Thrift Shopping on the Rise

By Kaelyn Hale

The second-hand shopping industry reached a record high of $24 billion in 2018. Sales have been on a steady climb from $11 billion in 2012 and are projected to reach $51 billion by 2023 according to ThreadUp, the leading online resale company.

The modern-day ‘thrift shop’ is a relatively new concept which emerged after the Industrial Revolution (1760-1840). Until the past few decades, most people had only a few articles of clothing and used them for as long as they could.

Blanche Hale, born in 1947 said, “When I was a kid I probably never had more than 10 to 12 things to wear. I usually had two pairs of shorts, two church dresses, one pair of shoes… I didn’t have jeans.”

As clothing became more mass-produced, it became more affordable. This allowed people to buy more clothes and get rid of clothes they did not want, therefore creating a market for thrift shops.

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In 1879, Salvation Army came to the US and in 1902, Goodwill was founded. In 1919, the term “thrift shop” was coined and the 1920s saw the rise of consumerism. During the Great Depression (1929-1941), Goodwill opened almost 100 stores. In 1995, eBay and Craigslist were founded. During the Great Recession (2007-2009), resale stores saw sales increase 35 percent. In 2009, ThreadUp was founded followed by many other online resale companies.

“I can’t even remember a thrift store when I was a kid,” said Hale. “We didn’t have Goodwill or anything like that. Heck, we didn’t even have yard sales!” Hale said in the ‘70s they had stores called boutiques, which sold second-hand goods, but they were not very big and did not have much merchandise.

Time Magazine writer Olivia Waxman, said when thrift shops first came out, “there was a stigma attached to wearing used clothes… The items themselves [were] a sign of a lack of money.” Hale’s first impression of thrift stores was that they were “confusing and not very clean.”

Perceptions of thrift shopping have changed. Now people of all socioeconomic classes shop second-hand. Spring Arbor University (SAU) student Caitlin Ackermann said she likes to thrift shop “just for fun, for the thrill of the hunt.” According to ThredUp, luxury shoppers buy second-hand more than value chain shoppers do. In 2018, 26 percent of women either bought or were willing to buy second-hand.

Hale said people have become more accepting of thrift shopping throughout her lifetime. “I know people now that brag about finding something at Goodwill. It has become a status thing if you can shop and find good stuff.”

Thrift shopping is gaining popularity fastest among Millennials and Gen Z. According to ThreadUp, 18-37 year olds are adopting second-hand apparel 2.5 times faster than other age groups.

Many young people buy second-hand online instead of going into traditional thrift shops. SAU student Celeste Fendt said she buys second-hand more than she buys new clothing and does most of her shopping on a resale app called Poshmark. She also sells some of her own clothing on this app. “It’s cheaper, it leaves less of a carbon footprint, and on Poshmark you’re buying from an actual person so you’re helping them,” said Fendt.

SAU student Beth Kulaga started her own Instagram thrift store called Reverie Thrift where she sells clothes she buys at thrift stores to SAU students. She said she started the mini-business because she has always loved thrifting. “People would compliment my outfits and I would say I found them at a thrift shop,” said Kulaga. “They would say they can never find things at thrift shops, and I thought ‘I could find things for you.’”

Kulaga goes shopping about three or four times per month and usually buys about 20 items. She sells about 12 of them as soon as she posts them. “It’s a good way to make a little extra money,” she said. “I sell each shirt for $8 and I get each shirt for about $1 to $3.”

On March 21, the Resident Assistants (RAs) of the women’s dorms at SAU hosted a Ladies Clothing Swap where students gave clothes they did not want to their RAs, the RAs put the clothes on tables, and students took the same number of clothing items as they had donated.

One RA, Kaylee Clayton, started the event last year in her dorm. This year she got the other RA’s together and made it a campus-wide event. Clayton said “It’s a good way to recycle and inform people about the effects of the textile industry.” More than 750 items were donated and about 50 people participated. Clayton said they plan to keep doing it even after she graduates.

Clayton said she is committed to the zero-waste movement and recycling. She said buying second-hand is good for the environment because it creates less demand for clothes. “Just one shirt takes more than 700 gallons of water to make,” said Clayton. Buying second-hand is also good because “you’re not creating demand for or supporting companies that use bad practices like human trafficking, poor treatment of workers, and hazardous working conditions,” said Clayton.

Thrift shopping reuses garments instead of throwing them out, reducing the amount of textile waste produced. According to, the average American throws out about 82 pounds of textile waste each year, most of which ends up in landfills where it produces toxic greenhouse gasses as it decomposes causing global warming.

Recycling is Not the Solution

By Kaylee Clayton

Until 2018, the United States shipped roughly 7 million tons of plastic to China each year. In China, the plastic was sorted, broken down and reused to create new materials. Paper and aluminum was also shipped over from the U.S.

Not just the U.S. but about 70 percent of the world’s plastic waste went to China according to NPR writer Christopher Joyce. Many Chinese people became millionaires with new recycling businesses that bought the world’s trash and made money from processing and selling it. Joyce said this aided in making China the second wealthiest economy in the world.

At U.S. West Coast ports, empty Chinese shipping containers that had delivered goods to American consumers were sent back full of plastic and paper recycling. While American recycling machines often struggled with breaking down certain types of plastics, China had the capacity to handle the plastics with enough cheap laborers to sort the recyclable materials.

About five years ago, the Chinese government began to worry about the amount of incoming plastic. Much of the plastic was contaminated, which made it difficult to recycle and unprofitable. In 2017, the Chinese government implemented stricter regulations and began to cut down plastic trash imports. In January 2018, China banned almost all imports. “That means a huge amount of plastic is looking for a place to go,” said Joyce.

This left American recyclers with three options: pay a higher price for recycling, send it to different countries, or send it to the landfill.

“Plastic is getting separated at paper factories, dumped in neighboring communities, and the only way to get rid of it is to openly burn it,” said environmental activist Stiv Wilson. “Air, water, and land are all affected.”

Many smaller cities that feel they cannot afford to pay more for recycling choose to incinerate their recycling rather than pay for recycling, which results in harmful toxins being released into the air. Keefe Harrison who runs the nonprofit Recycling Partnership, said “more plastic in the U.S. is ending up in landfills or getting incinerated, which creates pollution.”

Shipments of plastic waste are now diverted to Southeast Asian countries instead of China. These shipments have increased exponentially since 2018. According to Laura Parker from National Geographic, exports from the U.S. to Thailand jumped almost 7,000 percent in one year. Malaysia’s increased several hundred percent. Those numbers have begun to decrease since those countries have cut back on imports.

Alana Samuels reported in The Atlantic that waste-management companies across the country are telling towns, cities, and counties there is no longer a market for their recycling. Recycling is ending at a time when the United States is producing more waste than ever before.

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the total amount of municipal waste was 208.3 million tons in 1990 and 262.4 million tons in 2015. According to Frontier Group, “The U.S. produces more than 30 percent of the planet’s total waste, though it is home to only 4 percent of the world’s population.” A Columbia University study estimated Americans throw out seven pounds of materials per person every day, which is 2,555 pounds of materials per year.

The Zero-Waste Movement proposes an alternative to shipping waste to other countries and landfills. This idea started 20 years ago when Daniel Knapp, Ph.D., CEO, Urban Ore, Inc., a Material Recovery Enterprise in Berkeley, California, shared his research around the world on his idea of “No Waste.”

The Zero-Waste Movement encourages the redesign of resource life cycles so all products are reused. By eliminating single-use items, plastic water bottles, Ziploc baggies and plastic straws, one can live a lifestyle of reducing and reusing. The goal is for no trash to be sent to other countries, landfills, incinerators or the ocean. Of the 260 million tons of plastic the world produces each year, about 10 percent ends up in the ocean, according to a Greenpeace report. Plastic Oceans reported that “more than 8 million tons of plastic are dumped in the oceans every year.”

The Zero-Waste Movement encourages people to take responsibility for their product consumption and only use materials that can be reused. Some individuals have managed to keep

all the waste they have created for several years in a 16 oz. mason jar. Lauren Singer, environmental activist and CEO of Simple Co., kept all the trash she made in four years in a 16 oz. jar. She began with eliminating single-use plastic, analyzing what her trash consisted of, composting raw materials, making her own products, and investing in sustainable and reusable alternatives.

Spring Arbor University (SAU) junior and environmentalist Madilyn Nissley said “the Zero-Waste Movement is a good thing, but if someone cannot commit to changing everything in their life then it

feels overwhelmingly impossible.” The Zero-Waste Movement could be the answer to America’s current recycling dilemma.

Concluding the composition: chair of the music department to retire after 34 years

By Libby Koziarski

After 34 years of teaching, Dr. Jonathan Bruce Brown, Spring Arbor University’s (SAU) music department chair, is set to retire. 

His first encounter with SAU was 44 years ago on March 31, 1973, when his sister was married on campus. Ten years later, he heard about a job opening, “and the rest is history,” he said with a smile. 

Dr. Brown. From SAU’s website.

Dr. Brown has taught several classes at SAU, with some of his favorites being Intro to Fine Arts and Music Theory. He also started and directed the string orchestra, helped set up the computer music lab, and composed a brass piece for the kick-off dedication of the campus library in 2002. 

“It is a real blessing to be here [at SAU],” he said. “I just hope people feel like I tried to be helpful.” 

According to sophomore Rachel Lawrence, “Dr. Brown is just a really great guy to talk to… and he does such a good job laying down the basics and making complex concepts easy to understand.” 

Dr. Brown is not only an accomplished professor at SAU, but he is also a nationally-recognized composer. His performances have been showcased from Washington D.C. to Honolulu, Hawaii, garnering annual awards from the American Society for Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) since 1992. 

34 years later, Dr. Brown’s career at SAU comes full-circle as he plans his farewell concert.  The concert is on April 27th, 7:00p.m., in the Spring Arbor Free Methodist Church chapel. 

Kicking Off Spring Semester

By Caralyn Geyer

On Thursday, February 1, 10 students dodged punches and blocked kicks as they attended the newly emerging kickboxing club at Spring Arbor University (SAU) for an hour-long session of fight training.

The club started in the fall of 2016 when two students in associate professor of physical therapy Mitch Zigler’s HPR101 class expressed interest in learning techniques he taught one day in class.

Now that school is back in session for the spring, this new club is “kicking” it into action for the year with the hopes that the new semester will bring in some new recruits to help the group come out of the shadows.

The group meets every Thursday night from 5:30 to 6:30 and is led by Zigler in the Physical Therapy clinic. Zigler said that he instructs by his history of Krav Maga and Filipino fight training.

Mitch Zigler and Bethany Ulrich, assistant professor of HHPR. Photo by Rachel Merchant.

“Just training in Krav Maga offers your body cardiovascular exercise,” Zigler said. “It is also mainstream combative, so we get to have fun all while working on these very direct techniques, making it the most effective way to defend yourself.”

Zigler also said he would like to focus on Krav Maga techniques.

“It’s the most movement-efficient, and is proven combatively effective because it’s used by the Israeli army and is taught in our police and army systems as well,” Zigler said. “I think that all SAU students should learn how to handle any combat situation.”

Student Conner Williams attended for the first time this past Thursday.

“My favorite part of the class was being there with my friends and learning something new together,” Williams said. “We’re constantly learning new information in an academic sense, but it’s nice to learn a new way to use our bodies, too.”

Regular attendee Celeste Fendt said, “it’s a casual, fun way to get some cardio in and learn important self-defense skills.”

The class is free, welcomes beginners, and is for anyone looking to have some fun and learn how to protect themselves.


The Art of Spoken Strength and Celebration

By Caralyn Geyer

Three judges, two poems, one microphone. What’s at stake? Two movie tickets to the Jackson 10 and 50 dollars in cash. On February 24, Spring Arbor University’s (SAU’s) Office of Intercultural Relations (OIR) held the semi-final and final performances of “The Spoken Word” in the White Auditorium at 7:00 p.m. to finish out the school’s celebration of Black History Month.

Five students gave performances of their best spoken poetry, but only one took home the grand prize. Sophomore English and Psychology major Kayla Kilgore was the winner, with her two poems entitled “Ode to My Chicks” and “Am I Not My Brother.” She was followed by runner-up Ryan Manuel and second runner-up Liz Pence.

Kayla Kilgore, the winner. Photo by Caralyn Geyer.

Kilgore said her poems were based on personal experiences and focused on topics of homosexuality and technology as a god.

“I know other people struggle with these things and I want to be a voice of peace on the other side of it so that I can help someone else,” she said. Through the performance aspect of the night, she said, “I hope it attracts a diverse audience. It’s not just for the people who like poetry. People should come for the experience and for a different way to hear a story.”

According to Lowell OIR representative Mandeep Kaur, “The Spoken Word” is not just a contest or about poetry, but it is a chance to share beliefs and help students have a voice.

“SAU students live in a bubble and this event is an opportunity for them to talk about issues more comfortably than on any other platform,” Kaur said.

Alongside Kaur, Eric Beda added, “This is a time to reflect on the history of people, reflect on the past, ponder the current time and hope for what the future may bring.”

In addition to the students, OIR welcomed special guest Jamaica West, a spoken word artist from Chicago. West gave several of her own performances throughout the night, while also playing the role of ‘host’ for the contestants. West said that the spoken word of poetry brings together poetry, creativity, imagination and creates an opportunity to hear the hearts of artists.

“It takes a lot of courage to stand in front of your peers and share your heart,” West said. “Today that is why we refer to them as artists.”

Illumination and Administration: SAU admin on their hopes to foster dialogue with LBGTQ+ students

A worn green armchair sits in the corner surrounded by shelves of encyclopedias, devotionals and Biblical commentaries. Papers, reading glasses, three used mugs and a ping pong ball are scattered on a desk across from it.

By Kayla Williamson

A worn green armchair sits in the corner surrounded by shelves of encyclopedias, devotionals and Biblical commentaries. Papers, reading glasses, three used mugs and a ping pong ball are scattered on a desk across from it.

Some consider it a safe space to talk about their sexual identity.

“I don’t know how, but some [students] have chosen to come talk to me about it,” University Chaplain Brian Kono said. “As they sit in that chair and talk, I try to never make my opinion or my belief stand above the person or my relationship with them.”

The bulk of their conversation is not about what the Bible says about sexuality, but how they are processing this with their family, what shapes their identity, why they think God made them this way.

It is a conversation full of questions and listening.

It is a conversation an estimated 9.5 million Americans have had, according to a study by the Williams Institute in 2014.

It is conversation the Spring Arbor University (SAU) administration is trying to cultivate.

Living on a school campus that prohibits homosexual behavior creates a student perceived barrier to cultivating an environment of welcome conversation and loving support. Bridging that gap while maintaining student handbook rules is a challenge administrators like Kono are trying to overcome.

[It] was very revealing to me that a student didn’t think they could come out to me or an administrator without there being some sort of response from us. – Kim Hayworth, VP for Student Success and Calling

Whether the attempts land successfully or not depends on the level of trust at an individual level.

“I hope that it’s because they trust me,” Kono said. “They know my heart. It’s not unique to me. You know those that you trust because of the good conversations you have with them.”

The role of community standards

In a meeting with students, a girl asked Vice President for Student Success and Calling Kim Hayworth if someone has ever come out to her.

Her answer: absolutely.

“She was shocked, and her shock shocked me,” Hayworth said. “That was very revealing to me that a student didn’t think they could come out to me or an administrator without there being some sort of response from us.”

For Hayworth, the challenge was realizing student perception of administration—that if someone came out to an administrator, unknown concequences await. She realized the effort she and other administrators will have to do to overcome urban legends or the label of “administration.”

Both she and Associate Vice President for Student Development and Learning Dan Vanderhill emphasize the difference between identifying as LGBTQ+ and participating in LGBTQ+ behavior.

The Student Handbook states, “All students, regardless of age, residency or status, are required to abstain from cohabitation, any involvement in premarital or extramarital sexual activity, or homosexual activity (including same-sex dating behaviors). This includes the promotion, advocacy, and defense of the aforementioned activities.”

“I hope people understand that it’s not against the rules to be LGBTQ any more than it be against the rules for someone to want to have sex outside of marriage,” Vanderhill said. “It’s against behaviors which are clearly stated in the handbook. I think they’re fair expectations even if there’s room for disagreement on them.”

I don’t believe we should interact with, like this calculus in my mind of how I should interact or approach you. To me that is very unhealthy. It’s like a false reality that we create when we affiliate with each other in that manner. – Kim Hayworth, VP for Student Success and Calling

How will we engage with the other?

A group of administrators and faculty started meeting at the beginning of fall to brainstorm how to be intentional with conversations.

It is both the school and an individual’s responsibility to create safe spaces where students can feel comfortable approaching someone, Hayworth said.

“I don’t believe we should interact with, like this calculus in my mind of how I should interact or approach you,” Hayworth said. “To me that is very unhealthy. It’s like a false reality that we create when we affiliate with each other in that manner.”

This “thinktank” as they call themselves, has met with students to tell their own stories and the stories of others. By listening to these students, they hope to create more events and opportunities to cultivate community engagement with each other. Next Monday’s chapel speaker, Adam Mearse, and the following dorm talks that night are efforts to “elevate” the conversation.

Yet there is a barrier between the LGBTQ+ community and the non-affirming. SAU is built on the Free Methodist heritage, which does not affirm the LGBTQ+ lifestyle. So how can the SAU community engage with each other without forgetting that heritage?

I see both students and staff faculty just get into this comfortable rut. When we’re in stressful day-to-day things, we just want to sit with people we know at the DC instead of meeting someone new and taking time to listen. – Anna Tabone, Career Advisor

“I don’t have a good answer because I think it can be interpreted as a very painful thing to be non-affirming, but I do believe there’s ways to be so loving and non-affirming,” Tabone said.

Kono is still wrestling with how to best advocate for the other on campus.

“This is a difficult conversation to have,” Kono said. “The weight of the tension that comes is something that I feel very greatly. It becomes a weight. Yes, it can become a negative thing, but I feel it because of the weight of importance that we, as a community called Christian, try to engage these conversations well.”

Strangers Like Me – Anna Tabone’s Story

In high school in 2002, Anna Tabone had a crush.

She and her friend Joe had agreed to go to prom together. A week before the dance, he told her he was gay.

That was the first time Tabone was challenged by what her conservative upbringing had taught her about the lifestyle of the LGBTQ+ community.

“But we went to prom together [with] one of our gay friends and one of my best friends, and it was a blast,” Tabone said. “In that sense, Joe is not an ‘other’ to me. [He’s] someone I really knew and really cared about.”

As a former Resident Director (RD), Community of Learners (COL) leader and now Career Advisor, Tabone has taught and mentored several students in the LGBTQ+ community. She has had students who came out to her as an RD, as someone who will walk with them before they are ready to come out to anyone else.

“That, I feel was maybe one of the most treasured gifts, to have a student trust you with their real self,” Tabone said. “[It] still really chokes me up.”

Engaging with the LGBTQ+ community, or anyone considered “other,” is a fundamental Christian action, not just a principle, Tabone said. They become less of a stranger if their story is told and they are in an environment where they can be themselves.

Engagement starts in small ways, Tabone said.

“I see both students and staff faculty just get into this comfortable rut,” Tabone said. “When we’re in stressful day-to-day things, we just want to sit with people we know at the DC instead of meeting someone new and taking time to listen.”

Kindling Conversation: SAU students and alumni on being LGBTQ+ on a conservative campus

Caitlin Stout, class of 2017, grew up in Jackson and first learned about SAU through her church.

By Elise Emmert & Celeste Fendt

Caitlin Stout, class of 2017, grew up in Jackson and first learned about SAU through her church. The Spring Arbor University (SAU) students in her youth group were part of what convinced her to come to school here. Stout said the idea of having a Christian community on campus also drew her in.

During her four years here, Stout said she grew significantly in her faith and as a dedicated supporter of social justice.

“A lot of [my growth] has been a result of the fact that this has been a very difficult place to be a gay Christian,” Stout said.

For members of the LGBTQ+ community at SAU, finding support in the form of a leader or mentor can be challenging because of limits imposed by the student handbook and community guidelines.

Stout said what helped her through the difficult times was the realization that she was not alone, and the group of friends that was alongside her showing support.

“I always kind of joke that SAU has made me a better Christian but not in any of the ways they intended to,” Stout said. “The LGBT community, both on this campus and at large, has kind of been the group of people who have shown me what church should look like.”

The LGBT community, both on this campus and at large, has kind of been the group of people who have shown me what church should look like. – Caitlin Stout, class of 2017

According to senior W. Cody Pitts, the LGBTQ+ community works mostly underground. But this, he said, is not because of harassment from other students.

“A lot of people that I think go here who are in the (LGBTQ+) community love our community and love the people here,” Pitts said.

Pitts came to SAU wanting to be an activist for the LGBTQ+ community on campus, and spent his sophomore year questioning different things about himself and how he identified before coming out to a few close friends and family.

Later, after working as an RA his sophomore and junior years, Pitts left the job behind since he decided he could no longer continue to agree with everything the school stood for, a contract requirement for student leaders.

Since coming out publicly, Pitts came to be a type of leader to other students on campus who came to him with questions. He also said he has been “a lot happier” this year than he had been in the past.

Ben Coakley, an SAU class of 2017 alumnus, said most of the people he encountered while on campus were willing to have conversations with him concerning sexuality, even when they were non-affirming. Large-scale conversations, he said, probably did not happen as often because people were afraid of upsetting others with their ideas or opinions.

Coakley said he felt “different” growing up, but didn’t know anyone who identified as LGBTQ+ and didn’t have the language to describe what he was feeling. This kept him from being able to have a conversation with himself about sexuality until he met students his freshman year who identified as gay.

During his freshman year, Coakley thought he was the only student wondering about his sexuality because he did not have anyone to talk to. Meeting other LGBTQ+ students on campus gave him a support system of people to talk to with whom he felt more at ease.

“The thing that I hate most is any student feeling like they’re alone and feeling like they don’t have a support system, for whatever reason,” Coakley said. “That should be a concern for everyone, regardless of your theology.”

I just want people to have conversation with the understanding that (for) someone you’re talking to or for someone in the room, this is personal for them – Ben Coakley, class of 2017

LGBTQ+ students not only face feeling alone on campus, but also face being afraid of coming out because of handbook guidelines. Because the handbook prohibits the defense or advocacy of a homosexual lifestyle, even something as simple as identifying as LGBTQ+ could be seen as breaking school policies.

An anonymous member of the LGBTQ+ community at SAU said the student body has been their biggest support system on campus. Not every student, however, contributes to this support.

The student said most SAU students have validated and protected the LGBTQ+ students, but others dismiss them.

“When it’s something that you can’t change about you, it really hurts when people put that down and say that it doesn’t exist,” the student said.

Dreams for the Future

Despite the difficulties LGBTQ+ students face on campus, some do have a vision for the future of the community.

For Coakley, progress is best found in visibility and dialogue. This means both acknowledging there are LGBTQ+ students on campus and allowing conversation about differing viewpoints to take place publicly.

“I just want people to have conversation with the understanding that (for) someone you’re talking to or for someone in the room, this is personal for them,” Coakley said.

The anonymous student doesn’t expect SAU to become affirming of the LGBTQ+ community anytime soon. But they hope it will become more open about this crucial topic by hosting panel discussions and creating a more inviting atmosphere.

Pitts agrees with the emphasis on representation, and hopes the school would eventually allow the LGBTQ+ community to form a group or organization where they could publicly affirm what they believe. With this, he said students could approach the group, start conversations and come to their own conclusions.

The goal is not necessarily to make the school change its values or beliefs. The Free Methodist Church does not affirm homosexuality, but Pitts said part of living in a contemporary world is being able to engage with people who disagree with you. A place for students to be out publicly and support the LGBTQ+ community without fear would embody that.

“It’s not really about what you believe,” Pitts said. “It’s about showing people love.”

Higher Learning Commission to evaluate SAU for accreditation

By Nathan Salsbury

On December 4, a group of five faculty members from various schools in the region will visit Spring Arbor University (SAU) to evaluate the school and decide whether or not it will maintain its regional accreditation.

On Monday, October 16, a student leadership meeting was held to inform students about SAU’s upcoming evaluation. Professor of Sociology John Hawthorne, alongside a team of other faculty members, has been working on the required paperwork for the visit. The document, at the time of the meeting, consisted of 28,456 words of the maximum 30,000 words and featured information on how the institution is doing academically and spiritually. Hawthorne said the project, which has taken up much of his time since March, is mostly ready to be reviewed by the visiting board, although it is still going through changes.

HLCmap“I was really excited Saturday when I put what I thought were the last edit passes in to say, ‘Oh good, now we’ve got this thing put to bed,'” Hawthorne said. “I got about seven emails between 5:30 and 10:30 on Sunday morning, so then I went back in and I’ve been working on that since.”

The document will then be assessed by the five faculty members that are chosen to evaluate SAU. These members will come from schools in the North-Central region of the country, which is comprised of schools from 19 states. This region is also known as the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

To remain accredited, five criteria must be met as listed on the HLC’s official website. The surveyors need to make sure:

1) The institution’s mission is clear and articulated publicly; it guides the institution’s operations.

2) The institution acts with integrity; its conduct is ethical and responsible.

3) The institution provides high quality education, wherever and however its offerings are delivered.

4) The institution demonstrates responsibility for the quality of its educational programs, learning environments, and support services, and it evaluates their effectiveness for student learning through processes designed to promote continuous improvement.

5) The institution’s resources, structures, and processes are sufficient to fulfill its mission, improve the quality of its educational offerings, and respond to future challenges and opportunities. The institution plans for the future.

Not only will the HLC be looking for those five criteria to be met during their visit, they will also be sitting down with various students to evaluate what campus life is like. Hawthorne said students should be honest about their thoughts on the school, although they should not take this as an opportunity to voice complaints about such things as the limited parking availability.

HLCcriteria“We are not a perfect institution,” Hawthorne said. “The institutions that our visitors will come from are not perfect institutions. So, if you should say, ‘There’s an area that we think we’re working on as an institution and I wish we did more of that,’ I want you to be honest in that conversation.”

During the meeting, students can expect to hear questions such as, “What’s it like to go to school here?” and, “How your major classes are going?” Hawthorne, who is occasionally asked to be a part of the HLC when evaluating other schools, said he would not directly ask about advising, but there might be questions to ensure students know what classes they need to take and that there is a strong support system of faculty members for the student to come to with any problems.

Hawthorne said he assured the president that although SAU is being evaluated, there is almost nothing that anybody could say in the visit that would cause the school undue harm or prompt the accreditation to be taken away. The visit is a procedure that every accredited institution must go through every few years. In particular, the HLC typically evaluates schools once every seven to ten years, and this year marks ten years since SAU was last evaluated. Once accreditation takes place, it gives the school the opportunity to receive Title IV funding from the Department of Education, which means the school will receive federal financial aid funds.

The HLC will spend most of Monday, December 4 on campus, as well as some of Tuesday, December 5. The five members will then draft their assessment of the school to decide whether or not SAU will remain an accredited institution.

How three Jackson organizations are providing hope to those at risk

By Kayla Williamson and Hannah Shimanek

It started with a girl her son brought home. It should have ended with a Facebook post. But that was not what God had planned for Michelle Cochran.

When Cochran first saw the mLive surveillance photo of a girl at a gas station, she kept scrolling. It was not until her son came home and asked her if she had seen the Facebook post that she realized it was her son’s girlfriend, Danielle. Danielle was addicted to heroin. She had been caught on camera robbing a gas station attendant at gunpoint.

“Sadly, my first reaction was, ‘okay, at least she’ll be away from my son,'” Cochran said.

But the next day brought a different outlook. That morning, Cochran listened to Adele’s “All I Ask” on her mp3 player when the lyrics, “there is thought to my role,” made her pause. Then, “it matters how this ends.”

“All I could see was her face,” Cochran said. “And it just broke my heart. I cried over that girl for three days, and then I went to the jail.”

Cochran asked Danielle if she could walk with her through the trial. From then on, Cochran never missed a court date and visited her every week. Danielle could have been sentenced to at least seven years of prison, but instead made it out with three and a half.

“For that,” Danielle said in a blog post, “God is good.”

Danielle’s story is not over. But many girls are not given a second chance like Danielle. They do not have someone willing to build a relationship with them or guide them post-addiction or trafficking or incarceration, so they go back to their unhealthy environments or addictions. They start the process over again.

When fighting addiction, patients have a 40 to 60 percent chance of relapsing, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. A 2013 national study by the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority on residential programs for victims of human trafficking found 37 operational residential programs in the U.S. specifically for human trafficking victims. That brings a total of 682 beds for an industry with an estimated 1.5 million victims in North America alone.

The freedom to choose their ending is a luxury that not many people have. While the issue may be broad and reach across the globe, Jackson county and Spring Arbor University (SAU) students and staff are working to stop the cycle.



A year before Cochran met Danielle, she heard about Thistle Farms in Nashville, Tenn. where girls with similar yet varying backgrounds to Danielle attended a two-year residential program of healing and support. Cochran fell in love with it, but it was put on the backburner until November 2016 when she brought it up to Danielle by mere happenstance.

While in prison, Danielle met women stuck there because they did not have a home in which to live out parole. Or once they were released, the women would go back to their unhealthy environment.

“It gets me down, knowing these women long to do better and get stuck in this cycle,” Danielle said in a blog post. “They get out and end up somewhere that’s unhealthy for them. They feel unwanted and unloved.”

That is where Cochran’s idea of a restorative home for survivors of addiction, trafficking, incarceration and exploitation would grow and come to fruition.

Cochran is the founder and president of SOAR Café and Farms, Jackson’s first home for women trying to escape “the bondages of slavery to addiction, emotional wounds, addiction and poverty,” as their vision statement states. The residency will provide mental and physical medical attention, education and personal/spiritual development to all the girls. Eventually the Café attached to the residency will be a place for the residents at SOAR to work, build their resume and gain new skills in a guided environment.

Graphic by Kayla Williamson.

The land for the program has already been identified, but until its official opening in the next year or so, SOAR is spreading the word and raising money by hosting a “mobile” café. They host house parties where guests are paired together to create a meal, and at the end all the guests and a SOAR representative share food and SOAR’s mission. SOAR representatives are also spreading the word and raising money by selling healing products and a cookbook with “items by inmates.”

Girls must apply to the program and will be evaluated by social workers to determine if they are capable of completing the program. If so, they will be entered into the program, and if not SOAR will work with community partners to make sure they are cared for.

The community of Jackson is working on all sides to fight the underground slavery in their backyards. SOAR is just one of many groups to be working on this issue.

“I think [God] wants captives free,” Cochran said. “To be a part of that is humbling. I think that as we work together as a community, each person or group or organization doing their part, at the very least we can make it highly uncomfortable for trafficking to exist in Jackson.”



Cochran was not the only one looking at buildings for potential rescue homes. When the anti-human trafficking movement at Spring Arbor Free Methodist Church (SAFMC) called Set Free started to hone their sights on certain areas to tackle, the leader, Amber McKee, thought they were going to open a home for survivors. In fact, she was already searching for buildings.

Graphic by Kayla Williamson.

But before she could go any further, a community assessment of Jackson’s needs closed that door of helping survivors and opened it to working with kids most vulnerable to recruitment into human trafficking.

A year ago, when someone asked what Set Free did, the answer would take 10 minutes. Now they have decided to focus on a specific issue within human trafficking. A study of “The Just Church” by Jim Martin said the place where a church can have the most impact on justice work is where God’s will, gifts and talents of the group and a community’s need come together. So they held a community survey. With the help of Spring Arbor University (SAU) alumni Deja Williams, the group contacted schools, law enforcement, churches, nonprofits, government organizations and more to try and identify the gap in the community they could fill.

That gap was with vulnerable youth and teens. A study by the Polaris Project found the most common vulnerabilities in potential victims of human trafficking. Some of those vulnerabilities include kids in the foster care system, juvenile justice system or victims of abuse and neglect. Williams found that 35 percent of youth in Jackson have confirmed cases of neglect or abuse. Twenty-five percent live in poverty.

Out of that research came the idea of the Brave event. Originally sponsored by the Salvation Army in California, Brave events reach and empower teen girls in the foster care system.

“Brave is an opportunity for us to intersect with youth that are hurt and have been neglected,” McKee said, “to come into their life and tell them they are worthy. They’re created in God’s image.”

But they are not only focused on girls. Post-event, the Set Free movement is starting a mentorship program between its members and teens in the Michigan Youth Opportunities Initiative (MYOI). It is a group of foster teens that meet every other week and are trained in “leadership, media and communication skills, including how to strategically share their story and present on panels” according to MYOI’s website.

By starting this new program, McKee hopes the Set Free Movement will help prevent youth from entering human trafficking in the first place. Through partnerships with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, Salvation Army, public schools and more, the Set Free Movement has been able to raise awareness and educate students and other members of the community about the risk and vulnerability of those in human trafficking.

“There’s going to church and doing church things, and then there’s being the Church,” McKee said. “We’re outside of the boundaries of the church building, and we’re actually in community. It really feels like being the Church that God wants us to be.”



With a human trafficking conference at SAU, multiple programs and organizations addressing the issue and a dedicated task force connecting individuals from all of those groups, one would think Jackson County is riddled with brothels, girls on street corners and pimps ready to exploit anyone vulnerable.

Yet Jackson County has not prosecuted a single human trafficking case.

According to Jackson County’s Attorney Prosecutor Jerry Jarzynka, building a case against human trafficking requires resources local law enforcement does not have. It is a challenge to gather enough time and resources to build a case against human trafficking or enough officers to mount a surveillance operation.

That is why the county depends on community groups like SOAR, Set Free and others to start the movement. With the support of the Jackson County Human Trafficking Task Force, which connects the people fighting human trafficking in Spring Arbor and Jackson, the community is able to see, support, and fight together to help Jackson become “a community known for freedom,” as Cochran puts it.

The more diverse the backgrounds and talents of the task force, the better. A couple of FBI agents attended the last task force meeting, and Jarzynka sees the potential to start the offensive.

“With FBI agents who just attended our recent task force meeting, we are involved with discussions trying to organize a co-op effort with FBI and local law enforcement,” Jarzynka said. “So that’s encouraging. You need to do that if you want to be able to put a case together.”

Enforcing human trafficking laws by local government is also a challenge because of a lack of training and education, Jarzynka said. The laws are also so new that nobody knows about them.

Associate professor of sociology Jeremy Norwood agrees. He also sees a discrimination and corruption within the criminal justice system that prohibits the full enforcement of laws against human trafficking.

“Prostitutes are seen as perpetrators and not victims. Immigrant farm workers are seen as aliens rather than victims, and are revictimized by the system,” Norwood said.

The United States and other Westernized countries compared to the rest of the world have polarized views on this modern day slavery, Norwood said. Western countries think human trafficking is bad but are ignorant to its presence in their backyard. Other parts of the world see it as normal due to weak criminal justice systems and lack of resources.

That is why awareness and education are some of the first steps to fighting human trafficking. The Set Free Movement, Northwest High School’s Code Orange and counseling services like Flourish have those covered. Set Free is working on preventing vulnerable youth from entering the it. SOAR is the pathway to restoration. And the Jackson County Prosecuting Attorney’s office and task force work with the legal side.

“It’s really quite beautiful to watch the community come together to do something about this issue because it’s just so vial,” Cochran said.

It takes a village to work together to fight slavery in one small part of the United States. But that does not mean the fight starts and ends here. All of these groups would not be where they are today without partnering with each other and connecting with others in the community to share stories, experiences and resources.

SAU students play online game for a chance to win scholarship money

By Crisilee DeBacker

Don’t try to contact Will Sanders, Andrew Depoy or Canyon Smith on Tuesday nights at 10 p.m., because they will be working hard to win $5,000 in scholarship money. How? A not-so-little online game called “Hearthstone.”

Based on the hit game, “World of Warcraft,” it is an online fantasy card game with minions, spells and heroes.

“You have a hero that has thirty health and your opponent has a hero…and the first one to get their opponent’s [hero] down to zero wins the game,” Sanders said, describing the basic premise of the game. Depoy and Smith were familiar with the game, having played it before, so when Sanders approached them with a proposition of them teaming up for the Hearthstone Championship Tour, they agreed.

A screenshot from the game. Photo provided by

The basic guidelines of the tournament are as follows: there must be three people per team, and teams are randomly matched to play against each other once a week for a span of seven weeks. The teams that accumulate a minimum of five wins and two losses by the end of the seven weeks will move on to the regional playoffs, around 15 teams of the original 300, and the top teams of playoffs in each region (North, South, East, or West) will be given the opportunity to play in the finals, traveling to a yet-to-be-determined location—most likely California, since that is where the finals were held last year.

Now, five weeks in to the seven-week tournament, they have a record of four wins and one loss. They have already played matches against Purdue and Michigan that seven to eight thousand people tuned in to watch over the livestream.

“I had no idea it was this big of a tournament,” Depoy said. Although playing for thousands of people seems like it would put the pressure on, Sanders, Depoy and Smith have not let it get to them yet.

“It feels the same, but we have a webcam shot onto us,” Sanders said. “You’re just thinking about, ‘oh, the whole time they’re just talking about how bad some of our plays are,’” he said regarding the commentators of the streamed matches.

They have two more matches left, and if they win one, they will officially move forward in the tournament. Although this is an online game, there is still a lot of ways to prepare.

“Deck building is super important,” Sanders said. Each team brings four decks and is able to choose what cards are in each deck. Once a team wins with one deck, that deck cannot be used again.

“If you have one bad deck, that holds everything back,” Sanders said. “There’s a lot of…strategizing that goes into that.”

When deck building, the team has to take into account what they think their opponents will bring, so they want to pick cards that are hard to beat. It is more of a strategy game than anything else, so preparation is an important factor.

The grand prize of the tournament is $5,000 in scholarship money per team member, but there are smaller cash prizes for the other finalists, the last being $500 for eighth place.

“Going to California for free and getting five hundred bucks doesn’t sound too bad,” Depoy said.