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A woof start leads to a pawsome ending for local dogs

Since 2011 University of West Alabama professor Dr. Valerie Burnes has opened her heart and home to stray and abandoned dogs from surrounding areas and serves to find them loving homes. 

What started off as just one dog in need of a home through a Facebook post, soon expanded to 27 dogs in her house, 8 in kennels and 4 currently being fostered by a friend. She houses the dogs, feeds them and takes care of any veterinary needs.

Taking care of one puppy can be a hand full, Dr. Burnes has over 30. But every day she is grateful for the opportunity to make a difference. 

“They are the most innocent, just happy creatures. They just want to hang out, be loved on, eat and sleep and they give a lot of unconditional love in return. It’s a big injustice in the world to not do something to help them.” said Dr Burnes

From detecting illnesses and helping the blind to emotional support and security. Dogs have a unique ability to make us feel safe and unconditionally loved. Some of us would be truly lost without the help and bond we have with our four-legged furry friend.   

In the 1700’s the philosopher Voltaire wrote,

“DOG. — It seems that nature has given the dog to man for his defence and for his pleasure. Of all the animals it is the most faithful: it is the best friend man can have.”

Dogs have been man’s best friend for centuries so it’s shocking to think that services like Dr. Burnes are needed so desperately. Around 3.9 million dogs each year enter shelters, and unless they are adopted, they are euthanized. Dr. Burnes houses these stray and abandoned dogs so they can escape that fate.

“I try not to turn a dog away, usually the only issue is space. I’ve picked up dogs that have been hit by a car, I’ve picked up dogs with mange, and also heartworm positive dogs, I’ll help whatever comes along as long as I have somewhere to put them.” Laughs Dr Burnes.

Once she receives a dog, they follow a process to ensure they are healthy, trained and conditioned for their new home. The dog’s information is then posted to a Facebook group called Dixie Girl Dog Rescue and they are rehomed to families in areas like Massachusetts, New England and Connecticut. 

Completely self-funded, Dr. Burnes receives a lot of support from the community and the city. Although she loves what she does, she confesses that it can be overwhelming at times. However, knowing that what she’s doing is saving the lives of innocent dogs encourages her to continue to add to the 400 lives already saved.

“I always need donations, especially towards vet bills, food and just people to walk the dogs. It’s all funded by me but sometimes I need a few extra hands… Dog bowls, food, crates, everything helps… Even someone to come and play with puppies whilst I deep clean the kennel room is a great help.”

Some groups from the UWA campus volunteer their time to collect dog food, dog walk or simply interact with the puppies. UWA Women’s Soccer team, Softball team and campus sororities have all offered a helping hand. 

Dr. Burnes never forgets why she started and the good she is doing by helping something that can not directly thank her. 

“I’m thankful to be able to do this. People have their different strengths and for some reason I connect well with dogs,” said Dr. Burnes. “Everyone has their calling; you just have to find what that is and what you connect with.”

In a world of doom and gloom being reminded of the small acts of selfless kindness shows us the power we all have to make a difference to those around us. We all have a calling in life, and for Dr. Burnes, that was helping stray dogs escape termination and find a loving home.

If you wish to help or donate, please contact Dr Valerie Burnes on [email protected]. Or call (205) 652 3856.

Hurricane Maria builds Puerto Rican pride

Puerto Rico, home of the Pina Colada, is a popular tourist destination for many in the United States. The 300 pristine white beaches, sand trickles through visitors toes and waves creep up and gently caress the sand. Palm trees dance in the wind and wisps the smell of salt through the air. Sand dances around the ankles of sun-kissed volleyball players as they soak up the sun. All this happens under the twinkling lights of the hotels that stand proudly along beachfront.

It’s hard to imagine that just two years ago, on Sept 20, 2017, this small island paradise was struck by the force of hurricane Maria. A category five storm that cut off power systems and ripped into infrastructure, taking 3,057 lives, throwing a proud island into a third world nightmare.

“When Maria hit us, the noise was like in a horror movie,” said Margianne Rossello, resident of the capital city of San Juan. Rossello painted the picture of a country she no longer recognized. “I could see buildings far from our house that you couldn’t see before…It looked like winter in the U.S.” The storm ripped into buildings and tore naked trees from their roots leaving a trail of debris and destruction.

“The whole country was blacked out. Nobody had electricity,” said Rumary Diaz, resident of Rio Grande, Puerto Rico. “The hurricane hit us on Sept, 20, and the electricity came back on March 9, and almost nobody had water for weeks.”

The effects of the hurricane were life-changing. No power meant the whole country was under curfew. Police patrolled the streets as it wasn’t safe to be out in the darkness. Gas was a primary source of power; gas stations saw lines 15 hours long for a capped amount of $20 of gas. Seriously sick or injured people had to be moved to the U.S. to receive medical attention. Only one-tenth of the island’s highways were passable, and some citizens could not leave for up to three months due to the barricades of debris.

The storm caused over $91.61 billion, ranking it as the third-costliest tropical cyclone on record.

The proud island looked to the U.S. for help, but the government failed to provide adequate aid. The federal government allocated $40 billion for disaster recovery, but the majority of that money did not reach the island. This was due to the time-consuming process of the legalities and lack of evidence from plans they would use the money towards. Meals that were destined for survivors never left Atlanta, and a tarp company failed to deliver

The people were desperate, and almost 4% of the population moved to the U.S., but the ones that stayed, saw their county unified and united in their struggle to return the country to its former beauty. The people rallied in resilience and resistance to the hurricane and the lack of outside help.

United in struggle

The view from above is a mosaic pattern of blue tarps and brown debris, denoting the houses that lost everything and are struggling to rebuild. Along the highway, trees and lamp posts appear frozen in time from the gale-force winds that hit them. Cars have to dodge the craters left in the tarmac by the torrents of wind and water.

This seemingly irreversible destruction did not dishearten its loyal residents. Instead, it strengthened their love for the country.

Puerto Rico is “Pa-Ra-Dise,” said resident Claudia Parson. “It’s beautiful, warm and special…one good thing that came out from all this ordeal was how Puerto Ricans came together and helped each other. That, you still see today.”

During times of disaster and despair, from the outside, people see the devastation and damage; they witness the turmoil and disorder. But underneath the chaos, the proud Puerto Rican people didn’t roll over and accept that their country had been flattened, they turned to each other for support and help. Their houses were obliterated, but their spirit and hope shined through.

“We are used to the bad weather,” said Luigi Mendez, resident of San Juan. “People who had been there their whole lives didn’t expect the sheer destruction Maria caused…no body was prepared.”

Despite being thrown into a living hell with no water, no sanitation, limited food supplies, and no signal to connect with anyone, optimism was high. Timed showers outside, limited use of the toilet, and frequent drives to the highway to find service didn’t bring them down, the people took their faith into their own hands. “No one complained,” said Parson. “We did what we had to do.”

Cars lined up in emergency lanes of the highway, back to back, in a desperate attempt to find signal. People hung out in their cars so they could contact family members on the island and in the states to let them know they were safe. Rossello added, “you had to do this if you wanted a signal.”

The clean-up began immediately; residents would not accept that their paradise would be destroyed for good. It was a momentous task, but they found a way to work together and make it easier.

“Puerto Ricans are known to help each other,” said Rossello. Neighbourhoods assembled all manner of tools to aid in the clean-up. “We all got outside with brooms, rakes, machetes, axes, chainsaws, and trash bags…We did everything that had to be done. One of the many moments where I feel the proudest to be Puerto Rican,” added Rossello.

Puerto Rican celebrities donated large amounts of money, and they visited those in need who were suffering from the disaster. Rossello explained, “One Puerto Rican baseball player from the Boston Red Socks, Alex Cora, got the Team’s airplane and with help from managers and teammates filled the plane with essentials and travel to Puerto Rico.”

Likewise, actor and singer Ricky Martin also started a foundation to rebuild homes. The charity is still active today, helping those who still haven’t returned to their regular life. He also appeared on U.S. television appealing for help, on the Ellen show he pleaded for aid and secured huge checks from companies like Cheerio’s to support the relief.

Mendez added, “the commitment of celebrities to get together and help out gave residents hope and motivation to keep moving forward with the restoration.”

But it wasn’t just celebrities with money and media who helped. People of different incomes and backgrounds all rallied together to do their part in piecing the country back together. Facebook groups were formed by those willing and able to offer support. Stories spread around social media of people doing their part to help.

One such story is that of Oscar Carrion, a shop owner, and father who taught himself how to be an electrician and with help from friends, restored power to thousands of homes.

There were also large groups of people gathering essentials like food, water, milk, diapers, toilet paper, sanitary napkins, paper towels, disinfectant, mosquito spray, and snacks. They were then delivered to towns in Puerto Rico, especially those in the mountains.

“I was one of those people,” said Rossello proudly. “Although I had some damage to my house but it wasn’t nearly as bad as others. If I could help, which I definitely could, I wasn’t going to ignore that.”

Rossello and friends gathered essential supplies, filled nine SUVs, and headed up to the mountains to the communities who had little access to aid. “We did this many times. To different places,” added Rossello. “The faces of gratitude and happiness of those people will always stay with me.

With such unity from its people and the obvious desperation the population faced to secure vital resources, it begs the question, why did the U.S government not do more to help? They failed to provide critical aid such as relief funds, water, and food. However, this didn’t dampen the Puerto Rican people; they didn’t sit and complain at the tragedy that hit their paradise. Instead, they got up and went to work. “Puerto Rico is a very strong and unified country, and everyone helped each other, which was a very positive effect after the hurricane and also the cause to be still standing,” said Diaz.

Big minds have fresh ideas to help revive downtown Livingston

Community led initiative, Livingston Alive, have big ideas to help revive the Livingston main street area to create a cultural and social buzz of activities for socializing, creating new opportunities for local businesses.

With the growing enrolment rate and the return of residents to the area, combined with its resources and infrastructure, Livingston is sitting on dormant potential untapped by current residents. This has been limiting its growth both socially and economically. The minds behind Livingston Alive saw this and have decided to propose new developments for the area.

David Hawley, member of Livingston Alive, said “We want to create a buzz of activity for students and residents.”

Livingston Alabama, sitting right in the middle of a major highway, is a perfect location to attract business from traveling public. The area is missing out on huge economic potential because it does not provide to the needs of the residents, forcing them to look elsewhere for food, entertainment and work.

The organization, Livingston Alive, hopes to offer local entrepreneurs support to help set up new businesses such as restaurants and entertainment centres. They want to encourage unique, locally owned businesses to capture the small town feel and keep the towns rustic aesthetic.

Local economy will hugely benefit from new businesses. They hope the new stores will encourage students and residents stay and spend their money in town rather than traveling to local towns such as Tuscaloosa or Meridian to spend money and socialize. By providing to the diverse needs of the residents, the area will attract more popularity whilst still in keeping with its ‘small town’ feel that the people love about the area.

Taylor Brackin, UWA senior said “The new ideas for the town are very exciting for students. Livingston doesn’t have much to offer the students here so new restaurants and a bowling alley would be great.”

This new proposal is backed by several young professionals who see the potential the town has both socially and economically and they want to help create a better standard of living where residents can walk to and from work, bars and restaurants safe community environment.

The organization also includes UWA students, one of those is Lauren Sevenish in charge of promotion and social media. She said, ‘I wanted to get involved with Livingston Alive because over the past 4 years of attending UWA I have grown to love Livingston. I wanted to find a way to give back to the community and I felt that getting involved with Livingston Alive and investing the skills that I have learned in IMC into the effort was the best way. I can’t wait to come back in a few years and see how much the unique town of Livingston has grown.’

Hawley said, “culture creates community,” and community is one thing he believes that a small town like Livingston can create.

Livingston Alive are looking for support and suggestions from all residents. To get involved contact [email protected] to help create a desirable place to live with a small country feel providing to all its resident’s needs.

Exercise is the best medicine

Dr. Robert Butler proposes that, “If exercise could be purchased in a pill, it would be the most widely prescribed and beneficial medicine in the nation”. In a world full of issues such as obesity, diabetes and other preventable medical conditions, wouldn’t it be great if we could take a pill to help prevent these and in doing so potentially increase our life span? Well we can do this; however, it isn’t in the form of a pill, it’s through daily exercise. It has become too easy for people to take readily available pills to cure any health problems which may arise rather than working on the prevention of these issues from the outset. There is one simple, easy and free answer to this, exercise. I believe exercise is the best medicine available.

Scientific evidence shows that exercise can reduce the risk of many diseases and illnesses including diabetes, depression, high blood pressure and cancer. Chronic diseases have multiple causes and risk factors and taking a pill or having surgery will not fix that. However, exercise can help prevent many of these cases which are common throughout the population. Type 2 diabetes for example can be prevented through diet and exercise. It is not an infection and therefore cannot be treated with a pill. It is caused by lifestyle activity rather than a virus and exercise can significantly reduce the risk of it forming. Treatments and medicines for chronic diseases and illnesses can be very expensive and come with multiple side effects. It seems only logical that people should aim to prevent such chronic illnesses from forming in the first place through exercise.

The great thing about exercise is that anyone can do it, anytime and anywhere. You don’t need state of the art gym equipment and it doesn’t have to be a financial burden. We should aim to do around 30 minutes of exercise, 5 times a week.  Exercise can be any movement which makes your muscles work and requires your body to burn calories. It doesn’t have to be boring and can be something fun and sociable such as dancing, swimming or taking a walk with a friend. Every little helps and we can easily be more active in our daily routines by making simple changes. Taking the stairs rather than the elevator or getting off the bus one stop earlier and walking the last part of a journey all helps our overall long-term health. Unlike pills and medical care, exercise can be free. A walk through the park or a workout in the living room costs nothing. Exercise, unlike medical care, really is accessible to all.

Evidence shows that exercise can in fact make us happier and reduce feelings of fatigue. Although it may be difficult to find the motivation to move sometimes, the feeling after we work out is well worth it. Exercise increases the production of endorphins which produce positive feelings and reduce our perception of pain. Research also shows that exercise can prevent depression, anxiety and stress. It has brain boosting effects and trains the brain protecting it from Dementia and Alzheimer’s. The effects and benefits of exercise on the brain and our mental wellbeing are both short and long term.

The bottom line is that exercise offers incredible benefits that can improve nearly every aspect of your health from the inside out. Not only does it protect us from chronic illnesses but also makes us feel better emotionally and boosts energy. There is no pill that provides all these benefits and exercise comes without a financial cost. Exercise is easy to include in our daily routines and the long and short term health benefits are priceless. We invest so much time and money in ourselves by going to school to get a job and start a family; it seems foolish to not invest in our overall health and wellbeing to ensure we can actually fulfil these dreams and ambitions. We are given one body and one chance to take care of it. Movement is the magic medicine.

State of the Community Breakfast aims to offer new opportunities within Sumter County

Livingston Alabama Civic Centre is set to stage the first annual State of the Community Breakfast Jan 31, hosted by the Sumter County Chamber of Commerce and the University of West Alabama Division of Economic and Workforce Development to discuss plans to ameliorate the area.

At 7:30 a.m. the community of Livingston and surrounding areas are encouraged to gather, enjoy a free breakfast and discuss the hopes of revitalisation for the area. Topics will include education, infrastructure, entertainment and retail development from speakers including Honorable Marcus Campbell, Chairman of the Sumter County Commission and Honorable Mayors Gena Robbin of York and Tom Tartt of Livingston.

“The event is an opportunity for the community to meet and participate in the development” said Lindsey Truelove, the Director of Sumter County Chamber of Commerce.

The event is an opportunity for every member of the community to discuss the plans, voice their concerns and learn how they take advantage by participating in the developments to make the revitalisation of the county a community influenced initiative.

Truelove said “This is a great time, and a huge advantage for businesses to come to the area. The current limited competition means any business is likely to thrive.” Truelove understands that in order to retain residents and attract visitors to the area there needs to be improvement to roads, infrastructure, entertainment and education. The new charter school will encourage parents to stay and educate their children in the area.

Truelove said “We hope to rebuild the foundations to provide a platform for continual development within the area.”

Livingston Alabama lacks in modern facilities other similar towns have to offer. With the growing enrolment rate at the university and the return of residents to the area, combined with its resources and infrastructure, Livingston is sitting on dormant economical potential untapped by current authorities. Through the acceptance of grants and participation at the breakfast, organizers hope this will be a large step in the right direction to accommodate for the needs and wants of future generations.

If you want to see an improvement in Livingston and surrounding areas, join the rest of the community on Jan 31 to voice your opinion. Be a part of the change and see the plans that aim to make the area a desirable place to live, work and raise a family.

“We need to hold hands and red rover through.” said Truelove.

For more information please contact Lindsey Truelove by email at [email protected] or call (205) 272 1381.

Lord of the beard (copy)

Ok, so I mustache you a question… Do you like beard care like you like your women? Cheap and easy with a step by step guide? Whether your movember beard is growing on you or you’ve reached wizard status, Lord of the beard is for you. We can help clean up that facial hair because in the presence of a woman, a gentleman removes his hat, in the presence of a well kept beard, a woman often removes her clothes.

So comb over to our website and sign up for our free beard guide. Because unlike other parts of you, your beard can be as long as you want. Because a man without a beard is a woman so don’t kid yourself and shave it off because you ‘don’t like it’, that will just make you a bare-faced liar and nobody likes a bare face. Remember, a well kept beard can open minds, hearts and legs.

‘Wow that clean shaved guy looks so manly’- said no one ever.

Is plastic the final straw

At the University of West Alabama, the Company Aramark has recently withdrawn its distribution of plastic stars at the cafeteria as an effort to reduce its consumption of single use plastic.

The ban has had mixed feedback from students due to its inconvenience as a seemingly small and insignificant change.

According to a poll among UWA students at the university, sixty seven percent of students asked were in favour of the ban and seventy five percent of students believe there is an issue with single use plastic.

Daily we do not see how plastic effects the environment but now the issue has now been brought to our doorstep here, at UWA, and many students don’t understand the relevance of this issue. Comments have been made in classrooms and to professors about the inconvenience of the ban.

The poll showed mixed opinions on the issue and when asked why they disagree, one student said, “I feel like there isn’t an issue because if we disposed of them properly then they cannot harm marine animals. I do feel like it is best to recycle single use plastic materials, but I do not feel like they produce a real issue.”

Banning or restricting the use and distribution of single use plastics has become a worldwide movement by countries, governments, companies and universities. The aim is to reduce the use of single use plastic and increase recycling to prevent further damage to beaches, marine life and humans. 

Aramark is an international company responsible for feeding university students across America. What may seem like a small insignificant change to the University, collectively nationwide the company is making a dent in the overall plastic distribution.

What’s the big deal with plastic?

In accordance with a Greenpeace report, the fact is the world does not need any more plastic. Around 260 million tons of plastic are produced each year and, 10 percent ends up in the ocean, finding its way into ecosystems, killing marine life, polluting water quality and polluting our beaches. Plastic straws are a pressing issue due to their size and properties.

“In the US & UK alone 550 million straws are thrown away each day”. Said, Zanna Van Dijk, global sustainability activist and owner of two companies creating products from ocean plastic.

Dr Shumaker explains how the viral video of the sea turtle with a straw lodged in its nose sparked concern for the US on how their plastic consumption was affecting wildlife.

The plastic epidemic, by-product of our throwaway society, pollutes the oceans killing marine birds and fish. The toxins produced by plastic is also consumed by fish and is subsequently ingested by humans.

Experts at say, “The urgently needed solution calls for a combination of enhanced awareness, reduced plastic use, and massively improved waste management. The most effective way to have less plastic in the Ocean is to use less plastic in the first place.” They also predict that by 2050 there will be more plastic in our oceans than fish.

The issue isn’t state wide, or nationwide, its global and plastic consumption is threatening the oceans, animals and humans.

A closer look at straws

Straws require a different method of disposal in order to be re-cycled. They are a category five plastic meaning they are made from Polypropylene, a recyclable material. The specific bins they need however, are not conveniently available to us.

“Sometimes because straws are small and thin, they can get trapped in some of the recyclable machinery. A solution to that would be to dispose of plastic straws in a plastic container that also has number five recycling code.” said Dr Ketia Shumaker, professor in the Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences at the University of West Alabama.

Within the environmental classes at the University, students are educated on issues the planet faces with plastic. However, Dr Shumaker understands that not everyone is able to take these classes, so the issue is overlooked.

When asked why the ban hasn’t been accepted, she explains that students simply don’t know the repercussions of plastic use and she finds that students are more willing to recycle when there is an incentive such as money, like the policy with aluminium cans.

Sadly, the inconvenience caused by the difficult disposal of these plastics and with no incentive to recycle, straws are a growing issue and their use can be easily avoided, keeping unnecessary plastic out of landfills and the ocean.

Pushing recycling just isn’t enough so now companies such as Aramark, that supply the UWA cafeteria, and Professors such as Dr Shumaker are making changes to their policies and habits to set an example for others.

The ban hasn’t been received positively because residents in the secluded towns scattering the state of Alabama don’t see the effects first hand. At the university we are fortunate to be a part of a well-kept campus. However, coastal states and universities they are greeted with the waste daily.

Universities and high schools scattering the east and west coast are all making changes to their policies regarding plastic to preserve their surroundings.

“In California we are educated on the environment because when they pass laws that ban plastic, they must explain why they choose to do it,” said Maddison Barbara, UWA student resident from Long Beach, California, one of the students in favour of the ban. “Plastic pollution harms marine life and humans… we could eliminate this threat because there are so many better alternatives”, Barbara said, as she is forced to be conscious of her consumption due to it directly affecting her home and surrounding areas.

With Only 23 out of the 50 US states having a coastline, and with little education on the issue the consequences of plastic use simple aren’t seen and authorities have been slow to act. Therefore, the threat of the growing waves of plastic covering our oceans and beaches is often ignored or misunderstood. 

What can you do?

Along with compliance to the plastic straw use in the caff, there are simple, easy and convenient was to reduce our plastic use. 

  1. Investing in metal straws to use in the caff instead of plastic ones
  2. At Starbucks try to remember to take a reusable cup to receive a discount and reduce your waste
  3. Take advantage of the recycling bins provided on campus in most of the buildings
  4. When in the grocery store instead of double bagging with plastic bags, consider purchasing a “Bag for Life”, a stronger, more durable and reusable alternative to the flimsy plastic bags the store provides.

The US is a driving force around the world and with such a high population there is no doubt the US will have to catch up and educate its population on a more sustainable way of living. By doing so they will help preserve the world for the future.

Shumaker believes the school could be doing more to educate students on being, “good stewards of the environment”, and reduce the waste the university produces. “I think it takes people in power over larger entities like Aramark to say, ‘This is our policy’ and education on why is key.” Said Dr Shumaker.

The university has taken a small step in the right direction, but many people still don’t understand the importance and implications plastic has not just on a micro scale but global. Every one of us has an obligation to preserve the earth and this can start today in Livingston, in our caff, by making a pact to use less single use plastic. 

The reality; if the oceans die, we die and sadly here is no planet B.

It’s 90.5%, the estimated amount of plastic waste ever made that has never been recycled

Around 6,300 million metric tonnes, scientists calculated that around 12 percent of all plastic waste has been incinerated

Roughly 79 percent has found its way into landfills or become litter.


Map on schools banning plastic bottles

Video of turtle and straw 

ocean unite website

Dr Roberto Gallardo shares knowledge at technology summit

Influential minds shared propositions for technological advances brought to the minds of Livingston Alabama during the technology summit April 13 at the University of West Alabama.

Dr Gallardo was one of the major speakers at the rural technology summit. He conveyed ideas of how rural areas need to develop their use of technology to continue to successfully utilize their economy and resources. To tap into areas of true potential he believes they need to have an open mind to the developments in technology and progress in terms of broadband speed and accessibility.

Dr Gallardo said rural areas need to “get on the train” of the progression in technology.

The idea behind the talk was to express the developments in technology and the importance of moving with this development to avoid being left behind the rest of the nation.

Dr Gallardo said that rural people have “a lot of untapped creativity” that is being missed out on due to the lack of technology available to them. Technologically impotent people miss out of their potential because they don’t possess the knowledge to use the web effectively.

One overriding factor stated by Dr Gallardo is the limited access to broadband. 27.9% of Alabama residents do not have access and this is seriously limiting their job opportunities and their ability to connect and network with people all over the world.

With this self-limitation rural areas are at risk of being left behind in the high-speed train of technological advances, seriously affecting local economies, population progression and education. Therefore, to change this the broadband needs to be accessible for everyone.

The advances in technology can help link people all over the world. Someone can run a multimillion dollar business from their living room if they have the right resources and access to reliable internet. This allows self-creativity and independent businesses to thrive.

However, all this talk of huge technological advances can seem farfetched for Livingston Alabama which has a population of 3,454. Dr Gallardo discussed the rapid progression of technological inventions of things such as robots and medical advances which eliminate the need for social interaction.

Many people had an opinion on this, one such Lane Clark, UWA student and summit attendee said “For a town like Livingston to progress a serious change of mindset is needed. Facilities here aren’t anywhere close to supporting the technological advances discussed by Dr Gallardo.”

With these futuristic ideas becoming a reality, and with the barrier of physical and digital world become less prominent, does this leave the 11% of the US who aren’t online vulnerable? Will those who are connect become at risk of being dependent on technology and vulnerable to fraud, identity theft and online cyber-attacks.

Topics such as this need to be considered and taught to those who are being raised in this digital world. The power of the world now lies with those who understand and can manipulate the strength of technology to their desired outcome. If our government can’t monitor technology because of their lack of understanding, what does the future of our country’s safety look like? Technology is being developed by independents meaning authorities are in dispute over clear jurisdiction.

Progression and development is fundamental for survival. But at such a fast rate are we missing out on total comprehension of what we are creating? A world dependent on technology has many risks, only time will tell if these advances are going to benefit humankind in a positive way or if it will be our demise as we lose touch of our natural way of life and towards a digital world of screens and lack of individuality.

Ice Skater Faces Cancer, Cartels, and Life in the Circus

Her life depended on the next 24 hours. Lucie Dixon was in the middle of Honduras, 2 hours from the nearest airport, and thousands of miles from home. With no family and no English-speaking doctors, Dixon had to travel back to England inches from death. The clock was ticking. An 18cm growth was putting pressure on her heart, forcing her respiratory system to shut down. Barely able to walk, she had also developed Sepsis, and her blood was being poisoned by the second. 

Clutching her X-rays as hand luggage, and with the possibility of not making it home in time, she navigated herself through the small airport of San Pedro Sula and found her way back to England. Greeted by her terrified family, they rushed her to hospital. She was diagnosed with Lymphoma, a deadly cancer she had been unknowing living with for a month.

“The blood flow was cut off to my head, and breathing was incredibly difficult,” said Dixon. Admitted into intensive care, doctors pumped 32 liters of steroids into her to keep her alive. “When it was confirmed I had Lymphoma, I went through 6 rounds of chemotherapy and 15 sessions of radiotherapy,” explained Dixon. 

Due to the aggressive nature of the treatment after her first session of chemotherapy, Dixon experienced severe swelling, and doctors drained 1.6 liters of fluid from her right lung and 0.5 liters of fluid from my heart.    

“Luckily, this was sufficient drama, and I completed the rest of the treatment without any more complications,” joked Dixon.   

The four-foot 11 ice skater battled Primary mediastinal B-cell Lymphoma (PMBCL). A very rare type of non-Hodgkin Lymphoma which makes up about 2% of all diagnoses, commonly found in young, healthy women. 

However, this does not define Dixon; she has escaped death and danger on more than one occasion. She doesn’t focus on the story of her illness; she tells them the stories of her travels. Like 300 other people in the UK, Lucie has Lymphoma, but like 1 in a million, she has stories and experiences others could only imagine. 

“I am like a cat with nine lives! I should get one of my radiotherapy tattoos changed into a cat!” laughed Dixon.   

From Hull to Honduras   

Dixon was an ice skater in Circo Ruso Sobre Hielo (The Russian Circus on Ice). She believed her disease did not defeat her because she is no stranger to a challenge. She had already overcome living in a new country, taught herself a new language, and made a whole new life to survive her different environment.

“In 2013, I handed in my resignation at a law firm, packed my bags and ran away with the circus,” said Dixon as she explained why she was in Central America. “Performing in circuses and shows has taken me to Colombia, Venezuela, Panama, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, France, Sicily, Belgium, Portugal, and Oman.”   

From Medellin, Colombia, home of the notorious Pablo Escobar to San Pedro Sula in Honduras, previously one of the most violent cities in the world, Lucie has traveled to some of the most famous countries known for their volatile and unsafe environment.   

“Falling to this illness was not an option. I survived 5 out of the top 50 most dangerous cities in the world, where the homicide rate was well above 2,900 a year. Areas where drug addiction, violence, and poverty are an everyday battle,” explained Dixon.   

In a continent where compulsory education ends at the age of 14 and education isn’t widely available, many of the residents can’t read or write in Spanish. “Speaking Spanish was essential,” said Dixon as she quickly learned that no one spoke English. She had to learn Spanish to get by in restaurants and shops and even detect danger.

Dixon remembers, “A drugged-up girl tried to rob me in the center of Medellin; she told me not to run in Spanish. I ignored her threat and ran for my life! You have to learn to be street-savvy,” said Dixon.   

While traveling around areas famous for drug wars and violence, her eyes were opened by the dangers that came with living in an area where the cartels run everyday life. “I’ve witnessed extreme poverty. One image which sticks with me is seeing young children (about 8 years old), most probably orphans, high outside of a shopping mall from sniffing glue from plastic bottles,” said Dixon. 

However, cartel control was a little closer to home then she had realized. 

“Towards the end of my time in Colombia, the juggler in my show said that the owners of the circus were friends with the Ochoa brothers,” said Dixon. The brothers were infamous narcos gang leaders, part of the original Medellin Cartel with Escobar in the 1970s. “For the most part, I felt safe, little did I know it was because my circus had connections with some of the most infamous drug lords in Colombia,” laughed Dixon.    

Cartels weren’t the only thing that made daily life different from home. Her new job and the climate were all factors she had to adapt to. When Dixon began to feel unwell, she linked her symptoms to her location. “Main symptoms of Lymphoma such as fatigue I just thought was me being run down and tired from the heat and the demanding job. The itchy skin I presumed were mosquito bites, and night sweats were due to the absence of air conditioning in the hotel rooms. There seemed to be a reason for everything,” said Dixon. 

A performance to remember   

Life in Central America wasn’t always about escaping cocaine and crime; she was able to experience Latin America celebrity status. “Radio and TV interviews became everyday activities, and we were often stopped for photos,” said Dixon. Her circus attracted attention from locals because ice skating in such warm countries is rare and novel. For many people, it would be the first time in their lives that they had seen ice.    

“I’ve also experienced the kindness of strangers and met lots of unique and interesting people.” Traveling introduced her to people she had only ever heard about in the news. “I met one man who had walked from Honduras to Texas and back,” said Dixon.

Being inches from death brought perspective to the young ice skater. 

“I’ve seen some incredible places. I’ve ridden horseback through the Amazonian jungle and even visited an underground cathedral in a converted salt mine,” said Dixon. Although at 28 I am still young, I feel that I have lived a very exciting and fulfilling life.” 

The week before coming home, Dixon recalls, “I had been snorkeling despite one of my lungs being completely out of action. I’m so glad I had that experience.”

“I wouldn’t change my crazy adventures for the world. I’ve seen some amazing places which I wouldn’t have seen otherwise and all while doing something I love,” said Dixon.

She began skating at just 6 years old, where she began being conditioned for life. “My coach encouraged me to always push through the barrier of pain, which probably explains why I was still ice skating despite there being a huge mass in my chest.”

Still, on the road to full recovery, she is already looking for her next adventure, and another incredible story to add to the unbelievable journey, which she calls life. “I live life on the edge, taking the road less traveled and exploring the unknown.” 

Crocker country coal mine to close in two weeks' time

United Coal Company Mine in Prosper, Crocker Country, is closing in two weeks causing concerns for locals and officials.

Coal mine number three is due to close indefinitely due to the company’s rise in budget along with a national decline in the demand for coal has meant that the company can no longer run.

Wilson Standridge, company president, said “We hope to see an increase in the demand, but until we do, the mine will remain sealed.”

The closing of the mine has a major effect on the area as it provided full time jobs for around a 1000 people and was the main source of the towns revenue.

Major Lester explains how this will have a huge effect on the areas tax funds, saying that “With the mine closing, our revenue is just about gone.”

Budget cuts place a strain on services within the town and city clerk Wilma Foster tells us about a cutback for the fiscal year to help cover these services. Foster predicts a cut back of $60,000 to fund these services.

The recent building projects within the town have been paid for so fears that the city will be in debt have been relieved.

Since operation began in 1909, the company has been a solid part of the community and with the closure of the states deepest shaft, or ‘Hellpit’ as it is known locally, the town will have to find ways to adapt to this loss.

Visitors explore, grow and connect at the Sucaronochee Folk Festival

On April 21 become submerged in the rich culture of the Black Belt region at the Sucaronochee Folk Festival. Indulge in unique food, relax with live music and make personal crafts in Livingston, Alabama on the Courthouse Square.

From 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., the Center for the Study of the Black Belt encourages visitors to dive head first into the area’s hidden culture and become a part of the region’s forgotten traditions. With live demonstrators, art exhibitors, a cooking competition, bouncy house, ghost walks and much more, downtown Livingston is turned into a cultural social hub thriving with energy and history.

A member of the event committee, Dr. Tina Jones said the event is an “educational but fun experience.”

At the event, located at 115 Franklin Street Livingston, Alabama, visitors are encouraged to join in the activities and enjoy home grown produce, handmade crafts and traditional home cooked food.

“There are a number of competitions such as cooking cornbread, fixings such as potato salads, baked beans and canned items like jelly and pickles,” Jones said. There is a small fee entry fee of $5 for the cooking competition, but as Jones said, “The winner will receive bragging rights.”

The day will have guests such as Laura Spencer, a local entrepreneur who advocates creating organic and natural products for her family and customers. Estelle Jackson, a seventh-generation basket weaver offering demonstrations and lesson in basket weaving and musician Danny Buckalew and friends will be providing music and entertainment throughout the day.

Visitors can grab a blanket and bask in the heat of sunny Alabama while they enjoy music, graze on fried Oreos, pork skins and funnel cakes, while experiencing Alabama’s Black Belt firsthand.

University of West Alabama senior Taylor Brackin said, “The event is a really fun way to get students to socialize, enjoy great food and just enjoy being a part of such a unique area.”

Sponsors for the Festival include the University of West Alabama’s Division of Economic Development and Outreach who manages The Center for Study of the Black Belt and the Black Belt Museum, The City of Livingston, UWA Department of Fine Arts, Alabama State Council on the Arts, the Alabama Bicentennial Commission, The Sumter County Chamber of Commerce and The Sumter County Commission.

To get involved contact Gena Robbins, [email protected], or call (205) 6525545. Alternatively, like the Center of Study of the Black Belt on the Facebook where competition forms and vendor applications can be downloaded.

Athletics gives females a head start in the workplace

When the commitment of being an athlete for over four years comes to an end, life after athletics can be a daunting concept. One of those athletes is Taylor Donato, captain of the West Alabama volleyball team. Coming out of her final season as a collegiate athlete, Taylor now reflects on the life lessons she has learned from her experiences. She is ready to replace her spandex with dress pants as she uses her life as an athlete to prepare her for corporate life.

“Being an athlete made me deal with failure and losing in a way that non-athletes don’t deal with,” said Donato. “When I’m at a disadvantage, it’s not uncomfortable to me, I’m used to it,” adds Taylor.

UWA is no stranger to strong females taking on prominent roles and excelling in a male environment. One such professor is Dr. Amy Jones, an ex 4-year collegiate golfer at the University of New Orleans. Jones is now the director of Integrated Marking Communications and uses her experience as an athlete to face her male-dominated hierarchy within the school. 

“When you’ve been an athlete you tend to be less sensitive to criticism because that’s what it’s all about, you want to know how to get better, so you want to be criticized,” said Jones. “It’s hardened me to professional criticism because, like in sports, you need it to be better.”

It isn’t by chance that ex-athletes found a sense of confidence and empowerment from playing collegiate sports. Historically women have battled against the label of being the weaker sex; fighting for the vote was a huge turning point in their struggle for equality. But in the 21st century, women still experience a gender pay gap, yet we are seeing more and more females taking on top business roles, but what is helping them break this stigma?

From the court and the field to the boardroom of fortune 500 companies, female athletes are demonstrating why exposure to sports provides them with valuable lessons transcending into the workplace environment. Countless studies have been conducted to find out what links successful women together, breaking gender stereotypes, and leading the way for female progression.

The research

The correlation is, in fact, exposure to athletics. In the 2017 Fortune list of Most Powerful Women, 31 of them responded to a survey which concluded that 65% of them played sports competitively in either high school, college, or both.

In a study conducted in 2015 by ESPN Women, ESPN’s first dedicated content and digital business initiative designed to serve, inform, and inspire female athletes and fans. Ernest & Young Global Limited Ernst & Young, one of the largest professional services firms in the world they found an undeniable correlation between athletics and business success.

The companies surveyed female C-Suite executives, and more than half of the women had played a sport at the college level, and 80% of female Fortune 500 executives played competitive sports at one point in their lives. This is in comparison to 39% of women at other management levels.

Ernst & Young continued their research and surveyed 821 high-level executives and found that a staggering 90% of women sampled had played sports. They reported for CNBC that among women currently holding a C-suite position, this proportion rose to 96%.

A more in-depth survey of global female leaders found that 94% of C-suite women participated in sports at some point in their life, the majority having played at the collegiate level. They reported that 74% believed that their experiences as an athlete developed their leadership skills, communication skills, problem-solving, confidence, and resilience. They believed this was a fundamental aspect that set them up for their achievements in business.

“Student athletes learn skills off the field like time management, tenacity, problem-solving, teamwork, and having a team mentality,” said Jones. “That relates to the workplace and the demanding environments of holding an executive position.”

Still not convinced that athletics propels women to later success off the field? In 2014, Cornell researcher Kevin M Kniffin found that peers of workers who’d played in school or college sports were more likely to turn to those athletic individuals for qualities of confidence and leadership than to those who hadn’t participated.

“After captaining a team of girls, I feel empowered and comfortable to lead teams in the workplace,” said Donato. “I’ve seen my teammates at their best and worst, I’ve been the one to build them up and find ways to win. In a job, winning isn’t the goal, but that mentality of being the best is still there, it means I never quit,” added Donato.

Kniffin also found that, by and large, ex-athletes achieved higher career status and greater levels of leadership responsibility than non-athletes. This is evident in the women here at UWA, Jones is a leading faculty member, and Donato has aspirations to have her own advertisement agency.

“Women who are athletes are well-suited for the business world and have tangible advantages,” says Laura Gentile, vice president of ESPN Women, in a press release. “From work ethic to adaptability to superior problem-solving ability, these women enter the workforce ready to win and demonstrate that ability as they rise throughout their career.” 

In total, 94% of the surveyed for ESPN Women, the participants participated in sports at some point in their lives, and 61% say it has contributed to their current career success.

What does this mean for future females?

Businesses are like a team; the opponent is competitors creating similar products, employees are the teammates, and the CEO’s are the head coach. After already having that experience as a teammate, the natural progression is taking on higher roles within the workplace. Female athletes are exposed to what works well when leading a group of people, so when they step off the field and into business, the skills they have enquired place them above others.

“My experience as a captain has definitely impacted my confidence and ability to communicate well with a team,” said Abigail Clanton, senior and captain of the UWA soccer team. She is optimistic about her life after athletics because of the leadership skills it has taught her.

Females in sports compete in a male-dominated culture and gain unique access to “boys” networks that they’d otherwise be excluded from. This benefits them in the long run and brings them out on top in business environments due. They have inside experience in male-dominated environments, so the business environment is a comfortable environment for them. Fighting on the court or the field has prepared them to compete in business.

“We have a drive to succeed that others may not have had to opportunity to be exposed to,” said Clanton. “Early mornings, blood, sweat, and tears, no one wants that, but we fight through it, and that’s what makes us different in the workplace.”

Donna de Varona, an Olympic gold medallist and lead advisor to the EY’s Women Athletes Business Network, understands first-hand how being an athlete transcends to business success.

“Sports provide the tools necessary to succeed in the competitive world in which we live,” said Varona. “Yet again, these results underscore how critical it is for girls to have equal access to sports around the world. When they do, the positive results are undeniable.”

Athletics give women of all backgrounds an equal playing field. For some women, education isn’t an option due to money or class. But athletics opens the playing field for any talented female to receive funding for school. 

In an article for the Atlantic called “The Confidence Gap,” author Claire Shipman said:

“Something happens when girls play sports, they embody the experience of not just winning, but the critical experience of losing. It’s that process of carrying on and clearing hurdles that really builds confidence. It’s an incredibly useful proving ground for business and leadership.”

More success means the opportunity for higher pay, one of the things females have struggled with. In a study conducted by Oppenheimer, they found that almost half of women who make more than $75,000 were athletes in college. 


What is it about sports and athletics that propels women to feel empowered and brave enough to tackle global companies and just how many women credit their late success to years of being an athlete? 

Participating in a male-dominated environment has proven beneficial for females when they start to build a career, they break down gender stereotypes with confidence and drive unmatched by non-athletes.

On reflection, many of the females asked realized that they wouldn’t be who they are today without their exposure to sorts, having access to a male-dominated environment, and having to develop the skills to survive in the competitive world of athletics. Whether they are fighting for their position and scholarship or fighting the opposition, there is an undeniable grit and determination that most athletes carry with them for life. 

“When things get hard and ugly, I don’t quit,” said Gail McKenzie, business owner for 28 years. “I played hockey in school, and all that time, I’d been hit in the shins and pushed over by the other team. Business is the same, you get hit and knocked down, but you keep going. Making money is the end goal just like winning is for a team, when you think like that, then the workings of a business are second nature.”

Pancake mix and a deep fryer add a twist to an American favorite

Do you twist it, lick it, stick it, dunk it, then eat it? Or do you simply deep fry it? There has long been a debate on the correct way to eat an Oreo. However, there is now a new and unique concept sweeping festivals all over the US and it is too deep fry the delicious chocolatey sandwich to create an original American delicacy and a festival favorite.

Deep frying originated in the 5th millennium when Egyptians decided to try a new way of cooking that would change the future of food for the ‘batter’ (better). Soon this way of cooking food became a worldwide form of preparing meals with each country adding their own unique twists.

If we fast forward to the 21st century fried food is now a staple southern food group and is widely accepted as a household favorite. From vegetables and meat too sweet desserts and candy bars, deep frying just about anything will create an unhealthy and calorific but deliciously tasty snack or meal. This form of cooking is now associated with carnivals and fairs all over the US.

UWA student and Cross-Country team member Oisín Ó Gailín said, “The choice of food at American fairs is a lot different to back home in Ireland. There’s so much more choice and flavor in the dishes and it’s definitely a huge part of the theme of the event.”

The south has long been associated with fried food, but the dish was created in 2002 at the Los Angeles County Fair when Charlie Boghosian took deep frying one step further and created this rich and tasty twist to the much-loved snack.

With a crispy coating of pancake batter, with a gooey cream center, sandwiched between two chocolate cookies, the dish adds a touch of southern comfort to Sucarnochee folklife festival, April 21, located in downtown Livingston.

A deep-fried Oreo, now a carnival and festival regular, will satisfy any sweet tooth from young to old sparking curiosity of the unusual combination begging the question, “What a fried Oreo really taste like.” A popular recipe includes a combination of pancake mix, milk, egg, vegetable oil for frying and of course, Oreos.

The first step in creating the dish is to freeze the cookies for about an hour. This helps protect them and prevent them from melting once dipped in the oil. Next you heat the oil and after coating each cookie in batter you dip them in the oil and fry until golden brown.

UWA senior and soccer player Taylor Brackin describes the cookie as an “Oreo stuffed doughnut and the center melts out as you take a bite”

Deep frying the cookie softens the batter and melts the center to create a different dynamic to the traditional crunchy cookie. The crunchy outer layer adds as a protective coating as the cookie sizzles in the oil.

University of West Alabama Sophomore Abigail Hawkins said “Festival food is just so good because you can’t get it anywhere else. Even when you try and make it at home it’s just not the same.”

If this mouthwatering snack has peaked your curiosity and tingled your taste buds, head down to the Sucarnochee folklife festival in downtown Livingston Alabama. In the Alabama sun on April 21 vendors will be preparing unique foods like this as well as traditional favorites for you to sink your teeth into such as funnel cakes, hot dogs, pork skins and much more.

Tigers get Burned in Gulf South match up

The nationally ranked University of West Alabama Women’s Soccer Team fell to the Flames of Lee University in the 102nd minute of the gulf south conference matchup, 4p.m. CST, Cleveland, Tennessee, Nov. 1.

“The girls know how big this game was and the importance of turning up with a winning attitude,” said Morgan Brown, assistant coach for the Tigers.

The Tigers headed to Lee on a 6 game win streak and looked to make history and come home with the first win the Tigers have had over the flames.

“It was a great chance to show that this year our team is hungry to make history,” said Madison Barbera, winger for the Tigers.

The two were evenly matched but after regulation time and two halves of overtime, Lee clinched the winning goal in the last few minutes to crush the Tigers, and secure their spot in the GSC championship.

The Tigers had four shots on goal, whereas the flames outshot them with 10. All of the Tigers shots were on goal as opposed to the Flames who only managed three.

“It was a well fought battle by all of the girls, we just needed to finish our chances and be more clinical,” said Tigers head coach Graeme Orr.

UWA falls to 10-4-1 in the season and 8-2-1 in conference. Emotions and tensions were high before the matchup as the girls knew the importance of the win and the power it held over post play advantages.

The Tigers continue to fight to claim a home field advantage in the first-round of the GSC championships. They need to finish as high up in the league as possible so they can have the support of the crowd and the comfort of Tiger Stadium.

“Playing at home makes the game more exciting, the fans bring the stadium alive and it shows how much it helps from the fact we have a 6 game win streak in Tiger Stadium,” said Margeaux Hunt, sophomore goalkeeper for the Tigers.

On Nov 3 the Tigers face Shorter University in Rome, Georgia. The match will kick off at 12 p.m. CST. The Tigers hope to rebuild their confidence and increase their chances of claiming the home field advantage. 

Bourrigan dives into new western waters

Coline Bourrigan isn’t a Pinterest girl; she doesn’t try to plan every aspect of her life through seemingly perfect pictures of conformed expectations. Bourrigan creates a life resume where she welcomes the unknown and allows essential life lessons to find her.

P.T. Barnum once said that comfort is the enemy of progress, and Bourrigan lives by this concept.

From a small town in western France to the secluded region of West Alabama, Bourrigan held her breath, closed her eyes, and dove straight into a new life, 4,000 miles from home and worlds away from her comfort zone.

Bourrigan is no stranger to deep water and deep breaths. If you think playing a sport is hard, try holding your breath while doing it, Bourrigan does this for a hobby. Her passion for synchronized swimming and the endless nights of stretching and dancing to be better is a display of her dedication to developing the skills needed to succeed. This discipline prepared her for a challenge that everyone doubted she would be able to stick with.

“I always dreamed of living outside of the U.S., but everyone doubted that I would be able to do it,” said Bourrigan in her strong French accent. “My mindset and openness really helped with the transition.”

The confident and outgoing blonde isn’t defined by her French roots and doesn’t impose her cultural norms onto her new environments. Instead, she approaches everything with an open mind and sees it as an opportunity to grow and learn. She carries these lessons into her new adventures.

Fully bilingual in English and French, the smart and talented 20-year-old can also understand Mandarin and Spanish. Bourrigan is always looking for new moves to add to the routine she calls life as she kicks her legs to propel her forward into unknown waters.

“I always love learning different languages because I think they say a lot about a culture,” said Bourrigan. “Chinese is really straight forward. But French, you say a lot of words to say something really simple. I think it says a lot about a country which is fascinating to me.”

She dreams of utilizing her passion for travel with aspirations of working for an international company providing her the opportunity to travel and put her degree into practice.

Bourrigan’s experiences as a swimmer and her desire to travel and broaden her mind, means she is well prepared and equipped for any challenge life throws her way. She has learned how to thrive in discomfort, understands the hours of hard work it takes to learn a new skill, and the outcome of always having an open mind and positive outlook on anything she faces.

“My 5-year coach in synchronized swimming was always saying that if you are not improving, you’re actually decreasing, and I think it stuck with me,” said Bourrigan.

Her demeanor is both uplifting and engaging. Listening to her talk, you hear the drive in her voice, and her burning desire to follow her calling to be bigger than she already is and leave a positive mark on her path of life, ring loud and clear.