Stories / Youth
Friends Are For Setting Expectations
Julius was one of the very first youth selected for the Friends program in 1993. He has since then become a mentor, father, coach, and community leader. Focusing on mutual respect, accountability, and academic achievement, Julius runs an elite basketball program out of our NE Portland Friends facility. Several years ago, he also became a guardian to one of his players and current Friends of the Children program youth, Robert.*
When we sat down to talk to Julius, he reflected on how his experiences in the Friends program shape his work today. “This program really helped me a lot. I mean, it changed my life… I grew up a little fast. My parents went through a lot of arguments. I’ve seen probably a little bit too much, but it was an escape for me to go with my mentor…and bond with other kids.” In addition to giving Julius a sense of community and belonging, his Friend gave him consistency and held him to high expectations at school: “[he] picked me up weekly. We did different stuff, you know, basketball, and other activities. He always talked with my teachers and made sure that I was maintaining good grades and doing well in school.”
When Julius started coaching basketball, he committed to helping his players build the same off-court skills he learned in the Friends program: “I took on the leadership of being a mentor, sharing what I learned from my Friend.” To participate in Julius’s program, the young athletes must carry a 3.0 GPA. If they drop below this, they are still expected to come to games and cheer on their teammates, but they cannot play. “I want to start while they are young. Because in high school, if you’re not doing well, you’re not going to play,” he explains. After three years in his program, players know grades are important.
Given the lasting impact of the Friends program in Julius’ life, it felt like fate when he became a guardian to a current youth. “It means a lot to have a kid from [the Friends program]… [Robert’s] really good on the court, he’s even better off the court. Off the court is number one for me because you can be really good on the court, but if you’re not doing well in school or you’re not a good person, you’re not going anywhere in life.”
* Name changed to protect the identity of the youth.