by LAUREE S. PURCELL
Twenty-two year old Salim Charles grew up near the Simms Center and Ralph Sampson Park in Harrisonburg. He and his sister attended the Boys and Girls Club there after school. He was an all-state defensive end for the Harrisonburg High School (HHS) football team where he graduated with an advanced diploma in 2012. He will continue his second year as a Centennial Scholar at James Madison University (JMU) this fall.
Salim enjoys working with children and teenagers who face challenges due to unstable home lives and poverty. He has worked for the Harrisonburg Boys and Girls Club, the On The Road Collaborative and the Roberta Webb Day Care Center. This summer, he’ll be working full-time to help children at the Simms Center Boys and Girls Club and will continue there part-time while studying this fall.
Mr. Futuroso, Salim’s 8th grade science teacher at Thomas Harrison Middle School, and Coach Madding of the North Recreational Football League, gave Salim a series of positive experiences that built up his confidence and set him on a successful path through high school. Salim considers his guidance counselor, Mr. Myers, to have been an important mentor who put him on a fast track for a great experience at HHS, and he especially liked his science teachers there who encouraged his interest in anatomy, chemistry and physics and helped him understand it.
After studying and playing college football for a year at JMU, Salim became a team leader for Beyond the Bell, a series of grant-funded afterschool programs that served as the predecessor to On the Road Collaborative (OTRC). He enjoyed helping the children explore robotics and agriculture without the pressure of tests and grades. Salim believes attending the Boys and Girls Club, volunteering there and then mentoring children ages 5 to 17 as a member of the team, helped mold him into a more mature member of society.
He hopes to earn a Masters in Education from JMU and continue giving back to the diverse and disadvantaged youth of the city of Harrisonburg for many years to come. “Salim has a contagiously positive personality and has a unique ability to connect with young people and make a difference in their lives,” said Brent Holsinger, founder and president of OTRC. “He has tremendous potential as an educator and leader, and I am excited to see Salim pursue a degree in education at James Madison University.”
LAUREE STROUD PURCELL is an editorial consultant and writer for Living.
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