Mentoring Matters

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Gary Tillery

“I told him to hang up his gloves … and, he did.”

At church, seven years ago, Gary Tillery, listened to a presentation about 4C’s mentoring program. Gary, retired after 26 years as a supervisor at Boeing, decided he’d give mentoring a try.

He attended 4C’s mentor training program. “The training program was very thorough as they went over the dos and don’ts of being a mentor,” says Gary.

After the training, Gary waited two nerve-racking months before being assigned a mentee.

Gary laughs when he says, “during the waiting period, I became very anxious about the commitment … I wasn’t sure that I would be up to the task. I thought that maybe when they called me with a mentee, I just wouldn’t answer the phone.”

4C finally called to let Gary know that they had found a good mentee match for Gary.

“My assigned mentee had a twin brother. Another man was going to take the other twin but he backed out. I felt bad for the other twin, so I agreed to mentor both of these kids,” states Gary.

“It is important to meet these kids at their level, but you have to be careful that you’re not their friend — you are their role model. I had to learn this the hard way. At first, in an effort to relate to them I became more of a pal to them,” admits Gary.

According to Gary, “you cannot be a total authoritarian person because they’re going to resist that. You need to find a way to balance the two approaches. And, of course, every kid is different so you have to be tuned in to them.”

Gary sites two specific impacts he’s had on the boys. “I taught them one of the most basic things —being on time. It’s an educational tool that you do to make your life a lot easier. I stayed on them constantly about being on time, and they eventually got it.”

Another specific impact was on one of the twins, a big strong guy, who could not seem to stay out of fights. Gary kept telling him to hang up his boxing gloves. Turns out this boy moved out of the area, and one day out of the blue, Gary gets a call from the boy, and the first thing he tells Gary is “I finally took your advice and I’ve hung up my gloves.”

Says Gary, “a mentor has to learn as you go along. I can’t give you a map or a book that can lead you down the path, you have to play it by ear. Oftentimes, they just need someone to talk to. The important thing is to be there for them.”

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