No. 583



Have you ever thought about the fact that you are a role model? Well, you are. We all are, in one way or another. Some people are great role models while others are not, and those adults who are not good role models are providing a real disservice to our nation's young people.
Several years ago I made the decision to stop watching professional sports on television, with the exception of golf, because so many of the players were such poor role models for young people. It's just a personal thing with me and you certainly have a right to disagree, but you would not believe the extra time I now have to do other things.
One thing I believe we can agree on is that young people are also role models. As with adults, some are great, while some are not. The words "peer pressure" often come into play. As a general rule, when young people are involved in activities that are not in their long-term best interests, they will often put pressure on some of their "weaker" friends to also get involved. I don't have to name the activities because you know what I am talking about. It's right here that I would like to make a statement that also makes a very valid point.
There are millions of fine young people all across our country who are indeed wonderful role models. However, because of the nature of news, we don't hear nearly as much about them as we do those who are breaking the law or creating a nightmare for their parents. We have a very fine young lady who grew up here in our community, now enrolled at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, who has been and still is a great role model for young people. I consider it an awesome privilege to tell you about her.
This young lady's name is Mandy Talliaferro, a 2006 graduate of Conway High School. Mandy plans to be a teacher and was the recipient of four independent academic scholarships, but believe me, she was and is much more than a bookworm. Here are just a few of the many activities Mandy was involved in during her high school years: active in High School Student Congress, Future Politicians of America, Skills USA, vice president of her junior class, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, high school cheerleader for three years, All-American nominee, "Who's Who Among American High School Students," Miss Teen Central Arkansas 2006 and a whole host of other activities too numerous to mention.
While we had met many years before, I really got to know Mandy when she and her mom called me several months ago and wanted to get involved in reading to the young children who were receiving bookcases and books from our "Bookcase for Every Child" literacy project. As I mentioned earlier, Mandy plans to be a teacher, and her plan is to work with young children from low-income families with an emphasis on reading. In my mind, one of the hallmarks of a great role model is when they commit to do a job, they follow through and get it done.
Mandy and one of her best friends in school made a commitment to read to the children in our local Head Start program for the entire summer program. This is when a fewer number of children are there, but Mandy and her friend never missed a beat. It was so refreshing to see a recent high school graduate performing as a volunteer, like they were getting paid. Of course, they were getting paid in ways that money can't buy.
Since this time I have learned that the National Honor Society and several other student organizations stress community service as part of their character development. We are in the process of beginning a "Bookcase for Every Child" literacy project in many communities across the nation. If you are the parent or grandparent of a good role model-type student, why not get them involved in this project.
(EDITOR'S NOTE: Jim Davidson is a motivational speaker and syndicated columnist. You may contact him at 2 Bentley Drive, Conway, Ark. 72034. To support literacy, buy his book, "Learning, Earning & Giving Back.")