Thursday, October 23, 2008

In His Own Words...Daniel Leagans

Daniel Leagans, a Senior at Furman University has been a Counselor with Bridges since his Freshman year. He was first introduced to the program through his brother Joel who also served as a Bridges counselor for four summers! In addition to his academic success, Daniel is a member of the Furman Football team. Last week there was a really nice article in the Sports section of The Greenville News about Daniel and his integral role on the Football team. The interviewer began to ask Daniel a series of questions regarding his experiences outside of Football. Below is an excerpt of the article written for The Greenville News by Willie T. Smith III.

A business administration major, Leagans has found a passion off the football field. Since coming to the school he has participated in a campus mentoring program geared toward at-risk high school students called "Bridges To A Brighter Future."

"It is an enrichment program for Greenville County high school kids," said Leagans, a Ware Shoals native. "It teaches them the importance of a college education and that college is feasible for them because a lot of them come from bad economic situations, lower income, and a lot of them have family problems.

"The students participate in a four-week program at Furman during the summer. They take classes during the day. Then, after the classes is when myself and other counselors have activities with them such as sports, acting and stuff like that."

On weekends, the counselors take the students on fun trips such as bowling. They also take part in community service projects. Leagans has been taking part in the program since his freshman year and has enjoyed it so much he is considering participating again this summer even though he already will have earned his degree.

"It has been amazing, the most meaningful experience of my life," he said. "We try to develop the kids, but what we find out is they teach us more than we can ever teach them."

Daniel with two of the students he has mentored through Bridges to a Brighter Future.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Bridges Student Wins National Award!

Bridges to a Brighter Future student and Greenville High School & Academy graduate, Damaris Taylor received the Yoshiyama Award for Exemplary Service to the Community on October 14, 2008 at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

I traveled to Washington, D.C. to attend the awards luncheon. It was a joyous occasion as Damaris' mother Tameka was able to attend as well. Through the luck of the draw, we were all seated at the head table with Japan's Ambassador to the United States, Ichiro Fujisaki, Dr. and Mrs. Tsutomu Kanai (pictured above on the right), the Honorary Chairman of The Hitachi Foundation and Chairman of the Board and Director of Hitachi, Ltd, Barbara Dyer, the President and CEO of The Hitachi Foundation, and Dr. Bruce Maclaury (pictured above on the left), Chairman of the Board of The Hitachi Foundation. It was so rewarding to observe Damaris interacting with these noteworthy individuals. He communicated with such ease, professionalism, and enthusiasm. He is truly a gifted young man!

Damaris was awarded the Yoshiyama Award for his work in creating and implementing the Raider Diversity Retreat. In addition to team building and challenging rope course exercises, the three-day retreat also included candid discussions designed to generate easy to implement solutions to break down barriers in the students' high school and community.

Over 250 students were nominated for the Yoshiyama Award. Damaris was one of only ten students selected as finalist. The award is funded by the Hitachi Foundation and is named for Hirokichi Yoshiyama, the former President & CEO of Hitachi, Ltd.

Of course the highlight for Damaris' mother and I was to see Damaris accept his award and give his acceptance speech. Below is the video of Damaris being introduced by Denise Terrazas, a 2007 Yoshiyama Award winner and his awe-inspiring speech.