A View From The Mesa: Mentoring youth improves both lives

February 23, 2012|By Crissy Brooks

The kids are out of school this week.

You have to love February in Southern California, where "winter recess" translates to afternoons in the park and playing outside until dark.

This year some of the kids in our Westside neighborhood will take part in "ski week," when one of the police officers takes the teens snowboarding. I am excited that they are headed out to experience something new and make some memories with adults who care about them.


I remember the youth leaders who took me skiing in Mammoth in the winter and to Lake Havasu in the summer. I still call them when I am celebrating or making a big decision.

When the trips were over, and graduation had long past, it was the friendships with these older, wiser and "cooler-than-my-parents" adults that endured and became a foundation in my life.

I am seeing this hold true in the lives of my young neighbors. Mika's dance team dissolved years ago and just this week our youth development director got a call from one of our student artists, now an adult, looking for some guidance.

A mom of one of the teens now-turned-young-man called to ask me to hunt him down and reel him in. A volunteer emailed to say she is still tracking with a gal who has been in and out of rehab centers.

When it is time to hug the ground, "our kids" turn to who is stable. As we go through life we collect resources and "our kids" know that we are here for them, just like I still turn to my youth-leaders-turned-friends.

Last weekend I sang a karaoke duet with a friend who used to be one of "my kids." It was her first time singing karaoke and it took me by surprise how proud I felt of her. Karaoke is a silly thing, but seeing her beam with joy as she belted out the song made my heart swell.

I remembered how long and hard this road to joy has been. I thought of the times it seemed pointless to keep pouring time and energy into caring for her.

Now she beams. Friday we will go together to Vanguard University, where we both take classes — colleagues in school and in community service.

What a privilege to be at this part of the journey with her! It is a great joy to receive graduation announcements and wedding invitations and baby news of students we have walked with over the years.

We celebrate. We write about it in the papers. But walking these long roads is painstaking.

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