You only make a first impression once. Gary Avin, a mentor with the Take Stock in Children Lee County Program, remembers teaching this important life lesson to his young mentee. His student, Clifton, had arrived at a mentoring session wearing flip flop sandals with socks and a pair of sweatpants for a mentoring session. Gary spoke to him about his appearance, teaching him that first impressions always matter. Clifton protested at first, but the next meeting showed up with pants and close-toed shoes. This set the tone of his mentoring sessions with Gary.
Gary and Clifton put together a game plan for his future. And, then before Gary's eyes, Clifton began to transform from a shy, introverted boy to an assertive, goal-driven young man who was committed and engaged in being successful in and out of the classroom.
Gary witnessed the change and the power of change and how when a person views themselves as valuable, so does their community. During his junior and senior year, Clifton was a Varsity football player and also became a familiar face and friend as a school office assistant at his high school.
Clifton began to mature in the way her communicated too. He would give direct eye contact to Gary when they talked and send weekly text messages with school updates. Life, school grades, and athletic activities were topics of discussion during the pair's mentoring sessions.
Gary admits he learned a lot from Clifton. Most importantly, he learned you can't judge a book by its cover. Clifton was teaching Gary a lot about being a dad and someday mentoring his own three children to navigate high school successfully.
Gary spoke at Clifton's graduation this year. He shared that he didn't know what to expect as a mentor but he had become passionate about mentoring. He loved the feeling of making a difference in a young person's life -- a value his immigrant parents taught him at a young age. Always invest in the youth of your community. Gary is doing just that.