January is National Mentoring Month – a time to recognize and celebrate the incredible impact mentoring relationships have on the lives of youth. DCYF staffer Jessica Hatch has firsthand experience with the lasting change that mentoring can have.
“As a youth, I had a personal mentor. Having someone outside of my family who had a significant interest in my well-being made a huge difference. I thought, ‘I can have the same impact!’ That’s where I made the connection that this is what I wanted to do with my life,” says Jessica.
She soon approached a local mentoring program in the Nevada town where she lived. She worked with a match coordinator to get paired with 10-year-old Yaya. Jessica says, “They do a really good job matching mentors and youth to create these special bonds.”
Jessica had recently won tickets to a Kelly Clarkson concert and decided it was the perfect way to kick off the friendship. “She was pretty quiet at first, but once she saw a bit of my personality and that I’m mostly just a big kid, we started having a great time,” she explains.
Jessica always tried to plan their outings around an engaging activity, “I taught her to snowboard. That was her favorite! She asked to do it all the time.” Amidst arts and crafts, sports and dance classes, she made sure to ask Yaya about home and school life too. Jessica even learned Spanish in order to communicate plans and updates with Yaya’s grandmother, her guardian. She became an integrated part of Yaya’s family and vice versa. Jessica’s family opened a savings account to help Yaya attend college.
Yaya went on to graduate high school and now, in her twenties, has a family of her own. Jessica recently met Yaya’s son and spent some time with them. They also keep in touch through social media. “She’s focusing on being a good mom to her boy right now, but that savings account is still there when she wants to start school.”
For anyone thinking of mentoring, Jessica says it is 150% worth it and that there are tons of free or inexpensive activities available to help broaden your mentee’s horizons. She says, “Being able to see somebody through some of the more challenging times in their lives and be a consistent person outside the family sphere, to build that connection and allow a kid to fully be themselves, it’s a magical thing…and fun!”
To find out how you can become a mentor here in Washington, check out our partners at www.mentorwashington.org.