Two is better than one. That’s what Jenny Browne and her husband, Ryan, thought when they first came across our mentoring program for youth coming from families where homelessness has been a long-term challenge. “We wanted our first time serving together to be something we were both absolutely passionate about.”
Originally from Chicago, Jenny and Ryan moved to the District about two years ago. Having both served regularly at homeless shelters and Boys and Girls Clubs, Jenny and Ryan were looking for different ways to immerse themselves and get involved in the new city they called home. For them, volunteering as mentors was the perfect opportunity – they get to give back and explore the city hand-in-hand with their mentees.
“As mentors, we want to be role models who encourage [our mentees] and invest in their talents. We want to be the someone who’s in their corner, who’s proud of them,” Jenny said. “Teach them to think, learn and grow,” Ryan added.
That is the hope of our mentoring program. With two meaningful interactions a month, mentors encourage their mentee to develop to his or her highest potential; to create a vision for the future; and expose them to new experiences. These meetings can be educational outings, homework help or fun excursions – really anything that helps the pair bond and build trust.
It’s been almost a full year of fun now for the couple and their mentees. Jenny mentors thirteen-year-old Kemoni, while Ryan mentors her younger brother, Davon. Having a sibling pair of mentees is double the fun, but they usually choose to do things separately to spend more personalized time with the kids.
Kemoni will try anything once. So, she and Jenny have gone paddle boating, ice skating and to the nail salon. Davon likes art. He and Ryan have been to museums, pottery painting, and are currently planning to tour the White House. Together, the four make activities like baseball games and laser tag that much more fun (and competitive!).
What are the benefits of volunteering together? “Ryan and I trade tips and brainstorm activities for the kids. We reflect on our outings too,” Jenny shared. But there’s more to it. “The best part is that we get to show our mentees what a happy, healthy marriage looks like, how you should be treated and how you should treat others.”
Jenny and Ryan also admit they’ve learned a lot from their mentees. Things like humility and how to be truly present.
“These kids inspire [us].”
This National Mentoring Month, we want to thank our committed mentors – like Jenny and Ryan – for making a difference in the lives of our youth. You all are superheroes!
If Jenny and Ryan’s story inspired you to give back, please consider joining the Community of Hope mentor program to become a positive role model in the life of a homeless child. Learn how to get involved here.