McNair employee wins honor

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* HOUSTON*
– Rodrick Smith, an accountant for the McNair Group, was honored by the U.S. Dream Academy as its Mentor of the Year for 2007 at a ceremony in Washington, D.C. on May 24.

{QUOTE} Smith decided to become a mentor at the Dream Academy Learning Center based in Houston's Third Ward, where he was paired with a 10-year-old boy named Chris. Smith made the decision after reflecting on his own childhood growing up in Ennis, Texas without a father or mentor.

"When I first met Chris he was reserved and did not have much to say. But now it's talk, talk, talk," Smith said.

Smith has been Chris' mentor for a year and a half. Like most young men, Chris loves sports, but Smith also encourages him to look for other avenues of success.

"I don't want him to feel that's his only avenue," he said.

Smith's devotion has not only helped expose his young friend to other career options, but has also helped him maintain grades strong enough to be a part of the Gifted and Talented Program at his school. Chris has now learned to accept a hug from Rodrick, something that he was not comfortable with for a long time into their relationship.

U.S. Dream Academy Founder and CEO Wintley Phipps strongly maintains that, "A child with a dream is a child with a future." He was on hand, along with actor Chris Tucker, to make the Mentor of the Year presentation to Smith.

The six-year-old U.S. Dream Academy is a school-based after-school program that is dedicated to helping children stay in school achieve their dreams through education and mentoring partnerships.

The McNair Group is a financial and real estate firm owned by Houston Texans founder and chairman Robert C. McNair. Smith has been a part of the McNair Group since 2004.

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