More Than a Mentor

Apr 11, 2019

by United Way NCA

At a very early age, Julian was already moving through the world in search of an escape. From difficulty at home to trouble in school.  It was nearly impossible for Julian to envision a world of his own. While other children in Julian’s situation may have fallen to the chaotic world around him, he found hope in Rebecca O’Connor.

Before meeting Rebecca, Julian struggled to center his thoughts and feelings. He was a shy kid by nature, but there was a quiet storm brewing inside him. That is, until Rebecca helped him channel his imagination through reading.

“She was more than a mentor to me, she was my best friend,” reveals Julian.  “When I read, it helps me think… it helps me get a lot of things off my mind.”

Watching Julian not only open up to Rebecca, but to bloom a curiosity for learning was the reason O’Connor asserted that everyone should be a mentor.

“It’s just been wonderful to see the magic when a child discovers books and discovers a love of reading,” she shares. Having grown alongside Julian for six years now, O’Connor couldn’t have imagined how meaningful their relationship would become to her.

“Julian is amazing and the past six years working with him has been unbelievable. I could not have imagined getting to work with such a great kid and see his love of reading expand the way it has.”

The dynamic duo stood side by side at the Creating Mentoring Moments annual event as Rebecca was awarded the 2019 Mentoring Matters Coalition Mentor of the Year.

For thousands of students across the National Capital Area, the journey to adulthood is still a lonely and rigorous road. The need for mentors has never been greater with many children in foster care or in neglectful families growing up without the support of parents or guidance to empower them. The risk of leaving a child despondent has serious implications for their future; mentoring enables a child without any guidance to see a positive choice for their future.

To address the growing need for mentors in the region, United Way of the National Capital Area in collaboration with Deloitte and over 25 nonprofit mentoring organizations, created Mentoring Matters Coalition.  The mission aims to enhance the quantity and quality of mentoring relationships for young people in the Washington, DC metropolitan area.  The goal is to ensure children have the supportive relationships they need to grow and develop into thriving, productive and engaged adults. Core to our collective work is the fundamental belief that every young person in our region should receive the support they need and deserve to succeed— including consistent and caring relationships with adults. From cultivating a child’s interest in reading, to guiding them through the trials of foster care, each partner in the Mentoring Matters Coalition brings something unique to the table.

To learn about United Way NCA’s Mentoring Matters Coalition or to become a mentor, visit

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