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Local volunteers advocate for more mentors

By Johnny Jackson

jjackson@henryherald.com

McDonough resident, Shana Thomas-Thornton, said she is motivated each day to mentor young people.

The 31-year-old pharmaceutical sales consultant believes her small influence with the young people she mentors will help inspire them in life.

"I don't have any kids of my own, but I do it as a part of giving back," said Thomas-Thornton. "Giving back can be as simple as tutoring a child, or being a role model for a child, and calling in, and checking on them, or attending different activities."

Thomas-Thornton said she has been mentoring since she was 14. She began at a Boys and Girls Club in South Carolina.

"It's something that I heard from my parents and grandparents, that you've really got to find a way to give back," she said.

Thomas-Thornton now helps mentor a local Girl Scout, as assistant troop leader at Shiloh Baptist Church in McDonough. She also serves as a mentor through Henry County High School, and for the Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Atlanta Metro.

She said she believes, however, that mentoring efforts have grown thin in recent years, partly the result of busier lives. She said there exists several organizations, including those of which she is a part, that could use more volunteer mentors.

"There are dedicated volunteers that are there, but we just need more," she said. "Most of the time, organizations are in need of committed adults. But adults don't want to commit and break their commitments. However, it really can be a minimal time to find and spend with them."

Thomas-Thornton's husband, Treandos, shares her calling to mentor young people. He also believes young people should have a trustworthy outlet in their adult counterparts.

"I understand that life can be a little harder and more challenging for them," said Treandos Thornton, who uses his skills as a professional youth and motivational speaker to reach young people, and call on others to volunteer.

"I have three reasons why people should become mentors," Treandos Thornton said. "First, they should give back. Secondly, it's important to make sure our leaders of tomorrow are well-equipped with information and are savvy about leading. And three, and most importantly, you get what you give in life, so it's important to make sure you give back to the community."

Rita Wright-King is another Henry County resident who has heeded the call to mentor. She is founder and troop leader of Thomas-Thornton's Girl Scout group, a seven-year-old troop that serves area girls ages 4 to 17. The troop includes 30 active scouts, and 37 registered scouts.

"I think it's important for our girls in Henry County to have mentors, because a lot of our girls -- they seemed like they were limiting themselves," Wright-King said. "We wanted to make sure that they could strive to do whatever they wanted to do."

Wright-King stresses the importance of providing young people upstanding examples of community leaders, those leaders who can relate to them and interact with them.

"It's important to have a diverse number of people working with them," she added. "The group of leaders that we have right now are just great role models."