June McTeer and Nicole Baird were a somewhat unusual mentoring pair in that they weren’t far apart in age. McTeer, who had just moved home from college when she decided to join the Calaveras Youth Mentoring Program (CYMP), was 21 when she was paired with the then 14-year-old Baird.
“I kind of expected to get someone older,” said Baird, who, at the time, was feeling lonely and in need of a positive adult influence. Yet the two young women proved to be a perfect match. “I had a lot of teenaged issues, and it was nice that she recently went through that same time frame.”
Baird had been on a waiting list for two years before McTeer signed up and was almost immediately matched with her.
“Let me tell you, there are kids on this waitlist who are dying to be your friend,” McTeer said. “You are definitely cool enough for a young person.”
McTeer describes her first meeting with Baird as “serendipity,” largely due to the fact that it wasn’t planned. The day before they were scheduled for a formal introduction, McTeer spotted Baird with her mother at a volunteer event. She had never seen a picture of Baird, but she had a strong intuition that it was her.
The following day, Baird’s identity was confirmed and the two hit it off. Soon, they were meeting every Monday for several hours, visiting new restaurants and training Baird’s new service dog to swim at the lake.
“I really wanted to support her in that because she is absolutely incredible with training animals. It’s absolutely a gift,” McTeer said.
Due to multiple extraneous circumstances, McTeer and Baird’s formal mentoring relationship only lasted one year. However, their friendship has continued well into adulthood and different stages of life.
“We’re definitely still close,” McTeer said. “I feel like our friendship is definitely to a point where Nicole knows I’m there to support her. I’m her fan. I’m here. That’s the most important thing–that she knows that.”
Baird, who is now 19 years old, was married last year. Her new last name is Contrerasancona, and she lives in Gilroy, where she is studying to obtain a degree in ecology. Three months ago, she gave birth to a baby girl named Octavia. McTeer attended her baby shower.
“It is beautiful and inspiring to know young people are so resilient and have so much passion,” McTeer said. “I’ve had the opportunity to see Nicole change over time but still have those same values and strengths in her. And now, I see her as a mom, in a new capacity.”
For McTeer, her love of working with young people has grown into a career. The 27-year-old now works as a coordinator for Calaveras Mentoring’s Friday Night Live mentoring program, which pairs middle school students with high school students.
“We are really lucky to have such a robust program in such a rural place like this,” McTeer said.
For Baird, the lasting relationship she gained from the program was well-worth the wait.
“I think the lifetime friendship was the best thing that could have come out of that,” she said. “Nothing was, you know, faked. It was all just a real friendship. She helped me when I needed it. We respected each other’s values and opinions, and now we have that to hold on to for the rest of our lives.”