ECU graduate to use grant to fund Project Opera Camp

Brenton O’Hara, left, and Kate McKinney (Submitted photo)

Brenton O’Hara, left, and Kate McKinney (Submitted photo)

A recent ECU music graduate will use a $20,000 prize from the University of South Carolina to fund a non-profit that will introduce opera to disadvantaged children.

Brenton O’Hara, who graduated in 2013 and who is now enrolled in the master’s degree in opera theater program at USC, was half of a team that won the Maxient Social Impact prize. The prize was one of several awarded on Nov. 18 as part of USC’s annual Proving Ground entrepreneurial competition. Working on the project with O’Hara was his girlfriend, recent USC music graduate Kate McKinney.

O’Hara and McKinney will use the money to support a non-profit organization they founded, Project Opera Camp, which seeks to promote life skills among underserved children through the arts. O’Hara said the camp will accommodate about 40 elementary and middle school-age children from Charleston, South Carolina and will run the first two weeks of June. In September, the organization will offer after-school arts programs in Charleston schools.

O’Hara said campers will be nominated by teachers at schools with a high percentage of students who qualify for free or reduced-price lunch.

Using opera as a vehicle to teach life skills, classes will include skills not typically taught in the classroom like wellness and yoga, leadership seminars and team-building exercises. The camp will culminate with performances of a children’s opera that will demonstrate participants’ self-esteem and allow them to express themselves in an artistic way, O’Hara said.

O’Hara said the couple chose Charleston as the site of the camp because they developed ties to the arts community there after volunteering at last year’s Spoleto Festival.

O’Hara is a native of Pinehurst. While at ECU, he was president of the Student Forum for Musical Organizations.

– Steve Tuttle

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Named to high school hall of fame

Tynita Butts (Photo courtesy of Alexandria News)

Tynita Butts (Photo courtesy of Alexandria News)

Tynita Butts, the record-setting high jumper on ECU’s track and field team who won the Penn Relays twice and was named an NCAA All-American six times, was inducted into her high school’s sports hall of fame. The ceremony was held Dec. 8 at T.C. Williams High School in her hometown of Alexandria, Virginia.

Butts graduated last May with a degree in sociology and a concentration in marriage and family relations. She is working at an athletic clothing retailer in Washington, D.C., while pursuing professional sports.

She tied for second in the high jump at the NCAA track and field championships in Eugene, Ore., last June. That’s the highest-ever finish by an ECU athlete at the NCAA nationals. She finished her ECU career as the school record holder in both the high jump (1.91-meters) and long jump (6.22-meters). She qualified for the NCAA Championships every year in which she competed at the collegiate level.

During her high school career she was a two-time Virginia state champion and two-time Penn Relays champion in the jumping events. She was honored as The Washington Post’s Track and Field Athlete of the Year as well as Gatorade Athlete of the Year.

Ranked first in the nation in the high jump and second in the long jump her last season as a Pirate, Butts recorded four first-place finishes in the high jump and won the event at the 2014 Conference USA Outdoor Championships.

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ECU grad student lecturing at Sylvan Heights Bird Park

ECU biology graduate student Dustin Foote, assistant curator at Sylvan Heights Bird Park in Scotland Neck, will present a series of educational lectures monthly through 2015.

Foote is a graduate of Cornell University pursuing a master’s in biology from ECU. He has held internships at the San Diego Zoo and Emerald Forest Bird Gardens and served one year in an assistantship at Sylvan Heights before assuming the role of assistant curator.

For additional information, visit http://shwpark.com/.

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ECU student awarded scholarship for international conference

ECU master of social work student Jennifer Roofner won the Christian Hartline Scholarship to attend the International Eating Disorder Professionals 2015 Symposium in Phoenix, Arizona.

Roofner

Roofner

The scholarship pays for conference registration and Roofner will be presented a $1,000 check at a banquet set for March 19.

Roofner said she was excited to represent ECU at the international conference. “My ECU education and the professors I have had…have not only inspired me beyond my personal expectations, but also they have encouraged me to follow my passions,” she said.

“They have guided me to become a self-confident woman to apply for such scholarships and be fearless in doing so.”

Roofner is pursuing a masters of social work with a concentration on eating disorders.

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Polar Bear Plunge set for Jan. 22

Jumpers from the 2014 Polar Bear Plunge prepare to take a dip in the icy waters of the outdoor pool at ECU's Student Recreation Center.

Jumpers at the 2014 Polar Bear Plunge prepare to take a dip in the icy waters of the outdoor pool at ECU’s Student Recreation Center.

The 19th Annual Polar Bear Plunge will be held at the Student Recreation Center at 7 p.m. Jan. 22. Registration begins at 6:30 p.m. and at 7 p.m., ECU students, faculty and staff will take the plunge into the icy waters of the outdoor swimming pool.

This event began in 1997 with only 35 participants, as a part of the grand opening week for the Student Recreation Center. For the past three years, jumpers have numbered more than 1,000 each year.

The first event started with only 35 participants and has had over 1,000 participants for the last three years.

Swimsuits are required and participants should bring their own towel. T-Shirts are guaranteed for the first 1,100 jumpers.

For additional information, contact Campus Recreation & Wellness at 252-328-6387 or visit http://www.ecu.edu/cs-studentaffairs/crw/programs/special_events/polarbear-plunge.cfm.

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