Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Making a difference By Ana Bedon

On Tuesday, Aug. 14, we sat down with Ethel Ngene and Nailah Williamson of Volunteer GGC to discuss projects at play for those making a difference. Volunteer GGC is an organization that gives students the opportunity to perform community service on campus and in neighboring communities through metro Atlanta.
Mr. Allen Clarke is the coordinator of the organization since Volunteer GGC first started. Clarke — along with other GGC staff — saw that Georgia Gwinnett College needed a student learning and community engagement program that gave students the chance to grow and improve their local communities. Volunteer GGC was started, and student leaders on campus started to join. The organization now has six student assistants who help plan and coordinate service projects throughout the year.

Feeding the homeless, visiting homeless shelters and charity events are some of the many service projects Volunteer GGC has done. They assisted cleaning a new building at Rainbow Village — a homeless shelter located in Duluth — where homeless families with children can find refuge and learn to rebuild their lives with the love and support of a community-based family surrounding them.  Volunteer GGC spent three to four hours cleaning the building, and the team spirit was vibrant and caused them to be more united as a group.

“It was an amazing experience that impacted all of the students and staff that attended,” Williamson, a member of Volunteer GGC, said.

Another service project they worked on was preparing meals for patients and residents at Wishes 4 Me Foundation. Wishes 4 Me Foundation is a non-profit organization located in Lawrenceville that assists adults with disabilities to live a more active and involved lifestyle. It was founded on the belief that giving up is never an option and it ranges from age 18 and up. Volunteer GGC was privileged to socialize with the patients there by playing games, and reading books.

“The experience was emotional, educational and very satisfying” Ngene, a member of Volunteer GGC, said.

The GGC Community Garden is one of Volunteer GGC’s signature events. The Community Garden is in collaboration with the Lawrenceville community as their produce is donated to the Lawrenceville co-op to feed those in need. This program allows students to have the experience of sowing, watering, fertilizing and reaping the produce of the Garden. They are also allowed to participate in the donating the produce and to see the impact they are having on their community. They volunteer two to three times each semester, and this will be one of the service learning programs here at GGC this Fall Semester.

Volunteer GGC, the office of Student Involvement and the Organization of Latin American Students (OLAS) are also hosting a Back to School Drive to donate school supplies to Rainbow Village and Graves Elementary School located in Norcross.  

There are two locations you can drop off your donations. One is at the Student Center, 2nd floor, and also in A building in front of Chick Fil A. They will deliver all donations the first week of October.

Why should we care? When I asked members of Volunteer GGC why they care about volunteering, Williamson replied, “Because we enjoy helping out and giving back to our community.”
Ngene also stated, “I enjoy helping others, and I would like for more students to get involved and join Volunteer GGC.”

One of Georgia Gwinnett College’s four pillars is Service, and this organization knows exactly how to represent it. All of their events are open to GGC students and staff and are usually on Fridays or Saturdays. As members of the Georgia Gwinnett College community, we should all make time out of our busy schedules and get involved with our local community.

If you are a new student, welcome to Georgia Gwinnett College, and please know there are many ways you can get involved. Volunteer GGC is one of many organizations you can join on campus that will help you gain and develop your leadership skills and help you make a difference in your community. Remember, “Don’t make excuses, make a difference!”

Supreme Court Says “I Do” to Marriage Equality By: Tyler Vining


On June 26, the United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of marriage equality for same-sex couples in a historic victory for the LGBT rights movement. In Obergefell vs Hodges, the Justices ruled 5 to 4 that the denial of marriage licenses to same-sex couples violated the Due Process and the Equal Protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution.
The movement for marriage equality, which is only one part of the LGBT rights movement, began in the 1970s but didn’t begin gaining headlines until 1993 when the Supreme Court of Hawaii ruled that the prohibition of marriage equality was unconstitutional. This ruling led several states and the federal government legislating that marriage was solely between one man and one woman, including the enforcement of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
In recent years, not only did DOMA get repealed, but many states’ bans on marriage equality were ruled unconstitutional and the restriction of gay and lesbian persons in the military, “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” was lifted, leading many LGBT people to celebrate this shift in the tide.
Celebrations even took place in Gwinnett County with GGC students sharing their happiness through Pride Alliance, GGC’s LGBT organization. Here’s what the officers of Pride Alliance had to say:
"Ever since I first came to terms with my sexuality, the idea of marriage seemed far off, and more of an idea for later generations. Now, though, that dream is able to become a reality, and it's comforting to know that marriage is available to me one day should I choose it," Morgan Woody said.
"It took me a long time to accept myself as gay and part of that was because I knew it would be long time, if ever, before I could have the right to marry someone I love. The Supreme Court ruling has provided a significant step towards equal rights for the gay community," Nehemiah Hester said.
I'm excited that the day has finally come that all families are equal in the eyes of the law. However, we can't forget the many struggles still faced by members of the LGBTQ community. Almost half of all homeless youth are LGBTQ. In almost 30 states it's still legal to be fired for being LGBTQ. A victory has been won. A war yet remains,” Jory Alexander said.
While many LGBTQ people and their heterosexual allies remain ecstatic that progress has been made, many remain vigilant that there’s still a long road ahead for complete equality not only for LGBTQ people, but for people of color and women, as social issues are severely intersectional.
Social conservatives were disappointed by the Supreme Court ruling and many still ask their representative to do something on this issue. It remains to be seen whether their efforts will be fruitful.   
What are your thoughts on marriage equality? How does the ruling impact you personally? Email me at

“A same-sex marriage supporter near the Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C.”

Photo Credit : Drew Angerer /Getty Images

Student leader arrested in golf cart incident

Students are questioning the arrest of Michael Masha, a Junior and Resident Assistant (RA), for driving a golf cart on campus that had previously been used for the move-in event that began on Thursday and continued into the weekend. He was arrested Monday evening, August 17 for disorderly conduct based on “unauthorized use of government property,” which was stated on his written citation along with the comment “golf cart belongs to GGC.”
“I feel like he was singled out because he wasn’t very well known” Akeia Lyles, SGA Chief of Staff, said.
“Something I do want to make very clear is Michael did not get arrested because he’s black but something just as important is that if he wasn’t, he would not have been arrested” commented Chase Goodwin, SGA President, who further explained that as a white male he has been able to circumvent many campus procedures such as signing in at the residence halls.
“Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, all student leaders involved in move in … were all using different facilities and different items like the golf cart,” Erin Lucier, a Senior RA explained, and added that the keys were constantly traded around.
Masha explained that he was given the key by Esteban Gonzalez — SGA Vice President — in order to “help facilitate getting people during move in from housing to the student center or to anywhere, just people who needed transportation or had disabilities.”
With the busy days of moving in hundreds of students, Lucier explained that “at the end of each day, I really had no idea who had the key and I don’t think anyone who had originated with the key had any idea where it went. There was no sort of check out process,” Lucier added.
On Monday afternoon, members of the Office of Student Involvement noticed that their golf cart was missing and with no knowledge of who had the cart, they reported the missing property to Public Safety. Dr. Lumpkin explained that calling Public Safety is standard procedure anytime an item is missing.
Chief of Police Terrance Schneider explained that the officers go out and look for the golf cart with the only information they have. “We are pulling police resources out of parking lots and other investigations that they are working on … to find a golf cart that was reported stolen,” Chief Schneider said. “We don’t know if somebody off campus has come and grabbed it and took off with it.”
After pulling surveillance footage from the 1000 building and identifying Masha, Officer Borders contacted him about the golf cart.
“I had no idea there was going to be an arrest,” Masha explained. “We met in front of the 1000 building on campus and there were about four or five police officers just waiting for me out there.”
“They were really quick to jump to it, there was no discussion, no anything like that,” Masha added. The police report, written by arresting officer and GGC graduate, Ashley Still, reported that “when [Masha was] asked why he still had the key he told [police] he didn’t know and wasn’t sure who he was supposed to give the key back to. When we asked if he had used the cart [Monday] he said he had used it twice today to ‘not get rained on.’”
The report also stated that Esteban Gonzalez gave a written statement explaining that he had not given the key to Masha, nor had he given him permission to use the golf cart. Gonzalez declined to comment on the situation.
Dr. Maria Lumpkin called a meeting on Wednesday, Aug. 19 in order to open the lines of communication with students who expressed racial concerns surrounding the arrest. Officers were invited to represent organizations such as the Organization of Latin American Students, African Voice, Black Student Union, Asian Student Association, Gentlemen of Distinction, Pride, and Greenlight.
“It is our goal at GGC to create an inclusive, safe and welcoming environment for all students,” Dr. Lumpkin explained. “Communication is paramount to the success of any community and recent events on campus have challenged us to strengthen our communication. It is my hope that we can move beyond this incident together as a community and move towards substantive dialogue about our various concerns.”
Masha and other students also raised concerns about false information that could damage his credibility. “I heard rumors that Chief Schneider said that [Masha] was arrested for being belligerent,” President Goodwin explained. Various representatives in the meeting echoed Goodwin’s concerns that the narrative had shifted to another black male arrested for being belligerent, rather than a simple miscommunication.
Chief Schneider declined to comment on whether or not Masha was arrested for being belligerent as he was not present, but noted that there are multiple ways to define belligerence. He explained that “the officer has certain discretions that they can affect and it’s up to the officer to decide whether or not to make that arrest.”
When we asked Masha to address the rumor, he said, “I was in front of the 1000 building, in front of where I reside. I live there. There’s people everywhere and it’s the first day of school and the last thing I want to do is embarrass myself and put on a show.”
Chief Schneider explained that “the officer arrested in good faith based upon the information that they had at the time” and it is now up to the legal system to ensure that the case is handled fairly. 
“I hope it’s an eye-opening situation not just for us as student leaders but for everyone on this campus and even faculty members …to not always jump to conclusions when you see something out of the ordinary,” Lyles said.
When asked what his plans are now, Masha laughed.

“My first day of school was pretty rough but I’m gonna stay focused on my classes and get my GPA much higher than it is, continue my RA duties and make better connections with my residents, try to impact people’s lives … It’s a great day to be a Grizzly.”