The People You Meet

The People You Meet
By Lieutenant Governor Mark A. Darr

As I travel the state, I get to meet all sorts of interesting, impressive, and enjoyable people. It never ceases to amaze me how wonderful the people of Arkansas are. Hardworking and hopeful, they take life as it comes and try to give their kids a good life. Many of them come from small places, but have big dreams. Those who succeed have learned to seize opportunities and to help create them for others.

Education is always a hot topic in Arkansas and we certainly have challenges. But we have bright spots too. You find them when you get to meet the students themselves.

A couple of weeks ago, I was invited to Nashville, Arkansas to the 100-year celebration of the local
Coca-Cola distributor. A multi-generational family business, they have helped thousands of people have a Coke and a smile. An exemplary corporate citizen, they have donated tens of thousands of dollars to various causes and organizations to help their community.

While there I had the opportunity to meet a fascinating young man named Taylor Wilson. He is the son of the Coca-Cola plant's president there in Nashville. A 17-year-old student of nuclear science and technology, some might describe him as a child prodigy. At 14, he built a nuclear fusion reactor. He is the youngest person in the world to have done this. Think about that. The youngest in the WORLD. His story has been featured in national media outlets all over the country. This is a stark contrast to my youth, where I spent carefree summers working in a chicken house and hauling hay.

Not only is Taylor working to put his talents to good use and make his family proud, he is also working to serve his country. He recently won an award at the Intel International Science Fair for inventing a nuclear detection scanner designed for use in ports to counter proliferation by terrorists. Simply amazing.

Last week in Helena-West Helena, I met another great young person named Ashley Carter. Ashley gave me and my staff a tour of the Boys and Girls Club of Phillips County where she volunteers. What a great facility this is for kids. If you've ever spent time in the Delta, you know that there are just not a whole lot of places in most towns for kids to go. Ashley has been working there through high school and hopes to continue while she attends nursing school at Phillips Community College.

The facility has game rooms and a gym, a playground, a place to do arts and crafts, a snack bar, study rooms and computer labs with tutors to help kids with their schoolwork. It's not just a place to keep kids off the street. It's a place designed to buck socio-economic trends that have plagued the Delta region for decades. The people working there are really taking the time to invest in these kids and help them have a better chance at making something of themselves.

This is where community development begins. Teach kids to be responsible when they're young and they will lead their communities forward. Since our visit, I've heard that there are people in Alabama coming to look at the center in Phillips County as a model for their community because it has been such a success.

There are so many personal stories around Arkansas. Everyone has a story. Everyone has talents and dreams. It's important that those be recognized. Hope flourishes when it is fueled by encouragement. As parents, teachers, and leaders, we have to invest in others. It's when we do that that we ourselves are rewarded.