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Our View: Volunteers can fill void for isolated students




The problem with nostalgia is that we are inclined to forget the bad stuff. 


When adults reflect on childhood, the image that often emerges is a time when they were happy, healthy and hopeful, free from the burdens, cares and inevitable disappointments of the grown-up world. 


That narrative, to varying degrees, is a myth because it is a partial telling of the story. 


Childhood has its perils. It can be lonely and frightening and confusing at times. 


And for those who did not benefit from that "Leave It To Beaver" childhood, those very real emotions can cast a shadow over the future in any number of ways, including their education. 


Certainly, children who struggle in school are often disruptive. But it is just as likely that the child who struggles most in school may be the child who sits quietly at their desk, trapped in their small confused world. For that child, the most coveted super-power is likely to be the power to become invisible. 


Educators have long recognized this. 


That is why we are pleased to note the efforts of the Columbus Municipal School District, with the support of The United Way of Lowndes County, to fill that lonely void in the lives of elementary students. 


The plan, patterned loosely on Head Start's Foster Grandparent Program, will match volunteers over the age of 40 with an elementary student. The United Way is helping recruit adults for the program. It has sent out 50 invitations, about half the number of adults the district would ultimately like to enroll. 


To qualify, a person has to be able to devote a few hours each school day to be a mentor to a child. That's quite a commitment. 


The role is not that of a teacher. While a volunteer may certainly offer help if asked, the real role is to be a supportive presence, a mentor, an encourager, a person who will reassure and affirm, a trusted voice that says, "It's going to be OK" and "You can do this!" 


We strongly support this effort and other programs that provide mentors to children. Programs such as "Big Brothers" and "Big Sisters" have a long, proud history of making real differences in the lives of vulnerable children. 


We believe the Classroom Volunteer Impact Partner program will achieve similar results and it is our hope that the community will rally to support that effort. 


Being a kid can be a pretty difficult job. 


Some of us are in a position to do something about that.



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