Take a shy, sheltered, yet very curious middle schooler, and introduce her to a compassionate, retired teacher—the combination yields a beautiful path to confidence and self-advocacy. When Carla moved from middle school to high school, her BTO mentor came with her.

At first, Carla was so terrified to enter the crowded cafeteria that she just stopped eating lunch. Her mentor found out through caring questions and helped Carla get the support she needed to enjoy her lunch. Little by little, week by week, her mentor spent time with Carla working on schoolwork, reading books, talking about everything under the sun, answering questions, and expanding her world.

A mentor’s consistent presence and affirmation helped Carla find her voice. Carla says: “She understands me and I can tell her about everything. I feel happier because I have her as a friend.”