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Bridging generations: Churchill study offers lifetime messages

THE DAILY LEADER / JUSTIN VICORY / Copiah-Lincoln Community College President Dr. Ronnie Nettles acknowledges the accomplishments of the Centurion History Club at a press conference Friday while Brett Howard and Co-Lin Foundation Executive Director David Campbell display a check for a contribution from the club's recent fund drive.

THE DAILY LEADER / JUSTIN VICORY / Copiah-Lincoln Community College President Dr. Ronnie Nettles acknowledges the accomplishments of the Centurion History Club at a press conference Friday while Brett Howard and Co-Lin Foundation Executive Director David Campbell display a check for a contribution from the club’s recent fund drive.

The month of all things Winston Churchill has come to an end at Copiah-Lincoln Community College, and students lucky enough to have participated in the history-related events came away with lessons of character that last a lifetime.

Throughout the entire month of March and for a week into April, Co-Lin Instructor Brett Shufelt and students in the Centurion History Club have entertained Churchill experts at the college and beyond, raised thousands of dollars for a Churchill-related drive and even traveled to New Orleans for an overnight Churchill conference.

Last Friday, Co-Lin officials, Shufelt and students reflected on what they had learned, imparting characteristics and traits of Churchill that could be internalized to their own lives.

“The students here are interested in different things. Some want to go on and study history. Some want to go into politics, and others are interested in business. Whatever it is, students found a way to relate to Churchill because he did a little bit of all these professions during his life,” Shufelt said.

Alex Berry presents this year's Centurion History Club fund drive winner, Patsy Berch of Hazlehurst, with her prize, "Hawk on the Wing," created by longtime artist Robert "Shoofly" Shufelt. Berry is Berch's grandson.

Alex Berry presents this year’s Centurion History Club fund drive winner, Patsy Berch of Hazlehurst, with her prize, “Hawk on the Wing,” created by longtime artist Robert “Shoofly” Shufelt. Berry is Berch’s grandson.

Churchill is widely regarded as one of the greatest wartime leaders of the 20th century. In 1953, Churchill won the Noble Prize “for his master of historical and biographical description as well as for brilliant oratory in defending exalted human values,” according to the Nobel Foundation. The title of the conference in New Orleans alluded to these two facts: “Fighting and Writing.”

“His work ethic, resilience and ability to bring cold, uncomfortable facts to the public consciousness are just some of the factors that made Churchill an amazing man,” said J. Gregg Collins of the Churchill Society of New Orleans on a conference call. “Churchill was also a wordsmith. He wrote all his speeches. And what people of the time often say is he was a leader that told the truth,” Collins said.

June will mark the 70th anniversary of the D-Day Invasion, titled Operation Overlord, and some of Shufelt’s students’ relatives can recall living in the Churchill days, a factor that connects one generation to the next.

“I have talked about Churchill with my grandmother. She remembers those days pretty clearly. It’s a direct connection to the history we are studying,” said Jason Scafidel.

Despite the accomplishments, some of Churchill’s most valued characteristics stem from the struggles he faced, and overcame throughout his life. These are some of the things the Co-Lin students identified with the most.

“The thing I like the most about Churchill, when I apply him to my own life is that he wasn’t perfect. He was imperfect … yet he continued on despite failure at times,” said club member Alex Barry. “I find this inspiring to me. To get back up if you fall down.”

Other lessons were more down to earth, noted club President-elect Lyndy Berryhill. “One of the things that came across to me, and I picked up from the conference participants, is to make the best of your situation wherever you are, or whatever time you may live in. This is one of the things that has made being a student of Shufelt’s so meaningful.”

Centurion Club President Diquan Payton mentioned the ability to network with other students and prominent historians as an added benefit of the conference.

“This was a chance to meet with people who don’t just care about Churchill. They care about each other, and showed us great respect. It was an honor to be part of. I felt like I met a lot of other students and distinguished, successful professionals that I will come into contact with in the future,” said Centurion Club President Diquan Payton.

In other recent club activity, Patsy Berch won this year’s fundraising drive prize, an original piece of museum-framed art created by longtime artist Robert “Shoofly” Shufelt, who is and Instructor Shufelt’s father.

In total, Shufelt and club members were able to raise $5,104.14 during the drive. This raises the Centurion History Scholarship to a two-year total of $12,037.72. All the money raised goes to the Co-Lin Foundation, Shufelt noted. This money, in turn, will be used to bring in guest speakers and for future field trips.

Next year, the club will be inducted into the Co-Lin Foundation Hall of Fame, Co-Lin President Dr. Ronnie Nettles noted. “This is quite an achievement, especially given the fact the club has only been around for a few years,” Nettles said.

Seventeen of Shufelt’s students attended the New Orleans conference.

“It’s all about the students. They did a remarkable job getting the word out and sharing their interest in history with others. I’m proud of how they represented the college,” Shufelt said.