“U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!” The student body at Aviston Elementary — all 385 kids —chanted earlier this month as they stood in line on the school playground to offer “high-fives” and to honor one of their own.
Eighth-grader Joe Bacal was recognized by the student body and staff at the local school on Sept. 8 — one day after taking the Oath of Allegiance to become a U.S. citizen.
Joe, 14, has been a student at Aviston Elementary since second grade. He and his parents Macario and Juliet Bacal (who also recently became U.S. citizens) immigrated from the Philippines several years ago.
When the faculty and staff learned that Joe would be missing a day of school on Sept. 7 to take the oath of citizenship, they wanted to do something special.
Aviston Superintendent Tami Kampwerth explained, “Joe came to school with an official letter telling him to appear to take his oath of citizenship. He wanted to make sure he had his homework. This gave us some time to plan. We ordered an American flag paperweight for him and told our student body to wear red, white and blue on Sept. 8.”
Joe was recognized on the school’s televised announcements that morning, and a picture collage was shown. He was sent back to his classroom after the announcements, and, while he was in the hall, Kampwerth told the students that they would be doing a “hallway high five” for him after the all-school fire drill that morning.
“We use hallway high fives to congratulate students when something awesome happens or to encourage them before a big game,” Kampwerth said. “It seemed very fitting to recognize Joe in this way.”
Kampwerth posted a video of the event on the school’s Facebook page and the video “went viral,” as they say.
“We thought it was pretty special,” Kampwerth said. “The 45-second video of his hallway high five was posted on our Facebook page so parents and grandparents could enjoy it. We were all surprised when the video was so well received. It has been viewed over 17,000 times and it drew the attention of KSDK (Channel 5 News), who came out last week to do a story on Joe.”
Kampwerth said Joe is a hardworking student who is helpful and kind to others. He certainly didn’t expect anyone to make a big deal about his gaining citizenship.
“I was surprised,” Joe said. “I didn’t know they were going to do that.”
He said his teachers were very supportive when he came in with the note that he would be missing school to take the oath of citizenship.
“They hugged me,” he said. “They were like ‘You should be more happy, you shouldn’t be worried about homework.’”
And, the encouragement and show of patriotism from his fellow students will not be forgotten.
“It felt good; it felt nice that they did it,” Joe said.
Janice Pulver-Lewis, a Beckemeyer native who has 34 years of experience practicing law in Illinois and Tennessee, has announced her candidacy for Clinton County State’s Attorney. Pulver-Lewis will be the Democratic candidate facing incumbent State’s Attorney John Hudspeth, a Republican from Carlyle, in the Nov. 8 General Election.
Pulver-Lewis has experience in community service, both as a professional attorney and as a volunteer. In a statement announcing her candidacy, she said successful prosecution of all crimes and protecting those who cannot protect themselves are her top priorities.
She stressed that she will seek to prosecute to the fullest extent of the law, crimes such as child abuse and molestation, domestic abuse, abuse of the elderly and animal abuse. She believes we need to target the sale of heroin, methamphetamine, crack and other deadly drugs in our community to reduce addiction and the life-altering consequences of drugs.
Pulver-Lewis believes justice isn’t always about punishment. She is dedicated to redirecting the lives of those convicted and plans to encourage and give direction to our young people by revamping the prosecution of first time juvenile offenders. “Working with and giving hope to victims and their families is a priority,” she said.
How does she intend to make this all happen?
"I understand the importance of teamwork and communication,” she said. “I will develop better communication between law enforcement personnel, judges, probation officers, court officials, attorneys, victims and the general public.”
Pulver-Lewis discussed her qualifications.
“Although I moved to Tennessee early in my career, my heart has always been in Clinton County,” she said. “Being a successful State’s Attorney requires running an office that values honesty, privacy, teamwork and communication. Throughout my career, I have learned much from my experience. My legal education was local and I maintained my Illinois attorney license since I graduated from Southern Illinois University School of Law in 1982. I am loyal and dedicated as evidenced by my long-standing service; 34 years of legal experience in Illinois and Tennessee with 25 years at the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA).”
At TVA, Pulver-Lewis said she gained an extensive knowledge of federal, state (11 states) and local laws and regulations.
“I managed and mentored associate attorneys, paralegals, records personnel and clerical staff,” she said. “I developed and implemented new policies and procedures to improve efficiency and worked effectively with TVA clients, federal, state and local politicians and the general public. I managed the department and prioritized work to meet client needs and deadlines as well as managed the budget.”
For the last eight years, Pulver-Lewis has worked as a trusted advocate for her clients as a general legal practitioner.
“I have represented children and senior citizens as a guardian ad litem,” she explained. “I have helped veterans and their spouses navigate the Veterans Administration. For the last five years, I have worked with juveniles or their parents in juvenile court. Through my volunteer efforts, I mastered navigating the complicated world of federal housing and urban development, Veterans Affairs, juvenile issues and the many problems of the poor in our communities.”
“For the last few years I have increased efforts to create a thriving legal practice in Clinton County. I have served many families and friends in their time of legal need.”
Who is Janice K. Pulver-Lewis?
Pulver-Lewis, 59, was born and raised in Beckemeyer, the oldest daughter of Roy and Rose Pulver. Her father served the people of Clinton County for 25 years as the Supervisor of Assessments and raised his daughter in the political world.
“He was a true community servant with 40+ years as an appointed or elected official,” she said. “Roy, my dad, instilled in me a deep love for my community and my family. My mom, Rose, taught me to not be afraid of hard work. She worked as a beautician, standing on her feet, for 40+ years at her beauty shop in Beckemeyer.
“My parents taught me that life is about family, friends and neighbors,” she said. “Family is of the utmost importance in my life. Scottey is my husband of 19 years and we have an almost 18-year-old son, Andrew. I am a true sports enthusiast and enjoy watching Scottey play softball or Andrew in his baseball, basketball or soccer games. Our doggy rescue babies complete our family. My sister, Rhonda (of Beckemeyer), and my brother, Ken (of Menominee, Michigan), are also very involved in community service at all levels.”
Pulver-Lewis and her family reside in Beckemeyer. They officially moved back to Clinton County a year ago in August; however, prior to that she always came home every six weeks, sometimes more, depending on what was going on.
“I promised myself when I moved that I would never forget my family or my Clinton County roots,” she said.
The 1975 graduate of Mater Dei High School said she strongly believes that volunteerism is the heart of a successful community.
“Clinton County could show the world a thing or two about volunteerism and working together,” she said. “Every weekend, I see many opportunities for getting involved in the community and have become active with several of those groups, including the American Legion Auxiliary, the Mater Dei Mothers & Friends Club, animal rescue groups, and the Beckemeyer Community Development Club Little Pig Cook-off.”
In Tennessee, she volunteered with several organizations such as Legal Aid of East Tennessee (free legal aid for the less fortunate), the Internal Revenue Service - Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program (free tax preparation and advice for seniors, disabled and disadvantaged people), the Chattanooga Area Better Housing Commission and the Chattanooga Area Community Development Board (recommends funding for grants made available through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development).
“One of my favorite projects was helping to start and run the Chattanooga Elite Basketball Association, which focuses on fostering the educational and social development of over 225 boys from various socioeconomic backgrounds and ranging in age from 10 to 17 years,” Pulver-Lewis said. “And I got to catch some good basketball along the way!”
She explained that the Elite organization is partially funded by the city of Chattanooga as a means to reduce gang violence.
“I understand how to work with our youth and enjoy it,” she said. “I am also an avid animal rights activist and value all life, even animals. Many of my leisure and social activities are aimed at helping those less fortunate or improving the community I live in; and I look forward to working with many of you in Clinton County on future projects.
“When I think of Clinton County, I think of the good, honest, hardworking family, friends, and neighbors who I have known and loved all my life. I look forward to meeting many more of you along the campaign trail. I am proud to reflect those good, honest, hardworking values and attribute my achievements in life to those values.”
Pulver-Lewis said she is very happy to be “home” and would consider it an honor to serve the good citizens of Clinton County as State’s Attorney.
“Please support me with your vote on Nov. 8, 2016,” she said.
Connect with Citizens to Elect Janice K. Pulver-Lewis for Clinton County State’s Attorney on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/PulverLewisforClintonCountyStatesAttorney2016.
Sean Fuller’s energy and passion were contagious last week at Aviston Elementary. Every beat and every rhythm was pure as the drummer of the country sensation “Florida Georgia Line” poured himself into a few of their hit songs like “Cruise” and “It’z Just What We Do.” While his performance was intense, Fuller’s message was equally powerful.
“I’ve accomplished so many different things,” Fuller told the students. “Why? Because I stuck my nose to the grindstone and I dreamed bigger than I ever thought I could dream.”
The 45-year-old Fuller, who was born and raised in Evansville, Indiana, knew he had a soft spot for drums at an early age.
“My parents always saw me beating on pots and pans and stuff, and they were like, ‘We better get him a drum kit before he destroys all of our pots and pans, all of our Tupperware, all of our plasticware.’” Fuller said.
“So I got my first drum set and the rest is history.”
After working the Indiana circuit in various rock and pop cover bands, Fuller made the leap to Nashville.
"I moved to Nashville in 1997, but I did not necessarily know what I wanted to really achieve. Was it hard rock, was it rock, was it country, was it whatever? I kind of fell into country music.”
He also realized quickly that he was a small fish in a big pond of great musicians and drummers.
“I had high expectations in Nashville, but those were squashed pretty quickly when I realized there were about 500 other drummers like me or better who were trying to achieve the same thing,” Fuller said.
So he found a way to stand out.
“I ended up with a mohawk for the longest time; I was wearing a kilt; and I was looking like a creepy-looking dude,” he explained. “But the good news is I stood out from the rest of the people, and lo and behold, I could play drums as good as they could if not better. And bands would say, ‘We want creepy dude to play with us.’ So I ended up playing with a lot of different bands.”
Fuller said he played around in a lot of little dive bars for a few years in downtown Nashville while he honed in on his musical talent.
“I had a dream that I set for myself,” he said. “I wanted to do this for a living. It’s what I love; it’s my passion; it’s the way that I get all of my aggression out. Hitting something really hard really fast — that’s what I do.”
His drive and ambition paid off and he began working for then-rising country artists like Craig Morgan, Luke Bryan and Justin Moore.
He told the students that the best move of his life came in 2012 when he received a call from the pop country sensation Florida Georgia Line.
“They had just released a song called ‘Cruise,’” Fuller said. “And, I’ve been with them ever since.”
Fuller said joining Florida Georgia Line has been a “huge blessing” opening a lot of new opportunities in the music world. With their “hick-hop,” pop and rock feel, Florida Georgia Line (FGL) was the right fit for Fuller.
“I’ve had the opportunity to play with Nelly, who I never thought I’d ever play with. I played with Jason Derulo, ZZ Top (and more). I’ve accomplished so many different things.”
That’s quite an understatement for the drummer of a platinum selling group named ACM’s 2016 Country Duo of the Year.
Florida Georgia Line is midway through its 2016 “Dig Your Roots” Tour, and the group packed Hollywood Casino Amphitheater in Maryland Heights, Missouri, last Friday night. However, earlier that day, Fuller shared his talent and inspirational message with the students and staff at Aviston.
His appearance was made possible due to Fuller’s connection and friendship with Shawn McSparin of St. Jacob, a drummer with the St. Louis Metro-East band ColdShot.
Whenever possible, in between gigs, Fuller said he tries to make public appearances and reach out to the community. Knowing he was going to be in St. Louis, he contacted McSparin. McSparin, in turn, contacted Aviston band director Jenny Mondt and the wheels were in motion. Band students from Bartelso, Breese District 12, Germantown and Damiansville Elementaries as well as the Mater Dei High School drum line were also invited to attend.
Fuller said he shares his story to inspire children to follow their own heart and to follow their own dreams.
“What I came to tell you about is just live your dreams. Never underestimate yourself,” Fuller said Friday morning.
He offered the students 10 life lessons:
1. The past is the past.
“Anything that you’ve done right or wrong up to this point is in the past. Don’t ever look to the past. Always step forward; always look ahead of you.”
2. Opinions do not define your reality.
“Everyone has an opinion about you, but don’t ever let that define what you’re going to be.”
Bullying, Fuller said, is one means in which people may try to force their opinion on you.
“I wish I had pictures to show you, but back in my day, I definitely wasn’t as pretty as I am today. I had really bushy, curly red hair. I had crooked teeth that I’ve since had fixed. They would call me ‘carrot top’ and ‘pizza face,’ stuff like that. Here’s the deal. That stuff is going to happen but you need to understand — that is someone else’s deal. That’s them defining their own character.”
3. Everyone’s journey is different.
“Every one of you have a dream and a goal of your own. Hold onto that dream and don’t let anything sidetrack you.”
4. Judgments are a confession of character.
“When someone’s judging you and making you feel less than you are. That’s more on them than you.”
5. Happiness is found within.
“You’ve got to do stuff that makes you happy.”
6. Positive thoughts create positive things.
“There’s an awful lot of negativity out there. I’m sure you all have seen it. It can come from Facebook, Instagram or other social media. It can come from everyday life. Try to stay away from it. Understand that when you pull yourself into a negative atmosphere, it’s going to make you a negative person.”
7. Smiles are contagious.
“Be a positive person and smile.”
8. Kindness if free.
“It doesn’t cost you a penny does it? Kindness will always win.”
9. You only fail if you quit.
“For me, if I wouldn’t have moved to Nashville, I would still be playing drums with my boys in Evansville, Indiana, but I would have still succeeded because I didn’t quit. But I wanted something more, so I moved to Nashville and that’s why I’m able to be here today, talking to you guys, which is awesome.”
10. What goes around comes around.
“Have you ever heard of a word called karma? I’ve been bitten a couple times by karma, and let me tell you it does not heal very well and it hurts. What that basically means is ‘Do unto others as you would have done to you.’”
Fuller fielded questions from the students and had them dancing in their seats to FGL’s “Sun Daze” before closing with a final message:
“Be good people. Have fun. Be happy. And you’re going to enjoy the fullest of life.”
|Fri., Sept. 16
|Sun., Sept. 18
|Tues., Sept. 20||445.61|