Like any endeavor worth pursuing in life, it takes careful preparation to become an optometrist.
Students are at the heart of our mission.
Get involved in our thriving alumni community.
SCO is one of the nation's leading optometry schools.
Take time to recognize these significant achievements.
Enter a search request and press enter. Press Esc or the X to close.
Note: Hunter Chapman, '16, recently returned from Moore, Oklahoma, where he volunteered in critically needed relief efforts following May's destructive outbreak of tornadoes. What follows is Hunter's first-person account of what he encountered during his work on the clean-up effort.
Hanging on Hope in Moore, OK
By Hunter Chapman, '16
As any normal Monday afternoon, Sarah Goodman is in her high school class, while her mom, Donna, is busy teaching math at nearby Briarwood Elementary. Then they are told a tornado is approaching. Sarah and her classmates are updated on the location of the tornado by watching the news on the classroom’s Smart Board.
The storm heads straight for her, so she and her classmates hide under the lab tables. The power goes out. Sounds of a train grow louder. But the tornado edges past her, and she realizes that its track must have redirected to Briarwood Elementary, to her mom. In these moments of horrible disbelief, Donna and her students seek any protection in her classroom from this deadly tornado.
Suddenly, the roof flies away, and all are exposed to this violent storm. The tornado churns its way beside the school. She, her students, and everyone else at Briarwood Elementary amazingly survive. This is just one of many heart-wrenching stories I heard during my short time in Moore, Oklahoma.
A week after the storm, I was hauling debris to the curb of Donna’s house, as she and Sarah replayed their experience to me, while we stood in her front yard, looking at what’s left of her home. While we cleaned the backyard, they were in surprisingly good spirits despite the fact that their house will have to be demolished. And like many others I met, these two had a profound sense of hope, which mainly stems from the fact that they thankfully still have each other, while this storm took the lives of 24 individuals.
Photo of Briarwood Elementary
Joining 53 others from my hometown of Monroe, Louisiana, we diligently worked all day for two days. We handed out food and water, cleaned yards and homes, and sorted clothes and other necessities at local churches, whose provision brought in many displaced families. Along with this team, I carried parts of walls, tree limbs, insulation, and shingles to the street for construction vehicles to transport away. Admittedly, we were only a drop in a bucket of water, as there is still so much work to be done. However, we were still able to be a positive impact to the emotionally wounded victims in the community, not only with our work gloves but also – ever so merely – with our supportive presence. I was witness to unexplainable observations.
At several locations, including Donna’s house, a rose bush stood with its red blooms still attached among fallen trees and splintered homes. One house might be completely demolished, while the next-door neighbor’s house remained standing. One thing is for certain, these tornadoes do not discriminate, as homes, schools, churches, stores, movie theatres, and hospitals were in its path. In fact, a woman went into labor at the hospital as the storm steadily approached. While four nurses bravely helped the woman during her delivery, the wall of the hospital was blown away. Astonishingly, all six survived.
Photo of intact rose bush
This storm brought insurmountable destruction to Moore, and it will take many months to restore this emotionally wrought city from its incomprehensible damage. Yet in the midst of this great tragedy, there emerges something beautiful. And that is the tireless men and women I joined – young and old, friends and strangers, from New York to California – who bent over backwards to serve these heartbroken individuals. Like the brave rose bush, still standing and holding its red blooms beside a savaged house, there is something beautiful that remains after the damaging storm, and that is the persevering response from all Americans, rebuilding each house & road and instilling a sense of hope in this broken Moore community.
I learned that the power of hope is audacious and real, and it starts when we correctly prioritize our belongings in life. The challenge then is to identify and hold dear the treasures in life that won’t be washed away by rain or blown away by tornadic winds. Because Donna held on hope amid her unexpected bareness, she taught me that hope lets us navigate the hurts in life to therefore transcend in life.
Representing Southern College of Optometry and the Memphis area, I was fortunate to join in these relief efforts with others from my hometown of Monroe, LA. I certainly feel privileged to have the opportunity present itself to me. By listening to the impacting stories of the victims, observing the inconceivable damage, and working through the miles of detritus, I humbly represented SCO and the Memphis area in addition to Louisiana in my relief efforts for the grieving lives of the tornado victims in Moore.
The remains of a local hospital
Hunter Chapman in Moore, Oklahoma