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Stories / Youth

Amid trauma and transition, Mason finds his way through Friends of the Children

“Sometimes I feel in awe of him,” says professional mentor Andre about Mason*, one of his youth. “There are so many adjectives that could be used to describe him; resilient, brave, enduring and strong all come to mind.” Andre mentors youth who are currently in the foster care system. While Andre and Mason have been together less than a year, Andre has already seen Mason grow academically, socially and emotionally.

Born in Africa, Mason was kidnapped, brought to America and told his birth mother died. He faced physical and sexual abuse until his father was incarcerated and Mason was placed in the foster care system.

The volatility and vulnerability of his situation makes it especially crucial that Mason has a stable and caring adult presence in his life. Or, as Andre puts it, he needs to constantly show Mason that he won’t “just vanish”.

Andre remembers one particularly rough day. Andre had joined Mason in class while he struggled through math. Frustrated, Mason stormed out of class, and Andre followed. Mason lashed out at Andre, “Just leave! I don’t want you here! I hate you!” Mason yelled at Andre for an hour and a half. Andre never left.

When Mason finally calmed down, he sat down against the lockers and cried on the cold tile floor. He apologized to Andre and the principal. Despite the initial emotion around the outburst, this situation was a tangible way to show Mason the dedication of a Friend. Andre says this moment “helped Mason realize that there are people who want him to succeed, who are going to be there to support him, and that no matter how hard a challenge [is], we could work together to overcome it.”

Alongside Andre’s constant presence, Mason has put in impressive work towards his academic success. Instead of zoning out or storming off, Mason is engaged in class and motivated to understand the material. Andre observes, “To this day I don’t know if Mason fully recognizes how far he has come in such a short time…for now he is content with just going to school, hanging out with his new-found friends and looking forward to a brighter future.” In the meantime, he’ll have Andre by his side.

*Name changed to protect the privacy of our youth.