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Mentor made all the difference to graduating Jacksonville teen

July 3, 2019

Jaelyn and Patricia’s journey together began seven years ago at Northwestern Middle School in Jacksonville.

As a sixth grader new to the Achievers For Life program, Jaelyn wasn’t sure what to expect. She knew she would be matched with a mentor, but from there, what would it be like?

Today, as a recent graduate of Raines High School, Jaelyn is so thankful Patricia came into her life — for her guidance, support and friendship.

Achievers For Life, a United Way supported initiatives, is an early-warning response system designed to identify students at-risk for not graduating. They are connected to services and resources that provide: high-quality mentoring support for students; training to help parents effectively motivate and equip their child for success; social support to help stabilize struggling families; and counseling for students and families.

Achievers For Life is an agency collaborative that includes Jewish Family and Community Services, Communities In School of Jacksonville and dozens of local volunteer mentors provided through Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northeast Florida, in addition to United Way of Northeast Florida.

Graduating in May, Jaelyn said she was most excited about Patricia watching her walk across the stage to receive her diploma; it’s an homage to their time together and the investment of wisdom, advice and encouragement they shared over the years.

“She has helped me to think about certain things and situations differently,” Jaelyn said, “and I have a friendship in her that will last beyond graduation.”

Post-graduation, the two have discussed staying in touch through weekly conversations and monthly meet-ups to keep up with each other.

“My experience with [Achievers For Life] has strengthened my relationship with Jaelyn and her family,” said Patricia. “We’ve managed to build a confidence with each other to share openly goals and ambitions for the future.”

Children in Achievers For Life rely on their adult mentors to be a support system of encouragement they may not receive at home — or as an extension of what they are already getting at home.

Jaelyn is just one example of the lives changed by Achievers For Life every day. Moreover, Achievers For Life is just one of more than 70 initiatives supported each year by United Way of Northeast Florida in the areas of basic needs, high-quality education, good health and well-being and financial security.

When you support United Way, lives like Jaelyn’s like are transformed, and Northeast Florida grows stronger.

How can you make a difference? Help us create a community of opportunity where everyone has hope and can reach their full potential. Donate now to United Way of Northeast Florida — because change doesn’t happen alone.