I can't remember how old I was, maybe 13 or 14, when my dad first made me volunteer. Every Monday night he would drop me off at the AAA Crisis Pregnancy center and I would sort clothes and donations and fill orders for a couple hours. One lady, named Kim, I worked with every Monday night. For some reason she took a special interest in getting to know me and we quickly became friends. She started driving me home after our little shift was over. She would take me out occasionally and even bought me the best Christmas present that year - a shirt from Rue 21. I was on cloud nine. I didn't have an older sister and I remember looking up to Kim and wishing I had a sister like her. I actually looked forward to our volunteer shifts because I knew she would be there.
Fast forward fifteen years and I still remember how much I liked hanging out with Kim and all the talks we had - this pushed me to volunteer. However, I needed something that was flexible. It's hard to do anything consistently with my schedule - classes, sports leagues, trivia nights, etc. After reflecting on my early teenage years I knew I wanted to become a mentor.
What's a mentor? I didn't really know either. It's basically a big sister (or big brother). You take someone under your wing and show them the way. It can be formal like helping with homework, teaching about a budget or life lessons and it can also be really informal like going to movies or playing games. I mentor through an organization in Denver called Save Our Youth. Save Our Youth not only matched me with my mentee, but they offer support if I have questions, they have holiday and back to school parties and even occasionally provide tickets to local events for us. The commitment is a minimum of an hour a week.
Never a dull moment!
We like summer best and usually all of our time together involves coffee or ice cream. Maybe that's why we get along so well.
I met Lala three years ago when she was 13. In the last three years she's moved three times, been to five schools and like most teenage girls, had her ups and downs with boys. I've been there through it all and she knows she can call me no matter what. I've gained a wealth of knowledge from hanging out with her including some slang I never knew existed. I set out on this mentor journey to be a good influence and maybe fill the role of a big sister to Lala (she's the oldest in her family too). I hope that this has been the case. The funny thing about mentoring is I set out with certain expectations that I'm going to change a life and I’ve now realized over the last three years I'm the one that's been changed.
We recently went up to the Celestial Seasonings Tea Factory in Boulder. You can tour the factory for free and it even includes free samples. We learned a ton about tea and ate some sweet treats too. It was a great afternoon!