he would be talking to at each location.

Carol Miller, Jones’ mother and a professional massage therapist, also helped Jones by giving him hour-long massages twice a day to help with the soreness and performance.

Edited by Gabriela Cabrera and Mason Teague

Veteran Brings Hope and Awareness During 5K

 Gabriela Cabrera, Staff Writer

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Photo by Gabriela Cabrera 

An amputee veteran stopped in North Carolina to complete a marathon as part of his mission to bring awareness to disabled veterans and raise money for his cause.

Rob Jones is running 31 marathons in 31 days to raise money for veterans overcoming challenges. Jones arrived in Charlotte, N.C this past Thursday to complete one of his marathons at Freedom Park.

Jones said that he hopes his journey resonates with people, and that they see it as inspiration to make themselves better.

“Instead of seeing tragedy or hardship as something that’s blocking your path or getting in your way, see it as an opportunity to get stronger,” said Jones.

In 2010, Jones stepped on a mine in Afghanistan while alerting his patrol to IEDs. The resulting injuries inspired him to bring awareness to other veterans.

“I knew at this point that I’m alive and I’m going to have the best life possible,” Jones said during an interview on the “Jocko” podcast in September.

Since the traumatic event, Jones has overcome his injury to pursue a new mission: Raising money for veterans and bringing awareness to the community about veterans who struggle to rejoin society.

In his blog, Jones said he searched for challenges that he could use to become better. These challenges included competing in the 2012 Paralympics and biking 5,200 miles across the country.

“Over the course of the ride I raised $126,000 for the Coalition to Salute America’s Heroes, the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund, and Ride 2 Recovery, three charities which aid wounded veterans,” said Jones.

Supporters gathered around Rob Jones as he thanked them for coming out to Freedom Park.

Madeline Schildwachter, an employee for the Semper Fi Fund, a nonprofit that provides programs to assist wounded veterans, said she is inspired by Rob Jones and his mission.

“When you think about someone who does the Couch to 5K program that in itself is an incredible feat. To just start something new and complete it makes me in total awe of those people,” said Schildwachter. “Then you have Rob and I’m just like ‘you are out of this world.’”

Jones made it his mission to raise $1 million for charities that had helped him during his time in rehab.

Pamela Jones, the wife of the veteran, said Jones is an example of someone who has gone through something completely traumatic that could halt everyone in their tracks.

“Rob is always telling me ‘Thank God it happened to me and not someone who wasn’t able to cope with it,’” said Pamela.

She said Jones believes this happened to him for a reason and that he now has the power to change people’s perception and to be an example to other veterans.

Pamela said Jones has enjoyed running in every city so far since each is so different, but there are some cities that really stand out to them.

“Charlotte is definitely the biggest turnout which is amazing,” said Pamela. “In Boston, he finished the run and there were bagpipes at the finish.”

Pamela said in both San Francisco and San Diego there were some younger kids who were inspired by Rob and ran the marathon with him.

 However, in some cities they didn’t get the same reaction.

“In Memphis it was really quiet. We only had about five people come out,” said Pamela. “It was really horrible weather. In the last five miles of the run there was this torrential downpour.”

 Despite the smaller turnouts, Pamela said the whole month has been really amazing.

After finishing the race in Washington D.C. this past week, Jones’ message continues to touch those around the world.

Pamela said Rob is trying to be a beacon of hope for those who have gone through traumatic experiences.

Edited by Harrison Taylor and Dustin Kiggins

Wounded veteran runs 29th marathon in Charlotte

Katlyn Batts, Staff Writer

A former Marine who lost his legs in combat, Rob Jones, ran his 29th marathon out of 31 in Charlotte this past Thursday as a part of his Month of Marathons journey.

“Plenty of Americans want to help veterans and that’s one thing I want to prove doing this,” said Jones.

According to Pam Jones, Rob’s wife, Charlotte was the largest crowd they have had on their journey thus far. Veterans, Queens University track and field team, military supporters, all the way to a 7-week-old baby girl were at the race to support or run beside Rob.

“We are just really inspired by this story and coming up on Veterans Day we felt it was very important to support Jones and veterans,” 14 year-old runner Jake Honeycutt said. Honeycutt has never run a marathon, but planned to run the first loop with his father.

A lot of preparation went into this journey and Jones’ wife and mother both helped him every step of the way.

“I drive the RV and coordinate with the media now, but before we started I did meal-prep and planned the month ahead… all Rob has to focus on is running, eating, sleeping, and talking to the cameras,” said Pam.

Coordinating with the media is extremely important, according to Pam. Every time Rob is seen on television there is a massive boost in donations, and raising money for wounded veterans is one of his goals on this journey and in life.

“Currently he has raised about $120,000. He has set a goal to raise $1 million in his lifetime,” said Pam.

His mother also joined him on his journey as his personal massage therapist.

“It has been a real privilege… it is important not to be negative for him. I try and let him do his thing even if I am sitting back here nervous,” said Rob’s mother, Carol Miller.

Rob has been an athlete since he was discharged from the Marines. Just two years after he lost his legs, he won a bronze medal in rowing at the Paralympics in London. He competed in the World Rowing Championship the following year, where he placed fourth. Also in that year he biked 5,180 miles across the United States. Rob also completed the Nation’s Triathlon.

Everyday 22 veterans commit suicide. Rob wants to puts a positive spin on his circumstance and be a light to other wounded veterans.

He says, “Thank God it happened to me and not to someone who could not cope with it,” said Pam.

Rob knows he can be a beacon of light to other veterans and he does not take this opportunity lightly, but every day this forces him to get up and be excited, happy and joyful about life so he can inspire others.

“Instead of seeing tragedy or hardship as something that is blocking your path or getting in your way, seeing it as an opportunity to grow stronger, something that you can use to make yourself better,” said Rob.

His journey has received national attention and he has received letters from the Department of Veterans Affairs and state representatives of support for his journey. Some mayors have even come out to his events, although no state or city representatives attended in Charlotte. Rob and his wife hope to have many people and military leaders at the run on Veterans Day in Washington, D.C.

Rob and his wife are currently building a house in Loudoun County, Va., and plan to take a few months off, but according to his wife, Rob hopes to try out for the Invictus games in the future. They are taking donations on their website. 

 

Edited by: Cierra Smith and Ryan MacKintosh 

Students write letters to soldiers through Wingate’s Leo Club

Leah Joyner, Staff Writer

As the holiday season approaches, Wingate University students are gearing up to spread some holiday cheer through participating in a service project. Last Tuesday, students hand wrote letters to soldiers in the military as a part of the sponsored WU Leo Club event.

“Through hosting this event, we hope to spread the appreciation for our troops. Coming from a military family, I witness first hand the sacrifices they made to serve and protect our country. This represents Leo Club’s way of giving thanks,” said senior Kayla Jones.

Of the people who wrote letters in the W. T. Harris Dining Hall, several of them said they had family or friends in the military which made the event even more special and important to them.

“We got 38 letters and although that doesn’t seem like a lot, that represents 38 different individual soldiers or veterans who will be able to get handwritten letters for the holidays. I think any contribution we can make in our community matters, no matter how small.” said Gabrielle Slabaugh, WU Leo Club President.

The importance of volunteering our time and talents not only serves others, but gives volunteers a gift in return by knowing that they made a difference in someone else’s life. A simple handwritten encouraging  message can make anyone smile.

“I volunteered for this event to be more active in the Leo Club and to help spread happiness and holiday spirit to people who serve in the military,” said sophomore Leo Club member Kirsten Gade when asked why she volunteered to help with the service project.

For more ways to get involved with the Leo Club, all students are welcome to attend the next meeting held on Nov. 14 at 6:30 in Hayes 202 to share information about diabetes as it is one of the five service areas of the International Lions Club and World Diabetes Day.  A special guest speaker will speak about volunteer work at the local hospital.

On Nov. 28th at 6:30pm in Hayes 202, the Leo Club will host a holiday party to celebrate the semester’s successes. Both of these events provide a great opportunity for everyone to participate in Leo Club activities and serve the surrounding community.

Edited by: Brea Childs

Photo Credit: Leah Joyner

Pictured above: (Left to right) Gabrielle Slabaugh, President of Wingate’s Leo Club. Bailey Freeburn is the treasurer