• Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of articles exploring mentorship programs in Norman. The articles will run the third Friday of every month.
Middle school and early high school years can be one of the more trying times in a young person’s life, but a mentor can be a guide through life’s awkward phases.
Faith Blevins, 15, is a freshman at Epic Online Charter Schools and is an active student of Loveworks Leadership Inc. She was a leader at the organization’s four-day Junior Summer Leadership event over the summer with Kennedy Patrick, 23, and the two became friends. A couple of months ago she knew she wanted Patrick be her mentor.
“I think in middle school and high school everyone has these influences like social media, and they have all of these bad influences that are easier to get a hold of than good ones,” Blevins said. “People should mentor because then you can show students the good side of life, and that it doesn’t have to all happen on your phone. You need to work on yourself before you can be with someone else.”
Blevins said Patrick met all of her requirements for a mentor: someone who is there for her, a good role model, has leadership influence and can make her laugh and smile. Already, Patrick has taught Blevins so much about self-confidence that she is considering public speaking roles at Loveworks.
Blevins turned around in her seat during Loveworks’ August opening ceremonies dinner and asked Patrick to be her mentor on the spot. This is Patrick’s first mentorship role, and she said she almost cried when Blevins asked. There was no way she could say no.
“This place just fills my heart, and even though I sometimes feel like I’m not a role model it was an easy yes,” Patrick said. “I get to walk alongside her in whatever part of life that she’s going through, and that’s really special for me just because I get to have that influence on her.”
Loveworks is a local nonprofit organization that has been working since 2011 to help middle school students, ages 11-14, discover their potential, achieve their goals and connect them with positive influences and activities. In addition to the after-school program, Loveworks also other community events such as Summer Leadership, Junior Summer Leadership and Business Boot-up.
“Loveworks exists to fill that gap, especially after school,” said Carolyn Le, associate director for Loveworks. “From the time students get out of school to the time their parents are home we want to fill that gap with something positive and really intentional, and not just something to fill time but to really help our students.”
The program is looking for a wide age range of mentors, including college students and retired business professionals, Le said. The group has about 70 mentors and 200 students in the after-school program, she said. The goal, Le said, is to match a mentor with every student.
“Everybody has time to mentor and everybody has something valuable to share,” Le said. “I think a lot of people think they are under-qualified or that they don’t have enough time, but if they have even two hours a week that they can set aside then they can make a big and positive influence in a student’s life.”
Patrick said she made time for her mentorship with Blevins because it’s an important part of her life. She claims she’s learning from the relationship too.
“We talk about at Loveworks how everyone has a bucket. When it’s full you can give back to other people, but when it’s low you have to refill your bucket. I think she helps me to refill my bucket too,” Patrick said.
Mentoring is important, she said, because having a positive influence on someone else creates a chain reaction of throughout the community.
Blevins has been involved with Loveworks for four years, and this is her first year as an official leader and not a student. Patrick joined Loveworks after her freshman year at the University of Oklahoma, and has been an active member for five years.
Patrick said Loveworks changed her outlook on life, and she now has a dream of operating a nonprofit. She hopes to provide Blevins with a support system and an ear to listen during the next few years.
Through the newly formed mentorship, Blevins and Patrick have a plan to work on a service project at a local animal shelter. One of Blevin’s life goals is to open up her own animal rescue. Patrick said she plans to help Blevin’s stay accountable and on track with her goals.
Patrick and Blevins said they hope that this mentorship will last through Patrick’s high school career.
Loveworks Leadership Inc. is a partner of Mentor Norman, an initiative that aims to inform about mentor needs and change mindsets. Mentor Norman has more than 550 children waiting to be matched with mentors at a variety of organizations. Megan Sanders, one of the individuals behind Mentor Norman, said there’s a significant need for mentors.
Mentor Norman is partnered with Big Brother Big Sisters of Oklahoma, Bridges of Norman, Center for Children and Families, Community After School Program, Loveworks Leadership Inc., Norman Public Schools and Court Appointed Special Advocates for children. These organizations assess the need they have for mentors and share that need with Mentor Norman.
For those interested in finding a mentor position through Mentor Norman, visit unitedwaynorman.org/mentornorman. For a mentorship through Loveworks Leadership, visit www.loveworksleadership.org or call 405-397-9576.