Stories: Mentoring reaches a young grade school student during a time of crisis and helps him make the right choices in life

Mentoring youth and helping with education before scholastic “downward spirals” take place can mean the difference between succeeding in life or a life filled with bad choices.

Note: This story comes from Elaine Dalfen with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Memphis, part of United Way’s network of agencies and programs working to help children succeed and focusing on improving education. Names and images have been changed to protect privacy.

Sometimes asking for help makes all the difference in the world when someone is in need.

Meghan, a mother in her early 30s, was struggling to balance care for her three children: 13-year-old Michael, 12-year-old Marcus and 10-year-old Jennifer.

Each of the children had problems in school – but especially Marcus, who had already been suspended 17 times and was on a fast track to failing the seventh grade.

Marcus had been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). He was receiving failing marks at school and his behavior at home was getting worse due to growing frustration about his father’s incarceration. He was showing his displeasure through negative “acting out” and was expressing feelings of hopelessness about his own future.

Looking for help and support, Meghan contacted one of United Way’s network partner agencies that specializes in matching children with local volunteer mentors. A few weeks after the call, the agency contacted Meghan with the good news that a volunteer match was available.

Independent studies show that children facing adversity will often find educational success when matched with this agency’s mentoring program. When a child is helped with schoolwork during a time of potential failure and is able to learn the assigned material, this prevents the creation of a scholastic “downward spiral” that is all the harder to repair later in life.

Your Support Impacts Lives“We work to help young people avoid choosing risky and delinquent behaviors. That was what Marcus was considering at the time.  We wanted to see him gain higher self-esteem and feel positive about his aspirations,” the counselor said.

Marcus was matched with his volunteer “big brother,” 58-year-old Ben. Ben, an executive with a local super market chain, had already raised three daughters and had served as a board member for the agency years ago. After weeks of consistent visits to the library, shared cultural experiences and time getting to know each other’s families and simple fun, the mentoring friendship impacted Marcus’ schoolwork, his outlook on his studies and goals in life.

“One year after their match began, Marcus’ current report card is proudly posted on the family’s refrigerator,” the counselor said.

“Instead of his old familiar string of F’s, he has one A, three Bs, one C and only one D grade. He’s on the right path and he knows he is capable of succeeding in school and staying out of trouble,” the counselor reports.

Your support of United Way helps agencies and programs like this one reach local youth during crisis points, making a tremendous difference and combating challenges before they become more difficult to address. United Way’s work in funding and aligning programs, agencies and collaborations helps multiply the impact your support makes on local education, financial stability and health issues for the Mid-South.

To learn more about how you can help mentor children in Tennessee, visit the Raise Your Hand Tennessee website here.

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