“I got plugged in with Austin Angels by doing research online. I wanted to get involved in something that had a bigger purpose than my day job. I emailed Austin Angels, and a case manager responded, met up with me, trained me, and found me a match.”
Sierra is a young civil engineer living in Austin. Through the Love Box program and now through the Dare to Dream program, Sierra has been involved in Crystal’s life as a mentor. Crystal is a 14-year-old teenager who often spends the majority of her visits with Sierra just talking. This is something Sierra has found so special––the openness and willingness of Crystal to talk.
Day one of their relationship wasn’t this way, though.
“Austin Angels introduced me to Crystal and her grandma and told me what my role would look like in supporting them. Crystal and her grandma were understanding and kind of shy and so was I. It was a slow start because it was a new relationship and it was kind of nerve racking. I was nervous I was going to screw it up, not fulfill my role or not be beneficial to the family.” But before long, Sierra and Crystal began building their bond and enjoying fun activities. “We went to see a movie, got our nails done, made dinner one night, and played games. That was the majority of it. Just building rapport.”
And Sierra has only seen this grow.
“When Crystal and I are together, we nonstop talk. I ask her tons of questions and she is always willing to answer. It’s awesome that I can learn about her, through her. She’s very open. It took a little bit of time for us to build rapport and for her to know that I’m not going to just leave. That I’m here to stay. Knowing that, she has been able to open up to me.” Sierra has recognized the importance of consistency through this journey she has been on with Crystal. “Consistency (how often you’re there) has everything to do with your impact on someone. Consistency is often not something kids in foster care get in their normal day-to-day. Being someone who shows up twice a month is really important to developing a relationship––and one that is lasting. A lot of times kids can think—it’s just another adult trying to help me; they’re just going to leave. So, consistency is of the utmost importance.”
One of the sweetest memories Sierra had with Crystal and her grandma was during Christmas. “I asked Crystal’s grandma what was on Crystal’s Christmas list. I went to the mall and bought different kinds of makeup brushes and a pair of shoes for Crystal. I got her grandma a couple of things that she had wanted, too. When I packaged it up, I was obnoxious and wrapped it full of glitter. I brought the gifts to their house. I sat there while they opened them. There was glitter everywhere. They were laughing because they were excited, of course, because gifts are fun. I love watching people open gifts. Crystal didn’t think she was getting anything for Christmas, so it was cool that she was so pumped to open gifts.” Sierra remembers Crystal saying, “Oh my gosh, I didn’t know that you knew I wanted all this stuff!”
Moments of celebration like those truly capture Sierra’s impact, heart, and bond with Crystal. And Sierra has been there for the hard times, too. Being a mentor is a commitment to walking through life, the ups and the downs. “There are times when you don’t feel like you know what you are doing. That’s okay. Be okay with discomfort. Be okay with awkwardness. Relationships don’t always go as easy as you want them to.” In fact, Sierra is currently walking through a difficult season with Crystal. “Right now, as we are talking, Crystal is an institution for her mental health. It’s hard for me to know what her future looks like and how long the road to recovery is. I don’t know how long it will take for her to be in a better state of mind. Long-term, I see Crystal being this self-sufficient, wonderful person, who knows her worth. It will take a lot of learning on my part to understand mental health and know how to best talk with her and support her through it. On her part, it will take time to know her value and worth.”
Sierra’s care and commitment to Crystal is evident as she talks about the future. “When I think about it, I don’t know how long I will be in Austin, but I have no plans to move. I intend to continue the mentorship program with Crystal for as long as I am in Austin. She is 14––that means four years until 18, when [she’ll] transfer out. I have the goal to be there until then at least. I don’t want our relationship to end at a certain date. It’s something, as she matures into adulthood, that could blossom into a beautiful friendship.”
This is what our programs are all about—showing up and being there through the ups and the downs.