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In the Mind of Mia

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Greenwood Local Makes Impact

Greenwood, SC – Societal and cultural norms are presenting unanticipated challenges for college students who are the first individuals in their family to pursue higher education.

West Virginia University sophomore Shyniece Sanders never could have anticipated the difficulties she would encounter leaving her small hometown to pursue an degree in petroleum engineering.

“It is never really what I expect when I come back home.” said Sanders. “It’s almost as if I learn and grow but nothing here does.”

This specific challenge of balancing newfound independence at a university while attempting to also provide an example of success for individuals who share similar circumstances is unique to some first generation students.

According to The National Center for Education Statistics, 30 percent of all entering freshmen are the first individuals in their families to attend college.

Sanders explained that within communities like Greenwood individuals who are able to successfully overcome squalid circumstances are assigned the role and responsibility of setting an example for the youth of that community.

What is more is that this added responsibility comes with added pressure to perform.

Within the community of Greenwood, Sanders has served as a community role model. She has been heavily involved in school athletics, her local Baptist church and even served as homecoming queen during her senior year.

 

“We become the super heroes. A lot of these guys don’t have anyone to look up to.” said Sanders.

She described a lack positive influences in her community makes her feel more compelled to make sure her impact on her community is on a consistent and lasting basis. However, she noted that for her this has often presented a challenge because of her need to simultaneously maintain her academic responsibilities.

“I feel like on top of everything else I have to do in the day I still have to call Isiah to make sure he’s on the right path. I have to make sure that while I’m here things are still okay.” said Sanders.

The 16.3 square miles that makes up the city of Greenwood provides few outlets for extracurricular activities aside from the sports programs provided by the secondary schools located there.

Abandoned and old buildings line the streets of Greenwood. Sanders noted that the civic center which includes open fields for recreation remain unused because of dissatisfaction with the condition of equipment and lack of support of the facility by the community.

“Some of the older guys hold workouts for the boys in town but that isn’t putting money in their pockets so they ain’t worried about it how they should be.” said Sanders.

Highschool junior Isiah Whatley is amongst one of the youth in Greenwood that considers Shyniece as a role model. He aspires to follow her lead in attending a university and pursuing sports during his high school career.

During her spring break Sanders took the initiative to take Whatley and two other Greenwood High School students on a college tour of Coastal Carolina University. Due to the long hours worked by the parents of the boys, she decided to lend a helping hand to the families’ of those she had mentored during her time at Greenwood High.

Two weeks after the visit one of the young men she took on the college tour was arrested and charged with multiple criminal charges including breach of peace and failure to stop for blue lights.

“He got a job at footlocker and was looking at coastal but I don’t know what happened in the meantime. While I was focusing on me I could have been helping him. I feel like my success isn’t even something to celebrate when things like this be happening if the people I care about are failing.” said Sanders.

At only 19 years old, Shyniece feels responsible for the futures of other children who are only a few years younger than her. The added responsibility serves as a motivation to excel but can also act as a performance inhibitor for Shyniece.

Anxiety is felt by her whenever she feels as though she has performed poorly academically. Sanders said, “I’m winning for me and everyone else which is both a blessing and a curse.”

Despite only being a sophomore, she has plans on implementing non-profit community outreach programs in the city after she acquires her degree and funding to support her vision for the youth of Greenwood.

In addition to her local impact, Sanders has involved herself with organizations which provide her with the opportunity and platform to make an international impact.

She began involving herself with an organization known as Engineers Without Boarders her freshman year and since then has had plans to travel extensively using her engineering expertise to make natural resources more available to impoverished countries abroad.

 

After working with Engineers Without Borders, she plans on opening non-profit community youth clubs starting with her small town.

Sanders explained that she finds issue with how within the black community, those who do not fit into stereotypical roles within the community are not as supported in their entrepreneurial interest.

She goes on record to say “I find major issue with the fact there is a place for black boys that want to sell drugs, there is a place for black girls that want to do hair, there is a place for black boys who want to smoke dope but God forbid that a little black boy want a telescope in the hood or a little black girl likes, I don’t know, Dungeons and Dragons or poetry or anything besides the bare minimum activities that requires little to no thought. And what’s worst is that is the expectation.”

Shyniece plans to raise the bar or expectations of these kids in hopes that this will inspire them to aim higher in their personal goal setting. “If I can make a safe, nerdy space for just one I know that I have done my part.” said Sanders.

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Road Safety for Black Teen Drivers

Greenville, SC – Mothers of African American children in the south fear for their children’s safety as they become licensed drivers due to the influx of police shootings involving black teens.

Police brutality has always been at the forefront of issues plaguing the African American community but recently, technology such as cellphones and body cameras on officers are making these occurrences more visible to the public.

Amongst many recent incidents, in April 2017 body camera footage showing five teens being held at gun point in Michigan sparked outrage for many in the community. However, for mothers with teen drivers of their own it sparked a more fearful response.

Brandy Whately says she fears often for her son whenever he is driving at night or on the weekend because of the issues pertaining to police brutality involving black teens. “I know that if he ever gets pulled over  for anything there is a chance that I might not ever see him come home again. Even if he does everything right I know he might not come home if he is pulled over by the wrong one.”

Isiah Whately is a new driver and only acquired his full license after having had his provisional for six months. As a student athlete, driving gives him the ability to make it to practice and games without relying on his mother for transportation.

He says “I feel like when I first started driving she was strict because she wanted to keep me home but I see she wanted me safe for real. I ain’t never been stopped but I don’t plan to either. I get it that I just need to go where I need to and come home.”

New drivers are faced with many dangers on the road. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, teen drivers are three times more likely to be involved with a vehicle collision and traffic stops than drivers who are older than 20. The National Safety Council agrees and according to one of their slogans half of these teens will be involved in one of these before they graduate high school.

Many driver instructors teach statistics such as these in driving education courses as a means to prepare young drivers for the dangers they will encounter on the road.

Max Allen who is a driver instructor for Greenville Driving School is sure to emphasize road safety when being pulled over by law enforcement.

As an African American woman with children she is familiar with the fear many black parents experience when their child obtains their license. She says “I always push the fact that they need to stay calm and polite. Even if they are wrong because in the end we would rather pay the ticket than to see your baby harmed during a traffic stop and we see it all too often.”

In her driving course there is an entire section dedicated to interacting with law enforcement. Within the section it details how to safely interact with law enforcement during a traffic stop and advises that teen drivers are honest and apologetic when issued a citation.

For more information, visit https://youtu.be/cgQOJWXWM74

 

Theft in Tega Cay

Tega Cay, SC Jan. 18 – Officers in the city of Tega Cay are introducing new forensic techniques and educational videos in an attempt to see a decrease in the more than 300 arrest they have received related to shoplifting and various degrees of theft in the area.

Crime Reports, a free online database that hosts the largest collection of law enforcement agencies that provide public access to criminal activity in their jurisdiction, says that there have already been over 92 incidents in the area since January of this year.

The Tega Cay Police Department twitter page tweeted early last month that “Zero Tolerance for Shoplifting is the subject of this month’s take 2 minutes with Tega Cay Police. TCPD arrested over 300 people & had over 1,000 calls for service the past 2 years at the Tega Cay Wal-Mart. No more!! TCPD will crack down on shoplifters”.

Of these calls and arrest, there have been charges issued that range from larceny, theft from building, and shoplifting with a value of 2,000 dollars or less.

Officers have plans to introduce new outreach programs as well as new forensic techniques such as better cameras in the most targeted stores parking lots in order to combat the frequent shoplifting.

Patrol Lieutenant Steve Parker is one of many officers that is directly involved with the new community outreach programs being introduced to the area.

Parker has a first-hand account of many of the incidents. “We have picked up several people and many of them admit they chose this area because they thought it would be an easy job.”

Of these community outreach programs being introduced, there has been a YouTube page created with the specific purpose of educating the public on how the community is being effected by theft as well as the varying fines and jail times for the crimes associated with theft.

“You know, it effects the community as a whole. It isn’t just about the store losses but the potential to see an increase in costs for patrons that use the store.” Parker said.

Aside from the Tega Cay Police department having to increase measures to decrease theft in Tega Cay, QuikTrip, a local gas station chain in the area had also seen an increase in theft within their stores in the area.

QuikTrip overnight clerk Enrique Jimenez accounted what it had been like working overnight where most of the theft tends to occur at the gas station chain.

“I have seen people come in and walk out with 6 packs of beer before. Sometimes they don’t even bother coming to the front at all. Our shift leaders tell us not to go up to them or try to take it back because we are just supposed to go get a manager.” Jimenez said.

Jimenez said there is an added sense of security working in QuikTrip stores because they offer free coffee to police and first responders in the area. In his time working there, police frequently visit the store.

“That kind of puts my mind to ease because I don’t do much when it happens but probably just seeing the police car parked in the corner will keep a lot of them out in the first place.”

For more information on how you can help follow the Tega Cay Police Department on Twitter @TegaCayPD to keep up with their progress and efforts.

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