A few months into the EARN program with students from Emerson Academy, City Commissioner Larry Conder was in the early stages of his mentorship.
One afternoon, Conder had lunch with his mentee, along with the mentee’s sister. It was the first time Conder met the child’s sister and during lunch, she started to cry and hold her brother’s hand.
Conder asked what was wrong.
“We just didn’t know there were people that cared,” she said.
For Conder, it was the first moment the realized he was actually making a difference in this young adult’s life.
Rosemary Conder, director of CASA of Ohio Valley and Larry’s wife, is also with Care for Children, which helped head the program.
“We got some mentors together, met with the school board, met with the superintendent,” she said. “(We) really tried to troubleshoot why the kids weren’t coming to school, why they weren’t graduating, why they weren’t finishing. Also looking at how we could create a really unique way to incentivize them to come to school but also to show them that they have caring adults in the community for mentorship and to be role models.”
Rosemary and Larry attended last week’s graduation of Emerson Academy at the RiverPark Center. For Rosemary, it was a great feeling watching six of the 10 mentees in the first EARN class not only complete the program but walk across the state to graduate.
“We’ve always been inspired by these young adults,” she said. “They’ve had a lot of adversity in their lives. I think a lot of us take graduation for granted. These kids really had to go above and beyond. It’s really inspiring.”
For Rosemary, her husband and the rest of the mentors, it was about breaking the cycle.
“I can say being in the role of CASA is we see a lot of kids that go through a lot of adversity and we’ve been able to prove scientifically that a caring adult really can make a difference,” she said. “So for us, we want to break that cycle of generational issues where these kids don’t graduate, they don’t get the careers that they need, they don’t have the family support that they need.”
Completing the EARN program does reward the student with a financial incentive but Rosemary said she was surprised to realize that wasn’t the main goal of the students.
She said it was just to have a caring adult in their lives.
“We are so grateful for the people that agreed to be mentors because they really proved the value of this project,” she said. “Hopefully it’ll continue the next several years.”
Larry said by changing the life of a young adult, they could be changing their life for the next 50-60 years. He said instead of pulling from society, they’re adding to it.
“You have young adults that are simply struggling and don’t know where to turn,” he said. “By doing this program, you change lives.”