Highlanders in the News: Week of Feb. 13

Every week, our Highlanders are using their education to do extraordinary things. Here, we’ll highlight some notable mentions from local, regional, national and international news media. Whether our students, alumni, faculty and staff are featured as subject matter experts in high-profile stories or simply helping make the world a better place, we’ll feature their stories.

Cameron “Cam” Jones ‘16

“A superstar, a gentle giant”

Earlier this month, Radford Highlanders men’s basketball marked the loss of one of its more celebrated figures with the passing of former guard Cameron “Cam” Jones ‘16.

Jones, 29, died early Feb. 4 after a two-vehicle collision on Interstate 95 in Hanover County, Virginia. The other driver was hospitalized, but state police reported those injuries as non-life threatening. The cause of the wreck is still being investigated.

Jones’ life, though all too brief, formed a chain with numerous links as he passed from up-and-coming high school ball player at Roanoke’s Patrick Henry High, to a college student cultivating his academic discipline, to a transfer arrival at Radford (where his career 3-point field goal percentage of 40.3 places him third in the school’s history for that category), to post-graduate stints playing ball in Denmark and the Czech Republic, and on into his work as an educator of promise.

A Feb. 7 news obituary for Jones by The Roanoke Times’ sportswriter Mark Berman offers an in-depth look at Jones’ biography, as well as thoughts from friends and family who knew him best, including his mother and brother, both of whom described him as “my best friend.”  

One of the most touching passages in the article is a section devoted to Jones’ most recent career – teaching sixth-grade English at Elko Middle School in Henrico County while also coaching its boys’ basketball team. Jones’ intertwined occupations gave him valuable currency with his young charges.

“I saw a huge change in my basketball team’s attitude, their grades, as a result of his coaching them,” Elko Middle School principal Herman Mizell told the newspaper. “Many of our kids would come in wanting to be athletes; they forget about the student part. But that’s what Mr. Jones emphasized, student-athlete, because he went to Radford and played basketball. He could share his experiences with the students, and that made the difference.”

Jones’ passing was also covered by such Virginia news outlets as  WSLS TV in Roanoke, Richmond station WRIC and the Huntington Daily Journal.

Mizell told WRIC that Elko students held a moment of silence for Jones last week.

“It’s just unfortunate,” the principal added. “But I feel like I hired a superstar, a gentle giant.” 

Chakita Patterson, M.S.W. ’15 (United Street Tours)

Grand tour

A socially conscious walking tour through Nashville, Tennessee – which was put on pause by the pandemic – is starting back up again, a move that coincides with Black History Month.

The Civil Rights Tour of Nashville, presented by United Street Tours, is the brainchild of Chakita Patterson, M.S.W. ’15. A former high school official, Patterson said in 2021 that she started the tour as a way to inspire her students.

In a Feb. 3 story on the Pride Publishing Group website, she talks about the efforts to bring back the 90-minute trek and some of the history it covers.

“We hope you will walk away with a stronger understanding of how social justice movements of the past have shaped our experiences today,” the Memphis-born Patterson said in the article. “Bridges can be built through education and mended through communication.”

For more information about the Nashville walk and tours in other parts of Tennessee and Georgia, visit United Street Tours’ website

Egan Green, Ph.D.

Defining collective efficacy

Butte, Montana, is roughly 2,100 miles from Radford, but one of the school’s experts, a department chair, recently offered insight for an article about an issue that has long vexed the fifth-largest city in the Treasure State.

On Feb. 4, a story in the Montana Standard reviewed a nearly decade-old municipal problem: Abandoned houses – as well as the crime, decay and opportunism empty homes can attract – and who’s responsible for resolving the mess. The owners? County officials? Law enforcement?

At 2,173 words, it’s a lengthy piece that examines not just property rights and ordinances but also specific residential complaints and county officials’ attempts to respond.

Reporters for the Standard consulted Egan Green, Ph.D., chair of Radford’s Department of Criminal Justice, who confirmed that “neighborhoods with dilapidated and abandoned houses can be a draw for people with ill intent.”

A part of town that shows signs of neglect “sends signals to criminals that this is a place no one cares about,” Green told them, and added that law enforcement on its own “can’t be expected to effectively address what amounts to a larger symptom of social disorganization.”

But a local grassroots group, Citizens United Against Urban Decay, is taking steps toward change. Green said that should be seen as a sign of collective efficacy, or the efforts a neighborhood’s residents are willing to undertake to improve their community.

Those efforts carry on as the situation continues to unfold, drawing drama alongside possible solutions along with, inevitably, more public meetings scheduled in the near future.

Readers can view the full story here.

Feb 17, 2023
Neil Harvey