Time Well Spent
By Michelle Jones and Mariah Himes
Enrique Ochoa had wonderful adults in his life who consistently supported him. He has seen the benefit of these relationships in his own life, Enrique wanted to pay it forward and became a mentor through the Job Foundation in Cedar Falls.
The goal of The Job Foundation is to teach children from low income families to be financially successful. Through this organization, middle and upper-class adults tutor and mentor young people in the local community.
Enrique and Brandon were matched two years ago through this mentoring program, where they take financial literacy courses together and spend time just hanging out. While Enrique encourages Brandon to learn new things, he is constantly impressed by Brandon’s capacity and love for learning.
“Brandon is such a sharp and quick learner! The Job Foundation seeks to encourage and teach sound financial skills and decision making - and Brandon absorbs these lessons very quickly! He responds very well when I tell him how bright I think he is!” says Enrique.
“[Enrique has taught me to] play baseball, [has taught me] money lessons, and [has taught me that it is good to compare items when shopping],” says Brandon.
A mentor as well as tutor, Enrique and Brandon spend time together outside of the classroom, too.
“We've played ball, gone out to eat ice cream, went to a children's theater, we've watched games on TV at Buffalo Wild Wings, raked leaves, done [The Job Foundation] Financial Lessons, etc. But my favorite activity is when Brandon feels safe enough - to just talk. I love it most when he opens up - and asks questions or just shares with me what is really going on in his young life,” says Enrique.
For Brandon, just spending quality time with a caring adult male who will play games with him and talk is perfect.
“One of my favorite things to do with Enrique is to play catch at school. Also, we talk a lot and hang out,” says Brandon.
During their conversations, Enrique gets the chance to listen to Brandon talk about his life and show concern for the boy’s experiences and hardships. While Brandon feels known and listened to, Enrique has learned much throughout their relationship as well: “My heart has grown more caring and passionate toward financially underprivileged families and communities. So many have it so tough! But TJF believes that generational cycles of economic hardship can be broken through sound financial and relational mentoring.”
Mentoring has provided Brandon with a role model and friend, and Enrique has had the opportunity to see the positive impact he’s had on Brandon’s life.
“Brandon's world is very challenging. It's hard to be a ‘good kid’ when so much in his life is negative and difficult and full of struggle. Brandon is learning that ‘fighting’ is not just about punching or kicking - but standing firm for what you believe in and want. I think I am probably one of the healthiest males he knows,” says Enrique.