“I can’t do it!” Daniel cried in frustration. “Spelling is too hard!” His tears surprised me. The leaders at Casa Chirilagua, who introduced me to Daniel, warned me that he was full of energy (and he was) but he had never gotten so upset before.
“Look,” I assured him. “You’re a better speller than a lot of adults I know. We just have to keep practicing.”
After several more months of hard work, Daniel showed me his first A+ spelling test. I still have a picture of him with that test, his wide smile missing several baby teeth. He was so proud of himself.
Daniel Cruz is a fifth grader at Mount Vernon Community School: “Every week, Ms. Jen and I do my homework and read. We do math flashcards too. We read ‘Diary of a Wimpy Kid,’ ‘Franny K. Stein’ and ‘Big Nate’ books. I have been working with Ms. Jen since first grade. We have done special things like going ice skating, going to the zoo, getting ice cream, going to the Spy Museum and laser tagging. From Ms. Jen, I learned about samurais, spies and dinosaurs on our special trips."
My journey as a mentor began in early 2010. I felt called to become more involved in the local community and I have always had a passion for helping kids in need. When I heard about Casa Chirilagua’s mission in our community, I knew this was the path that I should take. I pictured my future mentee as a quiet, sweet girl who loved reading and getting straight A’s. Imagine my surprise when I met Daniel, a very rambunctious first grader who loved comic books, soccer and clowning around.
It’s hard to believe that nearly four years have passed and he’s now in 5th grade. Inspired by his teachers, Daniel has developed a renewed love of learning this school year. Recently, he completed his long division homework right as his favorite math teacher passed by the library window where we were working. He held up the worksheet so Ms. Olvera could see this big accomplishment.
While Daniel continues to make improvements academically, I know that he has changed my life significantly. He is truly a joy to be around: he’s hilarious and he loves learning about the world around him (especially if he gets to run around). Outside of the library, we have so much fun together — whether it’s bowling, mini-golf, ice skating, painting, museums, laser tag, or the aquarium.
Daniel has challenged me to be more patient and look at the world much differently than I did before — he is a true blessing in my life and he makes a big impression on everyone he meets. I’m so excited to see this talented young man continue to grow and achieve.
The Alexandria Mentoring Partnership was created in 2006 to ensure that quality mentors and mentor programs are available for Alexandria's youth and young adults in need. There are 11 professionally managed programs in the partnership that need adult mentors. To learn more about AMP, visit: http://www.alexandriava.gov/Mentoring