2011 has brought many challenges and many rewards. This was the first year of college for the young men I mentor and although they all made it through the first semester, chinks were starting to show in their armor. I was able to open up talks with Penn State in regards to preparing students to enter the University despite the circumstances they've grown up in and the Chancellor has gotten the staff at Penn State New Kensington to believe in making diversity with successful graduates a reality. We continued our 3rd year of high school basketball teams and this year our boys played in the championship game. It was a heartbreaker as Mookie made a half court shot that was ruled ineligible in overtime due to the clock running out. I was proud of how well our boys took the loss despite the controversy.
During this period I started helping seniors fill out their applications for financial aid. I've sort of become an expert at this. I helped at least 20 students and parents fill out their FAFSA’s this year. This is another great way for me to meet parents who I've never met. It's great to hear how appreciative they are for our programs and the time we are willing to spend with the youth.
Spring came and with it baseball. This year we had 5 teams playing and I supervised the 9-10 year olds or the "Minors". We actually played in the championship game which was a first. Baseball has been a great way to meet the parents of some of our kids. Usually by the 6th grade parents become less engaged in the activities of their kids so you don't necessarily see them.
The college semester ended during this time and I had about 9 boys who were coming home for the summer and they were calling or emailing asking about summer jobs. I didn't know what to do other than pray that doors would be opened for these young men and women. As I wrote in an earlier post, I was able to find interns or jobs for every one of these as well as others who started hearing the "Chad" could find a job for them. Thanks goes to Urban Impact, UIF Summer Day Camp and Au Bon Pain for taking a chance on these young men and women. Over the few years I've been here, I've heard war stories about how the youth will disappoint you as they go into the workforce. I experienced quite the opposite. Overall these youth performed above expectations and all are being invited back to their respective employers for the holidays and next summer.
I had one young man who've I've known almost the whole time I've been in Pittsburgh who has had difficulties making wise decisions. I was driving home one afternoon and noticed the cops and ambulances on the street. This young man had been shot in the leg and it hit his femur bone. This was the start of a wake up call. When he was able to walk around again I began seeing him making bad decisions once again. His place got raided along with his girlfriends and life became serious. He's come by the house several times and talks about changing his life around and he now has a full time job. Let's hope the call of the streets fade from his hearing.
Fall was a scary time around my neighborhood. For 6 days straight we heard shots fired within several hundred yards of our home. This culminated with a youth being shot in the leg. (different than the one mentioned above) The shooting has quieted down and I pray every day for the safety of the youth that live around me.
I helped more youth than ever enter college or get jobs than ever before. I've had one youth who I hadn't seen in over a year, although I stayed in touch with via facebook and texts call for help over a month ago. This young man left our program angry and said he was never coming back. He called me up and said we needed to meet. I definitely went with lots of suspicion. This young man came to me and said, "Chad, there's nothing out here for me. I need to get serious about life, can you help me?" That's music to my ears. I was able to help secure him a job at Home Depot. I also have gotten to know his mother and have been able to get her agreement and support in helping him turn his life around. We are currently in the process of getting him signed up for school and deciding if it's best to start in the winter semester or next fall.
I'm currently working on an Options Guide to help a mentor walk through with a youth what it takes to get on a "bus".(Career, College, Military, Ministry or Trade School) There's plenty of references to navigate this minefield and consolidating it into one location has proven to be a formidable task although I feel that others who are walking with our youth will find out that there is help but the work needs to be done.
How am I doing personally? I still feel like I've won the lottery as far as my job and career go. I can't believe I'm saying this but I love working with these youth. Some great supporters of mine have connected me with a Doctor and he is working with getting me on a healthier lifestyle. I feel closer to my family than ever before and look forward to spending Christmas with my little brother and his family. I hope there is a woman out there who would be willing to put up with a man like me and I do hope that one day I will be married again.
9 years ago, I decided to follow Jesus and give my life to serving God. I feel like I'm doing just that. I definitely not perfect and I have many blemishes but I try to Love and Honor God with all my might, and Love others even though I fall very short in this area. Everything else falls into place from try to do those two things.
I've never talked about what I'm about to talk about on my blog as I am a bit prideful at times. I live and survive in doing what I'm doing by the generous donations of those who love and know me. Some do a little and some do a lot but all do what they can. Over the years I've been here I've lost a few supporters due to financial reasons and I really need the help this year. People support me and the calling God’s put me on in life please consider giving monthly or by one time donations. If this is something you'd like to know more about please contact me at my work email address. firstname.lastname@example.org or you can always call 412-576-7790
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