I couldn’t help but smile as the fourth grader who I had been mentoring for several months exclaimed those words when I showed up at his classroom to pick him up. He was so excited to see me. I admittedly had been having a busy day, and I wasn’t as excited about the prospects of carving out a couple hours in a local elementary school. But, I committed to showing up every week as a mentor no matter what. So, that’s what I did. I just showed up.
I was glad that I did. I had a great conversation with my mentee as we ate lunch together. We laughed together as we played the board game “Life” and dreamed about careers, education, family, and life goals. It’s fun to see life through the eyes of a child who has no idea about adult responsibilities or any potential barriers that might be in place on the path to becoming a successful athlete, entertainer, teacher, scientist, or entrepreneur.
Capturing a window into the hopes and dreams of my mentee actually had the effect of opening up some new hopes and dreams for me.
We all have hopes and dreams. I had mentors in my life such as relatives, coaches, and youth pastors who helped to build a solid foundation for me to step out into the grand adventure of the human experience, so it is a great privilege for me to have the opportunity to serve that purpose in my mentee’s life. Hopefully he will serve as a mentor to some kids in our city when he grows up. For now, the staff at the school tells me that he never misses a day of school when he knows that his mentor is planning to show up, and that they are noting improvements in his behavior and academic performance at school. I’m so proud of him. I know it’s a long journey ahead from fourth grade, and that he faces many barriers growing up in his struggling urban neighborhood. But, he has many assets, he is resilient, and he has so much going for him. I’m glad that I get to play a small role in his development.
My experience as a school-based mentor mirrors that of hundreds of volunteer mentors from my church who have served in the local elementary school that our church has had a formal partnership with for the past twelve years. Countless lives of volunteer mentors have been transformed through the mentoring experience, and countless lives of children growing up in our city who needed a little boost from a caring adult have been transformed as well. Children who might ordinarily have run into trouble with their behavior, school attendance, and academic performance have transcended those potential barriers and they have thrived at school thanks to the compassion and dedication of their mentors. The partnership has served both the school and the church well. Our city is a better place because of the thriving collaboration that involves long term mentoring relationships. Our city is a better place because of the thriving collaboration that involves long term mentoring relationships. -Dr. Bryan McCabe @bryanmccabe Click To Tweet And, the wonderful thing about church-school mentoring partnerships is that the model is easy to replicate in just about any neighborhood where there is a local church and a local school. School-based mentoring really does make a difference.
Written by Dr. Bryan McCabe, Pastor of Transformational Urban Leadership at North Way Christian Community