Carol and I had lunch with Rebecca yesterday at Wendy’s in Ridgeland. When she walked into the place, it was hard to compare her to the Rebecca that I met on the basketball bus a year and some ago. Her hair was swept up and surrounded by a band, her makeup was modest and her clothes were similarly modest.

She approached us and reached out her arms to give us a hug and a kiss. She was stately, assured and impressive. We ordered our Wendy’s food and sat down at one of the tables. This was not the same person who sat next to me on the aforementioned bus. I had gotten permission from the assistant principal L.R. and the basketball coach to accompany the team to an away game.

For me, that was a signal event at our volunteer mentoring at the Ridgeland-Hardeeville High School in Jasper County South Carolina. Carol and I had been to a number of games, both home and away. I have always been a basketball fanatic. I even majored in basketball in my first year and a half at Queens College. I did not attend many other classes. That was one of the reasons that I dropped out and went into the U. S. Army. So, basketball was in my veins and arteries.

It was a joy to me to be mentoring some young men at the high school, some of whom played on the team. This led to our attending games and eventually put me on that bus.

As I sat down on the bus that night, this tall young lady sat down next to me. For some reason, she wanted to talk to me. I don’t believe that I had ever had a conversation with her before. She was also not one of the young women that Carol was working with.

We talked basketball for a while and then slid into future plans for college. Her family included 4 other sisters. Mom had a Bachelor’s degree in pre-school education and dad was a truck driver. Her other sisters were either going to college, or were graduated.

She was curious about my background and wondered why I was volunteering and why I was given permission to be on the bus. We were going to a faraway game and we had enough time to get into some serious discussion about majors, what college was really like and how to improve the high school.

Ridgeland Hardeeville has trouble scheduling non-conference basketball games for both the men and women. The women won the state basketball championship a few years ago. The same sized non-conference teams were, and still are, a bit afraid of playing them. So, they travel distances (one time, I was on the bus to Brunswick, Georgia) to play teams whose student population is much larger than RHHS.

That night the RHHS teams both won. I admired and still do the attitude of the players on both the boys and girl’s teams. They keep their cool and don’t mouth off to officials. On the way back home, some other young ladies wanted to sit next to me and talk. Rebecca shooed them away and said that SHE was going to sit next to me.

We continued our earlier conversation. The advantage that these talks gave me was to find out about the community, the people who lived in the them and the aspirations of the community. It is amazing to find out that these youngsters are keen observers of what is happening, both economically, socially, and yes politically in their areas.

As Carol and I talked to Rebecca at Wendy’s, we saw an intelligent young woman, who will succeed in her life. She is bright and articulate and yes, she did well in her classes this first semester. The historically black college that she is going to, limits social activities for the first two semesters. From our perspective, that is a good thing.Rebecca keeps her own counsel on that subject.She will not get involved with extra-curricular activities until she feels that time management and her academics are on a positive track.

Rebecca is majoring in criminal justice and a minor in pre-law. We talked with her about going to law school. She said that was in the back of her mind. Somehow, last year, we had started a tradition of bringing her a bag of peanut M&Ms to the games. She would share it with her teammates. Actually, this year, we have continued the tradition with one of the young ladies that Carol is working with. Shakylla, who is a cheerleader, is carry on the tradition.

Although we are quite proud of what Rebecca has accomplished so far, we take no credit for what she had done. In truth, her family set her up for success. We have met her mom and a few of her sisters. They all have the same kind of drive for success. All we can do is to observe this wonderful young lady and know that there are many more of her sort that need a chance to flourish.


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