Stories / Youth
Success is achievable, attainable and within reach. But success is different for everyone, and it’s not always straightforward.
A personal request from Richmond, professional mentor and Friend
As a professional mentor, I often tell them that success is achievable, attainable and within reach. I say this because that’s our goal at Friends of the Children: to set them up for a success. But success is different for everyone, and it’s not always straightforward. My boys often learn this from the tough situations they overcome.
I want to share Anthony’s story with you. He has been with Friends of the Children for 12 ½ years, and in large part thanks to your support, he has had many successes during his time in this program. But Anthony has had many challenges, too, and unfortunately, this past June he didn’t get to wear a cap and gown and graduate with his class. Not all our stories end that way; not all our youth follow the same path. For 12 ½ years though, we have been by his side, no matter what, and we will continue to do so until he finds his own success.
He was always a rambunctious, curious and passionate young man. Early on, in elementary and middle school, he struggled with focusing in a classroom setting. We spent a lot of our time together learning right from wrong, and each week, we spent hours on homework. Pushing through his challenges, Anthony was on his way to a successful high school career. But a week before he graduated from 8th grade, his grandma, who lived with him, passed away. At the time, Anthony told me, “It feels like my whole world has turned upside down.” Just a few days later, his head hung low, he accepted his certificate. Anthony also received an award for his academic achievements, but he didn’t feel much like celebrating.
By the time he reached high school, Anthony reached a breaking point. His father had left, his mother was in a relationship that was unhealthy for her, Anthony, and their relationship, and on top of that, he was learning how to grieve. For both of us, it felt like his life was spiraling out of control. He was experiencing trauma no child should have to endure, and he went into survival mode. His priorities were no longer his school work. How could they be? As his professional mentor and friend, I knew my most important role was to stay by his side. I remember he asked me, “why did this have to happen?” and later, “why am I in this situation?”
Your investment in Friends of the Children gave Anthony a renewed sense of hope and enabled us to strategize together his sophomore year. We worked out a way for him to stay on track to graduate despite these setbacks. He had worked through quite a bit, done a lot of healing and was once again eager to learn.
That spring his aunt was hospitalized, and I was there with him in the hospital room - again – when he said goodbye to another close family member. I held him as he collapsed. It was as if he was finally processing years of grief all at once. What had just days before looked like a promising path for academic success shrunk away as he retreated and returned to survival mode. His academics started to slip.
When I talk about the many barriers our youth face, these challenges Anthony was facing are exactly the kinds of experiences I think about. They are overwhelming, consuming, and most often the result of circumstances completely out of the control of these kids. As you are learning, Anthony’s challenges didn’t go away, but this didn’t change that he deserved the chance to succeed. So you continued to support Friends of the Children, and because of that, I continued to support him.
He entered his junior year as a quiet, confused, and hurt young man. Nothing like the rambunctious boy I once knew. The mountain of work he needed to complete in order to graduate overwhelmed him, yet he powered on. Your understanding of our unique model inspired you to support our youth and our program. And that meant that I could continue to work with him, his teachers, and his counselors to support his schoolwork and emotional well-being. Together, we came up with another revised plan to get him to graduation. He was motivated.
By winter of his senior year, Anthony had decided that he needed to shift his goal and attain his GED. He wanted to work to support his family, but he was still determined to get a diploma. After many conversations, we compromised and Anthony re-enrolled in school. I reminded him he wasn’t in this alone. I told him, “Nobody is in your corner like I am.” After months of waiting and endless hours of studying for his community college entry tests, he called and screamed into the phone with excitement that he had passed. This was his last chance to graduate with his class, but the following week when I asked him how classes were going he shared that hadn’t gone. His anxiety had kept him away.
That was his last chance to graduate on time. When I reminded him of that, he looked me in the eyes and said, “No it isn’t. I am going to take a 5th year and finish.” Now, Anthony plans to take a final year and is a part of the class of 2020. When youth face big challenges, it can take even bigger effort to overcome them. Anthony’s timeline hasn’t been the same as many of his peers, but with your help, he will graduate. Anthony’s journey isn’t over. Your choice to support him through this final stretch of high school is one that will change his life. I promise you, together we will do everything to get him across the finish line. Anthony has done his best, but he is a young man dealing with multiple traumas. And despite this he remains determined, dedicated, resilient, and persistent.
I won’t give up, and Anthony won’t give up. So you can’t give up. Anthony is counting on you to see him through his last push as a high school student, and his first steps toward an undergraduate degree. Let’s start this year strong. With your help, Anthony will graduate. Please consider a gift by August 31st. It will make the impact of a lifetime.
Success is achievable and attainable for our youth. Will you invest in Anthony’s success? Thank you for making our youth a priority.