** This story is written from the perspective of our Game On! Mentoring Coordinator **
When mentoring youth our efforts can often be difficult to measure. Our Game On mentors do their absolute best to impart positive guidance and healthy philosophies, but whether or not the boys truly appreciate and internalize this knowledge can often be very mysterious. This uncertainty of mentoring impact is exemplified through the experience of our mentors James and Emerson at St. Anthony’s elementary and their challenges with their mentee Shou-ren. When I inquired about their mentorship experience at the final session they expressed that it was very enjoyable overall, but both admitted skepticism and elements of frustration that, in particular, Shou-ren was a difficult personality to manage and probably didn’t learn much from the program. Shou-ren would consistently struggle listening and would shut down, pout, and try to leave the area if things didn’t go his way during games. They also distinctly remembered how adamant he was during one of the discussions that if you find a lost wallet on the ground you should take the money and not try to return it as he said that this is something that he was directly taught by adult figures in his life. James and Emerson strongly explained to him that it would be wrong to take the money, but it seemed that Shou-ren was stubborn with his convictions.
However, when it was Shou-ren’s turn to reflect on his Game On experience during the final session, he was perhaps the most sincere, articulate and impassioned about the rewards of the program of any boy at any school. He told me that “the first day of Game On we all had our barriers up with the mentors, but we immediately took them down as they made us feel comfy right away.” Shou-ren also enthusiastically explained that his favourite part about being with his mentors was them “playing the games with us but mostly the valuable lessons they taught us.” He said that they taught him “not to be bad because it makes life so much easier” and specifically mentioned that he learned that “if you find a lost wallet on the ground you should do your best to return it and not take the money.” Finally, he said that if he could describe Game On in one word he would describe it as “loveable.”
After speaking with Shou-ren I took a moment to explain what he had told me to James and Emerson. They both gave a wide smile with a noticeable exhale of pride, relief and satisfaction. It defined a moment when you realize that all of our efforts are worth it.