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Men urge youth to make better choices

Lorenzo Heggs and Willie Smalley have a lot more in common than their jobs as security officers for two area school systems.

The Thomson men also want to help young people make better choices.

They shared some of their thoughts during the annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. banquet at Vanderhorst C.M.E. Church in Thomson on Jan 15.

The church is pastored by the Rev. John Smalley, who also is a member of Thomson City Council.

Mr. Heggs told the standing-room-only crowd that Dr. King was a man who wanted people to help one another, regardless of their race or gender. In doing so, the famous civil rights leader and Baptist preacher believed that it would help to make America a better place someday and enrich the lives of future generations.

As a security officer with the McDuffie County Board of Education, Mr. Heggs, works at Thomson High School. On a daily basis, he comes in contact with many people -- most of whom are students.

Just like Dr. King, Mr. Heggs believes in giving back to his community in positive ways.

"I like helping people, especially children," Mr. Heggs has said on many occasions.

At the banquet, Mr. Heggs quoted some of Dr. King's famous words:

If I can I help somebody as I pass along,

If I can cheer somebody with word or song,

If I can show somebody he is traveling wrong,

Then my living will not be in vain.

If I can do my duty as a Christian ought,

If I can bring salvation to a world once wrought,

If I can spread the message as the master taught,

Then my living will not be in vain -- Yes, Jesus .

"We've got to come together and stand," said Mr. Heggs. "We lost the dreamer, but we didn't lose the dream."

Mr. Smalley said he firmly believes that if Dr. King still were alive he would want students to get an education and to put aside violence and make the right choices in life.

"I think Dr. King would want us all to do what we could to keep students in school and to get an education," said Mr. Smalley, a security officer at Lakeside High School. "He would want us to tell young people that violence and drugs are the wrong paths to take in life."

Mr. Smalley said Dr. King would want adults to encourage students to do better when they make bad decisions or ones that end up with them being within the judicial system.

"When children do wrong, we have to let them know they did wrong and encourage them not to go in that direction anymore," said Mr. Smalley. "It's also important to encourage them when they are trying to do right."

He pointed out that he lives by such a philosophy.

"I talk with many students every day," Mr. Smalley said.

"I want them to know upfront that I don't want to see them getting in trouble. I first listen to them and then I let them know I want them to do the right thing."

Mr. Smalley said he believes Dr. King would want all adults to take a more active role in their communities and to mentor more to young people.

"Mentoring to young people is very rewarding," Mr. Smalley said.

Web posted on Thursday, January 27, 2011

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