The summer break is officially over for kids across the state of South Carolina. They woke up bright and early, and headed back to class.

When I was younger, I thought this was the best time of the school year. I had the chance to put on my new outfit, walk into school, and start fresh. It was a whole new beginning. New teachers. Different classes. Another chance to do better.

I’d get my new binders and get organized with the intention of staying ahead of the game and being that perfect student. Although I was never perfect. But to many teachers, that doesn’t matter.

They see your potential.

In college, the teacher who saw my potential was Bill Franklin, the longtime voice of WSSU Ram sports. He wasn’t the typical classroom teacher or professor, but he constantly trained students who found their way to the campus radio station.

It’s funny. I think I just walked in one day on a class tour and never left. He trained me. And after all that, I still spent hours in his office talking about life, family, and the future.

I remember when he found out I liked to draw portraits in my spare time. He gasped when he saw my work.

He said, “You shouldn’t have time to be drawing like this. We must not be doing enough to challenge you.”

It wasn’t the reaction I expected, but it was the reaction I needed at the time. From then on, it was his mission to challenge me.

I became the voice of the station’s news, waking up at around 4:30 every morning to put together newscasts before getting ready for the day’s classes. Then I followed him and the sports broadcasting crew doing production during the football and basketball games. He motivated me to learn everything I could about radio broadcasting and production. He was my mentor. And he remained my mentor until he died in 2005.

Even though he’s not around anymore, the things he taught me live on.

Be prepared. Show respect. Learn all you can.

And the lesson I’ll never forget is to dream big.

In fact, I still have a reminder of that I refer to often. It’s a children’s book called Daydreamers by Tom Feelings and Eloise Greenfield. Bill gave it me during one of those “future talks” in his office after that conversation about my drawing. The poetry book, with its painted sketches of young boys and girls, is about children reaching their goals as they grow into adulthood. And I cherish it.

So to start the new school year, a toast to teachers because they teach us, challenge us, and see the best in us even when we don’t always show it.

“The dream begins with a teacher who believes in you, who tugs and pushes and leads you to the next plateau, sometimes poking you with a sharp stick called truth.”

What teachers/mentors have impacted your life?

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