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February 07, 2018

What We Learn From Our Youth

What makes a Friend great? Their youth! There are so many amazing things that our youth teach our Friends. Sometimes the things we learn from mentoring youth are hard lessons, but amidst even the most difficult conversations and trying times, there is hope.

We talked with a few Friends about what they have learned from their youth.

Mary, Friend/Professional Mentor

"I've learned that there's value in silence. I'm a talker, and with two of my youth, who are very quiet, if I take a step back and give them the opportunity to fill that space, they will. Also, there can be a lot of testing, especially when youth are going through a lot and experiencing a lot of turmoil. That's when they sometimes push you away the most. But if you stick with it and keep showing up, you show them that you have their best interest at heart and genuinely care. Some of the youth who have tested me the most are the ones I'm now the closest to."

Auzurea, Friend/Professional Mentor

“Working with kids has taught me how to be creative and use my imagination. When we’re doing a craft together, one of my youth will use different colors unexpectedly. Where I would have colored a person’s hair black, they’re coloring in blue hair or red hair or polka-dot hair. They teach me the importance of not always staying in the lines. It’s okay to go outside of the lines and do whatever inspires you. There is no how it’s supposed to be―it’s how I want it to be. Some youth have no boundaries. They are free and open. The older you get, the more you hesitate and have reservations. Like my youth who does her guitar shows for the office. I would be so anxious to do that. I’ve learned the importance of stepping outside of your comfort zone to do what you love.”

Louie, Friend/Professional Mentor

"The biggest thing I've learned is a combination of patience and listening.

"One of my youth recently had an emotional breakdown―he’s a 4th grader―and it broke my heart to see him like that. His teacher called me and explained that he was crying and shaking, and she couldn’t get him to calm down. Luckily, I was already at the school, literally just down the hall. I went straight to the classroom and got my little guy. We walked and talked for almost an hour before he was able to come back to the class.

"He was carrying all this stress from his family life. I listened to his stories and relayed to him that as adults, we have to make decisions, and those decisions have consequences. I expressed to him how he needed to be a kid first and not focus so much on issues he can’t change because an adult made choices. He just has to focus on making his own choices to have a different life.

"I’ve learned how to talk to my youth as a person―not as a kid―and how to change gears when they are dealing with real-life stress issues. It’s a heavy adult conversation, but it was something he needed to hear. It reminded me how hard some of the family environments are that my youth live in. The conversation definitely brought us closer together. He feels like he can open up and trust me. I’m someone who is here to just listen to him. Something he doesn’t really have at home."