If you ever want to see passion in person, meet LaKisha Bryant. As executive director of Girls Inc., Bryant believes in the organization's mission to "inspire girls to lead safe, healthy and productive lives" and that belief is rather contagious for those around her. Recently, Albany's Girls, Inc. was invited to attend a special White House forum as a part of President Obama's "Champions of Change" initiative based on the efforts of the group in teaching age-appropriate substance abuse prevention. Bryant and 12-year-old Ebony Pettway represented the local organization at our nation's Capitol. The trip was no doubt a great experience for the travelers but an even better reflection on just what goes on at Girls Inc. in Albany, Ga.

A person never had to claim to be an Auburn fan to be a friend of Cleve Wester (although it certainly did not hurt!). Wester, a former Auburn great and renowned Albany businessman, now has his name on a scholarship which was awarded for the first time this month by the Southwest Georgia Auburn Club. Congratulations go out to the initial recipient, Baconton Charter School graduate Lillian Harvey. Club President Hank Jester said of Wester. "He'd have that same smile that he always had. He would be the happiest one in the room." What a great way that is for a man to be remembered.

Many readers will remember their dorm days on the college campus, the first time living away from home, as exciting. Dorms rooms were small and showers and toilets were down the hall. There was perhaps one television in the common area (or basement) along with a few washing machines and dryers. Ahh, such comforts. As the new semester started at the two colleges in Albany this month, many students found their home away from home quite different from days gone by. Some amenities at one or the other (or both) of the campuses include private baths, workout rooms, wireless Internet, study areas, laundry rooms, dance room, on-site fast food restaurants and more. It is a wonderful time to be a college student in Albany.

Plans have always been to make the Patriots' Field of Flags an annual event to honor those lost in the events of 9/11. This year was to be the ninth time 1,000 American flags would be erected at the Albany Mall -- a particularly important demonstration of the 10th anniversary of the life-changing day of Sept. 11, 2001. And then, some thief with no semblance of heart or patriotism stole the iron rods used to hold the flags. Last Wednesday, a delivery was made to American Legion Post 30. Henry Oliner, president of General Steel in Macon, had 1,000 rebar rods cut in 3-foot long shafts delivered to insure that the 9/11 tradition continues. Thank you so much for the generous gift.

High school students who lag behind academically often arrive at the decision to give up, quit school and hope for the best. Unfortunately, the "best" is rarely even good for high school dropouts. Dougherty County students have a better chance to make it all the way through to graduation than most of their counterparts in Southwest Georgia. Under the direction of Principal John I. Davis, the South Georgia Regional Achievement Center offers those on the brink of jumping off the high school bus one more opportunity at success. This school is not a haven for misbehaving misfits. Admission is by invitation only which comes after a stringent screening process which includes a face-to-face interview. There are no extracurricular activities, no sports or clubs. Academic achievement is the focus and the students want to be there. They have accepted the gift of one last chance to become a high school graduate and are serious about making it work. Five years ago, RAC graduated six students. The last class to receive the much-coveted diploma totaled 50. Thumbs up!!