Meet Fulfillment Fund mentor Shad McFadden, who was matched in 2008 with his student Mikey, who graduated high school in 2013.
Q. When you initially decided to become a mentor, why did you choose the Fulfillment Fund mentor program instead of others in the city?
A. I felt the Fulfillment Fund provides a great deal of support without unnecessary pressure. Also, the Fulfillment Fund's focus on education and college gave our relationship a purpose outside of just 'hanging out'. Having a goal, for me, made a lot of sense in the early days when I was attempting to bond with a 15-year-old stranger. Finally, I've always felt like I can call on the folks at the Fulfillment Fund at any time and be honest about where I was at with my relationship with Mikey.
Q. After you applied to become a Fulfillment Fund mentor, what was your experience during the training process?
A. The training really helped set my expectations.My thought prior to the training was that I was going to be some sort of hero/father figure to a kid who didn't have much of anything. But that wasn't the case. The Fulfillment Fund really helped set the boundaries that work best for successful pairings. The things I remember were 1.) We're not his teacher or principal, 2.) We're not his parents, and 3.) We're not there to buy gifts that the parents may or may not be able to afford. They really positioned it in a way that made sense to me.
Q. How has your relationship with your mentee grown over time?
A. Mikey's really confided in me in a way I'm proud of. He seems to respect the places I've been and he knows that his choices are his choices. Only he can make his life happen, but he really does have the tools to get there if he wants it and is willing to work for it. We've talked at length about the natural pull for someone like him to spend his time in a more 'social' manner. I think he truly understands that if he can fly straight and focus on grades and applications now, the world he inhabits will grow in the future.And as it grows, the opportunities to use his advanced social skills grow as well.
Q. How has the Fulfillment Fund supported your relationship over time?
A. The staff was always there for any questions. In the beginning they would call me and just check in to see how it was going. Having a fully honest relationship with them was a huge help for me at the beginning. They've also consistently been great about showing appreciation for mentors. One of the biggest support activities might actually be the group outings the Fulfillment Fund puts together. The first outing for Mikey and me was the Fulfillment Fund’s annual holiday gift wrapping get-together. Not only could we meet other mentors and students, but we're doing charitable works for the community. Working at the LA Food Bank together was another great day of working with others in the program, while working up a sweat and giving back to the community at the same time.
Q. What is your mentee doing now, and what are your hopes for him in the future? How have you changed because of your experience as a mentor?
A. Currently Mikey's applying to colleges, over 20 the last time I checked. I truly hope he gets into a college he enjoys, where he can continue to grow. More than anything, I just really want him to get an opportunity to continue using his gifts while seeing the world. He's a really smart, funny and evolved guy. For my personal growth, mentoring was a chance to connect with a person whose upbringing was drastically different than mine, someone who embodied the fact that we're not defined by where we've been. We define ourselves by where we're going.
Q. If you were talking to someone who cares about education and college access issues, but isn’t sure about mentoring, what would you say about mentoring through the Fulfillment Fund?
A. If you give your time and you are able to connect with a Fulfillment Fund student, you will feel greatly rewarded. Over the long haul, I know I've received as much, if not more, than I gave. And you can feel good about doing a good thing at the same time!