Lauren Atkinson Rows for a Reason and a Community

Lauren Atkinson, 31, is an entrepreneur and a lover of people.

Originally from New Jersey, Lauren moved down to Nashville to attend college at Belmont University, where she graduated in 2007 with a degree in music business.

Lauren owns a floral design company for weddings and events and is also heavily involved with the Crossfit gym on West End Avenue.

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Judge Sheila Calloway Takes a Different Approach with Juveniles 

Davidson County Juvenile Judge Sheila Calloway, 47, is originally from Louisville, Kentucky.

“I had a tight family growing up. My parents were college educated, so there was never a question about whether I was going to college, but where I was going to go,” she said.

When she was growing up, Sheila’s mom saved everything she did as a child. In the fourth grade, she wrote a paper that said when she grew up she wanted to be a lawyer and help people.

“No one in our family was a lawyer, and I don’t know if I saw one on TV or what but for then on it was a goal of mine,” she said. “At one point, I thought I was going to be an entertainment lawyer because I like to sing but I now I realize that wasn’t for me.”

In 1987, she moved to Nashville to go to college at Vanderbilt University for her undergraduate degree. Once she finished her undergraduate, she loved Nashville so much that she stayed at Vanderbilt for her law degree.

After she finished her law degree in 1994, she started working at the public defender’s office, first in the adult division. Four years later, she noticed an opportunity and an opening in the juvenile division.

Sheila asked the former mayor and her boss at the time, Karl Dean if he would consider letting her go down to the juvenile court. He said sure, and so she started as a public defender in juvenile court.

“The adult criminal system was more crime and punishment, but it was different for juveniles. It became was a true effort to figure out why the juvenile was committing a crime and what could be done to try to rehabilitate. I loved it.”

Sheila said the nature of the job was less adversarial and more like social work, which is something that is near to her heart.

In 2004, she was appointed to be a Juvenile Court Magistrate by Judge Betty Adam Green.

“When she retired early before her term was up I thought, ‘Hey I could be the judge,’” she said. “So when it was time to run for her position I put my name in a hat. There were two of us that ran, and I was fortunate enough to be selected by the voters to be the next Davidson County Juvenile Court Judge.”

a NEW COURT in TOWN

Sheila has been the juvenile judge since September 2014.

“Since then it’s been super busy, and super fun. I’m constantly on the go and being on the bench just about every day,” she said. “I am fortunate in Tennessee that I have the ability to make policies for my court on how things are going to work.”

With a staff of about 125 people, Sheila not only handles business on the bench but she is also an administrator as well.

“I love it and wouldn’t change it for the world, but it’s a lot,” she said. “I’ve had a chance to revamp the way we do our processes to take a more in-depth look on the front end.”

Sheila said previously, the effort was “Band-Aid” work. For instance, she said if a kid came in because he or she stole a car, the court would not necessarily delve into why he or she took the car or what was going on in their circumstance and only give him or her services like taking a taking a class and tell them not to do it again.

“We decided to change that. Whatever child comes in front of us no matter what their issue is, we’re going to figure out the root cause. Once we do that, then we can make some changes on how to proceed further.”

Sheila said the court started an assessment team in early 2015 and said the results she’s seen have been tremendous.

She said, unfortunately, it’s too early in the assessment to have real numbers on recidivism, but said anecdotally her team has seen changes in people and changes in the way that they are cooperating with the court.

“Families really want to work with us,” she said. “Before they saw the court system as the enemy and didn’t want to come down to talk with us. Now, we have more families that are willing to open up and help us figure out what they need.”

Sheila said her favorite thing about working with the law is having the ability to work with people on bettering themselves.

“Everyone should have the same opportunities and abilities to succeed. I was fortunate to have a good hand dealt to me with a supportive family who understood the need for education and good health,” she said. “I just want everyone else to have the same thing. It’s only fair. When others don’t have it, we need to help bring them to that point.”

Sheila said the most difficult times are when she has the ultimate decision on cases when a young person must be charged as an adult because of the severity of the crime and terminating a parent’s right. She said in both cases, they are life-changing events and the youth will never be the same.

NASHVILLE, COMMUNITY, and CONCERNS

 “It’s crazy to see the evolution of the change in Nashville, and it’s exciting to be a part of it.”

Sheila said she’s impressed with the fact that as the city has grown the crime rate, in proportion, has not. She said it makes her job harder to make sure the crime rates don’t rise, but she’s okay with that.

“It’s a good thing,” she said of the steady rates. “It means that we, as a community, are doing well of taking care of one another.”

When Sheila thinks about a community, she thinks about everyone playing their part in the area.

“Everyone from the guy that sleeps under the Woodland Street Bridge to the head of HCA, everyone is a part of the same community. And we all have a responsibility to one another to make it a great community.”

As the juvenile court judge, she said she can positively affect the way our community treats our youth.

“Being a judge doesn’t mean just hearing cases, it means educating the community on the good things and the bad things that our children are going through. It’s my role to make sure we are empowering the community to do a better job of taking care of all of our children,” she said.

Sheila said empowerment comes from education and learning and that people become more empowered when they understand the youth’s minds and what happens once teens grow up, especially the brain science behind it.

“There’s a reason we act crazy when we’re 13 – our brains are not quite developed. It’s the same thing when we’re 16 or 18,” she said.  “When we see a 13-year-old making an impulsive decision, it’s important that we don’t immediately fall to blame or punishment, that we work with that child and help them understand what good decision making is.”

Sheila said students’ recent decision to protest at Antioch High School by walking out of class was well thought out and planned and shows how strong the youth can be.

“We have a good core group of wonderful, intelligent, on-fire youth that are ready to change this world,” she said. “All they need is a little more development, a little more urging and confidence ability and they’re going to do great.”

Sheila said as Nashville continues to grow she has concerns about poverty around the city.

“Money is an issue and poverty is real, and we have a lot of poverty in Nashville. As we continue to grow, the poverty rate and the poverty divide is going to continue. Both contribute to unhealthiness, which can then lead to violence,” she said. “We have to be aware of poverty divides and what that can do as a community for the whole. We have to be cautious that as we grow that we’re giving everyone the ability to grow and have access to affordable housing, health care and a good quality education. It’s a difficult balance.”

Beyond the bench, Sheila said she wants to change the age of majority from 18 to 25 on a national level for all the court systems.

Sheila’s term is up in 2022, and she is more than likely going to run for another term.

“Right now, most courts say anything that you do as way of crime once you’re 18 is considered a crime as an adult. However, the brain science says that your mind is not fully developed until you’re over 25,” she said. “The largest majority of people incarcerated in Tennessee and most states are between 18 and 30 years old. You have a good amount of people 18 to 25 who are not making good decision because they cannot yet, and I don’t think we should be treating them the same way that we treat adults.”

Sheila said incarcerating young people based on impulsive decisions they’re making takes away their ability to work, their housing ability, and their ability to be good citizens.

Sheila spoke at this year’s TEDxNashville event. Be on the look out for the video of her talk at TEDxNashville.com.

Thanks for reading Nashville!

To Create Innovation and Creativity, Dr. David Owens Says Something Has to Stop

Dr. David Owens, 57, was born in Germany and moved to the U.S. to attend Stanford University when he was 18 years old.

“My mom’s German so we spoke German at home. We wore lederhosen and ate bratwurst and sauerkraut,” he said. “I remember being on the plane on way to school and I couldn’t figure out where it was. I didn’t know where San Francisco was compared to Los Angeles. I didn’t really know anything.”

David encountered a great deal of culture shock, which made the transition to the United States difficult.

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Jon Dragonette comes to Nashville for New Inspirations

Professional photographer Jon Dragonette, 37, grew up in a small town in the Adirondack Mountains in upstate New York.

At 22, he moved to San Francisco for six years and then moved to Los Angeles for seven years until coming to Nashville last November.

“I grew up skateboarding, and that’s how I got into photography,” he said. “My mom wanted to be a photographer. I have a twin brother, and she had us when she was super young, so she had to put those dreams aside. When I was 13 or 14, she gave me a little 35 mm camera.”

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Diversity and Creative Drives Éva to the South

Éva Boros, 28, was born in Germany but grew up in Hungary.

In 1992, her father got a job at Ohio State University in the cancer research department. Her mother and her father both moved to the U.S. but decided to keep little Éva with her grandparents in Hungary. At the time, her parents couldn’t speak English and thought she would be more comfortable there.

“I had a great childhood in Hungary, but I missed my parents,” she said. “I was 11 when my family decided it would be okay for me to join them. My dad was transferred to Harbor-UCLA that same year.”

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For Kyle Needham, Community Means Coming Together As One

Kyle Needham, 35, grew up in San Jose and around the Bay Area of California. He moved to Nashville about two and a half years ago when his boss asked him to relocate.

Kyle can’t say he didn’t enjoy growing up in California. He said they had a little bit of everything around as a kid including the beach, the snow, and Disneyland.

“As I child, I loved it,” he said. “I wouldn’t have changed it at all by any means.”

the NASHVILLE MOVE

Before moving to Nashville, Kyle had never had a reason to venture out and live further than about an hour and a half from where he was born.

“An opportunity came up with the company I work for, and I wasn’t married with kids or anything,” he said. “I’ve been working with my boss for about 12 years now, and he asked if I’d like to be his eyes and ears out here for a group he acquired. I said I’d give it a shot, and here I am.”

When Kyle arrived in Nashville, he came in with an open mind.

“Yeah, it’s the music capital, and country music is big, but I didn’t come here with the idea that everyone was in cowboy boots or anything,” he said. “I knew there were a lot of schools so with that I assumed there was a lot of diversity and culture and that’s what I’ve noticed.”

He said Nashville is a lot slower than California, but not in a bad way.

“It was a change of pace. However, Nashville itself seems to be pretty progressive in regards to the perceptions of the South for people who had never been out this way. I never had before moving here. It was a new experience altogether,” he said.

In the Bay Area, he said people seemed more focused on themselves and where they were going. He said everyone seemed to be in a hurry and moved in a big pack together.

“Here people take a little more time. I guess I would say they take the time to appreciate things a bit more and I would say it’s much friendlier. It was almost weird at first, like why is this person talking to me, and what do they want?” he said with a laugh.

On nights and down time, Kyle said his time in Nashville is spent exploring new places and restaurants, checking out the state parks. He said once in a while he also likes to try and mess around on the guitar, but what he loves is drawing.

“It’s something that started as a kid. I think I got that from my grandfather. He was very into art,” he said. “For a while there, I got too busy and wasn’t doing it, but just recently picked it back up and rediscovered my love for it.”

As a career, Kyle is a perioperative blood management specialist.

“Ultimately, my role is to savage blood being lost in a surgery and recover as much as possible to get it back into the patient,” he said. “It’s kind of like a recycling process if you will.”

He said he likes being in the health care industry and being in the hospital. The company he works for is contracted throughout the Nashville area, so he visits multiple hospitals throughout the week.

Out of high school, Kyle was working as a manager of a coffee cart inside the lobby of a hospital.

“I started hearing the stories about the stuff people got to see. Based on hearing all these stories, I realized I had an interest in it,” he said. “I eventually got a job in the operating room, and that’s when I met my boss. He asked if I wanted to come and work for his group and looking back, I’m glad I did.”

Kyle said he likes that he’s out and about and not just in one hospital.

“The cliché thing to say is that it’s very rewarding, but it is. It’s great when you see a case you’re involved in, and things are looking like they’re on the downside, but in the end, they turn up great. It’s a good feeling to walk away with that.”

He said the most challenging thing about his job is that it is not the clinical side that gets difficult but the emotional side.

“I’ve seen some things, and sometimes I go home and shut everything off and just lay there and try to decompress,” he said. “When you do something long enough there’s always room to keep learning but you can also become very proficient in what you do. I think once I finally reached that point it was more about the days where something doesn’t go right with the case in general.”

Kyle said he loves children and said it can be intense to see a child with something severe. He said the job includes things you don’t always want to see and that can be difficult.

“Again with the clichés but, don’t hesitate to tell the people you love how you feel. Don’t hesitate to give them a hug. We all have our differences but set them aside as quickly as you can because even quicker than that something can happen and you can’t ever get those moments back again.”

a CITY and a COMMUNITY

Kyle said one of the best things about Nashville is that it’s small enough to where he was able to figure out his surroundings without too much trouble.

But, of course, he misses home.

“Coming out here after 33 years of living in the same place and knowing where everything is and having friends and family to not knowing a single thing was a huge adjustment but Nashville isn’t that big, so I was able to pick things up pretty quickly here.”

Kyle said just in the last two and a half years, he’s seen the big growth and change.

“As welcoming and as nice as the locals have been, I also hear their complaints, and I get,” he said. “As busy and crowded as the Bay Area is, it’s still definitely going on out there too. I get the concerns and the worries and even just the general annoyances of the people who have been here.”

He said there are two sides of the issue and he sees both.

“I also think it’s good for the city that new restaurants and businesses are popping up. It creates great opportunities for people who want to start businesses and lives here.”

Kyle likes the community of Nashville and defined the word community as a group of people from various backgrounds and cultures that work together and embrace each other’s differences. 

“We can learn from one another. We don’t have to take on another person’s lifestyle but we can learn how to work with theirs, and they can learn how to work with ours with the idea of moving forward and progressing for the betterment of the future.”

Clinically speaking, he said when everyone is working together with one goal, a sense of community has to be developed.

“If you do think differently about politics or religion or whatever gets people so fired up these days, when you realize in the end you have the same goal those things don’t matter.”

Kyle said in the future he’s seeking opportunities to further his education to branch out to a higher level, wherever that may lead. He said he wants to reevaluate things shortly and to decide which path he wants to jump on next.

Thanks for reading Nashville!