Javier grew up in low-income housing with a family that works hard just to make rent. His mom and dad are courageous parents who have labored to provide for Javier and his brother, but don't have extra money in any month. Javier speaks Spanish at home and English everywhere else.
I met Javier when he was a high school junior. I signed up to mentor a student at the local high school. The high school was asking adults to pair up with high school juniors. I really didn't know what I would get myself into. I was nervous -- Could I really give the type of time required to help this kid? Why would he trust me? None of my fears were even the right questions. The biggest thing that Javier needed was someone to believe in him.
Javier wasn't sure what he was going to do after high school. In one of our first conversations, he told me that he was going to work after graduation because he needed to help his family. We had a long conversation about the best way to help his family. It was, and continues to be, the most rewarding conversation and friendship that I have.
Much like our work at the Council of Chief State School Officers to raise academic standards, raising the expectations for him was a key part of this process. He now knows that I expect the best out of him, and he can call anytime. I get the late night call that school is too tough, I get the my-girlfriend-broke-up-with-me call and I also get the I-just-got-into-the-summer medical program call.
He's a now college junior and believes that he is going to go on to medical school after graduating with an undergraduate degree.
January is National Mentoring Month. Go for it. There are kids out there who could use a hand, or even just an ear sometimes. Get involved. You won't regret the choice, and you can't imagine the reward.