Just imagine the world we could conceivably live in if every adult in America decided to mentor a young person in their community?
Mentor is defined at Dictionary. com as a "wise and trusted counselor or teacher." The point here is to not necessarily spend 20-30 hours a week with a young person while already holding down full time commitments of family and employment, (though that would be admirable) but rather to just impact a young person in some type of positive way. It could be encouraging education, supporting their involvement in sports, a time commitment for a local youth group, (like the Police Athletic League in many American cities) or how about just spending five minutes here and there to stop and listen in front of your residential building to that young person. Find out what's going on in their lives so that they know someone cares. Sort of borrowing the philosophy of Hillary Clinton's book, it does a village to raise a child.
Fate has a way of making lives connect even when it's unexpected and with that said, I am so impressed, and proud of a young lady named Samantha Jackson.
After serving as a graduation speaker throughout the years, I have to admit, one of my dreams has been, that one day I would finally bump into one of the students, and they would tell me all the great things that they are achieving with their lives.
Samantha Jackson fulfilled my dream.
Our paths initially crossed from afar when I delivered the Commencement address at Hostos Community College in the Bronx back in 2008.
Hostos is not a traditional looking institution of higher learning, but for us Bronx residents, we are proud of the school located on the busy Grand Concourse at 149th St. It may not be Ivy League college, but it's ours. Hostos has always been near and dear to my heart, because the college educates many students that perhaps might be considered non-traditional. (like I was, and I thought that I was inferior) A school where many of the student body are often the first ones from their families to ever go to college.
I remember the Hostos night well, having just finished anchoring the TV political show at NY1, and rushing from 14th and 9th Ave to all the way in the Bronx. Just one notorious New York traffic jam and I would not make it, but fate was on my side.
The President of the college at the time Dr. Dolores Fernandez was speaking as I made my way on stage with a last minute, rushed on cap and gown. My remarks across the country are always about the same theme. That when it comes to success, I firmly believe that anything is possible in life. It doesn't matter where we start at in life, it's where you are going. Education, hard-work, and determination are great equalizers. Samantha Jackson only proves my point and is going to big places.
Just two weeks ago, while delivering different remarks for a different group, I noticed a young lady in the crowd. She sat there patiently smiling occasionally, but for some reason she just caught my attention. Afterwards, she walked up and told me her name was Samantha Jackson, and that she had heard me a few years ago at Hostos. My mind raced with thoughts. Was this one of the students that I dreamed about? One of the students that was about to tell me great things? The answer was a resounding yes.
It was the next few words, that Samantha said that almost brought tears to my eyes, but I didn't want her to see me get emotional. Perhaps the next Hillary Clinton was standing right in front of my eyes.
Samantha told me not only did she graduate from Hostos, but went on to earn a college degree from Columbia University three short years later, and is currently working on her Master's Degree at Brown University to graduate this year. In this day and age of nothing but negativity about young people I wanted to stand on a mountain and yell did you hear this young lady? She graduated from Hostos, and believed in herself enough to go onto one of the best colleges in America, Columbia University, and then to Brown for her Masters. I spent the entire night, telling anyone and everyone that would listen.
As I thought about Samantha's success later that night, I thought about her strong family, her parents, but also when a person wants something bad enough, and is willing to work for it with no excuses, you can achieve great success. I looked back at how a Hostos magazine described Samantha even back in 2008.
"Born in Brooklyn and raised in Bay Shore, New York, Samantha Jackson has roots in both the West Indian and the African-American communities. Her upbringing allowed for her to overcome many obstacles and to also have abundant successes.
As a Liberal Arts major, Samantha has averaged a GPA over 3.50, while participating in various extracurricular activities, including serving as the President of the English Club, Vice-President of the West-Indian Club and the Secretary and then Treasurer of the Black Student Union.
Samantha has also been recognized for her academic achievement by being placed on the Dean's List in The Phi Theta Kappa International Honors Society and has also been named a Serrano Scholar, which is a program designed in collaboration with Columbia University to help high achieving students prepare to work in International Affairs or National Security.
Samantha lives life to the fullest and finds great reward in fulfilling her dreams and her goals."
The program at Columbia titled for Global Scholars, provides full tuition benefits for the study of human rights, international affairs and national security. It has been funded through grants from the United States Departments of State and Defense and has been instrumental in encouraging underrepresented students to pursue careers of public service.
If I'm fortunate enough to one day be an old man, I will always remember Samantha Jackson. With a smile she represents hope, determination, hard-work, and the future.
Most of us could benefit from a mentor of some kind. Just imagine the potential if our entire society subscribed to "Each One, Teach One?"