THE POWER OF MENTORING By Nancy Torrison—The unsung heroes… resourceful single moms

Angela Young (l), Sondra Samuels and Ciara -Photo courtesy of Kinship

Angela Young is a single mother of three children. Her home was recently damaged in the tornado that swept across North Minneapolis May 22. She and her children are living in a hotel in Brooklyn Park and are dealing with the multitude of challenges that come along after losing a home and experiencing the trauma of a violent storm. Her day to day challenges have included moving from one hotel in St. Paul to a better hotel closer to home, meeting with Red Cross and FEMA officials and contractors, helping neighbors, looking for resources to pay for the hotel, getting her children to their schools and activities (daughter Dejah takes a 90-minute bus ride each day to the U of M for a young entrepreneurs class), and keeping up with her own job. Yet, as she is known for, Young carries on — one day at a time — doing what she can and what she must to help her children stay on track at school and in life.

This past winter Young made two major steps in her life: one was to join the Northside Achievement Zone (NAZ) and the other was to contact Kinship to find mentors for her children. NAZ is a collaborative movement of nonprofit service providers, schools, and churches who are working together to guarantee college readiness for all of its enrolled children. Kinship is one of the NAZ mentoring agencies.

Kinship matched Young’s six-year-old daughter, Ciara, with community leaders Don and Sondra Samuels and their three children. It is always a big decision for parents to choose to share their children with adults outside of the home, but Young didn’t give it a second thought. She wants the best for her kids.
“As far as I’m concerned, if someone can be a positive role model to my kids, I need to let them. Our children are the future of this world, the vines that will become our workers and helpers,” Young added.

When asked what she would say to people who would consider mentoring a child, Young replied, “Mentors can be the positive distraction from video games and internet. It can teach important things and change attitudes. Becoming a mentor to a child is a way to save the world. What could be more important?”
Since Ciara has been matched with the Samuels family, Young has noticed marked improvement in Ciara’s behavior.

“Ciara used to be one of those kids who was moved out of class every day because of her behavior. She has ADHD and defiant disorder and she didn’t feel the need to behave. Since she started spending time with ‘her other family’, as she refers to the Samuels, she has stayed in the classroom most days and is becoming a better young lady,” Young said. The highlight came this spring when Ciara was named student of the month.

“Ciara feels important because of the extra attention and she is showing better respect toward me because of her exposure to Don and Sondra’s kids. She watches the Samuels girls carefully when she spends time at their house, and her behavior shows it.”

From Don and Sondra Samuel’s view point, the real hero is Young.

“I see her working stuff for her kids and I am amazed by her resourcefulness and tenacity,” shared Sondra Samuels. “Angela is an inspiration for my life and I have learned so much from getting to know her and her children. Honestly, it feels like we are getting more than we give as mentors. We are so grateful for this opportunity to mentor — it’s different than just being a neighbor. It’s a deeper and more fulfilling kind of relationship.”

Don Samuels has noticed a subtle shift in his relationship with Ciara and he feels gratified to know that he is becoming a trusted male in her life.

“She was the least comfortable with me at the beginning,” said Samuels, “but as time goes on she is able to observe how my own daughters relate to me and the shyness is diminishing. Ciara’s initial comment about me was, ‘He’s just too big’. Now, she actually asks for me when she comes over.”

Don Samuels was happy to be part of Ciara’s healing process after the tornado struck their home and neighborhood last month. He is glad that his family was able to help Ciara process and talk about the crisis and, his being one of the fortunate homes that didn’t sustain damage, he knows his home has been a bit of a refuge for her.

The Samuels noticed Angela’s vision for and commitment to her kids long before the tornado hit, but since then, their respect has grown even more. Being heavily involved with the Northside recovery, they know the challenges and headaches families are facing. They are impressed that Young has found creative ways to improve her family’s situation as they wait for a more normal life to return.

Kinship’s match coordinator, Raquel Bagley, had this to share, “Angela is a provider. She didn’t let the tornado uproot her children’s normal schedules and habits. She knows that life has to remain the same and she is determined to make everything as normal as possible for her children. I admire moms like Angela because she has a go-getter spirit and is unselfish about giving to her children.”

One of Don Samuel’s beliefs is that in every tragedy there are seeds of grace. Mentors and parents working together, with or without crisis, can be a powerful thing. Bridges are crossed and the sense of community is strengthened. The seed of grace is the new village formed by these relationships — a very special village that is focused on improving kids’ lives.
Join the village — mentor a child.

To learn more about Kinship, call 612-588-4655 or go to www.kinship.org.
Nancy Torrison is director of community relations for Kinship of Greater Minneapolis.