Feb 05, 2013

Students Strive To Change The World

Argumentation and Debate Class Faces Challenges While Trying To Make a Difference

"It's not easy," said Nashville's Graham Ahlstrom, a mass communications student at Columbia State's Williamson County Campus. "I mean, I'm a veteran, and there were many occasions when nobody would donate anything."

What Ahlstrom is referring to is a class project given by his Argumentation and Debate instructor Daniel Johnson, in which students were challenged to "Change the World."

The class was divided into two groups, and was able to brainstorm ways that they could make a difference in the lives of others. After some trials and tribulations, Ahlstrom's group, which also featured Tiffany Byram of Fairview, Yarbrough Fleming of Franklin, Mandi Phelps of Hermitage and Megan Molina, Daniel Adkins and Patrick Dray of Brentwood, decided to focus on putting together care packages for U.S. troops overseas.

With Ahlstrom having served multiple tours of duty in Iraq, and Dray getting ready to go back for a second tour in Afghanistan in 2010, this subject really hit home for the students.

"Being over in Iraq, it was so motivational to receive care packages from folks back home," said Ahlstrom, who served in 2001, 2003 and 2004 and currently works while going to school. "I can't even describe how much the packages boosted our spirits. People perform better when they know they weren't forgotten, and that people back home appreciate what they're doing. Also, I believe it helps veterans return back into normal everyday life if they've received something while being away."

Dray agreed completely. "You never know when the smallest and most minute details can add up, especially when you are dealing with someone else's life. Many people say a simple smile to a stranger on the street can brighten their day beyond belief. Mailing packages to troops overseas definitely brightens their day and boosts morale in ways many folks can't even imagine."

The students goal was to approach local businesses for items such as drink powders, hot cocoa mix, coffee, microwaveable entrees, canned foods, beef jerky, chewing gum, brown t-shirts, socks, toothbrushes/toothpaste, playing cards, word puzzle books, magazines, board games, disposable cameras and plenty more, and put together as many care packages as possible, with a personalized letter in each box. The students also conducted bake sales on and off campus to raise additional funds to buy more supplies for the care packages.

In the end, many students felt a little frustrated with the results, but took something away from the project, and the real life, hands on experience that the project provided them.

"This project really taught me a lot," said Phelps. "I really enjoyed getting out there and talking to people. It got easier to talk to people the more I did it. This project not only taught me a lot about grassroots marketing and sales, but it will make a difference in people's lives. I know that since doing this project and really giving it my all, I have changed and have felt like a better person. Our soldiers are our real heroes. They are underappreciated, and it was nice to be part of an initiative that helps them out."

The other half of the class felt good about their efforts picking up trash and creating awareness regarding the importance of recycling. "We are very proud of the fact that we've given Columbia State a recycling center that it did not have before!" said Holly Hendrickson of Knoxville. "This experience is something that will stay with me forever."

Columbia State is a two-year college, serving a nine-county area in southern Middle Tennessee with locations in Columbia, Franklin, Lawrenceburg, Lewisburg and Clifton. The Franklin Campus has served Williamson County residents for more than 30 years, and currently serves more than 1,200 students in the various program areas of Nursing, EMT/Paramedic, Business Technology, Commercial Entertainment, and more. For more information, please visit www.columbiastate.edu.