When Angelina Cude heard her brother, Christopher, struggling to help some students at the middle school where he worked, Cude decided to do something about it.
“He knew the kids had resources, like Boys & Girls Club, but it wasn’t really mentoring the way we think about it,” said Cude, a 1996 McNary High School grad. “From there it was a matter of figuring out how the school could help connect us to the students.”
A community liaison put Cude in touch with a half-dozen families and Cude paired them with community volunteer mentors.
That initial effort led to the formation of No Solo Existen in 2018, a group helping “kids find their passion, learn their value and appreciate community through one-on-one mentorship.” The group’s name, roughly translated, means “not alone.” Cude has since moved out of the area, but the group remains active even through the COVID-19 pandemic.
At the outset, Cude tried to arrange group outings for kids in different age groups, but that quickly became overly complicated.
“We sort of evolved into meeting the kids where they are at,” Cude said. “We pair kids with one mentor that, we hope, will see them through to their adult years.”
Along the way, the mentees learn about some of the give-and-take that’s required in any relationship.
“I am a fitness instructor, so sometimes I had the kids tag along while I taught adance class and then we went and had a meal together,” Cude said. “Sometimes we’ll just take them along as we go grocery shopping because they need a space to talk.”
Cude worries that some adults who would make excellent candidates for mentors don’t get involved because they don’t fit the stereotypical model of perfection others project.
“I think many people have this idea that if they come from a hurt background or they didn’t have the perfect upbringing, they’re not suited for this. And that’s exactly what we want because they can identify with these kids, but there isn’t really a perfect mentor,” Cude said.
“It also doesn’t take a huge financial investment,” Cude said, “Ten dollars a month is a couple of meals at McDonalds.”
Mentors are welcome to attend quarterly informational meetings. If they decide to become a mentor, the school district will help No Solo Existen with a background check, then they are paired with a student that fits into their schedule.
“No Solo Existen is the idea of this community coming together to raise up, not just the child, our children, our kids, that we’re going to have to grow up and stay in community with,” Cude said.
To inquire about mentoring opportunities and upcoming meetings, visit the group’s Facebook page, email [email protected] or call Brian Harrison at 971-701-5906.