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
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
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.