Can we get an “amen?”
The joyful noise coming from the David R. Pinn Center in Fairfax on Saturday wasn’t a gospel revival, but it was just as inspiring and enlightening.
“Mentors can truly make the difference between struggle and success.”
—Beverly Howard, director, Fairfax Families4Kids
“C’mon now. I want to hear from everybody. Give me an adjective to describe your mentor… How about amazing?” asked Beverly Howard, the “dynamic” director of Fairfax Families4Kids.
“How about chill!” said Stanton, 14, sporting yellow sunglasses and a baseball cap, making everyone laugh.
“Supportive,” shouted one teen. “Caring and helpful,” shouted another.
The boisterous call-and-response session was part of a special luncheon hosted by Fairfax Families4Kids, a foster-mentoring program run by Fairfax County’s Department of Neighborhood and Community Services, to celebrate National Mentor Month. Created in 2005, the program’s mission is to build bonds between volunteers and foster children, a majority of whom are 14 years old or older.
“Mentors can truly make the difference between struggle and success,” Howard said. “Our mentors are all heroes.” She said research has shown that volunteer mentors can play a powerful role in reducing drug abuse and youth violence as well as boosting academic achievement.
While Howard was more than willing to praise mentors, many of the mentors and youth were just as enthusiastic about her.
“Miss Beverly is fun and funny,” said William, a 13-year-old in the program who was recently adopted. “When we’re sad, she brings us up.”
“She uses her soft, inside voice with us,” said a 16-year-old foster youth. “She doesn’t yell. I like that.”
Another foster child spoke movingly about his mentor, “Mr. Keith” Foxx, one of the program’s first mentors. “He’s a great basketball player. He’s smart, and he’s always happy to see me.”
Paris, a 16-year-old singer/songwriter, praised all the mentors by leading the group in singing “We Are The World,” playing her jazz interpretation of the song on a guitar. After several years in the program, Paris was recently adopted.
“Paris is so talented. She’s an avid reader and she writes poetry,” said Alexandra LaJoux, a mentor who lives in Fairfax. Lajoux—known for her exuberant personality, and her penchant for bursting into song—is a music teacher who became involved in the program when she volunteered to teach a class.
“And let me add that I love the name Paris,” LaJoux said with a mischievous grin, before snapping her fingers and serenading Paris with the Cole Porter classic “I love Paris.”
“I love Paris in the spring time; I love Paris in the fall; I love Paris in the summer when it sizzles; I love Paris in the winter when it drizzles…’I sang that song to her the first time I met her,” LaJoux said, laughing. “You can see, we’re just one big family here.”
Inspired to Mentor
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors recently recognized January as National Mentoring Month. “As a nation, we need to ensure that all of our young people are well equipped to lead healthy and productive lives. You can help a young person prepare for a successful future by volunteering with a local mentoring program,” said General Colin L. Powell, the spokesperson for the national campaign, during an event in Washington, D.C. last week. As part of National Mentoring Month, we asked mentors with Fairfax Families4Kids, a Fairfax County foster-mentoring program “What Inspires You to be a Mentor?”
Photos of mentors courtesy of Joan Brady of Great Falls. Brady, a professional photographer, volunteers as a mentor, photographer and videographer for Fairfax Families4Kids.
Click Photo for Flash
“Yeah, one big crazy family,” Paris said, smiling.
The celebration ended on a high note, as mentors gathered around a chocolate cake with candles.
“Blow out the candles and make a wish,” said Howard. “I wish all of you loving families.”