The following news release was issued by the Calaveras Youth Mentoring Program.
Seventeen years ago, Donna Shannon met Tina Miller. The pair, aged 60 and 11 at the time, respectively, were the first match ever made in the Calaveras Youth Mentoring Program (CYMP).
The two built a relationship on trust and mutual learning, a friendship that has weathered an unstable home life, a long-distance move and the effects of time.
“It was a two-way street learning thing because she grew up in a very different environment than I did,” said Shannon, who had retired from the technology industry and was a mother of three grown-up daughters when she joined the CYMP. She had enjoyed a happy childhood, nurtured by a mother who encouraged her to give back to her community. Miller, on the other hand, had already been dealt some serious trials.
“She saw another side of life,” Shannon said. “Maybe I presented something she could strive for or achieve.”
Despite her ample experience in raising her own children, Shannon found that mentoring a young person was not as easy as she assumed it would be.
“It’s so different. You’re just there as a friend to steer them in the right direction,” Shannon said. “She knew, after a while, that I was going to be there. I wasn’t going to let her down.”
For roughly four years, Shannon and Miller got together every week. As Miller grew up and started working, their time together grew more limited and, eventually, Miller moved to Arkansas. All along, the pair kept in touch, exchanging telephone calls and cards to celebrate all of the major milestones in life. Today, 27-year-old Miller is a new mother to a baby boy and continues to make Shannon proud.
“To see how happy she is, where, in the very beginning, she was a very unhappy little girl. Seeing how much more confident she is,” Shannon described the joys of mentoring. “When I hear her talk about her son and how much love is there, that’s just incredible. I know she’s wanted a baby for a long time.”
Since parting with Miller, Shannon was matched with another young person, though that relationship ended abruptly when her mentee moved away. Still, Shannon believes that mentoring is well worth the occasional heartbreak.
“I just see so many success stories,” she said.
Today, Shannon serves as president of the Calaveras Mentoring Foundation. She has enjoyed watching the program grow since its conception in 2003, streamlining its interviewing process and becoming more efficient. She encourages anyone who feels the pull to get involved to follow their heart and not worry about if they are the “right kind of person” to be a mentor.
“The mentoring team is really good about matching the perfect pair. It’s uncanny how they do it,” she said. “They will make sure you’re matched with the right kid who needs you the most.”