It took three years of convincing, but finally Milt Hempel agreed to become a mentor in the IMPACT Mentoring Program at Memorial Drive Presbyterian Church. And he has enjoyed every moment of his friendship with student, now high school graduate, Chris Ordaz.
In a partnership with Spring Branch ISD, mentors from the church are matched with sixth or seventh grade students at Spring Woods Middle School who participate in the SpringBoard Mentoring Program.
During a meet and greet event for new mentors in 2015, then-sixth-grader Ordaz and Hempel met, and were eventually matched in the program.
They have now been friends for seven years!
At first, Ordaz did not speak much English during their once-a-week visits over lunch at school. So, the two bonded over lots of games of Uno, and managed to communicate via basic words and hand gestures.
“I recommend this program [SpringBoard] to other students who are new to this country and don’t have a lot of friends,” said Ordaz. “It provided a friend and someone to talk to, especially in middle school.”
“In my view, it was the perfect match,” Hempel said. “He seemed to care that I was interested in hearing about him, his family and his schoolwork. Chris told me I am his ‘best friend.’”
Ordaz appreciates the ways his mentor encouraged him, checked up on him and “pushed me to try harder.”
Hempel recommends other adults to get involved with mentoring. “It’s nice to help people and see their progress by working hard,” he said.
Lots of support
Steady support from his father, aunt and his mentor helped Ordaz do very well in school. In addition, guidance from staff members and volunteers involved in the College Community Career program at Northbrook High School helped him with the college application processes. He also works in the construction business with his dad, which led to an interest in engineering.
In May, Ordaz graduated from Northbrook High School and this fall is headed to Texas A&M Kingsville to study civil engineering. He received good news in the mail a few weeks ago, too: the university is giving him a large merit scholarship based on his academic performance and experience.
The two friends plan to keep in touch via email and phone calls while Ordaz is away at college, and look forward to in-person visits during semester breaks. “He understands the impact of hard work,” Hempel said. “He will do great!”
“I can’t tell you how proud I am of him,” Hempel said of his young friend. “This friendship has been a great blessing to me.”
If you would like to become a mentor to a Spring Branch ISD student ‘on the brink of success,’ please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.