Rob & RJ
I always had problems. I was 11 when I found out my dad was seeing other women. We moved many times, and my mom and dad argued. I remember waking up one morning to my mom arguing with my dad. My mom opened my door and said she was leaving. I didn’t see her after that for one year.
That was the longest year for me. I was very depressed and didn’t talk much. I became a daredevil and started doing crazy things. I felt I had nothing to lose. Finally my mom came back. When I was 13 my mom divorced my dad. We lived with my dad until my mom got custody of us when my dad couldn’t pay the rent.
My brother and I took to the streets. For a while there were no problems. Then one day when I was walking alone I ran into a group of guys that resulted in a fight with me and my brother. This started fighting that went on for about nine months. I started carrying a metal pipe with me at all times. The fighting would have gone on longer, but I got seriously injured and my mom didn’t let us leave the house anymore.
I saw counselors who asked how my family was. I said I didn’t have much family—it was like we were all drifting. My father was drug dealing and was caught in the act. He was in prison for a while. I turned 15 and was still getting to know counselors.
Telling other people about my life affected me. I felt I had a chance of changing a few things. I was told of a program called “Friends for Youth” and said “why not?” I thought it would be nice to have someone take me away from my house for a while. I got fed up with the idea that I might end up a low-life. I was on the waiting list, but I didn’t care that I had to wait. A few days passed and I thought, “What am I going to do to survive in the future?”
I got a call from the Friends for Youth program and was invited to a San Francisco Giants game. I was thinking to myself, “I’ve never actually been in a baseball stadium.” It was a Saturday, and I got picked up and taken to a tiny piece of building that was the Friends for Youth office to wait for other people going to the game.
When we got to the stadium I was thinking we were going to enter through the front, find some seats, and watch the game. But we learned Friends for Youth was to be given an award from Oracle, and we were given Oracle Giants shirts to wear. Then we entered through a side door, and I was wondering why we were going through the side. They opened up a door and there was the field ahead!
We got to step onto the field while someone talked about Friends for Youth. It was weird for me to be a part of that. I was reminiscing about my past and how I could be standing where I was at that moment. I thought about how I could not have been there if I didn’t sign up for the program. I sat next to a guy named Rob. I remember talking to him about something but I can’t remember what. We just kept talking like we knew each other for some time. I also remember Rob asking if I was on the waiting list, and I told him I still was.
A few weeks went by and my mom decided we should move. When we moved I had to transfer to another school.
Months went by, but then I got a call from Friends for Youth saying that I got a mentor. When my mentor came to my door, I saw it was Rob! I’ve been with Rob for more than a year already. My life is much better than it was before. I am pushing myself to do better in school and to graduate high school.
I still have normal problems at home, but I’m not worried about that anymore. Thanks Friends for Youth!
I first heard of Friends for Youth in 1989 from a friend who was a mentor and then worked at the office. After hearing about her “Junior Friend,” I decided to find out more information. I went through the orientation, screening process, training and was matched as a Senior Friend to Jose.
We had a great year participating in a number of Friends for Youth subsidized events ranging from trips to Alcatraz, water skiing, and of course going to the Holiday Party. After completing our first year, we decided to continue our Friendship. Until a few years ago, I still kept in touch with Jose.
I hadn’t been active with Friends for Youth for a while after that but was asked to participate in an activity with kids on the waiting list. Friends for Youth was to receive an award before a S.F. Giants baseball game. We all got to go on the field while they were making a presentation which was a very memorable experience.
During the game, RJ came over and sat next to me. We had a really nice conversation and got along so well that I found myself interested in being a Senior Friend again. Well, it has been over a year now since I became RJ’s Senior Friend. We have visited the California Academy of Sciences, the Exploratorium, and toured the Academy of Art University, and we are trying all the pizzas offered at California Pizza Kitchen!
I am not a parent yet, but feel like one to the extent that RJ has let me into his personal and academic life. What I will remember most is when RJ asked if I would come to his Back To School Night. Agreeing to participate was something I won’t soon forget.
I helped facilitate a meeting recently with his stepfather, mom, and student teacher. During the meeting I really felt as much a part of his family as my own, as his stepfather talked about his expectations for RJ and their life at home.
I figured I would come to the Friends for Youth program and be able to turn kids around so they would go on to college and be successful. RJ and Jose both taught me that one does not need to attend college and have a good job to be considered successful.