SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) - A local foster youth named Daniel is gearing up to graduate from high school this spring and as he enters adulthood he is thanking his mentor for helping him reach this big milestone.
Life in foster care isn't easy, but Daniel says his mentor Tina has been instrumental in giving him guidance and support. He says she's been like family to him through the years.
“We've gone to the park, we've gone to different restaurants, we've gone to festivals, concerts, stuff like that,” explained Daniel.
As Daniel reflects on the fun times he's shared with his mentor Tina, he remembers what it was like when she first became a part of his life Several years ago.
“It was kind of different because you always hear people say they're always going to be there but not all the time,” explained Daniel. “This was kind of different because, when you're a foster kid, you have people who are there because they have to be there, but to have someone who doesn't have to be there, and be there because they want to be there that's what makes it totally different.”
Tina had been mentoring Daniel's older brother.
“I saw how much fun he was having and I thought, I've got to get into this!” Laughed Daniel.
So Daniel asked Tina if she could mentor him, too.
“I just needed someone back then to relate to because this was a new thing from me to be taken away from my family, don't know where I am, don't know who these people are,” Daniel said. “And I just wanted to have someone that I could relate to, just talk to about how I feel, to understand where I'm coming from and it was a perfect match. Back then, I needed more of a mom figure than a dad.”
Daniel says it was a challenging time.
“I would not want to listen, I would be in trouble and stuff,” he added.
But soon, with the support of Tina and his foster family, Daniel realized he had people who cared for him, who wanted to help him succeed.
“So I decided one day, let's just see what happens if I start being good, and it ended up going from there. I started doing better in school, my teachers hated me in middle school, seriously, they hated me. I would talk back and stuff, but now I'm getting better and I'm going to graduate. I can't wait,” Daniel continued.
“I'm so proud of him because he's had to work pretty hard, he's had to work really hard and it's a very conscientious effort on his part, so I'm really excited to see that,” said Tina Thornton.
She says Daniel has come so far:
“He was always fun from the beginning, but he was always a little mischievous, I have to admit and so it's been amazing, like he was saying, to see that transformation in him and I think it was something that clicked for him, where he saw ‘you know what? I'm going down this road. This isn't working for me, so what can I do different?’”
Now, as Daniel prepares to graduate from high school, and turn 18 in June, he wants to thank Tina for playing a big role in helping shape who he is today.
“She's made a big difference,” said Daniel.
And he is now looking forward to college and a career.
“I want to try to get into a trade, but I want to try to look into apprenticeships now, so a lot's going for me, I've got a good head on my shoulders, I just can't wait to see what's happening next,” Daniel noted.
Daniel says he would someday like to mentor or foster and encourages others who are considering it to take that step now as he is living proof mentors can make a difference in a child's life.
“If you can be a friend to somebody, you can be a mentor, and it's really about offering that friendship, offering that support and guidance,” said Tina. “Just being there for them, and letting them know, hey, there is somebody in your corner, there is somebody there to support you through the good times and through the bad times. Go for it, mentors!”
If you'd like to learn more about San Diego County's Foster Youth Mentor Program, please call 619-767-5222.
Approximately 50 children are on the waiting list - about 15 girls and 35 boys.
If you’re interested in adopting or becoming a foster family, please call 1-877-I-ADOPT-U.