What’s going on? How are you doing? Please pause for a minute to reflect….. When you were faced with difficult situations, circumstances, decisions and hard choices, when you were in grade school (elementary and middle), high school and even, perhaps, college, who poured into your life? Who was your positive light or “go to person”? Better yet, who was there for you maybe even before you reached out to them? Who gave to you? What specifically did they give? Again, please pause and think…

When I look back on my life, other than my immediate family, there were many helpful people in the community who encouraged me, challenged me to succeed, disciplined me, modeled the way, loved me, etc. The positive reinforcement, encouragement, and support often came through the words they spoke, the approving smiles, the nods of the head, and/or the pat on the back. One specific thing that stands out was the time they spent time with me – sometimes in person, via cards or letters, telephone calls, etc. (Today, texting and social media provide even more avenues!) I knew I was valued, and they had my best interest at heart. Unquestionably, I felt the love and care of a lot of people from our village – including my teachers and administrators in the schools, as well as neighbors from near and far.

If you are single with nieces and nephews, parent/guardian with children or a volunteer as a mentor with Big Brothers Big Sisters or some other charitable organization, have you thought about what the children of today are experiencing? Is it very similar or vastly different from when we were growing up? Have you thought about the challenges many children face day-to- day? Do they have the support system(s) we had? Have you thought about the similarities and differences, especially as they relate to having, or the lack thereof, of a support network or safety net?

One of the differences that came to my mind based on personal experience, is that the schools, community – and the nation – really focused more on us as students! While our village was far from perfect, as a corporate body they wanted us to be the very best that we could be. This was demonstrated by their participation in elections (on all levels), in school activities and by passing rules, regulations and laws that governed operating procedures. When we had personal issues, concerns in our families, sickness – support was there for us – ensuring the health of all to grow and develop as life- long learners, as well as good citizens of the world. Are we paying it forward? After personally pausing and thinking, I realized that I need to do better, and I will. I have already begun.

Today, the emphasis in schools has focused outrageously more on TESTING, TESTING, TESTING and politicians – locally and nationally – personal agendas! It’s to the point of de-emphasizing or compromising the time and resources that are needed to assure more focus on educating the whole child and attending to his/her needs, not only academically but also socially and emotionally.

In addition to my reading many related articles related to this topic, I spoke with a colleague a few months ago who shared the story of her niece (3rd grader) who had never had issues in school but had begun having test anxiety because of the upcoming Third Grade Reading Guarantee Test! Really? Perhaps, you are not aware of many of the changes in schools and staff issues – although, it would be difficult not to know, given all of the coverage in the newspapers, the media and the internet. With all of the issues our children are facing from bullying, family issues, some school teachers/staff issues, testing-testing-testing to divorce, sickness, deaths, many children have a lot on their mind and so few people – who have their best interest at heart – with whom to share and discuss.

A lot of the students ‘mask’ or ‘cover’ – they put the best on the outside, and we think things are well with them. With some children, however, if we spend enough time with them, gain their trust, and establish mutual respect, many times they will share their deepest fears, uncertainties, worries and anxieties. Some may have mental health issues, are one standard deviation below the mean and have a special education identification and/or maybe two standard deviations above the mean and are classified with a gifted education identification; they ALL still need positive support, safety and love from people with their best interest at heart.

Sometimes we help children enormously by helping the family. Many times, it’s just as simple as making family members aware of resources and services that are available to them. When I hear the statement, ‘children are our future’, I cringe a little because I feel that not only are they our future, they are our present! Let’s see how we can do better at ‘being there’ for them.

Again, think back to that person or those people who were positive influencers in your life and who were there for you. I am checking myself and making changes and adjustments in measurable terms. Let’s do our part. Every little bit counts!! What do you and What do I have to give? I implore you, for our children’s sake – ask yourself, ‘What do I have to give to help ensure that children are on the right path?’ Then, please give it. If you need some assistance in deciding what to do and what specific steps to take, please feel free to contact Right Path Enterprises, LLC.

By Melinda Kelly