By Loretta Gillespie
The Cullman Times
Cullman Regional Medical Center’s vice-president of Ambulatory Services, Susan Copeland, will never forget the time 28 years ago when Dr. Bill Peinhardt took the time to show her things about nursing and the medical field that she could never have learned in a textbook.
“Dr. Peinhardt is the true definition of a mentor,” says Copeland today.
“I’ve had several wonderful mentors along my professional path,” she mused. She has found a way of repaying those who invested their time in her, by passing it forward to another generation. “I’ve found it to be very rewarding. It gives me a great sense of satisfaction that I am able to help others grow in their nursing career.”
Copeland also finds joy in sharing the experiences that she has gained over the years, transferring the benefit of her knowledge to others so that they can pass it along to yet another generation of nurses.
“When you invest the time to give young people a helping hand you form a bond, a significant relationship with another person from having spent that time together, it’s both paying it forward and creating lasting friendships,” she pointed out.
“Last year we mentored a young lady who was working on her master’s degree. She chose to be a mystery patient at CRMC,” said Copeland. “It really helped us to have her feedback, which benefited everyone here. Now, that same young lady is studying for her doctorate.”
This allows Copeland to see the results of her own mentoring from Dr. Peinhardt, passed through herself, and on to other people who in turn will help others. All of this benefits every patient with whom these people come in contact with.
Mentoring is a gift that keeps on giving.
Angie Glasscock, who worked in health care for 26 years, is now a member of the Advisory Board of Youth Leadership Cullman. The program is an outreach of the Cullman Area Chamber of Commerce, under the direction of Jackie Moore, Director of Business and Workforce Development. Glasscock was encouraged to find that the project was one in which the whole county could benefit.
“We got the idea from a class that we took for adults which would later become the youth program. It would ultimately show our youth what Cullman County has to offer,” she explained.
Glasscock gives an example. “If you work a drive-through window, or wait tables or check people out in the grocery store, this program will help you relate the importance of your smile at that window or the way you greet customers in a supermarket, to the infrastructure of Cullman County.
“It’s those first impressions of our city and county that visitors see right away,” she pointed out. “This program teaches life-lessons that reach throughout the whole community.”
Student participants are selected through letters of reference by two teachers, in addition to the school principals and counselors. “We choose eleventh graders because we want them to have the following year to go back to their school and share what they learned,” explained Glasscock.
“These students are our future,” she exclaimed. “Who wouldn’t want to be a part of helping to shape our future leaders? Who wouldn’t want to spend time with eleventh graders?” she laughed.
Her fellow advisory board member, Dr. Tom “Big Doc” Williamson, couldn’t agree more. “Youth Leadership Cullman is one of the most rewarding, enjoyable, fulfilling projects that I’ve ever been involved with,” he said. “I don’t know of anything bigger and better than hanging out with young people!” he laughed. “Everytime I’m around this group, my faith in the next generation is renewed.”
Dr. Williamson related the staggering fact that in the next 40 years there will be approximately two billion people added to the world’s population. “We will need more food in the next 40 years than at any time since civilization began,” he said. “Isn’t that just unbelievable?”
That’s one of the reasons that the Youth Leadership program decided to feature an Agriculture Day in this years schedule. “It is completely dedicated to agriculture,” he said. “Over half of our county income is due to agriculture and forestry, and agriculture accounts for 40 percent of our tax base, so our young people need to grasp what can be done with an education in these areas.
“According to statistics, 98 percent of young people don’t know where our food comes from,” said Dr. Williamson. “That means that only two percent have this knowledge, which is important because we are the number one agricultural supplier of several different commodities.”
The program is not directed specifically at mentoring, although mentoring runs through every aspect of it. The advisory board members are certainly mentoring as they go about working with the young people, showing them how they can make a difference in the economy of Cullman County. “Making a difference in the life of just one child can have a domino effect,” Glasscock pointed out.
During the course of the program, high school junior’s work with TVA leaders, spending half a day with a trained professional in selected fields. Then they work as teams to do problem solving exercises. “By lunch they are loving this project,” laughed Glasscock. “Later they work on team building.”
They visit the courthouse on Justice Day, which shows them the Criminal Justice system at work. “They also visit our county jail,” said Glasscock. “They meet the judges and District Attorney Wilson Blaylock even does a mock trial for them, with their participation. This gives them many lifelong lessons.”
This year the students got to meet the K-9 dogs and their handlers. They also met with other city and county law enforcement officials for a complete overview of the system.
After graduation, (classes run from August to April) the students are encouraged to go back to their respective schools and find ways to put what they have learned into action. “Some volunteered for Christmas Love and Cullman Caring For Kids,” she said. “Some worked with senior citizens and the Meals On Wheels program, where they were surprised to learn that this might be the only hot meal some people would have that day.”
The students worked with the Knapsack project at the First United Methodist Church. They helped to insure that the 129 children enrolled in the program got a knapsack filled with nutritious foods. “Two of the students chose to take this back to their own school as a project,” said Glasscock proudly.
The Cullman Rotary Club has been instrumental in providing meals to the Youth Leadership participants. This, in turn, illustrated to the young people how our community comes together to make programs like this available. They visited the United Way of Cullman County, where they learned how it assists other agencies county-wide.
The group visited Wallace State Community College to see the various opportunities they have access to on the Hanceville campus. They also visited CRMC, for Health Education Day, and Rehau, Topre, the Industrial Park and the water and electric boards to get an overview of the parts each play in Cullman’s economy and infrastructure.
One day they even traveled to Montgomery to have lunch with Cullman County legislators. They were able to see first-hand how our elected officials work to bring business and growth to our economy through the legislative process.
“This all works together to show young people the importance of their staying in Cullman County,” said Glasscock.
All along the way, people stopped to explain to them how and why individual organizations, agencies and businesses rely on each other. These people have become mentors, even if they didn’t realize it at the time.
One such unsuspecting mentor is the Cullman Area Chamber of Commerce Business and Workforce Development Director Jackie Moore. According to one Youth Leadership graduate, Moore made a huge impression. Katie Noriega of Fairview, who has also done some intern work for the Chamber, says that Moore has definitely been a mentor to her. “Jackie shows that she really cares about us and about the program,” said Noriega. “I still text and call her when I need to ask her life and career questions. She is a great career coach and is easy to talk to. You can tell that she wants us to be successful and that she understands how important what we do now is to our future.”
For more information about the Youth Leadership Cullman program contact Jackie Moore at the Cullman Area Chamber of Commerce.
Director, Business & Workforce Development
Cullman Area Chamber of Commerce
301 2nd Avenue SW, Cullman, AL 35055
PO Box 1104, Cullman, AL 35056-1104
Main Office: 256-734-0454
Direct Line: 256-255-0723