Seedling Mentor Program prepares and supports community volunteers like me in a school-based, research-driven relationship that has measurable results. Since it is based on best practices for mentoring children, it carefully teaches us how to begin, maintain and sometimes how to end a friendship with some of the most vulnerable children we will ever encounter.
Ending a mentoring relationship can be due to a child aging out of the program, work conflicts for a mentor, and other factors beyond the pair’s control. Often it is simply that the child’s family moves away. This population is intensely mobile, as the family looks for work or lower cost housing or the child is passed from one family to another or through the foster care system.
Seedling prepares for this with training and support. We mentors are never alone in our quest to be the best we can be.
This said, closure can be the hardest thing we do, but we do it at the end of each school year for the love of our little friends. You see, one of the strongest emotions they have experienced in the loss of their parent to prison is abandonment. Mom or Dad simply isn’t there, and depending on the circumstances, the parting may have been one that seemed like disappearance to the child. As a trained Seedling Mentor, we never want to be one more abandonment for these children…Never.
And so, we think intentionally about the feelings and message we want to leave with our mentees. We want to leave a good memory and although we both may hope fervently to continue our weekly lunches next year, mentors know that life may take us down other roads and we want to say the things to our mentees that we would want them to carry with them.
My relationship with Mena is in its third year, and now I know many things about her. I want my small gift to her to be lasting so it will be a book (our tradition) for her ever-growing personal library. I will write a card to her that tells her how I feel about her and the hopes I have for her to have a very happy summer. There will be a little treat in the bag for us to share (A tradition started when she was in first grade and brought Smarties to carefully split between us, “Because smart people eat Smarties!”), and last will be a small supply of notecards and colored pencils that she can decorate and send to me if she wants to. Seedling facilitates a pen pal program between mentor and mentee during the summer, and I can send her postcards when I travel and she can send these stamped notes to me care of Seedling. I will have the joy of picturing her reading notes from me, and it gives her the opportunity to practice her writing and reading all summer long until, hopefully, we are together again.
Have I made an impact?
I may never know for sure, but she says now (as a rising 4th grader) that she wants me to mentor her “Forever!” and this semester she made the A/B Honor Roll “for the FIRST TIME!” She really does talk in exclamation points when she gets excited.
All I know is that as long as Mena wants me, and I can possibly get there, I will be.