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'I'm not a stereotype'

March 04, 2005|by WANDA T. WILLIAMS

HAGERSTOWN - Had Eric Rollins been born 60 years ago, he might have been a member of the Poor People's Campaign or the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, social movements that gave voice to youth eager to get involved in the civil rights movement.

"It's our job as a community, as a church and as a people to help those who are disadvantaged," said Rollins, who said he draws inspiration from the perseverance of those involved in the social movements of the 1960s.

Rollins, 18, said he's discovered his purpose in life: To educate minds and provide a spiritual road map for others through ministry.


He said he believes education and faith in God are the keys to success in life.

"I'm a man after God's heart ... it's tough and I just pray to God every day that he orders my steps," he said.

Rollins said his faith fuels his passion as a youth minister. Since 2000, he's delivered sermons designed to motivate youth across the Tri-State area. He said he hopes to be ordained later this year.

"At midnight, Paul and Silas, they began to pray and sing to God," Rollins said, referring to a verse from the Bible's Book of Acts in the New Testament.

Rollins used the verse as a theme for a sermon he delivered recently at Hagerstown's Greater Campher Temple, where he and his family are members. His sermon touched the heart of a man in the congregation that Sunday morning, he said.

"After the service, one of the guys said, 'That Word was for me,'" Rollins said.

For Rollins, it was feedback from God assuring him that his message made a difference in someone's life, he said.

In addition to being a youth minister, Rollins is a secondary education major at Hagerstown Community College and a part-time youth counselor and mentor at the Boys & Girls Club on Pennsylvania Avenue. He's worked there for the last five years, and last year was honored as the club's Youth of the Year.

Rollins said he understands that his development and wisdom are rooted in words of inspiration from his grandmother, Ruth Monroe; his mentor and supervisor, Darnell Shaffer; his minister, Bishop Derek Kee; and his parents, John and Angie Rollins.

"It really does take a village to raise a child. I'm proof of that," he said.

In a social climate where youths often fall to the temptations of drugs and sex, Kee said Rollins' strong family foundation has kept him grounded.

"He's been able to visualize the downfalls of some of his friends. Those downfalls have been stepping stones for him," Kee said.

While things are going well for Rollins, he said he's not perfect and he remembers a time when he was "not doing well in school and getting into trouble." That's when his grandmother reminded him that she had high expectations for him, he said.

"I've seen many friends fall by the wayside," he said. "I know it's rough out here, but I'm legitimate. I work, I have a job and I attend church. I'm not a stereotype."

Rollins is a 2004 graduate of North Hagerstown High School. In the fall, he hopes to attend Morehouse College in Atlanta, the historically black college founded in 1867 to educate black men pursuing careers in the ministry and education.

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