Get to know Paul Farmer

Paul Farmer is the official student blogger at Volunteer State Community College. His writing can be found on the Vol State website’s home page, and often on the school’s Facebook page. Farmer is also a member of the TRiO program, which is part of Student Support Services. TRiO funded fully through the U.S. Department of Education. “The main objective of this program is to provide eligible Vol State students increased educational opportunities in order to promote academic success,” according to Vol State’s TRiO website. There is an application process to be a TRIO member. Students must meet eligibility criteria such as having a low income or being a first-generation college student. According to Farmer, he did not do well in high school and it took him 20 years to get the motivation to get back to school. “In fact, during my sophomore year (almost thirty years ago), one counselor told my parents to forget about me graduating with my class,” he said in a blog entry. When he did return, he found that he was a much better student than he had ever expected. Each year TRiO members are encouraged to submit an essay to the national TRiO Quest Awards. Farmer’s paper was submitted, and he was awarded first place out of 600 entries. His award was “Best of Contest,” and he received a medal and cash prize as well as an iPod. “Vol State’s been great for me. This was the first academic award that I’ve ever received. “If I can do it, anyone can,” said Farmer. Farmer decided to make his entry a memoir about an experience that he shared with his family, titled “Life Lessons from a Smelly Shoe.” The essay tells of a disabled boy, a children’s game, and a new perspective on life. The emotion in the room was overpowering as the entire place stood in a standing ovation for Josh. The roar of clapping and shouts of “Bravo” were touching; some had tears running down their cheeks, impressed with his accomplishment. Josh stood there with a big grin, and his face beamed with pride, still unaware of why he was the star attraction. “Paul’s DigiText (entry) was amazing and so powerful,” said contest organizer Sharon Primm-Dayot, on Vol State’s website. “Judges were blown away. I know anyone who reads it online will feel the same ‘faith in mankind’, ‘we can make a difference’ message that Paul so beautifully presented.” Farmer is also a member of Vol State’s honors program, as well as the school’s new writers’ club the Author’s Lair. He will graduate in May, becoming the first person in his family to receive a college degree. His goal is “to write literature that is brilliant, complex, and beautiful. However, learning to write is kind of like playing a musical instrument. I’m trying to start with a complicated piece and play it perfect,” he said on his personal blog. “I forgot about practicing scales, tone, and timing on songs I didn’t even enjoy. After years of practice I developed my skills enough to play what I wanted, but I didn’t succeed starting with the hard stuff. Writing is the same way. You practice on things you don’t really want to do, but these exercises develop your ability. Soon you will know the craft, and be competent to write what you enjoy.”


Next semester will be here before you know it

The semester is nearly over — can you feel it yet? The pressure, the stress, don’t let it get to you.  You can get help and learn some techniques to help you in the future.

It takes diligence, but right now it’s more important than ever to stay on top of your assignments and deadlines.

Staying ahead, or at least, keeping up and not falling behind, is extremely important right now.

Just know that you’re not the only one.

We all feel as though we’ve been smacked in the face with the reality of our various courseloads.

I know I do.

I just want to encourage you to do whatever you can to maintain the “A” I’m sure you all have, right now.

If you’re like me, and are taking a speech class, don’t get overwhelmed! The language lab can be lifesaver for you right now, I promise.

Are you trying to make it through that English class? The language lab can help you, too.

Likewise, the math lab is available to those of you struggling with your math courses.

Vol State has a variety of student resources which are at your disposal.

Don’t wait until the night before a paper is due to stop by the language center and speak with a language center tutor.

Staying on top of studying can alleviate stress.

Even if you’re not yet struggling, don’t wait until it’s too late!

Vol State has resources to help you succeed.

I encourage you all to take advantage of them.

If you need a tutor, you could try the disabilities office or the TRiO student support services.

I, myself have utilized TRiO’s tutoring program and it make all of the difference in the world.

One of the things that has helped me is setting the bar high.

I promise that if you can attain a good GPA, you will want to maintain that GPA.

Having some success under your belt not only boosts your confidence, but also gives you a standard to live up to.

I know community college isn’t the first thing you think of when you hear about the “college experience,” but these are the days when you can take your life into your own hands and really be proud of what you’re doing.

You never know, you might find something you’re really passionate about that will shape the rest of your life.

Or you might just squeak by with your GPA intact, which is a pretty good consulation prize.

Either way, right now is when it’s more important than ever to keep up the pace. Don’t let yourself fall behind. You won’t regret the hard work, because it truly does pay off. Good luck!

Apply for Foundation aid

Foundation Scholarship deadline March 1

Are you returning to Volunteer State Community College in the fall?

How are you going to pay for it?

The first step you should take is to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).  This will determine your eligibility for federal financial aid like Pell Grants, state programs like the HOPE and lottery scholarships and other income-based programs.

The FAFSA should be completed early; just as soon as your taxes are filed (you will need to enter information from the return).  Some funding programs are available in a first-come-first-served format, so the early bird gets the worm.

Whether or not you qualify for income-based aid, the next step should be right here at Vol State.

The Vol State Foundation awards more than 200 scholarships, totaling nearly $300,000 each year, according to the school’s website.

In order to qualify for a piece of that proverbial pie, students must complete the scholarship application available at aid.  Click on “Scholarships and Waivers,” then follow the instructions.

With only one application, a student is eligible for all scholarships.

The bulk of the application is fill-in-the-blank.  You will need to list your total income, based upon this year’s tax forms.  Students who are under 24 will be required to provide parent information, including income.

The foundation does require a 2.75 cumulative GPA for eligibility.

The final portion of the application is a short essay, which requires you to “write briefly ‘Why I am applying for a scholarship.

“You will be asked to include your future plans as they relate to your area of study as well as any special circumstances regarding your financial situation.”

The priority deadline for the foundation application is March 1.  Students who have completed the application by that date will have a better chance than those who wait.

Some of the foundation scholarships are very specific in their requirements.  For example, the White House Kiwanis Club scholarship is given to a “graduate of White House High School with a 2.5 GPA, member of WHHS Key Club in good standing with 50 hours minimum accumulated service to home, school & community. Recipient selected by Kiwanis Club of White House committee.”

Others are very general, with a deserving student chosen from a larger pool.

There’s a lot of money out there.  Now, go and get your share!

The Settler’s new home online

The Settler has a new home online., the newest feature of Volunteer State Community College’s student publication offerings, went live last week.

The new site will bring The Settler’s news and features to a worldwide audience.

“Going online created more opportunities for newspapers, such as competing with broadcast journalism in presenting breaking news in a timelier manner,” said Kumar Shammi in an eJournal article.

“Internet marketing enhances and reinforces messages from advertising in other media. … Online newspapers are reliable sources for quick information and it’s a great alternative when other newspapers are not available,” said Terry, the owner of an Arabic newspaper, via his website.

The print version of the paper will still be published weekly and available on campus.

The site and the print versions will overlap somewhat, but each will have content exclusive of the other.

An online publication allows for access anytime, anywhere.  It can be updated at any time, with no reliance on publishing dates.  This will allow The Settler to get news to the students and community in real time. will contain multimedia content that simply isn’t possible in a print version.  Video and audio clips will be included on the site.

It will also bring more connection to online students and those at Vol State’s campuses in Livingston and other locations.  These students have been underserved by the current print version due to the natural lag in delivery to the other campuses.

Vol State has a diverse student body.  More options for them to be connected and involved will bring stronger bonds between them and with the school.

Online news means more interaction between the publication and its readers.  Through comments, article sharing and other interaction with students, The Settler will become more fully a representation of the Vol State community.

The Settler is also integrating social media sites such as Twitter (@TheSettler) and Facebook ( to get more information to the community.  Through these accounts, real time updates will be available for breaking news stories and live blogging of events. is looking for student contributors as well as a media editor for the 2012-2013 school year.

Get to know Nadine Napier

This week The Settler visited with Mrs. Nadean Napier, secretary in the office of student life and diversity initiatives at Volunteer State Community College.

The office’s staff coordinates student activities, student organizations, evening student services and diversity initiatives.

Upcoming events include Spring Fling on April 4 and the spring career fair on April 25.

Students may be familiar with Napier because they have gotten their student ID or parking pass from her office or have visited her to file an appeal for a parking ticket they have received.

Napier is a 1999 graduate of Vol State and has been in her position for 13 years.

She said that she tries to be easy for students, faculty and staff to talk to.

Her efforts have paid off, because the Vol State Foundation created a Mama Nadean Napier textbook assistance scholarship.  It is awarded each year to a Vol State student that is 30 years old or older and attending full-time, according to the foundation’s website.

The foundation is the fundraising arm of the college, allowing donors to help fund scholarships to students.  Each year, more than 200 scholarships are awarded, totaling over $300,000.

Napier is the mother of five children and grandmother to 14.  She lives in Scottsville, Kentucky.

Outside of school and family, Napier enjoys reading and fishing.

The crystal apple on Napier’s desk was a gift from Dr. Monique Robinson-Wright, former director of student life and diversity initiatives.  Wright said that chose it because Napier’s fan kept blowing the papers off her desk.

“Vol State has some great staff and faculty also some great students and is a great place to work,” said Napier.

The office of student life and diversity initiatives is located in Wood Campus Center suite 215.  She can be reached at 615-230-3447.

Get to know Mel Matthews

This week, The Settler is picking on Mel Matthews, director of sleep diagnostics technology at Volunteer State Community College.

Matthews trains polysomnographic (sleep) technologists to recognize different types of sleep disorders and to collect proper data during sleep studies.

“It is a continually growing field due to the growing awareness of the relationship between poor sleep and numerous health problems like high blood pressure, strokes, heart disease, and many more,” he said.

“I was working as a training specialist for the American Red Cross when one of my trainees began talking about going to ‘sleep school.’  The more I heard about it, the more appealing the idea became.  I told him that I might just go with him.  As it turned out, I went and he didn’t,” Matthews said.

Matthews comes from a musical family.

“My father and his brother are in their 80s and still play music about three times per week,” he said.

Although he is not officially a part of the Vol State bluegrass program, he said he does everything he can to support it.  Every Wednesday, Matthews plays in the dining room along with Melissa DuPuy from the bluegrass department.  Anyone who cares to join in is welcome.

“If you have never been to a bluegrass festival or jam, then you just don’t understand the impact that something such as this can have on a community.  Whether a student is intent on becoming a performing artist, writing, or just learning how to play an instrument better, bluegrass music can be an enriching part of life,” he said.

The mandolin is one of only a handful made by Willard James from Long, Okla.  James loaned it to Matthews as sort of a test drive, and Matthews played it in a competition, which he then won.

“It was a great mandolin and I remember my father saying, ‘You won with it, so you might as well buy it.’”

Matthews lives in Springfield, Tenn. with his wife.  She and their son are from Shanghai, China.  Their son didn’t learn to speak English well until he was in middle school, but graduated high school with a 4.0 GPA and is now a student at University of the South.

Matthews has plans for a scholarship fund to assist sleep diagnostics students with their board exam costs.  One of the first fundraising activities will be a car show in the fall.

The bluegrass program is also hosting a festival on April 13 and 14 which will include many instrumental and band competitions.

For more information about sleep technology or bluegrass, contact Mel Matthews at 615-230-3366.



Dear Mr. Limbaugh

On Feb. 29, talk radio personality Rush Limbaugh spoke about a young Georgetown Law student after her testimony to congress.  She was addressing the subject of insurance coverage for birth control.

“What does it say about the college co-ed Sandra Fluke, who goes before a congressional committee and essentially says that she must be paid to have sex, what does that make her? It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute,” he said.

“She wants to be paid to have sex. She’s having so much sex she can’t afford the contraception. She wants you and me and the taxpayers to pay her to have sex. What does that make us? We’re the pimps.”

Mr. Limbaugh, I will tell you what it says about you.  It says that you are a dirty old man.  It says that you don’t have any sense whatsoever of common decency.  It says that you have no grasp of how birth control or health insurance works at all.

It says that you are a pig.

What it says about Ms. Fluke is that she took the time to exercise her right to petition congress.  That’s the first amendment, Mr. Limbaugh.  It goes along with the right to free speech and the freedom of the press to which we, here at The Settler, owe our very existence.

Yes, it also says that you have the right to free speech, but there’s also a little thing called slander.  That’s when you say things that aren’t true or that damage someone’s reputation.  You aren’t allowed to do that.

Ms. Fluke was called a slut and whore a total of 53 times over three days.

You later said, “I sincerely apologize to Ms. Fluke for using those two words to describe her. I do not think she is either of those two words.”

It’s too late, Mr. Limbaugh.  You have ruined the reputation of a young law student, forever linking her name to yours and pushing her into the spotlight, whether she wants it or not.

More than two words were spoken.  Volumes were said.

Thousands of Americans have been outraged by your slanderous attacks on a private citizen.  They have reached out.  They have contacted your advertisers, threatening a boycott.

As of press time, nearly 30 of your advertisers had pulled out of your show.  Radio stations were beginning to drop the program entirely.

It isn’t about your right to say things, Mr. Limbaugh.  It’s about my right to spend my hard-earned money with companies that won’t give it to you.

And what of Ms. Fluke’s sex life?  It is none of your business.