Ann Melton Columnist


Circles of Jackson County is preparing to spread its wings and fly to Western Carolina University to work with students, but we need your help! We need volunteers. If you have a heart for young people this is your opportunity to make a real difference. 

There are students at WCU that have been in the social service system as foster care children but have turned 18 and no longer qualify. They now do not have the support system needed in today’s world. We hope you will volunteer to be an Ally to one of these students. An Ally is a cheerleader who encourages the student they are assigned.

Or perhaps you would like to mentor a young person who is planning to go into the profession you are now in or have been in. Let’s suppose the college student wants to be a teacher. If you are or have been a teacher just think of the help you could provide.

Some of the WCU students are coming from families in which no other family member has ever attended college. Just imagine how much love, encouragement and support you could give.

Some of the students have lived in poverty their whole lives. Perhaps they are the first generation to be able to break that cycle because they have been able to get a scholarship. But while that scholarship will provide the classes needed for their degree, they still need an ally, a cheerleader and an encourager – someone who cares.

Whatever these young people have faced they now need folks who want to intentionally provide long term adult friendships.

In the words of one of our board members, Chelsea White-Hoglen, who just happens to be a young person herself, “Circles of Jackson County makes such a difference in the lives of folks here in Jackson, empowering them to take action to change their own lives and the lives of their neighbors. Circles builds a community that restores the dignity and respect of those who are experiencing struggles related to poverty. Our mentors, allies and volunteers work together to create an environment of love, and to identify the strengths and resources that together lead to stability, resiliency and self-determination.”

Another of our young board members who was a Circle Leader and who now works to pay it forward says, “Circles is like a supportive family. Whether you are a Circle Learner, Circle Leader, an Ally or in a higher position there is always support. Being a Circle Leader and Ally, I feel so much enjoyment and accomplishment throughout my time in Circles. I have learned so much from my experiences and from helping others through their experiences. I find my time as a volunteer to be very fulfilling. Working through the program and now volunteering for the program has given me a new drive for change in our country.”

Circles wants to be there to teach these wonderful young college students the skills they need so that when they graduate and become independent, they will be successful because of the budgeting and financial skills they have received along with so many others that Circles teaches. We are partnering with another program at Western known as MAPS (Mentoring and Persistence for Success) to meet the needs of the young people we strive to serve.

I sincerely wish you could have been with us at 6 p.m. on April 13 when we had a covered dish supper at the picnic area at Western Carolina University. We will be there every Tuesday night at 6 p.m., and we hope you will come for supper and stay to meet our Circle Leaders and volunteers. We would love it if you would become a volunteer and work with us as we endeavor to make a difference in so many young lives.

Ann Melton is founder, Circles of Jackson.