by Karen McCarver

Carlos bounded out of the classroom, a huge smile on his face to meet his new mentor, Jon Norman. The year was 2007, and Carlos was an outgoing fourth grade student at Briarmeadow who had been referred by his teacher to KIDS HOPE. Jon’s challenge was to help this child focus, improve in reading and math, and more than anything to build a trusting, nurturing relationship with Carlos. Over the next two years a deep bond developed as they studied, played games, shot hoops together and talked about their lives. Jon recalls Carlos’ fifth grade graduation and the giant bear hug he received after the ceremony.

Years passed and the two lost touch until April of this year, when Carlos called Jon with a very special invitation. As a student at Westside High School, he had been accepted into a program sponsored by M.D. Anderson that allowed him to study concurrently at Houston Community College during his junior and senior years. He invited Jon to attend graduation, where Carlos received his Associate of Science in Biology – Health Sciences Professions. Jon didn’t get to see Carlos until after the ceremony, and when they came face to face, he was again enveloped in a loving hug from his former mentee. Carlos’ mom and dad told Jon that he had been the subject of many family discussions. “Mr. Jon said I should pay attention in class.” “Mr. Jon says if I want to be successful, I need to do my homework and stay in school.” As they embraced, Carlos said “You were right! You told me to study hard, and I never forgot that.” Jon admits he wasn’t sure if he was making an impression at all, but he came faithfully week after week, and trusted the future to the Lord.

There is an end to this story and the beginning of a new one; Carlos graduated from Westside High School in May, and is very excited to continue his training with M.D. Anderson in the fall. The combination of a teacher’s wisdom, a caring, committed mentor and God’s loving presence helped prepare a young boy for a bright future.