A Volunteer Youth Mentor Gives Back To The Community
By Southwest Key on 11/25/2013 @ 06:54 AM
“When I was 15, I felt like my life was over because I was pregnant. I didn’t know if I would be able to graduate or go to college,” says Southwest Key Program Assistant Brenda Gonzalez. Thanks to a mentor in her life, Gonzalez is about to graduate from Austin Community College and now volunteers with Southwest Key Youth Mentoring Program, guiding youth with a similar background to her own.
At the Juan Across America second Austin stop, Brenda stood in front of an audience of Southwest Key staff with her young mentee, Maggie. Maggie is nearly 17 and is expecting her son on December 12th. “This program has helped me a lot and I plan on graduating high school in June,” says Maggie. “Then I plan on going to college after that.”
“Even though she was very nervous, she enjoyed standing up in front of the audience and sharing her experience with the program,” says Gonzalez.
As a volunteer mentor and employee of Southwest Key, Gonzalez felt proud that night. “I’m proud to be part of this amazing organization that does so much for children and at risk youth and recognizes the employees’ and volunteers’ tremendous efforts,” says Gonzalez.
Gonzalez’s own mentor growing up was her boyfriend’s step-mom who was also a teacher. She emphasized the importance of education by encouraging Gonzalez to continue school and even planted the seed of attending college. “She helped me stop seeing myself as a victim and quit being mad at the world for things that happened in my childhood. Her words and encouragement completely changed my life and I have her to thank,” says Gonzalez.
“Today, my [then] boyfriend [now husband] and I are still together after 15 years. I did graduate from high school [as a junior] and even though it’s been a lengthy journey, I will graduate from ACC in a few weeks,” says Gonzalez. Next semester she plans on attending Texas State University.
Gonzalez credits Chadima Abrego, Program Director of Volunteer Youth Mentoring for giving her the opportunity to volunteer. “These past four months have been such a rewarding experience. The passion and commitment that she has for the program is contagious,” says Gonzalez. The Southwest Key Youth Mentoring Program, provides youth with a positive role model to empower them with encouraging words, teach them a life skill or two, and be there to offer advice or just an open ear without judgment. “Because sometimes that’s all they need—someone to talk to,” says Gonzalez.