For privacy purposes, some names have been shortened.
Ten months ago, Jordan was preparing to meet his 16-year-old mentee and his family for the very first time over Zoom. Unsure of what to expect, he joined the call and listened as our Youth Mentoring Program Coordinator translated and relayed the family’s hopes for the mentorship.
“After that first meeting, it kind of opened it up and we had to earn each other’s trust,” said Jordan, who is a third-year medical student. “Over the course of the year, we’ve done that. He’s really opened up to me a lot more.”
As Jordan and his mentee, J, began to get to know one another over a game of twenty questions in their first one-on-one session, they were able to connect and build a relationship that would ultimately lead to a change for the better in both their lives.
“I found out he’s interested in videogames and computer science or coding,” he explained. “I tried to key in on that.”
With the introductions out of the way, Jordan began working on the goals that his mentee’s mother had laid out for them in their first meeting: community and academics.
“She wanted to see him make more friends or be able to talk to people,” he said. “We’ve worked on that a lot this year, and his mom said she’s seen a big change in that.”
Each week, Jordan would give J a small task, such as introducing himself to a classmate. Over time, the little moments began to build upon one another until J had a community of friends both in and outside of school. Now, he’s in a group chat with friends, chatting about videogames and sending GIFs to one another.
At the same time, Jordan and J were also working on improving his grades in preparation for college.
“Junior and senior year are important,” Jordan explained to J during their time together one day. “You want to have a good GPA if you’re going to college.”
Since then, J’s grades have been steadily improving to the point where he proudly showed off his report card—full of straight As—to Jordan on one of their calls.
Soon, Jordan and J’s time together as mentee and mentor in our Youth Mentoring Program will come to an end, but Jordan doesn’t plan on stopping there.
“When I signed up, I committed to at least a year, but I want to keep this thing going because I want to see where he goes,” said Jordan, who grew up serving others overseas and in the Knoxville area. “The most important part of life is connecting with other people and trying to leave a positive impact on other people.”
Because of this, Jordan aims to continue meeting with J on a bi-weekly basis for as long as he is willing. For him, he feels as if he has learned as much as J during their time together.
“Knowing that we’re surrounded by people such different experiences is a big learning curve for me,” he said. “He’s had a very positive effect on me and how I view things.”
With that in mind, Jordan encourages future mentors to be open when meeting their mentees and to be prepared to get to know them and their culture.
“It’s really important to lay the groundwork at the beginning and get a good foundation on your relationship—who they are, where they come from, their whole story,” Jordan encouraged. “It helped establish trust in a relationship that we can build on better.”
Together, Jordan and J are making strides in their community, building welcome and relationships with each other and those around them.
Jordan, thank you for all that you do and for sharing your experience with us.
Do you want to invest in refugee and immigrant youth in Memphis like Jordan? Join us as a youth mentor this year as we launch our boys’ group in February.