The Exchange : Jenna Van Valen awarded second place in Member Volunteer Challenge

Jenna Van Valen awarded second place in Member Volunteer Challenge

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Jenna Van Valen and her boyfriend Jason Bailes at a fundraising luncheon held at the Tiger Woods Center on the Nike campus in Beaverton.

For over four years I have mentored teenagers in my community. 

St. Mary's Home for Boys is a residential treatment facility for emotionally disturbed teenage boys ages 10-17. I am matched up with a boy and visit him weekly while he is in the program. I have worked with and met boys who have been victims of sexual abuse, gang members, boys who had previously never had their own bed, new clothes and boys who have never had adults they can trust.

The program is incredible, nationally recognized and accredited, and has an amazing 80 percent success rate. I would describe it as the Big Brother/Big Sister program on steroids. This program provides education, mental support, guidance, therapy, routines and all the things you would teach your own child, in a residential setting that focuses on safety and security. And they are kids, despite their heart breaking stories. 

I provide a break in their therapeutic setting just by showing up and spending my lunch hour. I eat with the boys and then spend one on one time with my kid, usually just playing a board game and talking. I also attend reviews, meetings and other important milestones. When my boy leaves the program, I am matched with another, there are always boys who have never had a reliable female role model in their lives, and I help provide that link to "real life" just by supporting them while they're in treatment. 

I have left St. Mary's in tears some days, but it's always worth my effort - someone has to show kids they're deserving of respect and can trust others. When parents fail, programs and volunteers like me are our best chance at proving the world isn't all bad. I believe in and love what I do. 

Written by Jenna Van Valen at 00:00

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