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Ashley News Observer- Features

Celebrating freedom: Juneteenth parade in pictures
Residents of Hamburg and the surrounding areas gathered June 17 to mark Juneteenth, which commemorates the June 19, 1865 declaration of the abolition of slavery in Texas, and has come to be a celebration of emancipation in the United States as a whole. The day’s observances included a parade and festivities at Pine Street Park. (VERSHAL HOGAN/The News Observer)

McDaniel celebrates retirement from U.S. Army
Sgt. Duane E. McDaniel, a 1992 graduate of Crossett High School, recently retired from the U.S. Army after serving honorably for 24 years. McDaniel had a retirement ceremony May 31 at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas. During his service, McDaniel completed two tours in Afghanistan and one tour in Iraq, and served in many other locations, including Guantanamo Bay. (SUBMITTED/The News Observer)

Youth think candidates untrustworthy, 'wacky'
Who says the kids don’t care about voting?

Some of Ashley County’s first-time voters say they’re engaged with the upcoming Presidential election, sometimes to the point that it’s giving them anxiety.

And they’re not fans of the electoral hand they’ve been dealt.

These are voters who were born in 1998, but have no memory of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as First Lady, and whose introduction to billionaire businessman Donald Trump — who has lived in the public sphere for years — likely came at the age of six when he launched “The Apprentice” with the catchphrase, “You’re fired.”

More than 80 percent of their lives have been lived under some phase of the War on Terror. In the last year they’ve seen discussions of race grow more heated than they’ve been in two decades, and the road for higher education has gotten increasingly steeper as the cost of college tuition grows at a rate 6 percent higher than inflation.

Polls say their age demographic is concerned with social issues, wage gaps, discussion of guns and energy policy, but the first election in which they can participate has been called the most contentious in living memory, and its potential outcomes have often — rightly or wrongly — been cast in apocalyptic terms while the issues they care about have been little discussed.

But they’re planning to vote anyway, even as the two major party campaigns have focused largely on personality and undermining the perceived truthfulness or temperament of the other candidate.

“Voting is our civic duty, and it is the one thing we can control,” said Clayton Watkins, 18, who registered to vote at school when he was still 17 because he would be old enough by the time the Nov. 8 election rolled around. “But the more I watch the debates, then more I want to vote third party.”

The discussions of truthfulness and temperament are something first-time voter Joshua Jones said he has also had to wrestle with as he works his way to a decision.

“With Trump, he tells you what he is going to do, so you can already see the problem before it happens, but with Hillary, you don’t know how it will hurt,” he said, noting that he also thinks a third party candidate sounds good at this point in the election.

--For the complete story, see the print edition.

New UAM chancellor visits Crossett
New UAM Chancellor Dr. Karla Hughes addresses local residents at the Crossett Economic Development Foundation office Jan. 19. (Tom White/News Observer)
Newly-installed University of Arkansas at Monticello Chancellor Dr. Karla Hughes could best be described as a “people person.”

During a meet-and-greet session with about 40 local residents at the Crossett Economic Development Foundation Tuesday, her second official day on the job, Dr. Hughes mentioned two incidents in her past that were examples of her philosophy regarding the role of education in the lives of students and the communities they serve.

The first, she said, occurred when she herself was a freshman in college.

“There was a dean there who knew every one of us by name,” Dr. Hughes said. “And I said to myself, ‘That’s what I want to be.’”

The second, she said, came years later, when she was on the staff at East Carolina University in Greenville, N.C.

Near the college, Dr. Hughes said, was a run-down area known as East Greenville, which she described as “not a good place to be” due to high crime and neglect.

Then, she said, a bond issue, spearheaded by the mayor, was passed and East Greenville was cleaned up.

ECU, Dr. Hughes said, was given space in a former church building, and graduate students from the university “went to every house in the neighborhood” to seek ideas on what residents wanted.

Homes were renovated, she said, and banks and businesses assisted.
“That area is on its own now and no one knows my name there now,” she said. “That’s community development.”

When she spoke with the mayor later, Dr. Hughes said, she asked why he always spoke of roads and buildings, but not people.

She said that the Greenville mayor, an accountant by trade, said “I don’t do people.”

Dr. Hughes “does” people, and spoke of the need for involvement between UAM and the community.

(Full story in the Ashley News Observer)

Race Across USA visits county
Ashley County was a stop along a 3,080-mile journey from southern California to Washington, D.C. for seven runners and a support team as part of Race Across USA.

The journey began in January in Huntington Beach, Calif. and continued through the southwestern states of Arizona, Mew Mexico and Texas. A short trek through Louisiana led the group of long distance runners into Arkansas.
Beginning in Magnolia, the troupe ran the rural roads of southern Arkansas until they came to Ashley County.

They reached Ashley County last week, ran through Crossett and stayed two nights in Hamburg at the middle school gymnasium before moving down Highway 82 to Chicot County and Lake Chicot State Park.

On April 10, the runners and their support team moved into Mississippi and ran eastward to Indianola as they looked forward to Alabama and the journey to the nation’s capital.

Sandy Van Soye is the race director. She handles the logistics and oversees the event or journey. She said she drives one of the four support vehicles that accompany the seven runners that include her husband Darren Van Soye, the co-organizer of the long-distance running event.

Van Soye said organizers could not use Race Across America because it is the legally owned name of a bike race patterned after the Tour de France.

Therefore, she explained, organizers chose Race Across USA as its title and as its Web site domain.

The purpose of the event, Van Soye said, was to raise money for programs designed to help America’s youth become active in school and throughout the year.

The Web site outlines the purpose of the event, “According to the CDC, childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years. At the present time, 12.5 million children, ages 6-19 in the United States are obese.”

Solving that issue by drawing attention to it and by raising money to support programs that will get youngsters physically active is the purpose behind the project.

(Full story, photo in the Ashley News Observer)