Jorge’s Mentoring Experience

Jorge Pacheco shared this reflection with us about his experience as one of FLY’s Court Appointed Friend and Advocate (CAFA) Mentors.

I’m a public school educator and I used to teach second grade. I became very concerned about certain kids in my class who, at only seven or eight years old, were engaging in very negative behaviors. I became angry about the circumstances that surrounded these kids and pushed them to do things no kid really wants to do. I was also worried for their future.

I decided to leave 2nd grade and teach 8th grade so I could impact kids at an older age, and that’s when I joined FLY’s Mentor Program. In my reflections, I had come to understand that whatever happens in someone’s youth doesn’t define them—it’s just their circumstances. When I thought back to my experiences with the younger children, I realized that often the ones with the most challenges were the brightest and most powerful, and showed the most potential for intellectual achievement.

I want everyone to see the same light that I see in the kids.

As an educator, my job is to find ways to enable the kids to use their talents to benefit themselves and their communities. As a volunteer, mentorship is the most effective way for me to use my skills as a teacher and to help guide students to make better choices. I also know I wouldn’t have become a teacher if it wasn’t for my own personal mentor.

Being a FLY mentor has been life-changing for me. It may even have affected my own life more than my mentee’s. Teaching is incredibly difficult because we are responsible for so many people’s children, not just their education but their well-being. Seeing the progress Rafa made, his potential, and how I was able to help him has given me more energy and inspiration as a teacher.

The best moment I had with Rafa was advocating for him before the judge for an extension of his participation in a special probation program. I wrote a report for the court, and I worked with his parents, his lawyer, his FLY case manager, and others. I realized that the judges really listen to us as CAFA mentors. They take our reports and comments into consideration just as they do information from the District Attorney. We got the extension for him and it was huge!

During our time together, Rafa became more motivated to get out of the house and away from the streets, to break away from what his life was before. He also joined the FLY’s Leadership Training Program and whatever was going on, anything FLY-related, he never said “no.” He was diligent about staying involved. He’s always been curious but with FLY he took it to a whole new level, trying new activities and meeting new people. He’s becoming more brave, more open-minded, and more of a risk-taker.

I really feel like anyone and everyone should become a mentor. A lot of adults could bring so much to the table to help youth. Take them out to eat, hang out, and make them understand that they are normal people like everyone else. They don’t have to be defined by their probation status and their past mistakes.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re a cook, custodian, teacher, or lawyer, or whatever background you have. At the end of the day everyone can make a difference by mentoring a youth.