Mentors are defined as “experienced and trusted advisers.” If you grew up surrounded with parents or family members that loved and cared for you, you probably always had someone to go to when you inevitably had questions about life. Maybe you didn’t think of it this way, but these individuals were mentoring you.
Ask yourself: Who taught you how to fry an egg, how to do your laundry, how to manage your money, or do your taxes?
Now imagine those loved ones weren’t there for you. Where do you learn these basic life skills? Maybe you get lucky, and you grow up with a foster family that has the time and the resources to teach you a thing or two.
Or maybe not. Maybe adult life is now harder than it has to be because the foster care system didn’t provide you with the foundational skills all young adults need to be happy, healthy, and self-sufficient.
For many former foster youth, this is the reality. They weren’t taught to budget, to cook, or how to navigate the adult world. And yet, at the tender age of 18 years old, many of them are suddenly and completely on their own.
These are American-born citizens, who are left without a family through no fault of their own. If we are not responsible for them, then who is?
What Do Mentors Do?
Mentors are those people who step up and give generously of their time and wisdom, often making a lasting impression in the lives of former foster kids who have aged out of the system.
A mentor isn’t always an official title… sometimes a teacher, a case-worker, an aunt or uncle, or an employer can provide valuable mentorship along the way. Mentorship is a special kind of relationship that really opens doors for former foster children, helping them with things like crafting their first resume, dressing professionally for an interview, and furthering their education.
Such has been the case with Angel Alvarenga, a transition-aged foster youth who is involved with WE LIFT LA. In June, we celebrated his latest success as he walked the stage to claim his GED from Phoenix House Academy.
The importance of education for young adults cannot be overstated, and this is perhaps even more true of foster youth. Now that Angel holds his GED he’s on track to get his Associate’s degree from Pierce College so he can transfer to a 4-year university and perhaps, one day even attend law school! With his GED under his belt and his mentors guiding the way, he stands a much better chance of achieving his dreams of becoming an attorney.
While many of us can’t afford to make a donation from our bank accounts, how many of us can honestly say we can’t afford to make a donation of our hearts? The thing about love is, the more you give, the more you get. By simply being there for someone to count on, you can feel what it’s like to be a real-life hero. Sometimes it’s just a matter of picking up the phone and listening to someone’s problems that can make a world of difference.
WE LIFT LA is always seeking positive mentors and energetic volunteers. If you’d like to get involved with WE LIFT LA as a mentor, please don’t hesitate to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org