EAST LAURINBURG — In a session of summer schooling on Monday morning, state Rep. Garland Pierce advised some 60 elementary and middle school aged children never to rest on the path toward their dreams — no matter the season.
The Partners in Ministry Summer Food and Fun program engages children for six weeks with activities in reading and mathematics as well as music, art, and drama.
“We want the teachers to be very creative; we want it to be fun, not that traditional school,” said executive director Melba McCallum. “When they’re learning reading they may do some drama, some dialogue, when they’re leaning math they may measure and learn through activities.”
The organization was formed in 2007 under the aegis of the United Methodist Church, and later moved to the former East Laurinburg Alternative Academy.
In addition to youth mentoring and tutoring, Partners In Ministry administers a housing renovation program for the elderly, provides a food bank twice a month for about 150 families, and organizes a community garden and low-cost thrift store. The organization serves people from Richmond, Scotland and Robeson counties.
“We’re wanting to have services here and to be that one-stop center where folks can come for resources,” McCallum said. “People need resources, those resources are in the community, we know that and make those referrals out. … We work with all denominations, churched or unchurched. It is for anybody who has a need.”
Pierce was one of several ministers, public officials, and educators to visit the summer program and encourage students to always be mindful of what the future may bring.
On Monday, Pierce explained his role as a legislator and the process by which an idea, such as prohibiting texting while driving and putting helmets on the heads of motorcyclists, becomes a law. He also invited a few children to the front of the room and asked them what they hope to be when finished with school, receiving answers from aspiring soldiers, doctors, law enforcement officers, and professional athletes.
He encouraged the students, whatever their dream, to make reading a daily habit and to work hard at school to maintain good grades and conduct themselves well.
“You may think that the things that you do as children will not matter, but it all matters,” he said. “Everything adds up to who you are. The way that you perceive yourself and the way that others perceive you is very important.”
To prove a point that nothing is impossible, Pierce slipped a ring from his finger onto a pencil, holding the pencil at each end and asking students to come up and take the ring off the pencil without slipping it onto his hand or breaking the pencil. When a succession of children failed, Pierce explained that he wanted someone to simply hold the ring so that no part of it was in contact with the pencil.
Some 120 children are enrolled in the program, which is led by certified teachers and designed so that children better retain the skills and knowledge they acquired in the last school year.
“We don’t want them to have that learning loss; we want them to either maintain or exceed so that when they go back to school they don’t have to start over,” said McCallum.
Mary Katherine Murphy can be reached at 910-276-2311, ext. 17. Follow her on Twitter @emkaylbg.