Events

Mentor One Child…Enrich Two Lives

Founded in 1975, the Friends Youth Mentoring Program provides boys and girls, ages 6-17, from Merrimack County with a mentor who serves as a positive role model and a supportive advocate. At the core of this healthy 1:1 relationship is the bond that is established. One parent, with three children in the program stated, “I’ve learned to ask for help, to trust in other people to share my children’s lives, and to appreciate kindness.”

Mentors, just by being themselves, provide a wider window to the world and help children gain perspective; access to opportunities and new learning beyond their immediate neighbourhoods.  They are a dedicated group of individuals who care deeply about children and their communities. Their abilities and life experiences are great assets to a young person seeking an important, healthy, positive connection.  Mentors encourage and celebrate successful outcomes. While naturally engaged in fun and/or interesting activities they impart encouraging words and applaud important esteem-building that serves children well during the 1:1 time and well-beyond. Mentoring has steadily been shown to help strengthen the life of a child at home, in school, and in the community.

Ours is a strength-based, prevention program. The children we work with are responsive to this special opportunity and a mentor really can truly propel them forward in life. The Friends Youth Mentoring Program has earned a reputation as life-changing. The program gives encouragement and hope to youngsters referred to us by a professional network of partner schools and youth serving organizations. Each child accepted into the program is believed to have the potential to benefit from 1:1 mentoring; to benefit from an additional top-notch, high quality person in their life. These are interesting children with compelling stories who simply need a chance to thrive. One youngster offered, “I get to go to new places and learn new things.  I know I am a good person, but now I also know I can do many things I never knew I could do.”

Mentors are screened, trained, and selectively matched with children. Compatibility, complementary personalities, and proximity are all taken into account. Mentors are professionally supported throughout. The goal is for them to help children gain esteem, confidence, and coping skills that will encourage healthy choices and inspire the realization of goals and dreams. From one of our mentors, “I have a good sense now that I am meaningfully connected to a young person and that I am doing something with my time that will make a lasting difference.”

Research shows that a key difference between a child who makes it in the world as they age up and one who does not, is their connection to a stable, caring person. Match longevity is a hallmark of Friends Youth Mentoring. Although the program asks for one year; the large majority choose to stay beyond that mark with several in the 5-10 year range mentoring one child. This major program accomplishment mirrors what the research says - that the largest positive impacts result from a mentor's sustained presence in a young person's life.

We have a stellar volunteer force celebrating first-hand the positive results of their investment in area children. Such a simple concept as spending quality time with a child has profound and lasting effects. We simply want to provide more deserved children the chance to know this level of success. There are many waiting for the chance to open up their world. The wave of need never subsides. Mentors are needed for both girls and boys. Our waitlist informs that there is especially a need for male mentors. Please contact us if you have an interest in stepping up and stepping in to mentor a child.Be someone who matters to someone who matters.

Eight year-old Jason had been fortunate to have a fun-loving relationship with his dad. "They were almost like brothers; playing pranks on the rest of the family, always laughing" describes Jason's mom. That is why it was difficult for Jason when his dad died suddenly at the hospital after a short battle with an illness. "I saw the light leave my son when his father died and I was grieving, too. It was hard to figure out what to do to make him laugh again."

That school year the guidance counselor approached Jason's mom and told her about Junior Senior Friends. She quickly completed the application and anxiously awaited a phone call. Unfortunately, the phone call she received was a staff member explaining how difficult it was to recruit men as Senior Friends and that Jason would remain on a waiting list until a volunteer could be identified.

Approximately, 8 months later Jason was introduced to his Senior Friend Wade. Wade was a married man in his fifties that had raised two daughters and found the idea of mentoring a boy appealing because he could enjoy "the boy stuff" he used to love as a child. Jason was a little shy in Wade's presence during their first meeting until Wade asked, "So, Jason, I understand that you and your dad had a lot of fun. I hope that you can tell me about some of those things." Jason's interest seemed to peak and he ran to his bedroom returning with a dusty little trophy. "My dad and I got this at the ice fishing derby before he died. Do you fish?"

Now, four years later Wade and Jason remain friends in our program and most recently sent us photos from the peak of a mountain they climbed together. Jason starts middle school this year and Wade will be there cheering him on.

My son gets so much out of being in the Friends Program and having a mentor. He always looks forward to seeing his mentor. His mentor, Joe, is a role-model type person, which my son doesn’t otherwise have in his life. The two get along so well. His mentor brings out the best in him. My son has more confidence and shares stories of new accomplishments he experiences in his mentor’s care. He always returns saying he had a great time. Putting my son in this program is one of the best decisions I have ever made for him. The program and those involved with it are accepting and encouraging of him for who he is. I can’t tell you how important this has been for us.  

Parent of a 10 year old Mentee

I am deeply grateful for the impact this program has had on my son.  My son’s father took his own life.  That has always been challenging for us to wrap our minds around as we loved him.  Some run away from such circumstances, but not my son’s mentor.  He has always been there.  He has been an exceptionally good fit for my son.  His mentor is an extremely positive person and has always been so willing to find time for my son.  He has played a huge part in my son’s welfare.  This has been especially important as my son has gotten older.  My son had some struggles during his middle school years; with an edgier, emotional presentation and some social challenges.  His mentor has always been very inspirational.  His Mentor is such a can-do person.  In many ways, but certainly by sheer example, he has helped my son face his struggles.  My son is now in high school and doing much better.  His mentor has inspired and taught, whilst letting my son be who he is, without judgment.  His mentor has gone out of his way to attend my son’s band concerts and to involve himself with supporting my son’s scouting activities; these efforts were above and beyond the numerous outdoor activities he made accessible to him.  I know there are a lot of single mothers out there who, like me, do their best and very much love their kids, but I just want you to know that when mine sees his mentor; he fills with pride in simply knowing that that special guy is there just for him.  His mentor consistently makes the effort and that has made the difference.  There was a tree house concept that my son and his own father had planned, but then his father died.  I tried to help put something together for my son as I knew it was important to him, but quite honestly wasn't so good at it.  So when his mentor just offered one day, my son was filled with admiration.  We didn't even ask him.  He just offered and built the whole tree house with my son.  That type of remarkable, intuitive gesture has been repeated on my son's behalf by his mentor, over and over again.  My son and I do live remotely in a rural area and though we do get out sometimes, I recognize and fully appreciate the many opportunities his mentor has provided in helping assure he is successful and plugged into life.       

Mother of a 14 year old (now in the program for 3 ½ years with the same Mentor)

When Libby was referred to the program she was in that awkward phase when she felt that no matter how much her mom loved her and told her she was great or beautiful, she was a bottom feeder in the tank called middle school. Friends that had been fun to be with in her seemingly comfortable, neighborhood elementary school were now vicious with their glares and sharp with their comments about what Libby was wearing. She had always loved basketball and spent many afternoons out at the end of the street with other neighborhood kids but now she was an unwelcome visitor at the net as the coed crowd became predominantly boys.

Libby began to spend a lot of time alone, would not talk at the end of the day, was not interested in joining school activities, and seemed to be hiding from the world. It was about this time that her mom picked up the phone and called the Junior Senior Friends Program. She was convinced that if Libby had someone, other than herself, to tell her how wonderful she is and smart and pretty and strong…that Libby would feel better about herself and “get back into things”.

Weeks earlier, the program had hosted a monthly volunteer mentor training and had the pleasure of Dawn’s presence at the table. Dawn was a per diem nurse at the local hospital, had two grown daughters, and was very interested in being matched with a young person that loved the outdoors. When Libby’s application fell into the hands of program staff, it did not take long to discover that Dawn and Libby had some common interests and could be a good match.

Libby and Dawn were introduced a short time later and now after three years in the program as Junior Senior Friends, the pair has enjoyed many kayaking adventures, walks at the Audubon, hiking trips, and are preparing to climb a 3,000 footer together next summer. Dawn has seen Libby through the transition to high school, rarely misses a basketball game, and the two intend to be “friends forever”.