From West Rowan to Iraq through online connection
By Maggie Blackwell
West Rowan senior Ty Mauldin shyly explains the colored cords he wears with his cap and gown. The gold ones are for being an honors graduate with distinction; the red cords symbolize the three blood drives he hosted. He is proud, but hates to brag.
He is talking with his dad, who is on the other side of the world ó literally. They are conversing via video just moments after Mauldin watched Ty receive his diploma, thanks to the hard work of Rowan-Salisbury School System staff memberss Mike Howard, Dawn Fox and others.
Lt. Col. Tim Mauldin is serving in Iraq as chief medical officer for the 30th Brigade Combat Team. He is with the N.C. Army National Guard, and is currently serving his second tour in Iraq. Mauldin contacted Rita Foil, director of communications for the school system, when he learned he would be deployed during Ty’s graduation.
Foil contacted technology staff members who sprung into action. Howard and Fox had about a week and a half to prepare a “live feed” of the graduation to Iraq.
First they had to educate themselves on what technologies might be available. This took some trial and error as they experimented with one or two technologies that did not lend themselves to the environment.
“We talked with the Catawba staff, since the graduation was scheduled for their auditorium,” Howard says. “They’ve never done anything like this before.”
Howard and Fox had to coordinate all logistics not only with Catawba networking staff and the school system’s technology department, but also with the U.S. military, coordinating the remote end so Lt. Col. Mauldin could see from his side.
They finally worked with Crown Productions, the vendor who records all RSS graduations, to send the images via a technology provided by streamwebtown.com.
They even had to clear pulling extra cable through Keppel Auditorium with the Salisbury Fire Department.
Kathy McDuffie, director of secondary education, said Howard and Fox put in over 100 hours of time to making the event possible for Lt. Col. Mauldin, even testing connections from home on the weekends.
Foil remarked on the incredible job, saying, “The special time given to making it possible for LTC Mauldin to view his son’s graduation from Iraq reflects our community as a family supporting a man who sacrificed his family for our county.”
“This makes me proud to not only be an American, but to be a part of a school system ‘family’ that will give unselfishly, without accolades, to support our soldiers.”
Lt. Col. Mauldin said the school system had “bent over backwards to make this historic moment happen. … This could not happen without a lot of dedicated individuals working long hours to accomplish what I saw this weekend, and I thank them. ”
He continued, “I will be watching the graduation and I hope the people in the audience know this because I want to be sure they know I support them as much as they support me.”
It was clear that the audience did, indeed, support him. When West principal Jamie Durant announced the graduation was being sent via live feed to Iraq so that Lt. Col. Mauldin could see his son graduate, the audience stood at once, clapping.
Durant offered his thanks to Mauldin on behalf of all present.
Mauldin said, “There are perhaps students sitting on that stage who may one day be sitting where I am. Today’s graduates are tomorrow’s leaders, some of them in the U.S. Armed Forces.”
Ty Mauldin heads this fall to UNC-Greensboro, where he will study biology. He hopes to continue on to medical school. Medicine must run in the family; his dad serves stateside as a physician’s assistant at the VA Hospital; his mom is a nurse. Ty is the seventh of eight children.