Before young people can build a future for themselves, they have to be able to see it. Risk factors children in foster care are exposed to, like a lack of proper clothing, scarcity of food, and unstable housing can alienate them from the rest of society. Without a stable adult presence, children raised under these conditions often fall victim to the cyclical nature of their environment. According to a report from The Center for Children at the University of Chicago, only 54% of children who are raised in foster care end up graduating high school. With nowhere else to turn, they become vulnerable to the hostile influences surrounding them like substance abuse, crime and violence. However, United Way NCA is connecting the power of mentors across the national capital area to at risk children to help them see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Growing up in foster care, Brandon didn’t have a consistent adult figure in his life he could look up to. Like many children in foster care, the early warning signs began to reflect in his behavior; he strongly disliked sharing and distanced himself from academics. It wasn’t until he met Jeff, a BEST Kids Mentor, that Brandon’s life started to change.
“I thought I was gonna be like reading books, going to the library, writing– stuff like that, but we do fun things,” Brandon confessed. “Now I share more, I hang out with some better kids.”
Through Jeff, Brandon was able to realize that he had the potential to make his future anything he wanted it to be. With Jeff, Brandon had the ability to identify and discern where the negative influences were coming from in his life—a choice those in foster care without mentorship often aren’t given. More importantly, because Jeff served as a stable adult role model, Brandon developed powerful tools to help him succeed; setting goals and creating impactful relationships with positive influences.
Jeff entered the BEST Kids mentor program knowing he wanted to support his mentee in any way that he could, but not really understanding what to expect. When he met with Brandon for the first time, the two instantly hit it off. When Jeff first signed on, he recognized that his commitment as a mentor meant that his relationship with Brandon would influence the fundamental years of Brandon’s life. But what Jeff didn’t realize was the impact Brandon would have over him.
“Through working with him, it’s opened my eyes to the fact that this world is bigger than me,” Jeff revealed.
At its core, mentoring seeks to provide mentees with guidance through negative influences they may be experiencing in their homes, schools, and communities. It enables both mentor and mentee the opportunity to see the future as something they can create together. Out of the 45 mentoring programs hosted in the national capital area, 82% of participants experienced a robust growth in their self-esteem. As a result, mentees in the national capital emerged out of their mentor programs having developed hardened leadership skills and improved grades.
BEST Kids is just one program in an entire coalition of Mentoring Matters programs supported by United Way NCA dedicated to providing students guidance for the future. With many areas in need across the National Capital Area, the demand for mentors is high. However United Way NCA is recruiting qualified mentors to programs of their choosing through the convenience of our volunteer portal, Get Connected.
Know someone that might be interested in mentoring? Create an account on Get Connected to learn about more opportunities to give, advocate, and volunteer for your community.