Mayor Andy Mack announced the winners of his inaugural scholarship during the May 15 City Council meeting, among them was Longview High School graduate Cara Hutchings.

Cara Hutchings wins Mayor Mack Scholarship

Wed May 24, 2017

Mayor Andy Mack announced the winners of his inaugural scholarship during the May 15 City Council meeting, among them was Longview High School graduate Cara Hutchings.

"Anyone who has loved someone with dementia or Alzheimer's will find this one especially poignant," said Mayor Mack. "You have a gift, Cara! We are blessed you are choosing to use it in our community for others."

These funds are coming out of the Mayor’s annual stipend. Rather than take a salary, the mayor’s stipend will be used to invest in students’ futures.

Cara was one of four graduating seniors from Longview, Pine Tree, Spring Hill, or Hallsville high schools.

The application includes a one-page essay on how you desire to make an impact on improving Longview.

Here is Cara’s winning essay:

          Music has power especially for individuals with Alzheimer's disease and other related dementia. 

          When used appropriately, music can shift moods, manage stress-Induced agitation,stimulate positive interactions, and evokes emotions that bring memories. 

          In June, I contacted the director of Buckner's Westminster Place (Buckner Westminster Place and Buckner International, a local memory care and assisted living center)to request permission to play the piano for the residents. I was granted permission,and this has been a rewarding experience for me. Going to the memory care center has helped me realize how music affects people with Alzheimer's and other related dementias. My selection of hymns, gospel,and contemporary songs resulted In the residents interacting positively to the music. 

          In my first experience, a lady came and sat beside me while l played the piano.She tapped her foot to the beat of every song and sang while I played. When I finished playing, she told me about her husband being a band director and how much she enjoyed going to football games and concerts to watch the performances. She was able to recall and relate special memories. The director later told me the lady had a problem with short term memory to the extent of not being able to recall what she ate for breakfast that morning but was able to recall and relate special memories of her past. 

          The next week when I returned to the memory care and assisted living center,I encountered another unique situation.The first song I played when I sat down was "Amazing Grace". The staff at the assisted living center was having a difficult time keeping a resident calm. She was struggling with staff in an attempt to get out of her wheelchair, but she was unable to walk without assistance. Once I started playing Amazing Grace, the resident quickly calmed down and began singing along. I played Amazing Grace for at least thirty minutes at her request. She said the song reminded her of singing in the church choir when she was a little girl. 

          My experience at Buckner's has taught me how I can help people, trigger memories of times past and allow them to express their feelings. The more I go to the memory care and assisted living center; the more I enjoy being around the residents. Whenever I walk In the door, I feel a warm welcome from the residents and the staff. I'm asked by the staff “How Is your day going?” or “Do you want anything to drink?.” Whenever I play, I see the residents eyes glow brighter than the sun. Most of them recognize me as "the girl who plays the piano". Once I gave a lady a card with my name on it, but she could not remember my name. However, she could remember the last five songs I played. 

          Continuing through my experience, I hope I have made a difference in the lives of the people I met. I know they have inspired me to be more grateful. Their encouragement and kindness has helped me realize that, I too, may have gifts and talents to help others.