Believe in Them

The following story is from Executive Director Derran Wimer’s message in the January 2017 edition of “Align & Engage.”

Are you a bridge builder? When I talked with faculty and staff in schools I led, I would remind them that we, adults, need to be bridge builders. Students cannot be expected to be the bridge builders. The kids who are difficult to reach – the ones who make bad choices, behave poorly and generally irritate you – are never going to build a bridge. 

iCARE mentor and mentee

iC.A.R.E. mentor (left) with Akron Public Schools mentee; Photo courtesy of iC.A.R.E. Mentoring, a program of United Way of Summit County

Adults have to be bridge builders.

Once the bridge is built, don’t expect a traffic jam. There will be a few kids who will come right across, ready for your help. But for the rest, they’ll need encouragement. Some will need you to come all the way to their side and walk with them across the bridge. This is especially true for the kids I mentioned above. They need you to build the bridge and cajole them to cross. Some will go kicking and screaming but will never make it. But don’t fret.

The kickers and screamers will someday remember that you tried and tried. That you never gave up on them. That you believed in them. That you had aspirations for them when they didn’t even believe in themselves. Someday they’ll remember and they’ll thank you. 

Lately I have been fortunate to hear from some of my kickers and screamers; they’re now 40 to 48 years old!  They sheepishly contact me through social media with something like, “I bet you remember me,” or “I bet you never thought you’d hear from me.” They apologize, assuming I remember their reticence and specific misbehavior. 

I do remember the kids and that they were challenging, but not usually the negative behaviors. They were teenagers… trying to figure it all out… resisting help and guidance. Then, they grew up, went to school and got jobs, had kids of their own and saw their own teenage years through a different lens.

I love these “reunions” with my former students. I feel really great when one of them reaches out to me… sort of crossing a bridge that was built a long time ago. Yes, it was and is, all worth it.