PAL Mentoring Program, Volunteers for Youth, ClaremoreErica Sanders began mentoring for Volunteers for Youth in 2016, working with two elementary students, one high school student and an e-Pal, whom she met with only once a month.
“My life has been pretty great,” said Sanders, a 2006 OSU graduate and mother of three. “I always had a roof over my head, food to eat and great parents. My heart breaks for the youth that had it otherwise.”
Sanders said she has benefitted far more from mentoring than she ever expected. She thought it would be an opportunity to have fun with kids and be a positive influence.
“Playing games and coloring with the girls brought me back to my youth and taught me how to enjoy the little things again,” Sanders said. “I especially connected with my high school mentee – so much so that when her guardianship was up for grabs I wanted it.”
Taking on guardianship of a high school girl when her oldest was only 8, Sanders knew would be a challenge, especially knowing her mentee’s background and having only one year to get to know her strong-willed personality. “It has been the hardest, most beautiful thing I have done in my life,” Sanders said.
“When you think about mentoring you think that you are giving back, but in reality you get so much more from the experience, " she added.
About the Program: The PAL Program is a school-based mentoring program that matches a Rogers County public school student with a caring adult mentor. The mentor strives to be the student’s friend, role model, motivator, and personal advocate. The mentor’s purpose is to build self-esteem, confidence, and self-worth in the student while building a friendship.