I graduated from Rock Island High School in Rock Island, Ill. A week before graduation, I was asked by the vice principal about my plans. I said, I should have been asked this a long time ago. He responded, get out of my office.
We had a place called the Life Line that helped me with homework after school. Ms. Betty Manley came around to teach us Bible study. Mr. Hickman was a scoutmaster for Boy Scouts and a business advisor from the downtown Rock Island area who gave us advice on staying out of trouble. There were also judges who would help children stay out of jail.
Recently, there was a meeting discussing street violence in the west end of Rock Island. Often, street violence occurs because of lack of opportunity to do such things as neighborhood development construction.
When I went to Hawthorne Elementary School in Rock Island a businessman told us, “Work hard and listen to your teachers; you can do anything.” I listened to him and became the first black marketing representative locally for IBM (International Business Machine).
Years ago, I did a fundraising kickoff at Frances Willard Elementary School in Rock Island. One third-grader there confided that he would sell drugs like his uncles and brothers, but if he had other options he would avoid that route. Years later, I read in the newspaper that this young man was facing jail time for selling drugs on the street. He said if he’d had an encouraging role model, his life would have been different. Imagine how many of our children in this city still lack options and hope.
My hope is to bring more volunteers to share their knowledge with our kids so we can give them back what we received in our childhood.