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Guidance Along the Path

by Angela Lindsay

June 5,2006

Like any major city, negative elements will find a way to seep into its ignored crevices and overlooked dark places. A local publication recently published an expose on the seedy undercurrent of prostitution and drugs that exists here in Charlotte and which involves underage girls, some of whom are from suburban backgrounds. That may explain much of the shock and disbelief expressed in readers’ feedback over the fact that such activities could be going on under our noses in (gasp) Charlotte. Or they may have just been the natural reactions to the sheer atrocity of these young girls stories. Either way, I was struck by the contrast between what I read in that article and what I had witnessed a few weeks before.

In early May, I had the opportunity to interview and attend a lavish reception in honor of five of our city’s most accomplished citizens—and they were all women. Angeline Clinton, Raichelle Glover, LaRita Barber, Linda Lockman-Brooks, and Emma Allen were all presented with the 2006 People of Prominence Award given by The Charlotte Post Foundation, a philanthropic organization which has as its main purpose giving scholarships to students and funding other educational initiatives, the arts and racial inclusion projects. These recipients were honored for their success as business professionals as well as their service to their communities and families.

The city of Charlotte and its residents have always made a good habit of applauding the positive contributions of citizens in this community. On any given weekend, you are likely to stumble upon a black tie appreciation gala at the Westin or simply read about everyday unsung heroes in the newspaper. So, anyone who has been here long enough realizes that recognition such as the POP Awards are not anomalies to this city and neither are the people who receive such honors. In fact, it has always been this sort of selfless spirit and dedication to community that has allowed our city to thrive and has caused visitors to Charlotte to retreat to their native parts raving about the inherent goodness of the people here.

But given the sad stories of the young girls in the expose, it was clear that somewhere along the line, even the work of our most concerned citizens had not reached them. Countless studies have conclude that the guidance of a parent, teacher, counselor, or some other adult role model who demonstrates ongoing commitment and caring plays an essential role in a girl's development. Conversely, the lack of support from such role models, particularly during adolescence, could interrupt a girl's development, leave her without a sense of confidence, or cause her to turn to her peers, or, in the worst case, negative and dangerous influences, for validation, like the girls in the expose did.

The POP Awards program veered from typical awards program fare and showcased a rare “living room”-type discussion with the five recipients, led by TV news anchor Erica Bryant, in which the women shared their insight, experience, and advice for how they became so successful. Every one of them pointed to mentors who helped guide their paths. After reading the expose, I couldn’t help but think what kind of difference exposure to such leadership might have had for the girls in the story.

When people speak of role models, the names of some faraway famous persons often come to mind. But Charlotteans need not look that far. I know from personal experience that the Charlotte community has a plethora of programs and an abundance of mentors who give tirelessly of themselves and lead selflessly by example to help nurture area youth into becoming decent human beings. And the uplifting side to the article was just that. Several of the girls were able to find help and counseling through various local community organizations and volunteers.

I do not know what will become of the girls in the story at this point. Perhaps there will be a follow-up piece telling how they’ve turned their lives around and are now helping others to avoid the mistakes they made. Because as POP Awards recipient Emma Allen mentioned, that is how the next generation of community leadership is paid forward.

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