Court’s Mentoring Program Changing Lives
Spencer Kirksey and Noah Mirando are two friends bowling after school.
“Oh, my goodness – come on, come on. So close,” Mirando laughs.
They’ve only been hanging out since September, but already Kirksey says he’s good pals with 14-year-old Mirando.
“He’s really opened up. He was really shy in the beginning, and now it’s like I’m hanging out with one of my buddies,” Kirksey said.
Life threw Mirando a curveball when his mother became sick.
“I would get into arguments and every once in a while I would start fighting people and always getting into trouble, always getting called down to the court, and they said the next time I would be sent to juvi and then foster home,” Mirando said. “I didn’t want to leave because my mom was the only one I looked up to – she was the only parent in the household. She was the only one I could count on, and I didn’t want to leave her. I wanted to always stay by her side.”
With his mother now in a nursing home and his older brother working 12-hour shifts to keep the rest of his family in their apartment, Mirando needed a healthy outlet to express his anger and he needed a friend.
So every week Kirksey and Mirando meet up and hang out for a few hours.
The two met though the Delaware County Juvenile Court’s T.E.A.M. Mentoring Program. The program started in 1999 but didn’t become part of the Delaware County Juvenile Court until a year later. Patty Cram took over the program in 2003, and she said it’s flourished ever since.
“The first year it just went ‘boom, boom,’” Cram laughed.
T.E.A.M. stands for “Together Everyone Achieves More,” and for Cram that means pairing up at-risk youth with mentors from across the county.
“They have some problems somewhere along the line – that’s why the school, or even parents, wants them in the program,” Cram said.
At the program’s beginning most mentors were adult community members. Now Cram said most of the T.E.A.M. mentors are from Ohio Wesleyan University. The college students have to perform community service for one of their classes, and from September through May the students hang out with their mentees, who range in age from 10 to 14. More than 300 kids have benefited from the program since its inception.
“’You just keep getting better and better.’ ‘You’ve turned it around.’ ‘You’re maturing. I think this school year you’ve really matured a lot.’ ‘I think hanging out with an older boy…’ ‘Helps a little bit, right?’” Cram, Mirando, and Kirksey reminisce.
Kirksey liked the program so much he’s now in his second year mentoring.
“I wanted to keep going with the program because I liked what it stood for and helping out the community,” Kirksey said. “I enjoy my time with Noah. It doesn’t feel like I’m volunteering. It feels like I’m just hanging out with a friend.”
And Mirando likes the activities they do and knowing that he can count on Kirksey to be there in this life.
“I love hanging out with Spencer,” Mirando said. “He takes me places. He’s like a big brother to me – a big brother that I never had. My brother, he was never there for me.”
And it’s that relationship that makes the T.E.A.M. program a win-win.
The Delaware County Juvenile Court also has a program that supports teen moms called M.O.M.S. – or Moms Offering Mentoring Support. That program started in 2005. Find more information on both mentoring programs on the court’s website.