Stuart Blount and Dr. Ethan Lenker love children.
It’s obvious from the smiles that spread across their faces every time you catch either one of them around youngsters of any age and at any of the schools they are charged with overseeing as superintendents of Clinton City and Sampson County schools, respectively.
That’s why both decided to join The Sampson Independent in promoting them through the 2013 Cutest Kids Contest, already under way at www.clintonnc.com.
Along with category sponsors Perrine, Wiley and Potts (6-9), Matthews Drugs (2-4) and Williamson Gas (4-6), the two school systems are offering family members a chance to let their children shine through the contest, which awards bragging rights and some nifty cash prizes to the winners in each category, as well as the overall winner and Cutest Kid.
“I think it’s fun and it gives children an opportunity to shine,” said Blount of the contest. “Any time you can promote children, I think it’s a great idea. It builds their self-esteem, and if you do that, they have better chances of success.”
Lenker agrees, noting that, though cliche, children are the future of this county and this country and should be highlighted in a positive manner at every turn.
“That’s what we are all about, helping children,” Lenker said of Sampson County Schools. “It’s why we got involved with the contest in the first place — because who better to sponsor a contest about kids than someone who is all about kids.”
Both Blount and Lenker got into the education business because of their love for children and mentors who inspired them along the way.
Lenker’s father was an educator and he, quite literally, followed in his footsteps. “My dad was a teacher so I became a teacher. My dad became superintendent and I became a superintendent. Really, since about the fourth-grade I knew I was going to be in education, be a teacher. Shaping the minds of young people is important, giving to them so they can give back to others is important.”
Blount said teachers who took the time to mold him helped to shape his life and he realizes that teachers do that across his school system and others.
“My high school principal was a large influence in my life, as were many of my coaches. They set a great example for me and have helped to shape me into the person I am today, with such a love for children and what we do to help them in education,” Blount stressed.
Both believe giving children an opportunity to shine is important, giving them self-confidence and a deserved pat on the back for jobs well done.
“Whether it’s playing sports, participating in a talent show, making the honor roll, being named Student of the Month or being chosen as the Cutest Kid, promoting them in those things is very important,” Lenker said.
Blount offered a similar view, nothing the significance of seeing a child’s eyes light up when they see their name or face in the newspaper, a recognition of something important they did in their young lives.
“Besides that, which is very important, they are all just cute,” Blount acknowledged. “Every child has a sparkle, every child is cute, and they deserve the opportunity to have those qualities highlighted.”
Both superintendents urged participation in the Cutest Kids Contest, asserting their belief that it is a good way to promote youngsters.
“And it’s fun,” Lenker said. “It paints them in such a positive light. We hope people will get involved.”
Blount agrees. “This is a way to show off our children. I hope people will get involved.”
The contest continues through June 14. Entries are already being accepted at www.clintonnc.com. Just click on the Cutest Kids logo and follow the simple steps to enter. There is no charge to participate. All one has to have is a valid email address to get started.
Voting beings the week of June 2 and ends at 5 p.m. on June 14, with winners being announced the week of June 16.
“This is a great contest,” said Sampson Independent editor and general manager Sherry Matthews. “Every year we have held the contest, it has been fun for us, the sponsors and those who have participated. I love looking at all those smiling cuties. We have some adorable children, that’s for sure.”
Matthews also offered her thanks to Blount, Lenker and the category sponsors for their willingness to help make the contest a reality in Sampson County.
“Without them, this contest would not be possible. We urge you to thank them every time you see one of the sponsors, and to support their businesses every chance you can.”