Mentee Discovers Friendship Through Mentorship Program
By Southwest Key on 03/06/2014 @ 06:54 AM
Surrounded by bicycle parts in a small warehouse off Webberville Rd. in east Austin, Miguel F. is fixing up an old cruiser bike with his mentor Gabriel Cruz-Letelier at The Yellow Bike Project. “This is something he has on his goal list to accomplish and I want to make sure that I work on that with him,” says Cruz-Letelier.
Cruz-Letelier has been mentoring Miguel for about a year now. Cruz-Letelier works as a Data Integration and Training Specialist at Southwest Key Programs and he heard about the mentoring program through work. “I really want to be a mentor just because I wanted to give back to the community and support our youth in the east Austin area”.
“Committing to something and honoring that commitment by showing up whenever I say I am going to show up and going through with the activities that we say we’re going to do is very important,” says Cruz-Lettier. Cruz-Letelier has been mentoring Miguel for over a year now and has seen significant changes in Miguel’s behavior and attitude since that time.
“When I first met Gabriel, I thought he would be kind of a geeky, nerdish kind of guy, but after getting to know him for a while, we’ve really developed a nice relationship as mentor and mentee,” says Miguel. “Gabriel is really cool.” Miguel, now 13 years old, emigrated from Guatemala and he’s been living in Austin since he was 8 months old. “My family moved here for a better life,” he says. Miguel has been in the Southwest Key Youth Mentoring Program for a year and due to Gabriel’s efforts to guide Miguel through his mandatory community service hours. “It’s made me more of a positive person and I would recommend it to other teens, whether they are troubled or not, because its a good program,” says Miguel.
“It’s really awesome just to be able to be a kid again and be that influence in a younger kid’s life as they are growing up in their adolescent time. You become a lending hand in his growth,” says Cruz-Letelier. A lot of their activities include going to Dave and Busters, watching movies, hanging out in the park, bowling, volunteering at the food bank, participating in the Yellow Bike Project, or picking up trash at the park.
“Yes! I built a bike in one day! I feel so accomplished!” said Miguel after taking his bike for a test drive that evening at The Yellow Bike Project. Cruz-Letelier high-fived Miguel and congratulated him on his accomplishment.
“As a Hispanic male, it’s important to give back to the young Hispanic males in the community because you have a common ground with this individual just by your ethnicity and you can share your wisdom and influence with them,” says Cruz-Letelier. “You can let them know that with proper support, they can achieve their dreams in life.” Growing up, Cruz-Letelier looked up to his older sister as a role model. He said that having her around really shaped his childhood. “When you are young, you are going to absorb and take on the action of someone you look up to. Having a good support system at home really helps,” says Cruz-Letelier.
Miguel is planning on moving back to Guatemala because he is ready for a change. “But I’m really going to miss Gabriel. I would like to thank Gabriel for being there for me and I have confidence that when I am having a hard time, I can just ring him up and he would support me like he did this past year,” says Miguel.