I had an opportunity last Saturday to speak for a few minutes with Herman Styles, who was chosen by the Greater Poplar Bluff Area Chamber of Commerce as its Person of the Year.
Styles was described by friends as someone who has touched thousands of lives, acting as a mentor to young employees through his business, among other endeavors.
He described himself to me as somewhat of an entry-level employer and talked about the importance of teaching good work skills, like responsibility and time management.
I also had an opportunity to speak with someone from Three Rivers College, about the impact they have on the lives of those in our region.
It’s the kind of impact that not only changes lives, but changes generations.
I say that as a first generation college graduate, for both sides of my family, who started at a community college.
The degree I earned there helped put me on a path to encourage and support my younger sister as she sought first an associate’s degree in nursing at TRC and then a bachelor’s degree through one of their partnerships. And one day her experience will, I hope, be encouragement for her son, who turns 1 this month.
But really both Mr. Styles and the conversation about TRC struck a chord with me.
My first job was through a community action program which placed teens as helpers at local elementary schools for a couple of months in the summer.
Mr. Styles is right about the importance of those first jobs, and how much can be learned about what to do and what not to do in the workplace.
My second job, which I held for two years of high school, was in a Chinese restaurant owned by a husband and wife who had immigrated here from Korea. Their two children were first-generation Americans.
The entire family worked in the restaurant, and the husband and wife were there 12-14 hours a day, six days a week.
They were an example of a hard work ethic that provided a good life, as well as college educations, for their children.
It reinforced what I had witnessed my own parents do as I grew up.
But by the time I graduated from high school, I was in uncharted waters.
No one on either side of my family had a college degree, and that was where I knew I needed to go, even if I didn’t know what I wanted to do.
I was lucky enough to have a stepping stone to get me started, and more than a few helping hands to pull me across.
I attended the community college in West Plains, and much of my two years there were funded by multiple scholarships from our local Kiwanis Club and chamber of commerce.
There were many more helping hands after that, but those experiences gave me the foundation I needed to move forward.
We’re all familiar with the phrase, it takes a village to raise a child.
But I think it takes more than a collection of buildings, roads and people.
It takes a community.
Contact Farley at firstname.lastname@example.org.