The 28th Annual Walk for Awareness was the kickoff event for our annual campus safety week. This year’s Walk began inside due to anticipated poor weather. Several hundred faculty, staff and students attended the event that took place in the Schaefer Center. The Walk is a reminder to our community of the tragic events that took place in 1989. Jeni Gray, an Appalachian employee and alumna, was abducted, sexually assaulted and murdered. Leigh Cooper Wallace, an Appalachian student athlete, was abducted and sexually assaulted by the same man and was able to get away. In 1990, Barbara Daye, Dean of Students emeritus, organized the first walk and many thereafter. Leigh Cooper Wallace spoke at the Walk for the first ten years. Leigh later came back and spoke at the 20th Walk. Her son, Jacob, returned and read that same speech the year following Leigh’s passing due to health complications. Leigh’s message resonates in all of our Walks and is still relevant today that ‘we are stronger than we think’.
This year, Claude Cooper, Leigh Cooper Wallace’s father spoke at the Why Walk event, prior to the Walk. He shared with students details about the 1989 incident and what life was like for his family afterwards. He also discussed how he and Leigh wrote the book Rising Strong together.
Several members and organizations from the Division of Student Affairs made this event possible. Plemmons Scholars were our guides and student acapella groups Enharmonix and Ear Candy provided thoughtfully performed music. JJ Brown introduced the event and our first speaker Dr. Willie Fleming. Dr. Fleming is currently the University’s Chief Diversity Officer; years prior to this role, he was part of the Division of Student Affairs as Advisor for Minority Students. In this role, he started the Gospel Choir and the Black Student Association. Ellen Grulke, our IPV Response and Prevention Coordinator, concluded the event by sharing information about campus resources.
The Health, Wellness and Safety Festival (formally called the Safety Festival) followed the day after the Walk for Awareness. JJ Brown started this event in 2012. The festival brings several members of our local and campus community together on Sanford Mall with the emphasis on student health, wellness and safety. Participants include: University Police, Emergency Management, Boone PD, Watauga County Sheriff’s Office, Boone Fire Department, OASIS, members of App State’s C.A.R.E. Team, Office of Student Conduct, Wellness and Prevention, Health Services, Counseling Center, UREC, and many others. Representatives have tents that students can visit and learn more about resources. Students receive a free t-shirt for participating. Due to rain this year, we have many t-shirts left if you would like to come by and get one from the Office of the Dean of Students.