“When your luck is down, and your world goes wrong,
When life's all uphill, and the road is long
Keep your spirits high, for through thick and thin,
You must carry on if you are to win
Never mind if things hold you back a bit,
You'll come out on top, but you mustn't quit.” – Unknown
When Thomas L. Goodwater graduated from Laing High School in 1970, he was most likely not thinking about how he could impact the kids that would follow after him. He was the last class to graduate from the school.
A new high school was built to serve the entire East Cooper community, called Wando High School. Laing Middle School then came online.
And now, 44 years later, he is making an impact on the lives of the kids that came after him. For the last eight years, he has served as a mentor to young boys who need a male figure in their lives.
Today he works with 12 young boys every Thursday from 10:30 a.m. until 1:30 p.m.
But there are so many other students who could benefit from having a mentor who's there just to talk to – or even to tutor. He's seeking volunteers to pick up other students who need that little extra push.
Goodwater spent six years in the Navy and is a retired firefighter with the Town of Mount Pleasant.
“This job is always a challenge because you are involved in many phases of the children's lives, like checking on their school work, talking about the good things in their lives, and the negatives. My role as a mentor is that you are a friend and a good listener,” he said.
“I am a role model by setting a good example – a confidant who can be trusted.”
Goodwater sees himself as a nurturer of possibilities.
“My role is to see the gifts and strengths of my mentees and to help them flourish personally and to channel his gifts towards actions that make him a resource for others in his family, neighborhood, school or community.”
Goodwater is looking for other volunteers to help him make outstanding citizens of these children.
He rewards the students, often with positive reinforcement and sometimes with a pizza party. During sessions, the boys chat with him over lunch. Goodwater mostly lets them have the floor and occasionally has a one-on-one sit-down if someone needs it.
“You never know what to expect. One may be upset about something going on at home or another may be excited about something in their life,” he said.
He comforts them when needed and has even gone to youth and family court with those who needed a character witness and someone to ask the judge to give them one more chance.
He also keeps in touch with many of his former students. Some have graduated and gone off to college. Others still live in the community.
He encourages others to sit in on his sessions to meet the boys and see what they are all about. Those interested must undergo a background check.
One student, 12-year-old Jordan Mazyck, enjoys their sessions. “He helps me with things going on at home and tells me what to say and do, so I can better handle it,” he said. And while he's not sure what he wants to do when he grows up, Mazyck is studying hard when he is not enjoying his favorite hobby of video games.
Tahj Venning, also 12, said he respects Goodwater “because I can share my problems with him and I trust him. I don't get in trouble anymore because he is a good example for me.” Venning hopes to go on to play football one day.
So does his fellow student Malachi Capers, who is 13 years old. Capers enjoys his time with Goodwater because when he needs someone to talk to, he said, Goodwater is there.
“I don't get in trouble anymore for fighting because I know better and now I have someone to answer to,” he said.
Anyone interested in becoming a mentor at Laing Middle School is encouraged to call guidance counselor Elah Hudson at 843-849-2809.