Mentoring offers support, ‘someone to talk to’
January is National Mentoring Month, and research has shown there are many benefits for mentees in a mentoring relationship. Youth in a mentor relationship build better relationships with their families, have fewer run-ins with the law and are less likely to drop out of school. Moreover, 69% of youth say having a mentor helped them with their educational issues, and 74% have said a mentor relationship contributed to success later in life.
In 2021, Christian faced some challenges as he transitioned from high school to college. Christian’s mother felt he needed some help and reached out to Youth Villages.
LifeSet provides Christian a mentor
Christian was referred to Youth Villages’ LifeSet program. “He wanted to go to post-secondary education, and he needed that extra support through college,” said Claudia Wilder, Christian’s LifeSet specialist.
At 17, Christian joined LifeSet as he prepared to enter college. A year later, he became a LifeSet Scholar. Through LifeSet Scholars orientation, Christian learned one of the requirements was having a mentor.
“Christian had other mentors in his past through school and church, but they were more formal,” Wilder said. “That’s what I like about mentors through LifeSet Scholars. It’s an informal, casual mentorship. It’s more of a friendship.”
Mentoring helps Christian’s journey through college
Since 1998, Youth Villages’ Chris Crye Mentoring Program has matched mentors with mentees for youth the nonprofit serves in West Tennessee. The program’s leaders go to great lengths to put together mentor-mentee matches they believe will work.
In March 2023, Christian was paired with Adam Scheidegger, an IT manager at Youth Villages. Although both had been in previous mentor relationships, there was a period where the two had to find out about each other.
“At the beginning, I was in curiosity mode,” Adam said. “That’s the general approach I have to new people. I am curious about what they are interested in, what things they don’t like, do like. I wouldn’t have been offended if it didn’t work out, but we clicked.”
On their first visit, Adam learned quickly about Christian’s interest in memes. Christian shared a fish meme, and it became his contact photo on Adam’s cellphone.
“The first time we met, he gave me the real him,” Adam said. “He told me what he was into, and what he liked doing.”
In addition, the two enjoy meeting at coffee venues around town while they discuss another interest of Christian’s: gaming. They play video games and chess on Christian’s iPad, but his favorite is pastime is Minecraft.
It’s good for me because I get to relive some of my teenage experiences. I get to understand what 19 is like again, being in college, being a late teen.
The mentor relationship for Christian is more than picking up a fellow gamer. He’s got someone who can be a sounding board as he journeys through college and makes the transition to adulthood.
“It’s nice to have someone who understands, someone you feel comfortable to talk with,” Christian said. “Talking about some things with parents or friends may seem a little weird. I can talk with my mentor about anything. It can be school, it can be Minecraft, whatever.”
During their visits, Adam offers encouragement for Christian on his college assignments, breaking them down in more manageable ways to complete. Last summer, Adam also invited his mentee to the Main Operations Building to see the inner workings of Youth Villages.
“Seeing what Adam does was interesting… learning about how wiring is set up with computers,” Christian said. “I also got to do a job shadow with Bryan (Rollins) in graphic design in the Communications department.”
The duo continues to meet, as Christian enters the second semester of his sophomore year. Although he hasn’t zeroed in on a major yet, Christian credits LifeSet and mentoring for where he is today. “I probably would not be where I am in college if not for LifeSet, which provided me a mentor,” Christian said.