March 4, 2020: Rayekeisha Freeman

“The more I see, the more I know this is my calling,” Ms. Rayekeisha Freeman affirmed at Open Forum on March 4, 2020. Ms. Freeman came to speak to the TGS students about her work at the Department of Social Services, DSS. She attended Lowcountry Prep and was taught by some of our staff today. Ms. Freeman then transferred to Waccamaw High School and then graduated from Hampton University.

As a child she was molested, her father was on crack, and her mother was a single parent. She constantly wondered why she had to experience these horrible things but “trusted the process.” In her senior year at Hampton University her life began to go downhill. She partied more, fell in love, and became pregnant all in the same year. She was left at a crossroads and decided to change her whole life plan. At Hampton University she had majored in Biology, planning to become a doctor. After her own experiences, she decided to switch to social work. Once she left school she worked at a psychiatric hospital for adults and then moved back to South Carolina.

Ms. Freeman’s presentation was on all aspects on the DSS. She jokingly said that her job (Child Protective Services) was known as “baby snatching.” Ms. Freeman began with an ice breaker: she had students stand next to a line and, if the question she asked applied to them, then they were to cross it. She asked questions like “Are you male or female?” and “Do you know anyone with a drug addiction?” She also educated the students on Foster Care, out-of-home safety, and what makes a case. She talked on all case indications of physical abuse, neglect, sexual abuse, and contributing to delinquencies. She ended with a quote from the Bible, Jeremiah 29:11, which explained her saying “trust the process.”

She opened the floor to questions and was excited to see so many hands raised. One student asked her, “What was your hardest case?” She answered with a story about three girls (ages 7, 5, and 2) who had been molested. Another student asked if depictions of child abuse in media are often realistic. She explained that it depends on the movie or show, but usually the abuse is realistic while the ease with which parents get back their kids is not. She feels that she has to be an advocate for these children and look out for them. Thanks to Ms. Rayekeisha Freeman for speaking at Open Forum. The students learned a lot and were thoroughly engaged.

By Margaret

February 19, 2020: Dedric Bonds

Mr. Dedric Bonds, one of our own beloved teachers, came to speak to us about a part of South Carolina’s history.  He is currently publishing a book on the subject, and was delighted by the chance to share it with us. The subject in question is the life of Joseph H. Rainey, a Georgetown local who made history when he was elected to the Senate.

Mr Rainey was born to former slaves.  His father was a barber, and Rainey learned the trade from him.  Little is known about his early life, but in the 1850s he travelled to Philadelphia, where he met his future wife Susan.  The two of them returned to South Carolina, where Rainey continued his work as a barber. However, during the Civil War he was recruited to serve the Confederate Army.  As soon as they got the chance, he and his family escaped the war on a boat bound for Bermuda, where they would live for many years.

After the war was over, Rainey and his family returned to South Carolina.  He began to get involved in politics, representing the Republican party first at local levels and then for the state.  In 1870, he became the first African-American ever elected to the United States Senate. While serving as Senator, he supported many influential bills, such as the Anti-KKK Act.  Eventually he returned to Georgetown, where he died and was buried in the “Baptist Cemetery.” To this day, his grave has not been found. Although his name has been largely forgotten, Joseph H. Rainey made history and should always be remembered for his accomplishments. Thank you, Mr Bonds, for enlightening us on this fascinating period of history.

By Ryleigh

February 26, 2020: Tom Carter

Today, we Kingfishers had four special visitors at Open Forum. Tom Carter, founder of the nonprofit All4Paws, spoke to us, accompanied by his director of volunteering Allison, volunteer Ms. Sandy Martin, and a nine-week old-puppy named Astrid. Mr. Carter explained that the mission of All4Paws is to rescue cats and dogs from being euthanized and find them a home. All4Paws is a no kill shelter that was founded seven and a half years ago and is located in Murrells Inlet.  It takes in unwanted dogs and cats to spay and neuter them and give them forever homes. Mr. Carter said that having dogs and cats spayed and neutered is a good idea because there are not enough homes for all the kittens and puppies that are born each year. Mr. Carter mentioned the six values at the core of All4Paws: compassion, excellence, responsibility, respect, learning, and customer. 

“Compassion is sympathy in action,” Mr. Carter said, pointing out that merely feeling sorry for animals does them no good. He said that excellence “is to do the right thing the right way.” The 28 full time staff and hundreds of volunteers at All4Paws must take their responsibility seriously. Animals need respect, but so do people. In school, Mr. Carter didn’t learn about animals, but over time he “learned to learn,” and has helped almost 15,000 animals. His final hope is for the customers of All4Paws—he hopes someone will invent a kit so that people can spay or neuter animals without having to bring them to a clinic. 

Then Mr. Carter turned the talk over to Allison, his director of volunteers. She explained how the volunteering process works (on their website), and when they need volunteers. One of the opportunities Allison shared with us was called Tales for Tails. This is a program where people can come to help socialize the animals by reading to them. Volunteers do valuable work, she said, because socializing the animals helps the animals stay healthier, happier, and get adopted faster. Allison gave us jars to collect money for All4Paws.  At the end of their talk, students got to form a line to pet Astrid, a shepherd-mix puppy as she lay sleeping in Ms. Sandy’s arms. Thank you, Mr. Carter, Allison, Ms. Sandy, and Astrid for your visit. 

By Rebecca

February 12: Bill Duncan

Bill Duncan opened his speech today by telling us about Benjamin Franklin.  “He signed the Declaration of Independence.” He told students. “His face is on the $100 bill.”  However, that wasn’t all he did. Mr Duncan explained that Franklin was an inventor, and a very successful one at that.  He created his first prototype at age 11, and continued inventing throughout his life. “He was something I like to call a ‘lifelong learner,’” Mr Duncan explained.  Franklin was especially good at taking other people’s inventions and figuring out how to make them better.

“Franklin never tried to monetize his inventions.”  Mr Duncan told us. “That’s incredibly magnanimous, but I went a different way.”  After serving as a lawyer for 31 years, Mr Duncan discovered his passion for inventing.  Right now, he holds more than 30 patents. He showed us one of his inventions, the Instant Wall Planter.  It is a picture frame designed to hold plants rather than photographs. Although the idea has been around for a long time, Dr Duncan came up with a way to make the process almost instantaneous, whereas before it had taken 12 weeks to root the plants.  He told students that he wants to “make stuff that will make the world a better place.”

By Ryleigh

January 30, 2020: Dr. Tripthi Pillai

Dr. Tripthi Pillai was our featured speaker for the 6th annual Georgetown Shakespeare Festival on January 30, after the matinee performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream by the American Shakespeare Center, which she attended with several of her students from CCU.  She spoke on audience engagement with Shakespeare and involved our students, faculty, and some of the ASC actors in a consideration of how gender, class, and humor work in this play.

“The play doesn’t start with love,” she pointed out.  “The dad wants his daughter dead.” In Shakespeare’s time, women were valued while they could produce offspring and a father could force his daughter into an arranged marriage (Hermia/Demetrious) or women could be captured in war and forced to marry (Hippolyta/Theseus). By the end of this play, though, even some men were “forced” into marriage by magic or witchcraft. 

The play features three “classes”: the noble Athenians, the Faeries, and the Rude Mechanicals.  Dr. Pillai told us that in Shakespeare’s time, fairies were not cute—they were “monstrous and destructive.” Since they could not have children, they stole children from people (the Boy is neither Oberon’s nor Titania’s child). The Mechanicals are lower-class laborers, whom Shakespeare identifies strongly with poets, playwrights, and artists.  Bottom and his band put on a terrible performance of Pyramis and Thisbe, which still somehow emotionally moves Titania and the others. Bottom’s “profound speech” when he wakes up from his “dream” of being a king makes us identify with poets and poor people, with anyone whose dream has been snatched away.  We laugh at Bottom, but at the same time we feel his loss.

“Laughter is not the same as joy,” said Dr. Pillai. “Laughter has a cruel side.” But humor in A Midsummer Night’s Dream is always tempered by audience engagement.  When characters are silenced, whether it be through laughter or violence, Shakespeare always gives their voice to another and we hear it again.  Dr. Pillai got the students to talk about which characters had engaged them emotionally and students came up with a variety of characters and reasons.  Fletcher liked the Duke of Athens. “He makes a bad thing seem chill,” he said.

“It is an honor to see all of you relating to Shakespeare,” Dr. Pillai told us.  She complimented our students on their understanding and mastery of the play and encouraged us to keep working. “You all are vibrant with imagination—you should definitely embrace it.  Make it big!” she concluded.

January 22, 2020: Hannah Grippo

Today we welcomed Hannah Grippo, our 5th and 6th grade teacher, to Open Forum. Miss Grippo shared her experiences teaching English in South Korea from 2015-2017. Miss Grippo has a long-time interest in South Korea. “My family is made up of first generation immigrants from South Korea.” She said. She also minored in Asian Studies at CCU.

Miss Grippo found that life and education are very different than in the US. All of the food was spicy, except for the chips, which were oddly sweet. She would sometimes have to wear goggles and a mask because of pollution from China. She was functionally illiterate because she could not read or write Korean. The education system was perhaps the most different of all.

Miss Grippo’s ESL students ranged in age from 4-14. They attended school year-round with up to 12-hour school days. She was filmed as she taught every day because Korean parents are very included in their children’s education. She taught in English with no Korean translator and had to come up with ways to communicate with the children. For example, some of her students were very interested in dinosaurs, so she brought dinosaur toys to class and used them to engage the students. A lot of the children were looking forward to being parents, so she brought in baby dolls and taught them how to hold babies.

Although she spent a lot of her time teaching the students, Miss Grippo also found other ways to engage in Korean life. She learned how to make Kimchi, a traditional Korean food made from spicy cabbage. She learned all about King Sejong, who invented the language of Korean, and how to honor the living and the dead on Chuseok. On weekends, Miss Grippo volunteered to help teach North Korean refugees. “How do you build trust across cultures?” she asked the students. “I know it sounds mushy, but the answer is love.”

January 8, 2020: Dr. Gary Gates

Our own Dr, Gates spoke at Open Forum this week about the purpose of homework.  “Just between you and me,” he said, “I want you to realize why we teachers assign homework.” 

He began by telling us what homework is not: it is not a punishment, it is not a way to use up time, it is not even ultimately a way of getting permanent knowledge into your head.  “You read and take notes on math concepts you may never use again as an adult,” he said. “But learning specific information is not the final goal of homework.” 

Dr. Gates explained that the work teachers assign is intended to help students learn how to learn and learn how to pay attention for longer periods of time.  “These are the skills that will help you later in life,” he said.  Dr. Gates has analyzed his students’ scores on standardized testing over the past 20 years and the data shows an extremely strong correlation between students who do their work and those who improve their scores the most on standardized testing.  Moral of the story?  Doing your homework is good for you—now and for the rest of your life.

12/11 Dr. Till J. J. Hanebuth

Dr Till J. J. Hanebuth works in the Geosystems Research Lab at Coastal Carolina University. He came to speak with our school about his research into coastal management. “We want to control our coastline,” he told the students. “What we build is stationary, while the coastlines change.” In an attempt to preserve our coastlines, there have been several beach nourishment projects. These involve scooping sand from the bottom of the ocean and transporting it to the beach to replace sand that has been washed away. However, this is not always the best solution. Apart from being very expensive, it can be very damaging to the ocean environment, and it is getting harder and harder to find areas with the right kind of sand. Beach nourishment is also not permanent, so it must be repeated again and again.

Dr Hanebuth’s most recent project revolves around Georgetown Harbor. In 1950, developers decided to create a “shortcut” into the harbor, cutting through the land to create what is now Goat Island. This made the harbor more accessible to boats, which was a great boost for the local economy. However, this shortcut changed the water currents in the bay, and over time the bottom of the harbor filled up with silt. It became so shallow that many ships could no longer enter the harbor. To fix this, the city has been forced to dredge the harbor repeatedly to allow ships to enter. Dredging is incredibly expensive and does not work as a long-term solution. Dr. Hanebuth’s job is to research the currents in the harbor and come up with a way to counteract this problem.

Dr. Hanebuth created a computer program that would simulate the tides and the currents in the harbor so that he could test potential solutions. The obvious solution would be to close off the shortcut, but Dr. Hanebuth’s research shows that this could have disastrous effects. With nowhere else for the water to go, it would flow through the harbor too quickly and wash away boats and docks, as well as potentially causing flooding. Another idea was to place two giant underwater “hairdryers” at the entrance to the harbor to direct water flow and wash away the silt. Right now, the most promising solution appears to be blocking off part of the shortcut, creating an increased flow in the harbor without the full force that would come from completely closing it.

“I am used to working with scientists,” Dr. Hanebuth told us. “But now I am working with city managers.” It remains to be seen how Georgetown will resolve the problem of its lost harbor, but Dr. Hanebuth’s research and computer models provide much-needed information to help Georgetown make a sensible plan of action.

12/04 Dr. Andrea Bergstrom

Dr Andrea Bergstrom, a professor at Coastal Carolina University, came to speak to our school about social media.  She got her PhD in communications at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst in 2011.  Since then, she has been a researcher at CCU studying media and its effect on human behavior.  In the world of the internet, she warned students, there are three key points to remember: safety, privacy, and thinking critically.

Internet safety is more than just not meeting with strangers.  You should never give anyone your username or password, even if they’re your friend, because you never know what they could do with it.  “If somebody sends a mean message from your account, you can get in trouble for it.”  She warned students, sharing with them the story of a college student who was expelled after a friend used his account for nefarious purposes.  She also said that giving away any information about yourself- whether it’s your full name, your address, or even just a blurry picture- can lead to people tracking you down.  Even if you think you’re being careful, small clues can add up until someone knows exactly who you are and where you live.

Once you post something online, it never goes away.  “You don’t control your information anymore.” Dr Bergstrom explained.  “Even if you delete it, you never know who’s taken a screenshot.”  She warned students that their future depends on what they post online; from college admissions boards to potential employers, everyone has the power to do a background check.  As a general rule, she advised that “if you wouldn’t want your parents to see it, you shouldn’t post it.”

“Have you ever looked something up or liked a post, and then the next day you see an ad for that exact same thing?”  She asked the students, and almost everyone nodded.  “You’re like, ‘whoah, it’s magic!’  Nope, it’s capitalism.”  She explained how websites, such as Facebook and Instagram, can share your search history with potential advertisers.  If you buy something that’s been advertised to you, such as from a sponsored post, you never know who is benefiting from your money.  Despite her warnings, Dr Bergstrom acknowledged that the internet can be a very useful tool- so long as you’re careful.

By Ryleigh

11/20: Dr. Stephanie Southworh

“Good and positive always outweigh the bad,” said Dr. Stephanie Southworth to our students on November 20th. Dr. Southworth, a Coastal Carolina University sociology professor, came to speak to us on her new program to help the homeless in Myrtle Beach get transportation to jobs and affordable housing.

Dr. Southworth grew up in a middle-class family in California.  While raising her own family and getting her master’s and PhD in social behaviors, she never knew the true need of homeless people. It was not until Dr. Southworth moved to SC and did an experiment with her students that she truly understood. She had her students ask homeless people what they needed the most.  Most people told them that they really needed transportation and mental health care. This sparked an idea for Dr. Southworth. She started a program at a men’s homeless shelter allowing residents to use bikes for transportation.

Dr. Southworth explained, “These bikes are just like library books. You can rent them out then bring them back for others to enjoy.” This project is in its second year of operation and is doing extremely well, helping the homeless as well as her students volunteers, the faculty, and shelter workers. One student asked her how they can trust the homeless people to bring the bikes back.  Dr. Southworth’s answered, “We can’t! We just have to trust and the more experience that we have with them the more trust is built.” One experience that Dr. Southworth highlighted was a former homeless shelter resident who came up to her and said “Bike 49 saved my life. When I got frustrated or mad, I could use the bike to get away from here.”

We truly thank Dr. Stephanie Southworth for taking the time to educate our students on the importance of helping your community and doing something to benefit others. 

By Margaret