Volunteer Therapeutic Mentor Darlene Hampton felt called to become a mentor in our Therapeutic Mentoring program. Reflecting on the powerful influence of positive adult role models in her own life, Darlene explains that she knew it was time to “pay it forward.”
“I recall the adolescent years being full of confusing decisions,” she said. “If it hadn’t been for some special adults never giving up on and believing in me, my life could’ve travelled a much different path. I hope to be one of those positive and memorable role models to my mentee. Selfishly, I hope that if she should ever feel alone or confused, a vision or thought of me guides her to make a positive choice.”
Darlene became one of those special adults in July 2020, when she was matched with an 11-year-old girl at St. Vincent’s Villa, a residential treatment center for children ages 5 to 13. With the pandemic in full swing, their weekly visits were virtual. They adjusted quickly and were able to discover fun and creative ways to interact and build a relationship through virtual mentoring. Ms. Darlene was there every week, same day, same time, for her mentee—always with a smile on her face and a warm and engaging spirit.
Darlene’s consistency, positivity, and therapeutic presence became the foundation for a trusting and healthy relationship with her mentee. Their visits would often include doing an art activity, and her mentee was always sure to perfectly place the computer screen so “Ms. Darlene” could see her creations and engage in fun and meaningful conversations.
“I enjoy my mentee very much,” Darlene said. “Every week she brings her full, wonderful self to our visits. Our time together is full of fun, exploration, and heartfelt conversations. Watching her grow stronger and more independent every week is so rewarding.”
By the spring of 2021, the mentee’s family wasn’t available to visit at St. Vincent’s Villa, so Darlene began in-person mentoring sessions. They met outside, walking and talking, doing chalk drawings, making and hanging a bird feeder, and even hanging out in their favorite place on campus –the Pre-Vocational Center, where there is a kitchen for cooking and plenty of space for crafting.
Darlene remains an inspiration and a true advocate for her mentee and for other adults considering a role as a therapeutic mentor.
It is so rewarding to see a traumatized child laugh without restraint, share a story without filters, explore without judgment, and embrace who they are without fear,” Darelen said. “I feel blessed and a little responsible for these moments. I feel like I contribute; I make a difference.
“Mentoring is such a meaningful, hands-on, impactful, and enriching volunteer experience. Every week brings surprises, enrichment, and growth. Be your bravest and most awesome self…go for it!”
Thank you, Darlene, from all your friends at Catholic Charities, for always bringing your bravest and most awesome self. It is an inspiration to see you mentoring and making a difference!