"What motivated me to become a mentor with EWOM was that it is an organization which helps children who don't have permanent homes. This touched me on personal level. I spent the first four years of my life in the New York foster care system. Then my foster care parents adopted me. We moved around a lot because we were a military family. However, when my dad retired in 1986, it was hard for him to provide adequate housing for us. As a result, we became homeless. We moved in with my grandmother. I was starting the sixth grade but I still felt very sad and alone in the world. One thing I missed was spending time outside.
"One day I made an appointment to talk the school counselor. I told her about my home life. The next day she invited me to have lunch with her and let me invite my best friends. I was on top of the world. It made me feel so special. Spending time with her was like a little ray of light coming through the tiny windows of the basement where I slept. It also gave me hope and a little faith that things would get better. On this day I decided that I wanted to become a counselor. I wanted to bring that same ray of light and brighten other kids' lives -- particularly kids who were much younger than me. When I became a teenager, I decided I wanted to be a mentor and continue that path into my adult life."
That school counselor changed the trajectory of Mychele's life, giving her hope where previously she had felt alone and fearful. Mychele was born on October 30, 1979, in Brooklyn, New York. She spent the first part of her childhood in New York, then moved with her new family to Maryland. She has called Prince George's County, Maryland, "home" ever since. She is currently a student at University of Maryland's University College studying for a second bachelor's degree; this time in Psychology. "I decided to study Psychology as part of my continuing recovery from a diagnosis of PTSD. I wanted to learn how my experiences have affected me and why. Through studying psychology, I hope to understand and give more love to myself so that I can continue to give it to others. As a career I would like to continue mentoring youth through being a guidance counselor or a play therapist," she explains.
Mychele is giving back through this program, but long before we knew her, Mychele understood the power of mentoring when she intervened in the life of a first grader who was being ignored by her peers. "I decided that in my spare time I would talk to and spend some time with her. To make a long story short, I mentored her until she was 16 years old. At her high school graduation, there were three people there: her late maternal grandmother, her mother, and myself. It was one of the proudest moments in my life."
Like all of our mentors, Mychele offers her mentee the opportunity to speak and to really be heard. "My mentee and I went to the movies, the library, and spent a lot of time at the community center near where she stayed. Some of the best times I had with my mentee was when we were riding in the car and engaging in conversation. She talked a lot about loss. For example having to go to so many different schools, missing her favorite pet dog, and how she and her family became homeless. It was also talking about lighter stuff that was memorable too. Like why when she bit into her plum it turned pink and when I bit into my plum it turned red. She was so curious. I think she would have enjoyed making a science fair project on this topic."
"What made smile the most was when we were at the movies. She was in awe of everything: the displays of the different candies, the photo booth, the big screen, etc. It was like she was able to let go for a couple of hours and be the child she is. I think she really enjoyed herself. I think my mentee enjoyed having someone to talk to about what she had gone through. I think having a mentor in her life made it easier for her to be herself. Being a mentor helped me see strength I didn't know I had. It also help me realize some of the unexpressed feelings I had inside me from when I was a child."
Mychele summed up her feelings about our work with vulnerable young people this way: "Empowerment to me means loving the person I was and have become. It also means loving and honoring other people for who they are. I believe we are all connected through a loving higher power."
We love having Mychele in this program! Thanks to Mychele and all of our generous mentors.