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STRIVE celebrates 18 mentoring pairs, honors 4 graduates

Jun 20, 2018|Written By: Dylan Rosenthal

On June 13, STRIVE students, mentors, their families, and Abundant Life board members came together at Trinity Presbyterian Church for the program’s annual End of the Year Banquet. Following a delicious meal catered by Wayside Chicken, students and mentors took turns sharing the student’s goals and accomplishments from the year, allowing those gathered to celebrate the students’ successes and obstacles overcome. Successes included, in addition to four graduations, a STRIVE student obtaining a CNA license and getting a new job, another getting a full-time job, and another launching a custom shoe business.

STUDENTS AND MENTORS SHARE KIND WORDS WITH ONE ANOTHER

The time of sharing brought many heartfelt moments. To his mentor Bill, sophomore R’Quis said: “I just want to thank you for really pushing me because after my injury I started slacking in school. But he really pushed me to do all of my work and I started doing good and I passed this year. And he also brings me over to his house for dinner and we just have fun and talk about things.” Bill responded, “It’s been a joy to have you be more and more a part of our family this past year and I’m really grateful for getting to know you better.” (video below)

“I just want to thank everyone who’s been there for me, especially Mr. Harris and his family. They took me in as one of their sons and I kind of needed that. I really want to thank you because without that I probably wouldn’t have graduated honestly.”

Said Amdane Sanda, an Abundant Life participant since third grade: “I just want to thank everyone who’s been there for me, especially Mr. Harris and his family. They took me in as one of their sons and I kind of needed that. I really want to thank you because without that I probably wouldn’t have graduated honestly. I wouldn’t have had someone to push me and help me through the tight spaces I was in and pressure me to complete tasks and do what I needed to do.” Remarked Byron Harris about his mentee, “Knowing Amdane is like peeling an onion because there’s layers and layers. He is a deeply felt, deeply thoughtful individual,” before listing Amdane’s many talents and qualities. Added Byron’s wife, Rie, “I just want you to know, Amdane, that you have a special place in my heart and our kitchen table is always open to you.” (video below)

Abundant Life Executive Director, Nathan Walton, who just completed his first year mentoring freshman Joseph, reflected, “I think one thing I didn’t anticipate was how excited he would get about Scripture. I think that’s one of the cool highlights of our time together that we would really dig into the Word. I’m just excited even more so that’s it’s not over, that we’ve kind of just scratched the surface of hopefully what our friendship can bring to each of our lives.” (video below)

Said sophomore Cameron: “Juandiego has been the man for me that my mom couldn’t be when my father wasn’t in my life as well. Juandiego has changed me in a positive way. He has actually helped me reach all of my goals the past couple of years when it comes to finances, getting a job, kind of starting a new life ahead of me. He’s been my right hand man, right beside of me helping me all the way through. I thank you for that, Juan.” (video below)

TIME OF SHARING INCLUDES EXPRESSIONS OF GRATITUDE TOWARD ABUNDANT LIFE

Students and mentors also expressed their appreciation for Abundant Life. Said Amdane, a Muslim: “When I first started, my dad thought you guys were trying to recruit me to become a Christian but I convinced him, and thanks to Dylan and Richard for convincing him, to let me be a part of the program. Because through it all it’s really helped me not only for school, but religiously – seeing men like you guys being strong in your faith and inspiring other people to be strong in their faith, and trusting God and the plans that He has – it’s kind of helped me find my place in my religion. Thank you.”

“I have mentored through a lot of different programs in the community, but this is the only one that I feel comfortable really talking about my faith journey, my love for Christ.”

Added Juandiego Wade, mentor to Cameron: “I have mentored through a lot of different programs in the community, but this is the only one that I feel comfortable really talking about my faith journey, my love for Christ. And I share that with Cameron, and we talk about that practically every time we meet, our relationship with the Lord.”

STRIVE HONORS GRADUATES WITH GIFTS

To conclude the event, STRIVE presented each of the graduates – Amdane, Appiton Weyee, Elihud Minani, and Redoane Kondo – with a framed photo with their mentor, a bible imprinted with their name, a card signed by others in the program, and a gift card. Mentors of the graduates also received framed photos. The graduates then cut the cake.

With the four Class of 2018 graduates, STRIVE maintained its perfect on-time graduation rate (now 20 for 20 after six years). Three of the graduates plan to attend Piedmont Virginia Community College, while the fourth is working on his firefighting certification. Please check out the videos and photos below; videos of all of the evening’s testimonies may be found on our YouTube channel.

Photos courtesy of Laura Merricks, Elihud Minani, Luke Juday, Angel Feero, Byron Harris, and Dylan Rosenthal.

  

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