Angela Burroughs has an easy spirit and friendly charm that make it simple for her to see the worth and excellence in others.
As a guidance counselor at Mellichamp Elementary School in Orangeburg Consolidated School District Five, she is surrounded by a community of children who need the attention and support they may not receive at home, she says.
In her sixth year at the school, Burroughs has refined her craft of molding students to be the best they can be despite their circumstances, and she takes pride in seeing them excel.
It is Burroughs’ sincere commitment to improving her surroundings, her remarkable love of people and her heart of gold that have earned her designation as the personification of respect for March as part of the Orangeburg County Community of Character Initiative.
Burroughs says she appreciates the honor but feels she doesn’t deserve it.
“I was surprised by it and immediately felt unworthy of such a huge honor. I’m definitely not worthy, but I’m very honored,” she said.
Burroughs said demonstrating good character is just as important, maybe more so, as achieving academic excellence. She said respect for her students is key in her work as a guidance counselor.
“I see children who are struggling. Everybody needs a chance, and that starts with respect. Our children face emotional crises. I’ve seen children who have faced the loss of parents and those who struggle physically and academically. My parents always taught me that if you love someone enough, they’ll shine,” she said.
Burroughs is the daughter of Gaye and Lewis Lanier of Orangeburg and the granddaughter of the late Elinor Price, who served as a director of the district’s Head Start program in the 1960s.
Respect is the key to her guidance program and a principle she tries to live by daily outside of school, she said.
“Giving our children a chance starts with loving them, and love always starts with respect. Some of our children face more before 7 o’clock than I face in a day. You have to respect them for who they are and respect them even more because they struggle more than I do most of the time,” she said.
Burroughs said being open with her students requires an authenticity they easily pick up on.
“They know the difference between real sugar and artificial sweetener,” she said.
“I’m so blessed every day to be able to work in a capacity where I can love all day. What a great job! My kids here inspire me and teach me lessons on tolerance, respect and humility every day.”
She said she and her two sisters, Suzanna and Meg, both school psychologists, were taught from an early age to care about others. Her maternal grandmother was “the rock behind it all,” Burroughs said.
“My parents told me growing up that it was more important for us to be kind to others than it was for us to make good grades. They’d rather see good character than a good report card,” she said.
“Mama always said she could settle for a ‘D’ student who knew how to treat others with respect — especially those who struggle — than an ‘A’ student who didn’t care about others.”
The Orangeburg County Community of Character in 2010 developed a mentoring program, with 25 volunteers selected to serve as mentors for children at Mellichamp Elementary. The volunteers spend an hour every Tuesday mentoring students. Burroughs says she matches mentors with students.
“The whole basis of that relationship is respecting the child,” she said. “When we train our mentors here, that’s the number one thing before academic help or outreach.”
Burroughs is currently expecting her third son who will join Morrison, 4, and Council, 2. She said she and her husband Shane, an attorney, are working to instill character in their sons.
“We’re learning but when it really comes down to how to treat others, it’s not much to debate. I want them to be who they are even at 4, and know there’s no gray with right and wrong,” Burroughs said.
‘Morrison is a work in progress,” she added, smiling.
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