“High school is hard for every kid, no matter their circumstances. I like helping out because I wish I would have had someone else in my corner through everything I’ve been through. I want to make sure nobody ever wishes that.” - Jacob, STARS Mentor at Northfield High School
Dear Friend of FRIENDS FIRST,
It’s been an amazing year as FRIENDS FIRST celebrated 25 years of service and we are well aware that none of it would be possible without you, our community of support. We reflected on our mission statement to serve as a nationwide leader in peer mentoring and youth development, educating and mentoring teens to make positive life choices and develop healthy relationships.
STARS, Students Teaching About Relationships and Success, is our student-led, peer mentoring program where older high school students mentor younger high school or middle school students. The high school mentors are equipped with leadership skills through weekly meetings with their program coordinators who serve as adult mentors. Through intentional activities, program coordinators, mentors and mentees work together to build supportive relationships, do community service projects, create public service announcements to educate about and advocate for critical issues facing teens today and focus on skills necessary for setting positive futures in motion.Dave Lucitt has served as a program coordinator in the STARS program for four years, leads STARS programs at three schools, and was recognized as staff member of the year at our 25th anniversary gala in November.
Dave implements STARS at Northfield High School in far Northeast Denver. After two years in the STARS program, Jacob (name changed to protect his identity) became a mentor and a leader at Northfield. When FRIENDS FIRST and the Office of the Independent Monitor brought “Bridging the Gap: Kids and Cops” all-day forum to Northfield this Fall, Jacob, as an interested person looking to grow as a leader, participated. He will apply to the University of Colorado--Colorado Springs next year to pursue a degree in English with the goal of eventually teaching English as a second language overseas. He chose UCCS after attending our STARS National Conference this past summer. Jacob was one of 40 student staff leaders at the conference, serving the 300-plus teens who attended the event.
A few years ago, life was different for Jacob. “It was a really hard time before STARS,” he explained. “There was a lot going on – my mom had lost her job and I was really down on myself because it was a scary situation in terms of not knowing if we were going to pay rent each month. I didn’t have any outlets to be able to talk about all those issues.”
Jacob’s mom is raising he and his two sisters. His mother struggled to find work for a time, and his family experienced intermittent homelessness during 7th and 8th grade. “As a child, I didn’t have my dad in my life. I still kind of don’t, I see him every so often. I didn’t have any of my five brothers in my life either. Around the 12-13 age I started feeling so different from everyone else…I felt lonely. It took me a while but around 14-15 I realized I needed to do this on my own. With STARS, I learned that not every kid needs to do it on his own.”
Jacob didn’t know what STARS was when it launched. He didn’t even know he was looking for a mentor. Today, he admits that high school would have been “a lot different” if he hadn’t found STARS. “I’ve always been one to socialize; I’m an extrovert to some extent. I think everyone in the school kind of knows me. I don’t shy away, but I did have a small group of people I always went to. It was weird to open up to more people. Only a few kids truly knew what was going on with me before STARS.”
“Mentoring is hard, especially as a teenager, when we have a kid who doesn’t listen or a kid who’s in and out of the program. Dave is great at letting us know that’s how it can be. He lets us know that there have been times when he’s put time into people and it hasn’t worked out, but he wouldn’t take that back. He shows us the example of a mentor.”We thank Jacob and Dave for sharing this story with us.
We invite you to consider making a $500 gift to FRIENDS FIRST, helping more students like Jacob have mentors and be mentors. This is the approximate cost of sending one student to SNC, which is a great introduction to our programs. Your donations may be tax deductible.
Learn more by visiting www.friendsfirst.org for simple directions for an online donation, or mail your donation today to FRIENDS FIRST, 7100 E. Belleview Ave., Suite 303, Greenwood Village, CO 80111.Thank for supporting FRIENDS FIRST whether over many years or just this past year. We can’t do it without you!
Elycia R. Cook