April 26, 2023: Rich Shenone

On April 26th, our speaker was Rich Schenone from Georgetown Drug and Alcohol Abuse Commission. He had a very frank and personal conversation with the students here at TGS. He began his talk by sharing his own struggle with drug and alcohol use.

In college, Rich was an alcoholic. He had to go to AA and counseling, which helped him get past that difficult time in his life.  Rich had a good job as a middle school teacher in New Jersey for many years. Unfortunately, his struggle with addiction wasn’t over. Rich was in a car accident and broke his vertebrae. He was prescribed pain pills and became addicted after being on them for only three days.

Rich and his family moved down to Myrtle Beach from New Jersey soon after his accident because one of his children has rheumatoid arthritis, and they thought the warmer climate would help and he wanted a fresh start. However, things went downhill for him in South Carolina.

“You wanna know what’s cheaper than pills?” Rich said. “Heroin. So, I became hooked on heroin. I could get the same effect from pills for cheaper.” 

“I thought I’d move down here and do some fishing and crabbing, but instead I ended up homeless on the streets of Myrtle Beach,” Rich told us. After an arrest and a chance meeting with a former student, Rich was ashamed and finally had the motivation to get his life back together and go to rehab. After that, he became a Peer Recovery Counselor in Charleston. Rich would help doctors figure out which drug an overdose victim had taken, and help patients recover. From there, he moved back to the Myrtle Beach area and now works for Georgetown Drug and Alcohol Abuse Commission. Rich does many public speaking events.

Rich recently did a talk at the courthouse illustrating the difference between his life during his addiction and his life today.  He appeared in his former homeless clothes and shoes, left the stage, then returned dressed and cleaned up, highlighting the extreme change sobriety has brought to his life.

“The worst drug is the first drug you ever take,” he told us. We all would like to thank Rich for coming and sharing his story with us. 

By Emily

March 22, 2023: Grayson Sossamon

Grayson Sossamon was our speaker today. He holds the special place of being the first student ever to sign up for our school, having started as a seventh grader in 2013! Grayson is attending Coastal Carolina University and majoring in Exercise and Sports Science. He is currently looking at graduate schools and pursuing an eventual degree in Physical Therapy.

Grayson works with a research professor in his CCU department studying the use of Blood Flow Restriction in exercise. Their work together gave him the unique opportunity to present at a scientific conference in Greenville recently. He showed us the poster of their experimental study. “It’s the exact same as a science fair project,” he said. “So whatever Dr. Neubauer is teaching you is for real!”

Grayson explained that restricting blood flow to certain groups of muscles can intensify exercise without making it hard on the heart. “The body is kind of tricking itself,” he told us. BFR is used for people who have cardiovascular problems–patients with heart disease can lift less weight and still get all the benefits of weight-lifting without straining themselves. The trick is finding the sweet spot where gains are maximal and risk to the patient is minimal.

Grayson told us that BFR is already being used successfully in many PT gyms but that people should only use it under the guidance of a professional.

Grayson started out as a test subject for the BFR research and found it fascinating and helpful to his own fitness. He then jumped at the chance to work with a professor involved in the research who needed an assistant. He ended up deciding to become a physical therapist! Grayson will graduate this May. We are very proud of him and it was delightful to see him back on campus.

February 1, 2023: Hope McFaddin

“I’ve always loved the water and felt a real kinship with it,” said Hope McFaddin, our Open Forum speaker for February 1, 2023. Hope has been the head administrator for the SC Maritime Museum since 2018.

Hope told us that as a teenager, she felt depressed and decided to begin volunteering at the SCMM to get herself out and find some happiness. It worked, and she was eventually hired part-time, then full-time and now is very fulfilled by all the responsibilities of her job—writing grants, managing volunteers, running the many educational programs, helping create exhibits, and just keeping the building well-maintained.

The SCMM is an incredible asset to tourism in Georgetown. It is free and there are about 20,000 annual visitors from all over the US and many other countries. The umbrella organization for the SCMM is the Harbor Historical Society, which organizes the annual Wooden Boat Show and the summer Youth Sailing Program. Since 2017, they have had programs for youth every month upstairs and are hoping to start a hands-on learning area there. They are always looking to increase student traffic to the SCMM.

Hope told us that our involvement in the SCMM was “impactful and makes a huge difference,” and thanked us for it. The SCMM has made a huge difference for TGS as well, giving us amazing volunteer opportunities, sponsoring our sailing team, and always supporting our school events. One of our seniors, Kelsi, has been volunteering at the SCMM since 2020 and has learned a lot. Thank you for coming to talk to us, Hope!

By Quin

January 18, 2023: Kris Brame

Today, TGS said, “Bonjour!” to Kris Brame, Mme Gates’ former French student who also had Mrs. Patrick, Dr. Gates, and Dr. Neubauer as his high school teachers. Fluent in French and German, he now works as a translator today after starting his own company By The Word Translation. He talked to us about his love for learning languages and his international educational path.

Kris originally wanted to learn German, inspired by an Austrian exchange student his family hosted when he was in 8th grade. He told us “Everyone was always asking Fabian ‘How do you say that in German?’ and I learned the words.” He took French in high school, then decided to go on a German high school exchange program before graduating. While there, he began to perfect his German and French.

After earning the German equivalent of a high school diploma, Kris decided to stay in Europe to pursue translation studies at the university level in Mainz. He finished his B.S. at Kent State, then interned as a medical interpreter in Indianapolis.  COVID put an end to in-person medical interpretation and at that point, Kris took the big step of starting his own company.

By the Word Translation is Kris’s online enterprise. He is still a medical interpreter, but now mostly does subtitle translations for many clients, most notably Netflix and a French poker show. Unfortunately, Kris couldn’t give any spoilers for our favorite shows! He had some advice for students who wish seriously to master their foreign language: find a good friend who is a native speaker to talk to and use the internet to read and listen to the language you want to learn. Vielen Dank, Kris! 

By Emily

January 4, 2023: Steve Harms

On Wednesday, January 4, our guest was Steve Harms of Purr & Pour Cat Café (who also brought along a feline friend named Houdini). Originally from Boston, Steve graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and made his career in the chemical industry. After retiring, all of that changed. He laughed, “You can graduate from MIT and end up scooping poop.”

The Purr & Pour Cat Café on Front Street is home to about 15 cats at all times. Steve and his wife Patricia founded the business and have been operating it since 2019. Steve thanked us for our support of Purr & Pour (we keep their window decorated for the holidays) and explained why he and Patricia decided to open a cat café in the first place.

Purr & Pour supports St. Frances Animal Center and was inspired by a kitty (Mr. Biscuits) who spent two sad years in a shelter before Steve and Patricia adopted him. “Our mission is to get the cats adopted,” Steve said. The café works closely with St. Frances Animal Center to host cats in their cafe, where hopefully the cats will be adopted by customers. Purr & Pour has already placed over 300 cats! Surplus income is donated to St. Frances.

Besides placing cats in homes, the Cat Café is organizing a series of educational meetings about animal welfare issues in Georgetown.

The series begins this week: on January 11th and January 18th Purr & Pour will be holding an event from 4:30pm to 6:00pm. The event is called So You Want to be a Veterinerian. It will be presented by Dr. Katie Roe-Jarisch, DMV of Fidelis Animal Hospital. Dr. Katie will be presenting about her journey to be a vet and answering questions about what it takes to be a vet.

by Sage

November 16, 2022: Kim Parsons

The Georgetown School has been friends with the Family Justice Center for a long time. Every year before our annual Oyster Roast, Kingfishers help set up for Taste of Georgetown, the Family Justice Center s main fundraiser.  

Kim Parsons, executive director of the FJC, stopped by at Open Forum to tell us about how important the work they do is. FJC is a non-profit founded in 2006 that was created to address the alarming amount of domestic violence occurring in our area. Horry County is number one in the state for violence against women and Georgetown County has similar statistics. FJC has given victims of domestic violence in Georgetown a place to go where they know they can receive the help they need. 

Kim told us that FJC offers multiple services to help victims, such as counseling, court advocacy, and orders of protection. Despite the resources that organizations like this can provide, only about 20% of victims of abuse seek help, she said. It can be difficult to leave an abusive partner and to seek help, not only emotionally but also physically.

“Phones can be used to track people,” Kim told us. Tracking leaves victims at the mercy of their abuser, unable to seek help without their abuser knowing. We all need to realize how bad actors can use information from our phones.

“Red flags in relationships can be difficult to spot at first,” Kim also said. In the beginning, behavior that may seem doting or loving can quickly turn obsessive or harmful. She warned us against partners who call or text obsessively, engage in name-calling, dictate what to wear, refuse to allow contact with family and friends, make threats against you or themselves, or act violently.

At the end of her talk, Kim gave all of the students who had volunteered for Taste of Georgetown a t-shirt to thank them for their help.

By Isaac

November 9, 2022: Bill Oberst, Jr.

When Bill Oberst began to talk about his journey as an artist, Kingfishers sat up and listened. They were simultaneously surprised, delighted, and encouraged by a monologue that had all of Bill’s many talents on display. At the end, we all burst into warm applause because it was so theatrical, and it was all for us!

Bill is a Georgetown native turned L.A. actor. He actually attended Winyah High School in the same building TGS is in today (Mme Gates was in his classes).

“I was an awkward kid with acne,” Bill told us. “I was angry all the time.” He often felt insecure and that he didn’t belong at school or anywhere. One day, Bill, in a fit of teenage rage, went for a bike ride in the woods. He then stumbled upon a guy reading. The guy held up his book to show Bill. It was a Ray Bradbury novel. Bill then opened the book and the first page he opened made him fall in love with words, with the power of language. That’s why he began acting. He wanted to act out these words.

Bill told us that artists hold up a mirror to world to teach us what we are, what we look like. They help us make sense of the world and ourselves. When young people pursue visual arts, writing, or any other media, they often have one crazy moment that launches them on their path. He described it as a kind of falling in love. And like love, it’s crazy!

”To do this job, you have to be a little crazy”, Bill told us. Being a “little crazy” must work to your advantage, because Bill has a long list of about 200 TV and movie appearances, including a role in the hit TV series Criminal Minds and Scream Queens

Bill left us with this thought: “No art can be done with complete sanity.” Thank you so much for speaking to us today!

By Emily

October 5: Amy Rogers

On October 5, 2022, TGS students welcomed Ms. Amy Rogers to Open Forum. Ms. Amy can normally be seen helping at the front desk, but today she was front and center talking about her other job–the work she does on her farm.

Ms. Amy’s and Mr. Luke’s tractor followed by the combine.

Ms. Amy and her husband Luke own a 1350-acre farm in Williamsburg County where they grow cotton, corn, wheat, and soybeans. They take an ecologically sound approach to fertilizing the fields. Instead of using commercial fertilizer, they use chicken litter. Chicken litter contains more nutrients, organic matter, and microorganisms. They own two semi trucks that drive to North Carolina twice a day during the growing season to pick it up and bring it back. In addition to growing crops, she also has seven horses, three of which are still working show horses.

Ms. Amy is also working with her twin sister Mary Kay to create a grass-fed beef farm called Twinfields Farm. This farm will contain 10 to 30 cattle and will use high intensity rotational grazing. It will be woman-owned and woman-run.

Ms. Amy invited the school to come out to the farm for a field trip, which would be wonderful! “My favorite part is driving the big farm equipment,” she said. Maybe she will let us drive her combine….

By Emily

September 6, 2022: T. J. Ulrichsen

On Wednesday, September 7, TGS welcomed a familiar face to Open Forum: T. J. Ulrichsen. T. J. took the lectern to address us as the winner of last year’s Senior Speech Award. We were very glad to see him and welcomed him with spontaneous applause.

T. J. is attending Horry Georgetown Technical College as a business major and considering transferring to Coastal in a couple of years.  He believes his chosen major should give him plenty of options for good jobs when he graduates.

“I feel like this school prepared me,” T. J. said. “I would even say it over-prepared me.” He urged everyone, even the youngest Kingfishers, to develop good study habits and to take advantage of all the opportunities placed in from of them. The former TGS student shared some words of wisdom to our current scholars, “The teachers who seem mean or strict are just doing it out of concern for your future.” He also reminded us to keep our school community strong by having respect for each other and treating each other like family.

We wish T. J. all the best and thank him for sharing the path he has chosen with us.

By Emily

Senior Speeches 2022

The proud tradition of Senior Speeches at TGS was upheld on Wednesday, May 11 by Jack, Ethan, and T. J., our 2022 graduates. This was our concluding Open Forum for the year.

Getting ready for senior speeches begins in College Prep class with Dr. Simmons.  Seniors choose a topic to speak about, then deliver a speech to the audience of students, parents, and faculty. Finally, they take questions from the audience. The seniors are evaluated by the faculty and the person with the highest score wins the Senior Speech Award at Graduation.

After Dr. Gates welcomed everyone, especially the parents, he explained why TGS has senior speeches as a graduation requirement. “There are many issues about which reasonable people differ,” he said. “ An educated person should be able to defend a position and also be able to discuss the issue with others in a civil manner.”

Jack was up first and he defended hunting as a great outdoor sport, saying that licensing and fees that hunters pay support conservation efforts, and that certain animal populations (for example, deer) need to be humanely culled. Invasive or undesirable species (feral pigs) can also be eliminated through hunting.

Ethan was second.  He promoted the use of digital archives as a relatively inexpensive way to preserve documents from the past. Digitizing documents makes them both more accessible (easier to use) and accessible to more people.  Old maps, for example, can be enhanced by the computer to look like the day they were drawn.

T. J. was our third senior and he asserted that EVs are not yet ready to replace gas-powered cars.  T. J. took the case of Tesla as an example. Although electricity does not pollute the air in the way gas does, electricity must still be produced by traditional means. Furthermore, the batteries for EVs are huge, heavy, degradable, and difficulty to replace.

The TGS audience supported our 2022 graduates with warm applause and thoughtful questions. Jack, Ethan, and T. J. did a great job and were very glad to have cleared this final hurdle.