Chattanooga Teen Exposes the Struggles of Being Gay on Campus

By:Brittany Tonkin

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (UTC/ The Loop)- Entering a college classroom and facing your peers for the first time is a nerve racking experience for anyone, but imagine already being judged and stereotyped before you even take your seat. That is exactly what happens every time Will Scruggs, an 18 year-old freshman, enters a classroom; Will is openly gay.

Will Scruggs Studying

Will Scruggs grew up in the Chattanooga area and during his high school years hid a very large, defining part of himself- his sexuality. Entering college gave Will the chance to be true to himself and open up about his sexual orientation to his peers and family.

Not everyone was excited about Will’s “new-found” lifestyle and some of his former high school classmates have had no problem letting him know that. Scruggs said that he has had fellow college classmates with previous connections from high school stop talking to him on a regular basis, or completely ignore him all together after discovering he is gay.

Aside from encountering peers from his past, Will also faces the daily challenge of meeting new peers. Although Will feels that most people he meets will be polite and accepting, he said that it is still nerve racking meeting new people at school because he doesn’t know how they perceive him as well as the “gay community.”

Scruggs said, ” I have never experienced a teacher taking a personal prejudice against me being gay or  have that reflected on the grades I receive in their class, but I would definitely say that it does present a very strong challenge in assimilating in with your peers and your classmates. You don’t know who is accepting of you and who isn’t.”

Will ran into such an instance in his Anthropology class. He was selected to work in a group with fellow classmates to discuss religion. Throughout the discussion Will came to realize that the students in his group had very strong religious upbringings and still firmly held onto those beliefs.

Scruggs said that because the classmates in his group did not agree with his lifestyle they strongly excluded him from the group’s discussions and completely disregarded what his views on the topic of religion were.

Fortunately, not all students have treated Will the same way as the students in his Anthropology class. Lizzy Casey, a 20 year-old junior, said, “I have grown up in a very religous family and still attend church myself, but your lifestyle is your choice and dosen’t affect me or the way I treat someone.”

Stephanie Raulston and Will Scruggs Getting Ready for Class

Stephanie Raulston, a 20 year-old junior, said that being in classes and interacting with gay people doesn’t make her feel uncomfortable at all. She feels people don’t realize that discriminating against a gay person for their lifestyle is the same thing as being racist and should be treated as an equally sensitive topic.

Raulston said, “That’s your lifestyle, that’s who you are and there is no reason to discriminate against someone who is just oriented differently…It’s just like making a racist joke; it’s awkward if your offending someone.”

Will said he is thankful for people who choose to place their own biases aside or willingly accept him without thinking twice and only wishes everyone could do the same.

When asked if he had any advice for fellow gay students facing the same challenges, Scruggs said, “So long as teachers don’t dock your grades because of a personal opinion against homosexuality and it’s simply having problems with interacting with your peers and having them accept you sometimes in life you just kinda have to suck it up. You have to move on and you have to do your best to succeed academically.”

CLICK HERE to listen to Will Scruggs advice!

Peer Mentoring Group Reaches Out to Influence the Community

By:Brittany Tonkin

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (UTC/ The Loop)- The Brainerd High School Peer Mentoring Group addressed the Chattanooga City Council on April 5th with their concerns regarding safety at Coolidge park.

Alexis Moore, student and Vice President of the mentoring group, believes that a stricter curfew needs to be enforced at the park, due to the recent increase of violence after dark. By enforcing a stricter curfew Moore feels that gang violence will decrease and stop affecting those in her community and school.

Moore said, “I have personally lost loved ones due to the curfew not being enforced.” Alexis Moore Speaking

Display of City Ordinance in Coolidge Park

Moore was not alone in her concerns. Fellow mentors and classmates also addressed the Council with their concerns regarding community safety in the park ,such as requiring a search of each person upon the entrance to all events, requiring security at all teen parties hosted in the park, certifying the hired security and limiting “street gatherings.”

The students also addressed the Council with possible programs that could be enacted to reduce the number of teens participating in violence, such as reviving an old program that helps provide summer jobs for at risk teens and potentially incorporating a class in local high schools to educate teens about the risks of guns, violence, and gangs.

Jenelle Thom spoke to the Council to advocate an incorporation of gun, violence, and gang education in high schools throughout the area.Thom believes that changing the way teens think is the key to reducing violence.

Thom said, “It only takes one person or one thing to stop events like this.”

Councilman Russel Gilbert said that the Council will review the curfew and potential code changes in a future meeting.

Obama Promotes Energy Ideas at Penn State

By: Brittany Tonkin

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) — President Barack Obama, turning briefly to his eclipsed domestic agenda Thursday, called on the nation’s businesses to make fresh investments in clean energy technology that lay a foundation for long-term American prosperity.

He proposed a new tax credit and other measures to encourage businesses to retrofit their plants and reduce costs — steps that he said would save $40 billion a year in utility bills.

“Making our buildings more energy efficient is one of the fastest, easiest and cheapest ways to save money, combat pollution and create jobs,” the president said, taking his retooled economic pitch to the heart of Pennsylvania, a prominent state in presidential politics that will be a key in his 2012 re-election bid.

Obama toured energy research labs at Penn State ahead of his remarks, showcasing a leader in the field of energy technology. The university heads a consortium of universities, colleges and industries that are developing a high-tech research hub, based in Philadelphia, on how to make buildings more energy-efficient. That center is supported by $129 million in federal money over the next five years.

“In America innovation isn’t just how we change our lives, it’s how we make a living,” he said, pushing a key feature of an economic agenda that blends his goals of greater energy independence with a long-term job growth strategy.

The energy efficiency plan is an extension of Obama’s call last year to give government rebates for home retrofitting, a proposal that has stalled in the Senate.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.

US deports first Haitians since earthquake

By Brittany Tonkin

MIAMI (AP) — Immigration authorities have repatriated 27 Haitians previously convicted of crimes, the first such deportations since the Obama administration halted them following the 2010 earthquake that devastated Haiti.

Immigrant advocates say political unrest and an outbreak of cholera in Haiti make it inhumane to deport people there.

But the U.S. announced last month it would resume deporting those convicted of violent crimes who have served their time. Authorities generally cannot hold people indefinitely who have completed their sentences.

The U.S. say more than 61,000 Haitians have applied to temporarily stay and work here following the quake. The deadline for applying was Tuesday. Convicted criminals were not eligible.

(This version CORRECTS to say that the U.S. announcement it would resume deportations was made in December.)

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.