Stretching from Virginia to the Nation’s Capital are bridges – real and figurative. Community of Hope mentor, Kelly Peaks-Horner, is a Virginia native. On the other side of the bridge lives Nafia Brown, Kelly’s mentee. The pair lives close enough to consider each other “neighbors,” far enough to be strangers, but the bridge of Community of Hope is what connects them forever.
Kelly, a wife and mom of two daughters, worked with kids before, as she was a teacher for many years in the Arlington County Public School system. She loved connecting with her students and developing them academically and socially. After teaching, she continued to developing others at Gallup, working with school leaders to get to the next step in their careers. She loves building relationships.
Community of Hope has partnered with Gallup in numerous ways, as they have volunteered at many events and donated funds to help support our families. Kelly wanted to know what more she could do. That’s when she found out about the mentoring program through a friend. Her friend shared her experiences of being a mentor with Kelly. She was immediately sold. Our mentoring program matches youth in our housing programs between the ages of 8 and 18 with mentors who are compassionate and committed.
“My life’s work has been in the pursuit of creating impact and making a difference, especially for young people. Mentoring allows me to continue with and fulfill that internal mission, create a wonderful relationship, and make an impact for both an individual and the community. That is critical to having a thriving well-being life.”
Meeting Nafia in 2016, Kelly describes their early memories of “hanging out.” Like most first interactions with mentors, Nafia was shy and very reserved. Over time, she became comfortable with her and would check in with Kelly by sending text messages. They began to bond through their outings, figuring out things they would like to do, and goals they would like to achieve.
Now in 2018, the two – coming from different sides of the bridge – have met in the middle with the love and trust they have for one another. “Nafia has taught me many things, like to be grateful and to listen and understand that other people have other life experiences,” Kelly says. “She’s given be a bigger world view of others.” Nafia and her family are clients in Community of Hope’s Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) program; a program that provides long-term housing and in-home supportive services to formerly chronically homeless families.
“Being a mentor at Community of Hope has given me more compassion for people who struggle for various reasons and sometimes just need grace for a short period of time. We sometimes see the face of the adult and criticize that, but what we don’t know is that there are others behind that adult.”
As Nafia crosses a new bridge in her life – starting high school – Kelly plans to be there every step of the way and says “I don’t see us disconnecting in the future at any time.” The pair will continue to plan their goals for her school year, and figure out how she can unlock new doors in her future.
In January, the pair celebrated a night out, as Kelly was nominated for Mentor of the Year for United Way of the National Capital and Deloitte’s Mentoring Matters Coalition, and won Community of Hope’s 2018 Mentor of the Year!
We’re very proud of Kelly, Nafia, and all of our mentors/mentees! If you would like to learn more about volunteer opportunities and to become a mentor, visit www.communityofhopedc.org/mentor.