New Floyd County school calendar a hit

By Dixi Baldwin
Staff writer

Rome, Ga. — As the first school year using Floyd County’s modified calendar comes to a close, students and faculty at Coosa High School say they are pleased with the results.

Last August the Board of Education decided to add intersessions to provide extra help for students struggling to keep pace with their grade level. The intersessions were offered by schools not only for struggling students, but for students interested in enrichment classes, as well.

Dennis Abney, curriculum director of elementary grades for Floyd County School Systems, reported that the intersessions were a big success. Participation in the winter intersession for all of Floyd County included more than 1,100 high school students, which was a increase from the fall intersession earlier in the year. Abney reported that survey results showed that students found the learning to be fun.

The modified calendar included an earlier starting date for the school year but also included breaks in the fall, winter and spring, with intersessions in each season.

The first intersession was Oct. 6-8 last year, during a one-week fall break. The winter intersession was held Jan. 5-9, during a three-week winter break. And the last, held March 22-26, was offered during the two-week spring break.

For each of these breaks, classes were held in various locations throughout the county, and they covered a broad range of topics.

Some schools required students to attend. Coosa High, for example, required its junior class to attend the spring intersession.

According to Janice Vick, principal at Coosa High, the intent was to get students into a preparatory course for the Scholastic Aptitude Test. The students are required to make a certain score on a pre-test in order to obtain driving privileges, which Vick called highly motivational.

Vick said SAT test scores went up on average 100 points.

“I had no idea that a prep course could actually bring up my SAT scores," said Anna Bryant, a student at Coosa. "I think a lot of the class was surprised at the results.”

Another intersession option for students was to make up time missed during the regular school year.

Teachers had the option of taking a break or working for extra compensation during the intersessions. At Coosa High School 10 faculty members worked each intersession. Vick said many teachers were willing to help. She tried to get different teachers for each of the three intersessions to add variety for the students.

During the three intersessions that were held during the year, no discipline problems were reported.

Vick said she believes the students responded well to the relaxed atmosphere and, therefore, were well-behaved. With the day structured into four blocks with 15-minute breaks in between, and because students were allowed to leave the site for lunch, the intersessions had “the atmosphere of a college campus,” Vick said.

Mike Burnett, a senior, said that he enjoyed spending his breaks attending enrichment classes because it was not like a regular school session.

“The fact that I could leave to go eat lunch was enough for me to enjoy it, not to mention that all of the teachers were much more laid back," he said.

13:05 0 comments

Rome's legislative redistricting a mixed blessing

By Bryan Farrar
Staff writer

Mt. Berry, Ga. --Voters in Floyd County will likely lose political power in 2004 because of new redistricting maps drawn up by the Georgia House of Representatives.

“There’s no doubt about it, this will affect Floyd County’s voting power in the House.” Rep. Paul Smith, D-Rome, said. “Floyd County is ideal for two complete districts, but with the plan now, most of the power in one district is from Polk County and most of the power from another district is from Chattooga County.”

The new districts not only give Floyd County voters less political muscle, they might also force some incumbent representatives to run against each other in the 2004 elections.

“This whole thing is bad for Floyd County because we lose our local representatives," said Peter Lawler, professor of government at Berry College.

Although some people have expressed concern about the idea of incumbents having to run against each other, others see it as an opportunity for positive change in the legislature.

“I think it’s a great opportunity to get some new faces in the House”, said Stephen Donaldson, a political science major at Berry College. “A lot of times politicians seem to get complacent about their constituents because the incumbent re-election rate is so high. I think the redistricting will make incumbents more aware of the people they’re representing."

In the months leading up to the final redistricting maps, there has been debate about how the new maps will look. Democrats are trying to protect their power in the state house, while Republicans are trying to take control of both the house and senate.

Since the General Assembly could not agree on the maps by a March 1 deadline, the Federal Court and a judge redrew the maps.

“I don’t like the plan that they have, and they don’t like the plan that I have," Smith said. “But the federal judges saw fit to change the maps, and that’s their right.”

The new districts will be used in November elections this year. According to the new maps released by the state, Floyd County will be split into four districts.

15:21 0 comments

Far from Iraq, Floyd County Marines
fight a very different battle – poverty

By Robert Withers
Staff writer

Rome, Ga. – As the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan rage, U.S. Marine Corps reservists in Floyd County are fighting a very different war – poverty.

The 1st Detachment of the 4th Supply Battalion’s ammunition company stationed here in Rome, for example, raised $30,000 for charities last year while fellow corps battled in Iraq and Afghanistan.

1st Sgt. Kenneth Futch, who is stationed in Rome, said he and his fellow Marines feel strongly about reaching out to local children because it is a concrete way they can help.

Through the Marines’ involvement with the Toys for Tots Foundation, the Marines are able to contribute directly to Floyd County. The foundation’s policy is that all money raised stay in the county in which it is raised.

Rome’s Marines were able to raise enough last year to buy toys for 3,000 children, from ages of less than 1 to 15.

The battalion serves in other ways, as well. As the Tour de Georgia cycled through Rome last week, the Marines worked security, support and set-up. The Marines also hold an annual auction sponsored by K-98 radio in which everything from spa packages to sporting apparel is sold to help Toys for Tots.

The Toys for Tots Foundation has collected toys for more than 50 years. Futch, who has served in Japan and Austria, among other places, said Toys for Tots is not just an American organization. Countries all over the world are participating, he said.

Berry College junior Daniel Whitt, who has been a Marine reservist for the past three and a half years, said he takes great pride in his work with Toys for Tots in Marietta.

“We are Marines 24/7,” Cpl. Whitt said. “We always have to be ready to deploy. But until that day comes we stay very active in our communities.”

Whitt drove trucks hauling toys last Christmas, the truck with a donation from Big Lots worth $50,000.

“We filled up about three huge U-Hauls worth of toys and emptied about five Big Lots’ toy departments,” he said. “It was incredible.”

Corporal Whitt’s unit deployed to Africa in 2002, when he participated in humanitarian projects for local African tribes.

“It’s eye opening,” he said. “It makes you not take everything for granted when you see how excited they get over a piece of plywood.”

Floyd County’s 1st Detachment was in Kuwait and Iraq from January through July 2003. The unit sent more than 100 men ranging in ages from 19 to 25. With the war continuing, the unit knows its time for redeployment is coming soon.

“We don’t know if we will be deployed again, but from my time with the Marines, I would say its almost for sure going to happen,” Futch said.

15:07 0 comments

Rome divided on constitutional ban on gay marriage

By Sarah Weinreich
Staff writer

Rome, Ga. – Rome’s voters have mixed feelings about a much-debated constitutional amendment banning gay marriage in Georgia. Voters will decide on the amendment this November.

Senate Resolution 595, also known as the Georgia Defense of Marriage Act, was presented to the state senate in February of this year. It provides for an amendment to the Georgia Constitution to accommodate the bill’s definition of marriage.

Berry College student Patrick Aguilar, 21, whose is Nicaraguan, said his religious beliefs are what shape his opinion on the issue.

“The proposed amendment is in accordance with my religious beliefs and that is why I support it,” he said. “This country was founded on religious principles. It’s an unsaid rule (that) gay marriage is looked down upon.”

As a representative of Rome’s growing Hispanic population, Aguilar’s views are perhaps even more important, at least locally. Recent polls conducted by the Pew Hispanic Center and the Kaiser Family Foundation show that many people of Hispanic descent support bans on gay marriage nationwide.

According to recent census data, the Hispanic population in Rome is slightly more than 10 percent of the total population, or about five percent more than the rest of Georgia. This is likely to affect the vote in Rome this November.

But not all of Rome’s citizens believe that the proposal is a step in the right direction, however. Pepper Jay, director of student ministries at First United Methodist Church in Rome, said he believes that the amendment would unfairly limit the rights of homosexuals.

“This isn’t an amendment to uphold and sustain the sanctity of marriage,” he said. “It’s an amendment against a group of people. It’s not the compassionate and human thing to do.”

The resolution, as described on the Georgia legislature’s Web site, defines marriage as “only the union of man and woman.”

If passed, the amendment would add a higher legal hurdle for gay marriage, which is already illegal by statute in the state. It would also prevent gay unions approved outside the state from being recognized in Georgia.

After being passed by the Republican-controlled state senate in February, the bill moved to the state house, where it was narrowly defeated on the first vote. But the bill passed the house on March 31, one week before the legislative session ended.

Legislators initiated the amendment after President Bush’s State of the Union address last January.

Rome’s voters are not the only citizens grappling with the legality of gay marriage. Massachusetts lawmakers recently approved an amendment that would ban gay marriage within the state but legalize civil unions.

Gay marriage will become legal in the state in May of this year by court order, and the amendment likely will be voted on in November 2006.

In Rhode Island, several bills have been proposed following the proclamation by Gordon Fox, Rhode Island’s house majority leader, announced he is gay.

13:56 0 comments

Conference switch not
a financial windfall for Berry athletics

Berry moves to GACC from TranSouth this year

By Kirk Feinswog
Staff writer

Mt. Berry, Ga. – The change in conferences for Berry College athletics should save the school money, but not as much as people might think.

Berry’s athletic program is switching to the Georgia Alabama Carolina Conference, or GACC, from the TranSouth Conference this fall.

More member schools and, therefore, more road trips and the fact that most Berry teams do not charge for admission at home mean the switch will bring only modest fiscal changes for the school.

The financial situation was one of three factors taken into consideration when deciding on the conference change, according Todd Brooks, to athletics director. The other two were academics and the distances to the conferences’ other schools.

Membership in the GACC will mean more teams, more natural, or geographically based, rivalries and shorter road trips. It is not believed that this will lead to a significant financial benefit, Brooks said.

With the proximity of the other schools in the GACC, Brooks said he hopes that attendance at games because of the new, more natural rivalries. But, since This most Berry teams do not charge admission, the financial impact will be minimal.

Basketball is one sport that should financially benefit.

“I’m very excited, it should bring about a revival of many natural rivalries,” said men’s basketball coach Jeff Haarlow. “Nobody in Georgia had an affiliation with the teams in the TranSouth, but the GACC has teams from Georgia that people know about and may have friends that go there.”

The competition in the new conference is not expected to be as difficult, Brook said, meaning that many of Berry’s teams will have better odds to host their post-season conference tournaments. For the basketball team, this would mean a bigger payout.

Shorter road trips will save money, but though there will be no six- or eight-hour bus trips, there will be three- and four-hour treks that will require overnight stays.

As a rule, teams with larger budgets, such as basketball and soccer, stay overnight on any road trip that is longer than three hours.

Since the GACC has more teams, there likely will be more conference games to be played and, therefore, more trips to take.

In sports such as basketball, each conference team plays one another twice. This shrinks the non-conference schedule, which, according to Haarlow, has the games for which most teams do not stay overnight. The larger conference schedule could mean staying in hotels more often.

With the new GACC schedule, the women’s soccer team might use vans more rather than the larger buses, according to assistant coach Eric Gentilello.

“We are going to Germany this summer and are using some of our budget money to take that trip,” he said. “So, in order to save some money, we might try and take vans to some of the closer games.”

Berry’s departure has not been as smooth for the TranSouth. After Berry’s decision, Lee University decided to leave, as well.

With only nine schools in women’s sports and eight in men’s, the TranSouth was in struggling financially even before Berry’s and Lee’s decisions, Brook said. With two less in each men’s and women’s, he said he thinks it will be difficult for the conference to continue.

The commissioners of the TranSouth and GACC declined comment.

13:37 0 comments

Berry to go wireless this fall

Krannert, Hermann and library to get it first

By Bobby Mallin
Staff writer

Mt. Berry, Ga. -- Krannert Center and several other Berry College buildings will offer wireless computing beginning this fall.

Berry staff and student workers plan to install a wireless Internet network during the summer. The installation is scheduled to be completed before classes resume in the fall, bringing wireless computer connectivity to Krannert, Memorial Library and Hermann Hall.

Going wireless will mean that students with laptops, PDAs and other WiFi-enabled devices will no longer need to take long ethernet cables,

Each building will have several WiFi network hubs or connection points. The hubs can each handle 12 to 20 laptop connections at a time. This is about the same number of connections that a wired hub with multiple access points can handle, said Dan Boyd, Berry’s director of network services.

Not only will buildings be wireless, but the walkway in front of Krannert and the courtyard areas outside of the library, too, will have wireless access. It means students will be able check e-mail or instant message friends on the Berry network outside.

Boyd and Noaleen Ingalsbe, director of food services, said they hope wireless Internet connectivity will bring students to the Berry Bean’ry and to the game room in Krannert.

After the initial phase, Boyd said he is not sure where wireless might be installed.

“We don’t want to put it out and hope people are going to use it,” he said. “We’re going to identify the areas of need and best usage.”

Some students say, however, that Krannert is not where wireless is needed the most.

“Krannert is not a place for studying, but for socializing,” said Johnny Walker, a senior.

Wireless should be placed where students already are, not where the administration wants them to be, sophomore David Bolding said.

Many students would prefer to go wireless in the dorms and academic buildings.

“It would be a whole lot easier to set up my dorm without worrying about convenient access to an ethernet outlet,” said Rebecca Horton, a sophomore.

Another concern is speed. As students log on to the wireless network, the connection becomes slower.

Boyd said he is listening to students’ concerns. He said he sees dorm access as inevitable and also foresees wireless coverage for Clara Bowl and outside of Thomas Berry dorm.

WiFi “is going to change the way we do things more than we can expect right now,” Boyd said.

11:35 0 comments

Miracle on the beach leads to music-making at Berry

second profile in a series on Berry College students and their pursuits

By Shannon Rohrabaugh
Staff writer

Mt. Berry, Ga. – Josh Kumrits casually sits on a stool with an overwhelming amount of honey-colored hair surrounding his face. A lip ring is just barely visible at the edge of his mouth. He’s holding his guitar and talking about his relationship with God.

Kumrits’ new band, Coastline Miracle, premiered at Berry’s Koffeehouse just before Spring Break. The band’s debut song was inspired by the movie, “The Passion,” from where the song gets its title.

Kumrits said the song talks about Jesus as a man dealing with the emotions of his sacrifice and the fact that he can’t openly share them with his closest friends.

Bob McGregor, one of the band’s members, explained that though they shouldn’t be labeled a Christian band, the musicians do claim a Christian faith and that faith is expressed in the music and lyrics.

Kumrits said inspiration for the lyrics ultimately comes from his relationship with God.

This relationship began last summer during a beach outreach event. Kumrits spent 10 weeks working full-time in Panama City and attending Christian seminars every Monday night. Though initially reluctant to attend the seminars, Kumrits now regards this experience the miracle referred to in the band’s name. During this time in Panama City he also met two of the band’s members – Kendrick Anderson and McGregor.

However, it was not until the fall semester at Berry that Kumrits began thinking about putting a band together. Throughout the semester he mentioned the idea to Anderson and McGregor, but it was not until winter break that the band began coming together.

Two Shorter students and music majors, Luke Johnson and Nick Almond, also agreed to join, bringing bring an important expertise to the band, McGregor said. He also said a lot of Johnson’s and Almond’s musical influences come from indie rock and emo bands like Copland and Beautiful Mistake.

Kumrits brings yet more diversity with his interest in Spanish music from his native Paraguay. So far it has not had a great influence on the band’s sound, but it soon may. Kumrits is hard at work composing.

He so far has written the lyrics to two songs with melodies written by other band members.

“The beautiful part of collaborating on a song is having all these emotions there,” Kumrits said.

He said the band plans to spend the next few months “getting really tight as a band” and to produce a recording. On tap for later in the year are (hopefully) concerts in the Atlanta area.

The band has a lot of connections through other Berry students and from attending concerts themselves, Kumrits said.

16:53 0 comments

Though IT jobs disappearing,
Berry grads should fare well

By Steven Wagner
Staff writer

Mt. Berry, Ga. -- Much has changed since a “Business Week” headline in 1997 screamed, “Send Nerds.”

As recently as two years ago, the International Data Commission predicted there would be a shortage of 850,000 information technology workers. Since then, however, the Internet bubble’s bursting and mass outsourcing of jobs to China and India have combined to drastically reduce the number of available technology-related jobs.

According to Forbes.com, 500,000 technology jobs were lost between mid-2001 and mid-2003.

Though it paints a bleak picture for Berry College computer science graduates, opportunities remain.

Mike Roe, a software engineer for CheckFree Corp., said the IT market is not saturated.

A Berry alumnus, Roe knows firsthand the challenges an aspiring IT student from a small college can face. During his time at Berry, the Berry Information Technology Students program was just beginning.

“Back then, I was the entire BITS program,” he said. “I was the BIT.”

Roe’s graduating class only had nine computer science majors.

Berry’s tech program since has grown at an incredible rate. In 1997, 350 students brought personal computers to campus, according to Timothy, Berry’s chief information officer. In 2004 nearly every student owns a personal computer.

The BITS staff has swelled to more than 20 students, while Berry’s server count has risen to 32 from the seven when Roe was a student.

Although the changes have been considerable, the technology program at Berry is still dwarfed by those at larger colleges, and Berry’s offers less specific training in applications than technology colleges.

However, Berry’s liberal arts orientation gives its IT students an advantage over other colleges.

“Berry gave me a good foundation to develop my skills,” Roe said. “A non-specific approach helped out more.”

Though Berry provides a decent base from which to build a career, Roe has some advice for technology students: “Go beyond what you learn in class,” he said. “Get a campus job or an internship. Play with computers to develop your skills.”

Those hiring IT graduates agree with Roe. Asha Aiyer, director of human resources for Ionic Microsystems, for example, said her company looks for attributes beyond work experience. She looks for “adaptability and learnability,” she said.

Experience with specific applications and programming languages remains important. Nearly every opening listed on Microsoft.com, for example, requires expertise in a suite of applications, which reflects a growing trend of specialization in the technology field.

“Companies look for the perfect rather than the approximate fit,” Aiyer said. “You can’t just wave a degree and get a job anymore.”

Berry has responded to this trend by hiring a technology trainer to help BITS students get certifications in various applications. Each BITS member is required to pass an test certifying him or her in working with and repairing personal computers and the operating systems they use. And computer lab workers are encouraged to get Microsoft Office User Specialist certification. Berry pays the fees required to take the certification tests.

The steps are showing success. According to Berry's Career Development Center, less than 2 percent of Berry’s science graduates from 2002 did not immediately find employment, compared to 2001 in which 5 percent were unemployed.

15:25 0 comments

Sinkholes salivating over new athletic center?
Berry College administration aware of problem

By Shannon Rohrabaugh
Staff writer

Mt. Berry, Ga. – A building not yet built might be the next meal for Berry College’s infamous sinkholes.

Berry’s administration, however, says it will take all necessary precautions when building the proposed athletic center in Moon woods, said Alan Storey, executive assistant to the president.

Some members of the Berry community are not convinced.

Deborah Freile, Ph.D., professor of geology at Berry, joined members of the departments of math and science in sending a letter to Berry administration last year protesting the building site.

Members of the college’s biology department fear losing the outdoor laboratory that Moon woods provides. Freile said she protested purely for geological reasons.

“Martha’s advisors long ago set her astray when they suggested to build on main campus,” Freile said, referring to Berry College founder Martha Berry. The ground under all of the major buildings is composed of limestone, which dissolves easily. The dissolution forms underground caverns, which can collapse to form sinkholes, she said.

Sinkholes dot the landscape of Berry’s main campus, ranging in size from small (the cow pastures near Berry’s main entrance) to large, like the one that is Clara Bowl, Freile said.

She said her got no official response and that in five years at Berry she has never been consulted on geological matters.

Storey said, hpwever, that the administration will make sure that the athletic center is stable by building it on a special foundation using a pillar system anchored to bedrock. Freile this foundation should stabilize the building, but it will be expensive.

Brian Erb, Berry’s vice president for finance, said there are no official estimates on how much the project will cost. Storey estimated about $25 million. Erb also said the soil issues related to sinkholes will likely add about 10 percent to the total cost but that he will know more in the fall.

Money for the athletic center will come from the Century Campaign and, therefore, will not affect student tuition. With construction not expected to begin anytime soon, only about $750,000 of the $25 million project has been raised, according to Berry’s Web site.

13:10 0 comments

DREAM Act draws mixed reactions

Proposed legislation would help illegal aliens get into U.S. colleges

By Elizabeth Green
Staff writer

Rome, Ga. – Rome’s educators and residents have mixed feelings about a bill being considered by the U. S. Congress that would enable illegal immigrants to get in-state tuition rates from U.S. colleges and universities.

Currently, in Georgia high school students without U.S. citizenship or proper documentation are unable to take advantage of, among other things, the HOPE grant, even if they have the high school grade point average required by HOPE.

Called DREAM, or the Development, Relief, and Education Relief for Alien Minors Act, the legislation was re-introduced by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) on July 31, 2003. Since then, the DREAM Act has languished in relative obscurity.

Although many people are unfamiliar with it, the bill is controversial among informed citizens.

Georgia state representative Barbara Massey (D-District 11) is the vice chairperson of the Georgia House education committee. She said she doubts Georgia lawmakers would support DREAM.

Reece, who represents Chattooga and Floyd counties, said her committee is mainly concerned with issues surrounding the financial future of the HOPE grant. Since there are financial shortfalls for education in Georgia, the DREAM Act would probably not take effect for some time.

Passage of the DREAM Act could mean expansion of the state’s English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) programs, including those in Rome.

Floyd County ESOL teacher, Widad Akrayee, said she has had high school students in the past who would have benefited from legislation like the DREAM Act. Undocumented students who complete high school and cannot continue their education represent a “definite problem” she said.

Akrayee said she remembers encouraging one of her graduating high school students she describes as “very ambitious” to apply to college. The girl’s parents were afraid of deportation, anxious that their daughter’s application to college would draw attention to their status as illegal immigrants.

The DREAM Act would eliminate some of these fears, Akrayee said.

Another Floyd County ESOL teacher, Brenda Fox, teaches at the elementary and middle school level because she says there is a shortage of ESOL students in the Floyd County high schools.

Fox said many non-English speaking students in the Floyd County school system drop out of school before reaching high school.

Fox said she hopes that if the DREAM Act is passed, the promise of funding for secondary education would keep more ESOL students in school.

“There are some really smart (ESOL) kids that … could really go a long way,” she said.

12:50 0 comments

Rome a college town? Not!

By Ric Sedlak
Staff writer

Rome, Ga. -- Despite four colleges, Rome is conspicuously quiet. Rome residents say there is not much college life in Rome. College students in town complain there is nothing to do, especially after hours.

“You would never know there are four colleges in Rome,” said Joan Blackwelder, office manager of the student activities office at Berry College and a 16-year resident of Rome. “It never affects anything I do in town.”

For their part, Rome’s college students voice frustration about the lack of entertainment options.

Anna Bellury, a freshman at Shorter College, said concerts held at Shorter are always packed because students are always looking for live music.

“Rome really needs a dance club, and not booty dancing, but somewhere that could have a salsa night and a swing night,” she said. “I know that would be really popular.”

Berry sophomore Jeremiah Reynolds said students have no where to go after 11 pm. but their own dorms.

“We need somewhere to go and chill, like a coffeehouse,” he said.

One reason Rome lacks businesses and events devoted to college students is the fact that the combined enrollment of the four colleges does not exceed 5,000.

John Schroeder, president and general manager of Schroeder’s New Deli on Broad Street, said Rome is a small college town, but that there are too few college students for businesses to cater to that group. Despite how popular his restaurant is among college students, Schroeder said he estimates that only 25 percent of his business comes from the college crowd.

Berry College President Scott Colley said the best way to make Rome a true college town would be to add about 40,000 more people in the 18- to 24-year-old age range.

Rome “doesn’t take its identity from its colleges,” Colley said, distinguishing the town from places that do have a strong connection to its colleges, like Athens, Ga., and the University of Georgia.

“When UGA sneezes, Athens sniffles,” Colley said.

Rome does benefit from its colleges, however, Colley said. Culture, reputation and money are just three areas of contribution institutions like Berry, Shorter, Floyd College and Coosa Valley Technical make.

Colley said he believes having a number of institutions of higher education raises the level of culture in Rome.

“Rome just has a different feel than, say, Summerville, a town without colleges,” he said.

Agreeing with Colley, Heather Seckman, economic development assistant for Rome, said the presence of the four colleges appeals to outside investors thinking about locating in Rome. On top of that, the colleges generate revenue for the city, she said.

A study done in 2001 by Roger Tutterow, Ph.D., chairman of the department of economics and finance at Kennesaw State University, supports Seckman’s estimation. Tutterow’s study found that Berry College alone had in 1999 an annual economic impact on Rome of more than $80 million. Berry and Shorter combined had an effect on Rome that year the equivalent of more than $120 million.

The study took into account such variables as salaries and expenditures such as materials and utilities.

12:30 0 comments

Berry College reaches out to international students

By Mary Stevenson
Staff writer

Mt. Berry, Ga. -- So far from home, yet somehow at home in a strange new world of deer and Mountain Days.

International students are increasingly choosing to study at Berry College, which might seem an odd choice given how small and in some ways remote Berry is compared to the big universities.

Why would someone from the other side of the world want to come to a small town in the South where a new Wal-Mart is big news and where cow-tipping qualifies as a sport?

A common answer is that Berry comes across in promotional literature and via its Web site as an interesting and pleasing place to study. Despite its small size, Berry is not as obscure some students, even Berry students, might think.

There are 22 countries represented by the Berry student population this academic year, including Germany, Turkey, Norway, Japan, Spain and Trinidad & Tobago.

Combined, the students represent about 3 percent of the student body. But they make their presence known. Many compete on Berry’s athletic teams while others work in different capacities at the school.

Area organizations have also taken an interest in Berry. Scholarship foundations, such as the Georgia Rotary Student Program and International Education Financial Aid have sent dozens of students to Berry over the years from many countries, although some of the students didn’t know to which school they were going to when they left their homes.

Thor Holt of Norway, a student at Berry, said he I didn’t choose Berry himself and knew nothing about either the school or Rome until he arrived. The Georgia Rotary Student Program gave him a scholarship and brought him to Berry, he said.

Holt said living in Rome has not been too taxing, “although the cultural differences are quite big compared to Europe.” Homesickness hasn’t been a problem since seven of Holt’s friends have made the journey to Mt. Berry to visit him. Holt also said he has made new friends.

“Making new connections over here has been exciting,” he said. “I have not been really homesick.”

Taking advantage of being in the United States, Holt said he has visited California, Nevada, Florida and New York City.

10:44 0 comments

Rome elementary school earns high honors

By Ashley Hall
Staff writer

Rome, Ga. -- Rome's Garden Lakes Elementary School received high honors from the Georgia Department of Education, which deemed it a Title I Distinguished School for the 2003-2004 school year.

The Title I Distinguished Schools program recognizes and honors elementary and secondary schools where faculty and staff who hit state-set targets for yearly progress for at least three consecutive years.

“When I first heard Garden Lakes was getting this acknowledgment, I was ecstatic,” said Donna Brombacher, principal of Garden Lakes Elementary. “There was a great sense of validation because I knew the hard work was for the children.”

She said the school's first recognition as a Title I Distinguished School is a reward to the faculty and staff for focusing on each student’s individual needs.

“We have individual daily instructional time improving students’ knowledge of computer software,” Brombacher said. “We also keep a 5-year database on test scores and curriculum changes so improvements can be made when necessary.”

Several teachers also ask that parents and students sign a contract that requires them to read to each other on a daily basis.

School officials created a mentoring program in language arts and mathematics for students to tutor and review with each other in areas of a subject they find difficult, according to Brombacher, who said the program encourages students to improve grades.

Brombacher said that one of her favorite incentives for students is the display of their publications, such as artwork and writings, which are posted throughout the school.

“Having students’ work publicly displayed motivates them to improve in their creations in order to post more around the school, she said. "It’s (gives them) a great sense of accomplishment.”

Garden Lakes Elementary now is eligible to earn a monetary award for the 2004-2005 school year, said Tim Hensley, director of public affairs for Floyd county schools.

After three consecutive years of meeting the Adequate Yearly Progress standards, which Garden Lakes has done, a school is recognized. After four years, it can also be rewarded with a grant. After five years, the school would be recognized, rewarded with a grant and considered a Georgia School of Excellence, Hensley said.

The distinguished schools program is a product of President George Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act passed in 2001.

10:02 0 comments

Program Promotes
Eating Right in Rome

By Melissa Wilson
Staff writer

Rome, Ga. — Designed to help Floyd County restaurant-goers to eat right, a public health campaign called Fit to Eat is finding it slow going in building awareness and changing eating habits.

About 22 area restaurants participate in the program, according to Diane Smith, a coordinator of the Fit to Eat program, a number that includes Harvest Moon Café and Chick-fil-A. Though it is a small number compared to the approximately 300 restaurants in Floyd County, Smith says it continues to increase, albeit slowly.

Ginny Kibler, owner of The Harvest Moon Café, says she’s been a member of the program since it started in 2002.

“I think people have to be hit in the face with facts for them to really change their eating habits,” Kibler said. She said she thinks the program puts the information in the hands of the customers, who can then decide for themselves.

The program began in September of 2002 and was promoted to local restaurants with letters explaining the program and its benefits. Those restaurants that agreed to participate were sent a nutritionist to evaluate their meals.

The program's administrators use nutritional analysis computer software to evaluate foods and determine fat and fiber content and calorie counts, according to Smith. If a menu item gets 30 percent or less of its calories from fat, the food is eligible to be labeled on the menu as “fit to eat.”

The restaurant receives special menus to display, complete with nutritional information and the Fit to Eat logo.

Smith says she’s heard success stories from customers that dine at restaurants offering the Fit to Eat choices. She says one participating restaurant reported a Floyd County man who ate out every day only at restaurants offering Fit to Eat choices. She says he lost about 50 pounds by selecting foods from the Fit to Eat menus.

Besides informing eaters about nutritious food choices, Fit to Eat also promotes smoke-free dining rooms.

The program is a partner with the Northwest Tobacco Use Prevention Program.in encouraging restaurants in Floyd County to go smoke-free.

Smith says restaurants are enthusiastic about the program. “They care about their customers and they think it’s a good thing,” she said.

A spot poll showed, however, that many Floyd County residents are still unaware of Fit to Eat. Brian Carroll, a Floyd County resident who said his family frequently eats out, said he has never noticed the Fit to Eat signs, menus or menu item emblems.

Others who do know about the program say the Fit to Eat choices don’t influence what they choose to eat. Susan Phillips, a pre-school teacher in Rome, said she is aware of the program but does not look for the Fit to Eat menu items.

Reactions from restaurant patrons like these show Fit to Eat has its work cut out. Smith says they’re doing the best they can.
“It’s hard since we have such a low budget,” she said.

The program received two grants in the last year, one from the University of Georgia and one from the State Health Office.

Smith said that while she is grateful for the support, they are small grants that cover one year. Nonetheless, Smith said the program will launch a radio campaign beginning next month and running all summer to increase awareness.

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Berry's Campbell School of Business
Attracts Students Despite Small Budget

By Ben Elliott
Business writer

Mt. Berry, Ga. -- No marketing plan, no direct advertising, no control over promotional finances, no problem.

Berry College’s Campbell School of Business still attracts companies to Berry to hire fresh graduates.

Georgia Pacific, Universal Tax and Cintas are a few of the companies that make the trip every year to the largest campus in the world to re-stock. One executive went so far as to promise to pay for all of her niece’s tuition and board if she picks Berry College because the executive has been so impressed with the employees Georgia Pacific has hired, said Julie Bumpus, assistant dean of Campbell.

"Campbell attracts companies by producing a quality product, and the product is better than any marketing plan," she said. "Businesses keep coming back to Berry every year to hire business graduates.”

Like many small colleges, Berry College centralizes administration of its schools. Decisions on how money is spent marketing and advertising the different schools are handled by admissions. It presents a problem: how to attract students despite no control over its own marketing budget.

With a large budget, Campbell might market its faculty. Campbell’s dean, Krishna Dhir, Ph.D, was unavailable for an interview because he was presenting research abroad. Though conventions are primarily for research and networking, by attending so many the school's faculty and staff raise awareness of Berry. In the past year, Berry’s business school faculty made trips to London, Iceland and Mexico, among other places.

Campbell also is a participant in a speaker’s bureau that offers expert analysis on events and topics related to business. Through the bureau, news organizations are able to contact faculty and staff. Bumpus said this bureau is not unlike free advertising for the school because the professors’ names and affiliation are attributed when the faculty are used for a news story.

The business school also uses scholarship offers, Internet-based marketing, outreach efforts and its own publications to attract quality students.

By granting scholarships to international students, the school is making efforts to diversify its student body just as companies are attempting to achieve diversity within their own ranks, according to John Parton, director of undergraduate programs for Campbell. He said the Internet has facilitated this outreach.

“The Internet is very useful in attracting potential business students because it is very convenient,” he said. “You have access to contact information you need to get in touch with members of the business school.”

Stefan Linnhoff, a German graduate student at Campbell, said he discovered Berry College using the Internet. He came to Berry in 1990-1991 as a participant in the Georgia Rotary student scholars program and liked it so much, he contacted the school again when pursuing graduate school.

“It is a small program that [puts] emphasis on student care,” Linnhoff said. “It offers me a really great opportunity to work as a graduate assistant and co-author articles with professors.”

Another example of the school’s outreach is membership in the Executive Advisory Council, a 28-member coalition of business people from primarily Atlanta. The council’s focus is to make connections between the business world and academia supports Campbell by placing graduates.

The business school also uses print media to reach out to alumni, the business community and potential students. The Campbell Columns, a publication for alumni and friends of the business school distributed twice a year, is a four-to-five page newsletter that reaches approximately 3,500.

Parton, who is also the interim director of the master's program, produces a newsletter called “M.B.A. Focus.” The newsletter is published once per semester and is intended to keep graduates current on business information, the school’s curriculum and on contacts and networking opportunities.

Bumpus and Parton said the newsletter helps keep Berry graduates involved with the school and, secondarily, helps potential business students evaluate Campbell.

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Communication Student "Building" a Future
first in a series on Berry College students and their post-college plans

By Bob McGregor
Staff writer

Mt. Berry, Ga. -- Owning a construction company before the age of 30 may seem unrealistic, but to Bryan Farrar the idea will hopefully become a reality because all of his experience in the occupation.

Farrar and his best friend brainstormed career ideas in high school and decided to form a construction company after they graduated from college.

Farrar and Russell have been friends almost their entire lives. “I don’t remember not knowing him,” said Farrar, a native of Conyers, Georgia and a communication major at Berry College.

After building houses for several years with his friend’s father, Chip and Bryan saw a glimpse of the opportunities in construction.

“These years of working with Chip’s dad give us a head start because we’ve already made so many connections with contractors already in the business,” Farrar said.

The friends are depending on college to teach them about business, marketing and architectural design. Chip Russell is majoring in engineering and minoring in drafting at Mercer University. With these degrees, Russell will lead project designs, Farrar said.

Farrar is majoring in communication with a focus in public relations, giving him a knowledge base from which to lead in marketing and financial aspects of the business.

“I’ll let Chip design the buildings, but I won’t let him handle the cash because he’ll blow it all on his girlfriend,” Farrar said.

They plan on working with Chip’s dad for a few years out of school to get the money to start our business.

To start, the high school friends plan to buy old houses in their hometown of Conyers to remodel and rent. Their goal is to own and rent 50 houses in their first 10 years of business, Farrar said. Eventually, they want to expand their business throughout Georgia and the southeast. “For example in Macon, there are a lot of old, empty warehouses that we could renovate into loft apartments.

Macon is a college town so there is always a high demand for apartments in the area,” Farrar said.

After they become successful, they plan on moving to a third-world country to build houses for people who can’t afford them.

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Rome Copes with Growing Latino Community
By Robin Roper
Staff writer

Rome, Ga. -- Rome's population is changing in diversity and, therefore, in terms of its needs.

Rome’s Hispanic population grew to more than 10 percent of the total population in the 2000 census from less than 2 percent just 10 years prior, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

This significant change has area organizations forming and expanding to accommodate the growing Hispanic community.

The newly formed Latin American Center of Northwest Georgia, for example, incorporates several organizations into a network for Rome’s Hispanics.

“A lot of work needs to be done, said Clarice Ford, a member of the LAC board. "The problem is a lack of communication and not really knowing what their needs are,” referring to Rome's Latinos.

The organization plans to assist Hispanics in finding work and housing, completing immigration procedures, learning English, and getting proper healthcare.

The board includes representatives from Rome city schools, the Floyd County Health Department, Berry College, Floyd Medical Center, several of Rome’s large businesses and several churches. Ford said the diversity of the group will be helpful in making connections within the community. The organization hopes to provide the Latino community with information about services available.

The board plans to partner with the Latin American Association in Atlanta. LAA will provide attorneys to help immigrants correctly complete paperwork.

One area with notable changes being made is in the schools. Rosemary Munton-Evans of Rome City Schools was certified to teach English for Speakers of Other Languages in 1994. At the time, she was the only certified teacher in the school system and there was no ESOL program. In 1997, Munton-Evans was hired to teach ESOL for every school in the Rome City Schools system.

Now there are full time teachers at all the large Rome schools and one teacher who travels among the smaller schools. Munton-Evans said there are currently about 250 ESOL students system wide and the numbers will continue to grow. The largest Hispanic population is at West End Elementary School where about half of the student body is Hispanic.

ESOL students are still in regular classes but spend about an hour each day with an ESOL teacher. Students take an entrance exam upon entering the school system to determine if they should be in the program.

ESOL students work with an individualized computer program, allowing them to progress at their own speed. Munton-Evans said, “I’ve traveled to other schools in the state, and we have absolutely the best program in the Northwest.”

Munton-Evans said through grants and title money the program has adequate funding.

Munton-Evans said she has problems making ESOL students realize school is important. She said many of them are from countries where most people do not complete any school.

This year the city schools started Parent Teacher Information Nights to keep parents of ESOL students informed on what they can do to help their children's education.

Munton-Evans said there was a great turn out at the first PTIN meeting. One of the principals explained testing and the importance of attendance. At one PTIN meeting they told parents about the after school program for ESOL students and twice as many students started attending. The summer program for ESOL students will be the topic of the next meeting.

The Rome schools have also recently started a parent program. Parents of the ESOL students can come to the schools to use the individualized computer program the students use. This volunteer program is every Thursday from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Floyd County Schools have not seen as much growth in the Hispanic population as the city schools. However, the county schools have recently hired a second teacher for the 105 ESOL students in the system.

The two teachers travel to the six Floyd County schools with the greatest need for the ESOL program. The school system has recently purchased a computer program for students to use at the schools where the ESOL teachers do not go. Brenda Fox, an ESOL teacher, said, “I hope as we go on, and funding is a big part of it, that there will be a teacher for all the students.”

Beverly Smith, curriculum director for Floyd County Schools, said, “We are suspecting in the next five to 10 years there will be more growth, depending on the type of businesses that come in.”

Colleges are recognizing the growing influence of Hispanic presence in schools. All education majors at Berry College are now required to be ESOL certified.

There are several adult ESOL classes offered in the Rome area. La Casa de Esperanza is an adult English class sponsored by West Rome Baptist Church. Sandra Stewart and other volunteers teach the classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Stewart said Rome is doing a good job accommodating the Hispanic community with programs like La Casa De Esperanza. She said she does not know a Hispanic who says Rome is not a great place to live.

“We have people who resent them being here, but our city is very accommodating and very generous in offering services," Stewart said.

St. Mary’s Catholic Church also has a ministry with a language focus. Jorge Correa, who instructs the classes, said, “We don’t just learn language. We learn the culture and let them know about services available.”

The program offers baby sitting and some transportation to make it easier for adults to come. Also, a teacher that comes to help elementary school children with their homework.

The meetings are in a portable classroom near the church Wednesdays from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. The prgram recently started Saturday classes because they have so many volunteers.

Correa and other teachers of adult English classes said the hardest part about teaching these classes is inconsistent attendance.

“It is frustrating for any teacher not to always see the progress you want, but they have home and job responsibilities," she said.

The Sara Hightower Regional Library offers English classes Monday through Thursday mornings and Tuesday and Thursday nights.

Unlike the other language programs in Rome, the class is completely in English because people other than Spanish-speakers come to the library classes. Cathy Mitchell, who teaches the classes, said total language immersion classes work well and have never presented a problem.

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