Farewell, but not Goodbye!

December 11, 2014

Joellen#1In one of the last books Peter Benson wrote, Parent, Teacher, Mentor, Friend… How Every Adult Can Change Kids Lives Peter quoted the German Theologian, Martin Luther, who observed, “Indeed, for what purpose do we older folks exist, other than to care for, instruct, and bring up the young?”  This is a charge Martin Luther gave not just to parents but, in his words, “to every citizen.”

It has been an honor and privilege to work with so many others that care about children in our state. I have been doing this work for twenty years and no one has ever said, “Mentoring is a bad idea.”  I have never met a mayor, a CEO, a church leader, parent, sports coach, or a school principal that didn’t support mentoring for kids.  This is what has inspired me.

The main reason why this work has captured me is that it fed my spirit.  Shortly after graduating from college and starting my first job, I volunteered to be a basketball coach at a Boys and Girls Club in Omaha, Nebraska.  I worked with teenage girls that were exceptionally athletically talented but lacked aspirations and hope that aligned with their potential. Their goals in life were limited.  During my time coaching them I got to know who they were as people and what they dreamed about. We spent many months together exploring these goals and other ideas for their future such as college, starting a business, or going to technical school.  I hope that I encouraged many of them to use their unrecognized talents to pursue post-secondary education.   I hope that some of them dreamed a little bigger and broader because of my time with them.  But ultimately, they were a gift to me.  These young women showed me that the act of caring and engaging in a sustained relationship makes a difference.  It all seems so simple that by spending time in relationship you can positively affect both people’s life trajectories.  This experience profoundly changed me and opened my mind to thinking more about ways I could engage in a community.

While every job has pros and cons, I savored, relished, and wrestled with this work each and every day.  I loved working with a team of staff, board of directors, and community leaders that pushed and demanded more for children in our state.  At times I was intimidated, energized, inspired, and occasionally exhausted by the daunting task of ensuring that every child in our state has positive, caring mentoring relationships throughout their lifetime.

I am excited about working at a national level in the mentoring field and for Mai-Anh Kapanke’s willingness to assume the role of Executive Director of the Mentoring Partnership of Minnesota for this next chapter.  She is an extraordinary leader and unapologetic champion for children.  She has the drive, compassion, and expertise to take MPM into the next era.  I am grateful for the chance to work with her for nearly a decade, and I ask you to continue to support her and the work of the Mentoring Partnership moving forward.  Thank you for walking this journey with me and for sharing your many gifts.  I am touched by your generosity of spirit and love for children and young people in Minnesota.