Monthly Archives: April 2016

How Being Mentored Helped Me

SEABROOK SAYS: Every story I ever heard about mentoring has mentioned benefits to both the mentee and the mentor.  Matt Adams’ story may be the best of all!  Has the time arrived when you should be mentoring for an hour per week?  NOW THAT YOU KNOW, WHAT WILL YOU DO?

A mentor is defined by Webster’s dictionary as, “someone who teaches or gives help and advice to a less-experienced, and often younger, person.” While this is certainly accurate, it does not fully convey the impact a mentor has on someone’s life. To me, a mentor is someone who makes such an indelible impression on the life of a young boy or girl that they become better equipped to realize their full potential. A mentor can play a fundamental role in altering a young person’s course in life for the better. It is, however, even more than helping them develop life skills that will propel them to eventual success. It oftentimes satisfies an emotional need that a young girl or boy is not having met, which carries an even more profound effect than equipping them for success.

How do I know this? I, myself, have experienced the positive effects of having a mentor. When I was five years old, my mom and dad split-up. My dad moved about two hours away and aside from my mom and brother I had no family around. We lived in a low-income part of Gastonia and, statistically speaking, the prospects for my life grew dimmer. By God’s grace, though, there was a man that had already been in my life, named Doug Mincey, who recognized that I needed a strong, male influence and he heeded the call.

What this man has done for me, in my book, places him among the saints. He was a giant to me then and is still a giant to me today. Writing briefly about him here frankly does not do him the justice he deserves. While my mom undoubtedly had the greatest influence on me, Doug would be a very close second. As someone himself who had the cards stacked against him, he instilled in me the belief that through hard work coupled with determination I could accomplish whatever I wanted. What I learned from him was to not let your circumstances define who you are but to use those circumstances to define yourself. I would say, though, that it wasn’t really what he taught me directly that impacted me. It was the example in his own daily life where I really paid attention. Among some of the things his example taught me was about the importance of faith, showing compassion to those less fortunate, conducting oneself with the utmost integrity in your profession, giving back to the community, and showing an undying devotion to family.

Doug has been more than a mentor to me. He has been one of my very best friends. I can say with certainty that my life would have been far different without his influence.  He has been with me during the highs of life and there for me during the very lows. I haven’t always followed his example and have made many mistakes, some of which I’m sure were disappointing to him, but he’s always been there to guide me back to where I need to be and has done so with grace and love. I owe a lot to him and could never repay him. I will be forever grateful to him for being that strong, male role-model that I needed but most of all for showing me unconditional love. I know my mom was very grateful as well and I believe she’s in heaven right now asking God to bless Doug as much as possible simply for the role he has played in my life.

I want to thank him, his family for sharing him, and to all those out there that take the time to mentor. You may not ever know fully the impact you are having but I can assure you it is positive. If you are considering becoming one, I’d encourage you to do so. You may just change a life.

Matt Adams
Senior Personal Banker
CommunityOne Bank, N.A.

 

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The Power of a Mentor

SEABROOK SAYS:  Matt Kuiken, the lead pastor at First ARP Church, is leading the initiative to recruit adults to mentor our kids.  Read on, get inspired, become a mentor, share the benefits!   NOW THAT YOU KNOW, WHAT WILL YOU DO? 

I was back in my hometown several months ago and I ran into him. John Raudenbush is a guy about fifteen years my senior.  He is an easy-going fella, with a sly smile, a sharp wit, and twinkle in his eye.  When I was in high school John was one of my mentors.  Now I don’t want you to get the wrong idea – John would never call himself that.  But John did for me what a mentor always does.  He engaged me and gave me attention.  He encouraged me in various aspects of my life.  He motivated me to pursue God’s call on my life by affirming me.  He mentored me.  So when I saw John recently, I thanked him.  I told him I appreciated the role he had played in my development and that any success I have had is in part due to his influence on me (I don’t hold him responsible for the many failures).  I wasn’t prepared for his response.  Tears filled his eyes.  It was honestly kind of uncomfortable as he told me that he never realized that I looked up to him like that.  But I could tell that he felt honored and affirmed to be considered a mentor.  In that moment we stood on holy ground.

A mentoring relationship, whether formal or informal, is a sacred space. It is life on life impact.  It reminds us that our most formative experiences come not through interactions with programs or abstract principles but with people.  Mentoring, at its most basic level, is simply one person intentionally investing in another.  I have been blessed to be the recipient of such mentoring relationships.  In High School it was John Raudenbush.  In college it was quirky Mike McGhee.  In Seminary it was the Rev. Ryan Laughlin.  Who has it been for you?  In his book The Mentor Leader, Tony Dungy writes, “Building a life of significance, and creating a legacy of real value, means being willing to get your hands dirty. It means being willing to step out in your life and onto the platforms of influence you’ve been given and touch the lives of people in need.  If you want to make a difference in the lives of the people you lead, you must be willing to walk alongside them, to lift and encourage them, to share moments of understanding with them, and to spend time with them, not just shout down at them from on high.  Mentors build mentors.  Leaders build leaders.  When you look at it closely, its really one and the same thing.”  If you have been blessed with a mentor at any point in your life, it is now time for you to pass this gift on.  There are a myriad of different ways to do this, but let me give you one opportunity that easy and available to you right now.

Did you know that every year there are students within the Gaston County School System who step forward and request an adult mentor only to be told that there are not enough adults willing to mentor them?   Of course I’m sure they don’t actually tell the kids this.  But kids are smart; they get the picture.  To be without a mentor is to be without a crucial lifeline.  We have a tremendous opportunity here as leaders within Gaston County.  It is not just to be a mentor our selves, but to encourage others within our sphere of influence to be a mentor as well.  And here is the big thing – it doesn’t take any special skills, or abilities, or talents, or a certain personality – to be a mentor.  It just takes a willingness to show up, for an hour a week, and to invest your life in someone else’s life.  That’s it.

This year there are 238 active adult mentors in the Gaston County School System. My hope is that this number continues to grow.  My hope is that Gaston County becomes a model, not just in the state but also in the entire country for student mentoring.  How cool would it be if it was the rule, and not the exception, that all community leaders in Gaston County were also mentors?  What if mentoring was the culture of our public schools, our private business and organizations, and our entire community?  I am convinced that this reality would contribute dramatically to the flourishing of our county on numerous levels.

If you are not yet a mentor in the Gaston County School System, I encourage you to contact Valerie Yatko, Director of Business and Community Partnerships for Gaston County Schools, to let her know you are interested in getting involved. You can reach her at vayatko@gaston.k12.nc.us or 704.866.6329.  Thanks in advance for your involvement.

Reverend Matt Kuiken
Senor Pastor
First Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church

 

Gangs in Gaston County

Seabrook Says: Do we in Gaston County worry about gang activity – or do we worry about the lack of family strength that yields gang members?

Do we have gangs in Gaston County? It depends on who you ask. But here are the facts. In 2005, the Governor’s Crime Commission labeled Gaston County as having the 5th largest gang problem in North Carolina.  Statistically speaking, our crime rates were in line with where Los Angeles was 20 years ago.

The federal definition of a gang as used by the Department of Justice is [1]:

  1. An association of three or more individuals;
  2. Whose members collectively identify themselves by adopting a group identity, a common name, slogan, identifying sign, symbol, tattoo or other physical marking, style or color of clothing, hairstyle, hand sign or graffiti;
  3. Whose purpose in part is to engage in criminal activity and which uses violence or intimidation to further its criminal objectives.

Criminal activity is what separates gangs from fraternities, sororities, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, Masons, etc. It is not actually illegal to be in a gang, it is illegal to commit the criminal acts in order to prosper the gang. The gangs we have in Gaston County may not be like what you see on TV (Gangland, movies, documentaries, the news) but we have gang sets and gang members and they are causing major disruptions on our streets, in our schools and in our county.

So, what do we do about this growing epidemic? In 2006, the Gaston County Anti-Gang Initiative was formed. This was a multi-agency, countywide initiative to offer prevention, intervention and suppression services to combat the growing gang problem in Gaston County. Prevention programs, like Street SMART, to help younger children resist the temptation of gangs and build confidence, self-esteem, and life skills were implemented in the Boys & Girls Club and Parks & Recreation Departments in the hot spot communities. The Community Outreach Program is an intervention program funded through the Juvenile Crime Prevention Council with the purpose of helping those kids who are already gang involved find an alternative lifestyle. This program is a wrap-around approach to get to the root of the problem and offer services which may not be available otherwise, like mental health or substance abuse counseling. Suppression is our law enforcement. The Sheriff’s Office, County Police and Gastonia City Police work together to document and suppress the criminal activity associated with gangs in our communities. Knowledge is key when it comes to fighting what we are afraid of or do not know, and our Law Enforcement agencies are the ones who see and are fighting gang violence day in and day out, on our streets and in our jail.

After spending time with a lot of these kids, they have also taught me. They crave guidance, discipline, attention and love. If they don’t get it from home, they will find it someplace else. During one of our programs, I sat down to talk with “Z”, who rarely talked to anyone. The more I listened, the more he opened up. I was in awe at the things he experienced during his short 15 years. When I asked him “Why?”, his answer changed everything. He lived with his 2 younger siblings and a drug addicted mom, who allowed the men she brought into their home to beat on them daily. There was never any food, or clean clothes, no money, definitely no love, no praise or stability. But then the gang found him and he never had to worry about getting beat on, because they protected him. He didn’t have to worry about food, money or clothes, because the gang supplied him money just for being the “lookout” when they conducted their drug deals. The gang loved him and provided for him when his mom couldn’t. This is the lure of the gang.

How do we compete with that? Be a mentor! Take time and be a positive role model for a kid that doesn’t have someone to rely on or look up to. One hour a week is all it takes! One hour can change a life!

Arin Weatherford Farmer
Executive Director,  The Alliance for Children & Youth/Communities In Schools
Project Director,  The Gaston County Anti-Gang Initiative.