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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