When The CALL started a mentoring program for foster teens it was an easy call for Jason Pederson to get involved. “I love The CALL, I love kids and I loved the idea of giving foster teens an advantage over their peers since so often during their tumultuous lives they have been at a disadvantage.”
When Darian Green’s caseworker recommended that he sign up for a mentor, he was not as sold on the idea. “I had a lot going on in my life at that time. I wasn’t sure I wanted to add one more thing. I’m glad I did.”
After a year of getting to know one another by going out to eat, going to sporting events and talking on the phone, Pederson admits he started wondering if his pairing with Darian was really making much of a difference.
“Then Darian got in some trouble at school. It’s all been resolved and is all behind him now, but it was fairly serious. I was in a perfect position to advocate for him and make sure that the people in authority making decisions about his future knew the young man that I had gotten to know. Darian has a plan for his life that includes college, military service and possibly political office and I didn’t want that plan to be derailed by one bad day.”
Many foster teens have a greater potential for “one bad day” because of the pent-up anger and frustrations that their journeys can produce. Darian and his sister were together during their elementary school years. Then a summer in Florida was followed by a return to Arkansas…and homelessness…which is when DHS stepped in and placed them in foster care.
“My sister and I were split up. I have had three different foster families and attended four different schools since 6th grade. When placements disrupted it was usually my fault. I consider the family I am with now my true family. I call my foster parents Mom and Dad. They are a big reason why I am ready to launch into adulthood.”
Darian says a good mentor needs to be consistent, patient, smart (both book-smart and life-smart), kind-hearted, open-minded and funny. “A lot of foster teens live under a lot of restrictions. We need a break. Mentors can become a lot more, but in the beginning…getting something to eat and visiting with my mentor was a welcome break from everything else I had going on in my life.”
“Mr. Pederson was an advocate, and that means a lot to me. Other people…caseworkers, attorneys, even family…have to help. He wanted to help. Meeting with him every month was like a living diary. I could open up and share things. He listened and offered good advice and guidance.”
Darian will be a freshman at UA-PB this fall and he is also a member of the Arkansas National Guard. He says his mentor helped him settle on a college choice and helped make sure his plans for military service stayed on track.