Laura and Katiana

April 2023 TeamMates of the Month: Busy Hands, Strong Bonds

It’s 9 ‘o’clock on a Thursday morning at Northeast High School. Laura and her mentor Katiana are immersed in a service project in the library, “We do ALL of them,” says Laura. “They’re fun. Mostly. Except when we can’t figure out the directions.” 

Katiana says the service projects align well with something she learned in her professional life, “When hands are moving, talking is more comfortable for young people.”

And this was important because Laura admits to being pretty shy and hesitant to talk to her new mentor when they met at Hartley Elementary seven years ago. Over time, she learned she could trust Katiana, “She isn’t like any other adult. If I fail a test, she just says, ‘It’s okay. You got this. Let’s talk about it,’ instead of yelling at me.”

Trust would become important as Laura met a series of unexpected challenges, including a huge tree falling on her truck in a storm and the death of her brother when she was a sophomore, “I just knew I had someone I could talk with about it.”

Busy hands again helped to make it comfortable to share hard things and gave Katiana a chance to be there for Laura, “Not talking so much,” she says, “but listening and making sure she was okay.”

No surprise that “Supportive” topped Laura’s list of ways she’d describe her mentor. “I know I can always go to you,” she said to Katiana, “and you’ll be there. Positively! You’re very supportive of what I do…my decisions and I appreciate that.” 

Katiana’s “Openness” means Laura gets to know all about her mentor’s family, the weddings, traveling and other parts of her life, “It’s very interesting to see what an adult does over the weekend. And all her stories are so funny.”

When Laura thinks of fun, carving pumpkins comes to mind and making ornaments at holiday times, “You don’t do those things unless your family does, but my family doesn’t so I like just being able to do that with her.”

Humor and laughter are clearly core as Katiana notes “Funny” as a trait, “She’s a very funny girl. She’s always been funny too. Her humor has just grown as she’s gotten older and matured.” 

Katiana includes “Caring” as another way to describe Laura, “With her big family and friends, she’s almost like a mother figure. I relate to that and that is why I remind her often that she also needs to remember to take care of herself and save money for herself.”

Laura’s caring, helpful ways don’t stop with her human connections. She has chickens, dogs, cats and she does wildlife rescue too, taking care of baby raccoons in her home at one point.

Whether playing games or filling the pages of adult coloring books, activity stuck for them even after trust was long established. As Katiana puts it, “The time I spend mentoring is something to look forward to, going to see Laura, to see what she’s been doing. Right now we are working on scholarships and getting ready for college. I have literally been watching her grow up for the past seven years.”

Laura says they’re used to each other, friends, “I know that past college we’ll still be connected.”