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Bush touts program for children of prisoners

President George W. Bush participates in a roundtable on mentoring children of prisoners initiative on Tuesday, December 2, 2008, in Greensboro, N.C.Evan Vucci / Evan Vucci / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

President George W. Bush, trying to emphasize the softer side of his policy record before leaving office, on Tuesday thanked volunteers who have served as mentors to children of prisoners.

"These youngsters have ambitions and goals," Bush said after a private discussion with a few children and their mentors in North Carolina. "They want to go to college. They want to make a difference. And I suspect that the mentors will be anxiously following the career of someone they've been able to help."

Bush popped into the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Greensboro — which has worked with Youth Focus Inc., a nonprofit agency — to match 220 children of prisoners with adult mentors. The program is part of a national initiative, championed by Bush, that has provided mentors to more than 110,000 children.

In support, the Department of Health and Human Services has awarded more than $175 million in grants to 320 organizations in all 50 states, the District of Colombia and Puerto Rico. Bush encouraged anyone hearing about the mentoring program to consider taking part in it.

Making a difference, Bush said, "doesn't take much. All it takes is time. It takes a little bit of extra love."

The White House used the stop to emphasize Bush's efforts to support community groups as partners in solving problems.

The president said people who help children also help their country, "one heart, one soul at a time."