Can America hold its promise for social and economic justice for all? How do we ease this nation’s painful job crisis? Our future as a competitive economy is at risk, and we need job-focused education to enter a market starving for skilled workers.

To rebuild America’s prosperity, we need programs offering training and internships. Our young adults will be huge assets to an active economy once they are given the opportunity. Skilled new workers are the key to our future.

In our community, there is a growing effort to inspire and unlock a child’s potential. There is a huge effort to connect neighborhood youth with education and job development programs. Strategists of our landscape ”“ shapers of children and youth ”“ are committed to making a positive difference in the lives of young people by helping them grow up healthy and ready for the future.

Volunteers and staff of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southern Maine said they were excited to start the year with National Mentoring month. With the many challenging situations youth face today, having a friend and mentor to turn to can be the difference between a life of struggle and one that flourishes.

Financial gifts from local residents provide cultural and social activities to enrich the opportunities for children and youth. Every gift received assures that work, helping children realize their potential through mentoring, continues. Financial support helps provide programs and services in our community so we can develop more colleges graduates, community leaders and entrepreneurs.

We have many wonderful organizations striving to help our children. In a more perfect world, I would be able to thank each by name, but this involves the talents, the generosity and caring of many. I must content myself by acknowledging the contribution of all.

However, each year the York County Retired Educators Association nominates an outstanding member to be the recipient of the MEA-R Leadership Award. Pauline Pollock and Betty Syvinsky have done it again, as they are proud to announce their nominee from YCREA is Charlene Thompson, who will be recognized at the MEA-R conference held in Augusta in May.

On the nomination form, one requirement is to list the candidate’s leadership activities, dates of service, positions held and dates holding each position. Working with Charlene over the years has been an occasion of discovery. Her contributions to the association and to her many years of teaching will endure. She has made us all stronger and smarter.

Charlene has had an unparalleled career. Among her many duties, she has organized committees, advocated for services and programs for senior citizens and remains an advocate, as she is very knowledgeable and helpful in assisting others with interpreting and understanding the complex health care, plans, salary, retirement issues and other changes.

The list of activities and programs with which she was, and still is, involved are extremely important.

Congratulations, Charlene! You deserve the recognition and honor of this award, and a special thanks to Pauline and Betty for another “job” well done.

— Zaffie Hadiaris of Saco is the host of “Zaffie,” a weekly television talk show on Channel 3 Biddeford public access. It can also be seen at biddefordmaine.org. Contact Hadiaris at [email protected]