January: National Mentoring Month – A FHW Employee Experience
It was a year ago when Briana “Bri” VanDenHeuvel was sitting in church and heard a presentation about the mentoring program through Partners – Be a mentor, change two lives. She was intrigued. She also had no idea the positive impact on her family and what a bond she would come to have with a whole new family.
Bri is currently an FHW Medical Assistant for General Surgery and Arthritis Center. She describes herself as active and said she wants kids of her own, one day. Mentoring children (through Partners of Mesa County) is a three hours a week commitment and that sounded like something she could do. Bri completed the application, interviews, background check, and then had an unexpected challenge when she was handed dozens of options for kids enrolled in the mentoring program.
“How do I pick just one?” Bri said.
With some guidance from the Partner’s staff, she picked a teen who expressed interest in similar hobbies and interests as Bri. The mentoring developed into including a little sister whose adult partner moved out of town. Plus, the two sisters were often together and it was a natural step Bri said, to officially become the adult partner/mentor to both siblings. What Bri didn’t expect was her influence and support would extend to the whole family, and their love and acceptance of Bri would bring a completeness she hadn’t experienced before. It’s grandma plus five kids in this family. Alyana ‘Aly’ is the oldest and a sixth-grader attending middle school and her younger sister, Anabelle, is a fourth-grader in elementary school. They have three younger siblings.
“All the girls want is my time, it doesn’t matter the activity or the place,” Bri said.
Any initial doubts about herself not being ready (to mentor), not being old enough, not being far enough along in her career to offer the sisters a good example, etc. None of that matters, Bri insists. She had no idea at the time she signed up for the Partners program, but looking back she was exactly where she needed to be to connect deeply with the sisters (and really the entire family). Sometimes grandma needs an extra set of hands or one of the girls needs some encouragement. It’s the daily routine events that Bri appreciates the most with her junior partners and has had the biggest impact on how she views life these days. Community impact is something we value at FHW and it can look many different ways.
“Really anything we do together is a first-time (experience) for them,” Bri said. “They are so thankful for everything. They go to church with me sometimes or to Barnes and Noble. I’d like to take them sledding because they’ve never been.”
Grandma signed the girls up for the mentoring program as one of several positive outlets for the kids. It’s doubtful this loving lady knew how dedicated and supportive Bri would be to her granddaughters, and their whole family, but no doubt she was hoping for it.
Bri said she was trying to find her own way in life when she got involved in Partners. The kids never ask to check my resume, they enjoy doing what I love doing in life and now I’m often doing it with a friend or two. The girls get me out of my own head and open my eyes to the important things in life.
“We just take so much for granted in life,” she said. “These girls have opened my eyes to adoption. I know now an 11-year-old needs me just as much as a baby, and I’d probably adopt an older kid now.”
The first meeting between Bri and Aly was late January 2021, celebrating both their birthdays only a day apart. Since that first meeting, this last year has been packed full of experiences and firsts for the girls. Places we all take for granted, Bri said. They also go hiking and now they can bike ride together because Bri and her family purchased new bikes for both sisters (and their brother) for Christmas.
January is National Mentoring Month and our goal was to introduce you to a local program that could use a few new volunteers. If your interest is sparked, check out the website: https://www.mesapartners.org/mentoring for all the details on getting started in changing two lives!