Hard Decisions in Mentoring

One of the young men I mentor has been having a hard time – went one year away to college but it was too far from home and too expensive (do you know how hard it is to be away at college when your family doesn’t have a car to give you or to come and get you with or spending money to give you?). Came back, took classes at a community college but had a hard time living with his mom, around all his old friends, having to work a lot to pay part of the rent to his mom, and such. It isn’t that it wasn’t do-able, its just that it didn’t work well for him. He isn’t Mr. Hero perfect, you know? Like a lot of middle class white kids, he’s bright, not brilliant, a hard-worker, but not a super-achiever. But many middle class white kids have parents to help pay for college. And parent who went to college and are familiar with the system. It is a hard system to figure out if you are the first one to do it and most of your friends aren’t doing it.

So, we’re brainstorming, talking, thinking about what to do and he says he’s thinking of joining the service.

What in the world am I supposed to say? It breaks me apart inside to think of him being in harm’s way. But it would sure make things a hell of a lot easier – we both agreed that the disciplined environment would be good for him. The job and plan would be good. The place to live would be good. Did I mention how nice it would be for him to have a job, training, money for college, and a plan and discipline?

Oh, yeah, except that that there is a war going on.

I don’t want people yelling at him or putting him in harm’s way. I don’t want him to have to be a soldier to make it in the world.

But who am I to get on my liberal high horse about the military and wars. Not that what I say is the be all, end all, but I do influence him and I don’t know what to do. Can I offer him money for school? Can ANY of the well-off “we love kids and Jesus so much” people at the after-school program where I met him give him money for school? Apparently they are paying off the mortgages of their McMansions and swimming pools in gated neighborhoods and buying new big video screen projectors for the new youth center they just built at church so no they can’t help, apparently.

I once made a really really bad call in advising one of my young mentees when he was only 16. Maybe a different approach on my part could have made a difference, maybe not, but the point was that I made a bad decision not recognizing the full weight of my opinion and the consequences of the situation.

Damn. I don’t want to do that again. And it is such a hard thing. Sure, college might/could work without the military. But it will be way harder and a clearly rocky path as the last two years have shown us.

But then again being dead or injured is sort of a bad option too.

Ugg. Again, no good answers. And none of those Jesus-loving, big-hearted, super-rich Christians who started this afterschool program around to help either. Sorry if I sound bitter. But for all the freaking electrical equipment they buy to recruit suburbanites to come to their megachurch, no one has ever suggested maybe super-huge scholarship fund (like the super-huge everything else this church has) for the kids in the afterschool program might be a good idea. Which would be real helpful right about now.

28 Responses to Hard Decisions in Mentoring

  1. TheDeeZone says:

    If decides on the military would the Coast Guard be a better opition? What about emt or fire department?

  2. Jess says:

    What about the Peace Corps, or Americorps?

  3. kylydia says:

    I think the best thing you can do is to help him go through all of his options. That makes you a good mentor. He’s got to make the decision (I know you know this). You and I share relatively similar beliefs, so I know it would be hard to see him in harm’s way. However, if he doesn’t get the education and all-around life experience he needs to improve himself, won’t he still be in harm’s way, just a different form?

  4. Chalicechick says:

    If not the Coast Guard, what about the Navy? This is a pretty landlocked war.


  5. TheDeeZone says:

    Are there are any Univesities or colleges in your/his area with programs for 1st generation college students? I know the school I attended has a programs for 1st generation college students that provides a mentor, alum sponsor and helps them get finiancial aid.

  6. Chalicechick says:

    The Air Force is hard to get in, but if you can get in the “Few years in the air force, few years as a commercial pilot, then find a job flying a corporation’s private jet” is an awesome, awesome career path that leads to a very cushy job by your thirtieth birthday.

    A guy I went to high school with did this. He calls himself “an extremely well-paid bus driver” and flies a couple of days a week, spending the rest of the time with his kid.

  7. In the end, it’s a call of judgment on his part.

    I am not going to say anything else because I believe in the Peace Testimony so I recuse myself from the rest of your post. :-)

  8. Elizabeth says:

    Thanks everyone for the input. :) Elizabeth

  9. Elizabeth,
    CUUPS has a new monthly email Bulletin that we’ve been trying to send to everyone in our database – but your copy is bouncing. Could you send us your current email address? The address to send it to is bulletin@cuups.org
    Also if you know of anyone else that would enjoy a free, monthly email at Earth-Centered UU Spirituality – tell them they can sign up for it by filling out the form at the top of the page at the CUUPS Website – http://www.cuups.org

    Thanks & Best of Blessings,
    David Pollard
    Editor, CUUPS Bulletin

  10. […] readers of this blog know that have mentored a great group of young men since they were in elementary school (going on 17 years now!). One of […]

  11. […] readers of this blog know that have mentored a great group of young men since they were in elementary school (going on 17 years now!). One of […]

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