Tuesday, February 11, 2014
During February, Serena Staggers is exhibiting a collection of African American publications in the chamber office in honor of Black History Month. As I perused Ms. Stagger's books, I immediately found two of my favorite individuals in her collection: Dr. Ben Carson and Michael Oher. Dr. Carson and Mr. Oher have had very successful careers; however, it was most likely Dr. Carson's mother and the Tuohys stepping out in faith that made success a possibility for the young men.
Dr. Ben Carson, the former chief of pediatric neurosurgery at John Hopkins, began his road to excellence when his mother realized her son was not doing well in school and required him to read two books a week and limited his time watching Television. It has been said that Dr. Carson's success is not just about his abilities, but rather it's about his mother's influence on her son's life. Dr. Carson had a successful medical career, authored several books and even had a movie made about his life. As a retired physician, he now shares his story around the country inspiring youth and raising money to provide scholarships so other young people can have the same opportunities he did.
On the other hand, football star, Michael Oher, broke the cycle of poverty, and hopelessness that trapped his birth family by seeking positive role models and good friends that shared his desire to excel. Of course it did not hurt that Michael was adopted by an affluent family that provided opportunities that he would not have had otherwise. Most people know Michael Oher from the movie the Blind Side. From homelessness, to Ole Miss, to the Baltimore Ravens, Oher understands he has done the impossible. But more importantly he does not want his story to end with football. Michael Oher continues to work diligently to be the best player and person he can be while he helps other young people reach their dreams. Whether Dr. Carson or Michael Oher realized it, their leadership skills developed as educational and athletic opportunities increased. Both men have become great leaders and role models for young people in this country.
It is clear that youth need positive influence, good role models, and friends with exceptional goals. In 2012, the chamber was given the task to develop a youth leadership program following the rollout of the Williamsburg County Strategic Plan. The strategic plan documentation states that strong leadership is vital for productive communities. The success of Williamsburg County is dependent on having good quality leadership that will work together. Therefore it is important that the county focus on developing leaders for the future. Understanding the need for youth development, Jolie Brown with Williamsburg 4-H and I partnered to plan and promote a local youth leadership experience. Realizing the need to make the program attractive to youth, we stepped out in faith and committed to take the youth to Washington D.C. following the conclusion of the program. As it turned out, we had many qualified young people complete applications and the interview process but could only accept 10 youth this year. Those selected represent public and private schools and have completed the first leadership activity. The second session will focus on industry and technical education in the county.
As we continued stepping out in faith, my young friend determined that the leadership program should sponsor an event that could raise funds for our trip to Washington as well as bring visitors to Williamsburg County. As a dedicated runner, Jolie envisioned a 5K race serving the purpose of promoting tourism while raising funds for the trip to D.C. The race also gives the leadership participants the opportunity to participate and volunteer with a community event. A committee was organized, met, and planned the “Race to Washington” for May 3rd, 2014. The 5K race is being promoted by Carolina Race Company and will be publicize through their website. The race will include runners, walkers, and youth. Even as Jolie and I were stepping out in faith to plan a trip to D.C. and a race, the town of Kingstree was hiring Kelly Alford to be the new director for parks and recreation. Unbeknownst to us, Kelly is an experienced runner and brings knowledge and enthusiasm to our race committee.
Jolie and I are excited to work with a great group of youth and to provide a new opportunity for the community. We invite you to get your running or walking shoes ready and join us as we “Race to Washington.” We look forward to seeing you at our event and know you will be there because just like Mrs. Carson and the Tuohys we are stepping out…in faith.