If you walk by the benches outside the weight room in the Roche Sports Complex on Monday at 4:30 p.m., there’s a good chance you’ll see sophomore Marcus Lotti and eighth grader Ashton Montez playing Polish poker or Gin rummy, discussing what they want to eat for dinner that night or the most recent song discovery they’ve made.
The meeting is set up by the GOAL Hillsdale Youth Mentoring Program, which aims to help at risk youth and provide mentorship for the Hillsdale community. The program has about 15 to 20 students who meet with their mentees, normally at Davis Middle school.
Building the relationship happens for each pair differently. For Lotti and Montez, that relationship began with cards and music. After almost two semesters, Lotti has found a certain familiarity with both Montez and his grandmother and guardian, Pam Montez.
“I think we all clicked,” Pam Montez said. “That is very important because we don’t always click with people.”
At first, the relationship was slow going. Ashton Montez is generally very shy, while Lotti describes himself as “the most outgoing of all the kids in his family.”
The two, however, have made progress.
“I think we’re at the point of feeling comfortable,” Pam Montez said. “It helps to have Ashton be around people who are more outgoing. We have come a long way in getting over that in the last year.”
Ashton Montez and Lotti have gotten so comfortable that they Facebook message each other with song suggestions.
“I’m glad he’s comfortable enough to reach out to Marcus,” Pam Montez said. “Ashton doesn’t trust easily so it’s fantastic that he trusts Marcus enough to Facebook message him.”
As they continue to build the relationship, Lotti describes the slow nature of such a thing, but the importance which cannot be undervalued.
“Being able to look up to someone in whatever way shape and form and have them sit down and talk to you, it’s great,” Lotti said. “In whatever way I’m able to do that, I have a duty to.”
Although their interactions may be only once a week for 30 to 45 minutes, the effects have been clear to Pam Montez.
“Marcus is consistent and that’s very important to Ashton to be consistent and responsible,” Pam Montez said. “Marcus is always here.”
As a single grandmother, Pam Montez felt that she needed to find someone to be a male role model for Ashton Montez.
“He needed to have someone in his life, a male rodel who is a good decent person,” Pam Montez said. “Someone who is striving for more in life than just averageness.”
After meeting Lotti for the first time, Pam Montez was confident in his character.
“From the get-go I liked Marcus” Pam Montez said. “He’s intelligent and he’s got a very good heart. And that’s really appealing. It’s important for any person, including a young man, to have a good heart.”
Head of the mentoring program senior Rosemary Pynes emphasizes the relational nature of the program as well as the vital element of consistency.
“The goal of the program is to build real relationships,” Pynes said. “We try to make sure our mentors go consistently and through that relationship show the kids that they matter to someone.”
In building a relationship, giving is the only way to establish trust and go beyond the surface level.
“We are going to give something of ourselves,” Pynes said. When you invest in a relationship it’s two way. You have to give something for them to give something back.”