By Heather Greene, a graduate assistant in the Office of Public Relations
Every Saturday of Gamecock football this fall, Derick Reaves has donned his Marching Southerners uniform and taken to the field just like the other several hundred proud Southerners.
However, the last time Reaves marched with the Southerners was twenty-five years ago. Since then, he has been married for twenty-four years, a father to two sons, a paramedic, involved in church and theater activities, coached and refereed soccer, in addition to returning to school as a part-time, non-traditional student. Taking this into consideration, Reaves begins to seem more like a Christopher Reeve Superman figure.
A native of Lincoln, he attended JSU between 1984-1988, majoring in music. Reaves decided to leave the college environment for a municipal government job. He has since returned to his university to finish what he started and pursue his degree in emergency management.
Reaves’ decision to major in emergency management is no surprise, as he has been a paramedic for nineteen years (working in Talladega, St. Clair, Jefferson, DeKalb, and Etowah counties) and currently works as a paramedic for SMRC, the medical support services contractor at the Center for Domestic Preparedness in Anniston.
“I chose emergency management because of the knowledge I have gained during the many years of working in emergency services, especially while in my current position,” says Reaves.
Upon completion of his degree, Reaves plans to pursue management positions in companies that are involved in the emergency response community, or positions within state or federal government agencies.
Reaves explains that he has very much enjoyed taking online courses for the first time this semester, as they have allowed him to continue to work a full-time job and spend quality time with his family.
Reaves and his wife, Amy, reside in Gadsden and have just recently celebrated their twenty-fourth wedding anniversary. They have two sons, Nicholas, 19, and Andrew, 16. The couple homeschooled their two children through Pathways Academy, which is a Christian cover school based in Glencoe.
Their oldest son, Nicholas, graduated with honors from Pathways Academy and is currently a student at Gadsden State Community College.
A junior at Pathways Academy, Andrew is involved in playing soccer for Fusion F.C. on the Division II, U-16 boys team, which is currently holding first place in the state league.
Reaves and his family are members at Cathedral of Praise, where he has played saxophone in the praise band for the “Voices of Praise.” He has also been involved in various community theatrical productions through CharACTers Entertainment in Gadsden.
When asked if juggling everything on his plate gets difficult, Reaves replies, “Not as much as one might think. My employer encourages their employees to obtain a higher education and has gone above and beyond to allow me to return to college. My family has been completely supportive and given me the time needed to complete my course assignments and study for my exams.”
However, Reaves has not simply come back to school after twenty-five years, but has come back to the Marching Southerners and his passion for band.
“Once a Southerner, always a Southerner,” says Reaves, who plays the saxophone. “The best days of my previous college life were those in the Marching Southerners.”
Coaching and refereeing soccer for several years has helped Reaves stay in the condition needed to return to the strenuous lifestyle of a Marching Southerner.
Current Southerners Director Dr. Ken Bodiford and Assistant Director Clint Gillespie were two of Reaves’ marching contemporaries in the 1980s.
Reaves will openly admit that, at age forty-seven, he is the oldest member of the 2013 Marching Southerners, but has thoroughly enjoyed this chance to return.
“It has been an awesome experience,” says Reaves. “There are some differences, but for the most part, it is as though I never stopped marching for all of those years.”
Reaves explains that his connection to the Southerners of the past has opened up opportunities “to share stories of how it was in the 1980s and how some of the Southerners traditions got started.”
While current Southerners can glean from Reaves’ stories from the past, he says he has also gained a great deal from them, “I have learned so much about Southerners that is new from this incredibly talented group of dedicated young adults that I thoroughly enjoy spending time with, on and off of the field.”
On the subject of encouraging prospective non-traditional students, Reaves says, “Go for it, even if only attending part-time. JSU is known as ‘The Friendliest Campus in the South’ and it is easy to make new friends here, no matter the age difference. Take at least one course, on campus, get to know your classmates, attend some sporting events, and get involved with one of the many organizations that JSU has available. There is no limit to what you can experience at JSU, but it is only as memorable as you make it.”
For more information about attending JSU, visit www.jsu.edu.
This article originally appeared in the "Town and Gown" of the Jacksonville News.