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Personal Growth

The Importance of Role Models

Are you a mentor? Have you benefitted from a mentor or role model? Often the mentors and role models in our lives go unrecognized. We are not always able to see who or what influences us. Here are three people who have made an impact on my life. You won’t see any of these people on the national news, but they have made a significant impact on their communities.

power scooter role model

Challenging the Disabled

The first person is a soccer coach by the name of Chris Finn. He passed away in July 2020, but his message lives on. Why was he so special?  Finn was a two-time world champion and the head coach of the US National Power Soccer Team, in addition to coaching in the Bay area. Power soccer is an indoor game played by athletes on a basketball court and derives its name from the power scooter that the players are on. Finn was passionate about passing on to his players the importance of teamwork, sportsmanship, and determination.

Chris suffered a spinal cord injury in adulthood and had minimal movement
from the chest down. The injury led him to need round the clock help, but he never lost his sense of curiosity and independence. His motivation and grit went on to motivate a generation of young athletes and their families.  Chris provided a vital mentor opportunity to young power soccer athletes who saw him as a role model.

When he wasn’t on the field coaching or playing, he was out on the road publicly speaking and mentoring on his journey. He started the You Are Able Organization, to encourage individuals to follow their dreams. He leaves behind a legacy of mentorship and involvement that will not be forgotten.

role model teaching tech

Planting Seeds for Future Growth

Dewayne Hendricks is a retired Detroit native whose specialty is technology. For most of his life,
he was an entrepreneur in the tech industry. He enjoys teaching people about technology – particularly temporary and permanent wireless systems for local and international entities.

A few years ago, Dewayne participated in a project to incentivize local youth to learn more about technology.  The goal was to give the students the necessary skill set to become internet service technicians. Dewayne helped design the course and served as a resource/mentor for the students.

The major obstacle he had to overcome was the lack of discipline in the classroom.  Many of the students came from unstable backgrounds and lacked a sense of discipline. His first challenge was having the students attend class on time. Many of the students would walk into the class twenty minutes late. Establishing firm expectations in how the class would be run led to a quick change in behavior.  A second issue was overcoming the lack of reading and writing skills and the ability to retain course content from one day to the next.  Providing extra resources for the students, helped many of them strengthen the skills that they struggled with.

Dewayne worried about the long term impact on the student’s lives, especially since most had poor support systems outside of the class to help them on their journey to higher education. His biggest hope is that reaching the students planted the seed of lifelong learning.

I admire his dedication in encouraging a thirst for knowledge in the students. Providing a role model for younger generations is something that we should all aspire to do.

No Ordinary Girl

Whether she realizes it or not, my daughter Jennifer is a role model. She was born with
congenital arthrogryposis, which is a condition of weak muscles and stiff joints, which led her to limited mobility. When she was in the fifth grade, she asked me what job she was going to have when she grew up. I said, “I don’t think the job you will have exists yet.” And I was right – who knew what changes the Internet would bring to our lives! After college, she went to work as a programmer in Silicon Valley. She is currently continuing her education through New York University’s online master’s program in disability studies.

Having been raised as a “normal” child, she is only now becoming aware of the roadblocks and
hurdles that disabled individuals have to overcome. Her goal is to know enough about the law and its processes to be able to lobby and improve the lives of disabled individuals.

She is a true role model both in her professional, and personal life.  From playing power soccer for 8 years to learning to drive a mini-van with a hands-only adapted driving system to organizing a beautiful vineyard wedding to the man of her dreams, she is a shining example of what can be accomplished by anyone who dares to dream. I am very proud of her.

role model, mentoring tree

You! : The Role Model

There are those of us who may not realize we are mentors and role models. My friend Rita is a volunteer for the Red Cross and is always ready to help after a natural disaster. Another friend Barbara spends her spring months helping senior citizens with a free tax return preparation.

When I was active in District PTA, my favorite activity was teaching at our annual all-day district training, and my favorite topic was treasurer duties. There are many rules and regulations that a “simple volunteer” needs to know to keep the PTA in the good graces of the IRS. The training was held on the first Saturday in June, not always convenient for parents. But it was always a pleasure to be told, “I’m glad I came – I really learned a lot.”

If you stop and think about it, you have probably spent a portion of your life as a mentor or role
model. Working at the snack shop during your child’s little league baseball games. Singing in
your church choir. Driving for Meals on Wheels. Being an officer of a nonprofit organization.
Attending city council meetings or school board meetings to keep up to date on the happenings
in your community. Writing a column for your city newspaper. Organizing art projects for your
local elementary school.

You influence others when you are involved with your community, and yes, you are a mentor and a role model in all that you do. Take a second and  appreciate your contribution
to society!

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