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Quincy McClain, FUN volunteers & the Lord’s work

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POSTED June 17, 2010 2:41 a.m.
My sister Mary was a senior in high school when she decided she wanted to become a teacher.

It was a few months before her graduation when I would have the honor of presenting Mary a diploma for the second time as a trustee of the Western Placer Unified School District. The first time was when she graduated from eighth grade.

I tried to talk her out of it. It wasn’t because I didn’t see great value in being a teacher. It was actually the opposite. My response to her career choice was colored by serving on the school board.

At that point I had spent six years listening to people blame teachers for every ill of society. I also saw how a couple of bad administrators treated teachers as if they were inferior and worked overtime not to share budget details and even any type of vision with them as they operated by the creed that shared knowledge weakened their authority. I didn’t want to see my sister get eaten up by those students who were more than disrespectful, those parents who either blamed teachers for everything or else showed as much interest in their own flesh and blood as they did the noon temperature in Antarctica, and any administrator who seemed to have forgotten why they got into education.

Understand that most students, parents, and administrators are good folks. It doesn’t take much, though to wear you down.

Mary, six years later, was almost through with her first year teaching social science at the school that both of us graduated from - Lincoln High in Lincoln, Placer County.

She was frustrated.

One particular kid had been more than a problem the entire school year. He was disruptive, borderline disrespectful, and seemed to not be grasping the subject despite all of her best efforts. In this particular student’s case she tried working with him after school but to what seemed like no avail.

Mary was ready to quit.

Then, some four years later, Mary ran into the former student. She was more than taken aback when he told her that she made a big difference in his life.

That is just one example of why judging teachers only on state test scores is plain wrong.

What brings this up was some blogging lately that attacked the efforts of The Reverend Quincy McClain and her small army of volunteers that are opening the doors of the Southside Christian Church on Locust Avenue each Fridays this summer as they have done for the past two years to provide a safe haven for neighborhood kids.

They get around 100 kids a week. They have wholesome activities for them, provide them with healthy food (which is sometimes their best meal of the week), and bring in experts in health, education, and other endeavors to try and equip them with information needed to lead a healthy and productive life and to steer clear of the influence of gangs.

The stories on the program promoted bloggers who bravely hide behind pseudonyms while ripping into those who dare put themsleves out to help others to slam the Friday Unity Night in the Neighborhood as a big joke. One blogger, dripping with sarcasm so thick it would take a diamond saw to cut it, ridiculed McClain and other volunteers by writing they felt so much safer now that they were getting 8 year olds off the street for three hours a week.

The entire point of the effort is to expose kids to wholesome activities and positive role models.

And it does work. It may not help steer all who attend ultimately away from the wrong path but the FUN program will impact the lives of kids in ways that won’t be absolutely clear for years.

Sometimes all it takes is another adult besides a kid’s parents taking an interest in them.

 It is what neighbors used to be like before we grew more apart with the advent of a faster-paced life via technology and such that was supposed to bring us closer together. It is a throwback to a different time when gangs weren’t effectively competing with family and neighbors for influence over young lives.

I’m glad that my sister didn’t take my advice. She is making a difference.

At the same time, I hope Quincy McClain and her dedicated volunteers who give unselfishly of their time don’t get discouraged by someone hiding behind the key strokes of a computer laboring in the belief they are connected with the rest of the world somehow better than those who  take the time to interact with youth on a one-on-one basis.

McClain and those helping her are indeed doing the Lord’s work.
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