Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Miguel & Me - A Mentoring Story

This is the first in a series of mentoring stories from YMC's Leadership Board.

I started mentoring Miguel in 1998. Early on I remember one of the kids in Miguel’s class asking if I was paid to show up. When I told him no, I could tell by the expression on his face that he had a hard time with the concept. He seemed to truly wonder what incentive I had for showing up. And in the beginning it’s always interesting to see how your mentee explains who you are to his friends.

But let's face it, our formal title of “Mentor” doesn't always feel right. Especially when the relationship is brand new.I think that quite often, from the kids perspective, you go from strange volunteer, to strange volunteer who keeps showing up. And then, eventually, (if you stick with it) you earn the title of mentor. But if you're really lucky (like I have been) even the title of mentor eventually stops sounding natural. After so many years have passed you begin to feel like an extended family member.

About halfway into my first year of mentoring, I showed up to meet with Miguel. I usually timed my visits to coincide with his morning recess. At this point I was unquestionably the best soccer goalie in the entire school. I still remember this moment vividly, I walked up to the outside of Miguel’s class just as the kids were lining up to go to recess. A few of the kids raced over to tell me that Miguel had gone home sick. I paused for a moment, thought about it, then said, "Well, is it OK if I stay and hang out with you guys." A few them reacted by jumping up and down, high-fiving each other and basically just celebrating my decision to stay. I love that about kids.

And it's no coincidence that on that day, my soccer performance supreme. I don't recall my exact statistics but I’m fairly sure the other team didn’t come close to scoring on me.Over twelve years have passed since I somewhat reluctantly made the one year commitment to become a mentor. It’s nearly impossible to sum up what the relationship has meant to me. After watching a curious boy grow into a confident man, a deep bond emerges. What I can say is that the decision to join a formal mentoring program remains one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

Brandon Parker
YMC Leadership Board Chair

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