A Role Model For Those in Trouble

May 24, 2012 in Making a Difference

How is Charles Fernandez making a difference? By helping troubled teens find their way in society.

Formerly a teacher of teens, Charles now works as a mentoring volunteer with Portage County RSVP in Plover, WI, to inspire juveniles to set goals for life outside the detention center. He helps them craft a dream and determine a roadmap to get there. He strives to instill passion and excitement about learning.

His achievements were recognized in April 2012, when he was named a Gold Honoree of the Decade in the MetLife Foundation Older Volunteers Enrich America Awards, in the Mentor category.

Charles holds a second volunteer position at an alternative school, implementing a program he created teaching woodworking as a pathway to learning. Most of the kids taking Charles’ class have problems with alcohol or drugs, emotional issues, abuse and poor self-esteem. Yet the teachers are consistently noting positive changes in his students’ attitudes.

He is also volunteering in the VIP (Volunteers in Probation), an alternative sentencing problem for adults who have committed minor offenses. Now adults, too, will have the benefit of working with a kind and compassionate mentor.

Just as staff members at organizations can do only so much themselves, Charles recognizes that he can expand his work by reaching out to others—and he does.

“My greatest accomplishment has been to be able to recruit other people to help me in my volunteer work,” he said. “So far it’s been very, very successful in many of the endeavors that I’ve tried.” Receiving the award, he said, “has given me the incentive to continue to try to improve the work that I do and also to get others involved.

Currently, Charles is working tirelessly on a planning committee that is expanding the mentoring program at the high school. Donating 500 volunteer hours annually, Charles has inspired other seniors to get involved with youth.

His thoughtful guidance, developed through years of experience, is a strong example of how older adult volunteers can make a significant difference in the lives of others.

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