Ebison scales higher heights

Published 12:51 am Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Loretta Ebison, new director for Pamlico Pals, volunteer with Beaufort County Schools, and executive director of Higher Heights Human Services. (WDN Photo/Vail Stewart Rumley)

Twenty years ago, Loretta Ebison should have been down and out. Pregnant at 15, a mother at 16, most girls in her position would have dropped out of school. Ebison wasn’t like most—she recognized the importance of education. She enrolled in a program offering support services and affordable childcare that enabled her to continue school.

A nursing degree and two Masters degrees later (one in Marriage and Family Counseling, the other in Human Services), Ebison has been named the new director of Pamlico Pals, a position that gives her the opportunity to share her knowledge and her own experience.

“She’s a good fit for us,” said Theresa Moore, former director of Pamlico Pals, now chair of the organization’s advisory board. “Her heart is in giving back to the community. She has the passion to push our program forward.”

For 27 years, Pamlico Pals has provided one-on-one mentoring services to Beaufort County’s at-risk youth. Volunteers spend two hours a week with a child, whether at a movie, at dinner, or simply “hanging out,” to help steer them away from high-risk behaviors.

As Ebison comes on board as director, Pamlico Pals is branching out with a new group-mentoring program which will not only reach more youths, but places primary focus on community service.

“We want our kids to know it’s good to give back to the community,” said Ebison.

Three group mentors will lead this process: a teacher mentor, to help with school curriculum and provide general guidance and support; a college mentor, whose goal will be to make higher education a more tangible reality; and a community, or business, mentor, who will provide a wider view of life experiences than many of the children would be exposed to in their immediate school and neighborhood environments.

Between the three, the goal is to create a diverse set of perspectives and augment the already established benefits of mentoring: improvements working as a team member, relating well with others, and in school performance, all of which add up to the skills needed for later success in life.

“I think we’ll have more holistic results with group mentoring,” said Ebison. “We want them to know that in life, they have to work other people.”

Working with other people is a task at which Ebison excels.  Before signing on with Pamlico Pals, she was the Adolescent Parenting Program Coordinator for Beaufort County Schools, and now continues to actively volunteer with them, since the program’s grant was not renewed in this year’s school budget. Two years ago, Ebison founded Higher Heights Human Services, a nonprofit organization that focuses on pregnant and parenting adolescents, helping young mothers find childcare and other support needed to keep them in school. Every year at Christmas, Higher Heights “adopts” their teen moms out to families who want to help the girls through the season.

“It’s my first love,” said Ebison of Higher Heights, “because I was a teen mom.”

Whether she’s mentoring teen moms in the schools or at-risk children in a group setting, Ebison passionately emphasizes the value of education and learning to work together.

“One mind is good,” Ebison said, “But many minds together can be powerful.”

Pamlico Pals is actively seeking volunteers to mentor Beaufort County children. For more information about volunteering, call 252-946-0185.