KERSHAW COUNTY, SC (WIS) - Nine Kershaw County high school seniors have one thing in common: They've had the same mentor since elementary school.
Clifton Anderson kept his eye on them ever since. Now he will watch them graduate.
Anderson talks like a teacher, but he's never been one. And to the kids he mentors, he's the closest thing to a teacher.
Anderson is a retired mental health counselor. He has mentored 11 students since they were in fifth grade.
"I often tell the students you are the quarterback of your life," said Anderson. "You do good, we do this "clap clap." You do bad in life, we say "boooo."
It started back in 2005 when the students attended Bethune Elementary. The principal personally asked Anderson to be a guest speaker
"I've always been interested in giving back," said Anderson.
He talked to the students about self-esteem, peer pressure and bullying. He says the students connected to him. And his message captured their attention.
"That tells me that they were hungry and wanted information and so I decided ..I am going to make a promise.
He kept in touch each year and offered them life lessons. And instilled confidence into the, students, who are headed to college after graduation.
"He kept his promise and most folks don't keep promises," said one of the students. "But he did."
"thank you for being there sticking with us all 7 years," said Rusty Reeves. "For not giving up."
"What he has given me is more than what I could repay," said Ealey Seegars.
He's taught them life lessons:
"In order for you to be somebody and important to this world you have to put something in to it," Anderson. "You have to work for it."
And he taught them the importance of paying it forward.
"You can't describe it, happiness you can" said Anderson. "It's a joy to see I've touched their lives in some kind of little way. They're able to move on with their lives."
In 2004, Anderson received the Silver Crescent award from the state of South Carolina. It's the highest honor a person can receive for community service.
On Saturday, he will watch all nine students graduate from at North Central High School.