Mentors show how life can be lived
SUMMIT COUNTY – When Daphne Schroth met her young mentee, Christina Barry, she had no doubts about having volunteered for the Mountain Mentors program in Summit County. She didn’t worry about her ability to form a bond with this young stranger or about her ability to uphold the contract that linked them for three hours a week for at least a year. She simply saw a young child in need and knew that she had the resources available to help her.Now, almost 11 years after their first meeting, the success of their relationship is evident.Schroth describes her bond with Christina as “very much like girlfriends,” and said that she wouldn’t even think about signing up for another mentee because “I am still with her.”The two women still talk regularly, even though Barry is living in Denver and attending Metro State College, while Schroth remains in Frisco with her work as the director of human services for Summit County government.Their relationship began in May 1994 when Schroth had just moved to Summit County from Milwaukee and found herself in the same building as the Mountain Mentors program.
The idea of mentoring, she said, was not new to her. “I previously saw ads on TV,” she said. “And I was kind of intrigued.”Added to that was the fact her two children had just recently left home, with one just graduating college and another just leaving for college. She thought it would be a good time to get involved with a child. Barry’s need for a mentor was apparent. She had some problems adjusting in grade school. She had trouble socializing, she said, and school counselors thought she might not even be able to graduate middle school. They thought a mentor would help her both academically and socially.”She just hadn’t had a lot of life experiences,” Schroth said. “Her experiences were very different than what my kids had had.” So, the two did a lot of activities together, starting with things like cooking and setting the table, when Barry was younger, to outdoor activities such as skiing, hiking and biking.
Schroth helped Barry develop her swimming – a hobby she had always been good at – into a job at the Silverthorne Recreation Center as a lifeguard. It was one of her first experiences working, and the skills she acquired there have helped her in her adult life. She is now putting herself through college as a lifeguard and swimming instructor.One favorite memory for both of them is when they took a trip to Paris during Barry’s senior year of high school. The idea started one day when Barry asked Schroth to be a chaperone during a school trip, which happened to be expensive.Schroth had to say no, but decided to check into going separately. They did, and said they had a wonderful experience. Schroth said that being a successful mentor does not mean that there won’t be some setbacks along the way. A turning point in their relationship came early on, at a point when Schroth was so sick with bronchitis she could not get out of bed for two weeks. When she was finally able to see Barry, her mentee refused to talk to her. When she asked her what was up, Christina said, “We have a contract and you owe me six hours!”Often, Schroth said, the initial resistance of the mentee is one of the challenges of being a mentor.
“It’s that persistence,” she said. “A lot of times the adult in their life will let them down. When the mentor doesn’t let them down, that’s when the relationship will develop. That’s the most rewarding experience, to see that change.”Success, said Schroth, will come with commitment from the mentor.”You’ve got to call them,” she said. “It’s almost as if it’s as simple as honoring the contract.”A book has just recently come out called, “Just When I Needed You: True Stories of Adults who Made a Difference in the Lives of Young People” by Deborah Fisher. It features the relationship between Schroth and Barry as one example of the way all adults can help the lives of young people.The most obvious testimony to the benefits of this relationship is the way Christina lives her life now.She is a busy college student, majoring in business and hoping to get her real estate license. She is also engaged to be married and has just recently purchased a townhouse.”Daphne helped for me to become the better person that I am now … She definitely helped me to get into college,” Barry said.
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