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Mentor program reaches out to youth

Lipsey Middle School student Okerio Cambroe, 13, has learned tosee life from a different perspective, thanks to a group calledROTAP.

“They’ve taught me how to be respectful to people and to respectmyself,” he said. “They showed me it’s good to go to church moreoften than I used to, and they taught me how to really respect mymama.”

ROTAP – which stands for “Reach Out To Another Person” – is agroup of local adults who got together about 10 years ago to mentorand teach young people about growing up into respectful andrespectable adults.

“The members of our organization just want to do something togive back to the boys and girls of our community,” said ROTAPPresident Dan Brown, explaining that ROTAP members work to helpkids in the classroom, both academically and behaviorally, and thentry to instill in them the values they need to continue growinginto responsible adults.

Throughout the year, the group offers rewards to students whoshow leadership and character while maintaining good grades atschool. And it has a long-term goal beyond the individual students,said ROTAP member Andrew Spiller.

“I’m here because it’s good to help students that don’tordinarily receive the help,” he said. “We hope what we’re doinghere will bring a payback in productive citizens, and maybe one daythey will mentor someone else.”

Willie “Doc” Harrison, another ROTAP member, said that thegroup’s taking the time to really reach out and connect withstudents has, through the years, paid off in visible ways. As such,he said, the organization aims to teach teens to take up the torchin coming years.

“We’re getting old, and we hope someone else can do this when wecan’t,” he said. “Some of the lives we’ve touched have gone on tobe really productive members of the community. I know a lot havegone on to college and are doing great in different areas of thestate.”

Okerio said one thing ROTAP has given him through theirmentoring program is a group he could call his own.

“I want to thank them for putting me in a group, and bringing mea long way,” he said. “I really just like being in a group.”

The program has great short-term payoffs, too, said LipseyPrincipal Rob McCreary.

“This program has helped this fella more than anyone I know,” hesaid, putting his arm around Okerio. “I have not had a lick ofproblems from this boy. He knows what’s right, and it’s instilledin him. He’s doing a great job and his grades are up, too.”

ROTAP member Frank Lewis said the program is rewarding not onlyto the students who receive the mentoring, but also to thementors.

“It helps me about as much as it does them, because I likeworking with the young people, and I learn a lot from them, too,”he said. “We really have two goals, to teach them self-respect andfamily values. If we can teach them that, the rest will fall intoplace.”

Lipsey students Nicholas Smith, Michael Conger, Rickey Williamsand Damon Wilson will also receive awards from ROTAP this springfor good grades, good conduct, and good character, members said

“We just want to show our appreciation to these students with areward, based on their academic and discipline records,” Brownsaid. “They have to have both of those things, because we aim tohelp them be complete and well-rounded students.”