By John Kelly, columnist
The Washington Post
January 2, 2016
“Somebody who’s older but not your parent,” she explained. Someone, she added, who’s kind of cool.
“I’m kind of cool,” said Julie, 38.
Jamesha Johnson, 14, shot Julie a look that said,Yes, but the truly cool don’t go around announcing it.
That affectionate teenage side-eye is possible only when you have the sort of relationship that Julie and Jamesha have. The pair — mentor and mentee — have known each other since Jamesha was 6.
Armed with a degree in history and political science, Julie came to Washington from Cleveland and worked for a Democratic polling outfit.
“When I first came here, I didn’t want to be one of those people who gets on the Metro and goes to my job and forgets that there’s another part of D.C.,” Julie said.
She volunteered with a group called the Homeless Children’s Playtime Project, which invites caring adults to visit children living in D.C. homeless shelters. At the time, Jamesha’s family was in a transitional living program in Southeast run by Community of Hope, a partner in The Washington Post Helping Hand.
One of the kids Julie met was Jamesha.
“She was very sweet — a little shy at first, which is true of me, as well,” Julie said.
Julie visited every Saturday morning, usually playing with Jamesha and a friend.
“They always wanted to do my hair,” Julie said.
That was fine with her.
“I can always go home and put conditioner in my hair and get all the knots out. If they want me to be their live Barbie doll, go ahead.”
Jamesha’s friend had a mentor. Jamesha — the youngest of five children — didn’t.
At the time, Community of Hope was just starting its mentoring program, with the aim of broadening the horizons of District children growing up in poverty.
Story continued in The Washington Post.