McLawhorn: Columbia Urban League working to empower families through civility and self-reliance

November 1, 2013 



— When youths are involved in crime and violence, we too often presume it’s because of poor parenting skills of single parents.

Just as the vast majority of youths who are doing the right thing are unfairly tainted by the bad actions of a few, such hasty stereotyping is unfair to single parents, the majority of whom are good and caring parents who are making daily sacrifices for their children.

But the fact is that a minority of them are struggling with parenting, and failing to adequately teach their children about two essential skills for growing into responsible adults: civility and self-reliance.

Civility teaches us how to get along with each other. It instills basic moral principles such as mutual respect and fairness as well as social skills, including manners and conflict management. Importantly, civility provides the underpinning for us to coexist in an ever-changing society.

Self-reliance is essential in preparing one to transition from youth to adulthood. It involves taking responsibility for one’s future and well-being by taking advantage of educational opportunities and being prepared for life’s challenges and opportunities. Self-reliance increases self-esteem and self-worth.

Parents must be the first teachers of civility and self-reliance, and others in the community must provide encouragement and support for positive youth development. This may not be an easy task because our youths are bombarded with negative and disrespectful messages on a daily basis.

It is important that we reach out to parents through increased parental mentoring programs to help them become better guardians of their children. One way the Columbia Urban League does this is by requiring parental engagement for youths to participate in our youth initiatives.

The Urban League has been in the forefront in promoting youth development through our Youth Leadership Development Institute, Project Ready and the Summer Work Experience Leadership Program, which are based on best-practice models that show the value of work experience and mentoring. This year, we served nearly 500 young people by providing summer work experience and on-the-job mentoring, which help nurture interpersonal skills and self-determination and reduce juvenile delinquency and crime.

We also operate the Youth Development Academy, where this year 300 10- to 13-year-olds participated in a two-week summer camp focused on civility, academic enrichment in science, technology, engineering and mathematics and career exploration. Another 12 college students were placed with local businesses through our college internship program, which is designed to reduce the brain drain our state suffers.

The concept of empowering families through civility and self-reliance will be the theme of our annual fund campaign and Equal Opportunity Day Dinner on Thursday. For ticket information, call 799-8150 or go to

James T. McLawhorn Jr.

President and CEO

Columbia Urban League


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