Friday, Jan. 10, 2020
Tifton, Georgia
Tifton native Latonya Young, right, at her GSU graduation in December with Kevin Esch, who paid Young's student debt allowing her to get her associate's degree.
Tifton Grapevine
Tifton native Latonya Young, 43, a single mother of three boys living in  Atlanta, recently graduated from Perimeter College at Georgia State University with help from an Uber passenger.

Young, a hairstylist and Uber driver, picked up Kevin Esch, 44, outside of  Mercedes-Benz Stadium in May 2018. A few days after a 20-minute car ride and conversation about their respective backgrounds, Young was stunned to find that Esch had paid her $693 college debt so the Tifton native could return to school.

“I was literally blown away. A stranger has never done that, or done anything like that, for me,” Young said. “I maintained my grades, As and Bs, just trying to make sure he knows I appreciate him,” she told CNN.

Young had dropped out of Tift County High School at the age of 16 when she became pregnant. She later got her GED and subsequently enrolled in college but was unable to continue when a financial hold was placed on her because of the $693 debt. She said she had difficulty paying it because of caring for her children.

In December, Young graduated with an associate's degree in criminal justice. Esch showed up at the ceremony. Young told the Tifton Grapevine that she and Esch now communicate "every day."

Since her graduation, Young's story has gone viral, being picked up by news outlets worldwide. She has been interviewed by ABC-TVs "Good Morning America" and has been featured online in People magazine, among many others.

"Oh my God, I'm still getting calls," Young the Tifton Grapevine on Thursday. "I'm flying next week to California for a TV show," she said. "I can't say what show but it's a big show."

Young added that her mother and many relatives still live in Tifton. "I just love my hometown," she said.

Young is continuing her education at Georgia State, working on her bachelor's degree and possibly going into law. But she said she is primarily focused on " taking care of my kids" and helping them advance in life.

"I do intend to be a speaker, to reach out to youth – especially those who had a similar experience in life," she said. "I would love to tell people about my story to inspire other people."
On Thursday , which was National Law Enforcement Appreciation Day , newly appointed Tifton Police Chief Steve Hyman was honored at a ceremony during which he was officially "pinned" as police chief, receiving his chief's bars .

Hyman , a 36-year veteran of the Tifton Police Department, was named chief on Dec. 17 following the retirement of ChIef Buddy Dowdy .
The Ga. Department of Transportation (GDOT) announced Thursday that the U.S. Highway 82/State Route 520/Fifth Street rail crossing in Tifton will be out of service for two days next week .

This crossing , near Commerce Way , is scheduled to close for maintenance , requiring a detour for non-local traffic

The crossing is scheduled to close at 9 a.m. Jan. 14 and reopen Jan. 16 . The dates are subject to change based on the rail company's schedule and the weather.

Non-local traffic on Highway 82 approaching from the east will turn north on U.S. 41/SR 7 (running common with Main Street, Love Avenue and 12th Street ) to the Interstate 75 Exit 64 interchange.
Traffic will travel south on I-75 to the Exit 62 interchange. The pattern will be reversed for Highway 82 traffic approaching from the west . Detour signs will be posted, GDOT said.
Tifton native and physical therapist Melanie Peavy recently provided a lecture , “Therapy Considerations for the Golfing Athlete,” at Grand Rounds at Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Fla.

The lecture was videoconferenced throughout the entire Mayo Clinic enterprise , including Arizona and Rochester campuses. 

Peavy was formerly director of the Spine Therapy Center for Tift Regional Medical Center and is currently the spine therapist for the Mayo Clinic Spine Center . She treats patients from around the world who come to the Spine Center.

The Mayo Clinic Spine Center is a multidisciplinary center encompassing the departments of physical medicine and rehabilitation, pain medicine and neurosurgery.

Peavy received her academic appointment in 2019 as physical therapy instructor for the Mayo Clinic Alix College of Medicine . She received her Level 1 and Level 2 medical certifications through the Titleist Performance Institute , considered to be the gold standard for golf assessment and performance for PGA Tour professionals.

She is currently working with Mayo physicians and administrators to develop a formal golf assessment and performance program for the Florida campus. Since joining the organization in 2017 , she has been named “Above and Beyond” employee numerous times and has received recognition for excellence in patient care from Mayo President & CEO Gianrico Farrugia .
Downtown Tifton
Local residents can get a head start on spring gardening through the ninth annual Plant and Seed Swap on Jan. 25 hosted by the Wiregrass Farmers Market at the Georgia Museum of Agriculture

The event in the museum lobby will be from 10 a.m.-noon.

Participants may bring plants or seeds to share or may just attend to find a few new things to try in the yard or garden. No money is exchanged ; this swap is an outreach event by the Wiregrass Farmers Market.

While attending the swap, gardeners will have a chance to visit the newest gallery exhibit , “Rust and Recreation.” The opening reception begins at 10 a.m. that day and features refreshments and an opportunity to meet artist Dave Clegg .
Tifton Grapevine
Tift County Schools Superintendent Adam Hathaway shared with the Tifton Rotary Club on Wednesday that his goals are twofold: Every child reading on grade level by third grade and every kid graduating

“Without a high school diploma , there are so many doors that are shut to kids that they don’t have a chance,” he said.

The graduation goal includes making students earn their diplomas.

Reading on grade level is a high achievement goa l, “but If we’re not trying to do that, then we will never do that,” he said.

Hope is not a plan . You have to make it happen. It is scary. Making sure that we talk to our teachers and our community, and they understand our goal, I feel certain that we will reach it.”

Hathaway’s son is a senior and his daughter is in eighth grade in Tift County schools .
“I want to make sure schools are safe for her and for your kids. They need to feel safe where they are.”

He also said relationships are the core work of education : “We need to teach kids how to get along.”

Hathaway emphasized the importance of reading to children at home at a young age , filling in the gap between birth and Pre-K.

“If you don’t work on the root , you won’t get better fruit ,” the superintendent said.
Tift County Schools is hosting a parent workshop at 6 p.m. Monday, Jan. 27, at Northeast Middle School . Topics include bullying, cyber-bullying, depression, stress, child exploitation and computer crimes. Parents of all age students may attend.

Speakers include Jonathan Judy on cyber-bullying , Michele Walker on bullying, depression and stress , and Lindsay Marchant with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation speaking on child exploitation and computer crimes.
Auditions for the Baldwin Players upcoming musical, “The Spitfire Grill,” will be held Jan. 21-22 at 6:30 p.m. each night in Room 319 of Conger Hall at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College.

Dr. Brian Ray , director of the Baldwin Players and a professor of English and theatre, said those who audition should prepare one verse of a country song or one verse of a traditional church hymn to be performed acapella or with recorded accompaniment.

There will also be a cold read of selected passages from the script . Copies of the script will be available at the audition .

Ray said the auditions are open to anyone . Parts are available for four women and three men . “The Spitfire Grill” will be staged March 26-28 in ABAC’s Howard Auditorium .

“This spirited musical is based on the Lee David Zlotoff movie of the same title,” Ray said. “In the play, a young woman recently paroled from prison seeks to find a quiet town where she can start over . She finds such a place in northern Wisconsin and begins her journey to self-understanding. Along the way, she encounters some quirky townsfolk and a job at a down-on-its-luck eatery , The Spitfire Grill. It’s the only restaurant in town and home to some small-town secrets .”
These two friendly fellows are available for adoption or rescue.

Visit them at the Tift County Animal Shelter, 1-6 p.m., Mondays-Fridays, 
at 278 Ga. Highway 125 South in Tifton.


  • Tift County High Blue Devils basketball vs. Camden High, 6 p.m., TCHS gym, Tifton


  • Songfarmers of Tifton, 3:30 p.m., Rehabilitation Center of South Georgia, Tifton
  • "Postcards from Nowhere" painting exhibit opening reception, 5-7 p.m., Plough Gallery, Tifton
  • Tift County High Blue Devils basketball @ Colquitt County High, 6 p.m., Moultrie
  • Jimmy Fortune in concert, 7 p.m., Grand Theatre, Fitzgerald
JAN. 2
Jack Kenneth Moore, 88, Fitzgerald

JAN. 3
Sandra Jane Griffin, 55, Ocilla
Ret. Chief Master Sgt. James Jesse Fisher, 75, Fitzgerald
Scott W. “Skip” Garner, 42, Fitzgerald
George Otto Doss Jr., 92, Thomasville

JAN. 4
Betty Howell Castagna, 90, Tifton
Hal King, 84, Sparks

JAN. 5
Kimberly Leann Hill, 22, Tifton
Linda Epperson Stanford, 79, Omega
Ruth Beard Youngblood, 97, Ashburn
Deborah Welch Park, 62, Cordele  
Daniel Henry Graham, 76, Adel

JAN. 6
LaNelle Kimbro Parr, 88, Sylvester
Harold William Joiner, 73, Nashville
Michael E. “Mike” Hendley Sr. 65, Ocilla
Leroy Collier, 71, Lenox

JAN. 7
Ferol Eva Spinks Cosper, 103, Tifton
Linton S. Smith, Winder
Elizabeth Craig, 60, Quitman
Marjorie Hardy Brooks, 88, Conway, Ark.

JAN. 8
JD “Buddy” Peters, 88, Ochlocknee
Shirley Allen Underwood, 79, Chula
JAN. 9
John Joseph Mihalek, 68, Chula
Charles Edward Roberson Sr., 92, Fitzgerald
Samuel "Zack" Martin, 81, Barwick
Tifton Grapevine
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