The power of relationships and the inner strength of a child.
Two years ago, I was on our Selection Team observing kindergartners at Alder Elementary School in order to select a new cohort of youth to join our program. This is where I met Jacob*.
Jacob was only five years old and had been in and out of foster care many times since birth. He had trouble connecting with adults and other kids. Jacob was unable to focus on the classroom lessons and often wandered around the playground by himself at recess. I spent six weeks learning all I could about Jacob. I discovered that his short life was already very difficult because of the extreme poverty he was not only born into but the kind of poverty that is difficult for his family to escape.
After Jacob was selected to be in our program, I became his Friend. Over the last two years, I have watched his transformation and his continued struggles. Jacob has been in two foster homes and two elementary schools in just two years. That is a lot of instability for a child trying to make friends or learning to read and write. Fortunately, Jacob still has contact with his mother, who has been challenged to maintain a stable home for Jacob and his younger sister.
Despite the social, emotional and sometimes physical challenges Jacob faces on a daily basis, Friends of the Children has offered him a kind of sanctuary where he can just be a kid. During our time together each week, Jacob has a chance to explore his interests—like sports—practice his reading, and talk with me about his heartbreak because he can’t be with his mom and younger sister. Jacob can depend on me to be there for him, no matter where he lives, no matter what school he attends and no matter what is happening in his life. He has our unconditional friendship for 12+ years.
We have mountains of data to prove the transformational power of positive relationships. For a growing child who has experienced the trauma of homelessness, hunger and family instability, I know I can offer the consistency, support, validation and the friendship necessary to begin building the life skills required to break the cycles of generational poverty.
Jacob is like so many of my youth whose worlds are extremely challenging. They yearn to connect with people who consistently show up to be their champion, their support system, their friend. Friends of the Children offers our highest-priority youth not only a path forward out of poverty, but a personal guide who can provide the tools necessary to blaze a new trail toward a future of their own making. We create space for youth to be who they were meant to be: talented, funny, compassionate, intelligent people with so much to offer the world.
Our Selection Teams are currently preparing to spend the next six weeks in kindergarten classrooms to select a new cohort of fifty children to join our program. You play a critical role in ensuring these fifty children get the support they need to overcome significant challenges and establish a foundation for lifelong success.
I hope you will continue to support youth like Jacob, who deserve the opportunity to be a child, access their education, make friends, find their spark and dream of a better future for themselves and their families. Please consider making a gift to ensure our next class of kindergarteners benefit from a mentor for the next 12+ years, no matter what.
P.S. Jacob recently discovered his love for baseball and has joined his first Little League team. I am enjoying taking him to practice and cheering him on at games. It's because of your support that I am able to be a consistent person in Jacob's life and his biggest fan! Thank you so much for making moments like these possible.
*Youth's name changed to protect their identity. Picture is not of the youth in the story.