Just being there makes all the difference

By Jahane Harris, former Be a Middle School Mentor mentee

Education is important to me and my family. Many of the members in my family graduated high school, and my mom continues to work toward her degree at CCAC. But my grandmother was my support system throughout the beginning years of my education, so when she was no longer with me, I faced a difficult challenge to find a new role model and support system.

My grandmother was murdered in front of me when I was 11 years old. I grieved her loss and began to struggle with school, making friends and even just being myself. My grades slipped, and I was rarely able to bring myself to go to school.

It took a village to get me to open up again, get my grades on track and get back involved with friends and activities. To start, I was placed into United Way’s Be a Middle School Mentor program, where I met Susan Stauber. She stuck with me even when I would sit in silence at mentoring. She never stopped coming back for me.

My mom encouraged me to wake up and attend school every day because she knew it was important. She also encouraged me to open up to my mentor and talk about what was going on in my head.

Susan and my mom, teachers and family had faith in me. When I was down, they were there to listen, cheer me on and build back my confidence. When kids in my class would say, “no, you can’t,” the mentors and role models in my life would say, “yes, you can.” They constantly reminded me how important it is to attend school every day. My reading became stronger, my grades got better, and I started making more friends and getting involved at school.

Skipping school can lead to dropping out very easily. Without a support system along the way, the temptation to just give up can become overwhelming. We need more mentors in our community to support kids through school and encourage those positive habits early on.

While mentoring a student, try to keep the following in mind:

  1. Just you being there can bring more joy than you know for a student. It is rare a student can talk with an adult one-on-one who isn’t a parent or teacher. And even if the student doesn’t say much, know they are so glad that you haven’t given up on them.
  2. Have fun while you mentor. There are plenty of planned activities, and talking with middle school students can be pretty entertaining!
  3. Make your journey with your mentee worthwhile. Some students might be tough, but it will be rewarding if you stick it out.

I graduated high school this past June and am now attending beauty school. There are still days where I struggle to find the motivation to go to school, but then I remember my support system, and I know I have to keep going, and I can’t let them, or myself, down.

Susan is still a huge part of my life, and I am so grateful for her support. Be a Middle School Mentor changed my life during a tough time. Consider becoming a mentor to support a local student today.