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JEN'S STORY
Jen’s son, Paul, was a mentee in the Teen Trendsetters® program. After struggling with reading for years despite support from his parents, Paul finally began to love reading because of his teen mentor, John. Their bond allowed Paul to be vulnerable enough to improve his literacy and learn to love education and his community.
Jen shared their story in
her own words below:

When Paul was two or three years old, we noticed that his speech was not as clear as other children his age. He would get so frustrated that we didn’t understand what he was trying to tell us. For the next several years, we worked with speech therapists and occupational therapists to get him the help he needed. 

In kindergarten, Paul struggled with writing and reading.  His writing got better through occupational therapy, but his reading was not as quick to improve. Paul was in and out of Title I reading for two years. We spent 20-30 minutes each night reading the books that were sent home from the Title I program, but Paul would rarely choose to read other books from his bookshelf. If we did get him to read other books, he would get frustrated and upset that he wasn’t able to read like his father and I could.

“I hope that the young adults who mentor know what a huge impact their actions have on these young children. While they may not think that what they are doing is a big deal, others who are watching and seeing the results are thankful and amazed.

— JEN

When he started first grade, we were hopeful that his hard work and our reading to him would keep him moving forward. However, he still needed that extra push. We got a notice that Paul had been selected for a program called Teen Trendsetters, where a high school student would be paired with Paul to work on reading once a week. We agreed to allow Paul to participate—thinking it couldn’t hurt.

I don’t know if words can describe how much our world would change as a result.

Paul was paired with a mentor named John, and they bonded. Paul and John shared similar interests. Paul likes to run; John was on the track team. Paul and John also share a love of Star Wars. 

I will never forget Paul coming home with his book about a garbage truck. It was not a book that he would have ever attempted to read out loud to us. Beaming, he declared that he had read the book! He proceeded to sit down and read it to us, stumbling on a few words, catching and correcting himself as he went. I listened to him read with tears in my eyes. He was doing it. He was really doing it! John was able to get through to Paul and help him in ways that no one else had been able to.

Paul looked forward to his visits with John. He would take books from home to share with John. All Paul could talk about was seeing John and what they would get to do next. All the books that John would share with Paul were placed in a special place on his bookshelf so he could easily revisit them.  

I don’t know that John will ever know what his actions mean to me. He gave his time to help a first grader who was struggling, who needed to see that someone outside his immediate family and teachers cared about his success. He was able to make him see that sounding out words was okay, and that stumbling through was sometimes the only way to get where you needed to be. 

The program ended the year with an Ice Cream Social, where I had an opportunity to meet John for the first time. Watching all the Teen Trendsetters interacting with each other was so amazing. The Teen Trendsetters program has helped Paul in ways that I am sure we have not even seen yet. I hope that the young adults who mentor know what a huge impact their actions have on these young children. While they may not think that what they are doing is a big deal, others who are watching and seeing the results are thankful and amazed.

Since Paul and John’s time with the Teen Trendsetters ended, John has gone off to college. Paul and John still email regularly. We keep in regular contact with John and have been able to get them together the past two summers for some outings. We visit him at college and are planning a “boys’” trip for this winter so that Paul, John, and Paul’s dad can take in a University of Maine Hockey game. 

Thank you for creating this program. I hope you know how grateful my husband and I are for the opportunity granted to our son.

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