Fired from a job. Failing a required class. Not having a resume to get a new job. Not graduating on time.
These struggles are all too common among youth in Greenville. And for most of those students, having any two or more of these issues would be too high of a hurdle to overcome. And if all four happened, it could be the end of the story, or at least the beginning of a long and arduous road to recovery.
However, with one youth from Mill Village Farms, these all were milestones on a path of success, which demonstrated the importance of community and perseverance.
Dion worked for Mill Village since the spring of 2015. A respectful and hardworking young man, he showed lots of promise. He got along well with others and his team (Village Fashion). He even won the youth entrepreneurship competition in the summer of 2015. As Dion headed into his senior year at Carolina High Academy, his future was looking bright.
But then the roadblocks came. Whether it was him taking on too many opportunities, or a case of “senioritis,” or any number of personal challenges, things started going downhill for Dion.
After repeatedly showing up late or missing work, Dion was fired from the fall 2015 Youth Crew at Mill Village. (We have a generous but rigid “six strikes and you're out policy” for this standard.) We told him that we loved him, and that we wanted him to work for us again, but that he needed to feel the pain of losing a job, in order to learn a lesson for his own sake.
Dion did return in the spring, and was much better about his dependability. He would even ride his bike in the rain to make it to the Powered for Life youth development class on time! It was during this class that Dion learned of an opportunity to intern with BL Harbert, a local construction company. As a hopeful engineer, Dion knew this opportunity could propel him toward success.
One problem: Dion needed to fill out a lengthy application and write a resume. And he needed help.
But then Dion’s guidance counselor (Also a mentor in the Powered for Life class) informed us that he was in danger of failing his English class, which was a requirement for graduation. It wasn’t for a lack of intelligence that Dion was failing (he was in a couple of college-level classes his senior year), but more of a lack of effort and focus. He wasn’t turning in the required assignments.
We pushed and encouraged and stressed to him the importance of doing his school work. Dion took several steps forward, but it was too little, too late. Dion would not make up the lost ground. He would not graduate with his classmates in June.
But Dion didn’t quit. And the people who cared about him (family, school staff, Mill Village Farms, the Ally Partner business who hired him) didn’t quit on him either. Dion enrolled in summer school to make up the credit, while still working part time at BL Harbert. He persevered and did all his school work, while gaining invaluable work experience.
In August, Dion received his diploma, and enrolled in college to continue on his path to success in life.
At Mill Village Farms, we agree that “it takes a village to grow a child.” And we understand that that God has given each person unique gifts, along with struggles and challenges -- some that are unique, and some that are common.
But with two gifts from God -- inner strength and a loving community -- our youth can hop over life’s hurdles, and flourish in life.
“Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the LORD holds them by the hand.” (Psalm 37:24)
“You never fail until you stop trying.” -- Albert Einstein