Remember, you’re frequently a role model

Published 9:14 am Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Last week, I had the opportunity to meet some of the Escambia County Middle School students who help out with the school’s regular Eagle News newspaper.

While I always enjoy talking with young people, it was especially fun to meet with some kids who might one day choose journalism as their career. I couldn’t help but smile when they told me that they enjoy looking at the Atmore newspapers in their classes, and discussing the articles in those papers. (I just hope they don’t take a red pen and circle all the errors!)

It reminded me that all of us in the working world are truly role models for young people. Somewhere, there is a kid who is dreaming of one day holding the job that you hold right now. Obviously some of them are obvious — I’m sure firefighters and policemen hear from little kids all the time about how “I want to grow up and be just like you.”

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But others might not be so obvious. It might be hard to believe it, but I’m sure there are kids who want to grow up to run a post office, or work in a nursing home, or repair streets and bridges. If any young people ask you about your job, I encourage you to give them fulfilling answers, rather than curt responses that make it sound like you just want them to stop asking questions. You never know, your answer might be the one that makes them decide their future career once and for all.

When I was talking to the ECMS students, I thought back to the time I spent as a high-school intern at The Gadsden Times. I am sure I was a bit of a pest at times, but I definitely appreciate the time that the employees took to show me the ropes. I am still amused at how wide-eyed and excited I was. Where even the most humdrum task, like writing down the arrests from a police blotter, felt like I was reporting on my own personal Watergate.

To this day, I still have a special gift that I received from a man who I featured in a story on woodworking. He carved out a personalized nameplate for my desk, and I have taken it with me to every publication I have ever worked. It was the first time that I realized that my job could bring joy and happiness to people, and it remains an inspiration that I try to keep in mind, even when times get stressful.

If I hadn’t had such wonderful coaching as a young person, would I have continued to pursue journalism as my career? It’s hard to say. But I do know that the early mentorship I got at The Gadsden Times was very beneficial for me, even today.

Remember, you’re always a potential role model for young people, whether you think they’re watching or not.