Quality mentoring empowers youth to make smarter social choices

As part of our 20 Challenges in 2012 initiative to celebrate Mass Mentoring’s 20th anniversary, we are releasing a series of challenges to address key goals of mentoring in Massachusetts. Goal six is 20 ways that communities grow with mentoring. The Highland Street Corps Ambassadors of Mentoring have researched 20 ways that mentoring provides positive social benefits that strengthen schools, families and communities. You can read more about their findings here.

[caption id="attachment_941" align="alignleft" width="100"] Patricia Hanson-Staples[/caption]

This guest post is from Patricia Hanson-Staples, an Ambassador at Springfield School Volunteers. She interviewed David Martinez, Sr. for this post.

David Martinez, Sr. is 50-years-old with three children and six grandchildren whom he refers to as his “pride and joy.” David was born and raised in New York  by parents who are native Puerto Ricans. He recalls some of life’s struggles and triumphs that have led him here:

[caption id="attachment_940" align="alignleft" width="145"] David Martinez, Sr.[/caption]

“I remember how difficult it was for my mom when I was growing up.  One of my brothers was doing drugs, among other things, that saddened my mom and eventually broke her heart when he died of AIDS and drug abuse.  She had a very difficult time holding it all together for us.

I remember the negativity I felt in our community.  The Spanish-speaking population perceived prejudice due to our language barrier, and as a result was always expecting the worst.  When children are raised by parents who feel that way, the children take on the same mindset.  I believe that the feeling of being targeted can lead to making destructive choices.

One of my grandsons was having some difficulty in school with behavior relating to bullying and gang activity. I was called by one of the teachers and invited to observe.  I did, and realized that the issue was a lack of communication and ability to understand and deal with cultural differences. I immediately saw where I could be of help and asked the principal if I could just come in and talk to some of the students who were having similar issues, and she said, “yes.”

(Although my time is limited), I knew I had to make the time to help these students who were facing challenges that I could relate to in a very personal way.  My deceased brother used to say, “If I had someone to talk to, my life would have been different.”

I agreed to be an advisor to any of the kids who wanted to talk to me, and wound up mentoring two kids who completely turned their lives around.  I am not able to express adequately in words what that feels like. You save one and it feels like you saved the world.

-David Martinez Sr.