Keep Dreamin’

Melissa Ramski belted out numerous classic country songs and a few of her own during the NHTC Annual Meeting held on May 19.

Melissa Ramski belted out numerous classic country songs and a few of her own during the NHTC Annual Meeting held on May 19.

By Matt Ledger

Career aspirations frequently lead to relocation, and for singers and songwriters determined to leave their mark, Music City has long been that destination. Originally from Ulysses, Kansas, Melissa Ramski, 24, has lived in Nashville six years, while chasing her dream of being a country singer.

“At the age of only 3 or 4, she could memorize songs and just started singing along,” says Dave Ramski, her father. In those days, she would sing from the back of the car as her father drove the family on vacations. “I was probably in the fourth grade when I realized that singing and performing is what I really wanted to do,” Melissa recalls. A fellow Kansan, Martina McBride, was a major early influence for Ramski, among several chart-topping female performers.

A family on the move

Earlier this year, Melissa Ramski won the Solo Female Artist award from Indie Ville TV. Her father, Dave, spends nearly as much time on the road as Melissa, traveling from New Hope to catch many performances.

Earlier this year, Melissa Ramski won the Solo Female Artist award from Indie Ville TV. Her father, Dave, spends nearly as much time on the road as Melissa, traveling from New Hope to catch many performances.

“All she ever talked about was wanting to be a country music star,” Dave says. “We tried to help her along the best we could from the middle of nowhere.”
Ramski’s parents drove her to many talent shows and performances throughout the Plains states, and even gave her an acoustic guitar. “It just sat there for a year. Then one day (during her senior year of high school), I decided I was going to learn how to play it,” Melissa says. “I started Googling videos and looking up techniques on writing and eventually got pretty good at it.”

At age 18, Melissa’s family bought another home near Music City, helping to jump-start her career. Melissa’s mother, Nancy, has helped manage Melissa’s career throughout the years. Dave’s career at a telephone cooperative kept him in Kansas for a few more years, traveling cross-country numerous times for performances. That continued until 2013 when he moved to New Hope upon taking a position as an engineering manager at NHTC.

Career ambitions
Ramski released a single, “Keep Dreamin’,” earlier this year. While it might sound like a tune about career ambitions, it’s actually a final sentiment to a prior boyfriend. “It’s one of those ‘See ya, I’m not coming back’ kind of songs,” she says, chuckling. “It’s my way of letting all my emotions out. Having people relate to your music is an amazing thing.”

Melissa’s sound is a blend of traditional influences and contemporary pop country from the radio, as evidenced by her most recent song “Lace and Diamonds.” She was nominated for several awards by country promoter Nashville Universe, which recognized Florida Georgia Line and Colt Ford the previous year. In June, Melissa performed at the CMA Fest, then at the Country FanJam festival. She will be touring later this year.

“She’s making a lot of progress and doing really well,” her father says. “I couldn’t be more proud of her.” He not only goes to most of his daughter’s performances, but he also tries to make most of the rehearsals. “We love going to her events, and it’s become our way of life.”

Libraries’ 21st-century evolution

By Matt Ledger

New Hope librarian Laura Washburn wrote a grant that enabled the Elizabeth Carpenter Library to receive four e-readers in 2014.

New Hope librarian Laura Washburn wrote a grant that enabled the Elizabeth Carpenter Library to receive four e-readers in 2014.

Libraries are no longer “as quiet as a mouse.”

Instead, patrons are sliding mice back and forth as they surf the Internet on public computers. Fingers are busily tapping the keyboard buttons to search for new recipes, download e-books or even apply for new jobs.

Technology has helped the modern library expand its role as a valuable asset in the community.

Children can use two of these colorful Kindles while at the New Hope library, either to read or play games.

Librarian Thames Robinson scans a few books that local historian William Earl Franks read in April.

Local tech support
Staff at the Elizabeth Carpenter Library in New Hope and the Grant Public Library are working hard to keep up with digital trends. “It really all started with the kids,” says Laura Washburn, branch manager at the New Hope library.

The facility has two computers loaded with programs for elementary-aged youngsters. However, librarians noticed a gap for the older kids who needed something more than the kids computers. That gap was remedied by the addition of e-books.

Washburn filed a grant application that allowed for the purchase of four handheld Kindle tablets in 2014. Two of the devices are designated for the kids, loaded with games like Minecraft and other age-appropriate games. “It helps to show that the library is about more than books,” Washburn says. “Many of the kids don’t have access to technology, and this gives them a chance to explore with an e-reader.” The other two tablets are loaded with the current best-selling e-books, and adults can check out the devices for a week at a time.

Officials at the Grant Public Library are working toward the purchase of e-books, ever since a conference earlier this year. Library board member Susie Keller and librarian Thames Robinson convinced city council members to approve funding for the new Atrium library suite of programs.

Librarian Thames Robinson scans a few books that local historian William Earl Franks read in April.

Children can use two of these colorful Kindles while at the New Hope library, either to read or play games.

The Grant library has also selected Overdrive as a platform for e-readers. Having already used grant money for other improvements, Robinson is seeking financial donations to join the Camellia Net collective, which shares e-book resources with numerous Alabama libraries. Officials also hope that the local contributions will allow for the purchase of e-reader devices.

Many local residents and students will benefit from the program by simply using a library card with their own Wi-Fi enabled devices, without even needing to go to the library. “It will be a big benefit for us since we will significantly expand the number of patrons using our services,” Robinson says.

The benefits of e-books

  • Significantly lighter than printed books
  • Thousands of titles available
  • Selections sync across many different devices while maintaining the same page
  • Increase or decrease font sizes
  • No late fees (An e-book simply disappears from the device when due date is reached.)

Aiming for a state title

By Matt Ledger

The undefeated New Hope High School archery team. (L to R) Tyler Brown, Jonathon League, Casey Selvage, Jared Solmon, Adam Reed, Josh Quick, Tyler Williams and Gavin King.

The undefeated New Hope High School archery team. (L to R) Tyler Brown, Jonathon League,
Casey Selvage, Jared Solmon, Adam Reed, Josh Quick, Tyler Williams and Gavin King.

Eight archers at New Hope High School set goals, took aim and hit the bullseye quicker than anyone expected, winning the state championship in their first year.

“This is a brand-new thing that started this year,” says Doug Solmon, the 3D archery team coach.

Archery1116

Jared Solmon sought to start an archery team during his senior year. The inaugural team of eight won all six tournaments on the season and even took home a state championship.

Competitive 3D archery involves aiming at point rings on a foam animal target from distances ranging from 5 to 30 yards. Competitors are awarded points based on the predetermined value of spots on the target — from five points for hitting the foam deer or other animal to 12 points for the smallest ring. Facing 20 targets, New Hope’s top three shooters in each tournament have scored in the 205-212 range, causing lopsided victories by an average of 43 points.

“I’ve got one kid, Adam Reed, who had never shot a bow before,” Solmon says. “During his first year in the sport, he made it into the top ten for shooter-of-the-year points in Alabama.” Four of his teammates also made the list during the inaugural season.

The New Hope High School archery team had their sights set high during its first year competing. The team has practiced twice weekly throughout the year and every night for a week leading up to the Alabama state championships. The team went six-for-six in the regional tournaments and won the state tournament on May 9. Jared Solmon finished second overall at state and had the most points during the season, garnering Alabama shooter-of-the-year honors. His teammates Tyler Brown and Gavin King finished third and fifth place, respectively.

The New Hope High School archery team had their sights set high during its first year competing.

The New Hope High School archery team had their sights set high during its first year competing.

“Their shooting improved all year long,” coach Solmon says. “However, going undefeated and winning the state championship is more than I ever expected.”

NHTC Scholarship Winners

The New Hope Telephone Cooperative awards two scholarships each year to students who exemplify academic achievement and community involvement and have submitted an essay. The two selected entries — one from DAR and the other from NHHS — will each receive a $500 scholarship.

Alex Rogers

Alex Rogers

Alex Rogers is the DAR High School winner, scoring a 29 on the ACT test. She has been accepted to the University of Alabama in Huntsville where she plans to study nursing.

Autumn Pruitt

Autumn Pruitt

Autumn Pruitt of Owens Cross Roads is the NHHS scholarship winner. She has been accepted to the University of Alabama in Huntsville where she plans to major in business management.

Mark your calendar

A “Zumbathon” fundraiser will be held on July 18 from 8-10 a.m., with all money going toward the New Hope High School athletics program, with the sport selected by votes. Sign-up fee is $20. Please contact Shannon Bolton at 256-426-5713 for more information.


The CARE Center’s third annual “I Grill Because I Care” BBQ competition will take place on
August 1 in downtown New Hope. Admission is free, and a water slide will keep the kids entertained. For more information or to register, contact event coordinator Teek Patnaik at pranteekpatnaik@hotmail.com or call 256-694-0117.

NHTC is accepting sealed bids for lawn maintenance. For detailed information, contact the business office. All bidders must have workers’ compensation and general liability insurance. Bids are due by September 8. 


Don’t miss the NHTC Customer Appreciation Day from 8:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. on October 30.

Homemakers recognized

Homemaker3423The Owens Cross Roads Homemakers Club was recognized as the Club of the Year during the Madison County Homemakers Celebration Day and received other awards, too. Club president Barbara Cooper was given the 2014 Outstanding Homemaker Award. The club has contributed to a fence at Owens Cross Roads School, has donated money to the Owens Cross Roads Fire Department and New Hope Library and has supported numerous other ongoing community projects.

The club will host a craft show at Owens Cross Roads School on October 3, from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m.

The group meets every fourth Tuesday night of the month at a club member’s home. If you would like more information about the club, please contact Barbara Cooper at 256-723-3086.

It’s almost time for kickoff!

NHHS Football Booster Club
Football season is just around the corner, so it’s time to reserve the best seats and reserved parking passes for the 2015 Football Season.

  • Reserved Seats — $30 each
  • Reserved Parking Passes — $30 each

Any reserved seats from last season will need to be paid by August 7 to be reserved for the upcoming season. After August 7, seats become available to the public. All proceeds go toward assisting the New Hope Indians football team.

Please contact Bob Rodgers at 256-725-4545 or 256-652-3846 for more information.

Second Annual Alumni Football Game
New Hope High School vs. Madison County High School (Gurley)
August 8 at 6 p.m.
Madison County High School
All proceeds go to each participating school’s football program.

Annual Meeting highlights a secure future

The New Hope Telephone Cooperative’s board of directors following the annual meeting on May 19. (Front row, from left) Jeffrey Cantrell, secretary; Jim Duncan, president; Garland Elders, vice president; and Mike Whitaker, treasurer. (Back row, from left) Andrew Sieja, NHTC attorney; Jim Cook, general manager; Jeff Cooper; Barry Jones; Greg Glover; Randy Morrison; Calvin Bearden; and Mac Martinson, NHTC attorney.

The New Hope Telephone Cooperative’s board of directors following the annual meeting on May 19. (Front row, from left) Jeffrey Cantrell, secretary; Jim Duncan, president; Garland Elders, vice president; and Mike Whitaker, treasurer. (Back row, from left) Andrew Sieja, NHTC attorney; Jim Cook, general manager; Jeff Cooper; Barry Jones; Greg Glover; Randy Morrison; Calvin Bearden; and Mac Martinson, NHTC attorney.

A record number of registered members — 603 in total — attended the New Hope Telephone Cooperative Annual Meeting on May 19. Neighbors and newcomers packed the hallways of New Hope Elementary and Middle School, as employees served popcorn and lemonade and gave away t-shirts and other items.

AnnualMeeting3480Families packed the auditorium as Nashville-based country singer Melissa Ramski sang classic hits and a few tunes of her own during a two-hour set. NHTC employees drew names for raffled gifts, handing out a number of electronic devices and vouchers for NHTC services. Three flat-screen TVs were also given as prizes, with the grand prize 50-inch HD Vizio won by James Sutphin.

During the business meeting portion of the evening, NHTC management gave a review for 2014. “During this past year, we have continued to add new programming, currently offering up to 260 channels, which includes 75 HD channels on our fiber network,” said General Manager Jim Cook. He also announced the addition of the SEC Network.

The fiber-to-the-home network is the largest project NHTC has ever undertaken, connecting more than 450 subscribers in 2014 with plans to add more than 700 others during 2015.
The financial news was also good. “Jim Cook and our employees negotiated bid prices and changed a few vendors, leading to a savings of $1.7 million dollars,” NHTC Board President Jim Duncan told the crowd. “Keep in mind that those cost adjustments will continue saving money annually for years to come.”

A video presentation by Cook highlighted a number of accomplishments

  • Total NHTC assets reached $38.3 million, including a $3.5 million increase with fiber-optic infraAnnualMeeting3558structure.
  • NHTC board of directors approved plans for completing the fiber project without additional debt.
  • Long-term debt was reduced by $1.3 million during 2014.
  • Operational revenue increased by 5.6 percent, or $646,000.
  • Operating expenses were reduced $266,000, creating a record high operating margin of $2.5 million.
  • FCC commitment to develop the Connect America Fund, partnering with NTCA, to provide support and sustainability to rural broadband networks.
  • NHTC has gained subscribers, adding 2.4 percent to the membership.
  • The broadband customer base also grew by 6.5 percent.
  • NHTC’s Security Solutions was unveiled, offering home security and home automation.
  • NHTC subscribers now have access to WatchTVeverywhere, enabling them to watch more than 30 networks on their electronic devices.
  • Programming rate hikes from ABC, CBS, NBC and FOX have caused NHTC content costs to increase by more than $4 a month per subscriber.

CAPTION:
The New Hope Telephone Cooperative’s board of directors following the annual meeting on May 19. (Front row, from left) Jeffrey Cantrell, secretary; Jim Duncan, president; Garland Elders, vice president; and Mike Whitaker, treasurer. (Back row, from left) Andrew Sieja, NHTC attorney; Jim Cook, general manager; Jeff Cooper; Barry Jones; Greg Glover; Randy Morrison; Calvin Bearden; and Mac Martinson, NHTC attorney.

Making a ‘smart’ decision

Jim Cook, General Manager

Jim Cook, General Manager

By Jim Cook
General Manager

When it comes to technology, we want everything to be “smart” these days. We have smartphones and smart watches, smart appliances in our kitchen and laundry room, smart thermostats and smart home gadgets with smart apps to control them.

While all this smart technology is impressive and can make life more convenient while saving us money, the really smart part of it all is the broadband network that so many of these devices and apps rely on to bring us this functionality.

This trend toward devices that are only possible with broadband is not going away. And as broadband becomes the leading infrastructure driving innovation, it is impacting every facet of our lives.
That’s why we decided long ago that improving broadband service in our rural area was the smart thing to do. With access to an advanced broadband network, boundless opportunities open up for our region:

Smarter businesses: Technology allows businesses to reach new customers and better serve the customers they already have. Smart businesses are using data and their broadband connections to learn more about customer habits, streamline supply chains and optimize their operations. Studies have shown that broadband-connected businesses bring in $200,000 more in median annual revenues than non-connected businesses. Our network ensures that these tools are available to our local businesses so they can compete regionally, nationally or even globally.

Smarter education: Local teachers and school administrators are doing amazing things with tablets, online resources and other learning tools. These smart schools are opening up new avenues for students to learn. Experts say that nationally, students in schools with broadband connections reach higher levels of educational achievements and have higher-income careers.

Smarter health care: From bracelets that keep track of physical activity to telemedicine, smart technology and broadband are improving the way we monitor and care for our bodies. Physicians are able to confer with other medical experts, transmit X-Rays and lab results and communicate with patients over our network. Through smart electronic medical records, everyone from stroke patients to expectant mothers is receiving better care because hospitals and doctors are getting “smarter.”

Smarter homes: A host of new devices has allowed users to bring smart technology into their homes. Smart devices allow you to monitor your home, change the thermostat, turn on lights and even lock or unlock doors remotely. While these smart devices offer plenty of convenience, they are also a smart safety decision to avoid coming home to a dark house or to receive an alert anytime someone pulls into your driveway.

We’ve made smart decisions that put our community in a position to take advantage of this smart revolution. As our devices, businesses, homes, schools and hospitals get smarter, rest assured that your cooperative is smart enough to have the infrastructure in place to handle these demands — plus whatever the future holds.