Twenty-four Macon County eleventh grade students are part of a mentoring program with Auburn University students and graduate assistant Raven Conwell. The project is funded in part by the Appalachian Regional Commission, and the work these students do together revolves around workplace and college readiness.
Tonight we were fortunate to have a local business owner Debra Baldwin visit our group. Ms. Baldwin is an asset to Macon County and an example of a committed, engaged citizen.
She has two degrees in education from Tuskegee University, but in 1999 she decided to begin a construction contracting business. And she has done quite well. In 2004, her business, DaD’s Enterprises, won the U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Forest Service Small Disadvantaged Business Contractor of the Year Award. She told us many wonderful stories of working alongside her father in construction and learning all aspects of the industry.
The purpose of her visit was not to discuss the construction business, however, and she informed us regarding a national organization, The Links. This organization is one of the oldest and largest volunteer service organizations of women who are committed “to enriching, sustaining and ensuring the culture and economic survival of African Americans and other persons of African ancestry.” Ms. Baldwin is an active member of the Tuskegee chapter of The Links, and she is leading the organization to offer for the first time a “Peering Into the Future Bootcamp” for high school students, which will be held at BTW High School on Saturday, May 5.
The Boot Camp agenda reflects Ms. Baldwin’s down-to-business work style, with plenty of room for students to get to know university representatives and others who will be leading important workshops on college admissions, ACT preparation, college life, and other related topics. The message is for students to “Prepare NOW for the future,” and The Links program is a very valuable community resource for Tuskegee and Macon County. This group of women professionals are making a difference in the lives of local young people, and this program is just one example of their commitment.
When time for questions, two students immediately raised their hands, and their questions showed their ability and desire for success. One student asked how Ms. Baldwin made the decision to move from a career path in education to business, and another student asked how a person can join The Links. The discussion that followed was a good one for discovering how a college education benefits and shapes an individual for all of life’s opportunities, no matter the course of study.
Following Ms. Baldwin’s talk, we divided into small groups to play the game Apples to Apples. Players try to guess what word association another player might make between a variety of choices, and while the game is a little difficult to explain in a sentence, playing it draws out laughter and builds a sense of community like few other games can do.