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Mentors are important in each young person's life as he or she grows to adulthood. Values and a sense of worth are instilled in us by the adults who take the time to help us as young people. Mentors are found at home- parents and relatives; in the community- neighbors, coaches, and pastors; and in the school- teachers, principals, and counselors; in short, any adult committed to having an ongoing, caring relationship with a youth. Each of us can think back to at least one person who playes a pivotal role in our lives at a time when we needed guidance, acceptance, or a push in the right direction. We'd like to recognize the importance of caring adults in a youth's life by highlighting a champion of young people and his recollections of those who mentored him.
Throughout my life I have had the joy of being influenced by so many wonderful people. People, who were willing to help me, teach me, mentor me. From family and friends to teachers and coaches, each played a role in helping me develop into the person I am today. They offered advice and counseling. They displayed friendship and loyalty. And some were just there to bounce ideas off of. Yes. I can say that I would be a very different person if it weren’t for those people.
As I reflect on these people and the various roles they played in my life, none stands above my brother, Rich. He was only 2 years older than me, but he represented everything that I ever wanted to be. He was cool, popular, charming and athletic. He was also the most supportive sibling in the world. A role he continues to perform to this very day. Everything that I know about loyalty I learned from him.
When we were little kids we took swimming lessons at the YMCA. On one particular day a very sarcastic 6 year old (me) talked back to a very large 12 year old. When the punch came I never felt it. That was because my big brother, my hero, had stepped in front of me and stood there without flinching. He calmly took me by the shoulder and walked out to meet our parents and never spoke of it.
There are so many stories like this, but they all end the same. With my brother putting his family and his friends first. Rich showed me that you are loyal to those you love and that you always conduct yourself with honor. That the needs of others are greater than your own needs.
When I entered high school I had the good fortune to cross paths with one of the greatest educators I have ever known. Scott Campbell was the choral instructor at Farmington High School and a man I proudly call a friend to this day. Scott taught me about passion and perseverance and that to be a success and enjoy life you must have both.
Half way through my sophomore year of high school I was scraping by as a C- student, doing just enough to stay eligible and on the track team. Scott pulled me into his office and told me in no uncertain terms that if I wanted to achieve anything in life I needed to decide that day if I was prepared to do what was necessary. Over the next two and a half years Scott met with me often, encouraged me, helped me and supported me. He demonstrated passion for his discipline and helped me develop a love of not just music, but of learning.
When I started my teaching career I had every intention of spending it in direct contact with students. Along the way I discovered that sometimes the best way to help my students was by helping other teachers. As I thought about this dramatic shift in my career I again found myself in need of a mentor. Ron Perrault, my supervising principal in Simsbury, stepped in to fill that roll.
Ron gave me every opportunity to serve as a leader in my building and across the district. He brought me in for frequent conferences with him, passed on advice from 25 years as an administrator and listened to ideas and sought input from me on decisions. He was the expert and yet he truly valued the opinion of someone just starting out.
Being the recipient of good mentoring does come with a caveat. You can’t be on the receiving end for all eternity. At some point you have an obligation to pass along all the good that you have received. Over the past several years I have worked hard to share with my students, my friends and my family the lessons I have learned in my life. I have worked to live out the character ideals that were modeled for me and to allow others the opportunities for growth that I was afforded.
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