Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Jay Koontz - A College Student Giving Back While He is Still in School

Designing the Future: Environmental Summit campers know this guy. He is the fellow who makes stopping by the cafeteria for meals a really good time. No matter how your day is going, his big smile and warm welcome perks us up.

So, who is Jay? (Well, let's let him tell everyone.)

Hi, my name is Jay. I am a current Catawba College Senior, majoring in Communications with a minor in Business Administration. I grew up in Lexington, NC and decided Catawba was the right fit for me after visiting!
I decided to work in the dining hall this summer and with the camps because of the people! I absolutely LOVE meeting new people and getting to share my stories and adventures with them as well as getting to know them a little bit and hear about their stories and adventures!  

I thrive on getting to know people. I enjoy doing camps, because in my experience, the people you meet at camp are some of the most amazing and interesting people you will ever meet! You realize how much in common you have with them and you wonder: “Where have they been most of my life”

My favorite thing about the camps this summer is that a lot of the campers will be students at Catawba in the upcoming semester!! I get to make connections and meet new students  which I find extremely awesome!


 Students and Counselors Enjoying a Meal at Camp

Jay and all the staffers in the cafeteria work very hard to feed a big group of hungry campers. It takes a lot of "fuel" to make it morning to night learning, growing, and having fun.

Thank you Jay and everyone else making sure all campers have good food and a warm welcome. 

Now, Let's Have Some Fun

If you see yourself, let our readers (and your Mom of course) know. Tell us which photo and describe yourself. Post in comments.

And, of course, give a shout out to Jay in comments too. A "thank you" only takes a second, but it lasts for hours or more.  

Students Mingle and Snack following Robin Emmons Keynote Address

Robin Emmons opened up the annual Redesigning the Future Environmental Summit at Catawba College. She explained that having a homeless brother with a mental illness inspired her to work to help feed the hungry with high quality foods. You can read more about what we learned from Emmons and about the huge issue of hunger for the poor, homeless, mentally ill, and working poor.

High school students from the Environmental Summit moved out to the atrium outside the Tom Smith auditorium at Catawba College to talk about the excellent opening program and to get acquainted and enjoy some cookies, goldfish crackers, and lemonade.

It was nice to process the information which was pretty serious while taking a break. Students were surprised at some of the concerns that are not often addressed. The "down" time gave them a chance to think about the keynote speech and share the experience.

High school students from around the country took some time to think about this new experience and to look at the coming week of learning and fun too. The week really is packed with activities that range from speeches like the keynote to hands on learning sessions and fun games and great outdoor activities. 

Summit leaders like Dr. John Wear and Cathy Halloday are, of course, on hand to make sure things are on track and the everyone has everything they need.

Emmons took time out also to stay for the mingle and also other weekly programs showing that she cares not only about feeding those in need but passing along what she has learned about how to help to our next generation. She was very interactive and supportive of campers - much appreciated. 

Robin Emmons Speaks to Open Environmental Summit

Robin Emmons, Founder and Executive Director of 
Sow Much Good

 By Payton Coleman & Alia Dahlan

On the first day of the National Environmental Summit 2014, Robin Emmons spoke to around 50 excited campers on Catawba College campus. 

After an introduction from President Brien Lewis and Dr. John Wear, the founder and executive director of Sow Much Good spoke about the start and success of her non-profit organization. 

Her journey began when she realized that the homeless condition of her brother was detrimental to his health and well-being. After he was arrested for having a schizophrenic episode in public, Emmons gained guardianship of him and enrolled him in a mental health institute. This organization did not have enough funding to provide healthy food for its patients, which gave Emmons' brother physical health problems. 

Emmons decided to quit her job in the finance industry, telling her husband that she had a plan, although she did not at the time. 

Since she had learned of her brother's condition, she decided to grow a garden in her backyard to provide the mental health institution with 4000 pounds of fresh produce. This idea took off and grew into a non-profit organization in 2008 with five staff members and 200 volunteers dedicated to providing, educating about, and advocating for food security. 

With the help of local farmers, Martin Marietta, and the community, she expanded her food-growing project to ten acres. 

Collaboration is very important to Emmons and her organization's success, including working with local health and education organizations. 

Emmons was inspired by food justice advocate Will Allen from Milwaukee, WI. 

She plans to scale up her organization and increase communications. Her dream is to fight for food equality, food insecurity, and the problems caused by food deserts. 

Those who would like to learn more or who are interested in volunteering in the Charlotte area can email Robin Emmons at or call (704)947-6842.
Campers with Mrs. Emmons


President Brien Lewis Opens The Summit
and Introduces the Keynote Speaker

Question: Would you quit your secure job and follow your heart? Think about it. Share your thoughts in comments. Thanks.