By Lamont Bagby, Fairfield District Representative, Henrico School Board 02/23/11
Dear Henrico Business Leaders,
Daily, the number of school age children who are without the direct supervision of responsible adults after school is growing to alarming proportions. In the absence of such supervision, children are empowered to make choices and decisions that have significant impacts on their growth and development.
While some students are able to make positive choices, many of their peers do not demonstrate the same capacity and are subject to conditions and situations that stagnate their success and has the potential to significantly impact them later in life. Teen pregnancy, juvenile delinquency, and drop out rates are increasing at overwhelming proportions. Many youth today do not have the benefit of actively engaged parents; therefore, teachers, school counselors and coaches are charged with additional responsibilities that focus on meeting the growing, non-academic needs of the child.
As a teacher and coach at Henrico High School, I served as sponsor of the Distinguished Gentlemen Mentorship Program. The program afforded me a unique opportunity to introduce a group of thirty male students to the virtues of community service and school spirit. Not only were much-needed academic supports put in place but students were also provided with caring redirection to encourage their tendency to make positive choices and to refrain from making poor decisions. It was at that moment that I realized our students care less about how much we know and more about how much we care.
There are innovative, unique models of mentoring opportunities being created which allow students to gain invaluable insights to leadership development. One such program is the leadership initiative created by President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama and senior White House Administration staff. The initiative gives forty young men and women an opportunity to develop relationships with them and grants access to the leadership of the administration.
The First Lady said, "I always wanted to be a bridge between kids like me and the possibilities that can propel them to greatness." This is precisely the spirit of bold action-steps that we would like to take in concert with the business community of Henrico County. I am confident that there are many individuals who you currently employ who have the same burning desire to serve in a capacity that motivates and uplifts our youth. Now is the time to afford these socially conscious, tax-paying members of our community the opportunity to fulfill their civic responsibility.
I understand the demands inherent in our long workdays and the plethora of obligations that fill our evenings with commitments to our families and organizations. So, I thought of other ways to seek your involvement that are just as critical to our programs’ success. Henrico County has several mentorship programs that simply need funding. One-to-one mentorship programs have proven to be highly beneficial and are the most effective means of impacting a child’s life, but there are significant challenges associated with finding the number of qualified mentors to support the programs. However, group initiatives have proven to be beneficial and do not require as much time.
It is critical for us to collaborate with the business community in our ongoing efforts to increase opportunities for our youth. I am grateful that my colleagues on the school board have responded favorably to providing funding for group mentorship efforts. Caring and committed teachers and coaches have submitted proposals that they feel are most beneficial to the youth we serve. The proposals illustrate that our staff has a true interest in increasing mentorship opportunities. While the board was able to support these programs in the 2009-10 budget, it was our hope that the funding would be seed money to illustrate a commitment to the initiative. If you are interested in investing in our future, then I invite you to support our mentorship initiatives.
School Board Vice Chairman & Fairfield District Representative
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