By Christina Dozier Originally published in The Florida Times-Union
It was 2012, while working at Bank of America, when Timothy Bunn first heard of United Way of Northeast Florida and the opportunity to mentor young people by participating in Achievers For Life.
United Way’s Achievers For Life initiative, in partnership with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northeast Florida, identifies and provides at-risk students with family support, mentors and school assistance to help them reach and maintain academic success.
“I know what it’s like to struggle in school and can relate to what these students are going through,” Bunn said. “I wish I had someone to help and encourage me when I was younger. That’s why I want to give of my time through AFL. Kids have so much to deal with these days, with a lot less support. I want to be there for them as a friend, someone to encourage them to stay in school and hold them accountable for doing the right things and making good choices.”
Bunn’s mentee is Thomas, who attends Stilwell Middle School. They meet for one hour each week, where Bunn places all focus on Thomas’ needs.
“I’m hoping I can mentor Thomas until he graduates 12th grade,” Bunn said. “You want kids to feel they are important and mean something to our world — to see there are people who care about them and their well-being.”
Bunn knows it’s important for kids to have safe, caring adult figures in their lives — figures with whom they can share their experiences, discuss their problems, ideas and have a little fun.
“Mentoring gives my life more meaning,” Bunn said. “Watching Thomas grow and mature is awesome. And seeing his response to little things like bringing him his favorite drink or candy puts the biggest smile on his face. It’s the little things that mean so much to a kid.”
Bunn encourages others to not miss the opportunity to mentor. In addition to the benefits for the mentee, it’s extremely beneficial to the mentor as well, he said.
“Our mentoring sessions are therapeutic,” Bunn said. “Afterward, I feel great. I have gained a new perspective on life, learning to slow down, enjoy life more and not take everything so seriously.”