McLeod Encourages Service During Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Celebration

Human & Civil Rights Champion Award Recipients Honored

Aiken, SC (01/23/2018) — Don't allow the "no factor" to deter you.

Instead, turn "no's" into the "know factor," encouraged Senator Mia McLeod on Sunday, Jan. 21 during the 2018 Community Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration, presented by Aiken Technical College (ATC) and USC Aiken (USCA).

McLeod represents District 22 (Richland and Kershaw counties) in the South Carolina legislature and was the event's keynote speaker.

Speaking to more than 800 gathered at the USC Aiken Convocation Center, she shared how she turned "no's" and discouragements into motivation and challenged the audience to do the same.

"Stop letting others set your priorities, your opportunities and your limitations," said McLeod.

Five ways for others to create their own "know factor," according to McLeod:

"Know who and whose you are."

"Know that God has already equipped you with every quality, every gift, every talent that you'll need to be impactful and successful in service and life."

"Know that you are already enough…Dr. King already told us that all we need 'is a heart full of grace and a soul generated by love.'"

"Know that you have the courage, compassion and candor to make a difference."

"Know that the only person who can stop you from being the person God has destined you to be is you."

"When you know-'k-n-o-w'-these five things like I do, you'll dare to do it afraid," she said. "Only then will your no factor-'n-o'-become your know factor-'k-n-o-w'. You'll be well on your way to the amazing destiny that God has for you and only you."

In addition the "know factor," McLeod encouraged attendees to "empower yourself with knowledge" by reading everything they can, getting passionate about something, thinking outside the box, and becoming or seeking a mentor.

Attendees learned more about the involvement opportunities that exist in the area during the service fair, which featured nearly 20 area nonprofit organizations.

This year's theme, a Dr. King quote-- "Everybody can great because everybody can serve…you only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love"-was woven throughout the program -- from the recognition of youth poster and essay contest winners to the recognition of the inaugural Human & Civil Rights Champion Awards.

The champion awards were created to recognize those "who have made an impact on their campus or in the community, have strived to promote diversity, and are considered to be great role models," said Stephanie Franklin, chair of the event's planning committee.

One student from Aiken Technical College and one from USC Aiken were honored along with a community member.

Victoria Shekastehband received the ATC Human & Civil Rights Champion Award.

The welding student has been involved in numerous activities on campus and in the community, including: operating a children's day camp and clothing and food giveaway in New York City; helping to repair homes damaged from age and storms in the Bahamas with the Bahamas Methodist Habitat; assisting with food pantry activities with Area Churches Together Serving; assisting with caring for and the adoption of animals with the Friends of the Animal Shelter; participating in Operation 5000, which included shopping for adopted families in need; and assisting with beach clean-up and sea turtle rehabilitation with the Sea Turtle Hospital.

Shekastehband is the president of the ATC Student Chapter of the American Welding Society; an ATC Campus Ambassador; a member of the ATC Student Leadership Council; member of the Association of American University Women; and participates in the College's community outreach events and efforts.

"In a field that has only a 4 percent female representation, this welding student has used it as an opportunity to encourage fellow female students to consider a technical career, and she serves as a role model for all in her program of study-regardless of gender," stated Franklin, who presented the awards.

Travis Hardee was the recipient of the USCA Human & Civil Rights Champion Award.

Hardee serves as the Student Government Association Senator for the University's College of Humanities and has used his platform to serve others, noted Franklin.

"The nominator wrote: 'His innate warmth and empathy for others, as well as his ability to make all people feel comfortable serves him well as a leader. He is mature beyond his years and is well respected by all on campus. I find him to be one of the most thoughtful student leaders I have ever worked with and, as a father of two boys, can only hope that my two boys turn out to be as socially conscious as Travis is," she said before announcing presenting the award to Hardee.

He encourages all students to have a voice and advocates for students to make sure their voices are heard. He actively engages students, the dean and faculty members within his college division to initiate conversations, inquire about needs and issues, and seeks ways to help identify solutions.

Hardee has also been very involved in the university's diversity related activities including diversity roundtable discussions that help increase awareness of diversity-related topics.

Attorney Everett Chandler, owner of Chandler Law Firm in Aiken, was selected as the community Human & Civil Rights Champion Award recipient.

His many activities include being a life member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. and undergraduate advisor for the chapter at USCA; silver life member of the NAACP; past president of the Royal Aikenites; and deacon and Bible Student Instructor at Calidonia Missionary Baptist Church in Monetta, SC.

Chandler also serves on the board of the USC Aiken Partnership Board, Helping Hands, American Red Cross, Aiken Barnwell Head Start Policy Council and the Black Historical Committee.

"His motto is 'to whom much is given, much is required' and that is evident in the many community organizations and efforts he is involved in," said Franklin.

The annual event is organized by a committee comprised of representatives from ATC, USC Aiken, and area businesses and organizations. It is offered free thanks to generous sponsors, according to organizers.

This year's sponsors were:

Title Sponsor: Chandler Law Firm

Gold Sponsor: Bridgestone

Silver Sponsors: Aiken Electric Cooperative, Inc., Aiken Regional Medical Centers, Allstate, Atlantic Broadband, AT&T, City of Aiken, Margaret's Garden Adult Day Care, Mead Hall, Security Federal Bank, Savannah River Nuclear Solutions, SRP Federal Credit Union, and University Health Care System

Bronze Sponsors: Aiken Personnel Services, Concerned Ministers Fellowship, Aiken County Branch of the NAACP, Owens Corning, and Rural Health Services, Inc.

Community Supporters: Aramark Food Services, Art Nook, King Family Trio Violinists, Sun Solutions, WAAW Shout 94.7 FM, and WNRR Gospel 1380 AM

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