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May 05, 2020

Stories with Friends: Part 17

One thing I have witnessed first hand with several of my youth around remote learning is this: Many of my youth have very limited access to technology. One youth had none. Another didn’t have internet access. Another was trying to use a hot spot while using her mom’s cell phone to do school work. The majority of remote learning and connecting with classmates and teachers is happening online.

Their engagement level with school had diminished a great deal because of this barrier. Working collectively with schools, teachers, FAN Advocates and Friends of the Children donors, all eight of my youth now have ways to connect and be more engaged. I witnessed my youth's growth mindset, self-determination and feeling a sense of belonging soar once this happened.

Pictured here is one youth reading an online book to me.

We Aren’t Going Anywhere–No Matter What

Dani is one of our newest Friends/mentors. During her first “Stories with Friends” session, she was excited to talk about her growing relationship with Stella.

Stella has difficulty with healthy boundaries. She struggles with a fear of abandonment and wants desperately to feel she belongs.

She and Dani (a trained gymnast) have bonded over their love of gymnastics, and Dani recently made her a beautiful card to remind her she is loved and that she belongs.

It’s not easy to develop connections through virtual means, but Dani and all of our Friends/mentors are working incredibly hard to find ways to stay close to their kids. Artwork and creative endeavors are one of the many ways they have found to remind their youth they are cared for and that we aren’t going anywhere–no matter what.

My Awesome Week

Tara finds socializing with school friends challenging. She wants friends desperately, but she’s also distracted easily by other youth and can come on too strong at times. Because of this, she has trouble keeping friends.

Before COVID-19 closed schools, she was working with her teacher on a behavior chart. They call it “My Awesome Week,” and she received stickers for accomplishing the goals she set. One goal, for example, is “I was a good friend.”

Her Friend/mentor Sarah created an awesome chart for her to have at home (pictured above), and they have been talking each week and discussing her progress. Sarah talked about our Core-Asset, Positive Relationship Building, and how she loves seeing Tara strive to be a good friend and develop close relationships with her peers. They plan to continue working toward her goals into the summer.

It’s certainly a complicated time for friendships with everyone stuck at home, but we’re so proud of Tara’s growth and hard work!

Two Stories from Andrew

Story 1:

Justin had been working really hard in school before the pandemic. Specifically, in English, which is his second language. He’s also recently found his spark (a Core Asset!) playing chess.

When the pandemic hit, and Justin couldn’t go to school any longer, Andrew had to improvise so that Justin could keep his positive momentum! He found an app where he and Justin could play chess together online, but that also includes a chat function. So now he and Justin can continue to practice his English together, using sight words from school, while they play!

Story 2:

Lincoln and his family have been going on lots of family bike rides together recently, but Lincoln didn’t have a helmet. So Andrew posted his need on a Bend Pandemic page on Facebook and was almost immediately flooded with offers to help! Andrew was able to get Lincoln a bike helmet with mohawk spikes, which Lincoln LOVED.

When he brought it to Lincoln, Andrew told him, “The neighborhood came together to give this to you.” That put a huge smile on Lincoln’s face, and the generosity deeply impacted our entire team. We’re grateful for a community that so clearly supports an important Core-Asset like Belonging. This is a time when we all need our community, and we’re so thankful for you and all who support our youth!

Collecting Rocks and Talking On The Phone

Corey acknowledged this week that he was worried the quarantine would make a connection with his youth challenging, but it turns out to have been just the opposite. They’ve found lots to talk about with Nerf gun battles to plan and adventures to go on when this is all over!

One youth, in particular, Bruce, is usually pretty distant, but recently talked to Corey on the phone for over an hour. He showed him his rock collection, and they talked about looking forward to hunting rocks together (Bruce has really found his spark collecting rocks!).

Corey also asked Bruce if they could read a story together, and he ended up reading from Iron John for over 45 minutes. Corey found ways to relate the story to Bruce’s life, and Bruce enjoyed it so much that he kept asking Corey to read more! Bruce was able to sit still the entire time, focus and even ask questions as they read.

It was a really special moment for Corey because Iron John played an important role in his journey to Friends–Central Oregon. We are so grateful, as Corey has been a true blessing in the lives of our youth and our team.