I absolutely love mentoring because it's a one-on-one opportunity to show these kids that someone cares.
Everyone needs help once in a while and I want these kids to know that it's OK to need help and ask for help, and that someone (maybe even a stranger) will be there to offer it to them.
These are just kids, after all. How they got here really doesn't matter. Whether they've made mistakes in the past or come from a difficult environment, all of them just want an opportunity to succeed. And when they work hard to make progress in reading or math with me, they really are very proud. They are proving to themselves that maybe they really can do something that before they thought wasn't possible.
My very first student, Malil, on our first day together, told me he liked to draw in his spare time. We talked about that a little bit and I said I'd like to see one of his drawings someday, if he wanted to share that with me. For the first time, he looked me right in the eye and smiled. Two weeks later, he brought me a picture of Martin Luther King Jr. he had drawn. He "autographed" it for me and it's still on my file cabinet.
Two years ago, I was doing some reading work with Kiara (the sweetest girl!) and she mentioned she was on the volleyball team. I said, "Maybe I'll come watch you play sometime." Her face immediately lit up! When I got to the game, she was so excited. I'll never forget it!
I've really had a lot of great kids who I've worked with, but my most recent student, JJ, was one of my most impressive students. His attitude and effort level were never less than terrific. He obviously wanted to learn and improve his skills and never once caused me any trouble.
When I learned that he played football, I offered to come and watch him play. I got the same reaction as with Kiara. In fact, after that first game, he started asking me if I was coming to his next game.
With him being from another state, he has no family that can support him at the games. I've traveled as far as Norfolk with my husband to see him play, and nothing makes him happier than knowing there are people there in the stands who wish him well.
I've also run into JJ and other past students in the hallways or around campus and, judging by their reaction to seeing me, I think they really enjoy knowing there's one more person here that genuinely cares about them.
At the end of the day, I almost feel selfish, because the incredible feeling I get from seeing these kids improve is the best part of my mentoring at Boys Town. And it only takes an hour of a person's time to provide something that means so much to the kids.