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WHO WE ARE: Courtland senior feels responsibility to serve community
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Donovan McLaurine wishes his peers would realize how hard blacks worked in the past to assure the opportunities that his generation enjoys today.
He’d also be glad if some others his age would stop doing things that he believes are counterproductive to the good done by those who came before him.
Use of the “N–word” is a big one, said Donovan, a senior at Courtland High School. He hates the fact there are people of his race who say it—a lot—then get offended when those of other races do the same.
He’d be happy if he never heard the word again.
“I wanna say, ‘Come on guys, we’re better than that,’” Donovan said. “We’re trying to prove to the world that we can do anything, and you’re doing things that go against it.”
Donovan, 17, recently was held up as “an example of an outstanding student who will be a future leader,” according to Dominion Virginia Power.
He won an essay contest, along with a laptop and $1,000 for his school, in Dominion’s Strong Men & Women program.
Donovan won in the Northern Virginia region, which was particularly competitive, said Mark Howell, a contest judge and the program education manager at the Library of Virginia in Richmond.
One line in his essay especially appealed to judges, Howell said.
Donovan was talking about how it was time for him to make his introduction to the world.
“I’m the latest incarnation of my ancestral clan. I represent each of them. I represent African–Americans, I represent men, I represent those who are tall, those who wear glasses, and the list goes on,” Donovan said.
He extended the “essay beyond the discussion about race and that was very well done,” Howell said.
Donovan also shared other thoughts during an interview with The Free Lance–Star. He stressed that it’s his responsibility to correct the problems he sees.
“For all the wrongs I see in the world, I know that change has to begin with me,” he wrote in his essay.
For instance, he sees friends smoking and using drugs, or talking back to their parents.
He tries to tell them, gently, that they may not be going about things the right way. He says that maybe their parents don’t understand them because the teens haven’t told them what’s going on. He reminds them that smoking anything isn’t good for their health.
“I care about people so much, sometimes I get into their business so they will stop what they’re doing before they get into trouble,” Donovan said.
He quickly learned from his parents, Don and Devena McLaurine, that disrespect didn’t cut it in their household. His father is an officer with the Arlington County Sheriff’s Department, and his mother works at the Stafford branch of the Virginia Cooperative Extension service.
Donovan says “ma’am” or “sir” regularly and focuses his energy on school and community-service projects—when he’s not trying to persuade his friends to drop bad habits.
He tries to be a role model to the youngsters he mentors through Kids’ Club at Courtland Elementary School. And, he does the same with his younger sister, Camryn.
“Even though she does get on my nerves sometimes, I want to be there for her,” Donovan said.
He started an “Environmental Warriors” club in elementary school and delivered meals to homeless people in middle school.
He’s been a vegetarian throughout high school and has shared his ideas on protecting animals, not eating meat and doing the right thing.
“Sometimes, you can’t change people, but you can encourage them,” he said. “I can be a good friend. That’s my responsibility right now.”
Cathy Dyson: 540/374-5425