Dalton State Community Serves, Remembers, Celebrates

Roadrunners give back to our community. As 2016 draws to an end, many of us reflect on all that is good about the world and our lives. For those who are less fortunate, the College and community come together in special ways at this time of year to ensure that others have a happy holiday season from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day. I am most proud of Dalton State and Greater Dalton when I see the impact we have on the community. Although our students, faculty and staff contribute many hours of community service throughout the year, I will share now a few of the seasonal efforts of our faculty, staff and students.

The Dalton State College Dean of Students Office has partnered with our local Salvation Army for the past five years for a variety of activities. One of our favorite and most successful activities is the “Holiday Helper Tree.” Students decorate a tree in the Student Center and place angel ornaments on the tree with descriptions of children who need our help to have a merry Christmas. This year as in previous years, we helped more than 50 angels. We hope this program continues to grow each year.

I am also happy to boast about Dalton State’s Radiologic Technology students. This year, they collected and donated more than 1,000 pounds of food to the Chattanooga Area Food Bank which provides over 300,000 meals to the region. They were even featured on WRCB-TV3! This is an annual event for these students also.

Not to be outdone, eight of our senior students in the Social Work baccalaureate degree program were recognized recently as Citizens of the Week by this newspaper for their volunteer service in Gatlinburg, Tenn. after the recent wildfires. They helped cook and serve food to residents and emergency responders and helped with sorting of donations.

Meanwhile, we recently tabulated the hours of service by our Wright School of Business students and realized they have engaged in more than 1,000 hours of service in this community in the past year. Students contributed to our community through our local schools, Boys and Girls Club, Girl Scouts and our local public library to share a few examples.

This year, Dalton State College employees also participated in the Sharing is Caring community-based program. Created in 2010 to provide a community-wide coordinated effort to provide Christmas for children in Whitfield County to families in need, Sharing is Caring volunteers donate toys, clothes, cash or time. Parents participate in an educational program prior to their opportunity to shop for their families. I am proud that Dalton State faculty and staff participated in this program this year.

Roadrunners love each other. This year has been a year of celebrations as well as a year of losses. We unexpectedly lost three of our employees this year. Natalie Bates, director of Residence Life, was our most recent loss. She was an unforgettable and powerful presence on our campus and in our community. She leaves a tremendous legacy. Our students spoke eloquently about the impact she made on their lives. She touched hearts and souls every day and left us all better for having known her.

Roadrunners celebrate. Dalton State holds two commencement ceremonies each year. Approximately 3,000 friends and family gathered at the Mashburn Arena of the Dalton Convention Center to celebrate our December graduates. Traditionally, our December graduation speaker is the member of our faculty who was chosen as the Outstanding Teacher of the Year the previous spring. Dr. Cheryl Owens, director of our new Student Health Services and Associate Professor of Nursing, was this year’s December graduation speaker. She had many words of wisdom for our graduates but I especially noted her advice to “practice kindness,” saying it is easy to hate and to be selfish and to get angry but it takes true strength to be kind. She also encouraged our graduates to take more than their diplomas and knowledge away from Dalton State and to be known as passionate and compassionate human beings.

My wish for each of us as we contemplate the past year and anticipate the new year is that we feel grateful for all that is good in the world and that we work to make the world an even better place in 2017.