Welcome to the Fall 2017 semester. The Flare has a new look, several new staff members and the same mission: To give you the latest campus news and to provide our readers with a variety of features, sports coverage and commentary – and to do so with integrity and reliability. Our latest issue is on the racks now, and features THE FLARE-FILES, filled with tips and hints for KC students. You can find it at several locations on the Kilgore and Longview campuses, or on the sidebar of any page on this website. Keep an eye out here and on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for more.
Anyone who knows me knows my favorite band is The Beach Boys, and my favorite musician is their leader, Brian Wilson. I first got deep into their music last November when I heard their album SMiLE, an album which wasn’t officially released until 45 years after its conception and recording. It was worth the wait, as I consider it the best album I’ve ever heard.
I found out that a biopic of Wilson was in the works, and would be screening at SXSW with Wilson in attendance. I knew I had to go and see this film. The experience is one that will stick with me for the rest of my life as one of the most emotionally powerful events I have been a part of.
Love and Mercy is the story of The Beach Boys’ founder Brian Wilson. The film chronicles his rise to fame in the 1960’s and the his decline into mental illness, and his escape from the control of his therapist in the 1980’s.
Paul Dano plays Wilson in the 1960’s scenes, and John Cusack plays him in the 1980’s. It also stars Elizabeth Banks as Wilson’s future wife, Melinda Ledbetter, and Paul Giamatti as his therapist, Eugene Landy.
Paul Dano exudes the boyish look of young Wilson perfectly. He relearned how to play piano for the role, and sings much of the music in the film. Highlight scenes include Dano playing and singing the Beach Boys classics “God Only Knows” and “Surf’s Up.”
His performance is hard to watch at times because of how depressing it is seeing him devolve from an energetic, fun young man into a tortured, drained artist. Dano handles the role with passion and care, and his performance never feels forced or fake.
When Wilson begins to suffer a panic attack, anyone who’s had one will feel deeply for him. When he starts to have physical symptoms of depression after years of physical and mental abuse from his father and disapproval of his musical direction from fellow bandmate Mike Love, Dano portrays the hurt that comes from those events with subtle facial expressions and natural transition.
John Cusack looks less like Wilson physically, but his performance may be even more complex. His Wilson has been to the bottom, and he brilliantly portrays how challenging it is to rebuild your life after going through mental and physical anguish.
Elizabeth Banks has a great departure from her more well known comedic film roles, and as Ledbetter, she shows her strength and respect for the man she loves through actions and subtle expressions instead of overt, over the top dialogue.
Paul Giamatti has the most campy role in the film as Eugene Landy, but this is unfortunately how Landy was in real life. He was as violent and controlling over Wilson’s life as the movie portrays, so his abusive, manipulative, angering performance is highly accurate.
I may be biased because I am such a big fan, but Love and Mercy is one of the best biopics I have ever seen. Everyone involved has an obvious love and appreciation for the material and subject. One thing I hate about many films based on a true story is the need of filmmakers to change aspects of the subject to try and make the film more marketable or entertaining. One of the best things about Love and Mercy is that it doesn’t exaggerate or make up events to make the film more interesting. The filmmakers trust the strength of its source material is interesting enough to make for a great story.
The storytelling strutcure of the movie is interesting and risky. The film jumps from the 60’s to the 80’s without warning, and it works. The slighly askew technique allows the audience to experience the downfall and uprising of Wilson’s life simultaneously, and allows the movie to end on a happy note.
One complaint many people have is that the film skips over the 1970’s, Wilson’s most tumultuous period in which he weighed 300 pounds and spent the majority of three years in bed, crippled by depression and drug addiction. I think it is an intersting choice that the filmmakers decided to not show this portion of his life. It allows the audience to examine the reasons for his downfall and redemption instead of indulging in the horrible escapism Wilson turned to.
Cinematographer Robert Yeoman, best known for creating the look of Wes Anderson’s films, blends stylistic tone with realistic camera work, creating a sense of false nostalgia that is surreal yet inviting and intense.
Beach Boys fans will appreciate the movie more than the average filmgoer. Mike Love in hats, dancing, and mentioning “the formula”? Check. Drug tent and piano in the sandbox in WIlson’s living room? Check. The infamous “Fire” session? Check. Everything is on point, from the scarily accurate wardrobe down to recreating the “Sloop John B.” and “Surf’s Up” promo videos shot for shot. It’s these moments that show the film was made by fans with an attention for detail.
Almost every song on the album Pet Sounds is featured in the film somewhere. Seeing Wilson’s unorthodox recording techniques is such a pleasure for music nerds. A great moment is when bassist Carol Kaye questions why the baseline of “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” is in a different key than the rest of the song. “It sounds good in my head,” says Wilson, and of course, his musical instincts prove to be correct.
Composer Atticus Ross works wonders with the score, using a great wealth of Wilson’s music in different ways and choosing songs that fit with the emotional tone of the scene brilliantly. Hearing the instrumental version of “Don’t Talk” play as Wilson takes LSD for the first time is haunting. Witnessing the song “Til’ I Die” play over a surreal, Kubrickian scene in which WIlson has an epiphany made me cry because of the powerful combination of imagery and music.
The film is being released on June 5, to capitalize on The Beach Boys music being a staple of the summer, but it feels more like a Thanksgiving release to me. The cinematography, acting, script, and score are all Oscar worthy in my opinion, but the film may get lost in the race to other contenders, which is a shame.
Love and Mercy is an awesome, unorthodox biopic that takes risks with form and narrative that has strong performances, script, cinematography, and of course, an amazing soundtrack. It will expose millenials to the brilliance of Wilson’s music and give older fans an insight into why Wilson is the poster boy for using creativity as an escape and an outlet from the pain of life and mental illness.
Brian Wilson’s music gave me a different perspective on life, and his method of coping with depression by using his creative gifts made me feel like I wasn’t weird or alone by doing the same thing. If just one person seeing the movie feels more understood by seeing it, then in my opinion, Love and Mercy has done its job.
To understand the journey of these two students we must first go back to where it all started.
In the Devall Student Center, Victor Johnson (20) and Delvanté Fluellen (20) were nothing more than two acquaints playing ping-pong together to relax during the stressful days of college life.
One day Johnson was walking across the bridge and saw Fluellen leaving the Anne Dean Turk Fine Arts Building where he had choir.
It was then they realized they were both passionate about hip-hop music and the two began recording music soon after.
Johnson graduated Longview High School and attended Navarro his freshman year but came to KC because he felt more comfortable being close to his home in Longview.
He had to overcome several hardships throughout his life.
Being raised by his grandmother Johnson appreciates his struggle because it has shaped him into the person that he is today.
He also mentions that Edwards the KC housing director has helped mentor him and stay focused with school.
Going by the name Vic or 5-Star Johnson, he has accomplished more in one year than many hip hop artist have in their entire career.
Three major labels have reached out to Johnson including, Def Jam, Atlantic and Columbia. He has also received tweets from people as far as Chile who enjoy his music.
The mayor of Longview, Jay Dean, has named Johnson the official rapper of Longview.
His father, grandmother and his faith with God has helped him overcome his obstacles and drives him with his passion for music. In less than one year, Johnson has put out four mix-tapes and multiple singles.
Grammy nominated producers who have worked with acts such as Wiz Khalifa want to record music with him.
After KC Johnson is looking into going to Concordia University in Austin to study kinesiology. He will continue to work on his music because it is still his passion.
More importantly he wants to receive his degree.
“Success will come either way for me,” Johnson said.
He has achieved so much in such little time but he says that he wouldn’t be where he is today if it was not for meeting his good friend Fluellen.
Fluellen, who has been nominated for the 2014 Homecoming Court, lives his life by the motto, “Failure is not an option.”
Like Johnson, Fluellen has had to overcome struggles in his life as well and uses that motivation to be a better musician and person also.
He has been in choir since a sophomore at Gladewater High School and is currently the bass singer in the KC Chorale.
Influenced by the Rapper Currency, Fluellen has the hard work and dedication to keep his dream alive.
Going by the stage name of Dest la vie, a play on words meaning, “That’s life.” He has a new upcoming mix tape this year and plans on graduating from KC and receiving his bachelors degree in audio engineering at Stephen F. Austin State Universtity.
Fluellen and Johnson have accomplished many goals and the future looks bright for these young men.
With plans on creating an organization for kids and teenagers who have been dealt a rough life, Fluellen is more than just a man behind a microphone.
Nothing is more important to him than graduating with his bachelor’s degree and being able to take care of his family. Fluellen is the third person from his family to graduate college and music will always be his passion.
Some call it faith, some call it destiny but since the day that these two men met each other their lives have changed for the better.
Despite the amazing music that these two men produce, record, mix and master, the most important thing about them is that they strive to make their selves better people each day.
They push each other, not only in music but in life also.
Their hard work and dedication to their music reflects on the humble gracious men these two friends have become.
Listen to their new song “No Luv” that recently just came out. You can listen to 5-star’s music on sound cloud under 5Star_20 and on Datpiff search for “5-star See what I see.” Johsnon’s Twitter is “5star_20” and Fluellen’s Twitter is “ElPaperPilot.”
Wendy Williams, Nacogdoches sophomore, landed a lead role the first time she ever auditioned
She said she was shocked and was certainly not expecting such a part.
She will be playing the First Player in The KC Theatre Department’s “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead.”
Williams has never had any acting experience but said she does not have stage fright due to being cheer captain in high school.
Williams has had a long relationship with theatre, working in makeup or as backstage tech, but never had the opportunity to do what she has always desired, to act in a play.
Williams took a semester off from going to Stephen F. Austin State University to be a student at KC.
She is majoring in Geriatric Social Work and decided it was time to seize the opportunity to perform on stage.
Williams recalled “having a frog in her throat” and being nervous the first day of rehearsals. However, the second day and so on have being going swimmingly.
Williams said she has really been improving on her memorization and sense of acting.
“This is it. This is what I was hoping it would be,” Williams said, “It is definitely living up to my expectations.”
Williams went into the auditioning process comfortable. She says the first day was nothing but fun for her.
The callbacks, on the other hand, made her more nervous because of how badly she wanted to be part of the show.
Now she is putting everything into her role and feels confident that the show will reach its full potential.
The only aspect of the show that discourages her is that everyone on cast and crew are pressed for time.
Williams said she feels as though she is almost a step behind due to lack of acting experience, but is certain that she will catch and do her absolute best.
“Life is a gamble at terrible odds. If it was a bet, you wouldn’t take it,” quoted Williams from her character’s lines.
‘Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead’ is set for 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 7, through Saturday, Oct. 11, with a matinee performance at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 12, in Van Cliburn Auditorium. General admission tickets are $10 for adults, $7 for students and $5 for KC students with a student ID.
The KC Rangers look to redeem themselves from last Saturdays 52-35 loss to Trinity Valley Community College. The Ranger will be hosting Navarro Community College at home this Saturday.
Both of these teams have an overall record of 3-1 and are looking to add a win to their conference record. Navarro is coming off a 62-14 win against Southeastern Prep, who Kilgore recently beat 52-14.
Through its first four games the Navarro offense averaged 47.5 points and 588 yards per game. Most of the offense for the Bulldogs was covered on the ground.
The majority of the yardage gained came from running back Keaun Kinner, who is averaging around 160 yards a game this season. Other notable names for Navarro are Bivins Caraway, sophomore quarterback, and Austin Collins, sophomore wide receiver, who has snagged six touchdowns for the Bulldogs.
The Navarro defense this year has surrendered an average of 24 points a game. Key names for the Bulldog defense are: Jayd Kirby, sophomore linebacker; Ben Jones, sophomore linebacker; Quincy Vasser, sophomore defensive tackle, Kendrick Johnson, sophomore defensive end.
The Rangers, on the other hand ,are still having a great offensive and defensive season despite their recent loss. Through their first four games the Ranger offense is averaging 40 points per game while averaging nearly 300 yards per game.
The Rangers look really strong on the ground and in the air this season. They have a pretty well balanced run game and passing game and are ranked 14th in the NCCJA poll.
Key players for the Ranger offense this season include the QB duo of Averion Hurts and Javelle Allen. So far both Allen and Hurts have thrown five touchdowns a piece.
The running game features a trio of backs including Keevon Aldridge, Corey Davis and Eddie Smith, who lead the way with 213 total yards on the ground.
The Ranger defense is looking to bounce back from last week’s breakdown versus the No.3 ranked Cardinals. The defense is led by Jordan Burton, sophomore safety; Joe Lynch, sophomore linebacker; and DQ Osborne, freshman defensive lineman.
Come out and watch the two teams go head-to-head at 7 p.m Saturday in R.E St. John Memorial Stadium in Kilgore.
A late run came in the late game on Wednesday to give the Kilgore Rangers Softball team a hard fought victory over Murray State in the second half of the day’s doubleheader.
Murray State was able to take the first game with a walk-off home run, ousting the visiting Rangers 4-3. After falling to an early three run deficit, the Rangers were able to battle back to tie the game up behind Marisa Ledkins’ two RBIs and a solo homer from Renee Jones. Despite the valiant rally from the visitors, Murray State was able to deliver a killing blow with a late seventh inning homer to end the game.
Taylor Sieber led the Rangers with two hits in the late game, and Hayley McCullers, Kelsey Ancelot and Lexi Lopez were each able to drive in runs for a 4-3 victory of their own. Jordyn Rodgers earned the win for the rangers, allowing no runs and just three hits in the first three innings. Hayley Vavra relieved in the sixth, finishing with five strikeouts, one hit and three walks. Renee Jones closed out the seventh for the save.
The evening’s conclusion leaves the Rangers with a 6-3 record heading into their Saturday matchup against the LeTourneau University Yellowjackets. Game time is noon in Longview.
A new football season always requires changes. R.E. St. John Memorial Stadium is shared by the Kilgore High School and KC, and now both teams will be able to enjoy the brand new state-of-the-art jumbotron scoreboard.
The scoreboard was installed during the summer and it’s almost impossible to miss. Its measurements are 32’W x 24’H x 8”. The digits on the scoreboard will be presented in red and the custom striping will be cardinal red. The biggest feature on this scoreboard is the Custom Video Display.
Its measurements are 13.01’ H x 22.02’ W 20mm. (192 x 336 pixel matrix).
The video display will replay game action and will also display names and pictures of the players throughout the game.
Other features include a non-illuminated sign, Decorative Truss, Decorative Truss Backlit Logo, and a Custom XSB-10 Sound System.
All the features that go along with the scoreboard itself, except for the sound system, was provided by NEVCO, which is the Integrated Display and Scoring Solutions Company.
The jumbotron scoreboard cost an estimated $300,000. It was paid for by supporters from the Kilgore community.
According to athletic director Jimmy Rieves, eight businesses bought advertisement for static signage that will always remain on the scoreboard to help pay for it.
Opportunities exist for video commercial advertisements to generate revenue every year.
“It brings a new way to bring the experience closer to the fans,” Rieves said.
Both teams will get to try their hand at the new scoreboard this Friday and Saturday when they take the field for the first time at R.E. St. John Memorial Stadium.
Upon arriving at KC, U.S. Sen. John Cornyn was greeted with a smile.
He met the Rangerettes, whom he presented with a letter, congratulating them on their 75 year anniversary. Cornyn then sat down to have a discussion with college faculty, the Kilgore mayor, R.E. Spradlin III, and other leaders from the Kilgore and Longview area. The subject of the day was Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM).
Cornyn, a supporter of the STEM program, wanted to see what KC’s two-year programs were offering in the field, as well as what kind of job opportunities they afford.
“Congress just passed a workforce training reauthorization bill, recognizing that there are about 4 million jobs that employers are looking for trained work force,” Cornyn said. “So there’s work to be done, but not the people with the skills to do them.”
With so many job openings, KC is trying to help fill that void with technical classes. An experienced high-end welder with a 2-year degree has plenty of opportunities in East Texas. There are 200 job openings, starting off at $25 an hour, according to Bill Holda, KC president.
KC offers degrees in welding, diesel technology, and corrosion.
STEM is a program aimed at trying to fix the gap in the technical side of the workforce. With so many employers in need of workers but a severe lack of them, some high schools are preparing more students for a field of study. Students who take part in the program take courses with an emphasis on science, technology, engineering and science. They also get a more hands-on approach with how they are taught, allowing them to be well versed in the practical use of the knowledge.
“This is really exciting. This is the common-sense answer to, ‘How do you improve people’s wages and income?’ The answer is to help them to learn new skills that will result in them earning a good salary,” Cornyn said. “So I think that this is, to me, one of the most exciting things in education because you have young people who necessarily do not always see the tangible benefit of their going to school or seems to abstract that you learn things like chemistry and physics, but this shows how those principles that you learn in school can be applied to preparing people to earn good money and well-paying jobs.”
As a young girl Kellsie Ruiz didn’t want to fit in.
“I wanted to be different,” she said.
With a passion for music she joined the band in the sixth grade playing the clarinet but felt it wasn’t for her. She asked her band director to switch instruments but was denied.
The next year she asked him to play the tuba, but was once again denied.
In the eighth grade things were looking up for Ruiz. She was finally allowed to play her instrument of choice, the tuba, because there were no other tuba players.
“My favorite part of playing the tuba would be the challenge,” she said.
Ruiz graduated from Sabine High School in 2013 and is starting her second year as a member of the Ranger Band.
Ruiz earned first chair and section leader honors during tryouts last spring and is now over 11 tuba players.
As the only female in her section, she will continue to stand out while marching.
“I really want to explore and experiment with vocals this year,” Ruiz said, “Maybe look into musical theatre.”
In addition to playing the tuba, she also has a strong singing voice. Oftentimes she can be seen singing, dancing or a combination of both.
Ruiz plans to transfer Texas A&M University – Commerce and earn a degree in musical education.
WANT TO JOIN THE BAND? n It’s not too late to be part of the largest Ranger Band in nearly a decade, said Glen Wells, band director. Scholarships are available and band members have several performance opportunities throughout the year.
Stop by the Band Hall behind Masters Gym and talk to Wells or call him at 903-983-8272.
As of Thursday morning, KC enrollment was 5,453. This number includes all students who have been dropped for non-payment. At this same time last fall (2013) KC had 5,573 students which is a 2.1 percent decrease if compared fall-to-fall on the same day.
“Each year, this initial enrollment count after Late Registration drops fluctuates. Enrollment will go up between now and the first class day. How far, we’re not sure yet,” said Chris Gore, director of admissions and registrar. “We’re expecting enrollment to be either close to the same as last fall or a small decrease. We’ll have a better picture the first week of school.”
After Late Registration drops last spring, KC had 5,282 students enrolled and ended up with a certified Spring 2014 enrollment of 5,534.
“The real number that we’ll be looking at soon will be the number of contact hours,” Gore said. “Enrollment is important, but the contact hours are what really matter as far as state funding for the college.”
Enrollment will not be final until the 12 class day, Sept. 10, and will not be certified by the state as official until October.
The Kilgore College Rangers will begin the 2014 football season unranked in the national polls but are expected to battle for one of the Southwest Junior College Football Conference’s four playoff spots.
The Rangers, coming off a 4-5 season a year ago (3-3 in the SWJCFC), open the season with back-to-back road games outside the state – visiting Arkansas Baptist College on Aug. 30 and then trekking to Milledgeville, Ga. to take on No. 5 ranked Georgia Military.
Kilgore’s first home game is set for 7 p.m. on Sept. 13 against Southeast Prep at R.E. St. John Memorial Stadium.
The Rangers opened the 2013 season with back-to-back losses before defeating eventual SWJCFC champion Trinity Valley on the road (24-19). KC then went 1-2 over the next three games before closing out the season by winning two of its final three contests – defeating Northeastern Oklahoma on the road (35-21) and Southeast Prep at home (58-13).
Kilgore ended the season with a 42-12 loss to arch-rival Tyler.
Coaches at SWJCFC Media Day back in July picked Trinity Valley as the preseason favorite. The Cardinals finished the 2013 season with a 10-2 record, defeating Blinn and Navarro in the SWJCFC playoffs before earning a 72-23 win over Mesa in the Heart of Texas Bowl.
Navarro was picked second by the coaches, followed by Tyler, Kilgore, Blinn, Northeastern Oklahoma and Cisco.
Trinity Valley (No. 4), Navarro (No. 8) and Tyler (No. 13) are all ranked in the preseason NJCAA poll.
Kilgore head coach J.J. Eckert will be starting his eighth season as head coach of the Rangers. He has compiled a 37-34 record, leading the team to a pair of eight-win seasons during his tenure. KC finished 8-3 under Eckert in 2012, earning a berth in the first Brazos Valley Bowl played at Kyle Field in College Station.
As a program, Kilgore has a 471-276-14 record, winning national championships in 1966 and 1978. KC has played in 19 bowl games, carving out an 11-8 record.
In 1975, an optimistic graduate of East Texas State University, now known as Texas A&M University – Commerce, received a job as an English/speech instructor at KC. For the past 39 years, he has served the college as an instructor, department chair for liberal and creative arts, and for the past five years as the dean of liberal and creative arts.
At the conclusion of the Spring Semester, long-time KC faculty member Dr. Richard Harrison will be retiring.
Harrison majored in political science at Baylor University before receiving his doctorate from ETSU. He also has 30 post-doctorate hours from UT Tyler and ETSU.
“[At Baylor,] I swore I would never set foot in a classroom again,” Harrison said.
Before returning to graduate school, Harrison made a living as a bronco rider in the professional rodeo circuit. With the Vietnam War going on, the civil rights movements, and numerous other factors, he did not expect to live to see the age of 25.
But two years into his rodeo career, an accident left him with three fractured vertebrae, at which point Harrison thought, “I think I’ll be a teacher.”
Taking the position at KC was an easy decision for Harrison and his wife, who is a Kilgore native.
“For her, it was easy because it was like she was coming home,” Harrison said.
Serving as an instructor of English and speech, Harrison also served as a department chair of the liberal and fine arts department for 17 years. He took the position as dean following the retirement of the former dean.
“I thought this might be a nice move,” Harrison said about taking the position.
As dean, Harrison supervises instruction, and deals with faculty and department chairs, determining how to fix problems and how to anticipate and avoid problems for the future.
“Basically, I am a coordinator between administration and faculty,” he said.
When asked why he made the decision to retire now, Harrison answered simply, “Well the Liberal Arts Building is gone.”
According to Harrison, when he first came to teach at KC, Stewart McLaurin who was the dean of arts and sciences at the time, told him to not get “comfy” in the building because it was being torn down; 39 years later, with the building finally demolished, Harrison took it as the sign he needed to make the decision to retire.
During his career at KC, his favorite thing about the experience has been dealing with students.
“They are still young, still enthusiastic, they still have fun…” he said.
According to Harrison, that is what he is going to miss the most in his retirement.
However, he is looking forward to being able to hunt whenever he wants, as he is an avid fowl hunter. He is also anticipating more time to read for pleasure, as well as competing again in old-time fiddle contests, which he did for 10 years following the conclusion of his rodeo career.
Disabilities can take a huge toll on people throughout the course of their lives. Some people with disabilities embrace them and others hide them. Sooner or later a person has to come the conclusion that they are who they are, and make the best of the situation.
Brown has cerebral palsy. He was born prematurely and weighed about two pounds and two ounces at birth, and had little blood flow to his brain.
He refers to it as “being a vegetable.” Since he has cerebral palsy he is unable to walk and has spent his life in a wheelchair.
He has use of his hands, but not complete use so he has to work around that, but he is still able to hold things in his hands.
Brown was told that he was supposed to be dead right after he was born, but he believes that God had a plan for him all along, and that is the reason why he is still alive.
“God has given me a disability so that I may be able to inspire people to keep moving forward along their Christian journey,” Brown said.
Brown attended KC from 2002-2005. He majored in speech and graduated from KC with an associate degree in speech and communications.
“I really liked my time at KC; being here helped me launch my career as a motivational speaker.”
Brown graduated with a bachelor’s degree from East Texas Baptist University in communications and journalism.
Brown now is the owner of a motivational speaking company called Open Arms Motivational Speaking, which he launched in 2009.
His main goal was to inspire other people with or without disabilities or that God is the answer to every obstacle that comes in a person’s life, and that no matter what the situation is God can make it all better.
Brown also is a author of a book titled “A Legacy of Faith.”
“The Lord has called me on a mission to help others realize that with God all things are possible, and no matter what life throws at you anybody can overcome anything through their faith in the Lord,” Brown said.
Brown has not let anything stop him from accomplishing his goal of being a successful motivational speaker and inspiring others to push on. As a atter of fact, in August 2013 Brown went skydiving out of an airplane from 11,500 feet in the air. Even though he has no use of his legs skydiving is something that he has always wanted to do, and he was not going to let his disability stop him from doing it.
“I had people that told me not to go, but I did it because I wanted to prove that it was more than just me jumping out of a plane. My disability isn’t going to stop me from enjoying life, and achieving my goals,” Brown said.
In addition to being a speaker and a published author, Brown is also a youth pastor for Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church in Hallsville.
Brown credits his success to the staying power of his grandmother, Josie Martinez, who has been with him since day one.
“She has been my backbone, and she has always been there for me, I’m extremely grateful for her.”
Brown has no regrets for the situation that he is in. He says “he feels no different.”
“I will not argue with what God has blessed me with,” he said.
He could cook it, kill it and skin it by the age of 6.
That is what David Belanger, first-year KC culinary instructor, says about his childhood.
“I was a self-sufficient kid,” Belanger said. Being raised by his single mom, aunt and grandmother, it instilled in him a way of life and a passion: cooking.
Belanger has a story though, that most culinary chefs do not.
Growing up on a Michigan farm, he didn’t finish high school. He was going to a college in Michigan until the administration found out he didn’t have a high school diploma.
Belanger got his GED soon after and wanted to become a teacher. He quickly got out of that though, when, in his words, the big pink slipping started.
“Teachers in ’78 were given pink slips where they no longer had jobs,” Belanger said. Belanger wanted a stable job and knew that teaching was not it.
Belanger had many jobs before becoming a chef. He was in construction, worked on oil rigs, was a repo man, locksmith and a diesel mechanic most recently before becoming a chief.
“In 2009 I was laid off and forced to draw unemployment,” Belanger said.
After watching cooking channels all day and having support from his wife, he decided cooking had always been his passion and that he was going to attend the Art Institute in Dallas to get his degree.
Belanger got loans that he didn’t have to make the payments on until two years after school. He said he knew attending culinary school is what was supposed to happen.
Belanger said it wasn’t all easy either once he got there.
“There were times I felt discouraged, especially with the core classes,” Belanger said.
He had not taken math in years and that was really tough for him. He did not know how to type either, since that was not required the last time he went to school. He said that his instructors really helped him, and he loved what he was doing.
After finishing his degree, Belanger worked for a catering company out of Longview.
With Belanger being strong in his faith, he believes being the culinary chef at KC was meant for him.
“My friend from church called me and told me that they were looking for a culinary instructor,” Belanger said.
He called, got an interview, was hired and said he has loved every minute of it since.
From being a man of odd jobs, to being an instructor and teaching others how to cook, Belanger said he hopes to be an example to others.
“You are never too old to learn something new,” Belanger said. “Anything is possible if you put your mind to it.”
Belanger says he loves teaching his students more than just cooking, though. He likes teaching them lessons.
“I feel I make a difference,” Belanger said. “Cooking right and eating right will allow you to be healthier and live longer.”
Another goal Belanger wants to instill in his students is to try everything. You might find something you really like and you might not, but at least you are trying new things, which will lead to trying other new things.
Belanger is not stopping with this dream though.
“I have a desire to have food trucks,” Belanger said. The city of Longview will not allow them right now, but Belanger is not giving up.
Belanger also said he would like to travel around Europe and cook in different countries and learn the root of recipes.
Belanger is a prime example that you can do anything your heart desires. With dedication and faith it will be accomplished.
Belanger ends with saying, “God Bless, Eat Well and Bon Appétit.”