By Nancy Renteria
Growing up with an underprivileged family helped me appreciate numerous obstacles in my life. My parents worked two to three jobs and didn’t have the time to help with my studies and try to understand the transition in cultures I was experiencing. What helped me get through my confusion was having a mentor.
My mentor’s name was Angela. She had the kindest brown eyes and the warmest welcoming smile. Her son was in my class, and even though she had children of her own and was busy, she made the time to make a difference in my life.
Angela came to visit me at school once a week, if possible. She helped with my school work and helped with math, which I struggled with my whole life. I always looked forward to her visits and sweet genuine care. She really changed my life and encouraged me to stay positive and that I could be anyone I set my mind to be.
I struggled with understanding the American culture and Mexican culture. I didn’t know which culture I was supposed to call my own. But, she taught me that I could be proud of my Mexican heritage and also be proud of being an American.
For Christmas she always surprised me with a gift, and one year she surprised me with a pearl necklace. It was in a shell, and we had to retrieve it to attach it to the necklace it came with. I have that necklace to this day. The necklace means more than just a necklace. It helps remind me to be someone and to always work hard.
Mentoring children can change a child’s life forever. It may not seem like it, but it does. Children appreciate the positive influence that surrounds them. They are ready to be taught and nurtured into contributing to society.
There are many children of all cultures and races who are thrown into foster care or, like my parents, try to do the best they can but need help. These children are growing up in areas where it’s not typical to finish high school, let alone apply to college. Children who are surrounded and tempted with drugs on a daily basis. The violence that surrounds their life is normal; they know nothing else. They need someone with a big heart to lead their children in the right direction. Who can show them there is a life beyond living on the wrong path.
There are stories on the news constantly surrounding children, violence and drugs. There are children as young as 14 murdering for a few dollars or attention. The most recent event was when a 14-year-old boy murdered his teacher. What if he had had someone who he could have talked to and encouraged him? There are a lot of ifs but a mentor can change someone’s life, regardless of the background. A simple conversation or a hug can change their direction of how they view life. A hug can be all they need.
There are many mentoring establishments around the Atlanta area. Big Brother Big Sister is the most popular and best known. It is located in Atlanta and it helps both girls and boys. The website is www.bbbsatl.org.
Programs of Yes is also located in Atlanta, and its website is www.yesatlanta.org, Boys To Men of Georgia, which focuses on boys only is also located in the Atlanta area. You can volunteer at the following website, www.boystomen.org. ACE Mentor Program is also a mentoring program, but it focuses on high school students. To find out more information please visit their website, www.acementor.org. I’m sure we have all heard of the popular Steve Harvey, the host of Family Feud. Steve Harvey sponsored and created Steve Harvey Mentoring Program For Young Men. Steveharveymentoring.com.
All of these programs have requirements, such as being a certain age and passing a mandated screening. All of the requirements are for the safety and success of the children. Public schools also provide an opportunity to become a mentor. The process is simple, attend a two-hour class regarding mentoring and as soon as that is proved a child will be assigned to you. There are certain times out of the month when the classes are offered. It’s best to check out the specific school website for exact times and dates. Every school has different times and requirements.
The rewards for mentoring are very fulfilling. I personally just signed up for the program. I will begin mentoring a little girl, and I hope I can be half as great as Angela was to me. Thanks to Angela, I am who I am today. I strive not to give up and be better with each day. I hope I can change someone’s life the way she changed mine.