Be a Buddy. Change a Life.
By George Burns | September 10, 2019
Another school year is underway and I am looking forward to starting my sixth year as a “Bright Buddy” mentor to my friend Julian. Julian is starting 9th grade at Frisco High School. It seems like only a short time ago when I met him – he was in 4th grade at Bright Elementary, now called Bright Academy.
With the loving encouragement and nudging of my wife Courtney, I volunteered to become a St. Philip’s Bright Buddy mentor. Our friend Tiffanie, who had been in the mentoring program, was moving out of the area and looking for a new mentor for her “Buddy” Julian. At the time I had just started a job where I mostly work from home, which gives me flexibility with my time during the day. I had no excuses not to do it. In December 2014 Tiffanie introduced me to Julian and we have been meeting during his lunch period almost every week of the school year since.
Julian plays football and basketball and likes the Dallas Cowboys, video games and superhero movies. He has a sister in the same grade and a younger sister who just started 6th grade. I think having a sister in the same grade as you is probably enough reason to need a mentor. When we were first meeting Julian needed help practicing reading. We would eat a quick lunch then go to the library to read some books for fun. His favorites were graphic novels, sportsbooks, Bone, 39 Clues, and I Survived. Now we mostly eat lunch and talk about what is going on in his life. How did the football team do this week? How are your classes, what are you learning? What trouble is happening around campus (my personal favorite)? Did you see this week’s episode of The Flash? Sometimes we talk a lot and sometimes not, which is okay too.
When Julian finished 5th grade I decided I would like to continue to see him into middle school and thankfully he wanted to as well and FISD obliged. My thinking was that while it was important to help Julian with his reading in elementary school, it would be important to be there for him during his pre-teen and teen years. It has been a real blessing to be able to do so, and that Julian wants to see me too. At his age, I would have been too embarrassed about what the other kids would say. At the end of every school year, I tell him I would love to see him the following school year if he wants to continue seeing me too.
Besides spending time together, what I like most about our relationship is that I get to be an adult figure in his life who is not a parent. I think it is important for youth, at-risk or not, to have someone like a relative, teacher, family friend, youth leader, pastor, etc. who cares for them that they can speak with freely. I am not responsible for discipline or the day-to-day struggles of parenting. If Julian gets in trouble at school, this allows us to talk about what happened and how to handle the situation differently next time and not focus on the fact that he got in trouble.
As with my own kids, I look forward to being there as Julian grows into adulthood. My fantasy is that I will go to his graduation hoping that I have somehow been a positive influence on his life so that he can become a successful adult. I encourage anyone who is thinking about being a mentor to try it. For not much effort you can help make a difference in a young person’s life. For some families it is a struggle to be able to provide the attention and guidance young people need. As a mentor you are helping those families and in doing so making our village better.