Positive role models needed to ‘lead the way’ in these challenging times


It was a humbling experience speaking at the recent Greater Millville Ministerial Association’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. service luncheon. This year’s theme was “Honoring the Dreamers,” and the following Millville residents were recognized for their accomplishments: Dr. Kim Ayres, Jeanne Lewis, Hannah Wesley, Keith Walters, Judy Kessler, Sam Herdman, Don Fauerbach, Dottie Wilkinson and Rev. Gerritt Kenyon.

These role models are not just dreamers, but doers, like many other community residents who inspire others by serving with excellence. Community role models don’t follow - they lead the way with fresh ideas and the determination to turn their dreams into realities.

Role models make things happen, and you can find them in all walks of life in our community – teachers, police officers, nurses, small business owners, mayors, ministers and sports coaches. I’m proud that many of this county’s “make a difference” role models are Cumberland County College graduates. You can see portraits of about 20 distinctive alumni on CCC’s Wall of Fame in the Frank Guaracini Jr. Fine and Performing Arts Center, and there are hundreds more throughout our county, region and nation.

Role models are unique individuals, but they all share a common trait – their visions make life better in our community. Many role models may not even realize the positive impact they have in our community, particularly among young people. They’re focused on excelling in their jobs, and the role models may not notice the ripple effect of people aspiring to “be like them.”

But I see the positive impact of role models every day on campus and throughout our community. CCC students are inspired by what area role models accomplish, and they want to emulate them.

Two weeks ago, 140 CCC students and staff members provided service at a dozen agencies in our community in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. There were plenty of role models involved in this project, ranging from club advisors, professors, students and agency employees. These people are willing to go the extra mile to make their community stronger; and these people often go under the radar, unnoticed in our rapid-fire world.

But we certainly need positive role models like those who volunteered for MLK day projects throughout America, especially during these tough and uncertain times. All you need to do is pick up the “Daily Journal” or turn on your TV to read or listen to the headlines. The national unemployment rate is more than 9 percent, and there are home foreclosures every day. With the plethora of negative and discouraging news, it is very easy for each and every one of us to become discouraged and overwhelmed.

During these challenging times - more than ever - we need to bring out the caring traits that exist within all of us. We need to become our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers, and reach out to help people. After all, many of us are only successful today because we were lucky enough to receive guidance from a mentor. So we all need to become dreamers and doers, just like the role models we come in contact with during our day-to-day lives.

In our own unique ways, we all need to “show the way,” because positive role models are essential for improving the quality of life in our community and country.