My older brother, Roger, has been on my mind daily. He is currently in the hospital, fighting to recover from a lung transplant. Each day I pray that God will change his life and give him hope. As I pray, I am prompted to reflect on how Roger changed my life and gave me hope many years ago.
My brother was the first in my family to go to college. My parents grew up in the depression and only had the opportunity to complete their formal education at the eighth grade level. Roger’s determination and success paved the way, and both my younger brother and I followed in his footsteps. I might not have considered higher education if Roger wasn’t there to nurture my strengths and show me that attending college was an attainable goal. When I joined him at West Virginia University, he was my mentor, my tutor, and a tremendous influence on my ability to succeed.
My younger brother and I weren’t the only ones who benefited from Roger’s example. As a teacher in Marion County, Roger changed lives throughout his career and gave students the tools they needed to build their own careers and families. Roger made a difference in the lives of many, giving his students opportunities they might not have otherwise received.
However, Roger wouldn’t have changed my life, or the lives of his students, if someone hadn’t changed his. As a student at Scott High School in Boone County, Roger was a top student in his class. His vocational education teacher, Carl Williams, recognized his potential and helped place him in college preparatory classes. Roger went on to college and eventually became a vocational education teacher himself. There were many kids from Boone County who would never have had the opportunity to attend college without Mr. Williams’ leadership.
I’d like to publicly say thank you to Roger, Mr. Williams and all the people who spend their time improving the lives of others. Without our teachers, family and friends lending a hand, many of us would never be able to achieve our full potential. I truly believe one person can make a difference, but it is a ripple effect. The life you change just might be the one who positively changes the lives of hundreds more.