You’ve Got A Friend in Me

By: Russell White, AmeriCorps VISTA Member with the Iowa Mentoring Partnership

Mentoring with HEART is a school-based mentoring program which has a network of community volunteers who have a desire to give back to their community and Glenwood schools. They believe that a strong community can be built by meeting with students to share friendship, guidance, and experience. Mentoring youth is one of the keystones of building that strong community. In keeping to the core philosophy and values held by Mentoring with HEART, one of their more recent matches truly exemplifies this belief.

Carter and Nathan have only been in a mentoring relationship for about 3-4 months now. Nathan is a high school Junior while Carter is a 5th grade student. They met at a science camp some time ago, but Nathan remembers vividly a few memories of when Carter and he met at the science camp – not knowing that he would eventually become his mentor. While at the science camp, Nathan was a camp leader. One of Nathan’s earliest memories of Carter – and one of his favorites – is a story which perfectly represents the competitive and energetic nature of Carter which Nathan finds endearing.

Nathan and the other camp leaders were lining up their kids for a camp fire, but before the fire the kids were going to have a little race. Carter, feeling confident in his abilities, walked up to Nathan and said, “Watch this, I’m the fastest one in my grade.” Nathan was taken a back a bit by the sheer confidence of this little kid; so, he eagerly watched the race. However, the race did not turn out to how Carter expected. Nathan admits that he is a fast kid, but he ultimately came in second … to a girl. Nothing at all wrong with losing to a girl but being a little boy Carter tried to cover up his loss and ends up telling Nathan that his “shoe was untied,” which is why he lost. Nathan, finding this hilarious, found Carter to be just as funny as he was competitive.

Nathan didn’t expect to see Carter again, but as fate would have it, they would end up becoming a mentor-mentee match. Carter was told by one of his friends about all the good things mentors can do with their mentees and how they can help them sometimes with problems and issues. From what Carter tells me, he expressed interest in having a mentor, and requested that Nathan be his mentor.  Nathan, who has had an interest in being a mentor since his sophomore year, welcomed the opportunity. Getting in touch with Mentoring with HEART, the two of them were inevitably matched by one of their Match Specialists.

Though they’ve only been together for a short time, they have had a ton of fun with one another. Since they’ve been together for only during the late-fall and winter, most of their activities have been inside playing board games. Their favorites are Jenga and Battleship! According to Nathan, Carter really knows who to give Nathan a run for his money. Both Carter and Nathan are competitive souls, so they really enjoy having fun with one another in games that challenge each other. But their relationship goes deeper than just playing board games and science camp.

Carter used to have a few issues tempering his anger and it would get him into some trouble sometimes. Certainly not at all unusual for his age, it was clear that Carter was self-aware of this problem and Nathan was as well. It is another thing that Carter really likes about his mentor. When talking about the impact Nathan has had on his life, he mentioned that “when I’m angry he helps me calm down and how to not get angry with people.” Nathan has also helped Carter to not get angry whenever he loses a game, teaching him that being competitive can be healthy as long as he accepts losing games with grace and respect. Nathan said that it wasn’t all the difficult either, all it took was to help him “put things into perspective, teach him to take a deep breath and to think before acting.”

Nathan wanted to become a mentor so that he could inspire a young child and teach them from his own life experiences; to just be another positive role model in their life. Being a competitive soul as well helped Nathan to teach Carter how to better manage some of his own anger and focus more on his more positive characteristics. But Carter has taught Nathan a good deal of life lessons as well. Carter has an outgoing and energetic spirit; there is never a dull moment. He is always happy and outgoing, which has helped Nathan to take on a more positive perspective of life. It has also taught Nathan how to get along with kids better and how to help kids who might be in trouble. But, more importantly, it has helped give some perspective for Nathan for what kids are thinking and what they are going through.

Nathan believes that the reason why it has been relatively easy to connect with Carter and get at the core of a few issues is because he views their relationships as being really good friends. Nathan’s mentoring philosophy on how to be a good mentor is straightforward: “A good mentor needs to be someone a kid can go to while also being a good role model. You need to be able to make a genuine connection so that your mentee can be able to come to you and talk to you about their problems. Building upon that friend relationship that Carter and I had was my main goal.” Sure enough, both Nathan and Carter spend a lot of time together further developing that friend relationship that they started to foster back at science camp.

Carter is just as excited by the mentoring relationship as is Nathan. Carter also shares in Nathan’s favorite memory of them, because when asked what his favorite memory of the two of them was he responded that it was “when we first met” at the science camp. Carter’s expectations of having Nathan as a mentor was nothing but positive from the beginning. He said that he was excited to have a mentor because “having a mentor, I knew it was going to be a good time.” To this day, both Carter and Nathan can say that being in a mentoring relationship like theirs has been nothing but a rewarding experience on both sides.

Nathan and Carter both had some advice to give to those either considering being a mentor or considering being mentored. Nathan’s piece of advice was that “if you have any though in helping a child, than you should become a mentor. It is the best thing you can do. Little do you know that your life experiences that you have had can be helpful for a kid who may be going through something similar.” On the other side of things, Carter wanted to tell other kids considering getting a mentor to go for it! “It is a lot of fun and you get to spend a lot of time together.” Older kids and adults sometimes forget that at the end of the day a child, like Carter, really just appreciates the time spent with them. Having someone to talk to and play with means a lot to a child and it creates a great model for them to follow with regards to reliability.

Taking time out of your week to spend just a little bit of time with a child to mentor them has a powerful impact on their life that you may yet to understand. Do you want to make an impact on a young person’s life? Do you want to be a role model and a friend to a child? Then click here and become a mentor today!

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