Big Brothers/Big Sisters needs help from volunteers

    Murphy – Tom Spencer, chairman of Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Cherokee County, appealed to the Cherokee County Board of Education on Thursday for new leaders to step up to help the program continue.
    “Our program is at risk now,” he said. “After eight years, I am stepping down as chair of the organization. I’ve tried to build a council without success. We need some people to step forward. I will still be involved but not as a one-man show anymore.
    “We have money in the bank to operate the program for another year without raising another penny. But we have fundraising [events] planned. I need to see there are other people in the community who will step forward and take a leadership role.”
    The Big Brothers/Big Sisters program started here in 2010 with five children, Spencer said. The mission involves mentoring children to transform their lives. Gloria Dockery is program director/ and the only paid person in the local program.
    The local program has served 496 children, he said. The mentors are called “Bigs” and the children “Littles.”
    Dockery reported that in 2017-18, success in Littles could be measured by a 93 percent improvement in self-confidence, 86 percent improvement in academic performance, 92 percent improvement in problem solving and 87 percent improvement in school attendance.
    Several county schools have been served by the program along with a partnership with AmeriCorps Project MARS.
    “Bigs can show kids there is a better way,” Spencer said. “They can break out of the cycle of negativity.”
    “You can’t quantify everything,” Superintendent Jeana Conley said. “We have students who are reached by [Big Brothers/Big Sisters] on a completely different level. I am making an appeal for people to step forward.”
    In the public comments portion of the school board meeting, Rebecca Garland talked about the school system’s Exceptional Children services.
    She spoke about three children who entered the school system in 1996 – one with Down syndrome, one with severe attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and another who “was too smart for her own good.”
    Garland said they tried to get the boy with Down syndrome into regular classes, but they were told he could not possibly achieve there. However, he eventually attended Western Carolina University and works in the community today.
    The boy with ADHD had a hard time focusing so he became involved in sports, which motivated him to achieve in academics. He met the young lady who was “too smart for her own good,” she later pregnant and they became teen parents.
    The girl who was too smart for her own good also was diagnosed with ADHD, but she graduated high school with honors. She completed a four-year degree in college in three years and today is a high school teacher, instructing in the Exceptional Children program.
    The young man with ADHD enrolled in community college. He graduated from Western Carolina with honors and is a teacher for learning disabled kids today.
    “All children have the potential to succeed,” Garland said. “Encourage your teachers and counselors never to tell a kid again that dreaming a dream is impossible.”
    A nonprofit called Davis’s Vision has been formed so kids don’t get labeled and cast to the side, she said.
    “I pray that the current administration never tolerates a teacher tearing a student down,” Garland said.
    “That would never be tolerated for a child’s dreams to be shattered,” Conley said.