Sunday, June 7, 2009

Jasmine Is 16!

I met Jasmine almost nine years ago. It doesn't seem possible that it has been that long but the math tells me it is. I was honored to be able to spend part of Jasmine's 16th birthday with her today. She has grown up and is now a young woman preparing for her last two years of high school and thinking about what colleges she wants to apply for. I feel both proud of all of her accomplishments and of the young woman she is and also sad that she has grown up so quickly.

Nine years ago, I decided to call Big Brothers/Big Sisters and ask to become a mentor. I never dreamed how that decision would affect the rest of my life. I filled out the application and anxiously waited for a case manager to call. A few weeks later, I was scheduled to attend an orientation class where I was told what to expect. The average match lasts approximately two years and often ends when the mentor or the child moves away. The mentor must commit to one year. They spoke about how the children came from single parent households and that many had suffered quite a bit of disappointment in their short lives. The children needed an adult mentor who they could learn to trust and that would be a constant part of their lives. They also gave us statistics that I no longer remember the exact numbers. They spoke of how the child would be less likely to join a gang, commit crimes, drop out of high school and abuse drugs and alcohol.

I left that meeting feeling very excited. A short time later, my new case manager called me and asked if I would look at some children's files. We agreed to a meeting and she showed me the summaries and pictures of two little girls. She stated the first little girl had moved a lot as a child and her mother had a history of being very inconsistent in her commitments. The child was a sweet girl whose last match had ended when the mother abruptly moved the child to another state. They were back and looking to join the program again.

The second little girl was seven years old with a very sweet smile. She had recently broken her arm roller skating. She was a quiet girl but cold be difficult to work with. Her mom was responsible and worked full-time trying to support five children in the home. Her last match had ended abruptly when her mentor became pregnant and just quit the program. The little girl was very disappointed and might have a difficult time trusting me right away.

I took the second child. Her name was Jasmine and I anxiously waited to meet her. About a week later, I was told that she had moved to a different part of the city that would take longer to drive to. I stated it wasn't a problem and a meeting was scheduled.

I met Jasmine on September 11, 2000. The rest is history. Jasmine was that sweet child. She was also very quiet. I took her for ice cream that first evening and we just got to know eachother a little better. We have been there for each other since then. She has taught me as much or more than I have taught her.

When I met Jasmine, I was attending technical college attempting to get my associate degree in police science. I was working Jasmine was preparing to enter second grade and struggling with school. As the years have gone by a lot has changed. Jasmine now excells at school and is preparing to begin her junior year of high school next year. She was there when I graduated from the technical school as well as the four year school. She looked at houses with me and celebrated when I finally had an offer accepted on one. She listened to me and followed along as I went through the adoption journey to bring home Jacob. She was one of the first people to meet him as well as spending time with the foster children that followed. She will graduate high school the same year I finish my graduate degree and has already seen the campus I will attend classes at.

Jasmine has become a member of this family and a very welcome one. Yes, there have been challenges and we have both gone through difficult phases. We never gave up on each other and that seems to be the secret. There have been times that she has made me angry and frustrated and I am sure I have done the same to her. We continued to meet though and worked through our differences and phases. That is what makes any relationship worthwhile. I can honestly say that I love Jasmine like I love my other children and I have high hopes for her future. She is a smart young lady who has a very bright future ahead of her. I hope she will allow me to continue to be a part of it for years to come.

Jasmine, happy birthday. I am proud of you and so thankful I have had the chance to get to know you. Thank you for all you have given me and for what you will give me. Jacob and M love you and so do I.

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