As Terri Dishong opens the door to a classroom at McMillan Middle School, she receives a warm and excited greeting from the smiling faces of four students-Daniel, Francisco, Adriana and Aarionna, her group of mentees.
As she sits down, the four eagerly fill Dishong in on what she has missed since the last time the group was together. The five chat with the effortless flow of old friends. So it’s a little surprising to learn that they met only a little over a year and a half ago.
Dishong says the answer is not nearly as mystical as some of us might assume. “I just try to be at ease with them,” she says. “I ask them about their lives, how their week is going, and just really listen to them.”
“She’s so easy to open up to,” Daniel says about Dishong. He adds that he and Dishong talk a lot about sports and she even comes to cheer him on at his basketball games. Adrianna says she appreciates Dishong for her giving nature. “She’s kind and generous and she teaches us how to do the same,” says Adrianna. “She’s just my favorite!”
Dishong believes one of the biggest mistakes adults can make with adolescents is writing them off as selfish and apathetic. “I think sometimes people think that they just don’t care,” she says. Dishong adds that this couldn’t be further from the truth. “These kids have shown me such amazing acceptance and resilience,” she says. “They don’t always have the best home lives, they see crime taking over their
neighborhoods, but they never bring it into the classroom. Instead they come to class smiling and joyful.”
*Click hereto read more student and mentor features at: www.p4k.org/category/story