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On May 22, we will hold the Urban League’s annual Student Achievement Luncheon where we celebrate young people from LaPorte, Porter and Lake counties who are working hard to achieve their academic goals. Because they have done so and have competed successfully, they will be rewarded with scholarship money that will help them cover the ever-mounting costs of a postsecondary education.

The process of being honored is an arduous one. They must have the requisite GPA and a transcript that verifies their grades, submit two letters of recommendation from school faculty, and an essay arguing why they should be awarded the scholarship for which they have applied.

This takes time and energy and devotion to themselves as young scholars who intend to move on from high school to the next stage of their lives.

We applaud them. We honor them. But we also honor those who struggle with classes and family lives that sometimes interfere with being able to succeed. We honor both because success does not come without making mistakes, backsliding and losing focus. We have all been there and have seen our children through their ups and downs. It is not easy.

All of this brings me to a wonderful piece I read online about an African tribe that seems to be doing the right thing for wrongdoing. In this tribe, “… when someone does something wrong, they take the person to the centre of the village where the tribe surrounds him and for 2 days, saying all the good he has done. The tribe believes each person is good but sometimes people make mistakes, which are really a cry for help. They unite to reconnect him with his good nature.”

I think we could look to this concept for guidance. Sometimes when children seem to have lost their way, we focus too much on the negative behavior, instead we could consider strengthening the good behavior and the attributes that make them successful.

Too many times, as parents, as teachers, as counselors, etc., we become discouraged with our children — but we can’t give up!

Perhaps the lesson this African tribe teaches us is that we need to communicate in a different way. When was the last time I praised him or her for a job well done or for a conversation we had or for good behavior that I many times take for granted?

We all need to be reminded of the good in each of us — especially our young people. That is why we rejoice at being able to recognize and honor those who climb academic heights, many times under adverse circumstances.

Perhaps we really need to think about how we can increase the numbers of young people who believe in themselves enough to spell out that belief at school.

At the luncheon we will celebrate student achievement, but we will also celebrate our partners who collaborate with us to provide so many different scholarships; they are to be congratulated for their contribution to the upward trajectory of these young people who seem to be poised for the future.

In this regard, please know that we are always looking for new partners who can create new scholarships that will provide more opportunities for working class children to compete in an ever-challenging world market.

If you are interested in establishing a new scholarship, please contact me at (219) 887-9621 and we can discuss the details.

And so the struggle continues …

Vanessa Allen-McCloud is president and CEO of Urban League of Northwest Indiana. The opinions are the writer's.

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Porter County Government Reporter

Senior reporter Doug Ross, an award-winning writer, has been covering Northwest Indiana for more than 35 years, including more than a quarter of a century at The Times.