“Programs don’t change people. People change people.”
There is an audible sigh of relief as the bell rings and students rush into the courtyard, naturally dispersing into cliques. Their faces look tired, like they can’t consume one more piece of information. Although they conceal their teenage insecurities behind loud chatter, fresh sneakers and a blasé attitude, they each possess the same desire that dwells inside of all of us; the desire to be fully known and fully loved.
My name is Brian Larrabee and I am the Founder, Executive Director of Good City Mentors. We partner inspiring businesses and brands with local high schools to provide school day mentorship. Our team-mentoring model drastically increases the number of caring adults in a youth’s life, providing them with a sense of belonging. Our Personal Leadership Development programming provides structure to the mentoring process, but it is all rooted in the core foundation of consistent, caring relationships.
Our hour together goes by too quickly. The bell rings again and students linger a little longer, hanging on to every precious second with their mentors. This diverse group of people who took the time out of their busy work schedule to simply sit and listen has now earned the upmost respect and trust of a generation that can sometimes be elusive. As the teens head back to class I notice a new pep in their step. Every student is smiling and seems refreshed. After our program every week, I always ask the students how we can better serve them. I expect them to ask me to help them get into college or find a job, but they always have the same answer; they simply love having someone to talk to. It’s evidence that relationships are everything.
Looking back on my days in high school, I don’t remember any of the writing assignments I had for homework. I don’t remember what I scored on my Geometry test, or how many shots I made in our basketball State Championship game. What I do remember is my teacher, Mrs. Dutcher, taking the time to sit with me after class to help explain a challenging assignment. I remember Coach Carmello putting more emphasis on how I treated my teammates than how I performed on the court. I remember my mentor, Doug Kilmer, sitting me down for a heart to heart when I was hanging with the wrong crowd, to remind me that I wasn’t acting like the man that he knew I was.
There are so many amazing programs we can implement at our schools to try to set our students up for young adulthood success. But ultimately, programs don’t change people. People change people. I urge us to be a community who will show up for our youth, take time to listen, and help them discover their passions. Whether you are a teacher, parent, or single professional chasing after your own aspirations, we all can make a tangible difference in someone else’s life simply by showing up.
If you don’t currently work directly with students or aren’t a parent or guardian you too can “show up” and make an impact by finding a local program like Good City Mentors to volunteer for.