Jennifer & Iliana
Junior Friend Iliana’s Story
About four years ago, when I was 12, I used to be happy. I had a good family…we were like any other family. But then, my older sister got pregnant at 14. This was one of the biggest impacts that happened in my life.
This hit my parents hard and that’s when everything changed. It was too much for me to handle. I did not care about school, I would always be in the streets with my “friends”. I didn’t like going home. My counselor talked to me about a program called Friends for Youth. At first I didn’t know what a mentor was, but my counselor said it was like a friend, only older. I got excited about it and signed up. I still remember the day Jennifer came to meet me and my family….
It was a rainy day in March and it was cold, but I didn’t care I was so excited. Finally I met her and she said with a big smile, “Hi, I’m Jennifer”, and I said, “Hi, I’m Iliana!”
Ever since that day I have had a lot of trust, respect and confidence towards Jennifer. I thought I was going to be shy, but I felt something special, like I already knew her. For the last couple of years she has helped me change. I started going places I had never gone before. I met new people, and I got into sports. My bad grades turned into A’s and B’s. I NEVER thought I could have done this.
I am pretty sure that if I would not have met her I could have gone to jail, dropped out of school, and been involved in gangs. I know my life would be messed up, and I really do thank this program for giving me this opportunity. For me Jennifer is not simply a mentor. She is like a big sister. I call her “MyGuardian Angel” that God put in my way. It’s funny because when we go out people think we are related. I don’t really know why—she has blond hair and green eyes and I have black hair and brown eyes! She is very special to me. We always have fun everywhere we go. I like to hang around with her, she is a good positive person. She doesn’t judge people; she respects you. Our relationship is very special and valuable. Everyday it grows more and more. Thanks to her I feel more prepared and more confident with myself and towards others. We have learned a lot from each other, and I hope that we can keep it like this forever.
Well, this is my story and a little of my life. One of the things that I learned is that “no matter what life throws at you, never stop trying!”.
Thanks Friends for Youth!!
Senior Friend Jennifer’s Story
I was first introduced to the concept of “mentoring” when I was a freshman in college. I became very interested in mentoring and actually started volunteering for when I was home for Holidays and breaks. I almost immediately was enthralled with the concept of mentoring and knew that someday I wanted to become a mentor. Because of my experience volunteering I decided to study business in college – with a concentration in Non-Profit Marketing. I quickly became aware that non-profits also need exceptionally good businessmen and women to run their organizations. My mantra had always been “to those much has been given, much will be required.” I was blessed with an amazing family and childhood and knew I needed to pass that on – to give back what I had been given. During college, I decided to take this mantra seriously and decided to devote my career to the world on non-profit work.
When I graduated from Baylor University in May 2002, I moved to the Bay Area and almost immediately began researching mentoring opportunities. I found Friends for Youth on a volunteer website and immediately called to inquire about being a mentor. Soon after, I went through the screening process and was matched with Iliana Medina early in 2003. At the time I was matched with Iliana, I was working for a political advocacy organization that worked to improve the school systems in California. I then went on to work for two political campaigns and another advocacy and research group working on children’s issues in California. I had always thought it would be a blast to work for Friends for Youth, but an opportunity had never arisen. Last April, I was attending a Friends for Youth volunteer appreciation event when I was approached about an open position available. Two months later, I found myself as a new program coordinator for Friends for Youth.
My relationship with Iliana has truly revolutionized my life – and I don’t say that lightly. When I signed up to mentor Iliana, I thought I would be the one pouring into her life, but I’m positive that I’ve gotten as much; if not more, from the relationship. I’ve learned so much about her culture, her family makeup, youth culture today, and the dynamics of Redwood City.
Our relationship has brought such a unique and different perspective in my life that I would never have imagined. We absolutely love being together. Even after three years, we still spend at least 3 hours together each week. She truly has become a huge part of my life – she’s met all my family members and friends and they all love seeing her and asking how she’s doing. It’s been such a joy to experience life with her these past three years. I’ve absolutely loved seeing her eyes light up when I introduce her to a new place, person, idea or concept. Her friendship has truly been a gift to me – I couldn’t be more honored or thrilled to now be working for the organization that made this experience a reality for me.