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December 14, 2022

The Journey of Walking Alongside Youth

A Friend's reflection and youth story

Rivu has been a professional mentor, a Friend, at FriendsPDX for more than three years now. Today he shares what brings him to this work and about the youth he walks alongside.

"Growing up, I did not have a lot of school spirit or a sense of community. But after moving to Portland, I worked with College Access and got to know the people in the city. I could go outside and witness the beautiful outdoors. And now, I am proud to call myself a Portlander and want to ensure youth also find a sense of belonging.

In this work, I have the opportunity to give back to this city that first gave me that feeling of pride. A city is defined by its people. So, for me, walking alongside each other and youth is the truest expression of care for the community.

I am honored to share a story about one of the young people I work with. His 11th birthday was at the height of the pandemic and his mom asked him how he wanted to celebrate. He suggested gathering, packing, and distributing care packages to the houseless people within his neighborhood. His mom reached out to her network, including me, to make his birthday wish possible.

Walking Alongside Youth 2

Later, when this youth and I were on an outing we did some reflecting. I asked him what inspired him to do this. He shared that in 2016 or so, his family experienced homelessness and he did not want anyone to feel how his mom felt during that time in their lives.

Throughout my years with this youth, we have done reading tutoring; interview prep for private middle schools where I have also been a reference; local thrifting of materials to build our own Spiderman costumes which included watching a YouTube video to try and make our own web blasters out of floss. We have connected him to a music organization we partner with so he can write, record, and release his own music. He has explored beat-making, rapping, and hip hop which is currently his life’s passion. In fact, he is in the process of making his first mix tape.

All of this is to say that there is no other job I know of in which this youth and I would get to connect in this intentional, long-term way. I am honored to help connect him with healthcare services, plug into his educational studies, and mentor him overall. I get to wear so many different hats. And this is just one story about one of the ten youth I walk alongside."

As you read about the many ways Rivu gets to be part of this youth’s life, you get a glimpse at how he serves as a guide and navigator for them as they go through both big and small moments. Belonging is one of our nine Core Assets and a vital foundation in supporting youth in their emotional and social journey. Our Friends walk alongside 450 youth offering them long-term, intentional mentoring for 12+ years.

Our impact is deep, and we cannot do this life-changing work without your support.

Please consider giving to FriendsPDX now.