"SaQuan became a member of our family"
June 27, 2020
Talk about some good fortune. Seven years ago I found out about RFL when my wife went to a meeting and heard speakers talk about their work. She told me about it, I talked with Kathy Mize and hoped my efforts with them would be productive however knew I would enjoy the experience. Having spent 12 years in education, teaching and coaching, I felt I had some experience in mentoring. The results exceeded my wildest expectations.
I met some wonderful, inspiring young people. Hearing their stories, I couldn’t help but wonder where I would be right now had I been met with their challenges. When the Ready for Work pilot program began, I was paired up with SaQuan. He is a young, eager, intelligent, curious, personable, and motivated young man. I could tell he wanted to take charge of his life. We tackled the Ready for Work program with enthusiasm and his talk at the conclusion of the program convinced me he was creating a path of success for himself.
This relationship didn’t stop here. SaQuan became a member of our family. He met my kids and grandkids. He fit right in. He even began attending church with us as he began to search for his spiritualty. He had so many questions that were right on target with someone searching for answers.
An experience I didn’t see coming was my granddaughter’s (7 at the time) impression of SaQuan. She didn’t really grasp what foster care meant, or how someone could be homeless, or why you didn’t live with your younger siblings. One Sunday on our way to church SaQuan was upset as he had just lost his Xbox and wasn’t sure how it went missing. Millie listened to that story and figured this was something of his and now it was gone. She had been getting an allowance for her chores and had a job dog sitting for a neighbor. She had some money in her piggy bank and the following Sunday took some dollars out and wanted me to give them to SaQuan. He was touched. Millie also knew he liked to read so gave him a book of hers by her favorite author. She had been reading about orphanages and wondered if SaQuan had been in that situation.
SaQuan entered the military as a part of his life plan. Before leaving for basic training, SaQuan gave Millie a stuffed teddy bear in a US Army uniform. That Army bear stays in Millie’s room 24/7 and is a prized possession of hers. Millie always wanted to know what was going on with him through basic training, being stationed and leaving the USA for Kuwait.
SaQuan stayed with us at Christmas time this past year on leave from the military. He wanted to know what the grandchildren would want for Christmas, then went out and bought them all gifts. His generosity not only impressed the grandkids but my kids, (their parents) as well. Who would have thought mentoring would have brought such joy to our lives.
I asked Millie her impressions now as an 11 year old about that experience. She said she always wants to impress her big brother Max and felt like SaQuan was just like a big brother and wants to impress him too.
Millie and I came up with adjectives to describe all these events: Compassion, caring, empathy, understanding, support, love and generosity all made the list to describe this ongoing wonderful experience. - BOB ESTES
Did you know that Mentoring at Ready for Life takes as little as an hour a week? Mentoring can be done virtually or in person.
Want to learn more? Know someone who may be interested in becoming a RFL Mentor? Contact our Director of Community Relations and Mentoring Michelle Walag at MWalag@readyforlifepinellas.org or visit readyforlifepinellas.org/volunteer