Tuesday, June 17, 2003

Pulfer: Unexpected gifts

Angel and the ticket to heaven

Angel Rutledge sat in the parking lot at Rookwood Pavilion, waiting for her mother, who was having her eyebrows professionally arched in preparation for Angel's wedding the next day. Frankly, Bonnie Rutledge said, "It hurt like heck."

This is one of those sacrifices a good mother will make. Some things small. Some things as large as putting your beloved child in someone else's hands. Even temporarily, it's a very big and generous gift.

When Angel was 14, a sophomore at Withrow High School, her mom encouraged her to find a mentor. "I have always told my children that I am not the only way. Look for people who can show you other ways," Bonnie said to Angel.

Bonnie was working two jobs, trying to give her four kids the essentials. She had plenty of love. Time was scarce.

Finding a mentor

Angel asked for a mentor through Cincinnati's Youth Collaborative (CYC). Susan Abernethy Frank and Angel paired up in 1992. Susan says she learned about rap music and "just had a great time with this wonderful kid."

Although CYC mentoring has been around since 1990, several myths still follow the program.

Myth number one: Mentors are expected to become surrogate parents. Angel's father, Samuel Rutledge III, has been involved in her life since the moment she was born. "Sam was in the delivery room," Bonnie says.

As for Bonnie, "I have the best mother in the world," Angel says. But having another adult in your corner "just makes you feel special. Susan gave me confidence."

Myth number two: I'm too busy to be a mentor. Well, maybe you are, but John Pepper found time to mentor a student and run Procter & Gamble. Jack Cassidy, Cincinnati Bell's president, is a mentor. So is the distinguished Judge Nathaniel Jones, who once called it "easy and fun, a ticket to heaven on the cheap."

You don't have to change your life - just bring the child into it. Susan, who worked fulltime in fashion and public relations, steered Angel toward some modeling jobs and says she and Angel "just liked hanging out together. It was just fun. Just a joy."

Myth number three: Mentors have to be prepared to teach calculus and chemistry. You are not signing up to be a tutor. You are signing up to be a coach, a role model, an advocate. Susan drove Bonnie and Angel around to visit colleges when it came time to choose one. She was there for Angel's graduation and when Angel bought her own house. As a cheerleader at first, then as a friend.

Angel - who last Saturday became Angel Strayhorn - is an accountant for a medical instruments company. "She's brilliant with numbers," Susan says. "Thank goodness I never had to help with that."

Right now, CYC has more than 1,700 mentors. Still, there's a waiting list of 700 kids. Information about how to sign up is at www.thepowerof1.org or by phoning 475-4148. "It's really one of the best things I ever did," Susan said. "For myself."

Susan had a good seat at the church Saturday, close to the bride and her mother. All were radiant, I'm told. With perfectly arched eyebrows.

Three lovely women. Bonnie with the generosity of spirit to entrust her wonderful kid to another woman, Susan who held some doors open and Angel who popped right through them.

And everybody got more than they expected.

Kids get down and dirty outside
Pulfer: Unexpected gifts

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Hamilton County
Butler County
Warren County
Clermont County
Northern Kentucky
Dearborn County

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Road projects may be halted