DR. JOHN DEMPSEY: Help Youth And Shape Our Future
I went to a Boys and Girls Club board retreat the other night. As I listened to the staff and other board members talk about the challenges the club faces -- many of them financial -- I thought about how important that club is to me, to the college where I work, and to the community where I live.
As I am in the college business, my life and work are all about the future. Every day I encounter young men and women who have come to Sandhills to improve their futures.
Some of these students I see through my office window as they walk from class to class; some are students in the American government course that I teach; a few even find their way into my office for some help, or just to chat. The future is our real business at Sandhills, and I think we're pretty good at it.
The Boys and Girls Club is about the future, too. These youngsters are the kids who will one day walk our campus, sit in our classes, and become the chefs, nurses, police officers, and X-ray technicians of tomorrow.
Or will they? You see, a lot of the youngsters who go to the Boys and Girls Club are kids whose futures might not be too promising without the things that the club provides.
You may not know it, but the Boys and Girls Club isn't just about recreation. Sure, the kids play some basketball and air hockey, but they also get lots of really constructive supervision. They get help with their homework, and they get to work on computers and to do arts and crafts projects.
Just as important are the leadership and character-development programs the club offers, and the classes it teaches for healthy lifestyles and responsible choices. For some of the boys and girls, the meal they get served at the club is the best meal of the day. And, sadly, for some of the kids the club is the only really safe place they can play after school.
An awful lot of these children are what we might call "at risk." Many come from one-parent families that live on the economic margin.
Most are in situations where the alternative to coming to the club is to be left alone at home or in the neighborhood by working parents. "At risk?"
You bet they are, and the risk in question involves not only these kids, but the future of my college, the future of our community, and -- dare I say it? -- the future of our country.
We in the Sandhills live in the land of plenty. For the most part, we are well housed, well fed and well heeled. But just around the corner, where our peripheral vision can just begin to see them, are young kids of all races and backgrounds who don't have the advantages that helped most of us get where we are.
Simple advantages -- not money necessarily, but parental guidance, physical security, healthy self-images and nurturing home lives.
So, while we enjoy the present, let's think too about the future. Think about the kids who will be coming to Sandhills one day, and about what we can do to help make that happen.
If you've got some time, give a little of it to the Boys and Girls Club -- as a tutor, a reading teacher, or just as a friendly person for the kids to talk to. If you've got some money, give a gift to the club. They need it to keep up their building, to pay for staff, and to buy books and computers for the kids to use.
Either way, you'll feel good about yourself. More important, you'll have made an investment in that most precious thing called the future. If you'd like to help, call the club's director, Kim Madrigal, at 692-0777.
Dr. John Dempsey is president of Sandhills Community College.
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