His professional mentor, Jalen, is an artist too.
For Caleb*, this COVID quarantine has been a process of discovery and perseverance.
“Why did the chicken cross the road?” Caleb asked his professional mentor Jalen this last week during an outing. “Because the chicken behind it didn’t know how to social distance.”
Caleb, 11, is creative, he has a vast vocabulary, and he is obviously funny. He thrives in social settings. Caleb is very proud of the friendships he has made over the years. So, when COVID-19 shut everything down, and we all began social distancing, he had a rough time without his friends.
Jalen is a mixed media artist. Art is one aspect of his personal life that he brings into his professional life as a mentor.
“I use art as way to relax and explore my thoughts in a fun way,” Jalen said about his artwork. “I share this part of myself with my boys so that they have encouragement to find their passions.”
Over the past year, Caleb has spent much of his spare time working on his projects. He shares this passion with his professional mentor. Jalen is thrilled that Caleb has painted and drawn countless pieces throughout the quarantine and even has plans to work on digital artwork next.
With COVID-19 restrictions shifting mentors’ contact with youth to primarily virtual outings or socially-distanced drop-offs, Jalen has consistently provided Caleb with different materials and mediums to keep him engaged and encourage his creative endeavors. During their weekly virtual outings, Jalen always asks about Caleb’s artwork. If Caleb is interested, Jalen shares his work too.
Many young people nationwide are struggling to stay engaged academically and maintain their emotional well-being. Having a mentor like Jalen, who provides social connection and motivates Caleb to try new things during this extremely isolating time, helps Caleb stay hopeful while distanced from his friends.
As an artist, Jalen knows the perseverance and determination it takes to dedicate to creating art. “The key takeaway is that during times of distress, [Caleb] can turn to his artwork as a way of expression and as a coping tool,” said Jalen. The creativity, determined mindset and coping skills that Caleb has honed will help him continue to become a better artist and reach his goals long after COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.
*Name changed to protect youth's privacy.