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Alex Adkins

blog imageMeet Officer Alex Adkins of the Forest Acres Police Department in Columbia, S.C. 

Alex loves soccer and plays in a league with his wife. He also has two dogs and spends time when he's off work on other hobbies including cars.

Alex has always had a heart for service. Coming from a military family, Alex originally wanted to serve in the U.S. Armed Forces, but an acceptance letter from the University of South Carolina changed all that. Instead, he graduated from USC with a Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing and worked in Critical Care at Providence Hospital for a short while. Still, his drive to serve was stronger than ever and, with his wife, Alex made the decision to join the police force. “I just wanted to be there for the people who needed me the most,” he says when asked why he joined the Forest Acers PD.

Alex is passionate about putting on the uniform every day as he gets the change to know the community and help out in a positive way.“It’s a big reward... “I’m always striving to be a better person. My chance to talk to the community and put that positive image out there is my driving force.”

When asked what he wants the community to know, Alex had one thing to say. “If you ever see a police officer…., the only thing I ask of anybody is to give us a chance.”

Jaimie Hodgens

Jaimie Hodgens is now a music teacher at Newington Elementary and has been teaching for five years. She is in her second year at Newington, having previously worked at two schools in Florence District 3. She teaches music for all grade levels.

Hodgens earned her degree in music education through Winthrop University, where she graduated in 2010. She said her focus in school was voice. She is originally from Swansea.

Hodgens said her best experience teaching comes when kids come back and remember things she taught them, and show they listened to her lessons. She said her worst experience was at her last job, where she felt she struggled to be recognized as a real teacher.

“That’s a hard thing, to feel like you have to prove that music matters,” she said. “It’s a struggle to prove that we work just as hard.”

At Newington, Hodgens is the grade rep for fine arts. She is on the Lighthouse Team, the Relay for Life Committee and the Social Studies Committee. She helps run a ukulele club and a chorus. She also does tutoring with SPLASH Club.

Hodgens has written a Distinguished Arts Program Grant through the Department of Education that was around $20,000 for multicultural arts infusion into all fine arts areas at school. Hodgens said the school has already had one residency with a group that does multicultural storytelling and dance, and now they are looking forward to a steel drum artist coming soon to Newington – and her classroom is getting steel drums, which she is very excited about.

Outside of school Hodgens is a member of the Charleston Symphony Orchestra Choir, which has been “great fun,” she said. She lives with her boyfriend Rob in North Charleston, and together the couple likes to travel locally and see the highlights of the area.

Charissa Lowe

Charissa Lowe was a 1997 graduate of Swansea High School and completed health occupation classes during her junior and senior years of high school.  Upon graduation she attended Lander University and completed her Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing in 2001. 

Charissa worked in various nursing positions throughout the country in hospitals settings including Yale New Haven Hospital, Duke University Medical Center, and The Medical University of South Carolina.  She also spent time working in medical research for dialysis patients at Duke University Medical School and worked in pharmaceuticals for Abbott Laboratory as a clinical support liaison for nephrology patients. 

Mrs. Lowe began her graduate school program in 2008 at the University of South Carolina and earned a Master of Science degree in Nursing in 2011.  While in graduate school Charissa was employed as a Hospice Care nurse, and taught nursing students while developing a nursing curriculum at the Technical College of the Low Country and Armstrong Atlantic University.  

Upon graduation she became board certified via exam as an Acute Care Nurse Practitioner and spent the last five years working in internal medicine, surgery, nephrology, community health and nutrition, and in-patient hospital and outpatient clinic settings.  She works tirelessly to promote the health of patients in her community while enjoying spending time with her husband and three children. 

Tommy Manuel

Tommy Manuel, Architect and Educator

Profession: Architect

Education: Master of Architecture, Columbia University, 2009

Master of Science in Urban Planning, Columbia University, 2009

Bachelor of Science in Design, Clemson University, 1996

Tommy is a native of Swansea, having graduated from SHS in 1992. He went on to study architecture at Clemson University, making him the first in his family to attend college.

Growing up in rural South Carolina, his earliest architectural memories were old barns and sheds, saw mills, cotton gins, grain silos, and hunting camps. The beauty and integrity of simple, informal structures and materials continues to influence his approach to design.

While studying at Clemson, Tommy spent a semester at the Clemson Architecture Center in Charleston, where he fell in love the city. After graduation, he moved to the Charleston area where he began his professional internship with architect Samuel Furr designing high-end custom homes on Kiawah Island.

He moved to Greenville, SC in 1998 and working with Neal Prince and Partners, now a division of LS3P Associates, designing homes at The Cliffs at Keowee Vineyards and surrounding region.

In 2002, Tommy moved to New York City. He briefly tried on a modeling career, taking him to Milan and Paris. On a cold clear night along the Rue des Archives in Paris, he came upon Renzo Piano’s Building Workshop studio. Looking in toward the warm glow of the studio with models and drawings seemingly strewn about, he decided to return to architecture and earn his master degree.

New York City is where Tommy settled for the next 6 years, earning master degrees in both architecture and urban planning at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation.

In the summer of 2005, Tommy traveled to Thailand to assist with rebuilding efforts along the Andaman coast following the catastrophic Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami that struck on December 24th, 2004.

After completing his master studies at Columbia, Tommy worked with some of the most esteemed architects practicing today. With architects Steven Holl and Andrew MacNair, he helped to revive 32BNY Magazine as an online publication that has since evolved into a videopolemic on art, architecture and urbanism.

Tommy was the project architect with LOT-EK on their Open School pavilion for the Anyang Public Art Project (APAP), in Anyang, South Korea. The project received much acclaim, winning both a Chicago Athenaeum American Architecture Award and the AIANY Honor Award in 2011.

In 2012, the Museum of Modern Art in New York acquired drawings and models of the project for their permanent collection.

Tommy left New York, eventually landing in Miami, working for a short time with an architecture firm there, before collaborating and consulting independently with colleagues and other firms. He worked on both local and international projects including an 18-unit condominium building, multiple single-family residences, restaurants, a warehouse-to-gallery conversion, and a multi-building design for a ski resort in China.

In 2013, he began teaching, leading graduate level design studios, at the University of Miami’s School of Architecture under then Dean Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk. He has taught architecture history at the American College of the Building Arts in Charleston and is frequently a visiting design juror.

Tommy established his own practice in downtown Charleston that specializes in new custom residences, renovations and additions, multi-family housing, and retail and hospitality projects. He continues to teach part-time, believing that design and architecture is a lifelong learning adventure that is best shared. To see more about his practice visit his website at,

Richard Parker
A 1996 graduate of Swansea High School, Richard Parker joined the US Navy and reported to basic training in October of that year.  During his training to become a Nuclear Chemist and Mechanic, Richard was stationed in Orlando, FL for the entirety of 1997 and in Charleston, SC from January to the late fall of 1998.  Richard then reported to the USS Key West (SSN-722), a fast attack nuclear submarine homeported in Pearl Harbor, in late 1998.  The Key West conducted two Eastern Pacific Deployments; a Depot Modernization Period; and two Western Pacific Deployments, including operations during the 9/11 terrorist attacks, during Richard’s time aboard.  Richard was awarded three Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals, among others, during his time in the US Navy.  

At the conclusion of Richard’s obligated service in 2002 he moved back to Columbia, SC and enrolled at Midlands Technical College for two years to begin his education in Mechanical Engineering.  He transferred to the University of South Carolina in 2004 and was awarded his Bachelor’s Degree in the Spring of 2006, earning summa cum laude honors.  Richard then enrolled at the University of Florida (UF) that Fall to pursue graduate studies in Mechanical Engineering, having earned an Alumni Fellowship from UF as well as honorable mention in the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship and the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program Fellowship.  

Richard earned his Master’s degree in the Fall of 2008 and his Doctor of Philosophy degree in Mechanical Engineering in the Spring of 2012.  Upon graduation, Dr. Parker worked in the energy sector for approximately two years designing improvements for industrial gas turbines at Power Systems Manufacturing in Jupiter, FL.  Dr. Parker was then hired at Sandia National Laboratories in the Summer of 2014, where he continues to serve in the national interest, performing research and development on programs vital to national security and defense.  He currently resides in Albuquerque, NM with his wife.

Freddie Pough 
Freddie PoughFreddie Pough is Acting Director of the South Carolina Department of Juvenile Justice. He was appointed to the position on January 27, 2017 by Governor Henry McMaster.
Acting Director Pough is concurrently serving as DJJ Inspector General, a position he’s held since March 2016.
In his time with the agency, Pough implemented a more thorough search and seizure policy for staff and visitors coming onto the Broad River Road Complex and across DJJ. He’s also taken an aggressive stance against gangs and helping to ensure safety and security by implementing Gang Intervention and Chief of Police positions into DJJ daily operations.
Pough helped establish DJJ’s Special Response Team (SRT), designed to quickly respond to disturbances and security needs at the agency’s secure facilities.
Pough created and implemented DJJ’s Emergency Response Plan. The plan withstood Hurricane Matthew and helped to ensure the well-being of staff and juveniles across South Carolina during the mandatory evacuations, storm, floods and aftermath.
    Pough is a 1999 graduate of SC State University with a degree in criminal justice. He has over 15 years of experience in law enforcement, starting his career as a front-line Juvenile Correctional Officer at DJJ in 2000. He then served as SLED’s Lieutenant in the Midlands Investigative Region, a position that also required him to work closely with DJJ.

    Mandy Rivers

    Graduating Swansea High School in 1993, Mandy moved away to attend college then began a successful career in operations management in Columbia.  Looking for a creative outlet and a way to recipes, Mandy began entering recipe contests. Mandy discovered she had a knack for writing and developing recipes and made her mark online when she created a recipe blog called South Your Mouth( Her stories and sense of humor combined with her down-home Southern recipes were the perfect combination for social media where Mandy’s following quickly grew.
    Mandy’s recipe blog, which receives over 1.5 million visitors a month, combined with her substantial social media presence caught the eye of Food Network where she was cast in their primetime show, America’s Best Cook, as one of top cooks in America. Since the show she has been invited to be a cast member of two seasons of Food Network Star.
    Mandy struggled with the thought of leaving her family behind for six months each year to film the television shows and declined both offers. Mandy says these were the hardest decisions she’s ever had to make but is confident she make the right choice.
    Once Mandy decided to stay home she focused her attention on creating new recipes and blog posts and was quickly offered a book deal to produce her first cookbook, South Your Mouth, which became a best-seller. After the success of her first cookbook, Mandy then wrote, South Your Mouth Some More, which is currently a #1 new release.
    Mandy lives in Lexington with her husband and two children. Though Mandy doesn’t live in Swansea anymore, her writing and stories are peppered with memories of her hometown and small-town upbringing, both of which she is deeply proud of and grateful for.

    Lucina Smith
    My name is Lucina V. Smith. I'm the mother of one child (age 13).  I'm the fourth of five children born to Pastor Lucius and Sandra Smith.  I was born in Columbia, SC, later moved to Gaston, SC when I was in the 7th grade.  
    I graduated from Swansea High School in 1996.  In 2000 I obtained my Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from the University of South Carolina, Columbia SC an earned my Master’s degree in counseling from Webster University in 2002.  I am currently pursuing my Ph.D. in Educational Psychology from Walden University.  I have been employed by the SC Dept. of Mental Health as a school-based mental health counselor in Richland District Two for the past 14 years. I'm also a licensed professional counselor with a private practice (Intentional Intervention Counseling Practice).
    I'm a proud member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. I enjoy going to church, attending Carolina Gamecocks football games, traveling and spending time with you family. My life’s motto is, “My life is God’s gift to me, what I do with my life is my gift to God.”