MENTORING IS NOT ONE SIDED: WHAT I’VE GAINED FROM MENTORING A TLF YOUTH

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I learned about TLF’s Teen Leadership Camp from other past counselors at my church. I was a little apprehensive at first because I’m not a very outdoorsy/athletic person but I wanted to step outside my comfort zone and not let fear stop me from getting more involved. I really cried out to God for his guidance and help in stepping out of my everyday, and He definitely answered my prayers! While at camp I was paired with Jorgina**, one of the kindest girls I know. I was really impressed with Jorgina because not only was she kind but very open and honest with me from the start, which is not common. We had a wonderful experience at camp – meeting new people, taking part in team building exercises, high ropes and zip lining. The theme was Never Give Up, with an emphasis on the truth that God never gives up on us and loves us no matter what. The messages and worship during Chapel time were uplifting and in just a matter of one day, the campers were so much more open to hear God’s word and sing along with the worship band. Camp gave all the youth time to get away from their everyday, which can be stressful and not like their peers’, and allowed them to just be kids and have fun, laugh, play and be encouraged all the counselors.

Camp gave all the youth time to get away from their everyday, which can be stressful and not like their peers’, and allowed them to just be kids and have fun, laugh, play and be encouraged all the counselors.

I’ve been wanting to be a mentor for years but have been putting it off. I knew after camp it was time to step up and be open to being used by God in a youth’s life. Jorgina was open to having me mentor her, which has been so special and rewarding.

I look forward to spending time together, learning new skills and serving our community together. I hope to be a positive role model for her and give her an outlet to have fun, see the world in a new way and become closer to God. In return, she has already blessed me with her kind and open spirit and has encouraged me to stay strong, keep moving forward and never give up no matter what life has deals us. I have just as much to learn from her as she does from me. It’s a team effort.

I’ve been wanting to be a mentor for years but have been putting it off. I knew after camp it was time to step up and be open to being used by God in a youth’s life.

**Names changed for privacy purposes

There are lots of stories like these, where mentors are making an impact as they walk through life alongside their youth. If you’re interested in becoming a mentor, or supporting the efforts of Teen Leadership Foundation, click here. 

TAKING THE LEAP, IN HIGH ROPES AND LIFE

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This past weekend at camp we watched one of our campers overcome a HUGE fear of heights.

It was the encouragement of her friends and the volunteer counselors cheering her on that empowered her to get back on the ropes course, and hop across logs that swung on ropes in mid-air. Tears were brought to her eyes as she looked back and saw what she just conquered.

Tears were brought to her eyes as she looked back and saw what she just conquered.

It was a moving moment to experience; throughout the rest of camp I watched this camper do more and more bold things. She eventually was the first to speak in group discussions and even prayed out loud-something that took great courage for her in particular.

It is hard to describe the amount of growth seen in the campers in such a short amount of time. In fact, it seems near impossible. God works in miraculous ways that time does not stand against.

I watched these unfold right before my eyes and still can’t fathom it! Even the small accomplishments made huge impacts. One camper only made it to the harness-he couldn’t jump or go on the high ropes course-he wasn’t ready. But for him to take the step to at least attempt, was a HUGE decision for him. His counselors’ affirmations for how brave that was forever impacted his life.

I am beyond moved by these kids. It was such a privilege to be a part of witnessing how God is moving and using Teen Leadership Camp to give them something to bring home into their daily lives to see they can do it. To learn from their ability and bravery to accomplish and never give up, even among fear, impacted me deeply, and challenged me to see how I can be braver in my daily life and step into what God is asking of me, even if it seems scary. It was such a privilege to be a witness and even a part of this process.

Teen Leadership Camp is impacting more and more youths’ lives every year-see how you can play a part in making a difference here.  

WHAT A TRIP TO TRADER JOE’S TAUGHT ME ABOUT BEING A BETTER MENTOR

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I am always a little nervous every other Sunday leading up to my scheduled meets with Mary. Will I make a difference today? Will it even matter if I show up? What, if anything, can I really teach her about life?

As I drive down the freeway, I ask God to guide me and help me to listen more than talk; the Sundays I get to meet with Mary, the sun is always shining-it’s like God’s way of showing me early on that he hears my ask for help.

Last week I especially enjoyed our time together during our regular excursion to Trader Joe’s. Mary’s roommate, Marsha joined us this time because they were “really low on food!” Marsha had moved in during the summer, and now the two roommates seemed much more comfortable with each other.

I was amused with the two sisters (who are both the same ages as my daughters), discussing what they were going to eat for dinner – it was going to be “Mac ‘n cheese…from scratch!“…meaning the box. Both totally agreed also on making banana bread again, so I grabbed 2 bananas at 19 cents each. Down in the pasta aisle, I convince them to buy the pound of rotini for a dollar instead of the mac and cheese box.

“Homemade macaroni and cheese, so easy!” I say. “Half stick of butter, lots of grated cheddar cheese, and whole milk!” The girls seemed excited.

On the way back to their apartment, I was surprised when Marlene asked me if I would help them research and shop for a used car at Carmax. They had a budget, and Mary knew what colors she did not want…no white and no red.

I was caught off guard because I think it was the first time Marlene addressed me by name, thoughtfully asking, “Josie, can you help us figure out what type of car to buy?” It wasn’t just a question or a request. What I heard was an invitation into her life. I felt permission to give her my advice. She wanted and trusted my advice. It was so cool, and so humbling.

It wasn’t just a question or a request. What I heard was an invitation into her life.

Mentoring is not just about making budget goals and a market list. And, It’s not always about achieving something. It’s about caring, and sharing bits of yourself-and letting the relationship grow on its own.

People don’t care what you know until they know that you care!

For more information on giving, and learning how you can invest in a youth’s future, click here.

HOW I USE MY PARENTING EXPERIENCE TO IMPACT GENERATIONS TO COME

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Sarah is a woman with a huge heart. She has a daughter, full time job, and is going to school part-time. She has a lot on her plate, but manages it with great care and intention. And I have the privilege of being her mentor.

As her mentor, I have the opportunity to watch her grow and progress. I admire her stamina and hard work, and her willingness to help. Her smile brings me so much joy, and I am honored to be a part of her life.

I don’t have all the answers and it is awesome to see that the more I depend on God, the more He is able to supply me with what I need to be a better mentor and friend. It’s amazing to me how I came into this wanting to serve and give, but I have been blessed and learned more in return.

I absolutely love spending time with her. I mostly help with parenting questions and concerns over coffee and the conversation usually leads to talking about other areas of life. I bring in certain parenting strategies with tools to help her as she grows in parenting (it’s a tough job for all moms!). I also guide her with the next steps she will be taking for school and her her find helpful resources to use for that.

It is such a privileged to be a flight crew member. I don’t have all the answers and it is awesome to see that the more I depend on God, the more He is able to supply me with what I need to be a better mentor and friend. It’s amazing to me how I came into this wanting to serve and give, but I have been blessed and learned more in return. I am humbled by how God continually provides His tangible love for us.

There are lots of stories like these, where mentors are making an impact as they walk through life alongside their youth. If you’re interested in becoming a mentor, or supporting the efforts of Teen Leadership Foundation, click here. 

WHAT IT FEELS LIKE TO LEAVE THE LAUNCH PAD

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I have been living at the Launch Pad for two years now. I am both sad and excited, because I am stepping out to my next phase of life.

I will be taking all I’ve learned at the Launch Pad and living on my own…I cannot name how many things Teen Leadership Foundation has done for me. They have helped me in getting my license, finishing school, set and order my priorities, and they have helped me reach my goals. They have encouraged me and my roommates in showing us how to respect those we live with. It goes a long way to think of relationships to create warmth in a home setting! Something I’ve never experienced before.

I now know God loves me and because of His work through Teen Leadership Foundation, I now carry that with me to my next season of life.

My mentor has been a HUGE help to me in these goals. She simply started off by driving me to my appointments. She then became so much more to me. I know she really cares for me by listening and knowing me. I also have a budget coach. She truly cares about me and has helped so much-we talk about so much more than money. Her advice has impacted my life forever. Another mentor stepping in to help me get over my anxieties about driving and eventually get my license-something I never thought possible.

My mentor has been a HUGE help to me in these goals. She simply started off by driving me to my appointments. She then became so much more to me. I know she really cares for me by taking time to listen to me and know me.

It has been a deep and lifelong blessing to be a part of Teen Leadership Foundation and living at The Launch Pad. I cannot wait to grow further and use the skills I have learned. I now know God loves me and because of His work through Teen Leadership Foundation, I now carry that with me to my next season of life.

See how you can play a part in the change happening at the Launch Pad by clicking here. 

WHAT MENTORING THROUGH TLF HAS TAUGHT ME ABOUT REAL LOVE

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One of the biggest blessings in my life has become mentoring my youth at TLF. My heart cries joyful tears in getting to know such a special person. I have been mentoring her for over three years now, and she has added a lot of fun and joy in my life. I could have never asked for or imagined what this journey would hold, and it far exceeded my expectations.

I have seen my mentee grow in self-confidence and knowing who she is as God made her.

I didn’t expect to grow as much as I have. The biggest change through this relationship has been my capacity to love. This is not about changing someone, but meeting them where they are at. I entered into this relationship thinking I was coming in as an agent of change-that I was going to teach her, rescue her, show her “the way.”

Instead, I have learned to be a true agent of change, it’s simply about loving and being there for my mentee. I say “simple” because it is doing the obvious things that may not seem like huge impactors, but they are-like listening, remembering what she’s shared and asking good questions. It doesn’t take a lot.

I entered into this relationship thinking I was coming in as an agent of change-that I was going to teach her, rescue her, show her “the way.” Instead, I have learned to be a true agent of change, it’s simply about loving and being there for my mentee.

We do all kinds of things together: bowling, hiking, watching movies, playing Monopoly, eating out and talking. We enjoy outdoor concerts with picnics and attending plays. We have attended several independent living workshops together and go to church every Sunday together.

Our latest favorite thing to do is to go walking and talking at the beach. We also work on a lot of practical life goals. She has become a part of my family. She’s included in family dinners, we pray for her, she spends Holidays with us. Our family feels honored to have her.

Children in foster care have a million people telling them what to do-they go years without a voice as to who they live with, even what they wish to wear or when they would like to visit a friend-small freedoms we take advantage of when we are young are often taken from these kids, even though they have done nothing wrong. What they truly need is not someone telling them what to do, but someone who is on their side. This looks like listening, caring, advocating, and having fun with them. Sometimes I find I am even advocating for my mentee against herself. I have learned so much about the practicalities of love through her and the heart God has given me for her.

Children in foster care have a million people telling them what to do-they go years without a voice as to who they live with, even what they wish to wear or when they would like to visit a friend-small freedoms we take advantage of when we are young are often taken from these kids, even though they have done nothing wrong. What they truly need is not someone telling them what to do, but someone who is on their side.

The biggest revelation I have had is seeing how God cares about kids who don’t have parents involved in their lives. God continually amazes me to experience His provision every time I want to do something for my mentee and her sister. I have been changed and impacted by how God wants to bless these youth. Most of all, I see the need for how He is looking for willing vessels who will partner with Him. I cannot put enough words to how moved my heart is in experiencing the growth of my mentee and privilege of our relationship.

**This is just one of many stories showing the fruit of our mentor program. Check out how you can get involved, or support our ongoing mentorship program, here. 

MY FIRST (AND DEFINITELY NOT LAST) CAMP EXPERIENCE

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It was my first time ever going to any sort of camp. I was nervous, unsure-I actually tried to cancel, but it was too late. I go through with it. 

And I CAN’T WAIT till next year! I wish I had come sooner, though, to be honest, I didn’t feel that way before I left.

Friday morning I got dropped off at the church, this is where the bus picked us up. I felt really shy because I didn’t know anyone. But, then I got really excited because all the other kids were laughing and telling me about all the fun things there are to do at camp-they had been before. Their stories were true; camp did not disappoint!

I had so many favorite parts about camp, I can’t just pick out one. We went swimming, the ropes course, zip-line, the big swing, the lake, paddle boarding and blob! Even the food was awesome! I loved the s’more campfire! The best part was hanging out with friends and paying around on the field.

I felt really shy because I didn’t know anyone. But, then I got really excited because all the other kids were laughing and telling me about all the fun things there are to do at camp-they had been before. Their stories were true; camp did not disappoint!

The theme this year at camp was “never give up” and I felt like I really took away a lot from it. I struggle a lot in life, but God has always been there for me-camp reminded me of that. It is hard because I do give up sometimes, but camp gave me a lot of encouragement to try harder and keep going.

I struggle a lot in life, but God has always been there for me…

I can’t wait for next year; I want every foster youth to experience what I got the experience.

There are lots of stories like these: lives changed through our annual summer camp, mentorships, and the truth of God’s love on display. To partner with TLF’s efforts to keep sending youth to camp to experience this once in a life time event, click here. 

A REFUGEE, AND PREGNANT: HOW TLF HELPED ONE FOSTER YOUTH TOWARDS A BRIGHTER FUTURE

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I came to the US as a refugee when I was 12 years old. Needless to say, life in America is very different from the Congo.

Not only was this a culture shock to me, but my first placement in the States was in Las Vegas…Bright. Loud. Different…The only thing I knew to do was survive.

I began learning English and went to a continuation school in Vegas.

By the time I was 15, I moved to California. This was when the fighting with my mom became physical. I was placed into a foster home by the time I was 16, and quickly after, I found out that I was pregnant.

Disagreement began with my foster family and I moved in with a friend. It felt safer.

I turned 17 and became a mother.

This is when my social worker told me about Teen Leadership Foundation.

I moved into the Launch Pad and started the program there. I cannot express the gratitude I feel in my heart for this opportunity. For the first time in a long time I feel like trust is a possibility. Not only that, but I have hope for the future of my daughter. I started a beauty school program, and have the support and guidance to graduate, something I never thought was a possibility. A few years ago, it simply wasn’t.

Thank you for the support and opportunity to develop the skills I need to open my daughter’s future and my own.

There are many stories like this, both heartbreaking and full of hope, happening at Teen Leadership Foundation. Your support and efforts through both time and financial contribution have created opportunities for stories like these to have a hopeful ending. For more information on giving, and learning how you can invest in a youth’s future, click here. 

MENTORING IS NOT ONE SIDED: WHAT I’VE GAINED FROM MENTORING A TLF YOUTH

I learned about TLF’s Teen Leadership Camp from other past counselors at my church. I was a little apprehensive at first because I’m not a very outdoorsy/athletic person but I wanted to step outside my comfort zone and not let fear stop me from getting more involved. I really cried out to God for his guidance and help in stepping out of my everyday, and He definitely answered my prayers! While at camp I was paired with Jorgina**, one of the kindest girls I know. I was really impressed with Jorgina because not only was she kind but very open and honest with me from the start, which is not common. We had a wonderful experience at camp – meeting new people, taking part in team building exercises, high ropes and zip lining. The theme was Never Give Up, with an emphasis on the truth that God never gives up on us and loves us no matter what. The messages and worship during Chapel time were uplifting and in just a matter of one day, the campers were so much more open to hear God’s word and sing along with the worship band. Camp gave all the youth time to get away from their everyday, which can be stressful and not like their peers’, and allowed them to just be kids and have fun, laugh, play and be encouraged all the counselors.

Camp gave all the youth time to get away from their everyday, which can be stressful and not like their peers’, and allowed them to just be kids and have fun, laugh, play and be encouraged all the counselors.

I’ve been wanting to be a mentor for years but have been putting it off. I knew after camp it was time to step up and be open to being used by God in a youth’s life. Jorgina was open to having me mentor her, which has been so special and rewarding.

I look forward to spending time together, learning new skills and serving our community together. I hope to be a positive role model for her and give her an outlet to have fun, see the world in a new way and become closer to God. In return, she has already blessed me with her kind and open spirit and has encouraged me to stay strong, keep moving forward and never give up no matter what life has deals us. I have just as much to learn from her as she does from me. It’s a team effort.

I’ve been wanting to be a mentor for years but have been putting it off. I knew after camp it was time to step up and be open to being used by God in a youth’s life.

**Names changed for privacy purposes

There are lots of stories like these, where mentors are making an impact as they walk through life alongside their youth. If you’re interested in becoming a mentor, or supporting the efforts of Teen Leadership Foundation click here.

Camp Returner

I was so ecstatic to return to camp this year. I was even more excited to meet new people because of how much fun I had last year. I felt really confident this year too, since last summer I have had my mentor by my side.

My favorite part of camp  was the night hike and the ropes course “of course”. My friend also got to do some of his magic tricks, and that was really cool. I also really liked the worship and prayer, I got to experience a lot more of that this year and got more involved. My mentor has been taking me to church and I really like it.

I am definitely going to keep coming back every year I can and hopefully continue on to becoming a Jr. counselor when I am 18. If there is one think I would tell someone who hasn’t been it is to GO, because it change their life. It has mine.

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