Elon community wants economy, uniting America addressed at Obama’s inauguration

Delores Foster, an Elon resident who runs Coming Attractions Hair Salon, owns a large farmhouse off of Route 87 North in Alamance County. Built out of the lumber that is scattered around and found on the farm, the large building once housed five families during the Great Depression when everyone had or was close to losing everything.

After her father died last January, Foster said she didn’t think twice about selling neither the property nor the farmhouse.

“Five families lived there because it’s huge,” Foster said. “We’ll always have a place to go, because we have a big farmhouse.”

While she never thought her family would have to consider using the farmhouse again, Foster is keeping her options open and is looking toward President-elect Barack Obama to implement changes before American socio-economic situations become so dire again.

So come this Jan. 20, Foster said there is one specific thing she wants Obama to address in his inauguration speech.

“A. Economy. B. Economy. C. Economy,” she said.

Though she deems health care, insurance and social security as important issues she also wants addressed, Foster said the economy is rooted deeply in everything surrounding American communities.

While she hasn’t personally felt the tug of the economy at Coming Attractions, she said she can see it around her and that while she has “no clue” how to go about fixing it, she does know it is a problem that has to be tackled together.

“To me, it doesn’t matter if you’re a democrat or a Republican. The most crucial thing the House of Representatives and the Senate can do right now is work together for the betterment of the economy and to help the middle class people,” Foster said. “I try to be optimistic. I don’t want to be on the right, I don’t want to be on the left. I want to be straight down the middle.”

While she agreed the economy is the most important issue facing Americans today, Elon University Political Science Professor Sharon Spray said she does not think Obama will address any specific topics during his speech.

“I think this is a time in which presidents can use an inauguration speech to try to give people hope, try to give them inspiration,” Spray said. “I think that [Obama] has an opportunity here to think about trying to bring people together and he’s going to have to do that because it was a campaign that sort of drew people apart.”

Though she suspects there will be an “monumental” turnout despite the way the event is being downplayed for security reasons, Spray said this is a great opportunity to do more than just unite Americans.

“He’s going to have to address — of course — the sort of the negative time we’re in, the problems that we have,” Spray said.

Elon resident and small business owner Delores Foster said she hopes the auto industry will not be bailed out and will be forced to go into bankruptcy. In doing so, they will have to restructure — similar to the airline industry — and in turn will be better off in the long run.
Elon resident and small business owner Delores Foster said she hopes the auto industry will not be bailed out and will be forced to go into bankruptcy. In doing so, they will have to restructure — similar to the airline industry — and in turn will be better off in the long run.

Foster said many of her clients speak to her about the negative times. One of her customs recently had her hours at a local grocery store cut from 40 to 25 per week, her spouse was recently laid off and they are trying to support a small child as well.

“That’s just one couple,” Foster said. “It’s not just one thing. It’s in every aspect of our lives. These are the facts.”

Elon University Senior Olivia Hubert-Allen, who is a political science major from North Carolina as well as the editor-in-chief of the school’s student newspaper, echoes Foster’s thoughts. She thinks Obama will address the economy, since the local and national community as a whole is troubled about this unstable time.

“It concerns people,” Hubert-Allen said. “The economic situation is top priority for people at this point. But the Iraq situation is also still lingering.”

Hubert-Allen said the paper is covering the event since this is such a dramatic time in American history.

“The Pendulum will try to record history by documenting as a student paper and bringing that side of the story of readers because this is a historical inauguration,” Hubert-Allen said. “I think they’ll be an enormous outturn, since Obama had so many really passionate supporters and I think they will make the journey and travel to be there on inauguration day.”

But even though many people are looking forward to what Obama has to say and how he plans to turn America around, Burlington resident Robert Hamilton, who works as a body and paint mechanic at Young’s Auto Body Shop on Haggard Avenue, said he doesn’t care what Obama has to say on Jan. 20.

“It doesn’t matter what he talks about, something’s always changing,” Hamilton said. “It doesn’t matter what he says anymore. He says too much.”

But that isn’t stopping people like Foster, who also didn’t vote for Obama, from trying to make a difference.

Even though she feels helpless in the economic situation, she is trying to do her part and make an impact on a local level. She donates to Loaves & Fishes, a local food pantry in Alamance County, on a monthly basis since they are out of food and she feels responsible for looking after her local citizens.

Also invested in working with local citizens, Elon University Senior Mary Bomoman, a communications major from Pennsylvania, helps tutor children around the area. She expects educational standards to be addressed, since she doesn’t believe the No Child Left Behind program is sufficient.

But while this is an important topic for Bomoman and her children’s future, she said the economy takes top reign.

“I’m now searching for a job and it’s really not a good time to be doing so,” she said. “I don’t expect him to do all of these amazing changes right away, I do expect it to be a process.”

Foster said though it may be a long process, she is impressed with the cabinet Obama has appointed so far and their level of experience and expertise. She hopes they give him wisdom.

“You can’t walk into this situation without supporting him,” Foster said. “His backup is the most important thing. We’ve all got to look at this thing head on and figure out what we can do during this time and how we can help other people.”

Click the links to read more about Obama’s stance on the economy, Iraq and healthcare.

Watch why Delores Foster, an Elon resident who runs Coming Attractions Hair Salon, is worried most about the middle class, their loss of homes, no where to turn and inability to pay taxes.

See what Elon University Political Science Professor Sharon Spray has to say about what she thinks will be the main points President-elect Barack Obama will emphasize during his inauguration speech on Jan. 20, 2009.

Family business ensures science comprehension

A staff member works on putting together a new kit the company is marketing. They currently offer more than 700 different science kits.
A staff member works on putting together a new kit the company is marketing. They currently offer more than 700 different science kits.

by Andie Diemer
Nov. 25, 2008

Eighty-one years ago Thomas Powell Jr., then a science professor at Elon College, would regularly collect natural specimens for his own use in the classroom. After picking up on the fact that other instructors were looking to do a similar thing, he noticed the niche of collecting and marketing these types of products to educators.

Today, Carolina Biological has been a dominate fixture on the Burlington scene. Employing around 450 central North Carolinians, the company creates curriculum science kits to assist teachers in their educational activities and endeavors, Product Safety Manager Keith Barker said.

Servicing a fair number of schools nationwide and internationally, the company supplies everything from balance kits for kindergarteners to gene kits for college students.

“We’re using a lot of living materials, like plants, insects and preserved materials,” Barker said. “We try to provide materials to help science educators do their job.”

Catering to various departments like physiology, math, geology, chemistry and physics, Barker works to ensure the company is aware of and complies with all federal and state regulations.

He works with a lot of companies and customers to answer questions and make sure the entire operation and each product works smoothly.

While the headquarters is located on York Road in Burlington, three additional warehouses — where the production actually takes place — have been located at the Rockcreek Center for the past nine years.

“This is where our fulfillment operation, kit making and purchasing takes place,” Barker said. “There are a lot of scientists and doctors on staff. There’s a variety of interesting people and all have diverse job responsibilities and diverse roles, but somehow it all fits together.”

Balancing Act

Tim Dallas, director of logistics, oversees the kit-making operations, which can range from large kits to outfit an entire classroom to single-person AP biology kits.

“We team up with the Smithsonian, who basically write books of experiments on topics of assignments,” Dallas said. “They work with us to turn the book into reality. We start with the books and build the kits around those.”

Carolina Biological performs field testing to ensure each purchase is complete and processing is safe and top of the line.

They offer 700 different titles of kits, most of which are different variations of similar products, Dallas said.

“It’s not uncommon for an entire state, county, school district, specific teacher to adopt these kits,” Dallas said.

He said the state of North Carolina recently purchased $5 million worth of Science and Technology for Children kits, which are used in North Carolina elementary schools.

Barker said students who learn through hands-on means, such as science kits, consistently outperform students who learn through textbooks on tests.

While many kits are ordered, it is not uncommon for Carolina Biological to sell hundreds of thousands of individual products, such as Petri dishes or test tubes, every year.

“We sell just about anything you can think of for science education from outfitting entire labs to individual microscope slides,” Dallas said.

The busiest times of the year are at the beginning of each semester, when orders flood the company for educational materials.

From Warehouse to Classroom

The warehouses receive the materials, store them — and as they are requested — bring them down, count, package, process and ship them.

While they serve specialties, such as certain cultures that can take weeks to grow, they also provide common, everyday things needed for science experiments such as plastic cups with hole punches in the bottom.

Dallas said the kits are unique because they come with every single component of an experiment, meaning teachers don’t have to track down small items like sharpies or paper clips.

They ship out brand new kits, as well as refills for bulky and often pricy kits. It is not uncommon for 50 or 100 kits to be ordered at one time, Dallas said.

A high tech conveyor and barcode system was completely installed in 2005, which drives the entire company. It automatically logs and calculates inventory, routes and spits specific materials off the belts that run throughout the entire warehouse.

It also creates algorithms to know when certain kits are in demand and to estimate how many need to be created.

Technology also plays a large role in the support department. It does everything from recording logs to increasing job performance to calculating calls to telling a support technician when the best time to take their lunch break is.

“It didn’t reduce jobs, but we are doing more now with the same amount of people,” Dallas said.

Barker said they strive for 100 percent on-time performance and are working to reduce their error rate.

Over the past two years, they have cut it by 45 percent.

It’s All In The Family

Barker said the entire staff is a great group of people that all care about each other.

“Many people have worked their whole lives, and their parents worked here too,” Dallas said. “I’ve been here for nine years and I’m still considered new. Most people have been here for 30, 40 or more years.”

Carolina Biological is still a family-owned business today and the family still plays a prominent role in the community, such as annually donating to United Way, Barker said.

“It’s a good, stable company that’s been here for 81 years, pays their taxes and provides employment,” Barker said. “We produce a product we’re rightfully proud of and we’re proud of our association with education.”

‘Poor Earl:’ Elon’s living history book

dsc_8839
Dr. Earl Danieley teaches a chemistry class in McMichael Sciend Building. Danieley has been a student, professor, dean and president of Elon University, but his favorite aspect is teaching.

by Andie Diemer
Dec. 5, 2008

He remembers the day crystal clear, even 51 years later.

It was February 1957 and Earl Danieley, then a graduate and professor at Elon who was living in Baltimore completing his doctoral research in chemistry, received a call from George Colclough, who was on the Elon Board of Trustees.

A personal friend, Colclough’s call came as a surprise since the telephone was normally only used for urgent matters. But when the phone rang after dinner one night, Danieley was informed that the Board had chosen a new president.

“I said who’s that?” Danieley said. “And he said, ‘You.’ Now what they had done — without my being consulted — they had just up and elected me president. I was not an applicant. I did not know I had been nominated or considered.”

Danieley said his response was simple and honest: “George, you’re crazy.”

He was given instructions to seriously consider the proposition, discuss it with his wife, Verona, and report back to the executive committee.

Verona, who was in the kitchen washing dishes, immediately asked Danieley what was wrong, since the news had been delivered via phone.

“I said, ‘Well, they elected a new president today,’ and she said, ‘Who’s that?’” Danieley said. “There was a little moment of silence before I could get myself together, and I said, ‘Me.’ And she said — and I remember exactly what she said — ‘Poor Earl.’”

Another Surprise Around The Corner

Verona had acted as secretary to Elon’s current president, Leon Smith, for six years and was in tune with the stresses, problems and difficulties the president encountered on a daily basis, he said.

“She really didn’t want to have to see me do that and wasn’t looking forward to going through it herself,” he said.

But despite the drawbacks, Danieley became Elon College’s sixth president on July 1, 1957 at the age of 32.

While he reined for 16 years and one month, his relationship with the university began quite some time earlier, when he started down his path at Elon in 1941 as a freshman.

After graduating as chemistry major in May of 1946 with the intention of becoming a high school teacher, his plans were cut short when he realized the state of North Carolina was only paying teachers $1,438 a year.

While Danieley “always liked the idea of having a family,” he knew he wouldn’t be able to support one on such a minimal amount, so he enrolled in the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill the next month to begin chipping away at a master’s degree in education.

His dream was to one day be a high school principal, but little did he know much more was in store for him.

Student Today, Dean Tomorrow

On Aug. 1, 1941, Danieley received a phone call from Smith, asking him to return to Elon to teach chemistry.

“So, I was here on the faculty teaching three months after I graduated,” he said.

After he started teaching he realized he needed to complete graduate work in chemistry, so he began summer school at UNC. After completing four education classes, he received a master’s degree in education in 1949 but knew he needed to work towards a doctorate in organic chemistry.

In June of 1950 he moved his family to Chapel Hill to start working full time towards his doctorate. It was during this time he was named dean of the college, after Smith came to visit him at home on a Sunday morning after church.

“He said ‘Earl, I want you to be dean.’ I said I haven’t even finished my doctorate!” Danieley said. “[Smith] said I understand that, but the dean is leaving and I’ve talked with some of the senior faculty and they’re in agreement that you should be dean.”

So in the fall of 1953 — at the age of 29 — Danieley began to serve as acting dean.

He held the position for three years and was under an “unbelievably heavy workload,” which included being dean, teaching chemistry and raising two small boys at home.

“It was a tough time and I knew that it was not for me,” he said.

He moved his family to Baltimore in May of 1956 so he could study at Johns Hopkins. While he planned to eventually return to Elon, he only wanted to do so purely as a professor.

But it was just a few months later the fateful call from Colclough arrived.

dsc_8855
During his time at Elon, Danieley has taught chemistry, public speaking, algebra, debate, trigonometry, biochemistry, physical science, physics and problematic procedure.

“About the first 12 years were pleasant, enjoyable, challenging,” Danieley said about his time spent as president. “We did a lot of things that I wanted to see done, but I was ready to retire. It is an all-consuming job. You are never free. I mean really never free.”

After a long, tedious 16 years as president, Danieley finally handed the reigns over to James Young in 1973 and was “liberated.”

“I went home and for the first time in 16 years I didn’t have anything to do,” he said. “It was such a different feeling.”

While he wanted to take a year off between his presidency and returning to teach, he only spent a month out of the office before he began to teach chemistry full time.

But his previous responsibilities followed him around campus, especially when Young asked him to notify him when he made a mistake.

“I said, ‘Whoa, hold it. I will be here, if you need me you call me, if I can help you in any way I will, but I will not volunteer advice,’” he told Young.

It was the first time since receiving his doctorate that Danieley finally became what he was most passionate about: being a full-time chemistry teacher.

While the staff gossiped and questioned some of Young’s moves, Danieley said he always stayed out of it.

“The former president, if he’s smart, will stay out of what’s going on with the current president,” he said. “I have enjoyed immensely seeing all the progress that’s been made as Elon has climbed from where to were to where we are. It’s been amazing, the transformation that’s taken place. I’ve enjoyed it tremendously.”

Born-and-Bred Phoenix

Danieley grew up just four miles away from today’s campus on a tobacco farm, where his family was greatly connected to the region. His father was a chairman of the Alamance County Republican Party, his grandfather was the mayor of Elon and his great-great grandfather was a minister in the Christian Church that originally founded Elon.

After enrolling in Elon, he met Verona on campus in the fall of 1946 when she was working in the president’s office and they regularly ate in the dining hall together. After marrying in September of 1948, they had two sons and a daughter.

He also has seven grandchildren scattered across North Carolina, one of which is currently enrolled at Elon.

Senior Daniel Shutt said since he was a child he has had a very close relationship with Danieley.

“I’ve become closer to [my grandfather] by trying to understand how he sees the world,” Shutt said.

Shutt considers his grandfather one of his “favorite people” and considers himself lucky to have such a strong relationship with him.

“He’s like my idol,” Shutt said. “There’s no person who I would rather spend time with. People often can’t understand how we can even talk to each other, but it’s never been an issue.”

Still A Familiar Elon Sight

Despite his many roles at Elon, teaching has always been Danieley’s favorite. Aside from his concentration in chemistry, he has taught public speaking, algebra, debate, trigonometry, biochemistry, physical science, physics, problematic procedure — which he taught for 61 years — as well as coaching the debate team.

Today, Danieley teaches chemistry part time in the fall and spring as well as a class on the history of Elon during January.

He keeps a book with the signatures of every student he taught during his first year as a faculty member at Elon on the bookshelf next to his desk. Going down the list, he names the individuals, their background, personal details and what they are doing today, since staying in close connection to his former students is one of his passions.

“The relationships are something that I treasure highly,” he said.

But even though he has truly lived Elon through and through, Danieley said he isn’t planning on going anywhere anytime soon.

At 84-years-old, he doesn’t plan to retire until teaching becomes work.

“I have so much fun coming to school. I have some unbelievably interesting students and seeing them and working with them is such a pleasure,” Danieley said. “I know how old I am and I had few relatives to live this long but I don’t spend any time thinking about how old I am. It’s wonderful to have so much to do that I don’t have time to think about being an old man.”

Instead, what he focuses on is that next chemistry lesson coming up, what story he is going to share with his Elon 101 class and when he is going to see his grandson at East Carolina next.

Cultivating Elon From The Ground Up

Danieley has seen outstanding national figures appear at Elon, including Presidents Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford, Lyndon Johnson, Bill Clinton — twice — and Al Gore. But one of his favorite things to do is watch Elon grow and unfold before his eyes.

His response to each national recognition Elon receives is “just joy and satisfaction.”

“It’s so fantastic that you really have to say this is real, this is for real, this is not a joke were playing,” he said in regards to two national top ten ranking Elon recently received. “When I was in high school there were people that were ugly enough to say ‘If you can’t go to college, go to Elon.’ I’d like to find every one of those guys and make ‘em eat this without ketchup.”

Campus today is neither the Elon Danieley presided over nor the one he dreamed about.

“I never had a dream this big. You can’t really dream something you can’t imagine,” he said. “I could never see us at this point with this recognition. They say Elon is really doing things and I just grin real big and say, ‘You’re right, we are. We surely are.’”

Watch to see the best advice Danieley has ever received:

University research trip canceled after terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India

picture-15by Andie Diemer
Dec. 3, 2008

A five-member research group from Elon University’s Imagining the Internet Center should have been in New York boarding a plane to Hyderabad, India, on Saturday night, to attend the third annual United-Nations facilitated Internet Governance Forum. But when terrorist attacks broke out about 450 miles from Hyderabad in Mumbai, India on the previous Wednesday, it became questionable whether the group would be able to make the trip because of security concerns. And Elon officials canceled the Dec. 1-6 trip, despite reassurance from the Government of India.

Trip organizers began to monitor the violent attacks in Mumbai, through which the research group’s was scheduled to travel, since the terrorists were targeting Americans and Britons.

The attacks on Mumbai, India’s largest city and financial capital, began on Nov. 26 in what became 10 coordinated terrorist attacks.

Indian security forces were able to regain control on Nov. 29, but not before at least 172 people — 34 of whom were foreign nationals — were killed, with at least another 293 injured. Attacks occured at a railway station, café, popular tourist restaurant, hospital and Mumbai Police Headquarters.

“One member of the five-person Imagining the Internet research group was extremely concerned about the Mumbai terror, and one student’s family was concerned about the group’s safety,” said Janna Anderson, head of the Imagining the Internet Center. “Because there was not 100 percent agreement by all participants that the research expedition should go ahead as planned, Elon administrators advised it was best to cancel.”

Three of the four students were upset the journey was canceled, but understood the concerns expressed by others in the research group.

After consulting with Larry Basirico, dean of international programs, and Nancy Midgette, associate provost, during Thanksgiving break and given the information on hand at the time, School of Communications Dean Paul Parsons made a recommendation to Anderson to cancel the trip.

“A decision like this always involves a comparison of risk versus reward,” Parsons said. “The reward in having Elon students attend the Internet Governance Forum would have been substantial for the students and for our Imagining the Internet Center.”

But since the terrorist attack introduced risk into the equation, a decision to forgo the trip had to be made before it could be asserted if the risk was minimal or not, Parsons said.

“The students and I were excited for the trip to India. It would’ve been a wonderful research and working experience for everyone involved,”said Colin Donohue, coordinator of student media and instructor in communications who was scheduled to travel with the students. “It was a shame that the trip had to end, but the terrorist attacks that lasted three days were tragic and worrisome.”

Other people who were supposed to attend the IGF canceled their reservations and several businesses with headquarters in Mumbai and Hyderabad canceled their travel plans in wake of the terrorist attacks, he said.

“In the end, I wanted to make sure we erred heavily on the side of caution, and that feeling was taken into consideration before the trip was canceled,” Donohue said. “It was a deciding factor.”

Student researcher sophomore Drew Smith said the trip had been in the works for about a month now and that he had been conducting weekly meetings with Anderson to discuss the research being planned to conduct.

“I got my visa in the mail two weeks ago and I was all set to go until we got news about the attacks,” Smith said.

While the trip would have provided him with research opportunity and a different cultural experience, he said he did fell uneasy about flying through Mumbai since the attacks were ongoing and targeted at someone like himself.

“It was a let down for it to get canceled the day before we were supposed to leave, after all the preparation,” Smith said. “But it’s understandable that the school decided not to send us because the attacks happened days before we were set to arrive.”

Smith said it affects the Elon’s Imagining the Internet Center the most.

“The center had documented all of the previous Internet Governance Forums, and now the piece of Internet history that is happening in Hyderabad will not receive the same depth of coverage,” he said.

The group was set to produce a series of documentary video reports on the forum, which would have been added to Imagining the Internet, an online resource with more than 6,000 pages of content illuminating the past, present and future of the Internet.

‘Civilization’ breaks mold

Iraqi visitor bounces back after statue vandalism incident

n-statueby Andie Diemer
Dec. 3, 2008

Scholar-in-Residence Ahmed Fadaam finally released “Civilization from the mold” on Monday morning, when the Iraqi artist and journalist began the stages of taking the plaster off of his masterpiece, which had been brutally disfigured by a vandal just weeks before.

Fadaam freed Civilization, the sculpture of a Middle Eastern woman with dozens of hands sprouting from the ground surrounding her, in a four-hour process. As a waste mold, Fadaam had to break away the mold piece by piece, all while hoping his sculpture underneath had not suffered any damages through the process.

“I’m only worried about one place — here — where I think that we have an air gap,” Fadaam said, pointing to Civilization’s arm. “But if we can open the mold safely then it’s not going to be a big deal. We can fix it later. But for the rest, I’m quite confident that it went on well.”

Project Pericles Director Tom Arcaro, who worked to bring Fadaam to campus, said the releasing agent that kept the plaster from bonding to the concrete underneath didn’t work as well as they had hoped and that there was some slight damage to the arm that Fadaam was concerned about.

“The chipping off process is more tedious and painstaking than he had planned, but he said that’s to be expected that any project is going to have any repairs when you take off the mold,” Arcaro said.

The next step is to repair the places where the mold didn’t work perfectly.

“If you’re expecting a ready-to-display sculpture, you’re going to be disappointed at this point,” Arcaro said. “But it’s a process. You’re stressing away the plaster and there’s going to be some repairs.”

Fadaam’s sculpture was vandalized Nov. 19 when an unknown vandal broke into the warehouse he was working it and smeared Civilization’s face, lopped off her breasts and smashed a hammer into the back of her head.

After working for several hours to repair the damages of the statue that he believes represents a noble cause about women in the Middle East and their fight for their future, Fadaam was then able to cast her.

He said many artists, some of whom he had never even met, who heard about the damage contacted him to express their condolences and support him.

“They rushed to send me e-mails to express their support and sympathy and I found it really great,” Fadaam said. “I was speechless when I was reading those.”

However, he told them not to worry or feel sorry for him, since it would make him feel weak.

Instead, he reminded them that art has survived history.

“We are stronger than time, and art has survived and will keep surviving because of us — the artists, because of you and because of me,” Fadaam said. “A bunch of people, like those who looted my school in 2003 or those who vandalized my statue now, are not going to stop us.”

The statue is expected to be unveiled in the spring and will be placed on campus as a gift from Fadaam.

The seed of the need for acceptance, security planted by blind eyes

Younger and younger Alamance County residents are weaving themselves a life to find a family the only place they can: gangs

by Andie Diemer
Dec. 1, 2008

By simply thumbing through a packet of extracurricular activities offered at Burlington’s Hillcrest Elementary School, Student Teacher Jenn Keldie sees normalcy dominate the list: science fair, spelling bee, D.A.R.E., a news show, tutoring. But one program offered generally doesn’t appear on a typical school agenda, but is one Keldie sees as essential to Hillcrest: Promises Energizing Progress Club.

infographic1The program, which acts as a support group for at-risk students who’ve demonstrated inappropriate behavior, has been instituted to curb problems at an early age before they blossom into more severe issues, namely gang involvement, according to the School Improvement Plan for Hillcrest Elementary.

“In fourth grade there’s a lot of verbal assault, in fifth grade it’s more physical,” Keldie said. “A lot of boys are getting immersed into gang culture, not into gang life. But you can tell they’re picking up on the language of gang life and you can hear the way they’re talking and starting to verbally assault each other.”

While Keldie hasn’t heard many students talk directly about gang relations and has been instructed to report anything she may overhear or witness, she said there also seems to be a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

Some students, like one that threatened a Hillcrest teacher last year, are asked to join the all-boys club. Other boys, like one of Keldie’s current students, have requested to remain in the program after previously participating and realizing its value.

“They see [gang involvement] in their homes and neighborhoods and that’s what they know and think is the norm,” Keldie said. “They don’t know there are other approaches of handling situations and interacting with people.”

It evident there’s a community issue when thoughts and actions revolving around gangs can be found in a fourth grade classroom, Keldie said.

But with 65 identified gangs in North Carolina — and the youngest known member is 9-years-old — establishing programs like these is imperative to combating the problem, according to the Alamance City-County Gang Task Force. They estimate more than 400 individuals are involved in some form of gang activity across the state, with 56 percent being under 18.

A Young, Growing Problem

More than half of gang-related crimes were committed by juveniles under 18 between July 2006 and December 2007 alone, illustrating that the youth needs to be immersed in educational programs before they’re fully introduced to gang life, Randy Jones, director of public information for the Alamance County Sheriff’s Department, said.

Dwayne Harden, chairman of the Juvenile Crime Prevention Council, said he has seen court intake gradually increase with gang-related, juvenile offenses during the past four years.

Media glorification, area immigration, easy interstate access, racial disproportion, lack of parental involvement and a central North Carolina location make Alamance County an easy area to foster gangs, Harden said.

According to Harden, between 500 and 600 juveniles are referred to Alamance County’s Juvenile Justice System per year. Out of those cases, between 250 and 300 are put through the court system.

While graffiti, assault and arson are the most common gang-related crimes, Harden said it takes between six months and a year to fully complete a rehabilitation program before the offender is ensured their record will be expunged once they turn 18.

Those who violate the court order are brought back into court and given more consequences.

But since Alamance County has a higher average of juvenile crime than the state average, another effort instated to combat this rising problem is the North Carolina Metropolitan Coalition, which was created in 2001 by several North Carolina area mayors, including Burlington Mayor Ronnie Wall.

After recognizing the impact gang activity was having on local communities, the coalition formed to prompt state legislators to pass anti-gang legislation that would be in affect across the state.

infographic2“The NCMC recognizes that a balanced approach of prevention, intervention and suppression is needed to address gangs and supports both bills,” a NCMC statement said. “[These laws] create stronger punishments for criminal actions and allocate funding for prevention and intervention programs.”

The Senate voted 47-0 to approve the legislation set and the Street Gang Suppression Act and the Street Gang Prevention and Intervention Act were created a few years ago and are currently being urged for consideration in the General Assembly.

“Not only will this legislation give cities and towns across North Carolina additional tools to prevent and suppress gang activity, but most importantly, they will help save our youth from the insidious nature of gangs,” Coalition Chairman and Chapel Hill Mayor Kevin Foy said to WRAL.


Fraternizing With The Escalating Enemy

Jones saw the issue growing around the same time as the NCMC and helped to pen the grants that established the first gang unit in Alamance County in 2005. He eventually led the unit to become part of the regular budget.

But as intelligence information developed, Jones was shocked by the problem’s magnitude.

“I found out I didn’t know as much as I thought I did,” Jones said. “I thought we had a bad problem. It was about four times worse than I thought.”

While the task force has three full-time members, he said he could justify 10 in a grant after seeing the extent of the problem.

With a very fluid gang culture, the research being conducted is a “never-ending ordeal,” since it’s a major failure in previous investigations, he said. The team also does undercover work, specific investigations, makes community presentations since the school system is main recruiting grounds and gets school officials to participate in training and recognition sessions.

While there are a variety of gangs in a county of only 155,000 people, many are localized and take allegiance to the history or criteria practiced by other gangs, Jones said.

Many have also moved from major cities to rural areas, such as Alamance County, because there’s excessive anti-gang action and enforcement happening in metropolitan regions.


Bullying The County

Jones said gang officers have to develop their own street credibility, interact and constantly interview gang members. Most times, members come straight up to the officers because of bragging rights and wanting their information to be known, he said.

“It’s perpetuating because people get recognized and think it’s great,” Jones said. “It’s how intimidation works. If you’ve never heard of them, then you don’t know the name.”

He said one of the Task Force’s main goals is to give school officials a basis of what to look for, since part of their lack of knowledge feeds into the problem.

In one Alamance County high school, there was a school newsletter distributed with a photograph of seemingly innocent students gathered. But once trained officers looked at the picture, they realized the students were flashing gang signs and delivering gang messages through the image.

While training to identify the problem is one measure being taken, another is to educate non-gang participants on their safety.

Elon University Senior Libby Long, a member of Alpha Xi Delta sorority, said one of her advisers who works in the Alamance School System talked to her chapter about being cautious.

“I’ve never been exposed to gangs in my life. I didn’t expect there to be a gang issue here,” Long said.
Long and her sisters were instructed to be careful about shopping and being alone in parking lots at night, since it makes them easy targets as young females.

However, Elon University Senior Maggie Zimmerman said while she learned about the gang problem a year after enrolling in Elon, she normally feels safe and has not witnessed any gangs, gang-related crimes or graffiti around town. She said her feelings reflect the perspective of a majority of Elon students.

A Gang Does The Crime, A Gang Pays The Time

But even though everyone in the county doesn’t feel the gang presence, gangs are still prevalent and rehabilitation programs have been established to help stabilize juveniles once they are identified and taken through the court system.

Jones said he has a difficult time referring to some of the 14 and 15 year-olds he encounters as children, since they are “some of the most violent ones” the county is dealing with and they are committing “very adult crimes.” The maturity level of crimes being committed by 15- and 16-year-olds is now at the level of a typical 21-year-old from 35 years ago, when he first got involved in law enforcement.

Eric Thompson, a full-time ordained minister who works in the Burlington School System, has been connected with at-risk Hispanic youth in the area for more than 10 years. He created a rehabilitation program, In His Faith, four years ago in conjunction with juvenile justice after he noticed a need for the demographic when it came to gang offenses.

The group, which meets every Thursday, has three parts: a Biblical discussion, a karate potion to develop self discipline and respect for authority and adolescent fellowship to foster organizational relationships.

“I don’t like a lot of rules, but the rules we have are pretty solid. I’ve tried to make it very much non-confrontational, but very much try to make them think,” Thompson said about the all-male youth between 12- and 17-years-old. “It’s a gang-free environment for two hours.”

Here, those enrolled work on dealing with violence, building a reputation and more.

“Basically we just want to present to them there’s a different view out there,” Thompson said. “There’s a different view of life, there’s a different way to have those same needs met.”

The Dance of Denial

Thompson said most kids begin to drift into gangs while they are in upper-elementary school, so most of them have spent years perceiving gang life as “pretty much it.”

Since youth worldwide tend to get involved for identity and protection, they often view these destructive organizations as something they will always survive and will not be affected by in the long term, he said.

But Harden said it should not always have to come down to these rehabilitation programs to establish a sense of well-being in adolescents.

“It starts with the family,” Harden said. “Parents need to get more involved in their kids home situation.”
Jones said not recognizing, denying or turning a blind eye only perpetuates the issue.

“People say we don’t have gang members, we have wannabees. But the wannabes are gonna be,” Jones said. “If they’re going to do everything a gang member does, then they become a gang member.”

Jones said another problem gangs present is the destruction of family systems, since around 95 percent of those involved — from all ethnic backgrounds — are raised by a single parent or other relative and experience a lack of discipline in home and school.

Richard Ramos, president and CEO of The Latino Coalition for Faith and Community Leadership in Los Angeles, has developed a curriculum to educate parents about gang culture, since he believes prevention — not intervention or police enforcement — is the key to curbing the problem.

While Alamance County’s problem is not atypical, he said the community if focusing on the wrong problem.
There are 760,000 gang members across the county, but out of the entire population, only 5 percent of youth have ever joined a gang, Ramos said. In the prime ages between 10 and 17, when youth are most likely already in or to become involved in gangs, only between 1 and 2 percent of all of America’s youth falls into this category.

Investigating why children do not join gangs will reveal why those who are involved chose to do so, he said.
“The reason most kids do not join gangs is because of the home they’re raised in,” he said. “It seems very elementary, but we’re somehow overlooking it. When it comes to prevention, we’re leaving out the support of the families.”

Communities are usually not very educated about gangs, know any gang members, are scared and under political and social pressure, so they often demand to have action taken right away and believe law enforcement suppression and community standards are a necessity, he said.

He targets to educate young couples — with and without children — because while intervention is good, Ramos believes prevention is better.

“It’s getting into younger kids,” Jones said. “People are going to have to get the realization it’s here, it’s real. They’re going to have to deal with these people in a very stern manner.”

But he said the war will never be won until the problem is addressed and accepted by the community and heavy resources are poured into prevention and rehabilitation.

But don’t expect this anytime soon.

“Are we going to get rid of it? I’m afraid not,” Jones said. “And the reason we’re not going to eradicate it is because society’s not willing to.”

Obama churning out Cabinet members

by Andie Diemer
Dec. 1, 2008

President-elect Barack Obama is rounding out his national security team and appointed former campaign rival Hillary Clinton as secretary of state during a press conference Monday. He also announced he will keep the Bush administration’s Defense Secretary Robert Gates on in the same position and named former Justice Department official Eric Holder as attorney general.

“She possesses an extraordinary intelligence and toughness and a remarkable work ethic,” Obama said when he introduced Clinton. “She is an American of tremendous stature who will have my complete confidence, who knows many of the world’s leaders, who will command respect in every capital and who will clearly have the ability to advance our interests around the world.”

Retired Marine Gen. Jim Jones will fill in as national security adviser, Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano as homeland security secretary and campaign foreign policy adviser Susan Rice as ambassador to the United Nations.

Former Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle will step up as Secretary of Health and Human Services and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson will act as commerce secretary.

“I assembled this team because I am a strong believer in strong personalities and strong opinions,” Obama said during the press conference.

These individuals will work as the top echelon of advising for Obama on foreign and national security issues during a global “war on terror.”

While Obama said he is going to welcome “a vigorous debate inside the White House,” he reconfirmed he will still be setting policy as the president.

“I will be responsible for the vision that this team carries out, and I will expect them to implement that vision once decisions are made,” he said.

With half of his 15-member Cabinet in place, Obama is continuing to rapidly name those who will accompany him in office only a month after Election Day.

The most important roles at State, Justice, Treasury and Defense have all been instated.

“[My appointees] share my pragmatism about the use of power and my sense of purpose about America’s role as a leader in the world,” he said.

The national security appointments were made just a week after his economic team was named, which will be led by Federal Reserve Bank of New York President Timothy Geithner as treasury secretary.

Obama said this is all in an effort to be able to “hit the ground running” when he is inaugurated on Jan. 20.