Denver McKelheer is a Youth Success! Mentor though Empower Youth Network. He has been working with his mentee for three and a half years now. His mentee is bright, funny and is always asking McKelheer questions about things he is interested in learning.
It is so important for young people to have an advocate, someone in their corner. McKelheer recognized this and was inspired to become a mentor. He said seeing young people in the valley struggle and not always having someone in their corner to support or mentor them really was the thing that jumpstarted his interest in helping. McKelheer said he once was a struggling young person without someone in his corner and felt if only he could help someone in the way he needed it, then what a difference it would have made. He is making that difference for someone else now.
McKelheer has gotten to see his mentee grow tremendously in school and come out of his shell. Each challenge his mentee faces is discussed between the two of them, and they talk about ways of dealing with it, usually in an open discussion rooted in support, guidance, and active listening. When they first met, his mentee was very shy, and McKelheer does not see that now. “I see a well-adjusted young man, with personality and an openness I did not see when we first started,” he said. They have a relationship, a connection. It is fun for McKelheer to hear about his mentee’s day, week, or highlights of his sports such as soccer, and McKelheer thinks their trick shots in basketball are always something that they enjoy.
The value of helping other people is worth its weight in gold, “I always walk away feeling like I am making a small difference in someone’s life and that is all I need to keep going each week,” he said. McKelheer benefits from mentoring in his own way too.
He said, “Mentoring is one hour a week, it is the least anyone can do to support a young person and hopefully give them a strong foundation to grow from.” He wishes more people mentored. “Our young people need advocates, people that can spend time with them and possibly change the direction of their lives,” he said. McKelheer explains that mentoring starts off as simply as getting off your chair, reaching out and pro-actively doing something in real time that creates immediate positive impact. “Just do it!”
Each January, we come together as a community to support youth with National Mentoring Month. By harnessing our collective voice, we can raise awareness for how one conversation, one experience, and one mentor can change a young person’s life. Thanks to Denver McKelheer and to all of the mentors in the valley making positive differences in their mentee’s lives.