A Mentor Can Make All the Difference
January 12, 2017 – “You don’t really care about me because you get paid to be here. But my mentor, she cares.”
Almost two years after hearing these words from one of our 13 year olds living in foster care, I am still reminded as to the need we have for volunteer mentors. Our Legacy Mentor Program brings volunteer mentors to the foster and group homes in order to expose our youth to positive role models from the community. These mentors come from many walks of life, some of them having little to no experience within the foster care system, and some have come back after many years of being in the system in order to make a greater difference. It is important to realize that you don’t have to be an expert when it comes to the foster care system to make a difference.
As so many of us can attest to the importance of a mentor, it is imperative we see the value these mentors bring to our children’s lives. Within the Legacy Mentor Program, the volunteers are willingly giving their time to work one on one with our youth. They do not serve the same role as a case manager, nor as a foster or adoptive parent. Instead, these mentors serve as more of an “aunt or uncle” figure, which allows them to bring their outsider perspectives in and listen to the stories of our youth with a compassionate heart.
Mentors work with our youth on life skills, including “common knowledge” that in reality is not so common should you not have a parental figure to teach it to you. I have personally taught over twenty youth how to fill up a tank of gas by having them help me fill my own car’s tank while I drove them around town. Other mentors have taught youth how to do laundry, or how they can save money in their budget by turning off the lights and air conditioning when they leave their house or apartment. Mentor outings are not structured in a sense where the pair works towards official objectives and assessments, but are structured to provide these valuable life lessons in a more natural way..
With all this said, the most valuable thing these mentors are able to provide is the reassurance that there are good people within the world, ones who are giving their time to show our youth someone constant within their fractured lives. You would be surprised as to how far a little bit of positivity can make a difference.
You may think that the youth are the only ones receiving things from their mentors, but mentors also greatly benefit from these relationships as well. While our mentors are showing their places of work to their mentees to introduce them to different career and educational opportunities, they receive the wonderful feeling of knowing they are making a difference with every outing.
The volunteers I work with on a daily basis serve as reminders of why I come into work everyday; because that 13 year old was right. Our mentors care deeply, and that can make all the difference.
To apply to be a mentor or learn more about the mentor program, please visit http://www.cbccfl.org/services/mentoring/. YOU can make the difference in a child’s life.
Guest blog written by Mary Rebekah Fritz