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School mentor has big influence on student’s life
School mentor has big influence on student’s lifeWhen David Landrum first volunteered as a Gaston County Schools mentor, he was introduced to a boy who was almost too shy to come out of the kindergarten classroom.But every Friday for eight years, Landrum returned to visit. He and his mentee, Vance Vaughn, built a friendship as they read books together in the library or played basketball in the gym. Landrum, who lives in the university area of Charlotte, made the drive to see Vance every week, even as he moved from Bessemer City Primary to Cherryville Elementary, then to Lowell Elementary and now Holbrook Middle School.Today, that once-timid student is a more confident and talkative eighth grader, who is looking forward to high school and thinking about what to do after graduation.
“He has come out of his shell from being a timid child to this great young man,” Landrum said of Vance. “I’m so proud of him.”Landrum’s influence on Vance is unmistakable and shows the difference a mentor can make in a student’s life, said Erin Stokes, Holbrook’s school counselor.“David has been through all the different developmental levels with Vance -- his family and life changes. He has just been a constant for Vance when he really needed it,” she said. “It’s so important for Vance to know he has somebody like that he can rely on.”Landrum, who is employed at UNC Charlotte, was honored for his work as a mentor with the 2014 Governor’s Award for Excellence in Public Service, the highest award a state employee can receive. The honor came as a surprise, Landrum said, explaining that he enjoys his time with Vance and doesn’t see it as a sacrifice. He says his goal in mentoring is simple.“I want to let him know, ‘I’m here for you,’” he said.
That means simply asking questions and listening to what Vance has to say. Landrum said he’s seen how important that is. When he visits, Vance’s classmates will seek him out just to talk.“They just want to be heard,” he said. “They want someone to listen to them, and they want to feel that they’re important.”
Kim Vaughn, Vance’s mother, said Landrum makes a difference.“He just has an open ear for Vance. He listens to him,” she said. “I can’t say enough about David Landrum -- his attitude, his love for Vance, the things he has done for Vance… the love that Vance has for him.”Over the years, Landrum said he’s seen Vance become more focused on academics. They are already talking about what he might do after high school.“My hope is that he will go to college and be successful, or the military, and that he doesn’t allow his current situation to define him because he’s better than that,” Landrum said. “I tell him, ‘You have the potential to be great.’”Vance said he appreciates that Landrum listens to him without getting mad, tells him to stay out of trouble and do well in school. But more important than advice is Landrum’s friendship.“He’ll do anything for me,” Vance said. “He’s really funny. He puts a smile on my face every time I see him.”At the end of every school year, Landrum said, he asks Vance whether he’d like to continue the mentoring relationship the following year. Every year, Vance has said yes.“Wherever he’s going, if he needs me, I’ll be there,” Landrum said.To learn more about becoming a mentor in Gaston County Schools, visit our Mentoring Program page.