September 11 is a day that is etched in the minds of people across the world. None of us will likely forget that fateful day in 2001 when we watched the airplanes hit the Twin Towers and their subsequent collapse. None of us will likely forget the pain we felt as we thought of the lives lost. Many of us vividly remember wondering about the fate of relatives and friends who worked in NY and more specifically one of the towers. I can remember as though it were yesterday the panic we felt in our family until we knew my cousin who worked in a building nearby at the time was safe. I, like so many others, pause today to think about those who died and perhaps even more so, those they left behind who are likely reliving that day in a way that we cannot fathom. They are certainly in our thoughts and our prayers.
I also pause today to remember that 13 years ago today, I embarked upon a journey with the South Carolina Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy – excited to re-enter the workforce after a 4.5 year break to focus on my adolescent daughters and perhaps even more excited to be in a place where I could learn as much as possible to help them avoid too-early parenting!
I can remember the three employees who were my colleagues at the time, one of whom announced her resignation the day I arrived. I can clearly remember the little blue house at 1511 Gregg Street in Columbia and the wonderful work on behalf of South Carolina’s young people. I can see the conference room and the TV that Joy Campbell turned on that day in 2001 so we could watch the news.
I can also remember the regional coordinators’ meetings with Judi Gustafson, Juanita Mendenhall, Gail Robinson, Margaret Key and Michelle Nimmons. I can recall climbing into Suzan Boyd’s SUV after her arrival and going to all the Regional Roundtables for the first time. Oh, how I remember the first staff meeting with me, Tina Torres and Suzan – and the minutes from that meeting that we still chuckle about today!
I remember the CAPP and MAPPS providers (I’ll refrain from giving names lest I forget someone!) and the many staff we have been privileged to work with at the SC Campaign. I remember when Forrest joined us as a grad student – and now I am able to witness his great leadership as our CEO! Actually, this trip down memory lane is starting to make me feel a bit ‘seasoned’ as my 80-year old mother, who refuses to think of herself as old, would say!
In all seriousness, today I am simply amazed at the changes over the years, and the current work of the SC Campaign and its many statewide partners. Much has changed – as it has in the world at large. What remains the same, however, is our commitment to the young people of South Carolina. The staff works just as hard, if not harder, to do our part to fulfill the vision: Healthy Youth. Bright Futures. Strong Communities.
Yes, I pause today to remember 9-11, to remember my decision to join this staff and the current commitment I still have to this cause and this organization. I also pause to say thank you to those who afforded me the opportunity, to those with whom I’ve worked and continue to work for enriching my life, and I celebrate the work we have accomplished together. The teen birth rate among school-aged young people in South Carolina is the lowest it has ever been! So, let’s keep at it because together we can continue to make a difference.
P.S. My daughters are now beautiful, confident young women in their late 20s, and I’m looking forward to sons-in-law and grandbabies I can spoil rotten in the near future. :)
by Gwendolyn Baker, Chief Operating Officer, SC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy