And then there was Allie Brooks

This letter is in response to Allie Brooks’ commentary in the Morning News on Feb. 26. I would like to share an Allie Brooks story.

I am not originally from South Carolina, but I have lived in Florence since 1972 and consider myself an integrated member of this community. Despite living here for over 45 years, people still say to me, “You are not from here — where are you from?” I still reply, “South Dakota,” where I spent my childhood. Many times it would lead to conversation about my home state, which is very different from South Carolina. I knew I didn’t fit in, but we had made a choice to raise our family here, and Allie Brooks helped guide me.

We arrived in Florence in the second year Francis Marion opened. We were young and excited about raising our children in a small, friendly Southern community. My husband worked at FMU while I taught at Florence-Darlington Technical College. But I quickly realized I didn’t fit in there, either.

A colleague of mine suggested that I go out and visit Allie Brooks at the new Wilson High School.

I made an appointment with Dr. Brooks. Upon arriving in his office, introducing myself, his first question was, “What can I do for you?” “I would like to apply for a counseling or teaching position,” I said.

In essence, our short meeting went somewhat like this, not verbatim, but the message was clear: Allie responded that he had no new positions open at that time and asked me about my position at FDTC and why I wanted to make a move. I told him about my dissatisfaction. In the next breath he told me, “It sounds like you have a good job there, but you are looking away from yourself and what you can do to change your situation. Why don’t you go back to FDTC and see how you can make a difference for those students out there?” He went on to say that many of his graduates would go on to FDTC, and they would need good teachers and lots of help pursuing their goals. In his mind, I could play a continuum role to help his students if I would “change my attitude.”

Well, I did. I went away a bit downtrodden, but returned to FDTC with a different attitude. I took a look at myself, thought about the brief but compelling talk with Allie Brooks and plunged forward in my work. As a result, I had students from the local schools, including Wilson, in the Human Services program who excelled, went on to FMU and even to graduate work at USC. Many of my students got jobs in special needs, nursing homes, Boys & Girls Clubs and other social services, special education and the hospitals.

I never forgot that meeting with Allie Brooks. He lit a flickering splint into a glowing candle for me. Thank you, Allie. Thank you for another inspiring article, and thank you for all you contribute to our community.