Mercer Student Dedicated to Impacting His Community
The sound of children laughing echoes throughout the humble building they are playing inside. Their eyes light up as they find out they will be paining colorful trees to mark the coming of spring. The children fish through the boxes set in front of them, hoping to find the perfect paintbrush to make their creation.
Everyday, children living in the Tindall Heights community have the opportunity to go after school and learn about art in a safe and nurturing environment.
Mercer University philosophy major Parker Bettencourtt has dedicated much of his time to serving the community around him.
“Creativity at that age is so important to capitalize on before it’s lost with parents saying, ‘Find real skills and get a job,’” Bettencourtt said. “We want kids to know there are other opportunities — creative opportunities.”
He has primarily invested much of his time and efforts toward the Tindall Heights Afterschool Program. This volunteer-based program began with a grant from the Knight Foundation.
This afterschool program is directed toward underprivileged children in the Macon community.
Creighton Rosental, a philosophy professor at Mercer, said in his time knowing Bettencourt, he has witnessed him being a force for change for the good.
“Parker has tirelessly gave of himself to make his environment better, whether it be in philosophy classes, in helping the philosophy community be a better and more interesting place to be, or in helping create an after school program for the kids at the public housing project at Tindall Heights Homes,” said Rosental, who is the head faculty over the afterschool program
Bettencourtt is a manager of the program and hopes that it has a positive impact on the children.
Volunteers from Mercer University are important, because they allow these children to witness how to change your community, he said.
“It’s a great opportunity for us to come in at that level and say, ‘this is what a university student looks like and this is who you can be, and you can have a positive impact,’” Bettencourtt said.
On average, the art program has 12 children coming after school. However, the program is on standby due to construction on Mercer University Drive — less than half a mile from the program’s location. The afterschool program will resume in a new location after construction is complete.
But, managing Tindall Heights is not the only time investment Bettencourtt has made.
Bettencourtt’s face lights up when he is able to talk about his passions.
“I am in the process of establishing my own not-for profit organization called ‘Belt Out Addiction.’”
The idea came to him many years after breaking his own drug addiction.
Bettencourtt was shy when asked about his personal addiction, but he expressed that he is glad that part of his life is past him.
The premise of the organization is to provide psychological help for people who are drug addicts.
“There is so much stigma about drug addiction and abuse that it is difficult for a person to trust another to talk to them about it,” Bettencourtt said.
He created a bracelet fashioned from a D-ring belt to symbolize this campaign. The layout of the bracelet would have the organization’s name on one side, and various hotlines for drug users to call if they are in need of serious help.
The D-ring belt is the symbol of the campaign because many drug abusers use it to cinch up and administer themselves drugs.
“I wanted to take [the belt] away from the stigma and away from the cycle of abuse and make it into a symbol of hope. . . .something like the red ribbons for aids or TOMS shoes,” Bettencourtt said. “Through wearing these bracelets, people can say, ‘I support you’ and are not going to subjugate or judge you for this.”
Even though “Belt Out Addiction” is still in the preliminary phases, Bettencourtt plans to take it to the next level: next semester he is going to put out various surveys about people’s opinions on drug addictions, distribute his bracelets and participate in entrepreneur competitions in the spring to raise funds.
Bettencourtt makes it a point to tell people that all funds raised would go directly toward treatment and ending addiction.
“I want people to be apart of this organization because they want to help others,” he said.
In the future, Bettencourtt desires to teach college students. He wants students to capitalize on their strengths and passions. “This time of our lives is so pivotal and the time when we figure out what it means to be a person,” he said.
In 15 years, he hopes to be out of law school and starting his PhD so he can begin teaching undergraduates. “I just want to have a lasting impact,” Bettencourtt said.