At the beginning of the school year 2007, I decided to volunteer my time with KIDS HOPE USA, sponsored by St. Luke’s Church. This required spending an hour each week with a young student at Briarmeadow Charter School. The program administrator met me on week one and took me to Mrs. Karol Bell’s third-grade classroom where she introduced me to Samuel Barnes, the young man I would mentor.

Right away, I told Samuel that we would spend half of our time each week in the library doing some type of school study and the balance we would enjoy outside. Always, the priority was school and then play. No one can ever know how rewarding it is to see a young person make progress in their education until you see it first hand from week to week. A perfect example was in mathematics where we used flash cards for multiplication and division. Initially, it was slow and cumbersome; however, as time went by he became very accurate as I flashed them ever so quickly. Please believe me that was a tremendous feeling for me!

Samuel loved to go to the playground, and it was obvious to me that he would be a natural athlete. He loved basketball, and nothing made him giggle more than to beat this 60-year-old man in a game. He really loved football and so we would make up special plays out on the field. I even was able to introduce him to a new sport. I am a golfer, so I brought a couple clubs and some golf balls and showed him how to swing. This half of our time usually passed very quickly. All in all, we had a fine balance of school and recreation, and needless to say, we grew closer.

Before we knew it, Samuel had completed not only third and fourth grades, but fifth grade came to a close. At that point, the KIDS HOPE program concludes. We said our goodbyes and then he moved on to middle school. That was the spring of 2010.

I did not know where Samuel was until early spring 2017 when someone showed me an article about a young man in Fort Bend County who was being nationally recruited for a football scholarship. It was Samuel. I sat down, wrote a letter, drove it his high school and left it with the school counselor. Shortly after that, I received a call from Samuel’s mother who invited me to his graduation party. I was thrilled to attend and see this grown-up young man I had met when he was eight years old! We have stayed in touch and seen each other several times since then.

I believe so much in the KIDS HOPE program. Having that experience has been very meaningful to me. I believe we, at St. Luke’s, render a positive effect in the community and this is just one beautiful example. More importantly, I believe I have a wonderful young friend for life.

If you would like to make a difference in the life of a young person through mentoring with KIDS HOPE USA, call Karen McCarver at 713-402-5026 or Marci Pampe at 713-357-4466. You may also make a friend for life.