Mentoring to make a difference

Mentoring to make a difference
Tucson mayor speaks about mentoring program. (Source: Tucson News Now)

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Tucson Mayor Jonathon Rothschild used International Mentoring Day, Jan. 17 as an opportunity to encourage Tucsonans to become mentors.

There are 12 organizations in Tucson, which can be found here, who have mentoring programs with a variety of volunteer requirements.

Most require a small requirement of as little as an hour a week. Some are more involved, but they all make a difference.

"It's not about how much time you spend with the children," Nathaniel McDonald, who was mentored for more than a decade and is now a successful construction consultant said. "I'd say its more about meaningful time."

He lost his mother at a very young age and needed the adult help he received.

"I don't know where I would have ended up without it," McDonald said.

Those kinds of stories are abundant in mentoring programs throughout the city.

Bahati Jackson came to the United States three years ago straight from a Rawandan refugee camp.

"I lived in there for 13 years," Jackson said. "I was born and raised there."

But after a wait which lasted years, he was chosen to come to America and his life changed forever.

"They come to your door and tell you have a chance to come to America," he said "You are so happy."

At first, as with any new arrival, the "food didn't taste good" but he's grown accustomed to it, in part because, it's so available here as opposed to the camp.

"Food, sometimes you spent the day without food," he said. "To get water, it's not in the house, you had to walk for miles."

The culture shock was one of the things he had to get used to.

"In Africa, I had one pair of shoes," he said. "Here, kids have 20 pairs and they want more."

But Jackson was lucky.

He was spotted by Marsharne Flannigan, the program Director at the Boys and Girls Club Steve Daru Center near Speedway and Silverbell.

"There's something about him that I saw in him," Flannigan said. "He's really respectful and kind."

Mentoring him in language, social norms and the American way of life has been beneficial to both.

"Getting an opportunity to meet a kid like Jackson, not everybody gets that chance," he said. I've got a lot more from him that he's gotten from me."

Mayor Rothschild says the need is for more men of color to step up to become part of the mentoring program, such as Flannigan.

The rewards are hard to measure but they lie within each person.

"How do you measure that," Rothschild said. "Graduated from high school, got a job, stay in the community."

It's likely some mentoring programs have metrics for success but he feels it's more than that.

"Sometimes I think that there are some things that are not measurable by numbers," he said "And that's okay."

As for Jackson, he will graduate from high school a year early, then its off to Pima with the road pointing towards the U of A.

"My dream was to learn about the stars and space and everything, so that's what I'm going to do," he said. "Be an astronomer."

But even more impressive, is his ultimate goal, the gift that keeps on giving

"I want inspire other kids out there," he said. "Tell them everything is possible."

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