Special to The Mirror
Last week I proudly witnessed the graduation of a young lady from Gilmer High School who has become a very important person in my life.
I met Lativia in the fall of 2005 in the counselor’s office at Gilmer Intermediate School. Why? To become her “Forever Friends” Mentor!
How? An organization, Friends of Partners in Prevention, has been providing a mentoring program in Longview and surrounding school districts for several years.
I moved to the Gilmer area after retiring from Garland ISD in 1999 to help provide care to my mother who had Alzheimer’s.
After her death at the end of 2002, I did some substitute teaching for a while, but decided I really wanted to just be a mentor/tutor for a young girl who might need some help and support in school.
Thankfully, God heard my prayer and in April of 2005 I learned about the “Forever Friends” mentoring program from a lady in my Bible Study Fellowship class. That summer, I enrolled and completed their orientation and training. I requested to be assigned to a student in the nearby Gilmer School District.
The goal of this program is for each young girl to do well in school and to graduate. The students selected have to meet eligibility requirements and the school guidance counselor makes the assignment when a mentor becomes available.
The mentor is required to meet with the student once a week at the school for about an hour. Lativia and I would meet during her lunch and recess time.
The past few years, however, we have been meeting after school. We also participated in various learning/social activities provided outside of school and during the summer months.
In spite of difficulties and challenges in her life, Lativia usually always wears a big smile that lights up her beautiful face.
She is outgoing and considerate and has many friends. At age 12, during a summer church camp, she became a Christian and was baptized a few weeks later.
I began to observe changes in her attitude toward school and she became more positive and confident. Her grades and behavior began to improve as a result. I have watched her grow in her faith, and now she strongly believes in the power of prayer. She is not shy in sharing her love for Jesus, and openly gives thanks to her Lord for each blessing.
The past seven years have been rewarding for us both.
We soon realized that a white, elderly woman and a struggling black girl did share some common interests and that we could both learn from one another.
One recent example: She helped me program my new smart phone, and I helped her prepare to take and pass the test for a driver’s license.
I have enjoyed going to many of her basketball games, sitting on the sidelines cheering for her and all the other Lady Buckeyes.
We have taken many trips to the Upshur County Library to improve computer skills, learn and discuss current events and cultural issues, plus research for school assignments. I recommended several biographies on famous black Americans that I admired, especially women like Congresswoman Barbara Jordan.
Lativia exhibits good common sense and some of her “real world” life experiences make her more practical and wiser than most of her peers.
Lativia has set some attainable goals for her life. She is not a quitter, has a good work ethic and a strong determination to do something important with her life!
She wants to graduate from college majoring in a career that will give her opportunities to help and protect the vulnerable and poor. She has always been around young children and loves each one in a special way and they love her back!
One of her worries is “babies having babies!” She has voiced to me many times how important it is for a child to be raised by a responsible parents who understand the child’s well-being comes first!
Although Lativia’s high school graduation has brought to a close our seven years of participation in the wonderful “Forever Friends” program, it will NOT end our friendship!
We have both pledged to remain good friends and will keep in close touch with one another. We will also be praying for each other and asking God to provide the guidance and courage needed for whatever lies ahead.
I would like to encourage other adults in this area who have some free time to do something important that will change the life of a young girl or boy, BECOME A MENTOR !
For more information, please contact Patti at 903-237-1019, Friends of Partners in Prevention in Longview.