Retired engineering consultant Keith Hering and his wife, Diane, moved to Piedmont from metro Atlanta about seven years ago to have easy access to the Ladiga Trail and enjoy a slower pace of life. For several years Hering has mentored young men at Piedmont High through the Big Brother / Big Sister program of Calhoun County. He said he took this opportunity to serve because he believes that a good education is key to success later in life.

Gov. Kay Ivey signed a proclamation naming January as National Mentoring Month and Hering was named Big Brother of the Year.

"In my career, I've seen a lot of doors open for me because of my education,” Hering said.

He explained that he has 12 years of university training in the engineering disciplines, including two at the University of Newcastle in England.

"It took me a long time to learn this lesson but I have found that the key to enjoying my courses was to do well,” he said. “I never took a course that I did well at that I didn't also enjoy. I try to emphasize the importance of doing well to these young men and show them how to do it."

Hering said that in the course of meeting the young men one-on-one two to four times a week, they became friends. This allows him to participate in other areas of their lives and occasionally go on bike rides.

Hering was reared on a poultry farm and had a healthy upbringing. He learned the value of hard work and taking responsibility early on. He’s a deacon and Sunday school teacher at First Baptist Church in Jacksonville. He is also a member of Gideons International.

Piedmont High principal Dr. Adam Clemons said that Hering has been a godsend.

“He really pours his heart and soul into his mentees,” Clemons said. “He reminds me of Barnabas in the Bible, always encouraging, counseling and lifting up.”

Velerie Shannon, CEO of Big Brothers / Big Sisters of Northeast Alabama said that Hering is a great mentor and that he goes above and beyond to help his little brothers.

“He is in the school-based program and is assigned to two high school students,” she said. “He has made such a difference in their outlook on their ability to succeed, their self-worth, their grades from failing to passing and their aspirations for their future.”

Shannon said that Hering is thinking about taking on another student.

“That tells you there is a need for volunteers who are willing to share their time and talent to help a child or young person in need,” she said.

"We came to Piedmont to ride the trail and enjoy small town living and consider ourselves greatly blessed,” he said. “Participating in the Big Brothers / Big Sisters program and helping these young men achieve their potential is an indescribable blessing for me.”

Contact Margaret at pollya922@gmail.com