I would say I’ve been relatively good at saying goodbye my whole life. I moved frequently during my childhood, and on my last day of high school, I blasted music and tore out of the parking lot faster than I ever had that year. I had no regrets. I’m a big subscriber to the idea that the past is the past, and the future is where you’re going, so don’t look back. It’s pretty easy for me to keep moving forward. But saying goodbye to Mercer feels just a little different for me. Here’s why. Something I love about my “Mercer story” is that it almost didn’t happen. The summer after my freshman year, I had some significant financial and family issues that nearly prevented me from returning to college. It came to the point where I considered giving up, dropping out and starting any job I could get to keep myself afloat. There’s nothing wrong with doing that, and if I had, things might have still turned out fine. But there was a gnawing feeling deep in my chest that told me it would take me a very long time before I could even begin to think about going back to school again if I gave up and stepped back. I felt like I had to stay the course. One night, I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and decided to plunge into another semester. I tried not to think about the debt I was accruing and hoping it would eventually pay off in the end. (Spoiler alert: it did.) During that time, though, I felt completely alone — more alone than I had ever felt, in fact. But when I returned to Mercer that fall I looked around and realized that I wasn’t, and never would be again. My professors, my co-workers, my fellow students, and friends — those people quickly become like family to me. In my time at Mercer, I’ve literally had professors help me search for part-time jobs. I’ve had professors who have fed me at times, people who made sure I walked home with leftovers from school events and those who refused to let me pay for my coffee, no matter what (Thank you, Meg). These were the people who helped me search for housing, the people who gave me advice and the people who continued to give me advice — even when I didn’t take it the first time. That’s what’s special about this place — the people. Of course, I learned a lot, too. I learned about what it means to care about your community and what it means to embrace your heritage and also want better for the South. When I was younger, I tried to hide my southern accent, but during my reporting at the Center for Collaborative Journalism, I found that my voice was something to be celebrated and that I sounded just like the people I was reporting on and for. I learned about what it meant to be “service first” and brought that thinking into my own journalistic work. I learned that caring deeply made me a stronger, better journalism student, and a better human, too. As I prepare to move to Maryland for my new job in just a few short weeks, there’s no doubt in my mind that I’ll be leaving a huge chunk of my heart right here in Macon, Georgia. It’s not lost on me how much I’ll miss the simple things: grabbing a ginger tea at Z Beans (R.I.P. Jittery Joe’s), walking through the campus on early fall mornings, opening my door to see Washington Memorial Library right across the street, and even getting ink on my fingers after picking up a new batch of freshly printed newspapers. I’ll miss popping my head into my professors’ offices, just to say hi or mull over my latest anxieties about job searching or other growing pains, and I will miss being able to exchange a friendly “go bears” to passersby at any given time. I’ll miss the feeling of togetherness that binds us college students — the understanding that we’ve all been through it, and that we all are also just starting out, all at the very same time. Freshman year, we used to laugh at all the banners around Mercer’s campus that read “Here, everyone majors in changing the world.” I think I grew quieter throughout the years, realizing that there’s some truth to that saying. I definitely believe that Mercer can give you the tools to start world-changing, but you pick up some of those on your own, too. After leaving Mercer, I may be foolish for believing that I can indeed effect change in this world, but that doesn’t mean I won’t try. Part of me wonders if that thought would still cross my mind had I taken a different path. So, to the prospective students scouring Mercer websites, trying to decide if this school is really a good fit for you — it was for me. That’s the best answer I can give. For me, Mercer was a great nest to fall into. The small class sizes helped me to gain the experience I needed and the people around me graciously lent me the support that kept me going these past few years. My classes taught me that I could have an impact, and my mentors taught me that there was no limit to what I could accomplish if I just tried. To my professors and mentors, thank you for graciously teaching me (almost) everything I know. Your door was always open to me. There was always fresh coffee to be had. You never said “I told you so” no matter how many times I made my mistakes. You never told me to limit my expectations. You mourned with me when things didn’t work out, and you celebrated with me when they miraculously did. I want you to know that I will carry your words and your humility with me everywhere I go in this life. Thank you, thank you, thank you. (And even that’s not enough!) To my fellow students who are also preparing to walk out into the “real world,” I wish you the best of luck. I count myself lucky to have watched you grow into the leaders of this campus in just a few short years. It has been my honor and my privilege to serve you as The Cluster’s News Editor, Managing Editor, and now Editor-in-Chief. Thank you for sharing your stories and your concerns. Thank you for supporting our publication, and for recognizing the importance of student media. Life is coming at us quickly, but I know we are ready for it. We have been preparing since we first set foot on campus. Recently someone asked me to sum up Mercer in one word, and all I could think of was “home.” When I walk across that stage May 13, I know exactly what I’ll be leaving behind. I’m trying to commit these last few moments to memory before I go.
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An earlier version of this article mentioned an armed robbery. This statement has since been corrected to reflect a robbery did not occur. This article has been updated to include information about the University’s policy on campus-wide alerts. A student reported being threatened with a gun near Mercer’s Stadium Drive Bridge around 6:30 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 23. According to a police report obtained by The Cluster, the incident occurred after the student honked her horn at a black Dodge Charger that didn’t move when the light at Canton Street changed to green. Canton runs between the Lofts Phase 5 and Mercer Landing. Both cars proceeded onto campus and the student reported that’s when the driver leaned out the window and pointed “a black cased semi-automatic gun at [the student’s] vehicle.” The Charger driver didn’t stop, and the student continued to Winship Street and reported the incident to Mercer Police, according to the report. The reporting officer Clay Maddox indicated a lookout was issued to all Mercer University police and Bibb County Sheriff’s Office units. The report indicated the incident occurred on “School/Campus,” but Merpo did not issue an alert to the student body. “Stadium Drive is a public street” and does not count as on campus, according to an email from Mercer University Director of Media Relations Kyle Sears. In a separate email, Sears said that Mercer Police use the University’s Timely Warning and Emergency Notification Policy to determine when an alert should be sent out to the student body. According to the policy, only when a threat is continuing or ongoing do the police send out an alert. “Because of the circumstances associated with yesterday's road rage incident, Mercer Police determined that there was not a continuing or ongoing threat, so they did not issue an alert,” Sears said in the email.
The Student Government Association announced March 28 that campaigning for the presidential election has been suspended due to “multiple breaches” of election code of conduct. The candidates for this year’s SGA election are Adam Penland and his Vice Presidential running mate, Shruthi Vikraman and Brycen Higdon with his running mate, Ryan May. “It is unfortunate that these allegations have come forth,” read a press release on the SGA Facebook page. “We hold every candidate to the highest standard and continue to wish both tickets the best of luck during this election season.” Election Marshall Faiz Aly cited that some of the violations included campaign committee members sharing private messages and circulating posts on social platforms. “Whenever campaign members have broken the rules, it’s as if the campaign ticket has broken those rules,” he said. Aly said that both campaigns sign a positive pledge before they run. Both parties agree to hold a positive, healthy campaign. “It's a competition and at the end of the day each ticket wants to win,” Aly said. “However, we realized that the competition wasn't healthy and it was becoming more and more vicious from both parties.” Neither party was able to comment on this story, due to their campaign privileges being revoked. Voting began the morning of March 28 and will conclude March 29 at 6 p.m. The voting was originally scheduled to end at 5 p.m., but has been pushed back due to the news of the sanctions. Aside from the presidential elections, students will also vote on who should be awarded faculty member and student of the year. “I don't want people to be discouraged (from voting),” Aly said. “You're also voting on two other very important awards which are also very well deserved.” Students can access the voting links on MyMercer, Mercer IT, Canvas or the SGA Instagram.
Alumnus Jay Sekulow, a lawyer on Trump’s personal legal team and a prominent figure in the conservative Christian movement, returned to campus Feb. 6 to deliver the 2018 Founders’ Day address. The annual event, which typically occurs with little fanfare, attracted controversy this year when students spoke out against the university inviting Sekulow back to campus. [video credit="Katie Atkinson" align="right"][/video] His past comments regarding the LGBTQ community prompted about 20 students to attend the speech while draped in rainbow flags. It was part of a peaceful protest organized by Common Ground Member and FORGE Vice President James Stair. Protest participants sat in silence while others clapped or laughed during Sekulow’s speech. Randy Harshbarger, associate professor of foreign languages and literatures, wore a rainbow ribbon on his robes in solidarity. “It was part of an expression of opinion that several of the faculty wanted to make,” Harshbarger said. “It was just a way of saying ‘we acknowledge that you’re here, we recognize your right to speak here, we’re not gonna disrupt, we want you to know that we’re concerned about the attitudes and policies of this administration on a lot of issues, not just LGBT.” Sekulow, a former Student Government Association president, acknowledged the controversy his visit has caused. “I did have the privilege of serving as a student government president and for that not only do I thank you but I know what it's like,” Sekulow said to the SGA representatives who sat on stage. “I even know what it's like going through having me as your speaker.” Throughout the speech, Sekulow reminisced on his time at Mercer and talked about meeting his wife here. Referencing his career and professional relationships, Sekulow said that his job is to defend his clients even when he doesn’t agree with them. “I'm not the conscience of the client. I'm the lawyer for the client,” Sekulow said. He said it’s important for students to learn to disagree without being disagreeable. “What you're learning here, you're learning how to think. You're learning how to engage. Mercer has a tremendously rich heritage,” Sekulow said. “But the heritage is the past. You are its future.” Stair said he had the opportunity to shake Sekulow’s hand before the event. “I thought it was great that we can both have very distinct differences in our beliefs but still be civil in how we treat one another,” Stair said. “[Sekulow] gave an impassioned speech.” Later in the day, Sekulow participated in a closed Q&A session with students and faculty at the University Center. Students were allowed to ask pre-submitted questions. Topics ranged from immigration to abortion. “We recognize that there were students, faculty, and staff that disagree with viewpoints Dr. Sekulow has held,” said Kyle Sears, director of Mercer media relations. “We wanted an opportunity for them to engage with him and I think that’s what this afternoon’s forum was about.” [related title="Related Stories" stories="23270,23251,23246" align="center" background="off" border="none" shadow="off"]
Mercer’s Student Government Association announced today that they will meet with administrators to discuss Founders’ Day after hearing complaints on the selection of keynote speaker Jay Sekulow. Sekulow, chief counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice and a member of President Donald Trump’s legal team, is slated to deliver the annual Founder’s Day Address on Feb. 7. Sekulow earned his Bachelor of Arts in 1977 and earned his Juris Doctor from the Mercer University School of Law in 1980. [related title="Related Stories" stories="20819,21061,23108" align="right" background="off" border="none" shadow="off"] “As student leaders, we strive to attract prominent alumni whom students will find interesting and who celebrate our commonalities and our differences, and we believe that Mr. Sekulow fits that description,” said SGA President Olivia Buckner in a Jan. 24 Mercer press release announcing Sekulow’s selection. “We look forward to hearing about his experiences as both an undergraduate and graduate student.” Sekulow has received criticism in the past for his statements about LGBTQ rights and protection in public schools. In an interview in the Los Angeles Times, Sekulow made comments suggesting that public schools should not promote one lifestyle over another and if students in the Los Angeles school district receive protections for their sexual orientation, students should also receive protections for their religious beliefs. Following the announcement of his selection, Mercer students and alumni took to social media to voice their concerns. “Founder's Day is about bringing together the Mercer community, and he has a history of dividing communities. He has fought to criminalize some people for simply being,” Sean Kennedy wrote on the Mercer University Alumni Facebook page. “This is already a divisive time.” Others responded to the announcement on Twitter. “This guy? This is the best representative of the university that we can find?” senior Justin Hanson wrote. Some members of the Mercer community have suggested that students protest the event while others approve of the choice. “Would love to hear this great American speak,” Linda Nichols commented on Facebook. Members of SGA’s executive board met with administrators at 2 p.m. on Jan. 25 to discuss concerns raised by the student body. Hours later, they shared a press release on the SGA Facebook and Instagram pages. “As Bears, we should open ourselves to the marketplace of ideas that exists in our world. The speaker is excited to return home to campus to share the story of his Mercer experience,” SGA stated. “We are under no obligation to fall in line and agree with what is said, but not allowing them to share their story would contradict one of our core values as Bears, celebrating both our commonalities and our differences.” The press release also stated that SGA and the administration are exploring the idea of holding a forum where students can share their opinions with Sekulow. “While this is not by any means set in stone, due to the limited amount of time that we have, it is being explored,” the press release stated. This report will be updated as more information becomes available. [Editor’s note: this article was updated at 7:15 p.m. on Jan. 25 to reflect the results of the meeting between SGA and the administration]
Mercer Police reported that gunshots were fired at students who were walking in the vicinity of Mercer Village on Jan. 10. Four students and a recent graduate were in the area when a man approached them and fired six shots. No one was harmed. The shooter escaped, running towards the Huguenin Heights neighborhood. President Underwood referred to the shooting as a “frightening and dangerous incident,” in an email sent to the Mercer community. He also said he is posting a reward of $10,000 “for information leading to the identification, arrest and conviction of the individual who fired the shots.” The shots were said to have been fired around 10 p.m., but the first Mercer University alert did not go out until 10:45 p.m. “In that 45 minutes, students were in their windows trying to see what was going on and [other] students were walking leisurely through Mercer Village,” said Junior Tiffany Wilkerson, who lives in The Lofts above Margarita’s. Nate Hahn, who lives in the Phase Two Lofts, was in his apartment at the time of the incident. “We didn’t hear any sirens or see any police. It was bizarre and definitely frightening to know that someone could have gone out there unknowingly and be put in harm’s way,” Hahn said. President Underwood said that the Mercer Police responded immediately. “From my observations at the MERPO office last night, they were responsible and highly professional,” Underwood said. In his message to the Mercer community, Underwood said that it was the campus alert system that “took too long” to notify students of the incident. “I am convinced that we can do much better in the timing of those alerts and am bringing in external experts to assist us in improving those processes,” Underwood said. In an email to the Mercer community, Underwood encouraged students to seek counseling services through the Dean of Student Life. He also urged students, faculty and staff to report any suspicious activity to the Mercer Police by calling (478) 301-4357. “As additional information becomes available, I will share that information with the campus community,” Underwood said.
A flyer reading "IT'S OKAY TO BE WHITE" was found taped to a bulletin board outside of the Connell Student Center (CSC) on campus last Wednesday. Over the past month, signs like the one found at Mercer have been popping up on college campuses across the nation including at UC Berkeley, Harvard and Princeton. After the flyer was found on Mercer’s campus, several students organized a meeting at the CSC on Nov. 12 to discuss unity among black organizations and talk about the flyer’s message. “[The flyer] made me feel a little bit uncomfortable because the first thing I did kind of think of was racism,” said Georgina Ajorgbor, a member of the African Student Association who attended the meeting. Quinten Oppong, senior, removed the flyer when he saw it outside of the CSC. Mercer administration has not publicly addressed the flyer with the Mercer community, but Oppong said they should. “I think administration needs to see and treat racial issues as equivalent to other issues such as sexual assault on campus,” Oppong said. “I think most importantly this whole thing is indicative of the fact that real conversation concerning race has not truly been had.” Dean of Students Douglas R. Pearson sent a statement to The Cluster in response to a series of questions regarding the flyer’s message. Click here to read the full statement. “It should not be the role of the University to protect students from ideas or opinions that they find controversial or offensive,” Dean Pearson said in the statement. “But rather to model and engage students in thoughtful debate and civil discourse. However, a flyer that was allegedly posted on campus recently (and then taken down) does not appear to have been intended to promote respectful dialogue or discussion.” The Mercer University Student handbook states that violating, aiding, condoning, or attempting to commit any breaches to the university’s Community of Respect listed on page 13 of the handbook will result in disciplinary action. This encompasses hate offenses, which constitutes as any offense against a person or property motivated by an offender’s bias against a disability, religion, ethnic origin, sexual orientation or race. Dean Pearson said he urges all students to think about their actions in light of Mercer’s Community of Respect and suggests anyone with any information regarding the incident should contact Mercer Police. He gave no indication that the administration plans on addressing the flyer further. According to The Washington Post, the idea to spread “IT'S OKAY TO BE WHITE” flyers originally emerged in a 4chan chatroom on Oct. 31. Users discussed how posting the message in public places would lead to societal disturbance and help aid in the recruitment of white-nationalists. In the months after the 2016 election, The Southern Poverty Law Center noted an increase in white nationalist propaganda. The group recorded more than 150 reports of white nationalist flyers and recruitment materials on college campuses. In an article featured on splcenter.org, SPLC Analyst Keegan Hankes said college students have become a target for white nationalists. “White nationalists really enjoy campus activism,” Hankes said. “They’re often trying to put an intellectual veneer on things, so it makes sense to peddle that on a college campus where you're dealing with people who may be just starting to form their ideas about the world.” At Mercer, students who attended the Nov. 12 meeting shared their concerns with how Mercer administration has addressed racially charged issues in the past. “This is not the first time something like this has happened,” said Senior Tamar Thomas, referencing the vandalism of Sherwood Hall that took place last year. “I think it’s our job, not just as black students, but every student on campus too, if they do see something racially charged, to bring it to the university and then the university does something about it.” Editor's note (11/17/2017): This story has been updated to include a link to Dean Pearson's full statement to The Cluster.
For members of the Muscogee Creek Nation, the Ocmulgee National Monument in Macon has been sacred ground for hundreds of years. But in the 1930’s, archeologists unearthed millions of objects from the Ocmulgee, including the remains of people who were buried at the site. Now, some of those people have been brought back home. In September, tribal members traveled to Macon from Oklahoma for the annual Ocmulgee Indian Celebration, a public observance of their culture and heritage that draws thousands of visitors each year. Just weeks before, they were there for a more private event, the re-burial of 113 of their ancestors and 42,000 funeral objects. Raelynn Butler is the tribe’s Historic and Cultural Preservation manager. She oversaw the reinterment, and says it’s the largest in the tribe’s history. “Those individuals you know at one time they had a proper funeral, and they were buried by people that loved them,” Butler said. “And so for us the most respectful thing we can do is to put them back where they belong and to make sure that it was done in a respectful way and to let them be at rest again.” Butler said that the wishes of native people were overlooked when archeologists unearthed nearly 3-million objects from the Ocmulgee in the 1930s and split them between museums, universities and the federal government. “No one asked the descendants you know, ‘Is it OK if we keep them and keep them in these facilities for 80 years to study them?’” Butler said. Amberly Proctor was in Middle Georgia for the Ocmulgee Indian Celebration as the current Miss Muscogee Creek Nation. She said that while she’s happy her ancestors have been returned to Ocmulgee, she wishes the reburial wasn’t necessary. “It’s very emotional because you know when we bury our people, they are meant to stay buried,” Proctor said. “They should never be dug up or anything. We never should have had to come to this point where we had to put them back to where they belong.” And putting them back can be a lengthy process. It took the tribe twenty years to complete this reinterment. The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, or NAGPRA, allows descendants to request the return of remains held by the federal government. The remains they received were previously held by entities under the National Park Service. But the process is different for museums like the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian. Butler says the tribe believes additional remains are there, but must go through a lengthy process involving extensive research to get them back. “I think a lot of times our histories are oral history, and we can't necessarily prove that we were in an area before contact, before written history,” Butler said. “And so I think tribes have a hard time being able to prove or to prove in an empirical way that those remains are affiliated to us.” Jackie Swift is the repatriation manager at the National Museum of the American Indian, and she’s of Comanche and Ft. Sill Apache descent. She says the museum tries to be flexible in the reinterment process. “It’s been one of the founding tenets that there not be any human remains under our stewardship and that they all should go home back to their communities of origin,” Swift said. “Every human being deserves a respectful burial and, in this case, re-burial and so we really really try and look at it from that perspective.” Back at the festival, John John Brown, an elder of the Muscogee Creek Nation, said he hopes more remains will be brought back to Ocmulgee while he’s still alive to see it. “I do hope that at some point that they do realize that it's real important, especially to the native americans, that their bones and remains go back to where their people put them,” Brown said. Where the bodies were reinterred at Ocmulgee is being kept private, but Butler says that they are where they need to be. “We know now that those individuals have been put back to rest,” Butler said. “We take great pride in knowing that those people can go on and are back to where they belong.” Editor's note: a version of this article originally ran on GPB.org on October 24, 2017.
It might be your first year in college, but that doesn’t mean you have to make rookie mistakes. Start the year off strong by getting serious about the way you spend money. These ten tips will help you make smarter choices about your expenses and save a little money too. Make coffee at home. Specialty beverages from nearby coffee shops or the local Starbucks are bound to tempt you, but don’t give in. It’s much smarter to invest in a coffee maker or Keurig than it is to spend $5 a day for a cup of joe. It’s time to make k-cups your new best friend. Download the “Flipp” app. This app is a lifesaver. Flipp gathers weekly catalogs from your favorite grocery stores and compares prices so you can make sure you’re getting the best deals. The app also lets you create a grocery list and helps you find coupons for the items on your list. Use it when you need to purchase things that aren’t covered by your meal plan. Take advantage of your student I.D. It’s always on you, so why not use it? Many local places offer a student discount with valid I.D. It’s a lifesaver for late night trips to Waffle House, where you can get 10 percent off when you flash your card. Many other locations offer student discounts from time to time--it never hurts to ask when you’re checking out. Get a Kroger Plus card. This is a must. Having a Kroger Plus Card helps you save money on groceries AND gas. With a Kroger card, you earn one fuel point for every dollar you spend in store. Rack up enough points and you could save 30 cents off of every gallon of gas when you fuel up. That can make a big difference. Ditch the card, pay with cash. It’s so easy to swipe and not think twice, so leave your card at home and keep cash on you instead. There’s just something about having to physically take cash out of your wallet that makes you feel a bit more guilty about spending it-- and more inclined not to! Make the most of your meal plan. Don’t buy things that are already available to you. You’ll never need to add nuts, bananas, chocolate chips, or even disposable silverware to your shopping cart because you can get them with your meal swipe. The Caf, UC Food Court and Farmer’s Market all have these items and many more you can take back to your dorm. Think before you spend! Don’t underestimate the dollar store. The dollar store can help you save some serious cash and offers many of the same items found at regular grocery stores. You can get toiletries, cleaning and school supplies, and even glassware at prices that will make your wallet happy. Download a budgeting app, like Penny or Mint. Both of these apps track the areas where you spend the most money. You can look for patterns in your spending and work to limit those expenses in the future. Sell your old clothes. If it doesn’t fit or hasn’t made it out of the house in a while, it might be time to say goodbye. If you’re strapped for cash, you can take your old/unwanted clothing to Plato’s Closet. Employees will go through your clothes and offer to purchase certain things from you. Take whatever they don’t want and donate it to the local Goodwill. Everyone wins! Ask friends to come over instead of going out. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to go out with your friends to have a good time. You can hang out without spending money! Watch Netflix with your friends, check out a movie from Tarver Library, or simply have a conversation (shocking, I know). If you feel like you have to “go somewhere” to hang out, refer back to tip number six and hit up Einstein’s or Bear Necessities. You can also check out one of the many free events Quad Works holds throughout the school year.
Bicycles hang from the walls of a tiny room at Strong Tower Church and a group of young boys moves to their work stations. They pick up wrenches and wait for instruction. These kids are part of Macon’s Learn and Earn bike program, where students are given a used bike and taught how to fix it up. After ten hours of repair work, they get to take their bike home. “Watching them at first they don't understand [the time commitment],” said Nathan Watson, who leads the youth program. “After a couple sessions it starts to sink in and you know they see this light at the end of this tunnel--that they're gonna get this bike. That's just a cool thing.” Watson started the bike program a year ago. He keeps Learn and Earn running on bike donations from the community. Kids at Learn and Earn meet twice a week to take the bikes apart and rebuild them again. At the end of the program, Watson signs off on their hours, and they get to pick out a free bike to bring home. “I call it a free bike but, they've earned a bike. They are not just given a bike that they’ll go lose tomorrow,” Watson said. “They’ve got some sweat equity in it. They really are earning the bikes and they know how to fix them after that too.” The program caters to kids in the Pleasant Hill Neighborhood. This summer, boys from The Methodist Home worked on their hours. They spent classes taking the brakes off their bikes, oiling brake cables and completing other tasks. After this group completes their work, they will join the ranks of 18 other students who have received bikes from Learn and Earn. Watson said he’s proud of his students. “You know, I’ve got a picture of every one of them when they got presented their bike after ten hours and I mean they have just a huge smile on their faces,” Watson said. “It’s just fun working with these kids.” Mercer students who are interested in volunteering with the program can reach out to Watson at Nathan@lebikeshop.com. “I don’t even need skilled volunteers,” Watson said. “I just need people that can keep the kids at the bike so they're not running around picking on their other friends.”
For students facing poverty today, summer break can be one devastating vacation. With no access to educational resources at home, these students risk losing valuable reading skills they’ve gained during the school year. Freedom Schools across the nation are trying to change that by making sure kids gain skills, not lose them. The program exists in 29 states, including Georgia. Middle Georgia welcomed its first Freedom School over the summer. “Children can gain skills during the school year and as they go through the year they get more proficient at those skills,” said Julie Groce, who works at Appleton Episcopal Ministries. She said that the school year is one thing, but summer break is something completely different. “Because school is out, there is an aspect called summer slide. That means they just lose those skills because they don't practice them every day,” Groce said. Groce helped bring the first Freedom School to Macon to help kids fight back against this summer slide. She said that reading skills are fundamental for these students. “You can't study math and you can't learn science if you can't read,” Groce said. “It's something that if you learn early on in your life you can be a lifelong reader [and] a lifelong learner.” And the students did a lot of reading, with a curriculum based on weekly themes. “‘I can make a difference in myself’ was week one, ‘I can make a difference in my family [was] week two’,” said Rachel Chabot. “All the work that they did and the books that they read were on those themes.” Chabot teaches at Stratford Academy during the school year but spent her summer with Freedom School. She oversaw the program’s interns, like Quinten Oppong, a Mercer University senior majoring in public health. Oppong, whose family is from Ghana, led his summer classroom with a village theme. He asked his students to think of themselves as kings and queens to engage them with their reading. [pullquote speaker="Rachel Chabot" photo="" align="left" background="off" border="none" shadow="off"]The Freedom School program isn’t just about reading comprehension. It’s about empowerment.[/pullquote] "A lot of the books we read were tailored to their culture and to being a minority. They saw other people who look like them and their history. When we [would] read through things we talk[ed] about what they're going through or if they relate and then helping them to see: how would a king or a queen react to that situation?” Other interns had students compare themselves to super heroes. Chabot said these themes prove a point: the Freedom School program isn’t just about reading comprehension. It’s about empowerment. “Yes, we want them to love reading and we want to help them go back to school better equipped but we really also want them to understand that you know the books they are reading matter to them and that they matter to the community,” Chabot said. Back in the classroom, Oppong said that even though he can’t make an impact on every struggling student, he can help the kids at Freedom School. “Here, right now, we can make a difference in these kids lives,” Oppong said.
When it comes to skincare, I’ve tried it all. Face scrubs. Face masks. Face cream. Recently, however, I came across a better, smarter, and healthier way to cleanse your skin? And… it involves oils. Yes, oils. But not the nasty kind that you generally have issues with. I’m talking about the oil cleansing method. A year ago, if you had told me to cleanse my oily skin by slathering more oil over my pores, I would have laughed. But, this method is tried and true. I know because I’ve seen significant progress in the clarity and texture of my skin over the past month. The best part is, this skin care regime is easy to make and very affordable. It’s time to stop shelling out hundreds of dollars for lackluster products. Instead, put a little money into this natural remedy that will last far longer than your Lush clay mask. Everyone’s experience with OCM is different yet each formula has a similar makeup. The majority of formulas I’ve seen include carrier oils and essential oils. To make your mixture, you use carrier oils to dilute the essential oil of your choice. This is important because most oils are too strong to be applied to the skin on their own. As with any new skincare regimen, you want to do a skin test on your arm before applying it to your face. The Oil Cleansing Method website suggests starting with these three types of blends: Oily Skin: Try a blend of 30% Castor Oil to 70% Sunflower Seed or Olive Oil Balanced Skin: Try a blend of 20% Castor Oil to 80% Sunflower Seed or Olive Oil Dry Skin: Try a blend of 10% Castor Oil to 90% Sunflower Seed or Olive Oil Since I have combination skin, I use castor oil, jojoba oil, and lavender oil for my blend. You can add any essential oil, but I use lavender because it has a calming smell that helps me to wind down before bed. Once you have chosen a recipe that works for you, apply the oil mixture to your clean, dry, face every night before bed. Then, take a hot towel and press it into your face until it becomes cool. This essentially steams and seals the good oils into your face. You want to repeat the steaming process until your face no longer feels oily. Then, wake up the next day and see/feel the difference! Of course, every skin type is different, and I cannot say with certainty that this method will work for everyone, but if you want your skin to feel smooth and look better, it is definitely worth a shot.
“American Horror Story” has arisen from the grave that its former seasons had seemingly buried it in. While predecessors “Freak Show” and “Hotel” ultimately flopped, season 6 so far is a success — even though I’m still not sure about what’s really going on. “American Horror Story: Roanoke Nightmare” is riddled with squeamish, scary details that are sure to spook even the most suspicious spectators. For the first six episodes, viewers follow the stories of a newlywed couple, Matt and Shelby, who appear to be on a talk show akin to “A Haunting.” Their stories are portrayed through reenactments, which is definitely something new from AHS directors. It’s an interesting approach, but I could do without it, if I’m being honest. The characters tell me everything I need to know, so the element of surprise is compromised there. Still, the story is compelling enough to make up for it. Matt and Shelby, having fled from their digs in Los Angeles, purchase a historic home in North Carolina together. The large white mansion, which sits in the middle of the woods, has fallen victim to a number of intimidating spectres with deep, historical ties to the land. The season stars a butcher, a witch and a madman, to name a few. Each is connected by a harrowing tale that will have any viewer on the edge of their seat. American Horror Story ultimately works, but it does have its pitfalls. The most glaring error is the fact that the audience is so detached from the two main characters and their near death encounters. We never see them lead their lives; we only witness re-enactments onscreen. Without the disconnect, I could see how this season may have mirrored the first season, “Murder House,” but there is a reason why season 1 did so well. Season 6 could have been helped by following suit. The sixth season’s story is murky and confusing, but that’s why it has such a compelling nature. Having written this after the sixth episode aired, I can say that I have a horrifying feeling that all may not be as it seems. The main characters in the show have already seemed to find their way to safety, and with four episodes still left in this season, the show will most certainly have a twist to reveal. As Entertainment Weekly reported, co-creator Ryan Murphy said, “The thing you think you are watching is not what you're watching at all." We now have the key to the twist we have heard so much about. At the end of the last episode, a teaser was played after the credits. It shows the cast that was filming the documentary. The director retorts: “You rolling? The camera never stops, no matter what anyone says. Even if I tell you to stop, you keep going. Got it?” This leads me to believe that the real horror has only just begun. I would love to see some found footage scenes before season 6 wraps up. I would also like to see more backstory about the Roanoke village (not to mention the creepy, disfigured woman who crawled across hardwood floors in the latest episode). With the season halfway over, many questions still remain, and I’m dying to get some resolutions. Leading up to the premiere of this highly anticipated season, the content and cast of season 6 were shrouded in mystery. If the rest of the show follows this and offers viewers an “a-ha!” moment at the end, “American Horror Story: Roanoke Nightmare” will surely be a homerun.
Mac Miller’s “The Divine Feminine,” a brave new venture taking rap into the world of romanticism, is perhaps one of his most provocative works yet. While he’s no less sexed-up, Miller has shaken the strung-out character that pervades his previous albums. In “The Divine Feminine,” he’s more grown up and sure of what he wants in life. This album is an intoxicating love letter, and I’m buying every bit of it. “The Divine Feminine” opens with “Congratulations,” a classically-influenced mix co-written by love interest and pop star Ariana Grande. The soft whisperings of an unknown woman coax the listener through the beginning steps of a journey of nostalgia and forlorn love that continues in the next few tracks. Miller talks about domestic life with a great love of his — a woman who was there before the “fancy cars,” back when Miller was just a “starving artist.” Reminiscing on his druggie days, Miller croons: “I felt the highs and they felt like you. See, a love like mine is too good to be true.” Though Miller’s album cover is a soft pink, he recalls that his lover reminds him “of the color blue.” With this introduction, it’s clear that Miller is not trying to hide what the album is really about. He’s a man on a mission, and that is to talk about love (and no, he doesn’t step on Drake’s toes — in fact, I think he owns the subject matter a little easier). [infographic align="right"][/infographic] The album fits the message of love perfectly. It just works. While I love this album almost as much as Miller loves his girl, “Skin” and “Cinderella” are clear standouts for me. “Skin” is so sensual in nature it rivals hits from the likes of The Weeknd, while “Cinderella” is just as playful with hopeful undertones. In “Cinderella,” Miller remarks: “Well all my days now, they changin’. I got angels, no more Satan. Looks like God's on my side, this time,” and I really believe that he’s at one of the happiest times in his life. Miller has managed to share that happiness through music — a clear sign of his talent. At this point in the album, I feel that Miller’s hits have already been accounted for. But this wordsmith hasn’t pulled out all the stops just yet. “God is Fair, Sexy Nasty,” a collaboration with Kendrick Lamar that finds its way to the end of the track list, is pure magic. No matter how many times I listen to this album, I find myself coming back to this track in particular. The lyricism is impeccable. The vibe is unmatched. When it comes to Lamar and Miller, I just want to hear more. I’m not lying when I say I enjoyed every bit of “The Divine Feminine” from beginning to end. I don’t know if Miller has convinced the woman he’s rapping about to love him back, but I sure am head over heels.
The Student Government Association held their annual bear grant senate in the Connell Student Center Monday. Representatives from different organizations gathered to learn if their funding requests had been granted for this year. All 45 groups who applied were approved for funding at the meeting. The proceeding lasted less than thirty minutes. “Gabriel Gonzales did an amazing job this year streamlining the process. That was the fastest funding legislation that I’ve ever seen in the senate,” said Catie Byrd, SGA senator and member of the fiscal affairs committee. “I have heard horror stories about Bear Grant Senate [lasting] up to five hours before.” Before the meeting, the fiscal affairs committee met with all 45 organizations to go over their applications, according to an SGA minutes report. Senators had time to raise any concerns before the meeting. All concerns were cleared the day before the bear grant senate took place. “It went pretty quickly, more quickly than I was expecting, and it was nice to know that all the senators gave their approval,” said Hannah Keller, president of Mercer’s French club. “They didn’t have many qualms about approving things for us, which is nice. It’s good to know that our club is supported.” The total funding that could have been allocated this year was $37,010.59. All group applications were approved, which left the bear grant budget at $2989.41 after the proceeding took place. Bear grant senate takes place once a year but new organizations are eligible to apply for bear grant funding as long as there is still funding in the budget. Organizations that are still interested in receiving funding can contact Gabriel Gonzales, chair of fiscal affairs.
Mercer University will bring the tailgate from Middle Georgia to Atlanta at the Georgia Tech football game Sept. 10. The Office of Campus Life, Mercer Athletics and the Mercer Maniacs came together to coordinate this student trip as a way to increase school spirit and the sense of community on campus. Timothy Lewis, an SGA senator-at-large, said this is one event students want to make sure they are a part of. “[Students] won’t want to miss this historic upset. This is the first time our football [program] is on the national stage, so we want to show the nation what makes our school so special,” Lewis said. “Other schools do not give their students opportunities to bus as a group to major away games, so this is such a great opportunity.” Students who wish to be a part of this event will be charged a $20 fee that covers the cost of a ticket to the game, transportation, food and a t-shirt. This is a $75 value, according to the registration page. The deadline to sign up is Sept. 7. Tickets are first-come, first-served basis. Sophomore Kaitlyn Kong said she is excited to go on the trip. “I’m just excited to be in the crowd and to see the stadium at Georgia Tech. I’ve never done anything like this where I’ve traveled on a bus with other students, so it’s kind of exciting for me,” Kong said. “I think it will definitely make me feel like more of a Mercer student and up my school pride.” To reserve your spot for the trip, you can bring a cash payment or your bear card to the office of campus life. You can also make debit or credit payments by visiting mercervtech16.eventbrite.com. To complete the process, students who wish to attend the game will also have to register online at www.tinyurl.com/MercervTech16. The event registration is open for Macon campus students only. All others will have to visit tickets.mercer.edu to purchase their tickets. As noted on the registration page, students who sign up online agree to pay the $20 fee, ride the bus from Mercer University to the game and back and abide by all university policies while away. This will be an all-day event, so students who wish to attend the game should expect to spend the entire day off campus with their fellow Mercerians. Buses will tentatively be leaving from Mercer at 9:30 a.m. on Sept. 10, according to the registration page. Lewis said that during the game, a thousand Mercer students will sit together as one student section. “Going to this game will create memories that will be influential parts of [students’] Mercer experience,” Lewis said. “We want to show Tech how amazing our student section is.”
Macon is hailed as the place “where soul lives.” It’s also the place where soul grew up. Otis Redding was just 5 years old when his family moved from Dawson, Georgia to Macon, according to author Eric Siegfried Holtz. Here, he would hone his musical craft until his death in 1967. Redding lost his life in a plane crash at the age of 26. Today, decades after his passing, he’s hailed as the “King of Soul” around the world. Still, here in Macon, he means just a little bit more. “Otis Redding is Macon’s hometown hero even today,” said Otis Redding Foundation Representative Karla Andrews in an email. “His kind spirit and love for his fellow Maconites regardless of color or socio-economic status still resonates with everyone.” In celebration of what would have been Redding’s 75th birthday, Downtown Macon is pairing with the Otis Redding Foundation to commemorate Redding’s life with a week of events beginning Sept.7. Andrews hopes that Mercer students will be a part of the festivities so they can see the impact Redding has had on fans. “Students should ... experience the loyalty of Otis Redding fans not only from Macon but from around the world who are young, middle age and in their senior years,” Andrews said. To begin the celebration, there will be a bottle release party held by the Macon Beer Company to showcase a special new brew called Macon Dreams. The beer was created specifically in commemoration of Otis Redding’s 75th birthday, according to the company’s site. Tickets to this event will be $30. It will take place Sept. 7 from 6-10 p.m. On Thursday, Sept. 8, The Tubman Museum will partner with the Otis Redding Foundation present a Visual Art Contest and Gallery Opening at 5 p.m. Friday, Sept. 9, which has been dubbed “Otis Redding Day,” will be full of exciting events. To kick the day off, there will be live music and entertainment at Cherry Street Plaza starting at 11 a.m. A special screening of “Unsung,” an hour long music documentary program, will be presented by The Douglass Theatre at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. Friday as well. NewTown Macon will continue its’ monthly First Friday celebrations in the evening. On Saturday evening, Sept. 10, Bragg Jam and the Macon Film Festival will come together to present what they call “A Picnic Under the Stars with Otis Red- ding.” This event will be held on Coleman Hill at 9 p.m. They will be screening concert footage of Otis Redding. Afterwards, the Tubman African American Museum will present “The King of Soul: Otis Redding in Photographs.” These events will culminate into one very special night. Sunday has been named “An Evening of Respect.” There will be a “star-studded” tribute concert and fundraiser at the Macon City Auditorium. It will feature a reunion of the ’80s group The Reddings with Mark Lockett, Sam Moore, Robert McDuffie, and others. “I am most looking forward to the tribute concert featuring Redding’s sons Dexter and Otis III and Grammy nominated St. Paul & the Broken Bones who put their new release album tour on hold to participate in the concert,” Andrews said in an email. The Otis Redding Foundation DREAM Choir will be performing as well. All proceeds for this event will benefit the Otis Redding Foundation. Ticket prices will vary for each event. For this information and more, visit otisreddingfoundation.org.
The Mercer Players will start their semester off with a performance of the award-winning play “Gidion’s Knot.” “Gidion’s Knot” tells the story of a parent/teacher conference that twists into “a dramatically charged collision of freedom of expression, the failure of our school system, and bullying,” according to a Mercer press release. The play will be showing at the Tattnall Square Center for the Arts from Sept. 8 to Sept. 11. Annie Fair, stage manager and lighting designer for the show, said that she’s excited for the upcoming production. “I love this play. The content is very intense and compelling,” Fair said. “I believe that students should attend because it addresses issues like free speech, school safety, childhood, and personal responsibility.” “It is sure to start many discussions,” Fair said. “I like that this play asks difficult questions about these topics. It’s a very meaningful and emotional show.” Fair urges fellow students to come out to the performance. “It’s going to be a fantastic production,” Fair said. Performances will begin at 7:30 p.m., and there will be a 2:30 a.m. Sunday matinee show, according to a Mercer press release. Tickets can be purchased in advance or at the door. Admission is $15 or $10 with a valid Mercer ID. Some content may not be suitable for children.
Greek Row was a blur of pinks, blues and greens last weekend as fall sorority bid day festivities commenced. Sorority hopefuls spent the day confronting a mix of emotions from wondering if they were going to get an offer to join their preferred sorori- ty to running towards their members of their new group. Freshman Alex Zelaya said she wasn’t sure what to feel on bid day. “At frst, I was super nervous, but when we started running down to the houses, I was so excited and ready to fnd my phi pal,” Zelaya said, who received a bid from Phi Mu. While 144 girls participated in the beginning stages of rush week, only 125 girls were given bids to join sororities, according to Panhellenic Advisor Frantz Salomon. Zelaya said that she was lucky to be one of them. “I was literally about to cry when I got my bid,” Zelaya said. “From the moment I stepped into the house, I knew it was my home.” Zelaya said that while recruitment was nerve wracking, she was happy with the payoff. “[Rush week] was worth it, and I would do it all over again because I got to meet so many new people. It was just so easy to bond with other people because you were going through the same thing they were.”
Mercer's Student Government Association (SGA) recently released their annual presidential report. It was provided to The Cluster by SGA Vice President Aaron Scherf. In an email sent to SGA representatives, President Elizabeth McKay touched on a couple of updates coming to campus this year. New Bus Stop Mercer has put up a clear “Bus Stop” sign at the Greek shuttle stop on campus. Additionally, Macon Transit Authority is placing a sign at the downtown shuttle stop, according to McKay. SGA Senator-at-Large Timothy Lewis said he is happy to see the new sign up on campus.[sidebar title="Upcoming SGA Dates" align="right" background="on" border="all" shadow="off"] August 31: Freshmen Qualifications and Junior Special Election Qualifications September 6-7: Voting September 10: Mercer/Georgia Tech Game September 11: SGA Training September 12: First Senate September 16-17: Mercer Parent's Weekend September 19: Bear Grants Senate September 25: Pilgrimage to Penfield November 8: National Election Day December 8: Christmas Tree Lighting [/sidebar] “I am glad that we have new shuttle stop signage at Greek Village,” Lewis said in a Facebook message. “This makes it a clear place for students to wait and be picked up by the shuttle, and serves as a reminder, especially for our new students, that we offer such a great service to our students.” Moving forward, MTA is considering placing an additional bus stop at The Brick at Lofts at College Hill. SoCon Voter Registration Looking forward, SGA is also promoting a Southern Conference voter registration competition this year. According to the email, Mercer will be competing against all other SoCon schools in order to increase the number of registered voters on campus. McKay wrote that SGA will be “taking a lead supporting position for Mobilize Mercer’s initiatives to help voter engagement.” “SGA is proud to support both the SoCon Votes initiative and Mobilize Mercer,” said Cole Porter, SGA senator, in an email. “Come November, we hope to break student voter turnout records while bringing home a conference title to the bears.” Mercer Mobile App Mercer’s mobile app ratings are “currently extremely low,” according to McKay, which has prompted SGA to cut their investment with the initiative in half. The presidential report stated that IT will be looking into the app’s trolley tracker to make sure it’s accurate as students head into this school year. Moving forward, SGA will be “[dedicating] efforts to promoting the app the students and receiving feedback.” This project is being overseen by Senator Olivia Buckner. Note: A previous version of this article did not indicate where the quotes from Cole Porter and Timothy Lewis were obtained. This story has been updated with that information.