Editorial: Community improvement ... speaker opens our eyes to good stories at home

There is nothing like a guest speaker from outside our area to help us see things, often right in front of us or all around us, in a different light.

It helps sharpen our focus.

It helps us see how good we have it and how we might do even better with what we have.

Case in point: Manuel V. Scott, the guest speaker at the annual NAACP banquet the other evening.

Scott, 32, from Chicago, was one of the students portrayed in the movie “Freedom Writers.”

Until the time depicted in the film, Scott said he was incorrigible, getting involved with drugs and crime.

One teacher, one role model, made all the difference, he said.

“Even though I lived in the ghetto,” he said, “the ghetto didn’t live in me.”

His message then went to the next level. He said individuals can make a difference by reaching out to established organizations already working with youth, such as the NAACP, as well as working on their own. He walked the walk by talking with a group of young people before the banquet.

Revolutionary? Not exactly. But he helped us see.

He helped us see some of the same principles in play — and at work — at the Boys & Girls Club of Collier County, based in East Naples and planning an expansion in Immokalee. For the third straight year, the national and state Boys & Girls Club organizations have honored the Collier chapter with its top award for “Best Overall Program.”

That means engaging more than 750 students from 20 schools in after-school programs that are fun as well as educational. Plus, the local club monitors students’ progress via report cards, standardized test scores and other assessments.

This, we believe, would be an example of Scott’s point about individual volunteers and donors making a difference by hooking up with a quality program already under way. Contact the Boys & Girls Club by e-mail at info@bgccc.com or phone (239) 325-1700.

“Reaching out’’ and “making a difference” are themes of a sports story as well, as a star defender for Lely High School’s football team credits a third-grade teacher, Susan Outlaw, for inspiring him to move forward despite deafness. Cesar Torres has other special helpers as well, such as his mother at home and teachers and administrators at school. His success on the field, Torres says, spills over to his academic work.

The NAACP speaker’s message resonates yet again with the kickoff of the United Way of Collier County’s 2009-10 crusade. It’s $2.25 million goal would be shared by 29 agencies serving everyone from infants to senior citizens from Marco Island to Immokalee.

The United Way is the master of helping individuals help many agencies with single gift upon single gift — personifying the power of teamwork. Like the ads say: Thanks to you, it’s working.

Call the United Way, (239) 261-7112, or go online to www.unitedwayofcolliercounty.org.

Hurrah to all those friends and neighbors already involved in community outreach and improvement programs. Others can consider themselves invited.

These days there is more than enough work to go around for individual and collaborative efforts.

Just like the “Freedom Writer” told the NAACP.

© 2009 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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