Family of Friends helps kids feel more connected to their community and build social and emotional skills to succeed in school and life.
But the real power of our model shines in our stories…
2019 Match of the Year Nominees
Yajahira and Suzanne
Matched in March 2017, Yajahira (pronounced Ya-hi-da) and Suzanne’s tenacious support of each other through difficult times and their strong connection to the program is the reason they are nominated this year. Yajahira is a caring, sensitive kid and has been deeply affected by the hardships of her family. Financial struggles, traumatic loss, and language barriers put intense stress on 8-year-old Yajahira. After nearly two years of waiting, Suzanne came along. With intermediate Spanish skills, Suzanne learned about the family’s circumstances, and helps Yajahira express her sadness and anger in healthy ways. She constantly reminds Yajahira of how strong and capable she is and gives Yajahira a safe space to cry or laugh when that’s what she needs.
When Mentor Suzanne had knee surgery in the Spring, Yajahira was attentive and understanding. She would open doors, help Suzanne with her dog, and offer to lend a hand in any way. Mentor Suzanne admires Yajahira’s compassion, determination, and honesty. On their weekly outings, Mentor Suzanne encourages Yajahira to decide what they will do together. Last summer, Suzanne taught Yajahira how to swim! After a few lessons, Yajahira was proud of the progress she had made and felt safer in water.
Since they met in 2017 Yajahira has become more confident, open to new experiences, and has more tools to cope with difficult experiences that might come her way. She’s learned how to express her authentic feelings. This match shows us the value of listening and showing up for others.
Gabby and Becky
Matched in November 2017, Gabby and Becky are nominated for their incredibly strong friendship, commitment to one another, and high engagement with the program. Gabby, a kind and engaging 10-year-old girl, has a history of severe trauma, which caused significant anxiety and PTSD in her life. This meant Gabby had difficulty building trust and connecting with new people, especially adults. Gabby’s mother and step-father work hard to support their 6 children, in spite of significant health issues and long hours working. They sought a mentor for Gabby who could offer extra support through structure and routine. Gabby wanted a mentor who simply had time to bake and dance with her!
From the first time Mentor Becky met Gabby, she has patiently built trust. Through engaging activities and thoughtful questions, Becky is earning Gabby’s trust and has become a safe person Gabby can rely on. Mentor Becky’s consistency and dedication far exceed program requirements. When Mentor Becky learned that Gabby was falling behind in reading, she added a day of mentoring to their schedule to read together and met with Gabby twice a week for the whole summer. Working together, Gabby became a stronger reader before the new school year. Of course, Mentor Becky still kept one day a week to build trust through playful adventures. Although they have had many experiences, Gabby shared that her favorite thing to do with Becky is baking cookies together.
Since their match was made over a year ago, Becky’s mom Alisha has noticed that Gabby’s self-esteem has improved. She says Gabby has become more outgoing and shows more pride in herself and her achievements. Mentor Becky’s loyalty, experience, and adventurous spirit was just what they were looking for. This match confirms that trust and dependability can heal deep emotional wounds and builds friendships that last.
Jorey and Hunter – 2019 Winners!
Matched in May 2017, Hunter and Jorey are being nominated for their ability to overcome significant challenges to meeting up and their strong commitment to each other and the program. Jorey is a 10-year-old adventurous, loving and impressively athletic kid. He moved to Gresham at age 8 after living in Saipan, where he experienced severe poverty and virtually no adult supervision. After moving to the U.S. to live with his Aunt, it became clear that he’d had no formal education, making it very difficult to adjust to the schedules and norms of an elementary school classroom. Jorey’s huge heart and naturally social demeanor are huge advantages, but with little direction from adults, his impulsive emotional side was causing conflict with other kids and adults at school. What’s more, his aunt, who took him in, spends nearly all of her time working to support the family, with very little time to help Jorey catch up. Mentor Hunter has been a game-changer.
Hunter applied to be a mentor after the 2016 presidential election when he felt compelled to do more in his community. When Hunter and Jorey first met, they instantly hit it off. Hunter could meet Jorey’s high energy level, and also patiently coach him through impulsive behaviors. After earning Jorey’s trust through healthy play, Mentor Hunter could act as an advocate for Jorey in school. Hunter connected with Jorey’s teachers and offering input to help Jorey overcome behavioral challenges. Hunter helped Jorey get a scholarship for Taekwondo classes to encourage his exceptional athleticism and he even participated in the first month of classes with Jorey! After more than a year, Jorey has now achieved his red belt, and seen tremendous improvement in his emotional and social skills.
Jorey has been improving in school and winning the hearts of teachers and peers alike. He’s helpful at events, asking if he can help set up or clean up and he adds an infectious spirit and drive for relationships to every event he attends. Our community is more connected and engaged thanks to this match’s contributions, and both exemplify the power of partnership between a young person and adult. This match is mentoring at its best!
Marwa & Paige
Paige & Marwa stand out for their steadfast commitment in difficult transitions, their life-changing cultural sharing, and a closeness that has become like family. At enrollment, 6-year-old Marwa was shy with an adventurous spirit and loved crafty, artsy things. But as the third youngest of 7 kids in a Somali refugee family, Marwa’s mother was busy working and had no steady father figure for the kids. Marwa was getting lost in the fray. When mentor Paige came along in Nov. 2015, she and Marwa were joined at the hip. Through thoughtful questions and observations, mentor Paige learned about Marwa’s family customs, like wearing the hijab and Muslim traditions around food and animals. Paige acted as a bridge to advocate for Marwa in a world that was often not so accepting.
Mentor Paige spends much of the mentoring time at Marwa’s home engaging Marwa with her family, learning about the language and delicious Somali food and traditions. When the family’s apartment flooded, and they lost their furniture and shoes, Paige was there and took the kids out to the library, and brought home books and movies. The family gladly accepts Paige’s presence at parent teacher conferences, and help with their older sister’s scholarships. But most importantly, Paige focuses on Marwa, and developing skills through her love of art and creativity. As a result, Marwa walks taller, with increased confidence and social skills that help her navigate school and family relationships. Paige has shown up every week (sometimes twice a week) for two straight years, and has exceeded program requirements on reporting and contact with staff. Mentor Paige says she receives just as much benefit from the program as her mentee. This match is an example of how personal relationships can overcome cultural barriers, unify our community and help our kids to succeed.