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Column: Be the one who cares; be a mentor

By Linda Harril
For the Salisbury Post
The state of education is dismal and the future for our children is unsettling at best. Far too many kids are dropping out of school and not making it to the finish line. But there is hope. Many children who otherwise would not graduate are in fact graduating and many are choosing to continue to higher education because they have been given inspiration and hope from a caring adult.
You can be that caring adult in a child’s life. These young people have so much promise, but it is often lost in the maze of adolescence. Life is so much more complicated now for our young people because they are exposed to so much more negative information at younger and younger ages. Most of them do not have the maturity to make good choices without the help of a wise adult steering them in the right direction. Most of us are blessed to have had a least one parent who gave us words of wisdom, encouragement or sometimes that needed extra push. Many of our children do not have that “someone” in their lives, and even when they are fortunate enough to have a caring adult, one adult may not be enough to steer them away from life on the streets, the lure of drug dealers or the call of gangs.
President Obama is ushering in a new call for action. Not unlike leaders in the past, he is making a call for service. I was called to serve by President John Kennedy and have dedicated my professional life to teaching and non-profit work. While I am certainly not going to retire rich (if at all), I will have the satisfaction of knowing that I made a difference in the lives of many children over the years as evidenced by the cards and letters I still receive from former students.
But each of us can make a difference in a child’s life. Time is so much more important to our children than any other gift we can give. Time and time again, I hear young adults say they made it because someone took the time to care about them, ask how they were doing, inquire about their likes and dislikes, ask them about their future and then help them think through how to get to it.
The nation’s economic crisis has made us all evaluate what is really important in our lives … health, family, friends, stability and a place to call home. But it should also be a time to ask ourselves, “What can I do to make this world a better place? What can I do to help enrich the life of someone else? What can I do to make a difference for this next generation of young people who are scared, frightened and very lonely for someone to care?”
Are you a young person who wants to make a difference? You can volunteer to help a younger student with homework, volunteer in an afterschool program, become a reading buddy or just an older friend.
January is National Mentoring month. Take time to thank someone who helped you ó a neighbor, pastor, teacher, friend, family member or that someone who had no reason to help except that he or she wanted to make a difference in your life. Pass it on … be a mentor for someone who needs you. For more information about mentoring and volunteering with Communities in Schools, go to www.cisnc.org, www.cisrowan. org or send an e-mail to cisrowan@salisbury.net. For more local information, contact Vicky Slusser or Sandy Buechler at 704-797-0210.
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Linda Harril is president/CEO of Communities In Schools-North Carolina.

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