Transitioning into adulthood is a challenging time for anyone. The number one factor in helping young people through challenging times is the support of at least one caring adult or ideally, a community of adults, who can provide support and guidance in many ways.
The young adults in ACH’s LIFE Project are facing all the challenges and responsibilities of adulthood on their own. As a result, we must recruit a community of supportive adults who can help them with this major transition. Mentoring does not remove every obstacle but gives them the important knowledge that they are not alone.
“Mentoring at ACH gives our young adults a community that walks beside them, through all the ups and downs, to help move them forward,” said Kate Faggella-Luby, ACH’s Volunteer Mentor Coordinator.
ACH’s volunteer mentors are committed individuals who together form a community of support for young adults in LIFE through two groups: Connections for LIFE for the young men; and, Circle of Caring for the young women.
Volunteer mentors participate two to three times per month in fun group activities with the young adults and other volunteers to build connections and provide a sense of belonging for them,” said Kate.
Before the pandemic, the groups would get together to cook a meal, play a game outside, or leave campus to visit a museum or see a movie. They also celebrate birthdays, graduations, and other big accomplishments. In the past year, they’ve shifted their activities to Zoom, with some socially distanced events.
Qua' has been a part of the LIFE Project since July 2018 and he’s actively participated with the volunteer mentors.
“Connections for LIFE was the highlight of my time at ACH,” said Qua'. “They gave us opportunities and resources, and just having dinner and interacting with them was engaging and fun.”
Qua' met his mentor, Dennis, last year and the two bonded over stand-up comedy and rap music.
“He’s old-school and I’m new school,” laughed Qua'.
It wasn’t long before Qua' began to open up to Dennis and the pair grew closer.
“I try to give them the sense of being wanted and appreciated,” said Dennis. “I try to guide Qua' the same way I do my own son.”
For Qua', Dennis became the first male role model he ever had, and one of the first adults to make him feel seen and heard. Experiencing years of emotional abuse made him feel ignored and abandoned, which made it hard for him to develop a connection with trusting adults.
That changed with Connections for LIFE.
“Getting the chance to know all these volunteers is definitely a milestone in my development,” said Qua'.
Dennis believes that taking a vested interest in these young adults creates a much larger impact in the long run, for both them and the community.
“They’ve never had anybody take a vested interest in them or care about them, so when you show them that, they know how to give that love and care back into the world.”
Qua' encourages other young adults in LIFE to get the most they can out of the mentorships.
“Without those friends, those bonds, and those connections, you’re not going to make it very far,” said Qua'. “It’s good to know that you’re appreciated every once in a while, and that there are people you can depend on.”
That’s what Kate wishes all young adults in LIFE receive from the volunteer mentors.
“The fact that the mentoring group shows up for them time and again, sends a message that they matter, that they have something to offer, and that the world can be a safe and good place for them,” said Kate. “That sense of belonging, of receiving and giving support, is what I hope they take away from the experience.”
Qua' will soon graduate from the LIFE Project and venture out on his own, but he and Dennis still have plans to remain close. For Dennis, the most rewarding part of the mentorship will be getting to see Qua' “spread his wings and fly.”
If you’re interested in becoming a volunteer mentor and making an impact on ACH’s young adults, reach out to Kate at Kate.Faggella-Luby@ACHservices.org to get started.