“Hi, my name is Amarni and I’m from Jamaica. I came here when I was 10. I got taken away from my mom a month later and went through the foster care system for eight years. At the end — when I was 17 turning 18 — I met my mentor. He is the coolest guy I have ever met — He has become like a father figure to me. He shows me what’s real, what’s not and how a man is supposed to be. We have been working on trying to get me into a trade school, securing my citizenship, my license and a lot more. He is very supportive. I’m thankful for the CHS mentoring program, but what I’m mostly thankful is for my mentor — guiding me mentally.”
Amarni recently graduated from high school with the goal of attending Palm Beach State College. To celebrate Amarni’s accomplishments and help him succeed through his next chapter, CHS collected home essentials and surprised Amarni at his apartment with a brand new laptop – but not without his mentor, Michael.
Amarni and Michael were separated while following COVID-19 safety precautions. The reunion was a safe and socially distant celebration.
“This was a very special occasion that I wanted to share with him,” said Michael.
Michael didn’t know what to expect when he signed up to be a mentor with CHS’ Project 18 Mentoring Program – matching children in foster care with caring adults to support and guide them.
“I will admit, I was disappointed when I was told I had a 17 year-old match, said Michael. “In my mind, I thought he had made up his mind what he wanted to be, especially having been in group homes for such a while. At the start of my time with my mentee, there was a lot of frustration. I would try to reach him and not get calls back. I thought it was a self-fulfilling prophesy. Although thoroughly frustrated, I held myself accountable for choosing to be a mentor. I found patience and faith to be my greatest tools.”
Michael didn’t give up in working to build a connection with Amarni. And as the two started talking more that word “accountability” became a strong base on which they built their mentor/ mentee relationship.
“When he finally called me, I told him if this was going to have any chance of being successful, it was going to take effort on his part,” said Michael. “I reminded him that this was what HE wanted to do and if it really was, I needed to see it. My approach was to let him know that I am not here to make him into a functional adult, ‘That’s YOUR job. You have things you want to accomplish [your goals], I will guide you to reach them.’ He has blossomed out of “the box” I had envisioned he did not want to work toward escaping. He turned 18 last July, a month after we were matched. I told him I would treat him as an adult and hold him responsible for his actions as such. I spoke harsh truths and showed some vulnerability, not sugar coating anything, reminding him that choices he makes today will affect him in both the near and far future. I shared some parallel experiences from a man-to-man rather than man-to-boy perspective. He expressed his appreciation for my approach…that his previous mentors, he felt, preached at him. Through holding him accountable for his actions, whether they were positive or negative, I think he felt empowered. He is just as concerned about letting himself down as he is about letting me down.”
Now, more than a year later Michael and Amarni share a friendship that continues to grow.
“He phones me when he has questions or when he has accomplishments,” says Michael. “He shares his plans and ambitions as well as his pains and joys. The interpersonal trust is what created this open and honest communication between us. He knows I care, not because I said so, but through my physical actions. We have been to court, to Palm Beach State College campus, [to visit his local family members] and to meals multiple times a day. In each trip and in visits, we had “plain English” conversations. Now this young man exhibits the qualities of a man determined to set and achieve goals. Always with a smile and a questioning attitude, he listens and often has some wisdom to share that lets you know he is listening actively. I Am Proud To Be His Mentor.”
- The Project 18 Mentoring Program is looking for more caring adults like Michael to support and guide kids and teens in foster care to reach their full potential. If you’re interested in learning more, please call (561) 868-4300. We are checking messages daily and can connect you with the right contact to get started.