Around the world Leadership Foundations’ is changing the lives of more than 36,000 children through mentorship. Among them are many stories of hope and transformation that have stopped us in our tracks and inspired us. Meet one inspirational pair, Ken and Gus!
“This was during lockdown life, when everyone said virtual mentoring wouldn’t work,” remembers Emily Cruse, the program director of Be A Mentor in Charleston, South Carolina.” And Ken was 80 at the time and had never used Zoom. On top of that, there was the age and generational difference between Ken and Gus, who was a senior in high school.”
But nothing about the meeting and connection of Ken and Gus was random. Ken, who was a retired financial executive, lived nearby in a local retirement community. At least 25 of his fellow residents are tutors and reading buddies for local students through Be A Mentor’s programs. But when Ken first reached out to Emily about the possibility of becoming a mentor, Emily knew that Ken had a particular set of skills to offer.
“Ken was a very successful leader who decided to reach back into the community,” said Cruse. “What we’re trying to do here is raise more young leaders. And we are doing it with multi- generational relationships and care.”
Emily was determined to find the right match for Ken. “There are too many mental health issues, too much gun violence, and too many kids who need to hear they are loved in our community. I really see us as bringing people together to create deeper relationships that address the specific needs of each kid.” In that spirit, she found Gus, a high school student with untapped leadership potential and an interest in economics, who could benefit from Ken’s attention and life experience.
“Gus was on the brink of success and his mentor really saw that. Ken had his first one-on-one meeting with Gus and immediately called me afterward,” remembers Cruse. “He said, ‘Boy, this kid is smart!’ and told me he was going to do what he could to help Gus out. The two never missed a week over the school year and talked a lot about Gus’s college options, stocks, investing, and more.”
“There is nothing I enjoy more than connecting kids to something and seeing it ‘click’- they get so excited. So many of the kids in our mentoring program have taken some little experience they’ve had with their mentor so far beyond the relationship.”
“Ken saw Gus’s potential and interest in economics, knew a dean at Stockholm School of Economics (a leading school in the subject), and helped make sure he put forward the best application. Gus is now attending the University!”
Successful mentoring relationships like these encourage Emily as Be A Mentor connects more than 300 adults with kids in Charleston. “There’s always someone that someone else needs. Everybody could use a mentor.”