Ginger became an ROP mentor 4 years ago in 2016. After finishing college, Ginger moved back to Anchorage, had two kids and began working in the oil industry for BP Alaska. At Christmas time, BP organized a volunteer event at Covenant House Alaska to help wrap gifts. It was during this event that Ginger met Holly Payne, our Volunteer Coordinator. “Talking with Holly, I was able to learn about everything going on at Covey and all the ways I could become more involved,” Ginger says, “I’ve always enjoyed working with kids. I used to coach girls’ soccer teams, so being able to give feedback in a helpful and useful way is something I felt confident in. It was a good fit for me at that time in my life. So I applied to become a mentor and began spending one day a week at ROP.”
For her weekly visits to ROP, Ginger would choose a recipe, purchase the ingredients, and then cook meals with the youth in the evening. Ginger loves cooking with the kids, no matter if lots of kids come to help or if it ends up being one on one. “I remember one kid who had never cracked an egg before and when he did it, he was so proud, which was really cool to see. Sometimes the kids would recommend a recipe and we would work through it together, which can also be a great experience for them to see that even adults don’t always know what they are doing!” Ginger laughs. “It’s also an opportunity for them to share knowledge if they have it, like if they know how to slice an onion perfectly or have a trick to preparing certain foods. Being able to focus on cooking takes off the pressure to talk about anything specific at once. It has helped break down any sort of initial barriers to connecting.”
Over the past four years, Ginger has collected many memorable moments and has spent time with several youth. What she enjoys most about spending time with the youth is giving them a space where they can feel safe and relax. One moment in particular that stands out to Ginger is when she took two young men from ROP hiking who were normally pretty subdued and quiet, “Once we made it to the top of the mountain, they were just so excited, going on and on about how cool it was and how they were going to run back down. You could just really tell they were able to let go of their worries up there. I loved being able see them feel a bit more free and to be able to provide that.”
Another moment that has stuck with Ginger was seeing the transformation of a young lady who would come in each week to help cook. “I could tell that she was going through some struggles in her life and just seemed unhappy and stuck, and then she got a job and every day that I saw her afterwards, she was just really happy and eventually she was graduating the program and moving into her own place. I sat down with her and let her know that she was doing so great. She explained that she had watched her friends doing awesome things and then one day, she realized that the only thing stopping her from doing awesome things was her. It just clicked for her and she realized that she was in control of her life in ways that she might not have been previously. Watching her grow and then to really see her fly was just so awesome.”
Ginger’s favorite thing about being a mentor is her ability to be a listening ear for the youth and be someone who can congratulate them when they do something good. She strives to be someone they can trust and someone who can give useful feedback. She has been paired with five specific youth over the years, but she finds that her individual mentee relationships with youth are just as impactful as the time she spends with the group. “Watching these kids contend with their struggles and seeing that they can acknowledge that something hard has happened in their lives but then they have the strength and courage to move on is truly remarkable. I get a lot of energy from the kids—after a day of work being an adult, it’s so fun and refreshing to get with the kids. They’re all working on different things and it’s great to hear about their accomplishments.” Ginger finds that learning the best way to speak with each youth and figuring out what will be most helpful for them is the most challenging thing about serving as a mentor, “You really have to know how to be constructive and figure out how to give positivity. They’ve had enough judgement and criticism in their lives, so I’m always sure to really get to know the kids and learn the best way to approach them and meet them where they need to be met.”
Even through the difficulties of COVID-19, Ginger has stayed as involved as possible, joining the monthly virtual mentor activity nights and now, as mentor activities transition back to in-person, they figure out safe things to do outside. Ginger just recently was paired with a new mentee and they have been enjoying walks outdoors.
Having someone like Ginger who cares deeply about the youth and really embraces the role of a mentor is such a wonderful asset to have for our Rights of Passage program, where kids are trying to learn everything they need to know in order to support themselves and are building outside networks that can help them remain independent, employed, and housed once they graduate. Her commitment to being a consistent source of encouragement and support for the youth will continue to make a positive impact on our youth for years to come.
Ginger is an Engineer at work in the oil industry. Her favorite thing is being outside, hiking and biking mainly. Instead of taking a car to work, she likes to bike! She has a 5 and 7 year old who are now at the point they can join alongside her on outdoor adventures. She loves that COVID-19 has led to being able to spend more time with her family!
If you are interested in learning more about mentoring or other volunteer activities, go to https://covenanthouseak.org/volunteer/