Interested Citizens for Voter Registration Pen or Pencil program and Pine Bluff Cares Mentoring took their case for more mentors to the West Pine Bluff Rotary Club Thursday. The guest speaker was Codney Washington, who is the son of Pine Bluff Mayor Shirley Washington, and spends time as a mentor in the Dollarway and Pine Bluff School Districts.

“I’m passionate about helping young people which reflects on the people who helped me,” Washington said.

He said that he first got involved in mentoring young people when he was fresh out of college and involved with the Big Brothers and Big Sisters organization in Little Rock.

“I can’t say I did well with the first one but I didn’t quit,” Washington said. “The second young man I still keep in touch with. He came from a single parent home, just his mother, sister and him.”

Washington said he began working with the boy, who is now an adult, at about the age of 12 and the relationship continued until the boy was 16 or 17 when he went to college.

“He is the assistant principal of a charter school in Little Rock and is going to be the principal of another school there,” Washington said. “I saw him at an airport when we were both going somewhere and he thanked me for the impact I had on his life.”

Washington said he had worked with others, including some who went to the penitentiary and also worked with them after they got out. In 2001, he said he quit his job, which required a lot of travel because he got married and got back into construction.

“I was building houses in Little Rock and a friend asked me to come to Pine Bluff and look at some property,” Washington said. “While I was here he mentioned that the skating rink was for sale and in 2010 I owned the skating rink. My intent was financial gain but it’s been more of a blessing to the community and its kids than it has to me financially.”

“I met Rev. (Jesse) Turner and heard about the Pen or Pencil program and wanted to get involved with kids in the school system,” Washington said.

He said that the involvement taught him the importance of mentors.

“I see more of a need, far beyond anything I saw in Little Rock,” Washington said. “I see a lack of what I grew up with and that’s a family structure and how the kids suffer. The answer is getting the community involved in our kids’ lives.”

“I look at the programs we do and see how a few good kids are separated from a lot of at-risk kids,” he said. “I see school systems with at-risk kids and a few good kids mixed in.”

A special recruitment meeting or students in grades 6-12 and adults who want to volunteer as mentors will be held from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday. For details call: 870-730-1131.