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11/13 – Judy Sweitzer

“We all have a gift to give,” said Mrs. Judy Sweitzer, who came to tell us about her recent mission trip to Guatemala.  Mrs. Sweitzer’s gift was spending two weeks helping with medical and dental problems in the small village of Zapato, an annual visit sponsored by her church, Pawleys Island Christian.

Mrs. Sweitzer told us that life in Guatemala is hard.  The country has seen explosive population growth—400% in the past fifty years.  About half of Guatemalans don’t have clean water and 57% live below the poverty line on $2 a day.  One in fifteen children dies before age five; children who survive most likely will not attend school, with the result that 60% of Guatemalans cannot read.

Mrs. Sweitzer and her team spend most of their time dealing with a stream of villagers who do not have access to dental care.  The dentists administered local anesthesia and pulled teeth; Mrs. Sweitzer sterilized instruments, applied fluoride to children’s teeth, and passed out toothbrushes, “Can you imagine if you had an infected tooth and the dentist was only around once in the fall?” she asked us.

The dental team had time to enjoy Guatemala’s rich culture and landscape.  Mrs. Sweitzer explained that Zapato is close to an active volcano called Fuego, which rumbled, sent up smoke, and even gushed some lava while they were there.  “It was pretty amazing,” she said.  Mrs. Sweitzer encouraged us to give of ourselves to help others.  “You will be more enriched by the experience than the people you give to,” she promised.

By Fisher

10/23/19 – Patricia Devine-Harms

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Patricia Devine-Harms, owner and operator of the Purr & Pour Cat Café on Front Street, was our guest speaker on October 23. Patricia moved to Georgetown from New Jersey several years ago with her husband Steve, but did not leave behind the commitment to advocacy which has always been her passion. In N. J., she helped victims of domestic violence, troubled teens, and fought against human trafficking.  Once she got settled in Georgetown, she decided to help St. Frances Animal Shelter by opening the Purr & Pour Cat Café.

Cat cafés redefine the whole cat adoption process and make it a pleasant experience.  Patrons can interact with the kitties in a clean and quiet setting; there are no cages and no pressure.  Patricia did not enter into this business lightly.  She visited many cat cafés, contacted their owners for information, and studied their websites. Inspired, she chose Front Street as the perfect place to open her very own Cat Café.  Kingfishers were interested to learn that the Purr & Pour is not a non-profit.  Patricia did not want to compete in any way with St. Frances—all adoption fees go right back to the charity.  To date, the Purr & Pour has placed 24 cats into loving homes since opening in June.  “We measure success by adoptions,” she said.  “It’s not about making a profit, but making a difference.”  Cat cafés around the U.S. have created opportunities for over 16,000 cat adoptions in the last five years!

Patricia emphasized that cooperation and collaboration are key components in creating a successful business. She is cooperating with Indigo Bakery, and Coffee Break Café to supply sandwiches and coffee to the customers. She is supported by people in the community.  And cat cafés are a beautiful collaboration between people and animals: they not only provide a safe space for people to relax and relieve stress, but they also create a safe haven for cats to live and be introduced to people.

By T. J.

Open Forum 2014-2015

May 13, 2015: Sara Cyr and Sarah Exum

Our two seniors of 2015 gave their senior speeches at Open Forum  to an audience composed of students, faculty and parents. Sara Cyr spoke on the need for the U.S. military to protect American satellites in space while Sarah Exum addressed the negative impact of people’s addiction to technology and social media. Both students fielded questions from Dr. Gates and the audience with grace and poise. Faculty evaluated the speeches and one senior will receive the Senior Speech Award at our Awards Ceremony (May 29 at 10:30 in the Es’Dorn Room). This winner will be invited to give the first Open Forum of the 2015-2016 school year. Congratulations on a job well done, seniors!

May 13, 2015: Patti Burns

Ms. Patti Burns, Head of Adult Services at the Georgetown County Library, spoke to us at our final Open Forum of 2014-2015 on a passion she has had since growing up in Conway: cemeteries.  “I learned math and handwriting from looking at graves as a little girl,” she told us, “I have always been fascinated by history.”  Patti went on to major in politics at CCU, then did her master’s in library science at USC, but she never gave up the idea of working with graveyards.

Now she has taken on a large-scale project and she wants the help of TGS students with it this summer and beyond—she wants to create a digital catalog of all the graves in Georgetown County, starting with Prince George Cemetery.  She will introduce students to some of the techniques used to find unmarked graves this coming Thursday, May 21, when the whole school will visit the preschool playground at Prince George to see if there is anyone buried there.  Technicians William Martin and Mary Katherine Heimer of Horry County will be bringing their Ground-Penetrating Radar for a demonstration and Patti fully expects to find evidence that there are graves in the playground area.

Patti explained to us that the block next to our school used to be the Potter’s Field of Georgetown, used to bury indigents, people who did not have a church and unidentified bodies, such as that of a man who jumped from a train and didn’t make it and a corpse that was fished from the Sampit River.  She has used historical documents such as death certificates and newspaper articles to establish that at least 100 people are buried in Potter’s Field.

“Graveyards are really an outside museum in stone,” Patti concluded. We look forward to our trip to Prince George Cemetery next week and to being of assistance to Patti this summer as she surveys its graves this summer.  All Kingfishers are invited to help her, but especially rising 8th graders who will be studying S.C. History next year.

April 22, 2015: Julie Warren

Julie Warren, Digital Librarian for the Georgetown County Library, was our Open Forum speaker today. Julie got her BA in history from Lee University (TN) and earned her masters in museum studies from Newcastle University (England). She then worked as a intern at Monticello and in Colonial Williamsburg. Besides being a docent, one of her duties at Monticello was dusting.  She told us, “To handle the same objects that Thomas Jefferson handled was a powerful experience!” Since 2007 she has worked at our library creating and managing a vast digital archive of Georgetown County history.

There are some 40,000 items at www.gcdigital.org, including 19th and 20th century photographs, newspapers, postcards, real-estate transactions, and sketchbooks. When we visited this website, we found a scan of a 1735 release of indenture granted to a certain William Brockington! Website visitors can also watch oral histories on the site: video interviews of older people recalling their experiences in the Great Depression and World War II, for example. Julie encouraged us to talk to the elderly people in our lives to discover their stories before they are gone. “History doesn’t have to be scary or boring,” Julie assured us, “Enjoy it!”

April 15, 2015: Suzanne Abed-El-Latif

Today’s Open Forum speaker, Suzanne Abed-El-Latif, is not only in charge of Human Resources for the City of Georgetown, but is also a former student of several of our teachers here at TGS. “I ‘m not sure if I preferred Dr. Gates as my soccer coach or my calculus teacher!” she joked.  After high school, Suzanne went on to get a BA in psychology and a minor in business administration from USC. She then worked at Mercom for four years before becoming the Human Resources manager for the City of Georgetown almost one year ago.

Suzanne talked today about what a Human Resources manager actually does (recruiting, payroll, benefits, risk management, training and much more).  She defined Human Resources as “the psychology of the business world”–in other words, keeping her 175 City employees happy and healthy so they can be the most productive.  Suzanne stressed that people in her position must have integrity and be completely fair because they must enforce policy and mediate when there are problems with workers.  Despite the heavy load of paperwork, she is very enthusiastic about her job and encouraged students to consider a career in public service:  “The best part about my position is getting to know all of the city workers on a personal level.  I know all of their names,” she concluded.   We are lucky to have such a dedicated and competent Human Resources person in Georgetown!

April 1, 2015: Dr. Jennifer Adair

The Shakespeare Festival continued with today’s Open Forum speaker, Dr. Jennifer Adair of The Citadel. She talked to us about the theatrical and social background of “Much Ado About Nothing.” She shared with us that the theater in Shakespeare’s day was popular culture, more like going to a movie than an highbrow cultural experience.

Dr. Adair pointed out that “Much Ado About Nothing” contains elements of both comedy and tragedy. It does end in a double wedding, but there is a “death,” and crime is not punished nor is virtue really rewarded. She questioned whether the two marriages that end the play could truly be called happy. In fact, Dr. Adair did not agree with Kenneth Branagh’s 1993 film version of the play, saying that it pushes the happy ending too hard. We are all waiting to see how the American Shakespeare Center will interpret Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing” tomorrow night in the Winyah Auditorium!

March 25, 2015: Dr. Catherine Thomas

Our inaugural Shakespeare Festival kicked off today with Dr. Catherine Thomas, a Renaissance Scholar from the College of Charleston. She spoke with us about Shakespeare adaptations and what they mean in terms of our relationship to original Shakespeare works. She did a great job connecting with our younger audience, using four examples from pop culture: Love Story, a song by Taylor Swift, Letters to Juliet, a romantic comedy, Gnomeo and Juliet, an animated feature , and Kill Shakespeare, a graphic novel. Dr. Thomas raised the interesting question of whether or not adaptations of Shakespeare were criticizing or praising him, and concluded that overall imitation is the highest form of praise.

March 11, 2015: Captain Parker Lumpkin

Today was a special day for Open Forum–we had two distinguished speakers instead of just one.  Our first speaker was Captain Parker Lumpkin, who retired from the U.S. Navy after 26 years of service and is now working as a marine biologist in the area of climate change for Fathom 4.  He shared some interesting graphics illustrating global temperature rise and other weather data from the last fifty years.  One set of slides showed how “old ice” in the Arctic is melting but being replaced by “new ice.””The earth is definitely warming but whether this is caused by greenhouse gases is still unknown,” he explained to students.  Capt. Lumpkin urged us to keep politics out of science by focusing on the scientific data alone for knowledge about climate change.

March 11, 2015: Tom Keegan

  Our second Open Forum speaker today was the Honorable Tom Keegan, former South Carolina representative to the House of Representatives and current field representative for current representative Tom Rice.  He gave a compelling speech about the “Secrets of Success.” Mr. Keegan had a long and successful background before his political career: he joined the Marine Corps at age 16, and later entered into his home town’s police force. During his time in the police force he rose from a traffic controller all the way up to the captain of the detective division. After deciding to move down to South Carolina, Mr. Keegan chose the path of politics, becoming the South Carolina Rep. Once he told us a little about his personal background, Mr. Keegan gave us his six “Secrets of Success,” starting by saying “you can do things that you think you can’t do.” Five of the “secrets”, Mr. Keegan told us, he got from Lieutenant Colonel: commitment, personal pride, faith, discipline, and goals. He added one himself, explaining that it was also very helpful to have a sense of humor going through life.

(by Top Lee)

March 4, 2015: Bruce Gates

Today’s Open Forum Speaker was a very special guest: Bruce Gates, Dr. Gates’ brother. Mr. Gates came to talk to the students about his main passion in life: politics. He works as the Executive Vice President for Altria not far from his home in Alexandria, Virginia; we were very fortunate that he was in town. Mr. Gates’ interest in politics began when he volunteered to help with a campaign as a high schooler, and has since continued in the form of lobbying and staffing a senator. He encouraged all of the students, whether or not they were interested in politics specifically, to find ways of experiencing what they are interested in.

February 11, 2015: Alma White

Today’s Open Forum took us off campus down to the Courthouse, where we met Ms. Alma White, our Clerk of Court.  She took us upstairs to one of the six courtrooms, sitting us down and telling us about the judicial system, both on the national and local levels. Alma White is the clerk of court for the entire circuit system in Georgetown and Horry Counties. Explaining her job, she said “I may say I during my talk, but I really do rely on my staff to organize the circuit system.” After giving us an overview of the circuit judge system and the local court system, she brought in the active judge, The Honorable Steve John, judge of the 15th circuit of South Carolina, who spoke to us about the circuit judge system and jury duty. Judge John answered a couple of questions, then he headed back to the courtroom and we headed back to the school to start the day.

(by Top Lee)

January 28, 2015: Steve Kotwa

  Steve Kotwa is a master of taekwondo and many other types of martial arts.  He has a studio in Georgetown where several members of our TGS community have studied in the past or are studying now.  Besides martial arts, Master Kotwa also teaches self-defense, capoeira and tai chi.  After explaining his work to the students, Master Kotwa got all of cthem up out their seats in the Auditorium for quick Kapoeira lesson.  Luckily, there was plenty of room for people to throw punches and land kicks in front of the stage.  It was a great short work-out and we headed to class wide-awake and ready to learn!

January 14, 2015: Ani Jayakaran

Ani Jayakaran, a researcher at Clemson’s Baruch Institute, came to the school today to talk to the students about the importance of water. He was born in a small town in South India, and moved to East Africa when he was four, later moving on to West Africa when he was eight. Mr Jayakaran was introduced to water research when he helped his father look for groundwater in towns that didn’t have a good source of fresh water. The areas he has lived in really exposed him to the problems that a lack of water, or bad water, can cause. Today he works as a researcher at Hobcaw, trying to figure out how to solve the many problems that come with humans messing with the balance of nature, including: man-made water trenches causing erosion problems, concrete interfering with the water table, and the reintroduction of water sheds.

January 12, 2015: Bill Oberst

    Bill Oberst, actor extraordinaire, spoke about his career at a special Open Forum on Monday, January 12th. Oberst started out doing theater, acting, and stage work in high school, later moving to roles in TV shows and movies. Oberst is originally from Georgetown, and even went to school in our building, graduating with our very own Madame Gates. He discovered at a young age he was very good at impressions and entertaining his fellow classmates. “You make them laugh, you don’t get hit,” he chuckled. Oberst has appeared in over 100 movies and shows in the last five years, including Criminal MindsSherman’s MarchThe Shunning, and The Retrieval. His favorite characters to play are the deformed, wounded, outcast ones.  He enjoys exploring the depths of such characters, using his art to reveal how a typical “villain” can be cast in a different, more nuanced light. Oberst advised the students, “Choose a career that you love, because then you’re never really going to work.”

December 10, 2014: Dr. Ai Ning Loh

Organic geochemist Dr. Ai Ning Loh is an associate professor of chemistry at U.N.C.-Wilmington. After attending U.S.C., she got her master’s and doctorate degrees in Marine Biology from the College of William and Mary. “I always wanted to be a scientist,” she told students and explained how a high school internship with an inspiring mentor in Malaysia turned her towards her eventual career.

Dr. Loh’s research centers on investigating carbon dioxide in the ocean, including its effect on the climate. Besides teaching 200 or more students per semester, she divides her time between work in the field and the lab. In her opinion, the skills of a good oceanographer / marine biologist include: math, writing, critical thinking, creativity, getting along with people and a sense of adventure. She seeks to instill these in her students at U.N.C. Dr. Loh’s enthusiasm for her career made this a fun Open Forum–she even volunteered to stay and work with the Environmental Science students and help out with Science Fair afterwards! Thank you, Dr. Loh!

November 19, 2014: Adrian Sims Truluck

“My professor told me the difference between an interior designer and a decorator is that a decorator paints a wall red because she thinks it’s pretty but an interior designer paints it red because she put that wall there,” said Adrian Truluck, co-founder of Parker-Sims Interiors. Adrian graduated from Converse College with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Interior Design and a minor in Art History.  Her work has been featured in numerous publications and has received several honors.

Adrian was very positive about her education at Converse College where she studied art history, design, technology (computer-aided design), commercial design, lighting, and color theory. She felt comfortable in the small, all-girl classes. As part of her major, she spent many sleepless nights building 3-D models before exams.

Today, Adrian primarily does residential design but also commercial and event design.  Her favorite project was for a client who didn’t set a budget. She showed us beautiful images of her work and her events, including “Posh Peacock,” a wedding in Lake City. When asked how long it takes her to plan a wedding, she told us, “It all depends, but the shorter the better, because brides tends to get anxious.”

Adrian advised TGS students to take advantage of internship opportunities in their field of interest as soon as possible, because nothing replaces hands-on experience. “I wish I done an internship in high school,” she concluded. TGS juniors and seniors, this is something you should be thinking about!

November 12, 2014: Don Corinna

In honor of Veterans’ Day, U.S. Marine (retired) Don Corinna spoke to us about his experiences in the military in the earliest days of the Vietnam War.  He described the Marines as “the tip of the spear in all military actions.” With his mother’s permission (but not his father’s!), Don enlisted with his friends at age 17, serving as a radio operator in an artillery unit 2-3 miles from the front. After five years of service, he left the military, got his degree from Queen’s College (CUNY) and spent the next 45 years constructing airports all over the world.

Today, Don is the Georgetown County coordinator for Toys for Tots, an outreach of the Marine Reserves that brings hope to underprivileged children by providing them with Christmas toys. “The best part is when you see their faces,” he told us. Toys for Tots partners with the Salvation Army to give needy families food and clothing as well. We now have a box to fill for Toys for Tots at the bottom of the stairway–please consider bringing in a new, unwrapped toy for a special kid by December 1. Thank you, Don, for your continuing service to our community and our nation.

November 5, 2014: Jonathan Green

“You have to be able to draw before you can paint,” nationally-known artist Jonathan Green told an audience of students and parents, “You have to put in the work. I am in my studio 12-15 hours a day.” Jonathan’s talk tied together his own personal history and education, his appreciation for the Low Country of South Carolina–particularly its rice culture–and the importance of family and local tradition.

Jonathan’s art interprets the culture of our area, which he knows firsthand. He was born in rural South Carolina near Beaufort and raised by his parents and grand-parents, who taught him who he is: “Grand-parents were the most important—they had the most knowledge. So many youth today don’t understand where they come from.  You need to know the contributions of your ancestors in order to know what to talk about and what to do.”

“Being able to draw is magical,” Jonathan also told students as he evoked the Lascaux cave paintings and the shamans who created them in order to preserve and pass on the culture’s ceremonial practices. He emphasized that every aspect of our lives is continuously influenced by the arts: “For years, the art of churches taught people more about the Bible than reading. Drawing is part of our DNA.”

Jonathan sees the celebration of rice as a way to set aside the differences and conflicts of our area’s past, “Rice is a wonderful opportunity for us to talk about so much more than slavery, oppression, the Confederacy.  We are living in what used to be the richest, most cultured area of the United States.”  Jonathan pointed out that all this culture was based on rice and that today, rice can provide common ground for educational, culinary, artistic, economic and historical discussion.

This is why Jonathan is working on bringing his Rice Symposium to Georgetown next year. The Georgetown School is partnering with several local entities including the Rice Museum and the Georgetown Library to help him produce the event. Students can look forward to working more closely with this artist and helping him with his vision.

October 29, 2014: Judy Sweitzer

We knew Mrs. Sweitzer was amazing, but we didn’t know just how amazing until she told us about her missionary trip to a remote village called Zapote in Guatemala! For the past eight years, she has been making this annual trip with a team of dentists and doctors who help the Zapote villagers with their medical and dental needs. The mission is sponsored by Pawleys Island Commun-ity Church. Mrs. Sweitzer had a career as a dental and physician’s assistant, which made her a perfect choice for the team.

Life in rural areas of Guatemala is very different from ours.  Mrs. Sweitzer told us the men of Zapote harvest sugar cane, pineapple, and coffee beans; the women gather sticks all day long to make the fire for the family’s one meal: rice and beans. Eight years ago, Mrs. Sweitzer found the children of Zapote malnourished and unschooled. Since then her church, Pawley’s Island Community, has founded a first- to eighth-grade school that offers breakfast and lunch. She is very proud of the improvement.

A typical day for the mission team involved rising at 5:00 to be on the road by 7:00 and in Zapote by 9:00. Once in the village, they would set up stations and start seeing patients, none of whom minded waiting all day long. Mrs. Sweitzer gave fluoride treatments and “sterilized” dental instruments using buckets of water and bleach. She also helped the dentists who can pull up to a thousand teeth per trip.

Not every day and nor every trip would go as planned.  Mrs. Sweitzer told us about several challenges to their work.  Guatemalan officials impede the team each year at the airport with different “regulations.”  One year, a bandito showed up i the village to have a bullet removed! (He ended up turning his life around, partly because of the love and care of the mission team). This year, the team worked during the rainy season and one day their jeep stalled in a rushing river. Miraculously, the vehicle finally cranked even though water was flowing over the four passengers’ legs.

Mr. and Mrs. Sweitzer stay connected all year long to Zapote by sponsoring the education of two boys: Jose and Santiago. “Those boys know exactly who I am–they run over and hug me as soon as I get there!” Mrs. Sweitzer said lovingly.  She encouraged all of us to do a mission trip, even though it means getting way out of our comfort zone. “In the end, we receive the greater blessing,” she said, “We come back more fulfilled, happier and better people.”

October 15, 2014: General Jack Welde

“Are there any other fighter pilots here today?” joked General Jack Welde, our guest at Open Forum. General Welde, recipient of the Defense Distinguished Service Medal and the Distinguished Flying Cross, is a 31- year veteran of the United States Air Force, now retired in Pawleys Island. “I’ve beaten the odds with all of the flying I’ve been able to do,” he said.

General Welde was educated in Catholic schools.  He specialized in mechanical engineering with a ROTC scholarship. He married a young lady who had never been out of Ohio. They moved 17 times as their 4 children were born and grew up, everywhere from England to Washington D.C. to Myrtle Beach (Iceland was the family favorite).

General Welde showed us photos of all the different fighter planes he flew, including F-100s, F-15 Eagles, A-10s, and F-16s. Most pilots today get to only fly one type of plane. He also responded to questions about the role of the Air Force today. “We are sending people to Syria who drop things that go boom,” General Welde said, “The Air Force does not win a war by itself–it takes a coalition of forces.”

General Welde told us one of the best ways to pay for college is the ROTC, as long as students are interested in military service. The Georgetown School is very honored by General Welde’s visit.  We want to thank him for his service and wish him a happy retirement.

October 8, 2014: Amy Armstrong

Thanks to South Carolina Environmental Law Project, we don’t have an oil refinery off our beautiful coastline.  SCELP was founded by Jimmy Chandler 27 years ago to protect the natural environment by providing legal services and by improving environmental regulations.  Our speaker Amy Armstrong has worked for SCELP for 12 years. “What we are are a bunch of lawyers who try and find laws to protect the environment,” she told us.

SCELP handles about 25 cases at a time. One of the more recent ones involved the Angel Oak on John’s Island. The density of a nearby proposed housing development would have threatened the tree. After a court battle, the developers compromised and the tree was saved. Another case dealt with Captain Sam’s Inlet, a 150-acre spit of undeveloped sand on Kiawah Island. A developer wanted to construct houses there, to be protected by a wall and a beach covered with rocks.  However, the wall and rocks would have destroyed dolphin strand feeding and turtle nesting areas. SCELP has been fighting this case for six years. A third case involves a radioactive waste landfill in Barnwell, SC. When it rains, waste is washed out of its concrete vaults into groundwater that runs into the Savannah River. This case is about to be settled favorably in a court of appeals.

Amy responded to questions from the audience about the illegal sea wall at Wild Dunes. SCELP is fully expecting DHEC to enforce the law: “You can design your development to fit the landscape or you can alter the landscape to fit your development,” she told students, “Development pressures are greater on the coast but people can develop more responsibly.”

October 1, 2014: Dr. Dan Hitchcock

“Being a nerd is cool,” said Dr. Dan Hitchcock, Clemson professor of Environmental Science who works at the Baruch Institute in Hobcaw. “It’s great to be a professional researcher in a t-shirt and flip-flops!” He talked to us about his work: studying how water flows through forests, marshes and cities after rainfall.

Dan is a self-described “ecological engineer.” His work and research are about using “green infrastructure” to mitigate the damaging effects of storm water.  Storm water, besides causing erosion, eventually ends up in our estuaries and rivers and can contain harmful substances such as chemicals or nutrients. Dan was full of ideas to slow down and redirect this “excess” water.  Rain barrels, rain gardens, rooftop plantings and pervious pavement are some examples of ways to help solve the problems of storm water pollution.

Much of Dan’s time is spent in the forests and swamps of Hobcaw, measuring water flow and quality. Although he doesn’t lecture much in the classroom, he does spend lots of time with students. “Working with students is the best part of my job–they bring a whole new energy,” he told us.  Dan invited us to take a walk in the swamps with him and to visit his laboratory in the near future.

September 24, 2014: Emily Crosby

“If you like something, try the opposite,” said Emily Crosby, “Get out of your comfort zone.”  Emily, 2014 graduate from Duke in biology (with minors in chemistry and music) was talking to students about college.  Emily recommended applying to a lot of schools (even if they seem out of reach) and planning out your college experience so you can maximize it with scholarships, study abroad, and original research.  “It really is possible to more than you think you can,” she said, “You’ll learn so much more by trying things you’ve never done before.”

Emily’s career at Duke had many interesting side paths.  For example, she studied poison-dart frogs in Costa Rica, read British Literature in London, took a class in Motown music and investigated the effects of nicotine on the brain.   After all these wonderful activities, Emily is taking a year off to work for her dad’s doctor’s office and do some traveling and teaching. She will enter medical school at MUSC in 2015.  Good luck, Emily!

September 17, 2014: Jeremy Vause

“I was that zombie” said Jeremy Vause, speaking to students about his career as a TV actor for the popular series The Walking Dead.  (For those of you who watch The Walking Dead, Jeremy was Beth’s first zombie kill!)  Jeremy also works in several areas of the performing arts: acting, teaching voice and piano, recording original songs and directing church music.

Although Jeremy enjoys playing the role of a zombie, most of his time is spent teaching his 30 private music students and directing the praise band at Prince George Winyah.  He discussed what it means to make a living as a performing artist. Practicing is one of the most important parts of Jeremy’s job.  He also must do his own bookkeeping and promote himself.  “You are your business, and to make it in the performing arts you have to wear many hats,” he told students.

Jeremy’s advice to students who want to act on TV was simple: “You are going to be auditioning a lot more than you perform, so learn to accept rejection.”  He told us: “Always do your best work.  You never know who’s watching.”  For example, Jeremy was upgraded from plain zombie to feature zombie by a director who noticed his dedication.  “Jeremiah Scott” is Jeremy’s recording name.  He has performed two original songs, available on iTunes (“Dance Floor Daydream” and “In the Mirror”).  Watch for Jeremy this season and hopefully in many new TV series in the years to come.

September 10, 2014: Brenda DeLuca

St. Frances Animal Shelter of Georgetown is a non-profit organization with a great record for helping dogs and cats find a home. Brenda DeLuca, their community outreach person, brought two furry friends, Oscar and Daisy, to meet the students. “These dogs represent what we get in the shelter: mixed breed, older, picked up by Animal Control, previously owned,” Brenda told us. (Oscar and Daisy were a big hit with the students, wagging their tails and being friendly. )

Brenda shared a lot of information about dogs and cats in general and the St. Frances Animal Shelter. “Any dog will bite under the right circumstances,” she said, noting that Dachsunds, Chihuahuas and Jack Russells bite the most. Pit bulls, who get a “bad rap” according to Brenda, were originally bred as farm dogs.  Statistically, more dogs “run away” from home on July 4 than any other day because they are afraid of the fireworks.  A female cat can reproduce at the age of 6 months, up to four litters a year.  St. Frances employs 23 people (including 3 vets) to take care of the 250-300 animals it shelters at a time. Brenda is very proud of the shelter’s success rate–in 2013 they were able to place or rescue more than 1500 animals.

The shelter loves (and needs) volunteers–anyone is welcome, Brenda told us. The volunteers clean floors and cages, socialize with the animals, and take the dogs on walks. Brenda also invited us to a 24-hour pet adoption event at Pet Smart in October.  Thank you Brenda, Oscar and Daisy for a great visit!

September 3, 2014: Dr.Reinhardt Schindler

The Georgetown School welcomed retired eye surgeon Reinhardt Schindler to speak about his education and work.  “I speak Germish,” he said with his accent, drawing an immediate laugh from the audience.  Reinhardt was born in Germany, moved to Switzerland for the “cheese and chocolate” (another joke!), then came to the U.S.A. on a student visa.  As a medical student in Richmond, he decided to specialize in ophthalmology (that’s Augenheilkunde  in German, by the way.)  Students were curious about the tools of his trade.  Reinhardt explained that he operated with both hands using tiny instruments measuring .8mm or less.  He used a microscope to magnify the eye, adjusting his view with foot pedals.

When asked about his career path, Reinhardt responded, “Have you ever thought that you just had it in you?  Have you ever felt challenged to do something?”  That is how he felt as a young student.  When asked about the current situation of health care in America, he agreed with TGS students that doctors should show kindness and compassion.  “What I enjoyed most was people,” he concluded.

August 27, 2014: Eddie Fava

“I was really good at math and I didn’t want to do anything else,” said architect Eddie Fava when asked how he chose his career.  Eddie had just shared an absolutely beautiful slide show of several of the major restoration and renovation projects he has undertaken with the firm he founded in 1993, e. e. fava, architects.  Much of his work is for wealthy clients in downtown Charleston who want to “open up” old structures (students were intrigued by a family that wanted a separate little house for each of their three children!).  He talked to us about several of his projects, including the Ivory Tower, a prime example of his style featuring glass interior walls, an open atmosphere and a gorgeous setting.

Eddie’s attitude toward trying new things was very inspiring.  He told us he never says no to a client about doing something he’s never done before, such as creating a fountain or installing a two-story all-glass wall.  He enjoys the challenge of creating beautiful spaces and harmonizing old and new.

August 20, 2014: Chris Elliott

The first Wednesday of the 2014-2015 school year, we started a new tradition: we invited the winner of the Senior Speech Award to give the opening talk.  Chris Elliott got up at 4:15 a.m. to drive down from Columbia, where he is just beginning his freshman year at U. S. C. “Yeah, I’m wired!  But I love this place and I’m mildly addicted to it,” Chris admitted as he began to talk to the kids and parents about what it means to be a Kingfisher.  He urged them to take advantage of all the opportunities, since in a small community everyone is welcome to do everything.  He talked about the TGS teachers, saying that classes for him became more like “conversations” and extra help was always available.  Finally, he urged the kids to dream up their own projects:  “These people will be your family.  If you want to do something, just ask.”  We thank Chris for his message of encouragement and wish him all the best this fall at U. S. C.  He left us with some great parting words: “Here we’re not nerds and jocks.  We’re everything.  We’re Kingfishers!”

Open Forum 2013-14

April 30, 2014:  John Hoffman

Jon Hoffman has been working in Georgetown County for the past year in the Americorps VISTA program.  “My longer-range plan is to attend law school,” he said, “but I wasn’t ready to go straight in after graduation.”  Jon decided to gain valuable work experience and help out a community in need by joining Americorps as a “federal volunteer.”  He is assigned to the United Way of Georgetown County with the specific task of connecting the service needs of various charities with willing volunteers.  Jon is a coding expert and he shared with us virtual online volunteer management system he created to accomplish this task.  TGS students checked out GET CONNECTED (www.gcuw.org) and saw how easy it is to stay informed about volunteer opportunities.  Jon’s program is especially important and useful, since every high-schooler has to do at least 30 hours of community service a year.

Jon, like many of the other Open Forum speakers, stressed the importance of good communication skills.  He also said that students who know some coding (like those in our Kingfisher Coding Class) could get as many service hours as they wanted by volunteering to help with the agencies’ websites.  Jon will be off soon to the University of Minnesota Law School–we wish him all the best!

April 16, 2014:  Dr. Kristin Bohan

Dr. Kristin Bohan, founder of the Coastal Montessori Charter School in Pawleys Island, spoke to us this week about her career in psychology.  Kristin told us that she realized in eighth grade that psychology would be her field because, as she said, “I was the one that everyone told their problems to.”  She explained the difference between pop psychology and psychology as a science, noting that the science of psychology can reveal a reality that goes against what our “common sense” might tell us.

For example, in graduate school Kristin designed and performed an experiment about “messenger bias.”  She spoke to groups of adolescent girls on bulimia, posing first as an expert in the disease, secondly as a woman who had overcome the disease. The information about bulimia was received differently depending on what the audience believed about her.  The second message delivery had the unintended and negative effect of glamorizing bulimia.

Kristin practiced psychology for fourteen years.  She made an analogy between helping patients and walking side-by-side with someone through the woods.  “The therapist knows what the journey is like and that the patient will be able to get through the woods.  The patient has never made the journey and must trust the therapist,” she said.  Kristin eventually decided to devote herself to education and to take on the project of starting the CMCS.  She encouraged us to follow our passions even if they change throughout our lives.

April 9, 2014: John Boehner, Speaker of the House of Representatives, and Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina

John Boehner and Tim Scott welcomed TGS students to the Capitol during their trip to Washington, D.C. this week.  We met the speaker on his balcony, which is usually a restricted area.  “The view was great!” said Savanna.  The speaker talked about how he got into politics after growing up in a large family.

We met Tim Scott on the steps of the Capitol.  When the wind wasn’t blowing, the weather was nice and we sat in the sun and listened as he talked to us about his ideal educational reforms.  Afterwards, he took pictures with us (including a selfie that got into USA Today!) before he was called away to a vote in the Senate.

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April 2, 2014: Dr. William J. Walker

Our Open Forum speaker today was Dr. William J. Walker, executive director of the Georgetown County Alcohol and Drug Commission.  He explained what a job in administration means–helping other people get their jobs done: “You have to be a people person,” he told us, “And you have to know all about everyone else’s job in the office.  For example, I am not a counselor or a finance person but as an administrator, I have to know about these areas.” The mission of the Alcohol and Drug Commission is to reduce the negative consequences of substance abuse.  It accomplishes this through preventative education (in the schools) and re-education and counselling of people with drug or alcohol problems.  In Dr. Walker’s opinion, alcohol and prescription drugs are the greatest substance abuse issues in Georgetown County schools. Dr. Walker ended on a personal note, sharing that he grew up without a dad and was the first person to graduate college from his “dysfunctional” family.  He told us about some of the specific dynamics he has had to overcome and encouraged us not to let our own family situations hold us back.  Dr. Walker is also a pastor and a cultural diversity trainer who plans to continue these activities when he retires next month.  We wish him a happy retirement from a great career of service.

March 25: Debby Summey

Debby Summey, native of Georgetown and graduate of Winyah High School, is the owner of Strollin’ on the Sampit, a walking tour business that takes tourists on a historical adventure through Georgetown.  Debby told us that when she was in school, she never knew exactly what specific job she wanted to do, but she knew that she loved to write, travel, study history and help people.  Debby has had many different jobs, but all of them involved these four passions.  After being a social worker,where she was traveling around the county and writing reports, she decided to sell everything she owned and use the money to travel to Europe.  This trip gave her a whole new perspective on history. Debby eventually opened a vintage clothing store in Charleston and soaked up the history down there.  After moving back to Georgetown, she got a singular honor: she was chosen as the first director of the Georgetown County Historical Society Museum.  She got to go through all the artifacts that the Society had been saving for the opening of their museum and made an amazing discovery: a letter hand-written and signed by Francis Marion!  This letter is now one of the greatest treasures at the Museum. Debby stressed to us that if you wanted to do something, and it’s worth the risk, then you should do it.   She is still doing what she loves most, fulfilling her love of writing and history with her weekly column “Thanks for the Memories” in the Georgetown Times, helping people by serving on the board of an agency for abused children, and making sure the tourists visiting Georgetown have an informative and enjoyable historical adventure in our town through her walking tour.

March 12: Luke Gates

Our Open Forum speaker was Luke Gates, fourth-year student in Architecture at the University of Virginia.  Luke talked to us about the process of starting to look for a job after college.  He told us that going along the track and fulfilling class requirements at college is without a doubt necessary.  However, in his opinion, the best way to develop one’s resume is to say yes to other opportunities that happen to open up.  “If you show interest and motivation, people will help you along in your education.  This will ultimately give you a richer experience and a much stronger resume.” he explained. For example, Luke had an offer to work in the wood-working shop at the Architecture School and learned how to use hand tools along with routers, 3-D printers and a robotic arm.  Then, because he was interested, he was invited to work on a water filtration project and got to travel to Limpopo, South Africa.  Although study abroad in Architecture School is discouraged, Luke managed to enroll in an architecture school in Lyon, France, this past fall.  He was helped along by the same administrators who had originally objected, just because he was motivated and persistent in his interest.

March 5: Aisha Jones

Aisha Jones is an environmentalist who works for the Georgetown County Public Services Department.  She is originally from Jamaica and told us about her education in the Jamaican school system, which is based on the British system.  She studied up to 13 subjects a day, and had to decide her college major before leaving high school.  Aisha told us she always knew she wanted to work in science.  At university, she did an original research project on an invasive species of fish, Pterygoplichthys pardalis, which we know as the aquarium fish “pleco.”  The pleco’s skin is very rough and it does not taste good so it has no natural enemies–its population has thus exploded in certain waters of Jamaica.

Aisha’s job, as an environmentalist, is to inspire people to engage in sustainable practices and to recycle as much as possible.  “Jamaicans live closer to nature,” she told us, “They usually have gardens and raise chickens at home and they do not generate as much waste as Americans.”  She went on to say that even though the Jamaican lifestyle makes less of an impact on the environment, Americans have stronger regulations and policies to protect the environment.  Aisha is coming back to our school with an exhibit about recycling and some practical help for our own recycling efforts.

February 26: Donna Jones

Our Open Forum speaker today was Dr. Donna Jones.  She is a medical epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.  Donna grew up in Georgetown, a self-described “science nerd” who always had her dissection kit handy. “My dissection kit would probably be illegal today” she laughed.  After majoring in Biology at Chapel Hill, Donna earned her medical degree (also at Chapel Hill) and decided to specialize in Public Health.  She began working for the C. D. C. and now mainly trains other epidemiologists in Africa to track and interpret data.  Donna explained to us the difference between a clinician, who deals with the individual’s medical problems, and an epidemiologist, who investigates outbreaks of disease in a population and determines the best policy to deal with them.

      Dr. Michael St. Louis, Donna’s husband, is a science officer for global health at the C.D.C., who specializes in HIV/AIDS research in sub-Saharan Africa.  He joined us today and added to the discussion.  Michael shared with us how told us a story of getting an angry phone call from the U. S. Secretary of Agriculture. Michael’s research had proven that several deadly breakouts of salmonella around the U. S. were linked to bacteria inside the chicken eggs.  The secretary told Michael he was hurting American agriculture.  Michael was able to stand his ground because he had scientific evidence to support his claims.

     Donna invited TGS students to apply for a summer program at the C.D.C. which sounded fascinating.  Students will be trained to be “disease detectives,” (Medical Intelligence Officers) who investigate and interpret data.  Get your applications in, kids, because this is a great opportunity.

February 21: Ashley DesMarteau

Ashley DesMarteau is a feature journalist for The Georgetown Times and one of the founders of the Winyah Bay Sailing Club.  Sailing is a big part of her life–her family recently took a two-year sailing trip around the world.  Ashley told us about the jobs she has held, including public relations stints in Charleston and California. She worked at Intel for eight years, and was impressed by how committed the company was to its communities.  She has brought that same commitment back to the Georgetown/Pawleys Island community.  “My grandmother taught in this building 55 years ago, so I sort of feel like we have come full circle,” she told us.  When Ashley and her family decided to try to  start a sailing club in Georgetown, people said to her, “No one sails around here.”  Ashley was able to smile and not take no for an answer.  She welcomed TGS to the Winyah Bay Sailing Club and expressed her excitement for the spring start-up of our sailing team.

February 19: Adam Baslow

Adam Baslow is a 33 year old builder who works in Charleston, S.C. He attended Furman University and now is a partner in a company called New Leaf.  New Leaf specializes in residential construction with an environmentally friendly focus. The goal of Adam’s company is to create greener living conditions for families and communities by lowering power usage and lessening construction’s impact on the environment. Adam had some words of encouragement for students who are having trouble with science.  After telling us he was a mediocre science student in high school, he said he now uses science every day in his work: “I was the type of student who learns best by doing and my job gives me plenty of opportunities.”  For example, Adam has to deal with the pros and cons of construction using concrete–the sheer efficiency of concrete can cause problems.  He also has to balance costs and benefits of different construction decisions.  Using LED lights in a house, instead of normal fluorescent ones, can increase power efficiency but can add almost one thousand dollars to the overall price of the house.

January 22: Lauren Joseph

Lauren Joseph, a graduate of Furman University with a B.A. in Theater Arts, came to TGS today to talk to the students about her work and the ways that theater can help with other parts of life.  She explained that many of the skills she learned at Furman have helped her with her past and current jobs, not just when she is directing or acting in a play.  At the moment, she is the Tourism Marketing Director for the City of Georgetown, so she explained to the students that working in theater taught her to speak in front of people and to know their emotions from their body language.  Lauren also enjoys the fact that theater has given her an unusual, but practical skill set, including sewing, electrical work, basic carpentry, and painting, just to name a few.  She has many dreams for Georgetown, saying that she would love to have a summer theater repertory if the ongoing support could be found.

January 8: Phillip Lammonds

On January 8, Philip Lammonds talked to us about his career as a country music singer and songwriter who works mostly in Nashville, Tennessee.  Phillip drew many parallels between regular writing and song writing–he called a song “a story in 3 minutes and 20 seconds.”  For example, writers have to listen for inspiration and “hooks” whenever people use language in a new way.  They must also immerse themselves in great works and pay close attention to structure.  Phillip works closely with performing artists to produce about one hundred and thirty songs every year, and often receives calls to be a part of live performances. As a special treat for us, Phillip played two of his songs that have been picked up by well-known artists: “Looking For Someone” (Tim McGraw) and “So Not My Baby” (Josh Turner).  He uses a 1943 guitar that he had remade from splinters in Nashville, Tennessee, and he plays it every single day.  Phillip’s advice to young songwriters is to listen to the way people talk, play as much as possible and practice writing the type of music that is your passion.

December 4:  Elise Crosby

Georgetown’s city attorney Elise Crosby addressed students at Open Forum, using her wide legal experience to teach us about all the different kinds of law.  Besides providing expert advice to our mayor and City Council,  Elise handles criminal defense and family law cases in her private practice.  She discovered that she wanted to be a lawyer when she realized she had a love of and talent for logical thinking.  Elise stressed the importance of communication skills and told students, “You can go almost anywhere with an English degree.”

November 13:  Jim Lee

Jim Lee is a longtime agent with the Department of Natural Resource who loves to wander off the beaten track and who has an eye for the unique and unusual beauty of South Carolina.  Two years ago, Jim decided to walk across South Carolina, from Georgetown to North Augusta, pushing his gear and tent in a re-purposed baby stroller.  He used his camera to record the amazing sights he saw and shared them with us at Open Forum.  We are excited that Jim has invited us to come along with him to places such as the Yawkey Center and Dirleton Plantation so we can be inspired by the gorgeous and singular environment of our own Georgetown County.

November 13: Dr. Gloria Bromell Tinubu

Gloria spoke to us of her conviction that she could do whatever she wanted to do, a conviction instilled in her by her upbringing in northern Georgetown County and underwritten by the excellent education she acquired at the old Choppee High School.  She graduated from Howard University, then earned her master’s and doctorate in economics from Clemson, becoming the first African-American woman to gain this distinction.  At a certain point in her career as an educator, Gloria turned to politics, becoming the first female mayoral candidate in Atlanta and eventually getting elected to the Georgia State Assembly. Gloria now teaches in the economics department of Coastal and pursues her dream of inspiring people to make the world a better place.  Specifically, as an economist, she wants the community to return to Aristotle’s definition of economics, “managing the household for the long-term benefit of all the people.”

October 30:  Dean Cain

Dean Cain, marine biologist for DNR, told us all about alligators, from their life cycle to how the experts catch them. Dean receives 800-900 calls a year from residents who believe they have a aggressive reptile on their hands.  In most instances, however, the alligator is simply misunderstood.  The increasing population of coastal S. C. leads to more encounters between humans and alligators, which makes understanding their behavior vital.  “Feeding an alligator is marking it for death,” Dean told us, “When alligators become accustomed to being fed, they will approach people in search of food.”

October 23:  Liz Kress

Liz Kress of the Renewable Energy Department of Santee Cooper credits her love of chemistry with her choice to become a metallurgical engineer.  Her career has focused on new product development but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t use people skills.  Liz explained to us that every new product must be sold twice:  “First you convince the clients that they want it, then you convince the guys at the factory that they want put out the effort to manufacture it.”  In Liz’s opinion, wind energy and energy from biomass are the best renewable energy sources for South Carolina.

October 9:  Stacy Rabon

Successful television and film actor Stacy Rabon revealed the strenuous preparation that actors must impose on their minds and bodies in order to work in the industry.  “You have to be ready with your role when you’re called-every minute on the set costs money,” she told us.  Stacy also explained to us the differences between film acting and stage acting.

October 2:  Hutch Hutchinson

Clemson biologist “Hutch” Hutchinson is also a strawberry farmer!  This is just a hint of the winding path Hutch’s education has followed through the years, and he shared with us many of the questions which have piqued his curiosity and sparked his scientific research throughout his career.  “Follow where your curiosity leads you” was his advice to young scientists.

September 25:  Jason Lesley

Reporter Jason Lesley lives in Georgetown and works for the Coastal Observer.  He was on the scene of the Front Street fire the very same morning he was scheduled to talk to us.  Jason could not overemphasize to us how important and rare a news story such as the fire was and he encouraged us to take to the streets, interviewing and photographing the scene.

September 18:  Tom Fox, international opera star

Tom Fox shared the joys and challenges of pursuing his career. According to Tom, opera is a total art form that demands hours of preparation and years of technical training.  Tom now plays mostly Wagnerian roles in opera houses all over the world.  Just back in town from doing Parsifal in London, Tom left the next weekend for Vienna to sing part of the Ring cycle.

August 28:  Sudha Patel, Architect and candidate for Andrews City Council

Sudha spoke to us about leaving a life of poverty in India with her family and finding success in high school, college, and graduate school in the U.S.  Sudha took time off from her race for Andrews city council to come speak with us. 

October 30, 2019: Dr. Thomas Rainwater

Dr. Thomas Rainwater is a wildlife toxicologist for the U.S. government and a researcher at the Yawkey Wildlife Center. Dr. Rainwater came to teach us about our local “dragons.” He explained to us how to identify distinguish alligators from crocodiles, how they nest, and how to be safe around them.

A few years ago, alligators were near extinction, but they have made an amazing comeback, thanks to their endangered species status and to the efforts of conservationists such as Phil Wilkinson, who is a world-famous alligator expert and mentor to Dr. Rainwater. Mr. Wilkerson lives in Georgetown and we got to meet him at this Open Forum.

Dr. Rainwater and Mr. Wilkinson made several ground-breaking studies about alligators. For example, they discovered that alligators stop growing at a certain age. They were also able to prove that alligators do eat in the winter. A sudden cold snap one year killed several specimens–almost all of which were found to have fresh food in their stomachs.

“Don’t feed the alligators,” Dr. Rainwater told us. “A fed alligator is a dead alligator.” Feeding an alligator is not only dangerous to the human feeding it, but it puts the alligator’s life in danger. Once an alligator has been fed, it associates food with people and will approach them without fear. Alligators that have been “trained” to seek out humans must be destroyed, even though it is certainly not their fault. So please, don’t feed the alligators.

By Manny