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Bright lights in the city

Posted: June 5, 2014 10:08 a.m.
Updated: June 6, 2014 5:00 a.m.

Brian Mayes arrived in Camden 16 years ago as a rising gospel singer ill from on-the-road food poisoning. In his recuperation he understood, almost as a calling, that he was brought here, he says, “to help the children.” With that, he abandoned his career, and for years developed youth programs, with or without funding. He famously manages the fall Step Show, typically packed to the rafters in the Camden High School gym. Now, after his years of improvisational outreach he’s the director of the new Boys & Girls Teen Club in the old Jackson High School across from Camden High; it will open formally in September.

Known to many as “Mr. BB,” for Brian Bernard, Brian Mayes embodies what one individual can do, especially in the face of naysayers who insist, “There’s no place for kids to hang out,” or worse, “There’s nothing to do around here.” Mr. BB’s idea of kids hanging out is to get them into college; that intention drives all his activities. So far, he and his wife, Roberta, have helped over 100 Camden high school students gain admittance into college; one after another has graduated from Benedict, Morris, Limestone and Coastal Carolina, among others. The operative philosophy behind Mayes’ leadership at the Boys & Girls Club will be to create successful young adults.

Recently, Brian and his longstanding “mentor,” (his term), Paul Napper, director of the ALPHA Center, with private funding, notably from the Blue Cross/Blue Shield Foundation, brought 20 boys to the South Carolina Waterfowl Association’s Camp Woody, “to take them out of their usual environment of cell phones and video games and put them in touch with nature.” The highlight: a canoe trip that at first terrified many who were determined not to get into the canoes; and when they did, they were triumphant. As Napper says, “we took 20 boys and brought back 20 men.” Under the aegis of the ALPHA Center, Mayes has also created the flag football program for this summer, three nights a week from 6 to 9 (p.m.), “to wear them out with fun sports; we’ll give them a hot dog too, so they don’t go home hungry.”

To contribute to the Boys and Girls Club: Boys & Girls Clubs of the Midlands, 500 Gracern Road, Columbia, SC 29210. For flag football, make check out to The ALPHA Center and mail to: The ALPHA Center, 709 Mill St., and make a notation to “flag football.”

The May 21 Leadership Day at Jackson Elementary School proved to be an unexpected carnival of joy. In addition to filling the school with bright colors and inspirational sayings, Principal Matia Goodwin has structured learning around the best selling Stephen Covey book, “The Seven Habits of Success.” The school website proclaims her pedagogy: 1. Be Proactive: You are in charge of your actions. 2. Begin with the end in mind: Have a plan, set goals, and achieve them. 3. Put first things first: Work first, then play. 4. Think Win-Win: Everyone can win. 5. Seek first to understand, then to be understood: Listen before you speak. 6. Synergize: Working together is better. 7. Sharpen the Saw: Balance works best.

On Leadership Day, first, second and third graders proved to be wonderfully articulate tour guides to visiting parents and local officials. Something is working and working well.

At the beginning of the school year, Principal Goodwin wrote in the school website:

“In ‘The Seven Habits of Happy Kids,’ Sean Covey tells a story about his children being bored at home and saying they have nothing to do. The children were telling the Dad this as if he had something to do with their boredom. Often times we blame others for our own circumstances, because we want someone else to fix our problem. The truth is we must take responsibility for our lives. We choose to have fun or be bored and to be happy or unhappy. In order to be proactive you take charge and stop playing the victim. Taking charge can be as simple as choosing proactive language. For example, practice saying, ‘I choose’ instead of, ‘I can’t.’ Begin using phrases such as ‘I will,’ ‘I prefer’ and ‘I’m going to.’ I end with the following quote: ‘When we can no longer change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.’ -Victor Frankel.”

Bravo, Principal Goodwin, and congratulations to your visionary teachers. Thank you for your leadership. You have placed Kershaw County and the future of our children into the best of hands.

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