ROB TALLEY:I had mentors throughout my life and my career in the military – people who have seen things in me, poured their knowledge into me, and helped me grow as a person. When I was offered the chance to mentor a teenager through the group Concerned Black Men, I did not hesitate to join.
Demetrius and I met when he was in junior high school. It’s no secret that young men like him, from homes with single moms, need more adults, more men in their lives to be a sounding board, and help them process difficult situations as they grow up.
I’m 20 now and Rob has been my mentor for almost eight years. He has helped me with most everything in my life. He tells me the pros and cons of all types of situations, how he went through them. The way he’s gone to college and achieved a lot, and had a family, made me want to have a life like that. He listened to me, inspired me and gave me confidence.
One of the best things was when I told him I wanted to be an architect someday. He was all light bulbs and fireworks about it! He persuaded me to go away for college at the Art Institute of Atlanta. “Your passion is design,” he always says. “Don’t ever give up on that.” It cheers me up, like having another support team. Along with my mom, he’s my biggest fan.
I can’t take credit for anything than other than asking Demetrius to be consistent with behavior, to keep practicing, to never give up, giving him hope, not belittling or judging him. We do everything from eating pizza to sports. I’ve involved him in some of my life activities, like looking for a house, a car. Being with Demetrius has been a very rewarding experience as I watch him develop. But it’s reminded me that every new stage of life, like the one I’m in now at age 60, is an evolution. I’m a work in progress too.
When he first became my mentor, I thought, “He’s older than me. He won’t get me, he won’t get the young generation.” But he has lived life longer than me. He has made decisions all his life. That all helped me grow faster and better. As a black man, he looks at me like his young self, and knows what’s ahead for me. I appreciate him very, very much. Honestly I couldn’t ask for a better mentor.
As a “senior citizen,” you’re not at the end of your game, you’re on a steady course with life. You’re set in your values, in your understanding of life itself. You can literally instruct, teach and show this young person what life experiences they can expect. I will see Demetrius through as far as he wants to be with me. It’s a lifetime commitment.
This story comes to us via MENTOR, The National Mentoring Partnership, which curates the largest database of mentoring opportunities in the United States.