By Zerline Hughes
I’m so thankful to the boy’s Big Brother Program brother and mentor, Michael. He showed not only him, but all of us a good time in NOLA earlier this month. Most important, though, he and Jobe had some much-needed one-on-one time. They met exactly three years ago this month to help bring balance to JD’s life since his father and I divorced in 2007. I knew immediately that the boy needed a man in his life. These Fatherhood Factor stats about fatherlessness are pretty ridiculous, but this is exactly why I say Not These Two:
- 90 percent of homeless and runaway children are from fatherless homes. [US D.H.H.S., Bureau of the Census]
- 63 percent of youth suicides are from fatherless homes. [US D.H.H.S., Bureau of the Census]
- 41 percent of high school dropouts come from fatherless homes. [National Principals Association Report on the State of High Schools]
- 70 percent of juveniles in state operated institutions have no father. [US Department of Justice, Special Report, Sept. 1988]
- 85 percent of youths in prisons grew up in a fatherless home. [Fulton County Georgia jail populations, Texas Department of Corrections, 1992]
- Fatherless boys and girls are: twice as likely to drop out of high school; twice as likely to end up in jail; four times more likely to need help for emotional or behavioral problems. [US D.H.H.S. news release, March 26, 1999]
Though it took some time to find him, Michael’s presence has definitely helped. The Saturday outings, the afterschool pick ups, and the day-long excursions have brought a sense of closeness the boy needed. It also offered him exposure to different lifestyles and career paths. JD has been in the kitchen of the Hotel Monaco with his brother. They ate at the famous Miss Saigon restaurant in Georgetown. They volunteered at Martha’s Table on a Saturday morning making sandwiches for those less fortunate. There was even a trip to Richmond for a Lego convention. I can’t even say that I’ve done any of that!
I do a lot with these two kids, but I can’t do it all. And boy have I tried. But it’s simply impossible. Field trips, Six Flags, dance class, gymnastics, spring and summer picnics, chores (yeah right), flag football, junior swim team, karate, drama, sax practice, violin practice, …. And I haven’t even mentioned anything for myself! Sigh …. So, we all need to step up and mentor, volunteer, participate in our own families’ lives, and find that extra time to do the same for others’ families who may be in need — for whatever reason.
I’m proud to say that, I, too, was/am still a Big Sister Program sister. Of course, my “Little” just turned 25 last month, and really, she should be mentoring me, at this point! Her successes: high school graduation, college graduation, grad school graduation! And she’s just moved into a second career as a successful social worker. Wow! I’ve always thought in the back of my head that I didn’t have much to do with her successes. I just appreciated watching and hearing about her transitions and accolades. But just a few weeks ago, her mother Carmen called and left an amazing, inspiring voicemail that made me feel warm and fuzzy. She spoke about the “amazing woman for a daughter” she has and said:
“This journey hasn’t always been easy … but [Asia] has turned out to be an amazing young woman and I also want to attribute that to having a strong Black woman like you acquiring and achieving great things in her life … I just wanted to tell you thank you for being a part of our lives. You were … a very intricate part in molding who Asia has become.”
Wow! (And boy did I need that for a boost as I approach mid-life.) Happy 12 year anniversary to you, Asia!
So, in a nutshell,that’s why we drove 18 hours to NOLA. To get a repeat offense of successful mentoring. To be able to make that same phone call in ten years to Michael for his successful influence on the boy (and NOT a phone call with some disheartening news about some detour through the justice system).
Though Michael moved 1,000 miles away from us last Fall, I want to keep both him and the boy inspired. I want to keep him involved and mentored. Kids that are mentored have a successful future, according to National Mentoring Partnership. It reports from its successes and research that:
- Mentors help keep students in school.
- Students who meet regularly with their mentors are 52 percent less likely than their peers to skip a day of school and 37 percent less likely to skip a class (Public/Private Ventures study of Big Brothers Big Sisters).
- Mentors help with homework and can improve their mentees’ academic skills.
“At its most basic level, mentoring helps because it guarantees a young person that there is someone who cares about them. A child is not alone in dealing with day-to-day challenges,” states the National Mentoring Partnership.
So, as usual, I do whatever it takes for these two. And what I can’t do, I make sure to have supports to fill in.