Vanessa McLamb wasn’t satisfied when she felt she and her fellow parents didn’t know enough about the Rock Hill school district and its goals to educate their children in the new school year.
That’s why, when she learned the message of Saturday’s Empowerment Conference at the Kenneth Monroe Transformation Center, she made sure everyone around the neighborhood heard about it.
“I brought about 13 (kids) from the community,” McLamb said. “I thought it would produce a lot of information that kids need to know about school, but I also brought about seven adults. I didn’t feel like we were involved in school enough. I spoke to several of them and they were enlightened by what they found.”
School district officials, Rock Hill police department representatives and plenty of educators were on hand Saturday morning to teach children from kindergarten to high school the importance of time management, attention to detail and staying in school.
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Close to 200 students were involved in the conference’s breakout sessions, and all of them received new bookbags, school supplies and pamphlets on how to resist bullying and earn scholarships.
Maurice Harden, president of the My Brother’s Keeper initiative that sponsored the event, said the gathering was created last year to give students the tools and resources for success in the upcoming school year. It was essential to give kids an equal opportunity to hear from police officers, church leaders and several other community representatives, he said.
Last year’s conference provided supplies for more than 600 students; Saturday’s event saw a lower attendance due to a rainout from its originally scheduled date.
“They’re all different areas of the community, impacting the lives of children,” said Harden. “We want all of those entities to be empowering the kids; that’s why we call it an Empowerment Conference.”
McLamb felt comforted about the school system when she heard from several Rock Hill officials about their anti-bullying efforts, and attempts to help raise students with what she called “good morals.”
Ar’yana Hooper, a 13-year-old at Rawlinson Road Middle School, said she felt inspired by “The Golden Rule.”
“Be nice to everyone, even if people aren’t nice to you,” she said. “And it’s important to learn that you can’t bully yourself, because you don’t know what someone’s situation may be.”
Winthrop University political science professor Adolphus Belk spoke to local high school students about the power of resisting peer pressure and staying engaged in school.
Students need to see positive role models around them in order to feel spurred by their accomplishments, he said.
“Sometimes you don’t know you can do something until you see someone like you doing that thing,” Belk said. “It provides an inspiration, a model of success, and that’s what we want to do for these young people.”
Those are the types of lessons that McLamb wants to provide for the children of her community, and a big reason she rounded up as many willing participants as she could. If she can help those children have a sense of confidence heading into a new school year, she said, that will create a snowball effect.
Even if kids have a hard time listening to their own parents, McLamb said, she knows they’ll be more open to hearing from other adults.
“The school district really cares,” she said. “It’ll give them a sense of pride that the city really cares about them.”