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Mentor Bruce LaLonde in First Person

Updated: March 2, 2012 - 12:34 pm

Posted: February 17, 2012

LaLonde, a volunteer with The Up Center, has been named Outstanding Mentor of Virginia by the Virginia Mentoring Partnership, a statewide nonprofit housed under Virginia Commonwealth University and an affiliate of MENTOR/The National Mentoring Partnership. For the past five years, the Portsmouth native has mentored two boys. Harry Dews is a freshman at Booker T. Washington High School in Norfolk and Langston Scott is an eighth-grader at Churchland Middle School in Portsmouth. LaLonde will receive his award in March in Richmond. A retired naval officer, he is president and CEO of the USO of Hampton Roads. LaLonde also is active with the Military Officers Association and St. Paul's Catholic Church.

Why Mentor?

Mentoring is a great way to make things happen. I decided I could be a part of the problem or part of the solution. I like to see a good community. God blessed me. I have a great education, with three master's degrees and my CPA. And I have great work experience. Being a naval officer from Portsmouth, I can give them the anchor they need.

I am the oldest of eight children, four sisters and three brothers. I went to Portsmouth Public Schools. I retired as captain after 26 years. This gives me a lot to offer them.

The Satisfaction

Both boys are from single-parent homes. Their mothers are doing the best job they know how to do. Their neighborhood is not the best. I met them when they were 10 years old. They were lacking confidence. I have seen a change. For example, last year Harry made it into the National Junior Honor Society and All-City Band. When Harry was learning how to play the drums, I went to one of his first concerts. He had just a few beats in that show. When he made the first beat, he looked out in the audience for me. He wanted to make sure I was watching him and looking for affirmation. It was the best feeling. Encouraging someone gives tremendous satisfaction.

Langston is artistic and into dancing and music. He has become a good leader with his church with his talents.

The requirement for this program was only one year. We are going on our fifth year together. That says a lot about the relationship we have established.

I think they just want someone to say they are OK.

How He Mentors

We have conversations about school, home, the neighborhood and just some guy talk. Many times they come over and just help me around the house or go with me to the grocery store. They also volunteer with the USO at events. Recently Harry did face painting at a children's festival for military dependents and Langston helped with the music at the USO zoo day. We like baseball so we try to go to a game.

If something is bothering them, then they give me a call. I am always nice. No matter how crazy it is, they know I still love them.

The Difference Between Boys and Girls - His View

I have four grown daughters, all college-educated and married to great guys. Girls are more thoughtful and more emotional. When my daughters were growing up, I found they just wanted to talk things out and did not want so much a response. Boys want a response when they talk and they have not as much drama. Boys can be brash and do first before thinking of the consequences. I have been trying to get Langston and Harry to take a deep breath before they do things.

The Award

I don't do it for the award. I do it for the boys. It is absolutely overwhelming that someone took the time to nominate me and do the paperwork. I did not expect it.

Moving Forward

They know I will be there for them all their lives. I think they will pass this positive aspect of their lives onto their wives and kids. Harry wants to be chef and Langston wants to be a police officer. I just want them to be good people.