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Ernest Rice knows that an investment in children reaps rewards when they become adults.

Rice is an assistant principal at Pine Street Elementary in Spartanburg, but he never stops learning. Rice has three master’s degrees and is working on a doctorate, all while inspiring students to seize their future.

Rice began his work in education as a teacher’s assistant in 2003.

“I got into the school system and just worked my way up the ladder,” he said.

His position gives him a unique opportunity to mentor students who see him as a role model.

“I lost my dad when I was 15,” he said. “A lot of men in the community stepped up to help me. There’s a lot of kids who need that support. Mentors have pushed me through my success and I want to provide that for kids who need it.”

Before coming to Pine Street, Rice was a guidance counselor at Carver Middle School, where he started a mentoring program for boys. Participants were able to go on field trips, meet other role models and more.

“They are model students,” he said. “There are many men throughout the community that come in to support them.”

Rice continues to serve through his fraternity’s Bridge Builders Program, which will be held at Bethlehem Center in Spartanburg.

“We will work with 30 – 40 elementary and middle school kids in an after-school program,” he said.

For Rice, family – his wife and two children – is a priority, but he is keenly aware that his influence goes far beyond his home and work. He feels fortunate to be able to pay it forward.

“You never know who is watching you and observing your actions,” he said. “Kids are always watching. You can say one little thing – you never know what will trigger success in them. You always advocate for kids. I’m not in it for the recognition or the money. It’s about doing what’s right for kids. I’m thankful.”

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