Dr. Celeste Gaia…Key Friend!

Dr. Celeste Gaia, Director of International Education at Emory & Henry College since 2007, is Emory & Henry College’s master-mind behind the now popular “Pathway Project”.

Celeste Gaia

Dr. Celeste Gaia

She received her Ph.D. in Experimental Psychology from the University of Tennessee and her academic work and body of professional publications are substantial. She is highly respected among her peers, colleagues, students and others within the academic community.

As the Director of International Education and a strong advocate for global citizenship education and cultural exchange, she is the college’s strongest advocate for study abroad programs. Also, she is the campus liaison for international students.

I first met Dr. Gaia in 2012. Several of Dr. Gaia’s students had just returned from their study abroad assignments and were the dinner guest speakers at an Emory & Henry College Board affair, describing their very positive international educational experiences. I was struck by the excitement and enthusiasm the students expressed as each student shared their life-changing experience while abroad.

WOW! During that dinner presentation…the thought/vision struck me! If “we” could bring Copey students to Emory & Henry College, perhaps they also would return home to Costa Rica with life-changing experiences.

Church service

2019 Pathway Project Students

In 2013, I discussed in detail my vision with Dr. Gaia. She agreed to partner with me in an effort to develop such an opporunity for the Copey students.

Necessary authorizations/permissions, room and board, course tuition, hosts, local travel, and other logistical arrangements where needed to host Copey students and chaperones on the E&H campus. Dr. Gaia spearheaded this effort requiring much dedicated time and attention.

My challenges were a little different. I had to help Angela, the Copey Learning Center Director, sell the idea to the Copey community. Culturally, this is not typically a familiar proposition. Getting permission from parents to allow their students to travel to America to unknown destinations and be in the care of unknown “friends” would not be an easy task.

Also, there was the small issue of funds needed to support the transportation costs to America and back to Copey. I had to launch a fundraiser and we successfully raised the funds to cover the costs.

In June 2016, the first two Copey students arrived in the USA as our guests to spend approximately two weeks on campus.

Angela with students

Xavier, Casey, and director Angela

Thanks to Dr. Gaia, there is more to the story.

While establishing the “pathway” for Copey students to visit the E&H College campus, Dr. Gaia went a step further. She also established a process for E&H students to travel to Copey for a four or five week volunteer assignment. The E&H students to make the first journey were Xavier and Casey…very special students!

Today in 2019, nine Copey students plus chaperones have journeyed to the E&H College campus and seven E&H students have served as volunteers in Copey.

Kara Stewart.1

Kara

Kara Stewart, the 2018 E&H “Pathway Project” student, wrote these words on her final day in Copey before returning back to the USA: “This is so bittersweet for me because I miss my friends and family like crazy, but boy I wish you all could just come here. This place [Copey] is truly incredible.”  Today, the “Pathway Project” is a truly amazing success story.

Without question, Dr. Gaia is a real “Key Friend” of Copey! In only four years, sixteen students have had life-changing experiences similar to the Copey experience Kara describes…largely due to the willingness and determination of one “Key Friend” who saw the vision and agreed to help.

Dr. Gaia…you are a Key Friend who “makes a difference”.

 

 

 

 

 

Dr. C. Franklin Church…Key Friend

Veteran’s Day…!

Remembering my fallen friends:  Danny Watkins, Michael Charles, Kenny Delaney, and Frank Campbell, Jr.. Each served and gave their all! Also, remembering all my other fellow veterans, here and those that have passed on.

Key Friend…!

In a previous Post, I identified three “Key Friends” recognized for having an extraordinary impact on “Friends of Copey’s” success. This week I highlight one of the three and provide some of the background and reasons for the distinction of “Key Friend”.

Dr. C. Franklin Church has worked in the medical field over 30 years. He spent time in the clinical and the administrative fields, both in practice and in the health plan perspective. He received his medical degree and postgraduate training at Duke University. His work

Dr. Lin Church                                 AGB Co-Chair

Dr. Lin Church: AGB Co-Chair

history includes family physician and medical service with a health care provider. Other titles include founding partner of Raleigh Family Physicians, Senior VP and NC Medical Director affiliated with United Healthcare Group Company.  And, he is a former President of the North Carolina Academy of Family Physicians. Even today while in semi-retirement, he is the Chief Medical Officer for IndUShealth, located in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Dr. Church’s connection with my family goes back much further than his days of medicine. In the early 1940’s, when Dr. Church was still a toddler, he and his sibblings were under the watchful eye and care of my mother while my father was employed by Dr. Church’s father. The relationship between my mother and Dr. Church continued right up to the day my mother passed away in 2013.

Before officially launching the Anne G. Broady Scholarship Fund (AGBSF) in late 2013, I asked Dr. Church to co-chair this scholarship project with me. He agreed and both his moral and financial support has been a true blessing. Last Febuary 2019, we completed our sixth year of the AGBSF. We, “Friends of Copey”, estimate the scholarship funds raised has provided financial assistance to the equivalent of 100 students or more.

Although this is a staggering level of support provided voluntarily, we believe the more remarkable benefit has been our ability to help the Copey Learning Center keep their educational doors open over these six years. In doing so, our support has allowed both those capable of paying and those needing some help to have this rare opportunity in the rural community to learn English. Lin church

Dr. Church’s reputation as a leader in the medical profession is well established. And for me, he is also well established as a “Friend of Copey”.  The AGBSF would not have gone this far and done this much without his close and personal interest and support. To have him as co-chair has provided the scholarship fund and other projects we support, the stability and sustainability needed to be effective and successful.

And, working together to honor the memory of Anne G. Broady is an added blessing. We know she would be amazed to see our unanticipated alliance working closely with 2,500 miles of separation for a cause that is even outside this country…all done to honor her memory. Thanks Lin!

A Follow Up Note!

Thanks to you who sent such warm and heartfelt messages regarding the passing of Lou Peery, my dear friend. I appreciate having some of the very best people out there being “Friends”.

Last but Certainly Not the Least! katherine-johnson-academy-2

 

Katherine Johnson continues to rack up awards and recognitions. This week, President Trump signed the “Hidden Figures Congressional Gold medal Act” into Law. This law will serve to honor Katherine (age 101), Dorothy Vaughan, Christine Darden, and Mary Jackson for their contributions to NASA during the Space Race.

Lou Peery…My Friend

“Though it is hard to let you go, in the Father’s hands we know, that a life-time’s not too long to live as Friends.”      By Michael W. Smith

This is now my second week in east Tennessee and southwest Virginia. I reported last week the news about my long time friend, Lucian “Lou” Peery, whose medical condition was not good. He passed away at home October 30th at the young age of 72.  2222222222

Gene Gabriel, our fraternity brother, and the third member of this close trio, joined me as we gathered by Lou’s bedside to say our collective goodbyes on Sunday October 27. We three have been as close as brothers since college and it was important we three have our time together…apparently our last time together. It was nearly magical as we spoke to Lou and knew Lou was aware that we had come to visit him. Lou understood everything perfectly. I might add that the odds of this happening as it did can only be explained by way of “divine intervention”.

My initial introduction to Lou dates back to 1965 when we were both high school seniors on opposing football teams. Because of events at this football game involving both Lou and me, it should have been a clue that one day Lou and I would again meet. I enrolled in Emory & Henry College in 1966 and in 1967, Lou arrived as a transfer student. We would have the distinction of being the first two and only Afro-American males and athletes enrolled at Emory & Henry College. We instantly became friends, teammates, roommates, and fraternity brothers. We even joined the US Air Force following our graduation from college.

After joining the military, there would always be at least 2,500 miles between us. When Lou’s military service time ended, he returned home to Tazewell, Virginia. When my service time ended, I became a resident of Anchorage, Alaska and later Washington state. The distance did not matter as the next 45 years involved phone calls and visits which sustained our relationship until the end.  Lou Peery

Yesterday, during Lou’s going-home service, Larry Blankenship, a long-time friend, spoke about Coach Lou’s tremendous impact on his community, the countless number of kids he coached, and the many lives Coach Lou touched. Over his 35 years coaching, several of Coach Lou’s players made it to the professional baseball league because of the early instruction and guidance Coach Lou provided. The size of this man inside and out earned him a status of a “giant” in his community. Larry did an outstanding job representing the community who knew and loved Lou the “Coach”.

I was also asked to speak and my message related to “friendship”. I had enjoyed a completely different connection to Lou than Larry and the community. Ours was much more personal and our distance apart demanded that we skip talking about careers and politics and many other matters. We had very little time or need to compare individual accomplishments. We had accumulated so many past memories and shared so many wild experiences, those areas were the places we would naturally default to.

I would spend 95% of the time just enjoying his company, his amazing humor, and his wonderful gift of joke telling which served to bring so much joy and laughter into the time we shared. And, even from a long distance, I knew what Larry spoke of regarding the “Coach”. I summed it up yesterday from my viewpoint in the following way:

  1. Lou lived a life of purpose. Although he spent 35 years as a high school baseball coach, he was far more than that. He was a light others would follow. He was an inspirational motivator, counselor, and had the ability to move players to be better today than yesterday….and better tomorrow than today. He led by example.
  2. Lou made a difference. He did not have the greatest tools, the greatest intellect, the best timing, and certainly Tazewell, Virginia may not have been the best location to build a successful career. But, Lou took each of these less than perfect conditions and did the miracles only those who have been ordained or called to do. It all resulted in the betterment of others. He made it all work and he made a difference.
  3. Lou lived life as a servant. In biblical terms, he served by putting others above self.  Although referred to often as a “giant” of a person in his community and he was a big man, Lou never thought he was larger or bigger than those he served each day.  The following is a local newscast regarding his service.

https://wvva.com/sport/top-sports-stories/2019/11/05/remembering-lou-peery-the-man-who-was-and-is-tazewell-baseball/

Lou being a very humble man and someone who prefered to have others stand in the bright light of  fame and success, it was difficult yesterday to play down the impact he had on his community and how important he was as my friend and brother. I hope he will forgive me for writing this post in his honor.

“Lean On The One!”

“If we don’t listen to everything that the spirit of God has to say, eventually we won’t hear anything.”     by  Mark Batterson, Pastor

“Wherever I am…I am near Friends of Copey”

This week I am on the other side of the country back in the wonderful southwest Virginia/east Tennessee area. I am here to attend my final Board of Trustees meeting at the Emory & Henry College (E&H College) and to bring to a close a very wonderful eight years. I will be saying farewell to many good friends and carrying away many positive memories. zzzEmory image 5

This does not mean E&H College will no longer be our partner. The various relationships and projects we have established with the Copey Learning Center will not cease. Not at all!. While on campus, I will be discussing the 2020 Pathway Project and will have meetings pertaining to two very special initiatives. These new special initiatives are possibly groundbreaking and exciting but it is far too early to share the details. So one door closing means another door may be opening.

“Let’s Pray!”

I am asking for prayers for my dear friend Lou Peery. As I am writing this Post, I am sitting in the Bristol Regional Hospital’s cafeteria. Upstairs on the fourth floor is my friend facing life-challenging medical issues. Plans are underway at this moment to return Lou back home where he will receive Hospice care. Lou and I have a long history as college roommates, football team members, fraternity brothers, and just close friends that began as far back as 1965. “Friends of Copey” pray for him and his family.

Some Good News!

This week’s update from the Copey Learning Center is positive. I skyped with Ana Yancy last Friday. The volunteer teachers for the 2020 year beginning March have been confirmed. I hope to get additional information on each later but I do know one is from Germany, another from the United Kingdom, and the third from Wisconsin. All this is encouraging and it includes the new Director coming on board soon. The year 2020 appears to be off to a great start.

I continue to thank the Anne G. Broady Scholarship Fund (AGBSF) early bird donors. These early donations serve to further our optimism and high expectations. If the trend continues, we may be 50% of our goal or higher with funds in hand when we officially open the campaign in early January.

Remember Brian?

Over the past few weeks, I have been exchanging emails again with Brian. RememberEmory 22  Brian? He was a 2018 Pathway Project recipient and a recipient of our AGBSF support. Brian is excited about his life and he has set highEMOry 37 educational and professional goals.

Brian represents a special type of success. Many of the older male students attending the Copey Learning Center are seriously challenged to stay in school and are challenged to consider non-traditional occupations. This explains why to date we have had only one male student participate in the Pathway Project. We keep working to change this condition.

I keep in touch with Brian because I press him to be a real effective “ambassador” and role model for other males attending the Copey Learning Center. Helping Brian to see he too can make a difference is a wonderful learning experience for him. Thanks Brian.

New Key Friends Announced!

Last week our first three new Key Friends were announced and I am trying to put the special Post together to properly introduce each one. Events leading up to my trip here to my current location overtook my time and opportunity. Stay tuned. If you want to know the names of those honored, check out last week’s Post. Thanks

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Compelling Vision…Relentless Implementation!

“Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.”                                     By Peter Drucker

Key Friends Announced!

I am very happy to announce the newly named “Key Friends”: Dr. Lin ChurchDr. Celeste Gaia, and Dr. Steve and Edeltrout Hunt. These “Key Friends” have contributed significantly to the development, progress, and sustainability of the “Friends of Copey” project.

A special Post is forthcoming to highlight their background, service/support, and affiliation to “Friends of Copey”.       

“Thank You”!!! 

New Executive Director Announced!

We are another week closer to the end of the Copey Learning Center school year. Graduation is scheduled for November 29th.Good News

In 2020, a new Executive Director will take over to meet the challenges of moving us on to the next chapter of this successful project. Ines Segura Serrano, the recently named Executive Director will follow three previous Executive Directors who have contributed immeasurably to the continuation and sustainability of the Copey Learning Center. A skype session is being worked out for me to meet and welcome the new Director to the partnership with “Friends of Copey”. More information on our new Director will be forthcoming.   

Past Executive Directors!

The Copey Learning Center has been  very successful attracting qualified and competent

Angela Professor

Angela

leaders to manage the day to day operation of the center. I have worked closely with each Executive Director and together we have accomplished much over the years. Angela Ramos, next Ana Yancy, and then Andrea Serrano  have all demonstrated their skills and commitment to do the work needed to face the challenges and demands of operating an

Ana Yancy.Post

Ana Yancy

educational center in rural Costa Rica. And, much credit goes to the center’s Board of Directors’ choices in leadership. Attracting qualified and dedicated talent to take on the leadership challenges of the center is not easy. If the candidates are qualified to work at the center, then they are qualified to work anywhere in Costa Rica and beyond. 

 

Andrea.2

Andrea

The attraction for quality applicants is not the plush job possibilities or the high wages being offered. It is neither since there is little to find plush and the wages are certainly meager. I contend some of the attraction is linked to the beauty of the community, the wonderful students, and the people of Copey. And, if you want to truly learn some things about yourself, test your metal, and make a huge difference in a life…Copey Learning Center is a great place to be.  I am honored to have worked with each one. 

Thank You

 

 

 

 

“Dreaming It…Doing It!”

Tick Tock…Goes the Clock!

success.jpg

We are moving ever so close to the end of the Copey Learning Center’s graduation day in late November. Time is moving quickly! The excitement in Copey is running high as students are preparing for the celebration and looking forward to moving into their Costa Rica’s summer time.

The excitement is running high here as well. Unlike past years, early donations are already voluntarily showing up to support next year’s Anne G. Broady Scholarship Fund (AGBSF). This is an indication that “Friends” are sending a strong message to continue our support.

Typically, the annual “Financial and Non-Financial” Scorecard issued the end of each year provides the justification for continuing our support for the next year. With this amount of interest and optimism this late in the year, we are certain we will continue our support.

On this note, those “Friends” wishing to continue supporting the AGBSF in 2020, can anticipate the official AGBSF fundraising campaign starting in January. But…you don’t have to wait to donate.

Key Friends Announcement Planned! 

I have been developing the list of “newly” proclaimed Key Friends and will announce the first three in next week’s Post. After six years, there are many “friends” who have been outstanding and the selection process is most challenging. These three will be officially named with a brief biography provided. Then, we move on to the next three candidates. However, “all friends” are “Key Friends”.

Looking Back at the Dancers of Copey!

Noelia
Noelia and Celeste 2016 Pathway E&H College
FAtima.dance
Fatima and Ariana 2017 Pathway E&H College
Lourdes.dance
Lourdes and Brian 2018 Pathway E&H College
Mariana.4.dancer
Mariana, Dayana, Jimena 2019 Pathway E&H College

Of course, these are only a few of the photos of Copey students performing cultural dances in support of the “Friends of Copey” and the Pathway Project during their visit to America and the Emory & Henry College campus. We are happy to have the opportunity to build a picture history of these students for us to remember and forever appreciate.

Ballet Line Up

Old timers (Friends) recall the early ballerina dancers in 2014. Under the training of Eve Solomon, these young ladies were terrific.  A few students were invited to participate in the “Nutcraker” on the big stage in San Jose, Costa Rica December 2014.  “Let’s all keep dancing!”

“Education…Is A Passport!

” I tell students that the oportunities I had were a result of having a good educational background. Education is what allows you to stand out. ”   By  Ellen Ochoa

Spelling Bee!

The Costa Rican Spelling Bee (aka English Festival) is now underway and our Copey Learning Center students are involved. Recall,  this Spelling Beecompetition features spelling English words and includes a “conversational” competition. The Copey students have done exeptionally well in this nationally sponsored spelling competition. “Friends of Copey” has been supporting the Copey students’ involvement in the Spelling Bee since 2015.

Mariana.2

Marianna Wins in 2016

Mariana has been a Spelling Bee participant for serveral years and even made it to the National Championship level in 2016 and 2017.

She visited us last summer as one of the 2019 Pathway Project students. We were treated to her advanced English skills during her time in America and on the Emory & Henry College campus. We predict she will enjoy a great deal of

Mariana.1

Mariana at E&H College 2019

personal and professional success in the future.

Now, her sister Margarita is following in her big sister’s footsteps. Recently, Margarita placed 1st in the first round of competition. Other Copey Learning Center students also participated but I do not know the official results of their competitions.

Margarita and two other Spelling Bee participants (Ruben and Erick) joined in on the Skype call between Ana Yancy and me last week.

Margarita .2

Ruben, Erick, and Margarita

It is a real joy to be in touch with students who are eager to learn and have a strong appreciation for the opportunity to attend this English based Learning Center in rural Costa Rica.

They know this English education is not available to the vast majority of rural communities throughout the country. The more urban locations provide urban students a greater opportunity to learn English and a significant advantage in Spelling Bee contests. 

For the Copey students, the Spelling Bee helps develop pride, confidence, and serves to underscore the point: “where you are from does not dictate where you can go”.  The upper echelon of the Spelling Bee organization has come to recognize and respect the Copey Learning Center students who compete. 

We are impacting the educational and future lives of children with our support and this is just one more way we “Friends of Copey” is making a difference.  This ” impact goes far beyond the boundaries of the Copey community.

Key Friends…!

The work is underway to put the first list of supporters who will be inducted in the “Key Friends” group. Should be news on this list next week.

Angela Ramos Has A New Family Member

Angela, past Executive Director of the Copey Learning Center, recently gave birth to a baby boy. I was happy to communicate with Angela who now resides in America and to send our collective congrats from “Friends of Copey”.  Blessings to All!