A student in the Talbot Mentors program for more than seven years has graduated from high school and enlisted in the Marines. Dale Johnson was matched with his mentor, Gary Pearce, in 2003. His family, his mentor and Talbot Mentors all expressed pride in the young man he has become.
Dale’s aunt, Starlyn Adams, together with his mother and grandmother, cared for Dale over the years. She noted that the most significant male figure in Dale’s family was Shawn Johnson, his uncle.
“Shawn has been in the Marines as long as Dale is old,” she explained. “Dale always looked up to him.” Adams noted that Shawn taught Dale that “if you do right, you can get somewhere.” Shawn is now a Sergeant Major stationed at Camp Pendleton inCalifornia, currently serving in Afghanistan.
When Dale was in the fifth grade, the Johnson family women recognized that he needed an adult male friend who could be a more consistent presence than Shawn was able to be, and approached Talbot Mentors. The organization matched him with Gary Pearce.
Pearce recalls Dale as a quiet, shy boy at the time they met, lacking in self-confidence. “Like any relationship,” he said, “it started slow, and it took some time for us to get used to each other.”
For Pearce, becoming a mentor was a way of getting involved in community youth activities after a career in international business. With his own children grown, he and his wife moved to the Eastern Shore, where he has participated in various organizations besides Talbot Mentors, including Talbot Optimists and Talbot Partnership.
“The most incredible thing about Dale was that he was always willing to do whatever I suggested,” said Pearce. “I just thought of the things that I would enjoy doing and Dale always was happy and ready to jump on board.” The pair enjoyed a wide variety of sporting activities. Whether kayaking or fishing, golfing or playing tennis, Pearce said that Dale never complained, even though there were some things he liked to do better than others.
Pearce noted that his best contribution to Dale was introducing him to the YMCA, where Dale got serious about weight lifting and fitness. “I really think that helped build his self-confidence and competitiveness,” Pearce explained.
The workouts enabled Dale to meet the physical requirements when he decided to follow his uncle into the Marine Corps. “Dale found out that if you want something, you have to strive for it,” said Adams, describing his eagerness to prove himself.
Adams credits Talbot Mentors and family support for Dale’s success. “It has been a very good, wholesome relationship with Mr. Gary,” she said. “There has been acceptance on both sides.”
Not only did Talbot Mentors help Dale, but Dale’s family also supported the organization in return. Until her death in 2008, Dorothy Johnson, Dale’s grandmother, baked countless cakes, cookies and other treats that the organization used to raise funds at bake sales.
Adams thanked Talbot Mentors for the opportunities it had made available to Dale over the years. Summer camp scholarships offered by the organization and travel with Pearce on family vacations provided experiences that he might not otherwise have had.
The Marines will now offer the experience to Dale. After boot camp at Parris Island, South Carolina, he will proceed through training until he gets to join his uncle at Camp Pendleton.
While still serving on the board of Talbot Mentors, Pearce expects to take a break from mentoring for a time. However, the seven-year relationship will not end. Pearce plans to stay in touch with Dale and will attend his boot camp graduation in August.
For more information, to make a contribution, or to volunteer as a mentor, call Talbot Mentors at 410-770-5999 or visit www.talbotmentors.org.