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Resolutions against violence bring new twist to annual walk

Beth Bliss, News Editor

Personal resolutions and a positive musical message brought a new twist to the eighth annual Walk for Awareness, held Sept. 2 on the Appalachian State University campus and in the town of Boone.

Begun as a tribute to the 1989 murder of Appalachian student Jeni Gray and the abduction of fellow student Leigh Cooper Wallace, the walk is viewed by many students as an opportunity to raise awareness of violence against women, both on and off campus.

The atmosphere surrounding the Walk for Awareness was an optimistic one. As described by Chancellor Francis T. Borkowski, who addressed the crowd gathered outside B.B. Dougherty Administration Building before the Walk, "(This) is a night of symbolism—(symbolic) not only of life taken from us, but also of what our society has become."

Borkowski encouraged students and faculty to use the evening as an opportunity not only to remember Gray, but also to "make a resolution that all of us will be vigilant, will reach out, will care...to enhance our learning environment."

The chancellor's comments were echoed by North Carolina senator Virginia Foxx and Board of Trustees member Marva MacKinnon, both of whom addressed the need for awareness of simple acts of violence and cruelty.

Foxx said people should be aware of harm that can result from offensive comments and jokes. "We have to start at that level," she said. "It may sound trivial, but our language is important."

Following tradition, the Walk's route wound through the Appalachian campus and extended into the Boone community. Traffic on King Street was temporarily blocked and many drivers called out to students, asking why they were walking.

The procession ended at the Jones House Community Center on King Street, where students were given candles and their own resolution sheets. Representatives from the Appalachian student body read their own resolutions for safety and awareness.

Leigh Cooper Wallace also addressed the gathering of students and faculty. Wallace's speech paralleled the theme of the evening, as she explained to the crowd the "new level of existence" she reached following her abduction and attack. Wallace encouraged other victims to resolve to "let go of the daily memories. Return to next year's Walk not as a victim, but as a survivor."

The evening ended with a song from the Black Student Association Gospel Choir. Walk participants were encouraged to join the choir's a cappella rendition of "Never Turning Back."

As they left, participants were given white ribbons to wear to promote violence awareness.

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