The impact that we can have on one another’s lives was once described to me like ripples on the surface of water when a pebble is dropped in. The ripples keep on moving outward, far beyond the point of initial impact. I have always loved that image — that our actions and relationships keep rippling out beyond what we see.
Most of what we do at Ciudad Nueva is relationship-driven, and nothing is more essentially relational than the mentoring groups in our youth programs. From the youngest students all the way up through high school, we rely on our mentors to make connections and encourage growth.
One connection can lead to a life changed
Jesus joined Ciudad Nueva’s Launch Pad program when he was 9 years old. Jesus lived with his mom Cinthia and sister Hannah in the Rio Grande neighborhood. He wasn’t the most outgoing as a child, but he was open to hearing what the leaders had to say and seemed eager to learn.
“I got guidance from the mentors available through the program,” Jesus says about his early experiences. “It also helped me stay out of trouble as the program took up part of my time. I gained relationships with people that I keep up with today.”
One of those people is Sami DiPasquale, who was one of Jesus’s original mentors. They were both new to the Launch Pad program, and Sami remembers Jesus as a shy but very kind boy who would barely speak English at first.
“Jesus and I started together at Ciudad Nueva in 2004 and have had a very close relationship for the last 14 years,” says Sami. “In many ways I think of Jesus like a son or nephew, and now more like a close friend. I love him dearly and am very proud of the young man he has become. It has been an honor to watch him excel at school, attend church, and branch out socially.”
When he was in fifth grade, Jesus met a new mentor named Cabby. She mentored a small group of boys including Jesus, and her connection to him had a lasting impact on the Juarez family.
“Jesus was extremely responsible and open to having a mentor,” says Cabby. “As it turned out, I would pick him up and take him to church with me. Sometimes his mom and sister would come also.” Cabby and her family would also pitch in to celebrate holidays together.
Experiencing life on a whole new level
“Getting involved with Ciudad Nueva allowed me new experiences I wouldn’t have gotten otherwise like going to the Young Life camps and meeting new people I wouldn’t have met,” says Jesus. “It also allowed me to have an escape from whatever was going on at home or school.”
The middle and high school years are tough times for all kids. For kids growing up in sometimes challenging situations, programs like Ciudad Nueva provide a safe place to land when life gets stressful. And mentors like Cabby are like a compass, providing direction and building confidence.
“Being involved in the programs and having a mentor helped me focus and become more responsible,” says Jesus. “In middle school, it helped me go after my goals even if college was still a while off. It helped me stay on top of things and made sure my grades stayed up.”
Sami reflects back on the high school years as a time when Jesus really matured — to the point that Jesus’s book recommendations and deep conversations became influential in Sami’s life as well.
“I admire that Jesus questions things and thinks them through, and then he lives according to the standards he determines are best,” says Sami. “He is always honest even if he knows you won’t like what he is about to say. He is also always looking to learn and grow, and isn’t afraid to keep asking questions.”
A vision and a purpose for the future
Providing the vision for college and then building the structure for him to stay in school and keep his grades up was enough to sustain Jesus for the long haul. The work he did along the way should be credited to him, as his mentor Cabby explains, but that support system was a crucial component.
Currently Jesus is in his last semester of his undergraduate degree in computer science from University of Texas El Paso, with plans to complete his masters in computer science right after. He has been an intern with ExxonMobil for three years now, further preparing him for whatever his future might hold.
“Jesus had offers from Ivy League schools but ultimately decided to remain in El Paso to attend UTEP, in large part to help his mom and sister,” says Sami. “He has done amazing there and has received many highly selective internship offers.”
Little sis Hannah follows in her brother’s footsteps
Hannah got involved in Ciudad Nueva’s Launch Pad program when she was in third grade as well.
“I saw how close Jesus was with the kids and the friends that he made in the program,” says Hannah. “I saw how fun it was and how involved he was getting with the community, and I thought it was really special.”
Now Hannah is a very mature 15-year-old and her involvement with Ciudad Nueva is a big part of her life. She loves being connected to her community and speaks passionately about having an impact on people around her.
“I love to expand my horizons and help my community,” says Hannah. “I also love little kids and getting involved with the middle school and elementary programs as a volunteer. I think that is what drives me to continue participating — being involved with the kids and getting to know them.”
Hannah’s plans are to go to college and become an RN. She is grateful for Ciudad Nueva’s programs and the impact they have had on her life and her family.
“I am very grateful because Ciudad Nueva’s programs teach so many things that we need but don’t learn in high school,” she says. “For instance the Catalyst program helped us learn financial stuff like banking, creating a savings account, and how to get a job. We will all need to know these things when we graduate and go off on our own, whether it is college or anything else we want to do.”
Mentors make a difference
Who knows the true long-lasting impact having a mentor has on a student? The relationship also has a profound effect on the mentor as well. Watch for our next blog post which will highlight the story from the mentor’s perspective. The mentor, the mentee, and the families surrounding them are caught up in the ripple effect of relationships and community. You can hear this sentiment expressed clearly in one of Hannah’s hopes for her future:
“I want to stay involved with the community and with Ciudad Nueva, trying to help as much as possible and make an impact on Ciudad Nueva and other communities if I can,” she says. “I like expanding the people I meet, making connections with them, and building a better bond with them. It will eventually impact future generations and the community that we live in.”
Would you like to make a bond with a lasting impact? Consider becoming a mentor with Ciudad Nueva! Call us today at 915-521-2951 or fill out our volunteer form. You won’t regret the investment you make in a young person’s life.