Meet Some of Our Extraordinary Mentors

Joselyn A.--Mentor

As a young girl, Joselyn decided that part of her life’s journey would be to help others and, throughout her life she has strived to be “of service”.  As a college student, Joselyn took courses in psychology and counseling. Her career goal is to go into the helping profession, with a focus on working with children, teen and young adults.  Finding MHA-Project Together and becoming a mentor was a natural next step for Joselyn.

As a mentor, Joselyn was matched with Jessica*, a client being served by the County of Orange Health Care Agency-Children and Youth Services. Throughout her young life, Jessica struggled with depression and low self-esteem. At times her depression was so severe that she had even contemplated suicide.  She stopped going to school and spent most of her time at home isolating from the world.  Her therapist referred her to MHA-Project Together in the hope that a mentor might be able to assist Jessica to become more confident, self-accepting and learn to set appropriate personal goals.  Jessica agreed to “give it a try” with Joselyn, and so began their mentor-mentee relationship.

As with any new relationship things started out slowly, however over the following weeks and months, the relationship began to blossom.  Joselyn was careful to concentrate on the relationship and not necessarily on the places she and Jessica went together. Outings were trips to the local ice cream shop, lunch and window shopping or making crafts.  Joselyn encouraged Jessica to find her voice, experience new and different activities and share how she felt about the changes she was experiencing. As the match progressed, Jessica became more relaxed and confident. She shared stories about herself, her family, school and her relationship with her boyfriend. Joselyn listened in a supportive and non-judgmental way. Over time and with Joselyn’s support and encouragement, Jessica returned to school, began making friends both at school and in her neighborhood. Her relationship with her family also improved significantly. Eventually Jessica graduated from high school. Today, she is considering going to college and is interested in pursuing a career as a medical assistant.

Before this match, Jessica was isolated and had little hope for the future. With Joselyn’s support and guidance, Jessica became more social, happier and confident.  Her therapist noted increased and sustained improvement in Jessica and gives Joselyn much credit for the positive changes Jessica made. The match lasted for over two years! MHA Project Together is grateful for this successful match and is happy to see it positively change a youth’s life. 

Serena D.--Mentor

Serena grew up in central California surrounded by a loving family and many friends. Still, she was not immune to what was going on with the youth in her community and how through the support of others, the youth were given opportunities that could profoundly change their lives.

While enrolled at UCI where she majors in psychology, Serena heard about the MHA-Project Together Mentor program through another student. She knew becoming a mentor would be a positive step in her goal of becoming a health care professional.

Denise* had been in counseling services for the past several years. Now, at age 15 she continued to struggle with depression, feelings of helplessness and . She was also experiencing on-going problems at school both,  academically and with her peers. While this time of her life could be viewed as being in the prime of her high school years, rather than enjoying  herself, Denise constantly worried  about how to avoid getting into fights at school. She was ready and eager for guidance and direction and when her therapist talked to her about MHA-PT, she willingly agreed to be matched with a mentor.  Serena was selected to be Denise’s mentor, and from the very beginning, both mentor and mentee  hit it off. As mentor. Serena focused on ways she could assist Denise help to find her voice, make positive life choices and understand the importance of developing healthy boundaries. Serena also exposed Denise to new and different activities in the community. Sometimes, they would just “hang out” and talk about how things were going. Several times Serena took Denise to UCI to walk around the campus  as  a way to plant a seed for future educational goals for Denise. Over the course of the next eight months, and through the support and encouragement of Serena, Denise grew into a more confident and independent young woman. Things at school improved significantly as did her relationship with her family. Today, Denise believes in herself and in her potential to succeed and stated how grateful she is to have had Serena as a mentor.

Nadine R.-Volunteer Mentor

The mentee Nadine was matched with was defiant, always upset and down on her self. Initially, she challenged everything Nadine did or said. Nadine didn’t let the young girl’s attitude or behavior deter her. She remained consistent and patient and taught the girl appropriate boundaries while at the same time encouraging her to explore and try new and activities. The youth was “very slow” to communicate and Nadine stated she often times felt as if she was talking to herself. However, over time, the mentee began to open up and share and became willing to actively participate in outing activities. Now TWO YEARS later, Nadine and the mentee have become good friends. The girl has become more confident, social and is making positive changes. The mentee’s therapist agrees and has nothing but high praise for Nadine and the amazing work she has accomplished with the youth.  Even though she works full-time as a journalist, Nadine remains committed to working with her mentee.

Phoung N. –Volunteer Mentor

Here is another case of a mentor that refused to give up on her mentee. Phoung has been matched with her mentee for FOUR YEARS.  When this match began the girl was oppositional-defiant, had poor interpersonal skills and very low-self-esteem. Additionally, the girl’s mother was suffering from brain cancer and would later succumb to the disease. The youth’s grandmother took over parenting duties but wasn’t equipped to deal with all of the girl’s issues. Phoung remained consistent and persistent and didn’t take “no” for an answer. Even when the girl couldn’t physically meet with her Phoung made sure to stay in touch via phone or e-mail. As the years have gone by, this young girl is now a young woman. She will soon begin college and has hopes of starting her own non-profit dedicated to helping youth.

And if this weren’t enough for the past year, Phoung has taken on an additional mentee. This relationship is developing very well.  Phoung will soon end her service with MHA-PT as she heads off to law school.

Arial-Volunteer Mentor

Arial is one of those mentees we would love to clone. She has mentored her youth for the past year. The youth she is matched with is defiant, argumentative and also has a food compulsion. Arial has been a positive influence in the girl’s life. She is patient, is a good role model and sets appropriate boundaries. She has also worked closely with the girl’s therapist to deal with the youth’s food issues.  She takes her role as mentor very seriously and is consistent in all she does. As a way to insure the match is progressing in a satisfactory manner, mentors are asked to stay in regular communication with the therapist. This is usually accomplished via phone calls however Arial, take the time to go to the therapist’s office each week for a face-to-face meeting. The therapist is very grateful and pleased to have Arial as mentor for her client and reports she is progressing very well.

JOEL VIVANCO-Volunteer Mentor
By age two Tommy (not his real name) had been the victim of abuse and neglect so severe that he was removed from his parents care and placed in the care of a relative. While he was now in a safe haven, Tommy suffered the emotional repercussions of what had happened to him and by age 5 was classified as having severe emotional and behavior disorders. Tommy’s case was referred to the County of Orange Health Care Agency Children and Youth Services. The therapist began not only working with the child but also with his care provider. The therapist soon discovered that Tommy was isolated, suffered from anger and low self-esteem and had no one other than his relative to interact with. A decision was made request a mentor from MHA-Project Together. A match was quickly made between Tommy and a female mentor. The match was a good one and the mentor and Tommy quickly bonded and Tommy began to interact in a more appropriate manner. His relationship with his relative/care provider,, peers and school officials improved. Unfortunately, due to her work situation the mentor was required to relocate to another state and as quickly as the match began it was over. There was a concern that Tommy would “relapse” back into negative thinking and behavior.

Almost at the same time, Joel Vivanco appeared or rather re-appeared on the mentoring scene. Several years ago Joel had been a mentor with the County of Orange Health Care Agency-Children and Youth Services-Project Together (CYS-PT). At the time, Joel was matched with a 10-year old male that lived with his mother and another female relative. The boy’s father lived in Mexico and contact between them was infrequent. The boy reacted in very negative ways and was often in trouble with family or school officials. Joel began working with this child and even though it took much patience and caring, Joel was able to develop a trusting and caring relationship between himself and the boy. As the relationship developed so did the child. His anger and hostile nature changed to that of a typical happy boy. Then and without prior notice, the boy’s father came for a visit and decided the boy would return with him, to Mexico. The match ended suddenly for both Joel and the child. This was difficult for both the child and Joel.

Last December, Joel contacted MHA-PT and stated he was ready to mentor again. He said he realized he missed the connection of the mentor program and the way knowing that he could make a difference in the life of a young person made him feel. MHA-PT mentor coordinator Christina Nguyen, didn’t hesitate in recommending Tommy as the obvious match for Joel. She knew of Joel’s success with his former mentee and believed he would be able to make a positive impact on Tommy. Once Joel, Tommy and Tommy’s relative met, it became clear that this would be a good match.

Joel and Tommy see each other at least once a week. Joel has patiently guided the boy to be willing to try new experiences and also assists Tommy with everything from working on appropriate behaviors to helping with homework. The boy’s therapist reports that Tommy has opened up and is able to share some of what he recalls of his past and is working through these issues. She attributes Joel’s unwavering commitment as a key element is helping Tommy to succeed. Joel is a excellent example of what it means to be a good mentor and he serves as an inspiration to anyone that is considering becoming a mentor.. 

Thank you Joel for being a MHA-Project Together Mentor and Changing a Life!

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