I have been a mentor since July of 2019 and before joining Friends of the Children-Portland, I worked with a Special Education department at a local school district. Some of my duties towards the end of the school year was working with students who were struggling with self-regulation, as many kids do when summer approaches and access to food, resources, and routines end. I remember meeting a young kindergartener who was screaming in the hallway. I rushed over to her and knelt by her side, rubbing her back while she gasped for air through the tears. I tried asking her what she needed but got very few words through the sobs. After sitting with her in silence for about 10 minutes, she started to calm down, and I asked if she wanted to go for a walk with me. She agreed and we took laps around the school, chatting about our favorite things and our family and pets at home. After I took her back to her classroom, she told me she sometimes gets angry at the teachers and other students because they do not understand her. Later, I found out that she had been disrupting the classroom by throwing chairs, ripping up papers, screaming and shouting on a regular basis.
Little did I know that this student would become one of the youths I mentor at Friends of the Children-Portland. I remember our first outing at a park near her house. I brought a huge comfy blanket and lots of snacks for a picnic. She helped me lay the blanket down in 12 different locations, unable to decide which place in the park was best. She had never been given so much empowerment and choice. We sat there chatting for nearly an hour, which is usually difficult for a 6-year-old, but she was perfectly content. She was finally getting a mentor she could talk to; someone she could share her frustrations with who would listen to her story. She was heard and felt like her opinion mattered, she was seen for her own individuality and a sense of Belonging. This youth has made great strides in Self-Management and Positive Relationship Building. From the first day she received a Friend, this youth has not had a single behavior issue in school. There is unspeakable power in nurturing long-term relationships, 12 ½ year, No Matter What.
*Written by a Friend. Youth's name changed to protect their identity. Photo does not reflect youth in the story.
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