by Madison Fisler Lewis
Aug. 29, 2014. In 1989, The Appalachian State University Community started the Walk for Awareness event. The Walk came to be after university employee Jeni Gray was abducted, sexually assaulted and murdered, and Appalachian Alumna Leigh Cooper Wallace survived an assault by the same man and later helped to bring him to justice.
Wallace was a coach, athlete and teacher at Watauga High School after graduating from Appalachian State University with a degree in exercise science in 1992. During her time at ASU, Wallace participated in the track and cross country teams. After serving for years as a steadfast symbol of hope and strength in the community, she passed away in 2012 at the age of 43.
The Walk for Awareness, which serves as a reminder to the campus and community members about the importance of personal safety while at the same time commemorating lives lost to violence and supporting victims and survivors, will begin on Sanford Mall at ASU and will finish up at the Holmes Convocation Center. A special presentation of the program, “Why Walk – A Survivor’s Story” will be held in Belk Library and Information Commons.
Guest speakers for this year’s event will include Chancellor Sheri N. Everts. Associate Vice Chancellor for Diversity Bindu Jayne, former Dean of Students Barbara Daye and more. Also featured at the event will be a special performance by Melissa Reeves.
“We are having Barbara Daye, who created the Walk for Awareness when she was trying to heal the community from this devastating crime,” said Suzette Patterson, who coordinates the event.
“She will be introducing the new chancellor and talking about why she created the Walk for Awareness when she was Dean of Students at the time. We are going to be acknowledging the 25th anniversary and talking about the history of the walk. We have the new chancellor speaking about her vision of Appalachian in the future in terms of a violence free community.Then, Bindu Jayne, our new Associate Vice Chancellor for Equity, Diversity and Compliance will be speaking about the different resources we have.”
The Walk for Awareness event will be the keystone in a week full of events known as Safety Week at Appalachian. Taking place Sept. 2-6, Safety Week will include a host of events to encourage and inform students and community members about on- and off-campus safety.
The theme of this year’s Safety Week is “It’s Up to Me,” which reflects the institution’s campaign to educate students, faculty and staff about personal safety. It also reflects the policy of the university to ask that members of the school community speak out when they witness unsafe behavior.
“This year we are giving out silicone bracelets that are zip drives,” Patterson said. “We are also giving out red and silver ribbons to commemorate the 25th anniversary. The silver is for the 25th anniversary and the red is for the Red Flag.”
Even 25 years after the creation of the walk, Patterson says that it is still very relevant today.
“It is still relevant for several reasons,” Patterson said. “The two women who were affected by the original crime, there are people in this community that knew them and loved them. We want to be respectful of those people. Also, interpersonal violence is something that continues to be an issue. The walk for awareness is one of our events where we have an opportunity to talk to incoming students and let them know about our expectations about behavior on campus. We also want them to know what resources are available.”
From a press release:
Representatives from campus, town and county agencies will provide information about fire, food, bike, Internet and personal safety, along with other topics. Just look for the tents set up on Sanford Mall.
Students can win prizes donated by area businesses and campus organizations by completing a safety bingo card that can be validated by visiting the information tents located on Sanford Mall.
Ongoing campus safety initiatives were released in a statement from ASU, and include:
- Appalachian Cares (www.AppCares.Appstate.edu)
- Mountaineer Safe Ride (www.parking.appstate.edu)
- AppState-Alert (www.em.emergency.appstate.edu)
- Red Flag Campaign (www.RegFlag.Appstate.edu)
- RAD (www.police.appstate.edu)