October 2017 Issue

  • Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association: Salem hosts championship games

    How does it feel to be the Commissioner of the CIAA, and what are some of the challenges you face as a female leader in a traditionally male dominated industry?
    Serving as the Commissioner of one of the oldest conferences in the country is humbling and an honor. I am leading an organization whose attributes align with who I am personally and professionally. The challenges I face are not unique to what most women, specifically black women, face in leadership. We have to strategize sexism, racism and genderism and recognize it when we see it. Though I am disappointed it still exists, I don’t allow it to hinder my ability to lead and manage. I am the Commissioner and my job is based on my ability to execute despite what you see. I have been fortunate to be surrounded by leaders and mentors who respect and value my position despite my color and gender thus I don’t focus on the challenges but the opportunities.

    You are a former student-athlete, playing both volleyball and basketball. How would you describe your experience as a student-athlete at Hampton University?
    I was a walk-on for both sports. I had never seen the campus and I had to take extra classes to be accepted. I heard about the success of the women’s basketball team, the coach and knew it was a majority black institution. It was the best decision I could have made to try out for both teams and to attend such an amazing university. I earned a scholarship my sophomore year and used athletics as my path to complete my degree. There is something special about being a student athlete, particularly at a HBCU and in the CIAA. Our normal was being coached by legends and being surrounded by men and women who looked like me. I was disciplined and focused to succeed and win at Hampton. It was a place that truly was my “home by the sea.” The standard of excellence was expected as a student and athlete and I embraced being a Hampton Pirate.

    Why did you choose to attend a HBCU?
    There were several schools I could have selected, but Hampton was my first choice. I was determined to be part of an institution that I heard was the Harvard of the South and a Historically Black College and University. I knew it was important to attend a school that would value me as a whole person and that I would be supported emotionally, spiritually and academically. The culture and the experience to be my best amongst the best were invaluable. Additionally, the friendships, community, diversity and skillsets are still a huge part of my day-to-day grounding. I would recommend all students to see a HBCU as their first choice.

    As a former student-athlete at a HBCU, what changes have you seen over the years for student-athletes at HBCUs?
    Interestingly, the experience of attending a HBCU is generational, and I believe that members of each generation will share that they competed in a culture that did its best to support their overall success and well-being despite the resources. Since my time campuses have invested in improving both campus and athletic facilities. There is more access for student-athlete involvement in leadership and community service programs to support the overall experience. Student athletes have more exposure and visibility through social media platforms, television and online streaming. Automatic qualification for teams to compete in the NCAA championships gives more access than when I was playing. I am happy to see that there are more full-time coaches to provide the necessary attention in building a program opposed to a coach having multiple roles as an administrator and a coach. There is still more work to do for HBCUs to remain competitive in recruiting great talent, but I see progress.

    What's the forecast for HBCUs in the next 10 years?
    Given the foundation of HBCUs, unfortunately I forecast that some of the challenges that have been historical to HBCUs will continue to exist for funding and enrollment. I am hopeful that those challenges will attract progressive and strategic leadership to support the mission and vision of HBCU institutions and attract some of the best students and student athletes. We are seeing growth and advancement at many of our institutions now due to progressive and thoughtful leaders who understand the value of higher education beyond just being an HBCU. It is about the experience and opportunity provided to support a student’s overall well-being.

    The CIAA conference is bigger than basketball and football, break down the various schools and championships that make up the CIAA.
    Founded in 1912, the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) is the first African American athletic conference and one of the most recognized conferences in Division II. The CIAA conducts 14 championships attended by more than 150,000 fans from around the country. Those championships include: Men’s and Women’s Basketball; Football; Men’s and Women’s Cross Country; Volleyball; Women’s Bowling; Women’s Tennis; Golf; Men’s and Women’s Indoor and Outdoor Track & Field; and Softball. Headquartered in Charlotte, the CIAA is governed by the presidents and chancellors of its 12-member institutions: Bowie State University, Chowan University, Elizabeth City State University, Fayetteville State University, Johnson C. Smith University, The Lincoln University of Pennsylvania, Livingstone College, Saint Augustine's University, Shaw University, Virginia State University, Virginia Union University and Winston-Salem State University.

    Not showing favoritism, but of all the championships produced by the CIAA what sporting event do you enjoy watching the most and why?
    I enjoy watching all of the championships equally, but as a former volleyball player I love the strategy, team dynamics and mentality needed to win the game. The best team at any given time can lose and you need each player on the court to contribute to every point. Volleyball is symbolic to the CIAA staff and membership. Everyone has to be ready to play to execute great wins and when one player is down, someone else is going to have to compensate or get you back in the game so we can move forward.

    The Roanoke Valley is elated to be the host city for the CIAA Cross Country, Softball and Football championships. What led in your decision to select Salem to host these events?
    We are grateful the Roanoke Valley and Salem have agreed to partner with CIAA to host these three amazing championships. It is important and necessary to be in a community that understands who we are, what we do and why we do it. Salem has history and a track record across the country for being great hosts and partners. It is about the people who are willing to connect beyond the game. The game will be executed with excellence if you have the right partners who believe in what you do and Salem believes.

    Over the last decade, the CIAA has generated over $325 million in economic impact to previous host cities, what benefits can the Roanoke Valley expect from hosting these championships? 
    With thoughtful planning and engagement of the fans, alumni, sponsors and community, Roanoke Valley can expect to have great exposure through CIAA marketing and visibility efforts prior and during each of the championships. This alone will support increased interest to attend events and to be part of the community during CIAA championships. We seek to engage like never before with the community, former alumni and potential CIAA students and student athletes.

    For someone who has not attended the CIAA Football Championship what should one expect?
    Great CIAA football and a community atmosphere. We will create the best student-athlete experience and provide a homecoming atmosphere for our fans, alumni and sponsors.

    What advice would you give to high school student-athletes with desires to one day play in a CIAA championship?
    The advice I would give is that your preparation to play in a CIAA championship begins with you first being a champion in the classroom, community and within your family. You must understand your role on the team and how it plays a critical part for team and individual success. Your desire must extend beyond the field; CIAA is about building on tradition, developing leaders and giving back to your community.

    Beyond buying a ticket to the CIAA championships how can the Roanoke Valley Community support the CIAA conference? 
    The Roanoke Valley community can help spread the word that CIAA is coming into the community. Follow us on social media platforms, share information as received and celebrate the great traditions we will bring leading up, during and after. The community embracing our fans, celebrating our student athletes truly makes the decision to host in city worthwhile.

    CIAA Website and Social Media:
    ● Website: TheCIAA.com
    ● Facebook: The CIAA
    ● Instagram/Snapchat: CIAASports
    ● Twitter: CIAAForLife

  • Former Virginia Union football standout tackles press relations in the NFL

    Modern journalism and public relations overrun with an unprecedented amount of information from a near endless amount of sources. From celebrity scandals, to "fake news," to a new wave of citizen journalism, it is becoming increasingly difficult to wade through the never-ending stream of noise.

    Carl Francis, Director of Communications for the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA), is one voice in the media who is doing his part to espouse integrity in reporting and public relations. A native of Hampton, Francis attended Virginia Union University, recognized as a leader among historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). During his time at VUU, Francis received his bachelor's degree in administration in journalism, coupled with a minor in public relations. His studies combined with four years as an outside linebacker for the VUU Panthers made him uniquely qualified to tackle the task of press relations within the NFL. "I learned pretty fast I wasn't going to the NFL, which was ok with me," Francis joked.

    Although he did not make it to the professional ranks, Francis plays a vital role in managing the public persona of the organization and its players. Everything from a tweet to a press conference falls to him and his team to mediate. "My job is to manage all communication, such as internal communications with our staff, players and anyone that is a constituent of our organization, and also the external – the media and the general public," Francis said.

    The shifting media landscape, one that values the shortest turnaround of information, is something that has made the role of the NFLPA especially difficult, he said. "The stories can turn without you really having full control. A lot of times now you have to use those same skill sets to manage your messages.” Despite an active position in the NFL, Francis continues to demonstrate his passion for education. Currently, he is in his sixth year as an adjunct professor of communications at Georgetown University.

    "I think that education gives you a foundation on how to process and really analyze certain situations that you may encounter throughout the course of your career," he said. Having interned with the Atlanta Braves and the Washington Redskins, Francis has a long history of consistently being active in the field of sports media. "More importantly, I think there's nothing like real work experience. Being in the bunker, working out problems, facing crisis and dealing with the actual work of public relations and communications," Francis said

    Much of his success he attributes to his experiences at a HBCU such as VUU. "It (VUU) really molded me. One thing historically black colleges help you with is an understanding of pride, and giving you a sense of direction in terms of your path and your purpose. It's also good because you get a historical perspective on people that you've never heard about or that you were never told about," Francis said.

    Francis considers it his responsibility to take what he learned at VUU and throughout his life and career and pass it on to his students. As he continues to work across the different media, Francis is optimistic about the content produced. "We have a lot of strong, very gifted and hard-working voices that are telling the stories and telling them the right way. We have a number of minority reporters, news anchors and just different people in the media," Francis said.

    In the same way Francis "made it" to the NFL, he encourages his students — especially his student athletes — by sharing there are numerous avenues to navigate into your purpose. He added that those working behind the scenes frame much of the story. "When you look at it from that perspective, those voices being managed by people of all races and all minority groups are key because it tells the story of the American people."

    Whether a student decides to attend a HBCU, or a young professional is looking to break into the workforce, Francis shared a few key tips to putting yourself on a sustainable path to success.

    Be proficient at oral and written communication.
    Challenge yourself. Go beyond, even if you don't want to be a writer or a journalist.

    Take advantages of your resources.
    Instead of being overly ambitious, Francis suggests that young people take the experience and knowledge they have and put it to use in their immediate field of influence. Rather than go for that lofty position right away, go volunteer to do public relations at a community center, or work for your school's media team.

    Go through a process.
    Young people should "do the work" as opposed to expecting a glamorous position in a short amount of time.

    "The career process is a very functional one, and it goes through phases,” Francis said. “You can't possibly learn the process of your career path in a year. Resiliency is something that our young people are missing, because everything is coming so fast. Everything is kind of hand delivered on a plate."



    Aside from his sports media career path, Francis also has made an impact on the world of sports in general. In 1996, Francis co-founded the Hampton Roads Youth Foundation, a football camp that allows him to give back to his community in the way he knows best. "Sports have brought me closer to people, allowing me to engage with people that I may not have otherwise." 

    He estimates that through the foundation, about $8,000 in scholarships have has assisted 9,000 young athletes. Roughly, 25 NFL players have played at his camp, and have even gone on to double the impact with camps of their own.

    Whether it was on or off the field, in the role of aspiring journalist or student athlete, Francis faced and overcame many challenges. "You made it work by one common goal and that's hard work and trusting your coaches and really putting forth a team related effort," he said. He insisted the students and athletes today have even more opportunities and resources that will take them further if they put in the work, a concept especially fostered at HBCUs.

    "They teach you how to truly, truly fight and work hard for your space in society and in business," Francis said.

  • Stedman Speaks: Data Hack

    Stedman Payne is an experienced financial professional who serves as Member One’s Market Executive in the Lynchburg area. His financial education series offers tips for making smart decisions when it comes to managing your finances.

    With the magnitude of data breaches recently, it is not a question of if but when your personal information could be compromised. Even if you haven’t been impacted yet, there are steps you can take to help prevent yourself from becoming a victim. Here’s Stedman’s advice on protecting your identity.

    Q: I received a notice that my personal information has been breached. What do I do?

    SP: Typically, when you receive this kind of notification, it will tell you what personal information might have been exposed and include suggestions of actions you can take to further protect your identity. If it’s your credit or debit card information that was stolen, someone will probably try to use the card. If the financial institution hasn’t done this already, you should cancel it right away. If data such as your social security number, birth date, or address has been stolen, you’ll want to keep a close eye on your credit report. Unlike canceling a card, this information can’t simply be erased and could be used by criminals at any time.

    Q: So, should I assume that if I’ve never received a notification that my personal information is safe?

    SP: No. It’s best to be proactive in protecting yourself from identity theft. Some things you can do to lessen your chances of having your data stolen include shredding documents containing sensitive information like your social security number or account numbers. Take advantage of any credit monitoring or fraud alert services offered to you from a trusted source. You also can register for the Do Not Call list through the Federal Trade Commission by visiting FTC.gov to stop unsolicited scammers from contacting you. Get a copy of your credit report by visiting annualcreditreport.com and review it for any unfamiliar accounts or activity.

    Q: How do I read my credit report?

    SP: Each of the three credit bureaus – Equifax, Experian and TransUnion – allow you to obtain a free copy of your report each year. Information on the reports is organized differently, but they contain the same general sections: identifying information, credit history, public records and inquiries. Check to make sure your personal information is correct and it doesn’t contain anything unfamiliar like a name or address that doesn’t belong to you. The credit history section shows your revolving credit and installment loan accounts; those that are in good standing, negative (such as late payments or accounts that have been sent to collections) and closed. The public records section shows accounts where legal actions such as bankruptcies or civil judgments have taken place. Finally, the record of requests section shows all inquiries on your credit that you authorized. Make sure all information is accurate and familiar. If it isn’t, you’ll need to dispute the error.

    Q: What if I find something unfamiliar on my credit report and need to dispute it?

    SP: Gather documentation to prove your case and reach out to the appropriate credit bureau or creditor. For example, if your account information was recorded incorrectly (like a late payment that you can prove you made on time), take that up directly with the creditor. If it’s resolved, ask them to take back the reported delinquency so it no longer appears on your credit reports. You can also dispute an error directly with the credit bureaus online or by sending a letter. Credit report errors may lower your credit score or cause you to pay higher interest rates on loans or credit cards, so it’s in your best interest to take care of any inaccuracies right away.

    Q: What are some other steps I can take to protect my identity?

    SP: File your taxes as soon as possible to get ahead of a scammer who might commit tax identity theft. You can place a freeze on your credit files to make it more difficult for someone to open an account in your name. While this won’t stop scammers from charging current accounts, it will help prevent future theft. Closely monitor your bank and credit card accounts for any unfamiliar transactions. Reach out to your financial institution to see what kind of protection they offer such as notifications if your account balance drops below a designated amount or a certain dollar amount transaction takes place.


  • Scholar of the Month: Chandler Calloway

    Often times when the word gift is mentioned people instantly think of a particular item or a holiday. A child will request a gift, maybe the latest video game or the newest shoes. Then six months later that item lands in the corner of the closet and the next big thing is on the request list. That is not an issue for Chandler Calloway, who says her favorite gift ever is education. “Education is so important because it’s something that I’ll always have,” she said.

    Calloway is a senior at E.C. Glass High School in Lynchburg. She has a 4.07 GPA and is involved in a host of activities all while maintaining an internship. Calloway has an impressive resume – a resume that would make anyone say, “When do you sleep?” For starters, to have above a perfect grade point average, she takes AP government. Calloway interns at a credit union as a bank teller, she is a member of the Key Club, E.C. Glass Acapella Group, National Honor Society, an E.C. Glass Ambassador and is heavily involved with a leadership program at the local YMCA. The program at the YMCA helps build teen leaders through various phases including completion of a leadership course and a young kids mentoring program. “I enjoy meeting new young people and helping them find their passion to lead,” said Calloway.

    Her mother inspires her to excel, she added. “She grew up in a single-parent home and saw my grandmother work really hard. So my mom used education to be successful and become a school counselor,” said Calloway.  Having that example in the home also allowed her to overcome her own challengers. In elementary school, Calloway said she was often bored. She would leave class. However, at home she was active. It was not until fifth grade when she found out she was had attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder also known as ADHD.  “My mom and school resource teacher help put strategies in place like daily routines and using a planner,” said Calloway. These are techniques that she still uses today and attributes them to much of her success. “I wish people knew that even though I have ADHD it doesn’t stop me from doing what I love or achieving great things,” said Calloway.

    She hopes to continue her education and ultimately become an architect. Technology helped spark her interest in the field. “I was on the computer and I found myself playing a game where you could make houses,” said Calloway. “You could put furniture in the house and lay out everything how you wanted.” The ambitious teen said she wants to design residential buildings and houses. The National Association of Minority Architects (NOMA) reports that fewer than two percent of the 105,000 licensed architects in the United States are African American. A predominantly white male industry does not scare her, she said. “I don’t feel strongly about it… I say, I can do the same thing you can do,” said Calloway.  She is looking at top schools to further her education to make sure she is competitive in the field. Schools on top of her list include the University of Virginia, James Madison University, Radford University and Howard University.
    Even though Calloway is a hard worker she said often times adults have misconceptions about her generation. “They think we don’t have a good work ethic,” she said. However, that is not the case, she said. “It’s just that we like to work smarter, not harder.” Not only does Calloway defy that stereotype, but several of her friends as well. She said they are as ambitious, some having their own YouTube Channels and hair care businesses. Seeing her friends take on their own endeavors inspired her entrepreneur spirit. Calloway recently started making her own all natural sugar scrubs. When thinking of a gift to say ‘thank you’ to her teachers and administrators, she created something that she loves. “I love being clean, taking baths, so I came up with a scrub,” said Calloway. After she gave the scrubs as gifts, her teachers came back asking for more. Her scrubs are called ‘Beautifully Undefined.” She also makes one for sensitive skin, and another that is super defoliant. Always thinking of others, that is how people describe her. Calloway said she is mom to her group of friends, lending encouragement and giving them support.

    Whatever Calloway decides to do in the future, judging her record of accomplishment we know she will excel. Whether it is designing the next modern home, mentoring the following generation, or taking her brand ‘Beautifully Undefined’ worldwide, Calloway is the epitome of a rising leader. Consistently she is using her natural gifts to uplift her community and others.

  • Degrees from HBCUs a family affair for the Sims family

    You might not have heard of Lincoln University, but the school’s boasts some prestigious graduates, known worldwide. Thurgood Marshall, Cab Calloway and even world-renowned poet Gil Scott-Heron walked the halls of the Pennsylvania campus. Lincoln University was originally established as the Ashmun Institute, and received its charter in 1854, making it the country’s first degree-granting Historically Black College and University (HBCU). According to the Thurgood Marshall Foundation, there are more than 100 HBCUs across the country enrolling more than 300,000 students per year. HBCUs were originally created to educate black Americans at a time when blacks were not welcomed in other schools, but today the schools are open to all races.

    To this day HBCUs provide an environment like no other where African Americans feel a sense of pride, excellence and love. From the iconic bands to innovative leaders in various industries, these schools are places where black youth thrive. For these reasons, the Sims Family of Blacksburg has a tradition at not only Lincoln University, but also other historically black institutions. Here is the rundown:

    Guy Sims graduated from Lincoln in 1983, his daughter Alyssia is a 2017 graduate, his son Sterling is a current student and his wife Lisa attended Howard University for two years. Not only has his immediate family attended HBCUs, but also one of his brothers, sister-in-law, nephew and his nephew’s wife. Sims says you can count on school rivalry discussions and jokes whenever there is a family gathering. “We always say Thurgood Marshall might have gone to Howard Law School, but Lincoln had him first,” says Sims.

    The love of education did not happen overnight. Like many black families in America, it took one person in the family to be a catalyst for change. In the Sims family, it was Guy’s father, Dr. Edward Sims, Jr. He grew up in Jersey City, and as the oldest child, he realized education would be the way out of what they characterize as a depressed city. Dr. Sims was the first to graduate high school and to attend college, Boston College. Sims’ mother, Deanna, also used education as a way out of poverty. She, too, grew up in Jersey City and went on to earn a teaching degree from Temple University in Philadelphia. “By the time my brothers and I came along, the importance of education and college wasn’t alien to us,” says Sims. Even though his father attended college in Boston he was a big supporter of HBCUs, says Sims. “He would say it is an environment that is going to nurture you and people there are interested in the success of their students,” Sims adds. Even though his eldest brother was accepted to high profile schools like Carnegie Mellon and MIT, the patriarch recommended the engineering program at Howard University. As a Howard graduate, Sims’ brother found success in a career in the private and federal engineering field.

    When it was Sims’ turn to apply for school, well...he just wasn’t sure. “My father suggested Lincoln. It was far enough away from home where if I needed to come home or my parents needed to visit they could,” says Sims. The young scholar even made a deal with his father that if he made the dean’s list after the first semester he could transfer anywhere. We know how the story ends. He made the dean’s list and fell in love with the school. Sims says there are several standout memories from school. “I remember during freshmen week, a guy had speakers in the dorm room facing out playing music. It was the brand new song ‘Rappers Delight.’’ I look back and it was a clear college moment that ushered in mainstream era of rap music,” says Sims. Then there are situations he remembers that only Lincolnites of his time can understand. “You know you went to Lincoln if you were up eating bean pies and soda at two in the morning, because that was the only thing we could eat,” says Sims. Like the show Good Time’, it’s those not so good ones that make a person stronger.

    He pledged Phi Beta Sigma, maintained a high grade-point average and became student government president. However, he almost did not achieve the presidency. At the end of his of sophomore, he toyed with the idea of running for student government. One day a student administrator, Mr. Bailey walked up to him and asked Sims about it. He said, “Stop thinking and either do it or don’t do it,” Sim Says. “That meant a lot to me – for him to leave his office and find me. He recognized I had potential.”

    It is that investment in students that Sims says allowed him to gain a sense of self. He learned how to resolve problems, build friendships, how to be a competitor and colleague and how to advocate for yourself. The same growth of confidence Sims saw blossomed in himself is what he saw transpire with his daughter as she attended Lincoln. However, even with all the great features HBCUs have to offer some are struggling since students of today have options. Unlike major PWIs (predominantly white institutions), several HBCUs often beg for alumni donations. Though Sims and his family gives yearly donations to their alma mater, he says the culture of philanthropy is something that should be promoted more in the black community. “Because church is so accessible, when the plate comes right in front of you, you often give automatically. You’re in the social setting to give. We need to build the sense that philanthropy is noble and extremely necessary,” Sims says. He believes college isn’t just for the student that attends; it impacts the entire community. He understand that some HBCUs don’t have professionals schools like medical or law which leaves most students going into fields with modest salaries like teachers and social workers. The culture of giving can combat that issue. “Instead of depending on one person giving a large amount, you can have more people giving,” he says. “Think about if that one big donor dies, you have to have a broad base of givers.”

    As the United States continues to diversify, Sims believes the need for HBCUs will remain. “As a consumer you have to think what is best for me,” he says. Just as a student may consider an online experience over an all men’s or all women’s institution, they should have the same opportunity to consider a historically black school. The months of October and February are filled with HBCU homecomings and it’s during these times where bonds are renewed, memories are made and history is preserved.  “At Lincoln you feel like you are a co-owner of the institution,” says Sims. With a longstanding career in higher education administration, Sims has dedicated much of his life to helping the next generations.  No matter what HBCU a student attends, the alumnus realizes once you’re out in the world away from campus we’re all rooting for each other.

  • From history teacher to events planner, Roanoke’s Sharon Hicks, letting her creativity blossom

    Roanoker Sharon Hicks has a history in teaching, and a future in decorating and event planning. With a degree in history from Roanoke College, Hicks discovered a rewarding career in education. At the same time, though, she was creating beautiful events for friends and family, and praise her handiworks was immense. Through word of mouth alone, more and more people began to approach her. And soon her reputation for creativity and professionalism began to grow. Even the school system, after admiring her decorations, called upon her to arrange events.

    Opportunities to be creative energized her. Not only does she find the creative outlet fulfilling, but she really enjoys the process of organization. It wasn’t long before she began thinking about what it would be like to do it full time. She wasn’t alone in that thought, either. Many others already had suggested that she turn her creative gift into a business. This May she took the plunge.

    CEO and Company (Creating Every Occasion), however, wasn’t an impulse. As an educator, Hicks knew the value of research. She read several books on the subject of starting a new business, including “The Mocha Manual for Turning Your Passion into Profit,” by Kimberly Seals-Allers. She also attended the mayor’s summit where she listened to other small business owner’s talk about the entrepreneurial experience. Hicks didn’t want to be hasty. She wanted all the knowledge she could gather before taking such a big step.

    But research alone wasn’t enough. Hicks also knew the value of education. After even more business-related research, she felt it was time for an official education in the service her business would provide. Though she’d already had many years’ experience on her own, she enrolled in the QC Event Planning School and received certifications in event and wedding planning, event and wedding décor, luxury wedding and event specialization.

    Feeling completely prepared, and with a lot of people supporting her dreams and visions, this mother of one and grandmother of two started a new chapter of her life in May when she received her business license.

    Utilizing a network of quality professionals, Hicks says CEO and Company is ready to “create and execute memorable events that capture the sharp vision, personality and style of our clients while alleviating the pressure of planning.”
    No matter how big or how small the event, Hicks works with florists, caterers, printers and even entertainers to make it memorable. She has even organized, and will continue to organize, events to assist non-profit organizations.

    She provided services for the Adrian Crutchfield concert at the Dumas Hotel on Roanoke’s Henry Street in July. It was part of a series intended to preserve the Dumas Center legacy of displaying incredible entertainment. “I was very happy to work with Ms. Hicks and her team and I’m excited to see the growth she brings to the Roanoke community, especially in the arts and entertainment field,” Crutchfield said. “I'd been longing to perform in my hometown for years and just couldn’t seem to get anyone to bring me in. Sharon not only made it happen, but did it for a wonderful cause that’s close to my heart (the preservation of our great Dumas Hotel and the historic neighborhood around it). Ms. Hicks and her team made the whole process very easy and were continuously pleasant with my staff and me. We look forward to many more opportunities to work with her.”

    Kit Kelso, also of Roanoke, was involved in this project, and said it was great to work with someone who was happy to be home. Hicks contributed significantly to making the event one to remember, Kelso said. Having also worked with Sharon on several other projects, Kelso said she is a go-getter as well as a detail-oriented person. There are no barriers that get in her way. What she needs for her clients, she gets. She is a driving force, and she has the spirit to enhance every event. Look out for her in the future.

    Another collaborator, Paula Page Williams, has known Sharon for more than 30 years. They were classmates in school, but Williams’ life took a different path. Williams went to work for non-profit organizations and outreach programs. Over the years, she gained a great deal of experience in creating relationships, working with sponsors, stake-holders, community groups and churches to tap into resources in support of events and initiatives.

    Williams and Hicks have worked together on many events, blending their talents and backgrounds to create occasions that are not only crafty and unique, but also successful. Williams said people are overwhelmed by the work Hicks does. With those, she has gathered around her, she’s created a great team. This service is something that has been needed, said Williams, and people are glad to know that things will be done. “It’s time-consuming, taking sometimes months to see an event through from beginning to end. But in the end, it’s a tremendous plus for the Roanoke Valley and surrounding area.”

    Hicks’ immediate plans for the future is to grow her business and to finalize an office location to better service her clients. She is also looking forward to combining her education background with her new business to train others in the field of event planning. Ultimately, however, she wants to open a venue at which people can hold their special events. She is looking for a location in northwest Roanoke. If you are interested in consulting with Hicks for your next event, or if you just want to know more about CEO and Company, call 540-627-2617.


  • Roanoke Latino Festival celebrates the Hispanic culture

    Remember… remember 15 September…

    In 1968 President Lyndon Johnson, established National Hispanic Heritage Week. Twenty years later, President Ronald Reagan extended the celebration to a month-long event, which affords an opportunity for all to reflect on the contributions Hispanics have made to America. The celebration begins on September 15, a date that coincides with Independence Day celebrations in five Latin American countries: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. Mexico celebrates Independence Day on September 16, Chile, September 18 and Belize September 21. The celebration ends on October 15.

    The Latino culture has truly evolved over the past 20 years and has grown to be the second largest population in the United States. Therefore, this culture has a great influence on the evolution of the changing American way of life. Hispanics play a key role in U.S. socio-economic, political and cultural development, contributing to every avenue of American life.

    About 55 million people or 17 percent of the American population are of Hispanic or Latino origin. This represents a significant increase from 2000, which registered the Hispanic population at 35.3 million or 13 percent of the total U.S. population. The latest projections from the U.S. Census Bureau (2015), project the Hispanic population to reach 28.6 percent by 2060. According to the Institute of Taxation and Economy Policy, about 6.3 percent of the total Virginia population is Hispanic, paying about $145 to $174 million in local and state taxes.

    Hacienda of Roanoke, a non-profit organization founded in 2004, was formed to introduce the Latino culture to the community and to sustain the celebration of the Hispanic heritage. For more than a decade, Hacienda of Roanoke has offered the Roanoke Latino Festival, the biggest Hispanic event in Southwest Virginia. Hacienda invites not only Hispanics but also people from all groups to join this vibrant cultural-exchange event on October 8.

    “We as Latinos have many reasons to celebrate our heritage,” said Yolanda Puyana, who founded Hacienda of Roanoke. “Our continent from the Rio Grande to Patagonia and the Caribbean countries is a rich and multicolor mosaic of different cultures that share the same history and same language but in a unique way.”

    Gastronomy, music, dance and art are some of the features of the Latino Festival conducted in both English and Spanish. The event also offers educational and cultural-exchange opportunities for young children to adults and is an inclusive experience that fosters cultural diversity in our city.


  • A Look at Your Health: The 4 M’s of Diabetes Management

    Type 2 diabetes is a serious, chronic illness that is on the rise worldwide. In the U.S., more than one in every 10 adults, 20 and older, has diabetes, and in seniors, 65 and older, that figure rises to more than one in four. People say I just have a little sugar, but a ‘little sugar’ over a long period of time can lead to some very devastating complications.

    In fact, by the time many people with type 2 diabetes are diagnosed, their blood sugar levels might have been elevated for up to five years, so damage to the most delicate blood vessels, such as those in the eyes, might already taken place. However, if you take control of your diabetes and make changes to your lifestyle, you can live a long and healthy life and avoid many long-term complications.

    Diabetes is not a death sentence. When people suffer from long-term consequences of diabetes, it is not because they did everything well and had bad luck, but rather it is because they did not take ownership of their disease and take advantage of all the resources available to help them manage their disease.

    Proper management comes down to the four M’s:

    1. Meals
    Contrary to popular belief there is no specific diabetes diet. I recommend eating smaller, more frequent meals, and possibly even snacks, to spread out carbohydrates throughout the day and prevent any spikes in blood sugar.
    We encourage patients to make healthy choices more often, limit their intake of concentrated sweets and eat moderate portions of carbohydrates, starches, milk products, fruit, etc. But that does not mean there is not room for a treat from time to time. You just have to watch your portion size.

    2. Movement
    Movement or exercise helps the body utilize insulin more efficiently to keep blood sugar under control and it aids in weight management. Aim for at least 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise on most days and some sort of resistance training that utilizes all major muscle groups about two to three times per week.

    3. Medication
    Some people can control their blood sugar with diet and exercise alone, but many also need diabetes medications or insulin therapy. Even if someone has been able to control their diabetes for many years, it is very important to continue to have A1C levels checked regularly as recommended by your healthcare provider.

    4. Monitoring
    Depending on your treatment plan, you may check and record your blood sugar level every now and then or multiple times a day. Ask your health care provider how often you should check your blood sugar.
    Managing diabetes is a lifelong commitment, but you don’t have to do it alone. I encourage everyone with diabetes to go through some sort of management program.

    Carilion’s management program provides one-on-one counseling as well as group classes, support groups and seminars with various specialists to discuss issues people with diabetes face. There are many opportunities for ongoing support, so patients are never on their own.

    Not only will a healthy lifestyle prevent diabetes, you also will feel great! That is the reason to do it.

    For more information, talk with your provider and visit CarilionClinic.org.


  • Roanoke Valley Reads providing opportunities for bookworms to share in reading experience

    Only in his mid-30s and approaching the completion of over a decade of training as a neurosurgeon, Paul Kalinithi’s life was turned upside down when he was diagnosed with Stage IV cancer. One day he was a highly skilled physician – a brilliant brain surgeon – treating the dying, and the next he was a patient, facing ultimate questions of life and death.

    When Breath Becomes Air is Kalinithi’s highly personal, very engaging and deeply moving account of his journey, physical and spiritual, professional and emotional, through the stages of dying and profound discoveries of living. Written as both private diary and public sharing, the book chronicles his transformation from a self-absorbed medical student “possessed by the question of what, given that all organisms die, makes a virtuous and meaningful life,” into a patient and new father confronting his own mortality.

    What makes life worth living? It was that very question Kalinithi addressed so purposefully that led Roanoke Valley Reads (RVR) to choose When Breath Becomes Air as its choice for the annual community-wide “Big Reads” program. Kalinithi wrestles with many of the most important questions we face in an accessible, readable, personal and engaging manner.

    Now in its eighth year, RVR is providing the region’s readers with opportunities to share in reading the same book, coming together to hear presentations on book themes and to discuss those themes with one another. As part of the nationwide “Big Reads” initiative, RVR is focused on the belief that as we come together to share in conversations about challenging and meaningful topics, and as we get to know one another through those conversations and what they reveal about ourselves and what we discover in others, we build stronger communities.

    Blue Ridge Literacy assumed responsibility for the RVR work last year and has put together a number of community gatherings, all free and open to public, and built around themes in this year’s book. On Oct. 12, at 7 p.m., at the DuPont Chapel, Hollins University, several outstanding regional religious leaders representing different spiritual traditions, will serve on a panel to discuss their views of death and dealing with issues of living and dying. On Oct. 18, at 2 p.m., a special discussion on the book will take place at Richfield Retirement Center. Dr. Thomas Milam will be the keynote speaker on Nov. 1. A panel of hospice chaplains and patients focusing on what it is like to die will follow his speech.

    Join the conversations and read Kalinithi’s life-affirming account of his own dying and living. It will touch your soul.

    For information on all events, please go to our Facebook page at Roanoke Valley Reads.


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