Rob & RJ
RJ was a 15-year-old who lived in a state of constant uncertainty because of his unstable home situation. When he was 11, his parents relentlessly argued and he learned about his father's infidelity towards his mother. When his parents couldn't resolve their issues, his mother decided she could no longer handle the continuous turmoil and decided to leave the family. RJ woke up one morning to his mother telling him she was leaving, putting him and his brother in the care of their father. He didn't see his mother for an entire year after that morning. During that year, RJ struggled with depression and abandonment. He felt as if he didn't have a support system and his family had drifted apart. They were moving homes frequently. He started acting out at home and in school for attention.
When he turned 13, his parents officially divorced. His mother came back into the picture when his father could no longer financially support RJ and his brother, gaining full custody of the two. Because of the limited parental supervision, RJ and his brother took to the streets. RJ had begun to test his limits, and one day while walking alone he got himself in trouble with a gang of boys that resulted in a physical fight. This led to a war that lasted about nine months, and in that time RJ got seriously injured. He began to carry a metal pipe with him "at all times" for self defense. At 14, his father was convicted for drug dealing and put in prison. Just as RJ began to lose hope, a counselor recommended him to Friends for Youth. Immediately, his outlook started to change: "I thought it would be nice to have someone take me away from my house for a while. I got fed up with the idea that I might end up a low-life". Even though he was on the waitlist, Friends for Youth invited him to an event for waitlisted youth a few days later at a San Francisco Giants game. RJ got to stand in the middle of the field during the game while Friends for Youth was awarded the "Outstanding Volunteer Program" award from Oracle. He happened to sit next to a prior mentor named Rob during the game and they had a deep conversation about his life. A little while later, he got a call that he had been matched with a mentor, and that he was coming over that afternoon to meet him. To RJ's surprise, when he opened the door that afternoon, it was Rob! They have been in contact ever since that day for nearly 10 years, and Rob has supported RJ through high school graduation, family hardship, and college applications.
Alan & Rodrigo
When Alan and Rodrigo were matched in 2009, Rodrigo was in eighth grade and at risk of not reaching his full potential due to the challenges he was facing at school. In 2013 Rodrigo graduated from high school. His mentor Alan was on hand for the ceremony and couldn’t have been prouder of Rodrigo, who is also going off to college this fall. Alan was a big fan of fantasy batting practice on the field of AT&T Park led by former Giants Vida Blue and Rich Murray. This was a Friends for Youth group activity hosted by Oracle. Rodrigo said his favorite activity was going fishing. “I had never been before, and it was exciting to catch my first fish,” he described. During their initial one year commitment to the program they also went go-kart racing, bowling, attended baseball games, played video games, went to the movies, served a meal at the veterans’ hospital, and ate lots of pizza. They had so much fun in that first year that they decided to stay friends and continue hanging out.
“I’ve encouraged him to try new stuff,” Alan said. “A lot of what we did were first time things for him”. Rodrigo explained, “I was kind of scared at first. But that changed. All of the activities were encouraging and fun!”. Rodrigo has another adventure ahead of him as he will be a student at a California State University soon. “It’s cool that he’s going off to college, and the fact that he’s excited about it impresses me,” Alan said. In looking back at their Friendship, Rodrigo said, “Alan is like a second brother to me,” and when asked what makes an effective mentor Rodrigo responded, “someone you can count on.”
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Katie & Elizabeth
Shortly after Elizabeth was matched with Katie her home residence became unstable. This meant a lot of bouncing around, a lot of uncertainty, and for a short time, living away from her mother. No doubt that this chaotic disruption was made a bit easier with a dedicated mentor like Katie. Katie found a way to track Elizabeth down each week and spend time with her consistently and never once complained about the extra work and travel. Katie knew that Elizabeth deserved someone to count on, and she was willing to be that person with a smile each week. On their first meeting, they went to Jamba Juice for smoothies and just spent the time talking. They said, “After that night, we knew we could tell each other anything. Each week that we met, we explored new things and learned more about each other". One of their favorite activities was attending the County Fair.
Elizabeth made Katie ride the Ring of Fire, which left them both laughing, but left Katie feeling slightly ill. Another fun activity was going to the Flea Market in San Jose. Katie tried mango con chile (spicy mango) for the first time, and Elizabeth taught Katie some Spanish. They also had fun at the laser tag Friends for Youth group activity where they formed an alliance to try to beat out the competition! “No matter what we did or where we went, we always enjoyed each others’ company". Elizabeth loves participating in Friends for Youth because she gets a chance to go outside and see the world more. She believes that the program has helped her with her anger because Katie is always there for her to talk to. Katie has enjoyed participating in Friends for Youth because it gives her the opportunity to relax and put life in perspective. She loves hanging out with Elizabeth, who can always make her laugh. “We had tons of fun together over the past year, and we look forward to hanging out in the years to come! Thank you, Friends for Youth!”.
John, Lisa, & Jim
When 12-year-old John was asked to describe his mentoring friendship with Senior Friends Jim and Lisa, he replied, “It’s cool.” “I would give it two thumbs up,” he added. Since being matched in April of 2005, John and his Senior Friends have gone on walks, shared meals, visited museums, performed community service, and played games like Scrabble. John, who lives with his mom and two brothers, considers himself fortunate to have been matched with Lisa and Jim, a married couple, because he gets the special opportunity to have both a male and female mentor in his life. Among John’s favorite activities are sports. Lisa and Jim took him to see local teams including his first San Francisco Giants and Oakland A’s games. “I had never watched a game in person before I
met Jim and Lisa,” he said. John says his Senior Friends have also encouraged him to do his best in school. “They help me read,” John explained. Lisa and Jim have practiced reading with John, as well as helped him with homework and school projects occasionally. John adds, “I probably would have never done my mission project if not for Lisa and Jim.” John described the massive fourth grade project as overwhelming, and he was able to call up his Senior Friends and ask for their help. John smiled as he recalled that even though they helped him complete the project, he still had to do most of the work. “There was paint and cardboard. We even had a graveyard,” John proudly described. At their One-Year Friendship Anniversary meeting John said his life was “happy, happy, happy” since being matched with Lisa and Jim. He added, “I hope this goes on and on.”
A Letter From Lisa & Jim:
"It sounded like such a commitment – three whole hours for a full year. What if we get busy? Is this going to be fun or an obligation? What difference can you make in someone’s life in just three hours out of 168? Boy, were we surprised when we met John and realized how much fun we could have together. We started reading the newspaper with fresh eyes. We looked at things we normally would have passed over and commented to each other, “John would enjoy that – let’s go next weekend.” We hiked and biked, attended the circus and movies, read books, explored the Exploratorium and Tech Museum, and of course, went to see our local teams – the Giants, A’s, Raiders, 49ers, Warriors, and SaberCats. When we got tired of watching other people play sports, we participated in a Friends for Youth group activity where we played Fantasy Baseball and actually played on the field with Vida Blue and Rich Murray. We enjoyed the Friends for Youth ice-skating party so much that we celebrated John’s 11th birthday at the skating rink with his brothers. We had the opportunity to be there for many firsts, such as John’s first professional baseball and football games and his first plane ride at Hiller Aviation Museum. Within one year, we not only got to know John for the wonderful person he is, but we got to know his family and his school. Though the activities we did may have been more exciting, it was school projects like building a mission and writing a book report that helped us see what a creative and intelligent person John is and give us faith in knowing he is going to achieve his goals in life. It is debatable whether John got more out of the friendship or we did, but one thing is clear, we are going to know John for a long time and be there to cheer him on as he graduates from school and achieves his goals. Even though we no longer see each other every single week, we know we are there for each other and John holds a very special place in our lives.