NHS grads give back to alma mater

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 4, 2001

Volunteers who want to make a difference in the world come in all shapes, sizes and age groups. Their interests range from church work to environmental activism. You name it; there’s sure to be someone giving time to it.

Still, you have to wonder if college-age students who are passionate about giving something back to the high school they attended might not be few and far between. That’s why the work being done at Natchez High School by Ron Steele and Joycelyn Love caught my eye and stopped me in my tracks as I visited the Learn and Serve program at the school recently.

That program by itself is an impressive grouping of activities, bringing together young people of differing abilities and interests to prepare them to be better students and productive adult citizens.

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Winnie Kaiser of the Natchez-Adams Economic Development Authority wrote the grant that put the program in place. Randy Laird is its director.

The two NHS grads regularly give their time to the many dozens of students in the program, which takes place after school several days a week.

Love, a 1997 graduate, returned to her home school as a student teacher from Alabama State in Montgomery. &uot;I heard about the program and wanted to be involved,&uot; she said, as she paused from assisting one of the students with an English assignment.

Her six weeks as a student teacher at Natchez High had ended; she had moved on to another six weeks at Natchez Middle School. Nevertheless, she returned each afternoon to the high school to work with the Learn and Serve students, particularly offering her skills as a tutor.

&uot;I can see the benefits to these students,&uot; Love said. &uot;They are becoming involved in the community and in so many projects.&uot;

Most important, however, the students are becoming involved with each other – students who might never have known each other or worked together on projects.

&uot;You never know what you might do or say that will make a difference in someone’s life,&uot; Love said. &uot;That’s why I wanted to be involved.&uot;

Steele, a graduate student in agriculture at Alcorn State University, also finished high school in the 1990s. He became aware of the program when the group made a field trip to Alcorn.

Now Steele speaks to the Learn and Serve class about college experiences – the importance of getting there and staying there.

&uot;There are many problems you face when you go away to school. You encounter situations you’ve not had before,&uot; Steele said.

&uot;Going away to school gives you a chance to use all the things you were taught by your parents and others,&uot; Steele told the students at one gathering.

&uot;I want to stress achievement. You have to stretch to be the best you can be in all your endeavors,&uot; he told the students in a soft but brotherly tone.

The students listened, asked a few questions and went on to other activities. A connection had been made, however. That was easy to see. Both college students undoubtedly have bright futures. Not only are they reaching for the stars in their chosen fields. They are willing to stop along the way to lend helping hands to younger brothers and sisters. That’s volunteerism at its best.

Joan Gandy is special projects director for The Democrat. She can be reached at 445-3549 or by e-mail at joan.gandy@natchezdemocrat.com