Today’s blog post is by Communities In Schools of Wilkes County, N.C. Executive Director Glendora Yarbrough.
National Mentoring Month offers us a great chance to reflect on the importance of a one-one-one relationship with a caring adult. Too often, today’s students face the world without this basic resource: an individual to turn to for support, encouragement and guidance on making positive life choices.
Communities In Schools of Wilkes County’s longest standing program seeks to tackle this need. Having started in 1983 as the Governor’s One-on-One program and developed into the Friends of Youth program, the program provides mentors who spend two to four hours a week with their mentees.
The benefits these students receive from their volunteer mentors are impossible to overlook. The following details one very successful match.Gary and Josh were matched in 2006. Gary, a retiree, learned of the program through a friend and fellow volunteer, Paul. His experience with Little League, his church’s Sunday school, and the local Boy Scouts chapter made him an ideal volunteer – and he entered the program highly praised.
Josh just so happened to be the brother of Paul’s mentee, and similarly it was his sibling’s involvement – and his mother’s encouragement – that sparked his interest in the program. In the beginning, 10-year-old Josh was shy and slow to open up. He would later describe this period of his life as directionless. The concept of having and working towards a future seemed “crazy” and confusing. His focus instead was limited to the day-to-day, wherein he did little more than coast.
Gary admits that his first impression of Josh was merely “Oh my goodness, how will I ever be able to entertain a 10-year-old?” Not only were all his children grown, their interests always centered on sports. This was not so for Josh.
With help from Paul and Josh’s brother, the relationship developed and the two enjoyed many activities together – from regular trips for ice cream, to visits to the local zoo.
Over the years, Josh moved several times and had many different living situations. Gary has remained by his side, a constant and valuable friend.
Over six years into their match, the two continue to meet regularly. Gary encourages the now-flourishing Josh to have his own relationships and activities – which he does. Josh, however, says sometimes he would rather spend time with his confidant.
“I know that if I need anything, I can call Gary,” he remarks fondly.
Josh says that during his adolescence, his career interests moved from zoology and paleontology towards orthopedic surgery. His brother’s struggle with asthma encouraged a desire to help those in need – as did Gary’s living example of “giving forward.”
With Gary’s help, Josh says he’s been learning responsibility, organization and the importance of a good GPA. Gary remarks that Josh has blossomed into a natural leader.
“My hope for Josh is that he will reach his potential,” Gary says. “And it’s big. I want him to start thinking about the next step.”
Above all things, the mentor is sure to note that Josh made just as much of an impact on him. When asked what advice he would give to anyone interested in becoming a mentor, he states:
“Don’t be afraid. The Communities In Schools office is always there as a resource, and can help you when you are confronted with situations and life experiences in which you may have little to no knowledge. Communities In Schools is there to help.”