Inspire, challenge kids to live up to their potential

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Students in Wilson County have started school, and while I’m a little sad to be an empty nester with no first day of school picture to post (my son respectfully declined my request), it has been wonderful to see the children of my friends and family, their new bookbags and clothes, and the promise in their eyes of a great year.

I actually know most of the people I follow on social media. They are involved parents who make sure their children’s needs are met and are committed to being a positive example for them.

I had great parents, and I hope my son feels I have been at least decent as a mom. That being said, I was not a perfect student, and I did not raise one either.

My name definitely made it on the board on a number of occasions, and sometimes I had a check beside it. I did not always turn in my homework or handle tough situations well, and I even failed a test or two. Still, I was considered a good student, and I believe I turned out OK.

This behavior was not condoned in any sense, and I received strict, quick correction at school and home. But I was never made to feel that, overall, I would be anything other than successful in life. As a child, I thought this was everyone’s reality. As an adult, I realized just how blessed I was.

A lot of kids right here in Wilson do not have positive role models in their homes. All they know is chaos, and they bring it into their schools. Their parents do not communicate with teachers, or if they do, it is only to confront or degrade them instead of working with them. These kids are labeled, teachers and administrators give up on them, and they are left to navigate this crazy world with no one to show them the way. No one says they believe in them and their ability to be successful.

I am so thankful for my parents and great teachers who spoke to the greatness inside of me; teachers like Mrs. Carol Brugh, who passed away last week. In eighth grade, I was on the Science Olympiad team at Forest Hills but not working up to my ability. Mrs. Brugh took me aside and said, “I know you. I know you are capable of this, and I expect you to prove me right.”

Several years later, I ran into her at the grocery store. My friends had all graduated from college, while I had transferred to another school, changed my major and was a single mother of a newborn. I told her I decided to become a writer instead of a corporate attorney, and my parents were more than a little concerned that they were putting me through college only to become a starving novelist.

She told me that I may struggle, because everyone struggles, but I’d never starve. She encouraged me and reminded me that I was capable. And I hope, in my own small way, I have proven her right.

If you’re reading this, I challenge you to be the person speaking to the greatness that is inside of people instead of the chaos that may surround them.

The situation may not be pretty. The person may be a 15-year-old high school dropout who is pregnant with her second child. Her fate may look sealed. But having someone who encourages her may inspire her to travel the world and become part of the soundtrack of people’s lives. She may have the confidence to sing “Nessum dorma” with twenty minutes’ notice, and bring presidents to tears with her voice.

If you speak to her greatness and let her know you believe she is capable, as Aretha Franklin’s support system did for her, she just may prove you right.

LaMonique Hamilton Barnes is a reporter and copy editor for The Wilson Times. She also blogs about arts and culture at iamlamonique.com.