I was assigned a 4th grade boy... the boy part I could handle (#boymom - I strongly believe there is a special lounge in heaven for mommas of boys) it was the 4th grade part that made me super nervous!! I remember meeting my sweet 4th grader the first time. Seriously, I wish I could have reached across the table and squeezed him!! He is a boy, so of course, I had to pull words out of him. I could tell he was excited to have someone interested in HIM! Though learning the few things I did on that first meeting were difficult for me to hear - I knew he was the most appropriate match for my very first mentee. Who ever would have thought a random Tuesday (such a boring day of the week) would be the day I started looking forward to, as well. We would end every session with a game of Connect 4. He's moved on to Jenga now. He's taught me to play multiple card games (some I may have already known about, but it was a good way to get him talking and boost his confidence a bit).
There is one specific Tuesday I remember getting him and asking how class was going, if there were any projects coming up, how his grades were doing, if he needed help with anything. He told me there was a big project due that very day! Of course, I asked how it turned out - much to my dismay, he said he hadn't started... (y'all! my heart dropped!) We talked some more about the project and I decided to offer my time to help him... I am so grateful his teacher gave me the opportunity!! I met with him every morning for the rest of the week - we worked on his project each day for 1-2 hours, depending on what his class schedule looked like. Not only was I able to help him, show him different things on the computer, writing samples, build a tee-pee (yeah, so the project was on Indians... I slept thru Social Studies in school - I guess this was my payback ;) ), I was able to witness our school as a community. We walked around to multiple classrooms asking for supplies - without question, we had everything we needed just a few minutes later. It was amazing, y'all. I really wish I could put it into words. I am forever grateful to the teachers who helped me lend a hand for my 4th grader.
A few days after he turned his project one of his teachers stopped me in the hall and told me she noticed him just smiling at his project the day they were able to bring them home. She said he was proud of what he accomplished. Seriously, the best compliment!
Several weeks later, he started missing school. A lot. This tore me apart... It is difficult to be on the outside and not be able to do anything. I still do not know why he missed so much school, I'm talking several full weeks, then more weeks of only coming to class 1-3 days a week. His teacher is amazing, and let me meet with him whenever he was at school. Lots of make up work and talks later, I am still unaware of the reason he wasn't at school, but I can say - I know he has touched my heart. I can only wish I have done the same for him.
It is so hard for me to imagine how children his age already face so many challenging times and events in their life. Makes me think about many other children are in need of a mentor, that positive relationship and influence...
If you have time to spare, regardless if you have children or not, I urge you to check with the local elementary & middle schools to see if they have similar programs available. Our school opens this program up to anyone, as long as you pass a background check. Yes, you will be providing a service to those children, but I promise you will gain more from them. My heart is changed because of these kids.