I Am Lander: Damion Moragne Spreads Message of Positivity
Monday, Jul 13, 2020
Damion Moragne
Damion Moragne, a rising senior at Lander University, sits on a campus bench, framed by the shade of trees on the University's campus on a sunny July morning.  A local youth pastor and college student from Ware Shoals, Moragne makes a positive impact on those around him by spreading messages of love and positivity. Photo by Laura Brown

As the COVID-19 pandemic wears on, Damion Moragne remains undeterred in his passion for positive messaging.

Long before the campus closed in March, the Lander University student was known on campus for a smile that is red carpet worthy, as he waved to fellow students while rushing from one class and activity to another in a tireless involvement in campus and community life. A student worker for the Office of Student Affairs this summer, Morgane said, “I try to see the positive side of every situation.”

The 21-year-old student begins his fourth year at Lander in August, and he’s never been more eager to continue his messages of hope, some of which are featured on his “Get through COVID-19 Life Series” on Snapchat. Among his messaging is a word of the week, which recently included the word “love.” Moragne wasn’t content to merely talk about the word as a whole: He looked at each letter for its meaning in the lives of his friends, Snapchat followers and the community around him.

“L is for lasting, O is for overwhelming, V is for vast, and E is for everlasting,” he explained while sitting on a campus bench, framed by the shade of Lander trees on a sunny July morning.

The messages come from “whatever God lays on my heart,” said Moragne, youth pastor at Gethsemane Church in Greenwood. “Every night, I tell my followers, ‘you deserve to live a good life.’ No matter what they are feeling that day, people remember that. It is a message of hope in a trying time.”

His calling to serve through his church, where he also plays drums and gives sermons, comes from the many hours spent in worship with his family, especially his grandmother. Her influence on his life cannot be measured, he said, acknowledging that because of her and other older relatives he has a level of maturity that goes beyond his age.

"Whenever a situation pops up that I’m not sure about, I think ‘what did I see, or hear, from them.’ I’m an ‘old soul’ because I love hanging out with older people. I’ve learned from their wisdom."

A Mass Communication major, Moragne puts that wisdom to use at work. He began his involvement with First Year Orientation in 2017, and now is part of the orientation team that is dealing with the constraints of the pandemic to offer the traditional, in-person orientation with a new, virtual orientation for students and families unable to visit campus at this time.

“Orientation is very important. This is how students and their families become familiar with campus. You can easily feel right at home on your first day after touring the campus and talking to people,” he said.

The addition of virtual sessions underscores Lander’s ability to adapt quickly to the needs of students. “No one planned a pandemic, but Lander has looked at ways to help students through the process of coming to campus in a way that is safe and informative," he said. “Virtual orientation is going well. I realize this is a ‘first’ for Lander, and I am part of this history. That is humbling.”

Moragne grew up in Ware Shoals, a small town only a short distance from Greenwood, and vowed as a high school student that he would attend a large university. But he visited Lander and was sold.

“People are so welcoming here. I love the fact that you can get to know so many people and see them every day,” he said.

Once he landed on campus, Moragne jumped into college life with a no-holds-barred enthusiasm. He emcees college events and is an announcer for Lander’s XLR radio station.  A familiar face at Lander sporting events, Moragne is often seen in the stands as a huge vocal supporter, or on the floor of basketball games between quarters to lead prize giveaways

He balances work and campus life with a fitness program that includes walking five miles a day and playing golf, a sport he taught himself by watching golf legends Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Tigers Woods.

Moragne’s easy manner and ability to focus on the concerns of others are qualities that he will share when students embark on college life in the era of COVID-19.

“It’s a whole lot of change,” he said, noting that students will find new signage in place for social distancing and a call to wear masks, among other measures in line with the recommendations from the CDC and S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control.

“Students will adjust to the ‘new normal’ that’s in place. We will follow what our University president and cabinet ask us to do.”

As people live in difficult circumstances because of the pandemic, it is time to “light a fire of positivity," he said.

“We all need positivity. This is a time of learning and growth for everybody. There is enough negativity in the world, but there’s always a solution,” Moragne said.

Even when he’s wearing a mask this fall to protect his health and that of others, no one doubts that his trademark smile will be there.

“Spread joy to people. A simple smile can brighten someone’s day.” It’s the Damion Moragne way.