Celebrating Children’s Victories and Successes

What do you categorize as a “success” for your child? What about a “victory”? Is it getting elected class president? Carrying the winning ball across the end zone? Getting accepted to an Ivy League school? Most parents have dreams for their children and help them aspire to being their best.

When a fatherless boy has never been motivated or supported at home the story is quite different. Shoulder-To-Shoulder mentors tell of mentees they’ve been matched with who have never played catch, never ridden a bike, never gone fishing or flown a kite. Success for these kids included taking their first bus ride, playing catch, going beyond the boundaries of their three-square-mile neighborhood. Success also is achieved by resisting the invitation by local gang members to get initiated, or declining multiple opportunities to sample one of the varieties of street drugs offered by older siblings and even parents.

These aren’t kids who get elected class president or who do volunteer work for extra credit. Victories for these children can be categorized as completing homework, getting a part time job, participating in after school programs and even getting to school each day. The chances for these children, many of whom are one of several siblings living with a single mother and living on $15,000 per year or less, are nearly zero when it comes to higher education, well-paying jobs or even getting out of the neighborhood.

Shoulder-To-Shoulder is beginning to break that cycle. There are many successes and victories to celebrate for the dozens of Shoulder-To-Shoulder mentees (past and present) who have been a part of the program.

Below are a few examples:

Taking His Future Into His Own Hands

Seeing a boy with a GPA of LESS than 2.0, no place to study in the home, not even a bed to sleep on develop a strong relationship with his mentor. As a result his eyes have been opened up to the opportunities and possibilities available to him in the world. From this enlightenment comes and understanding of the importance of focusing on studies and grades. He joined the Royal Ranger Junior Leadership Training, attended the SMASH (Summer Math and Science Honor’s Academy) at UC Davis and has started attending church on a regular basis. He is getting good grades and has set goals for his future.

Learning To Trust

A mentee whose home life is with an ailing grandmother because his drug addicted mother lives in another city and isn’t in his life was matched with a mentor. It took nearly 6 months for the boy to trust his mentor and begin opening up to him and having lengthy discussions. Over the course of time the boy realized that his mentor was giving him the fatherly guidance he had lacked. And with this new founded trust he has learned many new skills such as how to study, what it’s like to be part of an involved family, why character is important and many other valuable life lessons. He has become like a member of the mentors family and embraces learning and improving life skills.

Gaining Confidence and Feeling Empowered

Two mentees were matched with a mentor who was shocked to hear of the drive by shooting they witnessed while waiting for the school bus that morning.

To them it wasn’t a big deal, to him it was a clear understanding of the life they were living. These boys were mentored from 7th grade through graduation going from a GPA of “F” to as high as 2.75 and even 3.8. This mentor introduced these boys to snow for the first time, took them each summer to the American Cardboard Boat Regatta, taught them proper manners and etiquette and even competed in the Lion’s Club speech contest. Did they celebrate getting into Harvard? Not quite, but seeing them walk across the stage at graduation was the biggest victory they ever could have imagined. Their mentor was standing up and cheering them on every step of the way.

These are just a few brief examples of the impact Shoulder-To-Shoulder mentors have had on mentees. But there are more successes to celebrate those are the impacts that the mentees have had on the mentors.

Here are a few examples of how mentors are impacted by dedicating there time to these fatherless boys:

A mentor expressed the way his experience has given him personal growth and the lessons he’s learned:

  • Accept people for who they are, as they are
  • Allow God to speak through me, when I’m at a loss for words, trust God
  • Don’t give up, otherwise who will intervene on behalf of the child?
  • The other STS mentors are amazing guys, and I humble myself to know they know way better than me in many areas, listen to them.

Another mentor gave this feedback:

For those thinking of becoming a mentor I would say “go for it”. It will be frustrating and rewarding. It will seem at times fruitless. But I guarantee it will help meet the need of a father in someone’s life. For those who are able to help financially, I want you to know that the staff that have vetted and now support the mentors are amazing people without whom the program would not exist. Please partner with Shoulder to Shoulder.

Whether you are of the mindset to join this dedicated tribe of mentors who have such profound impact on fatherless boys, or you want to provide financial support to help this good work continue, please help Shoulder To Shoulder continue on its path to helping break the cycle of fatherlessness. Your help can change the course of someone’s life. Please Donate Today.

 

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Imagine this life . . .

A young boy, 15 years old, living in squalor with his 41 year-old mother and 5 siblings (only one with whom he shares a father). He doesn’t remember his father who took off when he was just 5 years old, and his mother doesn’t really care what happens to him. She makes a habit of telling him she wanted to “flush him” (as an unwanted child) and that his father has legally disowned him.

He’s moved 7 times in 2 years (6 times within 6 months). He has been bounced around to live with some of mom’s friends but hasn’t ever had a real bed to sleep in. Finally he lands back with mom and 5 siblings living in a 1-bedroom apartment located 11 miles away from school. When there is money the kids take the bus to school, when there isn’t money they just don’t go to school. He is failing his classes.

Mom has now been diagnosed with cancer but doesn’t give any details to the kids. They don’t know what’s going to happen to her or to themselves and are scared.

Does this boy stand a chance at life? How does he cope with the reality ahead of him?

Fear and Desperation . . .

It’s hard to imagine how a boy living such a life can ever have a shot at happiness, success, career or marriage. He doesn’t even understand what that looks like. It’s not a part of his life experience.

At a point of desperation, this boy is matched with a mentor from Shoulder-To-Shoulder. They begin doing small activities to build common ground – bike rides, going to restaurants, outings to Old Sacramento and more. As the relationship grows, the trust grows. Friendly discussions turn to a strong bond, the boy looks forward to their time together and the mentor gives the boy a new perspective on life, a new understanding of the possibilities ahead and a path to find his way.

The mentor becomes such an important figure to this boy and his family that the mother actually opens up to him about her dire condition. The cancer has spread to kidneys, liver, blood and now brain. The kids don’t know any of this and she asks the mentor to explain to her boys what is happening. The mentor delivers the news that her illness is not curable and that time is precious.

New Perspectives, New Opportunities

Over the past two years life has changed significantly for the boy. His mentor got him enrolled in the Summer Math and Science Honor’s Academy (SMASH) at UC Davis. He also joined the Royal Ranger Junior Leadership Training program which is a Christ-based Boy Scout Troop. He spends weekends at his Mentor’s house and joins his family for church on Sunday.

Despite all of the positive influences, this boy still has obstacles that he is overcoming. His mother’s illness, lack of motivation at school, drugs in the home, etc. But rather than have to navigate on his own, he has a mentor who can help him understand the consequences and benefits to the choices he makes and help him find a new path for his future.

Help for the Future . . .

There are currently 27 boys waiting for a mentor. Without this person in their life, they may not have a chance at success in their future. Please donate whatever you can to help fund mentors for these boys in waiting. You can help! Donate Today.

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