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CASSANDRA JENKINS — Recognizing students leads to hard work, self-confidence

I speak to several students every week. I’ve interviewed young people from kindergarten to college with aspirations to be orthodontists, process operators, entrepreneurs, artists, cosmetologists and more.

Each interaction is new and each student is unique and special in his or her own way.

Students of every background, grade and level need to be recognized and praised in everyday life by teachers, mentors, parents and friends because it leads to a peak in their self-confidence and motivates them to want to work even harder.

To be fair, when I first started my journey as a professional journalist, education was not my forte, but I’ve grown to quickly love the beat because nothing holds a candle to the initial look on a kid’s face when told he or she is newsworthy.

When told that people want to hear about their stories, their accomplishments and their goals, young or old, their faces light up and very little compares to the feeling of knowing you contributed a little to that.

For example, last week I interviewed a young man at Port Neches-Groves High School who was on the fast track to becoming a process operator. His fellow students and teachers immediately praised Shawn Caviness, his story quickly hit 155 likes, 36 comments and 41 shares on Facebook.

Monday night at a school district meeting PNG principal Scott Ryan came up to tell me the recognition made Caviness feel like fellow PNG standout Roschon Johnson, who is a running back for the University of Texas and a beloved icon of the town.

I’ve also received similar comments from districts across Port Arthur and Mid-County. A recent story about a cosmetology student at Lamar State College Port Arthur who returned to receive her teacher’s certificate was well received and listed on the college’s monthly newsletter.

Nederland ISD has shared this week’s newest Bright Futures, Will Denson, on its Facebook page and it received 37 likes in less than an hour.

Communities love to hear about the accomplishments and dreams of their youngest members. But it shouldn’t just be a shout out in the news; it should be a hand shake in the hall for a job well done, an encouraging word after a big test, a share on social media to let them know they are seen, heard and valued.

In the end, the kids will only benefit from the praise and recognition, peak their self-confidence, make them feel special and encourage them to standout in a world that pressures them to fit in. By doing this, you will get to feel what I experience every day.

Cassandra Jenkins is a news reporter for The Port Arthur News. She can be reached at cassie.jenkins@panews.com.