One of the things I find completely amazing about working with young men is watching them grow up. One of the young men that has been with CTO since the beginning is D'Lige Smith Hughes. I remember when he first showed up on my door step with his signature pony tail, hardly 4 feet tall at the time, and his voice was more of a high pitched squeak then it was a voice. I gave him my card and a brochure and asked him to have his mom call me so we could get to know each other.
When I look at D'Lige today I see the man he has become. Our relationship has grown over the past 5 years just like he has grown from being a boy to a man. D'Lige has spent many dinners around my table and has been on many CTO outings and summer camps as both a participant and a leader. He has always met the expectations we have put upon him and demonstrated personal responsibility in completing tasks where we left him on his own to get them done. It is because of his strong work ethic and trust that he has built with both my wife and I that we decided to help D'Lige & his family in planning his college search.
D'Lige's family, like my own, will need help financing the ever-rising costs of college tuition. It was because of this effort that Janie & I decided to help D'Lige visit a college that doesn’t charge tuition. Instead they scholarship each student and in return these students work a set number of hours a week earning the funds needed for future generations to attend the college.
This school happens to be located in southern Missouri, so it is a little bit of a hike from us here in East Central Illinois, but the upside is that it is located only an hour from our CTO State Director in Missouri. He will then have the opportunity to keep working with CTO even if he is not in Illinois for 4 years.
Janie and I were planning to go on this vacation to Branson, which wasn’t too far from the college so we decided to kill two birds with one stone. After the college visit it was time to cut loose spending time seeing the attractions and of course spending time in outdoors mecca at the Bass Pro Shop in Springfield, Mo. But the highlight of the doing stuff was Zip lining. D'Lige and I got up early before the rain one morning and sent out on our adventure leaving Janie back at the suite fearing for our lives.
We had a great time zipping on over 1 mile of zip lines. D'Lige even went first most of the time because he has no fear, or because I tricked him by allowing his carabineers to be ahead of mine. Either way we had a good time and it allowed us to have some guy time away from Janie so we could talk about the future and plans for living as an adult after high school is over forever. I have a feeling this young man will have a great future. This is why I am blessed God called me to be the leader for Cross Trail Outfitters of Illinois. Nothing is more rewarding then building into the lives of these developing men!