May 26th, 2020
Posted In: Campaigns
By: Anabel Hernandez
2019-2020 Youth Advocate for Mentoring
As much as I’d like to say that it’s easy working with youth, it would discredit the growth, commitment and passion that it takes to accurately serve them. After working four years at a nonprofit youth-serving organization, I was able to understand what it takes to be there for them and all the hard work and devotion my mentors had in supporting me growing up. However, there were times where as much as I felt their support, I often felt alone in dealing with the struggles of my upbringing. The youth that I had the privilege of working with reminded me of myself growing up. They were trying to fill the gaps of their parents’ care, often acting as a parent themselves in looking over their younger siblings while navigating through the stages of childhood and learning the responsibilities of adulthood. It made me realize that for all the youth I was serving, I had to be the person I wish I had growing up.
As a child, I didn’t realize how traumatic it was to live with a parent who had substance abuse problems. I didn’t know that I was internalizing this behavior as a direct reflection of their parenting or who they were as a person. Instead, I bottled these emotions and thoughts throughout my childhood only to be reopened for healing by the people around me who I was fortunate enough to call mentors. So, when I would talk with the youth that I was working with and learned that their stories were similar or far worse than mine, I knew that I had the responsibility of being there for them in whichever capacity that looked like for them.
Now as an adult, I’m able to identify the effects that nontraditional upbringings can have and how emotional trauma can hinder their mental health. When youth are at a disadvantage in properly receiving treatment and care, that’s when they are at most in need of a mentor. As I’ve moved on from my work in the nonprofit sector to working for a local government office, I’m exploring different avenues in how to advocate for those youth in need. I wish I was able to do more and reach out to all of those who are trying to make sense of what’s going on in their head and the world around them. In these unprecedented times that we are living in, now more than ever do I believe in the need for mentors. With this in mind, no matter what experience you’ve gone through or however much you think you’ve failed, you too can play your role as a mentor and be the person you wish you had growing up.