“Changing the Perception One Community at a Time”

Friday, May 14, 2010

Zachary MiddletonAs a young child, Orangeburg native Zachary Delano Middleton did not know exactly what he wanted to be, but he did know that he wanted to impact the lives of people in his community.  “As a child, I wanted to make a difference,” said Middleton. I spent countless hours with my grandmother Louis Johnson, a 1954 alumna of SC State University. We went to many places, including homeless shelters, church functions, and we visited people in the community. I believe that my grandmother had a major influence on me wanting to give back,” he continued.

While a sophomore business management major at SC State University, Middleton began to execute his plan to develop a community-oriented, non-profit organization. He achieved this goal and became the CEO and founder of Changing the Perception, Inc. (CTP). CTP is a non-profit organization that aims to implement change through community service projects that emphasize racial harmony and increases public awareness about health and environmental issues. CTP’s symbol is the Sankofa, which means “we must go back and reclaim our past so we can move forward,  so we understand why and how we came to be who we are today.” The icon is a bird with his body facing forward and his head looking back. It symbolizes that in order to progress, you have to know from whence you came. CTP consists of six students, two students from SC State University, two students from Claflin University, and two students from Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College.“The focal point was helping out the Orangeburg community,” says Middleton.

Middleton was not your ordinary student. Now a graduate who received his degree on Friday, May 7, 2010, he was a member of the Honors College, Golden Key International Honor Society, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the Tobacco Awareness Group. He also volunteered with Relay for Life and assisted in cancer awareness efforts with the American Cancer Society (ACS) and many other affiliations. He has always had a desire to help people, and in 2009, his peers helped him to win the candidacy of SC State University’s 2009-2010 Student Government Association president (SGA). “I believe that my biggest accomplishment at SC State University was winning the candidacy of SGA president and having the opportunity to give back to the students. They believed in me,” said Middleton.

As his platform, Middleton chose “Think B.I.G,” an acronym for “Believing in Greatness” which means that believing in yourself is simply a state of mind.  He also produced t-shirts that stated “Believer”. “’Believing in Greatness’ is a state of mind.  It gives people the opportunity to say that I am somebody,” says Middleton. Austin Floyd, a sophomore mathematics education major, feels the same way.  “With wearing the Believer t-shirt, it was a sense of empowerment. You believed that you could conquer anything.  Students wanted the t-shirt because of the message that it relayed,” Floyd stated.

Donovan McDaniel, a junior agribusiness/ business management major, was excited and felt as if “Believing in Greatness” was an empowering movement on the campus and everyone was involved. “Our peers were energetic and grasped the concept. This year, we saw the progression within academic excellence, student life and in the administration,” said McDaniel.   “The whole believing in greatness concept made everyone set higher standards for themselves and elevate their social awareness.”

Middleton also worked with students to promote the Orangeburg Massacre week of activities. The Orangeburg Massacre occurred on Feb. 8, 1968, and resulted in the killing of three students and the serious wounding of 28 others by state police following student unrest related to picketing at a segregated bowling alley. Middleton’s great uncle, Delano H. Middleton, 17, was one of three victims whose life was claimed during the Orangeburg Massacre.  Samuel Hammond, Jr., 18, and Henry Smith, 19, were also slain during the incident.

With his benevolent spirit and willingness to give back to his peers, Middleton reached out to Calhoun Cornwell, a junior business management major at SC State University, to direct and write the script for a play re-enacting the Orangeburg Massacre entitled “Taking a Stand.”  As a descendant of Delano, Middleton had the opportunity to portray his great-uncle. The play included the Henderson-Davis Theatre Players and students of the University.

Fifty percent of the proceeds from “Taking a Stand” went towards the SGA Orangeburg Massacre Social Mobility Book Scholarship, a need-based scholarship which assists students with the cost of books. “Ninety-one percent of SC State University students have some need of financial support. With the SGA Orangeburg Massacre Social Mobility Scholarship Fund, we were able to assist them in the amount of $18,000 with book scholarships,” said Middleton.

Through his many extra-curricular activities and his community involvement, Middleton has gained credibility and offers words of wisdom. “Zachary is dedicated, focused, loyal, determined, and an absolute all around gentleman,” said Tonea Watson, administrative coordinator for the Division of Student Life and Leadership.  

Middleton always encourages students. “Dare to be different and be careful who you hang around. Surround yourself with a cycle of positive people that are going to push you forward,” he stated.

Middleton has one older brother, Alonzo Middleton, Jr. He resides with his mother and father, Glenda and Alonzo Middleton. Post graduation, he plans to work with his father at the Alonzo D. Middleton Allstate Insurance Company as a licensed sales producer.